Archive for May, 2019

Crippling Debt

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

We need to talk about the concept of crippling debt.

One of the reasons socialism is growing in popularity right now is that a lot of young people feel the same way I felt when I was their age. They have hopes and dreams they think they can build on, possibly to the betterment of all the rest of us. Like I had, and still have. And they have a load of debt, like I had back then. Today I have debts but I’ve learned to live within my means, and make it manageable.

I’ve learned some other things. I’ve learned debt isn’t always bad. You have to make good decisions about it, and if debt really is unmanageable then that usually means you haven’t been doing that. Of course there are exceptions. Unfortunate things happen. But even then you still have options. You may have to make a major course change in life, and that’s okay. That’s learning. But one way or another, it’s best not to look at your existing debts as “crippling,” but more like a task you have to get done. Can you achieve these hopes and dreams before you get your debts paid? Maybe! Maybe not. But that is okay too.

But the most important thing I’ve learned is: If I don’t have the ingenuity to take care of my debts — if I’m not bigger than they are — then I don’t have what it takes to realize these hopes and dreams that are going to make life better for everyone else.

That’s dark, so let’s turn it around: If I have what it takes to realizes these hopes and dreams and make life better for everyone else — I can pay my debts. That would be but a first step. And that’s for me, given that I plan to get them all paid before I start on those hopes & dreams in earnest. That’s actually not necessary for everyone. A lot of people do some very fine work while still in debt.

Now this might seem like bold talk, since I have a good reputation and I’m experienced, and my total debt-load compared to my income earning potential is slight. Many young people would be tempted to ignore this, and it’s understandable because their debt load is much higher when compared to their income earning potential. Without paying food rent and utilities, I could put all my income into this red ink for month and months, years maybe, it just seems so hopeless. And so they think: Someone has to take care of that for me! So I can work on my hopes and dreams that will help everybody else.

Well no sweetie, you don’t want that. That’s my message here. After your debts are paid you’re still going to have limited income potential and you’re still going to see things you’ll want to have that are worth more than what you can save up during the term of time in which you want to have them. After the fat guy gets liposuction there’s still going to be food to be eaten. Yes our health care system is a mess right now — due to government intervention — and I have sympathy for people who run into a health crisis that drains their life savings, I really do. But if your hopes and dreams are really good for everyone else, and you really do have what it takes to bring them to fruition, you can pay off your student loan first. Or during.

I’m sure that feels like it’s some kind of smack-down. Back in my younger days when I was foolish, inexperienced, debt-ridden and skinny, I’d have taken it that way if someone else said it. But that’s not what it is. What I mean to say is that debt is a test, an extremely elementary one. It’s a test of your decision-making powers in the past, when you racked up the debt, and your powers of negotiation and resourcefulness today, when you’re trying to do something about it. It is the drawing of the sword from the stone before you can become King. It is the draining of the swamp before you can pour a building foundation into the construction site.

If you’ve got that, then you’ve got this.

If nobody is making the effort to get the word across to the younger generation, we can hardly blame them for not hearing it or reading it or understanding it. When they insist they’ve got all the brightest and best ideas that will finally make the world all perfect, while acting helpless and “triggered” and bemoaning that some magical Fairy Godmother doesn’t come along and clean up their messes for them, they look silly to our generation. But they’re simply channeling the ideas they’ve been given, while we, who can see what’s wrong with all that, have remained silent.

And that is why socialism is gaining inroads right now. It isn’t because people talk about politics too much; it’s because we discuss things too little. It’s because of “If I say something I might get called in by H.R.” or “Politics religion and sports have no place at this dinner table” or “I’m too smart to talk back against left-wing politics, working where I do” or “Stop it already, there’s cheesecake!!” The politicians and pundits who are selling socialism to our young people, who fancy themselves to be crippled by debt, are never interrupted by cheesecake. And so of course the young people don’t know, when someone pays your debts for you there are always strings attached. Of course they don’t know that. It’s not all their fault.

The Birth of Community

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

It happened long before the beginning of recorded history, so we don’t know if it was sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, or a bunch of cavemen still in the throes of evolution from monkeys. But it was undoubtedly profit-driven, motivated by the realization that a group can achieve in breadth & depth something that a lone individual cannot. And that had to be a meal because it could not have been anything else. It must have been meat, because the farmer labors in solitude when he sows and reaps.

