The Seventies: Our First Full Decade of Cultural Decline

(I’ve been utterly preoccupied this week with preparing a re-edition of a novel invisibly published almost twenty years ago: Footprints in the Snow of the Moon. I hope to have it accessible on Amazon by mid-week. In writing the preface, at any rate, I decided that I could post an excerpt here that might not be uninteresting to IC’s audience.)

I heard a television documentary declare recently that Sharon Tate’s murder at the insane hands of the Manson gang was the end of the Sixties.  The remark wasn’t intended chronologically: its implication was plainly that the depraved brutality of the deed corrupted the “Sixties dream” and exiled American culture from the Eden of free love and rejection of social hierarchy.  If only, if only a few crazed loons hadn’t flown off the preserve!

In a far more significant sense, the Manson murders (there were several, by the way) were the climax of the Sixties—the necessary, inevitable dark fruit of a poisoned tree.  When human beings are freed of their inhibitions, the animal impulses that come to the surface vying for control may be lamb-like one instant… and then lupine the next.  Not that any wolf deserves to be defamed by comparison with Charles Manson: no, the human being wholly liberated of shame or guilt is an infinitely more atrocious creature than anything we can find in raw nature.  Thanks to his imagination, he can indulge a lust that has no analogue in any merely brutish chemistry: not a lust for sex or food, but for dominating the will of others—libido dominandi.

In unmooring the individual will from the cables with which two and a half millennia (punctuated by a few notable lacunae) of Judeo-Christian and classical Stoic morality had secured it, the Sixties set a generation of directionless young people loose upon each other—looking high and low for what they “wanted” and what they considered “relevant”, brushing aside entire systems and institutions that they considered “old” or “patriarchal”.  Frankly, this thumbnail sketch of the Sixties ethos is already in error: only the final years of the decade grew “radical”.  Most of the cultural clearing-and-leveling labor was accomplished in the Seventies.

Now, I will not maintain that the decade of flaring cuffs and collars, bushy unisex hair styles, and anorexic pop-singers saw a proliferation of drug-addicted mass-murderers.  Manson, let us say, was the face reflected in the pool at the chasm’s bottom.  For if human beings are distinct from the purely animal in bearing their blessed curse of free will and imagination, their distinction remains grafted upon an animal substrate.  They like to move in herds.  The herd lifts from the individual’s shoulders the complex burdens of freedom.  The hand of Satan that scrawled “helter skelter” in Sharon Tate’s blood no doubt hazed many a young “free spirit” away from the edge.  Indulging impulse was tamed (superficially and for the time being) into a social endeavor, and even a sociable one.  In those passive, pacifist Seventies, it turned out that you could “find yourself” while looking and acting exactly like the legions of “seekers” all around you; and this was indeed unsurprising, because it also turned out that our “self” was essentially a construct of DNA—our instinct to mate, our natural aversion to forced labor, our inbred terror of physical threat, our primate comfort in belonging to a group.

Statistical outliers—rogue elephants—would register a dangerous resurgence in the Eighties, when the cult of pleasure irresistibly fed into a cult of acquisitive hunger.  For most of the intermediate decade, however, I observed my peers to be lingering in an insipid sameness, neither searching for a guru in India like the Beatles nor snorting cocaine to amass royal fortunes on Wall Street.  The Seventies were a trough between crests.  They were a lull in whose wash uninspired hordes supposed themselves to be riding the wild surf.

The word “infantilism” would leap to mind if the present time had not laid yet a better claim to it.  Today, as I sit writing, college students are (as an abandoned cliché once had it) “much as nature might have left them”.  Several years ago already, my undergraduates hadn’t a clue what I intended when, as we read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight together, I associated the evocation of fertility in Arthur’s all-green visitor with the recovery of longer days after the winter solstice.  Most of them didn’t know what a solstice was.  Now their younger brothers and sisters are lecturing all of us on the planet’s climate and ordering us to “shut up” if we raise an objection.

In comparison, the overgrown children of the Seventies were at least not rude brats.  And they had developed a decisive gender—very decisive!  In that they could be said to have blazed a trail into puberty that leaves their contemporaries far behind.  Yet their hair still grew long in the pristine ringlets whose first formal shearing brings mothers to tears.  Their bodies were of the supple quality that allows toddlers to absorb infinite falls without taking much harm.  In fact, it was wrong of me to celebrate puberty in them with such confidence; some of the girls, at least, had found a way to resist menstruation.  I know I mentioned anorexia in passing.

Wasn’t abortion part of the same bid for “prolonged innocence”?  Children don’t become mothers and fathers, so… so pregnancies just shouldn’t be happening.  Something was amiss there.  Reset the clock and go back to playing in the nursery: those two months of alarming discomfort never happened.

Well, our overgrown children today appear to have discovered the full Mansonian potential of sacrificing small, fleshy masses with little fingers and tiny noses.  It’s a rite performed to a known god whose name I shall not repeat.  In that respect as in so many others, I prefer the “terminal adolescence” of the Seventies.  Observers of the scene back then could still see that something was wrong; and the gullible young fools sucked into doing the wrong still had, as often as not, an inkling that they had been led astray.  It was a time suitable to be the backdrop of a morality play, whereas today… today we find only the appalling chaos fit for writing what the ancients would have called a catabasis: a journey through Hell.

Why the difference?  I think it consists entirely in this: fifty years ago, vestiges of those twenty-five hundred years of Western culture lingered among the herd’s hoofprints.  Today, they’re all gone.  Fifty years ago, the young who had jettisoned the cargo of Western civilization in favor of “relevance” (which, in terms of college work, involved a much lightened reading list: a very happy accident in the Decade of Pleasure) had still seen Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet and Robert Bolt’s Man for All Seasons at the movies.  Today’s graduate students have cut their narrative teeth on comic-book superheroes—about whom some of them will probably write a dissertation.  I devoutly hope that a few of our twenty-first century crop will find their way out of Hell, having heeded a spiritual voice within that can easily outshout the Call of the Sociopath if attended to… yet Hell is where they are, where they have to search for exits.  Fifty years ago, exits higher up the road were still open.  They just weren’t being well maintained.

