Archive for December, 2017

They Walk Among Us, Dead Inside

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Unanswerable question of the day: If Roy Moore was to be opposed because it’s important to keep child molesters and creepers out of Congress, and this effort ultimately succeeded, then how come all the celebrating is on the side of the democrats who merely wanted to pick up a Senate seat? Oh sure I’m seeing a little bit of gloating from the Republicans who were anti-Moore, some “In Your Face!” But the narrative that things are made better with a Moore defeat, and would somehow deteriorate with a Moore victory, seems to have been tossed out the window. All this “in your face” stuff, every jot & tittle of it, is dedicated to a proposition of “you dummies picked the wrong candidate and now disaster has ensued.” This just adds to my conviction that there never was any logical coherence to it. Roy Moore, defeated, doesn’t open a hole in the ground, leap into it, reach up & pull the hole in after himself — that’s not how it works. He serves no jail time for having seduced or mistreated anyone. No one is protected by this ultimately successful, but very poorly thought-out, effort to protect children & women. Logical coherence would be…although this comes off as a bit daffy, because it is…Roy Moore was, and remains, a danger to these women-children, so he should win this Senate seat so we can watch him and he won’t have the time to be dangerous. Now he’s a free, private citizen, not convicted of anything, facing no trial, with spare time he would not otherwise have.

Allow me to suggest an answer for my own question. Republicans — Americans — labor under a strange relationship with this idea of voters being able to influence things. We’re excited by it, and at the same time we fear the responsibility that goes with it, with such an intensity that some among us are polarized by it, even repulsed and sickened by it. For them, this fear wins out, day after day. Like the drivers-ed student who wants to sit in the back seat while the other kids take their turn driving on the freeway, all the time, until the teacher finally has to call her out on it.

Spend it for me!We’re hearing much the same thing about the tax bill President Trump is trying to pass. It’s funny, to those of us who’ve been watching it awhile, how much more popular tax cuts are well before they’re about to actually happen, than they are when we’re right on top of the delivery, and there’s only 1 or 2 signatures or procedural moves remaining before they become law. It’s not at all unlike watching a cat try to figure out if it really wants to go outside. The democrats amp up their propaganda, yank the volume dial on it up to eleven, and we hear “trickle down is bullshit” from all directions. Suddenly, tax cuts are an “expense” the government can’t afford. I guess everyone else has to grapple with the situation of now & then having less, but the government is entitled to be protected from this, spending whatever it wants, while everyone outside of government has to scrimp, and squeak, and cope.

It isn’t based on reason. A large truck chips a curb a couple hundred feet away, repairing the curb depends on funds that ultimately come from Washington, so we have to send lots of money to Washington to get the curb fixed? That’s nuts. Even nuttier is the proposition that the curb will remain unfixed, because budget cuts, and we have budget cuts because of tax cuts. Oh, so we have to keep the government in the black so we can get our curbs fixed? The government’s not in the black. Not even close. Nor does the government have any qualms about spending money when it’s in the red. People who rail against tax cuts based on this loony line of reasoning, know all this full well. They’re not keeping a jaundiced beady eye on the bottom line of the government’s income statement, they’re only pretending to do this. What they’re doing is more like clutching a security blanket. They’re the student driver who doesn’t want to take the wheel.

I remember thirty years ago people used to deny “trickle down,” the favorite pejorative used by those who like to change what truth is, through their judicious selection of the words used to describe it. I’m sure they’d accuse me of using a “straw man fallacy” if I were to suggest that what they’re really denying, is free trade. But, that’s what they’re denying. Trickle down doesn’t exist, because you and I have “R” for Rich and “P” for Poor tattooed onto our foreheads and we carry these letters around, womb to tomb — what, that’s not what they’re saying? If not, then what does it mean to deny the opportunity exists for us to work hard and better ourselves? The opportunity is there or else it isn’t. Binary choice. I think it’s there, and I can present evidence. What’s the evidence that it’s impossible? And if it’s possible for a poor child to grow up and become not-poor…and been done…which it has. What else would you call that?

And yet, decade after decade, this tedious narrative rises up that trickle-down is a lot of baloney, and it’s our lot in life to soldier on, through the dash between the two numbers that will ultimately be carved on our headstones, with our prospects unchanged the whole time. In America! In the twenty-first century, yet. The departure from reality nauseates me. It’s disgusting, infuriating. When I think of people living in different countries, today, or who squirmed away in anguish in different times, that we have people here, now, indulging in this nonsensical un-fantasy that their ability to provide for themselves is so unmoving & unmovable, so static, so limited. Many among them have real talent. The loss of human potential — it’s just mind-blowing. What a bunch of spoilsports. They’re being fed this stuff. And they’re swallowing. Demanding seconds. It’s a national disgrace and a national tragedy.

But, as tempting as it is to get all wrapped around the axle of whether or not trickle-down is bullshit. Let us examine instead what truly matters in politics: The conditions under which the undecided will be won over to one side, or the other. What does it take for more people to accept the premise that trickle down is bullshit, that the free market doesn’t work, that liquid assets are static, immobilized, that we all carry on in futility until the final date with the Grim Reaper. And what does it take for people to reject this?

