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.

 

To the “Healers” Among Us: I Know Ye Not

thumbnail-3
My second full year of attempting to farm has begun.  One infant walnut tree has been permanently laid to rest, and the fate of a cherry tree hangs in doubt: both were savaged by deer last year whose watery eyes and flickering tails I soon ceased to find “cute”.  Plant assassins: guts on hooves with razoring teeth and very small brains at one end.  They gnawed right through the netting I had oh-so-confidently draped around my nurslings.  This year, wire fences reinforced with stakes will greet their nipping incisors.  A particularly small garden shark managed somehow to duck under one fence last week.  My wife spotted her just in time, and I scared her off (the deer, not my wife).  Then I ran a strand of barbed wire around the exposed lower region.  Shees… you raise the barrier to keep them from jumping over, and then one sneaks under through a space that you would have thought too skimpy for a slithering hound dog.  It never ends.  As Emilio Romero wrote of creeping communism half a century ago, la paz empieza nunca.

The peanut patch was another casualty from last summer.  I managed to reap perhaps a pound of nuts when all was said and done.  Grasshoppers were the prime suspect, but to this day I’m not sure of that diagnosis.  Just when the plants appeared to be taking off, their leaves would be gnawed away to the stalk the next morning.  This happened several times—and deer, much as I love to pin every crime on them, just didn’t check out as the culprits.  Now, at least, we’ve coaxed in families of bluebirds which—I hope—will feed hungrily on insects during the summer.  As long as the cardinals don’t chase them off… for, with mating season at full throttle, we’ve observed an emerging problem.  The bull redbirds are attacking everything else wearing feathers in their bid to attract females.  Toxic masculinity at its very worst.

Potatoes didn’t grow in the clay that the builders compacted around our house: trying to loosen that mass into productivity was wasted time.  On the other hand, the extensive raised garden I constructed offered the plushest possible bed for vegetables… but I foolishly magnified its walls with white Styrofoam; and this, once the summer sun started beating down in earnest, fried everything within its borders.

If you live, you learn.  Not everything was a disaster.  My pecan trees are doing well; and the two oldest almonds, despite having been ravaged themselves by the dear deer, came back so strong that I’ve planted several more.  Apple trees, pear trees, peaches, apricots, persimmons, pomegranates… the new cherry trees have already flowered… I have almost fifty plants in the ground.  We’ll see if they’re bearing in five years—always assuming that I’m here to see.

For you get no guarantees in life; and once you reach three score years, you’re guaranteed an exit of one sort or another in the not-too-distant future.  I’ll probably survive my little crisis with an enlarged prostate.  The medical/pharmaceutical industry has lavished enough catheters upon me that I could lay a tiny plastic tunnel to Saskatchewan; and anyway, I have at last found some homeopathic remedies that have put my trouble somewhat into remission.  Speaking of industries… homeopathy and ruthless exploitation of the vulnerable are of two houses, you should know. To be sure, the snake-oil salesmen quickly nose out your complaint thanks to shared information in our wired society. My mailbox—my literal, in-the-ground mailbox—has been steadily bombarded with news of “the breakthrough formula that really works”.  Entire booklets appear featuring a leering charlatan in white coat and stethoscope on one page and a couple making steamy love on the next.  I want to reach in, grab White Coat by the lapels, smack him a few times, and explain, “I’m not contemplating a career as a porn star, moron—I can’t pee!”

It’s all the exploitation around the edges that gets me down. I love my 25 acres.  Even, in a way, I love the damn deer.  They at least don’t represent themselves as anything other than what they are.  And maybe society’s varied collection of scalawags and profiteers… maybe there’s a kind of Darwinian defense to be made for them, too.  I spend a lot of time hacking away wild blackberry and polk sallet, nuisances unfit for the table that run off all the other vegetation; but such is nature, with ravenous parasites always ready to gnaw a pound of flesh from prosperity.  Our human analogues are no less busy.  My indignation concentrates upon those whose calling is supposed to be of a higher sort.  The Teacher says, “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”  Precisely.  Where is the “high” in “higher” these days?

Yes, I’ve avoided doctors most of my life.  I did so partly because I don’t believe we should run to someone for relief from every little pain—and partly, too, because my father’s and grandfather’s lives were needlessly shortened in the hands of the medical establishment (and my father-in-law’s made much worse during its short remnant). My own problem would have been diagnosed and treated sooner if I had been less pig-headed, true enough. But then, what treatment have I actually received?  Of the three medications I’ve been prescribed, two made me instantly, severely ill.  The third (a muscle relaxant) I never had filled.  I chose meditative techniques in its place; and meditation, like homeopathy is rarely a permanent solution—but at least, like hydroxychloroquine, it does no harm.  (Wasn’t there someone named Hippocrates, once upon a time?)

Even my miraculous catheters, for which I’m most genuinely grateful, came with conflicting instructions when I received any instruction at all.  “Wash carefully after every use, and don’t reuse for more than a week… no, not that: Who told you that? Always throw away after one use!  Oh, and the type of catheter that’s eviscerating you?  Keep the blue line pointed upward.  No, there are no directions included… but someone was supposed to tell you.”

They send you off to try out poisons manufactured in China the way a Vegas hooker tells her drunken high-roller to put his stack on Seven. They load you with expensive but ill-explained gear and gizmos that your insurance (not to worry) will pay for. And then….

And then they push the appointment you’ve awaited for two months another two months down the road for your own good, because CV-19 targets senior citizens.  I’ve cleared and planted three acres of orchard with nothing I couldn’t hold in my two hands… and they’re telling me that the one physical complaint ever to slow me down has to stay with me like a ball and chain due to the possibility of a week’s sniffles and fever—a virus that they, the White Coat Fraternity, have decided to elevate to bubonic-plague gravity with virtually no objective data.

My brother, recently a stroke victim, now has to put his rehab in low gear; a friend’s pre-adolescent son suffering from strange fainting spells now has to wear some kind of monitor at home because “professionals” dare not give him a precious hospital bed.  Meanwhile, half of the medical profession—the really “expert” half—refuses to endorse hydroxychloroquine because other white coats haven’t spent enough years observing its possible side-effects (the kind of effects that don’t seem to concern them greatly, however, in the case of Flomax).  And meanwhile—or during the same while—their Peerless Leader stalls for time as his puppeteer Bill Gates rushes after an “antidote” we’ll all be required to take.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned a single politician.  Anyone who places trust in that tribe deserves to be scalped in his sleep.  But the medical community… et tu, Brute?

The evening news treats us regularly (I’ve seen two renditions of this script in the past week) to scenes of “COVID survivors” being wheelchaired to the hospital exit through a gauntlet of applauding doctors and nurses, all dutifully masked; and I ask myself, “Why are they clapping as they stand elbow to elbow?  Why are they sending micro-deposits from their hands into the eyes and hair, quite possibly, of their neighbors?  How can people with any medical training whatever engage in such needlessly, stupidly risky behavior?  Or do they know that the whole thing’s a hoax?  Is it all being staged, and the masks are just costumes?  Then again, are they genuine but massively incompetent?  What third alternative could there be?”

Those questions… I have a lot of them.  Far too many—and I can’t answer a single one.  I don’t claim the right to medical attention.  Our ancestors didn’t enjoy such a right.  On the contrary, death in the body is our common inheritance, our common destiny; and though, as I say, I shall probably not die of an enlarged prostate’s complications, the experience strikes me as a dress rehearsal for the big show (one where there will be no TV cameras).  A stroke, maybe, as I’m grubbing out another post hole and cussing at deer… maybe it will knock me clean dead, and not simply nudge me as it did my brother.  I hope so.  I’d like a quick exit.  Me with my boots on, and confused cardinals cocking their heads.

I’m okay with that.  Just please don’t tell me that you’re helping me—that when you prescribe noxious garbage, when you issue contradictory directions, when you bill the insurance company at every turn, when you schedule extra tests and then move them all back a few months… don’t tell me you’re doing all this for my own good!  You’re not.  I don’t believe you.  I don’t trust you.  I’ll show up for my appointments, whenever they finally fall and if I happen to remain among the living… but it won’t be because I’ve trusted you.  It’ll be because I have no other card to draw—because I have only one roll of the dice left.

That’s exactly the feeling I get nowadays at election time. Could it be, Dr. Fauci—Mr. Gates—because the line even between politics and medicine has dissolved?