Nothing distresses me more in retrospect about that lost decade than the invertebracy of the Christian church in the face of so many formidable challenges.  As a young man navigating the day’s troubled waters, I had a keen sense that most Christian denominations were responding to the times, “Wait!  Don’t leave us behind!  We’re one of you!  Love, peace, togetherness, a better world… that’s what we’re all about!”  Yes… and that was apparently all they were about: no sin, no guilt, no repentance, no abstinence, no difficult ascent through stones and briars, no resistance to worldly seductions.  No comfort.  In my experience of the Seventies, the Church desperately fought against irrelevancy by rendering itself irrelevant.  Those whom it courted abjectly had already found what they craved in the here-and-now; or if their souls were not wholly drained of breath and secretly craved a lifeline to the Beyond, the Church had cast aside that line in its zeal to fashion a better here-and-now.

Again, one might make precisely the same claim of organized Christianity in the twenty-first century, and make it with a vengeance; but the trend began when trousers rode low, their buckles spread broad, and their bottoms belled wide.

I could write lengthily about the “charismatic” movements that sometimes spiraled into cultism during this decade—but I should be wandering too far afield from the subjects addressed in Footprints, which do not include these.  If I lend any emphasis at all to the matter of religion here, it’s because the novel struck me so powerfully—as I edited it after almost two decades—as groping for the spiritual.  This, too, seems to me characteristic of the Seventies: I mean, groping clumsily after something fulfilling and immaterial… and not being able to find it.  Finding substitutes for it in all the wrong places.  Yet again, yes, one might say as much of any generation of human beings.  The difference is that most such generations were graced with some form of organized faith that offered a clear alternative to sex, drugs, wealth, and power.  The Seventies, having inherited from the previous years a contempt for all reverend institutions, were left with a Church that embraced the secular world’s facile opposition of sex and drugs to wealth and power, as if those pairs defined adversarial ends of a spectrum.

The charismatic represented less a third way—a midpoint on the spectrum—than a retreat into that infantilism (too young for sex, too young for power) typical of the era’s approach to other moral crises.  There was no genuine escape from this world’s traps (and Sartre’s Huis Clos, whose title literally translates such despair, was taught in every sophomore French class).  Those who survived the day’s Charybdis of rival forces circling the same focal void and were at last spewed out upon Odysseus’s stunted fig tree faced a bleak, lonely prospect.

One of my faithful collaborators in the charitable venture, The Center for Literate Values, gave the original novel a kind review (what else would you expect of any officer in a public charity?)—but voiced a mild regret that the book did not investigate faith as a solution.  I won’t say that I took the criticism under advisement in my rewriting.  Rather, in my rewriting, I discovered that the forces I had unleashed in these fairly ordinary Middle Americans (ordinary on the surface—the only level at which anyone is ordinary), most of them well under thirty, needed to “blow up the world” a little more.  There needed to be more frustration with the options offered by a relatively smooth-purring, profitably hedonistic society now free and clear of the Vietnam nightmare.  I don’t say that there needed to be more options: faith often grows exactly because more is needed but no further options are possible.  I felt a considerable pressure to let something intrude into my “dystopic pastoral” which would lighten life’s burdens, paradoxically, by acknowledging that burdens don’t disappear in this life.

I had to make the narrator turn somewhat more consciously mature at the end.  And I did so: that’s the book’s major change.  Some may persist, “But I still don’t see his faith taking shape.  Where’s his faith?”  My answer: not in the things and people of this world—but running straight through them; not in the institutions of this world, but thriving in spite of them.

How many people in fact weathered the Seventies with a spiritual insight of such elevation?  Well… as a novelist, I don’t do statistical analysis.  I try to present the most instructive case, and sometimes I thereby present the least probable.  I will bring to general attention, however, that the narrator’s retrospective places his final thoughts in the late Nineties: he’s had plenty of time to mull it all over.  If you were “on the ground” during that somnolent spiritual war which was the late Seventies, you didn’t yet know that promiscuous sex might harm your body as well as your soul: AIDS was yet unheard-of.  You didn’t know that foreign nationals might plot to murder thousands of your neighbors in the midst of their routine: plane hijackings always ended with a rerouting to Beirut or Tripoli, usually after the passengers were swapped out for a million bucks.  You didn’t know that school children might so much as fantasize about gunning their classmates down: video games and our sociopathologizing “social media” were a glimmer in some developer’s eye.

I doubt that we learned much of anything from the Seventies, in short, while they were being played out.  Any lesson would have come years later (and it doesn’t appear that most of us have learned the full lesson, even fifty years later).  What I like about the Seventies as an artist, though, is precisely that they are “pure” of mixed motive when one scans them for moral cautionary tales.  At the time, no one would have known just how risky to bodily health and mere survival were many trendy new habits.  The only reason for resisting them would have been abstract: a stand in principle uncomplicated by a gun pointed at the head.

A Lesson in Leftist Argumentation, Courtesy of Twitter

I’m not exactly sure where the word “meme” came from, or when it came, or through what door.  Composition instructors used to chatter a lot about “enthymemes” because the word appears so often in Aristotle’s Rhetoric… and even Aristotle, frankly, left me scratching my head.  I think the idea was that certain manipulative arguments go straight from major premise to conclusion without examining an essential supporting premise.  Would “shoddy or exploitative reasoning” be an adequate paraphrase?

At any rate, that’s not a bad description of activity on our unsociable “social media”, if not strictly a definition of “enthymeme” or “meme”.  Yet shoddiness and exploitation both perfectly suit what’s going on in the “meme” I scrolled across Thursday morning on Twitter (reproduced above).  Now, I ought to have passed on without comment.  I knew that the humming in the hive before me wasn’t seven musical munchkins, and that sticking my head in would therefore be ill-advised.  But I couldn’t resist: the shoddiness was so… shoddy!  Especially when I viewed the responses to the post, I felt compelled to exercise of my First Amendment rights.

Respondents were all high-fiving “Danielle” for “trolling” idiot Trumpers.  She and they were back-and-forthing about how the stupid Deplorables were loving on her meme rather than recognizing it as a slap in their droopy gob.  “Yes, all Trump supporters are morons.”  “They have no education.”  “The right is full of idiots.”  That kind of thing… like the U.S. Women’s [Persons’?] Soccer Team [Gang?] having a very private, no-Americans-allowed celebration after a goal.

