I Know Why the Caged Bird Speaks

Maya Angelou’s 1969 autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, is an import

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  1. Ben, two thoughts on another outstanding In Brief piece.

    One, does Ben Shapiro credit the source of his quote to the famous quote from John Adams: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence[?]”

    Which, just my guess, is probably a riff on an ancient Chinese proverb as they seemed to be putting those out even before the Greeks got a chance to grab all the good quotes.

    And, two, Fiat News has an echo to your comments from a long ago ET piece “The Play’s the Thing:”

    “There has to be a middle ground between being a Cynic and a Fool, some way of playing the game without losing one’s soul. Recognizing that all of us human animals, including me and including you, are playing multiple multi-level games … well, that seems like a good start to me. The Truths in life are still death and taxes (and maybe compounding returns). Everything else is theatre, where honesty (with a small h) and truth (with a small t) are probably the best we can achieve. And that’s not so bad.”*

    Since reading that 2014 piece, I see “small ts” and “small hs” everywhere, all the time. It’s become hard not to see them as almost every argument you agree or disagree with has a small h or t at its core (being human, you’ll notice their smallness more in the ones you disagree with). Not the same thing as Fiat News, but a lot of Fiat News is built up around small t and h arguments presented as big t and h ones.

    I lied, one more (very quick) thought. To not talk in narratives and to not argue from small ts and hs requires more engagement and more of a time commitment to build out a comprehensive argument than most people are willing to give.

    • It would be good to have font, indentation, etc., capability in this response section. Or, perhaps, these capabilities exist and I’m just not seeing them or it’s an issue with my operating system.
  2. Ben- Love your line, “but people will never forget if you made them money in their personal account” which should be stated as: “never forget if you didn’t beat/match the index in the most recent few years…even though you’ve given them 80% (including the past few crummy years) of the S&P’s return with half the risk/volatility since Q1 2000”. I feel like that caged bird! To your point…Bogel et al’s assertion re indexation will be shown to be “fake news” in the fullness of time!

    Haul-ass, bypass, and re-gas!

  3. Avatar for ET82 ET82 says:

    I assumed Maya Angelou’s best known quote was, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

    Ben Shapiro showed us who he is way back in 2005, “Americans must realize that empire isn’t a choice: It’s a duty.”

    Too bad that concept doesn’t seem to have much salience within the context of an integrated world economy. No empire would seem to have much long term staying power in a system that has already colonized all of its easy growth territories. And Shapiro only seems to be miming what far more frightening characters like Kissinger or Madeline Albright actually put into practice. Yet those who insist Perception > Reality and Man > Nature continue to loudly proclaim that we must always and forever Go Forth!

    I still wonder vainly if there were moments when such a fate could have been deterred. When there may have been sufficient room to make a choice freely about whether or not to treat others as options. The end of the Cold War often strikes me as the pinnacle of missed opportunities in the 20th Century. Although I sense that the algorithms shaping our sole superpower world were largely encoded in the decades before Metallica would finally get to play Moscow (https://youtu.be/_W7wqQwa-TU). More pointedly, perhaps if LBJ had not fallen prey to fiat news circa 1964 then domestic political capital wouldn’t have withered like foliage poisoned by Agent Orange and maybe America’s internal development wouldn’t have ground to a halt. Setting aside any notions of sentiment or humanity, I’ve also heard that staunch anti-war anti-imperialist Bertrand Russell was so aghast by the world-ending power of nuclear weapons that he seriously suggested for the United States to preemptively destroy the USSR’s major cities before it could achieve any comparable military capabilities. The remainder of Earth’s non-nuclear armed peoples would then resign themselves to a hopefully benevolent domination by an American empire which inevitably spreads across every continent. Shapiro would have fervently approved.

    “You make your own reality and then, once you’ve done it, everyone is of the opinion that it was all so obvious.” - Brian Cox as Logan Roy in Succession (2018)

    Our appetite to allow perception and feelings to govern our lives in this part of the world really does feel like something exceptional. Residents returning to Paradise and Malibu in California right now are likely regaining the very same confidence as the woman who stopped first to apply makeup before fleeing the inferno that lustily consumed her good looks right down to ash and bone. I don’t know for sure if America’s insatiable hunger for sentiment and happiness is uniquely exceptional in history, but it sure feels that way so therefore must be true. Restating what I hear from Dr. Ben’s message—if we’re going to be stuck in a world that nobody with a soul actually wants to live in then best find some good friends to do it with. A good pack being the only effective inoculation against missionary coyotes like Shapiro. Where else are we supposed to trade pop culture quotes and literary aphorisms with apocalyptic abandon? Here’s another one, the last I promise, which I’d say is a proper completion of Shapiro’s self-serving fragment about Facts > Feelings. Attempting to uncloak the metagamers carefully packaged opinions never seems to do much good or else they would’ve gone extinct long ago. But all the same, one ought never to mistake the words of a heretical pedant for those of a poet:

    We would rather be ruined than changed
    We would rather die in our dread
    Than climb the cross of the moment
    And let our illusions die.

    • W.H. Auden, The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue
  4. Thank you for incisive writing that makes me think. I wonder, what role does the audience play in this? There is an abundance of news: fiat or otherwise. If the audience selects, amplifies and rewards what it values, it is not blameless. Beyond choosing not to be a rhinoceros, surely there are other levels of responsibility.

  5. Avatar for fvc fvc says:

    It helps I think to point to others in discussions, how they are being played. (You have to shine the light subtly through a question and not a criticism). No-one likes to be played which may shore up the flock’s defenses. But when everyone is so polarised and “enraged” this is not easy to do. To add another Maya Angelou quote to the mix: “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

  6. Avatar for fvc fvc says:

    Mark - you can use html tags to do this (see this for bold https://boldlentil.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/how-to-comment-in-bold/) and italics is emphasize. I tested it in my comments below.

    So to bold you would place < b > in front of and < /b > behind the text. Use em for italics. Some recommend strong not b for bold.

    This site is WordPress so there is probably a plugin that puts a little format bar in the comment box to save people having to learn HTML.

  7. Michael, thank you, Mark

  8. “Our appetite to allow perception and feelings to govern our lives in this part of the world really does feel like something exceptional”

    My father was a man forged as a boy in The Depression who lived by the ethics of hard work, integrity, honor, commitment, "your word is your bond " (Ben, he always went to the funeral) and compassion, empathy and kindness.

    That order wasn’t a mistake as my father didn’t diminish those last three, but believed you couldn’t successfully be compassionate, kind and empathetic - charitable - if you didn’t first do the hard work of earning a living and building an honest reputation. Growing up in the Depression taught him that you had to build something - a career / a skill / a way to earn a living / a reputation - to be able to practice the empathy, kindness and compassion he possessed under a hardened shell.

    IMHO, and your comments touch on it, that understanding is what is slipping away from America: the understanding that, first, you have to do the hard work - earning a living and building a honest reputation for an individual / growing an economy and pushing for honor and integrity in our public institutions (companies, government and non-profits) - before you as an individual and we (as a society) can do the good of empathy, of sympathy, of charity.

    Those last three are wonderful feelings, sentiments and actions, but by putting them first and diminishing and, at times, being hostile to the other ones - the ones of hard work and integrity - we are breaking our country apart as the latter are impossible without the former.

  9. Thanks, that is a smart approach and meaningful warning.

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