Saturday, May 25, 2019

A Stretch Of Quiet

     No doubt the regular Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch have noticed that things have been a trifle static here for the past few days. One of my reasons for encouraging various other commentators to join me here as Co-Conspirators was to avoid such a stretch of stagnancy. By and large the tactic has worked well; when one of us was otherwise occupied, the others would still be contributing. But as any sports fanatic can tell you, there will be days when all the games are interrupted by commercials simultaneously, and there is nothing to be done about it.

     Just now Linda Fox is in Cleveland. Colonel Bunny is busy with private matters. Mike Hendrix appears to be focused elsewhere. We haven’t heard from Scott Angell or Patrice Stanton in a dog’s age. And I, who’ve been Mr. Essay-A-Day for something like twenty years, have been fixated upon completing Novel #14, to be titled The Wise and the Mad.

     The final stages of a novel-project always drain me dry. The sense of having shot every round in my arsenal, with the concomitant need to sit back a while, “rearm and reload,” is difficult to countervail. While I can’t speak for others, it’s part of the price this novelist pays for his antisocial habit. Lawrence Block once compared it to finishing a marathon. Few persons who reach the finish line immediately start lifting weights or doing calisthenics.

     To be somewhat more concise, writing is hard work, at least for those of us who take it seriously. The fatigue it can induce is as serious as the social, cultural or political events and trends upon which it’s focused – and such things are the only inducements to composition that can animate me.

     So, with the very recent completion of the aforementioned novel, I decided to “kick back” for a few days: to pen the occasional funny piece or brief personal reflection, but to let the “little gray cells” (Agatha Christie) have some time to relax and recuperate.

     Times of repose are not necessarily times of idleness. Some of the very best relaxation comes not from sitting still but from switching tracks. In my case, that can mean anything from hopping into Joy, my red 2009 Corvette convertible, lowering the top, and zooming around New York in a totally frivolous, expensive, and unproductive manner, to rereading the collected works of Herbert Spencer, to meditating at length upon matters of faith and the spirit.

     I’ve spent much of the past few days doing something no one who knows me at all well would expect from me: redecorating my home. When I first moved in here thirty-nine years ago, the Fortress of Crankitude was a pretty Spartan place. I had very little furniture, few “creature comforts,” and little inclination to think about esthetic factors. I was spending about sixty hours a week at my day job, and the Fortress itself needed too much work for me to spend time on irrelevancies. I was kept hopping just from the work involved in earning a living and keeping the roof over my head...well…over my head.

     Time brings changes. Today I no longer work for wages. I spend most of my time at home. That has elicited a desire to make that home as pleasant and convenient as possible, short of hiring a fleet of servants. But I’ve delegated the heavy stuff to a handful of professional contractors. That leaves me time to gussy up the place in smaller ways.

     Of course, some of the seemingly smaller ways can come with large price tags. $6000 to build Beth the office of her dreams. $3100 for a lighting system. $2000 for having the living room floor refinished and stained a beautiful dark walnut. $5200 for a new leather sectional. And here’s the latest absurdity:

     Hey, we have an empty corner in our newly refinished and refurnished living room! I have to fill it with something! (Beth originally suggested a “bar globe” that you can keep whiskey bottles in, but we eventually decided that would be tacky.)

     The Fortress is approaching a state in which no further improvement is conceivable. I suppose when that point is reached, I’ll have to sell it and move.

     Anyway: Yes, I’m okay. Yes, there will be a return to normal levels of dynamism here at Liberty’s Torch. No, that won’t occur right away. I need a day or two more to recharge, to fiddle with the placement of furniture and tchotchkes, and to think about Life, the Universe, and what major fiction challenge to tackle next. But you shouldn’t worry. Unlike this celebrated bird:

     …I really am just resting. I’m sure Linda, the Colonel, et alii will also be back in due course.

     Be well. Be free and happy. And keep the faith. Remember: it might be even money that the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlamp of an oncoming train, but that means it’s even money that it’s not, too. So look on the bright side. Until you get run over, at least.

America, the dumpster fire.

In 1913, citizens of the Western world had every reason to hope that the future would hold nothing but gradual but constant improvement in the quality of life. They had not the faintest idea how degraded and poisonous life would become in the "advanced" West.
Not long ago, few Americans of the thinking persuasion might have imagined that such a well-engineered republic, with its exquisite checks and balances, sturdy institutions, and time-tested traditions would end up as so much smoldering goop in a national dumpster fire, but such is the sad state-of-the-union moving into the fateful summer of 2019.[1]
We are a feckless nation that is utterly ignorant of the jewel that we inherited from our ancestors. We have found 10,000 ways to foul our own nest and cannot manage to handle the most basic of societal and governmental functions. Complete scum undermine out most basic institutions. Government response? None.

[1] "The Golem Strikes Back." By James Howard Kunstler, 5/24/19.

Everybody's bitch.

Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan confirmed to Congress this week that his agency is merely acting as a checkpoint for adults crossing the United States-Mexico border with children, as “100 percent” are being released into the interior of the country.
"DHS: ‘100 %’ Border Crossers with Children Being Released into U.S., Given Work Permits." By John Binder, Breitbart, 5/24/19.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

“Kings Play Chess On Funny Green Squares”

     Carl von Linne, better known to us of the present day as Linnaeus, was born on May 23, 1707 in Rashult, Sweden. It would be only a few years longer before he started rearranging everything in his parents’ closets.

     The young Linnaeus drove his mother half crazy with his unending and unanswerable questions. “Why do you keep the dinner plates and the saucers in the same cabinet when they’re so obviously of different ranks?” “How can the dish towels belong in the linen closet with the bath sheets?” He was even more disturbed by having to keep all his playthings in a single chest, despite there being no discernible relation between the building blocks and the toy swords.

     Child therapists were mystified, but continued to take the Linnaeus family’s money for several years. They decided to desist when the young man entered grammar school. His teachers, they reasoned, would be better equipped to free him of his obsession. But it was not to be. The boy persisted in sorting his classmates by gender, height, and their relative interest in the sciences. He was often found pawing through the contents of their desks and clucking over the intimacy of pens and pencils in the same pocket.

     Relief would come only when young Carl was introduced to the horrid mess of pre-scientific biological classification. There he found a fertile field for his “gift,” and he exercised it to its fullest. In consequence millions of students of later generations have had to memorize the title of this piece, never grasping why it should matter to anyone…or what sort of absurd not-quite-chess, not-quite-checkers game is played on a board with green squares.

     Linnaeus’s later life was marked by a seemingly endless flood of arguments about whose wife belonged with whom and where to stand in line. Despite the many controversies attendant upon his erratic behavior, he was eventually recognized as a titan of sorts, to be classified (despite his estate’s posthumous but strenuous objections) as on the same plane as the nameless genius who wrote the Alphabet Song.

     Linneaus has been proposed as the Patron Saint of Obsessive-Compulsives. However, rather than pursue the canonization process, several popes have elected to “kick the can down the road” to a more orderly time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Quickies: Efficiency Has Its Limits And You’d Bloody Well Better Respect Them

     If you read nothing else today, savor this incredibly funny tale of home maintenance gone badly wrong by the great Gerard Vanderleun. But do make sure you’re securely seated, seat belt buckled and tray table closed before you do.

     Gerard’s tale nearly killed me, as I own three vacuums: two Eureka baglesses that are impossible to empty without turning the environs into a Superfund site and an Oreck upright that's the bane of my existence. Gerard has taught me something that, perhaps, I should not have learned.

     I also own a Bissell carpet steamer, a Bissell steamer for tile floors, and a Bona sanitization unit for hardwood – no, we do not eat off the floors here at the Fortress, but it never hurts to be prepared – and I sometimes wonder where I acquired this urge to own every floor-cleaning device in existence. I'm certain that it wasn't from my mother, who regarded housecleaning as beneath her. Neither could it have been from my father, who couldn't even turn on a vacuum without injuring himself. Sigh, Maybe there are some things Man was not meant to know.

     (With that, it’s back to my labors on The Wise and the Mad, which I hope to complete this month. There are no, repeat no vacuuming, steaming, or other floor-cleaning scenes in this novel. There are, however, a lot of food-related scenes, so remember to take properly modest bites and keep your chin over your plate. See you later. 23 Skidoo. Cheers. And stuff.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Form Of Our Destructor

     Many look; far fewer actually see.

     I’m going to do a terrible thing here: I’m going to quote from an explicitly Marxist website:

     [T]he oppression of women, their marginalisation within society, and the repression of their sexual behaviour emerged, reducing them to mere instruments of reproduction (caring for the household and children), and became structural and embedded historically, together with the evolution of various family and social structures. Attitudes towards sexual behaviour that falls outside of reproduction within the monogamous family, on the other hand, depends on how much they are considered as a threat to the family as an institution. Homosexual love between women has been subject to varying degrees of repression at different periods in history (we have only mentioned a few above). We can argue, however, that as long as the monogamous family is considered the fundamental cornerstone of society and the only model for legitimate emotional and sexual behaviour, it will be impossible to overcome social discrimination based on sexual orientations.

     The struggle against sexual discrimination is linked to the struggle against class society in general for several reasons. The first, as we have explained, is that only the abolition of class society can create the material economic basis and cultural drive sufficient to dismantle the model of the monogamous family as the only basic unit of society.

     Note the title of that scrofulous essay: “LGBT: Liberation and Revolution.” Then proceed to this even more strident one:

     Arguably the most infamous demand of The Communist Manifesto is the “abolition of the family.” The family, Marx and Engels noted, was where patriarchy and capitalism worked in tandem to produce willing, alienated workers, where women became little more than “instruments of production” for the men who lorded over them. Radical queer politics in the 1960s and ’70s added to their critique of the bourgeois family when activists challenged the heteronormativity of familial relations….

     It’s a central idea to feminism anyway, that mothers aren’t natural entities; they’re making choices to look after this other person. It’s not some sort of mechanical, automatic process; it’s a practice of grounding sociality. Mothers nurture, but they also kill and abuse their wards. That’s why it’s so valuable to denaturalize the mother-child bond. To do anything otherwise is to devalue that work. That’s the horizon that I think opens up the space for a revolutionary politics.