Well… all in the world I wanted to point out was that the analogy was incoherent.  I understand that humor hath a kind of license in it (as Isabella says to Angelo of his lewd hypotheticals).  I wasn’t trying to kill the joke.  I didn’t bother to observe that Native Americans did not represent a unitary cultural front to the “invading” culture, and that many native groups were indeed engaged in trying to enslave or exterminate other native groups; I didn’t carp that in Virginia, at least, most early settlers gave no hint of seeking asylum in the wilderness and fully intended to return home ASAP.  Accept the jibe within its own parameters.  So… what does it say?

It says that already settled cultures have a right to protect their boundaries and send away invading cultures to clean up their own mangled garden.  I actually agree with that.  I believe that the Potato Famines, for instance, would have been managed much better if native Irish hadn’t massively accepted landlords’ bribes to sail for Quebec and New York (during which passages tens of thousands died in shipboard conditions that made slave ships look like luxury liners).  Public opinion in England would have had its collective nose forced into a malodorous reality, just as restless masses of abused poor in Mexico and Central America—if they remained in situ—would force change upon certain outrageously corrupt governments.  That has always been my position… and the Trumper’s, too (a political clan which isn’t strictly mine but in which I recognize a strong ally).  Individuals have a right to self-defense… and cultures have the same right.  They don’t have to commit suicide just because aliens want their stuff and their turf.

This argument was made a month or so ago on Peter Helmes’ conservo.wordpress.com German website (I haven’t yet retrieved the precise article).  It’s equally valid for us… isn’t it?  All I wished to say about the meme—in telegraphic Twitterspeak—was that it supported our position, not that of “Danielle” and her admiring minions.  In the analogy, the chieftain is Donald Trump.  If the Pilgrims should shuffle on back to Plymouth, then the MS-13 family unit should make its way back to Honduras.  Or if adventurers looking for a “better life” (free Medicaid, police protection, public schooling, etc.) have a right to go wherever pickings are most plentiful, then… then why didn’t the Pilgrims have the same right to come cash in on the New World’s wood, beavers, and tobacco?

In trying to find a Twitter-trimmed way of referring to leftist subversives, I passed on “Dems” as needlessly provocative and coined “open-borderers”, since it didn’t tar millions with one brush and also indicated the central issue.  “Danielle” (surprise!) did not like my tweet—but she took minute care to avoid the issue of her memed analogy’s ineptitude.  Instead, she riveted upon “open-borderers”.  No one seriously advocates for an open border, she generalized sweepingly of my generalizing term; if I wanted to have a “conversation” with her, I would have to abandon such “obtuse nonsense” (and embrace her prickly nonsense, I suppose).

To condense the conversation even beyond Twitter’s thimble-small capacity, I willingly dropped all mention of the faulty analogy and answered simply that “obtuse” doesn’t frame a very friendly invite—but that my current minister, for instance, was not no one (much as I might wish otherwise).  Her answer: my personal acquaintance aside, what elected policy-maker advocates open borders?  My answer: none, of course—just as none in 2009 openly advocated gay marriage.  And I added that my wife and I had left Texas partly because of the growing crime rate in our neighborhood thanks to political refusal to secure the border.  Her answer: by “secure”, did I mean “build the Wall”?  My answer: never a big fan of the Wall—the lunar stretch from El Paso to Yuma needs funded guards allowed to do their job… and, btw, withholding funds was de facto open-border advocacy.

But perhaps my reply ever exited through the thunderstorm that was passing over our hillbilly retreat; in any case, I received no further answer.  And, yes, I really didn’t condense the conversation to smaller-than-Twitter size.  That’s just not possible.

As I recover today from my wrestling match with prickly nonsense, I’m struck by how utterly, dismally typical of leftist thinking were the volleys aimed at me from the other side of the net.  We might start with the meme itself: very poorly evaluated, yet considered by its designers to be oh-so-clever-and-keen.  The original tweeter and scores of retweeters were so absorbed in chortling over stupid right-wingers who didn’t “get it” that they hadn’t left themselves time to study just what they were transmitting to be “gotten”.  The meme was an occasion to heap scorn on the other side.  Its logical validity was irrelevant.  In fact, I’ve no doubt that all the merry high-fivers would have regarded my objections as more evidence of stupidity.  If I were smart (like them), I wouldn’t have allowed myself to be snared in the joke’s inconsistencies.  Sneering epithets electronically spat at me this week from the left side of the aisle (though not in this exchange) included… let’s see… “self loathing” (without hyphen), “pathetic”, “afraid”, “girl” (hmm), and—naturally—“white”.  These are the descriptors chosen by elite minds to characterize their “stupid” adversaries.

Next, notice that the “debate” immediately shifted to an irrelevancy when my main point offered no obvious holes to leap through.  “Open borders… how obtuse!  What a careless, vulgarly undiscriminating remark!  No one is for an open border!”  In a single brief comment, we see a crime alleged in terms that actually commit the crime.  Cute.  Then when “no one” turns into “someone”, names are required.  (Remember the old joke? “Johnny, eat your spinach. Millions of children in China would love to have just a bite of it.” “Name one.”)

But the argument from personal experience always troubles the leftist—who, after all, is likely a leftist precisely because he or she has no personal experience.  And I didn’t even give “Danielle” the details about the stranger I found in my garage who, through his English-competent adolescent son (I’m so glad we kept that family together!), offered me a wad of bills for my truck.  My adversary was already nervous merely at the mention of our having to relocate thanks to the not-open border.  So…

Another shift.  Rivet on another word.  “Secure”… bet you mean “wall” by “secure”, right?  It’s like a dog whistle with you people.

Obviously, our “conversation” wasn’t going anywhere.  Does it ever these days?  Distant are the days when you could have a spirited, even heated discussion of capital punishment or eminent domain—a discussion which might actually budge one of the participants to a modified position.  Now it’s all thrust, retreat, regroup, ambush… anything but surrender.  Never surrender.  In an extreme case, torch the terrain from which you must withdraw so that no one can possibly survive on it.

Example.

X says, “Abortion is baby-killing.”  Y answers, “No, idiot.  They’re not babies, they’re fetuses.”  X: “Oh, so when the doctor/governor describes a ‘quiet conversation’ with the mother, that’s a fetus awaiting the verdict as it writhes on the table.”  Y: “You’re sensationalizing one careless remark.  Name a single legislator in the federal government who takes that view.”  X: “‘Careless’ is right!  A career politician would be subtler.  Name one time in 1939 that Hitler spoke publicly of exterminating the Jews.”  Y: “Ah, now you’re going to try the ‘Nazi’ move on the Pro-Choice movement!  Everybody knows that your side is the one that wants the nation lily-white!”

