As we get closer to the conclusion of the year, let me give you an advanced look at the source of my 2020 flying season theme. 50 years ago, A first order social philosopher, who constantly reminded people he was a working Longshoreman in San Francisco, wrote a highly influential thesis called “The Triumph of the Squares” the subject of which was the Apollo Space Program, but he held that it was the perfect example of achievement done by men of action and determination, in spite of the politically turbulent times around them. This man was Eric Hoffer.
Hoffer was the ultimate blue collar man, with a titanic spirit, and a passionate love for his country. He was an unrelenting and insightful critic of all totalitarian movements, and for his writing on the topic, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His specific expertise was the mindset of individuals. A sample quote:
” People who bite the hand that feeds them, usually lick the boot that kicks them”
These videos are samples from a long interview done by CBS News in 1967. I selected the video above not because I like the commentary of the guy who posted it, but because it has Hoffer’s words in subtitles. He has a very strong accent that many people find hard to decipher, but his passion is obvious. Do not mistake him for anything but purely American, he was born in New York City, and few people loved our country and its people, as he did.
“Special talent for maintenance” Is the first comment he is making here. He explained how critical this is, and that it’s not present in in many struggling cultures. …… Near the end, he speaks of the then current governor of his home state, whom he feels is not as impressive as the state he serves. The same man, still acknowledged Hoffer’s unmatched service to freedom by awarding him the Medal of Freedom in the White House 15 years later.
Your 2020 Aviation Connection:
Hoffer said it was the “Squares” the engineers, the builders, the men of action, that actually defined achievement in the 1960s, not the people obsessed with the politics and social movements of the day. He conceded that there were great things done in civil rights, but held that the people, on both sides of the political spectrum, who were absolutely consumed by daily events, had much smaller individual lives then the Americans, who acknowledged the social environment, but still stuck to their personal creative ambitions, and were determined to see them through. He thought they gave more to the country by far, than people who watched the protests and strife and let the anxiety of it own them.
I uphold that Hoffer was right about this in 1969, and he is still right in 2019. We will enter the 2020 election year shortly. Each of us will decide every day if we will let the media drama rule our emotions, or if we will go to the shop and advance our personal ambitions in aviation. Social media and politics are controlled by vast corporations with armies of experts paid to make it addictive and irresistible to most people. The advertising revenue and ratings it generates pays for this. They have the ability to make an addictive product that would be the envy of the Medellin Drug Cartel.
I get why it is hard to change, many things in our society deeply matter to me. In 2016 I wrote this: Thought for the Day: “My Dreams” the day Michael Bloomberg announced he was willing to buy a job at 1600 Pennsylvania ave. But this year, above all others, I am going to invest in myself, advance my own ambitions, and refuse to react on command of each day’s new narrative. If you have the will power to ignore all the emotional reactions the media and the parties and the corporations are commanding you to have, and replace this with the personal action to learn, understand and create, then you will own the year, and lead a life that Hoffer would have praised.
7 Replies to “Triumph of The Squares – 2020”
Here is an interview with Jeff Brown, an amazing futurist who simply explains how our personal information is stolen and sold and how artificial intelligence will dominate our lives in the near future. It reinforces your thoughts on personal ambitions and staying independent of the media’s forced “group think.”
I think all power has the tendency to migrate toward totalitarianism. We in the USA have come to accept a certain level of it as normal and tolerable. You know, the old trading freedom for security bit. And even though I will rant about how I think that we tolerate too much that is totalitarian in nature (usually after I drink too much), we do still have enough freedom to ignore all that and simply focus on, and work on our own humble dreams and ambitions.
Time to get back to work, as you wrote, “I highly encourage builders to actually write down their aviation dream. A dream written down is already being formed into a plan; a plan with a time line is a goal, and the building blocks are the defined achievements which are milestones along the path. The dream can be inspirational, but it really starts with a plan on a piece of paper in your pocket.”
I’m in total agreement on Eric Hoffer. If Hoffer was a longshoreman-philosopher, that would make you a mechanic-philosopher, although you’re a lot more than just a mechanic. Anyone that reads your stuff regularly knows that already.
BGP’s are on. So proud!!!
7:04 AM – I am certain that this is the most important thing that I will read today.
And this evening, after work, I WILL NOT be distracted by the noise – I will read something worthwhile and DO something worthwhile.
Thank you William
Actually the man who coined the phrase “triumph of the squares” was Dr. Thomas O. Paine, head of NASA at the time, who was widely quoted in the press as having said from the Houston, Texas Space Center of Apollo 8 on December 27, 1968: “This was the triumph of the squares who aren’t ashamed to say a prayer now and then” and about Apollo’s 8’s successful return to earth “the beginning of a movement that will never stop.” “This is something for all mankind.” “Man has started his drive out into the universe.”
On June 7, 1970, almost a year after the moon landing of Apollo 11, NASA head Tom Paine gave a commencement address at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts where he revisited his phrase that the successful moonshot was a triumph of the squares, and devoted his address in part to “the clash between two contemporary social worlds.” He elaborated on the values of “Squareland.” It was “outward looking and mathematical,” was “time oriented…and deeply concerned with future consequences.” It “accepts as true only rational facts and theories which predict future events with mathematical precision under rigorous standards of reproducibility” which would ensure the “crops yield, lights light, bridges carry loads, children avoid polio, and men walk on the moon.” He contrasted Squareland with “Potland” (‘led’ by the likes of the Chicago Seven, Timothy Leary, Jane Fonda, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Hells Angels, Jefferson Airplane, Arlo Guthrie, etc.) where “Their truth is subjective and aesthetic,” “non-mathematical, oriented to individual emotional perception…”
Eric Hoffer’s use of the phrase “triumph of the squares” seems to have been taken from an August 1969 Time magazine piece following the Apollo 11 mission. Since I don’t have access to the piece, I can’t say whether Hoffer credited Tom Paine with phrase or not.
Thank you for sharing this, I appreciate both the correction and the insight. -William