Scientific Reasoning: Remedy to Pain or Recipe for Panic?

I haven’t use the Dictaphone on my iPad for two years.  I wouldn’t be using it now except that I can’t type with two hands.  My right arm is about to fall off, and I don’t want to overdose on Tylenol, which has seen me through much of this week. I decided that the ordeal that I’m going through might be instructive in a more general way.  I hope so… at any rate, it’s all I can think about for the moment.

I could adopt the attitude of a certain neurologist that I visited one time (and only one): that is, assume that any pain in my body is my prostate cancer metastasizing again.  The arm seems to have somewhat migratory pain from the top of the shoulder down into the wrist.  Migratory pain: that’s sort of heads up.  And then… well, 2+2 = 4, doesn’t it?  Patient had prostate cancer earlier this summer; now patient has migratory arm pain; ergo, must be the cancer coming back again in a new spot.

That’s the kind of analysis that a cancer patient would embrace naturally enough.  I suppose all of us (or those of us with certain unwholesome personality traits, anyway) immediately lunge to the worst possible scenario.  Something well worth remembering about science, however, is that it yields no absolute truth.  If one is trying to diagnose a pain in the body or any other empirical problem, one looks for evidence to support this or that particular theory over its rivals.  In my case, the “cancer” theory doesn’t have a whole lot of evidence behind it.  It’s about as nuanced as the 2+2 = 4 formula: you had cancer before, you have a pain now, the pain must be cancer.

But I can also, with reflection, link the pain to specific “trigger” events having to do with excessive exercise.  As a kind of would-be hitting instructor in baseball—an excavator of techniques long forgotten by the game—who operates a site at SmallBallSuccess.com, I construct hypothetical versions of century-old swings all the time.  One in particular had me jamming my right elbow quite a bit in the follow-through.  Not that I’ve ever played golf… but I believe golfers rather famously have the same problem.  The severe compression of elbow and shoulder joints seems to have pinched a nerve, or perhaps strained ligament.  When I was too foolish to leave the arm alone completely for several days, the pain quite predictably kept returning.  It would get better for a while… but then I would assume that “a little bit better” meant “recovered”.  Incredibly (I myself am amazed at my stupidity), I repeated the same miscalculation several times.  At last a nagging discomfort became persistent aching of a magnitude greater than anything I’ve experienced for years.

So what should I conclude about over-exercise?  I used to work out quite vigorously and, as one might say, religiously.  Am I just getting old?  Am I looking at incipient arthritis?  Is there any relationship to my cancer adventure at all?  I think the answer to the last of these posers is probably “yes”… but not the facile kind of “yes” that my neurologist wanted to promote.  Rather, I suspect that, because I’m taking so many hormone-suppressants to deny prostate cancer its natural fuel, I am also denying my muscles and joints the fuel they need to recover from routine stress.  If this is so, then perhaps I can find supplements that provide muscle support without hormones and move a long way toward solving my problem.

This is in fact the step that I am currently taking.  (Sincerest thanks to Mr. Sanchez for suggesting Garden of Life FYI Restore Muscle—a 100 percent vegan option).  But, of course, I’m proceeding without having proved my hypothesis: I’ve only rendered it the more likely of two proposals (which is, I would add, precisely the nature of scientific “proof” in practical application).  Could I have overlooked other possibilities in my desire to embrace a less malign one?

I know from my first round with cancer that metastatic cells do tend to move in upon bones when incidental tears and stresses occur to muscle.  What about my present condition would cancel that scenario?

Actually, I have a second pain of note—and it’s in my hip, because my right arm had grown so sore that I decided to throw left-handed in another baseball video.  In doing so (another very predictable result, in hindsight), I strained the inside of my right thigh.  Again, that source of pain is fully explicable as the product of repeated (and bloody foolish) aggravation.  One special point of interest here, though, is that the hip has at last almost entirely recovered.  I’ve gone back-and-forth with both injuries, but the hip is the one I’ve treated better.  Recovery is almost complete.

That’s a positive sign.  The arm has likewise shown improvement over periods when I nurse it along.  That doesn’t sound like cancer.

I might further note that my heel spurs have been acting up even though I have done no jogging or extreme walking lately.  The only explanation for that pain, inasmuch as there are no distressed muscle or bone complexes nearby, would once again be that even minimal exercise is not being handled very well—by any part of my body.  Tissue is simply not rebuilding itself overnight the way it used to do.

Finally I should point out that my shoulder has been hurting me more right after I have a typing session, usually in the morning.  (Hence my dictating to this annoying little iPad.)  That seems pretty conclusive to me.  Lots and lots of tiny muscle groups are used in typing: we all know about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  The recurring pain after an episode of typing very probably points to muscle damage.  What I need to do is a) take my new pills to allow my muscles and joints to recover in the absence of hormones, b) stop exercising with the ferocity that I used to bring to the endeavor, and c) find new exercises that keep me fit but do not put severe strain on my muscles.

This, I submit, is how scientific reasoning works.  You form an hypothesis, you create tests for it, you look for evidence that supports or refutes it, and—in the happy case of discovering supportive evidence—you continue looking for more support… or contradiction.  You consider evidence that is conspicuous by its absence.  What does the theory fail to explain that you want to account for?  Any theory can have a certain amount of support and yet be incorrect if the examiner proceeds no farther.

Too often today, unfortunately, our self-styled scientists exchange professional high-fives after they account for a rather restricted body of evidence, and they go no farther.  Heaven forbid that anybody should turn over another stone!  In fact, people who try to do so in certain celebrated cases lately have been publicly denounced, reviled, blackballed, and refused a place in the public exchange of ideas.  I don’t recognize this as science, yet it’s the body of thought that my ex-minister refers to as the “best science” in a recent circular emailed to the congregation.  The “best science”, according to her, insists that mask-wearing is our surest means of protection against CV-19.  The implication, I guess, is that inferior science reaches a different conclusion; for how else can you rate this science if not by its conclusions?  Do our “best scientists”, then, have any concern about the overwhelming evidence correlating mask mandates and lockdowns with the spread of the virus?  

Apparently not. It is the “best scientists”, rather, who have refused to allow such information into the public forum.  They offer no refutation of the graphs at RationalGround.com rational or similar websites; theirs is the tyranny, indeed, that has prevented the formal publication of a major Danish study on mask efficacy for over two months.  Expected to reach the public eye in August, this research has so far been rejected by The Lancet and JAMA due to the political incorrectness of its outcomes. One contributor answered a query about the paper’s status in these words, more or less: “It will appear as soon as we find a journal brave enough to publish it” (source: Daniel Horowitz, Conservative Review, Episode 743).

One earns an instant ban from Twitter if one seeks to publicize any such inconvenient truth. The “best science” appears to be associated with the position of shutting people off when they question conclusions on the basis of an abundance of contradictory evidence.  I’m glad the evidence in my own case doesn’t indicate that my cancer is spreading.  I have recent lab results, as well, that wave no red flags, and I have the responsiveness of my body to gentle treatment when I decide to use a little common sense in my exercise routine.  I’m not coddling myself.  I’m not allowing myself to believe something that has little support.  I’m choosing the conclusion for now that appears to have more evidence behind it.  I am not panicking, though I easily could; I am looking at what facts are available to me.  I’m also looking for further facts that seem unavailable but may be hiding from me in the shadows.  Meanwhile, I’m taking action on the basis of the most probable explanation.

This is what science is supposed to do.  It’s not good, bad, worse, or better.  It is certainly not “the best”.  It’s simply a struggle for us to make sense of physical reality, the roots of which extend well beyond our possible understanding.

As a person of (I hope) moderate education and intelligence, I deeply resent the attempt of the “best scientists”—as they clearly suppose themselves to be—to shut me up, to keep me from asking questions, to keep me from sharing theories with others, to make me fall in the line and march in one direction.  This trend in our troubled society is the very antithesis of science.  It will prove to be the death of science is if we allow it to thrive.  It is an intellectual—yes, and a moral—cancer that has likely already metastasized and may yet precipitate our us.

People of the Twilight: The Masked World Between Being and Non-Being

They fear life.  In many ways, they hate it.  It hasn’t been kind to them.  Mother Nature may have burdened them with unattractive faces, or the luck of the draw may have given them a single parent who bothered about their childhood needs a quarter of the time—and never on weekends.  Perhaps their temperament (who knows if such things are bestowed more by nature or nurture?) has prevented a comfortable degree of socialization.  They are oddball, alone, and without a cast of supporting characters or even a stock of pleasant memories to offer them refuge.

They’re likely to thrust a tremendous investment of affection upon a dog or a cat—the childhood- or bosom-friend they never had whose big eyes can always be interpreted as limitlessly loving and whose muteness as perfect agreement.  They tend to eat too much.  Whatever care they give to personal appearance often borders on self-mutilation, either to channel the loathing they feel for an unprepossessing body or, perhaps, to ground the argument that they could make a swan of the ugly duckling if they gave a damn.

Males, more often than females, seek escape in the virtual reality of video games.  The feminine taste leans more toward romantic fantasies available ad infinitum in ebook form.  Both sexes exploit social media in search of escape or relief—the male more likely to slash and burn with a lexicon learned from public toilets, pretending to be the buccaneer iconoclast he hasn’t the intellectual depth or moral courage to play in real life; the female more often curling up warmly behind an avatar and a trove of cliches that render her easily “friendable”.

The female is much more likely to have an above-average exposure to formal education.  One may even say that she is magnetically drawn to certain of the “social studies” in college because of the patented rationalizations they offer for her misery—the absolution of any personal guilt and the accusations lavished upon others.  Graduate-degree mills in several fields are indeed nothing short of a “crutch industry”, thanks to an abundance of her kind in the post-grad population.

The male of this species that dwells in twilight, while not so successful academically (and, for that matter, distinguished by his unsuccess in all endeavors), isn’t stupid.  He has a measure of intellect that might have been tapped for more-ambitious-than-average projects if only a means of motivating him existed.  He has dedicated whatever talent he possesses, sadly, to sneering and snarling at the system that walls him in with evidence of his failure and inadequacy.  He might possibly construct a bomb some day, and it might possibly be of the small nuclear variety: he has the acumen necessary for something of the sort.  The question is… does he have the courage, the hellish courage (think of Milton’s Satan), needed actually to make other humans who’ve never done him wrong suffer far more than he ever has?  Probably not.  Mercifully, in most cases, no.

As a footnote, I should add that another kind of male exists: more sociable, much more “female”.  Oddball yet eloquent, alienated yet readily found in company, he plays at the edge of twilight and represents an unstable ally.  His companionable qualities make him risky: he may withdraw in a given crisis from endorsing outright anarchy.  While he may follow whatever crowd forms to overthrow everything, he’s also apt to follow that hard day’s work with an evening at the theater or the cabaret.  He’s not a bomb-thrower; and if you yourself are one, you shouldn’t assume that he has your back.

