Why the American Dream Sometimes Makes You Wake Up in Tears

Thoughtless people confuse being sentimental with wearing your heart on your sleeve.  If that association of ideas were true, I’d be the least sentimental person in any group.  But two days before I departed my home of twenty years forever, as my wife and I ate supper in the designated “breakfast nook” while a mid-July Texas sun drifted far west behind the hickories in a rhythm grown hauntingly familiar, I found myself sniveling into my napkin.  It shocked me, that surge of emotion.  I couldn’t explain why I should feel such sudden attachment to a place I’d made extraordinary efforts to leave.  I had raised my boy here, true enough, and we had staged many a contest of many a kind (he and I) in the back yard that now stared at me rather shaggily.  (Why mow it one last time when the buyers would soon be paying some “lawn care professional” to raze everything while riding on a rig the size of my truck?)  My son had himself left the old nest for good some four—almost five—years earlier, however.  No, it didn’t seem as though this was transferred grief for the lapsed golden age of fatherhood.

I’ve wanted to write a few lines about that sentimental moment for weeks now, but I find that the flurry of activity in the intervening weeks is quickly dulling my resolution.  I’d better say my farewells to the old place while I retain enough “sentimentality” to get to the source of my grief.  I think I know, at last, what it is.

Goodbye, old house.  You were an odd structure.  Your slit-like windows looked ultra-modern when they were built in the late Sixties, but when we knew you they had long acquired that insipid irony of things gone very much out of style by bidding too feverishly for stylishness earlier.  Maybe your interior cabinets wrapping the den were also “the bee’s knees” once upon a time.  We could never figure out what to put in them; and the bookcases that imitated their wide meanders from above were quite convenient for someone like me… yet, like the cabinets, were too deep, as if their makers didn’t really know the size of a book (or as if the imagined inhabitants were not intended to own actual books; plates and china statuary, perhaps—a huge conch from Maui, a fleet of Belleek dishes or Waterford crystal from Ireland?).

The place always felt smaller than it was, for reasons such as this.  It seemed to gesture at the next step up in luxury; and for that reason, it sacrificed the virtues of its proper level on the socio-economic staircase.  It squeezed us, and we abused it unfairly until, in our new home, we realized how much space was actually squandered hither and yon in the old one.  Sorry, old thing.  I gave you a hard time over that.

Let’s admit that you really were a bit schizophrenic.  I used to dig up fragments of suspiciously flat and well-groomed bitumen in doing my gardening, as if a rural road might have run through our back yard at one time.  Your two hot-water heaters were a mystery to everyone, as well.  Your size couldn’t justify them.  You must have had add-on work at some point—maybe a garage turned into a bedroom and bathroom (with those pretentiously huge closets, once again)and a new garage opening on a side street.  The buyer, or new owner, or whatever we call him, discovered that your ancient sprinkler system still worked in places (presumably not in the place where my son dug up one of its heads in excavating the mother of all foxholes).  You kept quite a few secrets from us, you know.  We might have spoken more kindly of you if you hadn’t been so evasive.

Yet for me, the worst problems were none of your own making.  Twenty years ago, Owen had playmates of his on age immediately on either side of him, and another couple within instant walking or biking distance.  That changed before he left elementary school.  Americans, they say, spread their bedsheets in something like thirty different dwellings over the course of a lifetime: they average one move every three years or so.  What a frightening statistic!  How can so many people be so unsatisfied or so insecurely employed?  (My wife and I managed to cram ten residences into a dozen years… but that was a result of my seeking a stable career in academe.)  What I saw that Sunday evening, old house, as I looked out the kitchen/dining room window and fought to suppress a sob was—among other things—a neighborhood that had long ceased to have neighbors.  As former residents “moved up”, properties turned rental; and as this and that property was rented, the one over there was drawn into the same orbit by a vaguely less “family-friendly” ambience.  The school ground down the street where I used to jog and where our first baseball team used to practice was rumored to have drawn a collection of pedophiles into the surrounding houses.  After a major overhaul, which destroyed whatever flat ground it once possessed for chasing long fly balls, it was cautiously fenced in.  The school buildings themselves morphed from a random string of separate structures to a megalithic Taj Mahal that must have made some city councilman’s nephew very wealthy (but that probably didn’t see the quality of instruction take a great leap forward).

“Progress” of some kind had eaten away the quiet shoal waters all around you, old girl. Now the waves gnash unimpeded at your curbs.  Dollars rule the currents that have reshaped your streets.  It couldn’t have been nostalgia, then, that made me choke on my rice as I looked down toward the school.  There were no old friends that way—or even any old enemies.  Only strangers.  My wife and I had invested in this neighborhood the twenty years of our existence commonly said to be the prime of life, the acme… and we were surrounded by strangers.