I love my 25 acres.  I wish I could be buried here, but they don’t allow that… and I don’t suppose I’ll really care, at any rate.  I’m ready to step through the door.  I only wish I could do so in peace, without the toxic miasma of half-truths and undisclosed interests and noisome mock-altruism that hangs heavily over every aspect of our public life these days.  All you “professionals” and “experts” out there… why don’t you just peddle your porn, and stop with the line about how good it is for us?

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.)

“The Federated States of America”: Looking for Words in the Constitution’s Ashes (Part II)

I was vague, and probably imprecise, in my previous post about what I consider might become one of the most important provisions (perhaps the most important) in the neo-constitutional Federated States of America.  Obviously, I’m still thinking this through—and doing so with infinitely more distress than Nancy Pelosi brought to her impeachment charade, whose “sad and solemn” fruition she commemorated by regaling all signators with gold pens, courtesy of your and my taxes.  Do we need a more graphic illustration of constitutional government’s demise?  If you’re in such need, read Rachel Alexander’s analysis of Steve Stockman’s continued immolation at the hands of Obama-appointed judges this past week.  The legislative branch has turned lynch mob, and the judicial branch ties hangman’s knots while hearing cases.

Anyway… when I wrote last week that individual states should be free to demand ten years of stable residency before allowing citizens to vote in their elections, I was insufficiently clear about the this provision’s being an allowance.  That is, it’s a “take it or leave it” proposition.  Those states preferring to let everyone vote who shows up at the polls (as the city of New York has essentially just done) should be utterly free to build their house on such grainy sand.  My approach has much of the libertarian about it.  Any viable alternative to our present, insistent slouch toward Sodom and Gomorrah must graphically confront a lazy, self-indulgent populace with starkly opposing options.  Both will be harsh, because they must be at this point.  “You want freedom?  Then stitch your own safety net.  You want a master?  Then eat your fill of servitude.”  I believe that people, alone and in aggregate, should be permitted to behave like idiots as long as their neighbors are not placed in jeopardy.  Nothing short of constant cold douses in reality’s waters will salvage fragments of our democratic republic.

I assume, of course—who wouldn’t?—that most people will soon tire of idiocy and choose to grow up a bit.  The mass exodus of taxpayers from the West Coast, its beautiful scenery notwithstanding, suggests as much.  Denying such refugees (if I may use that word in circumstances where it actually applies) the right to vote immediately in their new home state is, in a sense, for their own good.  The contagion which they flee may, after all, be incubating in their veins.  It must have time to germinate, run its feverish course, and at last be repelled by more healthy influences.

In the meantime, “idiot states” must not be allowed automatic access to the resources of their more disciplined neighbors.  Provision of a common defense is indispensable: it is, indeed, the single preemptive function allotted to the federal government by the Constitution (and the single function, as well, which impeachment-frenzied Democrats and fundraising-frenzied Republicans stubbornly neglect).  In the formal fragmentation which I believe must overtake our national polity if we are to preserve its vital pieces, federal tax dollars will go almost entirely to defense.  Huge central bureaucracies whose unelected ideologues issue dictatorial decrees must vanish.

In practical terms, this means that the much-reduced central government of our looser federation will not mandate a national minimum wage.  It will (of course—obviously) not require that everyone have health insurance.  It will not harrow the work environment with OSHA police constantly holding ruinous fines over the heads of small-business owners.  It will not define marriage for the entire nation or enforce punitive measures upon wedding caterers with religious principles.  It will not “create winners and losers” by micro-managing citizens’ lives even after they end (as in promulgating “standards” that enrich unionized undertakers and delight peddlers of life insurance).

The Department of Education, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services… all gone, all abolished.  The original Constitution provides for no such bureaucratic mega-engineering.  The mushroom-like proliferation careerist autocrats lording it over key areas of ordinary existence has become a primary impediment to our basic freedoms.  A critic is sure to protest, “But how, then, may we rest assured that our trans-continental roads have secure bridges?”  The interstate highway system, it seems to me, in fact provides an excellent example of a costly boondoggle.  For years, my wife and I regularly made the transit from Texas to Georgia and back.  When my son was in college, our adventures would also take us north to Sioux City and (later) northwest to Denver about once every four months.  Although almost all of our mileage was logged on interstate highways, the disparity in road quality was striking.  Evidently, the money delivered to State X for construction and maintenance was not always spent as wisely as it was in State Y.  The moral of the story is this.  Intrusive bureaucracy is inefficient, at best.  At worst (and most often), it is a corruption-generating engine.  It primes local political machines that prosper on feeding special interests.

Let individual states work out their own priorities and find their own resources for addressing them.  It has to be this way: it must and will be this way sooner or later, when the dollar turns into the Weimar Deutschmark.  If Louisiana’s public schools are less like the Taj Mahal than Oregon’s, then perhaps Louisianans have decided—or should decide—to concentrate their sparse funding on teaching basic math rather than building Olympic swimming complexes on select campuses.  I realize that local bond issues usually raise the cash for such lavish flights to Cloudcuckooland; but it’s my impression, as well, that federal grants often enter the mix—and certainly that federal mandates figure in the “necessity” of this or that costly overhaul.

Now, a cluster of three or four contiguous states might certainly share a lively interest in keeping their connective transportation arteries in a high state of repair.  Indeed, there should be no legal impediment to the coalescence of willing individual states into corporate entities.  An area where agriculture is of supreme importance might wish to share educational resources in order to maximize productive, cost-effective farming.  An area unusually exposed to penetration by foreign smugglers might wish to pool its enforcement resources with special intensity.  And, yes, if certain states are bound and determined to meet their energy needs with wind turbines and solar panels, then they might wish to string their carcinogenic, wildlife-slaughtering gear up and down the Cascades while swapping native shamans from various tribes to bless their lunacy.  (Like wasteful spending on highways, however, this particular rip-off engine would break down as soon as federal funds no longer existed to prime its squalid corporatist pump.)

In the final years of the Soviet Union, I recall hearing of an assessment within the Kremlin (I cannot now recover the source) that foresaw the U.S. fragmenting into five distinct national units—which the Russians, no doubt, anticipated exploiting.  Mr. Putin will most surely seek to woo the more brain-cooked regions of our political Chernobyl into an alliance if we do not preserve a defensive unity.  Yet it would be reasonable to suppose that the Northeast, the South, the West Coast, the Great Lakes region, and the flyover “breadbasket” of the central continent would all find advantages in a degree of revenue- and infrastructure-sharing.  We have developed a toxic pattern of top-down, “obey or else” collaboration in these Disunited States since Franklin Roosevelt’s take-over of our system.  Why not return to voluntary associations freely forged and dissolved by citizens pursuing their own best interest?  Again, the one stricture which must be scrupulously maintained is the defensive one—and its preservation, if one may judge from the level of subversion ongoing in our nation’s capital, will almost certainly require a dusting off of such archaic measures as lifetime exile and execution for high treason.

A final messy point lingering from last week’s projections will suffice to turn my stomach against this unpleasant subject for another several days… but our renegade federal judiciary simply has to be dealt with.  Any serious constitutionalist must fear its activity far more than that of Hezbollah.  In recent weeks, Daniel Horowitz has brilliantly explained on Conservative Review why having a critical mass of Constitution-friendly judges on the Supreme Court and throughout the land is no solution to our crisis at all; for the real problem is that we have accepted—we citizens, our legislators, our chief executive—that any federal judge can sideline any initiative from any other branch of government (or, indeed, from a higher court) by going ideologically ballistic.  As a concerned sexagenarian taxpayer who has no formal training in law (and who refuses to watch Law and Order reruns), I quickly wander out of my depth when I consider our legal system.  I have managed to overcome a natural embarrassment at my own shortcomings only because I’ve come to realize that many of our judges have jettisoned everything they ever learned in law school.  Yes, the Constitution provides for a Supreme Court, and my comments of last week vigorously questioned the need of that body in a looser federation, where state (and possibly regional) supreme courts would have the ultimate say.  Yet enforcement merely of the common obligation to provide for and collaborate in national defense would require some august body of arbiters who could hang traitors from a yardarm.  I recognize, then, that a Supreme Court would serve an essential function.  I also recognize, though, that it’s not serving that function very plausibly at present.