So the most able hunters in a village, or in a locale that was later to become a village, pooled their resources together and brought down a mighty beast. They gathered to cook it over a fire, and divide the portions. They ate better and fed their families better than they had before, as a result of previous attempts in solitude, and so they resolved to do the same again and again.

The process of allocation must have become an issue very soon, likely within mere moments. The first liberal caveman who didn’t know how to hunt, or didn’t care to expend the effort, proposed that his contribution to the feast would be the knowledge of how to apportion the meat among the various other participants. Those stronger cavemen who brought down the beast then tore him limb from limb…and so, having anticipated this, he didn’t actually say anything, opting instead to keep the thoughts to himself. And probably starved, or survived on the scraps.

But the desire remained — the desire to make one’s living by way of dictating where the energies of better people should go, as a substitute for actual contribution. It was left to churn away, like an underground fire, for thousands and thousands of years before technology would permit it to see the light of day.

It began, near as we can figure, with the Pharaohs. The Divine Right of Kings. The cavemen looked to their chieftain and said “Who am I to question him? He could kick my ass,” and it must have been so, because if anyone could kick the chieftain’s ass then that would be the new chieftain. Whereas the ancient Egyptians said “Who am I to question him? He was chosen by the gods.” The cavemen had the better idea. But the Egyptians had managed to build something on top of community, which was civilization. They had technology. And from the very beginning, humans used technology to ensure the weak and incapable had at least an occasional lottery-ticket shot at ruling over the strong and capable.

The Sumerians came and went, the Babylonians, the Etruscans, the Phoeneicians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Huns, the Britons, the Scots, the Picts, the Moors, the Saxons, the Normans…house of Capet, house of Plantagenet, house of Bourbon, the Yorkists and Lancastrians, the Holy Roman Empire, Throughout it all, technology improved, stripped us of our inertia whenever we realized we need to get going — or, to stop. Technology made us more nimble, sleeker, lighter, enhancing our engine and brake horsepower and thinning down our curb weight so we could respond to unforeseen events with greater agility. Except with regard to one thing: That occasional moment of terrible realization, when it became apparent to all that the man in charge is weak, fickle, his elevator doesn’t go to the top floor. And then the Divine Right of Kings interceded, with the one-note samba of: It doesn’t matter. My Great Seal is upon the parchment upon which you find written the awful, terrible, no good horrible idea. My imprimatur brings with it the full force of law and the police power of the state.

The Renaissance came about in the fourteenth century, but it didn’t really hit its stride until three centuries later when the revolutionaries started decapitating royalty. Before that, there were some brief glimmering rays of hope, with depositions. If the King was a big enough asshole, he could become unpopular, and if he became sufficiently unpopular it would no longer be necessary to poison him in the dark of night, he could be tossed out in broad daylight. In the Middle Ages this was an occasional happenstance, and by the time King James tossed the Great Seal into the River Thames it was becoming an all-the-time thing. In another century or so Louis XVI’s head would fall and the revolutionaries won. But they, too, had imbibed the intoxicating elixir of “I don’t have to be capable and strong, I just have to be in charge.” Their movement was the movement of the mayfly, who looks at our universe in a completely different way because he exists in it for five minutes only. Maximilien Robespierre, like many a revolutionary who came after him, met up with the harsh judgment of his own revolution for the crime of not being sufficiently revolutionary, or not being revolutionary in the correct way. It has become the defining attribute of the leftist: They overthrow an entrenched power structure and become a new power structure, then feed on their own.

Technology, people think, allows us to make the most and best of ourselves. They’re right. It allows us to do that. It is not a bad thing. It isn’t good either. It’s like the gun; what it is used for is entirely up to us. And our default use of technology has been to elevate unfit people to positions of authority, wherein they can make bad decisions that are beyond appeal. It’s a sad commentary that the cavemen, with no technology, no civilization, living by the brutal code of might-makes-right, in some ways had the right idea. “Give me your portion of meat, look at all my bravado, and my strutting self-confidence” would have been met with a proper beat-down. It is the process of evaluation many a so-called “civilized” man would do well to engage: Waitaminnit, no that’s not happening. I’m too good. To interfere with my hopes and dreams, you have to be up here, and you’re down there somewhere. ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ mutherfucker.

