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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Fretting Over Politics Worth Shortening Your Time on Earth?

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I don’t know where my cancer came from.  To be clear, we all have cancer cells circulating within us like so many little time bombs… but a healthy person’s immune system is up to the task of diffusing them, or at least sand-bagging them.  Why did my system fail?  I didn’t drink or smoke.  I never ate junk food or sweets (well, hardly ever), and I worked out vigorously for an hour a day.  Why me?

Genetics?  Prostate cancer is particularly hard to trace in that it only affects males, of which my mother’s side of the family featured very few to study.  I was under the impression that my one uncle died of a cancer first appearing in the prostate… but my big brother says “no” to that (and big brothers are always right, you know).  So… who’s next on the suspect list?

Could it be stress?  I’m hearing more and more about that culprit, and he has no alibi in my case.  I “stressed out” horribly at times during my academic career.  I walked away from all three tenure-track appointments I once occupied, not because I was facing release or dismissal, but because I couldn’t stand the steady onslaught of back-stabbing.  (At one institution, a dean urged me to stop publishing because I was making my colleagues envious; at another, I was told—oh-so-confidentially—to cast my vote at departmental meetings in conformity with the subtle hints of our Buddha-like chairman.  At all three jobs on occasion, my schedule was deliberately arranged to keep me yoyoing to and from campus from early morning to late evening, a tactic deployed against no one else around me.)  I had all the signs of clinical depression numerous times over these years.  Could I have been incubating cancer over that span because my immune system had been worn down?  Were my ruthless “scholarly” superiors planting my future road with deadly mines?

Whatever the truth may be, I’ve certainly chosen “stress reduction” to be a prime objective in my overhauled life as a “cancer survivor”.  (I’m using too many quotes; but honestly, all of us who survive in this life are cancer survivors, whether we know it or not.)  I haven’t entirely given up social media, though one social medium has apparently given me up: several Twitter friends are no longer receiving my posts after my five-week hiatus at Tijuana’s Immunity Therapy Clinic.  (No, nothing to see there: move on.)  Nevertheless, I’m very consciously awarding a lot less attention to politics.  I know we’re supposed to be activists, to get off our fundaments and mobilize, etc., etc.  Daniel Horowitz’s interview of Shannon Joy last week (Episode 686 of Conservative Review) left me blessing young people with confidence, energy, and appropriate poise.  But I’ve personally never been able to take the field for a few downs without transforming into Cu Chulainn during one of his supernatural distortions.  I get too worked up.  The younger and more stable of you will have to play this game without me.  (Seriously, when I did indeed play high school football, my classmates remarked upon my fearsome, homicidal transformations into a fireball of hatred.  I quit the game and detest it to this day because I could never regard it as “play”.)

If what I’m about to write strikes some of you as quietism, I apologize.  It’s not my intent to endorse the attitude so common among my wife’s Appalachian relatives: “You can’t do nothing about nothing in politics.  Why vote for any of ’em?”  This is not unlike the attitude I discovered among the good people of Tijuana—and many who crossed my path were truly good people, by my estimate.  They cared about me when my own countrymen crossed to the road’s far side and hastened their step, leaving me to bleed out like the mauled traveler in the Good Samaritan parable.  I had to fight down tears when I left the nurses who had attended me.  They knew—every one of them knew well—that their nation rested firmly in the squalid hands of hooligans and shysters.  And there was nothing they could do about it, so they just got on with their own tiny bit of existence.

Down the backstreets surrounding our hotel, my wife and I would take occasional walks.  Empty storehouses and busy repair shops would alternate with ornate residences guarded by high fences and vicious dogs.  All of it cheek by jowl.  Strange.  But that’s how people live, in Mexico and in most of the world outside the U.S.  You cling to your bit of turf and try to keep it safe.  What goes on beyond the reach of Massimo’s canines is none of your business.

Defeatist?  Quietist?  Yes, indeed… but more and more, this attitude is also survivalist in the U.S. of A.  Just one very brief illustration.  Jeff Sessions, one of the most principled men in politics over the past couple of decades and perhaps the most coherent, consistent advocate of maintaining our national sovereignty over that time, recently lost his seat to an “I’m for Trump” cheerleader whose position on border security might as well be Chuck Schumer’s—or Thom Tillis’s, or Kay Granger’s: all three of them (I mean, including Tuberville) ostensibly opposed to Trump on his signature issue yet endorsed by him because they stroked his ego.  The “Trump base”—disappointingly, but not surprisingly—cannot distinguish between the positions championed by their superhero and the superhero’s charisma.  They will follow him to their own destruction (and quite possibly to his own destruction, as his impulsive reactions shred his message) rather than measure every local candidate against the Constitution.

