Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Icarus Syndrome

Day 128 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and Tina Brown is reading The Icarus Syndrome, by Peter Beinert, one of her writers over at The Daily Beast.

How do I know? I heard it on NPR! Morning Edition. Twice! Once very early, on the way to the pool for lap swimming, and once not too much later on the way back from the hospital for a fasting blood test. (Yes, doughnuts and highlander grog coffee on the way home.) Our local radio station repeats Morning Edition the morning, or it wouldn't make much sense.

Anyway, The Icarus Syndrome is about flying too close to the sun in terms of hubris, or getting too big for our britches...and their waxed-on feathers. In fact the subtitle is A History of American Hubris, which suggests we just keep doing it, that neither myth nor experience has taught us how to avoid it.

Tina Brown, in her Morning Edition interview, was noting that "learning the lessons of Vietnam" is hard to do, as warnings not to get involved in recent wars were not heeded and proved unfounded...but then, as Beinert explains, America got in a "cycle of hubris" and did try to do too much, namely Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. To use yet another cliche, America bit off more than it could chew.

Which brings me to chocolate pie. My friend Kim has offered to bring some to our book group discussion of The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. If you have read it, you know why I am thinking, "Ick-R-Us."


Kim said...

My pie will be free of...undesirable ingredients.

Anonymous said...

To remind us that hubris is always with us, today at lunch I was reading the Burns' brothers volume on "The Civil War," and remembering George McClellan's confident statement, when made general of the army after forcing the retirement of Winfield Scott: "I can do it all." (Before he proved he couldn't.) And this evening, I was reading Gene Smith's "The Shattered Dream: Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression," in which the great engineer is quoted:

"We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land. The poorhouse is vanishing from among us. We have not yet reached the goal, but, given the chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years, we shall soon with the help of God be in sight of the day when poverty will be vanished from this nation." (August 11, 1929)

Not quite as all-out self-confident as General McClellan, but a vision jarringly at odds with what happened during his administration, when those policies failed the test over four years.