     Again, note the title: “Want to Dismantle Capitalism? Abolish the Family.”

     Any problems tracing the common thread here, Gentle Reader?

     The “thinking” exemplified above has been going on for a very long time. Every Communist regime has labored like Hercules to undermine and destroy family bonds. Communists have targeted virtually every institution that families participate in together, seeking to outlaw it if they couldn’t “denaturalize” it. They’ve had their successes, despite the power of family attachments and parental love. Many of those successes have arisen from economic pressures. We’ve seen a fair amount of that in these United States, as the two-income family gradually supersedes the older one-income model as the norm.

     Yes, unrestricted abortion is part of it, but that’s the fish-in-a-barrel class. More subtle, and therefore far more threatening, is the combination of predatory taxation, persistent inflation, the “war between the sexes,” careerism among women, the consequent diminution of family sizes, and the proliferation of “day care” institutions, some of which reach all the way to early infancy.

     No doubt there are several reasons the Powers That Be have encouraged those developments. In his excellent and ominous first novel The Hidden Truth, Hans G. Schantz outlined a “game plan” that combines them into a sinister paradigm. The pattern is so similar to the economic, social, and political developments in post-World-War-II Western societies that only the willfully blind could miss it. The more recent promotion, almost entirely by the Left, of non-reproductive, family-averse behaviors such as homosexuality and transgenderism fits into the pattern very well. While there are conservatively inclined, family oriented gays and transgenders, they’re a small (but brave) minority. Moreover, they get no breaks from Nature; they must struggle with the clash between their yearnings for family and their other desires.

     Patterns matter. Even those that ultimately prove to have formed out of sheer coincidence should be studied as closely as human intellect permits. Considering that, as Arne Stromberg has said, the family is the essential building block of every stable society, this is a pattern that deserves the closest scrutiny:

     “Families are the fundamental building blocks of a stable society. Extended families -- clans -- are the best conceivable environment for the rearing of children, the perpetuation of a commercial forte, and the germination of new families and their ventures. A clan like yours, Miss Albermayer, conserves a brilliant genetic line and a priceless medical specialty at the same time. A clan like yours, Mr. Morelon, makes possible a benign agricultural empire and produces natural leaders one after another while connecting Hope to its most distant origins. And all healthy families, which cherish life and bind their members to one another in unembarrassed love, can find far more to occupy and amuse them than they need.

     “When Earth's regard for families and their most fundamental function deteriorated, her people ceased to enjoy the sorts of ties that had held them together throughout the history of Man. Without families, and especially without children, they groped for other things to fill their time, whether to give them a sense of purpose, or to distract them from the waning of their lives. Some invested themselves in industry or commerce, but without the sense of the family line to be built up and made prominent, those things failed to satisfy. Others immersed themselves in games, toys, fripperies, and increasingly bizarre forms of entertainment, which palled on them even faster. Still others made a fetish out of sex; there was a substantial sex industry on Earth, though it tended to operate in the shadows and was seldom openly discussed. They needed emotion and substance, but all they could contrive was sensation and novelty, and they pumped an ever greater share of their effort and wealth into seeking them. That's my thesis, for what it's worth.”

     Ponder well, Gentle Reader.

     One more thought before I close for today: the articles I cited in the first segment are both explicit about their animosity toward free market economics, a.k.a. capitalism. Their hostility toward the family is instrumental: it is intended to be principally a stroke against capitalism. This reveals them to be users of the homosexual and transgender communities. They are not allies from conviction but exploiters of those communities, in the belief that their enlargement would assist in the destruction of capitalism. Is their belief correct?

     I think it is. Family bonds and obligations provide good men the most powerful of all incentives to be producers and earners. Were those incentives to be subtracted, a great deal of the fuel would be removed from the economic engines of capitalist societies. Note that this is observably the case in those nations where birth rates have fallen below replacement levels: e.g., Japan, Russia, and the entire continent of Europe.

     Yet I have also said (and I continue to believe) that it is virtually impossible to get people to reproduce for the sake of a future they don’t expect to see. People in First World societies who have children do so for the sake of having children; no other desire participates. The demotion of children from an economic asset to a luxury good forces them to compete with other luxury goods – and children have been losing that competition for decades now.

     Food for thought.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Oh, I Do Declare! The Old South is...

...still there! The NY Times is aghast to discover that the Deep South is still traditional in its culture.

Full disclosure: I'm an Ohio transplant to SC. I've lived there for 14 years, and I have made many friends. Still, in many ways, I'm a foreigner. I still am a passionate Cleveland Indians fan (Go Tribe!!!!), my husband still roots for the Cleveland Browns, and I never seem to get my vegetable/flower garden in early enough. For me, Easter is the earliest planting season - most years, we have at least one sub-freezing day, if not more, in early April.

But, I've grown to think of the South as an adopted home. My kids tease me about the slight drawl I've acquired. I'm more tolerant of guns than I was when I lived in a Northern urban region.