And that’s what’s happening on the law-and-order side.  On the other… chaos, tear-it-all-down, helter-skelter—“anywhere out of this world” (in Baudelaire’s immortal phrase).  While the Republican, self-styled “conservative” punditry derides Biden’s dementia and indicts CNN’s mendacity, educated, middle-class white folks (some of them in my own family) draw all their information from… CNN, and also grow weary of masks, quarantines, and Armageddon without any speculative genius for tracing our national lockdown back to root causes.  They just “want it to stop”; and the Man doesn’t help them figure out where it started because he can’t admit that Anthony Fauci’s canonization was a gross lack of judgment (any more than he’ll concede that Jeff Sessions’ self-recusal was not responsible for the Mueller witch-hunt).

Average citizens won’t unravel this tangle; and even if they do, the President himself will continue to foul his lines even without a shamelessly lying mass media to sabotage the ship.  Our future isn’t going to be rosy.  It’s going to be a Mexican prickly pear.

But we’ll survive somewhere in the cracks, most of us.  The Pat Buchanans and Diana Wests who warn that the republic will be destroyed forever if Donald Trump isn’t re-elected have assigned death to us if we don’t get chemo.  I figure I could hunker down and live in Mexico 2.0 if I had to, though—and I figure I’ll probably have to.  (Hell, I’m already there: my government just bled my wife and me for over $300 to get a passport in case I have to return to ITC in Tijuana… and kept our birth certificates lest we try to travel on those again, and keeps all we paid into Medicare for forty years, and refuses to pay out a dime of it for the medical strategy that saved my life. Is this Mexico… or the Soviet Union?) If my future neighbors are people like the ones I met in Tijuana, then they’ll be much truer to me in our common misery than the elitist medical mandarins north of the border who left me to die as they hazed an ailing herd into costly, toxic treatments.

For that matter, Pat and Diana, what I consider most dangerous about the Left is its utopianism: i.e., its conviction that an inspired few can play God and make the world perfect.  When we of the Right, in turn, lament the passing of a Shining City on a Hill, aren’t we falling for the same mirage?  The corporatist state that birthed the Medi-Pharm Complex, you know, was a cancerous by-product of Mom-and-Pop Main Streets horribly mutated (at the expense of Mom and Pop) into ravenous wealth engines.  We lost our own way, and now the vultures are gathering around a corpse that has rotted from the inside out.

Mend your fence, grow your garden, and keep your head down.  Build locally if you can: stop letting pseudo-messiahs insert themselves into your hometown politics.  That’s my advice… and, for that matter, it’s Horowitz’s and Mrs. Joy’s.  Yet I need peace: I personally need a lot of it right now. There’s no live grenade I call fall on to save the rest of my squadron, so… so I’m not going to blow myself up in the garage. Why should you die before your time, asketh the Preacher?

Live what years God has given you on this earth.  Stop trying to make earth into heaven in your impatience with heaven’s hazy plan.

Mayberry’s Meltdown: Whiny Males and Shrill Harridans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Have No Answers.  I Don’t Understand.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Comforts of Midnight: Peace in a Dying Republic

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In New Jersey, police go door to door searching for New Yorkers who may have fled their state’s quarantine.  In Vermont, grocery chains are forbidden to sell gardening items.  In Walmart’s across the nation, customers are being held to a trickle at points of entry.

In Fort Worth, a judge suspends private property rights.  In Laredo, citizens are fined up to $1,000 for not wearing masks.  His Excellency Dr. Fauci proclaims on national media that everybody everywhere should be required to wear a surgical mask.

In Florida, a minister is arrested for holding worship service; in the Greensboro area, four ministers are cuffed for violating a stay-at-home order as they peacefully protest outside an open-for-business abortion clinic.  In New York City, the mayor exhorts citizens to report any active worship service to law enforcement (though New Yorkers continue to patronize their less-than-sanitary—but fully operative—subway system).

