Recently watched an excellent documentary on Admiral Hyman Rickover, creator of the nuclear Navy. There’s quite a lot in the documentary that is relevant to today’s issues and concerns, for example: circa 1972, the CIA had assured the Navy that the top speed of Russian attack subs was about 22 knots. Rickover suspected that they were wrong, and he directed a carrier which was being shadowed by a Russian sub to gradually increase speed. When it reached 30 knots, the shadowing sub was still there.
Which provides one more interesting data point at a time when we are being lectured about the need to treat the conclusions of the “intelligence community” with reverence.
In a 1974 speech, Rickover told of an ancient people called the Locrians:
These people gave freedom of speech to all citizens. At public meetings anyone could stand up and argue for changes in law or custom, on one condition. A rope was placed around his neck before he began to speak and, if what he said did not meet with public approval, he was forthwith hanged. That, no doubt, prevented disturbing the even tenor of familiar customs and ways of life.
I have encountered some in the Navy who look with nostalgia on this ancient custom. But we must face the stark fact that an uncriticized society cannot long endure.
Quite a few organizations in America today are following in the footsteps of the Locrians–the universities, especially, but also certain Silicon Valley companies. And not only them.
I learned of this documentary about the same time I read about a professor who was disturbed that Hispanic students that she interviewed credited their success to their own hard work and self-reliance rather than to affirmative action.
Rickover was Jewish, and he entered the Navy at a time when Jews were not common in that service…and the negative attitudes toward Jews which were prevalent in the society at large were also quite common in the Navy, perhaps even stronger there than outside. (The Academy yearbook pages for both Rickover and the only other Jewish midshipman in his class were conveniently perforated for easy removal.)
And I wondered: If Rickover had been influenced by professors and others endlessly and excessively beating the Victimhood drum, would he have been able to achieve the success and the great accomplishments that he did? Or would he have just folded up and concluded that it was hopeless, that Jews had no chance in the Navy?
Well, probably not Rickover–he was an extraordinarily tough and resilient man. But there probably are a lot of people who have high potential, though maybe not on the Rickover level, and who are being inhibited and will be inhibited in achieving that potential due in substantial part to such preaching.