“Expertise”: Ideology’s Contemporary Battering Ram

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As I recall now with an effort, my very first attempt at submitting a scholarly article involved an interpretation of a few words in Book 2 of Virgil’s Aeneid (line 749).  The hero is narrating his frantic return to the flaming ruins of Troy in search of his wife Creusa.  He uses the phrase, cingor fulgentibus armis, to describe… what, exactly?  A scholarly tradition has evolved which holds that the poet simply whiffed on this one.  Aeneas, so runs the wisdom, has already “girded myself with bright arms” several verses earlier.  My objections to the collective wisdom were multiple.  I argued that a) it’s too late in the narration for Aeneas to arm himself—he has left the rendezvous of refugees well behind, as the verse’s first half declares in the present-tense words, “I return to the city”; b) the style of the full verse (ipse urbem repeto et cingor fulgentibus armis) would be perfectly Virgilian if the latter half were reiterating the former (i.e., “I myself return to the city and am hemmed about by glistening arms”); c) Aeneas is indeed being figuratively “girded” by arms as he creeps among the pillaging Greeks—the scoffers are missing the drama; and d) the verb cingere is used both of girding oneself, as when buckling a belt, and of encircling a city with defensive walls.  There’s a bit of a connotative strain created, perhaps, by having a human figure girded with the contents of a city.  But we’re talking about poetry, right?  About a poetic genius, in fact… right?

Wrong.  We’re talking about “scholarly consensus”.  It’s more acceptable to condemn Rome’s Shakespeare of not describing his scenes with pettifogging precision or of not purging his scribbles of daringly figurative language than it is to call into question the collaborative nods of a hundred academic jackdaws on a clothes-line.  If the poet (as I was informed by the rejection letter) had employed the verb cingere in this novel fashion, it would be the only instance of its being used with such intent in the entire epic (what classicists call a hapax legomenon—a “once read”).  Actually, that’s not true.  “Gird or surround” remains the verb’s meaning, here as elsewhere.  The collective result is called a figure—as in poetry!

But since something done once is a suspicious oddity to the pettifogger (even if a glorious discovery to the poet), any unique instance is likely a mistake.  Therefore… therefore, nothing unique is ever plausibly said or written, and consigning the “apparently unique” to the much larger body of things already said and written is the “sensible” course.  Naturally, that bit of high-handedness makes the body things already said and written grow yet larger, and… and tendency becomes inflexible rule.  Creativity becomes impossible.

That was my professional introduction to “expert opinion”.

Now, it also happened that I came of age in a time when all conventional wisdom was being trashed as irrelevant or hopelessly corrupted by special interest; and there’s no question in my mind that literary studies proceeded to collapse during the Seventies and Eighties under the toxic influence of various slovenly, self-serving “reader response” approaches.  My own loyalties, then, were torn between my almost religious regard for artistic inspiration (a truly religious regard: read my Literary Decline and the Death of the Soul) and a profound disgust with the politicization of art to serve trendy crusades.  I say “between”, yet what I’ve just written doesn’t support those polarities.  The Old Guard was not my ally at the spiritual end of the tug-of-war.  The ”scholarly consensus” had rigidified our literary heritage to “gird in shining armor” its patented theories and its long, long baggage train of publications; the New Guard had dumped that heritage (along with the baggage parasitically attached to it) in the nearest bin and was now celebrating Simone de Beauvoir and Rigoberta Menchu as the superiors of Sappho and Marie de France—just to keep it female.  Different politics… same politicized motivation.  Careers, egos, authority: the Tower of Babel.

And so it is, alas, in the sciences—or so it has become.  I and the very few of my colleagues who somehow smuggled an appreciation for the spiritual into closely guarded ivory corridors would occasionally look with longing across the quadrant at Chemistry or Engineering and dream about what it must be like to work in an objective discipline.  Pipe-dreams… mere pipe-dreams.  For as scientific research became funded more and more by grant money, the assumptions of that research acquired more and more of a parti pris.  Why would a pharmaceutical company underwrite a study of a new cure for insomnia if a dozen harmful side-effects were to be unearthed and published?  Oh, but surely government grants wouldn’t import such sordid pressures into the lab… surely not!  No one in government has an agenda that requires a particular worldview to be validated!

I’m trying to tread warily and tastefully into a subject that bears an incalculable amount of significance for our future as a society: the reliability of “expert opinion” in the medical field.  In all of the sciences, as life grows ever more riddled with high-tech, strict integrity becomes more important; for we laymen must be able to rely on recognized experts as critical facts drift farther and farther from the reach of our intellectual competency.  How do we know, drawing purely from our own resources, whether a huge solar flare will toast the continental power grid or not?  How do we know whether GMO’s are safe, or whether a light coating of Roundup threatens the health of Third World nations more than an unimpeded swarm of locusts?  How do we know whether Extremely Low-Frequency Waves are still being directed into the stratosphere, whether their activity might cause the Earth’s magnetosphere to reverse its polarities, or whether the effects of such reversal might settle down harmlessly in an instant or end all terrestrial life over a period of months?

In the particular case of medicine, the stakes rise (or appear to).  Somehow, solar flares and locust swarms and the magnetosphere seem awfully distant to us.  They’re not distant at all, and maybe, indeed, they’re seeming less so every day.  The susceptibility of many average Americans to outright panic about the weather should prove that the paranoia stirred in us by our own cluelessness sits very near the surface, ready to erupt (like the supervolcano under Yellowstone that may or may not kill us all) at the slightest provocation.  Still, when you can’t even breathe the air with confidence… when you dare not even leave the house without a mask, and when you’re reluctant even to leave the house… then a face perching on a white coat and stethoscope becomes the Voice of God.  That’s understandable.

But it’s also understandable—only too much so—that those who want minute control over our behavior would enlist (or dragoon) the support of the medical community in their authoritarian project.  And, as with all other academic disciplines, the more government has become involved in medicine, the better it’s been able to enlist (or dragoon) support.  Grant money, yes; also board reviews and licensures, federal mandates, control over the means of payment, awards of access to resources funded by the “inexhaustible” flow of tax revenue… policy-makers can finesse intimate decisions reached between doctor and patient in dozens of ways.  You may remember the controversy Obamacare kindled about a medical exam’s resulting, perhaps, in the confiscation of the patient’s personal firearms.

Such concerns have diminished only to the degree that we’ve now surrendered the principles underlying them.  Peter Helmes published a piece at his Die Deutschen Konservativen site a few weeks ago about an interview between Gert Scobel and psychologist Thomas Metzinger.  Primarily, the exchange concerned the future use of hallucinogens like LSD to treat depression.  The “medical man” expressed eagerness and optimism about the potential of mind-altering drugs to promote a “universal consciousness” highly amenable to the Green Movement’s radical political objectives.  The scenario is more Orwellian than Orwell: a populace fed delusion-inducing substances to sway it toward the vision of a world that doesn’t exist and can’t exist.

Okay, yes: that’s Europe, this is America.  But our supreme medical expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, publicly foresees the day—without the least indication of personal alarm—when citizens will be required to have a battery of injections and to produce on demand documented proof of compliance.  On the bankrolling side of this “expertise”, Bill Gates proposes further that the “document” might take the form of a microchip injected (with or without the citizen’s knowledge) during the mandatory inoculation.  That an astroturf initiative to “debunk” Gates’s connection to such authoritarian fantasies is raging on Twitter and Facebook should not soothe inquiring minds.  (Diana West informed Frank Gaffney on Secure Freedom Radio [4/15/20] that explicitly incriminating comments had been scrubbed from a Gates TED Talk.)

I don’t like Anthony Fauci.  I don’t like Bill Gates, either.  I don’t like either one of them at all, at all.  I wouldn’t break bread with them; and, were hand-shaking still permitted by the Faucian hygienic protocol, I wouldn’t shake his hand or his one-time patron’s.  Not either hand of either one of them.  I intensely dislike them, as American citizens and as human beings.

