Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Winter Of All Discontent

     Yes, “The Winter of Our Discontent” is the title of a famous John Steinbeck novel. But it’s also from the opening of one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, the one whose villain-protagonist was Richard III of England, who rose to power shortly after the conclusion of the Wars of the Roses.

     Before I get into the meat of this morning’s tirade, let’s put calipers on that strange term villain-protagonist. How does a candidate qualify for inclusion in that set? Here are my criteria:

  • He must be in the public eye, whether by his own doing or another’s.
  • He must be consumed with desire for something to which he has no right.
  • His motives must be entirely self-centered.
  • He must succeed in driving events, whether successfully or not.

     In Shakespeare’s tale, Richard of Gloucester engineers a complex plot rife with betrayals and murders to become King Richard III of England. He is Shakespeare’s archetype of a pure sociopath, to whom all other individuals are either tools or obstacles and nothing more. His personal calculus omits consideration of “right” and “wrong.” All that matters to him is his objective. Richard III’s objective was unchallenged and absolute power.

     There are a lot of villain-protagonists running around loose these days. I’m not about to list them all for you; that’s what the newspapers are for, even if they habitually get it wrong. But then, the Legacy Media should properly be numbered among them, which serves to explain why their lists tend not to satisfy.

     Never before has so thick a torrent of accusations been mounted against individuals in the public eye who were previously generally admired. The great majority of those accusations, as my Gentle Readers will already know, are about conduct related to sex. Moreover, the media have been treating the accusations as truthful in nearly every case, even when there’s a total absence of evidence and sound reasons to believe that the accusation is insincere if not totally untruthful.

     Such accusations aren’t a brand new phenomenon, of course. Indeed, the foundation for them has been under construction for decades, perhaps since Tawana Brawley. Their veracity is of essentially no importance. What matters about them is their ability to command public attention, to cast doubt on the characters of the accused, and to add fuel to the fires of militant feminism, which suffered a heavy defeat on November 8, 2016.

     Sex is one of the principal battlegrounds of the day. It didn’t become a battleground because people have come to hate sex. It did so because the Left hopes to make political gains by militarizing it.

     Everyone’s familiar with the “Black Lives Matter” nonsense, and the flurry of claims that “white cops shoot blacks on sight and get away with it.” That’s not true. It never has been true. Today, for a white policeman to shoot and kill a black man, whether justifiably or not, is an almost guaranteed career-ender. Ask Darren Wilson.

     The BLM types know it isn’t true. But the accusation is tactically golden for them. Every time a black suspect dies at police hands, the tumult is amplified, and their “cause” gains power. It gains from sympathetic media treatment. It also gains from an amplified reluctance on the part of police and the authorities to which they answer to act against black criminals. And it’s been going on for longer than most people are aware.

     Crystal Gail Mangum wasn’t shot by anyone, but she grasped the media trends and hoped to capitalize on them. So did the disgraced Michael Nifong. And the Left, especially in its academic strongholds, was overjoyed by it all, while it lasted.

     Just now we’re seeing a host of revelations about anti-Trump machinations within the Justice Department, both during the campaign and afterward. Some are utterly shocking. Others are of lesser though still disturbing magnitude. All point toward an unpleasant conclusion: that the DoJ has been thoroughly politicized. Its barons appear unconcerned with justice as ordinary people understand it. Rather, they seek to assure the ascendancy of particular politicians and policies: left-liberals in every case.

     Well, why not? If “the personal is political,” as the Left has maintained for decades, why should “justice,” that bourgeois phantasm that protects only the interests of the white capitalist patriarchy, be allowed to stand in the way of the Left’s agenda? Does it make sense to demand that accused individuals be treated fairly, given a presumption of innocence an the right to confront their accusers, rather than just asking Martin Y. Latsis’s questions?

     Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror.

     It’s clear which course the Left, the Party of Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent Government, has chosen.