We know this is a cry of the forlorn & helpless. People say this when they’re having a tough time looking for work, or perhaps when they already do have a job and it pays well, but they’re singing in a gilded cage — they doubt their abilities to find another should they ever find themselves dismissed. It is despair, almost a cry for help, and I think in many cases it is exactly that. It is a cry of “I think I’m working very hard, why don’t I feel more secure?”

I do believe, if it were easy for companies to hire people, and therefore easy for people to find prospective employers who are serious, people in great numbers would reject this notion of the unmovable standard of living, and embrace the idea that their hands are indeed on the steering wheel and they can act as true captains of their own destinies — even if the unemployment numbers were very high, even if the income inequality was very high, even if differentials in personal wealth were very high. For people to utter this note of despair, you have to have a perception of stasis, a perception that moving money around is very hard to do, that no one’s buying and no one’s selling.

Rich Get Richer, Poor Get PoorerObviously, if people go around saying “trickle down is bullshit” in great numbers, you’re looking at a place where democrats are more likely to win elections. And we know from experience all too well, this does NOT mean you’re looking at any likelihood the problem will be solved. Places where democrats run things, and have run things for decades and decades, where democrats are exceptionally likely to win the next election, where you’re more likely to see a re-animated dinosaur than a Republican elected to anything…people stumble around, like zombies, in perpetual despair, saying dumb things like “trickle down doesn’t work,” or “the rich get richer, the poor get poorer,” not expecting to hire anyone, not expecting to get hired, not seeing any way they can ever escape their current conditions. And generation after generation, this doesn’t get fixed. The democrats who run the place have no plan to make it any better. Perhaps if they ever needed to have such a plan, they’d make one, but they don’t. People are depressed so they’ll keep voting democrat.

I’m talking about what? Could be any one of a number of places. Detroit, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Sacramento, Atlanta, NOLA, LA, Chicago, NYC, Philadelphia…

The same people who benefit politically from this feeling of stasis, that it’s very hard to get the money moving, are the ones crusading non-stop for higher taxes. They’re also the builders of all our wonderful little-laws that say “You cannot work, and you cannot hire, unless…” People don’t notice the pattern. Which makes me think they must want to avoid seeing it. It’s pretty hard to miss, once you open yourself up to noticing it.

And so I have to wonder. Do we really have to have a knock-down drag-out about whether higher taxes make it harder to move the money around? That one seems, to me, to be like “people breathe air” or something — outside the realm of the disputed. But maybe I’m wrong.

But in my experience quibbling over this stuff, with people who are emotionally invested in the other side; their position is not “money is harder to move around when taxes are high,” it’s more like “money will NEVER move around no matter where the tax rate is, so it doesn’t matter.” Which is silly, to me, I guess because I’ve always seen people buying & selling things so I know that cannot be true. I know when I make money, I have to spend quite a lot of it. So people are making money off me. What, then, is going on with these zombies, these deniers of money-mobility; are they not paying for anything? Or do they think as soon as the money leaves their fingertips, it ceases to exist? That only the government can spend money in such a way that jobs will result?

People, in order to accept that there’s no such thing as trickle-down, that it must be up to the government to move the money around in such a way that everyone has a shot at getting some, must embrace strong doubts about the goodness of themselves & others. They must think we don’t need each other, that there’s nothing anyone can do to provide a valuable service to someone else, for lack of some educational credential or networking connection that’s always just out of reach. This would be the minimum of what is required to sustain the sad, sad narrative if “no such thing as ‘trickle-down’.” You don’t have to be “woke” into doubting it; you have to be depressed into doubting it.

And once enough people doubt it, there are some people who, rest assured, are getting & staying very, very powerful in their miserable little communities, and getting & staying very, very rich.

What all this diseased zombie-thinking has in common, is an alarming lack of regard for the end-game. None of it survives the innocuous question, “What’s your vision?” What is the sequence of events one hopes to get started, how does one thing lead to another, in fulfillment of something desired. Roy Moore is defeated; what’s better? Ah, who knows…Who Is John Galt. Stop arguing politics! Kardashians is on…

These are the baby-steps society takes, as it lurches toward a new world no one actually wanted. This is how & why we emerge into a new day, wherein we find only government can spend money in any meaningful way, which it does until government is broke, and then it spends some more, so that we’re all encumbered with the effects of runaway inflation eating away at our limited savings, which we cannot replenish. This is how we find ourselves living in a silly world where throwaway lines like “How do you do” and “You’re looking nice today,” among office-co-workers, have to be micro-managed by lawyers. This is the fulfillment of the darkest fears that led us to make the wrong decisions in the prelude; a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s the scary thing about being a grown-up, of moving into the front seat and taking the wheel. You have to reckon with the idea that decisions have consequences, both good & bad, that your happiness and success are your responsibility and no one else’s.