More than anything else, I have decided that the key to my grief lies therein: not that we were leaving so much behind, but that we were leaving almost nothing behind.  Twenty years of your life… and even the boy to whom you devoted the energy of those years doesn’t want to come back to the place.  Why would he?  A Big Nothing where people ingeniously apply themselves to devising strategies for grinding out a profit but never see a tree grow to maturity… what a waste.

That’s it: the waste.  You had potential, old house… but I was always too busy to give you a proper facelift until it was time to put you on the market.  You had never looked so pretty—and, by that point, you were already significantly not mine.  In the same way, the neighborhood and the city that surrounded you held reservoirs of untapped potential… and all of it will continue to run out into the great wide sea as this person sees an “opportunity” here and that one sees another there.  Waste.  Waste of all that really matters.

There.  I’ve done it—I’m finished.  I’ve worked myself into a state where I could almost break down again.  How we waste our time in this busy life!

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The Grand Inquisitor Explains “Crypto-Conservatism”

By way of sharpening up some points which I began to chisel a week ago, let me attempt a dialogue in the vein of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor.

There is no reason on earth why the trustee of a thriving university would want to talk to an untenured assistant professor, or would even have occasion to meet one such humble being.  Yet kings sometimes speak to cooks, and dukes sometimes address their tailors… so I will appeal to poetic license so far as to imagine the idealistic young Professor Wingo in close colloquy with the taciturn and somewhat mysterious—but not ungracious—billionaire Block, the dean of wireless security systems.

Block: So you are disappointed in Stephanos University after your first year?

Wingo: Disappointed… yes.  I had expected to find here more of a defense of the Western tradition.  The University advertises itself, you know, as a kind of liberal arts equivalent of Hillsdale College.  Anchored in humane values and classical ideas, independent of public subsidies and unbeholden to PC trends…

Block: Ah, yes.  Advertising.  Public relations.

Wingo: But the message is a strong one.  It obviously elicits enough support from like-thinking citizens that enrollment is healthy.  So why do we sabotage ourselves by becoming just another all-is-relative, don’t-want-to offend purveyor of mush when it comes to literature and history?  Why is the mandatory senior seminar a crash course in feminist criticism, always taught by a person (and I don’t intend to name names) who wants to see my World Literature Survey scrapped because of its imbalance between male and female authors?

Block: Maybe… and this would just be a shoemaker’s guess about what the baker does… maybe your unnamed adversary wants graduates to be able to sally forth from Stephanos and find a job, which will only happen if they can present their anti-literary, politically charged papers at anti-literary, politically charged conferences.  Assuming, of course, that they desire a job in academe…

Wingo: But then, all is lost.  The very purpose for which Stephanos exists… and I don’t mean to lecture you on the mission of the institution…

Block: No, no.  You’re quite right, in fact.  All is lost.  Certainly in the world of higher education—but even in the social and political world.  Especially there.  All the trends are pushing victim classes up to the front of the pack.  Everyone wishes to be victimized and entitled to restitution or special accommodation.  Naturally, those in the public sector who want their votes flatter their claims to special treatment… for the swelling “entitled victim” class has very, very many votes!

Wingo: Oh.  So… so why am I here?  I thought we were pushing back, in some small way.

Block: Your “we” is… well, not the sort of word that a man like me uses, but it’s “charming”.  You’re young, and you want to identify yourself with a worthy cause.  Many of your colleagues, too, are young, and they like the crusading atmosphere of the fight for the little guy.

Wingo: Unfortunately, Mr. Block, you would be severely disciplined in my position for using either the word “crusade” or the word “guy”!

Block: Well, there you go!  We’re screwed.  We can’t even say a plain sentence in plain English any longer.  That’s where we are, as a culture and a society.  End of the line.

Wingo:  So what would you recommend that someone like me do for the next thirty years?  Study computer programming?

Block: Not necessarily.  I would recommend that you keep right on reading Dante and Milton, if you can find a way to do so and survive.  And then be patient.  Wait for the collapse.

Wingo: Wait for the… collapse.

Block: For the end of the end.  Even endings come to an end, you know!  Let them—the Philistines, the barbarians, and the sophists—ruin this place, and others like it.  Let them ruin everything they touch.  Let them bankrupt the nation by doling out free iPhones in return for a vote, or promising free state-of-the-art health care to millions of people who eat like pigs, stay inside all day, and haven’t enough skills to get a decent job.  Free college, too.  You think the competitors of Stephanos aren’t salivating over that prospect?  Put them—put us—on the public payroll, too, and give us unlimited customers.