“Danielle”, by the way, describes herself (beside a smirky picture) as receiving five dollars from George Soros for every message she tweets.  I’m sure she’s just “trolling” those Soros-obsessed Deplorables (for George well knows that what makes useful idiots so useful is their work-for-no-pay ethic).  On the other hand, if you and I wrote that the Koch Brothers gave us a fiver for every post, the Danielles of the world wouldn’t hesitate to swallow it hook, line, and sinker.  This e-world of hit-and-run, meme, selfie, quote-without-context, hashtagging, signal-flashing, red-flagging and—to top it all off—quarantined-then-vaporized “hate speech” is a swampy miasma of factlets adrift in stinking illusion.  And there’s no shore to which we can “return home” to escape it all.  We’re quickly being reduced to passwords repeated in the mist… and anyone who mauls one in a bid for humor or questions its pronunciation will get a spear in the throat.

Ugly world.  About to get much uglier.

Polarization Can Be Good… But Not in Cases of Magnetic Fraud

My wife insists that the whippoorwill fond of cranking it up every dawn outside our window isn’t the real thing—that she recalls the song’s full range from her childhood, and that this strident alarm clock doesn’t have it down properly.  Interesting.  You can believe me or not… but cardinals no longer sound the same as they once did.  I realize that we’ve moved much farther east, and that birds have dialects; but even when we yet lived in Texas, and even for years before I was married, the cardinal’s repertoire had been much reduced from what I distinctly recall as a boy.  For some reason, I have a very good aural memory (to compensate for my poor retention of faces).

What could explain this phenomenon of the bird world—the equivalent of great-great-grandfather Feathers handing down the line, “The wind, it bloweth where it listeth,” only to have the contemporary generation produce, “Wow, breeze comin’ from everwure today!”  We humans (or those few of us who remain alert to such things) understand that cultural impoverishment occurs when a population disperses over too much area too rapidly.  I dimly recall that Ortega y Gasset wrote an essay about how badly the Latin language decayed around the Empire’s peripheries during the second and third centuries.  Is it so far-fetched to suppose that bird populations have been similarly stressed by human activity?  They’ve had to spread out rapidly and resourcefully, just to survive.  In the process, the songs that they transmitted to the next generation were truncated, simplified, and—in a word—impoverished.

This doesn’t mean that our world will end in twelve years, or that we can stabilize the avian repertoire if we will only drive hybrid cars.  Yet I find in it a measure of how risky our high-tech, progressive, ever more urbanized habits of living have become.  We’re mutilating a quality of life constantly whose former richness we don’t begin to suspect.  I used to observe to students that Edgar Allen Poe’s Monsieur Dupin (the forefather of Sherlock Holmes) could direct a friend’s gaze to the Andromeda Galaxy from the streets of Paris without drawing a cry of “foul” from Poe’s readership.  These days, you’d need a pair of binoculars to locate the same one-degree swirl of stardust out in the boondocks.  Now, Poe never actually traveled to Paris… but the point is that his claim seemed plausible a little less than two hundred years ago. Our skies were once incredibly clean.

Am I somehow being a “defector from conservatism” to volunteer such concerns?  That would be an odd association of ideas, inasmuch as I’m speaking on behalf of conserving our natural environment from tasteless, needless, often poisonous artifice.  Yet so it is, in our lunatic present.  Because the Green movement has been kidnapped by One World Order types who want a central government to peer into every facet of our daily routine, any protest against commercialist exploitation that leaves forests or plains in ruins (such as wind turbines, may I say) is a kind of closet-Marxism. At least that’s what I’m given to understand in certain quarters that consider their right-wing bona fides irreproachable.

I’ve recently been “tweeting” (in notes far less lyrical than a cardinal’s) with a veteran of the armed services about the extreme inadvisability of the Pompeo-Bolton campaign of saber-rattling in Iran’s face.  Our own border is under assault—and we’re trying to ignite a powder keg halfway around the world because… because we wish to preempt the evil influence of Islam on global peace and create a terrestrial paradise.  I thought we’d worked—or I thought the putative Right had worked—through such utopian delusions during the two terms of the junior Mr. Bush.  Yet I’m a traitor, in some eyes, for not wanting to send Xenophon into Persia with ten thousand Spartans.  Wasn’t Mr. Trump supposed to have been elected in large measure because our society had had quite enough of such adventurous meddling in foreign affairs under Bush and Obama?  (And, for that matter, isn’t a solidifying of relations with Russia, drawing her away from our real and ultimate enemy—the PRC—a much more rational path to world peace?  And how will stirring up things in Iran extend an olive branch to Russia?)

About a month ago, I posted a piece about my change of heart on capital punishment.  I initially thought it a rather boring scribble—but few things I’ve ever published have drawn more fire… or, I should correct, “spirited exception”.  I’m of the opinion that the sore spots I apparently mashed exist because those opposed to the death penalty don’t mince words about what ravenous animals their adversaries are.  The discussion on this issue, as on most other national issues, has grown so polarized that a flag of truce soliciting a conference is immediately mistaken for the battle flag of a charging phalanx.

This past week, my adoptive state of Georgia and her immediate neighbor Alabama have drawn the ire of various Hollywood ghouls and media darlings for pushing back the highly permissive limits surrounding legal abortion.  My position is pro-Tenth Amendment.  Since abortion isn’t a right guaranteed to all Americans under the Bill of Rights (and, no, there is no Abortion Amendment implied in the Fourteenth’s ban of slavery, contrary to Hollywood analysis), let individual states set the boundary where they deem it appropriate.  Similarly, why may not the marriage ceremony be purged of any civil (read “tax/insurance”) significance and returned to its pristine religious dimension?  Faiths or denominations that choose to bless the union of two men or two women—or a human and a dog—may do so.  I don’t have to subscribe to them.  I shouldn’t even be required to say pleasant things about them in public… but the law prevents me from hurling rocks through windows or delivering dead cats to doorsteps.  That’s the nature of a liberal (i.e., free) society.

