Now the rainman gave me two cures,
Then he said, "Jump right in."
The one was Texas medicine,
The other was just railroad gin.
And like a fool I mixed them
And it strangled up my mind,
And now people just get uglier
And I have no sense of time.
If you’re around my age and have a good familiarity with the works of noted poet Robert Zimmerman, you’ll recognize the source of the above. If not, be patient; I’ll get to it in due course.
These days, it’s unusual for me to go a day or two without writing something for this site. That was also the case with Eternity Road and The Palace of Reason of loving memory. But this piece isn’t about my prodigious output; it’s about the reasons for it.
The more I allow myself to observe, analyze, and dwell on what’s going on around me, the less able I am to resist writing about it. (Fortunately for the relatives and close friends to whom I would rant and rave about such things vocally, they don’t exist.) This might well be the case with many others in the Internet Commentariat, though it would be arduous, not to say pointless, to conduct a confirming survey.
Not only is the world going to Hell in a handbasket, the bottom of the basket is being ripped away by flesh-eating zombies. When I confront the various bits of evidence to that effect, my blood pressure spikes, and I write. The matter is exacerbated sharply by the dearth of others ready, willing, and able to comment on these matters knowledgeably, incisively, and fearlessly.
Oh, there are a few others. (See the blogroll for my favorites.) But the great preponderance of comment, even in the Grand and Glorious Age of the Internet when anyone can say anything (and anyone else is free to ignore it), is either pusillanimous or bilious, and without noticeable leavening by actual thought.
Other people make New Year’s Resolutions. I make wishes. This year, my fondest wish is for a return of hard thought and moral courage to this Republic. This is especially my wish for those who write op-ed for general consumption.
When Ruthie says come see her
In her honky-tonk lagoon,
Where I can watch her waltz for free
'Neath her Panamanian moon.
And I say, "Aw come on now,
You must know about my debutante."
And she says, "Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want."
Nearly all opinion-editorialists have some political agenda. Surely that comes as no great revelation to my generally intelligent and observant Gentle Readers. But even you few, you happy few, you band of brothers tend to resist going deep below the surface of that reality.
A political agenda inherently assumes that politics – the struggle over who shall rule and who shall submit – should apply to the subjects the op-ed writer addresses.
That’s a bedrock truth, people. That’s the Alpha from which nearly every op-ed writer starts every column, regardless of its specific focus. And it typically goes without question by the writer’s readers.
Time was, the American mantra was “Mind your own BLEEP!ing business.” It’s been years since that was the case. These days, it’s “There oughta be a law.” The shift in attitudes could hardly be more dramatic.
The evidence is everywhere. Just one example: What’s the Republican slogan about ObamaCare? “Repeal and Replace.” Why “replace?” Why not simply repeal the monstrosity and let people make their own decisions about how to pay for medical products and services, as free people once did? Too simple? Too easy to measure against a standard for achievement? Not “compassionate” enough?
Stop kidding yourself. Politicians worship political power. They want politics involved in everything. If they could get away with it, they’d pass laws about how you should sit on the toilet – and a hefty schedule of fines for violations. Their party alignment makes no difference whatsoever.
Virtually every op-ed writer currently blathering has chosen to align himself with some political ideology. Virtually all such persons routinely cheerlead for one or the other of the two major political parties. They might well be sincere in their convictions. They might well be benevolently inclined toward the rest of us: they might sincerely believe that the political agendas they promote and support would be for the best, and that once they’re in place, we would all be as happy as kings.
It doesn’t matter. They’re pushing politics – the pursuit of power over others – as the cure for everything that ails us. Even those who argue solely for the repeal of this or that oppressive law are pushing politics.
In Ursula LeGuin’s first truly great novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, she has her co-protagonist Therem Harth rem ir Estraven, the disgraced former prime minister of Karhide on the chilly world of Gethen, reflect that “They say here ‘all roads lead to Mishnory.’ To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.” Estraven concludes that reflection with “To oppose something is to maintain it.” This is not quite literally true, but beneath its surface lies the bedrock truth I cited above.
