How to Begin Resisting: Refuse to Wink at Falsehood and Outrage

Finally, my personal nightmare of almost two months shows cracks and strips of sunlight on the horizon before me.  Much pain remains ahead, but now I believe I have measured and prepared for it.  The anguish I see in my friends back on Planet Healthy leaves me faintly amused—something in the spirit of, “I should have such problems!”  Yet the dissolution of a society and a civilization is, of course, no smiling matter.  I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic.  I say only that those who grieve should pause to thank God for the full breath and firm steps they can give to grieving.

And so I offer, on this very darkest of days imaginable for many of you, a brief speech of the imaginary Representative James Fairplay.  I borrowed the name from a silly little Jules Verne novel which I crawled through half-conscious in my personal twilight.  The surname’s Bunyonesque quality appeals to me: for Mr. Fairplay, you must realize from the outset, is a thoroughly fair-minded human being.

My course for the next two years, at least [runs the speech], is fixed.  I did not accept the honor of representing my fellow citizens simply to cast the office into the gutter and declare all functions of our government dead… yet neither will my personal honor permit me to participate in a pantomime wherein we reps and senators act as if led by a duly elected president.  I refuse to call this pretender my president.  I refuse to rise when he enters the room.  I will not attend his State of the Union addresses or other public events.  I will boycott receptions and celebrations where he promises to be present.  He needn’t worry about my rising from a crowd to shout “Liar!” at him, for no crowd spread before him will ever include me.  If I should find myself trapped in such an assembly, I will slip away as quickly and quietly as possible.  If I’m at a ball game and he makes an appearance to throw out the first pitch, I gather my family together at once, and we all leave.

I will not fight my war for the recovery of what shreds of our republic may yet be salvaged by hurling names across the aisle.  My conduct, rather, will be a steady broadcast to the world that we are ruled by a pretender.  My forever proclaimed, almost always wordless truth will be that we have no legitimate leader.  My testimony of every day, mostly silent, will be that I serve a nation whose highest office has been hijacked and whose Constitution has been brutally raped.

This is where our resistance should start, in my opinion.  There are those who would have Ashli Babbitt, the military veteran, wife, and mother who was gunned down by Capital police, become the first fallen hero in a new civil war, and I will not dispute her claim to patriotic heroism.  But I also don’t think it does much heavy lifting.  I think all of us, rather, need to embrace our inner Fairplay and settle into a grinding habit of telling the truth—or, perhaps even more than that, of standing for the truth.  Mr. Trump excelled at chaining a name to an epithet during his mercurial political career: Lying Ted, Crooked Hillary, Sleepy Joe.  It was effective in a childish way.  What if we, as unplayful adults, insistently link our nation’s plunderers to the evidence of their plunder?  “I won’t support Mr. Biden’s bills, whose presidency is illegitimate… our nation’s policy with China will remain in free fall until we have a legitimate president… I’m not surprised by the bid to pack the court, since it reflects the bullying anomy which brought this illegitimate regime to power.”  Always, every day, speak the horrible truth out in the open.

It goes without saying that such truth-telling must extend to our handling of Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, John Roberts, Brian Kemp, and other seasoned legions of the Devil’s Brigade who happen to have “R” after their name or a faux-conservative aura about their career.  In fact, here I should imagine that speech is distinctly less important than example: than holding aloof, than avoiding bad company, than “moral distancing”.  James Fairplay would be a less fitting guide to conduct now than the wizened veteran of many a broken treaty, Chief Nolo (Latin for “I will not”).  Picture Chief Nolo arriving in Washington with the Oklahoma delegation.  He will not attend dinner parties: he considers idle chatter a great corruptive of sacred mission.  He will not show up for cocktail events: he doesn’t drink, and he knows that alcohol loosens promises and retards minds.  He will not have his photo taken with Kevin McCarthy’s hand around his shoulder.  He will not give interviews to foxy friends on turncoat networks.  He will not practice for the annual D/R touch-football game; he will not even laugh at a good joke in the House’s corridors.  His presence exudes utter gravity and commands respect.  He’s “no fun” and “without interest” to the spiritual debris of Washington because he knows that the people among whom he moves have sold their birthright and betrayed their grandchildren.  He never forgets that he has entered Hell to do Heaven’s work.

Let us stop being good colleagues, chatty interviews, and reach-across-the-aisle collaborators: that would be a good start.  Let us always, always remember that we are vocal advocates for the plundered, like Mr. Fairplay, and also silent testaments to a present turned loathsome, like Chief Nolo.  Tell the truth about all men, every day.  Smile and fraternize with no man, on any day.  Take yourself seriously: take the war seriously.

Bridges needn’t be blown.  Missiles needn’t rain upon choice targets.  The way we may begin to win is to bear witness, even silent witness.  A black armband signifying mourning would be appropriate throughout 2021, should anyone have the guts to wear it.  A Gandhi-like fast as yet another bill dispenses pork would blare almost as loud as Gabriel’s horn.  Show resolve.  Show character.  Speak when the truth is being manhandled, and hurl silence when spoken words can only diminish the outrage. 

