Death and I Get Re-Acquainted

At this very instant, as I peck out my initial words one-handed (because I have a Vitamin C IV dripping into the other arm), I await my doctor’s appearance to discuss some “concerns” about my latest blood work.  It’s never an easy wait for a patient who has had cancer.  Every time more blood is drawn, a clock starts ticking.  A couple of weeks for results, more or less: that’s what you expect in the US.  (At Dr. Carlos Bautista’s Immunity Therapy Center in Tijuana, I never waited more than 48 hours.)  So how will it go this round?  Will you roll another seven… or has Destiny decided to send you Snake Eyes?  Will the hammer click harmlessly on an empty chamber again… or has your spin of the pistol’s cylinder found the bullet today?

Meanwhile, Burl Ives is crooning, “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas” somewhere down the hall.  And out in the parking lot, sitting alone in a cold car, my wife awaits the return of her awaiting husband, the quiet caboose in a train of tension and misery.

Can you understand why it pisses me off so much that my fellow citizens readily surrendered our republic and our personal freedom over their fear of a damn flu virus?  They’re so very afraid that they might die—that if they were among the millions to be infected, they might also fall among the .3 percent of the known infected to perish.  (About 40 percent of the infected never know bout it, since they have no symptoms.)  Meanwhile, as these panic-moths hurl themselves into the flame to escape a disease indetectible almost half the time, I play Russian Roulette every few weeks with a blood test.  They can’t crawl out from under their beds in their terror of a bad cold, but every day of my life is lived in the shadow of a tombstone.

One thing I know to be amiss with my blood (though I dare not take anything for granted: must keep myself prepared for the worst) is the effects of overdosing on Firmagon for six months.  Almost unique among the drugs I was administered in Mexico to be accepted by mainstream American medicine, Firmagon dries up testosterone—and testosterone is the favorite food of prostate cancer.  This is, indeed, a major ground of optimism about the “mystery concern”: I’ve been shooting myself so full of the drug that cancer would have to overhaul its menu to make a comeback.  Interesting, isn’t it, that ITC so grudgingly supplied me with additional boxes of the stuff while, as it appears, having reached some international compromise to permit the shipping of substances disliked by the FDA.  Could it be that American distributors want exclusive dibs on Firmagon—that the FDA is far less alarmed at the prospect of a witch’s brew entering my system than it is at that of US doctors and drug companies not carving maximal profits out of big-ticket items?

All I can say is, Firmagon is one hell of a torment even to some who consume it in recommended doses.  Chills, dizziness, soreness at the site of injection, joint and muscle pain… I came to know all of these thanks to overdosing; and the last, it occurs to me, is probably routine in anyone who leads an active life.  You need testosterone to stimulate muscle repair and recovery after a vigorous workout.  I wrote of this weeks ago.  I’ve been aware for some time that I couldn’t tax my body as I used to on a regime of hormone-suppressants and plant-based proteins.  I learned my lesson as a result of a couple of hard take-downs and their aftermath.  As I would try to ease my incidental tears and pulls back into shape using a tried-and-true pattern of stretching and “nudge” exercises (the kind that refuse to let the sore spot flee all pain and go slack), I would find myself merely re-aggravating old problems—maybe making them worse.  I couldn’t demand anything of my muscles at all, it seemed.

It’s not like the last six months have given American constitutionalists no other cause for distress… but I began to grow downright depressed.  Finally, last week, as I prepared my monthly Firmagon injection, a chain of thoughts began to close its links which was to pull down my vast wall of error.  I was dissolving the powder in distilled water from the ampule.  (I won’t give you a step-by-step account: every Firmagon kit has over half a dozen components, and the procedure for using each in proper position and sequence is tortuous.)  I knew that the box containing two kits was marked dosis inicial, and I knew that each hypodermic of the two contributed 120 milligrams to the 240 total.  (A single shot of that magnitude in one spot would make the first-time user’s tummy swell up like a watermelon.)  I knew that each booster, of which this was my fifth, should be 80 mg.  Therefore… therefore, I would need to squeeze out approximately 33 percent of my preparation before injecting the remnant.  I say “approximately” because the ampule had no calibration.  The only way that I could reduce 120 mg. of Firmagon to 80 mg. was to “eyeball” it.

This I did, though deliberately underestimating the ejectum.  (The stuff is expensive!)  For some reason, I still needed a few more mental links to close.  I think it literally occurred to me between sleeping spurts that night (the muscle pain doesn’t allow steady sleep) that I’d never squeezed out any “extra” from the previous shots.  Not only that… but the first supposed booster, administered on my last day at ITC by a couple of novice nurses—it was a Saturday, and the duty roster was pretty thin—didn’t feature any expulsion of excess in its preparation, either.  None.  I would have noticed, for I knew I’d have to imitate the procedure.  Every booster of Firmagon I’d ever received was a 50-percent overdose, except the one I’d just completed.  That one was probably just a 10-percent overdose.

….

The doctor came, and we had our talk.  He’s a sweet guy.  I haven’t seen that degree of caring among very many Americans in this profession.

My PSA is up from nearly dead zero three months ago to 42.  A huge leap over an incredibly short period.  We’ll retest it next week, we’ll schedule a bone scan, we’ll plan for contingencies… maybe I’ll go back to Tijuana.  I would, in a flash.  I’d stay there, if I could.

So… Death and I are chained at the ankle once again.  We always were, of course… but now I get to see his leer whenever I take a careless peek.  Everyone is saying, “Oh, this is just a setback!  We’ll figure it out!  Everything will be fine!”  Actually, I—the lowly patient—am the only one who seems to have a coherent theory of events.  Firmagon caused my muscles to bleed without mending; inflammation (as an independent professional confirmed for me just now) can severely elevate PSA scores; thus my tests are going to show high numbers as long as the poison in my system continues to keep my triceps and gluts and thighs from sealing up.

And, just to add a personal speculation… why wouldn’t genuine cancer cells rally and multiply when the body is over-strained in the simple matter of repairing leg muscles after a walk?

Firmagon was the most “American” of my treatments, and I never really liked its m.o.  Annihilate your adversary by annihilating one of your own battalions… how very like the American medical establishment!  I guess this present challenge, as my son calls it, is an opportunity to form a better battle plan.  Everything seemed day-to-day before.  Now we can go long-range.

All the same, the ultimate in long-range thinking is recognition that one’s body cannot function beyond a certain point.  It’s understanding that life in this world doesn’t have a ticket for infinite trips up and down the track. My own destination cannot be so very far up the line.

As my wife drove me home through the maze of backroads where the GPS led us, I studied the mowed green farm lawns, the fields now stripped of their cotton, the horses blanketed for one of our first sub-freezing days… and the small new subdivisions of young professionals fleeing Atlanta taxes, above-ground swimming pools for toddlers dryly weathering the winter, Christmas lights making candy-canes of columns here and there, mansards and bay windows and railed porches or broad decks proposing scenes for private domestic celebrations….  It was beautiful.  It was all beautiful, including the “bourgeois domesticity” (words inevitably sneered by the mortal enemies of families).

And yet, if I was supposed to mourn silently, “Please, God!  I’m not ready to leave all this!  Please let me live a while longer!”… well, I thought no such thing.  I thought of my own special places where I was a child, and how much more beautiful they were to me than these, and how I could walk right into them and see all my lost people, never to be parted from them again, on the day when I broke through the barrier.  I’ll stay for now, all right… or I’ll try.  I’ll tolerate Death’s cold breath down my neck as I gaze at the sun’s afternoon scythe harvesting a tawny field.  But when I finally pass through, the chain that bonds my clammy companion to me will break forever, and he will be left behind.

I began writing this page last Tuesday.  On the calendar day when I post these words, December 4, I have reached my sixty-eight birthday.  Will I see another?  If I do, it is well… and if I don’t, that is well, also.  I don’t like to mar my plateau of peace by adding that the cowardly traitors sure to make this world so much more challenging for my son will be a pleasure to leave behind, but… well, so it is.  I tell you, I pity grown human beings who so fear my dark, mute companion that they will sell their souls for a pair of blinders.

