Vegetables in Heaven, Twinkies in Hell: A Peculiar Neurosis of Western Civilization

Raw vegetables enjoy an uncontested position in the Western world as the healthiest of foods.  The reason: a quick glance at a chart shows that these foods have the highest concentration of nutrients/calories.
Yet only the most dedicated of health nuts have the fortitude to include huge portions of uncooked vegetables in their diet.  Eating a small amount of veggies with meals can be a refreshing side dish.  Making veggies the focus of one’s diet however, is singularly unpalatable.
The reason:  Large quantities of veggies are very difficult to digest.  They are leafy, tough, and fibrous; they fail to satisfy the stomach even as they disrupt its function.  The body nearly spends more energy processing these veggies than it gets from them.  Very soon, one is famished for something substantial; junk food becomes irresistible.  In polar opposite and cruel irony, the energy dense snacks that replace rabbit food are often all but devoid of nutrients.  Thus one of the peculiar neuroses of Western society:  perpetually switching between dieting in a joyless heaven and binging in a decadent guilt-ridden hell.
Strangely, it occurs to very few that the body has its desires for a reason.  In fact these desires were an excellent guide to what should be eaten until many critical elements of manufactured foods were replaced by highly processed imitations of the originals to cut costs and improve shelf life.  Every fiber of one’s body sends a clear message, it is not good for you to eat tons of vegetables.  Yes, they have vitamins, but they contribute no energy to speak of and getting at those vitamins is a hard task.
 
Clearly, glancing at the chart and ranking foods based on volume of nutrients alone leads to no good result.  There are other, equally important considerations.  Bioavailability is a key matter to consider here.  Raw spinach may have a lot of nutrients, but eating a meal of it would just result in an upset stomach.  Even from the most superficial examination one can ask: does it matter if this vegetable is #1 on the vitamin K chart if I can’t even digest it in any quantity or get any energy from it?
Strangely, it occurs to very few that the ‘decadent’ cravings they experience would go to rest if they ate substantial, digestible foods that also were nutrient dense.
 
These foods are generally have one or more of these traits:
-high in carbohydrates
-high in sugars
-high in fat
 
All of these attributes are of course the modern dieticians nightmare; lean meat and salad are the trendy foods right now.  However, these are the foods that nourish the body and satisfy the appetite.  These foods are not among the highest on the nutrition charts because of their high calorie content and are often actually demonized because of their high energy value.  Yet the very criterion of nutrients/calories reveals the sort of wrong headed dieter’s thinking that nutrients are good and calories bad.
The charts themselves address problems created by eating according to the charts.  Eating excessive calories is not a critical concern if one eats the right calories.
 
The right calories most generally speaking are dense in readily usable energy.  From this comes the correct criterion: maximum usable calories, and dense in nutrients, for the least digestive effort.  Digestion is metabolically costly, thus the more easily digested, the less one needs to eat.  The right foods are not only valuable for their nourishing qualities, but because they improve the digestion of foods they are eaten in combination with.  This is why it is easy to eat vegetables in combination with potatoes covered in butter and sour cream, but difficult to eat them exclusively.

The right fats, sweeteners, and carbs are wholesome in their own right and help unlock the potential of other foods.

For instance, olive oil makes an otherwise tough and heavy salad quite enjoyable.  The oil forms an ideal medium in which the digestion of tougher foods can occur.

A good example of one of the right foods is butter.  It is a healthy saturated fat that is an excellent source of Vitamin A.  It is one of the best sources even though carrots have far more per calorie because in butter it is far more readily available.

Vitamins and supplements frequently have many times one’s daily needs of a given vitamin yet they are made that way because even those who make them are aware that the human body can’t efficiently use their product.  A lesson that Western civilization has yet to learn is that the human body does not absorb its resources in isolation, but in combination.  The materials the human body needs are most usable when present in a food within a particular structure.  Eating a nickel is clearly not the best way to get dietary zinc, so it should easily follow that eating multivitamins or basing one’s diet on tough raw vegetables is not the correct way to nourish the body.

It is true raw vegetables may lose some nutrient value once they are cooked, but by so doing, the increased ease in processing makes up for it.  Furthermore, one can have the best of both worlds by eating fermented raw vegetables.  Cabbage, one of the most heavily touted of all vegetables, can be much more easily digested and enjoyably eaten in the form of sauerkraut or kim chi.

For every craving or concern there is a constructive non-guilt way to deal with it.

When planning a healthy meal, one should be conscious not only of getting the right nutrients, but eating a highly enjoyable, satisfying meal with digestion aiding combinations in mind.

Sugar is Good For You

It is an unchallenged maxim of mainstream dietary thought that sugar is ‘bad.’  This convention, like the aversion to fats, is terribly misguided and ill-conceived.  The very word ‘sweet’ is often used to describe those things which are best in life, so strong is its appeal.  Yet guidelines set down by a multitude of well educated and intelligent individuals routinely exclude foods that satisfy one of the human body’s most essential cravings.  Once again Puritanical thought dominates:  if humans crave it, it must be temptation.  It is self evident, however, by means of basic reasoning that the human body has its cravings for a purpose related to survival.  Surely sweet substances ought to be good.

