A few weeks ago, I joined a new social-media outlet dubbing itself CaucusRoom. I will recommend it at this point only insofar as I‘m seeking “followers” for my newly created “cause”: to wit, the securing of our lamentably exposed power grid. In our present state, we could easily be plunged into a genocidal paralysis devoid of refrigeration, central heating, air-conditioning, communication (beyond earshot or line-of-sight), home defense (of any electronic variety), transportation (unless we own a pre-1980 vehicle—and even then, understand that gas stations won’t pump fuel), cash resources (if related to credit cards or online banking), medical resources (if they run on electricity or require transport to hospitals, which in any case will have shut down)… we’ll become prime candidates for being starved, frozen, or murdered, in short. Most of us—predictions have reached the figure of 90 percent—will die within a year. And there’s nothing tendentious about the science, though mainstream “journalists” skimpily cite 40-year-old papers to poo-poo the threat. Unlike “climate change”, which relies on a lame “greenhouse” model (the earth’s many active volcanoes do not simulate greenhouse conditions) and ignores the saw-tooth history of Earth’s climate over the past ten millennia, a massive solar flare is as much a cinch to happen as an 8.0 quake along the San Andreas Fault.
Okay, are you concerned yet? I have been so, for a long time—about this and several other “causes”. But my brief exposure to most of CaucusRoom has confirmed in me a lesson I was taught by cancer this past summer. It’s this: life on earth for all of us, as individuals and as vast human (or even biological) aggregates, is finite. At some point, we have a spiritual duty to prosper from our time here rather than to fret about how to make that time last indefinitely. Quantity is not quality. Inner peace—union with one’s Creator—is not achieved by digging a moat and throwing up stone walls of defense. Most of the participants in this new SM platform, as with those who populate its cousins, appear to me to be “dug in” as they pay exclusive attention to some enemy at the gates, ignoring the state of the palace at their backs. As long as there’s a “they” to fight, the value of the cause for which one is fighting doesn’t come under much scrutiny.
I began nursing this bitter (though strangely soothing) thought after I commented on someone’s post of a P.J. O’Rourke article… or I believe it was a review of the humorist’s new book, rather. Now, taking humorists seriously is always an exercise in self-mutilation. I should have known better. But then, I don’t know that comparing our young “snowflake” generation to spoiled kids who want everyone to have a free doughnut (or something… I can’t recall the terms of the analogy, which was pretty lackluster) struck other CaucusRoom readers as tongue-in-cheek. I don’t even know that O’Rourke himself had traces of wryness on his mug when he penned the words. To a great many of us, exhausted with “wokeness”, our children appear to be over-educated brats who haven’t learned that (for instance) electricity doesn’t flow from Sheetrock if you just screw in a plastic outlet panel.
But some of us, too, have watched our children struggle with depression—and the ordeal is no joking matter, no comedy sketch about poor-little-rich-kids in a pastry shop. Imagine that you’ve graduated from college and are starting your eight-to-five existence, which is supposed to carry you through most of your time on earth and to compensate or fulfill you over those decades with a rising salary. There’s nothing remotely spiritual in the equation. No deep satisfaction in the work you do has been factored in. You know better—for that work is often service to an inscrutable machine whose ultimate objective is… well, the handsome profits responsible for your salary. Higher motives be damned!
So, on that arid spiritual savanna into which you’ve wandered, you purchase gadgets and gizmos to amuse you over weekends. Eventually, as bank account and credit rating prosper, you spring for a 3,500-square-foot house just outside the taxable zones of Dallas or Denver. You take vacations to Vegas and Tampa one week out of the year, you smoke a little weed and acquire a fairly non-toxic alcohol dependency, you join a big church where you flutter dangerously close to flames lit by an abundance of highly discreet divorcees… and then the sand runs out of the glass. That was your life. You were a success, a good American: supported your church, never got caught cheating on your wife, sired and raised a couple of kids whom you reintroduced to the same assembly line (prep school, State U, desk at Merrill Lynch)….
Yeah, that’s your life. That’s it. What do you want, a free jelly roll? I suppose you want everyone to have free jelly rolls… is that what you want? What are you, a snowflake?
I don’t recall my precise comments upon the CaucusRoom post, which I haven’t managed to relocate, or the responses to my comments; but as telegraphic as all the “communication” was, I think it implied the tragic disconnect that I’ve tried to describe more amply in the last few paragraphs. We “conservatives” don’t seem to have any detectable regard for quiet streets with shaded sidewalks and front porches where our aging neighbors rock. Where those venues continue to exist, they characterize once-desirable settings (desirable in the Fifties, perhaps) which have now become “run down” and seem nearly devoured by adjoining overpasses and interstates. Our “way of life” is the make-money paradigm that requires a constant purging of such neighborhoods, along with all other relicts and habits of the past. What do you want… you want us to hold out for quaint corner drugstores and steeples nestled among tall trees in the Age of the Internet? You want free doughnuts for everyone? That scheme’s not economically viable any more.
Pardon me… but I think the miserable, anguishing poverty of this “conservative” rationale is why our children are Willy Wonka socialists. Yes, their mother’s-day-out conceptions of how an economy might work if only we built chocolate factories everywhere are constructed of colorful, round-edged blocks that should have been left in the playpen; but… but is the sole alternative really spiritual annihilation? Is that really all we’ve got to offer—is that how we intend to win them over?