Wingo: So Stephanos will cease refusing federal moneys, with all the strings attached to them?

Block: You see… this is where I get very personal with you, where I glance over my shoulder and lower my voice, and where I assure you that I will deny publicly all that I’m about to say in confidence.  Stephanos will best serve its cause by becoming one of them—by precipitating the collapse.  The sooner, the better.  Of course we’ll accept federal money!  That will bankrupt the nation a little sooner.  Of course we’ll yield to the mandate to create unisex bathrooms, and drive Christian organizations off campus, and dismiss classes for Gay Pride Day, and ban Ben Shapiro from speaking, and all the rest!  The more we promote all of this suicidal idiocy, the sooner the idiots all commit suicide.  Between homosexuality and abortion, our intellectual class will have no progeny—no children into whose heads they can infuse their garbage.  Within a generation, American society will consist primarily of the offspring of Third World types who produce five, six, eight kids per family.  Oh, some of these children will be truly gifted… but most will have a very poor home environment for learning and a tradition where males aren’t expected to toil away at books and where females just marry and have babies.  So our society will be overrun with unskilled manual labor at the very time when assembly-line jobs have disappeared… and more people will go on the dole, and more voters will demand that more money be doled out, and more politicians will promise more freebies… and eventually there will be no more free iPhones for people who can’t even pay for their monthly WiFi… and eventually, not too long after that, there will be no more bread on the shelves awaiting shoppers with purses full of food stamps.

Wingo: And then you have hungry masses rioting in the streets.  Why would you want to precipitate that?

Block: Because it will come no matter what you do.  Would you rather have your limbs amputated one by one as you die of an incurable organ rot, or just go ahead and get the crossing over with?  Yes, rioting in the streets… and homicidal tribalism at a nightmare level.  The  red shirts killing the green shirts, the blue shirts killing the yellow shirts….  you can imagine the shouts and the placards.  “We have no food because of you damn people with your dark skin!  We have no food because of you people with your strange language!  Get out of my house!  Mi casa no es su casa!”  Massive unrest.  Not civil war, but civil chaos.

Wingo: Wouldn’t the dignified, principled thing to do in that case be to take the high road right into the abyss, since all will end in the abyss, anyway?  If we’re all going to die, why not be one of those who dies doing the right thing?

Block: Love the youthful idealism—love it!  But it could get us killed.  Really killed.  Because, you see, my rotting-organ analogy is inaccurate in that somebody may indeed survive—some few limbs of the body, the hands or the head.  Hopefully the head.  Maybe the blue shirts will be the last men standing.  And you want to be one of them, because then you get to dictate the terms of the society to be reconstituted.  But if, instead, you insist on letting the mob crucify you without resistance, then there will be no reconstitution, or only on the worst possible terms.  There will be no more Christ, no more Cross, for the survivors.  All will revert to the jungle.  Civilization’s only chance is to let the dog have his day… the jackals, in this case: to be the lion, to lie and watch as the hyenas fight, and then to crush the skulls of the last two or three hyenas.

Wingo: Pardon me for insisting… but there is no Christ, anyway, if you must contradict his message and his mission just to keep him alive as an artifact.

Block: That’s very well said—but also completely inept.  You’re not understanding the gravity of the situation.  To enjoy the youth and idealism that vibrate in the Christian message, one must first tame the jungle.  One must create an environment where youth and idealism can survive.  You can’t teach charity to a pack of howling baboons.  The job is going to be next to impossible even without all the objections of delicate sensibilities like yours.  The Chinese, for instance, can be expected to be very interested in walking in—like the lion after the jackal brawl—and crushing the puny victors one by one.  Their leadership desires nothing less than world domination.  That’s why the tech sector of our economy is so important: not because we have to keep producing cheaper, better iPhones for baboons who can’t show up at eight o’clock to check groceries, but because we need to stave off opportunistic predators like the PRC.  And we will do so, if only we can keep working off the grid—feeding the popular press UFO tales to cover our tests.  Also, of course, feeding stupid capitalist profiteers just enough innovation to market to the Chinese that we always know what Beijing thinks it knows about us.  Not all of us are all about profit, you see, whatever they may say about me.  I’m a patriot and a man of faith, and I’m willing to be defamed if my duty requires it.  It does.  Beneath the slurs, we dedicated few work on.  Believe me, provision is being made.  All off the radar, sub rosa, black ops.  We’ll be ready for rival lions.  A lot more is being carved out of our incalculable, unsustainable federal budget for useful R and D than anybody “out there” realizes.  They’ll all get their free tummy tucks, until the money runs out to filtrate clean water… but meanwhile, where they’re all too lazy or too stupid to look, we’re building stuff that could take us to Jupiter’s moons or transport a craft through a time portal.