Whether courtesy of the Ivory Tower or simply through natural attraction, both “pure” sexes of Twilight People are idolaters of the future.  The future is not now.  In Baudelaire’s grand phrase, it’s anywhere out of this world.  The details of that better—that oh-so-very-best—future are yet to be hatched out.  Why bother?  At the moment, the present needs annihilating, for Future Perfection cannot come to dwell among us until a place for it to dwell is swept clean.  A mind even of average intelligence, to be sure, would grasp early in “the struggle” that the Golden Age isn’t going to show up during the lifetime of its footsoldiers.  The Twilight People “get” this.  They embrace it, indeed.  The indefinite delay—the perpetual postponement—is more attraction than obstacle to the true believer.  After all, the future’s real gift is its looming, its approach.  One may devote one’s life to preparing the glorious way with far more zeal than one might bring to actual day-to-day life in any well-defined utopia.

The zeal’s the thing.  Life is hateful, miserable, loathsome… but zeal for tomorrow makes today tolerable—and may tomorrow, always almost here, never complete its disillusioning arrival!

Two further characteristics will likely have struck you about the People of Twilight as I wrote the previous couple of paragraphs: 1) they have no faith in any metaphysical reality, and 2) their zeal for “unreal reality” has been nudged into the gap of that missing faith.  It couldn’t be otherwise; for, as much as they shun daylight, they also fear the night.  They hate life, but they hate death, too.  They flee life, but can’t flee it too far—not beyond its edge; for in that chasm lurks the unthinkable, infinite and permanent oblivion.  Precisely because they’ve made nothing of life, they must cling to it.  It’s all they’ve got.  Maybe it will yet yield something pleasant, something worthwhile.  Probably not.  But at least there’s that chance in a million.  Beyond the pale, in the outer darkness… no chance of anything.  Ever.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of faith is its taking the terror out of death… and perhaps an advantage very nearly as great is its bestowing purpose on life.  Imagine the misery of having neither purpose nor a means of escape from purposelessness.  A difficult spot to find oneself in.  Twilight is the only alternative: a world that isn’t here-and-now but also isn’t the hereafter: a kind of ongoing suspension, a transport in cryogenic immobility from the hated world to the same world no longer hateful.  And you get there by dreaming of a world no longer hateful… on whose behalf you ignore, or actively incinerate, all in the world around you.

I’ve come now to masks.  I might have come to firebombing and Antifa, or to broadcasting made-up dramas in full awareness of their fantasy, or to translating every single human event into the plots and assaults of racists as ingeniously as John Donne transformed a flea into sexual intercourse.  But masks will do.  In fact, they are surely the supreme trope, the most expressive creation, of the People of Twilight.  The masked face breathes, but does not partake of your filthy public air.  That face may speak to you, but “socially distanced” and muffled by a sheet.  Its features are not those of a “death mask”, for the eyes remain open; but without contributing gestures from mouth or nostrils, the intent behind the eyes remains always equivocal.  Are they warm and simpatico… or are they hot and fuming?

The new face is half in the dying daylight and half in the clammy fingers of night.  It’s neither fish nor fowl.  Hands off!  You don’t know it—you have no hermeneutic key to its thoughts.  Wherever you may suppose it to be… it’s elsewhere.  Welcome to the brotherhood of the stay-away-from-me’s.

The rationale undergirding (or hiding behind) the mask is similarly evasive.  We are told that the mask keeps deadly microbes from exiting the wearer, and also that it protects the wearer from deadly microbes.  (Yet mask-cultists never appear to register anxiety about infecting others: their concern is always for their own vulnerability.)  The mask’s weave blocks minute viral particles… but it does not compromise the wearer’s lungs by trapping larger contaminants and bacteria before the mouth for hundreds of inhalation cycles.  The mask is security against a virus traveling everywhere—everywhere—in aerosol form… yet it’s unnecessary outdoors, and its challenge is largely met by social distancing.  Your mask will protect you from me… yet I must wear one, too, because yours may not protect you.  COVID virons are so tiny that two mask-walls scarcely suffice to impede their attack… yet the visible gaps around the chin and the nose bridge are too small to open a passage.  Bare hands are constantly in contact with noxious “naked air”… yet those same hands are forever readjusting the mask, with a thumb or fingertip slipping past the gate every time.  Or if the wearer always “purels” and/or removes gloves before every adjustment… well, didn’t a bare hand grasp the second glove to come off, or didn’t a bare hand hit the pump of the Purel bottle?  And there’s always that potentially lethal three or four feet between the bottle and the face, filled by ever-untrustworthy free air.

Neither dead nor alive.  The People of Twilight are among us, and they are legion: just how many, we’ll soon find out.  But a house divided against itself cannot stand, and a people half of whom flee the daylight cannot grow and prosper.  What the deranged cultists of the fleeing half refuse to understand is that twilight, by definition, is unstable, ephemeral: a flight into night.  To reject life is to run into death’s arms.  To deny God is to affirm fearful oblivion.  There’s no third option.

FREE EBOOK: From Sunday (October 11) to Thursday (October 15), this text that I created for a college class is will be available as a Kindle download at no cost whatever. Mainstream academic publishers, of course, didn’t want to take a chance on my thesis: that medieval scribes had faintly Christianized the ancient Irish legend of Cu Chulainn’s journey to the Other World and the Welsh Owein’s transits through the same interface. They bristled even more when I added Marie de France’s Eliduc to the list, these days treated only as an indictment of toxic masculinity. Yet the redemptive allegory, at least in the last two, is unmistakable… except to the unredeemed.

Finding Peace as Willy Wonka Socialism Closes In

A few weeks ago, I joined a new social-media outlet dubbing itself CaucusRoom.  I will recommend it at this point only insofar as I‘m seeking “followers” for my newly created “cause”: to wit, the securing of our lamentably exposed power grid.  In our present state, we could easily be plunged into a genocidal paralysis devoid of refrigeration, central heating, air-conditioning, communication (beyond earshot or line-of-sight), home defense (of any electronic variety), transportation (unless we own a pre-1980 vehicle—and even then, understand that gas stations won’t pump fuel), cash resources (if related to credit cards or online banking), medical resources (if they run on electricity or require transport to hospitals, which in any case will have shut down)… we’ll become prime candidates for being starved, frozen, or murdered, in short.  Most of us—predictions have reached the figure of 90 percent—will die within a year.  And there’s nothing tendentious about the science, though mainstream “journalists” skimpily cite 40-year-old papers to poo-poo the threat. Unlike “climate change”, which relies on a lame “greenhouse” model (the earth’s many active volcanoes do not simulate greenhouse conditions) and ignores the saw-tooth history of Earth’s climate over the past ten millennia, a massive solar flare is as much a cinch to happen as an 8.0 quake along the San Andreas Fault.

Okay, are you concerned yet?  I have been so, for a long time—about this and several other “causes”.  But my brief exposure to most of CaucusRoom has confirmed in me a lesson I was taught by cancer this past summer.  It’s this: life on earth for all of us, as individuals and as vast human (or even biological) aggregates, is finite.  At some point, we have a spiritual duty to prosper from our time here rather than to fret about how to make that time last indefinitely.  Quantity is not quality.  Inner peace—union with one’s Creator—is not achieved by digging a moat and throwing up stone walls of defense.  Most of the participants in this new SM platform, as with those who populate its cousins, appear to me to be “dug in” as they pay exclusive attention to some enemy at the gates, ignoring the state of the palace at their backs.  As long as there’s a “they” to fight, the value of the cause for which one is fighting doesn’t come under much scrutiny.

I began nursing this bitter (though strangely soothing) thought after I commented on someone’s post of a P.J. O’Rourke article… or I believe it was a review of the humorist’s new book, rather.  Now, taking humorists seriously is always an exercise in self-mutilation.  I should have known better.  But then, I don’t know that comparing our young “snowflake” generation to spoiled kids who want everyone to have a free doughnut (or something… I can’t recall the terms of the analogy, which was pretty lackluster) struck other CaucusRoom readers as tongue-in-cheek.  I don’t even know that O’Rourke himself had traces of wryness on his mug when he penned the words.  To a great many of us, exhausted with “wokeness”, our children appear to be over-educated brats who haven’t learned that (for instance) electricity doesn’t flow from Sheetrock if you just screw in a plastic outlet panel.

But some of us, too, have watched our children struggle with depression—and the ordeal is no joking matter, no comedy sketch about poor-little-rich-kids in a pastry shop.  Imagine that you’ve graduated from college and are starting your eight-to-five existence, which is supposed to carry you through most of your time on earth and to compensate or fulfill you over those decades with a rising salary.  There’s nothing remotely spiritual in the equation.  No deep satisfaction in the work you do has been factored in.  You know better—for that work is often service to an inscrutable machine whose ultimate objective is… well, the handsome profits responsible for your salary.  Higher motives be damned!

So, on that arid spiritual savanna into which you’ve wandered, you purchase gadgets and gizmos to amuse you over weekends. Eventually, as bank account and credit rating prosper, you spring for a 3,500-square-foot house just outside the taxable zones of Dallas or Denver. You take vacations to Vegas and Tampa one week out of the year, you smoke a little weed and acquire a fairly non-toxic alcohol dependency, you join a big church where you flutter dangerously close to flames lit by an abundance of highly discreet divorcees… and then the sand runs out of the glass.  That was your life.  You were a success, a good American: supported your church, never got caught cheating on your wife, sired and raised a couple of kids whom you reintroduced to the same assembly line (prep school, State U, desk at Merrill Lynch)….

Yeah, that’s your life.  That’s it.  What do you want, a free jelly roll?  I suppose you want everyone to have free jelly rolls… is that what you want?  What are you, a snowflake?

I don’t recall my precise comments upon the CaucusRoom post, which I haven’t managed to relocate, or the responses to my comments; but as telegraphic as all the “communication” was, I think it implied the tragic disconnect that I’ve tried to describe more amply in the last few paragraphs.  We “conservatives” don’t seem to have any detectable regard for quiet streets with shaded sidewalks and front porches where our aging neighbors rock.  Where those venues continue to exist, they characterize once-desirable settings (desirable in the Fifties, perhaps) which have now become “run down” and seem nearly devoured by adjoining overpasses and interstates.  Our “way of life” is the make-money paradigm that requires a constant purging of such neighborhoods, along with all other relicts and habits of the past.  What do you want… you want us to hold out for quaint corner drugstores and steeples nestled among tall trees in the Age of the Internet?  You want free doughnuts for everyone?  That scheme’s not economically viable any more.

