Mayberry’s Meltdown: Whiny Males and Shrill Harridans

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The year 2020 doesn’t seem particularly apocalyptic on its surface, but I doubt that many of us who survive it will remember it as one of our best.  I was already having first-in-my-lifetime health problems when “the lockdown” slammed certain medical doors in my face… so that hasn’t gone well; and none of us who has children can be very happy about trillions of bucks more being added to the debt which they will all inherit from us.  Yet somehow we must blunder on.

One of my preferred escapes is baseball—which isn’t being played this year, thanks to the Wuhan Black Death; but then, I’m less a spectator than an excavator.  I research long-lost ways of hitting and throwing a ball, and I try to distill something that may help boys of smaller stature find a means of winning a place on the team.  I’m convinced that boys, especially, need a sense of physical achievement to develop a healthy outlook.  Call it “toxic masculinity”, if you wish; but far more toxic, to my mind, is self-defeating surrender to unopposed obstacles.  Which of us wants our son to grow into a living exemplar of that feminist construct: the unmotivated, irresponsible, adolescent, forever excuse-tendering couch-vegetable?

I’m in the process of trying to upload a second edition of a hitting manual based upon “Deadball days “ (c. 1900-1920), although the designers of Amazon’s software apparently do not conceive of anyone’s ever producing a second edition and are scarcely easing my task’s fulfillment.  I won’t even name the book here: publicity is not my aim.  I will, however, reproduce the final paragraph, unique to this latest edition:

The best of luck to you! Play hard, play smart… and play fair. No one who cheats will ever pile up enough lucre to buy self-respect, nor will he ever be able to counterfeit it from all the cheers he’s suckered from his adoring fan club. Playing this game, ultimately, is about winning respect for yourself as someone who did all he could with what he was given. Believe me, not many people ever get that trophy!

I’ll return to the sentiments contained in those few words.  Bear with me now as I shift to a different scene.  Most of us have wiled away a few minutes in lockdown by sitting through some fare on the idiot box that we ordinarily wouldn’t tolerate.  My wife and I tentatively explored Roku (never a very inviting experience before, since HughesNet can’t vanquish the tendency of shows to “buffer” for minutes at a time)… and we eventually settled on a British comedy (as it was teased) titled Doc Martin.  The serial seems to have run a full decade across the pond.  How bad could it be?

The narrative pretext is that a brilliant London surgeon, having discovered that he can no longer stare into people’s bleeding viscera without panic attacks, retreats to a vacation spot called Portwen off the Cornish coast.  Absurdly overqualified to treat runny noses and soothe upset tummies, he nonetheless longs to settle his nerves in peace and poverty.  Surprises await him, though… and this story, you know, has been told a thousand times, so my wife and I presumed that we knew what was in store for us as viewers.  The old Andy Griffith Show that our parents watched must have devoted dozens of episodes to “flatland touristers” who go half-crazy when they discover the hidden complexities of small-town life in Mayberry.  Portwen would surely be something in the same genre, with Doc Martin (who hates both ends of his popular rechristening) forced to abandon his big-city assumptions and navigate the quirks of colorful local characters.

Well… yes and no.  We laughed through three and a half episodes—kind of—until we agreed that our laughs were uncomfortable and wrongly timed.  The trouble, as we saw it, was that Doc Martin wasn’t the bookish, introverted, urbanized boy-wonder having to make adjustments to the human race, such as was clearly intended of his character.  No: the problem was that, for all his abrupt and stodgy ways, the doc was actually more sensible, civil, and mature than the nasty little islanders into whose midst he had plunged himself.  Locals ran him off the narrow, winding roads with a shrug, as if he didn’t know how to drive, and never reduced speed, moved over, or peered back to see what wreckage they had caused.  Lazy, incompetent workmen destroyed his property yet received his frowns with indignation.  Gossips and malingerers flooded his waiting room to gorge on tea and “biscuits” (cookies, we call them), then bristled when he shooed them out.  A need-burdened, impertinent teenaged receptionist (she certainly acted teenaged, anyway) virtually hired herself and wouldn’t do any part of her job efficiently; yet when her runaway sloppiness almost cost a life and stirred the Doc to dismiss her (for a day or two), the incensed townspeople immediately boycotted their one medical professional as if he’d been caught setting cats on fire.

These pastoral Arcadians, in a few words, were arrogant, self-important, indolent, “entitled” (in their minds), undependable, unaccomplished, unconscientious, intrusive, cliquish, clannish, and often downright boorish.  None of the Old School mannerliness that one expects to find out in the boondocks was detectable in them; no Old School reluctance to embrace city life in the moral fast lane restrained them.  In fact, the snapping point for me (when buffering just wouldn’t come often enough) was midway through Episode Four, when it became apparent that everybody on the island would potentially copulate with anybody else and that the good doctor, thanks to all his hang-ups, was some kind of “nun” (pronounced to rhyme with “noon”).  His wizened—but less than wise—auntie, intended to be a kind of Sibyl on his Other World Journey, iced a sleazy country cake by offering a few details of her extra-marital affair and sneering at her nephew’s prissy Puritanism.  I was reminded of many a grad-school confrontation in Austin during my own youthful transit through the corridors of Hell.