My Friend Vlad (Part the Third… and the Final)

I’m really not anxious about “reader volume” this time.  I almost hope that today’s post passes completely unnoticed.  I didn’t want to write it: I wrote it because I had to.  And I wrote parts of it in excessive haste or with excessively tropological sarcasm.  I did that because I wanted to finish.  I feel a spiritual nausea coming on this morning as I review the weeks that brought us here.  And with the luminous “holidays” at hand… oh, yes, the holidays!  Like anyone else, I want to weave an insulating cocoon around my wife and son and me for a few days.  I’m indeed grateful for the opportunity offered by the calendar.  For the rest of it, for the “Happy Holidays” emails from people I haven’t seen in decades… damn them all for pitiful fools.  And damn me for seeing more than was intended for fragile human eyes.

To those who have posted or may post comments, thank you for your time and attention.  Thank you for having the stamina to look long and deep into some of the darkest pits imaginable.  I haven’t answered any of you, and I don’t imagine I’ll be doing so—not on this subject.  I just want to get it out and leave it behind.  Maybe you’re better fortified against the pit than I am.

In the rubble of the former United States—in “Unmerica”—national elections will be as meaningless as plebiscites in the proverbial banana republic.  On the ballot is Your Beloved El Supremo and… and Salinas, Chacón, Gasparo, Dominguez… “We’re a democracy, you know, amigo!”  That’s your new standard, your “new normal”.  Enjoy.

This isn’t to say, however, that there will be no resistance.  Far from it.  On the local level, resistance will now flourish as never before.  As I suggested in this essay’s previous parts, the rift between Western European elite-progressive totalitarianism and the belief systems of the formerly weaponized minority masses—traditional Muslims, Hispanic Catholics, rural and blue-collar black populations—will widen rapidly now that the Nationalist Strawman has been incinerated in the town square.  The swarthy rank and file don’t like masks.  College-educated white people cling to them in adoration, but the folks I’ve seen mask-free in Wal-Mart have mostly been black males and Hispanic females.  The dark rank and file don’t want drag queens reading to their children at the library.  College-educated white people have attempted to float such quasi-moralistic claptrap as a solvent of conventional Christian values—and they’ve done so, indeed, with spectacular success, much of it engineered from within the white Christian church; but our brethren who live closer to Mother Earth (and who may actually have some of her gritty skin beneath their fingernails) aren’t having it.

We can join them to say “Hell, no!” at Town Hall meetings, and our selections of mayors and state representatives may reflect our fury.  Securing the representation of Podunk County for Montague “Poke” Mahone the Third, white socialist wonderboy (married to a Native American sociologist), isn’t really worth the cost of a Dominion-caliber voting system.  Regional elections don’t particularly interest the revolutionaries (except for district judgeships).  The central government, you know, can always crush counter-revolutionaries if it so chooses.  With fleets of drones to locate targets and Humvees of stormtroopers (now brought home from Waziristan to wage war on their cousins) ready to roll, unruly rioters in Joplin, Missouri, wouldn’t offer so much as a training exercise for “our brave military”.  Yet the optics of such beyond-the-beltway massacres and Bloody Sundays wouldn’t be good.  President Vandal ordering the execution of 8,000 black folks or of 12,000 Muslim immigrants… hmm.  Some of the state governors, at least, would begin to shy away.  Some of the stormtroopers wouldn’t trigger their cousins on cue.  The dictatorship would risk becoming a transparent tyranny.  Too early for that play, perhaps.

So what’s the next move on the board the Vandal?  If we remain in control of our towns and hamlets, how does our new master, his old master—the Puppeteer—bring us to heel?  What if, for instance, Xi Jinping, unmoved by President Vandal’s public-relations problem, orders him to pursue the sophisticated, pincer-like vaporization of ringleaders on a hit-list?  What if, for that matter, Chairman Xi insists on offering the assistance of thousands of PLA stormtroopers, who have no cousins on these shores and are well rehearsed, besides, in clubbing and bayoneting women and children in Xinxiang Province and Hong-Kong?

I have been somewhat glib in trying to paint the scene in broad strokes… but I promise you, it isn’t excessively reductive to represent life under Unmerica’s new (first?) president as life in one of Xi’s satrapies.  An article posted by Peter Helmes drops the names of a few European billionaires most intricately involved in Western civilization’s overthrow.  They don’t sound terribly Chinese.  H.J. Schellnhuber, Stefan Rahmstorf, Ottmar Edenhofer, Claudia Kemfert, Uwe Schneidewind; Gerd Müller, a chief architect of Angela Merkel’s paternalistic oligarchy; Frithjof Finkbeiner and his son Felix, creators of “Fridays for Future”, “Scientists for Future”, and the ongoing Greta Thunberg fiction in general; Dr. von Hirschhausen and Maja Göpel; George Soros, of course, “who with his thousands of non-mandated NGO’s” influences global politics significantly… such are the figures that a savvy European analyst would associate with the Club of Rome, and that are more often denominated as the Davos set on this side of the pond.  “But who is the strategic godfather of all these ideologues?” questions Helmes.  “Standing at the hierarchy’s peak—far above even Bill Gates and David and Richard Rockefeller—is the Canadian multi-billionaire Maurice Strong”… and Strong’s ties to Communist China are indelible, if not purely Marxist.  Beyond the Strong family’s commitment to a dictatorship of the proletariat (as interpreted by a dictator) nestles a pathological hatred of evolved human beings, as if we were far kinder to the planet when we were apes whose life-expectancy scarcely broke twenty years.  And if Bill Gates doesn’t reduce our minds fast enough (for time is of the essence) to that lemur-like state with digital exo-intelligence and injections of uncertain content, then… well, there’s always the termite model on Xi’s drawing board.

It’s beyond my ability—and, frankly, little to my taste—to autopsy global conspiracies.  My brush does broad strokes only.  To me, the ultimate godfather of megalomaniac takeover in our time isn’t Soros, or Gates, or Strong, or even Xi Jinping, but rather the same culprit as gets up to such things at all times: Satan.  That’s why no blessed meteorite just happening to drive Xi’s skull ten miles below the earth’s crust would really solve very many problems for very long.  It’s also why a President Vandal, if miraculously rid of the worldly creditor who owns his carcass, would have that sorry hide auctioned off to another master within a week.  In a way, none of this matters.  If Judas were not to exist, we would have to un-invent his brother in our mirror. 

Yet until we reach eternity, the day we occupy is always this single shriveled day—this minute of this hour.  We are here and now.  On this day and at this hour, it’s Xi Jinping who would rule the universe.  He’s the present Mao, the present Genghis Khan.  Likewise, our senile President Vandal, a grifter and a bravo by nature and by trade, is Xi’s hired tough at this moment; so our children, on this day of our Lord, need protection from this domestic despot who serves that global tyrant.  The succor we seek would be Heaven’s from the Evil Domain if the hour had come for every man, woman, and child of us to join hands and enter the Light at one step.  But since this particular hour is only engraved with the names of a few (as the next hour will have a few more, and the next a few more), let us see if another man like ourselves—in the image of Jesus casting the shadow of Judas—might be persuaded to save a child here and there.  Let us try to act rather than merely curl up and die

Someone like Vladimir Putin could be our man.  Oh, he’s no saint, no, and he may well be another of the Devil’s chief lackeys… but so may any one of the relatively nameless vultures who circle our civilization in high bureaucratic office.  Vlad is a dismal figure, I know, upon whom to hang any hope; but I see no other locus of earthly power anywhere who hasn’t signed away his soul ten times in blood.  Putin, perhaps, has only done so eight or nine times.

Yes, I’m aware of “the list”.  The poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinienko, the bludgeoning of Mikhail Lesin, the Mob-style hit of Anna Politkovskaya… it’s hard to imagine Dante’s locating Putin anywhere better than intermediate Hell.  But… well, maybe intermediate Hell will have to do for now, since the jackals slavering over our children are all pouring from Satan’s mouth in Hell’s Pit.  We santini who can’t sully our hands in anything morally equivocal—such as incarcerating traitors or executing murderers—may have to contract out our enforcement to the nachalnik of contract killers… or else watch our children be devoured.  The truth is… well, the truth is this: men such as we should never have sired children.  We weren’t men enough to stand up and kill our children’s killers.  We just sing hymns.  So here we cringe… and here lie our children with their throats bared to the knife.  And there’s Putin (and in yesterday’s shadow, the Mossad, and—once upon a time—a CIA not yet neutered by careerist bureaucrats).