Their level of expertise has nothing to do with my dislike.  It is the traitorous American and the corrupt human in them that I loathe.  Anyone who would seriously consider, even for a moment, tagging you and me the way Marlon Perkins used to tag zebra from a Jeep has renounced his membership in the family of decent, responsible adults.  No one gets to tag me.  No one gets to stamp your profile on (or in) your forehead.  People who have notions like this are monsters.  I don’t care how well they understand viruses—and Mr. Gates, for that matter, understands them no better than I do.  I personally am not a virus in a vial, or a white rat in a cage.  I’m a man.  I am your equal under God, Dr. Fauci; and if you were my age (I’d even give you ten years), I think I might bust you in the chops—after which I would carefully sterilize my knuckles.

Let us please clarify the nature of expertise.  The expert on Virgil is restrained by a humble veneration for poetic genius and artistic mystery: he isn’t a mandarin on a throne who gets to gird up a classic text tightly within verbal statistical analysis and historical minutiae.  The expert on human health respects the spiritual mystery of the human being: he isn’t a master technician for whom the behavior of viruses in a sack of guts is no different from their behavior in a Petri Dish.  To hear such a supposed expert descanting about how future societies should be organized is equivalent to hearing the New Age scholar interpret the Aeneid as a mere work of militaristic propaganda.  That is, a “literary scholar” who can do no better than say, “The people’s Will was held in check by these creaky old epics that exhorted them to die for the patriarchy”… that person is no better than a “medical expert” who says, “We could avoid pandemics in the future if people would just move in designated zones, eat designated foods, and touch each other in designated ways at designated times.”  Damn.

Yes, the scholar who knows the history of the Augustan age inside-out is certainly superior in some manner to the quasi-literate Ph.D. who rates every art work ever created by how well women and minorities make out in it.  The researcher who has actually logged decades of experience before a microscope is also superior to a Bill Gates who fantasizes about vaccinating all humanity with whatever he deems good for the race.  But a genuine expert is neither of these.  A genuine expert would say, “This is odd with respect to available linguistic data… but it’s also poetry”; or, “This risk could be reduced if people would do less of thus-and-so… but life is complex, and the choice among possible behaviors isn’t mine to make except for me personally.”

One could say that playing God is above the expert’s pay grade; but when New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy volunteered this flippant excuse for ignoring the Constitution, he was de facto putting himself in the position of God Almighty.  Part of being an expert is understanding the limitations of your expertise.  To claim authority over the destiny of humanity because you have a rare knowledge of human diseases is like labeling a hundred deaths a calamity without identifying the number of lives that survived the specific threat.  Knowledge without context is magnified ignorance.

Two Austrians Fled a Third… And Found Refuge in the Truth

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I’m not going to apologize for being thoroughly pessimistic in the past month of posts; or if I do ask pardon, then I should start by craving it of myself.  I have to live with me—and it ain’t easy these days!  When a few national commentators dare to go off the script and mention the number of suicides that our lockdown will inspire, I know exactly what they mean.  I’ve never been less afraid of death.  I keep thinking of the first words uttered by Sophocles’ Teiresias when the blind prophet is led onto the stage of Oedipus Tyrannos: “What a fearful thing is thinking when it brings no profit to the thinker!”

Stay busy: yes, that’s always good advice.  I’ve been in “lifeboat” mode now for several months, really.  By that I mean that I have given the ship up as lost and am occupying myself with considering alternatives for possible survival on the dark, cold sea.  Only since President Trump has begun signing off on multi-trillion dollar “stimulus packages”, though, have I actually been consuming distinctly less political commentary from sources I used to trust.  There’s too much stuff that begins, “This is our last chance,” or, “We need to act immediately if we are to avoid disaster.”  Wrong.  The last chance has come and gone.  Those spending bills were one helluva big iceberg that just carried away half of our hull.  I can’t tolerate any more evasion of such hard facts.  Lower the damn lifeboats.

But survival does indeed call for profitable thinking… so disillusion and even pessimism mustn’t turn to abject despair.  We’ve lost the big one: now let’s win some little ones.  I scarcely know where to start.  I continue my routine of trying to acquire greater understanding, however, as a retired academic who mucks about in his infant orchards much of the day.  I’ve begun reading two works that I probably should have read long ago: Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies and F.A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.  As part of my regimen, I try to read new books in one of the non-English languages that I’ve studied for years—not in the illusion that I’ll ever “use” them in the future (whatever that means), but just because I hate to let a skill lapse into decay.  You fire up your old Triumph and give her a little spin around the block once a week, not because you’ll ever seriously use the thing for transportation, but because… well, she deserves not to die if keeping her alive costs so little.

So, anyway, here I am reading Popper in Italian and Hayek in Spanish.  (Somebody might murmur wryly, “You’re going to need that Spanish”… but, no, the Spanish I read isn’t anything remotely like the jabber we hear at Wal-Mart.)  The irony is that both of these men came to English as a second language; so I’m accessing their thoughts through a tongue into which the original text has been rendered—but that text itself represented a tongue with which they struggled.  Could there be a better illustration of the Spirit taking serene shape above a great cacophony of words? We are one, even in our misery.

I haven’t actually read quite a third of either book at this point, but I’ve seen enough to be intrigued.  Hayek’s much-reprinted classic is littered with forewards and prefaces in the early going.  I infer from all the explanations and further explanations that he was greatly surprised by the work’s success, especially in the U.S.; that he was nevertheless dismayed at how it had become caught up in a political tug-of-war as Joe McCarthy brought to public attention the degree of communist infiltration in our society; that he had never intended to condemn all kinds of government “planification” out of hand or to declare that their presence made totalitarian rule inevitable; and that his primary concern was simply that exposure to the notion of paternalistic government begins a long, long process of corrupted and surrendered freedoms.  There is a mildness to this man, I find, that indeed makes him an unlikely dynamo at the center of a whirlwind.  I see in him an apt illustration of a phenomenon we’ve come to know only too well: the slanderous caricature by the Left of anyone who dare question centralist, statist orthodoxy.  McCarthy himself was thus tarred and feathered, and with scarcely more reason.

For my own purposes, considering where I am (i.e., deep in the hole of despair), I find a kind of comfort in Hayek’s big picture—a comfort, of course, which he would have been chagrined to provide.  He obviously believed that we yet had time to reverse course in the Fifties, and even the Seventies (when the final edition of Road to Serfdom appeared).  I suppose we probably did have time, even in the Nineties… but instead of regretting our bite of the apple, we came back and stripped the tree (with no less zeal during the two terms of George W. Bush than in any other era).  The air of fatality which Hayek so heroically rejected settles, in retrospect, quite heavily over the past thirty years or so.

My son’s generation, in short, was not sold down the river into slavery only by Pelosi/McCormick “stimuli” and President Trump’s compliant pen.  The dark stranger has been riding down the road since that distant day when we might first have spotted him exiting the mountain’s pass.  And here I’ll toss a bone to the enemies of capitalism and slanderers of innocents like F.A. Hayek: our ravenous appetite for ease and convenience is deeply implicated in our rush to greet this sooty rider.  We’ve been reared, at least since the end of World War II, to desire more stuff, cheaper stuff, and stuff of ever greater frivolity.  The market made us such uncritical, undisciplined consumers.  The cry that spurred us on from the new screens before which we were reared was, “Get it now, cheaper than ever!  You deserve it!”  Has not such thinking fed—yes, inevitably—into the yet more seductive cry, “Get it now, paid for by the rich!  You’d already have it if they hadn’t stolen it from you!”  The devilish rhetoric of the sell was indeed inevitable.  It was our response that might have offered up resistance… but, you know, getting something free at the expense of “the rich” is an even better deal than getting it cheap at the expense of Chinese slave labor.

Karl Popper seems an odd companion in this discussion.  I was surprised, upon consideration, at how perfectly The Open Society slides right in.  I had no initial inkling that the book was a study of Plato’s utopian project in The Republic… and I was a little let down, honestly, upon making that discovery.  Why would the previous century’s premier philosopher of science (as I like to think of him) be scribbling away like the antiquarians with whom I attended graduate school?  Popper’s footnotes, indeed, were so voluminous that they posed a major obstacle to finding a publisher for the book.  Among additional obstacles were the author’s self-imposed and shifting exile as Hitler tightened his grip on Central Europe, his struggles with the English language (as I’ve noted), and his need of American friends and contacts to mediate as he met with one rejection after another from publishing houses.  Hayek was running up against exactly the same barriers at the same historical moment.

But at least one Austrian was tackling the central ideological issues of our time, while the other was retreating to… Plato?  Not a retreat, however: no, but rather a recognition that these very issues were not at all distinct to our time, but were embedded in the human condition.  As I muddled through the first pages of Popper’s tome (its title grotesquely caricatured by George Soros, that living master of satanically torturing words to mean their opposites), I made the further error of supposing that he was just thrusting his personal preoccupations where they didn’t belong.  What had Plato to do with Hitler and Stalin?  (And both Popper and Hayek, by the way, realized that those two miscreants had issued from the same sulfurous ideological womb.)

I won’t exhaust both myself and the reader by trying to encapsulate Professor Popper’s reading of Plato. A brutal compression would be to say that Plato, everybody’s most admired philosophical transcriptionist, is unmasked as having commandeered the reputation of Socrates—everybody’s most admired philosopher—to sell a totalitarian vision.  (Just one example: Socrates’ “a man with power should always beware of his ignorance” becomes Plato’s “a man with power should be purged of ignorance”.) It’s all finely reasoned and meticulously documented, I promise you: hence the merciless footnotes. Yet I had never heard a peep about such interpretive possibilities during all my years in the academy.  By the way, that interpretation turns out to fit.  It isn’t the whimsy of an expatriate who subconsciously imposes the shadow of the dictator he so detests upon every bird, cloud, and blade of grass.  It’s all perfectly convincing.

By way of illustration, I’ll confine myself to the Platonic theory of Forms or Ideas.  I recall being exposed to this first as a college freshman, and thinking, “Those ancient Greeks… what a strange lot!  Did they really think that we’re born with a Table Archetype in our heads that allows us to recognize a table?”  Plato was offered up in just such incoherent, irrelevant terms; and, as I say, nothing I later heard in any ivory corridor added any profundity to my initial impressions.

Popper’s view, however, makes of the Forms something very like what I’ve written of recently as “future worship”: the adoration of hazy objectives, that is, merely because they exist in “tomorrow”, where we’re assured of having transformative superpowers.  It is an irony, to be sure, that Plato’s gilded castles exist in the remotest of yesterdays—in the atavistic Heroic Age when men feasted with gods.  Yet behind the irony is the link which binds Hitler and Stalin, Nazism and communism.  Both visions take as their destination a point whose access—whose mere reality—cannot be validated by current perceptions, common sense, and humane moral imperatives.  Both require that we become something we’re simply not; or, inasmuch as they acknowledge our being unequal to the task, both urge upon us the acceptance of a superman or a super-race.  Both concede that the Peerless Leader’s superior authority cannot be logically deduced or rationally defended.  Both demand of us, therefore, that we embrace a cultic fanaticism—that we suppress our individuality and merge ourselves into an obedient herd.

Precisely.  This is true, it’s brilliant… and it’s disparaged or ignored by our academic institutions and broadcast media as they condition forthcoming generations to chew the cud of totalitarianism.  Add Hayek to Popper, and you have an all-too-prophetic warning that the adoration of the Charismatic Leader who solves all of our problems for us is forever leaking into human societies, drop by drop, decade after decade. Didn’t the Old Testament teach us about our self-destructive craving for kings?

How is the combination implied in “permanent collapse” possible, I wonder?  How can things forever be deteriorating in Hesiodic fashion if there were no genuine Heroic Age at the head of all the fallen dominoes?  If we have always been as we are now—flawed, corrupt creatures in need of a redeemer outside our earthly time frame—then how can we also always be getting worse? Since we’ve always been bad, how do we manage to keep doubling down on it?

I don’t know, my friends… but such is the truth, or what little we can see of it.  Perhaps it is our societies that are forever coming unraveled—and perhaps it is only redeemed individuals who forever keep bits and pieces of them from careening over the precipice: just enough for yet another try where the run-off of Eden’s gentle rain puddles.

How to Take a Wrong Turn on the Climb to Heaven

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Ever since I passed along to him a short anthology of Near Death Experiences compiled by a practicing physician, my son has sustained a lively exchange with me on the subject.  Being young, he is impressed by such “hard evidence” of life beyond the reality we know.  (Our nation’s school system, from bottom to top, certainly hasn’t given his generation any aesthetic or philosophical inkling of an empirical approach’s inadequacies—so empirical testimony against mere empiricism becomes very powerful.)  Personally, I’m always just a bit leery of the NDE.  It’s not that I’m an incorrigible skeptic.  On the contrary, I’m one of the few people you’re ever likely to know with years of grad-school conditioning in his past who believes that extra-terrestrial life (or its projection through an ingenious fleet of robotic minions) has probably visited our solar system.  I don’t think I’m particularly narrow-minded.

No, the problem I have with the typical NDE is the implications that over-excited chroniclers tend to draw from it.  The surrounding discussion often has the tone of boundless, almost delirious optimism.  “You see?  All is really sweetness and light!  It’s all love—love for everyone!  All is forgiven!  It’s just one great warm embrace!  All is swept up into the… the cosmic All!”  Okay, let’s stop and ponder that.  No justice for mass-murderers like Stalin and Mao (add Hitler if you like… but don’t forget Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and King Herod).  No motive to try harder in this terrestrial existence—to “seek the kingdom”.  No reason why sincere sorrow and repentance are anything but wasted time.  Lighten up!  All you need is love!

In their defense, I will say of most NDE witnesses that their encounter is brief, dazzling, and (by definition) limned by the incomprehensible.  They’re not the ones who seek to graft sweeping metaphysical conclusions onto their out-of-clock-time ecstasy (a word which literally means “standing outside of”).  They were abruptly jolted from their body… and then they found themselves bathed in light and soothed by predeceased friends and family.  As far as I know, most of them haven’t borne back a message about how the universe is put together.  They merely reiterate with John the Gospelist, “True love hath no fear.”

Dr. Eben Alexander’s kerygma from the Beyond is not so modest.  My son forwarded this YouTube link to one of the good doctor’s many public presentations.  Alexander’s case has received special attention, apparently, because 1) he himself was a neurosurgeon who had practiced for two decades when a seizure caused his brain activity to flatline, 2) he was thoroughly agnostic at the time of the incident, and 3) his brain was so very moribund for days that no sort of short-circuiting or “flame-out” could have accounted for his visions.  Clearly, something very extraordinary happened in this man’s return to corporeal life, if not in his hours of unverifiable transit through another life.  He should have been dead—quite dead.  The feeding tubes had actually been removed from his body for days before his recovery.  His revival was miraculous.

And, yes, Eben Alexander experienced virtually all of the classic NDE moments: the dark tunnel (in more static form), the indescribably bright light at its end, an angelic chorus, the warmth and limitless love of innumerable figures… but he claims to have been entrusted with uncharacteristically specific information, besides.  He was told (in a degree of detail that Dante would have envied) that the universe is unfolding according to a great plan—and that this plan involves reincarnation.  We are to return to life in better-informed stages that, collectively, will set our planet—and other planets in other galaxies, eventually—on a hyperbolic path of intersection with heaven.

An unimaginably beautiful woman (who was plainly not some morph of the divorced Mrs. Alexander) was the doctor’s Beatrice during this revelation.  I note in passing that I’ve never read of any other NDE where Miss Universe puts in an appearance and spiritually fondles her visitor.

I’m being a bit facetious now.  It’s a way to send some of my irritation through an escape valve.  In my opinion, Dr. Alexander had a fully legitimate encounter with the unspeakable bliss that awaits us beyond this Vale of Tears… and he proceeded, consciously or otherwise, to finesse some of its contours into a form more marketable than the raw material would have been.  His book has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for years.  His speaking honoraria have likely dwarfed his surgeon’s income (which, in itself, constitutes a small miracle).  He has chatted intimately with Oprah before a global audience, and he routinely gives presentations even for medical personnel thanks to his lab-coat cred.  I gather that he is involved in some sort of cutting-edge tech company that aspires to point the medical-scientific community’s nose more directly into metaphysics (or its ears: the technology has to do with harmonious sounds and healing).  Life has become pretty good for Eben Alexander—and, of course, I mean life on “this side”.

How many of these dark terrestrial tunnels would be beaming with warm gold-and-silver light at the end if Alexander’s testimony had remained (as NDE’s usually do) within confines of direct personal experience, without the peek at a cosmic playbook?  Wouldn’t that more typical result have smacked of… well, Christian orthodoxy?  Didn’t the “reincarnation” message sweeten it sufficiently that Oprah would line up to drink the Kool-aid?

On the one hand, I fear that my response may be too caustic.  After all, Alexander’s narrative is not so very far off the track of other NDE’s.  Maybe he just misspoke at key points, or maybe I have misinterpreted something he said.  I myself believe that the afterlife must surely be an occasion for “linking up” with innumerable other souls—for begging and granting pardons, for getting the whole story of what happened, for healing and growing strong as something yet more magnificent emerges.  Perhaps the abuse of the word “reincarnation” was this man’s clumsy metaphor for a reality whose approach to God is so near, and so ever-more-near, that only the notion of an utterly regenerated body in an entirely different life can convey the thrill.

And yet, that higher, deeper life cannot be entirely different.  This life matters.  Morally—spiritually—it must matter.  What we do is what we are: it is the “here” from which we must depart to reach “there”.  It’s not a prison, or need not be.  God’s will is not that we suffocate forever within the folly of the narrow walls we build around ourselves.  In the recognition of our folly, however, lies the key to the gate.  We cannot become better than our fleshly form—that temporary cast in which we have so distorted God’s image—if we turn out never to have existed physically, in the first place.  Our human individuality must not become an irrelevancy.

Such cancellation of our individual worth as creatures is where I see Eben Alexander wandering dangerously off the track.  He sings off-key.  His hymn sounds to my ear like secular progressivism with a mystical tingle in the background.  The confessional note—the admission of past error that signals true growth, and also the joy of dissolving another’s guilt over injuries done—isn’t audible.  Instead, we are ushered into a no-fault vision of things getting better and better and better… things on this earth, since reincarnation is the engine driving the ascent.  Alexander even offers the Gnostic heresy’s hint that souls are reincarnated as justification of his thesis, and he tosses in the rumors of Christ’s day equating John the Baptist with the resuscitated prophet Elijah.  A proper Christian faith, apparently, ought to become more Hindu.

The first time I encountered this infatuation of the theoretical scientist with the most ancient religions on earth was, I suppose, in Carl Sagan.  It probably goes back much farther.  Its pedigree, at any rate, must surely transmit a load of progressivist DNA through every branch of the family tree.  The better here-and-now’s the thing—not heaven, not metaphysical bliss: no, bring it down here, and put us now on a path to reach it!  That’s a slightly more spiritual version of launching the Starship Enterprise (but not really—just more spiritually adorned).

You see, Dr. Alexander, our world is not getting better and better in any way that I can discern.  It may be getting worse and worse… but I’m willing to attribute such pessimism to the filter of my own rather depressive predisposition.  It’s certainly not sprouting wings as more enlightened individuals return in new bodies—and, by the way, utterly purged of their former individuality.  You say, Dr. Alexander, that many very curious cases of ESP involve children who recollect images or events from previous times and far-flung places.  Yes, those interest me, as well.  But wherein do you find evidence that these children a) preserve the character of Captain MacKay who died on the field of Culloden or, more importantly, b) display any moral awareness beyond their years?  What are you thinking, man?  What world are you living in right now, as you bow to your applause and shake Oprah’s hand?

Do you consider that you yourself have become a better man than before, though you have failed to learn—Other World Journey notwithstanding—the moral necessity of individual coherence?  Say you’re indeed better; but you are still Eben Alexander, are you not? So may we expect the better Eben within minutes of your eventual death, as your soul flutters into a newborn? Right now, then—message and all—you’re just the old, inferior Eben… have I got that correct? Or have you been permitted to transport certain revelations despite your lack of corporeal upgrade? I like much of what you propose.  I, too, love the idea of using sound to access a clearer, cleaner state of consciousness; I’ve long suspected in my own life that our urban environment damages our minds with its sheer cacophony.  But… but Doctor, why must you insist that Beatrice bestowed upon you the secrets of this healing power so that we might go forth and Conquer the World for Goodness?

Oh, how I dread that formula, in all of its versions!  World conquest—and always, always for “goodness”!  Millions of hearts have coddled it, if their tongues have not exactly expressed it… and not all of those hearts, by any means, were bad ones from the outset.  Yet none was ever made better after nursing such a spiritual virus.  This world is imperfectable: at best, we hold our own against sin.  True hope lies elsewhere.

Perhaps I’m especially distressed by Dr. Alexander’s video because I have just published The Eternal Moment: Seeking Divine Presence in the Present on Amazon.  You can read there at much greater length of my concern over “future-worship”, our time’s dominant form of idolatry, if you’re interested.  I urgently suggest that you get interested.  Beware of “ascending” staircases whose bottom step rests upon today’s earth and whose top step merely reaches tomorrow’s earth, or the next day’s.  Such climbs tend to go steeply downward, from heaven’s perspective.

“Most Scientists” Are “Laughing” at Our Unsecured Power Grid—But Our Climate Panics Them

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The photo above represents your alternative source of light at night after an Electro-Magnetic Pulse takes down the power grid.  The same source will also provide all of your evening’s externally generated heat, unless you have a fireplace and a cord of wood.  And if you need to contact someone long-distance… well, why not try shouting at the Moon?  The chances of getting an answer back from her are about equal to those of reaching your loved ones across the continent.

But wait, I forgot: we don’t need to worry!  The mainstream media, having heard from someone or other (I can’t imagine whom: their sources are usually named “Anonymous”) that President Trump issued an executive order to secure the power grid in March of this year, have devoted themselves to deriding the threat’s reality.  If Trump wants it… he ain’t gonna get it; if he says it’s deadly… let’s invite it to a party!

Hence the article, “Is It Lights Out for Trump’s EMP Push?” in Politico by one Sarah Cammarata.   Tommy Waller urged the audience of Frank Gaffney’s Secure Freedom Radio podcast (Nov. 22) to track down this piece and read it.  We should alert ourselves, he advised, to the degree of arrogance and contempt with which a genuinely terrifying and imminent threat to our survival—as opposed, say, to rising sea levels—is greeted by Democrat representatives and their media lackeys (what one might call the Traitor/Useful Idiot Complex).

To arrogance and contempt, Mr. Waller might have added “early adolescent command of the language and pre-adolescent analytical abilities”.  Those are further qualities, at any rate, which Ms. Cammarata brings to the discussion.  The notion of an “EMP push” in the title is already a head-scratcher.  Donald Trump hasn’t been “pushing” for an EMP: he has been trying to secure our national grid against a major EMP’s apocalyptic effects.  Cammarata, however, appears to have her attention focused on something more like high-fiving: and hence she communicates in a kind of kid’s shorthand (as when a child says “beeper” for “smoke-detector”).  One of her opening sentences reads, “On Sept. 13, controversial physicist, self-declared climate skeptic and backer of the fight against EMPs William Happer left the White House.”  I suspect that neither Happer nor anyone else with a degree in the sciences would describe himself as a “climate skeptic”… or are we to suppose that he doubts the existence of climate?  Controversial physicist?  Is that a new variety of physics—or does Ms. Cammarata’s set simply disagree (having mustered the entirety of their gray matter to produce a thumbs-down) with his belief that plants actually like carbon dioxide?  The fight against EMP’s?  Again, one doesn’t fight an EMP: that’s rather the whole point, Ms. Cammarata.  You can’t fight them.  They occur naturally, and a major solar-pulse event appears to be overdue by about half a century.  You and your chattering legions may conclude over cocktails that you can fight “climate”—but a massive ion storm, at least, is irresistible.  What you do, or what one does (or what a functional adult would do), is protect the electric grid from utter incineration.

But, no, let’s denominate all the significant factors with the same precision as is used in labeling Bill Nye “the science guy”… and then let’s whoop and holler because “we won” and “they lost”.

I know that Thursday is Thanksgiving.  I know that I, for one, will find great joy and gratitude in my heart late Wednesday night if my son’s plane lands safely, despite the machinations of certain unscreened intruders for whose ease Ms. Cammarata’s clique has already dissolved our border security.  The truth is that featherbrains and subversives have transformed our national celebrations of solidarity, thanksgiving, and respite from routine anxiety into the most fearful times on our calendar; for it is precisely at these times, when parents, siblings, and children are en route to annual reunions, that diabolical minds would most like to spring a calamitous trap upon us…..

As I sat pecking those last words on my iPad, a “news flash”—courtesy of our Big Brotherly link to reality, Twitter (that is, our link to Big Brotherly reality)—informed me that two people had been shot in an incident at a North Carolina medical center.  Stop the presses!  The propaganda machine never misses a chance to inform us of more gun violence, as if this were almost as great a menace to our safety as… climate change!

Yet in the matter of a legitimate threat whose eventual realization is as sure as sunrise, we are to smirk and cherry-pick stray facts as springboards for jokes.  “Warnings about electromagnetic pulse attacks have long inspired eye-rolls or outright guffaws among national security experts, but advocates of the issue briefly found a home on Trump’s National Security Council….”  The joke’s the news, you see, in the Cammarata school of journalism.  No names, just “eye-rolls” and “experts”.  And yes, on any given Thanksgiving or Christmas, your son or daughter’s plane is more likely to plunge to earth because of a terrorist bomb than because of an epochal solar flare… so let’s all have a good holiday laugh as we roll the dice along with our eyes.  If we lose, just about everybody dies… but the odds of winning seem really good.  Today.

Just about everybody, yes.  Peter Pry’s commission (described by Cammarata as “now-disbanded”, as if its members had been sent packing in disgrace) reproduced a projection of federal agencies that ninety percent of the continental US’s population would die within a year if the national grid went down.  About all we ever needed to do (and this has been known for years) in order to insulate ourselves from major consequences is enclose our generators in Faraday cages, an incredibly cheap and quick fix to neutralize such a devastating blow.  (“Some experts predict [the hardening measures] could cost billions of dollars,” notes Cammarata, eyes rolling, with her typical accuracy and precision—and displaying the concern for frugality that she brings, I’m sure, to her assessment of the Green New Deal).  Instead, we shall stay just as we are until a major storm of solar flares produces something like the 1859 Carrington Event (a recurrence of which, as I’ve indicated, is overdue).  Then our lights will go out, our heating and cooling systems will be kaput, aircraft will fall from the sky, cars with computerized systems will refuse to run, gas will not pump, refrigerated food will thaw, credit cards won’t work, any water not cranked up from a well (i.e., all water that once flowed from urban and suburban faucets) will dry up, hospitals will offer no assistance, emergency responders will be stalled and overwhelmed, rioting and panic will erupt… but no, it hasn’t happened yet, so why should it happen tomorrow?

Pardon me if I now reproduce a full paragraph from Politico which captures like no other the utter frivolity of the discussion:

A consensus among most in the scientific community is that EMP attacks are nothing to worry about and even a laughable subject. But a smaller group of scientists has argued that the federal budget should make a priority of spending for preparing for EMPs — as do some political figures, such as Cruz, who reject the much greater scientific consensus about the perils of human-driven climate change.

Sigh.  For once and for all, scientific truth is not determined by majority vote—not even a majority formed of scientists.  On issues as complex as the behavior of Earth’s magnetosphere—or of its climate, by the way—an endocrinologist’s or entomologist’s verdict carries no more weight than a trucker’s or shoemaker’s.  Indeed, even within relevant fields, experts in one area must cross-reference their understanding with that of experts in other areas.  “Science” does not qualify as a specialization of any sort.  “Most scientists” laughed at Watson and Crick when they first presented research that would lead them to discover the double helix of DNA.  In general, laughing is not a scientific response.  Yet here we find the jolly “most scientists” trope so favored by exponents of manmade climate change trotted out to dispose of EMP concerns; and, indeed, Cammarata explicitly nudges in the idiotic “climate-change denier” slur (nobody denies that climates change, by the way) to tar the Cassandras of the insecure grid.  She well knows, too, that names like “Cruz” (“Carson” and “Gingrich” were introduced earlier into the rogues’ gallery) will further prejudice Politico’s readership against viewing the crisis as serious.  So the argument amounts to this: “We know that the Trump phalanx is always wrong about everything; we see them here clamoring for billions of our money; most scientists disagree with them, and they fail to show similar anxiety over Global Warming, regarding which most scientists are again on the other side; ergo, laugh away at them—and let’s have some contempt in that laughter!”

The single advocate of the “most scientists” position named by Cammarata is “Arthur House, the former chairman of Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority”—and House, indeed, doesn’t criticize the science behind EMP anxiety; he only emphasizes that utility companies are unlikely to foot the bill for securing the grid if left to make their own decision.  This is precisely the self-interested motive for reprehensible inaction which Peter Pry repeatedly underscores, and which is documented exhaustively at SecureTheGrid.com.  Need I add that many of our “most scientists” have been employed at one time or another by these highly compromised private-sector quasi-monopolies?  In other words, in the process of ridiculing the threat, Ms. Cammarata has exposed to us the primary reason for why we should mistrust the scoffers.

The article’s most appalling moment comes about halfway through.  Having been assured for several hundred words that “most scientists” consider the probable effect of an EMP on our grid no worse than the aftermath of a hurricane (I actually added that tidbit to Cammarata’s detail-starved ramble from other sources), we’re now in for a final, clinching argument.  Our friend Mr. House, who appears to wear a second hat as a security expert, delivers the following insight: “The problem is it’s such a blunt instrument.  An EMP just wreaks havoc without much precision.  In that way, it’s like an unsmart bomb.”  Umm… did you get that?  We have nothing to fear because… because an EMP attack would kill virtually all of us.   It thus “invites massive retaliation” on the part of the Dr. Strangelove crew surviving in bunkers, concludes our “expert”… as if any of our land-based nukes would remain capable of launch, or as if Kim Jong Un or his handler, Xi Jinping, would give a damn if a few millions of rabble were smoked.  Sleep tight!

If House’s confidence that an adversary would decline to murder three hundred million of us is the article’s most appalling moment, its most puzzling feature to me is the final several paragraphs that seem to ramrod in the names and protests of numerous EMP-worriers.  I confess that on my first perusal of the piece, my iPhone buried its concluding words under such a mountain of advertisements that I failed to notice them.  The discussion appeared to have ended.  Later I found that, incoherently, the advocates for the contrary position came trickling in, their voices already drowned under a steady din of laughter from the scientific (but unnamed) multitude.  Puzzling, yes: what does Sarah Cammarata make of the overwhelming authority (if underwhelming numbers) behind her opposition?  Why smuggle this section in almost as a postscript?  Is she in fact somewhat persuaded of the risible view, but anxious about becoming a laughing-stock herself?  Is it so very painful to admit that perhaps Donald Trump did one thing right?

I wish I were making up all the incoherence and puerility that besets the Cammarata piece at every turn.  Alternatively, I most sincerely wish that I took more comfort in the assurances of unnamed “experts”.  I wish I could understand why the high-balled estimate of cost for neutralizing this low-balled menace to humanity is just too much, yet the sacrifice of our First World economy to ensure that time-shares in Florida don’t go under the waves is a good swap.  I wish I hadn’t just finished reading Diana West’s American Betrayal—that I wasn’t so convinced, both through reading and through personal experience, that our government, our education system, our news media, and even our clergy were riddled with people devoted to our nation’s collapse, if not actively in the pay of its mortal enemies.  I almost wish that I could coast insouciantly through my evenings awash in Daiquiris and through my days surrounded by other texting-and-chirping idiots like me. As Sophocles’ Teiresias laments, “What a fearful thing is thought when thinking brings no advantage!”

On my own (that is, without the aid of giggly “informants” like Cammarata), I’ve tried to understand the other side of the issue. I keep dredging up versions of House’s insane cocksureness just above: assessments that an atmospheric detonation adequate to take down the national power grid would imply the ongoing presence of full-blown thermonuclear warfare, and would further imply… what? That “their” destruction would be mutually assured in ours? That the consequences of “their” aggression would almost certainly carry over into “their” terrain? Again, if “they” are Xi Jinping and his genocidal Caligulas—or, for that matter, if “they” are merely the Iranian mullahs eager to be transported to the Gardens of Paradise—how is such chessboard strategizing a comfort? And how do we actually know who “they” are before the lights go out… and why does all such reassurance, without any exception that I have so far found, ignore the eventual certainly of a purely natural EMP of major proportions?

Because it’s well worth adding that at no point does Cammarata register the possibility of a catastrophic EMP’s occurring quite naturally: she wears the tribal feathers quite prominently in that regard.  Yet such stupefying negligence should make our lack of preparation exponentially more alarming (assuming that our “beloved enemies” would commit only tactical slaughter, not genocide).  We have no viable plan on the drawing board, either, for averting a large asteroid on a collision course with Earth… and I don’t think I’m far wrong in supposing that a meteoric event could produce an EMP event—that a Tunguska-level vaporization of a massive rock in the upper atmosphere could black out an entire continent today.

But “most scientists” are unconcerned, because no catastrophe happened yesterday and, probably, none will happen tomorrow.  Now, death by… whatever… from “climate change” in a dozen years (by drowning? by overheating? by rioting? I never understood exactly what—and it changes) … yeah, we hear that “most scientists” are down for the Race to Save the Climate.  Of course, “most scientists” need grant money from our highly politicized federal agencies.

Meanwhile, the Russians and the Chinese have long since secured their grids, though money is much tighter in both economies than in ours—and they don’t seem to be spending a penny on keeping sea water off the beaches. Why is that, do you suppose? Guess they just don’t have any “scientists”.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball: Impeachment Is Screening the Long Game

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I prepared the following letter to send to my two state senators, David Perdue and Johnny Isakson:

Dear Senator,

Below is a link to an article that Marina Medvin posted on the Townhall.com site a few days ago.  Her subject is the “Racial Literacy Curriculum”: an aggressive, expanding initiative of certain totalitarian spearhead organizations among us—also known as Boards of Education—to confuse K-8 children, early and often, about their common humanity and to elevate race to the apex of the values-pyramid.  I knew that the state of California was a magnet for agents of social and moral chaos. The piece says that Virginia and North Carolina, of all places, have now been added to the map of territory (along with New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Illinois) conquered by these race-baiting “professionals” who exploit our young children. The endgame (and this is Ms. Medvin’s conclusion as well as mine) is to dissolve bonds between neighbors, leave a new generation utterly demoralized, and render centralized government bureaucracy the only Big Brother and the one Dear Friend in their lives.  In a spiritual context, this objective could be called Satanic.

I have been reading for years through Peter Helmes’ Die Deutsche Konservativen website about the inroads that the pederasty-promoting “Green Party” has made in German public education.  I knew, as well, that the EU is always the testing ground (being a much easier, more “loosened up” target) for these initiatives in subversion.  And as I say, it never comes as no shock to see California’s bureaucratic elite collaborating in the utter destruction of traditional values and social coherence.

But Virginia….  My wife responded that parents should pull their children out of public schools and home-educate them.  She, like others in the general public who haven’t spent my decades working in the education racket, doesn’t realize how much up-front cost, investment of time, and harassing red tape is involved in that strategy.  Also like most voters, she believes that the states in question must learn from their own errors and do a better job at the ballot box next time.

One problem is precisely that most of the decisions behind such covert social and moral overhaul are not directly reviewed by the public, though they may be made by elected officials.  (This line from stateuniversity.com leapt off the screen at me: “Elected school board members have greater independence and freedom to act in the best interests of the school system than do appointed board members.” The Orwellian “act in the best interests” oozes the smug admission that, once assured a term of several years, these self-willed marauders do what they damn well please.) Sweeping curricular changes that may overthrow the community’s moral and spiritual life are never brought before the public and submitted to an up-or-down vote.  It is felt within the profession, I’m sure, that ordinary citizens are far too dull to pass a competent judgment on what their children need in the classroom.

As for protesting at PTA meetings or refusing to have one’s child participate in some immoral “assignment” or other, I believe there have been cases in Canada where parents have lost custody of their children for such resistance… and maybe, if memory serves, a few similar instances on the West Coast.

The other major flaw in the view that we must patiently allow parents (and their children) to suffer until a new round of elections arrives is that what happens in California doesn’t stay in California.  That’s why Virginia has now fallen… and perhaps Georgia will be next.  Yet even if the decay fails to spread this way (and we’ve lately seen how close Soros money came to hijacking our governorship), it nevertheless poisons national elections of the future whose consequences impact us all.  If enough children reach the age of eighteen in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan who question their gender, are suspicious of their parents, have no prospect of a stable relationship in the future, and understand the history of our republic essentially as “Auschwitz for Indians”, then your and my grandchildren are sure to live (or die) in a Union of American Socialist Republics.  And this, once again, is the endgame of all classroom subversion.

I’m not a lawyer.  I do know that the Constitution makes no explicit provision whatever for public education, though I also know that the institution sprang up very early among individual states.  My question to you is this: is there no way to introduce an amendment to the Constitution (for instance) that would require public approval of every school district’s general curriculum through formal plebiscite?  Could one not argue, in fact, that parents are being deprived of the liberty to instill values into their children without due process under the present quasi-Soviet system?

I know we’re all much more alarmed right now about having the 2016 presidential election airbrushed from history by unprincipled saboteurs in suits and bureaucratic kinglets than we are about, say, sex education in Kindergarten or fire-and-brimstone preaching against “white privilege” in second grade.  But we shouldn’t be.  (For that matter, I think impeachment was about getting our eye off the “subversion” ball, all along.)  If, in ten or fifteen years, the electorate is awash in young voters who look nowhere but to the State for guidance—and then to the ever-improvising progressive state, not to a constitutional republic—then it really doesn’t matter if Donald Trump stays in office until 2024, or if he builds a wall, or if he stares down Xi Jinping.  The Chinese, indeed, are very skilled at the long game.  If we lose control of our classrooms, we’ll wish we were the Soviet Union—but we’re much more likely to be PRC West.

I don’t want my grandchildren living in that hellhole.

Let Each Day’s Worries Suffice Unto Itself

Before you know it, everyone will be casting a nostalgic eye back over 2019.  Thanksgiving, incredibly, looms less than three weeks away.  Then Christmas.  Then… well, you know.

I began my year trying to do some tiny little bit of good for a fellow named Buddy Woodall, whose case was profiled in a Netflix series (The Confession Tapes, Episode 6) and who’s going to spend the rest of his life paying for two murders he didn’t commit because you can’t get a retrial for having a stupid jury.  Sorry, Buddy.

My first spring attempting to nurse along a couple of orchards (mostly pecans and apples at this point) was beset by several problems, such as voracious deer that chewed right through the protective netting I laid out… but that kind of discouragement is Life 101.  To see the republic dissolving around our ears was rather harder to take, especially since I had begun reading Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago for the first time, as I must guiltily confess; but then, how many “newly minted” Ph.D.s in History do you suppose have ever been exposed to a line of it?  Learning about the bureaucratic inferno that follows when God’s most arrogant creatures try to correct all of the “design mistakes” in human society, and—at the same time—watching new waves of college graduates give the thumbs-up to suppressing speech, ruining small businesses, terrorizing families in suburbia, decriminalizing crime, energizing a magnet for chronic human slavery, producing a wildlife holocaust in the quest for “clean” energy… yeah, I’ll take the sharp-toothed deer, please.

At about this time, my son had introduced me to Jordan Peterson on YouTube… and I discovered, as well, that I could only watch Jordan via streaming on clear days, since Internet out here in the boondocks has its drawbacks.  Welcome to the edge of the grid!  That’s where I said I wanted to be in retirement, so… así es.  It was Peterson who nagged me into reading Solzhenitsyn.  Somewhere along the way, I also blundered into Diana West.

Diana West… American Betrayal.  All I learned from this book was that FDR’s insuperably pompous idiocy was undergirded by a thick layer of Soviet operatives (over 500 strong), that Japan would never have bombed Pearl Harbor without the sabotage of skillful diplomacy from D.C. (but I already knew this from Herbert Hoover’s Freedom Betrayed), that Harry Hopkins engineered the passage of heavy water and uranium by the ton to the Soviet Union via Lend-Lease, that our beachhead in Italy established after tremendous loss of life was abandoned because Stalin didn’t want us straying through Eastern Europe, that the carnage of D-Day was indeed owed entirely to FDR’s servile submission to Uncle Joe’s will, that most of the Jews exterminated under Hitler could have been saved had Moscow not dictated our foreign policy, that Hopkins and his fellow Roosevelt-puppeteers ignored the pleas of Admiral Canaris and other high-ranking Germans to assist their overthrow of Hitler, that our government actually left upward of 20,000 American boys (mostly freed from German and Japanese prisons) to rot in Stalin’s gulags without a peep… all of the foregoing—all of it—to court some kind of “convergent” ideological marriage with Stalin’s totalitarian insectification of humanity.  Also know as progressivism.  And West scarcely hints at the Russian role in garbling our Japanese negotiations as the war wound down, such that the dropping of the Bombs was deemed necessary by Truman when it could easily have been averted.  The construction of the Soviet Empire demanded that competitors for territory in the Far East be cleared off the board.

How much truth can one man take at the age of sixty-five?

Meanwhile, as summer morphed into fall (a summer that was supposed to have warned us of “climate change” with its record number of dry days and high temperatures—followed by a fall that has come crashing through with unusually cold, wet vigor), I watched my one-time heroes in Congress leave a slimy collaborative trail straight to the sidelines as the jackals gathered around the President.  Andrew Napolitano, Ben Shapiro, Jonathan Goldberg… Ben Sasse, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz… we’re not talking Mitt Romney here: these are (were) persons of premier intellect and character.  Where are the snows of yesteryear?

In my bid to live within the limitations of HughesNet, I discovered the Podcast; and there, much to my delight, I further discovered Frank Gaffney’s Secure Freedom Radio, along with Tom Fitton’s Freedom Watch and Sarah Carter’s mostly fluff-free broadcast (that’s a compliment: I hate fluff, Mssrs. Crowder and Hunter).  Trouble is, I was once again plumbing the depths of “truth overload”.  How many days in a row can you hear that Communist China is well on its way to preparing an insect farm for us idiot Americans as we supply all the raw material (à la FDR Administration)?  Personally, I am thankful to the Democrat Party for helping me to view my exit from this world with equanimity, and even great joy, as I enter my final laps… but I have a son.  The rest of you have children and grandchildren.  Is Hell big enough, deep enough, to contain as many Judases as busily engineer our ruin?

Sarah Carter opined yesterday (in a days-old broadcast that I played during my workout) that we have lost the ability to make up our differences and be civil to each other.  Bless your gentle heart, Sarah… but the party who always had to clam up at faculty gatherings or family reunions was yours truly, not the legions of virtue-signaling exhibitionists around him.  The incivility sits almost entirely on one side of the table.  It’s the same side that wants to leave unwanted babies to die after a failed abortion, to lavish taxpayer dollars on criminal vagrants, to reward child-molesters and slavers with free entry into the country, to let small entrepreneurs starve if they won’t kneel at the altar of “LGBTQ Pride”.  There’s no middle ground where one can pitch a tent and meet with purveyors of such moral atrocity, whether their service to chaos is deliberate (Harry Hopkins) or arrogantly unwitting (FDR).  We have no coherent society left.  We have California, expelling its toxic influence into neighboring states the way wildfires are eating their way across its own townships.  We’re in nuclear meltdown.

I need to get up now and go unwrap my brave little orange tree: I need to find out if she survived last night’s onslaught of “global warming”.  And then I need to haul my potted bell peppers back out on the porch—for today is clear and sunny.  These howling apes in clothes can go about their business of destroying everything their ancestors created in population centers all over the world.  If HughesNet permits, I’ll publish my not-so-uplifting ramble for a few eyes in a few parts of the world where Internet isn’t yet severely filtered.  Tend to your gardens, brothers and sisters.  They won’t betray you—even the deer won’t undermine you—if you bend your stiff neck and study how they grow.

“Corrupted Mind/World Interface”: The Black Plague of Our Time (Part I)

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When Diana West finally mentions Herbert Hoover’s Freedom Betrayed in her recent expose of FDR’s Soviet-infused administration, American Betrayal, she seems much less impressed by the book than I was.  “Hoover doesn’t explain the shift in thinking” (she writes) that left the Western world—from the Washington press corps to Winston Churchill—scrambling to obfuscate Soviet atrocities like the Katyn Forest massacre of 22,000 Polish officers.  Hitler was the only evil on earth: Stalin’s satanic regime was forever being rehabilitated for public—and personal—consumption.  The number of Ukrainians systematically starved under Stalin (and a lieutenant named Khrushchev) during the Twenties would roughly equal the tally of Jews later gassed by the Reich, and ample news of ongoing slaughter throughout Russia leaked out in the decade before the war. Nevertheless, Soviet communism was being patiently window-dressed long before Stalin’s assistance against Hitler was deemed necessary.

It is in this part of her deeply unsettling tome (about two-thirds through) that West raises the subject of “convergence” in detail: i.e., the theory that Western democracy and Eastern collectivism would harmoniously merge if our side bent to meet their side.  In an arrogant naïveté of stupefying magnitude, Roosevelt seems to have answered William Bullitt’s warnings about the USSR as follows: “Bill, I don’t dispute your facts, they are accurate.  I don’t dispute the logic of your reasoning.  I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man.”  Bullitt summarizes FDR’s attitude as “the vice of wishful thinking,” a phrase embraced by West.  And it’s a good phrase, but…

But I nonetheless have the feeling that Diana West herself comes short of providing a full motive for what James Burnham, many decades ago, called the “suicide of the West”.  Infiltration of academe by communist operatives, check; penetration of the news media and the state department by Soviet moles, check; infection of the intelligentsia by the utopian theory of convergence, check; but… but what else?  Nothing deeper?  Manipulation by malevolent external forces, seduction by a beautiful design that looks good on paper… but why is the design seductive?  Were those who so admired it smoking something that had been smuggled to them, once again, by malevolent external forces?  How much of our folly can we blame on master-spies?

It’s still going on, after all.  It’s happening every day.  I don’t think the “vice of wishful thinking” was distilled into my erstwhile minister’s misty brain by a covert operative when she was blaring that the desire for borders is mere “xenophobia”.  (Yes, I’ve changed churches.)  There has to be some other reason why so many of us are so susceptible these days to childish delusions of such dangerous proportions.  Doesn’t there?

My own theory is that something potentially fatal happens when a culture begins to lose touch with basic physical reality.  Marxism views the Industrial Revolution as a watershed stage… and maybe the Marxists, like a broken clock, are right sometimes by accident.  I, too, think the abrupt deracination of long-settled peoples from the land and their all-but-forcible (fully forcible, in Red China) transplantation to urban centers lies somewhere near the cause’s root.  The sun no longer shines upon you throughout the day.  You never again drink rainwater delivered by a clean brook.  You don’t know the calls of various birds, or which call signals danger and which a change in the weather.  You can’t identify a single constellation at night—hell, you can’t see a single constellation from most of these smoking urban crypts.  The exiled millions no longer possess the kind of wisdom embodied in their parents’ proverbs.  They don’t understand that “work is a great teacher” or that “the product of a man’s labor is his praise” (to cite a couple of Irish samples), as simple and earthy as such knowledge is.  Instead, they learn that they must conserve their energy when performing servile chores for a paltry wage, and that only strength in massed numbers can resist the power of wealth and privilege.

The Industrial Revolution made human beings less human.  It shifted our species from the apex of Nature’s pyramid and fixed it firmly within a termite mound, where a few queens were served by thousands of nameless minions.  It crushed individuality while promoting conformity; it suppressed the free enterprise of the village’s clever artisans while spawning a ruthless kind of capitalism that largely predetermined the big winners.

That’s right, I said it (and, for some reason, it remains a highly provocative thing to say): capitalism, far from being a synonym for free enterprise, turns out to be its mortal enemy in the evolved, high-tech economy.  Most of us haven’t come to grips with this; as a society, we certainly have not.  We exhort our children to hurl themselves into mind-numbing, soul-killing careers after college (“Just be glad you found a job!”) and expect their generation to discern generous latitude for freedom and creativity in this arrangement.  We ignore, most likely, the wreck in which our own careers left our higher ambitions.  We seem to think that writing code to keep Amazon from being hacked is something like cutting and stitching good leather saddles or laying chimneys that will last a century.

And it’s not just a change in the spiritual quality of labor (the “despiritualization” of labor) that has fueled our corrupt taste for escapist fantasies—our “vice of wishful thinking”; the very feel of stone in the hand is alien to us, and the very scent of a horse in harness.  We’ll laugh and exclaim, “Well, I’m glad I don’t have to smell that horse’s calling card out in the streets!”  No, we don’t have to smell much of anything that’s unwelcome.  If the woman at the desk next to ours wears too strident a perfume, we’re apt to complain to the boss.  As for those flies that followed horses as mold follows deadwood… Pascal once mocked the philosopher whose airy speculations are ruinously disrupted by a little buzz at his head.  Do we even comprehend his reference any more?  Our air-conditioned spaces have banished noxious insects.  We ourselves have grown as artificial as the indoor climate we have created.

Of course, here I write about the twenty-first century’s white-collar bureaucrat, not about a Joe in overalls carrying a lunch pail.  But we have ever fewer of those Joes: their grandsons… they are us.  The Industrial Revolution has produced so many machines to perform so many purely manual tasks that those who still have jobs tend to be punching keys rather than rivets.  Our grandads were merely denied a view of the stars: we (and especially our children, if you’re my age) don’t understand the intricacies of the manually dialed “land line” phone.  The stars?  They’re those destinations where faintly green humans with pointed ears speak elegant English to Captain Kirk’s boarding party.

We’ve become practical idiots.  Why learn to change a tire when you use Uber most of the time, anyway?  What’s a washer?  All that turning on and off of faucets… Siri or Alexa handles that.  A torn shirt, a worn-out shoe?  Search Amazon under “apparel”.  (Or is it under “clothing”?  The other word might be confused with “app”.)  Hungry and don’t want to go out?  Order pizza.  Health-conscious?  Google Home Chef or Magic Kitchen (or, better yet, download the app for future ease if you’re industrious).

I don’t say that we are idiots.  Obviously, we’re technological whiz kids.  But we are perfect imbeciles where the rubber meets the road (in a cliché I last heard during a Firestone commercial thirty years ago).  We have no significant connection with hard labor—with sweat, bruises, dirty fingernails, gardens smoked by a heat wave, poured concrete ruined by a flash storm… we inhabit a bubble the reinforcement of whose artifice is usually the source of whatever good jobs remain.  Ortega y Gasset wrote almost a century ago that modern man (and he says hombre masa, our ordinary Joe) lives in greater luxury than the Sun King did four hundred years ago.  The emperor of all that he surveyed was still using a chamber pot less than two centuries ago: a kid raised in the Projects today scarcely catches a whiff of his effluent before he flushes it.

What has this to do with embracing Stalinism?  Why, everything.  It explains why we can embrace the “relief” of communism (no more unemployment, job interviews, performance evals, or constant competition) without sniffing its ordure (no more creativity, novelty, individuality, personal success, or free expression).  We don’t understand how reality works—how it really works, off the drawing board and down in the shop (where assembly is now robotic).  Our parents once learned something of human nature early on by reading great novels and plays in high school; now a phalanx of utopian evangelists from Education programs force-feeds us on the “narratives” (i.e., the monochrome, cartoonishly stereotyped struggles) of women fighting the patriarchy or Sioux orphans caught in the White Man’s world.

Once again, when I say “we”, I’m thinking especially of our children. We learned little enough about the great wide world, and now they have learned less than nothing (enough, for instance, to think that every tornado signifies climate change).  I should really devote a second commentary to the pathological consequences of exile from hard reality that I see in their miserable ordeal (and I truly commiserate: they didn’t ask to be dealt this hand).  I’m growing rather long for one morning.

Let me break off this half of my analysis, then, by stressing that we and our fathers—and, indeed, our grandfathers—were already suffering from the progressive disorder of “corrupted mind/world interface”.  (Of course, the pun in “progressive” is intended.)  Is it entirely accidental that Woodrow Wilson was an Ivory Tower eremite?  It may indeed be accidental that he ended his kingly administration almost as a vegetable, with his wife running the bluff of competency for him; but then, just a couple of stops down the road, we have the wheelchair-ridden FDR, prince of all practical idiots.  His anemic puppeteer, Harry Hopkins, was so debilitated by mysterious and chronic ill health that he arranged the rise of the Soviet Union mostly from his bed in the White House.  I’ll leave the state of Barack Obama’s mind/body interface to your imagination.  He apparently could lift a golf club and a basketball; but his “hands off our token half-African treasure” upbringing was certainly no initiation in the school of hard knocks, and his very fuzzy orientation to family and sexuality… no, I won’t go there.

Remember, though, that the real subject of this speculative study is the electorate that advanced such people.  It’s us, and our children.  It’s my (until recently) minister, older than I; and it’s the offense-detecting dynamos who dissolved into ungovernable indignation five years ago when I lightly quipped to a class of college seniors, “I hope the homework doesn’t drive her to suicide.”

No, we don’t behave—collectively—like normal, functional human beings of ages past.  And there has to be some other reason than that Boris and Natasha have laced our drinking water with hemp.