Archive for April, 2017

The Twilight of the Age of Aquarius… VII

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

In the previous I made reference to Warren Beatty’s self-inflicted embarrassment, which tellingly came after a bit of unfortunately-timed ideological gloat:

I think it could be said that our goal in politics is the same as our goal in art and that’s to get to the truth. So that’s like in the movies that we honor tonight, that not only entertain us and move us, they show us the increasing diversity in our community and our respect for diversity and freedom all over the world.

And pardon my recklessness, but I’m not bashful about concluding:

And yes I’m going to go for the jugular on this: Beatty screwed up the envelope because that is his skill. That’s why his political leanings are so well-represented, statistically, within his chosen profession. If the job has to do with pretending false things are true, liberals are going to dominate it, because if they were more inclined toward acting as if true things were true then they’d be a much better fit for something else. But then, they’d much more likely be conservatives.

What’s that mean, though? Liberals? Conservatives? If I say “liberals are always wrong and conservatives are always right,” and define as “conservative” anyone who makes a good call, and “liberal” anyone who makes a mistake, it’s a feedback loop and therefore, at best, a useless observation to make. Supposedly, “conservative” means to conserve entrenched power structures and “liberal” means to upset them, but there are lots of times where that doesn’t work. Like right now. Really, any time the entrenched power structures are liberal, and the party just voted in that’s rocking the boat and up-ending the apple cart, is conservative. Which happens roughly half the time.

People keep missing it because there’s this perception that you can’t understand conservatism until you understand liberalism, which is supposed to be a change in course, a Bold New Idea — “Hey, what if we stop doing that and start doing this?” If we can figure out what that is, then we can envision conservatism as resistance against whatever it is, and we’ll understand both. It doesn’t work, because liberals won’t tell us what they really want to do. If they did, we’d never vote for them.

No; it’s conservatism we have to understand first. Then we can envision liberalism as the opposite. I have yet to see a definition that works better than mine:

What exactly does conservatism seek to conserve? Civilization, the blessings that come from having it, and the definitions that make civilization possible. From what does liberalism seek to liberate us? Those things — starting with the definitions.

What do I mean by civilization? It is the answer to anarchy, in which brutality is the coin of the realm. With no rules in place, if you have something and I want it, and I’m stronger than you are, it’s mine already. You just might not know it yet. “The blessings that come from having it” are obvious and not-so-obvious. We have a principle of legal ownership, and a sense that that ought to mean something. We have privacy. This creates a fertile ground for, among many other things, creations by innovative minds, of prototypes of inventions that can make life better for the generations arriving later. Definitions that make it possible: Laws. GOOD laws. Another thing I mentioned previously is

Anyone having successfully graduated from about the fourth grade, should be able to tell you why it isn’t going to work to have a law that says “Don’t drive too fast around here.” You have to say 25, or 40, or 65 or 10.

We have citizenship, which is a definition that makes it possible for our government to provide protection. We have marriage, and other associations-by-covenant, such as business partnerships. We have corporations.

Liberals oppose definitions and it isn’t just because they’d lose our support if they defined too much about themselves, although there most certainly is that. “Undefining” things is actually a way of life. It’s a lot like lying; you do a little bit of it, and pretty soon you’re obliged to do a whole lot more of it. It correlates with a desire for instant gratification, because defining things in a meaningful way often takes time. And it correlates with a desire to destroy rather than to create, because creating things is something that requires definition.

Throughout the decades in modern times, we have seen there is exactly one government activity our friends the big-government liberals don’t like. And that’s the military. Now, the military’s mission, as Rush Limbaugh has said a few times, is to “kill people and break things” (some “credit” this to Mike Huckabee). This is true, but that’s how the military carries out its mission, not the ultimate objective. The military’s goal is defense; it is one of preservation. Which, like creation, also requires definition. Lots and lots of it. Ranks, grades, units, billets, chains-of-command…if the military’s goal was just to inflict destruction but not to do so toward any greater purpose, it would be very different. It would flit along with a lot fewer definitions, and liberals would like it just fine.

Now, this differentiation is primarily American, but it works not only in one election cycle after another over here, but also throughout the post-Bastille age of politics. The conservatives seek to conserve, not entrenched power structures that have flourished up until a given moment, but rather the definitions that make civilization possible. The liberal protest that has aroused the greatest sympathy from others, has been something along the lines of “Fine, but those definitions deny me, my family and my peers a way to make a living.” Before the Age of Aquarius, that meant we had to recognize the right to organize and bargain collectively. Liberals were for the “common man,” the “working man,” and they really did mean people who had jobs and worked, building things the rest of us needed. That hasn’t been true for a very long time now. Whereas before they sought to tip the scales in the power struggle between management and labor, what’s been happening lately is they’re more about the intellectuals.

I don’t mean, by that word, “big brain” types. I mean it the way Thomas Sowell has used it.

An occupational category, people whose occupations deal primarily with ideas — writers, academics, and the like…At the core of the notion of an intellectual is the dealer in ideas, as such — not the personal application of ideas — as engineers apply complex scientific principles to create physical structures or mechanisms.

That’s a lot of words. The litmus test I’ve been using to figure out “Is this what Prof. Sowell is describing?” has to do with validation, and clean hands. My operating theory is that when your occupation begins in the realm of ideas, and concludes there as well, so that your ideas are never put to any sort of validating test that would reveal a deficiency — well, the validation work remains to be done. Just like an unpaid bill or something. Whatever you needed to confront today, and didn’t, will be waiting for you tomorrow. The validation was not done, and the “intellectual” probably doesn’t know much. How could he? His hands are clean, and the best-case scenario would be that he makes fortunate guesses.

In the Age of Aquarius, “clean hands” people have ruled. The “working man” has been trickling a bit, here & there, out of the democrat column and into the Republican one. This is our modern divide, whether we realize it or not. We’ve got people with clean hands who give great speeches and wear nice suits and say things into microphones…lots of times, pure nonsense…and then there are people with dirty hands who know from personal experience it can’t work that way. This dividing barrier between “left” and “right” has been re-assembled, along this newer boundary. And that happened because of this schism with defining things. Which the liberals made much worse by weaponizing semantic misunderstandings. They say “education” when they don’t really mean it the way most people would define it; “comprehensive immigration reform” has become a political buzzword, a tell-tale that essentially says nothing meaningful will be done. You’ll notice they never define what they mean by “succeed,” as in, “we want to make sure there’s a chance for everybody to succeed.” They’d like you to think that means putting food in the kitchen cupboard and money in your kids’ college tuition funds. What they really mean by that, is legally living off others whom you’ll never have to meet.

There’s something going on here way down on the psychological level. These intellectuals, who enjoy the luxury of never having to actually validate their ideas, by rights should be suffering from a dearth of confidence resulting from the knowledge that the requisite tests have not been done. What we see of them, however, suggests they’re going through the exact opposite. Time after time after time, we see their ideas are surrounded by weighty authorities, who are cloaked as neutral arbitrators but functioning as energized advocates. The wagons circle around the untested idea, and it benefits from this protection. All too often, that benefit comes in the form of continuing survival in spite of obvious flaws, where a real-life test would tear it asunder.

Woman With IdeaThat’s the first problem with having clean-hands intellectuals run things. The second problem is a bit more complicated. To remain intellectuals, the intellectuals have to keep coming up with new ideas to not-be-tested. There has to be some distance between these ideas and plain old-fashioned horse-sense — the ideas have to have novelty. So to accentuate their own appearance of worth, the intellectuals have to keep sniffing around the periphery of what could be reasonably considered. Their untested-ideas, therefore, end up being wrong more often than right, because if common sense would smile upon the idea, the intellectuals aren’t going to be interested in promoting it. So we get things that are the opposite of the truth, quite regularly. “Actually” ideas. Like: Actually, if you raise the minimum wage, companies will benefit. Or: Actually, the only way we can defeat ISIS is with love. There are many other examples that could be discussed, but these highlight the real problem: For the intellectual to find value in the idea, it has to stray away from common sense, and for the idea to do that, it will typically become the opposite of what’s really true. There is a phrase in journalism to describe this sort of otherworldly appeal. A “man-bites-dog story.” The rationale is that running a dog-bites-man story would be a waste of everybody’s time, including the reader’s. There is “news” value in running something that is contrary to what the reader, as a sentient being experiencing everyday life, would expect. This consideration, all by itself, can justify “news” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But in the same way, it can all by itself justify the ideas that come from the clean-hands intellectuals who’ve been running things for years now, and that IS a bad thing. A very, very bad thing.

