Thursday, March 17, 2011

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

It's Thor's Day in the blog, and today Thor is wielding Maxwell's silver hammer, that pretty little tool Paul McCartney evidently used to symbolize "when something goes wrong out of the blue."

Earthquakes themselves may come out of the blue, out of the deep blue ocean and out of the earth's multicolored crust, in the natural course of events.

But nuclear disasters have a manmade component. We always have another choice. I won't get into arguments here about energy sources, but, as the human community, we always have choices on how to generate and use energy. We can choose to close down nuclear power plants, as Germany did. We can choose better safety regulations and oversight agencies for existing plants, as the United States recently didn't. We can choose to build no more. We can choose to use less energy, and/or to make more efficient use of energy.

We can choose to put human energy into innovations that do not harm the land and its creatures, including us humans. So often, "we" don't make that choice, and "we" know perfectly well why.

I won't speak for anyone else, but I will vote and act according to my choices on this. And I hope we will come together at least as far as 1) helping Japan 2) changing our practices enough to avoid similar disasters in the future. You can choose your own charity or private/public action.

My dad was laying out his ethical system (again) when I visited him Monday, and it is based on choice. (I grew up on this.) Any government or individual or boss that takes all choice away from its citizens, fellow individuals, or employees is using its power unethically in my interpretation of my dad's system. Working out the details and complexities is important, of course, but you can easily see that the boss taking away the employees' collective bargaining option is unethical in this system, and you can see from protests in the U.S. that many workers agree.

I stopped watching 24 for many reasons, but mostly because Kiefer Sutherland kept saying, "I had no choice" to justify doing whatever he wanted to do. (He had a choice, and he made it. Why say he didn't?) I kept watching the original Star Trek for many reasons, but partly because Captain Kirk kept insisting there was another choice, even in a really tough spot.

And, hey, just because stuff went wrong out of the blue for Maxwell doesn't mean he should bang other people on the head with his silver hammer.

You can hear or read this fabulous poem, "The Beatles," by Dorianne Laux, at The Writer's Almanac.

If you want to see Steve Martin as Maxwell Edison, crazed plastic surgeon from the film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, there are many clips to choose from at Youtube.

And I don't think it's right to be a serial killer, but I am fascinated by Dexter, who is trying to work out his own, er, ethical system. Maybe someday he will put away his silver tools for good.


nene said...

Let's see...Hmmm? Captain Kirk>>>>>Kathleen Kirk ??????? Someone has been 'transported'?

"Choice" is the one thing except for our bodies that we, in the 'free' world, own!

PS: To reiterate what I said in you previous blog 'Cloud at Last', Thanks for the introduction to The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and also good luck on your possible new direction at teaching.

Kathleen said...

Beam me up, Scotty!

And, by "boss, I mean boss, tyrant, or governor, etc.

You are welcome, nene, and thank you.

Nancy Devine said...

i, too, stopped watching 24. it was exhausting. every turn and something huge happened. i felt no reason to keep up with all the calamity.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Lovely post with great suggestions. We already practice energy conservation at the house of the Kangaroo, but I bet we could do more.

Also, my husband is fascinated by Dexter's choices, too. I am too-faint-hearted to watch.

Kathleen said...

Nancy, plus that constant ticking. (For a while I think my son had Jack's ringtone on his phone.)

Sandy, I was afraid to watch Dexter, too, but then not so afraid, but then, yuk, but then OK. Now are hooked and want to see how he works it out, and we want to support the actor, who was so ill.

Kathleen said...

*We are hooked.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Kathleen, love your journey through Dexter and also your support of the actor. I think you really must be my "sister from a different mister" (how my students translate "brother from a different mother"). In any case, I feel connected.

Nick Thomas said...

As a science guy, I always liked that Maxwell Edison came from Thomas Edison and James Clerk Maxwell.

roryj said...

See the article at

O.K. There wasn't really a "Maxwell Edison" murderer, though it became part of the "Paul is dead" rumors in '69. Still, it's a quirky song - Lennon disliked it so he refused to be part of the recording and Harrison thought it was "fruity", but that they did a good job on it. It took over three days to get it to the point McCartney was satisfied, and caused a good deal of friction within the band, which was on the verge of finally breaking up. Silver hammer, indeed.
Of course, THE BEATLES were not exactly adverse to the grisly - witness "A Day In The Life", "Run For Your Life", "Rocky Racoon", "Bungalow Bill" and other tunes. Still, McCartney was trying to make a comic point about resloving those sudden events in life which might displease, not espousing violence as an acceptable solution, per se, but noting that even bizarre behavior can win over fans. "MAXWELL MUST GO FREE!"
I think I would agree with your father, any ethical system that denies someone's choice is neither fair nor just, hence it is an unethical system. As to your (future?) relation, Capt. James T Kirk, he always considered other choises because... he... paused before... daring to reach any conclusions. This might have been due to his inate leadership skills as a commander, or his basic humanity in the midst of unfamiliar (even alien) cultural surroundings. Such a Mensch!
As for Dexter, well, mass murder is a choice as well isn't it? Thankfully, it's not for everybody, and most reject that as a lifestyle option.