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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thomas Paine part III: Rights of Man

Rights of man was the lengthiest of the works in the writings of Thomas Paine that I read.  While Common Sense was more of a work on why American should be independent from England, Rights of Man was more an attack on hereditary monarchy itself.  Even though it was written specifically to address the French Revolution and the case for it, the work is directed more towards a perpetual case for man's right to government by consent of the governed and the right to revolution if he is denied this right.

This was the most challenging and yes, dry, of the pieces in this book.  It was very long going but that was because I was really into understanding what I was reading.  I am very weak on European history,  I'm OK when it comes to knowing the dates and places of American history but to tell you what was going on in Europe at the time is something that I couldn't do.  It's not that I'm totally ignorant to things like the inquisition, Shakespeare, the reformation, the 100 years war and so forth.  I know that all these things happened and in a way what they mean but I really couldn't assign a date to them or put them in order.  This book actually helped, partially because it referenced so much history but partially because I had to spend hours on Wikipedia to understand who the people and places that Thomas Pain referenced were.

Paine discusses the beginning of monarchy, he references Samuel 8.  Go read it, God hates kings, I had no idea.  I guess if I wouldn't have skipped seminary class for two years I may have had a shot at knowing this.  Then after he shows that kings have no moral standing he states that he believes that the first kings of Europe were bands of brigands and ruffians who banded together for self preservation and enslaved the populous.  How can you believe in a divine royalty that is descended from outlaws who enslaved your ancestors?

After Paine made the case for why kings weren't something to revere but something to despise, he goes on to make the case that people could live under a better form of government.  Paine makes the case that government and society are separate institutions.  People seek out other people naturally, we need other people to trade with, to love, to inspire us and interact with.  However because we all have a darker side we need government to keep our worst sides in check.  Government tries to limit the extent that we cheat and rape and kill each other in these interactions but government doesn't have to be of a certain form, and government certainly has room to change as our needs change.  These were radical ideas at the time, even people who supported the American Revolution because it just made sense geographically couldn't see the sense in upsetting the institutions of government that existed in Europe at the time and Paine took them to task, individually and in name.

If Thomas Paine lived today I have a firm belief that he would be an cable news anchor.  Taking the powerful, but wrong opinioned (and if you didn't completely agree with Paine you were wrong opinioned in his eyes) to task was his favorite part of the book.  He even published extensions in his revised editions that berated his opponents.  In one appendix he even said that there were so many dull witted writers creating rebuttals to his work that he wouldn't even bother answering them unless they sold as many copies as he did.  He was like a cocky rock star telling you your music sucked unless you could hit the charts at the same level he was at.

So in these pages I learned to love Paine.  I learned a lot about European history, dates and places and learned a bevy of words that aren't in common use now, I've looked up a few in the thinner dictionaries laying around in office supply stores and they just don't rate. Thanks to Wikipedia and online dictionaries this book really expanded my knowledge base.  How did anyone read anything before the web?

So tell me what are you reading and what should I read next?  I'm getting behind on the writing but I always want more for the reading part.  What are you reading now and where should I go next?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Six Feet Under

So what a sad month to start watching six feet under.  I'm halfway through the first season.  I'd be almost done but Joanna and I are trying to watch it together so I'm limited to episodes that we can watch while we're together, which with work and kids in practicality is 2-3 per week.  It's helped that we've disconnected Direct TV to take advantage of an offer I couldn't refuse on a Comcast package.

It's a sad month because it seems that this August has been marked by death.  No immediate family but still people that I knew and didn't expect would go so soon.

Firstly there was my cousin's husband, Rudolph "Rudy" Mata.  I never knew their family too well and I'm of course feeling regrets.  Joanna misses having extended family around from when she lived in New Zealand.  I was steeped in extended family when I was growing up but never spent as much time with them  as I should have.

Secondly a man I went to school with as a boy, Jason Elwell.  I was never close friends with him but I do have some memories of him.  I remember playing king of the hill with him in the snow and when I cut my hand up on the table saw in Jr. High he was the one who helped me complete my cabinet.  Joanna for some reason loved that thing but I never did, firstly because of the bad memories and secondly because I know that he did so much of the work on it that it could never be truly mine.

Thirdly Angela Rogers.  She was in my LDS ward growing up.  She was younger than me but of course when so much life revolved around church and church activities she was one of those people that was omnipresent in the background.  I remember that I was her home teacher, it was the only church calling that I performed more or less faithfully, not out of any innate desire but because my companion had a burning desire to fulfill the calling of home teacher and of course as companion I had to be there on the next to last Sunday of every month.  That's how you can tell someone is driven to be a great home teacher, when it's done before it's absolutely necessary.  Unfortunately because I was there in body more than spirit I kept sleeping through his lessons that I considered to be preachy and long winded.  It's something that I wish I had recorded so that I could see if I am of the same opinion still.

Lastly an Aunt, Diane Banks.  Again extended family that I've not spent enough time with.  I do have memories of spending time at their house.  I was ill behaved as a young teen, my memories are more of the things I did to embarrass myself rather than fond ones.  Not her fault of course, all mine,  but just the memories I pass through when I think of my time with them.

My heart goes out to all those that have been affected by these losses.  Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.  I hope that's true.
There is still time left in this month.  Five more days that could be filled with tragedy or joy, I guess the wheel keeps spinning and who knows who's number will come up next.  Just a reminder that we're all on borrowed time.  As one of the characters in Six Feet Under said "did you use it well" ?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

To my recent celebrity guests

I just had time to catch up on my comments.  Sorry it took me so long if you had a comment in moderation.

I'd like to welcome my new guests which include Teela Tequela F$(#ing, Brittany Spears Naked and some guy named Juan who appreciated my post on Viagra and wanted to point me to a helpful link.  Juan I couldn't find which post you meant but if I find it I'll be sure to move your comment from the Common Sense post to the appropriate one.  Also Maxim Russia, I appreciate your dedicated readership but I really do have enough information on reasonably priced Vegas vacations, you don't need to send me 10 links a day.