Monday, February 20, 2012

Enthusiasm: the Devil’s Brew

Enthusiasm: a distemper of youth, curable by small doses of repentance in connection with outward applications of experience. -- Ambrose Bierce
Those practitioners of that Ol’ Time Religion weren’t too far off the mark trying to ban alcohol. It’s dangerous stuff if overindulged. But moderate use is, for many people, both physically and psychologically benevolent.

The social disasters Prohibition brought about, for example, the rise of criminal empires, the corruption of public institutions, were in many ways as severe as the problems of alcoholism. How did the good intentions of the Ol’ Timers run amok? The Prohibitionists succumbed to their own narcotic: enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm of all kinds is America’s most addictive substance. Every shyster with a hidden agenda invokes our enthusiasm; but so does almost every honorable, well-intentioned public leader.

Why just a few years back (to the strains of Ebony and Ivory) Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich, a perfect Yin and Yang, stood up in public and together came out in favor of reducing the Achievement Gap. Just what the public schools need: more enthusiasm generated by politicians who haven’t a clue as to what the problems are and are even less likely to sacrifice any of their pet projects to spend money on it.

Aw, shucks, how can I be so mean? Their hearts are in the right place, aren’t they? Forget where their brains are. Drink up!

To examine these issues further, see The Pathologies of Enthusiasm


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