What Millennials Hate (Unwittingly) About Capitalism IS Socialism

thumbnail-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s not to love about such capitalism?

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

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

How to Take a Wrong Turn on the Climb to Heaven

thumbnail-17

Ever since I passed along to him a short anthology of Near Death Experiences compiled by a practicing physician, my son has sustained a lively exchange with me on the subject.  Being young, he is impressed by such “hard evidence” of life beyond the reality we know.  (Our nation’s school system, from bottom to top, certainly hasn’t given his generation any aesthetic or philosophical inkling of an empirical approach’s inadequacies—so empirical testimony against mere empiricism becomes very powerful.)  Personally, I’m always just a bit leery of the NDE.  It’s not that I’m an incorrigible skeptic.  On the contrary, I’m one of the few people you’re ever likely to know with years of grad-school conditioning in his past who believes that extra-terrestrial life (or its projection through an ingenious fleet of robotic minions) has probably visited our solar system.  I don’t think I’m particularly narrow-minded.

No, the problem I have with the typical NDE is the implications that over-excited chroniclers tend to draw from it.  The surrounding discussion often has the tone of boundless, almost delirious optimism.  “You see?  All is really sweetness and light!  It’s all love—love for everyone!  All is forgiven!  It’s just one great warm embrace!  All is swept up into the… the cosmic All!”  Okay, let’s stop and ponder that.  No justice for mass-murderers like Stalin and Mao (add Hitler if you like… but don’t forget Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and King Herod).  No motive to try harder in this terrestrial existence—to “seek the kingdom”.  No reason why sincere sorrow and repentance are anything but wasted time.  Lighten up!  All you need is love!

In their defense, I will say of most NDE witnesses that their encounter is brief, dazzling, and (by definition) limned by the incomprehensible.  They’re not the ones who seek to graft sweeping metaphysical conclusions onto their out-of-clock-time ecstasy (a word which literally means “standing outside of”).  They were abruptly jolted from their body… and then they found themselves bathed in light and soothed by predeceased friends and family.  As far as I know, most of them haven’t borne back a message about how the universe is put together.  They merely reiterate with John the Gospelist, “True love hath no fear.”

Dr. Eben Alexander’s kerygma from the Beyond is not so modest.  My son forwarded this YouTube link to one of the good doctor’s many public presentations.  Alexander’s case has received special attention, apparently, because 1) he himself was a neurosurgeon who had practiced for two decades when a seizure caused his brain activity to flatline, 2) he was thoroughly agnostic at the time of the incident, and 3) his brain was so very moribund for days that no sort of short-circuiting or “flame-out” could have accounted for his visions.  Clearly, something very extraordinary happened in this man’s return to corporeal life, if not in his hours of unverifiable transit through another life.  He should have been dead—quite dead.  The feeding tubes had actually been removed from his body for days before his recovery.  His revival was miraculous.

And, yes, Eben Alexander experienced virtually all of the classic NDE moments: the dark tunnel (in more static form), the indescribably bright light at its end, an angelic chorus, the warmth and limitless love of innumerable figures… but he claims to have been entrusted with uncharacteristically specific information, besides.  He was told (in a degree of detail that Dante would have envied) that the universe is unfolding according to a great plan—and that this plan involves reincarnation.  We are to return to life in better-informed stages that, collectively, will set our planet—and other planets in other galaxies, eventually—on a hyperbolic path of intersection with heaven.

An unimaginably beautiful woman (who was plainly not some morph of the divorced Mrs. Alexander) was the doctor’s Beatrice during this revelation.  I note in passing that I’ve never read of any other NDE where Miss Universe puts in an appearance and spiritually fondles her visitor.

I’m being a bit facetious now.  It’s a way to send some of my irritation through an escape valve.  In my opinion, Dr. Alexander had a fully legitimate encounter with the unspeakable bliss that awaits us beyond this Vale of Tears… and he proceeded, consciously or otherwise, to finesse some of its contours into a form more marketable than the raw material would have been.  His book has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for years.  His speaking honoraria have likely dwarfed his surgeon’s income (which, in itself, constitutes a small miracle).  He has chatted intimately with Oprah before a global audience, and he routinely gives presentations even for medical personnel thanks to his lab-coat cred.  I gather that he is involved in some sort of cutting-edge tech company that aspires to point the medical-scientific community’s nose more directly into metaphysics (or its ears: the technology has to do with harmonious sounds and healing).  Life has become pretty good for Eben Alexander—and, of course, I mean life on “this side”.