That’s reality. We don’t get to choose whether or not to accept it. But, some people never stop trying. They’re dead inside, and you can tell they’re dead inside because they can’t explain how or why their choices might lead to success. The truth is, there is no connection for you to find, or for them to find. It isn’t there, because they’ve given up on maintaining one. They’ve been frightened & depressed out of it. They’ve taken a pass on adult living, and are just biding their time until that date with the Grim Reaper.

Things I’ve Learned People Don’t Do Very Well at All

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

1. Think like an Architect, and like a Medicator, both at the same time

That would mean, you’re treating time as a resource while simultaneously doing your best to avoid being bored. This comes up a lot when you’re doing work you happen to enjoy, but at some point you’ve got to stop because whatever comes after it is time-sensitive and just as important. It doesn’t come naturally to us. It calls for thinking like a responsible adult and an impulsive little kid at the same time. Every time you look at the clock and it’s either earlier or later than you thought it would be, it’s both good & bad news.

This is not natural for people. Sooner or later, you have to commit to the one, or to the other. We often don’t notice because before that fork-in-the-road has to be taken, we manage to actually get the job of the day done, and the drama is over. But if we had to live in the crisis for an indefinite period of time, I think it would become obvious.

2. Mind their own damn business

Oh, this is easy if you’re not trying to help anybody. One thing I’ve learned about software development over the years, is this is the best way to suck at the job — start dictating to the user what he’s trying to do, why he’s trying to do it, what steps he should follow. If you really do the job well, the fruits of your labor are going to answer only a few of these questions. That’s when it becomes a truly useful tool, when the person using it gets to decide the how.

I met one guy who started using an Apple Mac first time he ever saw one, put the mouse backwards so that he pulled it toward himself when he wanted the pointer to go up, away for down, left & right reversed. Then he proceed to wire his brain that way, subsequently learned everyone else was doing it the opposite way, didn’t care. That’s actually how most people use computers, and most software developers don’t get this. “But I’m the manufacturer, you should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations!” No Skippy, that’s not how it works at all. They think you made a tool, they want to use the tool. However they want. It’s your job to make it work.

3. Live in reality

Not much I need to write here at all.

Maslow PyramidSome people think they’re exceptionally gifted at living in reality. I’m one of those. What we are actually good at doing, is choosing a narrative that closely resembles reality, even down in the details, and then living in that. This is actually how everyone works, we live in narratives. We don’t actually come in contact with reality, except when we find out the narrative is busted in some way and in need of fixing. And then some of us might respond to that and do the fixing, but only if we have the focus, and the time.

4. Maintain the strengths you needed to get something, after you got it

It’s that Maslow Pyramid. You need food, clothing and shelter, and protection from the bad guys who want to beat you up and steal your stuff. After you get that, you worry about having a job so you can replenish these things independently…then you want some toys, like an iPhone. Then you’ll want games to put on the iPhone. Now while you’re trying to get the game, you’re not going to be thinking about food, clothing and shelter. The brain just isn’t wired like that.

Since it’s a weakness we all have, it would be alright…ordinarily…except, there are still people working their butts off to make sure when we pay for our food, clothing and shelter, that we actually get it. This is “real” work. If it didn’t get done, we’d know.

And yet, the temptation is always there to take it for granted. Pretend it doesn’t really have to be done. Or that these aren’t “real” people laboring away to make sure it gets done. Or that these are “low skill” jobs.

What really happens, inside the mind, is the Maslow Pyramid becomes complete, all levels fulfilled. And then the “capstone” on top turns into a sort of balloon, swelling and swelling until it consumes all the rest; gotta get that video game. And it becomes a balloon-capstone of trivialities. The real trouble starts when it messes with our priorities, because it doesn’t just mess with the spectrum of what’s important vs. what’s not. It flips it directly upside-down, compelling us to fixate exactly on all the things that don’t really matter.

Memo For File CCVIII

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

So for quite some time now, weeks or so, I’ve had this article open in my browser session, waiting for me to record a few notes about it. Some might think I’m leaving it open because of the visually appealing nature of the picture, but that’s a falsehood. I’m not that much into cows. It’s a “linky-not-thinky” type piece, worthy of being saved because of its connection to other things. So that presents some difficulty. And the subject matter is, How and why Americans are currently turning into infantile dumbasses. We’ve already addressed that here quite a few times, so that presents difficulty too. What I’ve been trying to do is overturn a few rocks, explore some ideas hitherto unexplored, without going back over old ground.

IdiotesWhich is do-able; there is fresh insight to be found here. At least, if old thoughts are being expressed, the verbiage is new. “…[T]he average person in the developed world today lives at least as well as the royalty of centuries ago.” We have technology to thank for this. It is, as even a cursory reading of the piece will reveal, a curse just as much as a blessing. This high standard of living involves a perception, and perhaps a reality, of margin-of-error in our daily decisions. Something that was not there before. Admittedly, this does not do much to give any sort of mighty shove upon the vessel of our experiences, away from the dock of reality. But it does cast away the lines. The necessity is gone.

