Writings

Essays

Generally speaking, these essays are chronological in date produced, starting from 2005, the first year of my college education, to the present through graduate school and beyond.

  • Early undergraduate papers
    • Rant #891 – A short commentary on the current obscene state of the media in the United States.
    • Beccaria and Modern Justice – A short commentary on the criminal justice philosophy of Cesare Beccaria and how his ideas have been implemented and neglected in the modern era.
    • The Pax Americana – The ultimate cliché coined by deriders of the United States governmental policy is the pun “Pax Americana” from the Latin “Pax Romana,” meaning “the Roman peace.” The Pax Romana was a period of relative peace, stability and apparent invincibility. But is the United States truly impervious or is this notion only reckless hubris punishable by death and failure? Are we now seeing ourselves in a new gilded age of technological supremacy only to be undermined by the incursions of barbarians at distant and exotic borders?
    • Fairytale America – In this essay the common notions of the foundations of the United States are questioned and debunked. Topics covered include: the “flat world” myth, Columbus and his atrocities and Thanksgiving as a bastard holiday of war.
    • Oak and Iron – A commentary on the virtues of personalized education and the ails of the modern public education system.
    • “We’re not going to have a draft — period.” – An essay debunking the notion that victory is possible in Iraq (and Afghanistan) without a draft.
    • Cicero Has Risen From the Dead and Hit His Head on a McDonalds – A fiery personal reflection on my time spent in high school, the dishonesty of teachers and students and the encumbering nature of standardized education.
    • The Legend That Encrusts Them – A very short essay on the goal of modern art in discovering greater truths through minimalism.
    • Come all to this, a celebration of treachery. – A essay against the contemporary obsession with decadence and Oscar Wilde’s “philosophies” through the examination of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.
    • Unifying General Relativity and the Standard Model – A brief introduction to the greatest problem in physics today and the implications it has for all of humanity.
    • Term Limits: A Light in the Dark of Political Corruption – Incumbency is an issue in government, both local and federal, that has been a topic of controversy since government’s infancy. Incumbency is the issue of whether or not officials should stay permanently in office once elected. Should elected officials remain in office until they resign (or die off) or should they have some sort of lawful restriction placed on the duration of their service? An incumbent (office holder) who is aware that his term will eventually come to an end (with or without a possibility of re-running for election) is surely in a different mindset than an incumbent who needn’t worry of such things.
    • On Education – My petite Emile.
    • Philosopher Kings to Mall Culture Sophists – Niccolò Machiavelli was a monumental force of change who defined the modern politic by fundamentally transforming the notion of how statesmen should act and what their responsibilities and duties entail in regard to their country. This essay briefly discusses the “problem of the Renaissance” as well as some examples of Machiavelli’s political theory.
    • Pre-Islamic Arabia and Pagan Foundations of Islam – While many today would consider Islam to be a fiercely monotheist and purist religion absent of all pagan roots an examination of the historical record reveals a much more immediate past with several originally pagan practices still being practiced today under the guise of monotheism.
    • The God of Abraham: A Paradox – This brief essay presents two critical and easy to understand logical fallacies inherit within arguments for the existence of the Abrahamic god.
    • On Social Work and Social Responsibility – A collection of commentaries on social responsibility, duty and action.
  • On the American Civil War
  • On the classical heroic character and civic duty
    • Fall of Rome – Offers the argument that the Marian Reforms and the adoption of Christianity by Constantine were critical in undermining the fundamentals of Roman civic virtue – leading to decay and eventual collapse by means of mercenariness and social apathy. Also see a more mature thesis: Stoicism and Historical Action during the Nervan-Antonine Dynasty.
    • The Rage of Achilles – The Achilles of ancient Greek legend is often counted among the greatest of epic heroes for his fantastical exploits during the Trojan War as depicted by Homer in the Iliad. While it is easy to become seduced by the power and might of invincible Achilles we must remember to not confuse unchecked power with heroism.
    • The Noblest Hero – For Virgil and the Romans the ideal man was not interested in his own glory, prizes, gold or fame but the wellbeing and guardianship of the people, of selflessly building upon the idea of what Rome would become while never being able to see it in life, of enduring hardship without expectation of reward, capable and devoted to maintaining the path faithfully and with justice, of sacrificing to sustain something greater than the self, the family (Res Publica), by practicing virtue and by fulfilling with unshakable resolve the duties assigned to him.
