…boiled down to 15 seconds:
I got this piece by email from my dad. Apparently it’s making the rounds of the interwebs. Written by Irish op-ed columnist Ian O’Doherty in Ireland’s Independent newspaper, his Nov. 13th column A two fingers to a politically correct elite is worth your time, I think (links and bold emphasis mine):
Tuesday November 8 2016 – a day that will live in infamy or the moment when America was made great again?
The truth, as ever, will lie somewhere in the middle. After all, contrary to what both his supporters and detractors believe – and this is probably the only thing they agree on – Trump won’t be able to come into office and spend his first 100 days gleefully ripping up all the bits of the Constitution he doesn’t like.
But even if this week’s seismic shockwave doesn’t signal either the sky falling in or the start of a bright new American era, the result was, to use one of The Donald’s favourite phrases, huge. It is, in fact, a total game changer.
In decades to come, historians will still bicker about the most poisonous, toxic and stupid election in living memory.
They will also be bickering over the same vexed question – how did a man who was already unpopular with the public and who boasted precisely zero political experience beat a seasoned Washington insider who was married to one extremely popular president and who had worked closely with another?
The answer, ultimately, is in the question.
History will record this as a Trump victory, which of course it is. But it was also more than that, because this was the most stunning self-inflicted defeat in the history of Western democracy.
Hillary Clinton has damned her party to irrelevance for at least the next four years. She has also ensured that Obama’s legacy will now be a footnote rather than a chapter. Because the Affordable Care Act is now doomed under a Trump presidency and that was always meant to be his gift, of sorts, to America.
How did a candidate who had virtually all of the media, all of Hollywood, every celebrity you could think of, a couple of former presidents and apparently, the hopes of an entire gender resting on her shoulders, blow up her own campaign?
I rather suspect that neither Donald nor Hillary know how they got to this point.
Where she seemed to expect the position to become available to her by right – the phrase “she deserves it” was used early in the campaign and then quickly dropped when her team remembered that Americans don’t like inherited power – his first steps into the campaign were those of someone chancing their arm. If he wasn’t such a staunch teetotaller, many observers would have accused him of only doing it as a drunken bet.
But the more the campaign wore on, something truly astonishing began to happen – the people began to speak. And they began to speak in a voice which, for the first time in years in the American heartland, would not be ignored.
Few of the people who voted for Trump seriously believe that he is going to personally improve their fortunes. Contrary to the smug, middle-class media narrative, they aren’t all barely educated idiots.
They know what he is, of course they do. It’s what he is not that appeals to them.
Clinton, on the other hand, had come to represent the apex of smug privilege. Whether it was boasting about her desire to shut down the remaining coal industry in Virginia – that worked out well for her, in the end – or calling half the electorate a “basket of deplorables”, she seemed to operate in the perfumed air of the elite, more obsessed with coddling idiots and pandering to identity and feelings than improving the hardscrabble life that is the lot of millions of Americans.
Also, nobody who voted for Trump did so because they wanted him as a spiritual guru or life coach.
But plenty of people invested an irrational amount of emotional energy into a woman who was patently undeserving of that level of adoration.
That’s why we’ve witnessed such fury from her supporters – they had wrapped themselves so tightly in the Hillary flag that a rejection of her felt like a rejection of them. And when you consider that many American colleges gave their students Wednesday off class because they were too ‘upset’ to study, you can see that this wasn’t a battle for the White House – this became a genuine battle for America’s future direction. And, indeed, for the West.
We have been going through a cultural paroxysm for the last 10 years – the rise of identity politics has created a Balkanised society where the content of someone’s mind is less important than their skin colour, gender, sexuality or whatever other attention-seeking label they wish to bestow upon themselves.
In fact, where once it looked like racism and sexism might be becoming archaic remnants of a darker time, a whole new generation has popped up which wants to re-litigate all those arguments all over again.
In fact, while many of us are too young to recall the Vietnam war and the social upheaval of the 1960s, plenty of observers who were say they haven’t seen an America more at war with itself than it is today.
One perfect example of this new America has been the renewed calls for segregation on campuses. Even a few years ago, such a move would have been greeted with understandable horror by civil rights activists – but this time it’s the black students demanding segregation and “safe spaces” from whites. If young people calling for racial segregation from each other isn’t the sign of a very, very sick society, nothing is.
The irony of Clinton calling Trump and his followers racist while she was courting Black Lives Matter was telling.
After all, no rational white person would defend the KKK, yet here was a white women defending both BLM and the New Black Panthers – explicitly racist organisations with the NBP, in particularly, openly espousing a race war if they don’t get what they want.
Fundamentally, Trump was attractive because he represents a repudiation of the nonsense that has been slowly strangling the West.
He represents – rightly or wrongly, and the dust has still to settle – a scorn and contempt for these new rules. He won’t be a president worried about microaggressions, or listening to the views of patently insane people just because they come from a fashionably protected group.
He also represents a glorious two fingers to everyone who has become sick of being called a racist or a bigot or a homophobe – particularly by Hillary supporters who are too dense to realise that she has always actually been more conservative on social issues than Trump.
That it might take a madman to restore some sanity to America is, I suppose, a quirk that is typical to that great nation – land of the free and home to more contradictions than anyone can imagine.
Trump’s victory also signals just how out of step the media has been with the people. Not just American media, either.
In fact, the Irish media has continued its desperate drive to make a show of itself with a seemingly endless parade of emotionally *incontinent gibberish that, ironically, has increased in ferocity and hysterical spite in the last few days.
The fact that Hillary’s main cheerleaders in the Irish and UK media still haven’t realised where they went wrong is instructive and amusing in equal measure. They still don’t seem to understand that by constantly insulting his supporters, they’re just making asses of themselves.
One female contributor to this newspaper said Trump’s victory was a “sad day for women”. Well, not for the women who voted for him, it wasn’t.
But that really is the nub of the matter – the ‘wrong’ kind of women obviously voted for Trump. The ‘right’ kind went with Hillary. And lost.
The Irish media is not alone in being filled largely with dinner-party liberals who have never had an original or socially awkward thought in their lives. They simply assume that everyone lives in the same bubble and thinks the same thoughts – and if they don’t, they should.
Of the many things that have changed with Trump’s victory, the bubble has burst. Never in American history have the polls, the media and the chin-stroking moral arbiters of the liberal agenda been so spectacularly, wonderfully wrong.
It was exactly that condescending, obnoxious sneer towards the working class that brought them out in such numbers, and that is the great irony of Election 16 – the Left spent years creating identity politics to the extent that the only group left without protection or a celebrity sponsor was the white American male.
That it was the white American male who swung it for Trump is a timely reminder that while black lives matter, all votes count – even the ones of people you despise.
You don’t have to be a supporter of Trump to take great delight in the sheer, apoplectic rage that has greeted his victory.
If Clinton had won and Trump supporters had gone on a rampage through a dozen American cities the next night, there would have been outrage – and rightly so.
But in a morally and linguistically inverted society, the wrong-doers are portrayed as the victims. We saw that at numerous Trump rallies – protesters would disrupt the event, claiming their right to free speech (a heckler’s veto is not free speech) and provoking people until they got a dig before running to the *media and claiming victimhood.
Yet none of Clinton’s rallies were shut down by her opponents (unlike Trump’s aborted Chicago meeting) and the great mistake of the anti-Trump zealots should have learned was that just thinking you’re right isn’t enough – you need to convince others as well.
