The “Myth of Greatness” Reflects Moral Immaturity

I solemnly promise that I have no intention of beginning where I left off last week.  Let yesterday’s rain run out to sea; I have no desire to thrash and wallow in it until a morass is created.  I will add only (without name or specific reference—and there was none last time, either) that drunkenness is a great evil, and that alcohol serves few purposes in our society that advance mature conduct, let alone physical health.  Even the innocent would be more secure in their reputation’s defense if they were well known never to bend the elbow.  As for sexual impropriety, alcohol feeds that as motor oil makes an engine’s parts turn and purr.  Yet we allow adult children scarcely arrived at the age of consent to stage keg parties on campuses whose dorms are all coed and where (in the case of the hallowed Yale, to drop a single name) we formally organize something called Sex Week.

These observations are leading elsewhere than down the road I have already traveled: I shall keep my promise.  I mean to underscore here only that our entire society, no matter which corridor of our cultural maelstrom you may choose to ride in your flimsy skiff, is a mess.  It’s difficult for me to say that this “culture” characterizes the greatest nation the world has ever seen.  The one thing that could generally be said on our behalf, as Americans, was that we allowed our people to fail: to pick their personal way, to travel it a while, and to assess whether they thought themselves to be approaching a worthy destination.  We did not force entire masses of citizens to be shoemakers or soldiers or farmers for generation after generation; and though a New England Puritan might fine you stiffly for taking a leisurely walk on the Sabbath, you could always pull up stakes and move to Mr. Penn’s colony or strike out for Ohio.  As invasive and dictatorial as local ordinances could be, they were local, and you could pass a judgment upon them with your feet.

We have not even that degree of virtue to our credit any longer.  Our professional critics in Academe will protest that we never had it—that the institution of slavery, the genocidal suppression of Native Americans, and the treating of women as second-class citizens were the oppressive underside of an experiment that has only become more apparent and more benign in growing more Orwellian.  So what if you are required to bake goodies for occasions considered by your religion to be abominable… so what if you are required to register for a program of mainstream high-tech health care though your approach to health is traditional?  You’re a pawn, yes—but you’re a well-nourished little pawn.  Big Brother is looking after you.  Did slavemasters look after their slaves?

Actually, they did, for the most part.  The narratives collected by Roosevelt’s WPA interviewers from old folks born into slavery can make very disturbing reading on this score, for many of them will sum up with a comment like, “Things was better in slave days.”  Large slaveholders could well afford to whip a runaway to death now and then as a means of intimidating the hundreds remaining to them.  Most slaveholders had but a few souls in their charge, however, and economic factors would have advised restraint even if the voice of common humanity had fallen mute.  A good many slaves in the latter situation apparently enjoyed reasonably generous housing, food, clothing, health care, and even time off by the standard of the day.  The institution itself was demeaning, to be sure—at least as much to the owner as to the slave (a fact well recognized by Alexis de Tocqueville).  Its many specific opportunities for abuse, however (such as the detestable practice of whipping, still quite alive in the Islamic world), were not universally exploited—were almost never exploited, in fact, by planters of modest acreage who owned only a cook, a nurse, and a groom.

Again, whither do I wander?  To this point: that our slaveholding past might have served us as a cautionary tale against growing arrogant, yet need not and should ever have been cited as evidence that American society was among the vilest in world history.  Point taken?  We were not “great”, as in sublimely resistant to ordinary human foibles… what folderol!  But neither were we more savage than those we called savages.  Read deep into John Young’s narrative, recorded by Frank Dobie in A Vaquero of the Brush Country, and you will find a description of several Apache women wandering separate from the tribe with their noses cut off.  These were convicted and punished adulteresses.  Their disgrace extended far beyond wearing a scarlet “A”.

What distresses me—and, to be honest, downright irritates me—about our society is its tendency (so brilliantly illustrated in accepted teaching about the South and the Civil War) to distance itself from natural human shortcomings and project these upon an Evil Other.  The antebellum South was nothing other than a proto-Nazi state, to read our history books and listen to our professional mouthpieces on the subject.  You’d never suspect that the slaves were imported by Northern ships or that several Northern states, indeed, continued the legal practice of slavery after the Emancipation Proclamation.  Not only that… but all Southerners owned slaves, it seems, and all slaveowners bullied and beat their poor human possessions.  The effort invested in transferring general failures of the society—and even in manufacturing failures for the exercise—to an isolated social segment has all the ritual characteristics of scapegoating.  We do that a lot, it seems to me.  Every human community does it to some degree… but we have a long, undistinguished history of indulging the practice.

Why are we loading all of our frustration with the electoral process onto Russia’s back?  For that matter, Russia “invaded” Crimea only after a Crimean plebiscite overwhelmingly expressed support for reunion; and the specific “ignition event” that touched off the initial fighting in Ukraine was the violent overthrow of a duly elected president by a pro-European mob.  I’m sure that my personal values resemble the “mob’s” more than Putin’s on most points… but the situation is vexed and complex.  Why must we oversimplify and caricature, selecting villains and then convicting them for clouding up our day?

Most of you will know that our own president has actually been accused in certain official quarters of creating bad weather.  Light the torches!  Bring out the noose!

We have a culture-wide problem with drugs, booze, and sexual excess (to finish where I began), so… find some men!  Any man will do (unless, that is, he’s bankrolling our “find some men” lynch party).  Let’s not apply scrutiny to our campus orgies or—still less—to the accelerating trend of decriminalizing recreational drugs.  Let’s most certainly not reconsider the policy long advanced by our best and brightest that sex, like a six-pack, is pure joy if practiced “safely” (a condom being the equivalent here of a call to Uber, apparently).  Young women seem to be having so much sex that the condoms are bursting or falling short in supply, with rampant pregnancy being the inconvenient consequence; so now the villain is a Stone Age religious bloc that seeks to enslave and “Nazi down on” women by impeding abortions.  And meanwhile… and meanwhile, the young men who impregnated the young women are all the equivalent of rapists.  Let’s not forget to hunt them down as we hunt for good sex under every bush and then locate our nearest Planned Parenthood drive-thru.

No, I kind of don’t think this is the greatest nation the world has ever seen.  I doubt that the world has seen any great nations at all, unless there’s one unpopulated by human beings somewhere that I overlooked. And, if I may qualify my peeved remarks last Wednesday, I cannot recommend a straightforward “civil abortion” of those of its citizens who make me ashamed. It’s tempting to imagine the flippant farewell, “Now, with that forty percent flushed out of our system, we can get back to the greatness that is truly us”… but we would only get back to where we are now, without some deliberate plan.  We collaborated in the creation of our disgusting neighbors.  We would do well to figure out exactly how we did so.

Secession—and I am quite serious—wouldn’t have been a bad modus operandi here.  Form a much looser confederation of states with little more than a defensive alliance uniting them; then let those that want to create a wonderland without rules search their own resources for ways to clean the human feces off the sidewalks.  They would be back, apologizing hat-in-hand, within months: they would have been forced to grow up.  So for the Southern states: all would have repented of their secession within five years if left to explore its consequences.  But, no… we couldn’t allow them to fail—better to burn them down than to let them make a mistake.  Thanks to that precedent, we probably can’t resort to the “secession” strategy today, either.  So we’ll all go down together as we forbid each other to stumble.

Mendacity and Lunacy Do Not Qualify as “Views”

I’m not going to attempt to state the following ethical impasses in a “fair” manner, as a shallow mind might style it.  My overarching point is intended to be precisely that the ethical common ground is lacking to justify our being considered a single society or a coherent culture.  Personally, I find that I can neither make a convincing case for two and two being five—in pursuit of “presenting both of the issue’s sides fairly”—nor do I have any desire to gesture at such well-balanced absurdity.