If Putin himself is soon taken from the scene by his mortality (and, please God, may Xi and Soros and Gates not be far behind!), then another Russian nationalist of his stamp would do.  Imagine a Putinesque premier, offered harbor privileges in Texas or mineral rights in Oklahoma or an automobile plant in Alabama.  Such a high-profile collaborator in American enterprise would be hard for the Vandal and his Beijing masters to reject on “moral” grounds; for Putin is ostensibly of their plundering swarm, and is already doing a ripping oil business with another hell-bait butchering despot in Venezuela.  As Xi’s most visible buddy in war games fantasizing over the annihilation of earth’s human inhabitants in large numbers, Putin has earned his own Vandal letter-jacket.  He’s a cutthroat, like the rest of the team.  I’ve admitted that.

Yet Putin, or the next Russian nationalist to replace him, could also conceivably pose a major deterrent to President Vandal’s firebombing of his own citizens.  If some of us are paying tribute to the Russian Vandal, then we’ll have every right to summon his defense against Xi’s kowtowing-satraps (and Xi himself).  For I say it in a whisper to those few who continue to follow this dark conversation: I cannot believe that Vladimir Putin loses any love on Xi Jinping.  War games?  Of course Russia joined China in war games!  Russia is something of an extra-large Taiwan in Xi’s glazed stare: how better to handle the situation than to pal with the Beijing juggernaut for the time being?  Terrify the Yanks, win a few concessions here and there (knowing that Chinese promises are written on the wind with water), peer into your rival’s arsenal, get to know your rival’s tactics, let your rival believe he’s stealing similar looks into your sanctuary… it’s really quite brilliant.  Quite un-American, in any “post-Cold War liberal America“ sense.

Putin is a nationalist, a Russia-first bully.  He is that at the core of all his machinations and assassinations.  He’s not a communist—not of the Xi stamp.  That is to say, he doesn’t lust over visions of an insectified world swarming in indistinguishable millions before a hundred-foot gold likeness of himself.  (And yes, children, that’s communism: that’s its final, “real life” form on this sick planet.)  Putin wants Russia self-sufficient and feared enough to keep intruders at bay.  He’s a Mob boss whose passion is for the famiglia.  I know that the American conservative intelligentsia scoffs at such analyses.  Frank Gaffney and Diana West, for instance—and there are no two minds whose insight I more respect—recently underscored Putin’s communist bona fides on Secure Freedom Radio by referencing his remark about Joe Biden: that Biden would be easier for him [Putin] to work with than would Trump because Biden’s beliefs are more “Soviet” (not Russian: Soviet).  Alas, I think that interpreting such utterances at their most transparent level typifies our collective error.  I understand the remark as follows.  “Westerners with totalitarian notions readily go along with power plays that shortcut democratic participation.  Joe Biden is one of those Westerners, and I’m interested in getting the upper hand where I can.  Therefore, I’d like to work with a useful idiot who can be suckered into giving me what I want as he gleefully tramples down his nation’s conventional restraints.”  Only an ex-Soviet could fully appreciate the extreme convenience of dealing with an “American Soviet”.  Putin is an opportunist, not an ideologue.

So… say that President Vandal and his vulturine, life-sucking Health Minister Fauci (whose name means “jaws” or “maw” in Italian) were to decree that all citizens must be vaccinated with… whatever’s on the day’s menu.  (Something under your sink, perhaps.)  Say that your state refuses to enforce universal compliance.  Say that the Vandal (with Xi pulling one set of strings, and the ghoulish Life-Sucker another) makes a Little Rock moment of the situation, sending in the National Guard (SS Division) to strap people down house by house as Mengeles in training load and empty syringes.  Say that bullets begin to fly (and they would, you know).  And then?  And then?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have an Uncle Vlad looking over everyone’s shoulder?  If Xi can send in his PLA advisors, fresh from massacring Hong Kong, to volunteer assistance… why, then, Uncle Vlad can send in his advisors, too.  “Not so fast, tovarishch!”  They bring a tank, we bring an anti-tank gun; they bring a chopper-gunboat, we bring a surface-to-air missile.

I’m wondering if the state of Texas or the state of Georgia couldn’t borrow such toys from my friend Vlad.  The Vandal has all of the toys produced and stockpiled with our tax money… but now our Uncle has called the raise—and raised again.  Another dirty little secret: most of these made-in-the-USA toys are now outdated and inferior.  Vlad has better stuff, frankly.  Fifty years of subversion by the Vandal and his fellow partners and pillagers have actually left very little good stuff in our arsenal, much of that little rusted out by nameless wars in sandy deserts.  Meanwhile, Vlad may just have amassed more and better stuff even than the Chinese.  He has oil but otherwise no economy, he has an aging and thinning population (as will China, believe it or not, in just a few years)… but he also has state-of-the-art Armageddon hardware galore.  People said it was a foolish investment.  Now it’s the single game-changer on a board where Communist China occupies most of the strategic squares.

I’ll take Vlad, please.  I don’t have a nation any longer.  It dried up and blew away.  I have no president.  A disgusting, senile thug and career lackey is fumbling with the presidential seal bestowed upon him by the most inhuman regime to pollute the planet since Genghis Khan’s reign.  I have no flag.  I have no anthem.  I salute nothing of this world any more, because this world no more acknowledges the rights given to me by God.  What I have is an either/or choice of cutthroats to invite into my home.  In that case… I’ll take Vlad.

I’ll take the Russian hit-man over the Chinese mass-murderer.  I’d rather be a dog who eats at the bony carcass after the Russian wolves have their fill than the two-billion-and-forty-sixth ant in Precocious Boy’s ant farm, his weary eye following all our movements through a glass panel as he decides which tunnel to collapse before supper.  I’m learning Russian, not Chinese.  And if I have to absorb a pecking-order smack to the rear of the line in order to ensure that my children aren’t tied down and infused with Gates/Fauci eugenic sterilant, I’ll take it in silence, conceding that it wasn’t fully undeserved.  I should have done more, when I still had the chance, to purge my society of the white “Christian” all-tolerant progressivist virus.  I should have been more of a man—should have unleashed a little more “hate speech” when it was due.  I hate liars; I hate cheats; I hate abusers of children and innocents; I hate self-coddling cowards disguised as spiritual illuminati; I hate egotists and hypocrites who promote “science” only insofar as institutionalism shuts down open inquiry.  I am full of hatred… and some of it is left over for myself.

So… this loathsome Vlad, this buccaneer with raped riches gleaming at his ears and his fingertips—I’ll take him, if I must have a worldly captain.  And when I can take him no longer, he may throw me to the sharks, and I’ll gratefully meet my maker.  But the conundrum, my dears—if you have followed any of this wild rant—isn’t about the Kingdom of Heaven.  It’s about how you can save some of the children you brought into a here-and-now where you allowed a trap to be laid for them… and you are not Jesus, and you do not walk on water.  You did some bad things, and you are left with two bad options.  Yours is not to pretend now that you’re Heaven-pure—not after you betrayed the children.

I’ll take Vlad.  I will certainly not take the vile, fumbling, all-fingering Vandal.  Not now, not ever.

No Home on the Range: Corporatism Hunts Free Enterprise to Extinction

Last week I accomplished exactly what I expected, if not what I wanted: I left several readers supposing that I was a “snowflake-coddler”—that I found a period of internship in our economy’s miserable entry-level positions to be an excessively brutal demand to place upon tender young college graduates.  Which misinterpretation of my message indeed goes to show one thing (and maybe not much of anything else): that a man with a hammer sees nothing but nails, and a man who never removes his sunglasses finds the moon unimpressive.

No, those aren’t two things.  I’m trying to be apothegmatic.  Here’s an analogy that’s a bit less cliché.  Some people are going to stuff and mount you to fill a vacant spot in their display of felines even if you have feathers.  They class you at a glance, without study. They see in you what they’ve already decided must be there.  They hear in your utterances a script that they’ve already written in their heads.  If your audience consists only of them, you might as well save your breath.

I should know.  I’ve been trying to make the case for a “conservative conservatism” throughout the past three decades.  I always run into the “jobs/growth/innovation” types who don’t—who apparently can’t—realize that their vision is a progressive one: ever-changing consumer tastes, ever-responding markets, ever-shifting landscapes, ever-evolving standards of relevance.  No stability of foundational experiences, no permanence of places, little enough fixity in basic values.  I’m perceived by such people always to lose the argument—and, in the process, to disgrace myself with flabby, namby-pamby sentimentalism—because I don’t appreciate that Americans are tough, resourceful, energetic, dynamic, go-getting, risk-taking: the lumberjack, the cowboy, the wildcatter.  Yee-hah!

