Korea, Tonga and the Enlightenment

Friday’s opening of the Winter Olympics in Korea was a triumph of the western Enlightenment

The Korean word for the United States translates into “Beautiful Country.” That’s nice.

Korea has video game addiction treatment centers. (Do they have kick the can on late summer evenings?) The parade of nations is a great geography lesson. That bare-chested guy from Tonga slathered in coconut oil is a hoot! Tonga in the winter games? The country has a king, 169 tiny islands (some only atolls and only 36 inhabited) located south of Samoa in the South Pacific, population 103,000. And it send troops to Iraq as part of Bush Sr.’s Coalition of the Willing; 40 of them!

But San Marino is the least populated country in the Winter games, I believe; 23,000 people. How did it escape Italian unification? Monaco smallest in landmass: 499 acres. Our farm was bigger than that.

The indentured servants also made commentary on whose flag was the neatest. Tonga’s looks like a Red Cross flag or Switzerland’s. The Republic of Korea’s distinctive flag was not shown as North and South entered as one delegation under the flag of unification, in the form of an outline of the combined Korea. (But South Korea’s flag is a favorite, in its center: the yin and yang symbols of taegeuk surrounded by four black tigrams or bagua representing from top left, sky, water, earth, and fire.)

Hong Kong’s flag is kind of neat, a white lotus flower on a red background. (Again, Hong Kong in the winter Olympics? In most cases, athletes live and trained elsewhere but could claim nationality. And less competition for a spot.)

The most awe-inspiring visual from a knock-out opening ceremony was the Intel-powered bee drones lighting up the night sky and coalescing into the image of a huge snowboarder over downhill skiers, then reassembling into the inter-locked five rings of the Olympic symbol (filmed earlier).


Never under-estimate the importance of ceremony for continuity and stability. The Lovely Lisa remarked that this is where the Roman Catholic Church has it all over some of the more austere Protestant creeds. Britain over the U.S. The Olympic opening ceremonies merged the ancient cultural tropes of Korea (goblins as reassuring spirits?) with razzle-dazzle technology. What a light show!

Western Enlightenment = material well being

The Republic of Korea’s material well being owes much to its embrace of Western culture, its relative stability to reverence for timeless tradition.  That’s North Korea’s failure. Whatever technology Lil’ Kim has been able to copy or steal, it comes straight out of Western culture. Communism’s denial of the spiritual and traditional unmoors its people. Which is why Russian continues to suffer. What an embarrassment, its athletes in PyeongChang are stateless because their country is an Olympics cheat. Was it worth it, Vladimir?

The Enlightenment is Working. That is the provocative heading on today’s Wall Street Journal Review Section. “The world is about 100 times wealthier today than it was two centuries ago and the prosperity is more evenly distributed,” writes Harvard prof Steven Pinker. Some nuggets:

  • Two centuries ago, 1% of the population enjoyed democracy. Today, more than half the world’s countries embracing 55% of its people live in democratic countries.
  • In 1800, 12% of the world could read and write; today 85% are literate.
  • Americans work 22 fewer hours a week than they did in the late 19th Century and lose 43 fewer hours to housework.
  • Three decades ago. the U.S spewed 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide and 34.5 million tons of particulate matter into the atmosphere. Today, those figures are 4 million tons of SO2 and 20.6 million tons of particulates.
  • Why, because of The Enlightenment, that 18th Century awakening led by thinkers like John Locke, Adam Smith, Isaac Newton, Descartes, Voltaire, Jefferson, Mozart and Haydn.

Our ancestors replaced dogma, tradition, and authority with reason, debate and institutions of truth seeking. They replaced superstition and magic with science. They shifted their values from the glory of the tribe, nation, race, class or faith toward universal human flourishing.

Is anything more dogmatic than Communism? More inimical to free inquiry? In which category we place too many college campuses. Some campus administrators beefed up security to protect conservative speakers from intolerant social justice warriors (good!) then sent the bill to the speech sponsors (bad!). That only rewards the intolerant speech nazis. Mission accomplished. The levy shut down one Republican campus group for a year. More here.

Union thugs

Strong words in a campaign two-fer

Leah Vukmir is direct mailing an 8½ by 12″ card promoting her U.S. Senate campaign. She is pictured shoulder to shoulder with Scott Walker, both on the ballot this November. A cross-endorsement. Economies of scale. The large background photo depicts the Act 10 takeover of the State Capitol. The message is pure red meat: “In a sea of union thugs and protestors” the two caballeros stood strong.

A pointed contrast with Kevin Nicholson, recent convert to conservatism who has never taken a roll call vote. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Republicans “waved the bloody shirt” at Democrats, the party of rum, Romanism, and rebellion. Leah is doing the same and the Policy Werkes says Good For Them. Figure on both to relieve the Act 10 intifada.

Madison’s Eric Hovde looks like he is in.

Walker scolded on Wall Street

As the burning bush was to Moses, so is the Wall Street Journal editorial page to mainstream Republicans. Saturday (02-19-18) it took Governor Walker to the woodshed for his Foxconn incentives.

Walker thought he had a big political and economic winner last year when he promised Foxconn nearly $3 billion in state aid … That’s a lot of money for one employer and it may soon cost taxpayers even more as politicians bid up corporate subsidies.

Now that Kimberly Clark is threatening to close two paper mills in the Fox Valley, Walker is facing his own #metoo. (“Scott Walker’s subsidy blow-back”)

About David Blaska

Madison WI
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4 Responses to Korea, Tonga and the Enlightenment

  1. Cornelius Gotchberg says:

    ”18th Century awakening led by thinkers”

    IMHO, the 20th Century awakening was led by thinkers including, but not limited to: Al Czervik, Carl Spackler, “Otter” Stratton, Ty Webb, Thornton Melon, Dirty Harry, Dean Vernon Wormer, Judge Elihu Smails, and the irrepressibly indefatigable “Bluto” Blutarsky?

    However, in the 21st Century one must be woke, am I right?

    The Gotch


  2. Tom Paine says:

    And Professor Amy Wax.


  3. Forbidden thoughts says:

    “Tonga in the winter games?”

    The diversity narrative never stops does it?


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