Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Year For Realism

     Not long ago, I wrote a trio of short fiction pieces about a politician in a fictional country who bucked his nation’s establishment to do what he believed to be in the best interests of all. I issued them as a small collection that you can download for free. Ever since, Gentle Readers have written to me to plead for a full-length novel based on those short tales.

     And yes, I’ve started one. It will take a while to complete, as I have to complete an appropriate setting and backstory for it. Nevertheless, have faith: it will arrive sooner or later, always assuming that the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Societies doesn’t manage to get past the dogs, the spike strips on the driveway, and the claymores on the front lawn.

     But today, as I peer back at 2020 through jaundiced eyes, I realized that a bit of what I’ve already written in that tale is essential for the year to come. Here it is.

     Whiteman rose from his seat on the stage as his name was announced. He nodded to the coordinator and moved to the lectern with a confident stride, as if it was an event he’d anticipated with pleasure. He laid his note cards before him, reviewed them quickly, and presented a solemn visage to the audience that filled the district’s public hall.
     “Neighbors,” he said, and winced as acoustic feedback followed the word with a piercing shriek. He reached for the gain control and halved the setting.
     “Forgive me for that, neighbors. I didn’t expect it any more than you. And may it be the last time anything I say or do should displease you.
     “Few of you know me, which is as it should be. Too many of Neastra’s politicians are well known, public men of long standing. Why is that a bad thing, you may ask? It is bad because a long career in politics causes a man to focus ever more narrowly of his own interests. He takes less and less interest in the rights, needs, interests, and prerogatives of those he purports to serve. Our current Member, Gregory Howland, has represented us for twenty-four years. During his tenure in office, nothing of any substance has changed, other than for the worse.
     “I cannot promise you anything. Not jobs, nor improved commerce, nor lowered utility bills, nor reduced local taxes, nor more peace and order in the streets. I will not promise what I cannot be certain I can deliver. The one thing I am certain I can deliver is a fresh voice in Parliament...if you, my neighbors, will consent to send me there.
     “If you will do so, I will strive to my utmost to bring you what I believe will serve the interests, not only of Querendon, but of Neastra as a whole. I will seek to build relations with other Members of minds like to mine. I will endeavor to forge coalitions of Members who believe as I do, that we may work to a common end.
     “Here is what I believe.
     “I believe that the norms of public conduct our forefathers honored must be reinstituted and enforced by law.
     “I believe that legal immigration to this island must be so controlled as to bring net benefits to our commerce and social life.
     “I believe that illegal entry to the nation can and must be halted, and that with the willing cooperation of our Navy, the pride of all the oceans of the world, Neastra has the power to do so.
     “I believe that aggressive creeds, creeds that claim to be above the law, have no place in a nation that values peace and genuine tolerance, and I will work to prevent any further access to this island by allegiants to those creeds.
     “I believe that regulations on commerce must be reduced to the maximum possible extent.
     “I believe that intrusions into the private affairs of private citizens, whether by government or by non-governmental organizations, must be halted, and that non-governmental organizations must no longer be granted the authority of the law.
     “I believe that the value of the aureal can be stabilized, that taxes can be reduced, and that the budget can be balanced.
     “I believe that all those things are possible. Yet I cannot promise you any of them. What I can do is what I have done today: to offer you my services as your Member, and if elected to pursue those ends with all my power.”
     He glanced at his watch, swept up his note cards, and smiled for the first time.
     “I have been allotted thirty minutes for this presentation,” he said. “Twenty-four minutes remain. If you have questions for me, ask them now, and I will answer them as best I can.”
     The questions began. Whiteman answered them. He described himself, his education, and his business. He was candid about his wealth and entirely unashamed of it, but agreed that he would transfer control of it to a blind trust should he be elected. He named his wife, but said nothing more about her. When asked whether he would employ her in his campaign, he replied firmly in the negative. When asked about his children, he demurred; they had requested privacy, and he had promised it to them.
     At last there came the questions he had anticipated from the start. A beefy man, by his looks a longshoreman or in some comparably physical occupation, stood and said, “What’s your party?”
     “The Realism Party,” Whiteman replied.
     “Never heard of it,” the questioner said.
     “No reason you should have,” Whiteman said. “I filed its existence at the council offices, along with my candidacy, this very morning. As of today I am its one and only member and its sole candidate for any public office.” He grinned. “I doubt the national press has taken note of it yet.”
     Several audience members chuckled.
     “Well!” The questioner smirked. “What makes you think can get you elected Member from Querendon?”
     Whiteman nodded. His gentle smile was undisturbed.
     “I believe I can be elected Member from Querendon,” he said in a perfectly unstressed tone, “because I am running for that position against Gregory Howland.”
     Whiteman let it go on for perhaps twenty seconds before he raised a hand for peace. The audience subsided.
     “As I stand here, I have never broken a promise to you. Having not promised you anything but my best effort, I can be confident of maintaining that record. I shall not recount Member Howland’s many promises. You can recall them yourselves. If so, I exhort you to compare those promises to the achievements that followed.” He panned the crowd, smiling thinly. “I believe the comparison will suffice to carry me to Parliament as your Member.”
     Three months and one day later, on Tuesday, November 9, to the surprise of many including the aforementioned Gregory Howland, it did.