How “right-extremist” is the previous paragraph, and how “left-anarchic”?  I wouldn’t say that it was any of either… but it depends upon whom you ask, doesn’t it?  Invisibly, imperceptibly, a checklist of necessary positions appears to have evolved for either “side”—and I must throw quotes around “side”, because I myself see no very coherent line separating the rows of boxes, but only an insane zigzag.  If the Left’s hyperventilating hysteria over the “Trump Phenomenon” has any degree of validity, it must center upon the abject devotion registered by the man’s followers… you know, like that pledged so often on the Left to their endless stream of Peerless Leaders, Big Brothers, and Dear Friends.  Yeah, that worries me, too: wherever I see it, it worries me.  I very much doubt that Mr. Trump himself has ever before thought deeply about some the crises suddenly confronting him (hence his being persuaded to trust people like Pompeo and Bolton).

I’m not going to finish by writing, “Maybe we can all just calm down a bit.”  I’m not calm.  I have a son living in Denver, whose space-cadet town council seems intent on legalizing every hallucinogen known to shaman or rockstar.  I wish we could be “uncalm” in a consistent manner, however.  People of principle get worked up about behaviors that shred their principles; people of uncomposed mind get worked up about anything whose appearance in their peripheral vision startles them.

“Reparations”: A Tribal Drum Calling Human Beings Away From Responsibility

I tend to write either upon a subject that has fermented in me for a while or upon one that breaks down my psychic door, even though I would as soon concentrate my attention elsewhere.  Today a door has come off its hinges, so… I yield to the necessity of cleaning up the mess.

I have grown irritated at several thoughtful people who write against the propriety of “reparations”—i.e., the monetary indemnification of people with X amount of melanin for the ordeal endured by their slave-ancestors.  The bright but annoying types with whom I’m peeved will protest, “I’m white, but my ancestors had nothing to do with this outrage.  They arrived at Ellis Island in 1890”; or perhaps they tender the version, “My ancestors were German farmers and Italian craftsmen who emigrated in the 1850’s and probably contributed children to wear Union blue.”  The implication is that the demand for “reparations” is itself not unjust or unreasonable, but that the writer in question shouldn’t be liable for paying a dime.

I could shred this argument on its own terms if I wanted to.  I actually have little doubt that slaves lived in the households of my progenitors on both sides—not hundreds of slaves to work vast plantations, though Hollywood would have us believe (and has duped most of us into believing, apparently) that no other kind of slavery existed.  Rather, among my ancestors as among most slaveholders (“most” as in 95 percent), there was a groom, a cook, maybe a girl to wait the table and tend the nursery, maybe another man to oversee heavier chores about the house: three to five adults, in total.  These people were employed in the same work given primarily to indentured white servants before the early nineteenth century.  Why the gradual shift from indenture to slavery?  Because Northern slavers found it profitable.  Arabic raiders plundered villages in northwestern Africa, and Yankee schooners from Long Island or Boston or Baltimore shuttled them across the Atlantic to Southern slave markets.  The North had no great need of slavery—or indenture (though the myth that no Union state practiced legal slavery during the Civil War is an ignorant falsehood).  With its far more industrialized economy, the North favored allowing competition in its populous towns and cities to drive down the daily wage and impose no burden of room and board on the employer.  The South, being far more rural and sparsely populated, was ripe for exploitation by the slave trade.  Slavery was an ugly business, all the way around—but it was a business from which the North drew a handsome profit.

It isn’t the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the, “My ancestors didn’t do it!” argument that most irritates me, however.  No… and it isn’t even the utter absence of historical awareness visible on all sides—but I’ll mention that in passing.  Were some slaves whipped, raped, separated from their families?  Unquestionably.  Slavery was a wicked, horrid institution—as were many institutions of the day.  The British Navy manned its fleet by “impressing” young men wherever it could find them.  The raids of its press gangs upon American merchant vessels, in fact, were one of the causes of the War of 1812.  This practice was essentially enslavement with a fairly high probability of mutilation or death in the aftermath.  Another example: in many parts of New England, drunkards and rioters were pilloried or otherwise brutally punished.  Farther south and west, feuds between families frequently produced a bullet in the back along a lonely road.  Thieves of a relatively petty variety were hanged.  Dueling was not uncommon.  Life was rough.  Women not uncommonly died in childbirth.  (And yet, for all the cruelty of the times, a newborn whose mother had no means of support would leave it at a church’s doorstep rather than, with the doctor’s help, cram its face in salt before shifting it to the dumpster.)

For all that, many slaves were considered part of the family.  The church which my wife attended as a child preserved evidence of a wall down its middle, created to divide slaves and masters.  In the Christian family, there should be no such division, to be sure—but here is solid evidence that the slave attended worship along with the owner (something that would never have happened up North).  My grandparents and their parents grew up playing with children of color.  The photo at the top of this piece was taken in about 1900 by a member of my father’s father’s family.  You can tell that black and white children, squeezed together (with the tiny tots of darker complexion in the middle), are playmates.  Brutality, in other words, was not universal nor even the norm—or perhaps only on large plantations, whose owners (often speculators and profiteers from the North) were typically despised by smaller, much more numerous farmers and had political interests inimical to most of their neighbors.  May I ask, in closing this digression, what Sherman’s ravages of the South did to keep either white or black children from starving, or how a “reconstruction” which abruptly ended in a couple of years left freedmen in a fit state to feed their families and make their way?

All of this aside—and it’s a lot to shove aside, for the willful stupidity of imbibing all one’s knowledge of the mid-nineteenth century from Django infuriates me—but all of it aside, the true outrage of “reparations” is the moral outrage of holding children responsible for their parents’ deeds.  The crazed immigrant who pushed a little boy over a rail to almost certain death in the Mall of America… should his children pay monthly compensation to the victim for the rest of his life, if he survives?  What if the would-be murderer claims that the rabble-rousing “hate speech” of Liz Warren, Kamala Harris, and other unscrupulous flame-throwers of the Left incited him to attempt a killing?  Should the Democratic Party pony up for the bereaved family two or three generations from now?

Should I refuse to let my son marry your daughter because your grandfather wore a Nazi uniform?  I believe Ted Bundy left a son behind; perhaps that child should be monitored for signs of schizophrenia… but should we place him in a classroom all by himself?  Alexander the Great was a marvel to his contemporaries for, among other things, not slaying the sons of his political adversaries when resistance reached open hostility.  Do we, too, now marvel at such restraint?  Does it no longer make any sense to us?