A man should not have his reputation ruined over a 36-year-old accusation without any details of time and place, its supposed corroboration a string of puzzled “witnesses” who either remember nothing or remember circumstances entirely at odds with the charge.  When the barbarity alleged by the accuser is grotesquely out of tune with every other validated fact about the man, especially, elected representatives should not be queuing up at the microphone to call for his lynching.  And, no, women do not always tell the truth.  About thirty years ago, I briefly dated a very troubled woman (in an irreproachably Victorian fashion not exactly current in the Eighties) with whom I was “fixed up” by a well-intentioned third party.  I had no warning of what loomed.  When this tormented soul’s drinking problem and troubles with a physically abusive father (with whom she still lived) became more and more apparent, I tried easing my way out the door.  That wasn’t destined to happen.  Instead, I was threatened with being slandered all about my workplace if I even thought about exiting.  I had to disconnect my phone for about three months… and the pathetic threats, as far as I know, were never executed.

No, women do not always automatically tell the truth.  On the ledger’s other side, a man’s history of punctilious propriety does not mean nothing just because he’s a man.  It certainly doesn’t mean that he must be sweeping dirt under the rug, which would be equivalent to saying that the accused is guilty if the evidence shows it, and even more guilty if the evidence is missing.  Absurd—outrageously absurd.  To attempt a “fair” representation of such bigoted, perverse, self-serving claptrap would be to give consideration to lunatic hostility or runaway stupidity.

I cannot talk to such people.  I have no wish to talk to them, or to listen to them.  I am uncomfortable knowing that they inhabit my part of the planet.  If I could easily ferry one of them out of a flood’s path or travel an extra mile to retrieve an old man resolved upon dying in his rocker, I’d lean to my oars and go talk grandpa around.

Much of this malarkey is said to orbit the sacred right to abort babies.  The claim of an imminent threat to the “right” is itself false on its face: no judge can constitutionally legislate from the bench.  The real animus surrounding this case arises precisely from the contrary—and covert—objective of placing a judge-dictator on the bench as a way of circumventing elected representation.

But take the protesting, screeching Furies at their word: why is abortion the passkey to freedom and progress, and its abridgement a return to chains and slavery?  Any woman with a calendar and a pencil may circle three days of the month when she will abstain from having sex.  Is that demand medieval—or is the calendar too sophisticated a technology?

Or are the men of the world, as many of the unhinged opposition insist, so brutal that a woman may not pass a single day of the month unmolested?  Is every woman raped at least once a day?  The derangement of so paranoid a fantasy is beyond anything that Apuleius could have cooked up.  Inasmuch as most of the nightmare-fantasy’s peddlers are not clinically insane, one must attribute the whole line of argument to unprincipled mendacity—and truly arrogant mendacity, as if someone should look you dead in the eye, declare that you have horns, and expect to be believed by every observer.  These maenads are boldfaced liars by default if they are not raging psychotics.  Actually, a pregnancy for any woman outside the window of 14 to 30 years old is rather difficult to achieve even in six months of regular sexual exchanges.  Yet many of the same harridans who paint their crotches red and wave coat-hangars are also delivering ghoulishly joyous speeches and cutting YouTube videos “celebrating” an abortion (or abortions) that they have relished, apparently after refusing all contraception with a determination that would awe a Catholic washerwoman.

It disgusts me to be sharing the relics of a community with people who revel in baby-slaughter, not as a right, but as a rite.  And it disgusts me well beyond my descriptive abilities that such unnatural hellhounds wrapped in a woman’s hide should be mimicking the outrage of their virtuous sisters who have been assaulted by some male jackal.  Perhaps traditional Islam is the best answer for them: a man who will keep them shrouded and walled away from any worldly contact.  But, no, they say that they want no part of raising a family… they apparently just want the “right” to sex thirty times a month (and once more on January, March, May, July, August, October, and December).  If, indeed, they really live their lives in such a manner, it may be just possible that most men in their circle are sociopaths; for a magnet attracts stray shavings, and carrion draws vultures.

I am long, long past the point, of course, where my words have rendered me damned per saecula saeculorum and excommunicate from the community of “sensitive” people—people who never utter a hateful word and harm no one, who live and let live… who would allow you to “identify” male today and female tomorrow, and to enter two different restrooms within the space of an hour.  In my place of outer darkness, I would ask of the neighboring black hole just how all the male head-hunting jibes with such liberality.  If a woman is always to be believed and a man never, then why may the man not declare himself a woman upon the witness stand and charge his accuser with being male?  For women never lie… and our defendant is now a defendante.

I seriously believe that, if anything, my inclination to sympathize with lame ducks and crippled sparrows is excessive.  I should never have anguished so over the alcoholic woman with the brutal father, otherwise.  I’m not a stranger to depression; and, indeed, I would disagree with many of the cultural cheerleaders (with whom I tend to be politically ranked by “the Resistance”) that America is the greatest nation the world has ever seen.  Our society generates insecurity, neurosis, and loneliness the way a steam locomotive generates smoke.  That isn’t to say that I wish to topple everything over in favor of some hare-brained utopia: it’s just to acknowledge the facts.

For the very reason that I cry foul, however, when commentators drape the US in a Superman cape, I cry a dozen fouls when critics of the opposing persuasion spout vicious lunacy and then dare anyone to indict their self-contradiction.  For the very reason that the perplexed and confused excite compassion in me, ideological profiteers who use others’ suffering as a club to beat down their rivals for supreme power stir in me a bottomless contempt.  I can take issue calmly with those who attempt to index quality of life simplistically with per capita income; I can’t restrain my temper in the presence of those who size up my color, my gender, my age, and my probable culture at a glance, then tell me to pay a fine and go to the back of the line in sackcloth.

There’s no possible basis of community with such self-righteous stormtroopers.  There’s nothing to talk about, no negotiation to be made.  When I am in attendance at a flag-raising (since I lately wrote of this issue), I do not feel inclined to take a knee, because the gesture’s intent would be susceptible to wild misinterpretation… but I certainly don’t feel overtaken, on the other hand, by any sense of bonding with the mass around me.  Not any more.  Too many warpainted head-hunters are in their midst.  They are not my fellow citizens: I scarcely find them recognizable as fellow human beings.

Some idiotic poll or other has recently proclaimed that about half of us suppose civil war to be imminent.  Civil war… I very much doubt it.  But massive civil disobedience?  Rioting in the streets?  Refusal to pay taxes to public schools… refusal to admit those from that part of town into this part of town?  Something on the order of serial secession—something like the dissolution of the Union into five parts—such as Soviet analysts foresaw two decades ago may be in the tea leaves.  And far from wishing to avert it, I more and more find myself disposed to think that it’s our best way out of the evolving hell over which our flag waves.

I learned a while back that there’s no easy exit from a room where a bipolar, substance-addicted psychotic expects you to stay.

The Art of the Ideological Shakedown: Silencing Speech by Controlling Minds (Part Two)

A shakedown, as I understand that essential term of modern urban living, lies somewhere between extortion and larceny.  “Hey, why would I squeal about your ramming the boss’s car because you had too much to drink?  We’re friends, right?  I mean, you were going to let me see those confidential reports even before this happened.  Right?”