We’re going to win, Professor Wingo.  We’re going to preserve our cultural bequest, just as the mission statement of Stephanos promises… though not quite in the terms of the promise.  We just have to clear the human litter out of the way first that our progress has unfortunately generated.  Frankly, that’s a bigger problem than China, as the Chinese well know…

Wingo: So you will help them commit suicide… that’s what you call clearing the litter.

Block: Yes.  Do you still not understand?  We will help them commit suicide before their poisoned Kool-Aid takes us all out together.  They’re the ones who abort their own babies and ruin their own health with psychedelic drugs and saturated fats.  And the tech revolution—the progress that they so pride themselves upon mastering, just because they know how to navigate a website!  They can’t talk, they can’t think for themselves, they don’t know east from west, their rare utterances are all clichés or obscenities, and they couldn’t change a tire with all year to try… but what a high opinion they have of their technical sophistication!  Why, we could make them all believe within twenty-four hours that the sun has burned out or hostile aliens have landed.  Orson Welles did that by accident with much more primitive technology, almost a century ago!  In fact, in a pinch, we could have them all do a Jonestown and off themselves with a recipe circulated on the Internet.  Like cattle lined up for slaughter…

Wingo: Would you do that?

Block: Would you not do it, if it was your children’s only chance of survival and if death for all was certain, otherwise?  We nuked Japan to save the lives of half a million American GI’s, and the innocence of many of those Japanese non-combatants would be a lot easier to argue than the innocence of your idiot snowflakes in their “safe zones”.  I would repeat, too, that the mass-lobotomy ongoing through popular technology is quite simply, quite plainly a suicide of mind and soul.  The Japanese girl returning from her seamstress work for lunch who looked up and saw the Enola Gay was not engaged every day in dislocating her tongue from her brain and rehearsing antisocial habits.

Wingo: Put that way… you make it sound almost charitable, like a mercy killing.

Block: So now, at last, you understand!

***

Two closing observations about the estimable Mr. Block’s traditionalism that works through a malicious dormancy—his “crypto-conservatism”.  Both have to do with qualities that render him indistinguishable from ideologues who are supposed (by the general public and by him, as well) to be his enemies-unto-death.  What he imagines to be tactically hidden conservatism (that is to say) is really pseudo-conservatism.

In the first place, notice how this manifestation of the Right shares the Left’s paternalistic contempt for ordinary people.  At best, they are children who need constant guidance from their superiors.  How the elite at the head of the oligarchy account for their intellectual and moral superiority is never explained by any of them; or, rather, those on the Right like Mr. Block probably assume that the superficial reverence they show to their version of religious faith makes them humble conduits of God’s will.  On the Left, I have found the same question always met with stupor, as if any educated person who could doubt the brighter light of the progressive vanguard were himself a wonder of the world.

And progress, in fact, is the second axis of identity.  This time it’s the self-styled conservative of Block’s stamp who is more likely to be kidding himself; for he believes his off-the-radar R and D and his hands-off indulgence of social collapse all to be working on behalf of the good old ways, which cannot otherwise be saved from history’s dust bin—but everything he does is manipulation, and none of it conservation.  The leftist progressive at least knows that the ever-recessive dawn of change is his god.  He slashes and burns the past out of zealous conviction—not because he deludes himself that he is clearing a space for old ways to root more securely.

These two essential principles of ideology are sufficient for the “adversaries” who subscribe to them to join in favoring the same legislative agenda from day to day.  Very few “limited government” conservatives, I imagine, ever justify their contradictory taste for growth of centralized power in Mr. Block’s sublimely speculative terms… but I think his mood probably underlies many of their compromises.  This is why we see ever less freedom in our civic and political lives regardless of which side seizes the reins of power: i.e., because both view us as incurable children, and both believe in their superior ability to effect an earthly utopia.

A certain logic may lead us to conclude that the one side and the other must fall to poisoning and backstabbing as soon as the palace is built and the people herded beyond its walls… but this may be naive—so naive that Block may awaken one day to find his brethren linking arms with the Chinese elite.  After all, a Superman is a Superman; and if you tell your rival Superman that your pedigree comes from God, he may decide that he rather likes that creed and join you at God’s right hand.