I know the my-ancestors-didn’t-do-this crowd hasn’t fully weighed the implications of its half-hearted objection… but weigh them, please.  Consider what you’re not saying as well as what you’re saying.  The “reparations” canard (and I have refused to use the word outside of quotations to signify my contempt and disgust) is evil.  It’s not a dumb idea or an impractical proposal: it is evil at its foundations.  The basis of any true morality—i.e., any that is not cultural conditioning masked as unquestioned goodness—must be individual conscience.  Each single person must be presumed capable of choosing his or her acts… and held accountable, by the way, for not choosing when he or she just goes with the flow.  Such a presumption is the foundation of our free society.  If we reject it and assume, instead, that people are infinitely programmable robots who do the bidding of their tribes or their demagogic leadership, then why have another free election?  Why accord the individual the right to defend himself from deadly attack?  Program him, rather, to die passively: he can be replaced by another robot, and the malfunctioning robot who slew him can be dismantled back at the factory.  Why allow couples to conceive, bear, and raise their own children—for the real thrust of the “pro-choice” movement is to regulate the production of new humans according to some master-plan of population density and racial composition.

Notice that all three of the preposterous positions just outlined—overhaul of free elections, suppression of the right to self-defense, and state-sponsored eugenics through abortion—are fast becoming leftist orthodoxy. There is no room in the progressive state for troublesome individualists who delay the march of progress. Our individual lives have no meaning: meaning is conferred upon them only by the ascendant vector of tomorrow’s golden dawn.

Megalomaniac leftist ideologues understand that “reparations” are completely consistent with their broader vision of a deterministic, inhuman apehouse whipped into line by their own superior inspiration—they, our insane prophets sent from some inscrutable, blank-and-pitiless heaven.  Most of their allies in our currently sitting Congress, I am convinced, no more embrace this depraved ideology to its last letter than people on my side of the fence oppose “reparations” simply because of a family-tree exemption.  Democrat presidential candidates, rather, are competing in offering bribes to a base that (they hope) can be bought.  Even among that base, few whose palms grow itchy at the thought of a “reparations check” in the mail, I imagine, seriously believe that they have no power over their lives—that the cards determining their destiny were shuffled 150 years ago.  They just want the “free stuff”.

But what will the next generation believe?  Once we raise its members totally immersed in the poisonous vapors of tribalism and determinism, what else will they believe but that you are only and always your DNA signature—that this man must be my enemy because of his skin tone, and that I must pray to this god and love this music because my ancestors did so?  Those who write the checks, and those who accept them, will be responsible in a higher reality for corrupting human society with a sordid scam.  And you, too, my brothers “whose great-grandparents weren’t here at the time”… your hands will not be entirely clean.

For God’s sake, call the Devil by his name.

Spiritual Rebirth: The Contemporary Mind’s Arch-Enemy

The scribble I had in mind for today will keep for another week.  I’ve decided to offer something more appropriate to Easter Sunday, 2019.

It is difficult to sense an infusion of new life when one casts one’s eyes about the current scene.  Debate has long been terminated on the subject of abortion.  It is considered gauche, or sexist, or racist, or some such reason-throttling chunk of mud-sling, to observe that most women really needn’t get “notably pregnant” at all against their will.  They may abstain from sex; they may abstain a mere three days each month from sex; they may patronize any one of a dozen cheap, accessible varieties of contraception; or, all of the above having failed, they may at least discharge their loathsome burden in the first trimester.  What we have before us, instead, appears to be a species of woman that has sex at least once a day with no regard for the consequences and despite hating males categorically and on principle.  Briefly, the “debate” shifted this year to whether or not one might actually murder a baby already born… but now the air is once again as thick with slung excrement as Gulliver’s Forest of the Yahoos.  A significant portion of our neighbors refuses to have a civil discussion about the impropriety of infanticide.

Paris is burning… well, part of it has been burning, anyway.  I don’t believe even Adolf Hitler had designated Notre Dame Cathedral for demolition as his occupying troops withdrew—but let us cede the point, for argument’s sake, that the conflagration was accidental.  It remains nonetheless undeniable that the “religion of peace” continues to make huge, heavy strides through Western Christendom.  One must observe, in fairness, that Islam does not condone abortion: it certainly has the diseased relics of “Christendom” beat on that and a few other fronts.  Similarly, one should not attribute directly to Koranic teaching the hideous practice of Female Genital Mutilation, which is morally superior to the Aztec manner of female-body-part excision—but only just.  Yet neither are Islamic leaders outspoken in their condemnation of the ritual sadism to which young girls in their faith are often submitted. In that regard, their “tolerance” has a disturbingly Western/postmodern odor. I read yesterday that nineteen states—approximately two-fifths of our union—permit these degraded, barbaric operations to proceed unmolested by the law.  That’s pretty typical of the Christian caricature which we have become.  Christ didn’t “judge”; therefore, we mustn’t “judge”, either.  Slice away.  God bless you… and how long will racist members of Congress oppose funding FGM through Medicare?  How dare they?  If they were really Christian…

I think I prefer my Yahoo excrement straight in the face rather than kneaded into my bread. To be impassive to atrocity is to be “tolerant”; to be indifferent to the outrage of fundamental decency is to be “Christian”. Nowadays, every word of the English language is apt to have a value diametrically opposed to its original intent.  One can no longer utter the simplest sentence without its leaving the taste of the latrine in one’s mouth.  Our words have been stolen from us, or in some cases (the worst cases) returned after mutilations as nightmarish as the mad scientist’s who grafts wings onto a rabbit.  To write nada or loco is cultural appropriation if your skin isn’t the right color.  (I’ve never been able to determine just what that color is: even the original Spaniards were part Moorish in many cases—and it turns out that Portugal is home to a particularly high concentration of Neanderthal DNA!)  To employ a “gendered” pronoun is to risk professional termination, fines, and perhaps incarceration not just in our ally nations, but in our own topsy-turvy academic world.  To protest against the idiocy of it all is to manifest the deplorable “white privilege”, suspicion of which crime precludes any effort at defense and carries a minimum mandatory sentence of social ostracism for a day.  “The baby beats the nurse, and quite athwart goes all decorum,” as a white-privileged patriarch once opined.  Did that bard, prophetically, diagnose our abortion culture, perhaps?  Too many babies… the twenty- and thirty-somethings are unwilling to surrender their diapers to new arrivals that might compete for attention.

In the midst of such lunacy, Hope appears to have retreated to the Moon, left vacant by the descent of our dominant ideologies.  What does the dawn of this day in 2019 promise, other than a deeper plunge into disgrace and inhumanity?