How many of these dark terrestrial tunnels would be beaming with warm gold-and-silver light at the end if Alexander’s testimony had remained (as NDE’s usually do) within confines of direct personal experience, without the peek at a cosmic playbook?  Wouldn’t that more typical result have smacked of… well, Christian orthodoxy?  Didn’t the “reincarnation” message sweeten it sufficiently that Oprah would line up to drink the Kool-aid?

On the one hand, I fear that my response may be too caustic.  After all, Alexander’s narrative is not so very far off the track of other NDE’s.  Maybe he just misspoke at key points, or maybe I have misinterpreted something he said.  I myself believe that the afterlife must surely be an occasion for “linking up” with innumerable other souls—for begging and granting pardons, for getting the whole story of what happened, for healing and growing strong as something yet more magnificent emerges.  Perhaps the abuse of the word “reincarnation” was this man’s clumsy metaphor for a reality whose approach to God is so near, and so ever-more-near, that only the notion of an utterly regenerated body in an entirely different life can convey the thrill.

And yet, that higher, deeper life cannot be entirely different.  This life matters.  Morally—spiritually—it must matter.  What we do is what we are: it is the “here” from which we must depart to reach “there”.  It’s not a prison, or need not be.  God’s will is not that we suffocate forever within the folly of the narrow walls we build around ourselves.  In the recognition of our folly, however, lies the key to the gate.  We cannot become better than our fleshly form—that temporary cast in which we have so distorted God’s image—if we turn out never to have existed physically, in the first place.  Our human individuality must not become an irrelevancy.

Such cancellation of our individual worth as creatures is where I see Eben Alexander wandering dangerously off the track.  He sings off-key.  His hymn sounds to my ear like secular progressivism with a mystical tingle in the background.  The confessional note—the admission of past error that signals true growth, and also the joy of dissolving another’s guilt over injuries done—isn’t audible.  Instead, we are ushered into a no-fault vision of things getting better and better and better… things on this earth, since reincarnation is the engine driving the ascent.  Alexander even offers the Gnostic heresy’s hint that souls are reincarnated as justification of his thesis, and he tosses in the rumors of Christ’s day equating John the Baptist with the resuscitated prophet Elijah.  A proper Christian faith, apparently, ought to become more Hindu.

The first time I encountered this infatuation of the theoretical scientist with the most ancient religions on earth was, I suppose, in Carl Sagan.  It probably goes back much farther.  Its pedigree, at any rate, must surely transmit a load of progressivist DNA through every branch of the family tree.  The better here-and-now’s the thing—not heaven, not metaphysical bliss: no, bring it down here, and put us now on a path to reach it!  That’s a slightly more spiritual version of launching the Starship Enterprise (but not really—just more spiritually adorned).

You see, Dr. Alexander, our world is not getting better and better in any way that I can discern.  It may be getting worse and worse… but I’m willing to attribute such pessimism to the filter of my own rather depressive predisposition.  It’s certainly not sprouting wings as more enlightened individuals return in new bodies—and, by the way, utterly purged of their former individuality.  You say, Dr. Alexander, that many very curious cases of ESP involve children who recollect images or events from previous times and far-flung places.  Yes, those interest me, as well.  But wherein do you find evidence that these children a) preserve the character of Captain MacKay who died on the field of Culloden or, more importantly, b) display any moral awareness beyond their years?  What are you thinking, man?  What world are you living in right now, as you bow to your applause and shake Oprah’s hand?

Do you consider that you yourself have become a better man than before, though you have failed to learn—Other World Journey notwithstanding—the moral necessity of individual coherence?  Say you’re indeed better; but you are still Eben Alexander, are you not? So may we expect the better Eben within minutes of your eventual death, as your soul flutters into a newborn? Right now, then—message and all—you’re just the old, inferior Eben… have I got that correct? Or have you been permitted to transport certain revelations despite your lack of corporeal upgrade? I like much of what you propose.  I, too, love the idea of using sound to access a clearer, cleaner state of consciousness; I’ve long suspected in my own life that our urban environment damages our minds with its sheer cacophony.  But… but Doctor, why must you insist that Beatrice bestowed upon you the secrets of this healing power so that we might go forth and Conquer the World for Goodness?

Oh, how I dread that formula, in all of its versions!  World conquest—and always, always for “goodness”!  Millions of hearts have coddled it, if their tongues have not exactly expressed it… and not all of those hearts, by any means, were bad ones from the outset.  Yet none was ever made better after nursing such a spiritual virus.  This world is imperfectable: at best, we hold our own against sin.  True hope lies elsewhere.

