I’ve been turning off the Olympics, bored, after 45 minutes the last few nights. It’s the snow, I think. It’s not snow, it’s weird compressed fake cold stuff that doesn’t look or behave like real snow. No flakes ever fall from the sky. The slopes look like white concrete, and allegedly feel like it when athletes fall on them, too.
I’m getting no Winter vibe from any of the interstitial bits, either. No sense that anyone is sitting just out of camera range drinking hot chocolate or gathering to hit the clubs and celebrate, post-medal.
God, China sucks. At least at this.
It’s not all the host country’s fault, I should add. Some of these events make zero sense to me. Snowcross, slopestyle, big air, meh — people launch themselves into the air over icy concrete and we say wow. Only I don’t say wow. I say why would anyone want to fly into the sky upside down over icy concrete? WHERE IS THE SNOW?
Oh, this is just me being peevish again. Also, the skating is OK, but I wish we could see more speedskating.
So, many years ago, not long after I arrived in Indiana, a friend told me about a radio ad he’d heard, for a series of action figures, toys for kids. At the time, action figures were mainly superheroes, Transformers and ninja turtles, which for some reason Christians found objectionable. So, in an effort to submerge their children in an alt-culture more to their liking, they came up with Heroes of the Kingdom, i.e. little plastic Biblical figures that kids could play with. I recall, from the ad, a little boy’s voice: Goliath, God will protect me from your sword!
We know now that Christian alt-culture goes far beyond action figures (although honestly, I wish their music didn’t suck so hard). But imagine being a child in such a family, plowing through your homeschool curriculum, and then you’re handed, oh, a book on Thomas Sowell:
While he looked for work, he often had nothing to eat except stale bread and jam. But Sowell refused to give in to despair or self-pity. And indeed, Sowell went on to be a famous thinker that inspires millions with his ideas on self-reliance and free-market economics.
Thomas Sowell guy has been in a veritable featherbed of a sinecure for his entire career, as I recall. If he were released into the free market, he’d be stripped for parts before he could set up a card table on the sidewalk to sell his books. Fun fact gleaned from his Wikipedia entry: He’s 91. And I still think the best thing ever written about him was something I found and posted years ago, but bears repeating:
Sowell, a syndicated newspaper columnist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes a book a year. His first one appeared in 1971, and he has written forty-six in all. I confess to not having read them all. But I have read enough of them to know that Sowell is not one for changing his mind. Although he claims to have been a Marxist in his youth, his published writings never vary: the same themes—the market works, affirmative action does not work, Marxism is wrong, and, yes, intellectuals are never to be trusted—dominate from start to finish. The right has its share of converts—those, such as the also prolific David Horowitz, who began on one extreme only to shift to the other, and along their bumpy way display at least some genuine vitality—but Sowell is not one of those. The flatness of his sentences is matched by the flatness of his trajectory. Whatever darkness exists in the world does not reside in his soul. He undertakes no bildung and experiences no crises. He learns nothing that does not confirm what he already knew. If he were a character in a novel, it would end on page one.
I am not in the conversion business, but I have changed my mind more than a few times in the forty or so years that I have been putting my views before the public. Reality can do that to you. You might think, for example, as I once did, that affirmative action is highly suspect because it gives more weight to group membership than individual achievement. But if you teach at a university and see your classes enriched by the diversity that affirmative action brings to them, and if you then hear remarkable stories of the individual achievements made possible through the magic of the college admissions process, you may begin to change your mind. I do not fear a future Tim Russert combing my early books to find words in blatant contradiction to my present ones: good luck in even finding the young out-of-print me. Sure, some of the stuff I once wrote embarrasses me now, even down to my choice of titles. But better that than sentences never exposed to the air of experience.
That’s Alan Wolfe, by the way.
And this is me wishing you a pleasant weekend. And some actual snow in Beijing.