Sunday, May 10, 2015

Three books I've just finished: Shadows and Chilvalry, We Never Make Mistakes and In Defense of Elitism

   My "have read" pile is, well, piling up so I'm going to knock out three books with one review.  I know the reviews are short and don't do the books justice but hopefully they will whet your appetite to read the books for yourselves.,204,203,200_.jpg
Shadows and Chilvalry: C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald on Suffering, Evil and Goodness by Jeff McInnis

George MacDonald was a Victorian author and Christian minister.  He wrote children's fantasies that spurred the imagination of countless people and particularly one.  MacDonald is credited with being the inspiration of one of the twentieth century's greatest apologists and fantasy writers, C.S. Lewis.
In his book, Shadows and Chivalry, Jeff McInnis informs the reader of both MacDonald's and Lewis' belief concerning God and His relationship to people, how they expressed those beliefs in their fiction and how the former author influenced the latter.

McInnis offers an insightful look on the particular topics of the title:  suffering, evil and goodness.  He offers an informative and interesting analysis of several of MacDonald's and Lewis's stories and how they portray each of these human experiences.,204,203,200_.jpg

We Never Make Mistakes by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn translated by Paul W. Blackstock

We Never Make Mistakes are two short novels that paint a grim picture of Soviet life in the early twentieth century.  The first story, An Incident at Krechetovka Station is about a Red Army lieutenant, Zotov, who is in charge of a railroad station during WWII.  A stranger arrives who insists that he has missed his train and needs to take the next one.  At first Zotov is willing to help him, but then he becomes suspicious.  Is this man who he says he is or a deserter?  Zotov becomes tormented between the fear of letting a lawbreaker get away and arresting an innocent man whom he knows will meet an unspeakable fate if charged.  His decision haunts him the rest of his life.

In the second story, Matryona's House, a school teacher is living with an elderly lady, Matryona.  Through the teacher's eyes we see the woman's poverty and hardship.  Her house is falling apart, with mice running up and down the walls.  She barely has enough to subsist on.  She cannot work because of government regulations, she can not grow food because of government regulations, she can not receive government assistance because of government regulations. 

Both stories show how socialized economies and government micromanagement over the individual cause widespread poverty and even starvation.  I shared this story with a friend of mine from Moldova. She said, "Look down the road, Sharon.  Where do you think your own country is heading?"
In Defense of Elitism by William A. Henry III

 Henry attacks our egalitarian culture on many levels.  He defies the "victimhood" labels given to minorities.  He argues that women need to stop classifying themselves as a minority. He provides statistics showing that the assertion that women make less money than men for the same jobs is a myth.  He contends that these special interest groups are not asking for equal rights but privileged ones. 

He also attacks the public school system with its dumbing curriculum down so that even a college education doesn't hold the value it had fifty years ago. 

I agree with a lot of what he says.  I don't like being viewed through the lens of my gender and I certainly don't view others that way.  We are people.  I can't worry about other's prejudices.  Prejudice will always exist.  At least I know that every job I got was by my own credentials.  Henry makes a good argument that affirmative action will always leave women and minorities wondering if they got the job due to their qualifications or their gender/race.

I agree that much of what we're seeing is thinly veiled government control over individuals right to live according to their own convictions.  If I want to stay home and raise my children and keep house, that doesn't make me oppressed.  Conversely, if I want to work professionally, I want to get the job according to my qualifications.  I don't want the job "given" to me in order to fill a gender quota.

There are other assertions that Henry makes that I vehemently oppose.  He is anti-religion- especially Christianity and he expresses those beliefs in the most venomous of terms.  

I also disagree with his attitude that some kids aren't meant for college so we need to stop wasting our time with them.  He points to Europe as an ideal.  I've lived in Europe.  I have a Master's degree but I promise I would have been sent to a labor camp had I been educated in the European elitist system.  Man doesn't make perfect systems and our man made evaluations of people's intellect doesn't accommodate everyone's intelligence.  I don't have much faith in America's public school system either but that's another story.


  1. These look to be interesting books that are thoughtful.

    I really want to read Solzhenitsyn sooner rather then later.

    I would disagree with the assertion that the United States is heading anywhere near to a Communist or repressive system, however.

    William Henry III is way more conservative then I am though I would listen to what he has to say. I consider myself to have a lot of moderate ideas so there are areas that I would no doubt agree with him. For instance. I agree that affirmative action in its present form has run its course and it is time to replace it.

    There is also the issue of the racial equality and feminist movements moving really fast. As the book was written in 1995 I think some of was may have been rightful flaws in these movements are dying out. For instance, in past years it seems that most feminists have relaxed a lot of view and a there has major initiative to champion the rights and interests of women who choose to stay home and raise children. To the credit of the critics, some of these new attitudes may have resulted from criticism made by folks like Henry.

  2. Hi Brian! I don't know about you, but I see government infringing on my personal freedoms every day. I think we don't notice it because it's creeping up so gradually.
    I certainly hope that special interests groups are not so demanding for privileged rights. I look at the incidents in Ferguson and Baltimore and think there are definitely people who are profiting from keeping racial hatred and division alive and well.

    1. I completely agree. The "control" of the people is employed in a very insidious manner and in areas that you'd never guess. We just had a corporation buy out the newspaper in our small town; they got rid of everyone from the community newspaper and have employed a whole bunch of Hitler-esque rules from cutting my daughter's wages by about 80%, increasing the weight of the newspapers by about 400% (I'm not kidding), telling me that they will not pay me so I am in control of giving her the money, but will only pay the child directly, and that she is no longer allowed to speak with any of the neighbours she delivers to to avoid any confrontations. It is insane but, people who you'd expect to be perfectly sane, deal out these instructions like they are normal everyday occurrences and are complete shocked if anyone is surprised or upset by the changes. They act as if they know what is better for my child than anyone else and they hide their motives behind progressive and child-centered rhetoric. It is truly alarming.

    2. Cleopatra: I know what you mean. I was amazed when I lived in Europe how people kept declaring they were so much freer than Americans when I saw regulations keeping everyone firmly in tow.
      I don't understand why Americans find the European model desirable.

    3. I can't speak for everywhere in Europe, but when I visited France, I would agree that they had more freedom, but perhaps it just works itself out in a different manner. Yes, they have tons of bureaucratic laws, but the people still have a voice. They care about what their government decides and they are not afraid to speak out. We heard there of a number of government decisions that had been altered because of protests. I felt there was less of an obsession about money (by the general populus) and more care for the people (by the government). And I also felt the people banded together much more than here. Here, it often seems that we are against each other, whereas in France I definitely felt it was more community against government. So in spite of the regulations in France I felt the people can still make changes (and are willing to step out to try to make those changes), whereas I feel relatively powerless here. It's not that the French don't have problems with their system but somehow there is flexibility within it. But we're also very apathetic in Canada, which is not a French trait at all! :-Z

    4. Hi Cleopatra: I have never lived in France although I lived in England and also in Germany. One of my sisters lived in France. She found the government regulations on private business to be rather strangulating. A lot of businesses couldn't keep their head above water with all the benefits they had to provide their employees, plus the heavy tax burden, and would move out of the country.
      I loved living in England and in Germany but I don't want to be a ward of the state.
      There certainly are many different interest groups in the states but I think diversity can be a good thing. Too much conformity smacks of "group think".
      I have never lived in Canada but would LOVE the chance to! :) Take care!

  3. I so love your book choices! These ones sound great. I see that I need to add another Goodreads shelf titled, "Sharon's Recommendations"!

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