Perhaps I’m especially distressed by Dr. Alexander’s video because I have just published The Eternal Moment: Seeking Divine Presence in the Present on Amazon.  You can read there at much greater length of my concern over “future-worship”, our time’s dominant form of idolatry, if you’re interested.  I urgently suggest that you get interested.  Beware of “ascending” staircases whose bottom step rests upon today’s earth and whose top step merely reaches tomorrow’s earth, or the next day’s.  Such climbs tend to go steeply downward, from heaven’s perspective.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crosscurrents: God’s “Presence in the Present”

thumbnail-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let Each Day’s Worries Suffice Unto Itself

Before you know it, everyone will be casting a nostalgic eye back over 2019.  Thanksgiving, incredibly, looms less than three weeks away.  Then Christmas.  Then… well, you know.

I began my year trying to do some tiny little bit of good for a fellow named Buddy Woodall, whose case was profiled in a Netflix series (The Confession Tapes, Episode 6) and who’s going to spend the rest of his life paying for two murders he didn’t commit because you can’t get a retrial for having a stupid jury.  Sorry, Buddy.

My first spring attempting to nurse along a couple of orchards (mostly pecans and apples at this point) was beset by several problems, such as voracious deer that chewed right through the protective netting I laid out… but that kind of discouragement is Life 101.  To see the republic dissolving around our ears was rather harder to take, especially since I had begun reading Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago for the first time, as I must guiltily confess; but then, how many “newly minted” Ph.D.s in History do you suppose have ever been exposed to a line of it?  Learning about the bureaucratic inferno that follows when God’s most arrogant creatures try to correct all of the “design mistakes” in human society, and—at the same time—watching new waves of college graduates give the thumbs-up to suppressing speech, ruining small businesses, terrorizing families in suburbia, decriminalizing crime, energizing a magnet for chronic human slavery, producing a wildlife holocaust in the quest for “clean” energy… yeah, I’ll take the sharp-toothed deer, please.

At about this time, my son had introduced me to Jordan Peterson on YouTube… and I discovered, as well, that I could only watch Jordan via streaming on clear days, since Internet out here in the boondocks has its drawbacks.  Welcome to the edge of the grid!  That’s where I said I wanted to be in retirement, so… así es.  It was Peterson who nagged me into reading Solzhenitsyn.  Somewhere along the way, I also blundered into Diana West.

Diana West… American Betrayal.  All I learned from this book was that FDR’s insuperably pompous idiocy was undergirded by a thick layer of Soviet operatives (over 500 strong), that Japan would never have bombed Pearl Harbor without the sabotage of skillful diplomacy from D.C. (but I already knew this from Herbert Hoover’s Freedom Betrayed), that Harry Hopkins engineered the passage of heavy water and uranium by the ton to the Soviet Union via Lend-Lease, that our beachhead in Italy established after tremendous loss of life was abandoned because Stalin didn’t want us straying through Eastern Europe, that the carnage of D-Day was indeed owed entirely to FDR’s servile submission to Uncle Joe’s will, that most of the Jews exterminated under Hitler could have been saved had Moscow not dictated our foreign policy, that Hopkins and his fellow Roosevelt-puppeteers ignored the pleas of Admiral Canaris and other high-ranking Germans to assist their overthrow of Hitler, that our government actually left upward of 20,000 American boys (mostly freed from German and Japanese prisons) to rot in Stalin’s gulags without a peep… all of the foregoing—all of it—to court some kind of “convergent” ideological marriage with Stalin’s totalitarian insectification of humanity.  Also know as progressivism.  And West scarcely hints at the Russian role in garbling our Japanese negotiations as the war wound down, such that the dropping of the Bombs was deemed necessary by Truman when it could easily have been averted.  The construction of the Soviet Empire demanded that competitors for territory in the Far East be cleared off the board.

How much truth can one man take at the age of sixty-five?

Meanwhile, as summer morphed into fall (a summer that was supposed to have warned us of “climate change” with its record number of dry days and high temperatures—followed by a fall that has come crashing through with unusually cold, wet vigor), I watched my one-time heroes in Congress leave a slimy collaborative trail straight to the sidelines as the jackals gathered around the President.  Andrew Napolitano, Ben Shapiro, Jonathan Goldberg… Ben Sasse, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz… we’re not talking Mitt Romney here: these are (were) persons of premier intellect and character.  Where are the snows of yesteryear?