Pardon me… but I think the miserable, anguishing poverty of this “conservative” rationale is why our children are Willy Wonka socialists.  Yes, their mother’s-day-out conceptions of how an economy might work if only we built chocolate factories everywhere are constructed of colorful, round-edged blocks that should have been left in the playpen; but… but is the sole alternative really spiritual annihilation?  Is that really all we’ve got to offer—is that how we intend to win them over?

I don’t begin to accept that the majority of these young, clueless wonders with worthless college degrees are lining up to enlist in Antifa.  My experience is that they really don’t like anything vaguely scented with politics.  They supported Bernie four years ago because he was their Willy, their clownish guide to an alternative world not slick with blood from cut throats and poignarded backs: the corporate world, the advance-at-all-costs world.  And they’re not all unemployable, you know.  Many of them have already doubled my best-ever annual salary, though they go to work dressed very casually in rags that do nothing to hide their rings and tattoos.  They fool around with computer code and in sound studios helping capitalist enterprises to exploit the dreamy gullibility of the masses—unaware of any potential hypocrisy in their labors since they themselves move in the vapors of a dream.  Thanks to their inspired work in the make-over room, DuPont or Halliburton or General Motors now comes off seeming infinitely more concerned about ushering you through the deadly pandemic than selling you… whatever it is such conglomerates sell today.  (Sometimes it’s hard to tell amid all the passionate dedication to “keeping you safe”.)  Insurance is peddled by a gecko or a flaky cop with an emu partner.  Red Bull gives you cartoon wings.  Suddenlink connects you in Instagram-length vignettes.  And of all the happy people dramatically or graphically represented on your screens as made safe, thoroughly insured, energized, and connected, a good half seem to have drawn their significant other from a different race.

I mention that final detail only to stress that, when Generation Z’s graduates do find jobs in some tech-related enterprise, they eagerly lend their gifts to imagining a world socially and culturally different from the one we actually see.  Yes, it’s a happy world: it always has been, in these industrial make-overs.  (When I was a kid, Paul Parrot would assure us that P.F. Flyers “make your feet run faster, as fast as I can fly”.)  But it’s also a more racially integrated world.  It’s a world where women don’t need fathers to raise their children, where svelte vegan retirees enjoy their golden years on endless Caribbean cruises, where energy really does appear to course from the Sheetrock.  I think the young designers of these Never Never Lands half-believe, in some spontaneous fashion, the utopian claptrap they grind out.  (Even the most alcoholic cartoonist, in contrast, didn’t believe Paul Parrot existed.) In the old days, you tried to convince the public that eating spinach would make them look like Popeye because you had an unsavory vegetable to unload.  Nowadays, fantasies are being packaged for the public by producers who themselves yearn to locate reality in fantasy.

Eventually and inevitably, some of these raptured cherubs accede to the control of their own enterprises… and they support leftist, statist causes.  Conservatives are shocked.  They protest, “It was free enterprise that made you a mogul… and now you want to throw it all over for socialism?”  But… but the Young Turks became rich by marketing their naïveté to others of their generation who were equally naive.  To some extent, you see, living in illusion can be profitable in a capitalist system.  I mean… if you thoroughly believe in your own illusions, aren’t you especially well suited to convince others of their truth who yearn to believe?

The yearning to believe… this is why, sooner or later, our society is doomed to become a socialist anthill.  Our children appear to us spoiled brats in a candy shop because they can’t “get real”, because they don’t understand “what it’s really like”.  Yet that bitter panacea—the well-paying job—which was flung back at me on CaucusRoom as the answer to their problems is part of the poison driving them to candy.  They don’t need money; or, at least, if they turn into the kind of human being who only needs money, then they will become as sick as if they’d gorged on socialist sugar.  What they need is higher purpose, which they misidentify with an egalitarian utopia. They don’t understand that Uncle Bernie’s Candy Factory must end up being Treblinka or Auschwitz because trying to better humanity within merely human boundaries always results in vast slaughter.  The visionary do-gooder must forever be melting down and remolding the millions of little morsels trundling along his assembly line; for the batter of which we’re concocted is flawed, and it doesn’t rise properly under heat.

They can’t see this, the children.  Our children.  They won’t see it until they live through their own nightmares on the assembly line.  The evils of socialism, I’m afraid, aren’t something you learn to assess by reading a conservative book or listening to a conservative professor (assuming that you could find either one).  They strike you between the eyes only after you come to understand human nature.  My brother and sister remain left-of-center, I believe, because they were relatively popular in their adolescent high-school-and-college cocoons, and the habits acquired in that insulated existence have clung to them.  I, on the other hand, while the least worldly of human beings, learned the deeper meaning of the Crucifixion after years of being an ugly duckling.  My misery was a blessing.  I came to grasp that people are fatally warped by their egotism—their unconscious, self-indulgent dedication to a script that casts them in an enviable role.  And the contradictory evidence from the “real world” that might have made their well-rehearsed lines taste foul in their mouths becomes, instead, the raw material for weaving ingenious new narratives….  So passes an entire lifetime, in many tragic cases.

This analogy portrays much more accurately what I see in young people than any facile comparison of them with spoiled brats surrounded by Krispy Kremes.  Of course, all of us parents want our kids to be well-integrated and “happy”—to be shielded in some measure from bitter truths about human nature.  Hence we send them forth into the adult world, all too often, as if it might be a place where they could simply share out confections to the hungry masses from miraculously self-replenishing shelves.  The fault for that, however, clearly lies in ourselves as much as in them.  We have fashioned this seductive Siren-shore of socialism by loving our little ones not wisely, but too well.

Now our society is poised to enter a period of rotting bones—of victims who have heard the sweet song and thrown themselves into the brine, thinking they could live forever on its melody.  We’ll have to get through that… or not.  We’ll have to get through a period of not getting through it.  We’ll have to rediscover true faith: the confidence, I mean, that peace and joy are already assured us in a higher reality, a “real reality”.  We’ll have to stop trying to substitute our own provisional, earth-bound realities for the genuine article—the very sin of which we so justly accuse our socialist offspring.

Take whatever November and the new year bring, and live in peace.

Free Download of the Week: Starting today (September 26) and extending through Wednesday (September 30), my collection of short stories, A Sleepless Man Might Earn Two Wages, is available as a free Kindle download.  Written over a period of two decades, all of the stories are intended to evoke the quality of a dream in some manner. Events, that is, are bizarre or even physically impossible in certain respects, yet their portrayal is simple, straightforward, and tantalizingly humming with truth.

Late-Stage Social Lunacy: Half-Lunacy Is Not a Cure

raw

I have to say that it was nice being in a sort of “news quarantine” for five weeks while I was receiving treatment in Tijuana.  Of course, we’re never in such isolation anywhere these days—not really.  Baja California, especially, was bristling in masks and “Corona panic”.  The virus appears to have peaked a couple of months later in Mexico than in the U.S.; and with all the activity (legal and otherwise) occurring daily along the international border, infections were bound to proliferate.  Yet my wife and I, having already witnessed the hysteria months earlier, were pretty unfazed.  We wore masks, all right—on our walks to and from the Immunity Therapy Center, because the smog was so dense!  That’s another reason, by the way, why people in metropolitan centers might perceive CV-19 as the bubonic plague: because their air is so foul, and many of them already have compromised respiratory systems from daily living.

As for the two of us, though senior citizens and (in the case of one) fighting off cancer, we never felt ourselves under siege from an invisible killer.  (No, I don’t even regard cancer that way: on the contrary, my body’s healthy cells are cancer-killers.)  To return to the states, therefore, and find that panic has revisited—or even exceeded—its original levels was a shock.  What’s going on?  If you feel at risk, stay at home.  If you have to go out, wear a mask.  If you happen to know that cloth masks have zero efficacy and mass-marketed models only about fifty percent, then… first of all, good for you: you did some homework.  So take your fifty-fifty chance in the knowledge that, if you lose, you’ll probably end up with a bad cold for a few days.  And try to stay off ventilators, which earn big money for hospitals but are death traps in most cases.  Like masks, they keep healthy, oxygenated air from circulating (cancer dreads oxygen, by the way) and send back to the lungs higher levels of carbon dioxide along with whatever toxic microbes may lurk in your system.  I learned that much many decades ago as a young man hiking about in the snow.  Wearing a ski mask for hours is a surefire way to wake up with a chest cold the next morning.

Now, I’ve spoken to friends and relatives (not necessarily the same thing) who are terrified of CV-19 because they have personally watched it ravage an acquaintance.  The disease is not a hoax, even though it isn’t anthrax vapor.  Baseball star Freddie Freeman apparently thought he might die from his round with the contagion, despite being a young athlete in peak form.  Curious to me, though, is the way such cases are publicized.  Instead of delving into why somebody of Freddie’s demographic should have registered such an eccentrically, improbably severe response to COVID, broadcasters send the message, “See?  Even this professional athlete lay briefly at death’s door.  Just imagine what COVID could do to you if you don’t wear your mask and stay home!”

Same thing for the unfortunate kids who are playmates of a friend’s grandchildren: she informed me that their faces were all over the news in Florida as they fought for life on respirators.  My first question is… why?  Why are they news?  Because, of course, so very few adolescents even show symptoms when they contract the disease.  The press decided to run with these two young sufferers, I must assume, in order to purvey the mistaken notion that, yes, your little ones are also risking their lives when they cross their home’s threshold!  A genuinely inquiring mind, in contrast, would ask, “Why these two, out of so many thousands?  What in their profile has put a target on their back?”

Hospitals in the Palmetto State have been caught red-handed nudging a decimal point over to shift a 9.8 percent positive result on COVID screening tests to a 98 percent positive; and, of course, we’ve seen similar shenanigans all around the nation.  (My brother-in-law personally knows of a case where a man who was shot to death was logged as a CV-19 victim.  The bullet, you know, simply hastened along the inevitable!)  We can all speculate about the financial and political motives of such fraudsters—or we can do as my sister does, and just break off the conversation once it jeopardizes the “deadly plague” narrative (the same approach as Twitter‘s and Facebook‘s, come to think of it, if “break off” can include throttling your adversary into permanent silence).

But my greater interest here isn’t in sordid profiteering or yet more sordid propagandizing: it’s at the other end.  It’s in the population of bacchantes like my sister—people who appear to need the panic at some level, to embrace it as the filler of a great empty space in their lives.  What precisely is that space?  How did it evolve?  As a sign of late-stage social cancer, how many years does it suggest our nation has to live?