My Friend Vlad (Part One)

These aren’t pleasant words to write—and I didn’t even get done with writing them, for I find that I must continue along this corridor of thought for at least one more week. I want to be unburdened of all such words: I want to go back to playing around in my baseball blog, where I can distract myself for hours. But first, I have a duty to fulfill.

Say that you heard a strange screeching noise in the distance… something like a large metallic door rasping on a concrete block.  You smile.  It reminds you of an elephant’s trumpeting that you’ve heard on TV.  The very idea!  An elephant, in this place and in the year 2020!

I grew up just a few blocks from the Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth.  After a mass-shooting that left seven congregants dead in 1999, several survivors remarked that they had thought the shots belonged to the staging of a movie.  This response and the “backfiring car” supposition appear often in the statements of trembling witnesses just after such incidents.

I wonder how the festive travelers aboard the RMS Titanic reacted when the news was first borne to them in all seriousness that the deck beneath their feet would soon vanish under icy waves.

When an air-raid siren howls like a banshee up the street and you look out your window to find a gray funnel descending from the clouds, what’s your likely response?  Many go for a camera.  I think it’s akin to the “Wedgwood Baptist movie”: the camera magically makes the event recoil into the realm of the staged, if not the fictional.  It goes away.  It’s happening, but it vanishes as an existential threat that requires immediate and energetic counter-measures.  It will blow over.  This, too, will pass.

I can’t do better than reproduce a paragraph from Rachel Alexander’s column of November 9:

There is too much fraud here — concentrated in the swing states — to list in one column. Voting machine irregularities that coincidentally tipped the vote to Biden. Dead people voting. Almost as many people over 90 registered to vote this year than that age group did in all of 2008-2019 combined. A Pennsylvania mailman who said he was ordered to collect late ballots, and four postal workers who said they were told to change the date on ballots. Election workers counting ballots without verifying signatures. Videos of election officials filling out ballots. More people voting than registered voters in some areas. Wide discrepancies between Trump and down-ticket votes; former Justice Department prosecutor Sidney Powell said bout swing states, “We’ve identified 450,000 ballots that Miraculously ONLY have a Vote for Joe Biden.” Biden underperformed in big cities in blue states compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016, yet Biden had record turnout in big cities in swing states.  

Another columnist–Rick Tiseo–witnessed in person high-handed abuse of the electoral process on November 3:

This past week, Detroiters and Michiganders alike were denied their right to a free and fair election. I know because I saw it firsthand. 

I was a poll challenger at the TCF Center in Detroit from dawn to dusk on November 4. The many bungled protocols and perceived bias against Republican poll workers were as eye-opening as they were concerning.

Oftentimes, a ballot must be duplicated because smudges, frays, or the use of a checkmark (in lieu of filling in the bubble) prevent it from being properly tabulated. During the duplication process, election inspectors are typically charged with drawing a blank ballot and transferring the voter’s choices from the original ballot to the new one. From there, one election inspector will verbally call off the voter’s choices while another poll worker marks them in. The poll workers then reverse roles to double-check the accuracy of the selections. 

According to the Michigan Department of Elections, this cross-check process “must be [done] by two election inspectors who have expressed a preference for different political parties.”

Unfortunately, this was not the process I witnessed. In fact, one poll supervisor said that cross-checking with one Republican and one Democrat was not necessary if a third party (another poll worker) was present. I challenged this attempt to sidestep the rules, but it fell on deaf ears. 

I also noticed Republicans were often excluded—literally shoved aside in some cases—from observing the handling of original ballots. This made it difficult to verify that the original ballot was properly discarded, as opposed to counted alongside its duplicate. Original ballots should be labeled with a number and the duplicate labeled with the same number preceded by “Dup.” Yet, in my observation, this practice was largely ignored. 

Apologies for being somewhat prolix in documenting a simple claim—but some people apparently must be hit over the head.  Here’s the hard fact of the matter.  This year’s presidential election was a multilateral blitz, using dozens and dozens of weapons at once, upon the public trust, upon local and federal law, upon common decency, and upon standards of truth comprehensible to any but a sociopath or an idiot.  It was a bald-faced, jeering adventure in criminality that seems to have been “high-fived” behind locked doors all around the nation.  It was an effusion of hideous moral arrogance and indisgestible self-righteousness.  It has no analogue in our history.  What separates it from, say, the My-Lai Massacre or the Massacre at Wounded Knee is a) that its perpetrators shredded an entire system that makes civilized life possible instead of letting the blood of a few dozen, b) that they did so with the contemptible cowardice of white-collar assassins who do all their work at midnight after bribing janitors, and c) that there was no fog of war to excuse buck-privates for losing their moral compass.

The engineering of Joe Biden’s “victory” was an atrocity.  It was a series of treasonous acts.  Collectively, it was an act of war against the United States.

And yet… and yet, that couldn’t be an elephant, could it?  Not here… not in 2020!  Not the Titanic.  Haven’t you heard?  She’s unsinkable!

