A Lesson in Leftist Argumentation, Courtesy of Twitter

I’m not exactly sure where the word “meme” came from, or when it came, or through what door.  Composition instructors used to chatter a lot about “enthymemes” because the word appears so often in Aristotle’s Rhetoric… and even Aristotle, frankly, left me scratching my head.  I think the idea was that certain manipulative arguments go straight from major premise to conclusion without examining an essential supporting premise.  Would “shoddy or exploitative reasoning” be an adequate paraphrase?

At any rate, that’s not a bad description of activity on our unsociable “social media”, if not strictly a definition of “enthymeme” or “meme”.  Yet shoddiness and exploitation both perfectly suit what’s going on in the “meme” I scrolled across Thursday morning on Twitter (reproduced above).  Now, I ought to have passed on without comment.  I knew that the humming in the hive before me wasn’t seven musical munchkins, and that sticking my head in would therefore be ill-advised.  But I couldn’t resist: the shoddiness was so… shoddy!  Especially when I viewed the responses to the post, I felt compelled to exercise of my First Amendment rights.

Respondents were all high-fiving “Danielle” for “trolling” idiot Trumpers.  She and they were back-and-forthing about how the stupid Deplorables were loving on her meme rather than recognizing it as a slap in their droopy gob.  “Yes, all Trump supporters are morons.”  “They have no education.”  “The right is full of idiots.”  That kind of thing… like the U.S. Women’s [Persons’?] Soccer Team [Gang?] having a very private, no-Americans-allowed celebration after a goal.

Well… all in the world I wanted to point out was that the analogy was incoherent.  I understand that humor hath a kind of license in it (as Isabella says to Angelo of his lewd hypotheticals).  I wasn’t trying to kill the joke.  I didn’t bother to observe that Native Americans did not represent a unitary cultural front to the “invading” culture, and that many native groups were indeed engaged in trying to enslave or exterminate other native groups; I didn’t carp that in Virginia, at least, most early settlers gave no hint of seeking asylum in the wilderness and fully intended to return home ASAP.  Accept the jibe within its own parameters.  So… what does it say?

It says that already settled cultures have a right to protect their boundaries and send away invading cultures to clean up their own mangled garden.  I actually agree with that.  I believe that the Potato Famines, for instance, would have been managed much better if native Irish hadn’t massively accepted landlords’ bribes to sail for Quebec and New York (during which passages tens of thousands died in shipboard conditions that made slave ships look like luxury liners).  Public opinion in England would have had its collective nose forced into a malodorous reality, just as restless masses of abused poor in Mexico and Central America—if they remained in situ—would force change upon certain outrageously corrupt governments.  That has always been my position… and the Trumper’s, too (a political clan which isn’t strictly mine but in which I recognize a strong ally).  Individuals have a right to self-defense… and cultures have the same right.  They don’t have to commit suicide just because aliens want their stuff and their turf.

This argument was made a month or so ago on Peter Helmes’ conservo.wordpress.com German website (I haven’t yet retrieved the precise article).  It’s equally valid for us… isn’t it?  All I wished to say about the meme—in telegraphic Twitterspeak—was that it supported our position, not that of “Danielle” and her admiring minions.  In the analogy, the chieftain is Donald Trump.  If the Pilgrims should shuffle on back to Plymouth, then the MS-13 family unit should make its way back to Honduras.  Or if adventurers looking for a “better life” (free Medicaid, police protection, public schooling, etc.) have a right to go wherever pickings are most plentiful, then… then why didn’t the Pilgrims have the same right to come cash in on the New World’s wood, beavers, and tobacco?

In trying to find a Twitter-trimmed way of referring to leftist subversives, I passed on “Dems” as needlessly provocative and coined “open-borderers”, since it didn’t tar millions with one brush and also indicated the central issue.  “Danielle” (surprise!) did not like my tweet—but she took minute care to avoid the issue of her memed analogy’s ineptitude.  Instead, she riveted upon “open-borderers”.  No one seriously advocates for an open border, she generalized sweepingly of my generalizing term; if I wanted to have a “conversation” with her, I would have to abandon such “obtuse nonsense” (and embrace her prickly nonsense, I suppose).

To condense the conversation even beyond Twitter’s thimble-small capacity, I willingly dropped all mention of the faulty analogy and answered simply that “obtuse” doesn’t frame a very friendly invite—but that my current minister, for instance, was not no one (much as I might wish otherwise).  Her answer: my personal acquaintance aside, what elected policy-maker advocates open borders?  My answer: none, of course—just as none in 2009 openly advocated gay marriage.  And I added that my wife and I had left Texas partly because of the growing crime rate in our neighborhood thanks to political refusal to secure the border.  Her answer: by “secure”, did I mean “build the Wall”?  My answer: never a big fan of the Wall—the lunar stretch from El Paso to Yuma needs funded guards allowed to do their job… and, btw, withholding funds was de facto open-border advocacy.

