Quote Of The Day #30

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More Mencken. I don’t have much time to read every day and now I feel that I am stuck with this Mencken book forever. He is very pessimistic about almost everything, himself included. I think probably his only pleasure in life is to voice his pessimistic views. Still, whatever he says is very entertaining, despite being exaggerated out of proportion.

Mencken is quite pessimistic about science despite of all the united voice in praise of the advancement of technology.

What I gather from it chiefly is the sad thought that science, after all, cannot teach us how to live. It accumulates immense pyramids of facts, but the facts turn out, on examination, to be meaningless. What if the astronomers discover that the temperature at the core of a certain star is 750,000 degrees Centigrade? What if the electron reveals itself as a speck of vacuum performing a witless and eternal dance? What if epinephrin is synthesized, and even Gordon gin? What if someone proves that a straight line is no longer the shortest distance between two points? All the really important human problems remain unsolved. Nothing in any of the triumphs of science will help a man to determine whether, having $50 to invest, he will do better to put it in the missionary box or buy some worthy girl a set of necking tools.

“Mencken Chrestomathy” by H.L. Mencken

Mencken is very unfair to teachers. I think many teachers will be upset by his extreme portrayal of the teaching profession. Still, I think Mencken means to attack the setup of the system of education, rather than the teachers. Actually I have been inspired by at least three of my teachers. Without them, I would not have grown to be fond of books and ideas.

In brief, the teaching process, as commonly observed, has nothing to do with the investigation and establishment of facts, assuming that actual facts may ever be determined. Its sole purpose is to cram the pupils, as rapidly and as painlessly as possible, with the largest conceivable outfit of current axioms, in all departments of human thought—to make the pupil a good citizen, which is to say, a citizen differing as little as possible, in positive knowledge and habits of mind, from all other citizens. In other words, it is the mission of the pedagogue, not to make his pupils think, but to make them think right, and the more nearly his own mind pulsates with the great ebbs and flows of popular delusion and emotion, the more admirably he performs his function. He may be an ass, but that is surely no demerit in a man paid to make asses of his customers. This central aim of the teacher is often obscured by pedagogical pretension and bombast. The pedagogue, discussing himself, tries to make it appear that he is a sort of scientist. He is actually a sort of barber, and just as responsive to changing fashions. That this is his actual character is now, indeed, a part of the official doctrine that he must inculcate. On all hands, he is told plainly by his masters that his fundamental function in America is to manufacture an endless corps of sound Americans. A sound American is simply one who has put out of his mind all doubts and questionings, and who accepts instantly, and as incontrovertible gospel, the whole body of official doctrine of his day, whatever it may be and no matter how often it may change.

“Mencken Chrestomathy” by H.L. Mencken

Mencken is not very happy about civilization.

There should be more sympathy for school-children. The idea that they are happy is of a piece with the idea that the lobster in the pot is happy. They are, in more ways than one, the worst and most pathetic victims of the complex of inanities and cruelties called civilization. The human race is so stupid that it has never managed to teach them its necessary tricks and delusions in a painless and pleasant manner. The cats and dogs do better by their young, and so, in fact, do savages.

“Mencken Chrestomathy” by H.L. Mencken

15 thoughts on “Quote Of The Day #30

  1. Remember, just because something is published in a book doesn’t make it correct. One should challenge the writing, question the thinking and evaluate the conclusions. Moreover, mother cats have been known to abandon or even eat the runt of the kindle. Therefore humans 1, cats 0. If you think Mencken is a downer, wait to you get to Schopenhauer 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s absolutely right. Actually a well published author can err just as easily as a non-published person. And a well published author can do more damage. For example, Mencken. We just can’t take him seriously. I heard of Schopenhauer, but have never read him. Is he the one who believe in Buddhism? Probably I should read him if I have time.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. “Nothing in any of the triumphs of science will help a man to determine whether, having $50 to invest, he will do better to put it in the missionary box or buy some worthy girl a set of necking tools.” Well, despite his hardcore pessimism, I have to agree with this.

    Liked by 2 people

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