This is not only wrong as a methodology for dealing with reality; it is actually a decent post mortem on how we’ve lost our collective ability to cope with that reality. Reality, by & large as a general rule, follows along with common sense. There are more dog-bites-man stories than man-bites-dog stories. If it went the other way, “common sense” wouldn’t have much use for us and nobody would be using it at all, anywhere. This is why the “intellectuals” are going to be wrong a lot more often than right. It’s why Warren Beatty opened the wrong envelope, you might say. You might also say: unfortunate fluke, he got confused, commotion, age, non-intellectuals make just as many mistakes or just as often — all technically correct. Erm, yeah…but no. Reality is all around us, but understanding it requires dedication. Actors are not dedicated to it, they’re dedicated to something else. The same is true of intellectuals, because of the man-bites-dog thing. Overall, they’re going to be wrong more often than right, because there’s no sense of discipline keeping them right. That is not to say they don’t have discipline. It is to say the discipline is channeled toward servicing other things.

This is all a consequence of elevating feeling above thought. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit we have seen a swelling in recent years, of intellectuals plying us with the message of “Hey, I just thought of something no one else has thought of before”…and that this has been way, way oversold. A lot of these “new” ideas, in addition to their failure to turn out to be right in any way, haven’t been new at all. I’m thinking specifically of — again, there are many other examples to be found, we can illustrate the point with just a subset — President Obama saying “we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.” This has been a staple throughout Obama’s presidency, this one-note samba of “Good thing you have Me, look what I just figured out.” Eight years is an awfully long time to be saying just one thing. Obviously, it didn’t happen that way because these predictions turned out to be right. (We did, ultimately, drill our way to lower gas prices.) The simplest explanation is that this was a political maneuver. Obama would play the part of the deity descended to the earthly realm to tell us what’s what, disgusting everyone who didn’t need a Savior because they already had one…but He wasn’t going to get their votes anyway, so that’s okay…and delighting His base, who would go on to support other democrats, without bothering to check up on whether his faux deity babbling made any sense. That’s a good explanation, covering everything, including the way politics work. Why change a tactic if the tactic is working? But, it’s also a simple explanation that Obama was simply doing what Obama wanted to do. This business of “Hey, I just thought of something contrary to the way things have been done before!” feels good. As long as it’s validated, it does. But to think like Obama, you have to think like an intellectual, who happens to be a benevolent dictator: “Validation” simply refers to an absence of successive events that would force you to admit you’re wrong about something. That’s a lengthy way of supposing these are people who live in a non-validating world, an echo chamber of pure intellectualism. The ideas never brush up against reality.

If you feel-over-think, in order to solve life’s most pressing problems — you’re going to be “thinking of” man-bites-dog stuff pretty often. Stuff that’s been thought of by no one else, you little genius you…you’ll do it six times before breakfast. Genuine validation isn’t going to happen, because that isn’t part of feeling good. As a general rule, if you think-over-feel you’re usually going to find the idea isn’t worth anything after all, or if it is worth something, someone thought of it already. Not always. To say that’s always the case, is to say there’s no point coming up with any new ideas. We know that’s not right. But, these precious savants who come up with these “Hey, lookit what I invented” little miracles dozens or hundreds of times before even getting out of their pajamas, typically are just showcasing their issues with maturity, rather than coming up with truly useful ideas. It is, at least, overwhelmingly likely. It is all the more likely if they haven’t been working in the field. Since history shows us the new-ideas that are actually worth something are conceived, as we’d expect, by people who’ve been struggling with the problem awhile, first-hand. At least as long as it takes for the problem to become personally annoying and tiresome to them.

That’s not true of the clean-hands people. Their “new ideas” are going to be wrong a lot more often than they’ll ever be right; because dogs bite men more than men bite dogs.

In programming, we see this a lot. It is said that anyone with any experience has been guilty of it, and I hope that’s true because I know I’ve been guilty. I remember years and years ago coming across a blog post I’m wishing like the dickens I bothered to save, written by a programmer who claimed to be very successful, and happened to lean left politically. His point was that his leftward politics had something to do with his success in programming. This made a big impression on me, because it is evidence that there are two worlds out there, and also evidence that political bias possesses a sultry and seductive persuasion that weighs on us all, convinces us that we’re right, and furthermore that there’s no other way to solve a problem than whatever we see in front of us at any given time. Also, that anyone who doesn’t want to do it the same way must be wrong. See, I’ve built some stuff too…I have enjoyed success that comes from my things actually working, occasionally in situations where others tried to get it to work and weren’t able to make it happen. I couldn’t-a done it thinking like a liberal. Now, wherever this essay is, whoever wrote it, the question arises: How can he be so sure that he’s right, while I’m so sure I’m right?

Perhaps the first step toward constructive, creative thought, is to get into one’s “happy place” wherever that happens to be; I’ve got mine, others have theirs. The difference between these two happy-places, would explain everything, but I think it more likely that we simply haven’t defined what “programming” is. We presume everybody doing some of it, is all doing the same thing. I notice whenever people presume that, and make the mistake of continuing to pay attention, there’s some moment of reckoning that comes along later. And, not too much later. I see it even in the little things, like lists of movies for programmers to watch during Easter. Programming, to someone like me, is a subset of engineering. Engineering has to do with reality. No, Inception is not a “programming movie” in my world. But it’s obvious there’s another world out there, and someone living in that world thinks it is one.

The reason clean-hands people run things in the Age of Aquarius, is this elevation of feeling-over-thought. People want to solve problems in ways that make them feel good; this is measurable, in that people are making decisions that elevate this feeling-good-feelings goal above actually solving the problem. In other words, if the only way to solve it is to feel bad, for even just a little while, they’d prefer to leave it unsolved. This is a problem decades in the making. It didn’t happen overnight. It has to do with maturity.

Maturity has multiple definitions. We tend to think of it as the ability to learn. If you’re a fourteen-year-old and you’re displaying all the mannerisms of a seventeen-year-old, you are mature. But that’s not quite it. A newborn fawn stumbling around cutely and comically, lacks maturity because she hasn’t developed familiarity or comfort with her physical form. As time goes on, she may turn out to be a very rapidly-maturing little deer, however one might go about measuring that. But when we say she “lacks maturity” we’re obviously not talking about that. So maturity has a meaning that is concerned with effectiveness and comfort with one’s own self.

You can watch some newer movies, and some older ones, and some yet-older ones, to see we’ve been losing this and at a pretty rapid rate. People aren’t comfortable in their own skins, and part of that is because society has been putting a diminishing value on this quality of being comfortable in your own skin. My favorite example of this — again, there are others, but forming an exhaustive list is out of scope — has been Sean Connery playing James Bond in Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. The actor got the role, I read somewhere, in part because of the way he moved around: “Like a panther walking down the street” or something. He was about 30 to 33, 34 maybe. “Young” actors today are considerably older. And they don’t move that way or conduct themselves that way. You can find your own examples. In a hundred little ways that defy description but are real anyway…they act like little kids. Of course, in 1962 all actors were not Sean Connery. But the point is that the trait was valued, and not just by lusty women who went to see movies. Now it isn’t.

They still make James Bond movies now. Very, very rarely though. And they’re made because they’ve got a built-in audience. That’s a lot different from being the “cash cow” James Bond once was; for cash-cow status, you have to look to comic book superhero movies. That’s another example of maturity slipping out of society’s grip. Another sign: The most famous among these superhero movie franchises is the “X-Men,” but there’s no story to be told there. Not a story that’s good for more than one movie, anyway. “We’re different, we can’t help it, and society won’t accept us.” There’s some tragedy there that is compelling, for a little while. But pity the poor scriptwriter for the eighth, ninth, tenth movie. Watching the final product, you can feel the sense of fatigue setting in and increasing. Perhaps if there was more emphasis on service to something bigger than oneself: “Yes those people about to get squished are part of society and society has caused me pain, by not accepting my mutant eye-beams or wings or whatever; nevertheless, they are strangers, some of them are bound not to be assholes, and so I shall save them.” Maybe some of the X-Men do think such a thing. But I’ve noticed it’s never really part of the story. You’re more likely to find such a final-battle sentiment in an old James Bond movie. X-Men gloss over it, because the “society won’t accept me” message is always in the limelight.

FeminismIt’s a very subtle difference and you have to burn through a few hours of movie-watching to get it. If you’re trying to get something productive done, this could take years. But it’s there. Once you notice it, it’s hard not to see it.