But perhaps my reply ever exited through the thunderstorm that was passing over our hillbilly retreat; in any case, I received no further answer.  And, yes, I really didn’t condense the conversation to smaller-than-Twitter size.  That’s just not possible.

As I recover today from my wrestling match with prickly nonsense, I’m struck by how utterly, dismally typical of leftist thinking were the volleys aimed at me from the other side of the net.  We might start with the meme itself: very poorly evaluated, yet considered by its designers to be oh-so-clever-and-keen.  The original tweeter and scores of retweeters were so absorbed in chortling over stupid right-wingers who didn’t “get it” that they hadn’t left themselves time to study just what they were transmitting to be “gotten”.  The meme was an occasion to heap scorn on the other side.  Its logical validity was irrelevant.  In fact, I’ve no doubt that all the merry high-fivers would have regarded my objections as more evidence of stupidity.  If I were smart (like them), I wouldn’t have allowed myself to be snared in the joke’s inconsistencies.  Sneering epithets electronically spat at me this week from the left side of the aisle (though not in this exchange) included… let’s see… “self loathing” (without hyphen), “pathetic”, “afraid”, “girl” (hmm), and—naturally—“white”.  These are the descriptors chosen by elite minds to characterize their “stupid” adversaries.

Next, notice that the “debate” immediately shifted to an irrelevancy when my main point offered no obvious holes to leap through.  “Open borders… how obtuse!  What a careless, vulgarly undiscriminating remark!  No one is for an open border!”  In a single brief comment, we see a crime alleged in terms that actually commit the crime.  Cute.  Then when “no one” turns into “someone”, names are required.  (Remember the old joke? “Johnny, eat your spinach. Millions of children in China would love to have just a bite of it.” “Name one.”)

But the argument from personal experience always troubles the leftist—who, after all, is likely a leftist precisely because he or she has no personal experience.  And I didn’t even give “Danielle” the details about the stranger I found in my garage who, through his English-competent adolescent son (I’m so glad we kept that family together!), offered me a wad of bills for my truck.  My adversary was already nervous merely at the mention of our having to relocate thanks to the not-open border.  So…

Another shift.  Rivet on another word.  “Secure”… bet you mean “wall” by “secure”, right?  It’s like a dog whistle with you people.

Obviously, our “conversation” wasn’t going anywhere.  Does it ever these days?  Distant are the days when you could have a spirited, even heated discussion of capital punishment or eminent domain—a discussion which might actually budge one of the participants to a modified position.  Now it’s all thrust, retreat, regroup, ambush… anything but surrender.  Never surrender.  In an extreme case, torch the terrain from which you must withdraw so that no one can possibly survive on it.

Example.

X says, “Abortion is baby-killing.”  Y answers, “No, idiot.  They’re not babies, they’re fetuses.”  X: “Oh, so when the doctor/governor describes a ‘quiet conversation’ with the mother, that’s a fetus awaiting the verdict as it writhes on the table.”  Y: “You’re sensationalizing one careless remark.  Name a single legislator in the federal government who takes that view.”  X: “‘Careless’ is right!  A career politician would be subtler.  Name one time in 1939 that Hitler spoke publicly of exterminating the Jews.”  Y: “Ah, now you’re going to try the ‘Nazi’ move on the Pro-Choice movement!  Everybody knows that your side is the one that wants the nation lily-white!”

“Danielle”, by the way, describes herself (beside a smirky picture) as receiving five dollars from George Soros for every message she tweets.  I’m sure she’s just “trolling” those Soros-obsessed Deplorables (for George well knows that what makes useful idiots so useful is their work-for-no-pay ethic).  On the other hand, if you and I wrote that the Koch Brothers gave us a fiver for every post, the Danielles of the world wouldn’t hesitate to swallow it hook, line, and sinker.  This e-world of hit-and-run, meme, selfie, quote-without-context, hashtagging, signal-flashing, red-flagging and—to top it all off—quarantined-then-vaporized “hate speech” is a swampy miasma of factlets adrift in stinking illusion.  And there’s no shore to which we can “return home” to escape it all.  We’re quickly being reduced to passwords repeated in the mist… and anyone who mauls one in a bid for humor or questions its pronunciation will get a spear in the throat.

Ugly world.  About to get much uglier.

Outrage Over “Cultural Appropriation” Is a Symptom of Degenerative Morality

There’s really nothing more that a sane adult need say about the idiocy of “cultural appropriation”… is there?

