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Book Review of: Civilization and Its Enemies

Civilization and Its Enemies

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Review of Civilization and Its Enemies by Lee Harris 


Since September 11, we've all been bombarded with opinions from armchair quarterbacks, myopic intellectuals, Pollyanna liberals, deskbound philosophers, sound bite journalists, and various unqualified people expounding from their limited world view while assuming only they have the right answers. Thinking people have tended to disregard all such opinions, because none of them hold up under close examination.

What we've been looking for is something that explains what happened--and where we're headed--from a perspective that doesn't serve an ideological agenda. And we've been looking for that because an ideological agenda is what those terrorists had on that day--more of the same is not an answer.

The answer we really want is, "What's next?" We want to see what's ahead for us. Lee Harris helps us look ahead by first looking back. He takes us through the various stages of civilization and shows us how each rose to prominence and what drove it one to survive as long as it did.

For example, Sparta enjoyed 500 years in which it was never conquered, never had a civil war, and was never ruled by a tyrant. Even the United States cannot boast of such things--the USA has been around for less than half that time, had a very bloody Civil War, and is today ruled by a slew of law-breaking tyrants in government agencies (as was documented in Senator Roth's 12 televised hearings on the IRS). What gave Sparta such an amazing track record?

After explaining the source of Sparta's success, Harris moves forward through history. Along the way, he examines subsequent Western civilizations from the Roman Empire to nineteenth century Poland. It is on this journey that we see, for example, why the United States changed from a loose alliance of states to a nation with a strong central government. And we see why Poland failed to do so and what the consequences were. It's fascinating to watch Harris unfold events to expose the cultural foundations behind them, including how Hitler and Mussolini rose to power.

The book is far from being a dry history lesson, or really a history lesson at all. It's an education in how and why world events happen. Harris provides that education by providing the reader with a factual foundation then making the reader think. Having such an education will help you understand where we are headed and why. It will help you understand what the USA must do, in its role as the world's Samurai. The USA wields a mighty sword, while also adhering to a code of behavior that people of other nations expect us to continue to uphold simply because of who we are. Harris explains what that code is, how it came to be, and why it is in the best interests of the USA to continue to uphold it.

The USA, despite its relatively short history, Civil War in its 9th decade, and present infestation of tyrants, is still the world's great hope. And not just because it has more military might and more wealth than any other nation in history. The nation is a microcosm of the world's cultures--the great melting pot--and the implications of that are profound. How much responsibility to the rest of the world comes with that? Answer the question for yourself, after reading this book.



About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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