I was always a Christian believer (Catholic version), even as a high school graduate. Later, in college, and after, my husband and I were regular attendees at church. So, the pro-religious tendencies of Southerners didn't upset me.

In schools across the South, the Pledge of Allegiance is recited each day, followed by a moment of silence - both are observed respectfully. True, in the New South urban areas, this tradition is not always strictly observed - but that's also true of many other traditions.

I had an easier adjustment to the cultural differences between North and South than my husband. My dad was raised in WV, and, on visits with relatives, I became accustomed to hearing a different point of view. The boy living next door to me in Lakewood, OH, was a rabid Civil War buff - he had a full Yankee uniform (not the NYC kind). By default, in any board games or re-enactment, I was Gray Confederate. I was 10 when the Civil War Centennial  commenced, so my exposure to the controversies - and to the reality of the Civil Rights fight - was a major part of my childhood.

I live in a well-integrated city - more so than most Northern cities or towns, and considerably more than the new developments that most New Southerners live in. These high-income homes are economically segregated, and few People of Color live there. For that reason, few of the New Southerners have Black neighbors. But, despite this, they are the experts on How Black People Think.

North or South, most people socialize with family, school friends, and neighbors. School friends, for non-college graduates, might include some people of other ethnicities - but, for those in fraternities/sororities, there is usually a sharp division between those for Blacks, and those for Whites. Black social clubs seldom include White members. These clubs are where the New Southern Elite are found.

What differentiates the South is the preference for Tradition, and a strong Culture that supports it. The South has its ways, from open and public display of religious feeling, to teaching your children to call adults Ma'am and Sir, and to showing respect for those in the military. Across social and economic classes, I have always been treated with courtesy - you might say it's in their DNA.

The dominant religion is Christian, mostly of the Protestant kind. For several years, in the Low Country, I attended a mission church (about 50 families) - Catholics were that rare in the county seat I lived in. Although fewer of the young are church members (almost 1/3 of those brought up in the New Southern cities are nearly completely ignorant of ANY religion).

The standard Christian theology of the South is Old School, and solidly against abortion. Which puts them in sharp conflict with Those New Southerners Who Scoff at Our Backward Ways. Like our contentious regional ancestors, we may be destined to lose in a Glorious Cause, but that won't stop us from throwing ourselves into the fight with all we've got.

The Left has sharply over-reached with their insistence on legalizing abortion until birth (or, even a smidge later). They are making it impossible to stay on the fence about this issue. And, unlike the earlier fight to loosen abortion restrictions, this time the culture is tipping against the Pro-Aborts. Those who've come to regret an abortion choice have access to healing ministries - most notably, Project Rachel, which helps women wrestling with pain after their abortion to find healing. Contrary to the image of the Catholic Church as judgmental and hostile to those who've had an abortion, this ministry is strongly supported.

Younger women are LESS likely to support abortion than their mothers. According to a CBS poll, 72% of women from 18 to 35 are supportive of at least some abortion restrictions.

Don't count us out in GA or AL. We may lose, but the other side will know they've been in a hellava fight. And, the fact is, even if we lose, we may win - in the hearts and minds of people.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Feeling And Not Doing: A Sunday Rumination

     Imagine along with me, if you please, a history other than the one recorded for us. Jesus is born in Nazareth, labors alongside Joseph as a carpenter during his early years, then at age thirty becomes a preacher whose message is exactly the same as in the Gospels…but he never cures the sick, never restores the sight of the blind or the mobility of the lame, and never cleanses a leper. Moreover, he does not travel: he preaches from a fixed base, not far from where he lived his first thirty years. Nor does he journey to Jerusalem, attract the ire of the Sanhedrin, and suffer execution. He lives a comfortable life, and dies old and well respected for his preaching.

     Would that Jesus of Nazareth have transformed the world as did the historical Jesus?

     I can’t see it. The Christ of the Gospels lived His message. Whoever appealed to Him received whatever gift He could bestow. Even had He not suffered His Passion and demonstrated His divinity at the Resurrection, He would still be a standout among the figures of His day. Add the Resurrection and you have the Son of God made Man. (No need to shake well.)

     So when He said to His disciples:

     Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. [John 13:33-35]

     …He had something more than just an emotion in mind.

     A wholesome philosophy of any sort must exhibit (at the very least) the willingness to tolerate those of other creeds, as far as possible without accepting subjugation or suicide. A better creed would mandate not merely tolerance but benevolence: to wish others well regardless of their divergent views. Christianity goes still further. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus commands us to beneficence: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

     That’s love as He loved those who came to Him. It’s the foundation for the Christian encouragement of its communicants to the works of mercy:

  1. Corporal works of mercy (i.e., ministering to the body):
    • Feed the hungry.
    • Give drink to the thirsty.
    • Shelter the homeless.
    • Clothe the naked.
    • Visit the sick and imprisoned.
    • Bury the dead.
    • Give alms to the poor.
  2. Spiritual works of mercy (i.e., ministering to the soul):
    • Admonish the sinner.
    • Instruct the ignorant.
    • Counsel the doubtful.
    • Bear wrongs patiently.
    • Forgive offenses willingly.
    • Comfort the afflicted.
    • Pray for the living and the dead.