And you see this in a lot of other places too. As our society has lost maturity, it has become much more fond of wallowing in self-pity about “I should be treated differently than the way I’m being treated.” It’s a tragedy in itself because this is a huge waste of time. Strangers are strangers, they’re apt to do just about anything. About a mile from my neighborhood we’ve got a homeless guy, I call him the “Riot Of One” guy, who yells his fool head off at five o’clock most mornings. And stuff like this seems to have become normal. If we’re going to accept that strangers can do just about anything, just so we can cope with the more rugged aspects of us all living together, it is irrational to be losing our composure anytime we see evidence someone is thinking the wrong thing. It is unreasonable to accept the former and reject the latter, since actions are consequences of thought. This is all self-evident, but we seem to have lost sight of it.

I would offer that the kind of maturity that has to do with the ability to learn, is a manifestation of this other kind of maturity that has to do with the feeling of comfort in one’s on skin, the acceptance of self. You have to fully accept that and make your peace with what you are & what you’re doing, before you can accurately assess what bits of it have to be fixed to address future challenges or past failures. First step to self-improvement is the admission: I was wrong, or something is not quite the way it should be. Until you get there, you can identify problems with the best of ’em, but it’s not quite so easy to identify a way to fix them. Overall, you’ll notice people who have not yet acquired maturity, will identify problems in things that are outside of their control.

In fact, that’s what “strikes” are. I was harsh in my description of them last month, and I meant to be:

It’s too late for strikes. We don’t live in an age wherein some demographic or some industry withdraws its services, and at the end of a day or two the rest of us are starving, dehydrated, sick, naked, or up to our armpits in garbage and ready to capitulate. That ship has sailed. There are really only two services people demand on a moment-to-moment basis, and those are electrical power and wireless Internet. All the rest involve some sort of reserve, which won’t be depleted until we’ve managed to find a scapegoat…Strikes are bullshit in the 21st century. You haven’t seen them achieve anything in many decades, and there’s a reason for that. They aren’t effective.

They aren’t effective at — fixing the stated problem, anyway. They’re very effective for building up that feeling of “We’re all in this together.” If we’re going to be honest about it, that’s the real purpose. They are exercises in self-gratification. The Trump administration is going to see lots of them, for as long as there continues to be a Trump administration. That’s because the strikes are there to instill, and preserve, a feeling of dedication that would eventually wane away into nothingness without something to keep it going. THAT is the truth. They’re not there to address anything that’s wrong, because they’re not there to fix anything. People no longer expect strikes to do this.

And the participants won’t admit this, but the reason they don’t really expect anything to change is because they know: No one gives a flying fuck about your conscientious objection, withdrawing this, withholding that, striking, facing the wall, refusing to participate. Our evolving culture has become way too loud and busy for that. Anyone holding their breath until their faces turn blue, will just turn blue. That’s why it’s necessary to block a bridge now & then. It all goes back to loss of maturity.

How we deal with the problems that arise to confront us between crib & crypt, is what separates us, defines us, provides us with a meaningful identity. The problems themselves do not do this. That’s a misconception. This is why the X-Men suck. Life actually has a fairly simple pattern to it, and we all see it whether we’re “mutants” or gay or black or not, whether we’re rich or poor, whether we’re in a lifestyle that’s sustainable or not. We come to realize things cannot remain the way they have been, and a change is necessary. No sorry Obama, this doesn’t happen with the election of You; it happens constantly. We realize we need to make a change, and this is uncomfortable. We reach a cul de sac, and we cannot simply leave it by going back the way we came. We have to do something difficult, like: get our first job; lose weight; give up on a grudge; move an aging parent into an assisted-living facility. Whatever that is, it has to be uncomfortable or else the situation would not exist in the first place. And so life presents us with a necessity of doing something difficult, as a rite of passage from one “normal” life into another.

That’s life in a nutshell. That is what, I maintain, is going on in the dash between your birth year & the year of your demise. It’s all just one big epiphany of “Oh dear, I cannot stand on this ice floe any longer for it is melting, I must leap onto that other one.” Each person going through it is tempted to think he’s the only one, but we’re all doing it. So — we go through the Kübler-Ross model:

1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

Maturity — the mathematical-ratio kind of maturity, the definition that has to do with speed — is whipping through this without wasting a whole lot of time. It is dangerous for a whole culture of people to lose this. If you’re stuck somewhere in the first four of those five stages, the most intoxicating one is anger. Anger’s fun, and it puts the blame on someone else who isn’t you.

That’s what’s been happening. That’s why there is so much anger. The maturity issue.

This results in a loss of dignity, which is closely related to maturity. Dignity, I think, is also what can fix the problem. Dignity is what makes society go. I’m using the definition of the word that actually works, what people have in mind when they use the word, in a way more precise than what the dictionary says; I’m picking up where that stops:

bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation.

That’s what has been missing.

Pink Pussy HatI say: Since we’re all spending every living year in this predicament, of realizing things cannot stay the way they have been — life is a dynamic thing — when we speak of “dignity,” what we’re really talking about is getting in front of those. It works at all stages of life, well before the prime and long after. A toddler who whines like a little baby lacks dignity. An aging starlet who dresses half her age and puts her face under the knife, until the plastic surgery is taking away more than it’s adding, is the very picture of indignity. What’s the ideological breakdown between conservatives and liberals, where dignity is concerned? It’s not hard to see the answer. A single “pink-pussy hat” will tell you all you need to know about that.

So conservatives are for dignity, and liberals are opposed to it; this thing that has conservative support and is rejected by liberals, has to do with acknowledging life’s necessary changes and getting in front of them, rather than getting stuck in the second-stage and being angry all the time. Notice that this is all backed up by what we see every day — and it is the POLAR opposite of what we have been told all these years about conservatives, liberals and “change.” With liberals feeding us the narrative, that is. They fancy themselves as being uniquely prepared for and accepting of change — which is a perfect black-and-white film-negative transformation from what’s really true. What’s really true is that liberals think of themselves as adapting to change by being the authors of that change, and when that doesn’t work out for them, they use the Obama “we can’t drill our way to cheaper gas” technique and craft some more narratives.

And, they get angry. They loves them some second-stage squatting. Trouble is, there is no rationale for it. When they try to put one together, it ends up being stunted, stilted and silly. “How dare Donald Trump run for President and win” or something. This is anger that has no reason to be; it is passion that has no place to go. It is, typically, a mere desire that has no other way to be expressed.

This will not be an easy problem to solve. It won’t happen overnight. The problem didn’t appear in the first place that way; it’s been years and years in the making. I’ve noticed, even when people get all the way through to the fifth stage of acceptance and start looking for ways to implement the necessary change, there is a tendency to lose sight of the goal. They get into these quixotic pursuits that don’t accomplish anything, as if the ultimate objective is merely to stay busy. All too often, this shift in objective has something to do with avoiding life itself, whether they’re fully aware of it or not. I guess that stands to reason, since the objective envisioned with clarity, without the cloudiness of anger, ego, or scope creep, is simply to navigate the chapters of life. I had one Trump-phobe friend of mine, through social media, launch into a monologue that was no doubt strung together beforehand, for other recipients and for other occasions: It’s about principle! Then proceeded to explain principle, as if to someone who had no idea what a principle was…

His favorite example was Sir Thomas More, who refused his consent to King Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and was eventually beheaded for his position. I view this as an object lesson in how one should dialogue when one is in a dialogue, and resist the temptation to monologue, for the question that was immediately confronting this individual had to do with intended outcome, and how his “I shall never vote for him” stance would feed into that. Ah, perhaps he didn’t realize it. But Thomas More is not a good example to be used when one is faced with that question. What did More’s sacrifice actually do? Sure, it was principled…but, it turned out to be merely the first in a long series of martyrdoms that would be endured by both Catholics and Protestants, throughout Europe, for the next two centuries.

Our conversation lost its levity when I posed a question that was, perhaps, too insightful. Maybe the right thing to do would’ve been to save it for other occasions, and merely let my friend stew in his juices; there’s a saying about leading a horse to water but not making him drink. My question is: If you’re not doing it to make yourself happy, and you’re not doing it to make things better, then why are you doing it? We are living in undignified times, because a lot of people feel very sure about what they’re doing but they aren’t able to answer that question.