You know how that movie always ends, don’t you?  The lumberjack has no more timber to cut.  The aging cowboy finds that all the range is fenced in and that trains have supplanted cattle drives.  The wildcatter sits disconsolately in the tower of his mansion, abandoned by his third wife and reading the telegram about his estranged son’s death in a car crash.  “Yee-hah” is not a philosophy of life.  It might get Slim Pickens from the bomb bay door to the Kremlin atop his nuke, but it won’t get a child successfully to middle age.  You can’t discover human purpose in a life of consuming, moving to new pastures, and consuming again.

I decided (in vain, no doubt, with regard to those who never remove their sunglasses) to take one more crack at the subject by reflecting upon the walks my wife and I take through the all-but-empty Mount Berry Mall in Rome, Georgia.  With the onset of the fall allergy season, I can’t seem to spend much time outdoors… and one circuit of Mount Berry Mall probably gives us almost a mile of air-conditioned pacing if we wind around every nave.  I believe Berry College (now “University”, like all one-time colleges) sold the land for this ambitious project in the late Eighties.  The Mall isn’t at all old, as such things go, and parts of it are quite majestic.  It’s a pleasant venue.  Yet it has never prospered.  The Toys-R-Us sitting at the turn-in from Highway 27, where we bought a couple of my son’s favorite stuffed animals during our visits to his grandparents, has been boarded up now for well over a decade.

Meanwhile, the Mall’s interior has shrunk steadily—not in physical size, of course, but in its “enterprise footprint”.  The food court, teaming with exotic, high-calory options that are all strictly forbidden on my cancer-throttling diet, seems to be the only quarter that does any business.  J.C. Penney’s is selling off everything—everything, manikins included—at whatever price it can get, opening two afternoons a week.  The massive sporting goods outlet, Dunham’s, appears to have red blood in its cheeks, despite the utter invisibility of its customers; and Belk’s hasn’t yet gone as foul as whale on a beach (though the “50% off” signs in all its windows have an ominous smell).  Other than that, we see on our meanders only a half-dozen outlets for designer clothes (frilly tops for chic female teens, high-priced high fashion for their moms), fronts for the luxury-bath-and-soap market (represented now by just one Bed, Bath, and Beyond), a Kay Jewelers, and a salon where Vietnamese women discreetly perfect toe- and fingernails.

What else?  I think the space that sells smartphone accessories (not the phones themselves, apparently) may still be open, though its gate is never up nor its lights above a dull glow when we happen to pass.  Hibbett’s Sporting Goods has a presence, selling off metal bats and mouth-guards at the all-but-ubiquitous half-price.  At least three or four specialty shoe stores are stocked, not to be confused either with clothing vendors or sports-equipment distributors—wow, does our society ever pay attention to its footwear!  Otherwise… well, a lot of utterly empty space yawning beyond the glass of vacated showrooms: thousands of square feet of comfy indoor refuge the nature of whose previous commercial purpose cannot even be guessed today.

Why has the Mount Berry Mall failed?  Possibly, it hasn’t.  Its acres and acres of interior have all been freshly carpeted: convenient for our ambulatory exercise, but also a very curious investment on somebody’s part if there’s no plan for overhaul.  Let’s hope for the best.  But why was the Mall already failing twenty years ago?  It was on the respirator long before Dr. Fauci told our whole nation to stay home.

Some would say that the Internet has rendered storefronts permanently obsolete.  I have to question this, however.  People still crave places to go.  We’re social beings.  And once we find ourselves in a marketplace venue, we like to browse.  If various wares are spread around us, we often return home carrying a bag or two even though we had no intent of buying anything when we left.

There are also many items—admit it—which cannot be reliably purchased over the Net.  Remember all those shoe stores?  How many pairs of shoes have you put in your digital shopping cart that pained your feet when the box arrived, despite your having clicked on the proper size?  And with my revised diet, how many food products have I lately sent back to Amazon because the Web page didn’t reveal that they contained soy or added sugar?  There’s sometimes a real need to examine the product face to face.

Okay, okay… but still (says my snowflake-hostile cowboy), why do you suppose that a young person who wants to make dolls and teddy bears or to write and record songs or to collect and trade baseball cards should be able to make a living in such fanciful activities?  We should all have hobbies.  Especially because our day job can be so boring or soul-killing, we should most definitely have that special something done in our free time to lift us up again.  In the real world, though, the special something rarely translates into paid bills.  It’s foolish—pure pipe-dreaming—to suppose that an economy could run on lollipop fantasies of the sort.

If I wanted to be arch, I could play back for this urban cowboy (any urban cowboy: I know the species well) his own words mere days or weeks earlier when he praised capitalism to the skies for freeing people to chase their dreams.  Oh, yes: I’ve got that pep talk on my mental tape-recorder in thousands of renditions!  But I’d rather defend his compromising statement than deride it: I genuinely believe that free enterprise (which is sometimes distinguished from capitalism—more on that shortly) can indeed build a realistic bridge between people and their visions of sugarplums.

So you like to stitch together dollies and teddies (and who does nowadays… but say that you do): you wouldn’t need more than a closet-sized shop with a broad casement window to peddle your button-eyed wares.  Say that you write and record songs.  An even smaller closet would do.  Visitors could request that you compose a lyric for their wedding or anniversary.  Why not?  “Come back in a week—I’ll have it ready.”  And the card-dealer?  Some of his merchandise could be quite costly, so a tiny space in a secure, well-policed environment would be ideal.  All three of these improbable enterprises—and any number of others like them—would share one critical factor: each would profit symbiotically from the others’ presence, as well as from the colossal magnetism of Penney’s and Belk’s and Dunham’s.  Customers who might be vaguely enticed by such offbeat offerings but wouldn’t drive across town to browse through them would willingly stop by while on a more general shopping expedition.  Mere pedestrians like my wife and me, too, with no thought originally of buying anything might step in to admire Jurassic Teddy or to price a George Kell rookie card in good condition.

In short, the mall—the latter twentieth-century American version of the marketplace, the piazza, the agora—is ideally suited to promote the tiny enterprises of creative people with somewhat cockeyed visions.  But no, cries the Cowboy.  “No, it’s not!  Are you crazy?  Think of the overhead!  Such minuscule operations couldn’t begin to rent even the smallest space in a mall.”  Well, thank you, Cowboy, for bringing us straight to the heart of the matter.  Why can’t small entrepreneurs afford mall space, which ought to be infinitely more congenial to their bottom line than an independent storefront on Main Street (or a ramshackle lean-to bordering suburbia)?  Let’s consider the reasons.  They tell us much about how healthy, dream-friendly free enterprise degenerates into crony capitalism and competition-hostile corporatism.

Local taxes are a good starting point.  City and county governments seem to consider malls as rich terrain for plundering to fund their pet projects.  Precisely because so many shoppers go to malls and because so many huge national chains claim space in them, the haul is lucrative… supposedly.  Of course, these assumptions strangle the small enterprise from the start.  In and of themselves, high taxes make mall space prohibitively expensive for the doll-maker or card-dealer; and if he or she tries to pass the cost along to the consumer… well, suddenly the crap-shoot of buying footwear online seems a much better alternative than visiting Shoe Carnival.

The mega-chains seldom complain, though they probably should.  Large corporations have developed the philosophy that the more small businesses are driven under, the larger the pot left on the table for Penney’s and Belk’s.  In many specific markets, corporations even lobby government to raise taxes or impose new regulations, knowing that smaller competition will have to fold as a result.  I don’t see how Penney’s suffers at the mall from the presence of a shop that peddles leather jackets and teeny-bling, however.  On the contrary, the big fish can feed upon the customers drawn to the little fish as much as the little ones can snap up a few Penney’s patrons.  Nevertheless, the signs that Mount Berry Mall has become the exclusive province of vast chains are unmistakable.  The chains should have done more, not less, to lobby for lower taxes and lower rents.  Their survival-of-the-fattest DNA has targeted them for extinction in this instance.

Sometimes politics at the national level—macro-politics, as we might say—sabotages thriving small businesses.  The minimum wage is the most graphic example, with certain strictures associated with OSHA being a close second.  Tammy’s Teddies could make a nice go of it if Tammy could employ a couple of sixteen-year-olds at seven bucks an hour to work the cash register and arrange displays over the summer… but no.  Kids have to be paid like adults with hungry families at home, and to enjoy a full slate of benefits.  This is represented as “humane” by demagoguing populist politicians who don’t really give a damn about the average family’s income.  So Tammy can’t employ high-schoolers… Tammy can’t keep her door open… and Tammy goes on unemployment while she waits for Walmart to offer her a gig stocking shelves.