     Is there anyone who would not want to be the beneficiary of such beneficence should the need arise?

     Christ commanded us to do all the above, most explicitly, in several Gospel passages. Merely to feel a pleasant benevolence toward others is not enough. When a sincere Christian encounters someone who is in genuine need, he is required to do what he can for that person.

     Christian love of neighbor isn’t just something you feel.

     It’s possible to overstress this concept. We are not commanded to range far afield in search of persons upon whom to perform acts of charity. (We’re also not commanded to impose ourselves on persons who are handling their own difficulties and ask only to be left alone. Indeed, that’s forbidden.) But most of us will find, in our paths at various points in our lives, persons in genuine need of assistance whom we are equipped to help. A Christian is expected to do what he can in such circumstances.

     Note in the previous sentence the qualifying phrase what he can. The beneficent Christian is not expected to endanger himself or his family. He is not expected to endure abuse. And he is not expected to give what he does not possess. God is just.

     God asks only that should the opportunity arise, we validate our professions of love with the appropriate action.

     This is not to denigrate the extraordinary lives of service to others exemplified by such persons as Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. These lives transformed into acts of charity were surely laudable. Yet a just God would not demand them of all of us. He designed our lives as He did because we are allowed to live as we please, subject only to our acceptance of the Two Great Commandments and the Ten that follow from them.

     Still, they who came to Him while He wore the flesh always found that His love was sufficient unto their needs, whatever those were. He did not merely commiserate with His supplicants; He acted. In this His year of 2019, as the Easter season progresses toward Ascension Thursday and the mighty feast of Pentecost, it’s something to bear in mind.

     May God bless and keep you all.

Shocker! Criminals Are Likely to Lie!

I know, I know. It's perplexing. It's counter-intuitive.

But - there you are - "migrants" (PC-speak for illegal aliens) are likely to lie to bolster their claims.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Why "Broken Windows" Works

I lived in cities before, during, and after the Guiliani years. Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Rock Hill, SC - none of them as big as NYC, but, having many of the same problems and pathologies as the biggest cities did. Much of what was discovered by testing out solutions during those years also applied to what has happened in schools during those same years.

This link takes you to Instapundit, which excerpts a longer piece on the topic. For many people without personal experience in dealing with these counter-attacks on disorder, the solutions - cleaning subway cars, stopping panhandling, and arresting turnstile-jumpers - seem petty and ridiculous. But when you analyze them individually, the logic of using these particular targets makes a lot of sense.

To begin with, subway graffiti, along with other forms of appropriation of public spaces, is NOT art. It may demonstrate skill in using spray paint to create intricate designs, even approaching a level of skill higher than many artists, but it ain't art.

It's vandalism of property. And, free advertising for gangs.

If you wouldn't argue for billboards that advertise the local gangs, why would you support their use of public property to do the same?

But, it's more than that - it eliminates a reason for young men to wander around public transportation lines late at night. That reduces the number of people hanging out after dark, who have connections to gangs. It makes late night travel safer for working people and patrons of local dining and entertainment establishments.

The second solution - keeping panhandlers from accosting people - also has hidden purposes. It keeps the "guys on the street" from heading out to block people's way, and aggressively demand money in return for not bothering them further.

Why the hell should anyone have to turn over their hard-earned cash just to travel the streets?

The panhandlers and their cousins, the 'cleaning rag' guys - who would try to hit up drivers paused in traffic, using the excuse of providing an unasked-for service - not only contributed to congestion, but created a hazard by blocking car movement.

The last one, for many people, seems ridiculously petty - really, arresting a kid for jumping the turnstile?

Think about it - those kids, if they had to pay for their wandering around the city, wouldn't. They'd stay home if they didn't have a specific purpose. That habit of just hanging out puts people without money or purpose loose in the city, and leads to the infamous Idle Hands scenario. Unemployed young men commit most of the crime. They have little to lose. They may gain status among their peers for daring activity. And this all adds to the number of aimless people on the street who are bored and looking for excitement, which criminal activity provides.

So, yes - seemingly small changes can improve, or destroy, a civilization.

Friday, May 17, 2019

"Wokeness" And The Great Labeling

     Imagine this, if you will: A human society is getting along tolerably well. It’s not a utopia, mind you. There are still persons who struggle to make ends meet. There are still persons who are excluded from various things for bad reasons. There are still persons who suffer wounds to their dignity from the speech or conduct of others. But it’s getting along, owing to the universal recognition of individuals’ rights, and the willingness of the many to help the less fortunate few when the need arises.

     But soft! What’s this? There is a human characteristic, found in everyone who’s ever lived, that’s suddenly become a target for a gaggle of would-be tyrants. (C. S. Lewis called them “Conditioners.”) These persons have decided to label this characteristic, to denounce it roundly and continuously, and to mount a public campaign against it that involves shaming everyone who demonstrates it – or whom they can claim, however implausibly, to have demonstrated it!

     Excuse me! Did I imply that this labeling / public crusade involves only one universal human characteristic? My mistake; it embraces a great many of them, all of which are ineradicable.