Where we really start to take a wrong turn is where we define civilization as this acquiescence, this self-derogation, this spirit of “Well I can see you are weak and incapable and your ideas are wretched, but rules are rules.” That is not what civilization is. Civilization is, as I’ve written elsewhere, a set of protocols that function as bulwarks and hindrances against brutality. It is the opposite of brutality, and brutality is where I get to take all your stuff if I’m stronger than you are. Brutality is not me using my superior might to keep my stuff that is already rightfully mine. It’s a fine distinction but it’s an all-important one. Real civilization has to do with empowering people who have the capability and the desire to advance our causes; phony civilization has to do with empowering people who do not have this capability, or the desire, and would lead us astray.

Our species has built such phony civilizations before. They don’t last. This should surprise no one.

Today we have all sorts of so-called “leaders” filled with the spirit of that first liberal caveman, the poor-hunter, the one whose “contribution” to the feast would have been a bunch of rules about how much each caveman should get — but, had to keep his mouth shut so he live long enough to scavenge the gristle and gizzards from the ground. Technology has made it so they can not only keep talking and living, but also run things. It is a recipe for disaster: People who don’t produce anything, and never have produced anything, telling the producers how and when to do their producing. Technology is neither good nor bad, it didn’t bring us here. It merely made it possible. We did this.

Our starting point was the caveman just beginning to figure out a community campfire is beneficial to all; even the lowly scavenger who contributed nothing and can claim nothing. Anything we’re doing now that falls beneath the dignity of that first community event, should inspire a re-think. Putting the scavenger first ahead of all else just because he’s being bossy, is undignified, and unfortunately technology has made this lack of dignity affordable.

You remember that line in Jurassic Park: “…your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” This is why I define “Dark Ages” differently from the way most people do. I think we’re still in ’em. We’ll see daylight when we stop turning over the spoils of past triumphs, and the authority to engineer and direct the triumphs in progress, to the people who have nothing to do with making them happen. Between now and then there has to be a learning event, where we come to realize they don’t belong in these positions because they’re not emotionally invested in victory. That the unproductive bossy scavenger, put in a position where he can dictate allocations, won’t care that much about a lean kill because he’ll just allocate the choice cuts for himself. That civilizations don’t have to die, they can fill out a long and healthy lifespan like any other living organism, by self-governing responsibly and well.

What the Hero Does

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

Fiction is valuable for cluing us in on where our culture is and where it’s going, and movies are valuable representatives of fiction. Especially big, expensive productions that demand commitment from companies and executives who must find a way to put their fingers the public’s pulse. They don’t succeed at this every time they commit mass quantities of funds, but when they do it’s worth a second and third look.

I hate to rain on a parade.

In my youth, heroes were like Zorro, the Lone Ranger, The Phantom, Batman. The Scarlet Pimpernel inspired them all. The message was that the triumph of good over evil was more important than atta-boys, so it’s okay if nobody knows who you are when you make things right.

High Noon came out before I was born, and the message there was that right’s right and wrong’s wrong, it doesn’t matter if the people you’re defending are cowards and are undeserving of the protection made possible by your bravery. Good must triumph and evil must give way.

And then James Bond came out, and the message there was that you can be as big and brash and bold as you want to be, and in the darkest hour when all seems lost you just need to look around, there must be something you can do to stop Largo from detonating his nuclear warhead just offshore of Miami. Good must triumph.

And then they repealed the Hays Code and it became okay for villains to profit from being villains, and get away at the end. Still though, movies for little kids got the message across that in the darkest times, there’s always a way to win. Just shoot bullets at the shark and hope you can blow up the air tank in its mouth, if nothing else. Maybe some angels of death will jump out of the Ark of the Covenant and melt the Nazis’ faces, so drag yourself under a truck, stowaway on a submarine from the outside if that’s what you have to do.

And then Spock sacrificed himself so the Enterprise could get away from the Genesis implosion. The message changed to one of: When all seems lost, kill yourself. Seemed like a good idea at the time, it looked like acknowledging the pureness of the sacrifices made by soldiers who threw themselves on top of grenades so their buddies could live. But Spock also had to say “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.” Hollywood, which sees nothing wrong with communism, continued to carry on the meme.

