Quote And Review

She was one of those people who enjoy poor health and she was always threatening to die, though in fact she lived onto her nineties. With time on her hand, she could nurse her neurosis, build resentments of slights and imagined slights, brood on our growing estrangement, and make it worse with arbitrary assertions of her authority.

“A Personal Odyssey” by Thomas Sowell

This happened when the author was 16 and got into Stuyvesant High School, one of the most competitive high schools in New York City. His mom didn’t understand how hard Sowell had to study in such a high school and resented the growing gap between them. It became so bad that Sowell had to quit Stuyvesant, move out, and work as a messenger for Western Union in Manhattan and other odd jobs, until he was drafted by the military for the Korean War. If it were not for his military service and the subsequent government support to pay for his tuition, Sowell would never have the chance for college and graduate school.

To a lesser degree, this happens in many families where the aspirations of the children couldn’t be understood by their parents. The alienation is almost inevitable, although not to the degree that the kid being kicked out. The feeling of disconnect and misunderstanding and resentment would grow if neither side is reaching out to reconcile.

An equation is true only under certain conditions. … Many people do not understand that what they are saying may be true just because the way they use words. And those people may be deceived into believing that they are saying something true about the real world. Many political beliefs depend on such circular reasoning. … I came to understand why it is so important to avoid having your own definition trap you in beliefs that will not stand up under scrutiny.

“A Personal Odyssey” by Thomas Sowell

If one ever lives in a different culture and observes how other people behave, one would understand that what is held essential and indispensable in one culture is utterly irrelevant in another culture. This is because life is re-framed with different definitions in another culture. I have many examples, but here I will just give one. One of my friends delivered her baby through c-section in Philadelphia and she stayed in hospital for several days. Every day the nurse would come in to put ice on the wound. Her mom came every day and threw the ice away. Since in several Asian cultures, anything cold is archenemy to pregnant women during the pregnancy and after giving birth–women should not even touch cold tap water for a month after the delivery.

I am just wondering how many habitual thoughts like this are living with us which we take for granted without scrutinizing its validity. There must be a lot. Without the interaction with other cultures or without the change in our life, be it technical advancement or social progress, we would never bother to examine whether they are truth or myth or whim.

Can’t Finish the Book

I finally came to the last two hours of this book and alas I was disappointed when he talked about his encounter with Reagan and Clarence Thomas. Later on he assisted Reagan’s presidential campaign, even though he objected to more than one things within Reagan’s speeches. I couldn’t go on. Not only that, I started to doubt his opinions and arguments in previous chapters. Actually I don’t know what to think and how to evaluate his conservatism. What does he think of Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court judge, who rarely gives an opinion, despite holding a very important position?

One thing is for sure that there are many layers of conservatism in existence, which I have never been aware of before. Should I consider Thomas Sowell as one of those Asians who voted Republican despite all those negative rhetoric on minority?

I like the first half of the book in which the author described how he grew up in South Carolina and then in New York City–the grittiness of his existence, the constant lack of money, and the feeling of not being able to afford the next month’s rent. He writes really well and I just can’t resist the charm of his writing. He has no deliberate embellishment in his description, no attempt at humor, and no interest to invoke an emotional response. Despite not using any of the writing technique, he writes interesting passages that I want to read. Not only that, I want to read his other books too–I am a little obsessed with his books right now.

29 thoughts on “Quote And Review

  1. Interesting quotes. Also loved your observations on culture and the differences. All cultures have local flavor and significance as they are organic to that place, its climate location etc. And though they can vary a lot and have some outlandish aspects, for the most there is hidden ancient wisdom too which can be adapted to contemporary times too

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    1. That’s so true. Many customs came from ancient wisdom that was suitable for an era different from the life we are living right now. So the evolution and change are inevitable, but sometimes change brings pain. LOL. Yes, ancient wisdom can be adjusted for contemporary usage. πŸ˜‰πŸ˜ŠπŸ˜

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  2. This book seems inviting…

    Conservative environments sort of restrain the wild spirits in children who perhaps may not understand why things are the way they are.

    Anyway you presume that the writer ‘has no deliberate embellishment in his description, no attempt at humor, and no interest to invoke an emotional response’. Perhaps that was the conservative part of him wanting to write it as it is, instead of dwelling on his own opinions.

    Would you say he was incredible because he didn’t write what you expected he should?

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    1. Well, I expected him to express conservative economic theories since he’s a student of Chicago school of economists, but I didn’t expect his conservative politics. His training as an economist is a good determinant on his writing style–I don’t think he wrote or wanted to write as a novelist. LOL. It is very true as you point out–what is the line between the facts and the writer’s own opinions? That’s a good question and a lot can be said about it.

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        1. Yes, that’s so true. A controversial topic and figure can perk us up and pique our interest. LOL. I didn’t know we can be so interested in this. Now that I know, we should explore this direction even more. πŸ˜‰πŸ˜ŠπŸ˜

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  3. At least you enjoyed the first half of it. And I understand the misunderstanding you mentioned there, with parents and children with different cultures and mindsets. Very common with migration. It cannot be easy.

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    1. That’s very true. Thank you for your comments. Different mindsets can work together when good communication is executed. May we all improve our communication skills. LOL.

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  4. This makes me want to read his book to see where he was coming from. I consider myself a liberal-leftist on many issues, but I like hearing the conservative side to see how she or he thinks. Robert Heinlein was a conservative all of his life and his novels challenged my viewpoints at every page. Do I agree with him? No. But he made some interesting cases.

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      1. I wish I can get into science fiction or fantasy novels, but so far I haven’t been able too. πŸ˜‰πŸ˜Š Actually I am starting to like cartoon and a little tragicomic graphic book now, which is a new thing. LOL.

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    1. He grew up in a challenging environment and struggled all his way up until he is over 40s. I didn’t finish the book and I stopped at his support for the Reagan campaign. Actually a controversial figure can spark a lot of interesting debate, but I am not an expert on politics and don’t have any in-depth opinions to offer. The information I can relate is probably some cliche I heard from somewhere else. There are a lot of nuances in the things people say and not say, do and not do. LOL.

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      1. Which still does make me wonder why Reagan out of all people. Maybe he felt the Democrats of the time too bureaucratic? Plus, NYC in the 1970s was under the Democratic party and was a mess. I sorta remember NYC in the 1980s and it still needed a lot of cleaning up. That I can see, but there is a question of nuance.

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        1. I didn’t listen to the last two hours to find out. The author is a student from the Chicago school of thoughts with Milton Friedman and other conservative economists. It is very true. NYC in the 1970s was almost bankrupt and in very bad shape.

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  5. I appreciated your review of this book. You spoke your truth. Too bad we don’t view everyone on the earth as our sisters and brothers. You make some very valid points. Thank you and I hope you have a blessed and special rest of your week. Hugs πŸ€— Joni

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  6. The first part of the book sounds good but I understand why you didn’t like the second half. I read a lot of articles/books which are quite conservative in nature for my history courses and some are hard to read because I disagree quite strongly with the writer.

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    1. That’s very true. It is very hard to read something one doesn’t agree with. While the author insists on fair evaluation of everybody regardless of circumstances in his first half of the book, he very much relinquishes his long held principle in the second half when he evaluates (or deliberately fails to evaluate) the Reagan campaign and Clarence Thomas.

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  7. Conservatism and backward thinking are things that set societies behind. Some children like to engross themselves in books and studies. They want to explore and know about new things but some parents don’t like this because they think this would take their children away from their families and they will forget their values.

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