In my bid to live within the limitations of HughesNet, I discovered the Podcast; and there, much to my delight, I further discovered Frank Gaffney’s Secure Freedom Radio, along with Tom Fitton’s Freedom Watch and Sarah Carter’s mostly fluff-free broadcast (that’s a compliment: I hate fluff, Mssrs. Crowder and Hunter).  Trouble is, I was once again plumbing the depths of “truth overload”.  How many days in a row can you hear that Communist China is well on its way to preparing an insect farm for us idiot Americans as we supply all the raw material (à la FDR Administration)?  Personally, I am thankful to the Democrat Party for helping me to view my exit from this world with equanimity, and even great joy, as I enter my final laps… but I have a son.  The rest of you have children and grandchildren.  Is Hell big enough, deep enough, to contain as many Judases as busily engineer our ruin?

Sarah Carter opined yesterday (in a days-old broadcast that I played during my workout) that we have lost the ability to make up our differences and be civil to each other.  Bless your gentle heart, Sarah… but the party who always had to clam up at faculty gatherings or family reunions was yours truly, not the legions of virtue-signaling exhibitionists around him.  The incivility sits almost entirely on one side of the table.  It’s the same side that wants to leave unwanted babies to die after a failed abortion, to lavish taxpayer dollars on criminal vagrants, to reward child-molesters and slavers with free entry into the country, to let small entrepreneurs starve if they won’t kneel at the altar of “LGBTQ Pride”.  There’s no middle ground where one can pitch a tent and meet with purveyors of such moral atrocity, whether their service to chaos is deliberate (Harry Hopkins) or arrogantly unwitting (FDR).  We have no coherent society left.  We have California, expelling its toxic influence into neighboring states the way wildfires are eating their way across its own townships.  We’re in nuclear meltdown.

I need to get up now and go unwrap my brave little orange tree: I need to find out if she survived last night’s onslaught of “global warming”.  And then I need to haul my potted bell peppers back out on the porch—for today is clear and sunny.  These howling apes in clothes can go about their business of destroying everything their ancestors created in population centers all over the world.  If HughesNet permits, I’ll publish my not-so-uplifting ramble for a few eyes in a few parts of the world where Internet isn’t yet severely filtered.  Tend to your gardens, brothers and sisters.  They won’t betray you—even the deer won’t undermine you—if you bend your stiff neck and study how they grow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let Freedom Ring… Where? How?

thumbnail-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Honest Conversation About Race? Here Goes…

I had another subject in mind for this week until I read Rachel Alexander’s “How I Massively Triggered the Left on Twitter” (Intellectual Conservative, September 15) http://www.intellectualconservative.com/how-i-massively-triggered-the-left-on-twitter/.  I won’t rehash the details: they’re quite sickening—another of countless examples showing that incivility in our decadent society has just about entered the bullying Brownshirt stage (with the thuggery stopping just this side of physical assault… usually).

Let’s put it this way.  If X’s political opinions fall well left of center and Y’s are slightly to the right, then X is allowed to call Y a racist.  “That’s kind of insane,” Y protests, “inasmuch as my long-time mate was a person whose DNA was almost entirely African.”  “So what?” X snaps back.  “That’s a well-known racist trick—taking a non-white mate to prove you’re not racist!  As if you didn’t know that slaveowners raped their slave girls all the time.”  “Um… I don’t think my friend would fit the description of a slave girl,” Y smiles.  “No!” X snarls.  “More like race-traitor!  It’s not hard for whites to find some Sambo or Sallie who will sell out just for the joy of slithering into the plantation manor through the back window!”  If Y is still responding to this rabid primate meagerly endowed with the power of speech, the response might be, “But I’m actually not Caucasian myself, for the most part.”  Showing long canines, X howls back, “Then why do you carry the white man’s water and mop up his s**t?”

More often then not, the person shooting back this impressive balance of vulgarity and stupidity will himself (or, increasingly, herself) be Caucasian.  White icing on the leftist cannabis cake.

Now, what I’m about to add to this “discussion” will get me killed within ten years, probably, when some Stalinist Santa Claws, trawling through the communications of everyone’s life to see who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, will punch tickets for the one-way train.  But I’m old enough not to care.

I’ll start with my fellow citizens of African descent.  Some of them, I suspect, don’t like themselves very much.  Why would they?  Their society has never offered any other group so many “advance three squares” cards.  College scholarships are bending the limbs, ripe for the picking.  Publicly funded organizations are waving black applicants to the front of the line, and many private-sector companies maintain quota systems for purposes of public relations.  Lawsuits over racial prejudice (or the threat of such lawsuits) protect sub-par performance like some mythical Ring of Invincibility.  Yet still… yet still, there you are, a young black male who emerged from high school hardly reading at seventh-grade level.  You couldn’t even land a basketball scholarship, which is how your best friend got into college; but one thing you have indeed been able to do by the age of eighteen is sire three children on three different women… or girls… none of which children you ever see or pay a dime to support.