The ranks of scriptwriters were bleached of creativity, so throughout the decades they continued nobly sacrificing characters whenever they ran short of ideas, or the adjoining actors wanted too much money. So the message changed to one of “Nevermind if good triumphs over evil or not, find a way to kill yourself.”

While this was all going on, a wedge was being driven between the audience and the hero who scored the touchdown, or killed the bad guy, or blew up the satellite before it flooded London with EMP. The main character didn’t do these heroic things anymore, so the stories stopped being about finding ways to get them done. They slowly morphed into meandering interconnected chains of events, consisting of “And then he did this, and then he did that.” Evil continued to be vanquished, but more as a happy coincidence than as the culmination of events instigated by the hero.

And now it’s come to this: Photography. Lookit! He/She is in costume and looks majestic, and there’s a CGI explosion in the background. He/She is just SO awesome!!

But the audience isn’t supposed to relate to the hero anymore. Superman is all about: We need hope! Uh, no…not in my time, back then Superman was all about: What if you were Clark Kent? If you had the powers to do just about anything, what would you do to make things right? Clark using X-ray vision to peek into the girls’ locker rooms wasn’t even a joke, wasn’t even a fixture of outrage. It wasn’t discussed. There was an understanding that we should want to have superpowers, and if we did have them, we would do good things with them.

So yeah when Captain America swung Mjolnir I thought that was pretty cool, but since it had no effect on the outcome I’m not overwhelmed…just kinda whelmed. Ditto for the Gordian knot of super-females, and the super-lesbian destroying the enormous ship…very, VERY cool visuals. But they weren’t connected to any meaningful events in the story. So Will Kane shooting Frank Miller dead scores more points with me, Martin Brody blowing up the shark scores more points with me, and it’s not because I’m biased against Marvel comic books or hate women or anything like that.

I’m just a crusty old fart who remembers there was something there, that’s gone missing, feeling somewhat sorry for kids of today being deprived of what used to be there. They’re being loaded up with something called “self esteem,” but aren’t being conditioned to see themselves as the superhero, as the agent of good, as the force of righteousness who finds a way vanquish evil and to do right by others even when all seems lost.

Memo For File CCXII

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

There are, walking around among us, many poor souls who don’t understand how liberating it is to believe things that are plainly true. True, obviously, and irony-free, like two and two make four.

When you believe in things that are true, there is no need to build a perfect environment in which people feel stigmatized for saying anything different. Mother Nature has her own way of stigmatizing people who think two and two are five. So this saves a lot of time. You don’t need to “fight to end” things. You don’t need to hit people with bicycle locks, or yell “Fuck Trump!” when it’s your turn to deliver a speech at the Oscars. You don’t need to put together a “Green New Deal” and then act all hurt and abused when the Senate actually holds a vote on it.

When you believe in true things, nature is on your side. There’s no need to get into a knock-down back-and-forth debate about whether Pi is 3 and a quarter, or something more involved and precise than that. You can simply say: Measure the diameter and circumference of a coffee can, and get back to me on that. No need to act like a belligerent “science guy” and call your own fans idiots. No need to go around to restaurants or other social gatherings to harass the people who disagree with you.

There is no need to cudgel or bludgeon, to henpeck, to gaslight, to “crusade for social justice” when you believe in true things, like women get pregnant and men don’t. It liberates you to ask questions. And the best part is, if you do ask these questions and it emerges you were wrong, if you’ve got the balls to admit it you end up even closer to the truth; this is called “learning.” So you don’t need to be afraid to ask questions about the other position, like “Fine then, if negative numbers can have square roots, what is the square root of minus-16?” Or “How exactly does it work that our economy becomes stronger when we raise taxes?”

There are, walking around among us, a great many wretches who have never been outvoted because they saw something the majority failed to see. They’ve never allowed themselves to be put in that position. They’ve been too worried about their social stature, never stood up for the fact that the boiling temperature of water is affected by air pressure, or that unborn babies have heartbeats.

They think they “do science.”

And yet their whole understanding of nature revolves around the idiom of “But you can’t just go around saying that stuff.”

They think they’re all about reality. And yet they allow teeming hordes of strangers to mold and shape their reality. Disembodied voices, activist-types, whom they’ve never met and never will meet.

They think they’re all about not being offensive, think they’ve found some happy medium between truth and tact. And yet they work hard at being tactless. They put a lot of energy into offending the right people. And they still believe Jussie Smollett.