Sustain America’s Greatness – Reject American Exceptionalism

When I was in high school, I confronted my European History teacher with a statement made in a book by former US Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski that at the beginning of 19th century China produced as much steel as did England. My teacher ridiculed the statement, claiming that nobody had anything close to England’s industrial capacity until late 19th century. I later found out through independent research that Brzezinski’s statement was true, and that in early 19th century England and China each produced 30% of the world’s steel. But even to this day many people in the West, including Harvard-educated historians such as my teacher, know nothing of this fact.

There are candidates in politics now who want to turn American educational system to Eurocentrism and American exceptionalism. And the answer to all these people is that in doing what they do they are in weighing against the very things that the Western Civilization, and America in particular, the leader of the world in the first place. The Western Civilization (and United States in particular) achieved its greatness through science; technology; ingenuity; innovation; knowledge; democracy; freedom of information; and fact. And in militating against such things the right-wing candidates are undermining the very things that made their country great in the first place.

In 18th century, a Chinese emperor rejected England’s offer of trade with China, saying that his “celestial empire” already had everything, and that there was nothing that the pathetic island of England could offer it. Pursuant this decision China entered a period of decline and stagnation as the Western civilization blossomed through scientific and technological innovation. This disastrous decision led China to fall steeply behind – a catastrophic decline from which China is only now beginning to recover.

And in choosing to ignore reality and embrace a factually wrong view of history and encourage a crabby, arrogant attitude on the part of American people, the right-wing politicians are at risk of putting America in the same position as the Chinese emperor had placed his “celestial empire.”

It does not help that there are ideologies out there that claim that there is no such thing as real innovation or originality, or that anyone who has any idea other than that of the people around him is a narcissist or a sociopath. It does not help that there are ideologies out there that claim that only good comes from Christ and that everything else is the work of the Devil. The world will not stop practicing intelligence and innovation, even if America does. And that will unquestionably lead America to decline in relation to the rest of the world for as long as its people practice such attitudes.

To actually be an American patriot and benefit the country in a meaningful way one must know what made it great in the first place. Ingenuity, innovation, knowledge, fact, and freedom of information, are at the root of everything, material and political, that America has. Other countries had Jesus; other countries had armies; other countries had capitalism; other countries had people willing to die for them or to work hard or to pledge allegiance to the flag. America is not exceptional in this regard. It is exceptional in its embrace of ingenuity and innovation, and it is to this that are owed America’s greatest accomplishments.

Those who want to embrace a factually wrong view of history, like those who want to misplace credit for America’s greatness, claiming it to be based on “traditional values” that existed in Europe and Middle East and in only a slightly different form in China and India long before they existed in America, are militating against the very things that are responsible for America’s accomplishments. And for America to remain an exceptional country, it must reject the factually wrong Eurocentrism and the equally wrong American exceptionalism, along with the other lies of the American Right that are contributing to this error.

To the people who would from this expect me to be a Marxist, my response is that the Marxist view of history is as wrong as the right-wing view of history. Besides describing China and India as feudalist and Native Americans as stone-age tribes, Marx offered no real informed insight into any of these societies. His linear conception of history is wrong in light of basic human reality as much as it is wrong in light of historical fact. At the time that Europe was in the Dark Ages, China had half the world’s GDP; India and Middle East had great architecture and advanced mathematics; and Africa had a city of a million people. While the Western Civilization progressed as a result of Renaissance and then later as a result of European Enlightenment and American Revolution, all of these civilizations declined and are only now getting back on their feet. There is no such thing as linear history, and there is no such thing as historical inevitability. Human choice makes it possible at any time to change history of any place in any direction. And in all cases, these choices bear logically predictable results.

Rejecting Eurocentrism and American exceptionalism will enhance and sustain America’s greatness. It will take away from people the intellectual crutches that they are using to sustain their pride as citizens of a great country while they are doing nothing great for their country themselves. It will give people incentive to actually add to their country’s greatness, instead of relying on the work of their ancestors to maintain their national pride while themselves doing nothing that merits pride. And that will do much to result in America remaining a great country instead of following 18th century China’s path to failure and decline.

Castles of South West Cornwall

During the summer months South West Cornwall is something of a mecca for those in search of sun, sand and surf. However, after one has spent just a small portion of time in the region, it’s unique history and a more diverse picture of the area begins to unfurl. The Cornish past is arguably best explored by visiting the large number of forts, ruins and stately homes which are open to the public. This article introduces some of the more unique and special castles in the region.

Pendennis Castle
Built by Henry VIII to protect Carrick Roads from the Spanish, Pendennis Castle at Falmouth was completed in 1545. The castle saw action during the Civil War of the 1600s and was armed once more during World War II but has since become a tourist attraction and is now under the ownership of English Heritage. The fort can be visited all year round and hosts a number of events throughout the summer. There are also fantastic walks on and around Pendennis Point, with Little Dennis right on the rocks.

Carn Brea Castle
The curious folly-like castle at Carn Brea, near Redruth, is one of a number of intriguing sights in this relatively small area including Bassett Monument and Cup and Saucer Rock. Carn Brea Castle was originally built as a chapel in 1379 but was later rebuilt by the Bassetts as a family retreat. Its unique design incorporates large uncut boulders at its base and seems to give the impression that the building has formed naturally from the land. Somewhat in-keeping with its unique design, the castle is privately-owned today, and operates as an acclaimed Middle Eastern restaurant.

