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R.I.P GEORGE H.W. BUSH

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President George Herbert Walker Bush died in his home on November 30th following a long battle with Vascular Parkinson’s disease. Below is a brief overview of his life:

  • Born June 12th, 1924 to Prescott Sheldon Bush (1895 – 1972) and Dorothy Bush (1901 – 1992).
  • Attended Greenwich Country Day School
  • Attended Phillips Academy in Andover Massachusetts from 1938
  • Held numerous leadership positions including President of the senior class, secretary of the student council, president of the community fund-raising group, member of the editorial board of the school newspaper, and captain of the varsity baseball and soccer teams
  • Served in the US Navy as a naval aviator from 1942 until 1945
  • Attained the rank of junior-grade Lieutenant
  • Earnt the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and President Unit Citation
  • Married Barbara Bush (1925 – 2018) in January 1945
  • Fathered six children: President George W. Bush (1946 – ), Robin Bush (1949 – 1953), Jeb Bush (1953 – ), Neil Bush (1955 – ), Marvin Bush (1956 – ), and Doro Bush (1959 – ).
  • Enrolled at Yale University where he earnt an undergraduate degree in economics on an accelerated program which allowed him to complete his studies in two years.
  • Elected President of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity
  • Captain of the Yale Baseball Team with whom he played two college world series as a left-handed batsman
  • Became a member of the secret Skull and Bones Society
  • Elected Phi Beta Kappa, America’s oldest academic honour society, upon graduating Yale in 1948.
  • Worked as an oil field equipment salesman for Dressler Industries
  • Established Bush-Overby Oil Development Company in 1951
  • Co-founded Zapata Petroleum Corporation, which drilled in Texas’ Permian Basin, in 1953
  • Became President of Zapata Offshore Company
  • After Zapata Offshore Company became independent in 1959, Bush served as its President until 1964 and then Chairman until 1966
  • Elected Chairman of the Harris County, Texas Republican Party
  • Ran against Democrat incumbent Ralph W. Yarborough for the US Senate in 1964, but lost
  • Elected to the House of Representatives in 1966
  • Appointed to the Ways and Means Committee
  • Ran against Democrat Lloyd Bentsen for a seat in the Senate in 1970, but lost
  • Served as the US Ambassador the United Nations from 1971 to 1973.
  • Served as Chairman of the Republican Nation Committee from 1973 to 1974.
  • Appointed Chief of the US Liason Office in the People’s Republic of China from 1974 to 1975.
  • Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1976 to 1977.
  • Chairman of the Executive Committee of the First International Bank in 1977
  • Part-time Professor of Administrative Science at Rice University’s Jones School of Businesses in 1978
  • Director of the Council On Foreign Relations between 1977 and 1979.
  • Sought the Republican nomination for President in 1980 but lost to Ronald Reagan.
  • Served as Vice President from 1981 to 1989.
  • Elected President of the United States in 1988.
  • President of the United States from 1989 to 1993.
  • Defeated by Bill Clinton in the 1992 Presidential election
  • Awarded an honourary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Chairman of the board of trustee for Eisenhower Fellowships from 1993 to 1999
  • Chairman of the National Constitution Centre from 2007 to 2009.
  • Became a widower after seventy-three-years of marriage.
  • Died November 30th, 2018 at the age of 94.

 

THE RIDDLE OF INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY

Defendants At Nuremberg Trials

On November 20th, 1945, twenty-four leaders of the defeated Nazi regime filed into Courtroom 600 of Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice to be tried for some of the most reprehensible crimes ever committed. Over the next ten months, the world would be shocked to learn of the depth and extent of the Nazi regime’s mechanised horrors. By the end of the trial, twelve of the defendants would be sentenced to death, seven would be sentenced to periods of imprisonment, and three would be acquitted.

Contrary to what one may believe, the perpetrators of the Holocaust were not psychopaths, sadists, or otherwise psychologically disturbed individuals. Rather, their actions arose, as psychologist Gustave Gilbert (1911 – 1977) concluded, from a culture which valued obedience. The observation that mass-horror is more likely to be committed by normal men and women influenced by social conformity would later be categorised by Hannah Arendt (1906 – 1975) as the ‘banality of evil.’

This shouldn’t be as too much of a surprise. After all, human beings are hard-wired to obey orders from people they deem superior to themselves. In 1961, Yale Psychologist Stanley Milgram (1933 – 1984) carried out a famous experiment which explored the conflict between authority and personal conscience. Milgram’s experiment was inspired by an interview with the Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss (1900 – 1947). Höss was asked how it was possible to be directly involved in the deaths of over a million people without suffering emotional distress. Chillingly, Höss answered that he was merely following orders.