I’m not an economist.  I feel confident that I could double or triple this list’s length if I knew the all of game’s “inside baseball” realities.  And yet, economists with advanced degrees often promote the environment so toxic for small business that I’ve just described.  It seems to me that they bring to their studies a taste for centralization that dictates how they assemble specific facts.  I freely—even proudly—admit that, for my part, I have brought to my analysis a presumption in favor of the creative, energetic individual.  I hate “big”, because “big” suffocates.  Free enterprise is supposed to give “little” a chance to breathe and to thrive: that’s the proposition, dear Cowboy, which you’re supposed to be singing on your guitar.  Instead, you’ve been duped into warbling, “Leave the range unfenced and open—let those corporations move their herds!”  What you’re not noticing is that government is buying your saddle and stocking your chuck wagon; because government, for the sake of securing power over as vast a block of citizenry as possible, wants all the small sodbusters to sell up and move to the city, where they face lives of maximal dependency.  (It occurred to me, as I worked through this faintly humorous analogy, that I was describing precisely what happened during the British Enclosure, and especially during the Irish Potato Famines.)

We could make our young people eager to participate in the marketplace if it were truly free.  We could so energize them, indeed, that few would be interested in wasting four or five years expensively taking a degree in Sociology.  Instead, our “conservatives” have allowed Big Business to fuse seamlessly, almost invisibly, with Big Government—as the two all the while cultivate the public-relatio9ns myth that they are mortal enemies.  And the conservative plays useful idiot in the sell, more often than not.

So where did your open range go, Cowboy?  You still don’t realize, do you, that an unfenced plain prowled by the Wild Bill Gates Cattle Company is just a wind-tossed slaughterhouse for freedom.

FREE BOOK OF THE WEEKEventually It All Gets Used: Complete Poems of a Fragmentary Life contains every poem I’ve been able to find from my adult years—and I’m being rather liberal with the word “adult”. Actually, the early poems shock me now with the degree of severe depression and misanthropy hiding just beneath their surface. I also look back and see the struggles I had as a believer (during my thirties) in a very personal God while various forms of organized religion crowded my professional life (forms that sometimes had the aura of big business). Fatherhood transformed me—utterly transformed my life, like landfall on an enchanted island. Then, in my last productive years, I got a bit wry and testy about several political subjects which I’ve since learned to back away from. I’m much more of a contemplative now… but contemplatives don’t write poetry charged with angst!

You might or might not like some or most of these. They’re all free from today (Saturday, October 3) through Wednesday (October 7).

Finding Peace as Willy Wonka Socialism Closes In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Doctors: The Soul Isn’t Gagged and Bound in Its Bodily Prison

On Wednesday, September 9, my personal account of battling with prostate cancer through spring and summer of 2020 was released on Amazon.  As of Thursday, September 10, a promotion went active that offers the Kindle download free for five days (i.e., through Monday, September 14).  The book’s title is Why I’m Not Dead.  That’s how I feel about the contrast between mainstream medicine in the US and the alternative treatments I received in Mexico—death sentence vs. new chance at life—and the rest of the book strives to be similarly straightforward.

Inasmuch as the ebook is free for the moment, I see no reason to paste in excerpts here.  I’d rather discuss, very generally, what the book is and is not.  (My plan, by the way—if Amazon’s software throws up no roadblock—is to offer the ebook for free in a promotion at the beginning of every month for some while in the future.)

My text is NOT a “hit piece” on mainstream American medicine, if by that colorful phrase is meant an emotionally surcharged and manipulative indictment of the entire system.  It’s the testimony of one man.  It bears upon a single series of incidents relating to how that man was lost in the bureaucratic shuffle—then asked to content himself with a death sentence because some inflexible paradigm directed him to the Dying square after he landed on the Metastasis square.

Now, my “board game” analogy certainly implies that the system is flawed.  A thoughtful person cannot be handed a stone instead of a loaf of bread and fail to ask, “What’s up with this bakery?”  It could be that my falling through the cracks (as in not receiving the basic diagnostic test for two months, then being forced to await the results for another month) was just bad luck.  On the other hand, there’s no doubting that “the system” offers cancer patients a very limited menu of options: usually surgery, chemo, and radiation (which you can order a la carte or as a Blue Plate Special).  At the same time, it vindictively suppresses any attempt on the part of patients or doctors to draw innovative treatments—using diet, vitamin supplements, heat therapy, Rife technology, etc.—into the mainstream’s flow.

So the book, naturally, contains some reflections upon the medical establishment’s motives.  That establishment placed me under sentence of death.  Then, two months (and about $40,000) later, I returned from Mexico virtually cancer-free.  That’s not supposed to happen… yet it happens over and over again, for those who can afford to eat deep into their life savings (for Medicare supports no such alternatives, and the flight to Tijuana isn’t even tax-deductible).  I attempted to keep my rampages to a minimum, and also to confine them to sections marked “Commentary”—as distinct from those marked “Chronology” that continued the linear narrative of my journey.  But I couldn’t very well pass over the polar separation between how I was treated in Tijuana and how in my own country, how I was given a new lease on life in Tijuana and how consigned to death in Georgia.

The hipshot conclusion reached by several (usually much younger) fellow patients at Carlos Bautista’s Immunity Therapy Clinic) was that we Yanks need more socialism.  No, that’s not a thesis whose merits impress me.  In fact, I contend that my experience in the US was very much that of a pawn caught in a vast, impersonal socialist system.  We already have the worst aspects of public health care: long delays, one-size-fits-all diagnoses, pigeon-holing treatments, a highly manipulative payment structure, haughtily indifferent doctors or “experts”, and an unstated assumption that your individual inconvenience is not a concern to the well-functioning state.  Also typical of socialism is that particularly abusive aspect of late capitalism which draws misdirected denunciation from our young citizens: corporatism.  The state, that is, farms out certain development or production needs to private operations.  I suppose in a socialist state, the emphasis is on what the central authority deems necessary (as in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, or in Communist China today); whereas in the late-capitalist model, private industry dictates (very subtly, through lobbying and bribery) where the emphasis goes so as to maximize profit.  In neither case is competition allowed to flourish and energize innovation.

So I’m not ranging far and wide to attack Big Pharma, and I’m not launching into half-baked political diatribes against capitalism.  Everything I say is said from the perspective of somebody “on the ground”.  I do not, for instance, float any proposal about how to straighten out the health insurance racket.  It’s a nightmare for most of us to negotiate… but I realize that the “inside baseball” awareness needed to advance workable improvement isn’t in my possession.  I’m not going to fire a broadside when I don’t even know if my cannon are loaded with grapeshot or chick peas.

My “commentary” sections are very occasionally dedicated to religious issues.  The book neither cries foul on religious concerns as being out of bounds in the “cancer game” (how could it?) nor insists on transporting divine will into the middle of every moment.  Cancer remains a mysterious subject, even to those who have studied it for a lifetime.  Sometimes lifestyle choices—smoking, drinking, consumption of sugar or red meat—seem a likely motive force… but then there are people like me who’ve made the right choices but find themselves under attack, anyway.  Genetics, maybe.  After much research (and, of course, prostate cancer is only traceable through the male line, which is evasive in my family’s history), I did find a genetic marker.  My uncle’s fatal cancer began in the prostate.  But my older brother has been unaffected, as has my first cousin.  Could it be stress?  Again, this is a plausible factor in my case—very plausible.  Yet many people have been more stressed than I throughout their careers and family lives, and… and I see them cruising along into their seventies with drinking problems, but no cancer.

So… is it “God’s will”?  Certainly you can discover something of God’s will for your life during any tragedy or calamity.  A devastating flood, a car accident, six months on the front line of a bloody war… these are experiences that can make your earlier priorities disappear into a vapor of silly illusions.  It was so for me as I skirted death this past summer.  But I’m always appalled to hear the theory advanced that God is punishing Jack or Jill by visiting that person with a dread disease.  What odious arrogance—what spiritual nullity!  St. Paul writes that the ill do not sin, meaning (I suppose) that their energies are entirely consumed in fighting off the threat to their body rather than divided between routine living and ambitious, toxic daydreaming.  The suffering are dear to God.  It is the most prosperous of us who should worry about where we stand in His eyes.