Indeed, this is true, but as with fats, the proliferation of highly processed products in the industrialized world has resulted in the problems that are blamed on all sweets.

Refined sugar for instance, has been stripped of the nutrients that would have been present in the original cane juice.  This common table sugar is sucrose.  The body must break it down into fructose and glucose to be able to process it.  Thus, the body must spend energy processing food that returns no nutrients.  Eaten in quantity it actually depletes nutrients from the body.

Corn syrup, contains fructose, one of the basic fuels of the human body.  The problem lies in the fact that corn syrup consists of 90% or more fructose, a ratio far beyond the 40-50% that the body is able to handle.  Eaten in quantity, it quickly outstrips the ability of the body to process it and causes insulin resistance.  High fructose corn syrup is used ubiquitously in the United States and its long term excess consumption naturally results in increased occurrence of diabetes.

Glucose and fructose are basic sources of energy for the human body, but what form they are consumed in and in what ratios is of critical importance.

People are attracted to sweet foods because, in nature, such sources of energy are especially close to already being in a usable form.  They require minimal processing for maximum gain.

Fruits are often the typical answer to this primal desire, but human beings are still left with a craving for sweetness in its purest form.  Honey, dates, figs, maple syrup, sugar cane juice very are sweet, gooey, extremely energy dense foods.  They are the epitome of what highly processed sweeteners have been designed to imitate.

To give some idea of their importance, glycogen is derived from the glucose we eat.  It is the short term reserve of quickly accessible energy as fat can only be tapped into slowly and steadily by comparison.  In endurance sports there is the term ‘hitting the wall.’  This is when an athlete reaches a point where they can literally no longer move.  Their glycogen stores have been depleted.  Such an extreme case illustrates the important of glycogen: it is the instantly available energy that allows to move about at will.  The sweetest non-industrial foods provide the components for glycogen formation not only in abundance but in a readily usable form.  It is therefore no surprise that human body tells one that sweet foods are particularly desirable.

The universal vilification of sweet foods is an immense misunderstanding.  These dense foods are among the most valuable of all because they replenish the body’s stores and they do it quickly.  Like the best fats, they have a way of putting the body’s appetites quickly to rest and thereby actually reducing the amount of calories one feels the need to consume.

Part of the travesty of industrial sweeteners, especially those without calories, is that they deceive the body into expecting an infusion of quick easily processible energy.  When the body’s expectations are not satisfied, one’s cravings go through the roof, impelling one to consume even more of these sweeteners.

Drinking heavily sweetend soft drinks along with sweet snacks is a frequent phenomenon in the USA, yet a similar binge on dates and honey would be unthinkable.  The stomach would quickly feel full to bursting and the body’s desires be satisfied in a way that is altogether foreign to regular consumers of junk food.

There is a great distinction that is not being made: tastes can be imitated, but when it comes to food, one should put even greater value on how such foods make them feel and how they affect the body.

Fat Is Good For You

The avoidance of dietary fat has for decades now been considered essential for good nutrition.  However, this approach is sadly mistaken.  The assumption that fat goes ‘straight to our rears’ is misguided.  Food is broken down into its constituent parts before being distributed and then consumed.  Whether dietary fat or any other energy gets stored as fat in our bodies is dependent on any number of variables.
The truth is that fats are eaten in abundant amounts by virtually every traditional culture, yet widespread heart disease and obesity are a phenomenon that has existed only since the 1940s and 50s.  It was in this time period that processed fats largely replaced natural fats and oils.  Margarine replaced butter and hydrogenated vegetable oils and soy oils replaced all others.
Thus, most of the supposed ill effects of fats are a byproduct of eating the wrong kinds of fats.  Butter, far from being bad for health is a healthy source of vitamin A.  Meanwhile, margarine is among the harmful fats.  It is made like so many products from hydrogenated oils.
This means oils that have been heated at high temperatures, often for long amounts of time.  This process causes the molecules of the oil to begin to dissociate.  The substance is then removed from heat while still in a state of transition from one substance to the other.  Thus, the result is known as a trans fat.  These substances are not found in nature and are widely used in the food industry because they do not spoil.  The trouble with consuming these substances in food is that the fats are still in transition.  The reaction never completed, so when one eats these fats, they are taking a proliferation of reactive species of molecules into their bodies which proceed to wreak havoc.
One striking example of the difference is the Pima Indians in Arizona, USA are the most obese population in the world with a 50% incidence of diabetes in their population.  They have adopted a Western diet and sedentary lifestyle.  Meanwhile, Pima Indians on the other side of the border live off of potatoes, corn, and lard.  However, they are lean, fit, and physically active.
Another example is the South of India where highly processed vegetable oils are a staple in cooking.  Malnutrition and heart disease are pervasive throughout their population.  On the other hand, peoples from the North of India who use ghee(butter oil) as their staple fat have few of the same problems.
 
