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?