danish has this great word, dannelse. google translate tells me it's formation in english, but it's more than that. it's a combination of education (the danish word for that being uddannelse), being widely read (at least partly in philosophy), having travel experience (slow travel of the kind favored in another age) and displaying good table manners. kirkegaard was a dannede man. erudite, gracious and a deep thinker.
the dannede person is capable of synthesizing complex thoughts and having a coherent overview of complex situations, further s/he is able to articulate real arguments with a basis in logical thinking. s/he dresses well and can equally well dine with royals or with a table full of smoking intellectuals at the algonquin. s/he probably writes - essays, novels, fairytales, poetry or perhaps even the constitution. s/he commands respect because when s/he says something, it's thought-through and erudite.
we are sorely lacking such people in the world today. and i'm not sure how it happened. husband's theory is that it all went sorely wrong when the masses got money. once we no longer needed to be particularly educated in order to succeed financially, people stopped seeking education. eventually these people, who lack any basic training in how to form logical arguments and systematic ways of thinking about the problems facing the world, end up in places like the congress of the united states. and it all goes horribly, horribly wrong.
they have a lack of respect for the principles of a democratic process they don't understand - instead behaving like naughty children who throw a temper tantrum and stand and stomp their feet when they don't get their way. they don't understand the bigger picture or the tradition into which they've fallen - that when a bill is passed by a majority and signed into law, you cannot later tack it onto some other bill which has nothing to do with it and hold a whole country hostage. that's not how democracy works.
what seems to be the saddest part of the kindergarten that is now the american house of representatives (and i'm being sorely unfair to kindergartens here) is that there doesn't seem to be any adult supervisors. i have read time and again over the past week that this is a handful of extremists with a new and decidedly not dannede stranglehold on the repugnant party. there was a time when there were smart republicans out there, but they seem to be curiously powerless and silent and not doing a damn thing to rein these clowns in.
how on earth can the united states go around the world, forcing democracy down on the heads of afghanis and iraqis when they can't even get their heads around how it works at home?
i shake my head and feel grateful to be observing it from afar.
* * *
please help gwen get stories to her students.