Three Good Reasons to Be Paranoid About Those in Power

After the last post, I might as well draw up the cinch with a big sigh and explain myself better, though to some a mere hint in these matters is unwelcome.

I have now, over a period of six months, discussed three reasons why we—or the vast, out-of-the-loop majority of us—should consider ourselves justified in suspecting that we have been designated expendable, if not slated for the slaughterhouse.

Item One: I’m sorry… but, yes, the first of these is related to the UFO phenomenon.  Scoff if you like.  A good nineteen out of twenty sightings that claim to identify something otherworldly in the skies are misperceptions or hoaxes, and the info-tainment industry has liberally stirred both mis- and dis-information into the pot.  None of that alters the reality of certain events like the Phoenix Lights in 1997: a series of sightings reported by hundreds, videotaped by dozens, witnessed by a personal contact of mine with a security clearance, and observed even by Arizona Governor (at the time) Fife Symington.  Though the Governor would conclude his brief researching of the incident with a lame attempt at mockery in a press conference a day later, for that one day he was as alarmed as his fellow citizens; and he has since confessed (without offering details) that the smirking dismissal of the reports was more or less ordered by Them Who Must Not Be Refused.

These silently and impossibly hovering, silently and impossibly accelerating craft could have been the result of only one of the following: an extraterrestrial visit, a military project in which extraterrestrial vehicles were reverse-engineered, or a purely terrestrial project the principles of whose engineering sophistication have been kept entirely off the academic grid.  Take your pick.  If you wish to join the coerced Symington in smirking at our collective phobia of little green men, then Option Three is clearly your choice… and is it really more consoling than the the notion that wide-eyed dwarves are cruising our skies?  Why is the physics behind this celestial parade wholly unknown at Rice and MIT?  Security?  But if secrets of such depth and consequence are routinely withheld from us, then what assurance have we that they will consistently be used to our benefit in the future?  How does a democratic society process such paternalistic “protection”?

And more immediately to the evidence of the incident… why the Phoenix Lights?  Why the in-your-face display of miraculous engineering over a major American metropolis?  Did the fleet simply veer off course?  If you’ve ever smirked in your life, this would be the time.  My own creeping suspicion is that the event was a kind of probe on the part of the covert designers to study public reaction.  That would mean… well, what else could that mean, but that powers within our state have not only developed technology of a science-fictional sophistication, but that that they—or some few high-ranking string-pullers among them—have also developed an interest in how the vast American mass would respond to an open show of miracle-machines?

So what game is being played when strings are thus pulled?  At what point do we—the great unwashed, the profane uninitiated—get to find out?

Item Two: the insecure power grid.  It is simply inconceivable to me that our nation would have blazed a path well into the twenty-first century without insulating our electricity-dependent way of life from surges of electromagnetic radiation.  These could be maliciously generated by the low-level technology of a second-rate terrorist nation like North Korea, or they could occur naturally (through solar flares).  In either event, a significant Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) could leave most of us without lighting, heating, refrigeration, phone or television service, operative automobiles, restocked grocery stores, functional hospitals, and other essentials of daily living so numerous that about nine of every ten Americans would die within a year (since our generators are not domestically produced and cannot be quickly replaced).  This is a virtual “On the Beach” scenario.  And the United States Congress, during the same two decades that saw a bankrupt Russia and a bureaucracy-heavy China secure their grids, did… precisely nothing.

Now, one must not underestimate the role of irresponsible, egotistical exuberance that overtakes the lives of our representatives when they arrive in Washington.  A kind of childishness descends upon many that, in specific cases, often mimics the influence of outright stupidity.  I do not believe that Barack Obama, for instance, had joined an evil cabal to destroy 90 percent of the nation when he ignored every single recommendation of the EMP Commission.  (As Peter Pry explained to Mark Levin, Obama probably saw the securing of our grid as a bad-faith gesture before those traditional adversaries whose favor he was courting—apparently having skipped the briefing about solar flares in that manner for which he became famous within the Beltway.)  Yet this is always the Washington fashion, it would seem.  The people’s choices wine and dine and posture and hold court insouciantly above major issues like a foolish child skating on thin ice unless and until some firebrand forces the impending disaster into their faces.  Our forty-fourth president had his face lifted too high in the air for very many issues to achieve a direct impact with it.