A subject once politicized remains in the political domain until a sufficient number of persons accept that politics is irrelevant to it, and refuse to allow politics to influence their decisions about it.
There’s a word for such a refusal. No, I shan’t tell you what it is...yet.
He made, in his inexperience, the classic mistake: he tried to explain. Life had not yet taught him how futile that approach is, with men and women alike. He did not know that the only respect-compelling attitude toward any accusation, true or false, is: “Take me or leave me as I am, and be damned!” – Frank Yerby, An Odor Of Sanctity
What set me off today were two striking columns:
...which broadly address the same subject. Both are worth your time – but set aside a fair amount of that precious commodity. (If you think I write at length, the cited pieces will readjust your perspectives.)
The world of “victims” has grown badly overpopulated, for a single reason: Victim status has become a political currency. If you have enough of it, you can use it to buy legal and political privileges. So group after group has rushed pell-mell into Victimism Valley, hoping to slurp up some of that soup before sensible people dam the river. The “angry ugly girls” have been particularly active these past few months, but let’s not neglect the racialist mouthpieces, the Muslims, or the environmentalists (yes, they claim we running-dog lackeys of the patriarchal capitalist conspiracy are somehow oppressing them, not merely “Gaia.”)
Look hard, Gentle Reader. Force yourself to look at the premises beneath the victimists’ contentions and demands. The set always reduces to the same ones:
- Free people have made choices we, the victimized, dislike;
- That makes us angry;
- We’ll use whatever means are at our disposal to get them to stop making those choices;
- Failing political access – no, we won’t stop trying – we’ll use unearned guilt, intimidation, volume of voice, perhaps even harassment and vandalism.
What makes their successes possible?
Who makes their successes possible – especially should the State remain uncooperative?
Might it be the bloke staring back at you from the bathroom mirror?
Do you know what the victimists fear above all else? Being ignored. It’s why they put so much time and effort into getting in front of every microphone, every camera, and every so-called journalist in the world. If a sufficient preponderance of us were simply to ignore them, their influence would drop to approximately zero. Indeed, the power of that tactic – what Arthur Herzog called in The B.S. Factor the “mass yawn” – is so staggering that it can even nullify state and federal laws, without recourse to the political process.
Consider the plaint of Scott Aaronson, whose travails are cited in the UNTITLED column. He wasn’t coerced into demeaning himself at gunpoint; he surrendered to the angry ugly girls:
At one point, I actually begged a psychiatrist to prescribe drugs that would chemically castrate me (I had researched which ones), because a life of mathematical asceticism was the only future that I could imagine for myself.
He wanted something he thought he could get from them, so he allowed them to destroy his self-respect. If he considered the alternatives at all seriously, it isn’t apparent from the cited article. But that isn’t the end of his wanderings in the intellectual and moral wilderness:
No woman “owes” male nerds anything; no woman deserves blame if she prefers the Neanderthals; everyone’s free choice demands respect.
I added the emphasis. One guess as to why.
“My friends, you have a right to nothing...except what you can earn in a free market, or what others are voluntarily willing to give you. -- Robert Ringer, How You Can Find Happiness During The Collapse Of Western Civilization
“Rights.” Got any? What are they? Enumerate them. Justify them as best you can. And be prepared to defend them – against me. Because if I decide you don’t have such rights, I’ll ignore your demands while I’m able, and fight back viciously should ignoring you or your political patrons fail to suffice.
I’ve often spoken and written about natural law. The laws of nature aren’t artifacts of legislation; they’re consequences of the structure of the universe. To the extent that we have natural rights. they must be implied and upheld by those laws. The ‘rights” everyone and his halfwit Uncle Elbert have been demanding of us have nothing to do with them. They use the word rights to characterize their demands because it has a special power in American thought.