The one thing I want more than all else is for readers of the book afflicted by cancer not to feel bound and gagged by a supercilious medical community’s verdict that they just need to settle down and die comfortably.  I hate that Siren song—that whisper of the Serpent—with all my heart, mind, and soul.  May nobody succumb to it through professional bullying!  In our struggle with death, may we wrestlers in the mortal match shout in the face of Establishment “experts” that we are spirits trapped in bodies, and that the spirit will have its say!

As I explore the option of free promotions, I’ve decided to give several other publications the same trial run.  Here’s the list.  Again, all ebook download are free until Tuesday morning, September 15.

Faith/religion/spirituality:

Social and political commentary:

Nightmare Made of Dreams (essays tending toward a paleo-conservative, somewhat pessimistic conclusion, in that progressive thinking has undermined even our culture’s self-styled Right)

Fiction (novels):

Visit my Amazon Author’s Page for both Kindle e-books and on-demand bound copies.

Health Care: System vs. the Individual

I’m finishing up the story of my victory over prostate cancer with the help of the Immunity Therapy Center in Tijuana, having been left to die by our American health-care system.  Below is a passage from the final chapter.

I’m one man—and a man, at that, who’s never liked doctors’ offices or hospitals and doesn’t particularly trust authority.  I’m getting old; and in the twilight of my day, I developed a life-threatening health problem.  I sought help… and none was given.  My Medicare was charged over and over for costly articles concealing a ridiculous amount of redundancy and for needless office visits.  At the same time, those articles (and I mean catheters, primarily) were never anything approaching a cure for my condition, and those office visits were spaced so far apart that my initial cancer had three months’ grace to metastasize.  Meanwhile, simply diagnosing the disease, which should have been Job One, was overlooked by the staffs of two clinics for two of those months; and after the diagnosis was finally addressed by one clinic, I didn’t learn of it personally for yet another month.

I was dropped and kicked around like a football where twelve-year-olds scramble across the muddy field of some Middle School playground on a rainy October afternoon.  There was truly an incompetence reminiscent of a childish game about it all. While most of the nurses I met face to face were caring people, the medical establishment in general showed me little respect.  My health and my life were obviously not of any consequence to “them”, the gears and pistons of a faceless bureaucratic machine.  When, at long last, I understood that my life might well be cut short by cancer, the responses I encountered were of two sorts: 1) palliatives were offered to render death as painless as possible, and 2) calls were never answered and my appeals for help were utterly ignored. I suppose Number Two, properly speaking, would be a persistent non-response.

This is one man’s experience, in the grip of one dreadful disease, when transiting through the labyrinth of the “greatest health care system in the world”.  I place that phrase in ironic quotation marks because, of course, I consider my experience a miserable one.  I would sooner consult an old curandera with her basket full of herbs than return to the *** Clinic or to ___ Urology.  Now, I am but one man, and I’ve had no significant experiences of our system other than the one described in this book.  Maybe I’m a statistical outlier.  I don’t know how to rebut that proposition conclusively.  Maybe I’m just Mr. Hard Luck.

That theory doesn’t really handle the embarrassing evidence, though, that anyone can find in our medical establishment’s rates of cancer recidivism. I saw an appalling number of people at the Immunity Therapy Center who had cycled through years of conventional, mainstream therapy in the US—and who were in terrible shape, not in spite of their surgery + chemo + radiation, but because of it. Liz once told me (probably with a smile behind her mask) that they called patients like me “cancer virgins”, in allusion to our having lived through none of the mainstream treatments at all. We were the ones who responded best to therapy. Although the American “toxic trifecta” will often kill cancer cells, the problem is that most living cells in the tumor’s vicinity also die. For a year, two years—maybe three or four—the patient’s blood comes back free of the disease; but if a loose-floating cancer cell proceeds to multiply anywhere in the body now, the natural resistance mounted against it is far less than a healthy body’s would be. Indeed, two of our system’s three favorite treatments are themselves carcinogenic—and recall that we all have had cancer cells somewhere in our body from birth. The temporary eradication of detectable cancer, therefore, usually comes at the cost of creating a cancer-tolerant environment whenever the disease decides to flare up again.

Am I just complaining to grandstand? Am I just “one of those”—an enemy of the establishment who strokes his ego by assuming avant-garde or “woke” postures? You can pigeon-hole me wherever you please, wherever the result gives you the best night’s sleep… but one thing I’m most definitely not is a far-left radical.  A classical liberal I may well be, in the strict sense of believing in the value of individuality—in the essential right of individuals to live free, to enjoy liberty: the right to try, to fail, and to learn. Yet that’s a sense of the word which nobody understands any more (though it animates our Declaration of Independence and Constitution as “liberal” documents).

No, I’m not “out to get” the American way.  It’s not my fault that our way has been lost, not by me, but by both of our political parties. Republicans are supposed to say that this health-care system, for all its flaws, remains the best the world has ever seen.  Democrats are supposed to counter that the system refuses to offer equal health care for all and seems preoccupied, instead, with enriching pharmaceutical companies.  Republicans answer that companies have a right to a profit, and that, indeed, without profits to reinvest in research, American enterprises would not lead the world in the development of miraculous new drugs.  Democrats volley with the sneer that a lot of the profit never finds its way to the lab, and that what comes out of the lab is designed more for mass-marketing than for effective, lasting treatment.

I could strike a pose and grandly cry, “Calm down, ladies and gentlemen.  There’s some truth on both your sides.  We must work together…” and so on, and so on.  In the meantime, both sides will have written me off as belonging to the other if I show myself weak-kneed on a single article of their manifesto.  The truth, however, is that I don’t know where the truth lies: I’m just pretty sure there’s not much of it on either of these sides.  Our American labs do indeed develop miraculous treatments and technologies… and then those marvels are left for physicians in other nations to offer their patients, because a) existing treatments here can yet be milked for so much money (as per the Democrats’ accusation); and b) any treatment must have a 100 percent guarantee of success, or else the “victimized” patient can sue the doctor for millions (a state of affairs ushered in by Democrat mega-bureaucracy and “lawyer-ocracy”).

But Republicans, for their part, don’t seem very interested in sustaining a sensible, anti-statist, “Tea Party” side of the argument.  They know that no state-run system can supply uniform health care to every member of a vast nation—that a cutting-edge treatment will always be costly, and that providing it to all who need it could bankrupt the system in many specific instances.  They know that lawsuits further drive up the cost of care for consumers, and that watchdog agencies like the FDA too often simply screen the gold-mining of pharmaceutical mega-corporations that have slipped donations into the right hands.  These are hymns from their base’s hymnal, but the Honorable Representative So-and-So echoes the lyrics of a different creed when Congress takes a vote.

Look at the current brouhaha over drugs like hydroxichloroquine and, just lately, an extract from the oleander plant.  I myself certainly don’t know whether there is merit to pursuing these prospective treatments for CV-19 or not… but people who have no more knowledge than I have staked out a position passionately, based (it appears) on nothing but their “R” or “D” affiliation.  The R’s contend that we should encourage further research into any treatment until it can be conclusively proved ineffective or dangerous; and, further, that willing individuals should be allowed access to such treatment if they find the element of risk acceptable.  The D’s, in contrast, insist that not a dime should be spent on theoretical cures that don’t have the weight of big-league names behind them; and, further, that no individual should ever be allowed to select a treatment, no matter how resigned to risk he may be, that the paternalistic SuperNanny of centralized government hasn’t approved officially.

These positions are the precise opposite of those which the R’s and D’s occupy on cancer drugs and treatment.  There, the R’s defend what I call the Medi-Pharm Complex’s supreme authority to dictate where we can go for therapy and what therapies we may receive.  The D’s cry foul, claiming as individuals of free will the inalienable right to risk their lives in submitting to a new therapy that might save their lives.  Now, suddenly, the latter sound like the true liberal of the nineteenth century, while the former sound like totalitarian statists who are about one move away from making us all have chips implanted into our skulls.

Do I have a “political view” on all this?  In the terms used to define politics these days, I would say “no”.  I would argue that my view is mere common sense.  I’m not interested in promoting any broad agenda: I just want the freedom to live out my own little life like a responsible adult with a functional brain.  Let me try something that may work… and if it doesn’t work, deprive me of the right to sue my suppliers for not shouting in my ear with a bullhorn, “There’s a risk!”  Let me possibly mess up, as long as I have a chance of succeeding.  Don’t measure me for a coffin and then offer me a few months’ worth of joints until I stop moving and can be settled into my new, permanent home.  Treat me with some respect.