For now, let me sign off with this straightforward dichotomy.  Some people in our nation desire us to become the People’s Republic of America.  Several (far, far too many) of our elected representatives have indeed expressed enthusiastic approval of Castro’s Cuba and Mao’s (now Xi’s) China.  These people should be disqualified from positions of influence.  My proposals would clarify the moral foundation of such denial.  Let us present states—and even regions—with the option to become as socialist as they wish while still collaborating in the defense of the broader free republic.  If they prefer to side with China against their neighboring states where self-defensive weapons are legal and where humanity has only two genders, then ban them from public office; and if they grow militant, then banish them from the republic.  Reject their citizenship.  If I’m content to live next door to you although you have two dozen cats running throughout the house, but you keep breaking my windows in order to thrust felines into my living space, then… then you should go to the lock-up for your insanity, not I for my “intolerance”.  I’m confident that, even in our advanced stage of cultural dissolution, most Americans would agree with this verdict.

2020: Will the Awful Horror Be a Silver Lining?

thumbnail-2

My son is gone again, a thousand miles away… safely back in his sanctuary city.  That is to say, safely on the ground, as in no longer airborne on the jetliner of a nation that has allowed hundreds of Al Qaeda and Hezbollah to penetrate its wide-open border.  On the ground of a southwestern city overrun by drug cartels whose coffers have probably already bought off substantial numbers of local politicians and law enforcement personnel….

Happy New Year!  And many, many thanks to our president and our Republican representatives for rubber-stamping a spending bill that will count illegal residents on the next census, thereby awarding perhaps three dozen more seats to Democrats around the country… in return for 700 miles of border wall.  I think I’ve seen this year before, and it wasn’t pretty.

But are there silver linings?  Well, of course!  One just has to know where to look.  The Chinese, for instance, will surely be uninterested in prodding us into outright war, or even in taking advantage of our unprotected power grid, as long as we continue to make such haste toward their own system of government.  They’re already working hand in glove with the cartels; and if ninety percent of us should starve or freeze in a protracted blackout, who would buy their poisoned drugs and trashy electronics to keep their military dictatorship afloat?  Come to think of it, maybe Xi Jinping should secure our grid after the fashion of his own, lest a purely natural solar flare should neutralize the strategic gun held to our heads.  Losing nine customers out of ten isn’t a spot he wants to be in.

And as for the rise of the managerial state, voted into perpetual power by blue-collar drones who can’t speak the language and need massive public assistance to negotiate every aspect of life… bring that on, too.  The sooner we all look like California, the better.  Seriously.  The dollar will collapse, no more money will be pouring from the public spigot, people will stop coming here, those who are stuck here and on the public pap will riot in the streets, our elected gun-grabbers will have no more remotely defensible “mandate” to disarm law-abiding citizens, some of the personnel we pay (now in funny-money) may actually be freed by the courts to defend us….

Or they may do so on their own—forget about the courts.  We’re already seeing the “sanctuary movement” break out of its originally subversive bounds and nose its way in neo-constitutional directions.  The Virginia response to invasion-and-occupation has been genuinely heartening.  I have long puzzled over just how secession might realistically take place.  It hadn’t occurred to me that the Left would point the way by shredding rule of law through the fiats of radical metropolitan city councils.  But that door is now wide open, along with our national border-in-name-only.  It’s Wild West time.

Back to the “People’s Republic” of China… do we really need an aggressive policy to contain the Taliban, now on the rise again, when the Chinese oligarchs have made it so clear in Xinjiang Province that they intend to exterminate Islam?  Iran has buddied up with them for the moment because sadistic totalitarian oligarchs tend to flock together… for a while.  A brief while.  But the mullahs, too, will be “re-educated” by the Chinese in a few short years if they should somehow manage to cling to power.

And that leaves Putin.  I have more respect for this man’s political acumen than for that of any other head of state on the planet (though I wouldn’t like to be sharing his soul when the Death comes a-knocking).  The Russian plutocrat has to know that his ravenously insatiable neighbors will want Manchuria in the not-too-distant future… as well as, oh, any other little pieces lying about the chessboard.  He has to know, as he plays with the other devil for his soul, that this one has designs on all his worldly accomplishments.  Sometimes the best policy is to hunker down and let the killers slaughter each other.  (I wish that had occurred to Churchill eighty years ago… but then, FDR was already deep in Stalin’s pocket.)

I’m sorry to be such a grumpy old man as 2020 slouches toward Hollywood to be born.  My wife and I passed an unforgettable week with our son.  Maybe the thought of what he and his generation will face after I’ve fled this world has left me bitter… or maybe I’m just a bit angry at his insistent self-insulation from all the threats around him, which he denominates “politics” and waves away as silly distraction.  That’s one of the leftist machine’s most brilliant achievements: anesthetizing vast segments of the population to bored indifference as humane society is destroyed for decades to come.  I’m sincerely joyful that my boy has discovered religious faith and is progressing by leaps and bounds in spiritual understanding.  He gets the “salvation” part.  Now he and his peers are steaming full-speed-ahead into the Awful Horror part.

The joy is real, and it doesn’t disappoint… but it’s also not of this world, and we have to get from here to there.  Fasten your vests and limber up the lifeboats.

 

Crosscurrents: God’s “Presence in the Present”

thumbnail-2

I’m not feeling terribly optimistic about current events–yet I don’t wish to pollute my or anyone else’s celebration of the birth of Hope with excessive brooding over our ephemeral world.  Allow me, then, to share with you one chapter from the rough draft of a book that I plan to see finished in 2020.

I intend for this final chapter of the book’s first part to summarize by compacting several assertions made about the “numinous moment” or “event outside of time”.  Yet before I attempt that act of stitching together, an analogy may be helpful.  I’ve been racking my brain for an adequate one—for a parable, almost, that could convey to our linear-thinking minds how real time might match up to time as we know it.  I at last came up with something akin to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Imagine that you are walking across fog-strewn terrain toward a vague but steady light source.  You really have nowhere else to go that offers any apparent sense of destination; for the mist curls so thickly about your feet that you can’t even see your shoes, and that shimmering beacon on your horizon is your single reference in the soupy haze.

Unrevealed to you, then, in any very clear manner is the enormous but very gradual staircase across which you walk.  Its steps are suited to a giant’s feet, each being perhaps three yards wide; yet despite their great breadth, they rise by only an inch at a time.  You’re actually cutting across these stairs at a broad angle.  The result is that you can advance for fifty or sixty yards along one step before you stumble into the next one’s rise.  Naturally, since you can’t see your feet, you conclude at every mild stumble that the ground beneath you is a bit uneven.  You have no notion of slowly ascending a great staircase rather than moving ever forward toward the light which—you hope—will be the refuge liberating you from the milling gloom.

Those stairs that come at your progress laterally and throw it off balance once in a while are, of course, meant to represent the “outside of time” moments that subtly take us by surprise once in a while… and then, usually, are forgotten at once, since we assume that our attention should be fixed on forward motion.  The biblical phrase “stumbling block” had a part in helping me weave this strange analogy, for we indeed tend to treat such moments as interruptions or distractions.  We dismiss them with whatever explanation is ready at hand and get back to the serious business of “progress”.  Yet what could be more serious, in a spiritual sense, than climbing the giant’s staircase and seeing where it takes us?  If only we knew that it was there beneath the haze—that the little trips that sometimes throw us off stride all have an order!  But our senses aren’t equipped to provide such information directly.  Any knowledge of the stairs would have to be pieced together with extreme patience, most of it requiring a certain amount of inattention to that forward motion we think so full of promise.

For what kinds of experience, exactly, should we keep an eye peeled?  In the course of Part One’s ramble, I believe I have volunteered three at various points.  The first would be personal experiences that have stubbornly stayed with us for years, many (perhaps most) of them deeply rooted in childhood.  In discussing the sort of encounter that I myself recall as having knocked me off my stride and stood me upright, I did not mention anything as numinous as an angelic visitation, a message delivered in God’s voice, or a Near-Death Experience.  That’s because I have never lived through any event of the kind.  I suppose that those of us to whom God does not speak plain English in a deep, unmistakable voice have a little trouble fully believing those who claim to have been so contacted.  We don’t necessarily disbelieve them… but we wonder if their personality may be of a naive and very excitable type.  Everybody has dreams, and some of us have vivid dreams.  (Here I may include myself: my dreams are always in color and sometimes more “high-def” than any waking experience.)  A stable person understands, though, that you take a dream with a grain of salt.

