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  1. #1
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default temper and civilze the use of power

    “A nation informed by a vivid understanding of the ironies of history is, I believe, best equipped to manage the tragic temptations of military power. Let us not bully our way through life, but let a growing sensitivity to history temper and civilize our use of power. In the meantime, let a thousand historical flowers bloom.”

    So what are the actual instances of things that human beings should do to temper and civilize the use of power? Use less force, less in quantity or in quality Use the power in a less forceful way? How can you civilize the use of power? Temper it seems fine, but to civilize it?

    Also is there an allusion to “thousand historical flowers bloom”? Thanks.

  2. #2
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: temper and civilze the use of power

    Hello Ian,

    I don't know what that particular author had in mind; but perhaps he meant the restraint of power by e.g. "checks and balances", independent scrutiny, etc.

    The "thousand flowers" seems to be a reference to:

    Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.
    Mao Tse-Tung
    Best wishes,

    MrP
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  3. #3
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default Re: temper and civilze the use of power

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    Hello Ian,

    I don't know what that particular author had in mind; but perhaps he meant the restraint of power by e.g. "checks and balances", independent scrutiny, etc.

    The "thousand flowers" seems to be a reference to:



    Best wishes,

    MrP
    Hi, MrPedantic. Long time no talk. Hope you are well.

    Here is the longer context. The piece is from the New York Times, written by the well-known historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

    Is the Check and balance between the desire to use power and the historic sense to urge you not to use or control it?

    As to “a thousand historical flowers”, I thought of Mao’s famous line too, but he uses a figure 10 times bigger than Mao’s, and I was a little confused.

    "A nation informed by a vivid understanding of the ironies of history is, I believe, best equipped to manage the tragic temptations of military power. Let us not bully our way through life, but let a growing sensitivity to history temper and civilize our use of power. In the meantime, let a thousand historical flowers bloom. History is never a closed book or a final verdict. It is forever in the making. Let historians never forsake the quest for knowledge in the interests of an ideology, a religion, a race, a nation."

  4. #4
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: temper and civilze the use of power

    Hello Ian, I'm fine, thanks! I hope all's well with you.

    The phrase "checks and balances" refers to all the ways in which executive power is moderated, in e.g. the UK. Thus the judiciary is separate from the executive, for instance; the armed forces owe allegiance to the Crown, not the government; and the House of Lords can delay legislation, in certain situations.

    However, on reading the fuller extract, I don't think this is what the author means: as you imply, his view is rather that the development of an awareness of past unpleasantnesses may lead to a more careful and sensitive use of power, thus preventing their re-occurrence.

    As for the hundred flowers, it may be that he chose "a thousand" simply because of the assonance (with "flowers"); or perhaps because "a thousand" is more usual in rhetorical flourishes than "a hundred", in English.

    All the best,

    MrP
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  5. #5
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default Re: temper and civilze the use of power

    Thanks again. I think you are right that checks and balances may not be the meaning here. Here in the States, the meaning of checks and balances is the same as in UK.

    I am fine too, especailly when the semester is over.

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