I will attempt just a very brief answer.  As I age, I grow more aware that virtually all of our spiritual confusion arises from an intellectual (or pseudo-intellectual) confidence that we understand time.  Specifically, time in all of our constructs is linear: a “timeline”.  The times are suffocatingly depressing because, for those of us with sufficient memory, they so clearly describe a nosedive into arrogance, petulance, self-absorption, self-indulgence, absurdity, and outright stupidity.  The “Darwinian staircase” scaling upward on the shoulders of Homo Erectus, Cro-Magnon, and Homo Sapiens has now reversed its motion as precipitously as an amusement-park slide.

Yet why do we suppose that the image of time forced upon us by our human understanding is ultimately valid?  We should know, thanks to the operation of our same faculties, that we are incapable of fathoming the utter truth of things.  We are compelled by “logic” to believe both in a First Cause and in the dependency of every cause upon a previous cause as its effect.  We are compelled, likewise, to believe that every event contains causative events within it and also that no event could possibly happen if there were not an atomic, irreducible, “buck stops here” micro-event at the bottom of it all.  (Twentieth-century science latched on to the speed of light in order to keep the system from collapsing upon itself—but “C” is a mere conceptual convenience whose truth is under serious question in current physics.)

What, then, if all of our timelines are indeed illusions?  What if “then” is also “now”?  Frankly, I feel crucifixion happening all around me every day.  Why not resurrection, as well?  For the ascent from death is as inescapable as the terrestrial impact of a falling apple—or as the germination of the fallen apple’s seeds: they are all held together by an inviolable metaphysical force in a single expanding time.  Our linear timelines are constantly bombarded from right angles by the pressing reality of this superior, immutable time.  Our “progress” is constantly being knocked off course by inklings that our imagined destination is illusory—that we are “here and now” in an ultimate truth whose focal gravity our silly designs vainly struggle to resist.  What good is a promotion if we buy it with lies and betrayals?  What good is a glistening new palace erected with dollars extorted from the meager savings of our dupes?  We fight and fight against the winds blowing contrary to our “advance”, the wind that bloweth we know not whence.  We detest that interference.  We curse it.  Yet it draws us and draws us back to the simplicity of the child—the dwelling in the “here and now” which we abandoned when we decided to “make something of ourselves”.

Do not, please, misread my remarks in the light of a recent piece I dedicated to “the power of now”.  “Now” is not a renunciation of past and future: it is a reclaiming of the past and future as properly belonging to the Real, the Right, the Good.  As we fight to postpone the reign of goodness over our daily compromises and calculations, we fight ineffectually, futilely.  We may resist rebirth into the light of the true day; but to do so, we shall have to suffocate our soul, willfully and persistently, after it is already drawing breaths on its own.  Souls don’t die in the womb.  Only suicide kills them.

Babies in a Postmodern Whirlpool: Watch Out for Sharks

Last week I finished watching the Netflix series Traffickers.  The pickings are pretty lean on NF if you’ve had enough of cartels, kidnappings, poisoned food, piratical capitalism, criminal psychopaths, Wall Street rip-offs, and “tragic” Hollywood drug overdoses… and if you’re just not into dog shows or Spring Break “comedies”.  At least Nelufar Hedayat’s seven-part serial is factual, and features, indeed, a surprising amount of open-minded investigation.  I’m afraid that the winsome Nelufar, though always painfully in earnest (and often ready to burst into tears, as in exploring the insatiable Chinese appetite for pangolins), reminds me of all too many twenty-somethings around us who are going on twelve.  Her naïveté can border on obtuseness.  I’m glad she didn’t get herself killed in Cambodia or El Salvador.

The segment on adoption is the one that I’m using today as a springboard.  Having children has become critically problematic in many Western nations.  Feminists have convinced three generations of women now that they’re trash if they surrender themselves to marriage and childbearing at twenty-two.  Sexual experimentation and frequent abortions have often reduced fertility, even within that age bracket.  Then we have our toxic high-tech environment, awash in drugs, hormones, electricity, and stress: another few ticks up the infertility scale.  With the dating scene having grown so carnivorous, many young people who might otherwise nurture a keen interest in raising a family give up after a few years of emotional assault and battery.  I must wonder if the burgeoning business in dating sites really makes the game any safer.  All you know about a person in such impersonal circumstances comes from responses to a questionnaire, or perhaps from a few highly staged moments on a video.

These are my observations, not Hedayat’s.  I offer them as my own explanation of what’s fueling the tawdry market in international adoptions.  Most of Nelufar’s segment is devoted to the “legal kidnapping” of young children from living parents and then offering them to Western parents as orphans.  A lot of money is swirling around in this sewer, and most of it ends up in the hands of criminal middlemen, in the form of bribes and bounties. I applaud Hedayat for not making out the adoptive parents in these cases to be just another beachhead of “Western imperialism”; she understands, rather, that they are victims of another kind.  Were she to have dedicated an entire serial to the subject, she would have remarked, as well, that domestic adoptions for Westerners are a virtual impossibility.  That’s not just because of the many instances where the mother changes her mind at the last moment, having been bathed for nine months in an abject attention and queenly power of which her life had always been void before; nor is it because of further cases, also common, where the true father was incorrectly identified when papers were signed, and he decides to show up (after sowing wild oats in other places) and claim his right-by-DNA three years after the little one has settled into a loving adoptive home.

No, the main reason that Western parents can’t adopt from Western sources is abortion.  Well over half a million babies are terminated every year in the US before they can draw their first breath… and a few, apparently, just after they draw their first breath.

So here’s my solution.  Kidnapping is impermissible: Hedayat makes that poignantly clear, if it needed clarification.  But just as impermissible to our squeamish, highly evolved taste in the West is “buying a human being”: i.e., paying the mother of an unwanted child to surrender the infant at birth.  Is destroying the baby, however, less heinous than “buying” it?  I would think that any reasonable person would quickly come forth with a “no”: it is not better to suck the fetus’s brain out with a syringe than to let a loving couple carry it off to a waiting crib.  However, to volunteer this prima facie value judgment is to go wandering dangerously along the margin of various PC highways—and talk about “traffic”!  On these densely traveled ideological thoroughfares, the woman’s right to snuff out that creepy crawly bit of DNA within her must not be cast in doubt; so the “buying” option immediately runs into the Mack truck of a categorical moral assertion (the more categorical in that it tramples over moral common sense).