As many of us linger in our post-gundown daze, we’re lectured by the aiders-and-abettors of the conspiracy—the mainstream news media—to turn the calendar and scrub from our eyes what we just saw.  Yours truly, as well, saw things that shouldn’t have appeared, that have never appeared before.  My wife and I both received multiple postcards urging us to submit our mail-in ballots, which had “not yet been received”, long after we’d handed them over in person to the clerk downtown.  (I spend much of every Tuesday at a clinic receiving an IV to fortify my body against prostate cancer.)  Upon calling the clerk for an explanation, we were encouraged just to “throw away” the cards—that multiple questions were rolling in about the matter, but that our votes had been duly logged.

So how did the unidentified organization in question a) know that I had cast a mail-in ballot, and b) know that I had voted for a particular candidate?  It knew both.  To whom would this knowledge have been available six weeks before November 3?  Was the gambit not to induce me—and untold dozens or hundreds like me—to vote illegally in person later on, thus disqualifying our vote entirely?

A friend in North Carolina writes that their early votes at the polling station—hers, her husband’s, those of numerous acquaintances—were recorded as mail-ins.  Innocent, inconsequential gaffe… or clever overture to disenfranchisement in case mail-ins were invalidated?

As I wrote above, all weapons were deployed on all fronts.  Everywhere.  An almost inconceivably massive undertaking in fraud and subversion was executed.

And the people who did this are… are what?  Just the other political party?  Just fellow Americans who happen to see things a little differently?

A little differently, yes.  They’ve been very vocal about their ideological objectives—their “vision”—both before and after the election, so there’s really no mystery about who they are.  For instance, they want and seek total suppression of views not their own (on Twitter, on Facebook, on Wikipedia, on mainstream news broadcasts, in metropolitan dailies).  We’ve seen that elsewhere, haven’t we?  Isn’t it a snapshot of Xi’s China?  What’s the difference between this new “Americanism” that supports rigid control of public discussion and the old Maoist totalitarianism that our forefathers fought to resist?

They—our “neighbors”—want dissidents identified, shamed, “doxxed”, harassed by mob, punished by law, “re-educated” (with capital penalties for uttering a peep of protest)… so tell me, what’s the difference between this red-white-and-blue “return to decency” and the Chinese “cultural revolution”?

Even as they throw our borders wide open, empty our prisons of violent felons, fund homicidal riots in our streets, and defund our police except as hit-squads to hound us into compliance, they want us to surrender any effective means we possess of self-defense.  How is this new America any different from the new Hong Kong lately beaten, bullied, and poisoned (with CV-19) into submission by Chinese Communist imperialism?

And as for COVID, that Pavlovian app spliced into the “obey” directory… they want us to live without individual humanity, our faces perpetually draped like the women of fundamentalist Islam, as we seek permission to walk a dog at night or take a stroll on an empty beach or attend a church of our choice.  What, I ask you, has Xi’s China to offer—has Mao’s China at its worst to offer—that equates with the limitless, arbitrary, whimsical control over ordinary people demanded by the elite of the new administration?

And as for imperialism… haven’t they taught our children for generations now—didn’t they teach us when we were children—that our nation was racist and imperialist to its core; and do they not maintain now with no further trace of diplomatic reserve, from the blackboards of kindergarten to the lecterns graduate school, that Communist China, Castroite Cuba, Iran of the mullahs, Erdogan’s Turkey—that all are more humane, moral, egalitarian, and healthy states than the corrupt USA?  Does such fulminous loathing of American individualism, industry, and self-determination not infuse its sulfur into every single utterance of this “alternative political party”?

Play “Hail to the Chief” and limber up an arm in the Whitehouse to inaugurate the 2021 baseball season.  That’s not an elephant: it’s just a rusty door.  Those aren’t gunshots: it’s just a backfire.  That’s not ice water creeping up your leg: you’ve just had too much champagne.  That’s not a tornado: it’s just a video being screened on the Weather Channel.

Let’s have a peaceful transfer of power, please.  Let’s just get on with our lives….

Yes, let’s.  Now that we have no right to free expression, no right of assembly, no right to due process, no right to self-defense… no right to breathe freely or to use a public sidewalk, and certainly no right to demand legal accountability of “protected” classes or to have our votes counted fairly one-per-person… yes, by all means, let’s just get back to our lives.

You have been invaded.  The invading enemy is composed of your “fellow citizens”.  There are no more “united” states in this America.  When Nikita Khrushchev thumped a podium and cried, “We will bury you!” he was being generously candid.  Now elite bands of thugs, hooligans, arsonists, rabble-rousers, propagandists, number-crunchers, revisionists-for-hire, shysters, con men, barrators, pathological subversives, incurable megalomaniacs, and self-made godlings are trying to slip a neighborly hand around your shoulder and whisper, “Calm down.  Let’s get back to normal.”  Translation: “We are burying you.”

Rid yourself of the suicidal notion that the United States of America exists as it did half a century ago.  That groan you hear is the ship listing fatally.  That burst of fireworks isn’t the Fourth of July, but a twister snapping your power lines.  Your enemy is right here: he’s “your neighbor”.  He’s just occupied your cities, towns, and hamlets.  At least stop sending him Christmas cards.  He’s burying your children, fool.  You believe in Christmas, in Christ? You believe in peace, in non-violence?  Then emulate the Crucifixion.  At least go out and die: at least make your new neighbors murder you for all to see, as they did to “tank man” in Tiananman Square.