Other kinds of irrationality would imply that we’re already in our death throes.  BLM: now, there was one species of lunacy I was able to ignore entirely in Tijuana.  That it had literally ignited large swathes of our major cities therefore struck me with a smack upon my return.  One bad cop uses excessive force in one urban take-down… and, no, it’s not just black folks who have suffered the aggressions of that “one bad cop” in their municipality.  Oh, but it is!  And it’s not just one cop, but all of them; and it’s not just a municipality—it’s the whole damn country!  Take it all down!  Take everything down!  Take those statues down!  Take those street signs down!

Like millions of Americans, I had thought that I might escape the lunacy by losing myself in the faintly resuscitated baseball mini-season.  (At the very least, the quality of play in today’s game is a sure antidote to insomnia.)  But ESPN and the MLB aren’t content to pummel you with the Freddie Freeman narrative multiplied exponentially; that left jab is infallibly followed by the right hook of BLM.  Entire teams kneeling as the flag is raised, “BLM” emblazoned on the side of bases around the infield… it’s so very much like the marketing of Freeman’s misfortune.  Instead of inquiring into the specifics of abusive police practices and suggesting constructive solutions, the message is… what, exactly?  Abolish police forces?  Kill “pigs”?  Or can it be tailored infinitely to suit individual taste?  My son speaks of a case involving an athlete whose locker was defaced with the “n” word during high-school hazing incidents.  Okay… so you’re against that.  So am I—so is every sane human being.  I also assume that any competent principal would suspend the bully who slams a weaker kid into the wall and shouts “faggot” at him.  Does that mean that we should close down gymns across the nation?

Uh… what’s that, again?  What are you saying?

That you hate slavery?  That all whites, or all Southerners, should be punished for the institution’s presence in our history?  Is that why all Confederates in bronze on rearing horses need to be torn down throughout Alabama?  Is that why all streets and high schools named “Lee” or “Jackson” need to be rechristened “Marx” or “Engels”?

The so-called, self-styled Right has in fact primed us for this particular species of lunatic excess.  I have taken the estimable Glenn Beck to task many times in recent years for truculently insisting that our Civil War was fought only and completely—by all participants—over the issue of slavery.  Never mind that several Northern states allowed slave ownership, never mind that Lincoln excluded these from the censures and mandates of the Emancipation Proclamation, never mind that the vast majority of Southrons in uniform owned no slaves, never mind that some Southern slaveholders were themselves black, never mind that there were more abolitionist organizations in the South than in the North before John Brown’s murderous uprising torched the countryside, never mind that Lincoln could never have been elected had he admitted openly that he would meet secession with armed suppression, never mind that violent resistance to the war erupted in states as far flung as New York and Illinois when Lincoln’s draft was enforced… no, never mind history.  Mr. Beck—Grandpa History in his rocking chair—would have none of it.  And, to be fair, neither would a great many other Rightists who saw deploring the South as a slam-dunk manner of declaring their broad-mindedness, their distance from anything smacking of the John Birch Society.  “I may be for ending food stamps, but I’m not a racist.  I think flying a Confederate flag should be considered a hate crime.”  Yeah, thanks for that, Conservatives.  Beck’s own “defense” of Southern monuments was that we should never forget the evils of our past lest we slide back into them.  A statue of General Beauregard, in other words, should hang like a scarlet “A” around the South’s neck perpetually so that all Americans may ensure that they don’t become like that!

Such projection of evil upon the Other is precisely—and I mean *precisely*—what BLM is doing to white people everywhere (and, somewhat more implicitly, to various other non-African minorities).  It’s what Hitler (and Stalin, with much less “coverage”) did to Jews.  It’s what mask-fanatics are doing to non-maskers, often (as YouTube has not yet managed to suppress) attacking free-breathers physically, sometimes with deadly force.  The insane, homicidal self-righteousness of John Brown—and the Brownshirts—is in those attacks.

I happened to read just days ago a passage well over half a century old from Karl Popper’s Open Society and Its Enemies.  One of the keenest minds of the modern era observed that the Hegelian, historicist distortion (we would say “progressivism” today) had infected, not just our Far Left and Far Right, but also our conservative center.  We all have the inclination to view our civilization’s past as a Darwinian kind of climb up a staircase that this or that group seeks to impede.  Leftist loons are destroying everything!  No, Rightist racists want to conduct bloody purges!  Mask-resisters are going to kill us all!  Something’s very, very wrong with the world, and it’s… it’s them!  It’s him!  It’s outside of us, absolutely not us!  We need to eliminate the not us, or we risk being pushed back down the stairs.  Silence is violence!  All good people must stand beside us!

You know what?  The Left is right, the universities are right: there’s something very wrong with our society and our nation.  It’s that we created them—and then denied our creation as them.  Stalin and Mao didn’t force them upon us.  They’re our children, our brothers and sisters: we made them.  Yet we only ever point to them as what’s wrong without looking within ourselves to find what we did wrong in birthing them: the examples we failed to set, the message we failed to convey, the practice we failed to bring to what we preached.  They’re full of hate because, though we’re not “deplorables”, we did something deplorable along the way.  And penitence is not a matter of sharing half-and-half in their lunacy: of shutting down schools but not requiring masks, of taking a knee before the flag but supporting the local P.D., of melting down General Lee’s statues but safeguarding General Washington’s.  The nature of our sin isn’t that we wouldn’t let our wayward children have half the house to tear up at playtime.

We have all sinned, and not against each other, but against Him who made us.  We sin when we imagine we can make everything better than it was—that the fatal element of “what was” is not enduringly latent in us as we are.  Our faith in staircases, in “progress“, is a sure symptom of our sin.  And we give no sign from day to day—any of us—that we have diagnosed the illness.

Might “Corona” Be Latin for “Slapped Upside the Head”?

thumbnail-17

Thanks to two acute conditions (neither of which is CV-19) concurrently afflicting me at the moment, my keyboard time must be limited… so what I have in mind for today is a kind of annotated list.  It’s a bundle of Post-Corona awakenings that may or may not shock us from our collective stupor in time to save Western culture. Personally, I hope they slap us hard upside the head.

Our mass media are a vast propaganda machine.  We should have known this long ago: many of us did… but not enough of us.  Now, however, the volume has been turned up.  Chris Cuomo’s faux confinement to sick bay, Brian Stelter’s narcissistic tear-letting, Anand Giridharadas’ denouncing the “freedom-obsessed” hypocrisy of our having built the nation on slavery and genocide… this is what we hear on CNN and MSMBC.  Our local channels open their nightly blather with death tolls unindexed to numbers of infected, to preexisting conditions, to post mortem testing actually verifying cause of death.  Their roving reporters compete to see who can wear the jauntiest mask in the most deserted locales as they chirp into a microphone half of whose layered microbes will easily penetrate the mask’s weave.  Social media: Facebook accepts the W.H.O. as supreme arbiter of medical fact, glibly vaporizing any post that strays from the party line (the Chinese Communist Party line)… both FB and Twitter join in trying to airbrush Judy Mikovits from human history; and Wikipedia, in handling Mikovits’s career, explodes the rules of style to lard single sentences with the word “discredited” (like the “het hey, ho ho” refrain of a wind-up-and-go protest).

You can only serve up buffalo chips so many times to the customers before they begin to complain that they’re not getting pancakes.  At least, this is a hope that I cherish.

The university system has burned down its own propaganda mill in a rabid zeal to be politically correct.  I heard Dr. Mark Siegel declare to Tucker Carlson the other night that this hasn’t happened and will not happen—that universities are too conscious of their role in conditioning statist automatons to keep their gates shut.  I disagree.  I think the Ivory Elite may be hoist on its own petard here.  After all, adherence of the masses to the will of Experts—surrender to the point of seeking permission to cross one’s threshold, of avoiding friends and family, of renouncing one’s livelihood, of depending exclusively on Big Brother for a monthly check—is game, set, and match for the progressive phalanx.  This is everything the leftist professoriate has ever dreamed of.  That the dream’s fulfillment also just happens to leave professors massively unemployed is… well, one of the innumerable contradictions besetting the utopian vision from every angle.  The totalitarian utopia is mass suicide.  We know that, we who have ears to hear.

On a purely practical level, Dr. Siegel, where will universities get the funding to remain open with the student body so depleted?  Even if certain “scab” campuses cross the “virtue” line and resume business in August, many students and their parents will have used spring and summer to rethink their insane investment in such an undependable and very dispensable program of conditioning.  People move on.  Whatever endures in the Halls of Ivy, at any rate, will probably not feature the words “studies in” beside its catalogue description.  The more objective disciplines will likely make a comeback: the squishy-mushy cults of victimhood will dry up and blow away.

So, too (may one hope?), will the top-heavy administrative bureaucracies that police pronouns and hound boys from campus after pushing “free sex” upon them.

The home-school movement will achieve escape velocity.  I’m not an inveterate enemy of public education; but, in a matter obviously related to the one I’ve just mentioned, K-12 education has degenerated into Western-hostile, race-baiting, grievance-coddling claptrap.  Bill Gates, who has become highly recognizable as one of the more twisted, wicked human beings on earth during these months (I won’t bother to devote a separate item to him), apparently sees a chance to cash in here, as he does in just about every incidence of calamity.  His offer to educate New York State’s youth remotely by selling his software to every household appeals to fellow totalitarian travelers Cuomo and De Blasio… and that, of course, is no hope at all for the friends of freedom.  On the other hand, when we consider that Germany is already introducing toddlers to sex games in the public curriculum (straight from the pages of Brave New World), we have to understand that the progressive objective for tomorrow’s little red schoolhouse in this nation is, likewise, nothing less than the dissolution of the nuclear family.  Pulverizing public schools as they currently exist wouldn’t be a bad thing.  What we rebuild from the fragments of rubble is another question… but I’m not convinced that megalomaniac psychos like Gates will have an easy time gluing kids to screens and weaning them from their natural craving for social contact.  Teaching children isn’t equivalent to coaxing “Polly wants a cracker” from a large bird.  Progressives wish it were so, and their vision requires that it be so—but here’s another point where fiction collides hard with reality.

The importance of the Second Amendment has suddenly become very apparent, even to slow learners.  I confess that I myself used to be a little skeptical of the proposition that our neighbors who wear the blue would turn their guns on us if ordered by some tinpot dictator.  Cops are human beings; and more than that, they’re good citizens who serve the community.  They risk their lives to help innocent people survive and prosper.  They also swear the same oath to the Constitution as do state and federal legislators, and most of them understand the words to which they’re pledging allegiance.  How likely is it that such people, upon some maniac’s vaulting into the saddle of power after a mayoral or gubernatorial election, would suddenly turn about and draw their weapons on one of us for using the wrong gender pronoun or for flying an American flag on Cinco de Mayo?