Now the “buyer” is put on the defensive and must plead his case as the more unsavory suitor.  “So you think you can buy my… my fetus, you stinking money-bags capitalist, just like you have bought off the rest of the world around you?  You think I’m for sale?  You think my body is a commodity at your meat market?  So… how much are you offering?”  For the truth is that a great many women would sell their “fetus” if the price were right: not for ten grand, maybe… but for forty or fifty, hell yeah!

To be sure, the option is sordid.  But the moral gymnastic that must be executed to exercise it is less a bending of consciousness in the buyer-seller dynamic than a warping of consciousness around the blunt fact that murder awaits the “unsold fetus”.  No, no, no: mustn’t say that, mustn’t go there.  We must have the buyer eat humble pie—and we must design the pay-off so that it more resembles an indemnity for hardship endured.  “Poor dear, you’re suffering so much!  Having this delivery will be painful, and it will also reduce your productivity on the job.  The pain and suffering alone are worth… shall we say, forty thou?”

No, the solution I propose is not morally immaculate.  It’s not even particularly clean.  But as the lifestyle we fashion for ourselves sinks deeper and deeper into the mire (and I sincerely look for avant-gardists to clamor—say, by 2024–for a mother’s right to euthanize her baby a year after birth), we have fewer and fewer clean choices left.  Moral survival nowadays is all about prioritizing dirty choices.

Body, Soul, Self… and Things That Grow Between Them

It took me four months of off-and-on labor, stolen daily from other needful tasks… but at last have I cleared and leveled a tract of land measuring about half an acre.  I don’t entirely know why I did it.  Part of the reason was simply to create a buffer zone between our living space and the area’s more aggressive wild critters.  Part of it, too, was a rather wishful notion that we might some day have grandchildren playing in the space, which I have come to call my “field”.

An old cedar remains intruding slightly upon the field’s otherwise well-squared boundaries.  If it had been merely a pine sapling, I wouldn’t have left it standing—for the young pines are so greedy for sunlight that they tend to choke each other off, anyway.  But cedars are rare, and they also appear to be more abundant in their rarity as dead trunks strewn throughout the forest than as upright, vibrant pillars of bark.  Some disease must be decimating them locally.  This one, too, may not be around for long.  I decided that I should allow it to enjoy whatever time it has left in peace.

Now, what if I were a young woman bearing a child?  What if I faced a choice between clearing out that “underbrush” which impeded certain routine functions or, instead, letting it grow to term?  I could say, “It’s my body, and I don’t want this thing here just now.”  I could say, “I have other plans for that space.  This is inconvenient.”

In the same way, the field I have created is on my property… yet I decided to leave the cedar standing, because I felt that asserting my right over the land by taking the axe to everything in my way would be wanton.  If a tree can elicit such consideration, then why cannot a human sprout receive the same consideration?

The analogy is absurd, the young pregnant woman would respond.  One does not own a piece of land as one owns one’s body.  But is this as valid an objection as it appears? I am not rock and soil—but neither am I mere flesh and blood.  As I approach the threshold of old age, I grow ever more aware that the body is a rented space that I occupy but cannot bend precisely to my will.  Weather wears away the most ambitious acts of human cultivation… and time wears away the body’s responsiveness to will and whimsy.  Maybe if the young woman understood this, she would not be so hasty to take the axe to the small plant trying to spread leaves within her.

She insists, however, not only that the body is hers, but that it is her.  The unwanted “weed” will create physical pain for her that my cedar would never create for me.  This would be a curious argument, though, for “clearing the cavity”; for the woman chooses to uproot something so much a part of her body—herself—that it drums upon her nervous system, whereas I have allowed an organism to remain alive which isn’t integrated into my perceptual receptors in the least.  One would think that the “growth” legitimately belonging to its host would have a greater claim upon preservation.

Yes, we amputate cancers (or attempt to do so)—but in this, we recognize that our body is a mere vehicle or rented property: a temporary cubicle for the spirit.  We do not amputate a thumb because it’s sore, since we understand that it is among the furnishings entrusted to us by the lease.  Is the embryo a cancer or a (sometimes) sore thumb?  Is it a remarkable amenity occasionally and naturally available to the female physique… or is it an invading parasite that threatens to shut down the whole system?

To return to my previous terms, is the embryo the beginning of a new shell that will convey a new soul… or is it an intrusion upon the woman’s “me”, the bodily presence which completely defines her identity?

Much discussion on this subject has grown contradictory, in that the woman who insists upon a one-to-one correspondence with her body is also often waging war with that body.  A fetus is not a cancer.  Its appearance brings to fruition something that a healthy female body is designed to accomplish.  Yet many women appear so belligerently opposed to their natural endowments nowadays that they not only demand the right to amputate the fetus: they even want their reproductive organs changed.  An academic of some sort, I hear, claimed on television last week that breast-feeding is unnatural.  Some women, though not opting to carve up their bodies, decide that the “they” inhabiting said bodies is of the opposite gender; and some insist that this gender can vary with each day on the calendar.

I wonder… in these preposterous contradictions, might we be witnessing the pitiful struggle of the spirit to declare itself in a decadent age when spiritual reality is everywhere formally denied?  Is “gender dissatisfaction” the suffocating soul’s incoherent protest, “I am here—and I’m not the body I occupy?”  Is the passion for abortion (and it is a genuine passion, especially when one considers with what ease pregnancy might be avoided these days) not a similarly garbled protest?  “I am not a baby machine!  That’s my body—I am not my body!  See?  I take this baby and… and I shred it!  I flush it!”  The act is some kind of vendetta.  I find it comprehensible (as the insane can become comprehensible if you allow for self-annihilating energies) in no other way.

Of course, when a fundamental contradiction is admitted into a system, its ripples spread everywhere.  Hence the same women who declare independence of their body by amputating or mutilating its rebellious members also insist that they must obey all biological drives and urges instantly (as self-expression!); and yet more absurdly, they would revile someone like me for clearing his land and “raping” nature.  The suppressed awareness of their own wanton disrespect of nature is transferred to me when I seek to husband nature so that artificial growth patterns may more healthily sustain both plants and animals.

When any human being denies the reality of the spirit, every other reality in his or her life suffers distortion.  Up at last becomes down… and the inverted cross, by the way, is the premier Satanic symbol.