I’ll preserve my cryptic title at the head of this piece, although I never neared a proper explanation of it.  You’ll have to let me pick up here in a week if you want that explanation, should God give me a few more days to write it.

Nothing Will Change

author’s original oil painting (from 40 years ago)

Trying to write a commentary this weekend while ignoring next week’s events is like staying mum about the proverbial pachyderm on the divan.  Nevertheless, I don’t think the dawn of November 4 will satisfy our human craving for change.  No, not for any of us.  I don’t intend those words entirely in the sublime sense of Ecclesiastes (viz., “What has been is what will be; there’s nothing new under the sun”).  I mean, as well, that our specific ordeal as hapless citizens of the US in 2020 will drag on.  The forces that have plotted political ambushes and assassinations behind the scenes from within the CIA, the Department of Justice (smirk), and Wall Street will not let anything so banal as a national election decide who assumes the reins of power.  We’ll have enough misery in local, state, and federal courts to last us well into the new year.

So don’t look for shelter, at last, from the directionless, spontaneous, insane whirlwinds of 2020 to appear by Thanksgiving, or even by Christmas.  Don’t suppose that the finish line is just around the next turn.  It isn’t.  La paz empieza nunca, as Emilio Romero wrote shortly after World War II of the fight against creeping totalitarianism: “Peace begins… never.”

When I was concluding Why I’m Not Dead, an account of my recovery from Stage 4 cancer by turning away from mainstream American medicine, I confessed that my experience had shaken me loose from a lot of illusion and fond fantasy.  None of my daydreams has been harder to surrender than the belief that we might actually leave the world a better place for our children.  I chafe every night, as I bare my soul to God, against this sobering admission.  But so it is.  We completed the latter half of the twentieth century without inaugurating another world war or igniting another nuclear weapon over a human target… and what have we got to show for so much “progress”, really?  A general populace so subservient in mind and spirit that the Chinese Communist Party may rule our nation soon without having fired a shot.  We’re already scurrying around in search of “virtue points” even without the presence of eavesdropping cameras in every corner and closet.

My sister continues to believe that Putin pulls our president’s strings (as opposed to Ivanka and Jared), that COVID 19 leaves pericardial muscles permanently damaged, and anything else that her one rag of record tells her.  My former minister was practically executing rhetorical high-fives in this week’s circular because one of her parishioners (an octogenarian with previous conditions, as I recall) was admitted to the ICU with COVID—as if to say, “You see?  I told you all that this was deadly!”  The personnel at the “integrative medicine” clinic where I receive weekly transfusions of Vitamin C continue to mask up religiously, despite mounting evidence that obstructing respiratory passages for hours can be severely harmful.  (Ironically, a superstar in the integrative medicine world, Phoenix’s Colleen Huber, has been permanently banned from Twitter and roundly denounced on the Internet simply for highlighting some of these risks.)

Meanwhile, my son and his peers continue to battle with acute depression in their city’s lockdown, where many of them go the entire day without seeing another human being face to face.  The suicide rate in their demographic has skyrocketed; yet the generation that ought to include their parents (and I write “ought” because we are all parents of the forthcoming generation) utters paranoid whines and whimpers because masks and lockdowns do not straitjacket the whole planet roundabout, 24/7.  Think of it: people whose natural lifespan can scarcely now contain more than a mere decade or two of earthly time fume because the despair-inducing isolation of their children isn’t airtight.

Several governors have announced that large family gatherings over Thanksgiving will be banned in their state.  The presidential candidate who has spent the past half-year cringing in his basement from the “pandemic” incoherently promises to open the nation back up while also promulgating a universal mask mandate.  And the incumbent president, though at last lending an ear to Dr. Scott Atlas, also refuses to distance himself from Dr. Anthony Fauci (who now foresees extending mask- and lockdown-protocols until 2022).

Our news media are going full-throttle into bald-faced, gob-smacking propagandist mode.  “Oh, look: he used income-averaging one year to pay virtually no tax!  Hark ye, one and all!  List, ye people!”  And then, the next day… “No, debunked.  Debunked, do you hear?  ‘The Big Guy’ could be any guy… and why wouldn’t Xi’s minions, Putin’s henchmen, and the ruling-class dregs of Afghanistan and Iran want to pay this nice young man a few measly million for his advice?  What’s the matter with you all?  What has so polluted your souls?  Why are you so cynical and wicked?”

Why?  Because of an infectious disease called thinking, which somehow—incredibly—manages to spread even through the Internet and in other public forums.  “This cannot stand!  Stop the circulation of disruptive ideas!  Fact-checkers, to your posts!  Certified experts, hone ye your excising blades!  Black-splashing redactors, let the ink run like the Nile in spate!  We’ll do the rest.  Wolf is at full-cock.  Jim has girt his loins.  Christiane’s cup of words runneth over.  Brooke’s blinders are cinched tight in battle-mode.  Dana has memorized the interview questions passed along via secure email.  Let’s roll!  Dorsey, Zuckerman, Bezos… just keep further breaches from opening.  We’ll do the rest: we’ll make castles of clouds, tropical resorts of death camps, cordon-bleu cuisine of cow’s dung, sweet camomile of sulfur.  We’ve got this.  We’ve trained for this.  It’s what we do.”