“I’m doing it for principles,” all too often, is merely a cop-out. All too often it is invoked when the speaker is opting not to do something. Hasn’t worked his way through the five stages, stuck on anger or denial, losing his dignity. And that’s what has been happening in the Age of Aquarius. It was started with a war protest; a very self-righteous one, popular, forceful — not even wrong. A lot of people had sympathy with it, and for good reason. But the primer that detonated the charge, was young people coming of age; facing a path of difficulty between them, and the necessary change of becoming an adult. Their pathway was much, much more difficult than most. And there was injustice. So for “principles” — no plan, just don’t-wanna-do-it principles — they kicked off an abnegation of dignity. And until now, that has never really stopped. It has been a nice, long, leisurely fifty-year stretch of abnegating societal dignity. And because of that, we have wrinkled old hippies walking around, quite literally living their teenage years, into their seventies and beyond. They don’t realize that’s what they’re doing, not consciously anyway. It’s sad to see.

The Twilight of the Age of Aquarius… VI

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Every now & then if you take the time to skim over a crackpot right-wing blog, like this one for example which no one ever reads anyway…you’ll see someone make an interesting point about this thing we today call “liberalism.” That point being that there is necessarily a lengthy and complicated history behind it. It did not — never could have — become what it is overnight. And some of this was deliberately planned. You’ll see a lot of these conservative bloggers offer up some action items from the Communist Manifesto, like free public education and a progressive income tax. But the conscientious reader who seeks to reconcile this with life experience will notice a glaring contradiction, when contemplating those times in the recent past in which liberalism suffered from setbacks, electoral & otherwise. For example, in 1980, 1994, 2010 and 2016. Liberalism has rebounded from these setbacks, which is really an amazing achievement when you think about it; and it didn’t do it by tapping into the intellectual wellspring that is a static aged document written by a dead white guy. For strategy, it learned from experience like we all try to do. That would have to mean there was a learner somewhere, and it would suggest this intellectual force was capable of shrugging off negative emotion, overcoming disappointment, adjusting & adapting, picking oneself up off the ground & dusting oneself off before trying again — all these personal virtues, that precede success, liberalism itself is so keen on not encouraging in others.

How’s this work? Is it hypocrisy? An elite cadre of intellectually rugged and disciplined planners who seek to influence much larger numbers of commoners, and in so doing bring out behavior in commoners completely antithetical to what is exercised by those elites as they seek this influence? Partly, yes; I’ve written before of the scheming elites and the ignorant commons. I still maintain that driving a wedge between these two halves is the key to their defeat. But that’s only a small part of it.

Toddler RulesLiberalism is political by nature but its origins are not there. It is a failure of normal personal maturity, a product of stunted growth. When we are born, we all have the faults we notice liberals have, and this is by design. When we want something and don’t have it, we holler and make it someone else’s problem. A little while later when we enter toddler-hood, we become acquainted with the concept of ownership, and at that tender age see it only as a tool we can use for our own benefit, rather than as a building block of civilization that relies on mutual respect. This part of ownership, that constrains our ambitions out of respect for the other person’s equivalent natural rights, comes later as we grow out of this toddler stage. Well, liberals are simply people who have never done this. They grew out of toddler-hood in body only.

Really, liberalism doesn’t even belong in politics, when you think about it. Since politics is concerned with the definition and refinement of public codes and policies that have influence on our lives & fortunes; and liberalism, as we find it today, is the empowerment of people who reject responsibility for this. Reagan made this point articulately during his first inaugural: “…[I]f no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?” This raises a question: Why is liberalism political? This contradiction is not a trifling or obscure one. It’s right in our faces, every day. We see it during casual meetings with friends and relatives…like, Thanksgiving. Here’s your smarmy liberal niece or nephew, sitting across the table from you with some Cliff’s Notes about how to deal with that nasty Republican Uncle — you — spouting off with some different ideas. Should be a mind-expanding experience, for one of you or the other, maybe both. Let’s face it, inhabiting a vacuum chamber is a natural and comfortable thing for everybody, and stepping outside of it should be healthy. Problem is, there aren’t any ideas! Just some cherry-picked statistics and zingers that are supposed to convince third-parties watching the confrontation, not you, and “vote for Hillary Clinton!” What little actual idea there is in there, if there is any at all, amounts to: After she wins, everything should work out more-or-less okay, and look how enthused I am about it. That’s it. After the goodies and the free Internet and other various num nums, they don’t really want anything at all. The prize under the eyes — if we’re going to evaluate it and characterize it honestly — is just the feeling of winning.

So we’re dealing with a weed, whose leafy bits intrude into politics while the roots are somewhere else. It snakes along, grows, migrating from personal deficiencies into the public policy for a specific reason. And this gets into a rather fascinating group dynamic, centered around this feeling-of-winning trophy. You see it every now and then, when reason cannot sustain their proposals, even in appearance — when they’re presented with a conservative argument that they logically can’t answer. “If we’re going to address the difficulty involved in raising a family on minimum wage simply by hiking it up to $15, why not go for $30?” That’s just one example, although there are a few others. We know liberalism is about toddler-rules and the feeling of winning, not about coming up with good ideas about public policy, because if the conversation was an exchange of these ideas and the challenges that invigorate them — that would settle the matter right then & there. Of course that isn’t what happens. What happens is a lot of posturing, as in “You still haven’t said what this single-mom with 4 kids earning $9.50 an hour at McDonald’s is supposed to DO.” Or, false accusations of “strawman argument,” as in “No one has suggested thirty, we’re talking about fifteen, please stick to the subject.” Or, some more tear-jerking about the plight of the poor, or some kind of rant. In short, they’ll discuss ideas and logic and common-sense and cause-and-effect, for exactly as long as a toddler respects the concept of ownership — as long as it benefits them. Then they’ll abandon that exercise and go somewhere else, like emotion. It’s not at all unlike you driving down the road and seeing an obstruction in your lane when it’s too late to stop. You escape-left or escape-right. That’s what they’re doing with your logical rhetorical question, escaping, since stopping is out of the question.

What happens with this vine-weed because of this, is the fascinating part. It behaves like a sentient organism unto itself. The individuals who are a part of it seek to do nothing but avoid embarrassment and offer up to bystanders this suggestive illusion that they’ve won an argument, but by acting on this motivation, they contribute to this group-construct a sort of self-preservation instinct. They will do whatever must be done to avoid losing, or looking like they’re losing; so the combined force will do whatever must be done in order to survive. This is what it’s doing in politics in the first place. It has no other business there. It has intruded into politics because it cannot allow itself to be killed, or to wither & die like it should; and it cannot sit still or stay the same size, it has to be growing all the time. If you’re old like me you might remember when liberals said “think globally, act locally.” If they really meant that, there’d be a lot less conflict. Truth is, if you take that saying literally you’ve described the essence of conservatism: Be aware of problems, do whatever you can about them, respect the choices of others even when they don’t agree with you, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do about their dumb choices and stupid should hurt. A lot of what is required to make society go, has to do with taking those feelings and emotions and putting them in a box — not every decision has to be made about feelings, and not every feeling has to be put into actions or words.

Now, after these personal deficiencies snake along and these grown-up toddlers intrude into the realm of politics where they don’t belong, they have to keep moving and keep winning. They don’t accept defeat. We still have a Russia conspiracy-theory, right? Because they can’t admit they lost the election last year simply because they nominated the inferior candidate. Because of that intransigence, they’ve been transforming society one day at a time, even when public opinion has been aligned against them. This insistence on victory at the expense of all other things has had a weaponizing effect on our agencies and on our institutions. We just saw the spectacle of the Internal Revenue Service targeting groups associated with the Tea Party to deny them tax-exempt status, which raises the ever-disturbing “How long has this been going on?” question. And we saw the FBI let Hillary off the hook when she was clearly guilty. This is part of an ongoing trend in which, if the normal and dispassionate execution of our laws would impose some sort of damaging effect on the prospects of the democrat party to win this office or that one, we can expect some weighty arbitrating authority to step in and stop it from happening. Last time I recall it being this naked and in-your-face, was when the Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled that Frank Lautenberg could run in the 2002 elections. And here was me thinking laws meant things. Turns out, if ballots are about to be printed without a democrat name upon them — that all goes out the window, at least in NJ.

Liberals in their quest for everlasting victory, which is really nothing more than a toddler’s peevishness against the horror of ever being told “no,” have weaponized justice, academia, and the arts. They have perverted comedy. Today, it’s de rigueur to see evidence of punchlines, or “jokes,” that aren’t even loosely connected with anything funny and you have to wonder if society will lose track, in a few years, of what comedy is supposed to be. Some of this is honest and accidental. A fat-joke made at Chris Christie’s expense for example; show it to a focus group of liberals, it’ll be clear that this isn’t actual comedy since there’s nothing funny about it, but the increased prospect of winning causes an endorphin rush. With the toddler’s muddled distinction of thought vs. feeling the crowd will find it “hilarious.” Thus it is with all of them. I recall quite clearly the several liberal acquaintances who so strongly recommended I start watching Boston Legal because it does such a great job of giving “a fair hearing to both sides.” We-ell, no not so much. The liberal and the conservative were both quirky and funny. But, the liberal was brilliant in ways the conservative was not. Which would’ve been fine by itself, but this was the entire point of their various interactions and the “comedy” that ensued. The liberal didn’t oppose the conservative — there was no point to it. The conservative made himself look like a complete buffoon all by himself. I’m sure to the entrenched B.L. fan this is a quibbling distinction. But if it worked exactly the same way with the roles reversed, the show would not have aired.

