Civil War

America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. – Abraham Lincoln

Peace – the word evokes the simplest and most cherished dream of humanity.  Peace is, and has always been, the ultimate human aspiration.  And yet our history overwhelmingly shows that while we speak incessantly of peace, our actions tell a very different story. – Javier Perez de Cuellar

Conflict, like poverty, is the normal condition of Man.  Instead of seeking the causes of conflict, one would be better off studying the causes of peace and the prosperity it makes possible. – Anonymous

We have war when at least one of the parties to a conflict wants something more than it wants peace. – Jeane Kirkpatrick

Revolution, n. – In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment. – Ambrose Bierce

A recent Pew poll indicates that a majority of the population believes that political violence is imminent.  A February 2019 column from the BBC asked Are We On the Road to Civilization Collapse? Sara Hoyt wrote in March a piece entitled We Are Dancing on a Powder Keg.

These are not isolated examples, oh no:

It’s Time For Conservatives To Choose: Fight Back Or Surrender

The Battle Isn’t Right vs. Left. It’s Statism vs. Individualism

Georgetown University poll: Nation at edge ‘of civil war,’ but voters reject compromise

The Civil War

America’s Second Civil War Has Already Begun

Which way to the revolution

Democrat Congresswoman To Conservative Teen: “You’re Right To Be Afraid Of Us”

America’s Cold Civil War

Eric Holder: Democrats Should Consider Packing SCOTUS

America Is Over, But I Won’t See It Go Without An Epic Fight

That’s an even dozen, and I didn’t have to work hard to compile them.

The concept of the “meme” was coined by anti-theist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. It’s not just those humorous images that make up a significant portion of Facebook postings, though they’re an exhibit of the general concept. Merriam Webster defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Dawkins himself said:

Memes (discrete units of knowledge, gossip, jokes and so on) are to culture what genes are to life. Just as biological evolution is driven by the survival of the fittest genes in the gene pool, cultural evolution may be driven by the most successful memes.

This is a mega-überpost, but if this interests you (or frightens you) get a snack and a beverage, get comfortable then please click below and continue. 

On further consideration, you might want to get a six-pack.
 
Faith

Dawkins’ interest in memes was, of course, based on his issues with what I’ll term Faith – the the unfalsifiable belief in a conscious power greater than ourselves that affects our daily lives. Faith is perhaps the most powerful meme in human history. Consider for instance that the Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – traceable to the Old Testament, a document thought to be at least 3,500 years old. The current world population is estimated at approximately 7.7 billion, and over 4 billion of those follow (at least somewhat) one of those three Faiths. That’s a very successful meme, evolutionarily speaking. Of the remaining 3.x billion world inhabitants, “unaffiliated” is the next largest contingent at around a 1.2 billion, the Hindus are close behind at 1.1 billion, and all the rest cover the remaining billion-plus.

“Unaffiliated” includes, I’m pretty sure, those who say things like “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual,” and the like, but this means that atheism has not been a particularly successful meme comparatively.  However, I would like to draw a distinction between “Faith” and “Religion.”  Faith is a belief in a Higher Power.  Religion is the organization of like-minded believers into a society.  One person can have Faith, but it takes a group to form a Religion.

I think Dawkins’ and other public anti-theists’ primary objection to Faith is that religious conflicts are the historic basis for an overwhelming amount of death, destruction and suffering around the world, and they believe humanity would be better off without it. Religion did lead inexorably to the “Divine Right of Kings” – Kings being Kings because God chose them (and their offspring) to be – and a great deal of slaughter was justified by “my invisible friend is right and yours is wrong,” or something to that effect.  (“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.” – Kill them (all.) God knows those that are his.)  Religion has never been the ONLY reason for human conflict, no conflict in history had a single cause, but Religion was used to justify a lot of death, destruction and suffering and it still continues today.

Why are humans so susceptible to Faith?  Recent research suggests that the human brain is prewired for it.  The field of study is named “neurotheology,” An interesting article on the subject is available at HowStuffWorks. If the human brain at birth has a predisposition for belief in a higher power, it would certainly explain why we’ve never found a population anywhere that didn’t believe SOMETHING was responsible for the creation of the universe.  And most religions around the world postulate an afterlife in which things are much better than they are here, now.

Someone, I think it was Dawkins, noted that Religion has been so successful largely because it was one of the few memes spread via proselytizing long before humans were even literate.  Humans actually go and purposefully spread it.  The reason Judaism is such a tiny fraction of the total Abrahamic faiths is that they don’t proselytize.  They’re Gods chosen people.  They don’t recruit.  You is, or you ain’t.

Johns Hopkins recently published a piece, Experiences of “Ultimate Reality” or “God” Confer Lasting Benefits to Mental Health.  Excerpt:

People over the millennia have reported having deeply moving religious experiences either spontaneously or while under the influence of psychedelic substances such as psilocybin-containing mushrooms or the Amazonian brew ayahuasca, and a portion of those experiences have been encounters with what the person regards as “God” or “ultimate reality.” In a survey of thousands of people who reported having experienced personal encounters with God, Johns Hopkins researchers report that more than two-thirds of self-identified atheists shed that label after their encounter, regardless of whether it was spontaneous or while taking a psychedelic. (Bold my emphasis – ed.)

Moreover, the researchers say, a majority of respondents attributed lasting positive changes in their psychological health–e.g., life satisfaction, purpose and meaning–even decades after their initial experience.

So people who have a Spiritual Encounter or its like get a beneficial rush – that lasts. And perhaps that explains neurotheology – trigger that part of the brain and it’s beneficial for the subject.  And then they’ll often proselytize.  (Old joke – How do you know if someone’s a vegan or a Crossfitter?  THEY’LL TELL YOU.)

Note that I said that atheism has not been a particularly successful meme, but many Religions have been failing of late.  A recent Gallup poll indicates that religious affiliation has been dropping significantly, at least in the Western world:

The percentage of U.S. adults who belong to a church or other religious institution has plunged by 20 percentage points over the past two decades, hitting a low of 50% last year, according to a new Gallup poll. Among major demographic groups, the biggest drops were recorded among Democrats and Hispanics.

Gallup said church membership was 70% in 1999 – and close to or higher than that figure for most of the 20th century. Since 1999, the figure has fallen steadily, while the percentage of U.S. adults with no religious affiliation has jumped from 8% to 19%.

Huffpo in a May 2017 article referencing a 2016 Pew poll proclaimed:

An ongoing spate of recent studies – looking at various countries around the world – all show the same thing: religion is in decline. From Scandinavia to South America, and from Vancouver to Seoul, the world is experiencing an unprecedented wave of secularization. Indeed, as a recent National Geographic report confirms, the world’s newest religion is: No Religion.

The UK’s Guardian paper concurs:  Europe too is affected:

Europe’s march towards a post-Christian society has been starkly illustrated by research showing a majority of young people in a dozen countries do not follow a religion.

The survey of 16- to 29-year-olds found the Czech Republic is the least religious country in Europe, with 91% of that age group saying they have no religious affiliation. Between 70% and 80% of young adults in Estonia, Sweden and the Netherlands also categorise themselves as non-religious.

The most religious country is Poland, where 17% of young adults define themselves as non-religious, followed by Lithuania with 25%.

RTWT.

But the National Geographic link in the Huffpo piece states:

A lack of religious affiliation has profound effects on how people think about death, how they teach their kids, and even how they vote.

There have long been predictions that religion would fade from relevancy as the world modernizes, but all the recent surveys are finding that it’s happening startlingly fast. France will have a majority secular population soon. So will the Netherlands and New Zealand. The United Kingdom and Australia will soon lose Christian majorities. Religion is rapidly becoming less important than it’s ever been, even to people who live in countries where faith has affected everything from rulers to borders to architecture.

But nones aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)

So Faith is apparently on the decline, but only for the West – the USA and Europe.

Why should we care?  (And remember, I’m an atheist – small “a.”)

I will be the first to concede that yes, a lot of evil has been done in the name of Religion or under its auspices but why is it still so prevalent?  What benefits other than an endorphin rush does it bring?  Memes survive by being successful, and Faith has, until very recently, been VERY successful.  But what advantage did Faith give humanity to make it successful?

Well, for one thing it consolidates power in human cultures.  Faith tells an individual “you should,” or “you shouldn’t.”  Religion tells the group “you can,” or “you cannot.”  It may be a subtle point, but it’s an important one because in Religion someone makes those decisions, and it probably isn’t you.  That load is taken off your shoulders.  Remember the Pareto Principle, aka “the 80/20 rule”:  Twenty percent of the people do 80% of the work.  Twenty percent of the people possess 80% of the power, etc.  Odd are you’re not in the 20% when it comes to being a member of a religion.  That’s reserved for the clergy.

The earliest religions we think were animist – that is, the world was created by some Great Power and everything – rocks, trees, rivers, everything – had some kind of spirit living in it.  Those spirits influenced our lives, and in each society – tribe, village, town, etc. – SOMEONE was believed to have a greater ability to understand, appease or appeal to those powers than others.  Those with that power arrogated that power to influence or even control others in the society.  Done well, the society survived, flourished.  Done poorly, it died.  Or the Shaman did.  March through the centuries and we got the aforementioned Divine Right of Kings, where the monarch was God’s Avatar on Earth, His Chosen Representative, and his Word was Law.  “L’état, c’est moi,” said Louis XIV.  Religion was the foundation of order.  Religion has rules.  Religion sets boundaries.  From a recent piece at the Z-Man blog:

The thing is, culture and morality, the shared intellectual space of every society, can only exist with clear borders. What defines French culture from German culture is not just physical distance and biology. There is a shared reality of the French that excludes all others. It is the opposite of open. It is closed. The same is true of moral systems. To exist, they must draw lines between what is and what is not acceptable. That which defines a people is the rejection of openness in favor of a closed, exclusive mode of thought.

Saying “this is not who we are” seems to track with not knowing who we are or why we are even a “we” anymore. The reason for that is the great effort to fulfill the needs of democracy has left western countries as deconstructed components of what used to be a rational, bounded society. France is no longer a closed system, but simply a remnant of a society, the pieces of what used to make up France. No one talks about what it means to be French, because everyone can be French. It’s a thing with no form now.

If the theoretical end point of liberal democracy is a world without boundaries, physical or cultural, then it is a world without morality. After all, morality is a world of fences and gates that control human behavior within the closed social system. In order for there to be a moral order, there must be order and that must include boundaries. Once the boundaries lose their purpose, the fences and gates are simply gravestones in a cemetery of a long forgotten people. No one cares if the kids knock over the grave stones.

But if not Religion, what should human cultures be based upon?  Reason, most anti-theists argue, should be that foundation.

Like that worked out for the French in the late 1700’s. Or for any socialist government, ever. (*cough*Venezuela*cough*)

Weltangshauung

Economist and philosopher Thomas Sowell in his 1986 magnum opus A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles postulated that all political conflict originates in what he calls “social visions,” memes that we as human beings are also born with. The Germans style it weltangshauung – “world view.” It’s how you believe the world works, or more often how you think it ought to.  I wrote about his ideas in my January, 2010 überpost What We Got Here Is…Failure to Communicate.  It’s not quite as long as the book, but if you need more to read, I recommend it.  I will excerpt from it for this essay.

Social vision is, as Sowell put it:

…a ‘pre-analytic cognitive act.’ It is what we sense or feel before we have constructed any systematic reasoning that could be called a theory, much less deduced any specific consequences as a hypothesis to be tested against evidence.

Sowell terms the two fundamental social vision memes as the Constrained and the Unconstrained. In the Constrained Vision people believe that in general human nature is fixed and imperfect. Some (maybe most) individuals may be amenable to changing their behavior and beliefs, but not humanity as a whole, and never to perfection. Human behavior in all its variation is what it is and will be what it has always been. The bell curve may be shifted, but not fast, not far, and definitely not permanently.  Sowell quotes Alexander Hamilton:

It is the lot of all human institutions, even those of the most perfect kind, to have defects as well as excellencies — ill as well as good propensities. This results from the imperfection of the Institutor, Man.

The Unconstrained vision Sowell says (quoting William Godwin from his 1793 book Enquiry Concerning Political Justice) is one in which: 

..man (is) capable of directly feeling other people’s needs as more important than his own, and therefore of consistently acting impartially, even when his own interests or those of his family were involved.

If true this would of course inevitably lead to Utopia, but even Godwin acknowledged that while man could be what he described he is not naturally so:

…this preference arises from a combination of circumstances and is not the necessary and invariable law of our nature.

Sowell notes that “Godwin referred to ‘men as they hereafter may be made,’ (my emphasis) in contrast to (Edmund) Burke‘s view: ‘We cannot change the Nature of things and of men — but must act upon them as best we can.’ “

In the Unconstrained vision, human nature can be changed, and humanity can achieve perfection. In short, if we work at it diligently enough, Utopia can be achieved.

Merriam-Webster defines Utopia as:

A place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions

Essentially heaven here on Earth.  As James Lileks put it, “Personally, I’m interested in keeping other people from building Utopia, because the more you believe you can create heaven on earth the more likely you are to set up guillotines in the public square to hasten the process.”

Philosophy

One of the definitions of the noun philosophy, and the one I’ll use for this essay is “a set of beliefs or an attitude to life that guides ones behavior.”  Philosopher Ayn Rand once observed very astutely:

As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation — or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears thrown together by chance….

Memes are discreet ideas, and philosophy is the stringing together of ideas into a belief system.  As human beings we are engaged in constant memetic warfare, where the winning memes spread.  We are constantly exposed to ideas, many of which conflict with our worldview.  Whether we reject those ideas or accept them and work them into our worldview depends on their value to us – not only accuracy, consistency, internal logic, but also how much social pressure is brought to bear and how susceptible to such pressure we are.  As an example of the predictability of human behavior over time, Winston Churchill observed: “If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”

You’re born with a worldview, but experience should educate you as to how the world really works. This is true, I think, in accordance with the Pareto Principle. Eighty percent of the people follow this path. Twenty percent never do. That twenty percent are either born “conservative” and never lose it, or they’re born “liberal” and never lose that.

People argue that every generation thinks that the one that follows theirs is stupid, lazy, shallow, and naysayers point to graffiti found on the walls of Pompeii and other ancient Roman cities as evidence that kids are kids regardless, but I’m going to talk about Philosophy’s progenitor, education once again, because it is through education in all its different forms that we perceive the world around us and form our worldviews.  I ran across this quote from Derek Ward the other day:

You know what makes me sick to my stomach? When I hear grown people say that kids have changed. Kids haven’t changed. Kids don’t know anything about anything. We’ve changed as adults. We demand less of kids. We expect less of kids. We make their lives easier instead of preparing them for what life is truly about. We’re the ones that have changed. 