     The campaigners against these things don’t merely afflict small pockets of society. They often seem to own the streets. They are making it impossible to have any sort of public discourse. They attack innocent persons on the basis of…well, you name it, but especially for their choices of words.

     These are “The Woke.” They are the scourge of America. Moreover, they’re fully aware of their own odiousness. They flaunt it like a badge of merit.

     Just as a plague of thieves would make property impossible, The Woke are making social intercourse impossible. And they’re proud of it.

     Yet their principal weapons, which ordinary Americans would never have dreamed could be made into a lethal bludgeon, are verbal: the labels they apply to ordinary human characteristics and inclinations. And to this point, almost no one has adopted the proper countermeasure against them.

     Bo Winegard’s essay on The Woke deserves to be cited explicitly at several points. First, Professor Winegard addresses why they do it:

     Because it allows a person priority access to crucial and coveted resources such as money and mates, the desire for status is probably a fundamental human motivation. And because that desire is primitive and powerful, many social practices and activities function at least partially to delineate status relationships. These can be analyzed as status systems and operate in predictable ways because, whatever its diverse manifestations, status has some invariant features. Most importantly, it is inexpansible. That is to say, its supply does not grow. Unlike the economic pie, the status pie remains roughly the same across time. Therefore, players in the status game inevitably inhabit a zero-sum world. If one person’s status goes up, then another’s must go down, which explains why people are exquisitely sensitive not only to gains in their own status, but also to gains in other people’s status. Another’s triumph inevitably rearranges the distribution of a finite and precious resource.

     Among other things, Wokeness appears to operate as just such a status system. This doesn’t mean that its only function is to adjudicate status competitions; but it does mean that one of its crucial functions is to do so. And it does this primarily by offering a signaling vocabulary which can distinguish educated elites from hoi polloi. The elites who thus benefit offer status to those who defend and legitimize the Woke narrative (the preachers); and they strip status from those who dissent.

     Note how closely this analysis of status in Wokeness compares to the Marxist conception of the economic pie. That which is greatly desired but fixed in supply tends to elicit destructive behavior. The Woke certainly produce enough of that.

     To sustain the eternal competition for status in Wokeness, the array of verbal cudgels must be constantly expanded and ramified, even if it means a descent into gibberish:

     Wokeness provides this kind of sophisticated argot for signalers. Those who preach its gospel often use bizarre concepts imported from postmodern theorists, infamous for their impenetrable prose. Terms such as “hegemonic,” “intersectional,” “phallocentric,” and “queerphobe” are regularly deployed, intimidating the uninitiated and impressing those who wish, in the future, to signal their erudition to fawning fans. Even Woke language for popular consumption is complicated by a quickly changing list of taboo epithets. Is it wrong to say homosexual relationship? Is it all right to say African-American? Will I be berated if I say Mexican-American? These changing prohibitions function well to distinguish elites from hoi polloi because they require devotion, erudition, and the right social acquaintances to understand.

     But even gibberish will serve the purposes of The Woke if the gibberish can be made to sound elevated – and threatening. It advances the progress of self-censorship, by which only the certifiably Woke are allowed to speak in an unencumbered fashion.

     However, the inevitable consequence of an inexpansible status system is the emergence of a hierarchy: Inner and Outer Parties, with a small circle of Anointed at the summit of the Inner Party and perhaps a Big Brother figure at the absolute apex. Not all who aspire to membership in the more rarefied circles will be permitted to enter them. This will cause resentment in the excluded, and a measure of guilt in some of the accepted:

     Status disparities cause resentment. And they often also cause guilt. Those on the bottom of the hierarchy become bitter, disdaining those on the top. And this resentment is a constant source of rancor and instability. Those on the top, of course, are generally happier; however, they often experience discord as well, especially perhaps if they are liberal: Why do I deserve this blessed life? Am I really better than those below me? Both problems—the bitterness of those on the bottom and the guilt of those on the top—can be ameliorated by a powerful legitimizing narrative, a narrative that explains why those on the top deserve their status while those on the bottom deserve their rather less charmed lives and, in fact, should be pleased simply to defer to their superiors. Those who provide such a narrative offer a valuable service; therefore, they are recompensed with approval and applause.

     Are these mechanisms eternally stable? Of course not; nothing is. But they might last long enough to destabilize the most successful human society in the history of Man.

     Professor Winegard’s analysis concludes with an opinion about the sincerity of The Woke – in my opinion, an excessively generous assessment:

     Before concluding, it is important to re-emphasize that many of the people in the Woke status system sincerely believe in social justice. And many of their moral concerns are entirely legitimate….The danger is that the status desires of these preachers will eclipse their moral concerns. (Some, of course, would claim that this has already happened.)

     The suggestion that The Woke are sincere about the phantasm of “social justice” runs counter to the available evidence. If there are any in that community who genuinely do care about the persons they supposedly champion – and who are they, specifically? — what are they actually doing about it, other than preening about their superiority to the rest of us? What real-world results, measurable enough to register on some scale of acknowledged significance, can they show us?