But, ultimately, this election was about people saying enough with the bullshit. This is a country in crisis, and most Americans don’t care about transgender bathrooms, or safe spaces, or government speech laws. This was about people taking some control back for themselves.
It was about them saying that they won’t be hectored and bullied by the toddler tantrums thrown by pissy and spoiled millennials and they certainly won’t put up with being told they’re stupid and wicked just because they have a difference of opinion.
But, really, this election is about hope for a better America; an America which isn’t obsessed with identity and perceived ‘privilege’; an American where being a victim isn’t a virtue and where you don’t have to apologise for not being up to date with the latest list of socially acceptable phrases.
Trump’s victory was a two fingers to the politically correct.
It was a brutal rejection of the nonsense narrative which says Muslims who kill Americans are somehow victims. It took the ludicrous Green agenda and threw it out. It was a return, on some level, to a time when people weren’t afraid to speak their own mind without some self-elected language cop shouting at you. Who knows, we may even see Trump kicking the UN out of New York.
Frankly, if you’re one of those who gets their politics from Jon Stewart and Twitter, look away for the next four years, because you’re not going to like what you see. The rest of us, however, will be delighted.
This might go terribly, terribly wrong. Nobody knows – and if we have learned anything this week, it’s that nobody knows nuthin’.
But just as the people of the UK took control back with Brexit, the people of America did likewise with their choice for president.
It’s called democracy.
Deal with it.
Author Terry Pratchet wrote in his Discworld novel Feet of Clay,
Royalty was like dandelions. No matter how many heads you chopped off, the roots were still there underground, waiting to spring up again.
It seemed to be a chronic disease. It was as if even the most intelligent person had this little blank spot in their heads where someone had written: “Kings. What a good idea.” Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees.
In 2005 when former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan published her column “A Separate Peace” (which inspired my post Tough History Coming), she was pilloried for her seemingly fawning dependence on “elites” to get us out of the mess we were in (and still are.) Specifically this passage:
Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they’re living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they’re going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley’s off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.
I suspect that history, including great historical novelists of the future, will look back and see that many of our elites simply decided to enjoy their lives while they waited for the next chapter of trouble. And that they consciously, or unconsciously, took grim comfort in this thought: I got mine. Which is what the separate peace comes down to, “I got mine, you get yours.”
Just the other day Ms. Noonan penned another column along the same lines, “How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen“. An excerpt:
Affluence detaches, power adds distance to experience. I don’t have it fully right in my mind but something big is happening here with this division between the leaders and the led. It is very much a feature of our age. But it is odd that our elites have abandoned or are abandoning the idea that they belong to a country, that they have ties that bring responsibilities, that they should feel loyalty to their people or, at the very least, a grounded respect.
I don’t think that’s it at all, really. The surprising thing is that for a couple of hundred years the “elite” did feel that way. The peasants never meant much to the Ruling Class until it became apparent that the peasants could object and make their objections hurt. Then and only then did the hoi polloi gain any real political power, and as Mao observed, that political power grew out of the barrel of a gun. That “grounded respect” came from the only place that matters to those with power. (See my 2004 essay Those Without Swords Can Still Die Upon Them.)
The thing I found most interesting in comparing these two articles was the subtitles. The subtitle to “A Separate Peace” was:
America is in trouble–and our elites are merely resigned.
The subtitle to “Global Elites” was:
Those in power see people at the bottom as aliens whose bizarre emotions they must try to manage.
After ten years she’s made some progress in figuring out the issue. Our elites disdain us at best, hate us at worst. But she’s far behind Mark Steyn who observed as far back as 2005:
My favourite headline last week was in the International Herald Tribune: “EU leaders and voters see paths diverge.” Traditionally in free societies, when the paths of the leaders and the voters “diverge”, it’s the leaders who depart the scene. But apparently in the EU this is too vulgar and “Anglo-Saxon”, and so the great permanent Eurocracy decided instead to offer up Euro-variations on Bertolt Brecht’s jest about the need to elect a new people.
The UK’s embrace of Brexit, the Democrat electorate’s embrace of Bernie Sanders, the Republican electorate’s embrace of Donald Trump, et cetera, ad nauseam, just proves to them that the Great Unwashed cannot be let near the levers of power – for our own good, you understand.
We should all bend a knee. And LIKE it.
Over on Facebook, Firehand linked to an excellent essay by Patrick Deneen, “David A. Potenziani Memorial Associate Professor of Constitutional Studies at Notre Dame.” Professor Deneen begins his piece How a Generation Lost Its Common Culture:
My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture.
I would argue that many have been taught to actively hate their own culture, but the majority? As Elie Wiesel once observed:
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
I strongly recommend you read Professor Deneen’s entire essay, but here’s the money shot:
Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctable outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide.
(Bold emphasis mine.) Which is why I’ve been saying for years that the only thing that can save education is to take off and nuke the current system from orbit until the rubble bounces.
But I’m pretty sure it’s too late for that.
Today they just admitted it out loud.
In December of 2003, just a few months after starting this blog, I wrote Pressing the “Reset” Button, my response to this question posted at Jay Solo’s now-defunct Verbosity blog:
I know, I haven’t exactly been keeping up with the “of the week” part, but this one ought to make up for it. This question will require some explanation! First I will type the primary question. Then I will explain what the hell I am talking about, and ask any subsidiary questions that come up in the process. Enjoy!
Do you expect the “reset button” to need to be used in our lifetimes? For the sake of a common number, let’s define “our lifetimes” as the next fifty years. Hey, I could live that long, given my genes and medical technology.
I was recently discussing with someone the concept of the Second Amendment as the government’s reset button. Ultimately a major reason it exists is so the populace cannot be prevented from being armed, or easily disarmed through registration or excess regulation for that matter, in case we must ever take back the government and start again if it gets out of hand or something akin to a coup happens and the imposters must be reckoned with.
It says that the government provides for the national defense, but we retain the right to self-defense, and to keep and bear the tools needed for that, including defense against the government if it ever turns its might inward or ceases to represent us at all. It’s not a separate entity, after all. It’s us. If it ceases to be us, it ceases to be in our control, it needs to be taken back into the fold.
Do you think this will ever be needed? In the next fifty years? Do you think it will still be possible after another fifty years of those who want as much power, and helplessness of the populace against it as much as possible, chipping away at or disregarding our ability to reset things back to sanity? How about contrarians; do you think the reset interpretation is erroneous or, even if not, will never be needed?
I know I said that I was done writing überposts, but apparently I
lied was mistaken. I ran across something earlier in the week that triggered in me the urge to write again. I fought it off valiantly but obviously lost. Either eject now, or go get yourself an adult beverage and settle in for another 5,000+ word wall-o’-text.
You can read my answer to Jay’s question, but it boiled down to “Yes, but ineffectively.”
In the intervening twelve-plus years I’ve done a lot of reading, observing, thinking and writing. I’ve currently got a bookmark folder entitled “Civil War” with about fifty links in it, and those are just the ones I knew I’d eventually want to go back to. Apparently I’ve been ruminating on this particular essay for a couple of years without realizing it. The piece that finally forced me back to the keyboard is a year-old post over at Sultan Knish, No Truce With the Left. It echos a lot of the sentiments I have posted here over the years, but as Daniel Greenfield is wont to do, he says it more eloquently than I. A short excerpt:
The left does not care about gay rights. If you doubt that, consider how many of the left’s favorite Muslim countries have gay rights. The left has recently divided its campaign passions between gay marriage and defending Iran. Iran denies the existence of gays and hangs them where it finds them.