Or maybe you’re one of the three girls.  You’ll have another three or four kids before you’re thirty (and perhaps the same number of abortions).  Medicaid gives you a couple of thou a month for each one of them—a really nice haul for unskilled labor.  So that’s your job.  That’s what your society has decreed you will be and do in this life: a baby-mill, a womb that grinds out little ones with prospects even dimmer than yours.

That would settle me into a permanently pissed-off mood, as well.  Imagine the inner conversation—a dialogue with Self that doesn’t take place in words, but must be gnawing around the edges of consciousness all the time:

“Could I have done more with my life?  Sure… at least I think so.  I think I’ve got something special in me somewhere… but the world will never know, and I’ll never know.  I didn’t open the door to that something: I let myself become just another number.  Now, it wasn’t all my fault.  In fact, loud voices keep filling my ear with talk of ‘systemic racism’—and it does seem like the game was rigged.  I couldn’t have throttled all of that potential, all of those vague ambitions, all by myself.  The system showered me with stuff and snitched away my real chances at the same time.  It paid me off.  It bribed me to play the role of someone who’s good for nothing.  And the bribe was pretty hefty sometimes (though sometimes it was just a magic trick, and a fat check that became genuine poverty)….

“But I didn’t have to take the bribe.  Deep down, I knew that.  I don’t like myself for taking the easy way out, for being suckered into the worse option.  And I don’t like not liking myself—going around hour after hour, day in and day out, not really liking myself.  That makes me even more pissed off.  Racism?  Reparations?  Okay.  I’ll take that.  I don’t really know what it all means… or I know damn well, rather, that the people peddling it have no idea what it means.  I just know that somebody’s getting bled for my misery—and that’s okay with me.  Somebody ought to.  I’m not that good—but they’re even worse, the ‘somebodies’, because all they did was help me bury whatever was better in me.”

Self-contempt, resentment of the world for feeding that contempt… those are two strong emotions hiding—barely hiding—under the “you’re a racist!” veil of invective.  One of the things “racist” now means in mouths that love to launch the word (if it still means anything at all) is that you don’t have a very high estimate of yourself and you hold others responsible for it: the others who keep pitying you for being on the bottom just when you were taking a little pride in getting your life together.

Now let’s take a good look at white folks—at certain white folks.  Would you believe that a lot of white males on the left are afraid of black males?  A not insignificant cause of the South’s secession was the terror that slaves (who represented well over half the population of Mississippi and other pockets of the Deep South) would revolt en masse and slaughter every white.  John Brown tapped into this terror.  The massive and successful slave uprising in Haiti a few decades earlier was also very much on the Southern mind.

In this regard (and in more than one or two others), the leftist male is less Rhett Butler than Robert Barnwell Rhett, Jr.  He’s not a strong man—not morally, not intellectually, and beyond doubt not physically.  Strong black males intimidate him; I think they almost induce a kind of internal panic in him.  What if he says something wrong—what if these powerful and subliminally simmering people go to a sudden boil over some ill-chosen phrase?  I have only to look at a desk full of ESPN “white woke” males surrounding some gargantuan hero of the turf to catch this vibe strongly.  “Wow, B.J.—I mean, wow, man… wow, dog… the way you shredded their defense… you’re my son’s all-time favorite player… and mine, too, of course… what was your reaction when you were unanimous MVP?  Were you ever sorry that you didn’t choose another sport?  I mean, you were so multi-talented in college!”

Somehow, such unctuous accolades never quite smell like true admiration to me.  There’s an acrid odor blended into them—a touch of fear.  Physical fear.  Part of the reason white males become progressives (I’m not calling it a major reason, but I sense a contribution) is that black males physically intimidate them.  Now, men don’t like feeling intimidated, even the least male of them.  Something primal in them—in us—insists upon creating a survival strategy.  The strategy of the white male progressive is to bind the mighty black male in chains of adulation.  “Surely he won’t hit me if he sees that I adore him.  And I do adore him!  He’s so… not me!  Damn him.  But if I give him what he wants, what he understands—all that he’s capable of understanding—and lift him on the pedestal I’ve made for the greatest gladiator of all time, then… then he won’t be able to pound me into powder without losing what he really needs: an abject, sycophantic admirer.  I’ve got him there.  I’m safe.”

