David and Goliath by Malcom Gladwell

book jacket title and author and small hole like a rock through paperDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants by Malcom Gladwell (cd, 2013)

He is an excellent essayist and I have read all his books. I liked some of his other books better than this one.  They were profound insights into things, especially the phenom “The Tipping Point” and “Blink” was cool (first impressions often incredibly complex processing that create to an accurate assessments), plus “Outlier” was fascinating.

book jacket for Blink outliers book jacket book jacket for the tipping pointSince I listened to this, I don’t have a chance to quote from it like I would be able to with the print copy. I would just say anything he writes is worth reading in general.

In this book there was an extensive discussion of a topic I had not paid too much attention too because I found it just so unimaginable: The Troubles. This was the 7os and for decades before and after in Ireland when people hated with a passion their neighbors because some were CATHOLIC and some were PROTESTANT. On the long list of stupid reasons to bomb innocent people and beat them and imprison them, ancient religious dogma — not even YOUR OWN NATIVE religion but one forced upon your country by Kings and Queens, is not one of them.

Gladwell explains why the English decision to “be firm” led to the occupying protestant troops to beat Catholic women bringing prams with bread and milk for their nearby neighbors who had been locked in their homes without access to both for their children for 36 hours.

This is often the case, but tyrants never seem to learn that after a certain point continuing to step on the necks of people will become so intolerable that utter disregard for the hell people are living in forces actions that harm others and are undertaken with no regard for personal safety because conditions are so abhorrent.

So the little guys, the Catholic minority, struggled against massive hostile forces of arms and a police state (constant house searches that invariably trashed property) that finally was resolved by a superb American diplomat who was later murdered in Iraq or Afghanistan trying to broker another peace.

So you had this ridiculous country within a country (Northern Ireland, and Ireland) that actually required a passport to go from Belfast to Dublin. They really were different countries even though many people had relatives on the other side. And somehow, over the years since the peace was brokered, they have all calmed down and perhaps seen that RELIGION IS A LIE and not worth killing children for, and certainly not bombing the metro in London. Which happened when I was visiting London, and I am sure many other times. And as a person who is half Irish, with red hair and pale skin, I found that when I tried to leave the country, I was really held up at the gates for special searching. Being American, and anti-authoritarian, I briefly held my arms up as I was wanded, then put them down, only to be sharply reprimanded and told to put my arms up again! I was shocked. So of course, I didn’t just take it, I protested, “I’m leaving the country, what do you care?” and when I received no response, I protested again, “You are going to make me miss the plane!” Again no response. I was pretty agitated by this point. Furious for the ridiculous treatment (and had gotten to the airport over 3 hours early only to be stuck in the one and only line for the airline for hours for no damn good reason), I was about to escalate the matter — the flight was actually closing the door but had held it for another 5 minutes — when security said something snotty and along the lines of, “you’re lucky I don’t keep you here” JUST BECAUSE SHE COULD HAVE DONE SO with no reason at all. It really freaked me out. Then I wondered, was it because I looked like my Irish heritage made me? Having flown into and out of New York where I was living was also a point, since there were many illegal Irish living there. Imagine, a quota to keep the Irish out!!! Truly!!

At some point in that trip, I believe I was talking to someone about the National Library System, but  forgot that Ireland was independent, and not without struggle, and so of course they were not part of the mutual exchange of library holdings as the other members of the U.K. were. The thing that was unexpected was the contempt and snarl that the English person I was speaking with had for the Irish. The grudges are long held and hard to let go it would seem.

Which is another reason the whole BriExit thing is bizarre. Scotland voted to stay in the U.K. after hundreds of years of fighting to be independent, in part to remain in the E.U. and now that the vote unexpectedly went with LEAVE, they no longer have a reason to stay and plan to have another referendum to do their own exit from the U.K. to remain in the E.U. Furthermore, something I never thought I would live to see the day was also triggered in Ireland. They also want to REMAIN, and so does NORTHERN IRELAND. So now they, these people who killed and hated for generations, are considering reunification!

Now if only we could get Israel to stop the genocide of the Palestinians, instead of being untouchable, that would be great. Still things will be horrific there because W gave us a destabilized region for no damn good reason (oil, Halliburton profits, Cheney multi-millions), but it would still be a good thing to say “enough!”

America is approaching this “tipping point” in my opinion with the rise of the theocrats (see my recent post on this topic) in government confusing their religion as more moral and more righteous than other people’s rights and liberties. Especially for women. This was an especially close call today but the Supreme Court did reject the recent (2013) Texas laws that really harm women and are, like so many TRAP laws, unconstitutional. Pity they couldn’t make a better than split decision on immigration that left the bad lower court decision stand.

There were numerous other examples of cases where you might think, oh that’s not good, or that’s not possible, and then it turns out David could and did beat Goliath. And it wasn’t as hard as it first appeared. But I am not sure that anything but hindsight would make someone able to make the same analysis in an ongoing situation. But maybe, these examples would help people think differently or try against the odds, and succeed like David did. [Not that I believe in this story, but what the heck, it makes a good metaphor if nothing else.]

All of his books are worth reading and they are fun and good and engaging and informative. Highly recommend the author and note, his book The Tipping Point is sort of required reading as a significant book in popular culture even to be literate today.

 

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