Near-Death Experiences I find to be far more intriguing.  No doubt, some people massage a rough stay in the hospital until it looks like a trip to the Beyond, just as some people innocently mistake an escaped balloon that catches the sun’s last light for a UFO.  When so many witnesses of sound mind and solid character, however, testify so resonantly to the presence of something that greeted them as their vital signs flat-lined, I can’t wave their words aside.  (For that matter, a seasoned pilot makes a very good UFO witness—and there are several such reporters of strange aircraft.)  In attempting to retrieve a particular title for citation here, I found that the medical doctor/author whose name eludes me is veritably buried on the Internet under a mass of similar professionals who have documented the NDE over the past forty years.  Take your pick of them all.  It’s a pretty impressive witness list, however you arrange it.

But, no, I have presented in my discussion no such mind-boggling evidence.  The encounters I tried to describe do not grab you by the lapels, shake you, and announce sonorously, “I come from the other world!”  They simply don’t fit into the routine… and they fail to fit in after a fashion that you can’t forget, because it so insistently seems to mean something.  Just what it may mean, you never manage to decide satisfactorily.  It’s there, sticking out… and you can’t smooth it away as the reasonable effect of some handy nearby cause.

Which brings me to a second kind of experience, and a clearly related kind: art.  If I had to define an art object (or if I were given the chance to do so—for this is my wheelhouse), I should start by saying succinctly that it “expresses the inexpressible”.  Then I should probably try to express myself better and end up making a mess of my definition… because the paradox here is ineradicable.  A work of art assembles material impressions in such a way as to leave you convinced that their collaboration encodes a vital message, a whole greater than the sum of its parts.  You proceed to write an article or a book about the work, if you’re a scholar—and the more words you weave together in trying to nab the message, the more fish slip through your net.  What we academic types always seem to miss about art is its most fundamental characteristic: that it forever points to something not quite there.

Art, I’m convinced, is an angel that God sends to all of us.  The winged visitor might be a painting, a temple, or a mere tune—or the simple-seeming lyrics of the tune; but whatever his specific shape, the cherub manages to whack us lovingly upside the head and make us stumble a little on the invisible step of the giant’s staircase.  All true art calls us to faith.  It does so just by nudging us out of our determined forward stride for an instant.  Its subject by no means has to be the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, or anything related to any item of orthodox belief.  When I was an officer in a regional division of the Conference on Christianity and Literature, a lot of paper- and article-submissions passed under my eye—and the vast majority addressed some issue in the work of John Milton, C.S. Lewis, Flannery O’Connor, or some other overtly Christian writer.  I always regretted such narrowness of focus in our undertaking.  I wish we could have faced the academy head-on with the confident assertion that all true art comes from God.

For the academy needed a good stiff slap in the face—or punch in the nose—from those of us whom the angel had smacked… but we instead huddled around “our” authors who, for the most part, had been banished from contemporary college classes, anyway.  As I described in an earlier chapter (and will not reiterate now), our ailing culture’s intelligentsia have exploited the free pass we gave them to dismantle art entirely, presenting its essential mystery as no more than a cheap kind of hypnotism practiced by the powerful upon the oppressed.  That thick-headed, empty-souled program of demoralization should never have been allowed to pass unchallenged.

But it was… and so, as a culture, I think our sense of the mystical lurking in material things all around us took refuge in nature.  Again, the overlap with other kinds of numinous experience is obvious.  Many of my personal “outside of time” moments involved a particular natural setting, and many of the arts draw heavily upon nature, as well.  In their quasi-scientific zeal to explain everything away in some “sensible” deterministic fashion, our intellectuals like to attribute our visceral bond with nature to a genetically hardwired response to life on the savanna.  Of course we like trees!  They represented safety from lions when we were naked apes.  Of course we like purling streams!  Every living creature needs water, and water that runs swiftly is least apt to cause illness.

You can hardly win at this game if you protest, “No, it’s not the tree’s height and the stoutness of its limbs for climbing that I like.  It’s the intricate play of shadows in the pine needles—it’s the soughing of the branches in a breeze.”  What do you know?  You don’t have a Ph.D.!

One of the responses that most fascinates me is the one we register to distant sounds.  A far-off train whistle or dog’s bark… such “racket” can induce a deep sense of peace when, a mile or two away, it is scarcely heard.  Isn’t that because of its delightful (yet painful—delightfully painful) hint that even the most energetic spurts of life are but bursting bubbles on a vast ocean’s surface?  The abyss of meaning here is grandly unfathomable.  And how on earth would the evolutionary biologist disarm such a spiritual phenomenon?  Would he say that our apelike ancestors of course perked up when they heard distant sounds, because those were warnings of approaching predators?  But the approach of a predator would ignite an impulsive fear, not stir up a leisurely meditation—and to argue that the reaction has evolved as we have become less susceptible to predators might explain a diminution of fear, but couldn’t conceivably explain the emergence of pleasure.  Why can our “best and brightest” not accept that their explanations won’t reach every nook of the forest?

I will wander off target again if I don’t take care… but I might point out, in passing, that even we non-scientists are now sabotaging our relationships with nature through intrusions of progressive thinking—through cultic outbursts of “future-worship”.  We can’t simply let the indefinite play of light and shadow in a forest or down a mountain glen speak to us of the unspeakable: we have to bend that moment into “activism”.  We must “save nature” by outlawing the removal of underbrush and deadwood, by replacing mines with the “renewable energy” of wind turbines.  In the process, we create tinderboxes that will incinerate millions of acres in the next wildfire, and we erect killing machines that slaughter hawks and other high-flying species by the tens of millions annually… but we sleep better at night, because we have come home from our nature hike with a “mission”.

I’m no fan of the internal combustion engine.  I recall dropping a word or two about my long walking tours in Ireland and Scotland, and I routinely walked to and from work before my retirement.  I’m not out of sympathy with the general distaste for our high-tech pace of living—not at all.  But, please… let nature live!  Don’t be the doctor who starts cutting out organs when a little bedrest would cure the patient.  After putting up bluebird houses around our property, my wife and I have seen families of bluebirds a dozen strong congregate around the watering dish almost daily.  That’s a good feeling.  We don’t really have to go beyond that and agitate to increase the percentage of ethanol in gasoline—which will cause yet more meadowland to be put under the plow, which will destroy yet more wildlife habitat.  Every experience of nature doesn’t have to feed into a political agenda… does it?

To the extent that it does, or that we let it do so, we seal off what may be perhaps our decaying culture’s final portal upon the numinous.  I have come to adopt a single word in my thoughts for the ungainly phrase, “numinous experiences”, which I shall begin using from here on out.  I call these “outside of time” encounters, or smacks in the side of the head, or glimpses out the train’s window, or nudges off the tunnel’s track… I call them crosscurrents.  We need to yield to these rare transverse currents whenever they briefly stroke us: we need not to attempt to wrestle them onto a vector that parallels our forward motion.  They won’t go there.  They are all telling us the same thing, and it is this.  “The purpose of what you do is not the purpose you offer when explaining what you do.”  Our actions are indeed purposive, if we are good people—but not purposive in any sense that we can define, since their ultimate objective is not of this world.  When we nevertheless succeed in reducing our explanations and definitions to terms that make complete sense in this world—and when we thereafter adjust our actions to suit the verbal formulas we have produced in mutilating efficiency—we become less good.  We lose touch with the spirit.  We skew our forward motion so that we no longer trip over the occasional, invisible step of the giant’s staircase.  We proceed, instead, along a perfectly flat surface, paying attention only to its “corrected” smoothness that permits a speedier advance… and we climb the staircase no farther, nor do we even notice that we’re straying from the beacon at our lower level.