     I hope you’ll pardon me for what follows. It strikes me as a resuscitation that’s long overdue: a piercingly profound summation from a writer and thinker whose profundity sometimes led him into the darkness, yet who always managed to return to the light. I must quote at some length from his best known novel.

     A plague is ravaging the Algerian city of Oran. The gates of the city are shut; no one is permitted to leave. Jean Tarrou, who has been composing a journal of the plague and will soon be cut down by it, tells physician Dr. Bernard Rieux, alongside whom he has worked to care for the infected, of his life before coming to Oran. He speaks at length of his father, with whom he had good relations throughout his childhood. But he came to view “that worthy man,” a prosecuting attorney, as “a red-robed murderer:”

     “In his red gown he was another man, no longer genial or good-natured; his mouth spewed out long, turgid phrases like an endless stream of snakes. I realized he was clamoring for the prisoner’s death, telling the jury that they owed it to society to find him guilty; he went so far as to demand that the man should have his head cut off. Not exactly in those words, I admit. ‘He must pay the supreme penalty,’ was the formula. But the difference, really, was slight, and the result the same. He had the head he asked for. Only of course it wasn’t he who did the actual job. I, who saw the whole business through to its conclusion, felt a far closer, far more terrifying intimacy with that wretched man than my father can ever have felt. Nevertheless, it fell to him, in the course of his duties, to be present at what’s politely termed the prisoner's last moments, but what would be better called murder in its most despicable form.”

     Tarrou resolves not to be a murderer, but his inclinations lead him astray by involving him in bloody revolutionary struggles throughout Europe:

     To my mind the social order around me was based on the death sentence, and by righting the established order I'd be fighting against murder. That was my view, others had told me so, and I still think that this belief of mine was substantially true. I joined forces with a group of people I then liked, and indeed have never ceased to like. I spent many years in close co-operation with them, and there's not a country in Europe in whose struggles I haven't played a part. But that's another story.
     "Needless to say, I knew that we, too, on occasion, passed sentences of death. But I was told that these few deaths were inevitable for the building up of a new world in which murder would cease to be. That also was true up to a point, and maybe I'm not capable of standing fast where that order of truths is concerned.”

     The horror of the thing grows steadily within him:

     “I came to understand that I, anyhow, had had plague through all those long years in which, paradoxically enough, I'd believed with all my soul that I was fighting it. I learned that I had had an indirect hand in the deaths of thousands of people; that I'd even brought about their deaths by approving of acts and principles which could only end that way. Others did not seem embarrassed by such thoughts, or anyhow never voiced them of their own accord.
     “But I was different; what I'd come to know stuck in my gorge. I was with them and yet I was alone. When I spoke of these matters they told me not to be so squeamish; I should remember what great issues were at stake. And they advanced arguments, often quite impressive ones, to make me swallow what none the less I couldn't bring myself to stomach. I replied that the most eminent of the plague-stricken, the men who wear red robes, also have excellent arguments to justify what they do, and once I admitted the arguments of necessity and force majeure put forward by the less eminent, I couldn't reject those of the eminent. To which they retorted that the surest way of playing the game of the red robes was to leave to them the monopoly of the death penalty. My reply to this was that if you gave in once, there was no reason for not continuing to give in. It seems to me that history has borne me out; today there's a sort of competition who will kill the most. They're all mad over murder and they couldn't stop killing men even if they wanted to.”

     Tarrou’s ultimate conclusion, perhaps the plainest statement of the nature of innocence that can be made, is thus:

     “All I maintain is that on this earth there are plagues and there are victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the plagues. That may sound simple to the point of childishness; I can’t judge if it's simple, but I know it’s true. You see, I’d heard such quantities of arguments, which very nearly turned my head, and turned other people's heads enough to make them approve of murder; and I'd come to realize that all our troubles spring from our failure to use plain, clean-cut language.”

     [Albert Camus, The Plague]

     Ponder that for a moment or two.