And that’s the best-case example, the “fair hearing to both sides” show. The rest of teevee has gotten so much worse, and we’ve become accustomed to it. “Funny” is whatever makes liberals feel good. It doesn’t have to actually be funny. And after they’re done dealing with reality, ready to burn the many-hours block scrolling through channels on the idiot box before bedtime, imagining liberalism to have the right answers makes liberals feel very, very good, so good they can’t distinguish the rush from an actually funny joke. One has to wonder what’s been going on in reality to make them hunger so.

So while society has been sleeping in the Age of Aquarius, our agencies have been weaponized to the benefit of liberals; ditto for justice, something called “science” that doesn’t work according to scientific principles, our institutions of higher learning, and comedy. To this we can add the arrested development problem that has given liberalism, as we know it today, cause to exist in the first place. This last one has been a natural process since people who grew out of toddler-hood in body only, feel right at home around other people who grew out of toddler-hood in body only. The problem is contagious, although it doesn’t have much effect on people who have matured already. But for those who haven’t done so, proximity to another can arouse a feeling of confidence that was not there before. This is the condition of our liberals who ensconce themselves in a group environment with the like-minded: Seldom correct, but never in doubt. Well…this is a disaster. As I said earlier, we all begin life as liberals. We have to mature out of it. Fact is, lack of confidence is the first step to this maturity. We don’t reconsider our premises and rationalizations, until something has happened to inspire us to do this. And the way that works is by breaking down our confidence in what life-experience is about to counsel us to reject. Immature people hanging around immature people, stops this from happening in a lot of ways.

Sexy JudgeThe most primitive way this happens is through this this cult-like worship of the choice. “It’s so-and-so’s choice, s/he has made this choice and we all have to respect it.” We hear that a lot from a variety of different corners, both in & outside of politics. I notice very seldom do we ever hear anything like “I guarantee this choice won’t have an effect on anybody else.” Nope, not even. To the contrary, much of the policy change proposed by the liberal flank pushes us toward a societal mold, in which everything anybody does has some effect on everybody else. It’s supposed to be how we show we care, or something. Oh okay…so this person is going to make a “choice” that will affect me, and I don’t have a shot at being a decent person unless I step back and keep myself out of it. Am I ranting about abortion, here? Ah, not necessarily. The pattern has grown much bigger than that. It’s an over-arching trend, covering all sorts of issues. Maybe all of ’em. It is their guiding theme. It’s also a perfectly simple explanation of why civilized society can’t function with their kind in charge. Also, it’s proof that they’re not at at all about “equality,” not even close, since while you and I are supposed to defrock ourselves of any tincture of influence on this person’s “choice,” liberal activists (or anybody who’s sympathetic with them) are free to bully and intimidate with their assorted virtue signaling devices, their Oscar ceremony speeches, their “awareness” campaigns, and their “protests.” The fact is, liberals love “choices” as long as the choices are made the way the liberals want them made. They aren’t really fans of choice at all.

Grown-ups don’t actually make these “choices,” anyway. Not very often. Last choice I made was…ah now I remember, I was fixing my wife & myself some ice cream. I found some chocolate and butterscotch chips in the cupboard, and chose, for my bowl, to put in just a tiny amount of both. That’s a choice. A matter of taste. “I like this flavor better than that other flavor.” Grown-ups decide they’re going to go to the gym to burn the calories after they’ve had the ice cream. Or, stay home from the gym because maybe they’re feeling like they worked out too much and need more of a rest. Or, to cut the lawn this afternoon so they’ll have it out of the way tomorrow. Decisions involve some sort of reckoning with eventual consequences. Choices do not. Some people are fortunate enough to live a life full of choices but that don’t involve any actual decisions anywhere. That’s as good a definition as any, of arrested development: A scarcity of “Gosh, if I do this this’ll happen, but if I don’t do it that’ll happen” avoidance-avoidance-conflict predicaments. A dearth of genuine responsibility. Choosing every waking minute of every day, without any actual deciding.

It’s a distinction that may be lost even on those who really are adults, who have to make some actual decisions. It’s impossible for anyone to truly grasp it if they never have to make any. To them, “choices” may look like decisions. All too often, we see the choices do have consequences after all, nevermind whether these were anticipated when the decider got to the decision-point. A lot of choice-makers, even when instructed by life that there were consequences involved and they should have decided, like adults, rather than choosing like children — still won’t grasp it. A lack of intelligence is not the problem. The problem is one of perspective. Just as a man on a flat-bottom ferry leaving the dock, may have to look out the window two, three, more times than that just to achieve conscious understanding that it’s the vessel that’s moving, not the dock. In the same way, it takes some perspective to realize decisions have consequences, that there is a connection between one’s present circumstances and the “choices” one made in the past. Like: present poverty, many kids, little marketable skill. This all too often leads to a “What am I gonna do?” mindset that makes it hard to understand how one charted one’s own course, back when one thought one was merely making a “choice.” Even if such a chooser is surrounded by people mentioning it. But way too many of these choosers are not so surrounded; they’re surrounded by people who say the opposite, that someone else should do something. Enablers.

And this is how liberals “choose” truth.

To them, it’s simply a matter of preference, like chocolate ice cream over vanilla. Is this not obvious now? We’ve been seeing it for months — “NO EVIDENCE Obama spied on Trump” means one thing, “NO EVIDENCE Russia swayed the elections” means an entirely different thing, with the former meaning “nothing to see here” and the latter meaning “we’ve got to keep looking.” The looking gets done; ensuing events suggest very strongly, if not out-and-out prove the former is true whereas the latter is a myth. Liberals keep choosing their favorite truth, like Cherry Coke over Diet.

We pretend this is not the case, for some reason. I don’t know what. Maybe we as a society are inclined to act a lot like the New Jersey Supreme Court, figuring that if the rules say & truth says & cause-and-effect say something must happen, and we anticipate it will inflict heavy damage on the liberal ideology, something or someone must intervene and keep it from happening. It’s odd we should extend such sympathies to something that has done such grave harm to so many people. It’s like our own brand of Stockholm Syndrome. But reality churns away, regardless of who pays attention to it or why they’re ignoring it. Thinking like a liberal has a direct effect on one’s life experiences. It affects one’s vocation. This is not to say all liberals end up impoverished, by any means. Some are quite wealthy. And, there are some conservatives who are very poor. But liberalism certainly does affect what you can do. It has a way of inviting people to choose their own truth one day…and, the next day, requiring them to choose one truth over another. Not at all unlike the spider inviting the fly into his parlor.

We see it as soon as we open our minds to the possibility, as anyone with any life experience eventually must. There are certain jobs in which one cannot go around “choosing reality” like flipping the channel on a teevee. Dam builder, bridge builder, building builder. Railroad track layer. After all, when the pickup truck heads out over the dam or the bridge, or when people start walking around in the building, or the train goes over the tracks — the structure will hold, or it won’t. Wishes, hopes, enthusiasm, aren’t going to have anything to do with it at all. Sewage pipe cleaner, farmer, butcher, baker, candlestick-maker. Here & there, now & then, you might find one or two people holding these jobs who supported Bernie Sanders. That doesn’t change the fact: You can’t get these jobs done thinking that way. You can feel enthused about something, you can dread this or hope for that, but sooner or later you have to invite reality to step in and have its say.

There are other jobs dominated by liberals, because they are friendly to the liberal mindset. Psychology is a good example of this. It parades around presenting itself as some sort of “science,” and in some isolated scenarios it does use the scientific method. But overall, as a general rule, it doesn’t. So much of its experimentation is non-reproducible, isn’t supposed to be reproducible. One important symposium, and all of its premises are up-ended as one faction prevails over another, and the heavy-hitters in attendance disperse afterwards, to push out all sorts of written instruction to their inferiors throughout the field about what to think. The other obvious example is: Acting. We saw this with a spectacle of self-humiliation that was so cutting, so keen, so ruthless, as to elicit sympathetic wincing even from those who were never particularly fond of Warren Beatty. Who, right before his historic screw-up opening the wrong envelope at the Oscars, unfortunately thought it might be fitting to say:

I think it could be said that our goal in politics is the same as our goal in art and that’s to get to the truth. So that’s like in the movies that we honor tonight, that not only entertain us and move us, they show us the increasing diversity in our community and our respect for diversity and freedom all over the world.

