Thursday, January 2, 2014

For The New Year

No, this won't be about New Year's Resolutions...mostly, anyway.

The division of our lives into conventionally understood units of time -- days; weeks; months; years -- comes with a sense that dividing lines of other sorts are being crossed. That sense isn't wholly fictitious -- after all, the day and the year, at least, are pretty strongly bound to natural phenomena we can all detect -- but it is capable of misleading us even so.

So: here we are at the start of a new year. What has changed? What can we expect to change?

Well, certain aspects of ObamaCare kick in with the new year. And of course, Americans are generally assembling their tax records for the annual trial of patience imposed upon us by the Internal Revenue Act. But otherwise, there's a great deal of legal and political continuity between 2013 and 2014. Given the balance of power in Washington, we might expect things not to change much...or perhaps not:

Glenn Beck, whatever you might think of his style, is exactly correct. We have an aspirant to absolute power -- a fascist dictator -- in the Oval Office. More, he's made a practice of appearing as frequently as possible, before crowds that will encourage his dictatorial aspirations. Given the political disaster 2013 was for Barack Hussein Obama, which of the following strikes you as his more likely response to the turn of the calendar?

  1. Gee, I really screwed things up in 2013, so I'd better dial it way back and let others who've demonstated more insight have their say and their way this year.
  2. Hmph! Those reactionary peasants in Congress are annoying the hell out of me, so I'll just ignore them and seize still more unConstitutional authority.

Don't measure the man against the Constitutional role of the president; measure the times, and the people, against the man.

Freedom advocates continue to possess an unchallengeable grip on the facts and the logic of political dynamics, moral-ethical theory, and macroeconomics...and near-to-complete ignorance of the realities of political outreach. In support of this claim I submit this column by Harry Binswanger. Please read it all; I shan't excerpt it, as it's the overall orientation and tone that matters.

Binswanger is unquestionably a bright and erudite man. His substantive representations are all dead-on-target. However, his column suggests that he's unsuited to preaching to anyone but the already converted. "Radicals for capitalism?" That's two grievous rhetorical mistakes in three words!

The problem is non-objective -- it pertains to the connotations of violence and mass disruption attached to "radicalism" and the supposed heartlessness of "capitalism" in the typical person's mind -- but it is severe even so. It causes many a hearer to shut down, sometimes completely, and to pre-emptively reject the associated message. That might not be the reaction of a Forbes reader, but it's been an impediment to advocates for the free market for decades.

Freedom lovers must become more rhetorically adept. We must learn what tropes not to invoke -- what "buttons" not to push -- if we're to make significant headway against the forces of darkness. Consider the connotative appeal built into the preferred rhetoric of the Left (e.g., "compassion," "security," "brotherhood") and try to imagine the comparative reaction of typical Americans. It's probably the most serious problem freedom evangelists face -- and don't kid yourself: If you seek freedom, and hope to persuade others to embrace it, you're an outreach worker -- an evangelist -- a preacher.

If you want to improve at this sort of thing, get these CDs and listen to them over and over again until you can recite them from memory. Seriously.

That's enough about politics for the moment. Let's talk about more individual matters.

Quite a lot of persons, especially young adults, are desperate to get others to take them seriously but are at a loss for how to go about it. This is a more severe problem than you might think, and not just because no one wants to be regarded as a nonentity or a placeholder. He who is not taken seriously is prone to being manipulated by others, for their purposes and against his own interests.

The core of the problem is one's orientation. For Smith to get people to take him seriously, it's utterly mandatory that he reject a concept that has received quite a lot of air time these past few years: the concept of self-esteem.

"Self-esteem" is how you evaluate yourself. It can be, and usually is, completely disconnected from how others evaluate you. That being the case, effort Smith spends building up his "self-esteem" is irrelevant to how Jones views him:

  • Does Smith strike Jones as agreeable company?
  • Does Smith strike Jones as a potential source of gain?
  • Does Smith strike Jones as someone Jones shouldn't mess with?

Not one of these things has any necessary connection to Smith's "self-esteem."

This admittedly abrasive column by David Wong is a necessary slap in the face for anyone fixated on his "self-esteem." If you're unsatisfied with the way others treat you, consider it a wake-up call. If you're generally happy with your personal, familial, and professional relations, pass it along to someone less satisfied. As a grace note, read this old column by William Grim and ponder its implications.

I have several "must-do" items on my list for 2014: completing my financial rearrangements for my impending retirement from my "day job;" four novels to be plotted, including one I've delayed for far too long; a slew of tasks pertaining to my home and grounds; and the reanimation of certain personal connections I've neglected for some time. It promises to be a busy year. But with this piece and yesterday's tirade about tastes and "adulthood," I hope to have started well. But the point of my writing, whether opinion-editorial or fictional, is to effect positive changes in the world beyond my doorstep. Herewith, I have a request for you, Gentle Reader:

Now and then, let me know how I'm doing at it. Please.

And once again, Happy New Year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're doing great, Francis. Your posts have unfortunately come to be the yardstick by which I judge the intelligence and relevance of almost everything else I read these days...I say unfortunate, because there are a lot of good embryonic ideas out there, but I often find myself wishing that YOU had tackled the subject, rather than whoever happens to have written what I'm reading. I'll comment more often. Thank you!