And that’s the point, really, I guess: Austin or Berkeley of the Eighties is now picturesque rural Europe of the twenty-first century.  The God-is-dead, guaranteed-minimum-income dystopia of simmering socialism has now softened the spines and brains of every yokel in the pot.  Everyone has rights, rights upon rights.  Everyone is constantly offended if he or she isn’t accorded special favors while doing nothing that might appear energetic or exceptional.  “Everyone belongs to everyone,” in the phrase piped through the cradles of Huxley’s Brave New World.  With what dismay would that extraordinarily clairvoyant prophet have viewed an “entertainment” in which his countrymen can’t perceive the grim irony of “everyone being everyone’s”, but instead milk idiot laughter from the isolation of a single resisting individualist!

I need hardly observe to anyone who labors through my paragraphs that this reformed ethos now belongs to our shores, as well.  What was His Excellency Judge Eric Moye telling Shelley Luther in a Dallas courtroom other than that “everyone belongs to everyone” and that her individual concern for feeding her children was obscene?

The irony here—one fully worthy of Huxley’s pen—is that Ms. Luther showed us a rare display of “manly fortitude” as a tinpot dictator nanny-wagged his finger at her and sent her into time-out.  It’s no accident, I think, that the fictional Portwen abounds in outspoken, aggressive, sarcastic female characters and invertebrate, whiny, directionless males.  The Brave New World we have fashioned for ourselves is an effeminate one—a place where competency is insensitive, where honesty is rude, where independence is anti-social, and where objective logic is “mansplaining”.  Doc Martin embodies all of these despicable male attributes… and, of course, he must be brought to his knees to beg forgiveness of the communal idol, the mute stone Moloch of conformity.  Just like Shelley Luther, who apparently possesses more courage than the typical American man within the age of discretion, he must confess publicly that he has been “selfish”.

Meanwhile, the rest of us shoot and post selfies of our now de-individualized faces wearing their communally supportive masks (the best of which are seldom more than half effective against microbes, by the way—and then only if they are discarded and replaced after each outing).  We are somehow saving lives… my life, your life, our own lives and other lives… if we do so, while we are no better than perpetrators of manslaughter if we refuse.  And we know this because… because it is repeated endlessly around us, in Huxleyan fashion.  We know that when medical opinion argues otherwise, it isn’t real science, because it’s rude: it doesn’t put the collective front and center.  All science must begin in the promotion of the collective, because… because people like Judge Moye (and Xi Jinping, and Mao Tse-tung, and Joseph Stalin) tell us so.

God help our boys!  Was there ever a time when a fella needed more courage of conviction, more dedication to objectives outside himself but not defined by the herd?  In a small but not insignificant way, a boy might learn such courage by turning his natural liabilities into assets—his short stature into productivity, for instance.  That’s why, in my leisure, I love to imagine some passed-over kid at batting practice elbowing the big guys aside and saying, “Watch me shoot line drives through infield!  You’ll strike out twice a game and homer once, maybe.  I’ll be on base for you all afternoon!”

Was there ever a moment when the block cast aside by the builder was more essential as a cornerstone?  God created every little thing and every person to reach up to Him in some special way—to flower in that manner darkly caricatured by Darwinian evolution, but much more accurately portrayed as resistance against the Domination of the Bully.  There is no greater bully than the herd, nor any more loathsome crystallization of herd will than those individual bullies who appoint themselves herd-interpreters.  Our mission in this world is to prevail over the great Downward Pull, a vector that perversely becomes “progress” in the grubby, squalid scramble to survive.  The florition of the unique, the surpassment of mere physical parameters through a burst of inspired intelligence—of spirit: this is why we are alive.

And this is what the dark force among us has always sought to throttle.  This is why he or she who will not bend a knee to the collectivist’s design has always become a scapegoat.  It’s why Mayberry and Portwen become Deadworld without new generations of boys who play hard, and play fair.  May God have mercy on the throngs of us who allow ourselves to be led like sheep!  We may be assured of this: He will have no mercy at all on those who lead the children to destruction.

Faith, Reality, and Baseball: A Strategy for Resisting the War on Boys

One of the enterprises I wanted to pursue in retirement was my work on involving boys of short stature in baseball.  The game itself, and the instruction surrounding it, has turned as dull and mechanical as everything else in our downward-trending society—yet games (more’s the pity) are no small part of a young person’s education.  One learns fast and hard rules, one must acknowledge that one may suffer certain disadvantages because of certain rules, one figures out how to turn a liability into an asset, and one emerges from it all—with honest, sustained effort—in a triumph of self-discovery and successful adjustment.

If our young people today don’t need a strong dose of what I’ve just described, then they need nothing at all.  I can scarcely imagine a group of people more adrift from basic reality—more lost in speculation about what they might be or want to be wherein no calculations of probability enter and no inventory of available resources is ever taken.