In point of fact, there is exactly one natural right. But let’s think oh-so-briefly about what we might do to verify or falsify the claim that this or that demand constitutes a “right.” Can we come up with criteria by which to assess such claims? I think so:
No imaginable conception of “rights” dependent upon enforcement can be made consistent with that standard. Natural law guarantees that once force is made the arbiter, force, whether exercised or withheld, will determine everything. In microcosm, this is easily grasped: your “rights” have no power against a mugger with a gun to your chest. For us who have been steeped in statist notions, the implications are the tough part:
"Rights are an archist concept. Rights have no meaning except when confronted with superior power. They are what is left to the people after the government has taken all its wants. Your country's Bill of Rights defines your most cherished freedoms how? By limiting the legal power of government to encroach upon them." [Eric L. Harry, via fictional anarchist theorist Valentin Kartsev in Harry's blockbuster Protect and Defend.]
Governments cannot define rights in any morally defensible sense; they can only wield force and intimidation. Eric Harry saw that clearly. So do the victimists.
Note again the emphasized snippet from Scott Aaronson’s plaint:
[E]veryone’s free choice demands respect.
What if I ignore your demand for my “respect?” What if I laugh in your face? What then? Will you go to the Omnipotent State to demand that it enforce your will upon me? Because unless you’re willing to take the risks inherent in trying to coerce me personally, that will be your only recourse...and trust me on this: those risks are quite a bit greater than you might think.
Power-mongers and power-seekers know this, from which arises the concluding theme of this tirade.
Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb.
They all fall there so perfectly,
It all seems so well timed.
And here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice.
[Bob Dylan, “Memphis Blues Again,” from Blonde On Blonde]
The political class and its hangers-on fear exactly the same things as the victimists: being ignored. Were they to become aware that no one is paying any attention to their enactments and decrees, they would soon slink away. Some might even enter productive trades, perhaps as cheap prostitutes.
They haven’t done any such thing because we continue to pay attention to them, and for no other reason. They do have their tools: the media, the many interest groups they support and encourage, political favors to the amoral and weak-minded, and of course a considerable amount of potential force. But none of these things are irresistible. Indeed, they pale in comparison to the force available to the citizenry.
He who yearns for a return to freedom cannot repose his hopes in the State, in politics, or in any imaginable “movement.” He must simply say to himself, “I am free; I shall do as I please,” and sincerely resolve to endure the consequences. There is no other avenue; all other roads are “roads to Mishnory.” While we remain on it, we’re inexorably fated, not to “go through all these things twice,” but to go through them over and over ad infinitam.
This is not a brief for political anarchism, as intellectually attractive as that is. It’s an exhortation to applied practical anarchism, perhaps alternately phrased as individualist anarchism: your personal refusal to grant the State unmerited attention or respect. That includes ignoring statist dictates that have no moral basis. (You might already be doing exactly that on subjects near and dear to your heart.) If you’re uncertain how to determine which such dictates are morally unfounded, you need only look to the Gospel According To Matthew:
Now a man came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false witness, honor your father and mother and love your neighbor as yourself.” [The Gospel According To Matthew, 19:16-19]
And really, when one has the Son of God for his Counselor, why would he need any other?
“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.” – Professor Bernardo de la Paz, in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
I expect to return to this theme several times over the course of the Year of Our Lord 2015. Politics hasn’t just failed us; it’s misled us into apotheosizing it and its favored ones. There are no longer any plausible courses toward freedom but delegitimizing politics through a Herzogian “mass yawn.” But as with a good golf swing, the follow-through is critical.
Robert Ringer’s declamation quoted above should be at the forefront of the mind of any man determined to be free. However, the proper focus can make all the difference. It would be insufficient to delegitimize politics as practiced in America’s capitals. We must first resolve to ignore those claiming absurd, wholly unjustified “rights” and striving to bend us with the quasi-political tools of unearned guilt, intimidation, screaming, and harassment. That’s where the effort must start.
They have a right to exactly nothing.
Grant them that and nothing more.
We do not need their approval.
We do not need them to welcome us.
We certainly don’t need their respect.
It’s time to be free.