And he’s right, kids are the same as they’ve always been – young skulls full of mush waiting to be molded into adults.  It’s the ADULTS that have been changed – the ones eighteen years and older.

Indoctrination

So how does one develop a philosophy?  As Rand noted, there are a couple of ways – “conscious, rational thought and logical deliberation” is one way – one very seldom used.  The other is just to absorb what you’re exposed to 24/7/365 and try to arrange it into something that lets you live your life.  That’s what most people do.  The word “indoctrination” – like “propaganda” – gets a seriously bad rap, but the dictionary definition of indoctrination is:

The process of inculcating a person with ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or professional methodologies.

That doesn’t sound so terrible, does it? What is the fundamental purpose of public education? Noam Chomsky, quoting the Trilateral Commission, says it’s indoctrination.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVqMAlgAnlo]

He, of course, means the bad kind, but he’s right – that’s its purpose. The question that should be asked (and I’ve asked it before) is indoctrinated with what?  And what changed?  And when?

I listened to a four-way panel discussion on YouTube entitled “The Coddling of the American Mind” recently.  The four panelists were Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, authors of the book by the same title, the president and founder of the non-profit Let Grow and the Free-Range Kids movement (something that used to be considered “normal”) Lenore Skenazy, and the moderator was Malcolm Gladwell. In the precis of the book on Goodreads, the first paragraph reads:

The generation now coming of age has been taught three Great Untruths: their feelings are always right; they should avoid pain and discomfort; and they should look for faults in others and not themselves. These three Great Untruths are part of a larger philosophy that sees young people as fragile creatures who must be protected and supervised by adults. But despite the good intentions of the adults who impart them, the Great Untruths are harming kids by teaching them the opposite of ancient wisdom and the opposite of modern psychological findings on grit, growth, and antifragility. The result is rising rates of depression and anxiety, along with endless stories of college campuses torn apart by moralistic divisions and mutual recriminations.

Jonathan Haidt said something during the discussion that truly frightens me:

One thing I’ve found is wherever you go, anywhere in America if you’re dealing with kids born after 1995, everybody – from the college president through the professors, through the guitar teacher through the Counseling Center – everybody is saying “What hit us?” The anxiety, the depression, there’s a tsunami of it. You know, in a soccer coach says, I mean, like “All of a sudden if you criticize a kid, you know, she won’t come back to practice. She quits the team.” And so the fragility, the anxiety, the depression, that is totally national. The politicization of it, the idea that people are vulnerable (not me, necessarily!) but her and him and them, they’re vulnerable and therefore I’m going to call you out, destroy you because you said something that I…you know, etc. That call-out culture, that is not national.

WE TAUGHT THEM THAT.

Ms. Skenazy, who was publicly pilloried for allowing her then 9-year-old son to ride the New York subway by himself, related a story (yes, I know, anecdotes are not data, but bear with me):

This lady wrote to me about a month ago. She’s in Kentucky, and every afternoon when her son who’s nine gets dropped off by the school bus, the rule that the school has is that there has to be an adult waiting at the bus stop to walk him home. It’s actually – you can see her house from the bus stop – and she has her father normally walk him home. One day the dad was in the bathroom and one day the kid wasn’t supposed to come home so that the grandfather wasn’t waiting to walk him home, but if it becomes a third time, she gets reported to Child Protective Services because she is neglecting this child.

So you’re wondering how do kids get so fragile? They’re being told – they’re being forced to be supervised every single second, even in Kentucky, and the reason, the rationale for that is that otherwise they’re not safe. And it’s, like, they are safe, but if you’re always being told that you’re not safe when you are safe, nothing seems safe, and I think that’s why we hear the words “I don’t feel safe” on campus, because that’s just become the watchword for everything.

What’s the fundamental function of Judeo-Christian religion?  The indoctrination of its followers with the teachings of their various sects – all of which share a link to the Old Testament, and Christianity – regardless of sect – the New Testament.  It teaches “thou shall not.”  It teaches “thou shall.”  It defines right from wrong.  And it does so without having to make you work for it.

Dennis Prager gave an excellent speech at Hillsdale College available on YouTube titled American Greatness and American Culture.  About nineteen minutes into the speech he said this:

I remember telling (the “Greatest Generation”) you know, your generation said “we’re gonna give the next generation” – that is, my generation – “everything we didn’t have.”  The trouble is, you didn’t give my generation anything you did have.  You didn’t give us religion, and you didn’t give us an appreciation of America and a whole host – I listed all the things.  And then…when I broadened my own life out I realized that this was universal in America.  The Greatest Generation as it its called…was the greatest generation in terms of the Depression and World War II and Korea, but it was not the greatest generation in what it produced, and it produced the most narcissistic generation in American history.  The baby boomers, my generation.  And the reason was that they in fact gave what they didn’t have – money, and peace, that’s true – but they didn’t give them a love of America or a love of religion, and the results are what you see in America today.  The reason this is so important therefore is that you can lose everything in a generation if you don’t teach it to the next….

Many pundits have been decrying that loss of Faith, but the faith that is being lost is Easter Worship Christianity.  As previously noted, Judaism is small and relatively stable.  Islam is growing rapidly.

A 2015 BBC story on then British Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments on Islam made an interesting observation:

David Cameron’s attack on Islamic extremism at this month’s Slovakia security conference included the charge that groups such as Islamic State believe “religious doctrine trumps the rule of law”.

The phrase is revealing in a way the prime minister probably did not intend: it underlines how far the role of religion has been eroded in British life.

For most of our history, most people in this country would have taken it for granted that God’s laws should trump those made by man – indeed they would have assumed that “religious doctrine” provided the proper basis for “the rule of law”(Bold my emphasis. – Ed.)

A lot is made of the Founders being Deists as opposed to outright Christians of one sect or another, yet Benjamin Franklin was so admired by so many people of different faiths that his funeral was attended by more than 20,000.  They couldn’t all have been Anglicans.  But in point of fact, our Constitution was unique for its time in that the First Amendment explicitly prohibited a National religion.  The term “separation of Church and State” comes from Baptists objecting to Virginia’s official Anglican state religion, but that phrase exists nowhere in the Constitution.  Both houses of Congress have always had their own chaplain who opens each session with a prayer, and no one can successfully argue that the Founders were secularists.  No less than John Adams said in a letter in 1798:

Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

So why no Federal religion? Because at the time of the Founding the Constitution served to (loosely) bind thirteen very different states into a single political entity. Virginia as a colony was officially Anglican, but that was ended in 1789 with the passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. It was one of Thomas Jefferson’s proudest achievements, but remember that America was first settled by Puritans escaping from religious persecution followed by many other sects. No one wanted to repeat what they and their forebears came here to escape.

Still, the overwhelming majority of the population was Christian of one flavor or another, and shared a basic set of beliefs, which is why a frieze depicting Moses holding Hebrew-inscribed tablets is on the façade of the Supreme Court building illustrating that the origin of the law comes from those tablets, but he’s flanked by Confucius and Solon who bring philosophy and logic – reason.  Religion isn’t the ONLY source of the law.

So atheism (and its bigger sister, secularism) has been an outlier, and it – like almost all memes with the possible exceptions of Faith and Worldview – is learned, and those two are subject to evolution.  But if the brain is hardwired for Faith, then atheism/secularism leaves a pretty big hole in the psyche.

Or does it?

Substitution

Once again, we return to “Reason.”  Thomas Paine (an actual Deist) published his Age of Reason, at the start of the 19th Century. It was, as far as I know, the first “secular humanist” treatise by a major public figure.  In it Paine wrote:

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish (Muslim), appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.

As you can imagine this book was not as successful as Common Sense had been to say the least, but it was part of a new philosophical movement spreading across the Western world. As noted previously, the French Revolution began just as America was ratifying our Constitution and ran for ten years resulting in bloody slaughter – and an Emperor.  Religion wasn’t responsible for that conflict, but weltangshauung certainly was. “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” resulted in, not Utopia, but The Reign of Terror and then Napoleon. “L’état, c’est moi,” lived on for quite a while.

Martin Luther published his Ninety-five Theses in 1517, and by the late 1700’s there were a myriad of Protestant faiths, most of them represented in the United States as one of the few nations that tolerated them all by law. We had no divine ruler, the State was the people – but Faith, specifically Christian religions which shared one book while they interpreted it differently – set the cultural boundaries and defined morality as John Adams required.

During the period of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries colonialism was on the decline and democratic forms of government were advancing.  Science was showing us physical evidence of understandable mechanisms that were once thought the realm of miracles knowable only to God.  Societies were shifting from agrarian to industrial, and there was a lot social upheaval going on.  Massive fortunes were made, and they were made by people not blue of blood.  In short the proles got uppity, and money has power of its own.

A meme conflict arose between the devoutly Religious and the proponents of intellectual reason.  The Industrial and Scientific revolutions started to break the hold that Faith had on humanity, at least in the West.  As noted, the definition of a successful meme is one that survives and spreads, and Faith has been losing ground – but it hasn’tChristianity has been losing ground.  Judaism is, has been, and will always be a tiny minority because they don’t recruit.  Islam is spreading through emigration and reproduction – and proselytizing.  (“Convert or die” is a form of proselytizing, isn’t it?)  Only Christianity – Protestant and Catholic – is declining.  But Faith?  Oh, Faith has never been more successful.

So if Christianity is declining, but Faith is hardwired, what replaces it?

Well it ain’t REASON.

Human beings need to Believe.  In.  SOMETHING.  So what memes replace Christianity?

Remember this cover from the February 6, 2009 issue of Newsweek?

Here’s one from the March 4, 2019 edition of New York magazine you might not have seen:

The most successful meme seems to be Socialism / Communism which I will hereafter refer to as Leftism.  Remember Sowell’s Visions – the Constrained Vision is highly compatible with religious Faith as a constraint on the more destructive characteristics of human nature.  The Unconstrained Vision is highly compatible with the Utopian promises of Socialism.  That meme has been able to spread through proselytizing via the media and education systems, and it’s not even two hundred years old in its current form(s).  Its success has been meteoric compared to Christianity, and it has had spin-offs – Environmentalism being one. (“Green on the outside, Red on the inside,” as the saying goes.)  But where religious faith worships a creator God, Leftism worships a nurturing State.  Christianity has Original Sin – God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, and for doing so they were kicked out of Eden.  So does Leftism – everything was wonderful until Capitalism destroyed everything. Christianity used to punish heretics and apostates.  Leftism still does.

Thomas Sowell noted that envy used to be one of the Seven Deadly Sins until it was rehabilitated into a virtue by calling it “Social Justice.”

Christianity promises eventual Heaven, Leftism promises an eventual Utopian classless Stateless society of equals (and screw Pareto).

Leftism is the fastest growing Religion in the world.  And boy, does it have proselytizing down.

Numerous people have observed that the media (entertainment and news) has been suborned by the Left – those who tend towards Sowell’s Unconstrained Vision, who believe humanity can be made perfect, that the world can be made Utopia if only the right people are in charge.  Professor of Communications Brian Anse Patrick (RIP) in his 2002 book The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage illustrated how the news media has become the Clergy for the Church of State.  Patrick studied the media trying to discover how the National Rifle Association not only survives but thrives when the media is so uniformly against it.  First he had to prove the thesis that the media is biased against the NRA, and he did so by comparing news coverage of that group with coverage of other groups, the ACLU, the NAACP, AARP, and the pre-Brady Handgun Control, Inc.  He found there was a definite ranking in how much favorable vs. unfavorable coverage was given to each group, and the NRA got the worst of it.  Followed by the ACLU.  Long book excerpt, taken from my January 2008 überpost The Church of MSM and the New Reformation:

That elite media may be biased for or against a particular issue or topic is interesting, and this knowledge may help an interest group rally indignation or manage its public relations; however it tells little about the overall functioning of media in society. This latter concern is the broader and more important idea, with larger implications. The overall ranking results provide such an explanation.

The larger concept that lies behind the consistent ranking is a broad cultural level phenomenon that I will label an administrative control bias. It has profound implications. Administrative control in this usage means rational, scientific, objective social management by elite, symbol-manipulating classes, and subclasses, i.e., professionalized administrators or bureaucratic functionaries. The thing administered is often democracy itself, or a version of it at least. Here and throughout this chapter terms such as “rational,” “objective,” “professional,” and “scientific” should be read in the sense of the belief systems that they represent, i.e. rationalism, objectivism, professionalism, and scientism. Scientism is not the same as being scientific; the first is a matter of faith and ritualistic observance, the other is difficult creative work. William James made a similar distinction between institutional religion and being religious, the first being a smug and thoughtless undertaking on the part of most people, the second, a difficult undertaking affecting every aspect of a life. The term scientistic administration would pertain here. Note that we move here well beyond the notion of mere gun control and into the realm of general social control, management and regulation(Bold my emphasis – Ed.)

This administrative control bias is the manifestation of a hermeneutic that could be termed “the administrative gaze,” honoring the style of Michael Foucault. This interpretive view organizes, manages, objectifies, implements, and looks downward in such a way as to beg administration or clinical-style intervention. Too, it is a basic power relationship, or an attempt at one, for such is the nature of all management….

TL;DR version: The evidence indicates that, in the majority, journalists think that society should be managed by experts, and those experts are found in government. (Paging Thomas Friedman!) But here’s the really fascinating conclusion he came to:

Journalists acquire importance in the mass democratic system precisely because they gather, convey, and interpret the data that inform individual choices. Mere raw, inaccessible data transforms to political information that is piped to where it will do the most good. Objective, balanced coverage becomes essential, at least in pretense, lest this vital flow of information to be thought compromised, thus affecting not only the quality of rational individual decision-making, but also the legitimacy of the system.

Working from within the perspective of the mass democracy model for social action it is difficult to specify an ideal role model of journalistic coverage other than a “scientific objectivism” at work. An event (i.e., reality) causes coverage, or so the objective journalist would and often does say. Virtually all of the journalists that I have ever talked with regard coverage as mirroring reality.