Understand from the outset: I no longer consider myself much of a baseball fan.  As now played, the game strikes me as horribly boring and inept—and the overrunning of its ranks by gigantic body types who perform superhuman feats with a sub-novitiate grasp of cardinal skills is the specific cause of my disgust.  Football and basketball virtually require extraordinary natural endowments: skills there are an adorning cornice, not a foundation.  By no accident, these latter two sports are also much the most popular with spectators on college campuses.  As our society draws ever nearer to the degenerative level of a Rome where actual sea battles were staged for the amusement of the masses, we ourselves grow ever more distant from the spectacle’s participants.  They almost represent a different species; and perhaps, with the aid of hormones and nanobot supplementation, they will soon become precisely that.

I think it well worthwhile, then, to persuade young people that they can excel at a game by identifying their particular (if not spectacular) strengths, perfecting these through practice, and offering a significant contribution to the team’s effort that draws more upon reflection and self-discipline than upon raw sinew.  That’s where baseball comes in—and where boys, especially, come in.  Contemporary Ivory Tower propaganda (which quickly filters all the way down to kindergarten, make no mistake) wails about “toxic masculinity”, labels all males as rapists-in-waiting, and applauds only the gender-uncertain who cede decisions, authority, and initiative to the Nurturing Mother (though, curiously, few women of this cult seem interested in motherhood or, indeed, in a traditional femininity of gentleness and forgiveness). Boys, in short, have never stood in greater need of a regimen that introduces them to self-control and vigorous persistence.

Unfortunately, the history of baseball has almost always garbled this hygienic message with incidental static, at least in the United States.  (In Japan and Korea, the game appears to have followed an educational trajectory more like what I should like to see.)  In America’s late nineteenth century, professional players were viewed as rowdies who shirked the productive labor of farm and factory.  Early in the next century, its practices were submitted to a considerable clean-up before any pay-at-the-gate contest was thought fit for ladies to attend. Even as figures like Babe Ruth (and Ty Cobb, too, before Fake News claimed him as one of its early victims) ushered in a heroic era, baseball’s practical and commercial parameters continued to gravitate against a positive moral message.  Games were played almost daily in numerous far-flung venues, so the players’ normal Circadian rhythms—eating habits, sleeping habits, and other bodily demands that needn’t be specified—were forever being nudged hither and yon.  As a result, late-night frolics and heavy drinking became associated with the pro athlete’s life.  Mill teams or municipal squads that squared off on Saturdays (never on Sundays!) somewhat counterpoised this unflattering image; but on the whole, women even of my mother’s generation did not wish to see their sons inking a professional contract.

Today the interference with the constructive message comes primarily from two sources.   The obvious one is the professional game’s saturation in money (following the demise of the nefarious Reserve Clause, which legally classed players as virtual slaves of their owners).  Fathers are so eager to see their sons get the free scholarship ride through college—with a shot at being professionally drafted—that, in a couple of cases I have seen personally, they start the boys on the syringe at the age of ten or eleven.  Junior and community colleges, at the same time, are being inundated with “talented” kids from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela who speak little English and can’t name the first three planets or multiply fractions but swing a bat like demons.  When boys from Third World backgrounds, in particular, ascend to the professional ranks, the freedom and the money can easily overpower them.  Then the game receives yet another black eye for being the refuge of the undisciplined and the immature.

Quite ironic: for the virtues it requires, as I stressed in opening, could not be less tolerant of self-indulgent vice.  But money—big money—now fuels the engine, and not thoughtful teaching with long apprenticeship.

That our boys need a moral lifeline of some sort thrown to them has been underscored for me during the past two weeks by the grotesque volleys exchanged over a Supreme Court nomination.  I have my own very strong opinions about where the truth lies; but in the context of this discussion, I will say no more than that the addiction of both men and women to alcohol and sex as a routine path to social integration on elite college campuses is a national disgrace—and even more: an epidemic of moral degeneracy such as no nation can survive.  Perhaps we should exclude graduates of elite schools from running for any public office or occupying any powerful position.

To the extent that my own son was able to steer clear of debauchery during his college years, I believe his devotion to baseball was the cause.  One would like to write, “his devotion to the Christian faith”… but the organized Church, as represented by most mainstream denominations, is itself in vital need of an infusion of backbone.  St. Paul was fond of comparing the spiritual life to the athlete’s rigorous program of training—but I’m afraid that today’s Church more resembles the party-animal superstar whose contract guarantees him a fortune whether he stays in shape or not.

I posted a very sophomoric video a few days ago (which became 1st part and 2nd part when I overshot YouTube’s time restrictions) entitled “Faith, Reality, and Baseball”.  I truly hate addressing cameras… but I attempted to speak on these issues with what eloquence I could muster off the cuff.  Young men, I find, will actually watch such a presentation with infinitely higher probability than they will read an essay like the one before you; and some of them, even, will be quite generous to the stammering old fool trying to reach them through their generation’s preferred avenue.  It’s clearly not the singer: it has to be the song.  Let’s sing it louder.