Why is that political?  I am one man.  Let me breathe.  Stop rationing my air.

Isn’t it ironic (in this unending chain of human ironies) that Mexico, our dysfunctional neighbor to the south whose government rests on the spectrum somewhere between socialism and brigandism, allows individuals the freedoms that they once enjoyed up here?  No, the Mexican state doesn’t secure those freedoms well, and few can reliably access them.  Most of the “allowance” is off the books, off the radar.  But when so much is regulated and policed, the system becomes overloaded.  It also loses its vibrancy, if carried to the extreme. People stop working, because there’s no point: you can’t keep what you earn, you can’t profit from your own ideas, and you can readily disappear for protesting.  So…

So certain little enterprises are permitted to prosper in the underbrush, like the mavericks—the cimarrones—that broke away from the original Spanish herds and became the longhorn breed.  They aren’t enough of a threat to round up, and the government doesn’t really want to waste energy and resources in rounding them up—especially when they also generate tax revenue and attract foreign visitors with full wallets.  My Mexican benefactors sent me home with instructions to inject myself four times a week.  Oh, the lawsuits, if I were to draw the wrong amount from the vial!  Oh, the lawsuits, if I were to harm myself!  I was sent away with the implicit assumption that I was a responsible adult.  When is the last time my own nation, the self-styled Land of the Free, made such flattering assumptions about me?

My politics?  If by that word you mean “broad agenda”, I have none.  Capitalism worked well for our medical establishment until a few entities prospered too handsomely: then we had, not a free-market economy, but rule by Mogul emperors.  That each emperor was nominally a private-sector actor when tax forms were filled out was an irrelevancy; for the emperors have come to own the public sector, and our watchdogs—our SuperNannies—are mere puppets on private, behind-the-scenes strings.

Socializing our system wouldn’t have made my journey any easier.  In fact, look at my path and tell me that it doesn’t resemble a nightmarish trek across the terrain of socialized medicine.  Long waits, one-size-fits-all prescriptions and treatments, shameless profiteering by peripheral private concerns that supply the public machine, cut-your-losses negligence of cases that have grown complex or fallen between the bureaucratic cracks… I already know what socialized medicine looks like.  We have it right here, right now, in the US of A.

And, yes, to the extent that we don’t, it’s because the unholy alliance between the stethoscope team and the lab-coat team makes higher profits when government doesn’t mandate fixed costs for drugs.  But it’s government that prevents the free market from forcing costs down by allowing patients the option of alternative treatments.  It’s the government that conspires with the Medi-Pharm Complex to punish those who dare to go off the grid for help. I can’t even claim my flights to and from San Diego as medical expenses on my income tax—but I will have to pay tax on the investments I had to liquidate in order to finance the saving of my life.

With freedom like that, who needs oppression?  With capitalist cronyism like that, who needs socialism?

“The same people keep getting themselves killed”: I’m constantly remembering that old French saying.  What hope is there for us?  The hope of life under the radar, between the cracks—the hope I place in individual human beings who persist in finding a way to be humane.  Maybe we don’t need a new system; maybe we need as little system, in fact, as we can possibly get away with.  Maybe the more we try to fix things so that we answer everyone’s problem, the more we force everyone to be that abstract Citizen whose problems are all answered on the “Frequently Asked Questions” page.  Maybe, to the extent that we have a system, it needs to be characterized by flexibility—by adaptation to local and individual circumstances: by a liberality of chances both for those seeking help and those offering it.  Maybe we just need to get out of our own way.

The American Medical Establishment: An Anti-Spiritual Assault Force

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On the night of Wednesday, August 12, I thought for sure that I was coming down with a case of CV-19. We had been to a Mexican supermarket on the west side of town in search of nopales (prickly pear leaves, incredibly high in antioxidant). A few people in the mercado were probably not legally resident in the state of Georgia. Even those who were so might have staged a vacation from Mexico to parts north in order to escape the COVID outbreak in their homeland, which peaked there a good two months later than it did here. Mexicans also tend to have some genetic component (and “Mexican” itself is not a racial designation, by the way) which is less resistant to corona viruses than is the more Caucasian mix of DNA. So… with my sore throat settling into my lungs and a splitting headache going like fireworks, I was sure by midnight that I had managed to acquire more than cactus leaves on that excursion.

During the next day, however, the respiratory symptoms quickly vanished. The headache remitted slightly, as well—but it was succeeded by something more alarming. The right side of my face appeared to be mildly paralyzed. My smile was entirely lopsided. My right brow wouldn’t lift, and my right lid would hardly close. Half of my mouth had grown so lazy that my speech was slurred. I had suffered a mild stroke. No doubt about it.

At least, I had no remaining doubts by early evening—and I wasn’t about to attempt riding out another night with a stroke’s aftershock just waiting to blow my lid off on its second try. My wife took me to the ER, where I was immediately introduced into an examination room, and… and the doctor promptly diagnosed something called Bell’s Palsy. He even offered me up as a textbook case to the student-doctor dogging his heels. I searched the Internet after they continued on their rounds. Sure enough, I could check all the boxes for Bell’s Palsy.

What’s far less clear is where this disease comes from. My helpful ER doctor insisted that deer ticks bear it, and the Internet supports that theory… at times. But both the Mayo Clinic’s site and Web MD beg to differ, cautioning that we really don’t know. There may be a connection with cold viruses or sinus infections. My property is sometimes practically overrun with deer; but I also always use insect repellent before working in the undergrowth, always wash off carefully after returning indoors, and have never found a tick on board. I had indeed been hacking away at overgrown brush like a convict on Devil’s Island after my five-week visit to the Immunity Therapy Center in Tijuana (where my prostate cancer was stopped in its tracks and chased back to normal levels). The opportunity to be jumped by a tick was certainly there… but so was the opportunity to bung up my sinuses badly, which I had in fact done. Undetected tick or sinus infection: either one was a credible candidate.

Part of the ER doctor’s prescribed treatment was to visit a neurologist. Thanks to a cancellation out of the blue, we were able to see a highly esteemed one the following Tuesday. He listened to my whole story: not just the terrifying Wednesday night and more terrifying Thursday, but the history of my prostate cancer. Somewhere along our ride, I sensed the train easing off the rails. This specialist seemed more interested in the narrative behind my cancer than in the much briefer story of my Bell’s Palsy. Thinking out loud, he observed that prostate cancer likes to shift to bones, as mine in fact did; and he questioned me closely about whether I recalled any mention in my long-ago bone scan’s lab report of metastasis having proceeded from pelvis and hips up to the neck region. “We neurologists don’t believe in coincidences,” he murmured apothegmatically at one point.

If that was a joke, I found it to be in distinctly bad taste. Was he implying that I had cancer in my brain now—that a growing tumor might have touched off Bell’s-like symptoms? Wasn’t he implying precisely that?

But he waved aside his own insinuations, noting that the scan done in the ER five days earlier revealed absolutely nothing unusual. Yet he still asked my permission to access the three-months-earlier scan done to assess the stage of my cancer.

Why? Wasn’t a brain scan done five days earlier evidence enough? Even if the more distant bone scan mentioned a trace of cancer around the upper spine, that was then and this was now. My treatment at ITC had driven my PSA score down from 295 to 4.3!

What about the little detail that I had all the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy, and that a tumor would have announced its presence gradually rather than exploding like an H-Bomb in my skull?

What about the further little detail that I was already improving? (And as I sit writing, the improvement is utterly beyond question; recovery from Bell’s Palsy is said to take three to six months, but in one week I have recovered significant muscular function.)

And, okay: the scientist mistrusts coincidence. So let’s say that I’d had a recent heart attack rather than cancer: would Bell’s be related to my cardiac? What if I were diabetic? Has to be a connection… right? We don’t know the exact cause of Bell’s. Therefore, anyone who has it along with any other condition may be susceptible to theories about a connection between BP and his other condition.

What kind of logic is that? Why did I have to take half a day off and saddle Medicare with another charge just to listen to such claptrap?

I’m sorry, but… but what kind of human being treats other people this way as routine practice? My wife, who attended the entire consultation with me—and who also used to work with an ophthalmologist—commented that doctors often think out loud in this manner. But… why? It doesn’t strike me as very professional. If a cop finds a wife quivering on her doorstep as she recounts the details of a break-in but observes the husband standing strangely cool in the background, does he say, “Excuse me, madam… just thinking out loud. But have you given any thought to the possibility that your husband staged the whole thing and is going to sell your jewels after pocketing the insurance money?”