The kind of shakedown I had begun to describe in my last post was ideological.  What I intended thereby was a bullying in the world of ideas, such that the intimidated are compelled to pay lip service to propositions which they may find repugnant or else face reprimand or termination.  Acceptance of those propositions at the level of genuine conviction is not required.  In the first place, how can anyone know if you sincerely embrace what you verbally endorse?  But in the second place, it seems likely to me that the shakedown artist must rather enjoy the thrill of power that goes with compelling another to feign an endorsement.  And in any case, people of the persuasion that my discussion addressed—fanatical cultists, that is—don’t believe in the existence of inner imperatives.  There’s no such thing as conscience: only conditioning.  Hence their obsession with education of one sort or another (and the political cultist is as eager to run every child through a public-school brainwash as the sectarian cultist is to home-school children in “Bible-only” physics and geology).  To such minds, the glass is utterly empty until you pour something into it.  As long as new disciples are singing the right words in tune by the end of the day, who cares if their heart is in the song?  For there is no “heart”: the minions in question are just servile machines to be programmed.

This much is certainly true of religious cultism as we commonly know it.  The cult has a catechism; the acolyte memorizes and repeats it.  After the requisite number of repetitions, he or she is awarded with the hood, the ring, the tonsure, or whatever the tribe’s elite designation may be.

It’s equally true of the new socio-political cultism of the progressive stamp.  You learn to repeat the profession of faith like a zombie… and then you’re all ready to swing into action, slinging drinks on diners in restaurants or leaving feces on cop cars or smearing your crotch with fake blood.  “I believe we live and die as contemptible vermin unless we renounce individualism utterly and commit ourselves to The Cause.  I believe that The Cause is our one and only Reason for Being.  There is no redemption except through The Cause.  I love The Cause and only The Cause, for nothing else in the universe is worthy of love.  I love and obey Peerless Leader in all that I say and do, for He has been chosen to receive Enlightenment and to lead our species into its fight for The Cause.  He is The Cause made flesh.  I deplore all of those who resist his will and blaspheme against The Cause, and I will work for their destruction in any and every way possible.  White Privilege is our enemy.  The Male Gender is our enemy.  The Christian Faith is our enemy.  All systems that refuse to subordinate their interests and accommodate their values to the exigencies of our species’ destined ascent, as outlined in The Cause, are the enemy.  Their members are excommunicate—excluded from the human family and fit only to be treated as contemptible vermin.”

Hello.  Welcome to our new world.

Now, the tests for your personal “verminous quotient” are many and evolving.  Everyone now knows that critics of gay marriage are murdering Nazis who insist upon the fixity of certain values—i.e., the guaranteed preservation of their special privileges—and adversaries of the human species’ advance to a higher plane.  Everyone is beginning to understand that the use of gendered pronouns like “he” or “she” is likewise the bid of the slaver to keep his captives in chains (gendered pronoun permitted in the foregoing case because all offenders are male).

Take another case—an almost random example (for they all seem random, and indeed are so; the endgame is simply to eliminate all defense of any principle whatever).  The taking of the knee during the flag-raising ceremony among certain players of the National Football League interests me not in the least, except insofar as it has become another instance of, “You don’t need that twenty dollar bill, do you?”  That is, it’s yet another chapter in The Art of the Shakedown.  To present this bit of thigh-stretching as a First Amendment practice of free expression is to court the approval of idiots with sheer idiocy.  Naturally, kneeling breaks no formal law; neither does my refusing to utter the Pledge of Allegiance on any occasion (as a result of my discovery that Francis Bellamy penned the Pledge to inoculate schoolchildren against the Tenth Amendment).  Nevertheless, I stand when the Pledge is recited.  I do so out of consideration for others and in the understanding that they know not what they do.  No one notices my silence.  I’m not creating a free expression; I’m refusing to collaborate in an ambiguous one.

For an expression must first of all be expressive.  The intent behind the Pledge is actually pretty plain, though its pious murmurers pay little attention to it: we vow to serve the single, centralized State which loving Big Brother has prepared for us.  (Did I say that Bellamy was a committed socialist?)  The intended message behind the kneeling, however, appears so cloudy that kneelers themselves cannot put it into words.  (And these are mostly college graduates, I will hasten to add before someone drops a quip about their verbal proficiency deficit; of course… quip all you like about educational rigor and college athletics.)  The act of kneeling, explain the hulks, is not disrespectful; it’s just… showing that the nation doesn’t deserve respect.  Police are not its target; the target is… the way cops do their job.  America isn’t necessarily a racist society; only those who question the kneeling are racist.

A classic Monte Python skit featured a movie mogul’s boardroom and a table full of “yes” men.  The would-be DeMille saunters in with cigar and cowboy hat, sits down regally, and begins to vent an idea around the table.  He at once banishes one sycophant from his presence for agreeing with him, then another for disagreeing, then a third for vacillating.  I believe that the fourth either faints or throws himself out the door deliriously without attempting an answer.  Finally a terrified victim blurts out, “Splunge!”  “What’s splunge?” queries the Great One in a drawl from under his Stetson, genuinely puzzled.  “It means that I’m not agreeing, but I’m not disagreeing, but I’m not vacillating and I’m taking a position.”  Legendary Producer/Director temporarily likes the response… so the remaining crew immediately start chirping, “Splunge!”

It occurs to me that “splunge” must be the mainstream white male’s proper response to the NFL’s knee-takers.  Though they, in this morph of the skit, are the ones broadcasting a mean-nothing “free expression”, it falls to the verminous mainstream to rise above vermin level and recognize in @#$&*:!? a rare, sensitive, profound commentary on the state of society.  The demand would not be significantly different if one’s boss confronted one with a canvas carrying two buckets of randomly applied paint and then awaited lavish praise… with termination assured if the wait stretched for too many seconds.

I don’t know that the protest’s originators had any of this in mind.  I doubt it.  I suspect, rather, that the “badboy gambit” (on the part of a bunch of overgrown boys who seldom heard “no” from biological fathers) has been taken over by the progressive programming engine.  After all, it’s the ultimate test: I say “splunge”, and you construct from that a social critique of such depth that it approximates a dissertation abstract.  In other words, you give up words.  You take whatever words I feed you.  Naturally, values are tied inextricably to words: the former would scarcely exist without the latter (perhaps only in some ghostly fashion, the merest inklings of a duty to do or not to do).  Once I have your power of speech enthralled, then, I can dictate your values as best serves my purposes for that hour of the day.

Hey, I’m your friend, right?  Nothing to worry about.  Just help us out here.  I’ll make the nooses, and you put them around the necks.  We’re only hanging a few rats.  Lots of rats, actually… but our new world will be ratless by the end of the day.  You want that, too… right?

The Art of the Ideological Shakedown: Silencing Speech by Controlling Minds (Part One)

I wrote a little last time about the attempts to hack into the site of The Center for Literate Values.  For the moment, they have ceased—but why did they ever begin?  Fifteen years ago, I would have assumed that some precocious adolescent nerd was simply trying to climb the mountain because it was there, testing his anomist, sociopathic talents for turning things upside-down before tackling the Department of Defense… or whatever.  I don’t know why that scenario no longer convinces me.  Perhaps because on the one occasion (about ten years ago) when my site was successfully invaded, the intruder corrupted everything with vengeful savagery.  There was no mere flag spiked on top of the summit.  What I saw was a raging contempt for all the values we sought to project.

And what were those values?  Individualism, creativity, introspection… not much of the provocative there.  Dedication to the conscientious life orbiting a stable goodness transmitted by a supreme moral being?  Our cybernetic Charles Manson was probably set frothing at the mouth by some such language as that.  For perhaps ten years, you haven’t been able to mention the god of goodness without drawing the flies that breed on manure piles.  The helter-skelter nihilists at their keyboards really hated what we did—or really began to make their hatred public and to give it free rein with a crusading zeal.  Crusading, yes: they were religious zealots, cultic fanatics.  And they remain so, and grow more so every day.