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

Let me cut to the chase. The following observations appear to me to indicate the presence of “Corrupted Mind/Body Interface” in our midst, and especially among our young people. I submit (and you can scroll back to my post for October 26 if you want to review the numerous symptoms in our recent history) that some of us Americans have lately approached critical moral issues around the globe with a suicidal irresponsibility, and that we have done so thanks to having lost our sense of how physical reality connects with the “noosphere” (the world of mind and ideas). You could say that all societies have always possessed a few members, at least, who struggled with bridging the subject/object gap. All of us as individuals face that struggle daily, in fact… but no more dramatically than we face—and meet—the challenge to get out of bed. Sane, mature people understand that they can’t fly from a ten-story window just because, minutes earlier, they were Superman in a dream. The number and extremity of cases in our ailing culture where people actually seem to be sleepwalking through some such fantasy suggests to me that a very distinctive epidemic has broken out.

Here are further symptoms, far more specific to our time and to our immediate neighbors than those I discussed before.

Mood-Altering Drugs: We have them in disturbing abundance. Yes, the New World natives were smoking nicotine of hallucinatory potency and drinking mescal that made them think they were walking upside-down… but the consumption was reserved for ritual occasions, and then mostly for shamans. Yes, we’ve know the God of the Vine for time immemorial; but there, too, drunkenness was usually considered a social faux pas when it surpassed certain limits on festive occasions. People seldom got pasted in a lonely room. Today we witness alarming spikes in the use of numerous substances whose effects drive the world far back from the individual’s awareness, and such use often knows no ritual kind of boundary. Indeed, it’s probably more characteristic of completely isolated settings today than social or celebratory ones. As a society, we’re escapist. I am tempted even to cite the proliferation of “dragon-master”, “time-traveler”, “shape-shifter”, and “witch” or “vampire” romances that are advertised on my Kindle every time I power it up—but I didn’t wish to appear facetious. As a public health crisis, drug and alcohol abuse scarcely belongs in the same category as adult comic books. Nevertheless, the difference is one of intensity. Both habits can be addictive, both develop a tendency to retreat from the world when it offers challenges, and both eventually allow unaddressed realities to metastasize into major problems.

Eating Disorders: In my youth, anorexia and bulimia were constantly in the news (e.g., when Karen Carpenter essentially starved herself to death). Now we seldom hear about them: our new crisis carries us in the other direction—yet in the same direction, ultimately. We eat too much, and we eat foods that immerse us in endorphins, presumably because we’re not very happy most of the time. Happiness is generally (if superficially) connected to social life. Girls of forty years ago were starving themselves to be sexually attractive (though I know that their self-torment rooted much more deeply than that); girls and boys of today are stuffing themselves because they have virtually no significant connections with the outside world at all, and they seek relief from the pain of “non-existence”.

Self-Neutering Sexual Habits: If a blank is inserted into the phrase, “drugs and _____”, the word “sex” is probably more likely to be supplied than “alcohol”. Certainly when casting back in our memory to the Seventies, those of us able to recall that shallowest of decades will dredge up the rapid decline of sexual morals at least as readily as the growing dependency on recreational drugs. I confess that at no time did I foresee the vector taken by the era’s libertinage; I figured that new couplings of increasingly bizarre kinds would degenerate into complex varieties of promiscuity ending in something like Huxley’s Brave New World. Instead… instead, the destination seems to be a kind of abstinence that would shock a monk. Wildly permissive and abusive opposite-sex arrangements apparently inspired a retreat into same-sex alternatives, which themselves are now morphing into sexual self-mutilation as confused young people seesaw between genders (or among them: we’re no longer allowed even to speak of a mere two). Sex with robots is offered as an option in some parts of the world. The most credible endpoint, though, seems to me to be that we ourselves will emulate the robot in having no sexual appetite whatever; and the sexual drive, however numerous and frightful the varieties of antisocial behavior it can fuel, has nevertheless always been a motive to learn socialization skills. Now our society is well along the way toward discarding it, utterly and for good.

Ineptitude With Oral Communication: Surely few indicators of “disconnect” with the external world could be more obvious than the inability simply to speak at an audible pitch and with basic eloquence. Believe me when I say that classroom teachers of a certain age all have a stock of favorite student gaffes (e.g., “for granite” instead of “for granted” and, of course, the dreaded “cereal killer”). These have grown more abundant and laughable in recent years… but the underlying truth isn’t really very funny. Our children are forgetting, not just how to spell, but how to talk. The lapse in skills includes even (I am convinced) merely producing an oral volume sufficient to reach beyond one’s elbow. Toward the end of my own career, I occasionally wondered if my hearing were going bad, given that I had to ask students to repeat themselves so often. Yet I noticed no signs of deterioration outside the classroom. I concluded that, over a span of three decades, young adults had largely lost the register needed to make their voices audible across an occupied space of twenty-by-thirty feet. Such encounters were as alien to their regular existence as parachuting or scuba-diving.

Neurotic Sensitivity to Insult: As the Word becomes a stranger to us, the few words remaining in our vocabulary must take on meanings they were never intended to bear. A monosyllable as neutral as “rope” can suddenly start an associative chain of dominoes falling… and at the end of that chain is “hanging”, as in “lynching”, as in “racism” and “KKK”. (We could get to about the same stopping point, by the way, with the word “chain”.) Now, to suppose that everyone who ever says “rope” is guilty of “hate speech” in “code” is to be suspicious to the verge of paranoid insanity… and yet, hundreds of college campuses and workplaces appear to have bestowed a kind of fearful veneration upon this folly. We are not even allowed the defense of insisting that we had in mind the word “rope’s” conventional meaning. The paranoids among us insist, in return, that we don’t know what we intended, because we have been subliminally programmed by our racist environment. We are held captive, in short, by the nightmarish fantasies in those who hear us but refuse to listen to us. We end up playing a part scripted in their impenetrably insulated heads which we can’t read, but which is nonetheless a particular crime of ours. The disruption of interface here, interestingly, doesn’t just put the “offended” completely at odds with the world: it justifies his or her extreme discomfort with the situation—it objectifies being at odds. “What do you mean, we’re not communicating? I heard what you said! Now I’m removing your right to say anything more! Don’t you dare say another word!”

Projection of Social Failures: I believe the more accepted word among psychologists is “transfer”—we have an increasing tendency now to thrust our social ineptitude upon others as the cause of our misery rather than to recognize its origin in ourselves. (I ended the previous item by noting that the “I know what you meant!” insistence on registering insult does precisely this.) If people of other races make us nervous, then the cause of our trembling is the presence of racists all around us. If we have unusual or ungovernable sexual appetites, then the cause of our extreme restlessness is the presence of predators or “gay-bashers” all around us. If an inclination to open hostility poisons many of our encounters with other people, then the cause of our elevated blood pressure is the presence of gun-toting rednecks all around us. Women demand that men not so much as “touch” them with a lingering gaze… and also that access to instant abortion under any circumstances be legally provided. Protesters scream that they want peace and safety… and welcome the support of masked thugs armed with bats and bottles. We seem to acquire our awareness of the horrors haunting the outside world by looking in the mirror… without, of course, having the least idea that it’s not a window.

Preference for Non-Human Friends: The growth in attachment to dogs and cats in Western society is really quite remarkable. I loved my Welsh terrier when I was a boy (though I never felt much attraction to felines, perhaps because of my allergies). Pets are fine. Who doesn’t like Lassie? But the prospect of young people, especially, devoting massive amounts of time and money to a pet or pets in progressive cities like Denver leaves me stunned. For the most part, these are persons of an age when they would have been married and tending to children in previous generations. Now they deeply mistrust “long-term relationships” and are so adverse to child-rearing that disposing of an unwanted baby after birth doesn’t strike them as murder (or so they claim)… yet their hearts melt at the thought of the fur ball that will greet them with a tail wag or a purr whenever they walk through the door. No degree of emotional negotiation or interpretation is needed to cuddle Mr. Mittens.

Dangerous Naïveté About Human Nature: It shouldn’t come as a surprise, when everything above is weighed, that we (or many among us) have only a pre-adolescent’s grasp of likely human motivations. Again, young men especially seem surprised that (for instance) a girl used for sex during a semester should think herself in a purposive, soulful relationship—or young women seem surprised, in the same scenario, that men have no manners and no nobility. College grads of both genders (let’s pretend there are only two) assume that police are Gestapo thugs, that soldiers are butchering mercenaries, and that business management always wants to push employees to the brink of starvation for sake of a wider profit margin; yet the same downy-cheeked cynics have no imaginative difficulty in picturing a world where only uniformed figures carry guns, which are only ever used to protect the helpless innocent—and where government bureaucrats daily spring to the defense of the oppressed without the least thought of power, promotion, or pay raise. The degree of emotional incoherence and retardation involved in trusting socialism—the practice of confiscating property by force and redistributing it as willed by an elite few (known in other ages as piracy)—to bring happiness to the world is mind-numbing.

