Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

In the nineteenth century, in certain pioneer communities, if you wanted a barn built, you invited your neighbors over for the day for a barn-raising party, and everyone got together with selfless good will and at the end of the day you had a barn. Today, due to ego, politics, narcissism, manipulation and self interest, it often feels like the statistical probability of a barn has become rather small. Either no-one will show up, or they may come and move some wood around, or maybe build a piece of a barn; but then they may tear it down again, or it may fall over, being unsteady in its construction. Isaaiah Berlin said, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."

Here's hoping there's a better species somewhere that gets more done.

Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. If you write to me about something you read in the Spectacle, I will assume the letter is for publication. If it is not, please tell me, and I will respect that. If you want the letter published, but without your name attached, I will also respect that. I will not include your email address unless you ask me to. This is in response to many of you who have expressed concern that spammers are finding your email address here. Flames are an exception. They will be published in full, with name and email address. I have actually had people follow up on a published flame by complaining that they thought they were insulting my ancestry privately. Nope, sorry. The following is this month's example.


I hope you did not write this abortion of an essay that Orwell was wrong. Are you that demented or pathologically lemming like? Are you the paradigm example of the book Nation of Sheep? If you did, shame on you.

I am shocked at how naive the author of this essay is. Read USA today to find out brilliant George Orwell is. He predicted some moron President would violate all of our civil rights in the name of the flag. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT, THE RED NECK REPUBLICANS HAVE ALWAYS SHOUTED. No dissent at any time, or it is communistic or anti-American, while at the same time Halliburton keeps on obtaining those no bid contracts for Cheney and Bush in Iraq, New Orleans and all over the world. God bless them. I love such a great opportunity.

Have you forgotten the long list of Republican yahoos in the history of America? Joe McCarthy, Nixon, Hoover, Coolidge, Taft, Helms, Thurmond, Taney, US Grant,

How many of these Presidents are stars like Washington, Kennedy, Clinton, Truman, Wilson, FDR, Jackson, Polk? IKE and Teddy are the only ones I can find. Tell me I am wrong.

Why not put an enema up every American's anus?

Pastor Niemoller was correct:


Jonathan, I think you need an apology and a retraction now.

A red blooded American who loves our Constitution and our way of life, and a man who believes in liberty and the unique nature of the USA and freedom not dictatorship and autocracy. Ayn Rand would be disgusted by our government. We need to clean out both parties in DC and put in a libertarian government in its place now. Both parties are whores as PJ O'Rourke said in his book; A Parliament of Whores.

We need to execute all lobbyists in DC, starting with Abramoff. We need to take back the wonderful experiment of The True Patriots not the Business Whores whores who have made us their captives. Oil, gas, pharma, business, corporate and other interests need to be exterminated along with the pest exterminator from Houston.

Pat Maginnis Ousoonersocal@aol.com

Hello Jonathan! I read your essay On Lying. I'm very interested in your views and opinions about the following topics: Adultery.......and Stealing.

Adultery involves lying as you said. But could you explain a little more why adultery is wrong?

Also, what about stealing?

You said that when a person lies, he is stealing your time.

So what is it about stealing that is so wrong?

I'm trying to find answers. If you could help, I would appreciate that very much.


Rajasa Kamble

Dear Mr. Wallace:

in the AUSCHWITZ alphabet, there is a part in which you describe Musselmanner. You say you do not know the origin of the phrase. The Muselman is someone, as you decribe, as being on the brink of death through starvation etc. But I do not think this is an entirely accurate description. They were those in the camp, who through mistreatment etc. had been stipped of all of their humanity. They no longer had a will to live, and usually, could not even react to external stimuli. Often, they would just hunch over and shake, which the Germans thought looked like a Muslem praying. Muselman is the German word for Muslim. Just thought you'd like to know.

_Wes Dwyer

Dear Mr. Wallace,

I ran across your website while during a Google search for information about, of all things, Zyklon B.

I suppose that you would not have much time, or inclination, to tidy your essays up, but being an editor by (sometime) trade, I can't pass over two minor solecisms in your piece God v. God.

The first is in the mention of the philosopher A. J. Ayer (no "s"), who is always referred to that way, by initials (as was, I gather, the custom for British acamedicians at the time) and not as "Alfred". (His intimates apparently called him "Freddie.")

The second is in the passage, "... if God is everywhere, then He is nowhere, because he cancels himself out like the same number added on one side of an equation and subtracted on the other."

I think what you meant (and thus should have said) was, "... the same number added to or substracted from both sides of an equation."

I have devoted a good deal of this morning to reading your essays, and am enjoying them very much -- by which I mean to say am enjoying your writing, not what you are writing about, but I suppose that is a bit like saying one wished there were no physicians because there were no illness, or (more in your line) no lawyers because everyone always got along. That isn't the sort of world we live in, which is, I take it, part of your point.

Thank you for writing your thoughts and publishing them.


Windsor Viney