Stories of employees being stopped and questioned by cops as they drive to their “essential” jobs are everywhere.  Meanwhile, criminals are quickly processed back into “healthy” communities from the “unwholesome” quarantine of their jail cells without a second look from authorities—while gun stores are shut down because their service, though now more imperative than ever, is deemed “non-essential” by many a local tinpot dictator.

I really need some sort of meditative excursion if I am to hold myself together.  Perhaps this column’s exercise Is my version of the saccharine “My Favorite Things” ditty from The Sound of Music.  Ugh, how I hated those musicals whose records my sister would play daily back in the days of… of the Vietnam War on TV, and of us young teenagers wondering if we would live to see twenty.  But there you go: CoronaVirus isn’t the first television-borne panic in our history.  Furthermore, the Vietnam terror (unlike this one) was all too real for thirteen-year-olds around the nation.  Body bags were traveling at much more than flu-season rate, and they were filled with the remains of many who were scarcely old enough to shave.

Hence one “favorite thing” that a father might remember in these days of a collapsing republic is that his boys, at least, are relatively safe.  My son hasn’t grown up with the draft and slaughter in a faraway rice paddy looming over his horizon.  Thank God for that.

There’s no doubt that the United States of America is rotting, rotting even as it clings to life.  The President is readying the way for yet a fourth “relief” bill (as opposed to letting us get back to our lives, and to the inevitable deaths associated with normal living).  As a republic, we’re now moribund for sure—worse than if CV-19 were in fact bubonic plague.  Our economy is DOA.  Even without the legal alien work force that Mr. Trump wants to multiply (as citizen unemployment skyrockets)—a diaspora that sends billions of American dollars “home” every year—we have no chance of ever paying off our debt.

Our constitutional freedoms are all lying in the morgue.  This very column may be banned from the Internet as “uncooperative”: news about the round-the-clock labors of Wuhan’s crematoria has certainly been nixed.  We dare not even mention that COVID-19 began in China, let alone that the bats in which it incubated were not, in fact, sold in Wuhan’s “wet markets”.  Our media simply parrot the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda like feather-brained pets, while also churning out hysteria-on-steroids “exclusives” and streaming contextless figures across the screen.  This past week, for instance, a local broadcast offered a nurse’s self-interview before her iPhone, the gist of which was that she preferred staying home with her kids to risking the most lethal infection she’d ever seen in her young career.  Terrifying, indeed… and also fully within the bounds of subjectified, disoriented panic-baiting.  A free republic without objective sources of information cannot stand.

Yes, but… but moonlight sometimes filters through the clouds even at midnight.  At least on our present course, the Chinese won’t be releasing a truly deadly virus on us—maybe another of the 1,500 species of CoronaVirus reported (or not reported) to exist within their treaty-violating biochemical labs: one whose mortality rate is 90 percent rather than something like .067 (assuming with the ever-speculative Dr. Fauci that more than 200 thousand of us die by September).  Given our present panic, the Chinese have seen all they needed to see.  Xi Jinping won’t be allowing Little Rocket Man to microwave our power grid with an EMP.  Our future is assured as a Chinese colony—a consumer of Chinese goods and supplier of sensitive technology to China’s colonization of the solar system and beyond.  (As of this moment, our spendthrift Congress as done nothing to wrest the manufacture of penicillin and other vital drugs from the PRC.)  Just as we’ve surrendered all our constitutional rights to be safe from a death that almost certainly won’t come from CV-19 (and certainly will come from some direction, one day or another), so the same spirit of surrender ensures that the Xi’s China won’t waste any nukes on us.  Thanks for that, Lady Moon.

Or why should we have to fear a showdown with Russia now, whose state-of-the-art nuclear arsenal could strategically vaporize our nerve centers while we’re still trying to launch missiles that haven’t been tested in forty years?  The Russians, like the Chinese, have to be entirely cool with what they’re witnessing on our panicked shores.  Solzhenitsyn’s generation was stacked into boxcars like sardines, shipped to Siberia with only compressed bodies for heat, debarked in snow drifts, and marched barefoot to tent cities where they were served a piece of frozen fish once a day.  These Americans… you tell them they could die of a cold, and they dismantle their free society before your eyes.  Why launch a war against them?  What’s to fight?

We have no real enemies any longer.  We have bundled ourselves into a gift package and stuck a bow on it: our enemies may simply wait for delivery.  Peace, brother.