I have written before, over the years, perhaps to excess, of Architects and Medicators. I’ve lately been relatively quiet about this, silently seeking out the one primary great-granddaddy distinction, from which all other evident and meaningful distinctions are born. The concept, at a very high level, is this: People who fail to get along with other people, are failing to bridge a divide across two halves of humanity that may not be bridgeable. We don’t need to wait long to see this happen. Roommates, business partners, spouses, lovers, work-colleagues, tearing their couplings asunder. Often in genuine surprise, on both sides, that things could have deteriorated to that point. If one follows the stories for quite awhile, one will often see there is a catalyst. Silly Sally doesn’t get along with this boyfriend, that boyfriend, that other one, with her ex-husband, with her new husband, her parents…gee, who’s the common denominator? But a lot of times, it’s not like that. She picks up a new stud, gets along with him like bacon ‘n eggs. The cast-off gets a new girl…they get along…Sally’s new boyfriend gets along with this guy over here, not with that guy over there. Here and there, now and then, someone will enter the picture and bring a new lofty standard of diplomacy. But even that natural-ambassador doesn’t get along with everybody, in fact, no more often than anyone else involved. His natural “people-skills,” when all’s said & done, improve nothing but the cosmetics of these relationships.

As my Uncle used to say, “Morgan, one of my editors told me the world is divided into two groups of people. The ones that go around dividing everyone into groups, and everybody else.” That, I’ve noticed, seems to explain what’s going on here. Two camps. If you keep careful track of who’s managed to function alongside who else, it all fits. The two camps are thought and feeling. But how does it get to be that way?

Order and chaos have something to do with it. When the constable hauls in some village-drunk who’s behind in his child support, in front of the magistrate, there is a conflict taking place between two cultures, much like two gears that have been brought together when they’re spinning in opposite directions. In the miscreant’s world, public drunkenness is how it’s done. It’s fun. It’s living for today. Living up to responsibilities, is actually a crime there. These observations work at a high level; they don’t work with all the details. There are always exceptions. Sometimes the magistrate likes to get plastered too. And maybe the constable has had an unpleasant encounter, in his past, with the child support enforcement division.

Nevertheless, if you could somehow drop a huge wall between these halves, much of the trouble would dissipate. This raises the issue that on the one side, where no one works for a living, things are not maintainable. Well, who’s to say. Maybe, with the wall there, some people would learn some things they need to learn. Without the wall, they don’t. Chaotic people get to skim off the hard work of orderly people, which prevents this learning. With such a wall removed, the necessity of knowing is removed. With the wall re-imposed, the necessity of knowing is re-established, and maybe, just maybe, the requisite learning takes place. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. There’s a lot of truth in that.

Each individual, within each one of these two halves, further ensconces himself. This is why, in the orderly world where we treat crimes as if they’re actually crimes, we put some importance on addressing the smaller crimes so that the perpetrators don’t engage in more serious crimes later. One of the defining distinctions I proposed was, when a complex piece of machinery no longer functions but is fixable if the faulty parts are correctly identified and replaced. Architects will go chasing off after these details, whereas Medicators will be drawn to the idea of just trashing & replacing the entire thing — nevermind the material cost. The real issue isn’t labor or parts investment, it’s world-view & outlook. It’s a binary choice about whether or not to deal with details, and you’re going to find the people who go out of their way to avoid details in one situation, will work that way in dealing with pretty much all of them. Cars, clocks…spouses…

What drives each individual into his chosen half? It isn’t intelligence. Some details-obsessed people are a bit dim, at a few things. I suppose I could volunteer myself as an example. Some of the people who shun details as a lifelong habit, are actually quite bright. It isn’t maturity either. It’s not even a work ethic.

Sexy ChemistOne thing I’ve noticed holds up consistently and well, is the individual’s perception of property rights. A lot of people who fancy themselves to be constant champions of law and order, are anything-but, because as soon as the Druggist’s Dilemma emerges in some form they’re full of “advice” about how someone who has the means, should do the right thing. More often than not, once they’re presented with the complication that this supposed benefactor doesn’t want to go for it, he should be forced to do so — in the final analysis, they are mere fair-weather friends to the concept of property. They’re pro-theft. Sure they’ll insist this is an isolated case because the thief has an identifiable need. But, talk to a few thieves sometime. The case is not as isolated as they think it is, not even close. Because you’ll find every single thief you’ve caught has a rationale.

This is the difference between drama and reality. In drama, the protagonist is an isolated central character whose desires, dreams, hopes and fears, matter. This sets him apart from the secondary characters, who are only there so that he can interact with them. In real life, everyone thinks their concerns matter. And they’re right.

The spending of money also sets these two sides apart. How often do we see a marriage undone because one spouse wants to create a budget and stick to it; the other one is content to simply spend the loot until it’s gone. Seems there are few stories as sad as the tale of the lottery winner who doesn’t know how to handle his new life’s-circumstances. Some people are programmed to only have a certain amount of money. There are times when I think I may be one of those people, and this fills me with dread. I’m likely not alone, even among just the people I know. Although, having grown up in relatively threadbare conditions, I might be an exceptional case.