They truly seem to believe this, that they have access to information to which philosophers and scientists have been denied. I spoke once to a journalist who worried out loud about “compromising” her objectivity when covering a story. The claim being advanced here, by assumption, is that journalists can truly convey or interpret the nature of reality as opposed to the various organizational versions of events in which journalists must daily traffic. The claim is incredible and amounts to a Gnostic pretension of being “in the know” about the nature of reality, or at least the reality that matters most politically.

An ecclesiastical model most appropriately describes this elite journalistic function under mass democracy. Information is the vital substance that makes the good democracy possible. It allows, as it were, for the existence of the good society, a democratic state of grace. Information is in this sense analogous to the concept of divine grace under the pre-Reformation Roman Catholic Church. Divine grace was essential for the good spiritual life, the life that mattered. The clergy dispensed divine grace to the masses in the form of sacraments. They were its intermediaries, who established over time a monopoly, becoming the exclusive legitimate channel of divine grace.

The claim being advanced here, by assumption, is that journalists can truly convey or interpret the nature of reality as opposed to the various organizational versions of events in which journalists must daily traffic. The claim is incredible and amounts to a Gnostic pretension of being “in the know” about the nature or reality, or at least the reality that matters most politically.

Journalists, particularly elite journalists, occupy under mass democracy this ecclesiastical social role, a functional near-monopoly whose duty becomes disseminating and interpreting the administrative word and its symbols unto the public. Democratic communication in this sense is sacramental, drawing its participants together into one body. We should not overlook the common root of the words communication, community, and communion. (Not to mention Communism. – Ed.)

What might be termed as the process of democommunication has aspects of transubstantiation, an interpretive process by which journalists use their arts to change the bread and wine of raw data into democratically sustaining information. Democracy is a kind of communion. Objectivity and social responsibility become social necessities, legitimating doctrines much like the concept of papal infallibility, which had to emerge to lend weight to interpretive pronouncements.

In this light, even the laudable professional value of objectivity can appear as a nearly incredible claim. Both claims, objectivity and infallibility, function to lend credence, authority, and an impeachment-resistant moral/scientific base to organizational or professional products. Both are absolute in nature. Both also serve the quite necessary social function of ultimately absolving from personal responsibility or accountability the reporter, whether ecclesiastical or secular, who is, after all, merely duty-bound to report on the facts. As it is in heaven, so it will be on Earth; and as it is on Earth, so shall it appear in The New York Times.

The media, then, sees its function (whether you could get a journalist to admit it or not) as the Church of State, interpreting the Word of God to the laypeople.  I don’t think he’s wrong.  Nor do others.

Mika Brzezinski on a 2017 episode of Morning Joe let this slip:

(Trump) “could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control what people think, and that’s our job.”

Conversion

In 2017 in Reddit contributor “notjaffo” wrote about Trump’s election in a post titled Why Hollywood is really freaking out over Trump.  In it he wrote:

Blue Team Progressivism is a church, offering you moral superiority and a path to spiritual enlightenment. As a church it’s got a lot going for it. It runs religious programming on television, all day every day. Every modern primetime program is like a left-wing Andy Griffith show, reinforcing lessons of inclusion, tolerance, feminism, and anti-racism.

Watching a 90-pound Sci-Fi heroine beat up a room full of giant evil men is as satisfying to the left as John Wayne westerns were for the right.

The Blue Church controls the HR department, so even if you don’t go to church, you have to act like a loyal churchgoer in every way that matters while you’re on the clock. And off the clock, on any kind of public social media platform.

Jon Stewart and John Oliver are basically TV preachers. Watching them gives the same sense of quiet superiority your grandma gets from watching The 700 Club. The messages are constantly reinforced, providing that lovely dopamine hit, like an angel’s voice whispering, “You’re right, you’re better, you’re winning.”

Hollywood award shows are like church talent shows – the skits and jokes aren’t really funny, but it’s fun to look at the pretty girls, and you’re all on the same team.

Red Conservativism is a business, selling a set of political products. They don’t make you feel good, they don’t appeal to your morality or your spiritual sense of self, but sometimes you really NEED one of their core products like security, jobs, or national defense. Their appeals to “freedom” and “family values” ring hollow these days, but when people are flying planes into buildings, you need a strong member of Conservatism, Inc. in the big chair.

And when it came down to the things that really mattered – welfare, Medicare, Social Security, and foreign policy, you knew Red Team couldn’t really do anything Blue Team didn’t approve of, or the Blue faithful would kick them out of office next time.

But Donald Trump didn’t sign that contract. And Donald Trump didn’t win by selling the same old conservative products. Donald Trump started his own religion, and he won a religious victory.

The Blue Church is panicking because they’ve just witnessed the birth of a new Red Religion. Not the tired old Christian cliches they defeated back in the ’60s, but a new faith based on cultural identity and outright rejection of the Blue Faith.

For the first time in decades, voters explicitly rejected the Blue Church, defying hours of daily cultural programming, years of indoctrination from the schools, and dozens of explicit warnings from HR.

We’ve been trained since childhood to obey the pretty people on TV, but for the first time in decades, that didn’t work.

Donald Trump won because flyover America wants their culture back, and Blue Team has not been rejected like that before.

The younger ones have grown up in an environment where Blue Faith assumptions cannot even be questioned, except anonymously by the bad kids on Twitter.

But now the bad kids are getting bolder, posting funny memes that make you laugh even though John Oliver would not approve, like passing crude dirty pictures under the table in Sunday School.

Meryl Streep is panicking because for the first time voters have rejected HER, and everything her faith has taught her to believe.

There is a new faith rising on the right, not an explicit religious faith like old-school Christianity, but a wicked kind of counterculture movement. We laughed at the hippies in 1968, but by 1978 they were teaching in classrooms and sitting behind school administrator desks.

I discovered that post by reading this January 2017 Deep Code essay by Jordan Hall, Situational Assessment 2017: Trump Edition. (Strongly recommended.)  That was followed by his Understanding the Blue Church from March of the same year. Here’s the key graph from that piece, referencing the quote above:

The abstract is this: the Blue Church is a kind of narrative / ideology control structure that is a natural result of mass media. It is an evolved (rather than designed) function that has come over the past half-century to be deeply connected with the Democratic political “Establishment” and lightly connected with the “Deep State” to form an effective political and dominant cultural force in the United States.

We can trace its roots at least as far back as the beginning of the 20th Century where it emerged in response to the new capabilities of mass media for social control. By mid-century it began to play an increasingly meaningful role in forming and shaping American culture-producing institutions; became pervasive through the last half of the 20th and seems to have peaked in its influence somewhere in the first decade of the 21st Century.

It is now beginning to unravel.

In part it is unraveling because of developing schisms within its master narrative, the Blue Faith. These are important, but they are not the subject of this essay. In this essay, I am focusing on what I think is both much more fundamental and much less obvious: deep shifts in technology and society that are undermining the very foundations of the Church. Shifts that render the Church itself obsolete.

Read that essay, too.  Note the use of the words Religion and Church.  That’s not hyperbole, it’s not artistic license, they really do mean Faith.  Donald Trump’s victory was a ideological recasting of Luther’s 95 Theses nailed to the doors of the Blue Church, only it was nowhere near as organized and it was done by the voters.   (Which gives me an excuse to post this awesome graphic from the YouTube video by journalist David Fuller, A Glitch in the Matrix which discusses the cultural conflict pointed out by Jordan Hall and “notjaffo.” Also worth your time.)

He left out CBS, FOX, NPR and all the rest of the broadcast and cable networks, not to mention social media.  And I would have replaced the cross with this Eye of Sauron,

But you get the idea.  What “notjaffo” only touches on and isn’t mentioned by Fuller or Hall is a discussion of the role that the public education system has had in forming the Blue Church, for as I have spent a few hundred thousand words illustrating over the last sixteen years here they get the kids young and start indoctrinating them early – with varied levels of success.  Hall notes:

Our legacy sensemaking system was largely composed of and dominated by a small set of communications channels. These included the largest newspapers (e.g., NYT and Washington Post) and television networks (e.g., CNN, CBS, Fox, etc.). Until very recently, effectively all sensemaking was mediated by these channels and, as a consequence, these channels delivered a highly effective mechanism for coordinated messaging and control. A sizable fraction of the power, influence and effectiveness of the last-stage power elites (e.g., the neocon alliances in both the Democratic and Republican parties) was due to their mastery at utilizing these legacy channels.

Here’s three minutes of “coordinated messaging”: 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mus37x7LAwI?start=27]

Let me paraphrase:  bombshell, bombshell, bombshell, bombshell, beginning of the end, beginning of the end, beginning of the end, beginning of the end,… yeah, that about covers it.

And as “notjaffo” noted, it didn’t work.  It’s still not working.  The Left is baffled and frightened.

As Professor Patrick postulated, the media acts as the Clergy of the State, an “ecclesiastical social role, a functional near-monopoly whose duty becomes disseminating and interpreting the administrative word and its symbols unto the public. Democratic communication in this sense is sacramental, drawing its participants together into one body.” The network “news” is the Cardinals and Bishops preaching from the pulpit.  Local “news” is largely your neighborhood Priests.  Modern entertainment media, especially prime time programming is a 24/7 hymnal to Leftist memes.  The schools are parochial, serving to produce the supplicants for the sacraments handed down by the Church.  I truly believe that about 50% of the population is born with Sowell’s Unconstrained Vision, and the current public education system and media reinforces it, but it has done more than that – it’s made kids frightened and dependent.  This has wholly transformed Western society in less than a century.  From a CBC piece, May 4, Despite Trump’s Scaremongering, Socialism is Gaining a Foothold in America:

In March, New York magazine churned out several thousand words trying to answer its own question: When did everyone become a socialist? On the right, The Weekly Standard (just before it folded in December) took aim at what it called “the illusory dream of democratic socialism” in a piece called “Up from the Grave,” which began: “It’s back.”

In between, countless think pieces have analyzed what’s going on, usually making a link to the unexpected successes of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (a.k.a. AOC). But the truth is the warming trend for socialism began before any of that.

Nearly a decade ago, the Pew Research Center reported that American millennials, a generation with growing political clout, saw the world differently than their forebears. A 2010 Pew study found that, as a whole, Americans strongly favoured capitalism over socialism, but millennials slightly favoured socialism over capitalism.

Perhaps because they had no memory of the Cold War, they didn’t see socialism as a bogeyman. They were open to it.

A few years later, the political scientist and writer Peter Beinart took the Pew study and contextualized it in a widely read essay in the Daily Beast. Under the headline “The Rise of the New New Left,” he tried to unpack how a promise to make the rich pay for universal childcare turned lefty Democrat Bill de Blasio into the mayor of New York. Priorities were disrupted, thought Beinart.

With a hat tip to the sociologist Karl Mannheim, Beinart argued that only certain generations disrupt the status quo, and they do it because something irregular and meaningful happens during their formative years — late teens, early twenties — that forever colours their worldview.

Their weltanshauung. Beinart attributes the sea-change to the early 21st Century’s events – 9/11, the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 economic crash, etc., but I believe the foundations were already laid by the media and education industries, and our parents. The soil was plowed, the seeds planted.  Remember Churchill’s admonition that “If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart”?  What changes that?  Age.  Experience.  LIFE.

So how do you prevent the learning that turns people conservative? Extend adolescence. Shelter children from life. Give them everything they want. Supervise them 24/7.  Avoid new ideas or any challenge to their childish weltangshauung. Sports “competitions” without scorekeeping.  Elimination of games where feelings could be hurtTurning Lego into a lesson in socialism.  “Safe Spaces,” protests of public speakers you don’t agree with but can’t explain why except “They’re racist!” or homophobic, or… well you get the idea.  When they get to be old enough, they’re no longer mentally flexible enough to accept new information.  They just reject anything that doesn’t fit what they’ve been taught is Truth, even when it is ludicrously obvious that it’s wrong

The problem that is now rearing its head on the Left is that they never really had a Catholic Faith. (The dictionary definition of “Catholic” being “Universal.”)  They proselytized through division, breaking the 80% up into smaller subsets and promising them that the 20% had what they had through stealing it from them, by oppressing them, and that by binding together the various (and ever-growing) minorities they could make things right and make everything equal!  But their Faith has always been like the Protestants, broken into many sects, and now those sects are fighting each other for power, and the Leftist movement is struggling against the schisms with the new mantra of intersectionality – defined at Wikipedia as:

Intersectionality, also referred to as intersectional feminism, is a branch of feminism which identifies how different aspects of social and political discrimination overlap with gender. It is an analytic framework that attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society. The term was coined by black feminist scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in 1989. There are various forms of social stratification, such as class, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, creed, disability and gender, which are included in the consideration of intersectional feminism and its social and cultural effects. The purpose of intersectionality is to identify that these forms of discrimination are related to one another, and take these relationships into account when working to promote social and political equity. While the theory began as an exploration of the oppression of women of color within society, today the analysis has expanded to include many more aspects of social identity. Intersectionality may also be related to the term triple oppression, which engages with similar themes.

Note that it started with feminism – which represents a group that is in actuality not a minority.  And while it started there, it was swiftly expanded:

Intersectionality is a sociological theory describing multiple threats of discrimination when an individual’s identities overlap with a number of minority classes — such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, health and other characteristics.

For example, a woman of color may face sexism in the workplace, which is compounded by pervasive racism. Similarly, trans women of color face exceptionally high levels of discrimination and threats of violence. Looking through the lens of intersectionality, it’s not hard to see why: these women potentially face anti-trans prejudice, sexism, misogyny, racism and — due to the ignorance surrounding trans identity — homophobia.

While intersectionality is traditionally applied to women, a person of any gender may be affected by this phenomena of overlapping minority status. A man from a Hispanic background could face xenophobia in today’s America despite being a naturalized citizen. If that Hispanic man is in his 50s, ageism might add to the discrimination he could face in trying to secure employment.

Basically, if you’re not a cisgendered heterosexual white male, well those beasts are all out to get you. Problem is you can be a black lesbian track and field star who gets soundly beaten by a transgender competitor who uses the same bathroom you do. And complaining about that (getting beaten or sharing a bathroom) is verboten.  If you’re a member of any Leftist-designated victim group, you cannot be victimized by a member of any other recognized victim group.  Only by being united in your diversity can you overcome the scourge of people who don’t think like you do.

Conflict

So what, several thousand words later, does this have to do with Civil War?

