The March of Folly

Speaking of trench warfare, in the slightly summarized passage below — the Russ Hoyle is referring to Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam:

True folly, Tuchman found, is generally recognized as counterproductive in its own time, and not merely in hindsight. In Tuchman’s template, true folly only ensues when a clear alternative path of action was available and ruled out.

Tuchman also stipulated that real folly was most often the product of a group within an organized government. Tuchman alighted on a root cause of folly that she called “wooden-headedness” — defined in part as “assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting contrary information.”

She also saw wooden-headedness as a certain proclivity for “acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by facts.” Wooden-headedness, said Tuchman, was finally — “the refusal to benefit from experience.”

Tuchman could have just as easily been describing America as a whole.

Just get up off the ground, that’s all I ask!

Get up there with that lady that’s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something.

And you won’t just see scenery; you’ll see the whole parade of what Man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting.

Fighting for something better than just jungle law . . .

fighting so’s he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed.

That’s what you’d see.

In 1939 reporters and politicians hastily walked out of a screening of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. According to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies, “the film was attacked as anti-American, and several politicians suggested the film shouldn’t even be released at all — that showing it would be very bad for the country.” In keeping with American tradition of sloganeering, since the movie was deemed “anti-American,” naturally it was also assailed for its “pro-Communist” sentiment.

Over time Mr. Smith came to be revered as a cultural icon for truth and justice, but we carried on the legacy of assigning “anti” to anything we refuse to examine.

And we asked each other a lot of questions. I asked you questions, you asked me questions” . . .

Shown here is a somewhat dehumanized, life-size bronze figure of a human being of no particular sex, age, race, culture, or environment. Compressed between the two wheels, it seems to present humanity as the victim of its own complicated inventions. The wheels also symbolize the blind ups and downs of fortune. The date 1965 is inscribed on the base, and the whole sad assemblage seems to say that human history and civilization have not exactly turned out as was once more hopefully expected.

— A History of the Modern World

man in the arena quote poster