The USSR treated homosexuality as a crime even while it was recruiting gay men as spies in the West. Cuba, the darling of the American left, hated both gays and blacks. The ACLU backed the police states of Communism. If the left supports an enemy nation, the odds are excellent that it is also a violently bigoted place that makes a KKK rally look like a hippie hangout.
To understand the left, you need to remember that it does not care about 99 percent of the things it claims to care about. Name a leftist cause and then find a Communist country that actually practiced it. Labor unions? Outlawed. Environmentalism? Chernobyl. The left fights all sorts of social and political battles not because it believes in them, but to radicalize, disrupt and take power.
The left does not care about social justice. It cares about power.
That is why no truce is possible with the left. Not on social issues. Not on any issues.
Do read the whole thing.
I was reminded of another old post, this one at a blog that still exists, though it hasn’t been updated in several years. I’ve quoted from it before, and I shall here again. While the author, Glen Wishard, was obviously in error about the lifespan of “the Marxist ideal,” (see: Venezuela) his warning preceded Daniel Greenfield’s by more than a decade:
The rise and fall of the Marxist ideal is rather neatly contained in the Twentieth Century, and comprises its central political phenomenon. Fascism and democratic defeatism are its sun-dogs. The common theme is politics as a theology of salvation, with a heroic transformation of the human condition (nothing less) promised to those who will agitate for it. Political activity becomes the highest human vocation. The various socialisms are only the most prominent manifestation of this delusion, which our future historian calls “politicism”. In all its forms, it defines human beings as exclusively political animals, based on characteristics which are largely or entirely beyond human control: ethnicity, nationality, gender, and social class. It claims universal relevance, and so divides the entire human race into heroes and enemies. To be on the correct side of this equation is considered full moral justification in and of itself, while no courtesy or concession can be afforded to those on the other. Therefore, politicism has no conscience whatsoever, no charity, and no mercy.
(Bold emphasis in original.) Read that whole thing, too. It’s not long. But remember this, as I’ll be coming back to it – “The common theme is politics as a theology of salvation….”
Another bit I’ve quoted here repeatedly demands another airing. Ironbear of the also defunct blog Who Tends the Fires? wrote in 2004:
I have read a great deal of history. And I have read a great deal of past political debate and discourse. Like (Billy) Beck, the last time I recall that we were this irrevocably divided between major factions was in the 1850’s and 1860’s – and we actually went to war within ourselves over it.
The divide is once again that stark, and that bleak. It’s not “1968 all over again”, it’s 1858.
Unlike the first one, the dividing lines don’t cut across states. Like the first one, the dividing lines are drawn across views of the ownership of men…. of whether we are owned by ourselves or by The State.
It would be a mistake to paint the conflict exclusively in terms of “cultural war”, or Democrats vs Republicans, or even Left vs Right. Neither Democrats/Leftists or Republicans shy away from statism… the arguments there are merely over degree of statism, uses to which statism will be put – and over who’ll hold the reins. It’s the thought that they may not be left in a position to hold the reins that drives the Democrat-Left stark raving.
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.
Billy Beck is the author of the quote up on the masthead of this blog that goes, “All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war.”
Another of the things that has prompted me to write was the recent Brexit vote and the reaction that has inspired. The problem isn’t limited to the US, it’s worldwide. Charles Krauthammer once wrote, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.” It’s become obvious that this is true not just in American politics. I did a Google search on the phrase “Conservatives ruining future.” I got 881,000 results in 0.39 seconds. There’s a Facebook Page. It’s the #1 hit. It was founded March 11 of 2013. The page has 107,842 total Likes.
A search on “liberals ruining future” got 1,080,000 hits in 0.44 seconds. The #1 hit there? Liberals Are Ruining America. I Know Because I Am One. a New York Times Magazine article from June 8, 2012 by one Steve Almond – “famous” for resigning from his position as a non-tenured adjunct professor at Boston College for their selection of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker in 2006. Excerpt:
This, to be blunt, is the tragic flaw of the modern liberal. We choose to see ourselves as innocent victims of an escalating right-wing fanaticism. But too often we serve as willing accomplices to this escalation and to the resulting degradation of our civic discourse. We do this, without even meaning to, by consuming conservative folly as mass entertainment.
If this sounds like a harsh assessment, trust me, I’m among the worst offenders. Yes, I’m one of those enlightened masochists who tune in to conservative talk radio when driving alone. I recognize this as pathological behavior, and I always make sure to switch the station back to NPR before returning the car to my wife. But I can’t help myself. I take a perverse and complicated pleasure in listening to all the mean, manipulative things those people say.
Read that whole essay. I dare you.
Oh, there is a Facebook page for Liberals are Destroying Our Future as well. Apparently it was made in June of this year. It has, at the time of this writing, 132 Likes.
I came across the phrase “conservatives are ruining our future” in a piece about the Brexit vote. A few minutes of Googling and I felt like I needed to take a shower. And to finally write this essay.
“Those people,” Professor Almond says. The Other.
One thing that has, if not changed certainly accelerated since I wrote “Reset” Button has been the increasing “othering” by the two sides. Just a few weeks ago I wrote Remember “Civility in Politics”? That piece was the motivation for putting Beck’s quote on the masthead. As Roberta X noted, also in 2012, othering is the necessary prerequisite that justifies violence and murder. It only takes one side to do it, but it doesn’t have to be a one-way street. The Sultan Knish post referenced above is one such, obviously. Another is Admit It: Decent Folks No Longer Have a Place in the Democratic Party, a piece written by Steve Pauwells and published at Clash Daily in February of 2014 (I told you I’ve been working on this piece for a couple of years.) Excerpt:
With so much to choose from in the political/cultural Left’s fetid trove of ludicrosities and obscenities, I’m not sure why this particular outcropping of obnoxiousness set me off so sharply – but it did. And reminded me of a harsh truth that simply must be acknowledged once and for all: these are bad people– the Democrats, I mean.
I know, the frontliners in the GOP too frequently are prodigies of gutlessness. Boehner and company? An embarrassment of don’t-create-a-ruckus, go-along-to-get-along accomodationalism, for sure.
But Democrats? They’ve nakedly, ineluctably morphed into the party of evil. As I said, harsh; but undeniably true.
Along with leading the charge in bankrupting America fiscally, Dems have gone whole hog in ransacking the soul of her citizens, as well. These towering disgraces have nailed their colors — Pink? Lavender? Red? Mortuary Gray? — to the mast of legalized baby-killing, perversion of sex and genuine marriage, institutionalized envy and victimhood. Defecating on our military and law enforcement is a party-wide pastime for these wretches — cloyingly using cops or troops as political props when convenient, otherwise icily cutting their legs out from under them at virtually every juncture. This braying Donkey caucus thrives on distorting facts and debauching history — that is, lying — and turning American against American: black or Latino versus white, woman versus man, young versus old, taker versus producer. Since God specifically clues us in that He “hates” those last two bits of odiousness (Proverbs 6:19), are we allowed to call their proponents what they are: wicked?