Nevertheless, somebody should have blown a whistle loudly, especially in the wake of 9/11.  It is incredible that no one did, and that virtually no one has.  (President Trump has in fact taken initial steps toward EMP defense, which may reach completion by about 2020.)  Why is it that we find no dearth of representatives mashing the red button because sea levels appear to creep up around the Chesapeake and the hurricane season has grown testy—yet not a one of them for years has manifested the least interest in a possible extinction event whose occurrence is as inexorable as a major California quake or an eruption of Kilauea?  Can every one of these people have been asleep at the switch for so long?

Or could it be, instead, that the general slumber and stupor prevalent in our nation’s capital have been nursed along by a few insiders?  Are there those in very high places (not necessarily elected positions, but with significant influence over the elected) to whom a “thinning” of our population by 90 percent wouldn’t be such a very bad thing, in the grand scheme of things?  Would not this 90 percent in the “fatality zone” include 100 percent of those who had and have no inkling as to the truth behind the Phoenix Lights?  Is indifference to unimpeachable reports of bizarre craft overhead not fully compatible with further indifference to unimpeachable reports of national calamity just waiting for a solar flare?  In other words, hasn’t our “cluelessness” been checked out, duly noted, and integrated into further calculation?  And wouldn’t it be—to these designers of the grand scheme—a very convenient thing to have the power of zapping your enemies with death rays from flying saucers, but also the freedom of devoting every resource to “progress” rather than paying well over half of the GDP to unemployed rabble and senile vegetables?

Item Three: Now I return to my overly cryptic comments about my high school alma mater’s elaborate newsletter.  I used that text to launch into a Sunday sermon about how the new “suave” and “urbane” for the socially ambitious is leftist progressivism.  This is neither surprising nor unnatural as a broad tendency.  The cutthroat nouveau riche have long been known to endure a mellowing period during which they slip their lion and elephant trophies into storage and buy Picassos for display.  They may even affect certain radical convictions (having gouged the public to amass their own fortune) in a perverse combination of penitence and victory-dance.  The Rockefellers and the Carnegies become passionate philanthropists.  Bill Gates becomes something like the Dalai Lama for forward-thinking people.  Frugality and caution are so crass, you know, darling!

Yeah, I get all that.  And I understand, too—better than most—that a pater familias might wish to advertise his arrival into the highest echelon by sending his kid to a college which actively vilifies wealth acquisition while instructing its young charges in how to change condoms rather than light bulbs.  But… but I simply can’t comprehend how the greater population of concerned donors would continuously bankroll such a meltdown in morale.  For every J.P. Morgan showing off his new social consciousness, there must still be a hundred CEO’s of small companies around.  Are they all that afraid of being “Papa Johned” by the popular press for not supporting the University’s de-gendering of restrooms?

Why have college presidents, for that matter, allowed their English programs to fizzle out, year after year, in course offerings on transgender playwrights of the Fin de Siècle and symposia on female-empowering sex toys?  Yes—again, I recognize that their fear of being branded uncouth in the Chronicle of Higher Education is precisely analogous to the D.C. politician’s fear of wearing the racist tag because he supports secure borders.  In both cases, the will of the enterprise’s true constituency is ignored in favor of placating a few effete opinion-makers.  But… really?  Not a single college president has been willing in four decades to utter these words?—“Sorry, but you’re no longer chair.  This is a conservative area with socially mainstream alumni, and our English program will continue to teach Shakespeare and Milton—without torching the Christian faith at every turn.”

My suggestion is that, with all the other influences discussed ad nauseam by the radio and Internet commentariat, the leftward slant of education has been fashioned with a certain conspiratorial complicity on the part of what should be conservative exponents.  At a very high and embedded level in specific cases—and at a fully subconscious level, no doubt, in subordinate cases—conservative cultural beacons have decided that it’s okay to let the restless masses wander down corridors inevitably leading to destruction.  The intelligentsia want to reject heterosexuality and parenthood?  Fine.  Their toxic effect will be dead in a generation.  The chattering class and the secular Christian-lite clergy want to practice charity by allowing the Third World to flood society unchecked and unvetted?  Fine.  Chaos will ensue, basic rights will be suspended, dictatorial powers will be bestowed… and then the only issue to be settled will be whether the ruling elite veers communist or monarchist.  A non-issue, really: the stronger always prevail.  A Stalin trumps a Trotsky every time, and Cesar Chavez always becomes Hugo Chavez.

Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity can inveigh against Saul Alinsky’s or Cloward and Piven’s revolutionary manual all they like.  The force that most frightens me, as a career academic, is the one I can’t see—the one that should be present in measurable quantities and, instead, shows up as statistical zero.  That force should be coming from the Right.  It’s not.  Like the designer of some diabolically brilliant computer virus, an elite few with incalculable influence have chosen at some previous stage of our cultural debacle to settle back, lace their fingers, and let the worm run through the system.  I can’t name a single one of them, and I can’t see their shadow… but I feel it, cold over my shoulder.  I wonder if they begin to comprehend what a deep place in Hell they’ve reserved for their souls by making this bid to “bail out” civilization?

