Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

  • 74%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

  • Google

Blogs I love and/or learn from

« A Really Good Name For a Band. | Main | Almost Idyllic. [UPDATED] »


Internet Ronin

It seems to me that it is human nature to fail to take personal responsibility, to blame others for one's own faults, mistakes, or problems. This impession has been reinforced over the years as I have participated in internet bulletin board and blog conversations where even people posting under a pseudonym find it almost impossible to say, "I was mistaken." A very high percentage of the well-known bloggers I read carry on that tradition.


Good post, Amba.

I think what Jesus actually did was provide a corrective to the abuse you're talking about. It was traditionally assumed that the rich were blessed and favored by God (and the poor, conversely rejected). Jesus didn't teach that the poor were blameless, but rather that they were just as loved by God as anyone else (and might have fewer roadblocks to coming to know God, since they didn't have wealth or power to serve as spiritual props).

To whatever extent Christianity has equated powerlessness with virtue, it's been in spite of Jesus, not because of him. The idea of the blamelessness of the poor (especially as a precondition for democracy) is more from Rousseau and Romanticism.


In my kvetching, I forgot to mention that I really appreciated this post. One of the hardest things to do is accept full responsibility for one's own actions and the consequences they bring to oneself and others. I've had some real struggles in ministry with some very bright, talented, and self-important people who were unable to accept that they could be to blame for the way they consistently hurt people around them.

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus has paid in full for my sins, failures and weaknesses. One of the things that means is that it's safe for me to be honest with myself and others about the ways we screw up and go wrong. And the significance of Jesus' sacrifice is also meant to keep from taking that for granted.


Thanks, PJ. After writing that I thought, "Blameless? Wait, what about sin?" I think you're right -- it's some sort of weird hybrid of Christianity and Rousseauism that happened in deep space, like that "Star Trek" episode with the cylinder called "Nomad" that was part American probe, part alien, and was going around zapping all imperfect biological life forms. Mr. Spock translated for it: "We are ... Nomad ... We are ... Tan Ru ... Tan Ru ..." Interestingly for our subject, when the thing was finally forced to realize that IT was in error, and therefore imperfect, it was compelled to self-destruct! "Er-ror ... sterilize ... er-ror ... "


Which reminds me of another thing I've learned from observing J: powerful people can have a lot of "stuffed" guilt. If they ever admitted to being responsible for anything, they'd be responsible for everything. Negative grandiosity. In J's case, too, he tried to make sense of his arrest and imprisonment by thinking he must have been profoundly guilty of something. Better to have it make sense that way than none at all. So there was this sense that nothing could ever be his fault because then the floodgates would break and he'd drown in guilt.


I love the Star Trek reference! An obvious form of that was the (typically Latin American) liberation theology of the 70s-80s which simply reversed the old roles -- the rich were selfish and evil, and the poor were blameless and good. If you were poor, you were on God's side.

The frustrating thing with simplifications like that is there's a grain of truth in it -- just as there is even in our own denials and evasions. And the more we deny reality, the better we become at convincing ourselves and others of what we believe, even against evidence.

This Sunday I'm preaching on Nathan's confrontation of David in 2 Samuel 12 (after his sin with Bathsheba). One reason the prophets and Jesus spoke in parables and stories was to get around the defenses we erect against seeing the truth.


The individuals you describe who abuse underlings appear to me to be narcissists, who fequently rise to positions of power by virtue of the drive that is created by their insecurity. I've had the misfortune of knowing a few such individuals in the work place. They have quite distinctive personalities: they are completely oriented toward those above them and completely disregard anyone who is "lower" or in an inferior position. They are frightful, and sad, people.

Jesus did say "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven," but this does not mean that the poor are blameless or without sin. Poverty that is voluntarily accepted is associated with holiness. Conversely, love of money is associated with unholiness. The poor can covet money just as easily as the rich, and when they do they are as unholy as the rich.

True renunciation of temporal power does not corrupt. It is true holiness. (It also gives rise to a true freedom that is indeed "empowering" but it is not a freedom that the world recognizes or values.)

ali eteraz


Yes there is something about America that makes people take responsibility for their actions.