Ignorance of How Things Are Produced: This category is probably best appreciated by viewing the next two… but it’s important to realize that our alienated, unsocialized citizenry doesn’t simply lack connection to other human beings. Its ignorance of the material universe is an integral part of the paranoid isolation we have been describing. How many of us believe that putting a plastic outlet cover on sheetrock somehow draws clean, inexhaustible energy from the Spirit World? How many have any inkling that solar panels are produced with Rare Earth Elements mined in miserable locales of the Third World commonly called “cancer villages”? Apparently some do not understand where babies come from, despite having been saturated in “sex education” since Kindergarten.

Qualitative Imbecility: Of course, babies are not “made” in the fashion of solar panels. My final example above leaks from a vast ignorance about how economies function into how natural cause-and-effect works. I’m sure that high school students today are much better equipped with hardware in chemistry or biology class than my generation was; and, we must hasten to add, they have the Internet. There is scarcely any plausible way to explain their degree of ignorance about the basics rhythms and connections of the natural world, then, if we do not posit that their daily, practical experience of that world is alarmingly deprived. How many understand that a year of unusual weather patterns offers up virtually no relevant data to the study of climate? How many grasp that deadwood left untrimmed in a grassland or forest becomes tinder for major fires? Why do so many not comprehend that human cultures (which are natural phenomena in many ways) annihilate each other unless allowed some degree of isolation? This stuff isn’t “rocket science”.

Quantitative Imbecility: Plenty of young people are more proficient at math already than I ever was on my best day… but plenty more can’t seem to reach an elementary proficiency. Related to our nation’s special instance of cultural collision… why is it hard to grasp that resources of all kinds are limited for handling Mexico’s itinerant laborers? Does the fact that so many of our citizens cannot correctly write out “twenty-three trillion” in numeral form mean that our debt problem is solved? Is there something about the volume of illegal immigrants pouring into our sanctuary cities that college students cannot connect with congested traffic, deteriorating infrastructure, increases in infectious disease, rises in pollution of all kinds, and escalating crime rates? Or why do these students and their parents believe—why did they ever believe—that the Big Brotherly FAFSA applications they were required to fill out upon completion of high school would lead to “free money”? Why, as a society, can’t we count? We’re no more obtuse, one must assume, than our forefathers. Could it be that we have lost touch with the world’s “thingness”—that we no longer have direct experience of plants receiving too much water, of fireplaces lacking sufficient chopped wood, of gutters too high for a certain ladder?

I have perhaps already been prolix, so I will end my list here rather arbitrarily. I’ve written enough, surely, to promote the point that our awareness of the world is being challenged today in ways unknown to other times. We lack common sense to a degree that, as far as I know, has no parallel in any society’s general population.

Last week I happened to read two explanations of why more than fifty percent of millennials appear to view socialism favorably. David Limbaugh blames academic propagandists; Tucker Carlson blames the student debt crisis. I myself have to believe that much, much more is going wrong. The “millennial mind” (if I may be pardoned the phrase) is being won over to suicidal folly neither by professorial harangues nor by economic self-interest. Its collective attitudes and outlook are far more deeply embedded than such causality can explain. The disease eating away at us has gnawed all the way to the bone.

Let Freedom Ring… Where? How?

thumbnail-3

This roundabout discussion begins with a strange “revelation” that struck me earlier in the month.  Question: why does almost nobody in either house of Congress appear concerned about a 23-trillion-dollar national debt (not counting unfunded liabilities that would run up the tab at least fourfold)?  Some of our elected representatives can’t count, granted; and some are so deeply mired in graft and corruption that their interest in their fellow citizens’ future is equivalent to Marie Antoinette’s.  Yet I consider it obtusely cynical to consign virtually every member of both parties to one of these two categories.  What about the members who can do addition without their fingers and toes and who have also graduated to a modicum of normal adult responsibility?  How can they sit by and watch the dollar’s purchase power overheat and explode?

Answer (revelation): they must genuinely believe that the dollar’s collapse will be a good thing.

How can they believe this?  Because in such calamitous circumstances, the nations of the world would have to become—in a word much beloved of President Clinton whenever he discussed economic issues—interdependent.  All nations having grown equally insolvent, various political rivals around the planet will have to patch up their differences and create a single worldwide system.  Though I understand pitifully little about banking, it seems to me (based upon my limited research) that the world banking industry has already taken large strides toward assuming control over everybody’s finances, thanks to digitalization and other “initiatives”.  Baron Rothschild et al., for example, have a very clever plan for transforming “carbon credits” into a single world currency, centrally controlled by… Baron Rothschild et al.

All the same, would that be such a insufferably bad thing—I mean, one big clunking system?  The truth is that we haven’t yet seen a World War III, with over half a century having been run off the clock since the Cold War’s first dark days.  China, for all her saber-rattling, obviously knows that she can bring us to our knees just by standing back and watching us collapse under the effects of our own moral flabbiness.  No need for her to push buttons that may envelope the planet in radioactive dust for centuries: just let the Yanks continue to forget how to procreate, to snarl at each other because of skin color, and to medicate themselves with gateways to what Baudelaire aptly called “artificial paradises”.

Okay… I can see how some worldly-wise attorney whose understanding of human nature and history hovers at imbecilic levels would buy into this vision enthusiastically.  No more war.  No more borders.  No more doctors for some but not for others.  We know that Congress’s membership now includes several genuine, outspoken socialists—and many, many more on the Republican side have imbibed of Socialism Lite and decided that they can get used to the slightly sickening aftertaste.  Besides… well, I no doubt drew too heavy a line earlier between the principled and the corrupt.  You can endorse the “no more wars, no more borders” scenario in principle and also calculate, in the back of your mind, how you and your children are bound to enjoy certain privileges as members of the governing elite.

For the rest of us, though… I ask sincerely: what would be the disadvantages of living under a one-world government whose citizens are now forced to settle their differences without mushroom clouds?

I suggest that we can effectively prophesy daily life in such a “terminally safe” world just by looking closely—or, even better, viewing distantly for enhanced perspective—the beams and joists rising all about us right now.  Let this picture settle into focus. We would be fed constantly the “soma” of the broadcast media to sustain our state of contented ignorance and somnolent amusement.  We would be disarmed to ensure that the rare individual who went off his meds wouldn’t pose much of a threat.  We would be watched around the clock by indefatigable electronic eyes.  If we strayed into a public expression of “unproductive” criticism (and all criticism of the Unit, of course, would be classed as unproductive), Nanny Google would send us into time-out.  (In the classic BBC serial, The Prisoner, the extreme form of time-out—utter social ostracism—follows the Village Council’s verdict that one’s behavior is “unmutual”.)  Intrusive oversight wouldn’t stop at utterances, either. Our very facial expressions and body language would be monitored and graded.  The “People’s Republic” of China is already blazing the trail with ubiquitous surveillance cameras and a system of “virtue points”.  Those detected in moody or uncooperative attitudes would see their “credit score” docked sufficiently to deny them travel rights, perhaps, or to thwart their children’s entry into a good school. (Egalitarianism notwithstanding, the “right school” will remain a secret passage into the oligarchic elite’s corridors of power.)  I believe the Trump Administration has nodded in the direction of allowing similar surveillance to influence Second Amendment rights.  Nothing to worry about just yet, just now… but if you pay attention to the sand vibrating under the soles of your shoes, you can indeed discern the thump-thump-thump of some rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.

So… there’s your choice.  Option One: life without fear of nuclear holocaust or immolation in Walmart’s bread aisle when a psycho’s girlfriend splits, at the cost of having your brow movements monitored as you brush your teeth.  Option Two: risk of all the fears eliminated in Option One, but with minimal cost of invisible surveillance and moralistic lecturing from Super-Nanny.  The more elderly of us will resist the first choice as its popularity swells, and we’ll probably end up in a mass grave after we flunk out of Re-education Camp for the third time.  The younger of us will be right at home with two-way mirrors everywhere they go, since they actually invite such constant universal exposure into their lives already with their “devices”.

