Declining the rose-colored glasses (Steven D. White) Wednesday, December 28, 2011

While in White Castle last week I ran into Voltaire, his friend Dr. Pangloss, and his philosophical rival Leibniz.   The following conversation took place between myself, Dr. Black, and Voltaire (if that is his real name) while Dr. White and Dr. Pangloss spoke absurdities ad infinitum.  Leibniz just stood there.

Dr. Black: “So what brings you to our pretend White Castle in Henry County?”

Voltaire: “I write satirical, whimsical material for my own intellectual pleasure, I dislike your questioning of me and I am certainly displeased with the way in which Dr. White caricatured my work. Even if Dr. White did not take the time to visit the Henry County Public library to refresh his understanding of my writing, I do agree with him to a certain degree. I’ve become quite wealthy myself so I find poverty absurd.”

Dr. Black: “I don’t think Dr. White finds poverty absurd.”

Voltaire: “Say what?  As does Dr. White, I ridicule poverty and all associated with it such as illiteracy, lack of government services, and access to public libraries.  Poverty is such an archaic idea I cannot even cognitively process it. There should be an elevated middle class, an intellectual class, and a ruling class—poverty smoverty.  Everyone can afford an e-reader about which Dr. White opines, surely?  A 99cent book, now I’d buy that for a dollar.  I am sure these books magically appear freely through the air, so let’s move on.”

Dr. Black: “It seems black and white to Dr. White, and to you, that poverty magically disappears, that the lower, middle, and even upper middle classes are having a great old time, and can afford what you and Dr. White can afford.  At my practice, I see the least among us, I see the middle class, and I see all people. Let me tell you, people cannot pay me, how can they all pay for Internet access? How can they all pay for e-book readers? How can they all pay for e-books? And the 99 cent e-books are not what people want to read.”

Voltaire: “Oh but I heard Dr. White mention to Pangloss the wisdom and optimism of your leaders. Indeed, quite clever of him to use my written words and characters out of context to attack optimism.  You hit on my point Dr. Black.  You see, one of my primary purposes of Candide was to attack an idea of a perfect world.  Especially the German thought of Leibniz—his philosophical optimism where all actions of good and evil are part of God’s perfect creation. Even unredeemed evil is still part of the best creation God could produce—and because evil does not corrupt Leibniz’s optimistic outlook of monadological reality is something I find quite ridiculous.  Go to the Henry County Public Library and read up on this.  You’ll become “enlightened”—that is an anachronistic joke for you, Dr. Black.”

Dr. Black: “Oh Voltaire, you’re so funny! OK, I get it, Dr. White got it wrong. I know you cannot speak to ballfields and other buildings, but you spent the majority of your life reading and within the walls of the greatest European libraries of your time. I hear that Henry County is planning a new library too!”

Voltaire: “Well Dr. Black, let me speak to Dr. Whites focus on Henry County tradition. IF you read my satirical work on tradition, I cut them down, and cut them down hard.  But the foundation used to tear down tradition is the knowledge I obtained from libraries.  Early literacy, adult literacy, research, and emphasis on Arts and Sciences are my passions—and today’s public libraries provide so much more—or so I heard from the lady behind the counter who is a frequent patron of the public library.  As I am sure you and Dr. White are familiar from my letters to Freddy the Great (I called him Freddy); what is right for his vision of society holds to his morals and virtues. That is great.  And what is right for another’s vision of society holds to her morals and virtues. Great too. These may in fact be different visions of morals and virtues but you see the common ground?  Both visions contain morals and virtues. It is such a grand experiment when so many societies and philosophies can be so different yet claim the virtue and morals to maintain usefulness of society.”

Dr. Black: “Um, you are digressing a bit…!”

Voltaire: “Sorry, I tend to prefer my own opinion to anyone else’s as it is, of course, superior.”

Dr. Black: “Ok, whatever, anyway, funding a library, that is expensive.”

Voltaire: “Oh good Doctor, what fairer taxation could there be than one bringing education to your citizens and power to your people?”

--Stephen B. Black, M.D.