Clearly, mainstream nutrition has been shallowly reactive in its efforts to all but obliterate fats from the diet.  Only in recent years has there been progress in the recognition of the virtues of mono and polyunsaturated fats.  Even these efforts have led to new mistakes, however.  Newly promoted products such as canola oil are often just as highly processed as their vegetable oil counterparts, and in less processed forms have the strong toxins occurring in the rapeseed plant from which the oil is derived.  Perhaps most pervasive of all is the craze surrounding products made from soy.  In traditional East Asian cultures, soy was eaten in relatively small quantities or in fermented form.  Now, soy products are pervasive among ‘healthy’ and vegetarian foods.  While soy has good properties, it also is a natural thyroid depressant and contains compounds that mimic human(especially female) hormones.  Eaten unfermented in large quantities, its toxins can be quite damaging.  Depressed thyroid function causes lethargy, loss of muscle tone, and weight gain.  The hormone imitators reinforce these effects, sending the body’s metabolism out of synch.  It is these very effects of soy that makes it highly desirable as animal feed.
Though soy has become a centerpiece among ‘healthy’ foods, it is used even more extensively in highly processed food.  A quick look at ingredients for many products will reveal the presence of soy oil.  While soy beans are beneficial in moderation, eating a concentrated essence derived from them is beyond excess and among one of the most harmful substances in highly processed food.
To progress into further error: many health trends encourage the use of many mono and polyunsaturated acids in cooking.  In many cases, such as with flax oil this is a bad idea.  Many of these oils break down quickly under environmental stresses.  This phenomenon is escalated at high temperatures and forms many harmful and carcinogenic substances of the sort found in highly processed vegetable oils.
 
At this point I have addressed many errors in popular nutrition.  Use of Omega 3 oils does, however, generally prove to be beneficial.  Oily fish, nuts, and olive oil are examples of excellent foods.  However, the irrational stigma against saturated fats continues.
Butter, especially ghee(the oils derived from butter) are conducive to good health.  Coconut oil is another saturated fat is especially healthy and possesses anti-bacterial properties and lauric acid, a substance also prevalent in mother’s milk.  Coconut oil is almost pure saturated fat yet its regular consumption often results in the loss of weight.  Rich coconut milk is a staple food in much of Southeast Asia, yet the locals are typically quite slender.  Cocoa butter, the fat of the cocoa bean is a major component of chocolate, yet varieties with low or no sugar and high cocoa content are packed anti-oxidants and conducive to weight regulation.
Oily fish, nuts, and olive oil, great sources of omega oils, are also copious sources of saturated fats, yet they are still quite healthy for the human body.
 
‘Health food’ in the West is typically thought of as being ‘light’, unappetizing, and unsatisfying.  This is in large part because of the exclusion of saturated fats.  These substances are important aids for digestion, especially when eating foods with high fiber content.
Plentiful fat is what makes a meal feel truly satisfying and puts the stomach at rest.  Ironically, a ‘healthy’ diet tends to leave one hungry and ironically leads one to grasp for foods drenched in trans fats to put these monstrous cravings to rest.  It is a diet high in fat that leaves the stomach sated and which eliminates the desire for grasping for snacks.  A high fat diet eases digestion and the frequency with which one needs to eat.  One may generally observe across cultural and political boundaries:  peoples who eat plenty of the right fats have much smoother complexions, healthier hair, and less signs of aging.  The protective effects of the right fats are becoming evident as people who eat ‘healthy’ have begun to contract cancer and heart disease at higher rates than peoples of many third world countries.  One of the tenets of Western health culture is that one must triumph against temptation.  Perhaps such views have proliferated to such an extent in the anglosphere because of the way in which they mesh with the Puritan concept of this world as a transitory plane designed to divert us from everything that is good with worldly delights.
However, any endurance athlete knows to listen to his or her body and the subtle cues and signals it is constantly giving.  It is no different when it comes to eating.  Engaging in righteous masochism when it comes to providing the body with nourishment is self defeating.  In fact, restriction of fat intake actually causes the body to slow its metabolism and retain every bit of fat it can extract from the limited diet it is given.  Forcing the body to constantly strain to compensate is of course painful and unhealthy.

Perhaps the best visible representation of what people should want to eat can be seen in children who in an earlier stage of socialization are therefore closer to acting according to their most natural tendencies.  Kids prefer pizza to celery and salad and crispy chicken skins and lard to the actual meat it’s attached to.  These parts are dense in nutrients, and more importantly easiest to digest and thus conducive to the digestion of other foods.
 
Western culture is flagrantly backwards in respect to its attitude towards nutrition, but it has shown some progress, and increasingly, there is input from organizations such as the Weston A. Price foundation that are guiding people back towards the proper eating habits that were obvious to generations of healthy people across thousands of years.  The sad part, is that what was once a matter of common sense has been transformed into an often misguided mysticism often as flawed as the profit making interests that don’t care what their food does to people so long as it sells.  Too often, the mystics and the unscrupulous food manufacturers are one and the same and in the face of such opposition, it will be long and difficult to reverse the current, destructive trends.

Women As Property

According to politically correct thought the world was brutally sexist, patriarchal, and oppressive towards women until a matter of decades ago. From this viewpoint, women were debased and traded around like property. Indeed women were given over to a suitable bidder when they came of age, but this system certainly was not oppressive to women. It was not oppressive to women because now, in the 21st century they prefer to make themselves into property of their own free wills.

When one examines surveys of what women want in a mate and observes the mates women actually choose, the answer is always the same. They want a provider who has the means to protect and support their children. Universally, women bring to opposite sex relations an agenda of calculation that the opposite sex can scarcely comprehend. From the female objective of acquiring support and protection it follows that it is in her interest to become property with a price tag attached to it. Those who can pay the price are potential providers.