I don’t begin to accept that the majority of these young, clueless wonders with worthless college degrees are lining up to enlist in Antifa. My experience is that they really don’t like anything vaguely scented with politics. They supported Bernie four years ago because he was their Willy, their clownish guide to an alternative world not slick with blood from cut throats and poignarded backs: the corporate world, the advance-at-all-costs world. And they’re not all unemployable, you know. Many of them have already doubled my best-ever annual salary, though they go to work dressed very casually in rags that do nothing to hide their rings and tattoos. They fool around with computer code and in sound studios helping capitalist enterprises to exploit the dreamy gullibility of the masses—unaware of any potential hypocrisy in their labors since they themselves move in the vapors of a dream. Thanks to their inspired work in the make-over room, DuPont or Halliburton or General Motors now comes off seeming infinitely more concerned about ushering you through the deadly pandemic than selling you… whatever it is such conglomerates sell today. (Sometimes it’s hard to tell amid all the passionate dedication to “keeping you safe”.) Insurance is peddled by a gecko or a flaky cop with an emu partner. Red Bull gives you cartoon wings. Suddenlink connects you in Instagram-length vignettes. And of all the happy people dramatically or graphically represented on your screens as made safe, thoroughly insured, energized, and connected, a good half seem to have drawn their significant other from a different race.
I mention that final detail only to stress that, when Generation Z’s graduates do find jobs in some tech-related enterprise, they eagerly lend their gifts to imagining a world socially and culturally different from the one we actually see. Yes, it’s a happy world: it always has been, in these industrial make-overs. (When I was a kid, Paul Parrot would assure us that P.F. Flyers “make your feet run faster, as fast as I can fly”.) But it’s also a more racially integrated world. It’s a world where women don’t need fathers to raise their children, where svelte vegan retirees enjoy their golden years on endless Caribbean cruises, where energy really does appear to course from the Sheetrock. I think the young designers of these Never Never Lands half-believe, in some spontaneous fashion, the utopian claptrap they grind out. (Even the most alcoholic cartoonist, in contrast, didn’t believe Paul Parrot existed.) In the old days, you tried to convince the public that eating spinach would make them look like Popeye because you had an unsavory vegetable to unload. Nowadays, fantasies are being packaged for the public by producers who themselves yearn to locate reality in fantasy.
Eventually and inevitably, some of these raptured cherubs accede to the control of their own enterprises… and they support leftist, statist causes. Conservatives are shocked. They protest, “It was free enterprise that made you a mogul… and now you want to throw it all over for socialism?” But… but the Young Turks became rich by marketing their naïveté to others of their generation who were equally naive. To some extent, you see, living in illusion can be profitable in a capitalist system. I mean… if you thoroughly believe in your own illusions, aren’t you especially well suited to convince others of their truth who yearn to believe?
The yearning to believe… this is why, sooner or later, our society is doomed to become a socialist anthill. Our children appear to us spoiled brats in a candy shop because they can’t “get real”, because they don’t understand “what it’s really like”. Yet that bitter panacea—the well-paying job—which was flung back at me on CaucusRoom as the answer to their problems is part of the poison driving them to candy. They don’t need money; or, at least, if they turn into the kind of human being who only needs money, then they will become as sick as if they’d gorged on socialist sugar. What they need is higher purpose, which they misidentify with an egalitarian utopia. They don’t understand that Uncle Bernie’s Candy Factory must end up being Treblinka or Auschwitz because trying to better humanity within merely human boundaries always results in vast slaughter. The visionary do-gooder must forever be melting down and remolding the millions of little morsels trundling along his assembly line; for the batter of which we’re concocted is flawed, and it doesn’t rise properly under heat.
They can’t see this, the children. Our children. They won’t see it until they live through their own nightmares on the assembly line. The evils of socialism, I’m afraid, aren’t something you learn to assess by reading a conservative book or listening to a conservative professor (assuming that you could find either one). They strike you between the eyes only after you come to understand human nature. My brother and sister remain left-of-center, I believe, because they were relatively popular in their adolescent high-school-and-college cocoons, and the habits acquired in that insulated existence have clung to them. I, on the other hand, while the least worldly of human beings, learned the deeper meaning of the Crucifixion after years of being an ugly duckling. My misery was a blessing. I came to grasp that people are fatally warped by their egotism—their unconscious, self-indulgent dedication to a script that casts them in an enviable role. And the contradictory evidence from the “real world” that might have made their well-rehearsed lines taste foul in their mouths becomes, instead, the raw material for weaving ingenious new narratives…. So passes an entire lifetime, in many tragic cases.
This analogy portrays much more accurately what I see in young people than any facile comparison of them with spoiled brats surrounded by Krispy Kremes. Of course, all of us parents want our kids to be well-integrated and “happy”—to be shielded in some measure from bitter truths about human nature. Hence we send them forth into the adult world, all too often, as if it might be a place where they could simply share out confections to the hungry masses from miraculously self-replenishing shelves. The fault for that, however, clearly lies in ourselves as much as in them. We have fashioned this seductive Siren-shore of socialism by loving our little ones not wisely, but too well.
Now our society is poised to enter a period of rotting bones—of victims who have heard the sweet song and thrown themselves into the brine, thinking they could live forever on its melody. We’ll have to get through that… or not. We’ll have to get through a period of not getting through it. We’ll have to rediscover true faith: the confidence, I mean, that peace and joy are already assured us in a higher reality, a “real reality”. We’ll have to stop trying to substitute our own provisional, earth-bound realities for the genuine article—the very sin of which we so justly accuse our socialist offspring.
Take whatever November and the new year bring, and live in peace.
Free Download of the Week: Starting today (September 26) and extending through Wednesday (September 30), my collection of short stories, A Sleepless Man Might Earn Two Wages, is available as a free Kindle download. Written over a period of two decades, all of the stories are intended to evoke the quality of a dream in some manner. Events, that is, are bizarre or even physically impossible in certain respects, yet their portrayal is simple, straightforward, and tantalizingly humming with truth.