This utterance, juxtaposed as it is right before the debacle that still has the world talking, helps to highlight the overall point, which is: No, these things you call “arts” do not exist for getting to the truth. They get to falsity. If you’re an actor, your job is to pretend. The job is to behave around things that are false, as if they are true. And yes I’m going to go for the jugular on this: Beatty screwed up the envelope because that is his skill. That’s why his political leanings are so well-represented, statistically, within his chosen profession. If the job has to do with pretending false things are true, liberals are going to dominate it, because if they were more inclined toward acting as if true things were true then they’d be a much better fit for something else. But then, they’d much more likely be conservatives. But nobody should’ve been waiting for Warren Beatty to say “La La Land!” before mistrusting him. The giveaway was in this thing about “freedom all over the world.” NEVER trust a liberal who talks about freedom.

BeattyWell, never trust ’em at any time. But especially not when they talk about that. These are the people who just got done addressing the “All these people don’t have health insurance” problem, by imposing a fine on whoever can’t afford it. Freedom? They don’t know the meaning of the word and they don’t care to learn anything about it.

And our society has been pandering to them, for decades. During which time, “freedom” is just one of many words that have lost meaning for us. It’s as if liberals, en masse, are approaching the rest of us on a regular basis with a proposal of “Hey, from now on let’s all just pretend this word here means the opposite of what it really means, okay?” And the response of society-at-large to this bit of silliness, which ought to be “Are you out of your gourd?” instead has been more like “Whatever, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of watching ‘Kardashian’ reruns.” So it’s important not to be too hard on liberals. Even with all the time they’ve taken, they couldn’t have accomplished it without a lot of help from everyone else.

Where we really took a wrong turn, though, was when we agreed to their fuzzy-line phony snow-globe-reality precepts with the word “law.” For generations, centuries even, this word has carried with it the implication of objective definition. That has the second-most-important aspect to this word, behind “don’t break it.” Anyone having successfully graduated from about the fourth grade, should be able to tell you why it isn’t going to work to have a law that says “Don’t drive too fast around here.” You have to say 25, or 40, or 65 or 10. Up until recently this was always just assumed. If it’s worth the time & trouble to write down a law, it’s worth it to write down what it is. How do I know if & when I’m breaking it? For those who really do believe the word “freedom” is meaningful, in other words people who aren’t Warren Beatty, this is a prerequisite. Freedom means, “a nation of laws and not men” as the saying goes. If you come close to breaking the law, and the entire community hates you and wants to see you gone, but you didn’t cross the line then you’re safe. Also, if everyone loves you and wants to be your best pal, but the evidence shows you’re clearly guilty…then, Mister Popular, you have to face the consequences. That’s what real freedom is. Lines are drawn, and guilt & innocence are determined based on who did what, and what the evidence says. Not based on who likes who, or who owes who a favor.

Liberals make a good show of not carrying it that far, by according special privileges to groups, not to people. If their position was one of “Everyone has to keep it down to 55 miles around here except Frank, because we like Frank” — then the game would be over before it started. That would be indefensible, even in liberal-land. (“Let’s let Hillary get away with it” comes close…but they also relied on a twisty-turn social-media-driven propaganda campaign of “Hillary did nothing wrong,” so they weren’t relying completely on the fact that their fortunes were all tied up in her for the moment and nobody else would’ve gotten away with it; although anyone with a brain who looked at the matter for even a minute or more, understood that was the situation.) The arguments liberals make are not held to this level of accountability, mostly because the arguments liberals make, by & large, aren’t concerned with individual rights or privileges. Liberals don’t believe in them. They believe in group rights & privileges. Now when you think on it with some discipline, you eventually realize “People in this group should have a special entitlement to break the law” is no more reasonable than “Frank should have a special entitlement to break the law.” Both statements are equally absurd and unworkable, for the same reason. But, again: We have not been thinking with diligence about this. We have spent the last several decades, inadvertently, through carelessness not maliciousness, helping the liberals destroy our society by passively buying into their nonsense. They couldn’t have made it as far as they have, without our help.

The first concession wasn’t to liberals at all, but to potheads. Smoking pot is illegal! Yeah, but no. It’s one of those laws that aren’t really laws, you know? Everybody does it. That’s what really got us going down this slippery slope. And the problem wasn’t with people who wanted to go activist, and repeal the laws against smoking pot. That’s the honest way to go about it. If there’s a law on the books and you don’t like it, you work to get the law changed. The problem we should have recognized was with the popular notion that these laws were stupid…not real laws…the people passing them, enforcing them, calling their local police department to get them enforced, are a bunch of squares. “It’s my body and I have the right to decide what to do with it” — that’s a perfectly valid argument. The way it works is, we chew that one over, get into that rational exchange of ideas, with points & counterpoints, what everybody says they want to do. At the end of it, we decide collectively what the law is going to be and then we live by it. That’s not what these fuzzy-line activists did. They got all stompy-foot and “my rights, darn it!” with the law on the books, and insisted those particular laws shouldn’t count for anything. And, got a lot of other people to agree with them. Only enough to make lots of noise, though. Not to actually get the law changed.

Now we have to put up with that nonsense with illegal immigration. It’s really quite astonishing, or would be to anyone who was frozen back in the day & thawed out only just now, how incredibly brazen our liberals are about it. They want to change the law, so that their chosen oppressed-downtrodden of the moment, “no longer have to live in the shadows,” they say. Well there’s a way to do that. We could repeal any & all immigration restrictions, at all levels, and just have open borders. Well, they’re not going to suggest such a thing. Because it would lose. So instead, they’re following along with what the potheads did, with their latest nonsense about “There’s no way a person can be illegal” and the like. Uh, there sure as hell is. You can be a criminal, as in, someone who has committed a crime. You can be illegal by virtue of what space you’re occupying at any given time…as in, You’re Not Supposed To Be Here, like a schoolboy exploring a new path home and wandering across a property line. Illegal aliens are both of those things. I’m not hating on them, it’s just a fact. That’s the way the law worked before liberals got hold of it. Fifty five miles an hour, you’re either breaking the law or you aren’t.

It goes the other way too. If you go by what we’ve had the big brass balls to put down in writing, you are ALLOWED to do certain things — in fact, guaranteed the right to do them — that the “cool kids” have decided, according to their phantom unwritten laws, should earn you some sort of mid-course correction. References to Judeo-Christian deities outside of church, are prominent in that list, as I was reminded a few weeks ago by way of the c++ Boost mailing list:

> > In Christ,
> > Sxxxxx Wxxxxxxx
> >
> IMHO the boost mailing list should be free of political and/or religious
> expressions. Maybe nobody else minds, but I do mind (I’m happy to
> elaborate, if required). Sxxxxx, please refrain from expressing your
> personal beliefs in every mail you send to a mailing list dealing with
> boost and c++ and limit the contents to those 2 subjects.

We’ve had that discussion before, multiple times.. And actually I think I started the first one of those. Just chill 🙂 It’s not that important. And think of it on par with the sig lines some people use. And just be happy it’s not a 50 line totally irrelevant and un-enforceable legal disclaimer. Now those are something to get upset about 😉

It’s nice to see common sense prevail now & then. But it isn’t it interesting, this written inflection of swagger people can put on about it. It’s almost like they think they’re doing something to make life better for others, when all they’re doing is bitching. Which, when you think about the subject of the bitching, really comes down to a complaint about exactly this, nothing more and nothing less: A reminder that there are people around who believe differently. Isn’t that something? I was just talking about words being re-defined to mean their opposites. I guess “tolerance” has come to be one of those words, at least where God and Jesus are involved.

It’s not just the unwritten-crime of capitalizing the ‘H’ in He & His, though. “Not Okay” has taken its place as the modern, millennial-kids’ version of “There ought to be a law” that might’ve been uttered so carelessly by their grandparents. It is sufficiently lacking in testicular vigor, since “ought to be a law” at least suggests a campaign to get something on the books. Or, abandon the pursuit in mid-stride, or characterize it as hyperbole; either way, be definite. The modern variant, on the other hand, seeks to establish a new prohibition that rides the ether. It seeks influence without accountability, and therefore tries for making a new rule without doing any of that bothersome rule-making.