One of my very favorite Simpson’s episodes captures this nicely. Homer somehow acquires an allocation of $15,000, to go buy a car, and he starts the negotiations the way dumbasses do (about 13:22): “Is this car fifteen thousand dollars?” The salesman nonchalantly wipes off the old price with his sleeve and answers, “It is now.” It’s funny because…yeah. It’s like that. Just like that.

From early on, I had noticed you can tell these two halves apart, and predict the power-struggles and other dust-ups that would take place between them, by observing a couple’s behavior when a bit of security has to be sacrificed for sake of some opportunity. Or, vice-versa. A lot of people who talk about a “fallback plan” wouldn’t know a fallback plan if it hit ’em square between the eyes; they’re actually talking about protection from consequences of their own regrettable decisions. In a way, we’re really talking about the difference between the domesticated animals and the wild animals. Irony with humans, though, is it’s the domesticated animals who want to make a big show of flouting the rules. It’s the wild “animals,” who have formed the discipline of paying attention to the consequences of their own decisions, and therefore learned which decisions are good and which ones not so good — who want, quite naturally, to enjoy the rewards of having refined their decision-making acumen. They’re really having a tempest-in-a-teapot about whether decisions should matter.

I’ve concluded, after a great many years of observing these pathetic chapters in the lives of others, and myself, that the great-granddaddy split that eventually results in all the others, is how one looks at a block of unclaimed time. The one thing the Medicator wants to “achieve” more than anything else, is to act as an effective steward of his own emotional state. Both sides will say “I want to get this done today,” but one side is talking about “With that done, I can do these other things” or “With that done, I don’t have to think about it anymore and I can concentrate on something else.” The other side is saying “I will have fun doing it.” And they aren’t mixing it up, with one guy motivated by this thing at this time and that thing at that time, and the other guy vice-versa. No. They’re ensconcing. Each individual ensconcing himself more thoroughly into his chosen half, with each out-of-the-ordinary decision made, about anything, womb-to-tomb. The chaotic, feelings-over-thought people want not to be bored. They want to make it to the coffin without experiencing boredom.

A block of time, unclaimed for any previously defined purpose, unstructured, un-allocated, is, therefore — in the world of Architects — an asset. To the Medicator it is a liability, a problem that has to be solved. The solution to the problem is to burn this time away.

Also, money. I’ve experienced first-hand people who are doomed never to have any money. And they don’t realize it. They’ll never have money, because if they do have money, and something is being left undone that makes them unhappy, by leaving the money unspent they’re making a statement that they’re not bothered by whatever the thing is. So they have to spend the money to make the thing go away, and if this works — which it almost never does — there surely will be another thing popping up to take its place. Meet a few people who have managed to hang on to money, build it up into something, you’ll see what I’m talking about: They have the ability to say “That makes me unhappy, but money is not the answer.” The people who are doomed to never have money, can’t do this. Can’t prioritize. The plug will always be missing from their bathtub.

So the other night, the Mrs. and I were participating in an office dinner party. I was given cause to think about all of the above, in the aftermath of what follows: We sat with another couple, and I didn’t have any way to subtly signal to my spouse that 1) this is one of our cool-people, an experienced, sharp, savvy guy who I happen to like, and 2) this is in spite of the fact that he’s a democrat. Thankfully, the discussion meandered around to alcoholic beverages, whereupon we realized that Mrs. Freeberg is home-brewing Kahlua and Amaretto, whilst the other couple is making mead. Many satisfying minutes of exuberant, non-political conversation unfurled after that…followed by…

It was the other guy. I SWEAR. Really. Honey, back me up on this.

Yeah. He wanted to talk politics. And I guess he & his wife, or at the very least just his wife, labored under complete ignorance of my own leanings because there was a distinct overtone of “Well of COURSE all four of us are good liberals, since we all have common sense.”

My wife began to administer a backrub that wasn’t really a backrub.

Well, I found his monologue to be reasonable enough even though I didn’t agree with it. He had experienced a turn-about, like many other Americans, in the wake of the war in Iraq. Now, anyone who’s been reading The Blog That Nobody Reads, for any length of time, knows my reaction to “Saddam didn’t have any munitions except for some stuff that was really really old” is a big, fat “So the fuck what??” But, we were letting the other couple have their say…although it was clear they thought they were speaking to friendlies about all this. At least the lady-half of the couple thought that. She seems like a nice enough lady. Well, we were all very civil and very appropriately restrained. There was no upset.

Or very little.

The lady had her opportunity to present her outlook, and she made a regrettable choice to end her intro with a question-mark. Since all four of us are roughly the same age, she observed something like “I think as we get older and our perspectives change, it’s a natural thing that we start to lean a little bit further left, do we not?”

Ummmm…followed by a single, staccato, stinging syllable. “No.”