How likely?  Somewhere between “not unlikely” and “very likely”, it now appears.  For every story about an Officer Greg Anderson (the Seattle patrolman suspended for posting a video confirming his fidelity to the Constitution), there seem to be four or five about cops cuffing mothers for taking their kids to the park or not wearing their masks properly.  A SWAT team was unleashed upon a bar in West Texas last week where “social distancing” was not being practiced adequately.  Is it so difficult to imagine a Governor Northam or a Governor Whitmer in the future sending in an armed shock-team of “child care services” Gestapo to steal children and cuff parents because Daddy refused to let Emily attend Trans Storytelling Day at the library?

This is precisely why we have a Second Amendment: i.e., so that the mindless henchmen and ambitious lackeys who surround tyrants will hesitate to invade a quiet neighborhood.  If Daddy has a gun, and Daddy’s neighbors have guns, and their neighbors have guns—and if there’s a good chance that the whole block will pour into the streets locked and loaded if squad cars come to spirit Emily away—then our basic freedoms have a chance of surviving in the all-but-lawless future that awaits us.  Otherwise, we might as well start packing for the gulag (and, as Solzhenitsyn has told us, there’s really not much need to pack).

Leftist mayors and governors have so eagerly slapped all their megalomaniac cards on the table that they may well be turned out massively in November.  Even if Donald Trump fritters away the presidency and its coattail opportunities in House and Senate by refusing to admit that the Gates/Fauci Big Pharma/Wall Street complex duped him, how does totalitarianism survive at the state level?  Northam, Whitmer, Cuomo—Newsom, Beshear, Mills, Hogan, Murphy, Wolf, Evers, Scott… what electorate would choose to have more lockdown, surveillance, moralistic harangue, frisking, home invasion, and arrest without warrant under these petty fools, lunatic harpies, and jackbooted utopians?  Maybe some of them endure after those who would have resisted have fled to other states.  Otherwise… well, I mustn’t risk my credentials as a pessimist by projecting that the masses may have struck a rock-bottom of self-debasement and are now poised to rebound.  But one can hope, I suppose.

Finally—at long last—the rank and file may be primed to understand the extreme peril in which our unsecured power grid sets us.  President Trump deserves much credit for his executive order in spring of last year and a second this year, both targeting the Sword of Damocles that has swayed over our heads for decades.  Trump has fought this good fight virtually alone, among elected officials.  Bush did nothing, Obama did nothing, Democrat super-majorities did nothing in past years, the recent Republican super-majority did nothing—only Trump has stood up to stingy, stupid power companies, on the one side (the conventionally Republican, big-business side), and to Russia-and-China-placating, New World Order ideologues, on the other (the conventionally Democrat—but ever more “Swampublican”—side).  The President desperately needs to trumpet his virtuous defense of the nation instead of satirizing his opponents in the media and defending his role in locking down a once-healthy economy.  He needs to swallow his ego and think of the millions—the 300 million, approximately—who would lose their lives within a year if we went dark all across the continent.  He needs to emphasize what his obtuse predecessor failed to remark: that no hostile attack is required to fry the grid—that an especially powerful solar flare (overdue by some estimates) would suffice.  He needs to tap into the hysteria created by a hyped-up round of particularly nasty flu and redirect this paranoia to a sensible apprehension.

People are afraid for no reason at the moment.  Presumably, as the Black Plague dissolves into fifty shades of gray, they’ll go back to worrying about fish on their front lawns by the year 2030.  Now is the time to give them something rational and substantial to worry about.  It’s also a great time to brand naysayers (since Trump so likes the game of branding) as Chinese Communist Party collaborators, or just plain useful idiots.  It’s time for a touch of Joe McCarthy; because McCarthy—oh, by the way—was dead right about our system’s being infused with those who would destroy it.  Today he would be more right than ever.

If Donald Trump, instead, continues to kidney-punch Brian Kemp and to mince words about Anthony Fauci’s disastrous leadership, then we quite probably get no securing of the grid in 2021, or 2022… and, maybe the following year, politics simply ceases to matter to the nine in ten of us who will painfully have checked out of this world.

Mayberry’s Meltdown: Whiny Males and Shrill Harridans

thumbnail-17

The year 2020 doesn’t seem particularly apocalyptic on its surface, but I doubt that many of us who survive it will remember it as one of our best.  I was already having first-in-my-lifetime health problems when “the lockdown” slammed certain medical doors in my face… so that hasn’t gone well; and none of us who has children can be very happy about trillions of bucks more being added to the debt which they will all inherit from us.  Yet somehow we must blunder on.

One of my preferred escapes is baseball—which isn’t being played this year, thanks to the Wuhan Black Death; but then, I’m less a spectator than an excavator.  I research long-lost ways of hitting and throwing a ball, and I try to distill something that may help boys of smaller stature find a means of winning a place on the team.  I’m convinced that boys, especially, need a sense of physical achievement to develop a healthy outlook.  Call it “toxic masculinity”, if you wish; but far more toxic, to my mind, is self-defeating surrender to unopposed obstacles.  Which of us wants our son to grow into a living exemplar of that feminist construct: the unmotivated, irresponsible, adolescent, forever excuse-tendering couch-vegetable?

I’m in the process of trying to upload a second edition of a hitting manual based upon “Deadball days “ (c. 1900-1920), although the designers of Amazon’s software apparently do not conceive of anyone’s ever producing a second edition and are scarcely easing my task’s fulfillment.  I won’t even name the book here: publicity is not my aim.  I will, however, reproduce the final paragraph, unique to this latest edition:

The best of luck to you! Play hard, play smart… and play fair. No one who cheats will ever pile up enough lucre to buy self-respect, nor will he ever be able to counterfeit it from all the cheers he’s suckered from his adoring fan club. Playing this game, ultimately, is about winning respect for yourself as someone who did all he could with what he was given. Believe me, not many people ever get that trophy!

I’ll return to the sentiments contained in those few words.  Bear with me now as I shift to a different scene.  Most of us have wiled away a few minutes in lockdown by sitting through some fare on the idiot box that we ordinarily wouldn’t tolerate.  My wife and I tentatively explored Roku (never a very inviting experience before, since HughesNet can’t vanquish the tendency of shows to “buffer” for minutes at a time)… and we eventually settled on a British comedy (as it was teased) titled Doc Martin.  The serial seems to have run a full decade across the pond.  How bad could it be?

The narrative pretext is that a brilliant London surgeon, having discovered that he can no longer stare into people’s bleeding viscera without panic attacks, retreats to a vacation spot called Portwen off the Cornish coast.  Absurdly overqualified to treat runny noses and soothe upset tummies, he nonetheless longs to settle his nerves in peace and poverty.  Surprises await him, though… and this story, you know, has been told a thousand times, so my wife and I presumed that we knew what was in store for us as viewers.  The old Andy Griffith Show that our parents watched must have devoted dozens of episodes to “flatland touristers” who go half-crazy when they discover the hidden complexities of small-town life in Mayberry.  Portwen would surely be something in the same genre, with Doc Martin (who hates both ends of his popular rechristening) forced to abandon his big-city assumptions and navigate the quirks of colorful local characters.

Well… yes and no.  We laughed through three and a half episodes—kind of—until we agreed that our laughs were uncomfortable and wrongly timed.  The trouble, as we saw it, was that Doc Martin wasn’t the bookish, introverted, urbanized boy-wonder having to make adjustments to the human race, such as was clearly intended of his character.  No: the problem was that, for all his abrupt and stodgy ways, the doc was actually more sensible, civil, and mature than the nasty little islanders into whose midst he had plunged himself.  Locals ran him off the narrow, winding roads with a shrug, as if he didn’t know how to drive, and never reduced speed, moved over, or peered back to see what wreckage they had caused.  Lazy, incompetent workmen destroyed his property yet received his frowns with indignation.  Gossips and malingerers flooded his waiting room to gorge on tea and “biscuits” (cookies, we call them), then bristled when he shooed them out.  A need-burdened, impertinent teenaged receptionist (she certainly acted teenaged, anyway) virtually hired herself and wouldn’t do any part of her job efficiently; yet when her runaway sloppiness almost cost a life and stirred the Doc to dismiss her (for a day or two), the incensed townspeople immediately boycotted their one medical professional as if he’d been caught setting cats on fire.

These pastoral Arcadians, in a few words, were arrogant, self-important, indolent, “entitled” (in their minds), undependable, unaccomplished, unconscientious, intrusive, cliquish, clannish, and often downright boorish.  None of the Old School mannerliness that one expects to find out in the boondocks was detectable in them; no Old School reluctance to embrace city life in the moral fast lane restrained them.  In fact, the snapping point for me (when buffering just wouldn’t come often enough) was midway through Episode Four, when it became apparent that everybody on the island would potentially copulate with anybody else and that the good doctor, thanks to all his hang-ups, was some kind of “nun” (pronounced to rhyme with “noon”).  His wizened—but less than wise—auntie, intended to be a kind of Sibyl on his Other World Journey, iced a sleazy country cake by offering a few details of her extra-marital affair and sneering at her nephew’s prissy Puritanism.  I was reminded of many a grad-school confrontation in Austin during my own youthful transit through the corridors of Hell.

And that’s the point, really, I guess: Austin or Berkeley of the Eighties is now picturesque rural Europe of the twenty-first century.  The God-is-dead, guaranteed-minimum-income dystopia of simmering socialism has now softened the spines and brains of every yokel in the pot.  Everyone has rights, rights upon rights.  Everyone is constantly offended if he or she isn’t accorded special favors while doing nothing that might appear energetic or exceptional.  “Everyone belongs to everyone,” in the phrase piped through the cradles of Huxley’s Brave New World.  With what dismay would that extraordinarily clairvoyant prophet have viewed an “entertainment” in which his countrymen can’t perceive the grim irony of “everyone being everyone’s”, but instead milk idiot laughter from the isolation of a single resisting individualist!

I need hardly observe to anyone who labors through my paragraphs that this reformed ethos now belongs to our shores, as well.  What was His Excellency Judge Eric Moye telling Shelley Luther in a Dallas courtroom other than that “everyone belongs to everyone” and that her individual concern for feeding her children was obscene?

The irony here—one fully worthy of Huxley’s pen—is that Ms. Luther showed us a rare display of “manly fortitude” as a tinpot dictator nanny-wagged his finger at her and sent her into time-out.  It’s no accident, I think, that the fictional Portwen abounds in outspoken, aggressive, sarcastic female characters and invertebrate, whiny, directionless males.  The Brave New World we have fashioned for ourselves is an effeminate one—a place where competency is insensitive, where honesty is rude, where independence is anti-social, and where objective logic is “mansplaining”.  Doc Martin embodies all of these despicable male attributes… and, of course, he must be brought to his knees to beg forgiveness of the communal idol, the mute stone Moloch of conformity.  Just like Shelley Luther, who apparently possesses more courage than the typical American man within the age of discretion, he must confess publicly that he has been “selfish”.

