Dec. 4, 2013
Dec. 2, 2013
Rabbi Moshe Grylak: Attack on Chanukah's scholar-warriors an affront to all people of faith
U.S. boxes in Israel, not Iran: Surrender in Geneva
Jewz in the Newz by Nate Bloom
: Vanessa Bayer & Jacob, the Bar Mitzvah Boy; Adam Levine, nickname "the Bear Jew," is People's Sexiest; Eastwoods Need to Say "Kinehora!"
The Kosher Gourmet by Kim Ode:
Fried and gone to heaven: Dense, fried Slovenian doughnut-like rolls, krofi, on Chanukah is a treat you'll want to eat all year long
: Tracking babies' eyes, scientists find signs of autism in 2-month-olds
Jewz in the Newz by Nate Bloom
: Hunger Games: Jewish Connections; A 'Minyan'of Jewish Celebs Recite the Gettysburg Address On-line; Walter Matthau's Reaction to JFK's Death
Nancy A. Youssef :
Christians too afraid to complain as treatment in new 'democracy' worsens
Jewz in the Newz by Nate Bloom
: Jewish MLB managers; Past and Present; Movie News and Dancing W/the Stars Shocker; Paula Abdul's Israeli bat mitzvah and bio facts rarely reported
Jewish World Review
Sept. 20, 2007
/ 8 Tishrei 5768
Who Will Say I Promise to Lay Off?
Throughout history writers have drawn attention to the admirable way in which creatures like ants and bees organize their communities. Their cooperation, common spirit and lack of egoism are seen as keys to their success. In the West the founders of the Cooperative Movement and early socialists drew inspiration from the bees and their hives. Ants were less commonly chosen as models by these ideologues (most of whom were pacifists), because ants were seen as warriors as well as workers. But Lenin praised them, the "worker ant" being one of his terms of approval.
In designing their utopian societies, however, these idealists omitted to ask themselves an important question: Where had the tremendous instinct for cooperation that animated the bees' hive and the ants' nest actually gotten the creatures that live in them? Nests and hives have existed for tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of years--and are still the Original Model. Nothing has changed since Aristotle analyzed the activities of ants and Virgil wrote so charmingly of bees. But in the meantime mankind has multiplied, lives three times as long, is bigger and healthier, has turned the luxuries of the rich into the ordinary necessities of the poor, has conquered the planet and is now reaching for the stars.
A Crucial Difference
What is the difference that makes ants and bees engage in endless repetition, remaining static, while humanity relentlessly changes and advances? The difference is summed up in one quality that the culture of the hive and the nest so conspicuously and necessarily lacks: individualism. There is no such creature as an individualist bee or ant. They are not identical; each has a life to live and lose. But none thinks for itself. All accept the burdens and conformity, the monotony and changelessness of communal society. In this instinctual acceptance lies the secret to their successful survival, as well as their failure to advance.
Now, human beings have never mindlessly accepted society as they find it or the methods of doing things as handed down by their forebears. The earliest of archeological traces reveal novelty, be it only in the chipping out of a flint tool or the assembly of a crude necklace of pebbles.
Human beings can often work well in teams, but they are at their most creative alone. That is how Archimedes discovered how a lever works. Copernicus was not part of a university team. Galileo worked out the relationship between the Earth and the Sun on his own. Newton, Darwin and Einstein were men accustomed to long hours engaged in solitary thought, the reclusive examination of specimens or the hermitlike working out of long pages of equations. Only a few hundred yards from where I write this, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the key step in the advent of the antibiotic drugs that have prolonged countless lives. At that crucial time Fleming didn't even have a lab assistant.
Most of the industrial pioneers operated by themselves during the most fruitful periods of their careers. This was true even of Thomas Edison, who later became famous for creating a workshop culture in which clever individuals worked together on inventions. But I stress the word "individual," for that is what they remained. As the long list of Nobel Prize winners testifies, the essence of discovery lies in the skill with which men and women find partners for mutual encouragement and critical support while still giving their individual inventiveness full rein.
In material terms individuality is the most precious of all human characteristics. When it is forcibly restrained, as it was in Stalin's Russia or Mao's China, or systematically discouraged, as it was in the India dominated by Nehru's Congress Party, living standards remain low and stagnant. The unleashing of the individual to create and run independent businesses in today's China has demonstrated how quickly such freedom can improve the way in which hundreds of millions of people live. Whenever human beings are permitted to pursue their own ideas and exercise their ingenuity without being bullied into conformity by authority, the results are always surprising and often sensational.
A Critical Choice
The U.S. is approaching a presidential election, with candidates laying out their platforms and policies. Who will speak for the individual or think in terms of what the individual wants from government? That is what interests me. For, just as the U.S. was created by individuals exercising their uniqueness under the rule of law, so the continuance of its prosperity and its power to uphold right in a dangerous world will depend upon whether individualism flourishes or not.
Creative spirits do not need favoritism. They instinctively recoil from special treatment. They can prosper without subsidies or tax relief. All they ask for is the huge, echoing silence of government inactivity. They long for a pristine world in which laws and lawyers do not trip them at every step, where they can work quietly, industriously and productively by themselves. I believe such creative individuals are more numerous than ever and that the opportunities for them to enrich themselves and improve life for all are greater now than at any other time. They ask only for a candidate and future President who will use five vital words: "I promise to lay off."
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
|BUY THE BOOK|
Click HERE to purchase it at a discount. (Sales help fund JWR.).
Eminent British historian and author Paul Johnson's latest book is "American Presidents Eminent Lives Boxed Set: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant". Comment by clicking here.
07/24/07: Greed is safer than power-seeking
04/02/07: Benefactors must be hardheaded
03/07/07: American idealism and realpolitik
11/28/06: Space: Our ticket to survival
10/24/06: Envy is bad economics
10/11/06: Better to Borrow or Lend? Rethinking conventional wisdom
08/22/06: Don't practice legal terrorism
08/08/06: A summer rhapsody for a pedal-bike
08/03/06: Why is there no workable philosophy of music?
07/11/06: Historically speaking, energy crisis is America's opportunity
07/06/06: The misleading dimensions of persons and lives
06/06/06: First editions are not gold
05/23/06: A downright ugly man need never despair of attracting women, even pretty
04/25/06: Was Washington right about political parties?
04/12/06: Let's Have More Babies!
04/05/06: For the love of trains
03/29/06: Lincoln and the Compensation Culture
03/22/06: Bottle-beauties and the globalised blond beast
03/15/06: Europe's utopian hangover
03/08/06: Kindly write on only one side of the paper
02/28/06: Creators versus critics
02/21/06: The Rhino Principle
© 2006, Paul Johnson
Richard Z. Chesnoff
Frank J. Gaffney
Victor Davis Hanson
A. Barton Hinkle
Judge A. Napolitano
Debra J. Saunders
J. D. Crowe
David Ray Skinner
Ask Doctor K