I felt Mrs. Freeberg’s fingernails dig into my flesh. I also noticed, once the word escaped my maw, that out of the four of us I was the senior, and my single-syllable perhaps carried some extra punch because of this. More than I intended, maybe. It was not the response she was expecting. But in my defense, what was I to do, lie? The lady asked a direct question. And then, like sent from Heaven on high, a waiter appeared to inform us that dinner was served and it was time to relocate into the dining hall. It’s Christmastime! Time for miracles!

The near-miss, however, gives occasion for some good quality thinking. It’s a reminder, which I’m guessing most of us could use from time to time, that all of the people we like and respect don’t necessarily have the same political opinions we do, and even more importantly, that all the people who embrace different opinions, by doing so aren’t making themselves guilty of anything, or into targets of any righteous rage out of us. They’re just opinions. Which are the products of, among other things, life-experiences, and who can legitimately blame another man for having a different set of experiences? It’s something we’re supposed to do.

That having been said. It is interesting to me anyone could think such a thing, let alone say it. Getting older, entering into this bracket (we’re about fifty), inclines one to be a liberal. Really? I have occasionally had this issue with software developers, or at least people who think they’re software developers, saying strange things like this. “I’m a liberal because software development has taught me to be one.” What the heck? Because I think I’m one, too. And I can’t do my job thinking like liberals. I recall that one bug I fixed, some 2 or 3 engineers already looked at it and took a pass on it. The group-think axiom that had emerged, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, was that the test utility had been persuaded to enter into a logical loop without a run-time termination, the dreaded “infinite loop.” Thinking like a lib, I wouldn’t have fixed this. I’d just chant the same incantation everyone else was chanting. Never would have discovered the code was instantiating six million objects of a common class, per cycle, never releasing any of them. So when these guys say software development has bludgeoned them into becoming liberals, how do they figure? And on what planet does reaching middle age inspire you to become that way? It’s a life I’m not currently living. I can promise you that.

If I were permitted a proper response — it’s a fascinating thought exercise. How do I make my views of conservatism and liberalism, appealing to someone I admire and respect, who happens to be emotionally invested in the other side. I suppose I would start with an anecdote. I recall from the previous century, being plied with the same notion, that an accumulation of years having been spent on the planet, persuades a young conservative to become a more mature liberal. A certain contracting firm hired me to work at a corporation, and someone at the corporation didn’t like me so they took a pass. So my boss and I stopped off at a law firm to litigate the corporation into providing a different answer. I told the lawyer, when my boss was out of the room, that I wasn’t down with this. My thinking was that employment of any kind should be based on desire, and a sensible business case — or else it isn’t really there. I was 28, childless, single, and the lawyer assured me that my outlook was due to this. When I got older I would place a higher value on security and guaranteed employment, and not be so fixated to excess on silly things like “Do the people providing the money or me to be there really want me there.” We-ell…I must be very sluggish intellectually, because I’m now many years older than the lawyer was back then. I’m ashamed of having followed my boss down to that daffy law firm, just because she was my boss and she told me to do it. But I’m proud of myself for having picked up the phone a little while later, and terminating the whole arrangement. Wish I’d done that sooner.

MapIn fact…I’d go on to say…as I get older, it’s become harder and harder for me to ever consider being a liberal because things, far from getting more & more complicated, look simpler and simpler. Which is an interesting paradox, since my responsibilities have become higher, weightier, and a great deal more visible than before. Things have a way of getting like that, when you can see more. If you look down on a map, you’re are availed the luxury of seeing the entire vicinity without obstructions, and can define things in terms of simple, crude compass points. That, I’ve learned, is how politics works. Politics is about human efforts, it’s about stopping them or getting them started. And human efforts are about just three things: Creation, preservation and destruction. That’s not how I saw them at twenty or thirty. But it is how I’ve been seeing them at forty and fifty. Because I know more, and I have less time to waste.

I should add that it’s a bit more complicated than that, because people trying to do things, is never simple. To explain what I’m talking about here, my favorite example is the military. It is said that their mission is to destroy. That is not entirely true. Their tactic is to destroy, and their mission is to be ready to destroy. Their reason for being, is to preserve. The mission of a terrorist, is to destroy. The take-away here is that vocations that do one of these three things — which is, I think, all vocations worth mentioning — are to be defined according to their end-goals, not according to their tactics. The military preserves. Public-defender lawyers who defend their guilty clients whom they know are guilty, are destroyers, as are liberal politicians.

And, the people who vote for them.

Okay, no! I wouldn’t say that. We’re all supposed to be remaining friends here. But, in answering the question, I would have to reveal something about how & why I can’t be a liberal. There is definitely a problem with my lack of mental agility. I can’t say “Donald Trump is a great guy” in Year N, and then, in Year N + 1 immediately start prattling away with “Donald Trump is an awful human being who grabs womens’ pussies and is a Nazi sympathizer” just because Hillary Clinton wants me to say that.

