Gongol.com Archives: February 2022

Brian Gongol

February 8, 2022

News Poetry isn't a substitute for logic

Venturing boldly (if unnecessarily) into the geopolitical arena, the ice cream brand Ben and Jerry's offers the following analysis: "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war. We call on President Biden to de-escalate tensions and work for peace rather than prepare for war. Sending thousands more US troops to Europe in response to Russia's threats against Ukraine only fans the flame of war." ■ The phrase "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war" sounds lovely, and it has a respectable pedigree: Albert Einstein penned it. But the logic of the argument is faulty. ■ Consider swapping out the word "war" for other unwanted events: A declaration like "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for fire" would count as heresy to any fire department (or forestry agency). Likewise, a police department would reject the notion that "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for crime". A hospital undoubtedly tries to both prevent and prepare for disease, and a security company surely tries to prevent and prepare for burglary. ■ It is one thing to say that preparing for an undesirable outcome (and war surely is an undesirable event) is a regrettable act. It is quite another to say that preparation itself is contrary to the nature of peace. ■ Plenty of people involved in war have believed in the values of preparation and deterrence: Dwight Eisenhower declared in his first inaugural address that "[W]e Americans know and we observe the difference between world leadership and imperialism; between firmness and truculence; between a thoughtfully calculated goal and spasmodic reaction to the stimulus of emergencies." And James Mattis said as Secretary of Defense that "Our will to win is not more important than our will to prepare to win." Neither man wanted more bloodshed; both sought less precisely because they knew intimately the human cost of war. ■ Just because a phrase is artfully put doesn't make it sensible, and Einstein's quote is a case study in the difference between the two. It is imperative to plan for the worst -- whether that means the worst of natural disasters or the worst of what humans can do to one another. To make preparations may well be the saem act as to implement preventative measures. ■ Moral philosophers -- often including vocal pacifists -- have often argued "If you want peace, work for justice". If an act by a powerful force would be unjust -- like, for instance, a large military making war by invading a smaller neighbor out of self-interest -- then the truly peaceful act may well be for other powerful forces to intercede. The principle that the strong should come to the aid and defense of those who are weaker is nothing new.

Health The sleep of the past wasn't necessarily any better than yours

Derek Thompson: "The romanticization of preindustrial sleep fascinated me. It also snapped into a popular template of contemporary internet analysis: If you experience a moment's unpleasantness, first blame modern capitalism." ■ Worth noting: It's hard to take seriously any sleep-related recommendations from a time before interior climate controls, pillow-top mattresses, contoured pillows, white-noise machines, deadbolts on front doors, smoke detectors, or countless of the other modern niceties that offer us the privilege of choosing how and when to sleep. Our biggest problem is likely that people simply don't know how (or choose not) to implement good habits of sleep.

News Couple arrested and charged with money-laundering billions

These numbers are so unreal they make the entire allegation (featuring cryptocurrency) seem like a work of fantasy fiction.

News Russia takes shot at French president just after meeting with him

Generally speaking, if you follow up a meeting by publicly undercutting the authority of your counterpart, then you're going to sound weak and petty -- not unlike demanding to speak with a manager.

News How education changed a family that had been enslaved

A brief but illustrative family history. It's fascinating and perspective-enhancing to note the impact of education on families as larger units, especially when generations were explicitly denied access to it.

Feedback link