Die, then, old warhorses!  Ye shall not by much precede the generation of asses who win but a few more years before the Committee on Social Harmony euthanizes them as they wait for a hip or knee replacement.

But is there really no alternative?  Are not our so-called “sanctuary cities” in fact pointing us in its direction?  What if we created discrete communities wherein people could live by their own rules—what if we went in that direction rather than transforming the entire human race into robots with uniform behavioral programming?  Let the West Coast, for instance, have marriage of species to other species or of one to three, five, or ten; borders that appear only on paper; one school curriculum, one income, one housing module, and one doctor with one bag of meds for all and sundry; free weed; and elections modeled after Major League Baseball’s All Star Game, where you vote as many times as you like.  Let those happy campers become a province of China, for all I care: they already are, for all I can make out.

On the other side of the continent, let the Southeast insist upon postings of the Ten Commandments in all public places.  Let her citizens be required to carry self-defensive weapons upon exiting the front door.  Abolish school districts: let each school teach that curriculum which concerned parents approve.  Let marriage exist only between a man and a woman, and let vandals who deface monuments cool their heels for a few months in the calaboose.

Let residents of one area who flee its “horrors” to a more congenial space be required to have settled in for five years before they enjoy full voting rights; and let regional legislatures be required to approve new law in two sessions with an intermission of at least two years between confirmations.  Build in some stability, some “drag”. Give customs and manners a fighting chance against George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg. Let cultures separate out according to their preferred values… and let surrounding cultures honor the shift of ethos that accompanies crossing a boundary marked on paper.

Why is this vision a pipedream?  Idealistic critics will say, “We went through all this Tenth Amendment crap with slavery.  If higher moral principle had not trumped regional special interests, human beings might still be laboring under the whip in the Deep South.”  Well… the rude release of illiterate and unskilled slave populations into “freedom” was in fact responsible for much of the misery that descendants of freedmen carried well into the next century; and the considerable opposition to slavery within the South would have expelled it even before the Civil War, perhaps, if national politics hadn’t introduced a complex friction of economic interests (cf. Marc Egnal’s Clash of Extremes).  May I point out, too, that many of our idealists who would raise this protest make no such noise when Muslim immigrants insist upon introducing the brutality of Sharia into their new neighborhoods?

The real obstacle, of course, is practical.  What will keep regional equivalents of the insatiably power-hungry Chinese elite—or the Chinese themselves—from occupying Alabama if New Mexico becomes a convenient launching point? Should states (and I mean all political states, not just the late-great “united” ones) solemnly undersign a treaty that will require each to come to the rescue if a bully invades a weakling? But we know this won’t work. Our current domestic politics show us nothing if not that progressive ideologues treat promises with contempt—and why wouldn’t they? Since reality is “evolving”, the circumstances involved in the promise you made yesterday are already irrelevant tomorrow.

The Chinese will lie, as they always do (unless truth proves more expedient in specific instances); and their ally states from California to Washington will connive at the lying, since their governing elite is more Machiavellian than that founding father of calculated duplicity. I see no alternative but for more principled states to bend their principles—near the breaking point sometimes—in the formation of effective counter-alliances. The Southeast, for instance, could team readily enough with Israel… but to muster the muscle necessary for browbeating China into retreat, it might also have to pact with Putin. India is another obvious friend; but Indonesia? Some of the more stable, adult-friendly Islamic republics?

This is a new pair of unsavory options. Do you lock arms with a neighbor who beats his wife as the pirates come streaming off their ship… or do you board up your own doors and windows, hoping for the best? The survival of states where the individual may still be free to grope his way toward God will almost certainly depend upon alliances with other states whose god is not ours.

Putin at least claims to be Christian, and at least makes an outward show of valuing the nuclear family and a modest level of public decency. He sent the obscene Pussy Riot crew to prison for a year: not an act that sits well with an American constitutionalist, but vastly preferable to Ted Wheeler’s allowing Antifa to bludgeon harmless bystanders. Aleksandr Litvinenko was probably poisoned on Putin’s nod… yes, and Vince Foster probably didn’t commit suicide. Putin seized Crimea—after a public plebiscite overwhelmingly approved the annexation. Putin silences dissident reporters, we hear; minister’s daughter Angela Merkel silences them at least as well with the help of former East German propagandists policing the Internet and wielding “hate speech” like a Stasi thug’s choke-hold. Our Pythoness, Wikipedia, warns that Putin’s trusted advisor, Aleksandr Dugin, is a fascist—but Dugin seems very confused himself about his pedigree: an anti-communist who admires Lenin and a Russian nationalist who treasures culturally diverse traditions.

When the most important thing is at last to have co-signatories in the mutual defense pact who keep their word, it may be that belief in God—some immortal god, any creator-god—is the only relevant factor in resisting the aggressive holy war of Secular Utopians, whose god is tear-it-all-down Whimsy. Societies whose members hold something immutable and sacred beyond this world’s terms are under vast attack. (I’m not keen on the Koran—but we “Islamophobes” should notice what the Chinese are doing to the Uighurs.) While not all such “believing” societies encourage the individual search for the divine, the alternative is an annihilation of the divine in bursts of individual petulance that soon settle into an animal sameness (lust, fear, envy, and the rest).

Of course, if our critical requirement for alliance is a belief in a higher power that postpones utter joy and perfect justice to another dimension, then a good many of our “Christian” ministers and priests will have to ally themselves with our adversaries. We would have to banish them to California, if they aren’t already there.

In summary, I would dare to say that a realistic hope for humane civilization is possible… but only if we don’t hope for too much humanity from our military back-up.

Me and MPC: “Christianity Lite” and the Death of the Spirit

For the purposes of this “dialogue”, I’m going to personify the doctrine that I see (on websites) and hear (in services) coming out of contemporary Methodist and Presbyterian USA congregations as MPC.  I will also lay as a ground rule that we will not bandy Bible verses.  I freely concede that I would lose such a tennis match to anyone who has spent years in a seminary… but I find, in any case, that bending Scripture into heated discussions is equivalent to wrangling over whether an Inkblot Test portrays a dog on a chain or a prickly pear cactus.  That kind of exchange isn’t very edifying.

ME: My thumbnail definition of Christianity would run something like this.  Every human being has a soul, and all souls are unique and precious to God.  They are constantly called toward closer union with Him, and that coalescence becomes a state beyond time that discovers utter fulfillment.  Yet souls resist the call as they pass from earthly childhood to adulthood, and they may be lost when the ends of this world replace the higher, inexpressible ends that work through this world’s matter to make themselves more visible.  Hence a radical reorientation in the adult—a “birth from above”—is required to lift his nose out of the glittering muck.

MPC: Yes, of course.  God calls upon us to serve others… and we fight fiercely against that duty as we busily feather our own selfish nest.  It’s a shock to us to realize that we’re often not living life even when we are busiest—but we busy ourselves with the wrong things.  We are immersed in life, but not in living it. For we must act in the here and now in order to serve others.  Airy pieties do not feed the hungry, cure the sick, or clothe the poor.  The way to the Kingdom is through energetic activity.  We must give generously of our time and possessions.  We must fight on all fronts against worldly forces that starve the less fortunate or hold them in chains: that is our high calling.

ME: Is it?  In a way, certainly… but your explanation appears to me to risk confusion.  Isn’t part of our calling also to dissuade other people from surrendering their lives to utter immersion in worldly affairs?  Yet if I will achieve my high purpose only to the degree that I fight poverty and injustice, then it seems reasonable that I would spend every waking hour soliciting donations or filing motions; not only that, but I should probably also amass a maximum of wealth so that I might devote it to those worthy causes.  And it would also seem that the impoverished and the unjustly imprisoned cannot live fulfilling lives without the intercession of energetic, wealthy benefactors like me.  Yet I personally find that such people are often light-years ahead of their “benefactors” spiritually.

MPC: Which is precisely why we must assist them rather than standing by in idle complacency.  They’re our brothers and sisters!  We would readily recognize the common humanity in them if we did not allow social convention to insulate us from the greater need, the higher calling.  Our membership in the arbitrary socio-economic communities into which we were born keeps pulling us down into a torpid, “us/them” mindset that paralyzes us.

ME: Yes, I’ve often noticed that you’re an inveterate enemy of social convention.  You don’t like settled communities, do you—except those church communities of your own design, some of whose orders of worship and representations of duty can be… pretty inflexible.  Somewhere in all of your “replacement conventions” is the line one crosses into introductory cultism.