The ground has been prepared.  The country has been divided.  Not, this time, between the North and South, but pretty much the Urban vs. Rural.  What Professor Angelo Codevilla calls the Ruling Class vs. the Country Class.  The Civil War memes are flying, like this one I came across earlier this morning:

Many years ago blogger Ironbear wrote something I’ve quoted bits and pieces of numerous times.  Here’s the entire pertinent part, and remember this was written in 2004:

This is a conflict of ideologies…

The heart of the conflict is between those to whom personal liberty is important, and those to whom liberty is not only inconsequential, but to whom personal liberty is a deadly threat.

At the moment, that contingent is embodied most virulently by the “American” Left. This is the movement that still sees the enslavement and “re-education” of hundreds of thousands in South Vietnam, and the bones of millions used as fertilizer in Cambodia as a victory. This is the movement that sees suicide bombers as Minute Men, and sees the removal of a brutal murder and rape machine from power as totalitarianism. This is the movement that sees legitimately losing an election as the imposition of a police state. This is the movement that believes in seizing private property as “common good”. That celebrates Che Guevara as a hero. The movement who’s highest representatives talk blithely about taking away your money and limiting your access to your own homestead for your own good. The movement of disarmament.

The movement of the boot across the throat.

Think about it. When was the last time that you were able to engage in anything that resembled a discussion with someone of the Leftist persuasion? Were able to have an argument that was based on the premise that one of you was wrong, rather than being painted as Evil just because you disagreed?

The Left has painted itself into a rhetorical and logical corner, and unfortunately, they have no logic that might act as a paint thinner. It’s not possible for them to compromise with those that they’ve managed to conflate with the most venal of malevolence, with those whom they’re convinced disagree not because of different opinions but because of stupidity and evil, with those who’s core values are diametrically opposed to what the Left has embraced. There can be no real discourse, no real discussion. There’s no common ground. There can be no reconciliation there – the Left has nothing to offer that any adherent of freedom wants. The only way they can achieve their venue is from a position of political ascendency where it can be imposed by force or inveigled by guile.

And all adherents of freedom have far too many decades of historical precedent demonstrating exactly where that Leftward road leads – to the ovens of Dachau.

There are people who’s opinions I respect that differ with me on this: they see that in the event of a political defeat this year, the Left will fragment and dissolve. I can see their reasoning, and I hope they’re correct, but I disagree. I’ve seen too much of the viciousness that a militant Leftist core with a ready supply of willing dupes is capable of when they’re frustrated by a politically intransient electorate. It may not come to a boil this year, or the next….

My gut agrees with my reason, and both of them tell me that this will eventually and inevitably end in blood. Ultimately, can only end in blood.

A pity, that.

All we seem to be waiting for is the trigger, the incident or incidents that will ignite the conflagration. I don’t think the nation has stood so close to the precipice of disaster since 1860.

But something else bothers me. Wars are, as I said, never over one thing. Religion often plays a major role, but economics is generally equally important, and often overlooked.

Yesterday it was reported that President Trump, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi had come to an agreement on the Federal Budget that would increase the spending ceiling through 2021 by another $320,000,000,000. As I write this, the National Debt is in excess of more than $22.5 TRILLION dollars and climbing.

That’s a debt that cannot be paid off.  And we’re not even faking giving it a try.  Bill Whittle did a recent B/W Now video decrying the agreement, that the politicians have decided that as long as the disaster doesn’t come while they’re in office, it’s not their problem.  I think that’s right, but I also think that the people with their hands on the levers of power know they can’t put it off too much longer.  One major crop failure, someone somewhere sets off a nuke, China decides to take Taiwan back, or more.  Anything.  And the world economy crashes.  And we can’t service the debt.

What happens when “The Full Faith and Credit” of the United States means something between Jack and Squat?

War is a great way to wipe the books clean, ain’t it?  Especially when you can blame it on Religion.

Sleep well.  I don’t.

“We Have Met the Enemy, and He is Us.”

The immortal words of the comic-strip character Pogo.

(Perusing my blog, I noticed that I had a half-dozen started essays that I’d never completed and published.  This is one of them from back in early 2016.  I thought I’d dust it off and hit “Publish.”  Comments?)

Here we are in the early stages of the Run for the Presidency, 2016, and the most likely candidates at the moment are a lying, incompetent carpetbagger from Arkansas and a blowhard billionaire whose only principles seems to be “make money” and “promote myself.”  The Vermont Socialist could still pull it out if he could get the Democrat Superdelegates on his side, but that seems unlikely at this point.  The Republican elite is shitting itself over the possibility that The Donald® might win the nomination, and the only other candidate with a chance is Ted “No Compromise” Cruz.  They could defeat The Donald® if they united behind Cruz, but as Rush Limbaugh keeps repeating, they hate The Donald®, they FEAR Cruz.

How the fuck did we get to this point?

Political commentator Henry Louis Mencken, an early 20th Century Cassandra wrote in 1920:

The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

So a low opinion of politicians and the electorate both is nothing really all that new, but I wonder if Mencken really believed what he was saying, or was he instead writing a warning?  Doesn’t really matter now, though, because instead of electing a moron, we’re looking at electing an entirely different kind of disaster.

In 2006 I pulled a Quote of the Week from an Orson Scott Card book I was reading:

(America) was a nation created out of nothing – nothing but a set of ideals that they never measured up to. Now and then they had great leaders, but usually nothing but political hacks, and I mean right from the start. Washington was great, but Adams was paranoid and lazy, and Jefferson was as vile a scheming politician as a nation has ever been cursed with.

America shaped itself with institutions so strong that it could survive corruption, stupidity, vanity, ambition, recklessness, and even insanity in its chief executive.

A couple of years later, I pulled that quote again for my post Restoring the Lost Constitution, and asked the question:

But can it survive enmity?
I don’t have an answer to that question yet, but it may be coming sooner than anyone would like.

Quote of the Day – Education Edition

Victor Davis Hanson from his recent speech Two States of California (worth your time BTW):

When I went in (to the California State University system) in 1984 as a professor of Classics, the remediation rate – that was a fancy term for those who are admitted into the CUS system, the largest university system in the world, well over a quarter-million students – was 32%, and the graduation rate in four years was 51%. When I left 23 years later the remediation rate was 55% and the average for SIX years graduation was 49%.

How did California solve that problem? They just got rid of the word last year called “remediation.” So rather than saying 60% of the students who entered the CSU system cannot take a college class because they don’t qualify to be there in the first place and therefore you have remediated class – we used to call them “Bonehead English” and “Bonehead Math” – and you don’t get college credit for it, we don’t call it remediation anymore and they solved the problem. There’s zero remediation now.

But believe me, if we’re going to build a high-speed rail, who is going to pilot it? Who is going to engineer it? Somebody who is remediated?

So after saying that, to emphasisze this idea of schizophrenia, I go over to the coast and I’m at Stanford University. Last year the London Times Higher Education supplement – and was confirmed by the University of Tokyo – rated the greatest universities supposedly in the world. You’d think they’d all be Japanese and British since they were doing the surveys. Number one – CalTech. Number two – Stanford. Number four – Berkeley. Number ten – UCLA. Number fifteen – USC. FIVE of them were from California. California had more top universities than any other NATION except the United States, and yet it has a public school system where just 60% of people can’t read or write. It’s the same state, believe me.

See also this post from December of 2004.

Arguing With a Leftist

The writing bug is starting to bite again, so you may see some new content here, including (eventually) a mega-überpost I started back in October of last year, but for now just this little piece.

A few days ago someone at Quora tagged me with the question:

If both conservatives and liberals love USA, why there are such hostility and lack of trust towards each others?

I left an answer, but someone else left this one:

As a former Right turned Left, I assure you all there are smart and well educated people on each side. The difference is largely in an assumption or two.

The Right assumes people deserve and have a right to whatever assets they have, whether earned or given by prior generations. And this includes land, food, natural resources, water, etc.

The Left believes luck plays a big part in how wealth is currently distributed. They believe every human deserves some minimal share of water, food, clean air, and resources required to live. They point out that every business owes some of its success to the hard and soft infrastructure provided by governments.

I think I am being fair to both my former and current views here. All differences in political philosophy derive from the above.

I changed because I figured out I am a Liberal. Imagine a game of Monopoly where one player is given a pile of money, properties, houses and hotels by his father, along with some good game advice. The other players start with a few bucks and don’t know what the rules are when they start out. Liberals don’t think this is fair, Conservatives do.

I left this comment with the (forlorn) hope that it might generate a debate:

“Liberals don’t think this is fair, Conservatives do.”

I disagree. We both agree it’s not fair. The difference is that Conservatives understand that the world is not fair.

“(Liberals) believe every human deserves some minimal share of water, food, clean air, and resources required to live.”

Conservatives know that the world owes us nothing. Liberals think they can make the world fair. All they need is the power to make it so.

Conservatives understand that the kind of power needed to “make the world fair” always ends badly.

Always.

Result? Crickets.  But I’d like to go ahead and unpack this – fairly accurate, I think – definition of the modern-day “liberal,” née “Progressive.”

The progressive complains that the world is not fair. They’re absolutely right – it isn’t. They believe that the Right thinks it is fair – we don’t, but we understand that all the wishing in the world won’t make it fair. Because they think the unfairness can be corrected, and the Right is opposed to making this correction, we’re evil. That’s where we part company. (There’s more to it than that, but this I think is the fundamental disagreement.)  There’s a disconnect at the very foundation of the ideological split between the two philosophies, and it goes back decades if not centuries.  After all, Kipling’s The Gods of the Copybook Headings was published in 1919, just shortly after the Russian Revolution.

The fundamental split is that one side thinks that – given sufficient power (in the right hands, of course) – the world can be made fair.  That there doesn’t need to be winners and losers. (Thus “participation trophies” and sports “games” where no one keeps score.) That it is the job of “society” to make everyone absolutely equal.  The other side believes that the world is fundamentally unfair and it’s up to the individual to overcome that inherent unfairness.

Let’s look a the literature throughout history.  Kipling in 1919.  Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron from 1961.  George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949).  The Greek fable of the Procrustean Bed from ancient history.  They’re all warnings about trying to build Utopia.  What does the Left have?  So far as I can tell, Star Trek from 1966 where they don’t use money, everyone has their needs met, and anyone can pursue whatever they like or do nothing at all.  Exactly what Karl Marx promised would be the outcome of Communism in The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Das Kapital (1867) – two other fantasies.   We saw this most recently in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (AOC) “Green New Deal” where she promised “Economic security to all who are unable or unwilling to work.” (My emphasis.)

Remember Kipling?

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.

Let’s return to our new Leftist’s assertion:

The Left believes luck plays a big part in how wealth is currently distributed. They believe every human deserves some minimal share of water, food, clean air, and resources required to live. They point out that every business owes some of its success to the hard and soft infrastructure provided by governments.

And:

The Right assumes people deserve and have a right to whatever assets they have, whether earned or given by prior generations. And this includes land, food, natural resources, water, etc.

What are you to assume from this? That the “hard and soft infrastructure provided by governments” unfairly benefits some, no? And therefore those beneficiaries then owe some of their unfairly gained wealth to those not so fortunate. Am I misunderstanding the “logic” here?

As economist Walter Williams has asked, how much of someone else’s property is “your fair share”?  Who decides?  As others have asked, why is robbing someone at gunpoint illegal, but threatening someone with arrest by an armed agent of the government if they don’t cough up money not?

This goes back to my constant harping on education.  I ran across this cartoon Facebook today:

Between 100 and 200 million, in point of fact.

Like they teach that these days.

Hell, they don’t even teach about the Holocaust these days.  Why would they teach about socialism’s other lethal failures?  Instead the schools indoctrinate students in Leftism and the result is that a majority of young people today view socialism favorably.  WaPo columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. recently wrote “Trump’s War on Socialism Will Fail.”  Of course it will.  The Long March Through the Institutions has worked out wildly better than either Rudi Dutschke, Antonio Gramsci or any of the members of the Frankfurt School could have imagined. (Two people and one organization that the Millenials don’t know anything about, either.)

And we’re paying for it now.

Many years ago Chris Byrne wrote “There can be no useful debate between two people with different first principles, except on those principles themselves.” As illustrated above, our first principles are completely divergent, and there is no debate – useful or otherwise – anymore. Charles Krauthammer’s observation that the Right thinks the Left is stupid, but the Left thinks the Right is evil was correct when he made it back in the 1990’s, but today the Right is beginning to wake up to the fact that what the Left wants to accomplish – and is willing to use violence to achieve – is evil. When both sides “other” their opponents, can open warfare be far behind?

Education, Societal Division and a Proposal

Überpost alert!  It is something I’ve been studying and thinking about since 1993, and writing about here for 15 years, so there will be a lot of internal links, external links, links to stuff that only exists because of the Internet Wayback Machine, etc. and a lot of stuff you’ve seen here before if you’ve been here very long. It’s about a lot more than education but it all starts there.

Lets get on with it, shall we?

“All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” – Aristotle

If you’ve read this blog for any extended period, you know one of my personal hobby-horses is public education. Specifically, its general failure to educate. That failure is hardly a new thing. Let me remind you:

Quote of the Day, July 13, 2012

Quote of the Day, July 14, 2009

Those are John Taylor Gatto quotes not necessary to requote in full here, thus the links. Here are a couple of other significant quotes:

The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues, and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.

And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.

Henry Louis Mencken, 1924

Even Noam Chomsky concurs:

I quoted the Trilateral Commission view of the educational system, namely that it’s a system of indoctrination of the young, and I think that’s correct. It’s a system of indoctrination of the young. That’s the way the liberal elites regarded it and they’re more or less accurate. So the educational system is supposed to train people to be obedient, conformist, not think too much, do what you’re told, stay passive, don’t raise any crises of democracy, don’t raise any questions. That’s basically what the system is about.

Watch the whole clip. It’s about five minutes long.

I’ve written about indoctrination before, but my objection has been to what indoctrination is going on, not why:

…I am ambivalent on the topic of “indoctrination.” My problem is with what that indoctrination entails. (Leo) Rosten objects to the failure of the educational system to indoctrinate moral values. I’d say it still does. It just doesn’t indoctrinate goodness, kindness, and decency anymore. It indoctrinates “multicuturalism,” “tolerance,” “sensitivity,” “fairness,” “socialism,” and “self-esteem.” It fails to instruct in history, civics, ethics, mathematics, English, or for that matter, job skills. The education system receives “young skulls full of mush” and processes them right on through, sending them into the world with what Ayn Rand described as “a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears.”