     The answer is unpleasant: They can show us nothing of the kind. The devolution of Wokeness from a putatively sincere concern with racial and ethnic exclusion, poverty, or other varieties of imagined “oppression,” into a competition for status has made objective gains of the sort others would admire, or at least respect as indications of sincerity, impossible. Today’s Woke are concerned solely with the status their methods can attain for them.

     It is a mistake to attribute to The Woke any degree of sincerity or integrity, especially as the “causes” they champion are mere fantasies, without exception.

     Of course, the principal concern of anyone who finds The Woke a nuisance, a blight upon civil society, an impediment to constructive discourse and an occasional temptation to murder, must be whether We the Normal and Sensible can do anything about them. The news here is mixed.

     I opened this diatribe with the assertion that at the heart of the matter stand certain universal human characteristics, and that The Woke’s crusades are essentially a practice of applying pejorative labels to these things, denouncing them, and castigating anyone who might exhibit a trace of them:

  • Racism.
  • Sexism.
  • A degree of xenophobia.
  • A belief in biological reality.
  • A preference for those of similar backgrounds and creeds.
  • The belief in personal responsibility; i.e., that “fate” doesn’t control one’s destiny.

     The implication is that these characteristics can be expelled from our species – that a new and better human being can be produced if we just work at it. It’s the purest nonsense. Yet The Woke demonize these things relentlessly, ironically without admitting to their own possession and exhibition of them.

     It’s not quite New Socialist Man stuff, as The Woke lack the power to enforce their wills by law. But verbal beatdowns sufficiently prolonged can affect a man, though the effect is more likely to be negative than positive.

     With the exception of the most elevated of their kind – those who know exactly what they’re about and make no pretense of sincerity even to one another – The Woke suffer a defect in the rational faculty: a mental disease. They have made their pursuit of a phantasm – the quest for moral superiority based on a mere difference of opinion – the core of their existence. And no known therapy is effective against it.

     They cannot be cured. They can only be detoxified. And as their weapons are verbal, so also are the appropriate countermeasures.

     Dismiss the labels. (“So what?”)
     Ignore the castigations. (“Yeah, sure.”)
     Laugh at the humorless scolds who seek to flail you with them.
     Deny them your respect.
     Smirk, flip a hand, and walk on.

     Short of confinement in an institution whose suites have padded walls, it’s all one can do for anyone afflicted with the disease of Wokeness.

     No, there is no cure. But there is hope.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Quickies: Circular Firing Squads Can Reverse Direction Very Swiftly

     There’ve been a number of articles on the Web these past few days about the exchanges of accusations among Justice Department and intelligence community figures who had some hand in the “Russian collusion” hoax that targeted President Trump. The most frequently cited names so far have been those of disgraced former FBI director James Comey and former CIA director John Brennan, who are now sparring over the prominence of their respective roles in the promotion and exploitation of the “Steele dossier.” Many in the Right have been figuratively rubbing their hands together with glee, anticipating a falling-out among highly placed persons involved in the hoax that could lead to all the details of the affair being revealed.

     This does seem a happy development. However, the seeming fusillades among these persons could have another purpose. It could be a tactic intended to persuade those capable of investigating the matter deeply enough to bring major miscreants to justice that “it’s too big” — that is, that a serious, determined plumbing of the cesspool would do unacceptable damage to persons or institutions that we “can’t afford to lose.”

     Do not doubt that that could result. The spanking-new FBI director, Christopher Wray, is already maneuvering to protect “his” Bureau from a housecleaning. Various prominent Republicans have displayed a great reluctance to “perpetuate the nightmare” for the sake of determining the responsible parties, bringing them to justice, and enforcing a thorough cleansing upon the agencies involved. Many highly placed persons, both inside and outside the corridors of power, have opined that the cost of restoring integrity to the Justice Department and the intelligence community might be too high to bear. Never mind what it might cost the country to allow them to remain corrupt. <

     Of course, it could also be about fear of reprisal. The old saying “it ain’t what you know; it’s who you know” is moderately misfocused. As Lawrence Block has observed, it ain’t who you know; it’s what you’ve got on ‘em. The FBI and CIA are fanatic collectors of such information, and have several times proved willing to use it for their own purposes. The IRS also collects dirt in wholesale quantities. As it’s still under the crosshairs for its suppression of conservative political activity, it might be persuaded to lend a hand.

     It’s been noted by many that Washington’s first priority is to protect Washington. The attitude is more pervasive than even a great many cynics would believe. This will bear close scrutiny…and possibly the most extraordinary reaction, should corrective action fail to materialize.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Song Is Over, Thank God

     Decades ago, I read a fair amount of traditional (i.e., “high” or “medieval”) fantasy fiction. You know, the sort Tolkien, Eddison, and Peake wrote. I no longer do, for the same reason I’ve lamented about at other times: the lack of originality the genre displays.

     The field started to slip in a noticeable way in the Seventies with Stephen R. Donaldson’s “Thomas Covenant” books and Terry Brooks’s interminable “Shannara” series. It was easy to see that these writers had nothing new to show us. They merely filed the serial numbers off Tolkien’s model, slapped on a fresh coat of paint, and offered it to us as if it were genuinely original. Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series sharpened my frustration: the first five volumes seemed moderately daring for trad-fantasy, but from number six onward it descended into tedium. Glen Cook was able to make his “Black Company” tales and his “Tyranny of the Night” fresh and original, but he’s the sole exception I’ve encountered to an endless parade of Tolkien imitators.

