Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Josh Billings Was Right

     What’s that you say? Who the BLEEP! was Josh Billings? Why, none other than the man who first said this:

     “It’s better not to know so much than to know so many things that aren’t so.”

     I’ve heard that statement attributed to every historical figure from Ronald Reagan to Attila the Hun. You might have done so yourself. But you probably consider yourself educated.

     Here’s another one for you:

     “Nothing is more terrifying than ignorance in action.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

     I’ve heard that multiply misattributed, too. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, as I’m reasonably sure Goethe would agree. The sentiment is what counts...which makes the abysmal ignorance of so many arrogant “educated people” as ironic as it is terrifying.

     Charlie Martin provides a case for us today:

     I recently had a little argument that started with someone — no, I'm not going to say who, except to say a respected scientist who may have been in Boulder too long — announced that if people really knew how meat was produced, they'd think twice about eating it.

     That struck me both arrogant and odd. I grew up on a cattle ranch; later in life, I cut meat for money. I'm pretty clear on the process from bull covering cow, to bull calf, to steer, to feedlot, to abattoir, to butcher. So my immediate reaction was "heh, city folks."

     My second reaction, almost as immediate, was to be annoyed.

     The truth is that the people who actually do know from childhood how meat is produced are the least likely to have qualms about it. It's the people who grow up thinking meat comes from the meat factory on a styrofoam tray, already wrapped in cling film, who never thought about the connection between steer on the hoof and steak on the table.

     In one sense it’s merely a manifestation of the “coastal bubble:” the deep divide that separates the coastal-urban “elites” from “heartland America.” There is some crossover, but the divide is more real than not – and it manifests itself in important socioeconomic and political attitudes more vividly than in any other venue.

     I’m a product of the coasts. I’ve lived in New York State, and close to New York City, my whole life but for two years. However, owing to fortunate developments of which I will decline to speak, I’ve also had the advantage of exposure to the heartland. I’ve made use of it now and then in fiction:

     As usual, she was up before him, but this time he found her in the kitchen, coffee made and mugs steaming at their respective places. She looked up as he entered and smiled.
     It was the radiant smile of the morning before, when she’d shown him the first visible sign of the life she’d nurtured, but it was more. It compounded discovery, triumph, love, and peace into a single visible expression of joy. He could hardly believe he was its object.
     He sat at his place and stretched out his hands. She took them in hers.
     “What now?” he murmured.
     She shrugged. “Breakfast, a quick shower, then I guess I’ll weed and water.”
     “Come on!”
     She leered. “Got something else in mind?”
     “From where I’m sitting, everything’s great, Allan. What’s got you so wound up?”
     “I might have impregnated you last night!”
     “You think I’m not aware of that? Farm girl, remember? Oh, excuse me, farm woman. I know what semen is for, Allan. I’ve inseminated cows.” She looked off briefly. “Now that’s really grotty. The bull semen comes in this turkey baster thing. You have to wear these long lubricated gloves, because one hand goes all the way up the cow’s—”
     She giggled little-girl naughtily.

     That’s from “Farm Girl,” a novella in my collection Romance A La Mode. Kate is modeled on a young woman I had the great good fortune to know and love when I was a young man: a mathematical genius who came from the “tall corn” of Kansas. She had a pronounced Kansas accent – yes, there is such a thing – that immediately marked her as not from the coasts. I sometimes think she deliberately exaggerated it to provoke a reaction – a reaction she would quickly and humorously crush. She refused to allow anyone to make derogatory assumptions about her, her home state, or its people.

     The left-liberal “#Resist” nonsense is essentially a manifestation of the “those ignorant hicks” attitude Charlie Martin has fingered. These self-nominated “elites” have decided that the only reason we aren’t allowing them uninterrupted and unbounded power over the rest of us is that we’re too stupid to know that it would be for the best. So they’re striving to reverse the results of a wholly legitimate election with false accusations – indeed, with accusations they know to be false — on the grounds that “it’s for your own good”...buttressed, of course, by their underlying assumption that “the end justifies the means.”

     No lie is quite as pernicious as a lie about moral principles. It’s infinitely more so when one is lying to oneself.

     Self-exaltation is bad enough: the famous capital sin of vanity. But the reason vanity is a capital sin is because it has a capital nature: i.e., a productive nature. It produces the sort of behavior we see from the Democrats and the NeverTrump Republicans determined to impede and ultimately destroy the Trump Administration.

     But you can’t tell any of the “elites” that. They’ll sniff you aside, dismiss you as “one of them:” an uneducated and unsophisticated hick. You probably went to a state college, if you went to college at all.

     These folks consider their origins, intellects, educations, and connections to be a skeleton key to the corridors of power. They refuse to acknowledge the appropriate limitations of power, because folks “as smart as we are” should be under no limitations whatsoever. Yet they are baffled by how and why a majority of Americans could reject them and the hegemony to which they’re so obviously entitled.

     I could go on. Perhaps I will at another time.

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