So much of what I write about in this space addresses “offensive” speech whose origin is no more than a bland joke or an unpopular opinion… so much of what stands me upright today like a slap in the face has to do with this self-righteous crusade to shut us up unless we parrot the prevailing cackle. Often I despair of having anything new to say on the subject.  About all I can do, it sometimes seems, is cry out, “Did you see that?  Can you believe they just did that?”

In my brief time on Twitter, for instance, I emerge thus bewildered every time I read some of the comments directed at Dana Loesch, a commentator who dares to write on behalf of the Second Amendment.  Because Ms. Loesch is attractive and has young children, certain people are inspired to share their visions of raping and murdering her or kidnapping and brutalizing her family.  The posts are usually incoherent splashes of “c—t” and “b—h” and “f—k” turned at full speed in a cerebral cement-mixer—or perhaps the diarrhea of an intestine mislocated between the ears.  Now, I don’t own an AK-47 or an AR-15 and have no plans of buying one.  If I can’t defend myself and my wife in six shots, another sixty probably won’t help.  I haven’t fired a gun of any kind for perhaps two or three years.  It’s expensive.  A box of .38 Specials is already almost a month’s worth of milk.

But, really… to assault someone verbally with what would translate, at the very least, into spittle and a blunt projectile if the person were present—and to threaten bodily harm in terms that often satisfy the legal definition of assault… what kind of psychopaths have we raised, and why are they so invincibly convinced of their cause’s virtue?

If belief in a supreme moral being does nothing else for you, it should infuse your consciousness with an awareness of the creeping subjectivity that is forever bidding to erode good judgment.  It should promote a sense of humility, of proportion.  Perhaps the preeminent difference between true faith and fanaticism is precisely the loss of this humility.  The fanatic, though claiming to serve a higher power—the very highest of powers—indulges his selfish impulses more generously than a spoiled five-year-old brat.  If he doesn’t like you, it’s God who hates you.  If your words rub him the wrong way, it’s God who has been blasphemed.  If he wants to smack you, it’s God who has spiritually possessed his right hand on an expedition of mighty vengeance.

You know the type.

But why, I will now ask, is the type now so prominently represented in Leftist politics?  I know, I know… it is supposed to characterize all those KKK and NRA members who flock by tens of thousands to rallies at football stadiums the way Nazis came to hear Hitler in the Berlin Sportpalast—or so Hollywood tells us.  But all the shooting that took place in Las Vegas (remember the Las Vegas slaughter with all its loose ends? No? Neither do the news media) poured from the hot barrels of a far-left lunatic, not from the Redneck Army assembled beneath him to hear country music.  Get on Twitter, if you can endure it: tell me honestly what side of the aisle you see logging sexual obscenities and coprologisms at the higher rate.

Of course, the utter absence on the Left of a restraining god whose immutable principles will not accept passion and petulance as excuses for misbehavior is Reason One for the disparity.  The second reason might be the sudden and complete irrelevance that tradition acquires in a progressivist outlook.  We may agree that the logical derivation of moral absolutes is too laborious a Jacob’s Ladder for most minds to scale.  (For instance, the ongoing exercise of disciplining self with other until a Universal Self—a Golden Rule, a Categorical Imperative—is approached demands too much concentration in The Age of the Smartphone; it never was an easy path.)  Inherited lessons used to provide a shortcut.  Tradition carried a certain weight with most rational observers.  After all, a lot of people have painfully evolved this or that way of doing things over a very long period of trial and error.  Maybe, if custom says not to eat that fruit, we should send it to the lab or give the dog a bite rather than slice it up for the party.

But the progressive zealot says, “No, there’s no justification for the custom whatever, other than training you to jump through hoops.  It’s all conditioning.  It’s the patriarchy teaching you where to go and when to go there.  Always disobey!”

The very concatenation of sensible arguments is enough to ignite this zealot.  Sure, you sound convincing—that’s the source of your manipulative powers, your propagandistic prowess.  That’s the exact moment when the crusader spits in your face and punches you.  Stop trying to cloud the “mission” with your blather!  In the preferred shorthand of Twitter, STFU!

Reasons!  Logic!  Tradition!  Of course they’re straining against The Vision!  They are its natural and eternal enemy!  The Vision has human beings doing what they have never done before.  We can reach that pinnacle if only we believe, if only we begin to climb.  And some of us, to be sure, will perish in the ascent; but even they, in the collective achievement of The Vision—in a mission that lifts up the entire species—will partake of the one possible immortality: collaboration in Progress.  Stop listening to naysayers!  Plug your ears!  If we had listened to them in the past, open-heart surgery wouldn’t exist.  The first plane would never have left the ground.  Great cities would not shine on hilltops.  Shout over their obfuscation—trample them down!

And so the jihad against progress-impeding reason is launched; and in its contagious fervor, verbal abuse that shreds every rule of decorum, physical assaults that verge ever closer upon homicide, and deliberately nonsensical theories that enjoy privileged positions in graduate curricula spread like wildfire.  They become the new normal among the “faithful”—the young cultists seduced by the adventure’s romance.  Lost in the intoxicating dance is the fatal irony that new norms have fully occupied the space once filled by old norms—but that the old ones evolved rationally, whereas the new ones are merely successive tests of tribal participation.  Patriarchal, indeed!  The zealous footsoldier has never been more mindlessly programmed in his enlistment to The Cause.  If anything, his acts of insolence and abuse descend (as opposed to climb) a sooty ladder whose lower rungs truly reach cold-blooded murder (as in the joyous Sacrifice of the Fetus).  These anti-social outbursts are an ever more precise analogue of the gang initiate who performs a drive-by shooting of a child on a tricycle.

And we dare say nothing in protest.  Though we witness crimes—sometimes literal felonies—the greater offense is to offer up our outraged testimony.  The process of our silencing, to be sure, is usually gradual.  Today we find ourselves being confronted daily by various “shakedowns” to “soften us up” (or to harden our indecency-receptors), we who still resist the holy campaign of world conquest.  One of these is surely the gay marriage “test”, a failing of which—as in merely uttering, “No, I don’t think it’s right”—can result in loss of livelihood.  Increasingly, another is the “gendered pronoun test”.  I’m told that social workers in New York who refuse the gender pronoun selected by their subject are terminated on the spot; and, of course, I can speak personally to the insane proliferation of muddle-speak like “ze” (to replace the gendered “he” and “she”) in academe.  Most such concessions seem small at the time, especially in comparison to unemployment.  Where, however, do they end?  One might murmur, “The thin end of the wedge…”; but, alas, younger generations will neither recognize the proverb nor the tool.

I’ve never written a line about the National Football League’s “kneel for the flag-raising” protests, mostly because I haven’t the faintest interest in football.  (This stems from my having actually played in high school, when I was left permanently puzzled about how the all-out, multiple attack of the biggest players wearing the thickest pads on the smallest man wearing the thinnest pads—and scarcely allowed to notice his assailants—is supposed to promote “manliness”).  I now incline to believe that the “kneeling” issue may be yet another shakedown.  They’re everywhere, these litmus tests that groom the mind… and this has surely become one, though it may not have been so from the start.  Let me continue next time.

High-Tech Hell Begins When Fools Turn Visionary

A young man who came out to treat my place for yellow-jackets (which chewed me up pretty well a couple of weeks ago) and scorpions (which haven’t bitten anyone yet—and aren’t going to get a fair chance from me) made a fascinating comment as he busied himself about windows and corners.  His father, he said, had retired from working for a power company when he was posted out west to windmill land.  Seems that Dad soon noticed a rash of unusual cancer cases (I think lymphoma was mentioned).  Everybody who worked around the wind rigs appeared to contract this cancer sooner or later.  The phrase, “a weird kind of static electricity,” was used.