Pengersick Castle
Pengersick has been of local significance for around 5000 years, and in the 12th Century a family settled here and took their name from the area. The Tudor building at the site today dates from the 1500s and is notable for its dual tower and newel stairs. After the death of the last owner, the castle was given to English Heritage and a local conservation officer to ensure its ongoing preservation. The building is widely considered to be one of the most haunted in England and is a top location for ghost enthusiasts.

St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is located just off the south coast around seven miles from Hayle. The castle is home to the St Auben family while the community of villagers who live around it work to sustain the mount as a self-contained parish. Today the castle is owned by the National Trust, but in the past it has acted as a fortress, stately home and even a priory – and offers an excellent insight into the history of the region. The castle is open to the public at specific times relating to the seasons, so it is sometimes necessary to book.

AFC West Update and Carson Palmer

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in the AFC West. I may be overly optimistic, but I still think the Chiefs have a chance to make a run for the division title. I want to touch on all four teams for a moment.

But first, how about the Raiders going out and trading for Carson Palmer? A very interesting move. Palmer is a decent quarterback who probably has a couple years left in him. And news reports are suggesting that Palmer is likely to start against the Chiefs this weekend. Wow.

My take? Quarterbacks, even veteran quarterbacks, seldom excel in their first season with a new team. And that’s when they have an entire off-season and preseason to prepare. In 1993, Joe Montana took the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game, but did so mostly on the back of an outstanding defense. And in 2009, Brett Favre took the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game and posted a quarterback rating of 107.2. A very impressive season late in his career. But do you want to know what’s more common? Last year the Washington Redskins traded for Donovan McNabb who struggled and finished with a quarterback rating of 77.1. The only season he had with a worse rating? His rookie year in 1999 where he posted a rating of 60.1. Carson Palmer isn’t Brett Favre. Heck, he isn’t even Donovan McNabb. He’s a mediocre quarterback who enjoyed his best seasons in 2005 and 2006. The Raiders made a bold move, but probably not a smart move. If they end up winning the division and making a run in the playoffs, then it was a great move. If not, they’ve given up two very high draft picks and have hurt the long-term development of their team.

Now let’s look around the standings in the AFC West.

San Diego Chargers (4-1): The Chargers have beaten Minnesota (1-5), Kansas City (2-3), Miami (0-5) and Denver (1-4). They’ve lost to New England (5-1).

Reasons for optimism: The Chargers have managed to start fast, but that’s been more the result of the teams they’ve played, than how they’ve played. They still have a lot of talent. Ryan Matthews appears to be a legitimate starting running back.

Reasons for pessimism: Antonio Gates has played little this season. Their schedule is going to get much tougher. And Norv Turner is still their coach.

Prediction: Their schedule is going to get much tougher. And they’re going to need to play much better. I have a difficult time finding more than 5 wins on their remaining schedule. I think they end up 9-7, which is right around the record most of Norv Turner’s teams end up.

Oakland Raiders (4-2): The Raiders have beaten Denver (1-4), New York Jets (3-3), Houston (3-3) and Cleveland (2-3). They’ve lost to Buffalo (4-2) and New England (5-1).

Reasons for optimism: Darren McFadden is a stud, and the Raiders are second in the league in rushing. They’ve been the most impressive team in the division so far, and are a legitimate playoff contender.

Reasons for pessimism: The Raiders are ranked #28 in the league in total defense, and are particularly vulnerable against the pass where they’re ranked #30 in the league. Quarterback Jason Campbell was having a decent season before breaking his collarbone last week. It will be a big question as to how Carson Palmer will respond to his new surroundings. I don’t see any reason to think that the team will be better with Palmer than they were with Campbell. And it’s likely that they’ll be worse.

Prediction: The Raiders have a clear shot to win this division, but difficult to see six wins on their remaining schedule. I’m guessing they end up 9-7 as well.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-3): The Chiefs have beaten Minnesota (1-5) and Indianapolis (0-6). And they’ve lost to Buffalo (4-2), Detroit (5-1) and San Diego (4-1).

Reasons for optimism: After two historically bad losses, the Chiefs appear to have righted the ship. And if they can pull off a win in Oakland this weekend, they’re sitting at 3-3, which is exactly where I had them (though I had them beating Buffalo and losing to Oakland to reach 3-3). If Jackie Battle can provide the Chiefs with a consistent ground attack, they’re going to be OK.

Reasons for pessimism: They’re still missing Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry and Tony Moeaki for the season. And they’ve got a tough schedule ahead.

Prediction: Believe it or not, a win this weekend would put the Chiefs in a good position to win the AFC West. They would have their two toughest divisional games behind them with a 1-1 record. That leaves them two games against Denver, and home games against San Diego and Oakland. I think they’ve got 5 or 6 more wins in them this season, which puts them at 7-9 or 8-8. My original prediction of 9-7 looks very difficult.

Denver Broncos (1-4): Denver has beaten Cincinnati (4-2). They’ve lost to Oakland (4-2), Tennessee (3-2), Green Bay (6-0) and San Diego (4-1).

Reasons for optimism: John Fox is in his first year with the team, and he’s a good coach. He just didn’t have a lot to work with. Their schedule does get a bit easier.

Reasons for pessimism: Lots of them, including that they just traded away their best wide receiver. I’m not a Tim Tebow hater, and I have no clue if he’s going to be a good quarterback or not. History has shown us that quarterbacks with bad mechanics seldom have sustained success in the league. But Tebow is an interesting young man and an incredible athlete. He will make it interesting to say the least.

Prediction: Hard to see more than a couple wins left on their schedule. I’m guessing 4-12.