I am actually thankful for Putin, in a way, because I know that he sees Russia’s future as it appears in Xi’s tea leaves.  I know he must understand that the Chinese dragon is slavering to devour Manchuria… and then on from there.  Putin will need all the allies he can get.  Obviously, the West Coast of our mighty nation is poised to become Xi’s whore, the latest addition to his harem.  The drug cartels that have already taken over Mexico are conduits for Chinese poisons throughout the Southwest.  I can well imagine them doing double duty as a sort of freelancing beachhead against emasculated border-security forces.  Haven’t they already won D-Day?  Didn’t Mr. Obama, in unguarded moments, speak longingly and lovingly of an armed national police force—and did his “Justice Department” not arm MS-13 and the Zetas?  All that remains is for the Chinese paymasters of today’s anarchic “resistance” to rumble in and mop up, at least among the Pacific states.

But the South?  But Middle America?  As we fragment into virtually impotent pieces, perhaps some of us will be wooed by Vlad.  I feel sure of it: he’s already making nice to Israel—and we Southerners trust Israel more than we do Washington.   I’m confident that we would choose Russian bestialization over Chinese insectification.  I devoutly hope we would.  I’d rather deal with Denisovan Man than with the Fire Ants.  Putin at least makes favorable noises in the direction of Christianity (unlike, say, the mayors of New York and academic ant colonies like Athens, Georgia).  Aleksandr Dugin has advised him that human beings are incapable of ruling themselves… and, well, what did the history of the late, great United States do to disprove that theory?

Yet if Christianity is true—and I would sooner die in the illusion that it is so than live in the “reality” that it is not—then all of them, Xi and Putin and the Kim clan… the Trumps and the Obamas, the Pelosis and the Clintons and the McConnells and even His Excellency Dr. Fauci… all of them must come to naught in their worldly empire-building, their progressive vision of a wholly safe, wholly organized, wholly gilded future.  I made a video a few months back wherein I said that if a home invader hauled me out onto the lawn at midnight, had his lieutenant keep a gun to my head as he ransacked my house, and then gave the order to hit my off-switch as he packed up, my last sight of this world as I bled out might be the stars of Orion and his Dog.  Betelgeuse, Altair, Deneb… Sirius… they would be beautiful, as beautiful as ever they were on those evenings of my teenage years when I’d crouch behind a telescope and dream of the life before me (a life without Vietnam).  And now true life would yawn majestically before me, and the constellations would frame its gate.  Not only that… but from my new life, my real and eternal life, I would cast a quick glance back at the punk who’d just executed me and his master—and I would see the pitiable agony of their souls shriveling away to nothing, to trash blowing in the wind, as time opened out into its eternal present.

Thanks for that, Lord of All.

Somewhere between here and there, Xi Jinping may get a tiny taste of his just comeuppance while his paltry flesh yet draws this world’s foul, disease-laden air.  His own people, tired of being reduced to ants, may rise up and smother him in their machine-gunned bodies.  For the corpses of Solzhenitsyn’s comrades in torment, Putin has expressed compassion once or twice; but he and his confessor Dugin may find that such expressions are inadequate—that the corpses won’t stay buried.  The puppet-masters pulling the strings of Middle Earth’s Faucis and Comeys and Brennans and Barrs… the Soroses, the Gateses, the Davos crowd, the Club of Rome (and yes, they’re all plural, all legion and ever-renewing in Earth time)… will find no real peace: certainly not in the next world, but not really even in this one.  Indeed, all of them will turn forever on the racks where they have cleverly bound themselves: turn in torture for a time here and now, and then forever more on that “throne of God” which they fashioned for themselves.

In the meantime… in “mean time”, middle time… there’s no point in deploring my fellow citizens’ cowardice, incuriosity, subjection, and infantilism.  We are merely what we are, if we refuse to become what we might have been in our Creator.  One fights awhile among comrades who don’t care against a foe who won’t come into the open… and then one lies down, bleeds out, and takes the gate through Orion.

Thanks for that.  Midnight is beautiful.

I’ll Trade You Ten COVID-19’s for One New Pipe

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One of the reasons I’m writing this—the main reason—is that setting and achieving small objectives keeps me going.  I’m looking at waits for over a month to have further testing, the results of which will determine what surgery I will have weeks or months after that.  Meanwhile, I self-catheter three or four times a day and try not to make too many wild guesses about precisely what this or that member of the medical establishment meant by this or that casual remark or rapid-fire, jargonal answer.  And if I dare to seek further enlightenment by calling a number, I push one of several buttons, leave a message, wait two or three days for a response, and… and find myself left with more questions than ever.