Satire is all that’s left to the seeker of truth who’s determined to honor the principle of free speech.  It would be so easy to cry for the guillotine, to volunteer for journalist firing squads… but this, of course, is the very hell-on-earth vision that cultic ideologues hug to their hearts.  We must somehow not become them.  The energy consumed in mere resistance to such ugly impulses—in clinging to the negative virtue of not acting—leaves one exhausted.  We must find that energy, as our better angels pant and faint.

Yet where does it end, if the lithe-tongued lackeys of totalitarian utopia are not to be jailed or gagged?  “Foul deeds will rise, though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes”…. But will they?  Why?  How?  When all men are forced to go masked, and when all speech is passed through filters that catch far more truth than face-diapers catch virons, why should we be confident that the vipers among us will writhe helplessly and wither away once the sun rises? The sun that never sets, yes—the immeasurable truth of eternity, yes… but between now and then? What justice will there be between now and then?

Karl Popper’s Note 27 to the seventeenth chapter of The Open Society and Its Enemies expresses confidence—from the perspective of over half a century ago—that the Press might be made to fulfill its civic duty if elections affected by misinformation were repeated, with the newsrooms and studios responsible for the fraud being made to foot the bill.  How naive that great mind seems now… now that we know just how creative human mendacity can be.  The truth exists.  But does the unnamed “mother of three” interviewed in a high-crime neighborhood represent prevailing opinion?  If it should turn out that she’s the mother of none and has been coached in her views, are those views necessarily wrong?  Or if she’s all that she seems and also accurately projects the neighborhood’s mood, is a mood evidence that the real problem has been grasped?

I don’t see when or how this kind of thing gets better.  The tribes among us will have to wear their masks and feathers until they kill each other off—and perhaps the rest of us with them.  Those entrusted with words so that disputes may be reasonably resolved will continue to overdraw on Reason’s account until its last penny is assumed to be counterfeit.  The wildfire must run its course.  If a few of us find a low, barren place where the flames pass over lightly, then we will indeed have occasion to give thanks.

What a reckoning for the incendiarists, when the stars bend to earth and show them real fire!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Invasion of the Puppets: BLM and the Last Days of Civil Society

Somebody should perhaps write an addendum to The Screwtape Letters.  My suspicion is that somebody already has, either in the “People’s Republic” of China or in the upper echelons of American academe.

The way that mass consciousness—if one can use those two words together—has been manipulated by the BLM movement (shakedown? insurrection?) is pure Satanic genius.  When I read about the conduct of both Kansas City and Houston players as the anthem opened the NFL’s initial game, I realized what a tight little box had been sealed upon our national psyche.  One team’s fifty stalwarts linked arms and bent knees; the other’s simply refused to take the field.  Now, I couldn’t possibly care less about football at any level.  I despise the game.  As a boy, I knew several kids who were crippled for life while playing high school football, and one who actually died after a year on a respirator.  Suits me fine if we just hand the whole sport off to the feminists. It’s about blindsiding or mobbing your adversary, not going mano a mano face-to-face.

But there are much more important issues involved here that we ignore at our peril.  And, of course, the buffoonery is spreading.  We all know about basketball‘s “woke” transformation, even those of us who couldn’t readily name six NBA teams.  (Yeah, I’ve raised my hand.) Now baseball is crowding in for a piece of the idiot action—idiot on the surface, that is; for the genius is in the Puppeteer’s mind and not in the wooden heads of his Pinocchios.  Several Major League clubs refused to perform in their empty stadiums (all stadiums in COVID America being empty nowadays—that’s part of the behind-the-scenes brilliance) after the shooting of Jacob Blake.  None of these blockheads knew the details of the shooting: “cop shoots black dude…” okay, let’s roll.  The ratiocinative chain went no further than that.

But consider the “meta” of these moron-level associative responses.  Their very fuzziness is part of the mire wherein we have all waded and been trapped.  Exactly what are you protesting, Mighty Casey?  How about you, Slag Bronkowsky—and you, D’Shondrick Hayes?  “Well, it’s the cops.  They’re killing young black kids.”  So… your best way of addressing the social disease underlying these fatalities is to squat on the flag or simply refuse to fulfill your player’s contract?  “Gotta draw attention to the abuse, man.”  Attention you have certainly drawn… but to what?  To the police?  To which police?  “All of ’em, man!”  So let’s suppose that all police are racist executioners disguised in blue.  Doesn’t disrespecting the flag send the signal, rather, that you find the whole nation guilty?  Doesn’t walking out on your job send the signal that you think everything’s a contemptible scam?  “It is!  Everything, just like you said.  And yeah, everyone’s guilty.”  Okay, we’re getting real clarity now.  Gimlet precision.  So it’s not about the cops: it’s about mainstream America and her political system.  “Yeah, that’s right.”  Because all of it—because everyone—is racist.  “Yeah, that’s right.”  So why didn’t you take a knee a long time ago to protest the quarter-of-a-million-plus black babies who are aborted every year?  “Come on, man!  You’re just trying to make this political!”