Well… why don’t we start assigning numbers to incidents where a technology supposed to save us or vault us up the next step of the utopian staircase turns out to introduce new miseries?  This would be… what?  Surprise #8, or 9, or 25?  Or 587?  But we can’t really number them, because most instances are never acknowledged—are, indeed, suppressed.  Consider the effects of “devices” on Generation Omega.  The official word is that everything’s looking up, of course: even as our children morph into vegetables whose brain has been shifted to an exoskeleton via their iPhone, the “smartphone” remains a high-tech superhero.  My squash are smart enough to know that some among them are male and some female; but the professors who teach your and my children are so cerebro-nullified as to preach that gender is inculcated by culture and parental pressure.  So, squash of the world, please accept my apology for equating human intelligence to a vegetable’s.

(And vegetables have a keener sense of proportion, too: they won’t demand that I attend re-education camp for my “offense”.)

Now, I want the Internet revolution and its supporting cast to succeed.  Here I sit pecking on an iPad… and my publishing adventure with Amazon has so far produced almost entirely positive results for me.  My son is probably on track to land a very respectable job after his intensive course in Java script (completed a year after his B.A. in Business Administration, which yielded nothing but a series of dead-end gigs hawking dubious services).

The problem, as I see it, isn’t with “progress” per se: it’s with the reckless, even insane abuse of progress by progressive ideologues whose behavior smacks strongly of cultism.  We’re not ready to colonize Mars, yet hundreds (maybe thousands) of young people are volunteering for an Elon Musk suicide mission, or at best a one-way trip which would leave their parents without so much as a grave to visit.  Intergalactic Fleet Commander Jerry Brown, when not waging war on straws, is decreeing that sources of energy like the windmill become our exclusive dynamos by a particular date he’s circled (or nailed with a dart) on his calendar.  Such zealots are demanding that the technological fix evince an efficiency for solving timeless human problems of which it’s simply incapable.  Their play’s script—their religion’s credo—requires a miracle… so, by God (by Jobs, by Musk), what we see here is a miracle!  Miracle-deniers will be prosecuted.  Pretty soon they’ll be burned at the stake.

Meanwhile, our petty lives—I mean those of us in Nobody Land, where the toxic fumes of the Mars booster settle—fight almost daily to make “old” technology (whatever that means now) do what it should.  My wife made three trips to the Verizon store—physical trips—before she could load more minutes onto her Mesozoic not-so-smart phone.  Our power bill last month was $0.19 (as in nineteen pennies) because Georgia Power’s system had overcharged us the previous month; but GP agreed to shift that exiguous tally to this month without penalty because, otherwise, our bank’s automated nerve center would carve a dollar out of our account for having to mess with a sum so close to nothing.

And so it goes, as we prepare to populate Mars with genetically enhanced movie stars.  My own techno-fencing matches have lately involved trying to secure the site of The Center for Literate Values (a defunct organization whose archive I strive to maintain) from ruinous hacking.  I was at first just shrugging off the daily notices of failed attempts to log in to the dashboard… but then the notices arrived three and four times a day.  I decided that changing my password from a Gaelic proverb to a 30-digit string of random letters and numbers would be advisable.  Yet yesterday the log-in (or login, as we now must write) records showed that some gremlin had successfully come a-visiting at 2 a.m.  Inexplicably, no evidence of vandalism appeared.  (Maybe the pixie was tired… or maybe the break-in was done by automation and the Master had not yet noticed its achievement.)  I quickly changed the password yet again to something even more random and nonsensical, though by no means convinced that the alarming record was not itself a mere glitch.

How is one to construct a utopia around the results of an ongoing crap shoot?  How many times are we going to be required to ignore that our feet are on fire as we scale to infinity and beyond?  Some feet, of course, will be much better insulated than others.

I’m glad that I have recoiled somewhat from the lunacy of the “progress” cult to fight yellow-jackets and scorpions; but I also realize, and realize more clearly every day, that the drawbridge isn’t going to pull up behind me.  WiFi has pursued us into our stronghold, and no spray, powder, or trap will chase away its nags and demands.  My son is “out there”, as well, where the schemes of the lunatic zealots rage like the wildfires whose real-world causes they refuse to perceive.  No, it’s not really technology that poses the danger… but how to separate technology from the fantasists who insist on ratcheting it up to sci-fi levels before the keyboard’s battery is checked?

You know… maybe the replacement of humans with robots wouldn’t be such a very bad thing.  To a robot, I could talk sense.

Remembering 9/11: A Cold Case File

I had utterly different thoughts in mind when I sat down to begin this ramble.  The combined effects of retirement and living atop a remote, forested hill do not leave one keenly clued in to the calendar’s vagaries.  But as soon as I realized that 9/11 had rolled around again, I couldn’t suppress a stream of memories.

I watched the first World Trade Tower smoke on the TV of a print-shop operator who was working up one of the first issues of Praesidium for me.  (We still published printed editions in those days, whose contents I myself would laboriously bind by hand.)  My son had been safely deposited in his first-grade class, it was a beautiful Tuesday morning (I believe) in East Texas, and my own professional status was so very part-time that Tuesdays and Thursdays were entirely free for tinkering with my ambitious Center for Literate Values.  The smoking tower on the screen across the counter was certainly out of harmony with the day’s prevailing mood.  My knee-jerk reflection was likely on the order of, “Too many planes, too many skyscrapers… too much progress.”

I think I may have returned home and powered on my own TV by the time the second tower was struck.  I won’t pretend that the events are indelibly etched in my memory; but I do recall two things clearly.  One is that I knew instantly upon the second impact that we were not watching a series of accidents play out, and that something much more consequential than another passenger jet downed by wind sheer—with hundreds of fatalities—was occurring.

The other recollection is of Peter Jennings’ pitifully inept commentary as Tower I came sliding down like an accordion.  “And… what’s happening there?” he mused into his mic.  “There’s a lot of dust…”.  “The tower’s falling, idiot!” I grumbled uncharitably to myself.  For some reason, I was annoyed that his sense of possibility was impeding him from seeing the event’s obvious, atrocious progress right before our millions of eyes.

That resistance to the obvious, as we know now, would paralyze the tongues of a lot more professional commentators than the late Mr. Jennings.  The attitude of working (or semi-employed) stiffs like me, in contrast, could probably be well encapsulated in thoughts such as mine: “What do you need—a neon sign?  It’s Islam in action—and, yes, they hate us.  They hate each other, and they hate us, too.”

Of course, it was President Bush, the Thundering Avenger (or the son of Thundering Avenger), who would incongruously urge us in his mush-mouthed drawl (please believe that all Texans don’t talk that way) to recognize in Islam a religion of peace.  We were to remember always that we were going in pursuit only of “turrurrrrishts”.  Yeah, whatever.  And the government bureaucracy which had done such a crackerjack job of screening suicide-killers from the passenger list would be entrusted with exacting our surgical revenge.  Already in the early going, I was beginning to register a certain moody dissatisfaction with the smell around all that televised dust.

But, like everyone else, I was confused, most of all.  I would need years to begin asking myself questions which remain unanswered for me today.

Now that I’m retired, I assure you that thoroughly reading the Popular Mechanics piece about how the three towers collapsed is working its way up my “to do” list.  I should have done this years ago.  The picture nags me and nags me.  A missile enters a tall, slender structure about three-quarters of the way up its height, creating a gaping hole on one side but scarcely penetrating the far surface.  It dumps a terrific amount of super-heated fuel into the chasm—but unevenly, of course, since the point of entry cuts in much lower and draws the flaming liquid down to its side.  Yet metal fatigue occurs concurrently throughout a perfectly horizontal cross-section of the building, which soon proceeds to collapse floor by floor: boom, boom, boom.