Here, I suspect, is where we find much of the motivation behind the “you f——-g racist!” tweets originating from keyboards that no black finger has ever touched.  The “writer” (how debased that word has grown!) hides impenetrably behind an avatar that might as well be Django or Mister T.  In his e-cape of invisibility, he heavily imbibes that “bad ass” ichor which he’s convinced circulates abundantly in African veins… so unlike his white identity, which has never elevated him above a mere ass.  On the Internet, he can sling obscenities like a rapper and intimidate others with his newly (falsely) acquired blackness.  “Racist” from his virtual mouth, from his soiled fingertips, means just this: “Be afraid of me!  I’ll dox you—I’ll get beat you up!  I’ll rape you—I’ll murder you!”  Yep.  That one little word—racist—is a terrorist threat to every minute of whatever time you have left on earth… or that’s what the punk would like it to be.

Naturally, the former kind of verbal assailant—the genuinely black person who allows “racist” to monopolize his or her vocabulary—is a lot more simpatico.  After all, that person is right, in a way.  If you keep throwing money at a black child (or in his direction: most of it will never reach his doorstep) instead of demanding that he pass algebra, you’re telling him that he’s stupid; that he can’t help being stupid, that he’ll always be stupid, but that you’ll keep the subsidies coming so that he doesn’t starve on the streets.  There’s irony, to be sure, in his reserving the “r” word precisely for those who would cut off the unconditional subsidies and require a passing test score… but how else is he supposed to react?  Because now he needs permanent subsidizing—now that you’ve robbed him both of his best opportunity to learn and of his self-respect.

Somehow, I just don’t think that’s the guy—or the girl—who wastes time spewing and slavering e-idiocy in the direction of people like Rachel Alexander.  I can see Maxine Waters doing it, because that’s her gig; and I can see Jemele Hill doing it, because she’s a ball of psychotic rage that will send a death ray through any opening.  But make no mistake: the people who most need black Americans to be victims of “systemic racism” are white leftists—and not even, or not just, because the canard gins up their base (as it does for Waters).  No, these are nameless people with no brilliant future before them.  They, too, are balls of rage.  And they need the avatar, the stereotype—the caricature—of the snubbed, derided, cheated, beaten, and lynched freedman’s muscular son roaring back on a cloud of vengeance to channel all their frustration.

“Racist” means “I’m so pissed off, I’m not taking any blame for it, I know my filthy eiecta scare and disgust you… and, oh, that makes me so happy! That’s the one thing that makes me happy!  Lick my s—t, white man!”

Jemele Hill was never more white than when she decided to take this road.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MPC: How… do we know what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seventies: Our First Full Decade of Cultural Decline

(I’ve been utterly preoccupied this week with preparing a re-edition of a novel invisibly published almost twenty years ago: Footprints in the Snow of the Moon. I hope to have it accessible on Amazon by mid-week. In writing the preface, at any rate, I decided that I could post an excerpt here that might not be uninteresting to IC’s audience.)

I heard a television documentary declare recently that Sharon Tate’s murder at the insane hands of the Manson gang was the end of the Sixties.  The remark wasn’t intended chronologically: its implication was plainly that the depraved brutality of the deed corrupted the “Sixties dream” and exiled American culture from the Eden of free love and rejection of social hierarchy.  If only, if only a few crazed loons hadn’t flown off the preserve!

In a far more significant sense, the Manson murders (there were several, by the way) were the climax of the Sixties—the necessary, inevitable dark fruit of a poisoned tree.  When human beings are freed of their inhibitions, the animal impulses that come to the surface vying for control may be lamb-like one instant… and then lupine the next.  Not that any wolf deserves to be defamed by comparison with Charles Manson: no, the human being wholly liberated of shame or guilt is an infinitely more atrocious creature than anything we can find in raw nature.  Thanks to his imagination, he can indulge a lust that has no analogue in any merely brutish chemistry: not a lust for sex or food, but for dominating the will of others—libido dominandi.

In unmooring the individual will from the cables with which two and a half millennia (punctuated by a few notable lacunae) of Judeo-Christian and classical Stoic morality had secured it, the Sixties set a generation of directionless young people loose upon each other—looking high and low for what they “wanted” and what they considered “relevant”, brushing aside entire systems and institutions that they considered “old” or “patriarchal”.  Frankly, this thumbnail sketch of the Sixties ethos is already in error: only the final years of the decade grew “radical”.  Most of the cultural clearing-and-leveling labor was accomplished in the Seventies.

