Might is Right

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The Athenians said, “we shall not trouble you with specious pretences … since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

Thucydides, Melian Dialogue

JFK versus Kruschev in the Cuban Missle Crisis is one of the past century’s most climactic moments. Both were bright, powerful leaders that for a few days decided the future of the world. Not many people know that JFK was the black sheep of his family: the golden child was actually his brother, Joe Kennedy Jr., who died in WW2. However, JFK came from financial privilege, went to LSE, and earned his keep as a war hero before his serendipitous election to the senate. All of this later situated him within the American intelligentsia.

On the other hand, Kruschev was born in one of the poorest Russian towns and fought his way through Russian politics through equal parts tenacity and savvy. He was one of the few generals who could tolerate Stalin’s bipolar nature, knowing when to laugh and when to be “ignorant” of his misdeeds. Kruschev’s background was as far from that of JFK’s as one could imagine and in the Missile Crisis, these opposites attracted.

We all know how close we came to disaster in 1962 – it was a known known even at the time. Sadly, our world today is not that clean cut; the pugnacious mushroom clouds of nuclear warfare aren’t staring at us in the face, rather America’s biggest threats today loom in the shadows and are larger than ever before. Cyber warfare, autocratic governments, IP theft, genetic weapons: the list goes on ad infinitum.

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The Deadliest Disease

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philosophy / reading / tech

I know hardly anything about Galahad except that everybody dislikes him.”
“Dislikes him?”
“They complain about him being inhuman.”
Lancelot considered his cup.
“He is inhuman,” he said at last. “But why should he be human? Are angels supposed to be human?”

T.H. White, The Once and Future King

History of Aging

It’s interesting to look at the societal shift in how we view our elders: a story that harkens back to the siutation in antiquity between Athens and Sparta. In Homer’s time, Athens famously prided itself on favoring the young over the old – the Council of Elders was a mere mirage of power while the young reigned over everything. In Sparta, the elderly Gerusia, 28 members over the age of 60, controlled affairs through a top-down approach. The Englightenment returned to the time of Athens by rejecting ugliness, traditional wisdom, and anything to do with old age. The printing press and the freedom to read books were the killing blows to the power of elders over their societies. Why listen to a church elder when there were hundreds of books at your disposal?

Fast forward to a century ago. Telling a Londoner that they could feasibly expect to live to the age of 80; or that they could have kids without fear of mortality; or that they and their family could be incoculated against smallpox and measles would have justifiably thrown you into the asylum.

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