The reasons for this are myriad. Diane Ravitch puts part of the blame (convincingly) on the textbook companies who are loath to put anything in a text that someone, anyone, might find offensive. I put a large part of the blame on the influx of socialist True Believers into the ranks of educators since the time of John Dewey. As far as public schools are concerned, we’ve abandoned the idea that education can liberate the human mind or human spirit. Schools are now warehouses, run by administrators terrified of lawsuits and too many teachers who are literally tyrannized by their charges and their parents. Indoctrination still goes on, though. Read this lovely little op-ed by Mark Bradley, a history teacher from Sacramento. I bet his classes are popular!

It would seem that if you want some good indoctrination, your only choices are homeschooling or private – often ecumenical – schools.

Indoctrination of children is not necessarily a bad thing, but somewhere along the line we stopped paying attention to what was and what wasn’t getting poured into their heads, and it started long before 1975.

In 2008 I wrote another überpost, The George Orwell Daycare Center, specifically illustrating the kind of indoctrination I’m objecting to, followed by an observation by historian, profound thinker and university professor Victor Davis Hanson. I believe that it is still possible to get a decent education out of many, possibly most school systems in this country – if you want one.  This is due to those teachers who really do know their subjects and how to teach them, and students willing to do the work necessary to learn them. I think both still exist, however I graduated High School in 1980 so this may no longer be as true as it once was. It does appear that the ratio of such teachers and students to the general population is getting continually smaller. That question is “Why?”

Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds American prosperity, security, and civility. We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur–others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.

That last one is from the introduction to the 1983 report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education entitled A Nation at Risk: the Imperative for Educational Reform.

It was an act of war. Guerilla war. But the battleground had been carefully prepared, like the Maginot Line, for an entirely different war.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, a small group of soon-to-be-famous academics, symbolically led by John Dewey and Edward Thorndike of Columbia Teachers College, Ellwood P. Cubberley of Stanford, G. Stanley Hall of Clark, and an ambitious handful of others, energized and financed by major corporate and financial allies like Morgan, Astor, Whitney, Carnegie, and Rockefeller, decided to bend government schooling to the service of business and the political state—as it had been done a century before in Prussia.

Cubberley delicately voiced what was happening this way: “The nature of the national need must determine the character of the education provided.” National need, of course, depends upon point of view. The NEA in 1930 sharpened our understanding by specifying in a resolution of its Department of Superintendence that what school served was an “effective use of capital” through which our “unprecedented wealth-producing power has been gained.” When you look beyond the rhetoric of Left and Right, pronouncements like this mark the degree to which the organs of schooling had been transplanted into the corporate body of the new economy.

It’s important to keep in mind that no harm was meant by any designers or managers of this great project. It was only the law of nature as they perceived it, working progressively as capitalism itself did for the ultimate good of all. The real force behind school effort came from true believers of many persuasions, linked together mainly by their belief that family and church were retrograde institutions standing in the way of progress. Far beyond the myriad practical details and economic considerations there existed a kind of grail-quest, an idea capable of catching the imagination of dreamers and firing the blood of zealots.

— John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education

…between 1967 and 1974, teacher training in the United States was covertly revamped through coordinated efforts of a small number of private foundations, select universities, global corporations, think tanks, and government agencies, all coordinated through the U.S. Office of Education and through key state education departments like those in California, Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Important milestones of the transformation were: 1) an extensive government exercise in futurology called Designing Education for the Future, 2) the Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project, and 3) Benjamin Bloom’s multivolume Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, an enormous manual of over a thousand pages which, in time, impacted every school in America. While other documents exist, these three are appropriate touchstones of the whole, serving to make clear the nature of the project underway.

Take them one by one and savor each. Designing Education, produced by the Education Department, redefined the term “education” after the Prussian fashion as “a means to achieve important economic and social goals of a national character.” State education agencies would henceforth act as on-site federal enforcers, ensuring the compliance of local schools with central directives. Each state education department was assigned the task of becoming “an agent of change” and advised to “lose its independent identity as well as its authority,” in order to “form a partnership with the federal government.”

The second document, the gigantic Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project, outlined teaching reforms to be forced on the country after 1967. If you ever want to hunt this thing down, it bears the U.S. Office of Education Contract Number OEC-0-9-320424-4042 (B10). The document sets out clearly the intentions of its creators — nothing less than “impersonal manipulation” through schooling of a future America in which “few will be able to maintain control over their opinions,” an America in which “each individual receives at birth a multi-purpose identification number” which enables employers and other controllers to keep track of underlings and to expose them to direct or subliminal influence when necessary. Readers learned that “chemical experimentation” on minors would be normal procedure in this post-1967 world, a pointed foreshadowing of the massive Ritalin interventions which now accompany the practice of forced schooling.

The Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project identified the future as one “in which a small elite” will control all important matters, one where participatory democracy will largely disappear. Children are made to see, through school experiences, that their classmates are so cruel and irresponsible, so inadequate to the task of self-discipline, and so ignorant they need to be controlled and regulated for society’s good. Under such a logical regime, school terror can only be regarded as good advertising. It is sobering to think of mass schooling as a vast demonstration project of human inadequacy, but that is at least one of its functions.

That was also Gatto.

Our education system, as Gatto has noted, is largely based on the Prussian system established by the great industrialists of their era in order to produce a two-tiered output – the workers and the owners and managers. However, it was rapidly suborned instead to destroy Western culture:

Translated into practical terms and updated from its early-20th-century Italian cultural setting, (Antonio) Gramsci’s thesis is understood by the modern Left to mean:

Socialist revolution will never happen in a nation if its culture continually reaffirms and enshrines middle-class capitalist values. Thus, in order to pave the way for the arrival of a communist state, radicals must first insinuate themselves into and/or influence the media and educational system, and from these positions of influence change public attitudes about the status quo. To achieve political hegemony, you must first achieve cultural hegemony.

This was a significant change from Marx’s and Lenin’s original ideas about communist revolution, which basically involved simply seizing power, public opinion be damned, and afterward propagandizing the masses to accept the new order. Gramsci realized that Marx had it reversed, and that the propaganda and indoctrination must happen first, in order to make the populace open to the idea of revolution; otherwise, rendered complacent by middle-class values and comforts, the populace would never consent to the upheaval of a revolution.

The media and public schools were correctly identified by Gramsci as the most influential cultural institutions, and it was therefore those that the left realized must be targeted.

It is this sophisticated Gramscian plan, and not the more brutish Marxist idea of simply seizing power by force, which has guided leftist thought in America since WWII. And it is why the media and education have, over time, been slowly turned into engines of leftist propaganda. Gramscianism matured into “critical pedagogy” which is the real-world application of his educational theories, and countless left-leaning young adults have for decades been nudged toward careers in education and the media. Some time ago, we crossed a threshold in which the Gramscian infiltrators no longer had to ply their trade surreptitiously, but became the majority in the media and in education, and after that point the process accelerated rapidly as they took over both fields and turned them into ideological weapons.

Sugatra Mitra, Indian solid state physicist and now Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, England, was among the forefront of people who had to learn how to write software, and ended up doing more teaching of that than physics. This piqued his interest in primary education. Though his interest was specific to the British system, he came to a similar conclusion:

I tried to look at where did the the kind of learning we do in schools, where did it come from? And you know you can look far back into the past, but if you look at present-day schooling the way it is, it’s quite easy to figure out where it came from. It came from about 300 years ago, and it came from the last and the biggest empire on the planet. Imagine trying to run the entire planet without computers, without telephones, with data handwritten on slips of paper and traveling by ships. But the Victorians actually did it. What they did was amazing. They created a global computer made up of people. It’s still with us today, it’s called the “bureaucratic administrative machine.”

In order to have that machine running, you need lots and lots of people. They made another machine to produce those people – the school. The schools would produce the people who would then become parts of the bureaucratic administrative machine. They must be identical to each other. They must know three things: they must have good handwriting because the data is handwritten, they must be able to read, and they must be able to do multiplication, division, addition and subtraction in their head. They must be so identical that you could pick one up from New Zealand and ship them to Canada and he would be instantly functional.

The Victorians were great engineers. They engineered a system that was so robust that it is still with us today, continuously producing identical people for a machine that no longer exists.

I will come back to this later when I delve deeper into the education portion of this post.

So the purpose of “public education” isn’t so much educating, it’s building dependable uniform cogs for a machine run by elites. As I have noted in the past, despite the inspirational rhetoric of Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and President Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address, the purpose of governments has always been, until the American Revolution, to protect and expand the power and privilege of the powerful and privileged, not the protection of the individual rights of the cogs, not to be “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Referring back to that first Gatto link, you’ll note that our Founders were, as they pretty much had to be, self-taught. That has changed since the late 18th century, at first slowly, but exponentially.

Angelo Codevilla, Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Boston University, calls this “elite” our Ruling Class.

Our ruling class’s agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof. Like left-wing parties always and everywhere, it is a “machine,” that is, based on providing tangible rewards to its members. Such parties often provide rank-and-file activists with modest livelihoods and enhance mightily the upper levels’ wealth. Because this is so, whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges — civic as well as economic — to the party’s clients, directly or indirectly. This, incidentally, is close to Aristotle’s view of democracy. Hence our ruling class’s standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government — meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc. Hence more power for the ruling class has been our ruling class’s solution not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming. A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make Americans kinder and gentler, much less control the weather. But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it.

Laws and regulations nowadays are longer than ever because length is needed to specify how people will be treated unequally.

(The party) is composed of two tiers. The lower tier produces many outspoken members who make their demands known to the upper tier. The lower tier is derived from the inner-city population that serves as the base of the party. The lower tier’s members are generally educated in public school systems and if they aspire to advanced training, they are educated in facilities provided by the state. This wing constitutes the majority of (the party’s) membership, but contributes little or nothing to party theory or platform. It votes the party line and is rewarded with cash payments, subsidized housing, subsidized education, and occasional preferential employment in government positions. The lower tier provides only a handful of clearly token individuals allowed to serve in high offices.

The upper tier, which includes most of the party’s management, virtually all the appointed and elected government officials, and all of the party’s decision-makers, is drawn exclusively from suburban areas where wealth is a fundamental criterion for admittance as a resident. These party members are generally educated at private schools and attend private colleges. They are not affected by food-rationing schemes, income caps or taxation laws, as the legislation drafted and passed by members of their social group inevitably contains loopholes that effectively shelter their income and render them immune from unpleasant statues that restrict the lives of lower-tier party members and all nonparty citizens.

(The party) leadership recognizes that in return for supporting a seemingly populist agenda, they can obtain all the votes they require to remain in power. Even the most cursory analysis of their actions and attitudes, however, indicates that they are not populists but, in fact, are strong antipopulists who actively despise their voting base. This….is proven by their efforts to reduce public educational systems to a level most grade-school children (in other countries) have surpassed, with the excuse that this curriculum is all that the students can handle. They have made the inner-city population base totally dependent on the government, which they control. — John Ringo from the novel The Road to Damascus

I’m by no means a fan of Pat Buchanan, but I think he was absolutely correct when he said:

Our two parties have become nothing but two wings of the same bird of prey.

So our system of Public Education has been largely turned into not only a system to crank out identical cogs, it also serves as a place for political indoctrination, and a place to ensure that a love of learning is beaten out of those cogs.

The political Left, once referred to as “the loyal opposition,” has been suborned by Marxists in order to pursue their holy quest for the Utopia promised by Marx. Marxism promised the birth of the “New Soviet Man” as a spontaneous outcome of a Communist society, but that has never occurred. Of course, the counter argument is that none of the societies that call themselves Communist actually have been. “True communism has never been tried!” But the supporters of Marxist philosophy eventually concluded that Gramsci was right, those men are required in order to achieve “True Communism” instead of them spontaneously springing up after “the Revolution.” The New Soviet Man had to be made, and the public education system has been the primary tool, along with the entertainment and information media, to pursue this goal.

To some tiny extent it has been successful.


In other significant ways it has spectacularly failed.

Thomas Sowell, economist and philosopher and the best thinker in my opinion of the last 70 years, wrote in what I consider to be his magnum opus A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles that human beings philosophically break down, crudely but sufficiently descriptively, into two fundamentally opposed worldviews that they are effectively born with, not that they reach through reason:

 Sowell calls one worldview the “constrained vision.” It sees human nature as flawed or fallen, seeking to make the best of the possibilities that exist within that constraint. The competing worldview, which Sowell terms the “unconstrained vision,” instead sees human nature as capable of continual improvement.

You can trace the constrained vision back to Aristotle; the unconstrained vision to Plato. But the neatest illustration of the two visions occurred during the great upheavals of the 18th century, the American and French revolutions.

The American Revolution embodied the constrained vision. “In the United States,” Sowell says, “it was assumed from the outset that what you needed to do above all was minimize [the damage that could be done by] the flaws in human nature.” The founders did so by composing a constitution of checks and balances. More than two centuries later, their work remains in place.

The French Revolution, by contrast, embodied the unconstrained vision. “In France,” Sowell says, “the idea was that if you put the right people in charge–if you had a political Messiah–then problems would just go away.” The result? The Terror, Napoleon and so many decades of instability that France finally sorted itself out only when Charles de Gaulle declared the Fifth Republic.

I would argue that France hasn’t exactly sorted itself out, but it is for the moment stable enough. (Editor’s note:  This essay was written before the French Yellow Vest Movement.  I may have been overly optimistic.) My point here is that those born with the “unconstrained” worldview are the ones that can be, and often enthusiastically are, receptive to the Utopian promise of Marxism.  The problem is that those born with the “constrained” worldview aren’t, and they don’t understand that. As a result, as Charles Krauthammer put it:

To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.

So President Trump got elected to the shock of almost everyone, everywhere. No one in the political establishment, entertainment or information media could understand it.  He was, despite his wealth and education, not part of the Ruling Class, but he was President and a danger to the status quo so everyone who is part or imagines themselves part or wants to be part of the Ruling Class has agreed that he won illegitimately and must be gotten rid of regardless the cost. All those people who voted for him? Moronic knuckle-draggers, Christian fanatics clinging to their faith, evil gun owners clinging to their pseudo-penises, evil greedy capitalists clinging to their ill-gotten gains, white supremacists longing to bring back slavery, etc, etc, etc. In short, the non-human enemy that cannot be reached so it must be wiped out.  You know, like Hitler and the Nazis. 

The irony, it burns!

The American Left is most strongly concentrated in urban and suburban areas. As previously noted, they control the information and entertainment media and the entire education system from Kindergarten to post-graduate. They therefore think that almost everyone thinks like they do. They swim in waters that they don’t ever think about. But the people who elected Trump exist in large quantities nationwide. The Left doesn’t consider that number. It’s their blind spot. These people live in “flyover country.”