Then precisely the same physical impossibility happens in the companion tower.  Hours later, for good measure (why go light on impossibility?), the far more squat WTT 7 does the same accordion-collapse several blocks away and without even any super-heated fuel to cause instant conflagration.  An ember is supposed to have ignited some furniture… cushions made of coagulated nitro-glycerin, I suppose.  Boom, boom, boom.

If I have been retrograde in running to consult the PM article, which is said to be the last word on the subject, then it’s because I know that I won’t really find any closure there.  No, I’m not an engineer, let alone a physicist—but every human being who has manipulated heavy objects in work or tossed about projectiles in play acquires a sense of how things move.  If I push in one of your knees from behind, you don’t come down evenly on both knees.  A house of cards from which one is quickly drawn doesn’t fold into a neat deck on the table.  If a select body of engineers tells me otherwise and smirks at me for scratching my head… then I conclude that the select body of engineers is trying to feed me garbage and bully me into swallowing because… because they’re a select body of engineers.  We all hate to put our ignorance on public display.  What I hate more, however, is to be finessed into an ignorant position by someone who exploits my fear of seeming ignorant.

“But what are you saying?  Are you saying that Dick Cheney deliberately slaughtered 3,000 innocent Americans to elevate Haliburton’s market value?”  I hate that, too: being at once crowbarred into an unsavory or insane conclusion because I have questioned a shaky premise.  I’m not a fan of Stalin, or even of socialism, just because I think that capitalism tends to erode taste and self-control in certain ways.  Yet to the Thundering Avenger’s hordes of fire-breathing volunteers (virtually all of whom breathed their fire into microphones and never touched a trigger), writing what I have just written of how compromised structures collapse is tantamount to treason.  “Oh, so you’re one of those… a truther!”

(Sidebar: nobody who cares about the truth would ever assist in circulating an analysis-shutdown word like “truther”.  Another pejorative moniker in the Yahoo’s bag of sling-ready excrement: “conspiracy theorist”.)

I don’t suspect Dick Cheney of being a mass-murderer… but I do not for an instant believe that the whole truth about 9/11 has been divulged.  And I would like to know why.  I have no motive for the crime, and I’m not going to project one from my fancy upon the all-too-inadequate evidence.  That’s exactly what Bush’s inveterate political enemies—his take-no-prisoner opponents in the culture wars—did on reflex; and, yes, it made them look like wackos and discredited their whole case.  But establishing the fact of their wackiness does not clear up the dense film of incoherence still drifting about the evidence, seventeen years later.

This is a cold case now, and I don’t see it getting any warmer in an era when “investigative reporters” have given themselves over wholly to proselytizing and propagandizing.  For me personally, though, 9/11 must remain a major reason for my inability ever again to trust “my government” (meaning any government) implicitly.  I did some unpleasant but necessary growing up after those three towers came down.

Why I Love Great Literature—and How the Academy Has Killed It

Many distractions this week.  (I’ve just recovered from a yellow-jacket attack… okay, I attacked their nest first—but it was an accident!), and I’ve also been falsely accused of breaking rules in a Facebook discussion (haven’t used FB in months, and never will again).  At times like these, I have always retreated to literature.  In my first teaching gig, I remember saying almost those same words to a class after a difficult week and then being corrected by a pert ninth-grade lass, “Most people would say ‘faith’ and not ‘literature’.”  The moment was eye-opening.  I realized that literature, for me, occupied a house next door to religious faith; and to this day, I think that’s where it belongs.

I’m pretty much alone in that opinion, apparently.  The professionals among whom I came to spend most of my academic career often padded their curricula vitae with articles about literature’s “demystifying” effects.  A syllabus loaded with fictional works will always illustrate a) the historical rise of an oppressed class (women, racial/ethnic minorities, gays, etc.), b) the incriminating absence or degradation of that class in works treated as canonical by the patriarchy, and/or c) the glorious explosion of all values whatever into the originary rubble from which the bourgeoisie had fashioned its sand castles.  That’s it.  Paper due on Friday.

In other words, literature not only does not serve to shore up metaphysical belief systems: it’s a battering ram to bring them down.

I’ve had this subject on my mind lately as I pick through a volume of Ayn Rand’s theories about art.  A brilliant mind, Ms. Rand… but a really curious case.  It’s odd to see so many professed conservatives rush out and embrace this maverick atheist who constructed a philosophical edifice from the notion that the best way to help others is to help yourself.  That formula continues to puzzle me.  If all human behavior is self-serving, then why argue that selfishness is the most genuine selflessness?  Why would that argument persuade—who would be won over to egotism once it was vindicated as altruism, unless the altruistic truly held some natural grip upon our consciousness?

Rand’s view of literature, at any rate, seems almost to worship it as a kind of pure abstraction—an occasion of the human mind’s distancing itself from immediate sensory circumstances and compressing experience into a splendid crystal.  The other arts do the same, of course.  All are generated by an activity of the self upon the vital environment which produces an objective, self-transcending, perhaps eternal (in the sense of classic) work.  Is a suppressed longing at labor here to escape the pit of egotism?  Is that, perhaps, the source of Rand’s hatred for Kant, whom she accuses of causing the train wreck of modern art?  Why would she make that vague but venomous accusation, unless because Kant insisted that art has an invincibly subjective element—that its way of reaching “objectively beautiful” status must remain a mystery, since the path leads through so much subjective groping and stumbling?  Does she hate Kant for honoring the mystery—for turning the crystal into a sponge?

If I’m right in my assessment, then Rand becomes a very odd (but really not so odd) bedfellow of the “demystifying” academic crowd so vocal at the political spectrum’s far end.  That mob would praise a novel for showing the “meaningful life” to be an insipid fraud concocted to placate the dull masses; Rand would praise a novel for its sleek design, as an Allied pilot might praise a Nazi opponent’s ME 262.  The philosophy might be horribly wrong… but how elegantly and efficiently the craft’s lines have brought it together before the eye!

As for me, in my impending old age (as this world measures age), I have begun to feel more and more comfortable with the following idea.  What we see of a novel’s design—its plot complications, how its characters contribute to those complications with their distinctive traits, the means of climatically resolving tension—is all distraction from its most significant quality.  For what we see creates (or, in a poor novel, does not create) a space for the unseen: the lines exist only to be bent outward into wandering hyperbolae, just as the plane’s purpose is to be a blur in the sky and not a polished shell on the runway.

Say that Detective Hawk finally uncovers evidence that convicts Mr. Hapless of the murder.  If the novel does no more than to follow Hawk’s navigation through a labyrinth of clues, then we have what is rightly styled “light reading”.  We didn’t learn much here.  The literary experience was pretty bland.

Now say that the novel doesn’t end with the conviction of Hapless: say that new evidence reveals his innocence.  Hawk faces an existential crisis.  He played the game brilliantly, as he always does… and it led him straight to the wrong conclusion.  How does he handle that?  What does it tell us about the irrational side—the mystery—of life?

Perhaps Hawk manages to meet the exonerated Hapless.  He isn’t apologetic, because he did nothing wrong: he didn’t reshape any facts and he didn’t leave any stone unturned.  Yet he expects Hapless, naturally, to be vindictive.  To his shock, the freed man is very humble, claiming that he feels himself put in possession of a new chance at life—a chance to live better.  Hawk doesn’t get it.  Hapless did nothing wrong, either, in the sense of actively implicating himself in the crime; the poor man seems almost to have gone a little wacko after his time in a cell block, as if his relationship with his father were somehow at issue.

How does Hawk process this?  Though he doesn’t know it, an occasion has now been presented to him to rethink the assumptions and values of his life.  Perhaps he has been living, all unaware, in his own prison.  Will he break free?