Now, I will not maintain that the decade of flaring cuffs and collars, bushy unisex hair styles, and anorexic pop-singers saw a proliferation of drug-addicted mass-murderers.  Manson, let us say, was the face reflected in the pool at the chasm’s bottom.  For if human beings are distinct from the purely animal in bearing their blessed curse of free will and imagination, their distinction remains grafted upon an animal substrate.  They like to move in herds.  The herd lifts from the individual’s shoulders the complex burdens of freedom.  The hand of Satan that scrawled “helter skelter” in Sharon Tate’s blood no doubt hazed many a young “free spirit” away from the edge.  Indulging impulse was tamed (superficially and for the time being) into a social endeavor, and even a sociable one.  In those passive, pacifist Seventies, it turned out that you could “find yourself” while looking and acting exactly like the legions of “seekers” all around you; and this was indeed unsurprising, because it also turned out that our “self” was essentially a construct of DNA—our instinct to mate, our natural aversion to forced labor, our inbred terror of physical threat, our primate comfort in belonging to a group.

Statistical outliers—rogue elephants—would register a dangerous resurgence in the Eighties, when the cult of pleasure irresistibly fed into a cult of acquisitive hunger.  For most of the intermediate decade, however, I observed my peers to be lingering in an insipid sameness, neither searching for a guru in India like the Beatles nor snorting cocaine to amass royal fortunes on Wall Street.  The Seventies were a trough between crests.  They were a lull in whose wash uninspired hordes supposed themselves to be riding the wild surf.

The word “infantilism” would leap to mind if the present time had not laid yet a better claim to it.  Today, as I sit writing, college students are (as an abandoned cliché once had it) “much as nature might have left them”.  Several years ago already, my undergraduates hadn’t a clue what I intended when, as we read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight together, I associated the evocation of fertility in Arthur’s all-green visitor with the recovery of longer days after the winter solstice.  Most of them didn’t know what a solstice was.  Now their younger brothers and sisters are lecturing all of us on the planet’s climate and ordering us to “shut up” if we raise an objection.

In comparison, the overgrown children of the Seventies were at least not rude brats.  And they had developed a decisive gender—very decisive!  In that they could be said to have blazed a trail into puberty that leaves their contemporaries far behind.  Yet their hair still grew long in the pristine ringlets whose first formal shearing brings mothers to tears.  Their bodies were of the supple quality that allows toddlers to absorb infinite falls without taking much harm.  In fact, it was wrong of me to celebrate puberty in them with such confidence; some of the girls, at least, had found a way to resist menstruation.  I know I mentioned anorexia in passing.

Wasn’t abortion part of the same bid for “prolonged innocence”?  Children don’t become mothers and fathers, so… so pregnancies just shouldn’t be happening.  Something was amiss there.  Reset the clock and go back to playing in the nursery: those two months of alarming discomfort never happened.

Well, our overgrown children today appear to have discovered the full Mansonian potential of sacrificing small, fleshy masses with little fingers and tiny noses.  It’s a rite performed to a known god whose name I shall not repeat.  In that respect as in so many others, I prefer the “terminal adolescence” of the Seventies.  Observers of the scene back then could still see that something was wrong; and the gullible young fools sucked into doing the wrong still had, as often as not, an inkling that they had been led astray.  It was a time suitable to be the backdrop of a morality play, whereas today… today we find only the appalling chaos fit for writing what the ancients would have called a catabasis: a journey through Hell.

Why the difference?  I think it consists entirely in this: fifty years ago, vestiges of those twenty-five hundred years of Western culture lingered among the herd’s hoofprints.  Today, they’re all gone.  Fifty years ago, the young who had jettisoned the cargo of Western civilization in favor of “relevance” (which, in terms of college work, involved a much lightened reading list: a very happy accident in the Decade of Pleasure) had still seen Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet and Robert Bolt’s Man for All Seasons at the movies.  Today’s graduate students have cut their narrative teeth on comic-book superheroes—about whom some of them will probably write a dissertation.  I devoutly hope that a few of our twenty-first century crop will find their way out of Hell, having heeded a spiritual voice within that can easily outshout the Call of the Sociopath if attended to… yet Hell is where they are, where they have to search for exits.  Fifty years ago, exits higher up the road were still open.  They just weren’t being well maintained.

