Whitaker's World View Archive Articles

All through your life you will be asking for advice. The advice you get will not be the advice you want.

But if you follow some simple rules you can generally sort out what you want from what you get.

For example, Thomas Edison is quoted all the time as saying that "Success is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."

Generation after generation of Americans have gleefully repeated this piece of pure horsehockey as Great Wisdom.

First of all, what Edison did was what all advice-givers do: He thought, "What advice can I give that will make me look good?" He decided that he wanted to look like a Hard Worker.

But Hard Work was actually only a minor part of the reason for his success and a lot of poor people in his day worked a lot harder than Edison did.

Like all successes, Edison had a good brain, a lot of talent, and he was lucky enough to come on the scene at the right time. But he didn't mention any of that because he didn't earn any of it and so none of these things would make him look good.

Naturally, Edison's advice presents him as a man who earned everything he got so his success is the result of pure virtue. So he made himself look good and as a result what he said was perfect nonsense.

It was also not original.

Karl Marx said many years before Edison's great advice came out that all production was 100% labor. Edison was just repeating 99% Marxism.

By the way, when people give advice, they don't even tell themselves that, "I am going to say what makes me look good." What they say makes them look virtuous, but they tell themselves that they are just trying to promote virtue, not that they are trying to promote themselves.

So Edison gave nonsense advice that he told himself would promote Hard Work.



Every few days another magazine article breathlessly reports that the Chinese had invented printing long before the West had it. Then someone else, for the thousandth time, informs us that China had explosive black powder long, long ago.

Apparently no matter how many times this is repeated it is big news.

Another piece of history which is at least not repeated so often that I cringe when I hear it is that the Incas did not have the wheel for their everyday life, but their children did have wheels on their toys.

All the stunning excitement that greets the zillionth repetition of these facts helps us to ignore the real point:

So what?

Having the wheel is a big deal to us, but it obviously meant nothing to the Incas. The Koreans had a phonetic alphabet and moveable type long before we did, but again, so what? The invention of printing was a big deal in the West because the minute we got it we began a revolution with it. In Asia, it just laid there.

When the West got the printing press it made a revolution. When China got it they made some playing cards. That is the difference that matters.

We have recently found huge clockworks on sunken ships from the Mediterranean before the time of Christ, and we know the Greeks had a little steam engine. I just heard for the hundredth time that Babylonians probably had electroplating and maybe even ground a lens for a telescope.

All our pictures depicting the Cro-Magnon men who made the cave paintings 30,000 years ago in Europe show them in ragged caveman animal hides. It turns out they probably dressed very well and neatly. A form of textile weaving that was supposed to have been invented two thousand years ago was being worn by all the Caucasoid mummies found in China from over twice that long ago.

The vast slave empires of the Egyptians and the Chinese and other water empires built a lot of big stuff and we find things left behind in the rotted corpses those civilizations left behind that do not appear in living lands. So history long assumed that since the oldest wheels were in Egypt, the wheel must have been invented there. Now we know that Egypt got the wheel very late and built the pyramids without it.

Naturally we are going to find the oldest examples of many inventions in the ruins of dead slave empires. What is tragic about this is that it gives us the idea that slave empires are therefore the places where things are created.

Our accepted history literally thinks that the rotting-away process is the creative process.




Current Issue
Issue: Dec. 14, 2001
Editor: Virgil H. Huston, Jr.
2001 WhitakerOnLine.org

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