Wow.  There’s a coherent, resonant message for you.  Every passive spectator out there who doesn’t applaud me because I’m calling his eight-to-five world a load of crap is part of said load.  It’s a world, by the way, that supplied him and other spectators with the means to blow a couple of Franklins on a ticket and watch me play.  Yeah, I’ll play—but first you’ll open up for a scoop of this, cracker, and you’ll swallow!

Result: average Americans—hard-working, practical, common-sensical—are repulsed by all the self-righteous arrogance and logic-hostile bullying.  The ordinary adult, being sane and responsible, grows angry.  He turns his back on sports, which actually darkens his mood (because we do genuinely need some sort of frivolous escape-valve in our routine); and before very long, he may even begin to mutter thoughts only to himself, or at most to a very tight circle of familiars, that people of color are a tremendous annoyance.

Brilliant, I say.  This is a huge accomplishment in the Puppeteer’s bid to subvert society.  For we now have significant rifts opening up in our social fabric; and even better, the strain producing the splits isn’t merely economic or cultural—it’s the beginning stage of true racism.  Not the phony kind, but the real thing.  Well done, Master Screwtape!

Furthermore, the rifts are numerous and running in several directions, as opposed to reflecting a simple black/white antagonism.  Whites who cannot bed down at night without mentally checking some box that confirms their moral superiority rush to endorse anything with “BLM” scrawled along its edge.  It seems to me, honestly, as though their voice is much louder than any football team’s—their need of this bizarre bedtime prayer-of-the-Pharisee more urgent than any black athlete’s of publicizing abuses in racial profiling.  The neo-fascist Antifa draws its most committed footsoldiers from the ranks of the “woke white”.  If BLM didn’t exist, Antifa’s white buccaneers would have to invent it (which, you know, some of them—or their bloody-handed captains—actually did: few of the puppeteers are genetically African).

The presence of anti-white racist whites in the melee ensures that no sane discussion of specific cases or of appropriate generalities can occur.  Any sentence that begins, “But did you realize that Jacob Blake… did you know that George Floyd…” draws immediate artillery fire.  Yours not to question.  Do not dare initiate the observation, “But if so many black kids were not raised without fathers…”.  Oh, don’t you dare!  Shut up!  SHUT UP!  SHUT THE F— UP!”

So now we have at least three phalanxes launching missiles at each other, with the Woke White appearing to be one with the black protest but, increasingly, distanced from it by their own zealous excesses.  I really can’t say how numerous a fourth battle line (or, more properly, defensive line) may be, consisting of people with African DNA who claim the right to open, peaceful discussion; for few human beings have the courage of Candace Owens, Kimberly Klacik, or Allen West.  Most of this happy few (or secret many, let us hope) do their claiming in a whisper, since they see how gaudily the outspoken are crucified.  And the grumbling white mainstream, of course, hasn’t much interest in coming to their rescue, and probably would do so very ineptly if it tried. (I took a lot of flak from the White Right when I tried to publicize Kim Klacik’s campaign with my little trumpet last spring.)

Because of unique (and accidental?) circumstances, our ongoing social fragmentation is turbocharged in 2020.  Most of us are already on the verge of suicide or homicide thanks to COVID lockdown.  When you cook up a potful of people who have long since been denied their constitutional right to associate freely with fellow citizens, season it with paranoia about a “pandemic” whose fatalities approximate the curve of a bad flu year, and finally stir in racial hatred and armed bullying (with faces all duly masked)… well, old Screwtape outdid himself this time.  Hell is boiling over into Middle Earth.

For the record, I fully grasp that young black males are profiled by police with excessive readiness.  While it’s true that this demographic is disproportionately involved in certain crimes (such as possession of prohibited substances or of unlicensed firearms), the law requires probable cause to pry into a person’s private space… and “driving while black” is not probable cause.  How many white parents would get the call that their college student has been incarcerated on drug charges if a single stop-and-search protocol were applied with equal rigor across the board?  Yes, I understand.

But—as the words run in some Rap song that I recall from my son’s high school days—“dat ain’t dis, and dis ain’t dat.”  The BLM frenzy is in fact drawing effective attention away from issues which might be ameliorated.  A simple “stop profiling” would have done the trick; and I don’t know if kneeling for the anthem would remain the best delivery system, but at least it would not involve the open disrespect of—say—turning the back.  So kneel, if you like.  People of all creeds, classes, and colors could chime in, as well, without all the virtue-miming.  Attorneys like Kathleen Zellner have made us aware that repeat petty offenders or “poor white trash” can get railroaded all the way to Death Row by detectives who cut corners.  Buddy Woodall is serving life here in Georgia for a double murder because cops exploited his insomnia and despair to wring a confession from him in the absence of solid material evidence.  Buddy is white… but he’s also a “nobody”.  He grew up on a country lane lined with trailer homes.  (And the locals, by the way, still will not discuss the case two decades later: too many figures that once wore badges are implicated in it.)