Nothing distresses me more in retrospect about that lost decade than the invertebracy of the Christian church in the face of so many formidable challenges.  As a young man navigating the day’s troubled waters, I had a keen sense that most Christian denominations were responding to the times, “Wait!  Don’t leave us behind!  We’re one of you!  Love, peace, togetherness, a better world… that’s what we’re all about!”  Yes… and that was apparently all they were about: no sin, no guilt, no repentance, no abstinence, no difficult ascent through stones and briars, no resistance to worldly seductions.  No comfort.  In my experience of the Seventies, the Church desperately fought against irrelevancy by rendering itself irrelevant.  Those whom it courted abjectly had already found what they craved in the here-and-now; or if their souls were not wholly drained of breath and secretly craved a lifeline to the Beyond, the Church had cast aside that line in its zeal to fashion a better here-and-now.

Again, one might make precisely the same claim of organized Christianity in the twenty-first century, and make it with a vengeance; but the trend began when trousers rode low, their buckles spread broad, and their bottoms belled wide.

I could write lengthily about the “charismatic” movements that sometimes spiraled into cultism during this decade—but I should be wandering too far afield from the subjects addressed in Footprints, which do not include these.  If I lend any emphasis at all to the matter of religion here, it’s because the novel struck me so powerfully—as I edited it after almost two decades—as groping for the spiritual.  This, too, seems to me characteristic of the Seventies: I mean, groping clumsily after something fulfilling and immaterial… and not being able to find it.  Finding substitutes for it in all the wrong places.  Yet again, yes, one might say as much of any generation of human beings.  The difference is that most such generations were graced with some form of organized faith that offered a clear alternative to sex, drugs, wealth, and power.  The Seventies, having inherited from the previous years a contempt for all reverend institutions, were left with a Church that embraced the secular world’s facile opposition of sex and drugs to wealth and power, as if those pairs defined adversarial ends of a spectrum.

The charismatic represented less a third way—a midpoint on the spectrum—than a retreat into that infantilism (too young for sex, too young for power) typical of the era’s approach to other moral crises.  There was no genuine escape from this world’s traps (and Sartre’s Huis Clos, whose title literally translates such despair, was taught in every sophomore French class).  Those who survived the day’s Charybdis of rival forces circling the same focal void and were at last spewed out upon Odysseus’s stunted fig tree faced a bleak, lonely prospect.

One of my faithful collaborators in the charitable venture, The Center for Literate Values, gave the original novel a kind review (what else would you expect of any officer in a public charity?)—but voiced a mild regret that the book did not investigate faith as a solution.  I won’t say that I took the criticism under advisement in my rewriting.  Rather, in my rewriting, I discovered that the forces I had unleashed in these fairly ordinary Middle Americans (ordinary on the surface—the only level at which anyone is ordinary), most of them well under thirty, needed to “blow up the world” a little more.  There needed to be more frustration with the options offered by a relatively smooth-purring, profitably hedonistic society now free and clear of the Vietnam nightmare.  I don’t say that there needed to be more options: faith often grows exactly because more is needed but no further options are possible.  I felt a considerable pressure to let something intrude into my “dystopic pastoral” which would lighten life’s burdens, paradoxically, by acknowledging that burdens don’t disappear in this life.

I had to make the narrator turn somewhat more consciously mature at the end.  And I did so: that’s the book’s major change.  Some may persist, “But I still don’t see his faith taking shape.  Where’s his faith?”  My answer: not in the things and people of this world—but running straight through them; not in the institutions of this world, but thriving in spite of them.

How many people in fact weathered the Seventies with a spiritual insight of such elevation?  Well… as a novelist, I don’t do statistical analysis.  I try to present the most instructive case, and sometimes I thereby present the least probable.  I will bring to general attention, however, that the narrator’s retrospective places his final thoughts in the late Nineties: he’s had plenty of time to mull it all over.  If you were “on the ground” during that somnolent spiritual war which was the late Seventies, you didn’t yet know that promiscuous sex might harm your body as well as your soul: AIDS was yet unheard-of.  You didn’t know that foreign nationals might plot to murder thousands of your neighbors in the midst of their routine: plane hijackings always ended with a rerouting to Beirut or Tripoli, usually after the passengers were swapped out for a million bucks.  You didn’t know that school children might so much as fantasize about gunning their classmates down: video games and our sociopathologizing “social media” were a glimmer in some developer’s eye.

I doubt that we learned much of anything from the Seventies, in short, while they were being played out.  Any lesson would have come years later (and it doesn’t appear that most of us have learned the full lesson, even fifty years later).  What I like about the Seventies as an artist, though, is precisely that they are “pure” of mixed motive when one scans them for moral cautionary tales.  At the time, no one would have known just how risky to bodily health and mere survival were many trendy new habits.  The only reason for resisting them would have been abstract: a stand in principle uncomplicated by a gun pointed at the head.