My DNA is Scottish (on the Harris side) and Welsh (on the Davis side), with a lot of English (a.k.a. Sasanach) stirred in.  The stirring actually raises the first critical point about the absurdity of equating culture with genetics: all of us are mongrels.  To the extent that Scots were Celts, they were dark (like me); but we often picture a kilted Scot as tall and blond—Scandinavian characteristics imported by the Vikings.  Likewise for the Welsh, and indeed the Irish: as much as red hair is associated with those groups, it is owed to interbreeding with the Norsemen, for the true Celt was, like Cu Chulainn, a “little dark man”.  And who knows what streams had flowed into the Celtic river?  Many northwestern Europeans are up to five percent Neanderthal, meaning that quite a few of us are not even entirely products of a single species.

Now, equating a particular kind of dress or food with a particular culture would be almost as preposterous as equating culture with race.  How many cultures graze upon a form of bread that looks something like a tortilla?  How many wear kilts or bonnets?  I don’t really know—but I know that the answer is, “More than one.”  And again, if we could confine the chili pepper to Central and South American cultures, how could we possibly maintain that so broad a swathe of real estate demarcates a single culture?  And how can we call that culture “Hispanic” or “Latin” when the chili pepper itself is a New World vegetable “appropriated” by Old World invaders who more or less fused with the natives?  And how do we sort out the natives?  Where did the Maya come from?  Why do some Cherokees have blue eyes?

It is also quite dumbfounding to see “offended snowflakes” whimpering over the “appropriation” of a dress’s pattern when they embrace none of the deeper values of the culture they claim to hold dear.  Ask them about gay marriage or sex changes or abortion or the right to self-defense, and you open the spigot to a slurpy spate of sentiments about expressing oneself and exploring one’s identity.  What happened to honoring the ancient culture that was supposed to determine that identity?

Personally, I don’t care if someone directly “insults” my culture.  Big deal.  I grew up seeing images of a winking Scotsman on Safeway’s cans of Scotch Treat frozen orange juice—the message behind the brand being that your stereotypically stingy Scot would smile at these prices.  The imputation of tight-fistedness never bothered me.  Pinching a penny is a smart way to achieve independence.  Non esse cupidum pecunia est, wrote Cicero: “Reducing your needs is an easy way to give yourself a raise.”

And as for “welching” on a deal… well, I never really thought about the word’s origin until our hyper-neuralgic culture of offense brought it up.  I didn’t care before then, and I didn’t care after.  No, the implicit stereotype isn’t very charitable—but I’m a hundred thousand times more offended by the Erectile Dysfunction flyers that show up in my box with graphic illustrations, making me grateful that we no longer have young children in the house.  And the source of my irritation isn’t my “bourgeois Christian culture”: it’s my sense of common decency, and also my moral conviction that sexual appetite shouldn’t be supercharged any more than anger, greed, or the other passions.  Culture can reinforce morality, but only as a subordinate reinforces his commander.

Maybe being a Southerner has insulated me from keen cultural sensitivity.  As a white male who happens to have ancestors galore from Virginia and South Carolina, I was a despicable bigot before I exited the womb.  Nothing I could ever do would change the fact that I was scum in the eyes of the Beautiful People… and so I got on with my life and left them to pose admiringly in their hall of mirrors.

There is one final observation, however, that needs to be made about the current wave of pseudo-cultural consciousness—of tribalism in search of a pretext.  I’ve offered this insight before in other contexts, and it continues to grow upon me: the healthy, vibrant spirit exhales itself—not in ego-assertion, but in self-effacing self-discovery—into the surrounding universe, but the “genius of evil” sucks energy in like a black hole.  The wicked forces behind “cultural consciousness” (and some of this lot are indeed deliberate in their mischief) are seeking to persuade people to sever their ties with the rest of the world.  You are… a woman, an Asian woman, a professional Indian woman who has broken with the patriarchy and found new roots in the Harvard sisterhood and some reformed variety of Buddhism.  You are… a young gay African-American of the male sex but identifying more as female who observes Kwanzaa and eats soul food.  The pathetic stew of garage-sale titbits that such “movements” include in order to achieve a viable caricature of cultural rigor goes beyond my mimicry.  What it all has in common is the aim of reducing the cultic participant to a figure so severely defined that he or she spiritually suffocates.  Music can no longer be enjoyed unless it has a “cultural” connection.  A sublime mountain view becomes loathsome because the Trail of Tears passed somewhere this way (so they say).  The person whose imagination has been snared by such clever devilry is spiritually bound up the way a spider balls a fly into a corner of her web.