Another, also from 2014, is The Fascist States of America, posted at the Zman blog, Excerpt:
Way back in the olden thymes, I got a close up look at the Cult of Modern Liberalism. This was back in the early Reagan years when I was a part time employee for the Congressman Clarence Long. I was just a kid and a nobody, but Susanna, his wife, took a liking to me and that gave me the run of the place, so to speak. I used to have lunch with the Congressman two or three days a week. He was a nice man, but about as interesting as vanilla ice cream. That’s true of every elected official I met in Washington. privately, they were very dull.
The interesting people were the aides and activists. The ones on the Right were full of excitement about finally turning back the liberal tide. Even as a kid, I thought they were delusional, but they were fun. On the other hand, the old liberals defending the status quo were scary. They were deadly serious and ideology was everything. These were not people interested in free and open debate. They were not all that interested in the free market of ideas. They wanted to win and they were not interested in deviationists in their midsts.
The lesson I have carried with me ever since is this. Unless and until the Right comes to terms with what they are facing, America is doomed. These are not people with whom you can reason or compromise. They are fanatics. To quote myself, “The Liberal is out there! They can’t be bargained with. They can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”
Psychologist Robert Godwin over at the blog One Cosmos wrote How I Cured Myself of Leftism in 2005. Pertinent excerpt:
At this point in time, I am more inclined to think of leftism as an intellectual pathology rather than a psychological one (although there is clearly considerable overlap). What I mean is that it is impossible to maintain a priori that a conservative person is healthier or more emotionally mature than a liberal. There are plenty of liberals who believe crazy things but are wonderful people, and plenty of conservatives who have the right ideas but are rotten people. However, this may be begging the question, for it is still puzzling why people hold beliefs that are demonstrably untrue or at the very least unwise.
One of the problems is with our elites. We are wrong to think that the difficulty lies in the uneducated and unsophisticated masses–as if inadequate education, in and of itself, is the problem. As a matter of fact, no one is more prone to illusions than the intellectual. It has been said that philosophy is simply personal error on a grandiose scale. Complicating matters is the fact that intellectuals are hardly immune to a deep emotional investment in their ideas, no less than the religious individual. The word “belief” is etymologically linked to the word “beloved,” and it is easy to see how certain ideas, no matter how dysfunctional–for example, some of the undeniably appealing ideas underpinning contemporary liberalism–are beloved by those who believe them. Thus, many liberal ideas are believed not because they are true, but because they are beautiful. Then, the intellectual simply marshals their intelligence in service of legitimizing the beliefs that they already hold. It has long been understood by psychoanalysts that for most people, reason is the slave of the passions.
Read that whole thing, too. Of course, the Left tried to “prove” that Conservatism was a mental disorder. Turns out, not so much.
The thing is, the more I study the more I agree with Godwin, the Zman, Daniel Greenfield and Steve Pauwells. And the more certain I am that the Left concluded long ago what Charles Krauthammer says they did. Zman characterized the “aides and activists” on the Right as “delusional, but they were fun.” The old liberals were “scary. They were deadly serious and ideology was everything.”
And that’s the difference. For one side it’s a competition. For the other side, it’s a war. A holy war.
When Barack Obama was running for his first term as President, his wife told us:
Barack Obama is the only person in this race who understands that, that before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation.
Hillary Clinton in her 1969 Commencement address at Wellsley said:
What does it mean to hear that 13.3% of the people in this country are below the poverty line? That’s a percentage. We’re not interested in social reconstruction; it’s human reconstruction.
Al Gore in a 2010 New York Times op-ed wrote:
Some news media organizations now present showmen masquerading as political thinkers who package hatred and divisiveness as entertainment. And as in times past, that has proved to be a potent drug in the veins of the body politic. Their most consistent theme is to label as “socialist” any proposal to reform exploitive behavior in the marketplace.
From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption.
What is socialism if not an attempt at human redemption? Remember, “The common theme is politics as a theology of salvation, with a heroic transformation of the human condition (nothing less) promised to those who will agitate for it.” Not achieve it – agitate for it. Outcome doesn’t matter, only intent.
In 2008 I wrote The Church of the MSM and the New Reformation, a book review of sorts of Brian Anse Patrick’s The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage. It was a bit more than that, more like an exposè of the media’s statist orientation, but the pertinent portion for this essay is this excerpt from Patrick’s book:
They (journalists) 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.
Recollect that the interposition of intermediaries, the clergy, along a vital spiritual-psychological supply route was the rub of the Reformation. The clergy cloaked themselves in the mantle of spiritual authority rather than acting as its facilitators. Many elite newspapers have apparently done much the same thing, speaking and interpreting authoritatively for democracy, warranting these actions on the basis of social responsibility.
It is not accident, then, that the pluralistic model of social action largely discounts journalists as an important class. In the same way the decentralized religious pluralism generically known as Protestantism discounts the role of clergy. This should be expected. Pluralism and Protestantism share common historical origins. American pluralism particularly is deeply rooted in the Reformation’s reaction to interpretive monopoly.
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.
I would go so far as to include public educators in this ecclesiastic order. It is their job to indoctrinate each new generation in The Word, The Light and The Life. After all, human redemption is the goal, and Government is The Way.
By way of example, look at this piece – an April 14, 2014 New York Times column by the Times‘ token “conservative*,” David Brooks entitled A Long Obedience.
The Israelites in Exodus whine; they groan; they rebel for petty reasons. When they are lost in a moral wilderness, they immediately construct an idol to worship and give meaning to their lives.
But Exodus is a reminder that statecraft is soulcraft, that good laws can nurture better people. Even Jews have different takes on how exactly one must observe the 613 commandments, but the general vision is that the laws serve many practical and spiritual purposes. For example, they provide a comforting structure for daily life. If you are nervous about the transitions in your life, the moments when you go through a door post, literally or metaphorically, the laws will give you something to do in those moments and ease you on your way.
The laws tame the ego and create habits of deference by reminding you of your subordination to something permanent. The laws spiritualize matter, so that something very normal, like having a meal, has a sacred component to it. The laws build community by anchoring belief in common practices. The laws moderate religious zeal; faith is not expressed in fiery acts but in everyday habits. The laws moderate the pleasures; they create guardrails that are meant to restrain people from going off to emotional or sensual extremes.
The 20th-century philosopher Eliyahu Dessler wrote, “the ultimate aim of all our service is to graduate from freedom to compulsion.”
Which would explain why the US Code of Federal Regulations sections concerning handrails run to nearly 1000 words. Same for doors.
Statecraft is soulcraft! Nothing compels like fines and jail time. It’s spiritual! Submit, heathens, or face the Inquisition! It’s for your own good!
Now, look at how heathens and especially apostates are treated. Brendan Eich gets forced out of his CEO position at Mozilla for contributing to California’s Proposition 8 supporting a ban on gay marriage. Larry Summers, President of Harvard was forced out of that position for various apostasies. Columnist Mark Steyn is currently fighting a lawsuit over his Global Warming heresy. Scientist Matt Taylor was forced to verbally self-flagellate for wearing a sexist shirt during a television interview after landing a probe on a comet. The list goes on. And now it’s becoming instiutionalized – the new Democrat Party platform includes a plank calling for the investigation and prosecution of Global Warming skeptics, a tactic already embraced by a number of Attorneys General in fifteen states, Washington, D.C. and the Virgin Islands.