When Trump appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education in 2017, the Left came further unhinged. DeVos, we were told, was unqualified, unprepared, “fundamentally incompetent,” a zealot, and – to the Teacher’s unions – apparently Gozer the Gozerian because she is enthusiastically in favor of education vouchers and school choice. Something the teachers unions vociferously oppose. You’ll notice that our “Ruling Class” already practices “school choice.” Their offspring attend private schools.

It is only from a special point of view that ‘education’ is a failure. As to its own purposes, it is an unqualified success. One of its purposes is to serve as a massive tax-supported jobs program for legions of not especially able or talented people. As social programs go, it’s a good one. The pay isn’t high, but the risk is low, the standards are lenient, entry is easy, and job security is pretty good…in fact, the system is perfect, except for one little detail. We must find a way to get the children out of it. — Richard Mitchell, The Underground Grammarian

School choice is not enough. We need to nuke the whole thing from orbit, and make the rubble bounce.

Sugatra Mitra, as previously noted, was among the forefront of people who had to learn how to write software, and ended up doing more teaching of that skill than physics. When the generic PC hit the market, his colleagues were astounded to find that their young children could learn to operate these complex, expensive machine without instruction. He decided to investigate this phenomenon:

I used to teach people how to write computer programs in New Delhi, 14 years ago (1999) , and right next to where I worked there was a slum. I used to think how on earth are those kids ever going to learn to write computer programs? Or should they not? At the same time we had lots of parents, rich people who had computers, and who used to tell me “You know, my son, I think he’s gifted, because he does wonderful things with computers. Oh and my daughter – surely she is extra intelligent.” and so on. So I suddenly figured that how come all the rich people are having these extraordinarily gifted children? What did the poor do wrong?

I made a hole in the boundary wall of the slum next to my office, and stuck a computer inside just to see what would happen if I gave a computer to children who never would have one, didn’t know any English, didn’t know what the Internet was. The children came running in. It was three feet off the ground, and they said “What is this?” And I said “Yeah, it’s, I don’t know.” They said “Why did you put it there?” I said “Just like that.” And they said “Can we touch it?” And I said “If you wish to.” And I went away.

About eight hours later, we found them browsing, and teaching each other how to browse. So I said “That’s impossible, because- You know how is it possible? They don’t know anything.” My colleagues said “no it’s a simple solution. One of your students must have been passing by and showed them how to use the mouse.” So I said “Yeah, that’s possible.” So I repeated the experiment. I went 300 miles out of Delhi into a really remote village where the chances of a passing software development engineer was very little. I repeated the experiment there. There was no place to stay, so I stuck my computer in, I went away. I came back after a couple of months, found kids playing games on it. When they saw me they said “We want a faster processor and a better mouse.” So I said “How on Earth do you know all this?” And they said something very interesting to me. In an irritated voice they said “You’ve given us a machine that works only in English, so we had to teach ourselves English in order to use it.” That’s the first time as a teacher I’ve heard the words “teach ourselves” said so casually.

Please watch the entire 22 minute video. It’s important for your understanding of the rest of this essay. If you’ve not seen it before, it’ll knock your socks off. If you’re unfamiliar with the man, watch several more of his presentations. But Self Organized Learning Environments and the School in the Cloud answering “big questions” are also not enough. Human beings need to be able to do simple math in their heads, to at least understand algebra, to read with comprehension and for enjoyment, to understand history, both Western and worldwide, to understand how different governments work (or don’t), and much more. In addition they need to be able to apply their knowledge to reach logical rather than emotional hypotheses and test them. They need to learn skills that have been, as Mike Rowe observes, abandoned in the pursuit of mostly useless, incredibly expensive college degrees with the specious promise that a piece of paper guarantees a well-paying career, thus leaving society with a disdain for jobs that require physical labor as somehow inferior and degrading. And they need to be taught a work ethic. I like Mike’s take on it.

As R.A. Heinlein put it:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

While there are autodidacts (I’m one when it comes to American history, education and Constitutional law), I don’t think many people are. Those people who aren’t need some direction, some pressure to learn. Generally it’s pursuit of better employment opportunities, but those are adults. We’re talking here about primary education. Again the Internet has become the place to go for everything from mathematics to chemistry to ancient history, to just about anything you can imagine, but someone has to provide that content and point kids at it with interest in learning it.

As far as content creation is concerned, there is multiple-degreed former hedge-fund manager and now The Most Influential Person in Education Technology, Salman Kahn, who in 2004 was tutoring his niece in mathematics long-distance using YouTube, Yahoo Doodle, a $900 desktop from Best Buy with a $200 microphone, and a closet as an office. Sound familiar?

Kahn established his non-profit Kahn Academy in 2008, beginning with a mathematics curricula, but with outside funding he’s been able to hire staff and expand to many, many other subjects. His major concern, however, is mastery of the subject. That requires keeping track of each student’s progress, and not allowing them to move on until they demonstrate that mastery:

I grew up with plenty of smart people. They would beat me at chess, they could solve brain teasers before I could, but then they would struggle in algebra. These were incredibly smart people who simply did not have the foundation in math that I had. I saw the same thing with my cousin, Nadia. She had actually gotten “A”s and “B”s in every math class. Despite that, she had some serious gaps in her knowledge that became more significant as the content became more difficult.

These gaps are due to the Prussian system – all students arrive in the classroom at the same time, are lectured by a teacher who has little to no time for individual attention but must finish the lecture before the next bell rings and then gives homework to the students to be turned in the next day. As he has said many times, would you construct a building this way? His example is that a contractor is hired to build that building, with a rigid time schedule. The contractor has X number of days to pour the foundation, regardless of weather or anything else. When the inspector shows up, he says “Well the concrete isn’t quite dry here, and there’s a crack there. I’d give it an 80%.” Well, 80% is a “B” and that’s good enough, right? So the contractor proceeds. But when they get to the 4th floor, the entire structure collapses. Who’s at fault?

The education system.

With the Kahn Academy the lectures are viewed at home where you can back them up or simply repeat them until you’ve got the idea. Only then are you given problems to work, which can be done in the classroom in collaborative effort with five or six other students helping explain anything the struggling student still doesn’t quite grasp, just as Dr. Mitra’s SOLEs are set up. Software keeps track of the student’s performance by providing those questions to solve, and once the student gives a sufficient number of correct answers in a row it determines that the student has shown mastery of the idea and allows moving ahead to the next concept. Each child learns at a different pace, with some progressing rapidly and others needing more time. The Kahn Academy model is the very definition of “No child left behind.” The critical thing is, short of a mental disability your kid isn’t necessarily more brilliant than other kids but they’re all a lot brighter than we give them credit for. It’s just that our “education” system forces them to not learn.

Back when I started this post literally years ago Kahn was working with a public school and concentrating on mathematics with this reverse system. I found an article about it which I can’t find now, but I do remember that the class he was working with was something like sixth-graders. One student really grasped math. She had advanced to Calculus in a very short period – a class I had to work hard to get into my Senior year of High School in the Prussian system. There were nine of us in that class out of about 200 Seniors. She was maybe 12 years old. But what struck me was a comment by one of her teachers: “How do we slow them down?”

We shouldn’t, but that “teacher” should be fired. I refer you back to that quote from the Underground Grammarian.

Kids learn, as Dr. Mitra has found, when they are intellectually challenged.  They learn at different rates, as Salman Khan has exhaustively documented. And they generally learn best when allowed to collaborate in small groups, receive enthusiastic reinforcement from adults, and are otherwise left alone to teach themselves.  No wonder the teachers unions are afraid. They’re pretty much not needed, and are instead an anchor slowing if not preventing not “education” but learning. The money thrown at “education” has no effect, but the education establishment constantly blames a lack of sufficient funding as the root cause of the failure of the education system, so more and more money gets poured down that particular rat-hole.

And where does that money go? Not into infrastructure, not into the classroom, certainly not into the pockets of teachers, no matter how good or bad they are, but into the pockets of an ever-expanding army of bureaucrats that “administrate” or monitor students for things like political correctness and diversity and tolerance. Like all government programs, failure means “throw more money at it.”

In addition children need to be challenged and allowed to work with both their brains and their hands to learn useful skills.  That opportunity could come from access to “Maker Labs” now springing up, albeit slowly, around the country. Hopefully the growth of these learning centers will also be exponential. The problem here though is that such labs are expensive to establish, to stock and to maintain.  That money has to come from somewhere, and the Ruling Class has no incentive to provide that funding, given that it does not produce the dependable, uniform cogs they depend on.

So we have the opportunity to switch to a system that allows the maximum possible development of every individual, rather than producing those uniform, unthinking cogs our current system relies on, but who wants that? Instead the Ruling Class wants to perpetuate this forever:

“…another round of organized violence and hands on learning….”

Over on the Book of Face, Mike Rowe gives another example of why he is The Man™. He cuts through the BS to the heart of the matter:

Off the Wall

Sharon Freeman‎ to Mike Rowe

Mike Rowe, I’m curious as to your opinion on the tragic death of the Boy Scouts of America?! I have several cousins that are Eagle Scouts, and I know that you are one also, so I feel you have somewhat of a vested interest in this matter. I didn’t have a problem with entire families going on Boy Scout camping trips, but to force them to become co-ed…I think that’s sad.

Hi Sharon

In 1974, I was a painfully shy twelve-year-old kid with an annoying stammer and a deep fear of trying anything new. I was also very awkward around girls. I dreamed of being near them, but in real life, their proximity made me sweaty and nauseous. So one evening, my father dragged me to the basement of Kenwood Presbyterian Church, where the boys of Troop 16 were in the midst of an organized brawl called British Bulldog. The rules were simple.

One kid stood alone in the middle of the room. On the far end, 25 boys waited for the scoutmaster to blow a whistle, at which point they’d bolt to the other end. During the charge, the kid in the middle would attempt to tackle somebody and lift him in the air long enough to yell, “1,2,3, British Bulldog!” That kid, if successfully lifted, would join the other kid in the middle of the room, and together, they’d go about the business of tackling and lifting other kids during each subsequent charge. In the end, the last one to be lifted was declared the winner – the British Bulldog.

I was immediately thrust into this pandemonium and hoisted into the air, despite my best efforts to remain grounded. Somewhere along the way I got a bloody nose. Others sustained busted lips, black eyes, and sprained fingers. Happily, the game was followed by a course in First Aid, taught by a local paramedic who showed us how to apply a tourniquet and administer CPR. It was awesome.

In the coming weeks, I learned how to tie a sheepshank, throw a boomerang, build a fire, and make a lean-to. I was given a Boy Scout Handbook, and told to memorize the Scout Law and The Scout Oath. I did, and a week later, after another round of organized violence and hands on learning, I was summoned to the stage in the basement. There, I stood by the flag, raised my right hand, and promised to “do my duty to God and my country, obey the Scout Law, help other people at all times, and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”

The Scout Oath was the first promise I ever made, and I tried my best to keep it. I also got busy earning Skill Awards and Merit Badges, a consistently frustrating pursuit that always seemed to highlight my chronic incompetence. The Scoutmaster, a retired Army Colonel named Mr. Huntington – often said, “I know you’re uncomfortable, Mike. Might as well find a way to enjoy it.”

In Troop 16, merit badges reflected merit. There was a boxing ring, where differences were often settled, monthly camping trips, frequent visits to the shooting range, weekly fitness tests, poetry readings from memory, and many other activities tailor-made to pull every kid out of his particular comfort zone. It was often humbling, but never humiliating. Failure was simply viewed as the most common symptom of trying. Consequently, the more I tried, the more I failed. The more I failed, the more I succeeded. The more I succeeded, the more confident I became. My grades improved in school. My stammer vanished, as did my awkwardness around girls.

One year at summer camp, I was called upon to sing a song of my choice at the evening campfire. It was parent’s night, and several hundred people from multiple troops were on hand. None were expecting me to belt out a tune from Tom Lehrer called “Be Prepared,” but that’s precisely what I did. https://bit.ly/2wJWpjm

If you’re not familiar with this little gem, give it a listen. It is without question the most inappropriate song a Boy Scout could ever sing in public, but I thought it was hysterical, and packed with excellent advice. Afterward, Mr. Huntington offered a general apology to the parents in attendance, and gave me latrine duty for the duration of the encampment. Later though, he pulled me aside and said, “Mike, that was the funniest damn thing I’ve ever heard. Great job!”

Six years and two-dozen merit badges later, I was an Eagle Scout. Thirty-five years after that, I became a “Distinguished” Eagle Scout. I’m still not sure what I did to “distinguish” myself, but I accepted the award with gratitude, and I’ve tried ever since to give something back to the organization that gave me so much. Which brings us to what you’ve called “the tragic death” of The Boy Scouts, and the frightful prospects of “forced co-ed camping.”

According to their official statement, https://cnn.it/2HOv7gY, the Boy Scouts are welcoming girls because that’s what the overwhelming majority of parents want. From what I can tell, no one is being “forced” to do anything. Nothing in their statement talks about “co-ed” camping or even co-ed Troop Meetings.

As I read it, The Boy Scouts are launching a separate program that serves girls. Yes, The Girl Scouts are pissed, and the reason is clear – they don’t want the competition. https://theatln.tc/2l0pq4f. But respectfully, is that argument even remotely persuasive? Competition is good, even among organizations that have similar goals. Especially now, with 90 million kids in this country unaffiliated with any youth-based organization. So I’m not opposed to building a program within Scouting for girls. But I am very worried about the future of Scouting in general.

When I left the organization in 1979, there were 5 million active members. Today, there are 2.3 million. With the recent departure of the Mormon community, that number will soon drop to under two million. Clearly, something is wrong. The question is what? Is it the past sexual scandals? Is it the more recent admission of gay and transgender members? I would imagine those are factors. But a 60% decline? That seems very unlikely. Besides, the drop-off started long before all that. Likewise, girls have always been excluded from The Boy Scouts, so I’m skeptical that welcoming them now, will fix whatever’s broken.

In my opinion, this kind of attrition can only explained by an increasing lack of relevance, or, the perception of irrelevance. Unfortunately, in situations like this, there’s no difference between perception and reality. And right now, there’s a perception that The Boy Scouts have gone soft. That’s the real tragedy, Sharon, because I can’t think of anything more needed in our country today, than a youth organization that offers kids the same experience I underwent in the basement of Kenwood Church. Why? Because our country’s current obsession with “safe spaces” is destroying character faster than the Boy Scouts of today can build it.