     The problem might be inherent in trad-fantasy, which is non- or pre-technological in setting and usually magical in motif. There isn’t much one can do to differentiate such a tale from others in its genre. Attempts to achieve freshness by adding just a little technology, or by giving magic a connection to a sketchy supernatural, quasi-theological scheme, usually fail, whether by violating the precepts of the genre or edging into another subcategory of speculative fiction such as “steampunk.” So for some time it’s seemed to me that trad-fantasy as a working field might just have reached its terminus.

     Then along came George R. R. Martin’s novel A Game of Thrones. While the usual lineaments of trad-fantasy were easy to discern, nevertheless there was something fresh about the tale. I read it with pleasure and looked forward to the continuation of the series.

     That sense of originality started to fade somewhere around the midpoint of volume three, A Storm of Swords. I slogged through volume four, A Feast For Crows, with considerable difficulty. I purchased volume five, A Dance Of Dragons, but I never opened it.

     HBO’s video productions of the Martin series have had the same effect on me. Unfortunately, the C.S.O. absolutely loves them – she’ll watch anything with a sufficiently high body count – so I’ve been compelled to suffer through them, pretending an equal degree of enthusiasm for the sake of domestic peace. We both look forward to viewing the final season, albeit for sharply contrasting reasons.

     And today we learn this:

     Many people are upset about the Villain Turn a character took last episode. I think that turn could have been decent -- if this had been a ten episode season, and we had seen the character descend into evil a little at a time, so that we would start anticipating it, then accepting it, and then seeing it as both organic and maybe even inevitable.

     But the way they rushed through this -- all major BULLET POINTS!!! with barely any dramatization around them -- makes this all feel like characters are now just doing things because the producers are bored and have been bored for years and want to move on to ruining another franchise (Star Wars, in this case -- which I'm not sure can be further ruined).

     David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have repeatedly stated that the crowning moment of this book series to them was the Red Wedding, and their major goal was just to do the show justice, and garner enough of an audience, to get greenlit into season 3 so they could film that.

     Well, they did.

     And that being their major goal -- they began getting very bored of the show by season 5 and had to start doing their own writing….Benioff and Weiss began improvising in season 5.

     And it showed. Martin's books might not have provided strong material but they didn't actually improve on his crap; they just made it shorter.

     I must concur.

     Mind you, George R. R. Martin has displayed considerable talent for unique, original stories and characters in the past. During the years he wrote mainly short stories, I would read anything he wrote. I particularly liked his early novel Dying of the Light. So this is not a writer I regard as a hack ab initio. But the “Song of Ice and Fire” series is not up to his earlier standard. Moreover, I think he knows it. I submit his failure to publish the culminating volumes in the series as Exhibit Two.

     There’s a moral in this. Some projects, however promising at the outset, have a dubious future. Sometimes those limits are perceptible early on. It strikes me that in trad-fantasy, that’s true more often than not.

     Had Martin limited himself to three books on the order of magnitude of A Game of Thrones, but with escalating development of plot and characters and a properly closed-off ending, he might deserve a better evaluation than “Yeah, yeah, more of the same.” The HBO series would have been more appealing as well, not the least because it would have ended sooner.

     In all probability, the deciding factor in all of this was money. Despite the endless repetitions of theme, plot, and core motifs, trad-fantasy sells well. Then again, so do romance novels that differ from one another mainly in the names of their characters and the details of their sex scenes. There’s an audience for them that seems impossible to sate, and where there’s a demand, a supply will emerge. It’s far more likely than not that money is what’s propelled Martin and HBO, much as it does the legions of writers churning out pink-and-purple-covered pabulum for Harlequin Books.

The sleep of reason.

[Prof. Mario Caligiuri:] How do you explain that Western countries do not question their alliance with Saudi Arabia, which is generative of Wahhabi ideology and terrorism in the world?

[Prof. Mario Caligiuri:] Sherlock Holmes would say: "Elementary, Watson." This clearly demonstrates that the economic interests, not only of States but especially of multinationals, prevail over the needs of citizens. This is the greatest weakness of democracies that may explode, as was the case in Europe in the twenties and thirties. The results of this era are still being felt today, almost a hundred years later, but we must consider that the degeneration of democracy is like the sleep of reason: it gives rise to monsters. Our mistake today is focused on the monsters and not on the causes of the degeneration of democracy, which, in my opinion, is mainly related to the selection of very inadequate ruling classes.[1]

The West's enfatuation with "democracy" and the mindless extension of the franchise to morons is finally bearing fruit – the enstupidation and degeneration of our civilization. Political debate is dominated by children, freaks, illiterates, and subversives.

[1] "Prof. Mario Caligiuri: 'The Degeneration of Democracy Is Like the Sleep of Reason: It Gives Rise to Monsters.'" By Mohsen Abdelmoumen, American Herald Tribune, 5/14/19 (emphasis in second paragraph added).