The Fight for Right Has Only Armies of One

A young man who shall remain unnamed recently explained to me his secret of success on Linkedin.  He contacts dozens of mates at his college whom he has not necessarily ever met, expresses a willingness to endorse their special skills on the website, and invites them to do the same on his page.  Result: lots of endorsements.  Problem: the endorsements are largely fake.  But the problem was mine, as I sat listening.  Virtually no one else today seems to care about such picky moral details.

It’s easy for someone in my position to opine grandly, “The Golden Age has yielded to the Age of Lead and Ash.  These young ones… the only reason they’re innocent is that they can’t conceive of a moral principle.  They like little savages!”  Yes… and whose fault is that?  The generation that raised them, perhaps?

I just returned last night from an exhaustive trip to look over some acreage that I’d like to buy, four states away.  I thought that I had booked a hotel at a really great discount through AMAC, the Association of Mature American Citizens.  And indeed I had… but no thanks to AMAC, whose Internet link had essentially routed me through some existing service like Travelocity–where your reservations are prepaid and inalterable.  The Association had not really created a special discount for its members, in other words: it was parasitizing online resources that already existed, and charging a membership fee to do so.  It happened that I finished my business a day early, and of course I didn’t want to blow the expense of another night’s stay.  When the hotel staff insisted that my giving thirty hours’ notice made no difference–that I was paid up for the full time whether I liked it or not–I called AMAC for some back-up support.  The date was Friday, December 30–a work day even for the notoriously vacation-happy USPS; yet I heard nothing but recorded messages.  Now, if I were still a member of AARP, my discount would have been locked in and I could have adjusted the days of my stay as long as the hotel received due notice… and a live person would have answered my calls.

I left AARP because I intensely disliked its backing of big-government causes with my membership fees.  AMAC explicitly advertises itself as the freedom-loving, small-government alternative.  Forgive me if, at the moment, I consider it little more than a scam.  I’m reminded of the very worst con I ever fell for in my life, wherein I lost $5,000.  The operation styled itself CBC (for Christian Businesses C… something-or-other).  I was about to lose my current job, and the soothing, somewhat fulsome promises and good humor of the Elmer Gantry CEO made me think what I really wanted to think: that here was a brother in the faith who had no stronger motive than helping out people in my precarious position.  Boy, did I get screwed!

There are a lot of “bad agents” in the world right now, and “men of good will” (as the French say) want to oppose them.  They want to be on the right side, and they–we–will likely rally round anyone who cries, “Out on thee, vile person!”  We think we’re showing solidarity against the forces of corruption.  Only problem is that being the standard-bearer of the virtuous opposition creates all kinds of opportunity to exploit and scam.

I’ve pretty much decided that there is no virtuous opposition… almost never.  Most of the good wars you wage must be fought alone.  As soon as you put on a uniform, you start to melt–imperceptibly–into the ranks of more bad guys.

Verify before you trust–and then trust no more than you absolutely need to.

Why I Avoid the “C” Word Now

Whenever you do any posting on the Internet, you need a bundle of words and phrases that tell the world–in no wasted space–exactly who you are and what you’re up to.  Good luck with that!  In starting this blog, I was once again faced with the chore of distilling myself into keywords, a ritual which is but one of the e-world’s resemblances to tribal primitivism.  What feathers are you wearing?  Do you wipe your warpaint over the cheeks or the forehead?

I have hazarded the word “Christian” on these occasions before… but I won’t go that way again.  About twenty years ago, I wrote a novel titled Seven Demons Worse and tried to market it through a tiny publishing company which had been assigned a FAX wherein 666 appeared prominently.  My “Christian” clientele crucified me–even though the seven demons are an allusion to one of Christ’s parables.  Generally speaking, more often than not, somebody in my part of the woods who wants to assess your religious faith will ask, “Have you accepted Jesus as your lord and savior?”  And if you return the serve and ask him, “Have you?” you’re likely to get such a cataract of mawkish, quasi-narcissistic sentimentality that you’re reaching for an umbrella with one hand and disinfectant with the other.  Yet if you should ask this person further, “What is the Christian calling?  Is it to help others, or to serve the spirit that others are often trying to throttle in themselves?  If that spirit is the key to our identity, then what comtribution to it does our individuality make?  And do we live eternally only in one great spirit, or does our unique nature continue to color reality beyond this life?”… well, you’ll soon be rid of your companion.  Such questions are received with the same smiling, nervous, arm’s-length discomfort as an outburst from a Turret’s Syndrome sufferer.

So that’s a “c” word which I no longer pin to my lapel when I go audience-hunting.

The one I avoid most cautiously, however, is “conservative”–and not because I’m averse to conserving.  On the contrary.  I want to conserve a pace of life measured by human steps, where people pass each other on sidewalks and speak civilly.  The new “conservative” wants more cars on the roads because more businesses will be reached and drilling for oil will provide more jobs.  I want to conserve an independent way of life where my needs are few and basic enough that I can meet them mostly through my own efforts.  The new “conservative” mocks people like me while proudly confessing his addictions to the latest i-gadgetry and the most convenient remote-control mechanisms.  I want to conserve my dominion over myself and also a certain stilted system of manners that keeps us from grating upon each other too directly.  The new “conservative” wants his appetites satisfied without government intrusion and increasingly allows himself crude displays under the guise of free speech.

That’s not the world of my grandfathers.  I see nothing in this new dog kennel that I want to hold tight.  Indeed, I see an ideology of flux trying to distinguish itself from progressivism by disdaining every centralized–and centrally promoted–vision of the “common good”.  I don’t like thought-police, to be sure: not in the least.  But I want to preserve my freedom of thought precisely so that I may think.

If conservatism is merely intellectual moonshine, then… then I’ll just drink water, if it’s all the same to you.  And even if it’s not.