Obviously, we want our kids protected from the hazards of a dangerous world. And clearly, the world we live it is a dangerous place. But safety is not the purpose of our existence, and this whole idea that kids need to be protected from fear, distress, discomfort, and disappointment is far more dangerous to the future of our country than anything I ever encountered in Scouting. You can’t build character in a “safe space.” You can only build dependence and entitlement, and you don’t have to look very far to see the results. Pardon my rant, but the stakes are high.

Too many kids are graduating from high school with no sense of who they are. Too many kids are leaving college with no marketable skill. Too many kids have never pondered a code to live by, or considered the importance of anything beyond the pursuit of their own comfort. It’s easy to call these kids “snowflakes,” but where do you suppose they came from?

We are the clouds from which the snowflakes fell. We are the ones who gave them trophies just for showing up. We’re the ones who told them that their feelings were more important than their actions, and that their dreams would come true if they simply followed them. Now, we are confronted with millions of dissatisfied young adults with no tolerance for beliefs that conflict with their own, and no realistic understanding of how life actually works.

I know I’m generalizing. I know there are many hardworking, conscientious millennials out there. I employ several. But I also know the “safe space movement” is real, and I can think of no better way to push back than to expose more kids to the brand of Scouting that I was lucky enough to encounter four decades ago. If by some miracle the dynamic I experienced in Troop 16 were available to everyone today – if Scouting could somehow recapture that combination of risk and wonder and pride and personal accountability – I believe their ranks would swell with the sons and daughters of millions of anxious parents, desperate to expose their kids to a program that prepares them for the real world.

I worry about The Boy Scouts for the same reasons I worry about The Girl Scouts and The Future Farmers of America and Skills USA and The 4-H Club and every other group that tries to elevate virtues like hard work, delayed gratification, and personal responsibility. I worry, because those ideas are wildly out of fashion, and organizations that have traditionally celebrated them are under enormous pressure to “evolve.” And so they do. But to what end? A 60% drop in membership?

If the Boy Scouts want to attract a new generation of members, they’ll need to stand for something more than inclusion. Because being inclusive doesn’t make you relevant. If I were calling the shots, I’d take a stand against the safe space movement and everything it embodies. And I’d do it in the most public way possible. But of course, that might also require a level of risk completely inconsistent with current orthodoxy.

As we all know, in 1974, a chipped tooth or a black eye didn’t lead to lawsuit, and today, I’m pretty sure a boxing ring and a trip to the shooting range would make a lot of parents…uncomfortable. But that’s exactly the point. In a world that values safety above everything else, discomfort is never welcome. Neither is risk. And yet, discomfort and risk are precisely why my time in Scouting was so valuable, and why Troop 16 was the polar opposite of a safe space.

Anyway Sharon, that’s a very long way of saying that girls are not the enemy. The enemy is bad ideology, and the inability to effectively confront it. Do I favor co-ed Scouting? Hell no. I can’t think of a single good reason to put girls and boys in the same troop, the same tent, the same boxing ring, or the same game of British Bulldog. But I can think of many good reasons to include them in a unified effort to confront the siren song of “safe spaces.”

Someone has to challenge the insipid belief that safety is the most important part of living. Someone has to challenge the idea that feelings trump achievement. Someone has to challenge the idea that “crying closets” on campuses designed to console stressed out students who just can’t handle their finals exams, (or the outcome of a presidential election,) will produce a responsible, productive adult.

It’s not enough to simply ignore bad ideas. The safe space movement needs to be confronted, and I’d love nothing more than to see Scouts of both genders lead the charge.

Mike

More Quora Debate

I recently received an invitation to answer a question over at Quora because another contributor had used a previous answer of mine in his response.  Instead of answering the question, I directly engaged the other contributor.  The question was, “Is there a rigorous, logical and consistent way to define what firearm constitutes an ‘assault weapon’ and what doesn’t?” The answer by Mr. Dave Consiglio that started all of this was:

This answer:

Kevin Baker’s answer to Are the differences between assault weapons and sporting weapons merely cosmetic?

Perfectly illustrates the problem we currently have with a vague definition of assault rifles.

Is there a rigorous way to do this? Sure. There are dozens of rigorous ways to do this. How would I do it?

I’d define (and ban) any weapon that can fire more rapidly than the weapons available when the 2nd amendment was passed. If it was good enough for Madison and Jefferson, it should be good enough for us.

I’ve heard estimates between 2 and 5 rounds per minute for a musket of that era. Please feel free to correct me if that number is in error. But anything faster than that is an assault rifle in my book.

That takes all semiautomatic weapons off the table. Handguns are mostly out, too. What’s left are single shot hunting rifles. Slow ones.

So I responded:

Each time I come across this answer, I find it amazing that the author thinks it’s original to them, and has never been proposed before.

Let me quote from one of my favorite legal dissents once again:

“Judges know very well how to read the Constitution broadly when they are sympathetic to the right being asserted. We have held, without much ado, that ‘speech, or…the press’ also means the Internet…and that ‘persons, houses, papers, and effects’ also means public telephone booths….When a particular right comports especially well with our notions of good social policy, we build magnificent legal edifices on elliptical constitutional phrases – or even the white spaces between lines of constitutional text. But, as the panel amply demonstrates, when we’re none too keen on a particular constitutional guarantee, we can be equally ingenious in burying language that is incontrovertibly there.

“It is wrong to use some constitutional provisions as springboards for major social change while treating others like senile relatives to be cooped up in a nursing home until they quit annoying us. As guardians of the Constitution, we must be consistent in interpreting its provisions. If we adopt a jurisprudence sympathetic to individual rights, we must give broad compass to all constitutional provisions that protect individuals from tyranny. If we take a more statist approach, we must give all such provisions narrow scope. Expanding some to gargantuan proportions while discarding others like a crumpled gum wrapper is not faithfully applying the Constitution; it’s using our power as federal judges to constitutionalize our personal preferences.”

If you apply your logic to the First Amendment respectfully, this is the only technology you are Constitutionally guaranteed:

The quill pen:

The hand-operated printing press:

The soap box in the public square:

And hiring a town crier:

After all, if they were good enough for Madison and Jefferson… Right?

Oh, and were you aware that individuals could purchase cannon back then? Even cannon-armed ships used a privateers to harass enemy shipping?

No licensing, no registration, no tax stamp.

Good enough for Madison and Jefferson, right?

He responded rather swiftly:

I’d be OK with legalizing period cannons. It would be inconsistent for me not to be OK with it, wouldn’t it? But black powder only, and you’ll have to use traditional packing and lighting methods. Also, police will be armed with the latest weapons because the 2nd amendment only applies to common citizens, not to the military or police forces.

I would also oppose licensing or registering cannons, muskets, and related devices. I would posit that ships would have to be registered, though, as flags and other insignia were required on ships in those days. Similarly, docking and transporting were regulated, even during the revolutionary war. Thus, privateers would face some small regulation.

Oh, and they’d have to be sailing vessels only. Of course. Wood and canvas.

As for the 1st amendment, I would gladly give up the internet in exchange for the more than 30,000 people dead each year in this country at the hands of modern firearms. The post office existed in those days, and we could return to writing letters. Since I allowed for modern guns with similar firing rates to muskets, I think it’s fair that modern pens are allowed, though quills would certainly be permitted. Similarly, electric presses that printed at a rate similar to those available in 1791 would be permitted.

It really was good enough for Madison and Jefferson…and it is still good enough for me. I knocked on doors this weekend, campaigning for a future congressperson who will begin the dismantling of the murderous modifications to our laws undertaken by the NRA. It is my hope that we will soon return to a time when ordinary people could not own weapons that could slaughter crowds of people in mere seconds.

And you should want that, too.

OK, it was ON.

Someone once observed that there can be no useful debate between two people with different first principles, except on those principles themselves.

Since that’s not what is happening here, I’d like to explain what I am doing: Mr. Consiglio represents one side of a rather intense debate in this country. I represent another. In keeping with Quora’s BNBR policy, I think Mr. Consiglio is an outstanding example of his side, and appreciate his participation in this forum, but I’m not here to change his mind. I’m here for those not committed to one side or another to witness two opposing views and decide for themselves which better reflects reality.

Let us begin:

“…I would gladly give up the internet in exchange for the more than 30,000 people dead each year in this country at the hands of modern firearms.”

Note his anthropomorphism of the firearm – “at the hands of modern firearms.” The guns are at fault. They are the active vector causing death. Yet a gun cannot load itself, aim itself, or pull its own trigger. That requires, well, actual hands – the hands of a human being.

And of those 30,000 annual deaths? Nearly 2/3rds of them are suicides. About as many more people commit suicide without firearms annually. Generally, when someone has decided to take their own life, they find a way to accomplish it. Yet we’re not seeing marches in D.C. to end suicide.

And the United States with all of its guns ranks about 48th for suicide behind such gun-controlled nations as Japan and Belgium.

The remaining 10,000 annual deaths? Overwhelmingly homicide, true. But the U.S. ranks around 100th worldwide for homicide rate. Nothing to be proud of, but 10,000 deaths isn’t nearly as scary a number as 30,000 is it?

Next: “Also, police will be armed with the latest weapons because the 2nd amendment only applies to common citizens, not to the military or police forces.”

Just for the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that we suffered (a wildly excessive) 30,000 firearm deaths annually since passage of the 1934 National Firearms Act. That’s been 84 years x 30,000 = 2,520,000 deaths in the United States at the hands of private citizens – either their own hands, or the hands of another.

During the 20th Century alone, governments caused the deaths of something on the order of 200,000,000 of their own citizens.

China: 76,000,000

USSR: 62,000,000

Germany: 21,000,000

Cambodia: 2,000,000 (over far less than 84 years)

Etc. etc. etc.

But Mr. Consiglio sees absolutely nothing wrong with ensuring that the agents of government have overwhelming superiority over the average citizen – for our own good, of course. After all, nothing like that could possibly happen here. Right? And after all, what are we mere citizens going to do against nuclear-armed bombers?

Ask the Vietnamese and the Afghans.

As a friend puts it, “Faith in government defies both history and reason.”

And, finally: “I knocked on doors this weekend, campaigning for a future congressperson who will begin the dismantling of the murderous modifications to our laws undertaken by the NRA.”

Thank you, Mr. Consiglio, for participating in our Representative Republic. But somehow I doubt you aware that those supposedly “murderous modifications of our laws undertaken by the NRA” have corresponded with a dramatic decline in gun crime specifically and violent crime overall?

Gun Homicide Rate Down 49% Since 1993 Peak; Public Unaware

What’s Behind The Decline In Crime?

Pssst: Crime May Be Near an All-Time Low

The worst thing you can say about things like expanded “shall-issue” concealed carry laws, for example, is that they might not have contributed to these remarkable declines. Oh, and over the same period the number of firearms in private hands has skyrocketed, finally putting a stake in the heart of “more guns = more gun crime” mantra.

Too bad that only works on vampires.

P.S.: “It is my hope that we will soon return to a time when ordinary people could not own weapons that could slaughter crowds of people in mere seconds.”

We’ve never lived in a time like that. One black powder Napoleonic cannon loaded with grapeshot fills that bill. And I find it disturbing that you want such power to be only in the hands of the government.

ETA: I stumbled across this after writing this comment – An Assault Weapons Ban For the IRS (And Other Federal Regulatory Agencies)

Pullquote:

“In 1996, the Bureau of Justice Statistics officially counted 74,500 federal officers who had arrest and firearm authority. By 2008, the Bureau quantified over 120,000 such officers. Newly updated counts were supposed to publish by this July but the Bureau now admits that over 80% of federal agencies ignored or stonewalled responses to their latest survey. What are they trying to hide?

“Even though our organization at Home Page | Open the Books estimated the number of non-Department of Defense federal officers at 200,000+, the current number of non-military federal officers and security personnel could be much larger.”

I think Dave pulled a frontal lobe:

You make the usual compelling but incorrect arguments. People really are much more likely to kill themselves if they have a gun. And we are marching against suicide by marching for universal healthcare, which would help prevent it. And I don’t care what the murder rate is in Cambodia – I’m talking about America and you change the subject. And a Napoleonic cannon weighed a ton and needed horses to move it but the Las Vegas shooter easily carried his arsenal into a hotel room and killed dozens. And the government could already vaporize you with a drone or a tank or a nuclear weapon regardless of your gun.

The list goes on and on.

The truth is that you like guns and so in your mind you should have a right to own them. Anyone who suggests otherwise is just wrong.

I would just remind you that slave owners really liked owning slaves and thus felt they should have a right to own them. All their arguments and statistics and logic were just rationalizations of what they wanted to be true. They started a war to defend their beliefs. We had to outnumbered them and then amend the Constitution to finally put an end to their dominance over national discourse.

We will do the same again. It will take time. We have time.

I’ve been pretty busy, so I let that sit and stew for a bit, then responded:

Sorry for the delay in responding, but I’ve been busy with work. Thanks again for continuing the discussion. Let’s begin:

“People really are much more likely to kill themselves if they have a gun.”

And you can point to which studies that prove this statistically? The study performed at the behest of the Clinton Administration by the National Academies of Science indicated that five-day waiting periods had only one statistically provable effect – it changed the method, but not the rate, of suicide in men over the age of 50. This has been the case for multiple studies conducted in multiple nations over multiple years. So in order to bolster your claim, I think we’d need multiple studies saying what you’re asserting. I haven’t seen them.

“And we are marching against suicide by marching for universal healthcare, which would help prevent it.”

Japan has universal health care. Their suicide rate far exceeds our own. Again, I think you’re making assertions that the facts don’t necessarily back up. And I don’t recall seeing a “Universal Health Care” march on Washington. Perhaps I missed that one.

“I don’t care what the murder rate is in Cambodia – I’m talking about America and you change the subject.”

No, you deliberately dodged the subject – retail death at the hands of criminals, vs. wholesale death at the hands of government. You insisted that the government wasn’t affected by the Second Amendment and could have all the mass-murder-capable firearms it wanted while we mere peons should be limited to 3–5 rounds a minute, tops. You stated that you wanted our military and law-enforcement members to have that kind of firepower. I pointed out that – historically – mass murder by governments exceeds mass murder by individuals by a couple of orders of magnitude at a minimum.

And you responded with “I don’t care what the murder rate is in Cambodia….”

