Another Person’s Interest, Fifth Column

1.  Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, pages 86-98:

One rule that Dale Carnegie affirms is that we should talk with other people about what interests them.  Theodore Roosevelt would research a subject the night before meeting someone if he knew that the person he was about to meet was interested in that subject.

This makes sense, but I could use a how-to manual on how to do that.  In the past, I’ve felt as if I need to be an expert on a topic in order to discuss it with someone.  That’s one reason I felt so inadequate at Harvard and other graduate schools I attended: I feel as if the people around me know so much, while I know so little.  And this also applies to discussions about sports among the working stiffs.  Sure, I can check out the score of a game, but I feel as if I need to be a walking sports encyclopedia in order to participate in their discussions, at their level!  Otherwise, I’d think that I was holding them back.

But there are many times when people appreciate open-ended questions from people who don’t know much about their area of interest, for that gives them an opportunity to talk about themselves.  I know a counselor who talked glowingly about an opportunity he had to discuss football strategy with his wife.  His wife knew little about football, but she was taking the time to ask him questions about it so that she could be a part of his world.

There are times when I like talking about my interests to other people.  There have been times when I had difficulty, however.  I was watching Lost at home with my dad one time, and he’d never seen the show.  I found it hard to explain all of the nuances of Lost to him! 

I also find that there are many times when I want to be the person who wins friends and influences people, so, when a person asks me about my interests, I cut him short and ask him about his—and not very adeptly, at that.  But there’s nothing wrong with me allowing somebody else to be generous, to be a giver. 

2.  Robert Heinlein, The Sixth Column, page 56:

[The resistance against America’s Pan-Asian conquerors] would have to be something like the “fifth column” that destroyed the European democracies from within in the tragic days that led to the final blackout of European civilization.  But this would not be a fifth column of traitors, bent on paralyzing a free country, but the antithesis of that, a sixth column of patriots whose privilege it would be to destroy the morale of invaders, make them afraid, unsure of themselves.

I looked up “fifth column” on wikipedia, for I was curious about it, with the term being on V, and all.  On V, the fifth column refers to the aliens who are subverting the attempt of their fellow aliens to take over the earth.  In real life, the term started in the late 1930’s, with the Spanish Civil War.  A nationalist general believed that a fifth column was supporting the nationalists’ attempt to overthrow the Republican (or, for its detractors, socialist) government of Spain.  So the historical setting for this term is essentially the events that led up to Franco’s dictatorship.  America and Britain used the term to clamp down on potential subversives (in their mind) who could end up supporting Germany and Japan.  America warned against the “fifth column” when it put Japanese-Americans into internment camps, for example.  When Heinlein uses the term “fifth column”, he is referring to fascist subversives who undermined European democracies.  

But he talks as if the fascists won, as if they created the “final blackout of European civilization.”  His book was originally a serial published in 1941, and it became a book in 1949.  So the story was written when Heinlein didn’t know how World War II would end up.  In his mind, the Fascists could win, or at least inflict lasting damage!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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