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April 28th, 2012

Tao Te Ching- 67

"...Courage stems from showing
kindness and mercy to others.
Generosity starts with knowing
what a thing is worth.
True leadership begins with knowing
your place in the world.

"But these days,
I see everyone trying to act courageous
without any trace of compassion.
They try to be generous
but they don't practice moderation
in their own lives.
They act like leaders,
but they have no sense of modesty.
No good can come of this.

"If you want to get ahead,
show people compassion.
When other people attack you,
defend yourself with compassion.
It's the most powerful force in the universe.
Daily Tao - 67

hank you to the estimable trevoke
"Although his writings would later receive widespread acclaim, Thoreau's ideas were not universally applauded by some of his contemporaries in literary circles. Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson judged Thoreau's endorsement of living alone and apart from modern society in natural simplicity to be a mark of "unmanly" effeminacy and "womanish solitude", while deeming him a self-indulgent "skulker."[79] Nathaniel Hawthorne was also critical of Thoreau, writing that he "repudiated all regular modes of getting a living, and seems inclined to lead a sort of Indian life among civilized men."[80][81] In a similar vein, poet John Greenleaf Whittier detested what he deemed to be the "wicked" and "heathenish" message of Walden, decreeing that Thoreau wanted man to "lower himself to the level of a woodchuck and walk on four legs."[82]

"In response to such criticisms, English novelist George Eliot, writing for the Westminster Review, characterized such critics as uninspired and narrow-minded:

'People—very wise in their own eyes—who would have every man's life ordered according to a particular pattern, and who are intolerant of every existence the utility of which is not palpable to them, may pooh-pooh Mr. Thoreau and this episode in his history, as unpractical and dreamy.[83]'"

Henry David Thoreau - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Brown (abolitionist) -

"Historians agree John Brown played a major role in the start of the Civil War. David Potter (1976) said the emotional effect of Brown's raid was greater than the philosophical effect of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and that his raid revealed a deep division between North and South.[5] Brown's actions prior to the Civil War as an abolitionist, and the tactics he chose, still make him a controversial figure today. He is sometimes memorialized as a heroic martyr and a visionary and sometimes vilified as a madman and a terrorist. Some writers, such as Bruce Olds, describe him as a monomaniacal zealot, others, such as Stephen B. Oates, regard him as "one of the most perceptive human beings of his generation." David S. Reynolds hails the man who "killed slavery, sparked the civil war, and seeded civil rights" and Richard Owen Boyer emphasizes that Brown was "an American who gave his life that millions of other Americans might be free." For Ken Chowder he is "at certain times, a great man", but also "the father of American terrorism."[6] The song "John Brown's Body" became a Union marching song during the Civil War."

John Brown (abolitionist) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

o i'm trying to find some reason to dislike Henry David Thoreau (don't ask why, its an autism thing) and the only thing i can come up with is his admiration for and, apparently, unqualified defense of John Brown of Torrington and Pottawatamie.  His willingness to use violence to try to destroy an unjust, but legal institution is controversial, but the overflow of that violence onto persons who merely stood in his way, crosses the line between militant and criminal and allows the charge of terrorism.  He thus becomes a precursor of the twentieth and twenty-first century terrorists.  I once argued that the first modern terrorist was Stavrogin. a character invented by Dostoyevsky  for his novel, The Devils, because there was no historical character on which to model Stavrogan save the autocratic imagination of the author.  Yet John Brown could well have provided the Russian author with a model.

I believe in crossing and challenging categories, but the category "terrorist and martyr" is a little bit too much for me.  Terrorists should not be confused with martyrs; and, more important, martyrs should not be confused with terrorists.



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