The Gun Rights movement has managed to get a couple of outdoor magazine journalists fired for supporting bans on semi-automatic rifles, and the rightwing internet did manage to cost Dan Rather and a few others at CBS their jobs over Memogate, but our track record is nothing compared to the Left’s.
Oh, wait. We made Piers Morgan go home. But then Jeremy Clarkson has actually punched him. We’re not a patch on that.
However, it appears that the only place where we’ve held off the Left has been on the topic of gun control. Why is that?
I believe it’s because that’s the only topic on which we have a consistent, coherent and widespread philosophy. It may be as simple as “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED!” but it is shared by a large number of people who may otherwise be politically apathetic. The Left is made up of a gigantic mishmash of self-contradicting ideologies and agendas, but they all share one underlying belief: The political Right is evil, intolerable and must be – not defeated – but destroyed if the Future Is To Be Saved.
Eric Hoffer in his 1951 book The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements wrote about the rise of the mass movement WWII was fought against. (Strongly recommended, if you’ve never read it.) I wrote about this in my 2005 essay Reasonable People, and this excerpt is again pertinent:
Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents. It pulls and whirls the individual away from his own self, makes him oblivious of his weal and future, frees him of jealousies and self-seeking. He becomes an anonymous particle quivering with a craving to fuse and coalesce with his like into one flaming mass. (Heinrich) Heine suggests that what Christian love cannot do is effected by a common hatred.
Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil. When Hitler was asked whether he thought the Jew must be destroyed, he answered: “No…. We should have then to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one.” F.A. Voigt tells of a Japanese mission that arrived in Berlin in 1932 to study the National Socialist movement. Voigt asked a member of the mission what he thought of the movement. He replied: “It is magnificent. I wish we could have something like it in Japan, only we can’t, because we haven’t got any Jews.”
For the Left, any not part of The Body are the new Jews, and I think we understand that – some of us at least subconsciously. Estimates are that about 100 million new guns were purchased by individuals since 2006, along with a LOT of ammunition, mostly handguns and semi-automatic military-pattern rifles. This was not done in anticipation of handing them in at some future date. So, we have the numbers to thwart them in the legislatures and for now the courts are going our way, but pretty much nowhere else are we making headway because they’re True Believers and we (mostly) still think of the Left as the Loyal Opposition. We don’t want war. We, after all, have a lot to lose. But as long as they’re fighting a war and we’re not, we’re going to be on the losing side.
In 2010 Angelo Codevilla wrote a very influential piece, America’s Ruling Class and the Perils of Revolution. This was one of the first mainstream pieces I can remember reading that expressed the idea that our government was not divided by the Democrats and Republicans, but it is instead occupied by what Roberta X refers to as “the two halves of the Running Things Party” – as Codevilla calls them, “the Ruling Class” – and they aren’t interested in listening to us. Pertinent excerpt:
Important as they are, our political divisions are the iceberg’s tip. When pollsters ask the American people whether they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election, Republicans win growing pluralities. But whenever pollsters add the preferences “undecided,” “none of the above,” or “tea party,” these win handily, the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind. That is because while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well. Hence officeholders, Democrats and Republicans, gladden the hearts of some one-third of the electorate — most Democratic voters, plus a few Republicans. This means that Democratic politicians are the ruling class’s prime legitimate representatives and that because Republican politicians are supported by only a fourth of their voters while the rest vote for them reluctantly, most are aspirants for a junior role in the ruling class. In short, the ruling class has a party, the Democrats. But some two-thirds of Americans — a few Democratic voters, most Republican voters, and all independents — lack a vehicle in electoral politics.
Sooner or later, well or badly, that majority’s demand for representation will be filled.
Apparently not this year. Read that piece if you haven’t already.
So one third of the nation is politically engaged. Two-thirds of us feel ignored and abused. Now a chunk of those who feel that the Democrats don’t represent them are the really hardcore Left who are angry that Obama didn’t implement whole-scale Socialism upon his inauguration, but most of the disenfranchised are pissed at the government’s profligate spending, reckless abuse and accumulation of powers and complete lack of accountability.
The aforementioned Billy Beck in a 2005 post, “A Pack, Not A Herd”, said:
Carol Ann Rand, of the Georgia Libertarian Party, once pointed out to me that the commies have it all over us when it comes to organization, because they’re the ones who are built for “unity”. “Trying to organize libertarians,” she said, “is like trying to herd cats.”
He also said in a lead-in piece entitled Coming Distractions:
Here is the central problem surrounding what you people are talking about:
There is no coherent and cohesive philosophy underpinning it.
But you people are talking about blowing the place up, whether you know it or not. That’s the only way it can go, as things are now, because there is no philosophy at the bottom of what you’re talking about. Once the shooting starts, all bets are off.
Which echoes what I said in answer to Jay Solo’s question two years earlier, though perhaps more apocalyptically. That’s what happens when individuals press the “Fuck It” button.
It is generally accepted that two hundred and forty-one years ago, a year before the Declaration of Independence was signed, about a third of the population was loyalist, a third neutral, and perhaps a third in favor of revolt. In January of 1776 Thomas Paine published his magnum opus Common Sense. By July it had sold over 150,000 copies, and changed a nation. Created a nation. The people had a philosophy behind their rebellion, even if it was “FUCK KING GEORGE!” We have no such unifying philosophy. “Treat me with benign neglect” is not a philosophy.
They’ve got hate, and a holy mandate to build Utopia – on our corpses, if history is any guide. We’ve got a populace that knows something is wrong, but has been robbed of the education necessary to grasp exactly what and then reason themselves out of the problem. Robbed by the same forces that are intent on building that Utopia. Instead, a significant portion voted for Donald Trump, mostly out of sheer frustration. Another example of pressing the “Fuck It” button.
This does not bode well for us.
(*David Brooks is “conservative” for a New Yorker. That puts him to the left of pretty much anybody in Texas outside of Austin.)
Happy (In)Dependence Day.
UPDATE: Gerard Van der Leun reposts a 2010 piece on this topic you should read..
Wandering around on Facebook today I ran across a golden oldie from Roberta X, the meat of which was this quote:
What is clear is once anyone has become so convinced that one of the two halves of the Running Things Party comprises every human vice and ill (and no few I had previously thought limited to the animal kingdom), then there’s no further reason to talk. The attitude itself is what gives rise to purges and pogroms, killing fields and death marches — no matter who espouses it or what virtues they ascribe to themselves and their supposed peers, or even practice. Persons who speak like that will murder you — or hand you over to be used up and killed — if they even suspect you might be a member of a group they loathe; and they will sleep soundly that night. Left, right, center; amoral and “practical” or rigidly moral and unworldly, it doesn’t matter: once that level of dehumanizing rhetoric has infected someone’s mind, they are like an armed landmine.
That was in reference to this particular little screed at DailyKos which I won’t bother to excerpt from.