MPC: That, of course, is an invidious portrayal of our mission and not deserving of a response.  Yet it is true that we must labor tirelessly to loosen the glue that holds people inactive because they believe their brethren to be only among those who speak their language, wear their kind of clothing, and live in their kind of neighborhood.

ME: Well, there’s no condescending generalization at all in that portrayal, is there?  But let’s stipulate that human communities (your communions, too, by the way) tend to brainwash people—for I see no need to mince words: we’re talking about behavioral conditioning.  Do you not find it perfectly absurd to maintain that any human being can mature healthily and successfully in a cultural vacuum—an environment where the day has no tendency to rhythm and social interaction no predictable niceties?  People would go paranoid en masse!  They would live trembling under rubble like the survivors of Troy after the city was sacked and burned.

MPC: And this, brother, is just why our communions groom that “cult” of worshipful daily life at which you sneer.  People need organization—and how better to organize their lives than around acts of loving concern and ritual sharing?

ME: You have now negated the moral value both of loving and of sharing, though you have blundered into a very honest description, I believe, of your objectives.  What I see in all this is you of the priestly caste prescribing virtuous behavior to your… flock, shall we call them… and they obeying mindlessly in the confidence that their prophets know better than they what is to be done.  You will tell me, perhaps, that playing Moses to the herd is an onerous burden, and one that you would willingly have rejected if not impelled by a higher voice.

MPC: Mock on, brother.  We are not strangers to persecution.  But the sad truth is that the oppressed would remain in chains and the poor sit starving in their hovels if all were such as you.  Yes, people require leadership.  They must be organized.

ME: Organized to accomplish the bare necessities of living, yes—but their will must be left free!  Look: is your objective to enter the figure “zero” in the Homeless and Starving categories, even though you have to program the populace rigorously to reach that end; or is it to facilitate the discovery of a passage to God among individual souls?

MPC: This is more of that airy speculation which, if indulged, would indeed leave thousands of people homeless and starving.  We promote action, not “feel good” formulas.

ME: I consider that very, very debatable.  But let’s stay at the practical level.  Do you dispute that even the bluntest pagan will share food with his starving neighbor out of primitive decency?  In fact, small tribal societies are the most generous in the world at this kind of thing.  Yet you say that vast communities of givers must be orchestrated to maximize the efficiency of the relief effort (once again casting yourselves, I notice, in the role of the unit’s collective conscience).  Shouldn’t your calling, rather, be to awaken people far and wide from their fixation with mere physical survival, and beyond that from their determination to strike a admirable pose before the eyes of the masses?  If you can do that, then they will embellish their rudimentary decency with higher service—perhaps with less money-making and more dedication to playing with their children or cultivating trees that survived the developer’s bulldozer.  If you awaken people to indefinite ends, that is, you may just find that you get most of the definite results you want.  A man who pauses to notice the stars is at least as likely to play Good Samaritan as a robot programmed to change tires for stranded motorists.  But no!  Not good enough!  You’ve hopped several squares at once in this board game, as it were: you’ve directed everyone just how to be concerned and where to give.  You’ve created efficiency.  Your gospel might as well be a Stalinist five-year plan.

MPC: Oh, yes—it was bound to come to this sooner or later, wasn’t it?  The “c” word, the “s” word.  We’re communists, then… we’re socialists, is it?  Well, I know you don’t like to hear the Gospels quoted… so let’s try a different citation.  As a matter of fact, the plan that Jesus lays out for human society is essentially a socialist one, and there’s no reason why he wouldn’t have uttered, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

ME: Ah, yes: Saint Karl!  But let me shift this… discussion… to a different footing.  Let’s grant that the Christian’s high mission is to feed the hungry and clothe the poor.  And let’s say that the mission is accomplished, as it may indeed be.  Obesity is already reaching epidemic proportions even in some Third World nations—and look at the so-called refugees pouring into Europe who are sporting Nikes and Land’s End workout suits.

MPC: The poor are always with you, brother… but pardon my slip of the tongue!  I quoted Scripture!

ME: No harm done—you happen to have quoted it very ineptly.  Christ utters those words exactly to underscore that the objective is not a smooth-running social machine.  But say, if you can possibly imagine, that one day you awaken to find no hungry to feed and no naked to clothe.  You’d be done, wouldn’t you?  Your church would have no further reason for being.  You need the needy!  You desperately need them.  You need them to be needy.  If they didn’t exist (as Voltaire quipped of God), you’d have to invent them.  Your purpose, your direction… it would be gone.  Your god would be dead.

MPC: How puerile!  How pitiful!  And all of this just to justify your sitting on your pile of loathsome lucre instead of helping your fellow man!

ME: Not an answer… and, by the way, you have no idea how I live or what my income is.  We can compare homes and cars later, if you like.  But okay, let’s stay with your new theme of rationalizing an egotistical choice with hifalutin motives.  Let’s talk about justice for a minute—a word you strain with even greater overuse than “gift”.  You exhort your congregation not to go to bed at night if the day hasn’t included some step toward bringing more justice into the world.

MPC: And, no doubt, that disturbs you for some strange reason.

ME: Yes.  It disturbs me because… how do you know?

MPC: How… do we know what?

ME: Where the just course lies?  How do you, miserable human being, know that a boy’s life of relative poverty isn’t preparing him for an adulthood of noble, enduring, invincible accomplishment?  You haven’t even visited the boy’s home!  How do you know that the dark-eyed alien facing twenty years for child-molestation isn’t actually a child-molester?  You haven’t even reviewed the case against him!  You cram individuals into sweeping categories that fit your script—and then you proceed with the script, ignoring specific circumstances and significant evidence.  You have no time for details: you have to create a fairy tale in which you play the plumed hero on a white charger!

MPC: Whereas you, once again, would just leave the boy mired in poverty and the disenfranchised suspect rotting in jail while you interminably dig for “further evidence”… all so that you don’t have to move a muscle.

ME: You’re claiming that I rearrange reality to favor my complacency—yet you can’t so much as conceive of the possibility that you do the same, at a much worse level, by brushing over details in generating just the little drama where you can play the hero, the true believer.  You never seem to harbor the slightest suspicion that perhaps what you call “justice” is a very simplistic reading of a complex situation.

MPC: Yes, everything must always be complex, mustn’t it?  Complexity is always an excellent excuse for doing nothing.

ME: And doing nothing is usually a better alternative than doing the wrong thing—such as destroying initiative in young people to have them be the little victims you pull from the fire, or releasing a mass-murderer upon the public who has been cast as someone wrongfully condemned by a racist jury.

MPC: My goodness!  We wouldn’t be speaking just a little bit stereotypically there, would we?

ME: No!  Not typically at all!  Specifically!  I speak of specific cases that get nudged aside in your stereotypes… and you refuse to allow the reality of exceptions to your rule.  Anyone who questions your categories is “stereotyping”!

MPC: I can see little hope for discovering common ground in this conversation.  I’m afraid the action of the spirit must precede any such exchange if significant compromise is to be reached… and the spirit has simply not touched you.

ME: What spirit, precisely?  For that’s the final point I would have made, the endgame.  What in your system, finally, is spiritual?  What you project forward into the “eschaton” is the truly perfected human society, where nobody does anything he doesn’t want to do, where all have their needs utterly fulfilled… and I don’t see where God fits into the picture, except as the architect of the whole thing: a boy with an ant farm between two pieces of glass who wakes up one morning and finds that his insects have finally figured out their tunnels.  The ultimate purpose of the human soul is to crawl happily about in human tunnels, visiting a friend here, a friend there.  Nothing but friends, everywhere!  But no God.  Where is the fusion with God’s mind in which the Christian is supposed to hope and to which he is meant to summon others?  Where is God’s mind?  Where is the intersection of the galaxies, the music that plays outside of linear time?  I see nothing in your miserable utopian prison but human architect ground out by very human minds.  It sickens me!

MPC: Peace, brother.  We’ll all pray for you.  Struggle can be fertile.  Our doors are open to you whenever you wish to enter.

… And so it goes.  Please view my brief new videos, The Perverted Concept of Justice in the Secular-Utopian Church and The Perverted Concept of Giving in the Secular-Utopian Church, if these subjects interest you.