“Thinking out loud” is not necessarily a good idea. It’s usually a very bad idea if not done in intimate company. When you’re a cancer patient and you have to put up with person after well-meaning person almost bursting into tears with, “I’m so sorry this is happening to you!”—when you keep telling people, “I’m not done yet, by a long shot,” and ginning up your spirits for the battle… pretty much the last thing on earth you need is a guy in a white coat sprinkling in, “Could be that cancer’s making a comeback. I’d like to check on that.”

Yeah, you just check on that. You have a clean test that’s less than a week old—but you go ahead and dig back a quarter of a year for the same information. See if you can build some kind of argument to discredit the non-traditional treatments that saved my life. Or if that’s not your game… well, just keep slopping your stray thoughts over the lip of the pail. Don’t mind me.

I didn’t meet any doctors like this in Tijuana; but since my rash of health problems in 2020, I’ve met more than a few in the USA. Not ER doctors: no, I mean specialists. Men at the peak of their profession. My best guess is that there’s something perverse in the way we train our sawbones class. They don’t view patient morale as a factor in cure. I’m close to wondering, indeed, if they view the deliberate fracturing of morale as a useful step in treatment. Crush the patient: convince him that he has no hope whatever other than to surrender himself abjectly into your hands. Then do with him whatever you did with cadavers and Rhesus monkeys during your training and research. That’s his best chance: recognizing you as God Almighty.

Is this the training that Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx received? Is it why they and their cohort seem to take a professional pleasure in seeing people of my son’s generation beset with depression and suicide—because now “they will look to no one but us for salvation”? Is that why such elite healers would rather drive our children to despair and self-destruction than allow life to return to normal with the aid of a drug having a century’s worth of reliable successes?

I can’t help it. I’m really starting to loathe American doctors. I see the animating, redeeming power of the spirit on one side… and then I look to the other, and I see white coats and stethoscopes.

Why Are We Dying Today?

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I’ve been preoccupied with composing an account of my escape from an American medical establishment that left me to die of prostate cancer to an alternative approach in Tijuana, Mexico, that saved my life.  Pardon me, then, if I don’t opine this week upon our socio-political meltdown for a couple of thousand words.  Instead, allow me to offer a section of the emerging book that I wrote just moments ago.  The “chronology” sections, by the way, are interspersed with more subjective sections titled “commentary”.  What’s below is a section of the latter kind.

Again, I find myself having to defend the “chronology” section as a repository of facts.  The effort above seems like a broad, deep pool of feelings.  But when a crime victim has PTSD and sues the criminal for damages to help with therapy costs, date and location aren’t really as important as the fact that the perpetrator kept the victim in a cold, wet basement for a month.  The fact of feeling strikes me as no less relevant when we consider the damage done by our medical establishment.  It’s a fact that I felt myself progressively invaded by a deadly illness yet couldn’t even get a diagnosis.  It’s a fact that I was driven to think about suicide in the utter absence of any support from highly paid “professionals”.  It’s a fact that the PSA results were available long before I was informed of them, and that any reasonable person would therefore have supposed those results to be unremarkable; and it’s a fact that any such person, surprised in that reasonable supposition by the news that cancer had practically devoured one of his organs, would be somewhat traumatized.  Good grief!  It remained a fact throughout this time that I still couldn’t do more than a sponge-squeeze over the toilet bowl without a catheter, two and three months into my original blockage!

No spokesman for ___ Urology ever tried to claim that the COVID pandemic was to blame.  I’m sure I would have heard that excuse if any excuse at all had ever been offered… but no, none was ever offered.  Even if we concede that the way our hospitals shut their doors and closed their labs to non-COVID patients led to magnified misery, however, we’ve done nothing but admit that the system is a disaster.  If you can’t handle the victims of a train wreck without disconnecting all of your existing patients previously placed on life-support, then you’re running a pretty crappy health-care facility.

I’m in a hurry to close the book of memory on these sulfur-scented pages, so let me wind up the present commentary by squeezing in a thought that I’d entertained right from the start of my ordeal.  The first time I ever met Dr. X (March 12), I asked him a question so obvious—yet so puzzling—that it almost turned reality inside-out.  Where were all the Enlarged Prostate victims of the past?  Even if their enlargement was benign and not cancerous, they would have died an excruciating death within a few days because of not being able to urinate.  Dr. X gave the laconic response that people just didn’t live as long in the past.  This apparently meant both that a) men didn’t develop enlarged prostates very often because they were in their graves before reaching their sixth decade, and b) when they did suffer a urinary blockage… yes, they were goners very quickly.  He added something nondescript about the nightmarish ways that the latter sufferers would try to handle their condition.

Okay, but…  but where’s the evidence of the nightmare?  Does it appear only in med-school textbooks?  Why?  Because ancient authors were squeamish about portraying such horrors before a general audience?  Aelfric wasn’t squeamish about graphically describing the demise of Herod in one of his sermons.  The epic poet Lucan wasn’t squeamish about graphically describing bizarre (perhaps even imaginary) mutilations in battle scenes.  Suetonius didn’t seem to think the tender eyes of his readers couldn’t bear ghastly detail when it came to the excesses and orgies of decadent Roman emperors.  Why is urinary dysfunction the single sort of physical torture excluded from pages accessible to the layman’s eye?

And plenty of fellows got old, in the old days.  I’ve browsed through more than one decrepit Irish graveyard in my time.  Such places make interesting reading.  There are waves of die-off: the Reaper works his scythe most actively at certain moments in a man’s life.  Young lads doing hard manual labor with more brawn than brain sometimes didn’t see thirty.  A man who lived past forty in this group had a good chance of seeing eighty.  Where is the vast harvest at fifty or sixty—especially vast if almost all males are doomed to develop an enlarged prostate during those years?

To this day, I don’t know why prostate cancer chose me, in particular.  An inquisitive mind might look at all I’ve just written and say, “Our toxic modern environment is the evasive culprit you seek: our poisoned water, our poisoned air, our poisoned workplaces.”  Granted.  That sounds very reasonable.  Yet in my case, others around me (thank God) weren’t struck down.  If environmental pollution was the only relevant factor, then I should have had a lot of company.

I keep returning to stress.  Am I saying that people didn’t suffer stress in ancient and medieval times?  Yes, I am: or few of them, to be exact, suffered stress to the degree that we routinely do.  A Roman who wasn’t one of Caligula’s courtiers could get on with his life without great hassle.  An astronomer who didn’t publicize his findings could live comfortably elbow-to-elbow with the Spanish Inquisition.  And nobody, even among the most tormented—even Boethius languishing in his cell—was being suddenly informed that his identity had been stolen, or that his bills couldn’t be paid because a credit card had expired and his account’s password mysteriously refused to work.  We are blindsided and bushwhacked by such menacing assassins constantly, almost daily.  Even on a day when we don’t receive a red e-alert, we can’t be sure that our sailing will be smooth until we lie in bed that night.

I am conservative in most of my tastes.  Yet (or, I should write, “hence”) it annoys me when self-declared “conservative” mouthpieces praise our feverishly progressive lifestyle to the skies.  In the particular instance of cancer, we’re even supposed to celebrate radiation- and chemo-therapy as a blessing of our era.  Some of the “alternative” therapies—diet, supplements from rare plants, heat therapy, yoga—would land us in a pretty place, wouldn’t they, if we had to rely upon them and nothing else?  (Pause for superior smirks.)  Well, I’ll have much to say shortly about such “conserved” treatments, and also about extremely advanced ones that the “progressive conservative” Medi-Pharm establishment regularly slanders and stifles.  For the moment, just accept that for some of us older folks who don’t blithely punch buttons without any idea of what they may ignite, this brave new world is terrifying.

It made me a nervous wreck, at any rate: it was one of the contributing factors.  A rich man who knew that Caligula’s eye was lustfully studying his possessions could pack his tail out of Rome overnight for months at a time.  Now “they” know where you are 24/7 even when your phone’s turned off… and you, for your part, really have no idea who “they” are.

I Have No Answers.  I Don’t Understand.

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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.

 

“Expertise”: Ideology’s Contemporary Battering Ram

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

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

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

That was my professional introduction to “expert opinion”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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