I’ll quote the whole fucking thing, but not the overwhelmingly supportive comments:
Murdering, Lying, Thieving, Rat-F*** Republican Pieces of Sub-Amphibian Sh**…
…mendacious, death-loving, frothing, lamprey-mouthed, inhuman, abominable, atrocious, verminous, rapacious, sadistic, bullying, invasive, grasping, psychopathic, twisted, warped, animalistic, belly-crawling, mouth-breathing, illiterate, innumerate, know-nothing, imbecilic, sheep-raping, horror movie extras masturbating into wads of money while fantasizing about war collateral damage…(inhale)…puppy-torturing, vacuous, mindless, nihilistic, evil, diseased, soulless, morally bankrupt, greedy, insecure, envious, kleptomaniac charnel-house mascots stewing in universal hatred for all life…(inhale)…toxic, ugly, bestial, humorless, loveless, compassionless, demonic human-shaped ruins forever slouching toward Bethlehem in search of some fresh nightmare to wreak on the defenseless via other people’s money and heroism…(inhale)…Satanic monkey-shit-throwing, cowardly, chickenhawkish, parasitic, baby’s-candy-stealing, wife-beating, minority-purging, syphilitic Confederate poltergeists with erectile dysfunction…
…perverse, prurient, crocodile-eyed, necrophiliac mass-producers of human misery and gleeful destroyers of truth, justice, and the American way…sepulchre-hearted human deserts walking the Earth only to look for more victims…silly, stupid, ignorant bastards proud of every good thing they’ve never done, every person they’ve never been considerate toward, every fact they’ve never learned and will never acknowledge, and every virtue they will never possess or even attempt to comprehend…preternaturally drunken, bleary-eyed, zombie-like, empty vessels who wander aimlessly until given instruction by their masters…unthinking, unquestioning, unfeeling diabolus ex machina mockeries of the human condition, perpetually acting out a burlesque of the basest and least interesting psychological dysfunctions…
…face-chewing, self-devouring, medieval barbarian museum dioramas and depraved Nazi homunculi preserved in formaldehyde to frighten children…sick, ominous, loathsome, Nosferatu-impersonating Gollum-acolytes feasting on the flesh of our society while complaining about its taste…tax-evading, sommelier-abusing, election-buying, yacht-aficionado hemmorhoids flying flags of convenience and berating their six-year-old Chinese employees for requesting bathroom breaks…
Republicans, you vile, repulsive, scum. You’re not leading this country. You’re not contributing to this country. You’re not even part of this country. You are the maggot-ridden rot that arises in this country’s damaged flesh; you are the vultures constantly picking at us to see if we’re weak enough yet to become your next meal; you create problems where none would otherwise exist, just to further weaken America and quicken your own insatiable appetites; you are garbage, and you are traitors. And you are not welcome in this country anymore.
Note that this was during the 2012 election cycle. As I asked back then, what happened to that “New Civility” thing we were all supposed to be supporting after the Gabby Giffords shooting here in Tucson?
So I’ve added a fifth quote to the masthead of this blog, a proclamation by Billy Beck made several years ago and obviously prophetic.
Yup. Our “austerity riots” are going to be spectacular.
ETA: Scott Adams, author of the comic strip Dilbert and predictor of a Trump presidency for months now, has come out to endorse Hillary for his own personal safety.
I just finished reading CTRL ALT Revolt! by Nick Cole, the novel self-published by the author when his publisher refused to release it. (Read the link.) It’s set in the near future, somewhere between now and when Idiocracy is set. I picked it up on Kindle for $0.99.
It was way underpriced.
Now I get the excuse he was given as to why they wouldn’t publish, but in reality the entire book is about as un-PC as it can be, and often hilariously so.
It must have made his editor cringe. (Or projectile vomit, I’m not sure which.) Either way, I’m sure he/she was running for their “safe space” with their blankie.
But near the climax of the book there’s a few paragraphs I want to share with you under the heading of “Truth in Fiction” again:
(T)he truth is the most valuable thing in the world. It’s, in fact, the only thing that has value and provides value for everything else. Everything that’s false can’t be relied on and is therefore actually worthless. Therefore, there’s no sense in having it. But if you have the truth, well then, you’ve really got something there, don’tcha? See, with the truth you can really do anything. The truth makes you very powerful, especially if you own it.
The truth was important. But for a long time, a very long time it really hasn’t been trading real high in the marketplace of ideas. What’s been more important these days is how people feel about things. Regardless of whether they’re true or not. For example, you’ve all taken your social media etiquette classes since elementary school, right? And what’s the one thing you learn in those classes? ‘The most important thing is not to offend anyone.’ Isn’t that right? So, you don’t tell someone the truth, because, after all, what is truth? Isn’t it whatever we decide it to be? Whatever we want it to do? Whatever we want it to be regardless of history, culture, and the belief systems of anyone who doesn’t agree with the popular zeitgeist?
No, kids, that’s incorrect. The truth isn’t just what we want it to be. The truth is just so.
And once again, I’m reminded of this.
This blog is now thirteen years old. I started TSM on Wednesday, May 14, 2003. I missed the blogiversary last year, and the year before that I put the blog in semi-retirement.
In preparation for this post, I went back and read some of those first pieces I wrote just to see what I had to say back then.
Nothing’s changed much, really.
In one early post I wrote:
I am who I am, I think, primarily because of reading. I feel pity for people who don’t or won’t or can’t read for pleasure. Short of a bodice-ripper, I don’t think there’s a book out there that can’t teach you something. (Oh, wait. Battlefield Earth…No, that taught me never to read L. Ron Hubbard again.) My primary influence was Science Fiction. At about 12, I discovered The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. I, and I was never the same kid again. I went for SF, and I found Robert Anson Heinlein.
Exposing a pre-pubescent to R.A. Heinlein is a dangerous thing. Especially when you set him up with things like Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, and The Menace From Earth, and then you hit him between the eyes with Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. And then follow those with Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love. Anything that man wrote, I read. Even his crap was better than most people’s best work.
But I also read Asimov, Clarke, Poul Anderson, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg, James Blish, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Ben Bova, Alan Dean Foster, Piers Anthony… Many more. It’s called “speculative fiction” for a reason. It awoke, or at least encouraged, an interest in how things work – from cars to guns to computers to governments. But Heinlein’s responsible for my politics. I found Henry Louis Mencken and P.J. O’Rourke much later. By then the foundation had set.
I’m not a Libertarian, though. Nor am I a Republican or a Democrat (though that’s what my voter registration says – I like screwing with their primaries.) I’m sure as hell not a Green. I don’t “affiliate.” I figure that anyone willing to run for elective office should be immediately disqualified. At least, anyone willing to run for national office. I’ve forgotten who said it, but someone did: “Anyone who rises to the level of national politics is either a cutthroat or a useful idiot.” Or both. The ones that are both are the really dangerous ones.
My politics and my personal philosophy are also based in the works of two other writers: John D. MacDonald, and Robert B. Parker. Their characters of Travis McGee and Spenser, which I read through my adolescence, resonated with my personal sense of rightness and honor, socially responsible independence: in short – morality.
Note that “school” was not mentioned in that excerpt. In an earlier post I pointed to an LA
Dogtrainer Times piece (link now broken) about how a school valedictorian couldn’t write a research paper with a bibliography, so the “Collapsing Schools” theme dates back to the beginnings of the blog.
In an even earlier piece I said:
I am strongly interested in the rights of individuals, in particular the restrictions upon our government to respect those rights.
As such, I’m not much of a fan of the government we have. In fact, I used to use this signature line:The Constitution may not be the finest work ever set to paper,
but it beats whatever the government’s using these days.
So it comes as no surprise that I’m not real enamored with the Republicans, and I find the Democrats abhorrent. Of course, I think the Greens are flakes, and the Libertarians tend to be flakes of a different shape.