Don’t misunderstand.  I once refereed a panel discussion of the “Christian novel” at a conference… and the tiresome tomes I had to wade through in preparation were time spent in Hell.  Not for an instant am I suggesting that great literature is didactic—that it contorts everything to fit a narrow paradigm the way Procrustes fitted guests to his infamous bed.  “Then Hawk happened to pick up a Bible.  He started reading… and all became clear.”  No.  Please, no!  The novel I am imagining would be rendered spiritual only to the degree that it opened up an abyss at Hawk’s feet.  Let the curtain come down as he looks in.  Let mists and shadows play about the solid trunks of plot complication.

For such is life: not the hard lump of fresh-cut crystal artificially lifted from experience that Rand imagines, but a Caspar David Friedrich painting with just enough peaks and chasms to leave you understanding how much you don’t understand.  Joseph Conrad was the Friedrich of narrative that I recall most warmly from my adolescence, despite all his clumsy and verbose diction.  (He didn’t speak a bit of English before the age of eighteen.)  Kurtz’s last words, “The horror… the horror,” are at least as powerful as anything in Ivan Ilyich’s deathbed conversion (from a Tolstoy novella in all the anthologies); and Marlow’s decision to let the crazed renegade’s fiancée cling to her naive vision of him is surely wrong at some level (Kant would never approve!), yet just as surely a loop that draws the reader into the abyss of mystery.

I don’t know if I could have lived a full life in this world, or could keep living what remains to me of it, without literature.  I can’t live by a book of do’s and don’t’s: I need a faith that constantly reminds me of my human inability to process reality’s complete meaning.  No design of a life lived can capture the sense of life (even Christ’s: for who among us can live out that model—and how many who try validate Ayn Rand’s uncharitable claim that selflessness is just a self-serving pose?).  The artful condensation of events that I seek in literature is a distilling of the true, ineradicable mystery surrounding me—surrounding us all, whether we adore it or fly from it with vain boasts that our intellectual magic wand has chased it away.

I’m sorry that my professional colleagues have worked so hard, and so effectively, to destroy literature.  In doing so, they have contributed in no small measure to destroying true faith in our society… which, of course, would make most of them very happy if they realized it.

The Twitter Pope Asail Upon the Garbagy Sea

Pope Francis appears to have grown deeply concerned about the volume of plastic trash floating in our seas.  Interestingly, his inner garbage-lookout has begun crying, “Trash ho!” at just the moment when credible rumors have surfaced that a homosexual clique within the Vatican has been secretly saluting the pedophile Jolly Roger  Seems like a very convenient time to be looking starboard instead of larboard—and the mainstream news media are, of course, sailors first-class at changing screens.  Ever eager to see Francis carry on carrying on about manmade climate change and the diabolical evil of privately owning a means of self-defense, talking heads everywhere have buried Archbishop Vigano’s charges of child-molesting complicity in empty liter-bottles of Coke and shredded Little Debbie packaging.  Utopia’s pope preaches their gospel almost as if they were sharing teleprompters. “Who am I to judge?” opines the Chief Pontiff on the lump-of-flesh removal question… but his view of Parkland High School’s atrocity leaves the holster as quick as a sixgun in a spaghetti western.

And so it goes on, even in the practice of faith: the endless tennis match between the World Propaganda Machine and unsavory fact.

I for one am willing to take my eye off the ball completely this morning.  Let us accept that trash on the tides is a more urgent problem than homosexual seduction (a.k.a. statutory rape) of minors in the sanctuary.  After all, the Green Party has already gained the ascendancy over public school curricula in Germany and is busily teaching little girls and boys whose voices are years from lowering how to conduct sexual experiments.  Maybe Francis’s priests were just helping a few adolescents with their homework.

So back to the trash issue (I mean, plastic trash): may we ponder this one for a moment?  What’s the suggested solution?  Massive plastic roundups conducted by a kind of Green Coast Guard synchronized with a war on plastic products such as Governor Jerry Brown’s criminalization of straws?  And what, may I ask, is to be done with all the rounded-up plastic?  Do we burn it, thus infusing a major new catalyst into the engine driving Global Warming (according to His Eminence et al.)?  Or do we bury it—and there’s a lot of it, remember—thus further destabilizing the Earth’s crust and exacerbating the global epidemic of sinkholes?  (Would you believe, by the way, that southeastern New Mexico, perhaps the nation’s most favored site for dumping nuclear waste, also ranks near the top of the list for sinkhole activity?  Still think your government is good at planning these things out?)

I’ve been wondering for several months now (when I wasn’t wrestling with how to extract gender allusion from pronouns or how to eliminate “race whistles” from animal names)… why should we do anything more with the ocean’s drifting islands of plastic than encourage their formation and “sculpt” them?  Islands are useful.  Among other things, an island would be invincible as land-bound coastal cities succumb to Al Gore Armageddon.  It could also evade hurricanes like Katrina, if it is mobile: this is a point made in earnest by engineers who have had island-communities on the drawing board for years.  The basis of those designs, to be sure, was not old bottles of Jiff and forlorn ring-nets once holding six-packs of Coors together… but who’s going to notice that Plastopolis is floating on garbage bags rather than sleek pontoons?  And the pontoons might always rupture—but garbage bags, we have good assurance, are forever.

Or if the feeling is that encouraging wayfarer island-towns would only disseminate civilization’s toxicity more thoroughly around the globe… then why not populate the islands with verdant forests? If one component of Climate Change is the depletion of the rainforest, then why not multiply these artificial islands so as to restore the planet’s green cloak in some measure?

We’re stuck in and with a high-tech world.  I don’t like it, personally, and I’ve done more to resist capture than most people I know… but the reality of pollution will not be dispelled with the wave of a magic wand (or by papal edict, or even by a Jerry Brown initiative).  Indeed, those who would most aggressively repress the commercial and industrial activity responsible for forming our postmodern cesspool are situated (as I notice again and again) at points well beyond the real stench and fully insulated against the lean times sure to follow repression.  Francis and Governor Brown will have a running shower with plenty of hot water, though the rest of the world be sponging off from muddy goat tracks.

We will not solve any environmental problem by banning entire industries and cultural habits.  As I wrote a while back of my own struggles on a would-be farm, you can’t defeat water by bullying it into reversing its course: you can only channel it into less destructive directions.  The trash in our oceans is a problem… so let us imagine ways to transform trash into life-nourishing productivity.  We who created it surely have the ingenuity to steer its life cycle’s last stages down a more benign path.

In contrast, this crusading (or, if you prefer, jihadist) zeal to annihilate the enemy—to leave his foundations smoking (in stratosphere-friendly gasses) and his chattel eviscerated—is an insane pantomime intended to convince us, and everyone within earshot, of our own high virtue.  The cost of such virtue is usually the magnification of the original problem to catastrophic proportions; and, of course, it isn’t really virtue at all, but the mortal sin of vain pride.  We kill our souls as we kill our planet.

One would think that the Catholic pope, even an example of as dubious a pedigree as Francis, would recognize this.  But he is the world’s first Twitter Pope.  Grit doesn’t find its way into his shoes because they never touch real earth.  His visions, and ours, float and drift like the leavings of a child’s Christmas presents… or like Swift’s floating island of air-headed speculators, the Laputans.  With guiding ideas like this, who needs a Styrofoam garbage invasion?

The “Offense-Eligible” Class and the New Age Shakedown

The pressure upon even very minor public figures to bend a knee to radical progressivism is nearing terrorist proportions.  It’s reminiscent of the Mob’s glory days, when store-owners would pay “protection money” to local thugs so that their merchandise wouldn’t end up out in the street and their right arm in a sling.  Does that overstate the rawness of today’s intimidation-dealers, do you think?  I admit that every pronouncement on current events seems hyperbolic in the Twitter Age, which thrives on the “I’ll find your kids and sell them to a cartel pimp” kind of utterance engineered to get views.