I can’t be a liberal, because I’m a real human being, and real human beings are very different from the way liberals portray us. Here’s the ugly, wonderful truth. That calculus up above, about choosing between opportunity and security. It’s strictly either-or, and this is scenario-independent. None of us are fair-weather friends to it. We’re not going to say “I am confident of my ability to get a job, if and only if the unemployment rate is below, let’s say, six percent.” Like I said earlier: We ensconce. We choose a side and we stick to it, barring some cataclysmic life-changing experience, from crib to crypt. We believe in ourselves, or else we don’t believe in ourselves.

Liberals in government are a toxin, a solvent upon the citizenry. They cannot win elective office if the voters have too much confidence in themselves, and they know it. So they decimate.

I’m choosing that last word very deliberately. It doesn’t mean what you probably think it means. It doesn’t mean “devastate” and it doesn’t mean “obliterate.” It means “to destroy one tenth of,” or “to destroy a large portion of.” Whole people are very unlikely to vote for democrats, and these days it’s very hard to get democrats elected to anything. The politicians who are democrats, therefore, have a keen incentive to make whole people less than whole, to decimate them. They’ve been far more successful at doing this than they have been at getting elected to anything, and as a consequence we have a large number of wounded, incomplete people walking around among us. This is done mostly through the power of suggestion. Most people don’t like to admit how persuasive this is, because deep down I think we all know none of us are above it, not a single one of us is truly immune.

Kids are particularly vulnerable to the decimation liberal use to try to get their favorite politicians elected. They have to go to school, and liberals have maintained a lock on academia for many decades now. The curricula, particularly in public schools, tends to persuade toward a lifelong view emphasizing security over opportunity. Kids are taught not to think for themselves. And, lately, it has become faddish and fashionable to “diagnose” them with all sorts of bullshit “learning disabilities” if they show themselves not to be properly manageable. They graduate, by design, pre-disposed to seek out “leaders” who will give them stuff. It never seems to occur to them: Why does it “have to be free” in order for you to be able to afford it? That’s only true if your earning capacity is zero, right? What makes your earning capacity zero? Aren’t you supposed to be getting educated, so you have a capacity that is not zero?

This is a wounding. It is a making-incomplete. It is a decimation. And, it is destructive; so very destructive. When God gives us 100% of a person, and we decimate that person into 90% of a person, that is a destructive process.

One of the ways we have been decimating children, making them into just a fraction of what they were when God gave them to us, is through this misbegotten notion that children should never be bored. I really don’t know what started this. It’s worse than mistaken. It’s monstrous. It damages children in two ways, first of which is it destroys their creativity. I’ve written about this before, drawing on the salient observations made by Dilbert creator Scott Adams. In sum: There is a link between boredom and creativity. If you’ve ever been creative, you probably understand this already. If you’ve got a gadget that prevents you from ever being bored, and these days who doesn’t…if you stop and think, and if you’re really honest with yourself, you’ll admit you haven’t had a truly inspired idea while you were being spared this boredom. In fact, there’s an idea kicking around out there that the brain may require boredom, in order to self-repair, much like it requires sleep. I dunno. I’m not a neurologist. I’m open to the idea, FWIW. Anyway: We are now habitually denying children this down-time…there never was any discussion about this, it’s just something we do. I don’t think that’s good. I think it’s a bad thing. I’m pretty sure of it.

The second way it damages kids, is this. It doesn’t leave it up to them to figure out for themselves, naturally, whether they want to spend their entire lives as Medicators or not. It gives them a mighty shove in that direction, giving them a taste of this badly flawed idea that they’re somehow entitled to a minute-to-minute relief from boredom. This naturally inspires a nascent outlook on life, that the whole point to existing in the first place, is to be constantly entertained. This damages the kids, and it also damages society, because it ends up flooding us with new generations of destroyers. Medicators are naturally predisposed to be destroyers. They have to be. Because Medicators can’t stand being bored, and creation & preservation are pretty darn boring. Destruction is exciting. It’s quick. And it doesn’t demand details. The guy who swings the wrecking ball doesn’t need to know the dimensions of the building, whether that window pane fits in that wall, whether the measurements are in crunchy-frog system or in God’s measurement-system…

Anyway. That’s how I see it. How would I try to convert someone I admire and respect, toward my point of view when they’re not initially inclined…this is a fascinating question. I think, given this time of year, we would all do well to ponder this.

Given a bit of time to do this monologuing before dinner, I would ask my (captive?) audience to examine with me more carefully the terms we’re using.

The college kids tell me the way I use these terms is wrong, but I have spotted several tell-tale signs that what they mean by “wrong” is “contrary to what my professor told me.” Liberals should never be given authority to define what “conservative” means…or, for that matter, what “liberal” means. They’re all humming from the same hymn, but that doesn’t mean they’re right, or even that what they’re saying makes any sense. Let me see if I get it right here: Liberal means, rugged fearless in the face of proposed paradigm shift, right? Open to new thoughts, new ideas? More innovative, creative? And conservative means, closed-off to these things, entrenched in the status quo. New idea comes up and the conservative yells “No no no, I can’t hear you la la la!” stomps his foot and clasps his hands over his ears. Well, 2017 is a good year to upset that apple cart isn’t it. The “liberals” have gone the entire calendar year not proposing one single new idea about anything, anywhere. The conservatives are the reformers. The liberals are the ones hanging on with bloody fingernails to the legacy power structures. Yelling no-no-no.