It’s evil, this boa-constrictor occupation of minds—and cultural practice is no excuse for wickedness.  Indeed, where culture does not exist to confirm basic moral teachings, it has no reason to exist at all.

There Are No Lines in the Sand During a Sandstorm

I continue to read a lot about the desperate situation in Germany.  Without any specific intent, I’ve blundered into adding both Thilo Sarrazin and Peter Helmes to my daily reading.  The former makes the very strong case that recent waves of (mostly Turkish) “refugees” are doomed to undermine German culture without profiting from the German educational system.  Their own cultural conditioning both denies to women any extended exposure to book-learning and disdains in men any preoccupation with it.  The latter, as a columnist, provides a more “on the ground” view of the decline.  For instance, I read a Helmes piece this past week that described how a courtroom in Mannheim was mobbed by dozens of young “guest workers” (during prime working hours on a weekday) who shouted down witnesses and threatened the testifying victim.  Such scenes are now a fixture in parts of Germany.

Something in me wants to join the chorus of voices insisting that Islam is irredeemable: that the Koran explicitly prescribes violence against infidels, that Muslims have always practiced aggression upon their neighbors, and that the innate human decency in many individual believers is overridden by a cultic conditioning that treats members of rival faiths as sub-human.  Perhaps Kipling was right: “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

At the same time… well, what exactly is the priceless German education system teaching these days?  Helmes has chronicled many a time the ascent of the “Green/Red” coalition to strangle-hold control over public-school curricula.  An initiative to indoctrinate elementary-school children into the “joys of sex”, with heavy brainwash in favor of the notion that gender is entirely fluid, clearly aims at undermining the nuclear family and paving the way for Big Brother to become everybody’s universal daddy.  One has to suppose that Germany’s Muslim community isn’t too happy about this.  If Muslim schoolboys are calling their teachers whores and punching on male instructors… can one say they’re utterly, one-hundred-percent unjustified?  The “teachers”, after all, are doing the work of pimps. Where is the invertebrate Christian community, in any of its denominational forms, during these troubled times that require people of principle to stand up?

You can draw analogies between Germany’s predicament and ours as you see fit.  The parallels are far from precise; Mexico’s Catholic “guest workers”, for instance, are scarcely as alienated from their host nation’s culture as Europe’s “refugee” horde.  The moral meltdown of Western civilization, on the other hand, hasn’t been cooled or stalled by the Atlantic’s waters.  The behavior of tens of thousands of “pink pussyhats” in public spaces last weekend inspired in me a disgust to which no words are adequate, and would simply not have been believed by our grandparents—by mine or yours, no matter who you are.  The epochal moment when human beings consider their genitalia to be the major determinant of their identity has always been a downward-turning indicator for a society’s survival, and no sane adult can suppose that it argues for a strong-willed, independent spirit. The self-governance of a mature will and subjugation to hormones are of two irreconcilable houses.

I honestly don’t know where to turn for truth or support any more, other than within; but as for political parties or religious denominations or educational cohorts… none of it seems to mean anything.  I wrote the other day in a different context that the greatest damage wrought upon us by the 9/11 attacks was what did NOT change the next day… or month, or year.  Our “culture wars” had come to a head as the millennial calendar turned over, and we were poised to “have it out” in some definitive fashion, I think.  Then we were all drawn together as one in defense of “our way of life”… and we failed to notice in time that we no longer shared a way of life.

Now half of us appear passionately to believe that something Donald Trump might have said or might have thought is an imminent threat to Earth’s preserving her orbit and must be punished with fire and sword.  The other half rightly identify the maniacal overreach of CNN/Pelosi-style charges—but respond reactively by embracing any proposition that the Oval Office decides to float on a given day.  I’m not suggesting that the two sides are equivalent.  Lunacy is lunacy, and barbarity is barbarity. You shouldn’t go spitting on your teacher even if she is encouraging your little sister to join “study groups” formed to finger themselves and one another.  Common sense exists, truth and right exist, and manners ought to exist.

We can’t orient ourselves to these morally magnetized polarities, however, if our exclusive attention is paid to those who have steered away from them.  You don’t necessarily put yourself on the right course just by avoiding the zigzags of the drunken pilot beside you.  This “Make America Great Again” stuff… just which America would that be?  The one that has given us Hollywood?  The one whose citizens never read a book because they’re too busy texting and “sexting”?  The one whose book-bred class will not allow Orthodox Jew Ben Shapiro to speak on campus because “he’s a Nazi”?!  Or maybe the one, Mr. Trump, that considers confiscation of private property through Eminent Domain a worthy notion if it “creates jobs”?

I don’t know.  I just don’t know.