The fact that America is powerful and does not get beat around. It has never been a victim. Ever.

The sad thing, however, is that there are people in America today who have used that American willingness to be responsible for despicable ends.


I was blessed to have the opportunity to work with our state's governor a few years ago. One time, I was the one responsible for handling a rather controversial issue, where we helped a politically-connected guy move from one state job to the other. We found out later that he had actually been forced out of the first state job for doing some stuff he shouldn't have. For a variety of reasons, we decided not to force him out of the new job. I had the unenviable task of explaining this to the newspapers, while still protecting employee privacy rights, etc.

My boss had a call-in radio show once a week. The day after my interview explaining things hit the paper, a guy called into the show and criticized me, by name, for giving away "dead-head state jobs" to political cronies. Used my name, live on the air, about 5 times.

My boss had not previously made, personally, any public statements on the controversy. He could have very easily have said something like "yeah, I'm going to talk to Pat about that, I don't approve of that sort of thing, I'm going to get to the bottom of this." Even though I was only following his instructions, I would have been fine with such an answer, because part of the job as a staffer is to take political bullets for the boss. It was, all things considered, a minor story and was going to blow over in about a week no matter what he said.

But my boss said: "Well, Milton, let me tell you why I decided, as governor, to do what I did..." Giving any other answer didn't even cross his mind. That's the sort of man he is, straight-talking, honest, perfectly willing to accept responsibility for his decisions.

And let me tell you, after that, I would have walked through fire for him. In a political job, you can't ask for much more than that in a boss.


What state do you live in again?? ;)

Yes, those are the people who inspire absolute loyalty. And it's not fear- or favor-based, it's admiration- and trust-based. More rare than it should be, but maybe not as rare as we think. One of the cases where the media cover scandal and miscreancy (is that a word??) and on the positive side, oratorics (Obama) and heroics (Rudy), which a camera can understand. But this is less public and showy. The only reason we know Harry Truman said "The buck stops here" is because of the way he said it -- for the ages.


Great post. Accepting blame, and low social status, might be the main cause of depression.

It's human nature to lie to ourselves in order to feel good about ourselves. And, as you wisely point out, only the powerful can get away with this easily.

I think one reason I find religion useful is that it lets me feel good about myself even while accepting blame and powerlessness. My life doesn't have to go wonderfully for me to feel ok. So I wonder how non-believers deal with it when society blames and rejects them.


only the powerful can get away with this easily.

Which then tends to make them more powerful (if also brittle and vulnerable).

I wonder how non-believers deal with it when society blames and rejects them.

Depression and/or rage. Or philosophical stoicism.


Depression and/or rage. Or philosophical stoicism.

I haven't been able to find any scientific research on whether atheists are less happy, though. They have found that religious people are happier, but it might be because they have a social life at church.

I have seen a report that Europeans are happier than Americans, and have also read that Europeans are much less religious than Americans. But Europeans might be happier for other reasons, and in spite of being atheists. Americans are less likely to have relatives nearby, because we move around so much. That could cause unhappiness.

I have read a lot by atheists, and they always claim to be very happy. But we don't know if that's true. And maybe atheists are only happy as long as they have no serious problems.

I would love to find out, but it doesn't seem to be a question anyone tried to answer, as far as I can tell.

I think atheism is being promoted in education, more every generation. The ID controversy showed how intensely atheistic science education is becoming. This is partly a backlash against extreme fundamentalism, but it's also the direction science has been going.

I think atheism will continue increasing, until there is some kind of scientific evidence for "super-nature," an intelligent universe, etc.

So I wonder how this will affect people emotionally. There are days when I forget about religion, but then things start to go wrong and I remember. I can pray and recover a sense of balance and being connected to the world.

But what about someone who believes they are not connected, who has no one to lean on, except other mortals?

We might assume atheists are more likely to be depressed or addicted, but I have never seen any scientific evidence for that. Maybe just because that question hasn't been asked.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

New on FacTotem, my Natural History Blog

Jacques' Story: Escape From the Gulag

The AmbivAbortion Rant

Debating Intelligent Design


  • Listed on Blogwise

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 08/2004