     Realism, colloquially speaking, is the attitude that puts facts ahead of opinions and theories. It reposes its trust in facts, and disdains to follow nostrums that fail to account for them. When confronted by demands for the unearned, the impractical, or the absurd, it bellows No! and returns its attention to the facts and what they portend.

     The core of a realistic approach to governance is a simple recognition:

If the end in view is righteous,
Righteous means can get you there.
An unrighteous end cannot be attained by any means.

     It is within our power to make the Year of Our Lord 2021 a year for realism. Like any good engineer, I’ve compiled the requirements for the project as prerequisite to its inception. Here they are:

  1. Trust no politician, nor any politician’s promises.
  2. Conform to the moral laws codified in the Decalogue.
  3. Demand nothing of others that is outside those moral laws.

     (What’s that you say? You’re not a Christian nor a Jew? You’re not religious at all? I don’t give a shit. Either conform to the moral laws as codified in Commandments Six through Ten in the King James list, or begone and don’t return. As for politicians, they’ll promise you anything and everything in exchange for power over you. They’ve done so since the Greeks first experimented with democracy. At this point we should know better than to listen.)

     The moral laws are among the natural laws God has written into the fabric of existence. They cannot be broken without severe, often ruinous consequences. When a nation attempts to set them aside through political action, it seeks its own destruction. We should all know that by now, but...well, hearken to Sir Thomas Carlyle:

     Nevertheless, in the inexplicable universal votings and debatings of these Ages, an idea or rather a dumb presumption to the contrary has gone idly abroad, and at this day, over extensive tracts of the world, poor human beings are to be found, whose practical belief it is that if we "vote" this or that, so this or that will thenceforth be. Practically men have come to imagine that the Laws of this Universe, like the laws of constitutional countries, are decided by voting. It is an idle fancy. The Laws of this Universe, of which if the Laws of England are not an exact transcript, they should passionately study to become, are fixed by the everlasting congruity of things, and are not fixable or changeable by voting!

     And thereafter, to the great Herbert Spencer:

     I asked one of the members of Parliament whether a majority the House could legitimize murder. He said no. I asked him whether it could sanctify robbery. He thought not. But I could not make him see that if murder and robbery are intrinsically wrong, and not to be made right by the decisions of statesmen, then similarly all actions must be either right or wrong, apart from the authority of the law; and that if the right and wrong the law are not in harmony with this intrinsic right and wrong, the law itself is criminal.

     And beware.

     I could go on, but among my resolutions for the coming year is to be a bit less wordy. Please, Gentle Readers: reflect on the above. Think about the implications. Think about what you would gain – or lose – were we to forge a Realism Movement founded on the ideas I’ve expressed. Think also about where we might find a John Whiteman or a Stephen Graham Sumner to carry our standard. (Don’t look at me.)

     Then choose a side. For the only middle ground will be no-man’s-land.

     Happy New Year.


Mike Guenther said...

A Happy New Year to you and the Boss Mr. Porretto.

I wouldn't worry about "too many words" in your commentary. Your writing is cogent and easily understood by anyone with a modicum of education and a little common sense. I, for one, enjoy your writings.

Mike Guenther said...

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't also wish the other writers a Happy New Year too.

Historian said...

Dear Mr. Guenther:
While I appreciate the sentiment, if we are going to restrict ourselves to realism and honesty, my assessment is that 2021 promises to be anything but happy.

Whatever happens in the aftermath of the election fraud, half of those who voted in this election, more or less, are going to be decidedly unhappy, a great many to the point of homicidal rage, and their unhappiness will probably splash onto the rest of us. Either the Left, who seem to be perennially unhappy except when their enemies are suffering, will gain control of the Federal government, in which case Liberty loving Americans have been told that they will be subjected to discrimination and persecution unparalleled by anything that has happened to date. Alternately, Trump will maintain control of the White House, and the Left will collectively lose the last vestige of restraint, and we will likely find ourselves in a hot civil war. And that is not even the worst problem looming over us.

While I am stunned at how far down the road we have kicked the debt problem, at some point, and 2021 may be the year, the almost 30 trillion dollar funded debt we have incurred will strangle what remains of our economy. Whether or not Trump remains in office is irrelevant to whether or not it happens, and I am not sure whether Trump would be a better person to handle the coming bankruptcy of these presently united States. One might well argue that he is well experienced in dealing with bankruptcy, but his were trifling things compared to the juggernaut of debt looming over us now. That is by no means the only issue facing this country, but those two will do.

A happy year I am not going to get; I'd be thrilled with a 2021 where American was at least on the path back to being a free country, but I doubt that'll happen either.

On the other hand, people have found the means to find happiness even in the midst of horrible events, and so in that spirit I accept your wish and in return hope that you and yours find as much happiness as your karma and the Fates allow, and the time to appreciate it.

With regard to all who seek, and serve, the Light,