Nothing Will Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If We Love Our Children, We Should Talk to Putin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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