    • The Just Sword – The United States was born from clouds of gunpowder smoke and bloody adversity. The revolution was in one way a sparring of ideology but most importantly a literal meeting of armies. Armies of that age, as those of today, were armed with guns and used them in order to defeat one another. The revolution, the crucial struggle for American independence, could not have been won by the colonists if they had lacked firearms.
    • The Judgment of Othello – Othello, of the eponymous play by William Shakespeare, is one of English literature’s most profound tragic heroes, allowing his sense of ill-tempered and absolute justice to betray those most dear to his unguarded heart as mislead by the seductions and designs of Iago. Rather than guide his fierce and resolute impartiality on the wings of prudence, Othello is tragic in that he judges without a true knowledge of the case of things, confused by hearsay and slander, and thus enacts injustice rather than justice, afflicting against those he loves terrible wounds.
  • On the Vietnam War
    • Roots of War – Two major events occurring in Southeast Asia in 1949-1950 would lead to serious US involvement in the Vietnam region as a result of this containment policy: the rise of Communist China and its recognition of the Communist government in Hanoi as being legitimate, and the North Korean invasion of South Korea.
    • America’s Mandarin – Overviews the oppression of Prime Minister Diem of South Vietnam during the early years of the Second Indochina Conflict.
    • Topography and Tactics – The American military activity in Vietnam was unlike any previous campaign to be waged before it and set the stage for contemporary military tactics. Military doctrine from World War II was more-or-less discarded by 1965 to be replaced by search and destroy missions, massive air bombing campaigns and air mobile cavalry. The decision to discard old tactics was primarily the result of considerations of the topography of the rugged country.
    • Search and Destroy – Pacification operations, much like the ill-fated interdictions sorties waged during Operation Rolling Thunder, failed, as they do in contemporary conflicts, by utilizing improper tools to the task at hand. Namely in dealing with the rural peoples of Vietnam, US forces utilized a mighty stick rather than an olive branch, and by the end of the war had abandoned all pretensions of S&S, instead relying on more aggressive and ultimately counterproductive S&D missions.
    • The Vietcong – The forces opposing the Saigon government and its American backers during the Vietnam War were unlike any opponent the latter had ever encountered. Unwilling to engage in decisive battles, capable of vanishing into impassable terrain at a moment’s notice and having no distinct markings to isolate them from local populations the Vietcong (VC), or National Liberation Front were perhaps the most difficult enemy the US army has ever contested.
    • The Tet Offensive – The Tet Offensive of 1968, in which the Communist forces which had been gradually built up in the previous years of the war through means of infiltration exploded in a massive and systematic assault on provincial capitols, allied firebases, airstrips, police stations and cities of South Vietnam, was the decisive turning point in the Vietnam conflict. While the enemy had massed for more than a decade, enduring the blistering tempest of intemperate American air and artillery bombardment, the Tet Offensive marked a transition from a conflict of skirmish and guerilla action to total war, including the mobilization and engagement of massed regular forces of the army of North Vietnam (NVA).
    • Vietnamization – The Nixon Doctrine redefined the US commitment to Communist containment abroad by focusing on empowering threatened countries with materiel and equipment rather than shouldering the war with a primary source of manpower[i]. This doctrine would influence the Vietnam War through “Vietnamization,” a new tactic in which US forces would slowly be extracted from the country as ARVN forces were issued increased training, logistical support and equipment upgrades, the objective being a complete assumption of operational responsibility and the final withdrawal of all US ground forces.
    • Cambodian Campaign – By 1963 the war in Vietnam had spilled over into adjacent neighbors Laos and Cambodia. PAVN and NLF forces operating in Vietnam had allied themselves with the national Communist insurgent movements named Pathet Lao and Khmer Rouge respectively, plunging the whole of what was once French Indochina into civil war.
    • Nixon’s Peace – Richard Nixon became a national figure during the 1968 presidential election, campaigning on a platform of criticism of the previous administration’s disastrous policies in Vietnam and the promise that he would ensure an honorable withdrawal from the war torn country. For Nixon this honorable peace could be achieved through establishing a “decent interval” in which American forces could be gradually withdrawn while combat responsibility was gradually and permanently ceded to the Saigon government, its army supported by US materiel and munitions.