Leftist Ideology as a Prerequisite to Success and Power: The Nightmare Playing Out in Our Schools

Yesterday I received the semiannual “publicity” communication from my high school alma mater—news from waves of alumni released successfully into the world, accomplishments of this year’s graduating seniors, highlights of the spring months in review, perhaps a short article contributed by a retired teacher.  It’s become quite a spread.  The thick, glossy paper is very generous with photos of young people on their way up and solid citizens reflecting back upon the headstart afforded them by Fort Worth Country Day School.

Maybe it’s because, just right now, I am so immersed in “honest work”—more honest work than my old bones can withstand, honestly… or maybe the growing sophistication of the magazine (no longer remotely like the original leaflet) woke me up… but I was never before so struck by the notion of what movers and shakers these young people are destined to become.  Oh, I knew early on—very early on—that the place had a country-club atmosphere to which I was ill suited.  From that orientation day as I began fourth grade (after which I’d begged my mother not to send me to CDS) to the afternoon a couple of years later when a blonde girl I was shyly sweet on venomously wished in dense female company that I wouldn’t be returning next year (the first and last words that ever passed between us), I got a steady stream of bad vibes.  These kids not only played golf: they lived beside golf courses, and they drove golf carts around the way I struck and retrieved my softball in the empty lot next to our home—back and forth, thirty times in an hour.

Precisely because I had learned so well and so early that I was a trespasser in their world, I passed my time there in a kind of coma.  I exerted all my psychic effort upon achieving invisibility while in that limbo and upon sealing out its faintest trace while I was “outside” (over weekends and summers).  I guess I didn’t think very much about what was staring me in the face—and I must have transported those habits of non-thought all the way into late mid-life.

Then, too, you must realize (if you are a younger reader) that our society’s privileged elite were generally private-sector dynamos who voted solid Republican and kept their children’s hair cut when I was a kid.  I’m still shocked when I encounter the evidence—as happened yesterday—that this stereotype has fallen utterly flat.  The ruling class today is staunchly center-left in tastes and associations.  Its members not only attend exclusive Ivy League universities, but often send familial shoots and runners through the academic world.  Simultaneously, they are intricately bound to the art/entertainment complex and the broadcast media’s upper echelons.  If any religious commitment or undertaking is ever mentioned in the same paragraph as their name, it is in conjunction with the receipt of some distinguished humanitarian award or the christening of some highly publicized missionary venture.  They still play golf, and they still patronize restaurants (to judge by alumni photos) where I couldn’t afford an hors-d’oeuvre… but, in the facing sidebar on the same page, one is likely to read of an impending #MeToo jogathon or see the spectacularly dark and scarfed or turbaned faces of new hires in the school’s elite positions.  The gray flannel suit has been airbrushed from these pages.

Of course, the young graduates themselves make the strongest case, and it is they who most attracted my notice.  They are accepted into colleges like Duke and Vasser and Harvard—into those magical places the mere mention of whose name opens doors.  (None of them seems to end up at some small conservative campus like Colorado Christian University, where my son finished his degree… “Oh, Colorado Christian… is that in Colorado?”)  Naturally, they also have evolving curricula vitae that already list impressive entries: an internship with an Elon Musk enterprise, an award for the politest robot at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Fair, a segment on a nationally aired Siemens commercial.  Yet a certain amount of such achievement owes much to being in the right place at the right time (and having the right connections).  The torchbearers of civilization’s future don’t actually seem to know much about life, or not anything that translates well into a sidebar-interview.  Their reflections sweep along words like “progress” and “better” and “future” and “diversity” and “justice” the way a river in spate carries dead logs.  In their way, they are bright and well educated… but there is indeed a distinct if implicit ethos, an arrangement of tribal feathers.