The process of the experiment was simple. Two participants, one who whom was actually a researcher, would draw to decide who would take the role of teacher and who would take the role of student. (The system, needless to say, was rigged to ensure the actual participant took the role of teacher). The teacher and student were then separated, and the teacher was taken to a room with an electric shock generator consisting of a row of switches ranging from fifteen to four-hundred-and-fifty volts.  Supervising the teacher was an experimenter in a grey lab coat (an actor in reality). Through the experiment, the teacher was to ask the student questions and administer an electric shock every time the student got a question wrong. As the experiment continued the student would deliberately give wrong answers. As the shocks got more and more severe, the student would scream and beg for mercy. When the teacher expressed concern, however, the experimenter would insist that the experiment continue. By the end of the experiment, Milgram had concluded that all participants would continue to three-hundred volts whilst two-thirds would continue to full volts when pressed.

The Nazis were able to create such obedience through a well-calculated propaganda campaign. Hitler outlined the principles of this campaign in Mein Kampf:

  1.  Keep the dogma simple. One or two points only.
  2.  Be forthright and powerfully direct – tell or order why.
  3.  Reduce concepts down to black and white stereotypes
  4.  Constantly stir people’s emotions
  5.  Use repetition.
  6.  Forget literary beauty, scientific reasoning, balance, or novelty.
  7.  Focus solely on convincing people and creating zealots.
  8.  Find slogans which can be used to drive the movement forward.

Similarly, Hitler’s speeches also followed a very specific and calculated formula:

  1. Hitler would unify the crowd by pointing out some form of commonality.
  2. Hitler would stir up feelings of fear and anger by pointing out some kind of existential threat.
  3. Hitler would invoke himself as the agent of a higher power.
  4. Hitler would present his solution to the problem.
  5. Hitler would proclaim the utilisation of the solution as a victory for both the higher power and the commoners.

In essence, the Nazi propaganda machine facilitated feelings of group identity and then used conformity to gain control over that group. They gambled that the majority of people preferred being beholden to a group than identifying as an individual.

If there is any lesson which can be derived from the Holocaust it is that the distance between good and evil is shorter than we like to believe. As clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson is fond of pointing out, if the Holocaust was perpetrated by ordinary people and you’re an ordinary person, the only logical conclusion is that you too are capable of horrendous evil. It is not enough to be critical of those in powers, eternal vigilance means being critical of our own need to conform and obey. Our freedom depends upon it.

THE PROBLEM WITH PACIFISM

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Otto Von Bismarck, the great Prussian Statesman, once observed that it is better to profit from the misfortunes of others than to learn from one’s own mistakes. With the current threat from North Korea, it would perhaps be wise to learn from the annals of history, and not repeat the mistake of following a pacifist agenda.

We like to see nature as a wise and fair judge which rewards the good, protects the weak and punishes the wicked. In reality, it is a callous and unpredictable maiden.  It should come as no surprise, then, that history shows the human-race to be inherently blood thirsty, violent, and cruel.  This violence is derived not only from competition over resources and mates but also from our social natures. This is an aspect of our character we share with our primate cousins. A team of researchers at Yale University, headed by psychologist Laurie Santos, revealed that primates treat outsiders with greater suspicion and disdain than members of their own group. This trait can also be observed in modern humans, as Santos observed: “one of the more troubling aspects of human nature is that we evaluate people differently depending on whether they’re a member of our ‘ingroup’ or ‘outgroup.’ He went on to explain how this leads to violence: “pretty much every conflict in human history has involved people making distinctions on the basis of who is a member of their own race, religion, social class, and so on.”

In 1942, C.S. Lewis published the essay “why I am not a pacifist.” For Lewis, the question of pacifism was a moral one. Take murder, for example, no one can intuitively argue murder to be wrong under all circumstances, but it is possible to make such a claim using rational arguments. Pacifism, then, is the irrational belief that violence can only be used for evil, and never for good. If this is the case, defeating a tyrannical power like Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany is evil because it necessitates the use of violence, stopping a man raping a woman is evil if doing so requires the use of physical force, and executing a serial killer is immoral because it violates his right to life. Any individual who takes such a position is not a moralist, but a coward and a fool. This type of peace is that of “Ulysses and his comrades, imprisoned in the cave of the Cyclops and waiting their turn to be devoured” (Jean Jacques Rousseau, a Lasting Peace Through the Federation of Europe and the State of War).

When Patrick Henry, an American attorney and politician, gave his famous “give me liberty or give me death” speech, he asked: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” Pacifism presents nature as passive and just when, in reality, it is unkind, capricious, brutal, unforgiving, ruthless, bloodthirsty, and cruel. With the threat of North Korea looming over our heads, it may serve us to remember that those who do not conform to the laws of reality are always destroyed by them.