Every aspect of traditional courting revolves around the need of the man to demonstrate value. In spite of the platitudes of popular sentiment, nothing has changed. A man is expected to buy gifts, flowers, meals for any woman he hopes to be seriously involved with. Less directly, he must be dressed in the right clothes, he must have enough money to get into the public places where women congregate. Few people seem to realize that after schooling is completed, a man must be prepared to pay to even be in the same room with potential mates—and it is no coincidence that women choose to congregate in places(clubs, restaurants, bars) where men must either pay money to get into or must spend money once inside of.

When it comes to marriage, a man who fails to buy a diamond ring would be rejected outright as ‘cheap.’ In other words, he has failed to pay the sale price for his bride. He has failed to purchase the decorative band that publicly announces his contractual ownership of the product. A diamond ring is a girl’s best friend because it is a final flaming hoop a man must jump through to prove his ability and motivation to provide. The female’s self reduction to property is her last, best defense against ending up with children in an insecure, dangerous situation.

The old system far from being oppressive towards women was the greatest of allies. She did not have to look for a suitable mate herself. Her parents and community did it for her. While she had no need to put in any effort, suitors went through great difficulties trying to sway her parents enough even to have the privilege of showering her with gifts. Once given permission to demonstrate value, a man had to outcompete other suitors and in some cultures and circumstances he would even have had to do all this while ingratiating himself with the girl as well. The system worked in the favor of women then and nothing has changed. It is still true in romance and indeed in most opposite sex dealings that men must earn while women deserve.

If women were victims of being made into property by a ‘patriarchy’, it is inconceivable that they would gleefully provide the wrapping paper and ribbons themselves. Whenever I have glimpsed the interior of a young woman’s bathroom, I could not but be taken aback by the wide array of beauty products. I have long been amazed by the variety and expense of female self-decoration. It is of course, a form of advertising. Every woman understands that her body is quite likely to be the greatest source of wealth she will ever possess and invests considerable time and effort maximizing its potential. It is both a source of immense satisfaction for her and a source of shame that her inner merits will be perpetually overshadowed. It is a source of pure power that no woman is able to resist tapping into for whether she is considered ugly or beautiful only concerns a measure of degree. Every woman has considerable power from the fact of her sex while men without the customary pieces of plastic and paper are essentially worthless in any tally of social value. The fact that women frequently rail against men of privilege only illustrates how the vast majority of men living lives as expendable laborers are not only unsuitable for these women, they are actually invisible.

It is understandable that one might point out that women have many considerations in choosing a mate, many of them based on guileless affection and emotional attachment, but before a man can ever enter the arena as a candidate for her affection, he must first be worth something. Without enough value to be a suitor, she must be a desirable product on the other side of a store window, forever beyond his reach. And in this case it is the product that put itself for sale.

Women’s status as property is a result of typical female behavior and expectations. When one pays for his date’s meal, he is hiring a stranger to eat in his presence. He is buying his date. The man does so because female companionship is a product that must be bought whether one is looking in a brothel or searching for a bride.

Here we come to the question of equality. Part of the reason why the idea of women as property is reviled under the politically correct circumstances is because it becomes quite difficult to conceive of the sexes as equal when one earns and the other deserves. Females have historically been compelled into the condition that women now typically choose of their own free will.

Women are now free to stop being property, and by so doing stop dehumanizing both themselves and their suitors. Yet, the old pattern continues. Even women who become wealthy from careers simply raise the bar of worthiness to men even richer than themselves. The search for a provider of superior means seems to be the fundamental female instinct when it comes to selecting a mate, but perhaps society can find ways of channeling their nature that are not destructive. To even begin to consider such changes, both men and women must be made aware of the truth—that romance is not romantic. There is a deeply rooted drive in most men to protect women, but until men begin to act against the property system, little can be done to move towards any true or meaningful measure of equality between the sexes. After all, women’s incredible power is product of the male drives to desire and protect. Women have always had some idea of this reality—far more than most men—but until men become powerful enough to challenge this system, women will continue to abuse the extraordinary corrupting powers that men have given them—all while being told by tradition that they are virtuous for doing so. Until then, both men and women will be caught in a brutal mutually sustained cycle that reduces both the expendable enabling earners and the privileged exploitative deservers within it to their monetary values.

Gender feminism, the notorious lobby for females(particularly the wealthy, educated ones) has successfully eliminated almost everything men once got in exchange for playing the part of the buyer. Children and family, domestic security, domestic labor, child care, an assured outlet for sexuality have all been destroyed by feminist laws in the West. The prices on the age old market have become so inflated by reckless feminist activity that the bubble is bursting. Greedily, they are killing the golden goose that is the male population and by so doing, inadvertently bringing about an opportunity for some modicum of true equality and unity between the vastly different fundamental characters and biological imperatives of men and women. It would be wise to prepare for such an opportunity so that it is not squandered or worse—gives rise to a new, even more crass and degrading system.

Why Learn History?

History is the experience of humanity. To be ignorant of it is

to form one’s world views as a child. To live life in ignorance of history is like picking up a book, turning to some random page and reading it out of context. Without knowledge of the past, there is no conceivable way one might make any sense of our own time for our present society is the product of a complex sequence of events that preceded us. A frequent question put towards history is: “Why should I care about all those dead people?” After all, all of that is come and gone, never to be seen again. This approach, however, evidences an extremely shallow understanding.

To many people, history is indeed synonymous with memorizing names and dates. To be fair, this is a common scholastic approach, a source of rote work that effectively inures millions to one of the most valuable storehouses of knowledge—that of collective human experience. True enough, history in the classroom tends to be reduced to an insipid swill of superficial facts and state indoctrination. Too often though, this becomes an excuse to dismiss all that came before as irrelevant information about dead people. It is a poor excuse because without understanding how our present reality came to be, one can neither understand the present nor have any insight into the probable courses of the future.

Without the barometer of history, one is slave to the fashions of the hour. In ignorance of the long term and the larger scale, there can be no means of distinguishing a transient cultural fad from the deeper truths of human nature. There can be no determination whether one’s pervasive local society is representative of a larger whole or merely an anomaly. For instance, many cultural attitudes taken for granted as universal truth in Western industrialized societies have existed for less than a century. Ideas such as the ‘fact’ that teenagers are always ‘surly, angry, and lazy’ is one such fabrication. ‘Teenagers’ for instance is a term that didn’t exist until the mid twentieth century. Closer examination tells one that this current widespread attitude is an insignificant blip against the larger human experience. For most of human history young people have been active participants in society, so much so, that only recently in the English language was there a word to distinguish them as a specific group loaded with connotations of materialism, selfishness, and rebelliousness. Without knowledge of history no such critical examination is possible. Thus, in ignorance, one is prisoner to a host of fleeting ‘truths.’

For this very reason, there can be no such thing as an informed citizenry without an understanding of history. Without knowledge of history, one becomes the dupe of demagogues. Without any means of evaluating the truth of claims about past states of society or even the essential needs and nature of humanity, even the most absurd claims can be put forth by the sufficiently charismatic and powerful as serious propositions. Without history, there is no means by which a citizenry might judiciously decide the course of the state. As much as autocracy is looked down upon in the West, the founders of the American republic understood all too well that a body of uninformed, shallowly reactive citizenry can be even more capricious, tyrannical, and shortsighted than any single person. These founders were likely quite familiar with the tendency of the ancient Athenian citizenry to destroy their greatest generals and philosophers the moment something went wrong. An illustrious career in service of the people or works of genius mean nothing against a transient aggregate tantrum. Thus, a great lesson of history is that ignoring the past is to be the unwitting pawn of fleeting fashions and passions, whether evoked by chance or through the deliberate manipulations of the clever.

The moment someone says ‘the lessons of history.’ One gives an inward, if not an entirely audible groan and one’s eyes begin to glaze over. After all, common wisdom is that the “lesson of history is that no one ever learns from the lessons of history.” What’s the point? From this perspective, the whole thing is dismissed as a waste of time anyway. Once again, such an attitude is merely the result of common misunderstandings perpetuated by rote academics. When one thinks of ‘lessons of history’ the age old chestnut “Never get in a land war in Asia” comes to mind. We instantly think of Napoleon, then Hitler, then the board game, Risk and say to ourselves “Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever.”

However, this sort of sentiment is not an example of how one should learn from history. , It is silly advice to begin with. Why should the German Wehrmacht have backed out of its Russian invasion based on Napoleon’s experience? It was a different time with different circumstances, with different logistics and equipment when it came to making war. The Germans were not the 18th century French, nor were they led by a Corsican, and they had the means to reach Moscow before winter ever came. Why suppose beforehand that the result must be disaster and defeat as eventually occurred?

The trouble with such ‘lessons’ and the reason why they are uninspiring is because they only ever seem to apply in armchair hindsight and rarely, if ever are any use in the present. Upon further reflection one realizes these ‘lessons’ are indeed more or less meaningless. After all, the Mongols had a long series of extremely successful land wars in Asia; conquering the Russian principalities was a relatively minor task for them.

The misconception here about ‘lessons of history’ is that it presumes a cyclical, repeating, predictable human experience.

History according to the traditional Chinese perspective was based on the concept of dynastic cycles. Now, there are no more dynasties, the cycle upon which their very definition was based is broken. True historical study on the other hand, allows one to transcend the historical cycles and patterns of one’s isolated time or culture. The sentiment “History repeats itself” is taken far too literally. What it really means is that the fundamental forces and principles driving human beings are constant and that certain trends and types of trends will therefore appear across generations and civilizations. It is not the events in history that repeat, but the principles behind history. Critical analysis of history provides a reliable guide to human tendencies as well as plenty of extremes and departures from the norm that give one a far more expansive and accurate idea of human potential.

The German defeat could be used as a warning against cyclical thinking: The Fuhrer had enjoyed so many easy victories that he was lulled into overconfidence by expecting the same result would continue to follow. The Germans proved woefully unprepared when events failed to conform to their leader’s highly optimistic plans. Unlike the rather unhelpful ‘never fight a land war in Asia’ the lesson that unbroken success can lull humans into making fatal mistakes can be applied across times and places, in an office or on a battlefield. It is a weakness in human nature that if recognized through the study of humanity, can be accounted for.

One of the most important principles that can be learned from history is among the reasons why one should study history. Benjamin Franklin succinctly sums it up as “The present age is never the golden age.”

Those detached from the past and thus without perspective tend to look back with longing on ‘the good old days’ and be ungrateful of the good in the present. Without knowledge of history, there is no possibility to appreciate the ways in which they live more happily than their ancestors or the ways in which quality of life has degraded across the generations. Their lot is merely a dim dissatisfaction which they are powerless to remedy. Without perspective, one can feel no more satisfied with a sewing machine than a prehistoric human felt with the first crude bone sliver to serve as a needle.

Thus through studying history, one increases their wellbeing through knowledge as well as their potential to do good in the present. One expands the domain they live in far beyond their immediate surroundings. A student of history becomes an active citizen of humanity across time. Examination from historical principles allows one to see the larger human nature that one’s time and place can only hint at. To eschew history as the irrelevant study of ‘dead people’ is in a sense to divorce oneself from the continuity that is humanity and by so doing to actively choose ignorance of one’s own nature and identity.

Entitlement and Prejudice: Abuse of Female Advantage

While Elizabeth Bennet, the female protagonist of Pride and Prejudice, is a kind, witty, and intelligent girl, I see in her some very familiar behaviors. In spite of her overall good character, she has a tendency shared by many women to judge people quickly based on the first impression that comes across in a social situation.

It is said that women are more emotional than men. This is not true, but it seems that women do have a far greater sensitivity to social situations and subtle cues than do men. It is not only one of their strongest abilities, it forms the basis by which they judge others. When women say they want an ‘intelligent’ man, they of course mean socially intelligent.

This certainly holds true in a book written by a woman in the 18th century. The female main character perceives the socially awkward Mr. Darcy to be stiff, hateful, arrogant, and rude. Meanwhile she instantly believes the best in the silver-tongued and charming Mr. Wickham and falls at once for his every deception. The lies she accepts without question poison her opinion of Mr. Darcy still further and when the time comes to speak with him, she is simmering with resentment; all potential for seeing good in him is extinguished.

Women for all their ability to catch nuances often go awry when it comes to men. To say that women are good communicators is quite simply untrue. Socially adept is nearly the opposite of direct communication. Men are far more likely to be direct about what they’re after, so direct that neither gender can mistake their intent. Direct statements in female society, unfortunately, are a sure recipe for hurting feelings and creating enemies. Yet most women are unable to realize that the direct approach is how men normally do things. There is not necessarily any intent to hurt or be aggressive in such behavior. Furthermore, what is being said in female conversation is of secondary importance. The real message is in tone of voice and body language. Women are taken aback when they meet men who do not wear their mood on their sleeve and who have little interest in nuances. They frequently perceive this sort of behavior as hostile, rude, and anti-social. In fact, this is how men normally do things. From the mistaken female perception arises the well worn sentiments that men have less emotions, can’t communicate, are slow minded etc. From these wrong conclusions arises a certain deeply ingrained sort of female entitlement. If men are to be thought of as lesser emotional beings, certainly female needs outweigh those of the male. From this misunderstanding derives a mindset that entails female license to engage in all manner of aggressive, rude, and cruel behavior. Ethically, it opens the way for them to use their biologically endowed advantages without restriction to achieve their aims or to gain retribution for any offense, imagined or real.

Although Elizabeth Bennett is generally a well-meaning person, even she subscribes to this pervasive philosophy. When a socially inept rector shows up in her parents’ household, she relentlessly runs little circles of wit around him, mocking him in front of the entire family without his even realizing it. The rector certainly comes across as bombastic, conceited, and venal but that does not mean it is right to take advantage of his sex based weaknesses and publicly humiliate him. Just because she personally dislikes the guy and doesn’t want to marry him does not mean she’s entitled to take out her unrestrained aggression on him.

In the end, Mr. Darcy should perhaps have married a woman who understood men have their own strengths, strengths that usually they choose not to abuse. Men are by no means perfect but are in no position to convince themselves that they are entitled to take advantage of the weaknesses inherent in the other sex. When men cross a certain line, they go to prison. It is not men who have the reputation for ‘using sex as a weapon’ or taking men for ‘all they’re worth.’

Women seem generally better suited to perceiving the subtleties of human interaction, but it is wrong that so many of them feel they have license to abuse this strength or any other that is specific to their sex. It is no better for women to act in such a way than it is for men to get what they want through superior physical force.

Misconceptions of Childhood as Social Pathology

It cannot be forgotten that every child has a full time job: to learn everything they need to know to survive as an adult.  In affluent western households, children are often treated like household pets.  They are most valued for being ‘cute’ and generally encouraged to remain in that state for as long as possible.  Through most of history children have been free labor.  The romanticized idea of an ‘innocent,’ ‘magical’ childhood is a relatively recent concept that began to take hold in the late Victorian period among an affluent few.  As the West enjoyed mass affluence in the 20th century, this view became dominant and in the 21st century it grows to ridiculous proportions.

Children must be taught early on that they are not pets.  They are apprentice
humans who must contribute to the family as soon as they are able.  Their parents are there to teach discipline and train them in the habits that will make them strong and successful, not to be their kids’ best friends(this can come later in life).  Putting children to work is of critical importance.  There may not be a family farm to look after any more, but many children grow up seeing their wellbeing come out of nowhere.  They grow up as part of a family they have invested nothing into.  As soon as they hit adolescence, family regresses to little more than a part time job.  Children are showered with gifts but not expected to give anything back.  Thus, they grow up disconnected from the give and take that is the foundation of any lasting human relationship.  As adolescents and adults they end up learning that they must earn their way through life in contradiction to an entire childhood filled with ‘magic’.  Suddenly, just as they must begin thinking about caring for themselves, the adolescent must in an instant unlearn everything he or she has ever been taught.  The adult world they are growing into is jarringly and completely different from the world of children.  This disconnect is taken for granted in the 21st century Western world, but certainly it should not be.  In generations past, life went through its stages, but from birth, one’s experiences were part of a coherent continuity that fed directly into adult life.

In Victorian times, the ‘magic of childhood’ type of thinking was a reaction to the extremes of the day.  With the industrial revolution, children were commonly being placed on adult length shifts in dirty, dangerous jobs.  Because children’s hands were small, they were just the right size for reaching inside machines.  Because their bodies were small, they were just the right size for crawling through shafts in coal mines.  To top it all off, hiring kids was ridiculously cheap and if separated from family, they could be coerced into even longer shifts and into performing especially undesirable jobs.  An entire generation of children began to emerge from factories and mines with missing appendages, stooped and beaten frames, and in general, malnourished, sickly, and weak.  Those who had the privilege of living above the lower levels of society did everything they could to distance their own children from this nightmare existence.  A new ethic of shielding children from the world’s realities and keeping them in a safe, happy place until adulthood emerged.

While the misfortunes of industrialization were important in inspiring modern thought, just as critical were advancements in medicine.  Well into the 19th century, child mortality was quite frequent, an indisputable fact of life.  Spending lots of time obsessing about one kid just wasn’t worth it; getting too attached was just a way of getting hurt.  Chances were high that any given child would be dead before age 5 or 6.  As childhood mortality dropped off drastically with the beginning of the 20th century, interest in the early lives of children increased sharply.  With the vast move from rural family farms to suburbs in the 1940s and 50s, there was no longer much incentive to have children work, it was actually easier to keep them in the home as ‘innocent,’ ‘magical’ pets.  Still, children remained reasonably independent and spent much of their time learning by playing outside all day long, freely taking risks, and occasionally getting hurt.

Unfortunately an attitude that began from revulsion towards backbreaking child labor in hazardous environments passed down unchallenged from generation to generation, its original purpose all but forgotten.  More and more laws were made protecting children and their sheltered status.  By the 1960s a vast chasm had grown between the world of children and the adult world.
In the 21st century, adult life is an utterly foreign land that many do not truly see until their early twenties, after college.

If given half a chance children will grow to be hardy and strong.  However, they consistently fail to thrive when protected to the point of suffocation.  The same principle emerges in every aspect of childhood.  Studies have shown that children who are raised in a scrupulously sanitary environment grow up to be sickly because they never developed immunities.  Meanwhile, children who were allowed to go outside and play in the dirt become resilient and develop strong immunities to the pathogens they come into contact with.  Whether it is the immune system or their mind and character, children are inherently meant to be exposed to challenges at an early age.  Not only does it not harm them, it is a critical part of healthy development.

In Western society, it is taken for granted that adolescents are dictated by the very laws of nature to be surly, neurotic, depressed, and lazy.  Is this any surprise if children are never shown the basic rules of the adult world:  that one must work to eat, that one must compete to live, that one must give to receive.  Of course they feel put upon when the time comes to work when they’ve never had to do it before.  Of course they’re neurotic, depressed, and surly when they finally have to put in their share.  Of course life becomes highly stressful for adolescents when the entire life they grew up with turns out to be nothing more than an illusion and they have to begin again from day 1.  Having grown up without expectations, they prove to be weak, wilting, hothouse plants when it comes time to contribute as an adult.  To even begin to do so they must unlearn every habit they have ever been raised with, a process that is bound to be both tumultuous and painful.  Can it be taken as any surprise that the most privileged generation in history is committing suicide and falling to mental illness in droves?

In the past, children, and especially adolescents would have spent plenty of time in company of their peers, but the focus of their lives would have been their family and the need to be able to succeed one day in the world of adults.  From the earliest age possible, children were begun in the precursors of skills that would make for a successful adulthood.  Their education took place in the presence of adults, their standard of conduct was set by adults, and adults were inevitably their role models.  Under the current system, children grow up in artificial third world societies governed by children.  I call them third world societies because the notion of merit is foreign; status is decided based on who can claw their way to the top through corruption, deception, and brute force.  Personal worth and rank are defined by ‘popularity’ and other arbitrary criteria.  This environment is completely isolated from the adult world and the values it encourages are inimical to long term success as an adult.  It severs the continuity between child and adult, dividing life into two disparate parts that render one another nonsensical.