The Khmer Rouge killed those 2,000,000 victims in a mere five years – from an overall population of 7.5 million – about the population of Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Then you said: “And a Napoleonic cannon weighed a ton and needed horses to move it but the Las Vegas shooter easily carried his arsenal into a hotel room and killed dozens.”

Yes, dozens. As opposed to millions. Or merely hundreds of thousands. Yet you’re OK with private citizens possessing Napoleonic cannon that they can move around with, say a truck.

Something tells me that your concern about the capability of mass-murder isn’t really what we’re discussing here.

“And the government could already vaporize you with a drone or a tank or a nuclear weapon regardless of your gun.”

Sure, if they want to declare all-out war on the citizenry. But they have to leave the drone shack, climb out of the tank or get out of the nuclear bomber some time. And the people they take orders from aren’t exactly invulnerable either.

“The truth is that you like guns and so in your mind you should have a right to own them.”

The truth is that I have a right to defend myself and my family, my neighbors, my state, and my nation. It just so happens that for an individual a firearm is pretty much the best tool for that defense. Denying me those tools while ensuring that others have them puts me at a severe disadvantage. The people who founded this nation understood that an armed populace was the last, best bastion against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and thus they wrote a guarantee into the founding legal document establishing our form of government ensuring that the government would not have the power to disarm the people wholesale.

Now we’re hearing calls to repeal the Second Amendment because – at last – The Other Side™ has acknowledged that prohibition. But they neglect one further bit of recognition: The Second Amendment protects a pre-existing right, stating that right “shall not be infringed.” Repealing the Second Amendment won’t overturn the right to keep and bear arms, it’ll just make confiscation “legal.”

Like slavery used to be. Remember, slaves weren’t allowed to possess arms, either.

He responded almost immediately. Sorry for his lack of formatting:

Sorry for the delay in responding, but I’ve been busy with work. Thanks again for continuing the discussion. Let’s begin:

. “People really are much more likely to kill themselves if they have a gun.”

. And you can point to which studies that prove this statistically? The study performed at the behest of the Clinton Administration by the National Academies of Science indicated that five-day waiting periods had only one statistically provable effect – it changed the method, but not the rate, of suicide in men over the age of 50. This has been the case for multiple studies conducted in multiple nations over multiple years. So in order to bolster your claim, I think we’d need multiple studies saying what you’re asserting. I haven’t seen them.

Guns and suicide: A fatal link

Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study | American Journal of Epidemiology | Oxford Academic

There are more. The Clinton study was about waiting periods. I’m talking about an absence of guns.

. “And we are marching against suicide by marching for universal healthcare, which would help prevent it.”

. Japan has universal health care. Their suicide rate far exceeds our own. Again, I think you’re making assertions that the facts don’t necessarily back up. And I don’t recall seeing a “Universal Health Care” march on Washington. Perhaps I missed that one.

That is correct. But their murder rate is far below ours. Also, many countries have universal health care and a lower homicide and suicide rate. The average for countries with universal health care is much lower on both counts.

. “I don’t care what the murder rate is in Cambodia – I’m talking about America and you change the subject.”

. No, you deliberately dodged the subject – retail death at the hands of criminals, vs. wholesale death at the hands of government. You insisted that the government wasn’t affected by the Second Amendment and could have all the mass-murder-capable firearms it wanted while we mere peons should be limited to 3–5 rounds a minute, tops. You stated that you wanted our military and law-enforcement members to have that kind of firepower. I pointed out that – historically – mass murder by governments exceeds mass murder by individuals by a couple of orders of magnitude at a minimum.

Yes it does. So what? Our government doesn’t engage in mass murder. We’re talking about homicide and suicide.

. And you responded with “I don’t care what the murder rate is in Cambodia….”

The Khmer Rouge killed those 2,000,000 victims in a mere five years – from an overall population of 7.5 million – about the population of Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Yes they did. Our government does not do that. Off topic.

. Then you said: “And a Napoleonic cannon weighed a ton and needed horses to move it but the Las Vegas shooter easily carried his arsenal into a hotel room and killed dozens.”

. Yes, dozens. As opposed to millions. Or merely hundreds of thousands. Yet you’re OK with private citizens possessing Napoleonic cannon that they can move around with, say a truck.

How could one man with one cannon kill millions? He’d have a hard time killing a few. Then, people would restrain him.

. Something tells me that your concern about the capability of mass-murder isn’t really what we’re discussing here.

You’re the one who thinks everyone should have access to a portable cannon (aka AR-15)

. “And the government could already vaporize you with a drone or a tank or a nuclear weapon regardless of your gun.”

. Sure, if they want to declare all-out war on the citizenry. But they have to leave the drone shack, climb out of the tank or get out of the nuclear bomber some time. And the people they take orders from aren’t exactly invulnerable either.

Please. Drones are in the sky 24/7. Nukes haven’t been dropped from bombers since the 50s. The president pushes a button and you die. Your gun is useless.

“The truth is that you like guns and so in your mind you should have a right to own them.”

The truth is that I have a right to defend myself and my family, my neighbors, my state, and my nation. It just so happens that for an individual a firearm is pretty much the best tool for that defense. Denying me those tools while ensuring that others have them puts me at a severe disadvantage. The people who founded this nation understood that an armed populace was the last, best bastion against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and thus they wrote a guarantee into the founding legal document establishing our form of government ensuring that the government would not have the power to disarm the people wholesale.

Now we’re hearing calls to repeal the Second Amendment because – at last – The Other Side™ has acknowledged that prohibition. But they neglect one further bit of recognition: The Second Amendment protects a pre-existing right, stating that right “shall not be infringed.” Repealing the Second Amendment won’t overturn the right to keep and bear arms, it’ll just make confiscation “legal.”

Pre-existing rights aren’t a thing. When the 2nd is appealed you will have no right. The sooner the better.

Like slavery used to be. Remember, slaves weren’t allowed to possess arms, either.

Nope. And you can’t possess a slave anymore. Soon it’ll be slaves and guns.

Oy, this is really getting good, so I decided to tweak him again and see what else I could get him to say:

“The Clinton study was about waiting periods. I’m talking about an absence of guns.”

No, the Clinton study was about ‘gun violence,’ including suicide. The study overall said “We find no statistical evidence that gun control has any effect – positive or negative – on the rate of gun violence, but five-day waiting periods have this interesting statistical effect of changing the method of suicide for older males.” The study was Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review.

Your second link – “Guns and suicide: a fatal link” was a survey. It shows what in statistics is known as correlation, but not causation. The majority of vehicles owned in Wyoming are pickup trucks. This correlates with the suicide rate, but does not cause suicide. Connecticut and New York are both anti-gun states and their “Gun Ownership” numbers look approximately the same, but Connecticut has a much higher Suicide rate than New York. Massachusetts has the lowest “Gun Suicide” rate and is the most gun unfriendly state in the country, yet California and Illinois – also very gun-unfriendly states – have much higher rates of suicide by gun. Why? Strain all you wish, but you haven’t proven causation.

Your first link was from a 2004 study that – once again – correlated gun ownership with the risk of dying by gunshot. That being the case, why is the homicide rate in Washington D.C. where guns are very difficult to get legally so much higher than right across the river in Virginia where they’re practically unregulated? Correlation does not equal causation, either here or worldwide.

Next topic: Government. “Our government does not do that. Off topic.” Our government supported slavery for its first 100 years. Our government put Japanese-Americans in concentration camps and stole their property. There’s a lot of things our government hasn’t done – yet. But “It can’t happen here” is a mantra I fully expected.

“How could one man with one cannon kill millions?” One man can’t. But an army can. Which is why one man with an AR-15 rifle concerns me less than an entire police department equipped with the full-auto version.

“Pre-existing rights aren’t a thing.” Tell that to your neighbors. See how they react.

Once again, thank you for being such a sterling example of type.

He popped back immediately with this:

You, as well. A perfect example of blind faith in the 2nd amendment in the face of incredible evidence to the contrary. The cult of gun is strong indeed.

And I am telling my neighbors, with my vote. My candidate supports strong gun control. So will the majority of the House of Representatives by this time next year.

In the end, your arguments won’t matter. Your vote won’t be enough. We are coming for your guns because your “right” to own one doesn’t trump our “right” to not be slaughtered by the members of your cult who keep demonstrating with crystal clarity that we should not allow citizens to own whatever gun they want.

I was sorely tempted to ask him – if there are no pre-existing rights, why is slavery wrong? And is lethal force in the avoidance of enslavement justified? But I’ll leave that to others.

Oh, and Mr. Consiglio is a high-school teacher. Quelle suprise.

Quote of the Day – Thomas Sowell Redux

In keeping with the previous post, this from Thomas Sowell’s Townhall January 2013 piece, The Role of Educators:

Schools were once thought of as places where a society’s knowledge and experience were passed on to the younger generation. But, about a hundred years ago, Professor John Dewey of Columbia University came up with a very different conception of education — one that has spread through American schools of education, and even influenced education in countries overseas.

John Dewey saw the role of the teacher, not as a transmitter of a society’s culture to the young, but as an agent of change — someone strategically placed, with an opportunity to condition students to want a different kind of society.

A century later, we are seeing schools across America indoctrinating students to believe in all sorts of politically correct notions. The history that is taught in too many of our schools is a history that emphasizes everything that has gone bad, or can be made to look bad, in America — and that gives little, if any, attention to the great achievements of this country.

If you think that is an exaggeration, get a copy of “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn and read it. As someone who used to read translations of official Communist newspapers in the days of the Soviet Union, I know that those papers’ attempts to degrade the United States did not sink quite as low as Howard Zinn’s book.

That book has sold millions of copies, poisoning the minds of millions of students in schools and colleges against their own country. But this book is one of many things that enable teachers to think of themselves as “agents of change,” without having the slightest accountability for whether that change turns out to be for the better or for the worse — or, indeed, utterly catastrophic.

Indoctrination

I came across this the other day – the syllabus for a University of Arizona “Honors” English class, English 109H – in fact, the syllabus states:

This is an honors class with work and credit equivalent to a year’s completion of ENGL 101 and 102. Expectations are high.

This is a class for incoming Honors freshmen, straight out of high school.

Shakespeare? Milton? (*shudder*) Conrad?

Nope:

English 109H: Fall 2017

DAMN, We Will Never Know: Kendrick Lamar’s and Kiese Laymon’s Hip Hop Literacies

Course Description

Morally, there has been no change at all, and a moral change is the only real one.
–James Baldwin

On April 14, 2017, twenty-nine year-old Kendrick Lamar, an American hip hop artist known for his pop protest music, released his fourth studio album, DAMN. Four years earlier, thirty-eight year-old Kiese Laymon, an American writer known for his work on Gawker and ESPN, published his series of autobiographical essays on American racism, masculinity, hip hop, and the deep South.

Using Laymon’s essays as a framework, we will study Kendrick Lamar’s body of music to events which boomed his controversy, including #BlackLivesMatter and ongoing police brutalities, especially those publicized by social media. By studying American values connected to what we call blackness and whiteness, we’ll explore conflict, contact, and coalition and ask: How does black American and white American social media allow for critiques of race, gender, sexuality, and violence? What does it mean for a genre of music and its accompanying culture that, by “tradition,” enforces heterosexuality and masculinity—in the name of legal murders?

The goal of this course is to improve your ability to critically think and write. In addition to contextualizing and reshaping the Kendrick Lamar and Kiese Laymon conversations, you will conduct library and field research on your own controversy, which will be integrated into a semester-long project consisting of a research essay, public argument, and literacy narrative. If we can listen and read carefully enough, we can occupy other subjectivities; that is, to say, we can improve our writings and civic lives, which are connected to what happens outside the classroom. We will return to the same question at the end: Can we really act as witness to another voice, even for our studies of language and its adaptations?

Course GoalsGoal 1: Rhetorical Awareness
Learn strategies for analyzing texts’ audiences, purposes, and contexts as a means of developing facility in reading and writing.

Goal 2: Critical Thinking and Composing
Use reading and writing for purposes of critical thinking, research, problem solving, action, and participation in conversations within and across different communities.

Goal 3: Reflection and Revision
Understand composing processes as flexible and collaborative, drawing upon multiple strategies and informed by reflection.

Goal 4: Conventions
Understand conventions as related to purpose, audience, and genre, including such areas as mechanics, usage, citation practices, as well as structure, style, graphics, and design.

Written Assignments

  • In the first unit of the course, you will study and respond to various contexts according to different rhetorical lenses and write a Contextual Rhetorical Analysis of Public Protest Spaces reframing Black lives politics re-envisioned by music videos from Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. You may defend, depart from, or combine his arguments to develop your own inquiry.
  • In the second unit, you will conduct both library and field research on an approved social justice controversy of your choice, which will culminate in an analysis of the issue, or a Rhetorical Analysis of a Controversy. An Annotated Bibliography, due before the big Essay 2, will complete the “Research Portfolio.” You will closely study U.S. state or Supreme court cases to develop your controversies.
  • In the third unit, you will use this research to support an argument of public interest, called a Public Argument. You will create a video catered to a mobilized audience and present it to the class.
  • For the final “exam,” you will write and curate your own literacy narrative, which you will publish on a class blog. The final project is semester-long and we will NOT spend time in class on it other than one session per month; you are expected to develop, collect, and write your materials throughout the course. Please start early and utilize the class resources and office hours.
  • In addition to these larger projects, you will complete a series of in-class and out-of-class smaller assignments which build into the four major assignments. Homework (readings, journals, smaller pre-essay assignments and discussions), workshops, and participation are often the decisive suasion points for borderline grades. Do the work, come to class ready and willing to discuss and participate, and you will see that reflected in what you earn.

I’m not going to go through the rest of it, but here’s an example of Kendrick Lamar’s art from his album DAMN:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glaG64Ao7sM?list=PLxKHVMqMZqUTMHeEmiAn8uylx3W_u8KI5&showinfo=0]
I’m reminded of this national championship debate performance.

Just saying.

Kiese Laymon’s collection of essays How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America is a required textbook.

At least there’s a textbookThe title essay is still available at Gawker.  It’s prose, but I’m unconvinced that what’s being taught in this class is “critical thinking” or “structure, style, graphics and design.”  And since when is the purpose of an English class “problem solving, action, and participation in conversations within and across different communities”?

Oh, and remember we’re paying (a lot) for our kids to go to college for this.

The professor?  Sylvia Chan.

The Long March through the Institutions has been completed for a long, long time.

Oh, and read this QotD too.  It’s pertinent.

Edited to add this I found at a linking site: