Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » January 2005 » Hope After Blunt Force Trauma

[« Buying Sudafed? Show your ID!] [Hot Stove League: Notes of interest on the baseball front. »]

01/26/2005: Hope After Blunt Force Trauma

My February issue of Smithsonian Magazine has two touching stories: one of Horror and one of Hope. I'll skip the Horror story about Uganda, because I want to focus on the story of Hope, since it has to do with elections. It was written by Pamela Constable about (in part) her experiences during the Afghanistan election.

Pamela writes:

On this particular day, it was the look on a young farmer's face as he waited to vote in a chilly village schoolroom. He was a sunburned man of perhaps 25....He was not old enough to remember a time when his country was at peace, not worldly enough to know what an election was, not literate enough to read the names on the ballot. But like everyone else in the room, he knew that this was an important moment for his country and that he, a man without an education or power or wealth, had the right to participate in it.

The farmer took the ballot gingerly in his hands, gazing down on the document as if it were a precious flower, or perhaps a mysterious amulet. I raised my camera and clicked a picture I knew I woudl cherish for years to come. The young man glanced up at me, smiling shyly, and stepped behind the gingham curtain to cast the first vote of his life.

Real Clear Politics had this as part of a commentary:

James Madison, for example, writes in The Federalist of “that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” In the largest sense, those experiments aim to prove whether the latent capacity of mankind for self-government can, at last, after centuries of slumber, be activated, realized, and confirmed by the conduct of the American people—in particular, by their ratification of the newly proposed Constitution. Alexander Hamilton underlines the point in that work’s famous opening paragraph: “It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”

The human right to be free, in other words, does not guarantee the human capacity to be free. That capacity must be elicited and demonstrated, and its noblest and most persuasive proof is by the establishment of “good government,” along with the habits necessary to perpetuate it; the habits of heart and mind that, among other things, allow a people’s “choice” to be guided by “reflection.”

Notice, too, that the founders are not content with (merely) democratic regimes, i.e., with governments that hold elections and empower majorities to rule. The test of mankind’s political capacity is that its self-government should culminate in good government, in regimes that not only have elections but actually achieve the common good and secure the rights of individuals, whether or not they belong to the ruling majority. This blend of constitutionalism and republicanism is extremely difficult to attain. Well acquainted with the history of failed republican regimes, the founders by and large thought it the most difficult of all forms of government to establish and preserve. Hence good, republican government is an achievement, not an entitlement.

Let us hope that this may turn out so in Iraq on January 30th,

Hope after so much blunt force trauma.

Karen on 01.26.05 @ 06:31 PM CST


Replies: 2 comments

on Thursday, January 27th, 2005 at 3:31 PM CST, josh said

A snow crash reference?

on Saturday, January 29th, 2005 at 3:08 AM CST, Karen McLauchlan said

This a reference to the US military "intervention" results in "Democratizing" Iraq.

James Dobbins (Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at Rand. He was a U.S. Special Envoy in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia, and Afghanistan.) wrote a goood piece for "Foreign Affairs." It is one of the few I've read with some pertinent usable ideas for getting to the goal of a successful Iraq strategy...if only we knew what the Bush plan is and how it plans to see this through. You can find this at:


The question is whether Bush can handle juggling so many mixed-messages up in the air (and still chew gum and chop wood at the same time) to see a more complex strategy through to the finish. He's hardly the go-to-guy for subtleties...and this would a tightrope walk of unparalleled delicacy for this admin.

New Comment

January 2005

Archives of Blogger site

Powered by gm-rss

Len's sidebar:
About Len (The uncondensed version)
Memorial to a dear friend
Frederick W. Benteen
The Web of Leonards
The St. Louis Cardinals
The Memphis Redbirds
The St. Louis Browns
The Birdwatch
Hey! Spring of Trivia Blog
BlogMemphis (The Commercial Appeal's listing of Memphis blogs)
The Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything

Len's extended blogroll:

Brock's Sidebar:
About Brock
Boing Boing
Crooked Timber
Dispatches from the Culture Wars
Heretical Ideas
John and Belle Have a Blog
Jon Rowe
Letters of Marque
Literal Minded
Marginal Revolution
Matthew Yglesias
Oliver Willis
Political Animal
Positive Liberty
Signifying Nothing
Unqualified Offerings

Karen's Sidebar
About Karen
The Ig-Nobel Prizes
The Annals of Improbable Research
The Darwin Awards
EBaums World
Real Clear Politics
U.S. News Wire
Foreign Affairs
The Capitol Steps
Legal Affairs
Nobel Laureates for Change
Program On International Policy
Law of War
Sunday Times
Media Matters
Is That Legal?
Andrew Sullivan
Literal Minded
Jon Rowe
Freespace Blog
Thought Not
Publius Pundit
Blog Maverick
Rosenberg Blog
Crooked Timber

The Rocky Top Brigade:

Rocky Top Brigade Sampler

A New Memphis Mafia

The liberal alternative to Drudge.

Get Firefox!

Cardinals Countdowns:
Days until pitchers and catchers report:
Your browser doesn't support Java applets.

Days until first Grapefruit League game (3/3/05; @ NYM):
Your browser doesn't support Java applets.

Days until Opening Day (4/5/05; @ HOU):
Your browser doesn't support Java applets.

Days until Home Opener (4/8/05; vs. PHI):
Your browser doesn't support Java applets.

How many visitors are here:

Blogrings/Blog indexes/Blog search:
« ? Verbosity # »

Listed on Blogwise
Popdex Citations
Blog Search Engine

Greymatter Forums
template by linear