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625Re: Books That Have Changed My Life

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  • greg
    Mar 11, 2005
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      Lots of good books there, Ram. I've read a few of those: The Little
      Prince (which I barely read last year, at my girlfriend's suggestion),
      1984 (I also read it in 1997; amazingly enough it was an assignment in
      my high school freshman English class), and Zhuangzi (am I correct in
      thinking that Zhuangzi is the same person as Chuang-Tzu? I read a book
      by him long ago, which included the famous story about the man
      dreaming he was a butterfly). And I'm reading the Bible right now,
      because I'm taking a class on The Life & Teachings of Jesus Christ
      (offered by the Religious Studies department at my school).

      Are you from Hong Kong, Ram? What do you think about the recent
      resignation of the Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa?

      Your sentence, "After reading Master of the Senate, I seriously set my
      eyes on Washington. I was determined to help to create sound economic
      policies to fight poverty and ignorance." makes me think you're
      considering going into politcs yourself. I think you'd do a good job.

      If I was to make a list of books like that I guess I'd include Henry
      David Thoreau, Jack Kerouac, Stephen King, P.G. Wodehouse, and Terry
      Pratchett. I have a bad habit of reading many books at once. I keep
      them in a stack and after I've read a chapter or so in one I put at
      the bottom and go through them in a cycle. Right now I'm reading The
      Scholars by Wu Ching-Tzu, Willard by Stephen Gilbert, The History Of
      The Haymarket Affair by Henry David, A History Of The Middle East by
      Peter Mansfield, the 9/11 Report from the Commission, Theodore Rex by
      Edmund Morris, The Age Of Stonegenge by Colin Burgess, and The Power
      of Babel: A Natural History Of Language by John McWhorter. That's
      really too many to do at once, I hope to finish off a few soon.

      --- In prezveepsenator@yahoogroups.com, "Ram Lau" <ramlau@y...> wrote:
      > Books That Have Changed My Life
      > Ram Lau
      > I have loved to read since childhood. My first "serious" book in
      > elementary school was Antonine de Saint Exupery's The Little Prince.
      > Books from Zhuangzi to the Bible shaped my religious beliefs. Thomas
      > More's Utopia and Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities helped me
      > shape my philosophical beliefs. Karl Marx's Das Kapital and Milton and
      > Rose Friedmans' Free to Choose showed me that politics and economics
      > are inevitably intertwined.
      > The first book that completely changed my life is George Orwell's
      > Nineteen-Eighty Four. It was my first real lesson on Machiavellianism.
      > The year was 1997, when Hong Kong was undergoing the handover of power
      > from the Great Britain to China. There was a temporary period of
      > "red-scare" in the college campuses in the newly named Hong Kong
      > Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). People still had not forgotten
      > the bloody Cultural Revolution that just ended a score of years ago.
      > Maoism was often compared to fascism and Nazism among the
      > intellectuals. In these circumstances, one could not help but indeed
      > feel threatened by Newspeak, doublethink, and the Thoughtpolice of the
      > (Communist) Party. Upon my high school graduation, I decided to come
      > to America alone at the age of seventeen.
      > The 9/11 attack changed the world. One might wonder if Orwell would
      > have ever imagined another Big Brother budding in the leader of the
      > free world. In recent years, the American people have learned to
      > accept and live with the Ingsoc ideals--when they have been
      > brainwashed to believe that War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and
      > Ignorance is Strength. Religion is used as a tool to grossly
      > manipulate the electorate and indulge their hypocrisy. With a War that
      > has no end, the American people are giving up their freedom faithfully
      > to the government. The general public have refused to think and
      > blindly supported abuses to other countries and their own. As Orwell
      > noted, "in the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a
      > basis of poverty and ignorance." This book has again given me another
      > direction and affirmed the goal of my life--to devote my life to fight
      > poverty and ignorance for the sake of preserving a great democracy and
      > alleviating unnecessary suffering currently too much on earth.
      > The second book that greatly influenced me is Robert Caro's Master of
      > the Senate, the third and the most recent volume of the four-volume
      > biography of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Even before I set foot
      > upon the soil of this country, I had been intrigued by American
      > history and politics. After getting to know the iconic figure that
      > Johnson was in an American history class, I was much enchanted by the
      > extraordinary life and career of Johnson. It took me no time to finish
      > the first two volumes of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, and I patiently
      > waited for the release of this latest volume. With a few overnights of
      > reading, I enjoyed the book front cover to cover. I learned a great
      > deal about the history of the U.S. Senate, as well as the most
      > prominent statesmen and politicians in Congress who had shaped America
      > into what it is.
      > In a good sense, Johnson was perhaps the most Machiavellian politician
      > in American history, even more so than his once fellow Senator and
      > later presidential successor Richard Nixon. Unlike the genuine
      > liberals such as Hubert Humphrey and Alben Barkley, Johnson lacked the
      > moral conviction to fight for a just cause in his Senate years. In his
      > opinion, "civil rights could be accomplished, not by idealism but by
      > rough stuff." Caro harshly judged that Johnson chose to secure the
      > Senate majority leadership and took the monumental role to fight for
      > civil rights only because he had to do so. Without the support from
      > the North, Senator Johnson from Texas would never have had a chance to
      > launch a successful run for President. Nonetheless, without Johnson
      > being the catalyst in this important part of U.S. history, the passage
      > of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the subsequent Civil Rights
      > Movement would never have had happened so quickly and consequentially.
      > In order to achieve his political ambitions, Johnson coaxed, cajoled,
      > compromised, bullied, and coerced. Indeed, the Senate was the ideal
      > place for Johnson to exercise all his political talents and to grow
      > into an influential powerbroker who gradually saw how politics and
      > policies could profoundly change people's lives. Till this day, I am
      > still deeply thankful that Mr. Caro has dedicated decades of his life
      > and hard work on Lyndon Johnson, arguably the most politically astute
      > American ever lived, and his enormous impact on the country. Most of
      > all, he splendidly showed the enormous complexity of Johnson, who was
      > vulgar yet gentleman, shallow yet noble, vicious yet good-hearted, and
      > cynical yet always meant well for his country. After reading Master of
      > the Senate, I seriously set my eyes on Washington. I was determined to
      > help to create sound economic policies to fight poverty and ignorance.
      > The third and the last book that affected my life is Al Franken's Lies
      > and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the
      > Right. Franken exemplified how humor and satire combined with facts
      > can be utilized to combat gutter politics and malicious lies. More
      > importantly, he wittily illustrated one of the foibles of
      > laissez-fairecapitalism. Putting profit and viewership before civic
      > and journalistic principles, the mainstream media has become a speaker
      > for the corporate campaign-donors and is only willing to say what the
      > viewers want to hear. In comedian Jon Stewart's words, "The media is
      > not liberal. It is lazy and sensationalist." Market forces exacerbate
      > the situation by facilitating the competition of extremism and
      > patronization--whoever makes the most outrageous comments and spills
      > the most demonizing trolls draws the most attention. In the chapter
      > "Supply Side Jesus," Franken eviscerated the phoniness of certain
      > so-called "born-again Christians" who place their selfishness and
      > prejudice before decency and compassion that most human beings
      > possess. The importance of this book is that it reminds me the truth
      > can never be taken for granted, it has to be discovered.
      > The books mentioned above have fundamentally changed me and my
      > thinking. Because of them, I have a better understanding of who I am
      > and what I want to be. While no one knows how far I can go, they have
      > given me precious advice and direction that I will appreciate for life.
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