     “Do not join forces with the plagues,” Camus says. And that to that end, one must insist on “plain, clean-cut language.” That’s not the only time that sentiment has been voiced, of course; George Orwell expressed it at about the same time. No doubt others have said similar things both before and after that. But to Camus it was a swordstroke that cut through all the representations and pretensions of all the “revolutionaries” of his time.

     To escape “joining forces with the plagues,” one must see clearly. One must insist that others speak clearly; those who refuse must be dismissed with prejudice, along with all their nostrums. And above all, one must not accept anyone’s rationalizations for deeds the doer would condemn from others.

     With that as the backdrop, contrast Richard III, the sociopath to whom all persons are either tools or obstacles, with the accusers who parade among us seeking the ruination of persons high and low, charging them with every imaginable crime, from tawdry comments to murder, entirely without evidence. Which is more openly and honestly a villain? Which would you find it easier to condemn and oppose?

     The fusillades of our time don’t conclude with the lopping off of heads. At least, not often. But they do involve the ruination of public figures, often by accusation alone.

     No standard is maintained in these exchanges of fire. Accusations about conduct alleged to have taken place forty years ago, without witnesses, are treated as if the deeds had been done that very day. Often no item of evidence is offered; some of what “evidence” there is has proved to be falsified. And more often than not, what’s deemed to matter most is the accused’s political alignment.

     Yes, I hold the Left and their media handmaidens principally responsible for the mess, but the Establishment Right has been complicit, whether by cowardice or by its efforts to maintain the popularly rejected status quo. That it should have collaborated, even to the mildest degree, in the Left’s attempt to overturn the clear verdict of the November 2016 presidential election makes it equally guilty of the Left’s crimes. It must not be forgiven – and we will not be forgiven should we let it pass.

     Is it any wonder that Americans have generally retreated from politics? That they disdain to trust in any politician’s claims? That they’ve looked to total outsiders with increasing frequency for an alteration to the status quo? Common citizens have as much as said “A plague on all your houses,” for plagues of abuse – of our intelligence, of our senses, of our memories, and of our credulity – are what we’ve endured from all sides.

     The political establishment has brought judgment upon itself. The media are complicit in their skullduggeries at every stage. To say that we’re “discontented” with the lot of them barely touches the surface of the thing. Many of us want to see them swing.

     Richard III died in the Battle of Bosworth. In Shakespeare’s account, he was slain in single combat against the leader of the insurrection against him: Henry Tudor, Duke of Richmond, who was to become King Henry VII. Historical sources say that there was no such single combat. However, they do attest to his end as a king in battle, leading his own forces: a nobler end than one might have expected for a villain-protagonist. The villain-protagonists of our era must be allowed no such fates.


furball said...

I can't add anything as well-said or as spot on as your post, sir. But I wanted to say, "well done!"

Tim Turner

Oldfart said...

American Thinker had an article this morning that touched o this and similar subjects:
Both essays are well worth reading.

ligneus said...

A word of caution on Richard Third, his history was written by his enemy. Still happening today.

Col. B. Bunny said...

Tarrou's realization "that I'd even brought about their deaths by approving of acts and principles which could only end that way" is generally a rare one in the ranks of the left. The (educated) man who swings the bicycle lock on a chain to strike a complete stranger on the street is full of his exalted "understanding" of the correlation of forces and who is or is not worthy, but has little thought to how this will inevitably play out in the future.

Police nonfeasance, of course, encourages his short-term thinking but he has no concept of life under an organized, technologically capable government where elections are a sham and official discretion is free of the strictures of law. Many an ardent commie goon went under at the hands of his supposed "esteemed colleagues," and right to the sound of the cocking of the hammer in the basement it never occurred to them that this could happen to them. Only class enemies were supposed to endure such "justice." "Revolutionary justice" (a/k/a "untrammeled discretion" a/k/a "murder") appeals to these people but they have zero understanding of what is at the end of the fuse they are so eager to light.