Yet when a robust young man virtually breaks into tears during a press conference—and this merely because he Tweeted, “You’re Gay!” to a friend while both parties were high school students—the look and smell of terror cling to the incident.  Everything this boy in his early twenties has ever worked for not only teeters over the abyss, but its threatened plunge beyond the edge would leave him professionally stigmatized forever in our sad, twisted world as “the gay-bashing kid”.

My reference is to baseball player Trey Turner—one of a growing list of boy/men in that sport whose Twitter past is being researched with NSA-caliber rigor by unnamed Thought Police and punished with Kafkaesque solemnity by ESPN’s mind-control goons.  Another lad named Sean Newcomb was targeted on the day when he almost threw a no-hitter, as if to send the message, “Feel comfortable in your success?  Don’t.  We’re watching you, and we can come for you whenever we like.”  A somewhat more mature victim this week, All Star outfielder J.D. Martinez, refused to present his throat to hounds of the press corps when questioned (read “harassed”) about a Tweet from five years ago featuring Hitler’s mug.  The contention appears to have been floated that Martinez was high-fiving the Fuehrer, even though the post clearly connected the Nazi policy of collecting privately owned firearms with the birth of a civil nightmare.  Logic isn’t required in these terrorist assaults, however.  “I mean… you want individuals to have the right to own guns, correct, J.D.?  So why are you not a Nazi?  See, there’s Hitler’s pic in your post.”

A “defense” I read of Martinez even rebuked him for being so indiscreet as to employ a Fuerher-image.  What?  This “off-limit association” code was apparently violated within hours from another quarter, when Florida representative Ron Desantis flirted with “racism” by using a morph of the phrase, “monkey around”.  “I mean… I mean, everybody knows that white folks think of black folks when they hear the word ‘monkey’—right?  I mean, those white folks, not the ones like me.  I mean, I don’t have those thoughts… but I know they do, and we need to slap those people down or they’ll start lynching by torchlight.  Just like the Hitler photo.  I know how Martinez intended that—don’t give me that crap about reading his Tweet!”

Really sick of this, my friends… and yes, it’s nascent terrorism—and yes, it’s getting worse.  For the record, may I say in a small voice that I am extremely offended at the arrogantly implied association of the loaded Ruger at my bedside with Nazi politics?  The chances of a squad car reaching our remote rustic dwelling on a treacherous dirt road in timely fashion if someone should kick in our window at midnight are… well, about the same as getting the Nazi-calling lynch mob to pipe down and hear me out.  My previous house, located smack between a state university and a city school in a town of almost one hundred thousand, had its back door kicked wide open in broad daylight one beautiful November morning.  After discovering the raid on all of our portable electronics when I returned for lunch and calling 911, I waited (wondering if the looters were truly finished or would reappear) for an hour… whereupon a lone officer—a young woman who seemed to be on her first assignment—took a quick stroll through the main hall and then asked me if I’d interviewed the neighbors.  Not exactly the protocol that The First 48 had led me to expect.

So… do I get to register offense if you not only tee up my wife and me for murder by home-invaders, but call us Nazis because we want a six-shot piece handy to give us a chance?  No, I’m out of order.  I don’t belong to an “offense-eligible” class.

Actually, I get offended all the time by the maniacally violent movie-teasers with which I’m assaulted while trying to watch an episode of Expedition Unknown before bed.  Curious and ironic, isn’t it, that the very people who want me utterly disarmed also grind out an incessant stream of sadistic claptrap glorifying counter-conformist, bullet-spraying outlaws.  I don’t watch movies.  I haven’t paid to see a film since we took our son (in early youth) to Wallace and Grommet and the Wer-Rabbit.  What offends me, I emphasize, is the twenty second blitz on my evening’s peace by punks waving guns in people’s faces, shooting off smart-ass remarks, skidding cars over bridges, and disrobing women on the kitchen counter.  It all happens too fast even for me to sit up and grab the remote stick (which does everything but probate your will).  Why do I have to put up with this?  It’s offensive.

Too bad.  Any offense I register is deserved.  I belong to the “unoffendable class”.

The new series of Sling commercials offends me in a different way.  These silly skits obviously bank upon the viewer’s being versed enough in street lingo to catch some allusion to “swing” or “swinging”: I’m supposed to guffaw, that is, as the idiot male starts to strip while other people in the room are watching Sling on TV.  Takes me back to my first days teaching high school, when you couldn’t use the word “come” because it had some connection to coitus.  I don’t turn the box on for a few minutes in order to be transported back into the world of eighth-grade bathroom stalls.  I’m offended.

So deal with it.  No one cares.

—But the #MeToo movement demands that every male behave like Beau Brummell… and this kind of humor…

—You don’t have any sense of humor, man. Your ignorance of the urban dictionary is really tedious.  Nobody cares about your dead Puritan white guy hang-ups.  We’ll tell you when to laugh and when to turn to stone. So watch for the cues. Otherwise, just f— off!

I’ve spent too much time in this column’s space, perhaps, chronicling my irritation at how the Confederacy is portrayed in popular culture.  The vast majority of Southern soldiers owned no slaves, the Emancipation Proclamation did not liberate slaves held in Northern states, miscegenation laws existed in the South rather than the North because (as Tocqueville and others remark) a Northerner would not ever have dreamed of so “degrading” a union… Richard Robert O’Madden witnessed a budding riot when he was observed attending mass with black Catholics in New York City two decades before the Civil War, which was itself a looting expedition that left blacks and whites alike destitute throughout Virginia and the Carolinas… but no, but no, I’m all wrong again.  Southerners are bigots and racists.  The war was fought only so that these redneck degenerates might keep their slaves: even Glenn Beck insists upon this staple of Hollywood historicizing, and hits his period hard.

So… take your Southern-fried offended feelings and shove them, buddy.  We’re tearing down all those racist statues and purging all those racist names from school books—except as examples of racism.  The KKK march in Charlottesville showed all of you for what you are.  We don’t care about your objections, about your counter-arguments and documented evidence.  You don’t belong to that class.

And who, exactly, belongs to the “offense-eligible” class?  Women and blacks, of course—but not black women whose politics are wrong, like Mia Love and Candace Owens; gays, lesbians, and “trans” people—but not those like Milo Yiannopoulos and Tammy Bruce whose politics are wrong; any religious people whose faith claims only a small minority in a Christian society—but not those like Dr. Zuhdi Jasser and Dr. Qanta Ahmed whose politics are wrong.  Politics, it appears, plays a decisive role.  Why, you can even be a white male born of Angles and Saxons yet enjoy protected status if your politics is proper.  You might feel Cherokee or African today, and you can always declare yourself representative of an undiscovered gender.

Are you laughing?  Were you once laughing, perhaps, as a boy of fifteen?  Then we’ll have your carcass.  The Turner boy’s career was almost ruined in a trice, though his public apologies were so abject that he seems to have earned probation.  Martinez’s fate is probably secure just because Boston’s hope of a pennant hangs heavily upon him.  These fellows, you will have noticed, are not public figures in any sense that might affect policy.  They have not even been engaged in that celebrity advocacy of political positions so familiar in Tinseltown.  All the better to make the point, to transmit the message: “Don’t you cross us.  Don’t you dare even joke about us—even as a child.  All you children, watch closely if you want to survive as adults.  We closed up all the shops on that side of the street.  We can do your side, too, if you don’t give us the free choice of your merchandise when we walk in.”

This is definitive thuggery.  Are there enough adults with vertebral columns left to tell these punks to stop waving their guns?