Patsy Ramsay, in contrast, was definitely somebody.  She was beautiful (Miss Virginia at age 20), married to a wealthy Atlanta businessman, and—yes—Caucasian all the way.  She passed the final twenty years of her life fighting, in court and before the public eye, the perception—shamelessly encouraged by Boulder, Colorado, detectives—that she had a hand in murdering her young daughter, JonBenét.  One can scarcely imagine a more miserable existence: to know that your child died a violent death, to know that the crime occurred in your house as you slept, and to know that the killer is living free as the police push and squeeze to make the evidence point to you… all because your profile fits their boilerplate culprit for a domestic homicide.  Who’s taking a knee for Patsy?

What misery!  In a humane society, we would recognize that injustice is a thread binding us all together; but as subversive puppeteers try to rip our society apart, we are asked—no, required—to believe that only one race suffers.  It’s insulting to the intelligence—and, by the way, demeaning to the race at issue, as if its members were condemned deterministically to slings and arrows and needed special protection.  A black friend of mine once protested, during our discussion of my book Key to a Cold City, “But Dr. Harris… black ballplayers in Jackie Robinson’s day never ceased being black.  Out of uniform, walking into a restaurant or hotel, they were still black.  A white player might get dumped on by the fans or the press—but put him in street clothes, and he can go anywhere he wants.”  That’s true… and so is this.  It’s a remark that Larry Doby made about Yogi Berra, and I wish I’d found it in time for inclusion in the book.  “… I repeated a few of those jokes myself [about Yogi’s being a dope, a caveman, etc.].  And it never once occurred to me in those early years that I was hurting Yogi’s feelings.  The black guys around the league, there weren’t many of us, but when we would get together and talk, we knew we were all going through something together.  That made the abuse a little easier to take.  Now that I’m older, I wonder who helped Yogi take all that abuse” (Allen Barra, Yogi Berra, Eternal Yankee, pp. 62-63 [2009]).

We all have our struggles.  Everyone’s travail is unique in some way, yet all of us are alike in having to bear heavy burdens.  If we forget that, then we will become incapable of true compassion or true justice.  We will be animals that belch words, lots of words, without any regard for or suspicion of their meaning. I believe we’re already there.

P.S. In keeping with my bid to offer certain of my ebooks free at regular intervals, I’ve created a promotion for two of my fictional works about academe in the late twentieth century. Worse By Seven is a psychological novel about a professor who surrenders to despair amid the nihilism and debauchery that swamp him on an elite campus… but who at last finds a truth greater than this world’s. Ivory Gutter Shining Bright is a large collection of short stories, most of them wry or burlesque, some a little fantastical, about the pompous insanity that prevails in our towers of learning. Both ebooks may be downloaded free through this Tuesday (September 22).

If We Love Our Children, We Should Talk to Putin

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I found the following article by a certain Freddy Kühne in the PDF containing all the July publications of Peter Helmes’ Die Deutschen Konservativen: “Von den USA, über Europa, Israel, Iran bis hin zu China und Hong-Kong – Eine geopolitische Analyse über die derzeitig anhaltende Kompasslosigkeit deutscher Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik” (pp. 23-31). In English, the title runs, “From the USA Across Europe, Israel, and Iran and Thence to China and Hong Kong: A Geopolitical Analysis of the Currently Dominant Lack of Objective in German Foreign and Domestic Policy”. Mr. Kühne originally titled the piece somewhat more revealingly on his Christlich liberal konservatives Blog as, “Nordstream 2 und US-Truppen: USA und Polen sollten stärker auf deutsche und russische Interessen eingehen, sonst zerstören sie dauerhaft die traditionell guten Beziehungen – vor allem zu Deutschland” (“Northstream 2 and US Troops: the USA and Poland Should Weigh German and Russian Interests More Carefully or Risk Permanently Damaging Traditionally Good Relationships”).

Sorry about all the German. If you read the language, then you can probably recur to the article itself and fare better than I would in trying to translate it. My purpose in this space, in any case, has seldom been to immerse myself in politics, and I’m going to handle the issues here with the “lang spuin” which—according to a Scots proverb—is needed when eating with the Devil. Just from reproducing the titles above with a hint of sympathy, I’ve probably already ended up on the Devil’s prongs, in the view of any American conservative. Well, for that matter… aren’t Boris and Natasha also supposed to be the favorite villains of the Left nowadays? Everything Russian, to every patriotic American left-wing or right-wing, is despicable. We agree on nothing—except we can all agree to hate the Russians.

And let’s get one thing clear: Putin is no choirboy. He’s likely the richest man in Europe. He’s corrupt, he’s mendacious, and he’s ruthless to the point of being murderous. He strikes up friendships of convenience (which he has no intention of preserving when convenience is no longer served) with the most loathsome regimes on the planet, and he hatches or nourishes subversive plots against his adversaries whose conception is utterly destitute of any moral awareness. He is our era’s Cesare Borgia; and if he continues playing his various dangerous games in the fashion of a gambler who runs bluffs but also packs a .45, then he may just be the tyrant who finally brings human history to a close. A desperate man… yes, you can have that in spades.