So, the textbook definitions don’t work. That means they never did, really. It’s been this way half the time. Liberals were exactly what they say conservatives are, during the Reagan revolution, the Newt Gingrich revolution…during every “conservative” revolution. To say they want to go forward and the conservatives want things to stay the same, is like saying “North is whichever way the bow of this boat is pointing” and throwing away the compass. It works some of the time. But it’s flat-out wrong.

PatrioticThe definition I use works better than any other. I point to it often. Although it’s been criticized for falling short of an actual “definition”…a criticism I find to be valid. What I have in mind when I use these terms, is:

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.

Like anything else we argue about that actually has influence over anything, to make the arguing worthwhile: It comes down to the definitions. Conservatives are conservative about definitions. Liberals are liberal with definitions. My detractors speak of textbooks…well folks, the dictionary’s on my side on this thing.

Conservative: “cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate.” As in, a conservative interpretation of “All men are created equal…they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Liberal: “not strict or rigorous; free; not literal: a liberal interpretation of a rule.” As in, a liberal interpretation of the above would say…these aren’t “men,” they’re our property, and as such (we’ve conjured up the argument that) they’re not entitled to Life, Liberty or any of that other stuff.

Quite a different tack to take, innit? And it isn’t at all flattering to liberals. But…it’s accurate, with regard to history, and with regard to definitions. The college kids point out this must be mistake, for it puts the abolitionists in the antebellum era on the same side as conservatives. Well, they’re right about fifty percent of that…it’s not a mistake.

Conservatism is not about keeping everything static. It isn’t about saying “no no no” to any new idea that comes along. That’s a myth, a mistake, the kind of mistake we make when we allow definitions to be made by liberals, who don’t even like definitions. Conservatism is about being careful, cautious, and asking the sort of sensible questions grown-ups ask. You can certainly evaluate a new idea conservatively and, eventually, give it your unreserved consent. It actually happens pretty often.

Liberals get angry when they don’t get an immediate go-ahead, just like an impertinent little kid who doesn’t have the maturity to form an informed opinion on the matter on which he’s been asked to opine. This happens pretty often too. I call it the Car Color Metaphor.

This all leads up to the one thing I would most like to impress on anyone, of any age, who’s toying with the idea of throwing their weight behind liberalism. This is one seldom-discussed, but often-practiced, way that modern liberalism leads to the idiotes of which Saint Augustine spoke in the piece I linked way up top. Liberalism, unlike conservatism, creates an unhealthy feedback loop. You’ll see what I mean if you examine the issues that have drawn liberal support in recent times. So many of these positions have it in common with each other, that they empower the government — which is supposed to be periodically formed and reformed, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…to mold & shape that mass of “governed.” A single example would highlight the danger, but I have several in mind. There is, using our education system in the manner mentioned above, to “push” newer generations of voters into the Medicator mindset. And then there are all these initiatives to nickel-n-dime us, introducing all sorts of hidden costs into the most innocuous of transactions. Must use these plastic bags, must buy this kind of health insurance, must pay the fine if there is no insurance, must license your dog-groomer, must do this must do that…the job has to pay X much an hour or else the job must cease to exist. This creates artificial economic distress, makes the electorate desperate. Well, like I said above: Whole people aren’t likely to vote for democrats, and electing democrats is hard these days. The damage they’ve done is still fresh in people’s minds.

Transmogrifying illegal aliens into democrat voters, is another way of affecting the electorate. I guess we need the “undocumented migrants” to “do the job Americans will not do,” which is vote for democrats.

The danger involved in this is difficult to overstate. The electorate is supposed to have an effect on what the government is, not the other way around. This is roughly akin to one of those old movies where the evil scientist has a remote-control killer robot, and the killer robot somehow gains physical control of the remote — it’s just like that. If you were to revive the Founding Fathers somehow, I’m sure they’d express their abject horror just like an electrician discovering you mounted a light switch yourself, leaving all the wires stripped bare, buried deep in the wall. Because this is a short circuit; that’s exactly what it is.

It’s the liberals who believe in doing it this way. So when we think about politicians making the citizens into whatever the politicians want the citizens to be, we have to think about liberal politicians doing it. And that means we have to think about the above-mentioned decimation of these citizens, the transformation of complete people into wounded-incomplete people. Subjects instead of citizens. Medicators. Destroyers. Depressed, uncreative…and helpless, so very, very helpless.

So, no, I’m sorry but “Donald Trump talked about grabbing pussies one time” isn’t good enough for me. That’s not enough to get me to hop off the Trump train. I know too much about how the boat needed to be rocked, and I understand all too well the damage that was being done.

But other than the foregoing, I really have no opinion. Oh look! It’s time to go eat…