My opinion of the Republican party has declined precipitously over the last thirteen years. As has my opinion of the Democrat party.
And here we are.
In October of 2003 I wrote Not with a Bang, but a Whimper? decrying other bloggers abandoning the ideological field. Toren Smith of The Safety Valve was quoted:
After thinking it over for a while, I think The Safety Valve has run its course. Frankly, I’m tired of getting all bent out of shape about the stupidities of the world, which seem to be getting worse and worse as time goes by. The last few months it seems every day brings worse news about the corruption of science, the destruction of society by PC-think, the complete and utter end of rational political discourse, and the hydra-like expansion of government powers. International politics has gone insane. California is heading into the socialist shit pit, and most of the US seems poised to follow sooner or later. I may escape temporarily to someplace like Texas, but sooner or later I’ll probably have to head for Belize or the Caymans.
To hell with rubbing my face in all the downer crap that’s out there. Yes, I know–even if you don’t go looking for politics, politics will come looking for you. But I’m going to try crossing the street, at least for the time being. And if necessary I’ll shoot the bastard with my carry piece. And in the meantime I’ll let my friends like Kim and James and the rest of the gang off to the right in my blog links “gaze into the abyss.”
They’re clearly tougher than I am.
It took me eleven years, but I got there, too. I just didn’t (completely) quit.
I have concluded that the problem isn’t the government, though. Quoting Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” THAT I blame on the government.
Packing thirteen years of blogging into a few paragraphs (using words that mostly aren’t mine, naturally – I’m nothing if not consistent) I’d like to state my case one more time for the record.
Educator John Taylor Gatto studied the history of American public education after he got out of teaching in the the New York City school system. In his book The Underground History of American Education he noted:
At the start of WWII millions of men showed up at registration offices to take low-level academic tests before being inducted. The years of maximum mobilization were 1942 to 1944; the fighting force had been mostly schooled in the 1930s, both those inducted and those turned away. Of the 18 million men were tested, 17,280,000 of them were judged to have the minimum competence in reading required to be a soldier, a 96 percent literacy rate. Although this was a 2 percent fall-off from the 98 percent rate among voluntary military applicants ten years earlier, the dip was so small it didn’t worry anybody.
WWII was over in 1945. Six years later another war began in Korea. Several million men were tested for military service but this time 600,000 were rejected. Literacy in the draft pool had dropped to 81 percent, even though all that was needed to classify a soldier as literate was fourth-grade reading proficiency. In the few short years from the beginning of WWII to Korea, a terrifying problem of adult illiteracy had appeared. The Korean War group received most of its schooling in the 1940s, and it had more years in school with more professionally trained personnel and more scientifically selected textbooks than the WWII men, yet it could not read, write, count, speak, or think as well as the earlier, less-schooled contingent.
A third American war began in the mid-1960s. By its end in 1973 the number of men found noninductible by reason of inability to read safety instructions, interpret road signs, decipher orders, and so on—in other words, the number found illiterate—had reached 27 percent of the total pool. Vietnam-era young men had been schooled in the 1950s and the 1960s—much better schooled than either of the two earlier groups—but the 4 percent illiteracy of 1941 which had transmuted into the 19 percent illiteracy of 1952 had now had grown into the 27 percent illiteracy of 1970. Not only had the fraction of competent readers dropped to 73 percent but a substantial chunk of even those were only barely adequate; they could not keep abreast of developments by reading a newspaper, they could not read for pleasure, they could not sustain a thought or an argument, they could not write well enough to manage their own affairs without assistance.
Consider how much more compelling this steady progression of intellectual blindness is when we track it through army admissions tests rather than college admissions scores and standardized reading tests, which inflate apparent proficiency by frequently changing the way the tests are scored.
Back in 1952 the Army quietly began hiring hundreds of psychologists to find out how 600,000 high school graduates had successfully faked illiteracy. Regna Wood sums up the episode this way:
After the psychologists told the officers that the graduates weren’t faking, Defense Department administrators knew that something terrible had happened in grade school reading instruction. And they knew it had started in the thirties. Why they remained silent, no one knows. The switch back to reading instruction that worked for everyone should have been made then. But it wasn’t.
In 1882, fifth graders read these authors in their Appleton School Reader: William Shakespeare, Henry Thoreau, George Washington, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Bunyan, Daniel Webster, Samuel Johnson, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others like them. In 1995, a student teacher of fifth graders in Minneapolis wrote to the local newspaper, “I was told children are not to be expected to spell the following words correctly: back, big, call, came, can, day, did, dog, down, get, good, have, he, home, if, in, is, it, like, little, man, morning, mother, my, night, off, out, over, people, play, ran, said, saw, she, some, soon, their, them, there, time, two, too, up, us, very, water, we, went, where, when, will, would, etc. Is this nuts?”
Yes, it is. And no one did anything to correct it. What has the result been? A Daily Mail article Thursday covers the publishing of a vanity-press book ostensibly written by a Democrat Congressman. Here’s the part I find pertinent:
‘Voters claim they want substance and detailed position papers, but what they really crave are cutesy cat videos, celebrity gossip, top 10 lists, reality TV shows, tabloid tripe, and the next f***ing Twitter message,’ the congressman gripes in the book.
‘I worry about our country’s future when critical issues take a backseat to the inane utterings of illiterate athletes and celebrity twits.’
The product of 100+ years of public schooling, with the accelerating aid of the Department of Education (established in 1979 under the Carter administration) has brought us to this point where significantly less than half the population of the country understands the system of government or economics they live under. Or is even interested in understanding them. I’ve quoted from the 1983 report A Nation at Risk before, too. It’s author had this to say in the preface:
Our Nation is at risk. 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. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.
I’m convinced this was intentional. As the anonymous Congressman states:
‘Voters are incredibly ignorant and know little about our form of government and how it works,’ the anonymous writer claims.
‘It’s far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification.’
Yes, it is. Which is how Donald Trump ended up the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee this year.
Across the Pond, it’s no better.
In 2004’s Those Without Swords Can Still Die Upon Them, I quoted Steven Den Beste:
In my opinion, the four most important inventions in human history are spoken language, writing, movable type printing and digital electronic information processing (computers and networks). Each represented a massive improvement in our ability to distribute information and to preserve it for later use, and this is the foundation of all other human knowledge activities. There are many other inventions which can be cited as being important (agriculture, boats, metal, money, ceramic pottery, postmodernist literary theory) but those have less pervasive overall affects.
I agree with that, but I went further:
I believe that there are three things crucial to the rise of individual freedom: The ability to reason, the free exchange of ideas, and the ability to defend one’s person and property. The ability to reason and the free exchange of ideas will lead to the concept of individual liberty, but it requires the individual ability to defend one’s person and property to protect that liberty. The ability to reason exists, to some extent, in all people. (The severely mentally retarded and those who have suffered significant permanent brain injury are not, and in truth can never be truly “free” as they will be significantly dependent on others for their care and protection.) The free exchange of ideas is greatly dependent on the technologies of communication. The ability to defend your person and property – the ability to defend your right to your own life – is dependent on the technologies of individual force.
Individual, private possession of firearms isn’t the only thing that permits individual liberty, but it is one of the essential components in a society that intends to stay free. An armed, informed, reasoning people cannot be subjugated.
So what do you do if you want to fetter a free people?
1) Remove their ability to reason.
2) Constrain their ability to access and exchange information.
