hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009
Gary's interesting post on population densities and feelings about immigration triggered this comment from me:


". . .For my part, I find the world seems impossibly large, complex and interesting when on foot. When in car, it can all seem rather monotonous, and even a small number of cars leads to parking jams that turn your thoughts toward OverPopulation and being Lord of the Lebensraum."

In other words, perceptions about being crowded are in part because 1-car-per-person, while it can be efficient in terms of time and energy, is inefficient in terms of space.

My semi-curmudgeonly feeling is that, just as it has become fashionable to talk of "developing a healthy fear of obesity", at least a small minority of people will develop a healthy suspicion of the automobile & electricity. Not, of course, to stop using them entirely; but to develop an appreciation for living substantial patches of life on foot and unplugged. As long as that sentiment does not turn fanatical, I think it's a good thing.

Deep Thoughts:

". . .in exploring the physical universe man has made no attempt to explore himself. . .If he recognised this he could use the products of science and industrialism eclectically, applying always the same test: does this make me more human or less human?. . . For man only stays human by preserving large patches of simplicity in his life. . .

Orwell, "Pleasure Spots"


". . .The time was not one of hurry or bustle. But bustle has very little to do with business. Men did their work without it; and they got through a deal both of work and of talk. . ."

Tolkien, "Farmer Giles of Ham"

". . .There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique. . ."

CS Lewis, "The Abolition of Man"


"Mr Bredon had been a week with Pym's Publicity, and had learnt a number of things. . .the most convincing copy was always written with the tongue firmly in the cheek, a genuine conviction of the commodity's worth producing - for some reason - poverty and flatness of style;

. . .Mr Copley, an elderly, serious-minded man, who had entered the advertising profession before the modern craze set in for public-school-and-University-trained copy-writers, was remarkable for a tendency to dyspepsia and a perfectly miraculous knack of writing appetizing copy for tinned and packeted foodstuffs. Anything that came out of a tin or a packet was poison to him, and his diet consisted of undercooked beef-steak, fruit and whole-meal bread. The only copy he really enjoyed writing was that for Bunbury's Whole-Meal Flour, and he was perennially depressed when his careful eulogiums, packed with useful medical detail, were scrapped in favor of some light-headed foolishness of Ingleby's, on the story that Bunbury's Whole-Meal Flour took the Ache out of Baking. But on Sardines and Tinned Salmon he was unapproachable.

Ingleby specialized in snobbish copy about Twentyman's Teas ("preferred by Fashion's Favourites"), Whifflets ("in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, in the Royal Yacht Club at Cowes, you find the discriminating men who smoke Whifflets") and Farley's Footwear ("Whether it's a big shoot or a Hunt Ball, Farley puts you on sound footing"). He lived in Bloomsbury, was communistic in a literary way, and dressed almost exclusively in pull-overs and grey flannels. . .

Miss Meteyard, with a somewhat similar mental makeup, could write about practically anything except women's goods, which were more competently dealt with by Mr. Willis or Mr. Garrett, the former of whom in particular, could handle corsets and face-cream with a peculiar plaintive charm which made him more than worth his salary. . ."

Dorothy Sayers, "Murder Must Advertise" (1933)

"Oh, it is difficult - Man is an animal very delicately balanced. . .He must, perhaps, retain some of the old savagery, but he must not - no definitely he must not - deify it! . . .I believe at least in one of the chief tenets of the Christian faith - contentment with a lowly place. . ."

Agatha Christie, Appointment with Death (1938)


"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."


Wiki says, about this quote "No contemporaneous citations. Widespread attribution to Gandhi begins in post-1990 inspirational books.", but my dim impression is that it comes from a letter Gandhiji had written to someone.