    • End of the Tunnel – The Vietnam experience was fundamentally different than service in previous wars in terms of both technical and intellectual culture, as the men not only fought in a novel way, but were judged by their society and the international community in a different light.
  • Bachelor’s Thesis
  • Civilization as Destroyer – Civilization is perceived by contemporary man to be a cornerstone of life, a virtue which separates humanity from the beasts, and offers refinement, benevolence and structure in contrast to the barbaric and capricious state of nature. Yet as can be observed in the short stories A Wagner Matinee and Young Goodman Brown, by Willa Cather and Nathaniel Hawthorne respectively, civilization can also serve a divisive, destructive, if not ambiguous role, regardless of its widely lauded virtues.
  • History of South Africa
  • Ethnographic Sketches
  • Leo Tolstoy’s Theory of Art
  • In Praise of ShadowsIn Praise of Shadows by Jun’Ichiro Tanizaki offers a compelling alternative to traditional Western aesthetic judgments on the nature of space and light, as well as forwarding a racial theory of aesthetic appreciation. The author focuses on the applications of subtly, nuance and silence, arguing that such manifestations in Japanese culture are being corroded by imposing Western customs and technology, which the author contends often are garishly explicit and overbearing in an aesthetic sense. Finally, the author ends his writing with a plea for artists to preserve Japanese culture and artistic convention by “push[ing] back into the shadows the things that come too clearly,” by returning dignity to the Japanese society.
  • Character in The Conscience of the Court by ZN Hurston
  • On historiography and historical methodology
    • Historicism vs Social Memory or How to Tell History – Historical awareness is a “universal psychological attribute” arising from our innate desire to explain the origin of present circumstances and represents our personal understanding of the past. This understanding is influenced by two distinct modes of perception: social memory and historicism. Social memory is the understanding of history we are born into through the socialization process and relies on cultural understandings of the past while historicism is a methodical and analytical approach to observing history “as it is.
    • Plagiarism: Defined, Misconceptions Clarified – For as long as scholars have put pen to paper they have at times presented the ideas and research of others as their own, either as self-serving deception or as accident. This misrepresentation of knowledge has been called in contemporary times by the name of plagiarism.
    • The Virtue of History – With the study of history naturally comes the question of the virtue of history, a question which is critically connected to the method in which we not only write history but also perceive the past. Two systems which seek to provide a utility of history are metahistory and the rejection of history. As we will observe, neither of these perspectives do service to the task of explaining the true complexities of the past and how they relate to the present.
    • Historical Sources: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary – Modern history writing is unique from ancient forms of the same craft because it tends to adhere to the academic custom of citing sources and providing evidence for statements of fact. In previous eras history had an at least somewhat mythological character as it was often sourced from the author’s own memory, commands from his superiors or from the culture’s storytelling and/or religious traditions. The introduction of citation of sources as a basis of writing history properly has inspired the classification of these documents into three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary. A successful historian considers all three types of sources and is charged, after carefully judging their validity as well as connecting events into a greater chronological context, compiling a cohesive account of the past.
    • Using Historical Sources – Historical sources are the essential foundation of academic research, enabling historians to reconstruct accurate models of past times by virtue of analytical inquiry. With the inspection of these documents comes a considerable burden in spite of their potential usefulness: clearly and rigorously distilling them through criticism so as to ensure they are not only accurate but also can be considered within a greater historical context.
    • Thematic Approaches to Writing History – Alternative themes were introduced into modern history writing in an attempt to create a more complete picture of the past, as too often in previous histories, commonly only the story of the elite’s political intrigues or didactic, inflated biographies were recorded. Themes allow historians to concentrate on different aspects of the historical story, explaining layers of detail which are apparent to most contemporary people but have only up until contemporary times been neglected by professional historians.
    • Herodotus: Father of History? – A large essay on how Herodotus formed and crucially changed the study of the past, creating the discipline of history.
    • Lecture on Historiography of Thomas Bender’s “Intellectual and Cultural History”
  • Library and Information Science

Reviews

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