Don’t talk to me about the evils of socialized medicine.  For nobodies like me, the nightmare is already here.  Thanks to ambulance-chasing lawsuits, Obama-era paperwork, and open admission for the Third World diaspora, many of us already no longer have timely access to treatment: the docs who haven’t retired are absurdly over-extended.  I’m trying not to hate, loathe, and despise doctors personally, though it’s hard when “specialists” work four-day weeks and so clearly love to dash off prescriptions that turn into a horror show if you research their side-effects. (Or if you actually use them. So far I’ve tried two of these made-in-Chinas for a total of four days: sever headache, dizziness, and nausea in both cases… no thanks.)

I know I’m aging.  I do get that. Death isn’t too far away, and it comes to everyone.  Maybe I still have a couple of decades, maybe not. His will be done. Just spare me, will you, the talk about the miraculous progress of our technology. “Jesus is coming to your neighborhood… in six months. Reserve a space along the road to touch his hem at nine-fifty on the last Thursday of August by pressing One now. Admission subject to revised CoronaVirus protocol.”

Ah, yes. COVID-19.  I’d take the virus hands-down over my current situation.  I’ve had flu before.  I almost died of a particularly virulent strain when, in my mid-twenties, I was stuck in Ireland and unable to receive my monthly check from home due to a nation-wide postal strike (speaking of socialist utopias).  Living on one meal a day, I made an easy target for opportunistic infections; and Western European populations of older people and other compromised groups did indeed die in the winter of 1981 by the hundreds (or probably the thousands).  So I know the flu, from its worst angle.  I’d take it over this: no-brainer.  But, of course, I’m not being given that choice.

Now I’m reading that hospitals may throttle back on “non-essential surgeries” until the Awful Horror swaggers through our streets and wanders elsewhere.  With my stock of trusty self-catheterizing rods (and they do elicit a certain affection, seriously: they’re the only friends I have, besides my sainted wife), I suppose I could go on for… I dunno; whatever time a sixty-six-year-old is supposed to have left.  And it’s somewhat comforting, in an odd way, to know that as I tend my garden or make my baseball videos, my radiator is actually better drained than it has been in over a decade.  Thank you, thank you, o Twenty-First Century, for self-catheterization kits!

But for doctors, medicine, the “health care system”… no, you can keep all that.  Keep it for the people who matter—and throw in a barbed-wire enema for them all, from me.

Again, as for the CoronaVirus—the latest best alternative to another impeachment trial, a new strategy that the Donald played right into for months by blasting and blaring away about unprecedented economic prosperity—yeah, stick that up your pipe and smoke it, too.  For about two decades, we as a society have smugly, stupidly, utterly ignored warnings about our power grid’s vulnerability. Part of the reason was that many of our subversive representatives (including a two-term president) actually liked the idea of priming the nation to be instantly brought to its knees by an enemy. Immediate checkmate. But even these traitor-ideologues were too foolish to comprehend that major solar flares occur quite naturally on a timetable that we don’t fully understand, but that seems to leave us long overdue for another visit. And the consequences of that visit would purge nine out of ten inhabitants of North America within a year.

But let’s not mention the unsecured power grid—or let’s just rule its risks “debunked”. Let’s rave hysterically, instead, about COVID-19. Round-the-clock coverage of the non-story, the apocalyptic pandemic that will kill one in five of us (figures courtesy of talking heads who calculated that Bloomberg’s campaign expenses, divvied up, would have meant a cool million for each of us)… babble and blather every bloody time you walk through a room with a plugged-in TV. “Stay home!  Wash your hands!  Drink more sanitizer!  Build a protective suit of toilet paper!”

I’d so like to have the flu instead of be walking my present path.  Any flu would do.  But I haven’t been given the option of wimping out.

So I’ll send the ramrod up the rifle’s bore one more time, order some more catheters just in case Amazon decides to hunker down under the shadow of Thanatos next month, and go fence the deer out of my new almond trees.

When I pass through the gate at last, I’ll find my grandmother, and we’ll share a good laugh about all of this… or maybe not.  My suspicion—my hope, my conviction—is that we’ll have far more beautiful, noble, glorious things to occupy our attention than American society of the twenty-first century.

What Millennials Hate (Unwittingly) About Capitalism IS Socialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s not to love about such capitalism?

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

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