The title is from some dialogue in Inherit the Wind, the great 50s play and 60s film ostensibly about the Scopes trial but really about the freedom of thought and expression. Lots of lessons for us, and if you haven't seen the film or read the play, you are missing a treat. I believe that line was lifted verbatim from the trial record. Clarence Darrow, denied by the court of using expert witnesses to justify his client's teaching of evolution, put Williams Jennings Bryan on the stand as an expert on the bible and in a marvelous display of his skills, puts the Bryan and establishment position to shame. In this small bit of dialogue, the Bryan character says that "I do not think about the things I don't think about?" Crowd erupts! Yea, Christianity. Toss the lousy science teacher to the lions!
In the film, Spencer Tracy played the Darrow character, and he looks up and asks " Do you think about the things you do think about?"
This is intended as a way of kicking off a bit of a thought experiment. Both Crispin and I have thought for years that the real advantage to a blog is the possibility of learning. It can be a dynamic conversation, as people reflect on issues and experiences. Lots of it has degenerated since the glory years of the medium. Here's an attempt to start one again, here where I was forced by a prickly weirdo philosopher to start thinking critically and reflecting critically more than a decade ago.
The attached article is my first part of a discussion of John Kelly, General, United States Marine Corps and the recent debacles he's been part of and often leading in the West Wing. I have some theories based on my knowledge and experience of people like Kelly. Irish-Catholic, old patriotic American men in positions of authority and transformation called to face the fact that, to steal a line from Casey Stengel by way of Jimmy Breslin, the answer to "Can't Anybody Here Play This Game." often is "No."
There is nothing unique about what's happening in this mess. Far from it; my boots share some of the same shit Kelly now has on his and if you hang around long enough in leadership roles or advisory roles you'll have it too. The possibility in this case is that this case blows up that sort of People-Processes-Protocols-Procedures-Organizational Dynamics-Learning-Communications-Ethics nexus so we can see it. Not unlike what Plato did in The Republic, taking the question of individual ethics and blowing it up into political science. Looking for the ideal state and finding something like a steroidal Sparta says more about Plato than it does about the thought experiment.
So, please take a second to read my piece from Veterans News Today and just think about the Kelly thing. What have we learned from this about how things that seem so simple go so wrong? What is the key underlying failure here and how does it relate to similar situations where this sort of mud has splattered on your boots --Crispy's famous last stand for the academic freedom to quote Miranda Lambert comes to mind -- and what should we learn from thinking about this? Put your thoughts into the comments here since Vets has gotten weird about comments pages. If you wish, drop me a note at [email protected] because I'd like to know what people think, not just about my failed stabs at brilliance but about thinking about thinking about what you're thinking about.