Nivea, thanks to such social-networking ectoplasm-based activism, was recently forced to take down an ad that drew a connection between the color white, and “purity” (via Moonbattery, via Pirate’s Cove). And of course there is the mess that took place this week with Kendall Jenner and the Pepsi ad:

There’s so much wrong with this, and yet at the same time, it isn’t really wrong. If anyone asked me what the problem was with the ad, in MY opinion, my honest answer is “It’s obsequious and stupid.” But that isn’t really the right answer. You can tell when you skim over another upload, where comments are allowed, like over here. What’s unjust about it is that everyone who was involved in producing the ad is surely not having a lot of fun with work right now…they should’ve known better, darn it! But it’s a disproportionate response. They’re being punished because they lay in wait like a starving jaguar stalking its prey, and saw some potential profit in the hip, trendy protest thing right now. They’re supposed to do that. Alright, so it is disgusting and there have to be better ways to make a living…eh, maybe it is fitting after all.

That’s not really the point. The point is that we’re lately deciding what’s “allowed” and what’s not allowed, without any actual authority, just mob rule. And the mob rule isn’t even as rational or just as an actual mob, which is a low baseline; they’re deciding it based on “likes” on social media. This did-it-go-viral Oracle goes thumbs-up or thumbs-down. And where it conflicts with the actual written law, with the viral-Oracle saying okay and the written law saying no-can-do, or vice-versa, we have a new pretender-legal-universe being born.

And then we have a sort of vicious cycle. The law-duality creates conflict, the conflict creates protests…someone makes a “Makes You Feel Alive” tone-deaf, dumb ad about the protests, then we have protests about the dumb ad. So my larger overall point is, society can’t function this way. It can’t function with these “Schroedinger’s Cat Laws” that are entirely ineffectual, and at the same time, fully in force. Things have to be absolutely legal, in every sense (even if they aren’t appreciated) or else they have to be illegal in every sense. To start these virtual-middle-school, social-media “Hey that’s not okay” campaigns about things that are legal, drives toward exactly the same unhappy situation as a social-media “Let that bad guy go” campaign to exonerate people who are actually guilty of a crime: Everything is illegal, therefore nothing is. And that’s a place we really can’t go. We can’t afford it. We might think we can, but we can’t. That’s a true loss of freedom. Once things go that far, we toil away under all the heavy obligations of civilized society, while enjoying none of its benefits, enduring all of the exigencies of anarchy.

We are currently raising a generation of airheads who are ready for such a perfect citadel of misery (H/T American Digest):

My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture…ask them some basic questions about the civilization they will be inheriting, and be prepared for averted eyes and somewhat panicked looks. Who fought in the Peloponnesian War? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach?
It is not their “fault” for pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature. They have learned exactly what we have asked of them — to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present.

Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system — it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide. The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West.

During my lifetime, lamentation over student ignorance has been sounded by the likes of E.D. Hirsch, Allan Bloom, Mark Bauerlein and Jay Leno, among many others. But these lamentations have been leavened with the hope that appeal to our and their better angels might reverse the trend. E.D. Hirsch even worked up a self-help curriculum, a do-it yourself guide on how to become culturally literate, imbued with the can-do American spirit that cultural defenestration could be reversed by a good reading list in the appendix. Broadly missing is sufficient appreciation that this ignorance is the intended consequence of our educational system, a sign of its robust health and success.

This generation is primed to overlook some very basic rules of thinking, I’ve noticed. The either-or propositions I’ve spelled out above, about laws and so forth — not only elude them, but I’ve noticed a lot of them who fancy themselves as hardy thinkers are immune to these obvious truisms. They deride this as “binary thinking,” and say that like it’s some kind of bad thing. This has been going on awhile. I recall a dozen years ago, John Kerry was running his presidential campaign on “nuance,” talking at length about the evils of “black and white thinking.” Well…the problem is, some thinking really is binary. When you’re talking about directions, East and West really are opposites. Aristotle had a rule about this, called the “law of the excluded middle.”

I have noticed there is a generational tendency to get away from this, by nonchalantly shifting the focus of the conversation away from directions, and toward points. East and West may be opposites, but it is a FACT that my house is East of Arden Fair Mall, and yet at the same time, it is West of Folsom Dam. This has the appearance, at least to the casual observer, of making a logical argument. And it actually does that, too, if the point being refuted is “It’s one or the other, with no third proposition between them.” My house, in this example, is direct evidence that this is not the case. But the snowflake kids lose track of the fact that what’s being discussed are directions, not points. Naming my house as an example might find a point between East and West, but it does not make East and West the same thing.

These soft, unwritten “laws,” both the finer ones that state-without-stating what is allowed vs. what is expressly prohibited — and, the larger, broader ones that say every direction is equal to its opposite because we’ve been able to find points in between, that actors “find truth” Warren Beatty style, and that choosing is equal to deciding because there’s no such thing as a consequence — directly affect how society works, how we all behave. And there’s a certain inertia to them. I touched on this briefly in the previous chapter as I inspected the problem posed by, and then suffered by, the dear “Auntie Mabel” who won’t take responsibility for her own outbursts, thus obliging everyone else in proximity to do it for her:

Those who surround her, fear the conflict more than she does. They may think they have the coveted ‘conflict resolution skills,” but these often amount to little or nothing more than figuring what Auntie Mabel wants, and giving it to her. Once that’s done, the message is relayed to the crazy old Auntie that, for whatever other tools she’s lacking to get what she wants, she can always cause conflict. And that will usually work.

So she uses this — there are no other tools available. And she gets what she wants — everyone else fears conflict, she doesn’t. Why should she?

And she gets what she wants.

Other people see her getting what she wants. She evolves into a sort of weird authority figure. And then…a role model. Now you’ve got a real problem.

You can’t solve problems like this by taking each person aside and telling them “Don’t cave in to Mabel’s outbursts like that.” Or, “do this, don’t do that.” The hitch in the giddy-up is not with people disobeying you; your lack of authority is not what keeps your solution from being effective. We know this from Genesis 6:

6:5The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6:6The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 6:7So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created — and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground — for I regret that I have made them.” 6:8But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
6:11Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 6:12God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 6:13So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 6:14So make yourself an ark of cypress wood…

It is clear, from this, that human behavior was the problem. But also that the animals were planned, collateral damage. Most importantly, though, that human behavior can be assessed, and adjudicated, in the aggregate (“wickedness of the human race…”). The point is that there’s a group-think, that society overall has a behavioral pattern that is greater than the sum of its parts. Now, people who read the Bible literally cry foul at this, protesting that God is omniscient and omnipotent, therefore there should have been no problem. If He doesn’t want humans to behave a certain way, just make them stop! What’s the problem?

But any software developer who’s worked on a large-scale problem will get it right away. The issue is technical debt:

Technical debt is a concept in programming that reflects the extra development work that arises when code that is easy to implement in the short run is used instead of applying the best overall solution.

Technical debt is commonly associated with extreme programming, especially in the context of refactoring. That is, it implies that restructuring existing code (refactoring) is required as part of the development process. Under this line of thinking refactoring is not only a result of poorly written code, but is also done based on an evolving understanding of a problem and the best way to solve that problem.

Technical debt, like real debt, can spiral out of control. Worst-case scenario, the system owners have to make the decision to stop throwing good money after bad, and start from scratch. There can be a lot of back-and-forth over this, with some good points made on both sides, before such a decision is made. And when the decision is made to cut the losses, it’s gut-wrenching (6:6, “…his heart was deeply troubled.”).

It’s an interesting question to ponder, whether the “reboot” would have been equally effective with some other guy chosen in Noah’s place. Genesis 6:9 introduces him as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, [who] walked faithfully with God.” We traditionally assume he was unique in this way within the antediluvian world, since he and his family were the only ones saved. Seems a logical conclusion to make. but then again it’s obvious the problem to be solved was with cultural group-behavior, not with individual behavior. It was surely manifested by way of evil individual deeds (“…and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time…”) but that cannot have been the originating point. This was a deluge that would obliterate every living thing outside the wooden vessel, including the blameless animals. Any mortal men who had tired of the declining group dynamic in tandem with the Lord’s fatigue with it, and resolved to live in solitude as mountain men, therefore innocent of this indictment — like the animals, they would have fallen into the “sucks to be you” category. So there was something very large being addressed here, bigger than the transgressions of any one man.

People being assholes, was just just a symptom of the underlying problem. They were being that way because they’d built a culture that required this behavior, made it obligatory. They’d become a whole race of Auntie Mabels. The situation was as unsustainable as it was unacceptable. God power-cycled the box because there simply wasn’t any alternative. It wasn’t like DC rebooting Superman or Marvel rebooting Spider Man…”don’t be surprised when we come back in five years and hit the button again.”