But the gist of the article above captures that delightful German virtue (so rare these days, in Germany and elsewhere) of Realpolitik. Russia is what it is. And what, then, is it? A nation of several ill-matched nations, plunged into chaos after the Soviet Union’s collapse and brought into a rugged, mobster kind of coherence by Putin’s rough hand. Putin wants Russia to revive and prosper, almost as much as he wants himself to thrive and prosper. His providing of oil to Germany is essential to both economies, but especially to Germany’s—the few Germans who have retained their sanity know that wind turbines cannot sustain a twenty-first century industrial state and that supplies from across the Atlantic would vanish in an international conflict; so the fracture of East/West relations following the crack-up of the Ukraine leaves Deutschland in a pickle. America is content to back the western Ukrainians (the same outfit, let us remember, that so enriched the Biden family), although the eastern Ukrainians have deep historical and cultural roots that tie them to Russia much more securely than Putin’s “invasion” could ever have done. The Central European nations, recollecting decades of Soviet domination all too well, take America’s side in the quarrel with gusto, and (in states like Hungary) are indeed embracing Western values more vigorously than we seem to do now in the US. Poland is all too eager to host the troops that we will withdraw from German borders.

Where does this leave our conventional alliance with post-war Germany, however—and, indeed, our centuries-older alliance with France? Most importantly of all, where does it leave us in the only game that really matters in the long-term survival of freedom around the world: the chess match with Communist China? The Chinese are successfully wooing small peripheral nations of the EU like Greece as the Franco-German nexus of Brussels’ power brutalizes its little brothers, on the one hand, and falls out of favor with its big blunt uncle from across the Atlantic, on the other. And China, of course, is only too happy to see Russia drawn into the tug-of-war, not just as America’s long-standing and favorite enemy, but now also as a source of energy driving the EU’s fragmentation. The more pawns go drifting loose about the board, the more little pieces the “People’s Republic” can snap up as it occupies unwatched squares.

Mr. Kühne’s article further considers the role of the Middle East in the Great Game… and I will grow prolix in this brief post if I attempt to summarize all of his points. He notes with especial force, however, that German leaders have yet to condemn the brutal and ongoing Chinese suppression of Hong Kong protests, and that the habitual German “kind word” for Israel (mandatory in the wake of the Holocaust) is undermined by a similar tolerance of Israel’s bitterest enemies. It’s all connected; or, in Germany’s case, the disconnect is all part of China’s sweeping strategy, best expressed (without a trace of subterfuge) by its “One Belt One Road” initiative. Dissension everywhere, fragmentation everywhere, poverty and rebellion everywhere… the US fighting with Russia over Bashar al-Assad’s future in Syria, the US fighting ISIS, Iranian Shiites also fighting ISIS and funneling money to Syria in the struggle, US “allies” in Saudi Arabia and Turkey lifting the weakest of fingers (in the former case) and actually attacking the most effective ISIS resistance on the ground—the Kurds (in the latter)… the West drained of resources and starting to boil with internal unrest, Russia increasingly hostile due to the molestation of customers for her oil… China wins. China wins from all of this. Hungry for world domination, a megalomaniac Xi jinping wins every time in this round of back-stabbing from the sidelines.

All nations who have any pretension to a humane, civilized lifestyle need to unite against the Chinese Communist menace. That means patching up fences with Russia. Putin, for all his faults (and is there enough paper on earth to record them?), is no fool. He sufficiently desires the prosperity of Russia that he would never sell her out for a seat on Xi’s galactic board of mandarins; and, for that matter, he is sufficiently bright to know that such a chair would have an oubliette positioned beneath it. He has lakes and lakes of oil, but little beyond that by way of bargaining chips. While he has made an immense investment of this wealth in next-generation weapons technology and poses a serious threat now to our survival in the US, his economy resembles its Soviet antecedents in featuring virtually nothing but guns and oil. His citizens can eat neither.

We can share a table with this devil without having our hand snapped off. I do believe that Donald Trump intended to make progress in that direction before media-driven “Russian scandals” stung his ego and turned him into as virulent a hawk on all things Russian as, say, John Bolton. And who was pulling the strings of the useful idiots in the mainstream media? Not Vladimir Putin. I suggest you research the degree of Chinese ownership in our major news and entertainment outlets. Do the words “Hong Kong” and “NBA” mean anything to you in conjunction?

All roads lead back to Beijing—and the only way to keep our children from having to crawl on their knees to Beijing, kowtowing all the way, is to split Putin from that alliance. Are there enough adults left among us to do it?

I’ve said my piece. I’ll cast my vote later.  Then, whatever the result, I will live whatever of life God has allotted me on this earth and leave my son to make his way, as well, in our cauldron of lunatic ambitions.  Do what you can when you have the chance.  I would ask only that you give these matters a little honest thought.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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.