In throwing crowds of children into one building so they can raise each other in a dysfunctional civilization of their own making, I reflect that those who implemented the system might have been true believers in the ‘magic of childhood.’  This philosophy contains the notion of child ‘innocence.’  This is an egregious misunderstanding of young humans.  Children are not innocent.  In fact, they are most likely to openly express humanity’s worst impulses.  Children have yet to be socialized.  Socialization includes the development of moral inhibitions.  Children are amoral.  Unless taught otherwise, they feel perfectly entitled to do whatever necessary to realize their ambitions.  By the very undeveloped nature of their brains, they are narcissistically self-centered, unremittingly cruel towards any in whom they sense weakness, and willing to forcibly take anything they calculate is not adequately protected against them.  They fly into a rage every time they do not get precisely what they want; they have yet to learn patience.  They have no sense of justice or fairness.  They are outraged when punished for infractions against others and are again outraged when those who wrong them are not punished completely out of proportion to their offense.  Childhood is not to be perpetuated, let alone glorified.  The correct approach is to instruct children in the ways of adults as soon as possible.

‘Innocence’ is often understood to be a lack of knowledge of the less savory aspects of existence, yet ignorance is not bliss as it is so often said to be.  Any reflection on childhood or observation of children quickly reveals the true nature of things—ignorance is fear.  Children are typically afraid of everything because they do not yet understand the ways of the world.  As far as they know, anything could happen and thus, even the shadows at the bottom of the closet seem a possible threat.  In reminiscence on living through that less developed stage, it’s amusing, but if we reminisce a little deeper, we realize the fear was quite serious at the time.  It is the lot of a child to live in an open-ended universe with no guarantees and the fearful unknown lurking everywhere until they begin to acquire knowledge and understanding.  There is nothing romantic about this difficult phase of development.  It is certainly not to be described as ‘innocence’.

Not only is this ‘magical childhood’ perspective blatantly backward, it demeans the rich and rewarding experience of adulthood.  This is a pity because adulthood, the chance to be wise, strong, skilled, and loving is the good part of life, not the beginning part where we do all the initial learning.  The feelings of confidence, security, and peace we feel as adults are unknown to children.  When we have mastered the fears that abound in an inexperienced mind, only then is the way to real enjoyment of life opened.

Ultimately, it is foolish to shower a small child with lavish gifts in celebration of a ‘special’ time of life.  Such a new apprentice human is just as happy with two oddly shaped sticks as with the latest primary colored, loudly shrilling gimmick.  A child approaching adulthood should be given many gifts that will help him or her pursue their dreams, peace of spirit, and development as a human being.

Since I have made many criticisms, I have also turned my thoughts to solutions.  There is no longer a family farm that makes child labor necessary.  However, there are still plenty of household chores to be done, especially if both parents are busy at work.  There are plenty of ‘traditional’ aspects that could be brought back into life by employing one’s children.  One could teach their children how to grow a vegetable garden, how to bake fresh bread, how to fix meals.  All of these skills drastically reduce the cost of feeding the family.  Since girls are no longer taught to cook and clean, it is an important set of basic skills for both sexes.  And to be realistic these are things many adults have never been taught.  Thus it has the potential to be a learning experience for all involved.  Such skills have the potential to become part of a family heritage, an heirloom that can be passed down to the next generation and give a solid feeling of identity in a liquid age.

If the family owns a business, it is a good idea to get the kids involved right away.  For instance, I recently visited a small family run shop where the kids were allowed to work at the cash register with their parents nearby to lend a helping hand if necessary.  A business allows children to see the adult working world in action from the very start, and they love having the opportunity to emulate adult behaviors.  It is a lesson they can learn while small that many college students still have not been taught.

If one had their home near some local businesses instead of miles away from non-residences in the suburbs, the kids could be sent to get groceries, take clothes to the cleaners, and run all manner of errands.  It could be a social experience for the children and an opportunity to deal with adults outside of the family.  These sorts of practices could save endless time and fuel for busy parents.  The less busy the parents are, the more time they have to actually be around their kids and have more influence in their upbringing.  If people are willing to be open to a different lifestyle, it is quite possible to bring change to the current dismal situation that so many people take for granted.

As a final consideration, I do not advocate what many refer to as a ‘soccer mom’ lifestyle: a way of existence in which children are constantly being taken to different activities and lessons.  In themselves none of these activities are bad, but children must go out into the world and obtain knowledge and understanding.  The explorations they undergo themselves are the most fruitful of all.  To have kids constantly locked up in classrooms and learning activities, even outside of school, is just another instance of the social pathology of smothering children through obsession and overprotection.  At lessons, children are under the direct control of an authority figure at all times.  In an environment that encourages healthy development, children are given responsibility and freedom by degrees as they master the skills they are taught.  When their obligations are fulfilled, they ought to most certainly be free to explore their world as they will.  It has all but been forgotten that children must be given space if they are to develop as strong, independent individuals.  All they need be given is half a chance, and they will grow without the defects, disorders, and neuroses that have become commonplace.  It has all but been forgotten that human beings, especially young ones, are incredibly resilient by nature.  To be allowed to discover the difficulties of the world for themselves, to have the opportunity to fail, to get scraped knees, and then to learn is all that is required.  The widespread obsession with ‘protecting children’s innocence’ is nothing more than taking what’s fixed and breaking it.