And it wasn’t a matter of pure blood-line. After the flood, with all of us descended from Noah, there’s still something wrong with us. We Christians believe Christ solved the whole thing by giving us everlasting life; but, that was a gift. It was mercy. We didn’t deserve it, and He didn’t make us deserving of it. And here I return to the software development paradigm. If you’re a Christian, you believe there was a monumental screw-up at the very beginning with that apple, a behavior so contrary to the original intent of the design that it required a re-drafting of the requirements document. And then the entire system had to be rebooted when the technical debt exceeded all sustainable levels. And then someone had to make a great sacrifice to wipe the slate clean of any “sin,” and provide safeguards against any future incorrect behavior; then, sometime in the future, we have “Judgment” at which time the whole thing will be retired, with some components, hopefully, being salvaged after the prior experience has validated they’re giving the correct outputs.

That’s the story of the Judeo-Christian religion, and it is also the story of every sufficiently complex automated computer system.

None of this is complicated. Who among us has never had a best friend, someone who would make their moms say “the two of you by yourselves are just fine, but when you get together…” Haven’t we all heard that? People make other people act like jackasses. It’s been true from the very beginning.

First thing people do when they “think” in groups, is stop thinking. It happens first with this conflict between decisions vs. choices; consequences are disregarded, the very concept of responsibility is ignored, a proclamation of one’s momentary preferences is thought to be sufficient by the person making those preferences known. It’s all completely casual, back in the mode of “Grandpa’s taking me to an ice cream shop and I’m going to pick a flavor!” The next thing that happens right after that, is feeling is made equivalent to thinking. At this stage, rational thought dies because there’s no longer any reason for it. People stop being Architects and start being Medicators, stop thinking about cause-and-effect, opting to re-direct this energy toward safeguarding their own emotional state. They start to act like a real drug-addicted medicator, chasing the next high. It becomes all about how one feels in the moment. This gets back to that most famous of the great quotes by Prof. Thomas Sowell:

The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.

Bingo. Can you imagine an entire world of people who can’t think because they don’t know what thinking is, they confuse it with feeling? Would you wipe out that world with a flood, if you were God? Well…His actions certainly become more understandable, right? I mean, with no one among them to guide them, teach them the beginnings of how to think, what hope would such a species ever have? The difference between such people, and an infestation of termites in your house, is…? And how could they ever become better than what you see in the moment. It gets back to technical debt. At some point you have to admit the experiment has jumped the shark.

LaddersNo, this doesn’t make God Hitler. And, it doesn’t make Hitler God. Hitler played at being God; that’s what made him an evil man. People who nurse their grudges against the Judeo-Christian religion, often point back to the story of the flood as a testimonial of God, should He exist at all, being some kind of genocidal maniac. They seem to miss the point that God created humanity in the first place. With that act, there is not only an allowance for wholesale destruction if the circumstances require it, but also something of an obligation. The point that is being missed is just how evil humans can be, once they make the decision to invest all their “thinking” in the group dynamic. Again: This isn’t that complicated. Anybody who’s been a parent, or a teacher, and seen first-hand how “thinking” can work in an immature mind, should get jiggy with it. Frying up ants with a magnifying glass on a sunny day, is just barely scratching the surface. Kids are humans, and humans, once they’ve chosen to abandon rational thought for some term of time, can be just awful.

Almost like a draftsman’s mechanical pencil gliding along the straight edge of a T-square, people will stick to a predictable course once they’ve chosen to elevate the emotions of the group dynamic above their individual lock on reason and logic. They will choose destruction over creation and preservation, every time. They will flock to a paradigm of “We get it done together, or else we don’t get it done at all.” This is required. Obligatory. After all: How does it make you feel if something has to get done, the other fellow manages to do it, and you don’t? Pretty bad, right? Now…how does it make you feel if everyone’s counting on it getting done, and nobody gets it done? Not as bad…if we’re going to be honest about it. Oh yes there is suffering that wouldn’t occur in the other scenario. But, you don’t feel as bad. So elevating thinking over feeling will lead to this, and every time: Don’t do it, even if people are counting on it. Because maybe there will be starvation and maybe there will even be death, but I won’t feel bad.

That’s the credo. The REAL one. I’m sure someone might not like it, but that’s an honest evaluation, backed up by history, of how feeling-over-thinking works. Venezuela proves that, right?

But, you don’t need Venezuela to prove anything. You can tell this is the wrong path by way of its own test for success: feelings. Much like the over-indulged man-child who manages to bully his single-mom into bringing him sandwiches, cookies and soda to his room while he spends the day trolling conservative blogs. Twenty-four-seven, all of this energy is sunk into making him feel good and, at the end of it, how does he feel? Ah…the story has become a monotone, and then an orchestra of monotones. Generalization, usually hazardous, becomes uncommonly safe here. He thinks “LOL” is an adequate rebuttal, only because he’s forced to think so, he can’t formulate anything better. He has a bellyfull of Oreos or gummy worms or something and may never shit right again. The average teenage single-mom who has to drop out of high school in the ninth grade, has a more impressive resume than he does if she’s got anything vaguely resembling a work ethic, so his job prospects stink on ice and he knows he has only himself to blame for this. He’s got a face full of acne, is as pale as copier paper, would look grossly out-of-place on a hiking trail, which isn’t a problem because he hasn’t got the lung capacity to ever see one, wouldn’t recognize the sun in the sky. And he’s so full of resentments he can’t even think straight, most pointedly toward the woman who’s been bringing him drinks in his little cave, and the husband to whom she’s married who is not his dad but has been resentfully paying all the bills and making even this miserable existence possible. In short, he feels lower than whale dirt. And why shouldn’t he? He isn’t doing anything to help anyone.

That’s a modern, and widespread, social problem we have — males being raised in a society that frowns upon male-ness. There’s no place for that energy to go. As a consequence, there is much suffering — and not all of it done by males. But I believe we covered that already.

What is worthy of comment here, is the ultimate consequence of this elevation of feeling over thought. Feelings are of paramount importance; and, paradoxically, they are the first casualty. This a good acid-test of when you’re executing a bad plan, when it declares something to be the primary goal, and right out of the gate it makes collateral damage out of that very thing.

GollumPeople who value feeling over thought commonly engage in, or suffer from, depending on your point of view — oikophobia. N-O-T-E this is not “fear of pigs,” there is nothing porcine about this word, there is no “N” between the “I” and the “K.” Oikophobia is, or could be thought-of as, the polar opposite of xenophobia which is an irrational fear of what’s alien. Oikophobia is the irrational fear of “the house,” or what’s familiar; if it has reached critical levels, it is fear of one’s own self. The term comes to us from Victorian times in jolly old England, back when it started to get hip & fashionable to go off and explore the Dark Continent of Africa. In those days it was thought to be synonymous with “Wanderlust.” We could think of it as an impulse, along the lines of “I’ve got to get out of this place.” How it relates to the metaphor of the copier-paper-skin Gollum-teenager living in his mom’s basement, is just obvious.

Hollywood — Mr. Beatty’s “La La Land” — has been playing to this psychological malady, by playing up the Humans Are Bastards trope. If you’ve been paying attention to movies lately, I’m sure you’ve noticed it’s been appearing a lot more often than it used to appear. That’s self-loathing on display, and it is reflective of our evolving culture in the moment. It is the ladders in the cartoon, above, sawed in half. It is the spirit of “We do it together, or we don’t do it at all.” The plague that is visited, in this month and year, upon poor Venezuela.

The next thing that happens is the glorification of instant gratification over delayed gratification. People can’t wait anymore; they have limited attention spans. Why would they not? Feeling is elevated above thought, and having to wait for things doesn’t make you feel very good. So people want to be gratified instantly — which makes them into agents of destruction. Because destruction is quicker, and more fun to watch too. It’s instant and there’s no planning involved. Like Spock said in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan: “As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create.”

After that comes the valuation of security over opportunity. And this is why society cannot last long with the feeling-over-thought priority system in place. It comes back to decisions versus choices: Decisions fulfill thoughts, choices gratify feelings. Opportunity does very little to gratify feelings, although these are what make society go. They are what allow us to function. Security certainly does seem valuable to you when you don’t have any of it; but the people who thrive on it, always wanting more of it, usually are up to something and it isn’t good. If you’re doing something in your everyday life to help other people, you probably aren’t going to require too much security anyway, you’ll be making your own.