3) Relieve them of the means with which to defend themselves and their property.
Which of these seems easiest, and how would it be best accomplished? And best resisted?
But I concluded this year that I was wrong. Our ability to reason was destroyed, rendering the other two requirements moot. From a tactical standpoint, this is known as exploiting a single point of failure.
How was this accomplished? Philosophy.
I’ve quoted Ayn Rand from her 1974 speech to West Point graduates, Philosphy, Who Needs It? on a number of occasions. Once more:
You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principle. Your only choice is whether these principles are true or false, whether they represent your conscious, rational convictions – or a grab-bag of notions snatched at random, whose sources, validity, context and consequences you do not know, notions which, more often than not, you would drop like a hot potato if you knew.
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, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.
Your subconscious is like a computer – more complex a computer than men can build – and its main function is the integration of your ideas. Who programs it? Your conscious mind. If you default, if you don’t reach any firm convictions, your subconscious is programmed by chance – and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted.
I have discussed on a number of occasions (there’s links in the left sidebar to some of them) the difference between the philosophy of John Locke – responsible for the success of the American Revolution – and the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau – responsible for the disastrous French Revolution and all the horrors of socialism that followed. But as reader Oren Litwin noted in a comment long ago, now lost when Haloscan went away, but archived here in a couple of places:
If the non-socialist end of the political spectrum cannot create a political philosophy that is both good theory and emotionally appealing, we’re doomed.
Any political philosophy that is not self-reinforcing is by definition not the best political philosophy. Libertarianism (with a small “l”) features a stoic acceptance of individual risk (i.e. the lack of government intervention) for the sake of long-term freedom and prosperity–yet takes no measures to ensure that the society educates its young to maintain that acceptance of risk. The equilibrium, if it ever exists in the first place, is unstable and will collapse.
This aside from the fact that libertarianism is emotionally cold and unfulfilling to most people, who have not trained themselves to consider lack of outside restraint to be worth cherishing.
Rousseau’s philosophy has the advantage of being beautiful in theory, and attractive to human nature, as illustrated by this cartoon I recently discovered:
And 100+ years of public education has resulted in this electorate:
We didn’t use to be like this. Dinesh D’Souza wrote in his book What’s So Great About America:
In America your destiny is not prescribed; it is constructed. Your life is like a blank sheet of paper and you are the artist. This notion of being the architect of your own destiny is the incredibly powerful idea that is behind the worldwide appeal of America. Young people especially find the prospect of authoring their own lives irresistible. The immigrant discovers that America permits him to break free of the constraints that have held him captive, so that the future becomes a landscape of his own choosing.
If there is a single phrase that captures this, it is “the pursuit of happiness.” As writer V. S. Naipaul notes, “much is contained” in that simple phrase: “the idea of the individual, responsibility, choice, the life of the intellect, the idea of vocation, perfectibility, and achievement. It is an immense human idea. It cannot be reduced to a fixed system. It cannot generate fanaticism. But it is known [around the world] to exist; and because of that, other more rigid systems in the end blow away.”
This was more recently echoed by immigrant Craig Ferguson in the opening to his book, American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot:
One of the greatest moments in American sports history was provided by Bobby Thomson, the “Staten Island Scot.” Born in my hometown of Glasgow, Scotland, in 1923, he hit the shot heard round the world that won the Giants the National League pennant in 1951. Had Bobby stayed in Glasgow he would never have played baseball, he would never have faced the fearsome Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca in that championship game, and he would never have learned that if you can hit the ball three times out of ten you’ll make it to the Hall of Fame.
Today I watch my son at Little League games, his freckled Scottish face squinting in the California sunshine, the bat held high on his shoulder, waiting for the moment, and I rejoice that he loves this most American game. He will know from an early age that failure is not disgrace. It’s just a pitch that you missed, and you’d better get ready for the next one. The next one might be the shot heard round the world. My son and I are Americans, we prepare for glory by failing until we don’t.
But in 2012 Aaron Sorkin in his HBO television series The Newsroom hit a nerve around the internet with a speech on why America isn’t the greatest nation in the world. Embedding no longer allowed, but by all means, please watch the whole thing. And listen carefully at the end when McAvoy concludes:
We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed by great men. Men who were revered.
Men like Huntley and Brinkley, Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid and Walter Cronkite. But the media is part and parcel of the problem as well, because its acolytes are immersed in the same philosophy Rousseau espoused, and it’s not the one of failing until you succeed. No, as illustrated by Professor Brian Anse Patrick in his book The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage, members of the media see government as the Church of State, and they are its clergy – handing down to the laypeople only those truths they believe we should have. And that same philosophy moved through the colleges of education producing the teachers and administrators that gave us the electorate we have today, that has apparently selected Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as our choices for the next President of the United States. That actually gave Bernie Sanders, a socialist, a pretty good shot at the brass ring.
All because we’ve never been taught what government really is – a necessary evil, best kept small and watched closely. Those of us who understand that have learned it strictly on our own, and we are vastly outnumbered. People think we live in “a nation of laws.” Iowahawk in his inimitable way illustrated the problem with that thinking this morning:
We have a myriad of laws, each selectively enforced, but never applied to those in power. Want to wash someone’s hair for pay in New Hampshire, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, or Texas? Be prepared to go to school first or at a minimum pay a license fee. This is known as “freedom.”
In 2003 Reverend Donald Sensing wrote a piece, Bush Republicanism = Roosevelt Democratism? in which he said:
Because the present-day Republicans and Democrats are both big-government activists, they have a foundational philosophy that is the same:
America is a problem to be fixed, and Americans are a people to be managed.
A friend of mine emigrated here from Romania after Ceaucescu’s regime fell. He told me the other day that Americans are over-regulated. Think about that; a man coming from a communist country believes that Americans are over-regulated. It chills.
I predict that the Bush administration will be seen by freedom-wishing Americans a generation or two hence as the hinge on the cell door locking up our freedom. When my children are my age, they will not be free in any recognizably traditional American meaning of the word. I’d tell them to emigrate, but there’s nowhere left to go. I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free.
Five years later I asked him if his position had changed any. He replied:
Yes, most definitely it has. The demise of freedom in this country has accelerated even faster than I imagined back in 2003. With the unconstitutional power grab embodied in the “bailout” bill that passed last week, the federal government now controls the core of the American economy, the credit and investment markets. This is not one step short of a controlled economy, it is a controlled economy. The secretary kommissar of the treasury now has the permanent mandate to intervene and indeed take control of the markets in any way he sees fit, anytime he desires.
Surely no one is so naive as to think this power will be used only rarely and delicately as time goes on. Rather, the socio-economic engineering urges of future kommissars will be ever less restrained. Remember Steven den Beste’s dictum: “The job of bureaucrats is to regulate, and left to their own devices, they will try to regulate everything they can.” No one seeks or accepts high, powerful, federal office in order to do little.
The government also now controls the home mortgage and student loan industries. To mix in a pop-culture metaphor, the Federal government is now Negan, and we are boned. All it has to do is kill or imprison somebody once in a while to keep the rest of us in line, surrendering half our shit. Who gets into office is immaterial. The machine goes on until it eventually will collapse under the weight of its own corruption.
And when that happens our “austerity riots” will be SPECTACULAR.
So I’m pretty much done being outraged by it all. Check back from time to time. I may post cat memes.