Meanwhile, the rest of us shoot and post selfies of our now de-individualized faces wearing their communally supportive masks (the best of which are seldom more than half effective against microbes, by the way—and then only if they are discarded and replaced after each outing).  We are somehow saving lives… my life, your life, our own lives and other lives… if we do so, while we are no better than perpetrators of manslaughter if we refuse.  And we know this because… because it is repeated endlessly around us, in Huxleyan fashion.  We know that when medical opinion argues otherwise, it isn’t real science, because it’s rude: it doesn’t put the collective front and center.  All science must begin in the promotion of the collective, because… because people like Judge Moye (and Xi Jinping, and Mao Tse-tung, and Joseph Stalin) tell us so.

God help our boys!  Was there ever a time when a fella needed more courage of conviction, more dedication to objectives outside himself but not defined by the herd?  In a small but not insignificant way, a boy might learn such courage by turning his natural liabilities into assets—his short stature into productivity, for instance.  That’s why, in my leisure, I love to imagine some passed-over kid at batting practice elbowing the big guys aside and saying, “Watch me shoot line drives through infield!  You’ll strike out twice a game and homer once, maybe.  I’ll be on base for you all afternoon!”

Was there ever a moment when the block cast aside by the builder was more essential as a cornerstone?  God created every little thing and every person to reach up to Him in some special way—to flower in that manner darkly caricatured by Darwinian evolution, but much more accurately portrayed as resistance against the Domination of the Bully.  There is no greater bully than the herd, nor any more loathsome crystallization of herd will than those individual bullies who appoint themselves herd-interpreters.  Our mission in this world is to prevail over the great Downward Pull, a vector that perversely becomes “progress” in the grubby, squalid scramble to survive.  The florition of the unique, the surpassment of mere physical parameters through a burst of inspired intelligence—of spirit: this is why we are alive.

And this is what the dark force among us has always sought to throttle.  This is why he or she who will not bend a knee to the collectivist’s design has always become a scapegoat.  It’s why Mayberry and Portwen become Deadworld without new generations of boys who play hard, and play fair.  May God have mercy on the throngs of us who allow ourselves to be led like sheep!  We may be assured of this: He will have no mercy at all on those who lead the children to destruction.

I Have No Answers.  I Don’t Understand.

thumbnail-17

Apocryphal “news” stories, insane (or just inane) narratives, names swatted like tennis balls around Twitter… I could retrieve a few, but to what end?  You’ve heard most of them.  East Indians are saying that they can see the Himalayas for the first time in years as their city streets lie comatose.  New Yorkers say they can see fish now in the Hudson as Long Island lies embalmed.  Something about Englishmen and their nightingales—the size of their wings… I couldn’t quite make it out, but in the same genre.  A CNN mouthpiece publishing a letter to his newborn son or toddler (who obviously can’t read, and hence is obviously not the letter’s true target) celebrating the collapse of the U.S. economy as a vast obstacle removed from the Green New Deal’s Juggernaut.  And the prep-school Ocasio girl-woman who masquerades as a hyphenated traditional Latina from the barrio saying… well, basically that it’s a good thing all structure is collapsing around us, because we’re really going to love (those of us who survive) life in Naked-and-Afraid Land.

I hate cars and car culture.  Always have.  I hate the racket, I hate the razed acres of concrete and glass, I hate the stop-and-start enforced focus on material circumstances that won’t allow your thoughts to stray without deadly risk.  I walked six hundred miles of Irish and Scots backroad in a month on two separate occasions in my twenties.  I permitted (not purposely) my driver’s license to lapse as a graduate student in Austin, where I walked to classes and to the grocery store and to the laundromat—and then walked dozens more miles per week for pleasure.  In retirement these days, I aspire to grow nut and fruit groves on my North Georgia 25 acres, and I seldom have either the need or the want to leave my property.  But… but I do have to travel to the grocery store once a week, and I could scarcely hike that sixteen-mile round-trip with a backpack and bring home what my wife and I require to survive.  Much of what I unload from the truck also goes into a refrigerator—and, no, I can’t run that from the turns of a windmill.

I “get it”, you see: I mean, that our high-tech, progressive economy’s artificial world is often a noisy, tasteless, stinking, hectic, sometimes poisonous sprawl.  I’m all for reducing those horrid qualities.  I’m doing what I can on my own to subtract from them.  But…

But I don’t understand the ambition to exterminate the human race, or large parts of it, in order to achieve some sort of green silence.  Even if nothing were at stake but my own suicide, who would look after my saplings if I checked out?  The deer and wild blackberry would gnaw and choke them to nothing within a season.  Mother Nature doesn’t favor diversity.  She gives the victory to the swift, and she allows the strong to throttle everything weaker around them.  Pope Francis says that Mother Nature doesn’t forgive, implying that the human foibles which once found leniency before God’s throne have now grown insufferable before the universe’s new ruler (whom he seems to hold in higher reverence).  Quite right: Mother Nature is best pictured as a ravening animal, a T-Rex.  Without my human hand, the cherry trees would never bear fruit, the bluebirds would have no houses, and the whole forest would eventually go up in smoke after lightning ignited a conflagration in uncleared brush.

So maybe I should live, and others should die in my place.  Maybe all the capitalist car-drivers should go.  What gives me the moral authority to pass a death sentence upon them?  Why, my self-evident virtue, of course!  So let millions starve as we shift all power to solar panels and wind turbines (which will purge more avian species from the earth in less time than any extermination event since the Dinosaur Asteroid), let a PRC-style board of central planning keep my dole coming because I’m one of the faithful (credentials verified by a chip that Bill Gates and Dr. Fauci have planted in my head), and let “the others” shelter-in-place until they rot as squad cars and Humvees cruise the streets.  To make an omelet, you have to break some eggs… or whatever version of Pope Lenin’s holy writ Ms. Ocasio thumbed before deleting it.

Would I be safe then?  With Big Brother enfolding me deep in his warm data bank, would I finally see a quiet dawn gild skies unplowed by any contrails?  Huawei 5G is supposed to combine with the Gates microchip to keep me apprised of any abnormal fluctuations in my vital rhythms.  Rising blood pressure?  I receive a kind of Amber Alert on my cellphone.  Irregular heartbeat?  The same.  Marcus Welby, M.D., will have fused with SuperNanny (in Gestapo apron) to tweak, instantly and minutely, any slightest menace to my good health.  The invasions of privacy pouring in from all directions need not worry me; after all, as that profound ethical philosopher, Andrew Cuomo, has lately opined, nothing is worse than death.  (Or as Claudio answered his sister Isabella’s appeal to his honor, “Death is a fearful thing!”)  And why will the supreme technicians sitting at the invisible nexus of the planetary network take such interest in my prolonged survival?  Why?

Well, why not?  Why wouldn’t they?  They are the People’s Government.  The People’s Government loves the People, by definition.  They will see that I’m cared for in all circumstances.  If I need to stay home in a mask with a can of Lysol, then I will do so as long as They command.  If my job disappears and I have no visible means of support, then They will send a check.  They know what’s best for me—and for you.  For all of us.  They are experts.  Why would you be so selfish as to attempt to frustrate their mapping of our safest course?  Why should you have the right (again channeling philosopher Cuomo’s wisdom) to precipitate my death through your non-compliance?

And so we surrender our collective future, in this swooning vision of the Earthly Father (loving husband of Gaia), to the kind of elite which has deliberately stockpiled 1,500 varieties of corona virus, which specially cultivated one strain in an insecure Wuhan lab to infect humans, which locked its own citizens indoors with infected family members until entire buildings became death traps, which ordered survivors back to work in patently unsafe conditions lest the GDP suffer further, which destroyed documentation and silenced medical professionals lest the truth of its lethal incompetence leak out… which, by the way, has been forcing self-sufficient farmers of the sort I aspire to be off the land (no longer their land, but the People’s land) and into overcrowded cities for decades… this is the paradigm of our Uncle Li who will ensure our long, healthy lives.  This is the new pater patriae, the upgraded and non-slaveholding (merely slave-ruling) George Washington.  This is the collectivist Nurse Practitioner whose service to humanity in the Wuhan Institute of Virology was financed by 3.7 millions of donated Fauci money, its sister facility in the same city pursuing the same redacted mission statement with more millions from Saint William of Gates.  This is the colossus whose gaze blank and pitiless as the sun will save us from our own childish, destructive behavior.  This is what CNN reporters and Governor Cuomo and Ms. Latina-Campesina would put at the helm of the good ship New Green Deal.  This defoliator of the African continent and heaviest polluter of Earth’s atmosphere in the planet’s history is supposed to redeem us from our great capitalist garbage dump.

I have no answers to such stupefying idiocy.  I don’t understand.  I cannot comprehend how tens of millions of pampered, college-educated upper-crusters eagerly, even fanatically long to pull the plug on the system that has lofted them to the lap of luxury lest the haunts of their hazily recalled Spring Breaks slip under water in ten years—how this is their Awful Horror, yet they don’t give a damn about an unsecured power grid whose toasting in an inevitable solar storm will leave nine in ten of them dead within months.  It’s as if the dismantling of something high-tech can somehow save their puny lives, but the simple, cheap supplementation of the technology on which they tweet and chirp and insta-blather every day must not happen.  They must live, cowering under their beds with chips in their heads: they must live at all costs.  But… but if only the Great Satan may die, then a weedy, viney planet prowled only by insects and rats is a small price to pay.  If anyone lives, then they must live; but if there’s a chance of wiping humanity off the earth, then they’ll volunteer their lives as deliriously as the zealous of Jonestown or Heaven’s Gate.

You can call it childish, or stupid, or insane.  Columnists, bloggers, and commentators do so all the time.  But that doesn’t explain anything.  I’m not interested in marking tallies on a scorecard: I’m trying to understand.  Why are full adults more emotionally retarded than toddlers?  Why are Ivy League graduates duller than a frozen egg?  How can people who design websites and compile spreadsheets leap out a twelve-story window thinking they’re Superman?  It’s not a laughing matter, inasmuch as it’s likely to kill our children and grandchildren.  What exactly is it?  Why is it happening?

Is it a response to the hyper-technologizing of society?  Young people texting each other across the table on dates have become an endless stock of jokes… but our capitalist economy, after all, has created them.  They can’t be very happy in their state.  Is “it” a reflexive attack upon the Dr. Frankenstein who gave them the life of a mute, neutered freak?

Or are we seeing some more specific kind of technological conditioning?  Have “social media” and all the rest—the screens, screens, screens that mediate between the human mind and material reality at every turn—produced a freak insufficiently self-conscious to appreciate its freakishness?  Do these cyber-human hybrids quite literally not know how to evaluate human nature or to calculate human happiness?

Would they have turned out better if we’d had them read great literature in school?  Generations of Westerners used to acquire an immense amount of self-knowledge at an accelerated rate by reading literary classics—as opposed to the propagandistic screeds ramrodded into the curriculum by a corrupt academic establishment.  But what, then, corrupted the academic establishment?

Was it our abandonment of the land, of nature—of the daily tutorial in natural limitation which repelling grasshoppers from the garden and keeping foxes out of the henhouse provided?  Did we lose our common sense when we all migrated to the city and achieved a much higher lifestyle by spinning basic facts to favor deep-pocketed scoundrels?

At this point, does the ultimate cause even make any difference (to paraphrase yet another great thinker of our times, Ms. Clinton—always pronounced “Missus Clinton”)?  Science analyzes causes with a view to comprehending complex chain-reactions and, perhaps, intervening at critical links to forestall catastrophe.  Yet we’ve already arrived at the last link; and the chain, in any case, appears to be a “one and out” proposition.  You can protect your peanut patch better next summer if you figure out what devastated it last summer.  Once civilization’s wagon trundles over the cliff, however, there’s no restraining its free fall for a try at a better outcome.

Maybe I’d just like to know, for my personal satisfaction.  I’d like to understand the race of cowering, wired-up inepts lining up—with masks and observing strict social-distancing—outside the door of the slaughterhouse.  If the unexamined life is not worth living, as Socrates insisted, then maybe the examined life offers modest rewards.

But when examination brings no insights… then I suppose we must await enlightenment from a source that Socrates but dimly divined beyond this valley of shadows.  In the meantime… I have no answers.  I just don’t understand.

 

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

thumbnail-17thumbnail-18

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.

What Millennials Hate (Unwittingly) About Capitalism IS Socialism

thumbnail-17

Those who throw up a stop sign before the ill-considered remark, “This nation is a democracy!” tend not to follow with a very helpful qualifier, it seems to me.  “No, it’s a democratic republic,” they amend.  Well, okay; but the distinction can be almost pedantic.  Certainly the risks of democracy do not disappear just because popular will is channeled through a series of narrowing chutes.  In some ways, those risks are magnified.  How is it that blackguards ranging from Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters to John Cornyn and Lamar Alexander rule their electoral fiefdoms year after year without challenge?  Because “elections”, in their case, are mere formalities.  “The people” have grown as used to seeing these timeworn names in print and hearing them on local TV as an Irish tenant of two hundred years ago was accustomed to having Lord Clanricarde’s bailiff demand the year’s rent.

In a democracy, “the people” sometimes haul off and make very foolish choices.  The classic Hollywood Western features a preeminent example of popular will in action when the concerned townsfolk get liquored up and then storm the jail to lynch Injun Joe.  On the other hand, democracies can grow paralyzingly torpid, as I have just suggested.  Voters can be hazed and herded into uninquisitive, even fatalistic habits due to the cumulative effects of despair.  In recent years, I myself have tried—with mixed success—not to be one of those who just stays home and doesn’t vote.  What’s the use?  Obamacare versus Romneycare… open border versus a few miles of border wall and skyrocketing numbers of H-1 visas.  Why waste gas and stand in line for choices like those?

Communist dictators, of course, draw heavily upon the latter kind of “support” to retain power in their ongoing crusade of megalomania, having exploited the former “lynch mob” kind, usually, to vault into the authoritarian saddle.  As has been known since the days of Plato, a tight correlation exists between a riotous mass uprising and the ascendancy of a dictator.  Mussolini and Hitler were both put in power by a majority vote; they both stayed in power because the majority saw Stalin’s nihilistic, cutthroat brigades as the lurking alternative.

In the case of our republic, democracy (i.e., a one-man-one-vote selection of local representatives) worked well as long as people enjoyed the freedom to market their talents.  We all had a real stake in daily events, and so we formed communities of distinct individuals rather than a restless mob.  If you loved to bake cookies and cakes, you could hang a sign before the ground level of your home on Main Street and open the door to customers.  If I enjoyed tooling leather, I could hoist my own sign across the street from you and strew my front room with belts, boots, and baggage.  You and I, and all our neighbors up and down Main Street, didn’t need government at any level to do a whole lot for us.  We needed police to keep thieves from breaking our windows at night and snitching our cash.  We needed garbage collectors to keep litter and refuse from piling up noxiously.  We didn’t mind paying a small tax for such services.  Just as we gave value for the prices we sought from customers, so we willingly paid the costs of security and stability.

It’s been said that industrialization, soon accelerating into high-tech uniformity, tragically undermined this pastoral idyll.  I’ve said it myself several times in the past.  On those occasions, I’m afraid I may have oversimplified.  Yes, the Industrial Age wreaked havoc on quaint rural communities: witness Oliver Goldsmith’s long poetic indictment, “The Ruined Village”.  In the British Isles, the Enclosure (which Thomas More’s Utopia had roundly condemned early on) forced crofters into congested cities as monied interests sought to turn acreage to greater profit.  Similar imbalances resulted on our side of the pond, though less plainly (at first) an opposition of landlord to tenant or of robber baron to factory worker.  Railroads and canals determined how quickly farm produce could reach lucrative urban markets.  More remote locations tended to struggle unless a new industry (mining, smelting, railheading cattle, etc.) could reanimate the not-quite-self-sustaining township; and such transformation, of course, would have turned any small-town economy on its ear.

For a while, the agricultural South offered a fairly coherent contrast to the industrial North… but even though Spartanburg and Athens weren’t buzzing with steam engines and telegraphs in 1850, the cost of doing a more native kind of transaction had soared.  The influence of Yankee ingenuity and industry did not remain up-river.  Items that required artificial processing were seldom local products, and grew pricey.  Class distinctions were magnified by a more complex marketplace.  Many of the largest plantations, for instance—with their huge rosters of slaves—were founded by Northern transplants who had shifted their wealth to exploit cheap land down South.  The generator of this inequity was the protectionist tariffs demanded by the industrial North to favor its infant enterprises, whose captains as yet had far less interest in exporting than in staving off competitive imports.  The little-attended consequence was diminished receptivity in foreign markets to the relatively unprocessed riches of the South—as well as, paradoxically, higher prices on manufactures now shipped from Ohio and Indiana rather than Europe. (Interstate freighting expenses often exceeded those of foreign importation.)  Our Civil War, frankly, rooted much more deeply in such disruption of local harmony than it did in slavery (though to say as much is to contradict “public school mythology”).

Though I lay no pretensions to being an economist and have sketched out a complex historical situation very crudely above, I’ve seen the effects of national trends in industry and technology on Southern landscapes with my own eyes, over and over.  No, I wasn’t personally present to observe the post-war degradation of early Southern townships: vibrant communities once sustained by small farmers (few of whom had owned more than two or three  slaves, if any) that collapsed into “mill villages” of helots—wage slaves white and black—ruled by one or two elite families.  Yet I have lived and worked in and around many such mill towns.  Most of them, significantly, had already shut down their special industry by the time I arrived, their economy having been undermined a second or third time by interests with deep pockets that chose to move plants (now to Mexico or China).  I could usually discern just enough lingering ancient history to appreciate what had been lost from long, long ago: congenial lanes of tiny shops catering to farmers who might visit town twice a week—on market day and Sunday.  A smattering of these, most boarded up, hadn’t been worth the cost of razing when the carpet mill or the meat-packing plant came to gobble up 60 percent of the workforce at a paltry, unstable wage.

The moral of the story?  That macro-economic movements can topple the intricately balanced, serenely purring micro-economies of peaceful communities in a million ways… well, let’s call it a dozen.  A great stone plunging into a lake can capsize a small boat along the far shore in mere ripples.  This phenomenon, indeed, continues to be repeated sometimes as once-coherent settlements struggle to revive after each dousing under the hand of external exploitation; and every revival, it seems to me, is a little less convincing, a little closer to final, irresistible lapse into the swamp.

As a child in post-war Texas (post-World War Two: I was alive for some of the Eisenhower decade), I remember a Fort Worth where we could easily, quickly drive to the zoo or Will Rogers Coliseum or Safeway on Camp Bowie or Carswell Air Force Base.  That day is gone forever.  I can recall, too, an Austin where my grandparents could walk me from their home on West 14th and San Antonio to the Toy Palace (just beyond the Austin School of Beauty), thence another couple of blocks to the capitol grounds, and perhaps from there to Lamme’s Candies and a movie theater (not to mention innumerable haberdasheries and jewelers) up Congress Avenue.  All gone now… except for Lamme’s (which may or may not still occupy that corner across from the Capitol—but the patented praline pecan formula sells very well on Amazon).

Why did those streets of individuals, tending their fathers’ businesses or starting their own, yield to lofty bank buildings, parking decks, and international franchises?  Not because of the Internet: the reference points of my childhood had vaporized by about 1970 in downtown Austin, and probably before that in greater Fort Worth.  Why?

Because of zoning laws.  Because of city taxes.  Because of all that local government was now “doing for” every resident over and beyond mere policing and cleaning (duties which, indeed, were increasingly neglected).  Because of state and federal regulations, as well, that would have required small operators to supply wheel-chair access, multiple exits in case of fire, a minimum wage, insurance for employees… not to mention the exploding urgency of being covered against all varieties of lawsuit, imaginable and unimaginable.  Would your grandma baking cookies for her little storefront on Broken Antler’s Main Street ever have dreamed that she might be sued for not creating “gay” wedding cakes, or perhaps (as happened lately to a decades-old German bakery) for applying chocolate-icing smiles to her macaroons in a way that reminded someone of “black face”?

Do you see the pattern?  It took me years to make it out—and we can hardly blame our children, who’ve lived so much less of life than we and have been water-boarded in so much more “education” of such polemical furor, for not suspecting it.  Capitalism, it turns out, doesn’t grow from a tadpole to a trout to an all-devouring, self-devouring Loch Ness Monster.  No.  Prepare thyself.  Capitalism eventually morphs into Nanny State socialism; socialism is the torpid, horrid final phase of capitalism.  Marx’s dysfunctional utopia (a.k.a. dystopia) is not the new day that dawns over a hellish night of capitalist tycoons slaughtering each other: it is the long, pitch-black sleep that receives capitalism’s greedy, suicidal dusk.  Big businesses drive small businesses under by banning your bakery from your residence, by condemning my leather work for employing tools too sharp for OSHA standards, by fining Peter’s Tax Service for not having wheelchair access, by shutting down Paul’s casual for-cash computer repairs because the kid didn’t get an EIN.  Big business loves big government.  Bill Gates loves it when federal bureaucracy mandates Microsoft programs for use in the public school system.  Jeff Bezos loves it when Homeland Security elects to incorporate Amazon’s network for its binges of information-gathering.  What CEO of what mega-corporation wouldn’t want to be locked into a long-term contract with a national government whose audience is captive?

But what has this late-stage capitalist empire-building to do with free enterprise?  It has everything to do with a micro-managing Big Brother state that will require all to have flu shots (happy pharmaceutical companies!) paid for by mandatory insurance (happy, happy insurers!).  It has nothing whatever to do with freedom: with consumer options, with rewarded innovation, with competitive market forces, with daring maverick start-ups.  It’s the very antithesis of our pioneer tradition and our individualist ethic.  It’s what makes the corporate elite and the ruling elite fabulously wealthy out of the same slop-bucket… and, I believe, it’s a major part of what young people see when they claim to hate capitalism.  What they really hate is socialism operating covertly through final-stage capitalism—which may, alas, be the same thing.

We need to recognize, at least, that the two are close enough to the same thing—the Loch Ness Monster’s ravenous, filthy teeth and his stinging, excreting tail—as to justify our going on high alert.  Trust neither teeth nor tail.  Fight the creature by resisting all government intrusion into our personal lives.  Millennials, you know, have a strong libertarian streak.  We tend to associate their “lawless” streak with a craving for free weed… but consider, for that matter, just how well our avuncular government is policing the flow of marijuana right now, and extrapolate the effects to the fully legal, hyper-regulated mega-industry that Bernie Sanders longs to create.  A Vietnam War’s worth of our children die each year now of drugs smuggled in by Mexican cartels whose toxic impurities result from their manufacture in China.  And our federal government… is not securing the border, is condoning “sanctuary cities” through insistent inaction, and is deploring Donald Trump’s (periodic and inconsistent) efforts to minimize our dependency on Chinese products.  The open border supplies Big State capitalists with an limitless stock of slave labor, Chinese “interdependency” supplies them with limitless markets for their gadgets and gismos, and the presence of illegal residents by the million supplies them with assured electoral victories in the future for their congressional stooges.

What’s not to love about such capitalism?

Our kids just need to learn, somehow, that this stinking cesspool of the soul is not merely the look of capitalism without make-up: it’s also the carefully concealed face—the Janus/Judas flip-side visage—of socialism.  We older types need to learn that, too.  After all, if we’ve had longer to ferret out the truth, we’ve also been exposed much longer to the pious lies concealing it.

(See my video introduction to a series of forthcoming talks about libertarian alternatives at this YouTube location.)

How We Elect: A Decaying Republic’s Broken System (Part Two)

thumbnail-15

It’s a commonplace in American politics to ascribe corruption to every elected official.  They’re all crooks, we say… and the system makes such sweeping condemnation credible.  You can’t get elected without publicizing your candidacy, you can’t publicize without advertising, you can’t advertise without campaign contributions… and you can’t elicit meaningful contributions unless a body of deep-pocketed donors has reason to believe that you favor a certain agenda.  So… there you are, bought and paid for in the eyes of the casual cynic.

As I ponder the misery of conservative Americans, forever watching their government slide farther left by promising more and more goodies to possible voters, I share in the cynic’s disgust.  We who just want to be left alone (How about a “Back Off” party, with the Yosemite Sam who used to appear on trailer mud-flaps as our mascot?) are constantly being served the challenge, “Well, look at what the other side’s offering!”  We have to be content, then, with a slower rate of drift into the national debt chasm that yawns as millions of ne’er-do-wells sell their vote to the highest bidder.  Or we don’t have to be content, of course: we can sit out elections and opt for a straight nosedive.  Maybe the more abrupt catastrophe will be more fruitful—maybe those who survive it can get about piecing something together from the rubble sooner.

I’ve grown so familiar with both sides of this Hobson’s Choice over the years that I can argue for and against either one with equal vigor… and equal despair.  I don’t know how we find and promote candidates who genuinely wish to save the republic rather than feed off her decaying carcass—or, in the unlikely event that we elect them, how we keep them from going flabby within their first term.

Lately, though (and maybe thanks to a steady water-boarding in cynicism), I’ve begun to envision a new kind of candidate.  This worthy would already have amassed a small fortune, would already have very broad “name recognition”—and, most importantly, would already have experienced mistreatment at the hands of the info-tainment industry.  For the last criterion is essential: it’s what is permanently, fatally missing in our patriotic, clean-cut saviors who turn two-faced during their freshman term.  Someone—I think it may have been Chris Putnam—explained recently on Daniel Horowitz’s Conservative Review that mere surrender to the barrage of media criticism is a major cause of our champions going Judas.  It makes sense, if you consider the following picture.  Just who is this bright young star of ours?  A pleasant man or woman who’s very used to pleasing—who has known nothing else since being class president for several years running in high school.  This person has the smile, has the wave, has the walk.  He’s always charmed everyone… until now.  Now, alarmingly, the magic is gone.  That has to be terrifying.  How to get the magic back?  What does Orpheus do when the trees no longer uproot themselves to dance to his sweet lyre?  One has to suppose that he lets the strangely unmoved audience call the tune, and the tempo.

Consider, by way of example, the current game of rope-a-dope that “wise Latina grandmother” Sonya Sotomayor is playing with Chief Justice John Roberts.  She’ll get results; she usually does.  Roberts is more concerned over his acceptance by the beltway intellectual elite than he is about preserving the Constitution.  Ironically, his new compatriot Brett Kavanaugh is cut from the same cloth, despite a take-no-prisoners confirmation hearing that duped most of us into supposing our rock-bottom values to be the stake.  Kavanaugh is another prep-school party boy, though admittedly (hopefully—please-God-surely) almost as wise now as a Latina grandmother.  Sotomayor was correct in her snarky talking out of school to this extent: we do tend to preserve bits and pieces of the prejudices in which we were raised.  For Kavanaugh, the corrosive residue upon his judgment is one of wanting to please, of expecting to be praised.  It’s what he has always known.  (For Sotomayor, it’s a default retreat to the “Latina” trump card that has always won the hand in the past, even though her confidence in that strategy utterly undermines—patently contradicts—her sworn duty to consider all human beings as individuals equally endowed with rights.)

So… so who, then, is our superhero candidate capable of leaping over such obstacles in a single bound?  What about a figure from the world of professional athletics whose gilded reputation provides a breastplate against media slings and arrows?  What about Curt Schilling, the should-have-been (perhaps soon-to-be) Hall of Fame pitcher?  What about New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick—or his protégé, quarterback Tom Brady?  Wrestling superstar Tyrus has established his political gravitas on Greg Gutfeld’s show, and enjoys the additional advantage of being black.  Does that matter?  Am I really clinging to the notion of identity politics?  Why, yes: inasmuch as the name of this new game is vanquishing the propaganda machine at work behind news desks everywhere, any contradiction of the simplistic profiles spewed over our air waves is welcome.  We’re playing a game, precisely.  Our society is in a degenerative stage which its founding fathers would have recognized as fatal.  We can no longer merely rely upon sound arguments made by honest people—for a shocking percentage of the electorate reasons by pure association, and elected representatives of routine qualifications soon lose their honesty.  Those are the game’s ground rules.

The new candidate, therefore, needs an “in your face” attitude.  And his defiance has to be such that the public credits it to his established “bad ass” persona.  He must be able to jump down Jim Acosta’s throat, come back out with a fistful of viscera, and throw them in the impudent punk’s face.

Albert Pujols: he’ll be retiring soon.  First-ballot Hall of Famer.  The most terrifying batsman of the new millennium’s opening decade, and a giant of a man (a Latin giant) who silenced questions about his possible steroids use with little more than a scowl.  What sticks in my mind about Alberto’s political inclination is a proud remark I once heard Glenn Beck make about the world’s mightiest clean-up hitter being one of his fans… and also a much more recent, very understated regret voiced by Pujols about California taxes.  He’s Latino-wise enough, I’m sure, to keep his mouth shut on more hot-button issues until the Cooperstown vote is recorded.  He doesn’t want to get “schillinged”.  Wise, very wise.

But you see how this plays, anyway.  Would an actor also meet our specifications?  Maybe.  Dean Cain has played Superman, and doesn’t appear (in truly Superman fashion) to fear the Twitter spittle drawn by his conservative views.  Our man Ronaldus Magnus seemed to have mastered the art of ignoring flights of rotten eggs and tomatoes thanks to his screen career.  One could wish that Schwarzenegger had been a little less impressed with social engineering… but he, too, serves to sustain the main point.

Which is simply this.  Our broken system is preserved in constant shambles primarily (speaking from a purely mechanical perspective) by the unremitting slanders that educational institutions and broadcast media heap upon non-progressive, “back off” candidates.  We look for new faces who have “done things”: created jobs, served in the military, fought infanticide in the courts… and these tyros keep getting themselves shot down or captured in the first sally.  (Oh, by the way… yeah, how has Martha McSally worked out?)  It’s time now to pay attention to character rather than accomplishment—and when I say “character”, I don’t mean church attendance and fidelity to one spouse.  Maybe I should have said “personality”.  We need tough guys.  We need people who will stuff the slanders in their mouth, chew them into nails, and spit them back where they came from.  We need not to put nice guys on the ballot, guys like you and me.  We need a bad-ass.

Okay, so I’ve been describing Donald Trump… I guess.  I could argue with you about that.  For my taste, Trump spends too much time tweeting intercepted missiles back where they came from and too little time actually attending to policy.  (There’s an enormous amount of matter, for instance, capable of exposing the Swamp in all its stench that he could declassify tomorrow; why, oh why, doesn’t he do so?)  Imagine Bill Belichick giving the State of the Union instead of the Donald.  No celebration of Jevonka’s “jailbreak” bill, nor even a Medal of Freedom for Rush (though I’m fine with that: hell, Barack Obama dished out 123 of the things to people like Isabel Allende, Barbra Streisand, and Bruce Springsteen).  No, I picture Bill at the rostrum quietly, almost monotonously detailing all the duties not performed by the House, the Senate, the courts, the media, the universities, the banking sector… and then he raps his thin stack of notes sharply on the mahogany, turns to leave, and leans into the microphone for one last, very dry comment.  “Just do your job.”

Will I leave to hear those words from that stage?