I doubt that I can finish this reflection today—not because I’m running out of room, but because I really don’t know where it leads.  Frankly, this kind of evidence alarms me in the same way that what I have called the Dark Elite alarms me (a subject about which I wrote five or six consecutive columns without drawing any response, having either alarmed my readers, too, into silence or bored them to death).  I just don’t get it.  Why do the rich and famous want to embrace an ideology that undermines the very economic mechanisms responsible for vaulting them to the top?  Is it a guilty conscience—do their children, especially, having grown aware that they began life with such a generous headstart, espouse the cause of dispensing bread and fish to the masses from mystically bottomless baskets as a way of “giving back”?  A way that continues, however, to cast them in the role of savior, so that conscience and privilege may gorge upon the same sugary cake…

I’ve floated some such theory as this many a time, and it probably has some truth; but it also strikes me as insufficient in itself, because it only accounts for how naive adolescents may become caught up in progressivism.  What about Daddy, or Grandaddy?  They, the original robber barons whose names are on street signs and the pediments of public buildings: how did they come to sign off on the New World Order?  They didn’t strike me as the conscientious type when I was growing up, and they still don’t.  Why have they sent little Bradley III and lovely-and-talented Chandra off to share unisex bathrooms and dorm rooms at Yale while learning that their race is vile and their family’s wealth obscene?

Oh, some of it is just the Ascot tie or the salad fork’s placement again: the “right people” send their children to Amherst and Princeton, so of course young Baldwin must go there.  But don’t you see?  “Going there” has now also become the ultimate good investment, the really smart business decision—because “right people” mingle with “right people”, and the Left is the new “right”!  How did that happen?  What does it mean?

At some level (and this would be a very deep level—I continue to believe that most graduates of my alma mater, and their forebears, cannot imagine what a hideous monster they’ve embraced), hasn’t some ruthlessly pragmatic nexus of persons recognized the necessity of “pruning the tree” in the future?  Hasn’t this covert board of illuminati understood that the votes of the masses must be bought in worthless currency until democracy itself may be suspended?  Are certain of its academic mouthpieces not already admitting that a decimation—or more like a nine-of-ten purgation—must occur for the future to hold its ascending course?  (The proposal of “ethicists” Giubilini-Minerva to extend the abortion parameters well beyond actual birth has circulated for about a decade, Princeton “moral philosopher” Peter Singer would stretch those parameters to include handicapped children and the aging, and the war against childbearing has indeed become part of our popular culture.)  Do we not see daily, in apparent contradiction, that radical feminist advocates harbor an affection for radical Islam?  How would this sort of thing be possible if—at the highest levels, again, and not in the rank and file—the self-styled architects of the future did not perceive a need for autocratic power; and what would be one of the most obvious deployments of such concentrated influence in our progressive tomorrow, if not the severe winnowing of our needy, unskilled, unemployed, spoiled, restless, relentlessly polluting masses?

I’m right back in the middle of the Dark Elite nightmare as I sit atop my twenty-five rural acres, where I saw Sirius rise early this morning… and all thanks to a silly magazine forwarded to me from Texas!  This is all almost too much to think about—not intellectually, but too much for the soul to bear; and most of those children in the Country Day School uniform couldn’t begin to comprehend my worry, nor could most of my classmates.  So am I just imagining it all?  Will not thinking about it make it go away?

Against Linearism: Why Hammering People into Historical Frames is Wrong

I know that I must attract a certain amount of wonder when I write lengthily—as I did last time—about gross misconceptions concerning the causes of the American Civil War and, specifically, the hypocritical ascription of brutal motives to the South by the North.  I think I’ve explained some of my purpose before.  Most of my ancestors wore gray (though the clan’s dark sheep, General Thomas, donned the blue), and perhaps I sense an obligation to respond for them as their statues are defaced and their names execrated.  In a broader sense, as a Caucasian of Southern extraction, I have long since grown annoyed at the presumption that love of enslavement runs in my DNA, just as many Merkel-weary Germans refuse to concede that the support of Nazism runs in their blood.  Those who fling such charges our way, interestingly, are guilty of racist thinking of a literal and precise kind (as opposed to the “you’re arguing with me, and I happen to be brown” variety).

Yet, upon reflection (and I reflect upon this a lot as I age), I’m convinced that much more is at stake than simply defending Colonel Dixieland’s statue in Town Square.  At the highest level, the issue is this: we incur great risk as human beings when we consent to view the past in merely linear fashion, forcing an a-b-c causality upon complex events.  We thereby process history’s curious artifacts to become so many sandbags for shoring up our personally preferred view of the present—which naturally leads into our vision of the future.  We transform the past into fodder for propaganda.  Already our academics are well embarked upon an intellectual era of (in Hamlet’s words) “nothing’s either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”… or (in Pirandello’s) “so it is, if so it seems to you”.  Having accepted that the real past is inscrutable within its layers of irrecoverable context and irretrievable tastes, we allow the version to pass that best suits our current endeavors.

Need I say that this was the very sort of slovenly Pyrrhonism which has caused us to picture the Civil War as no more than the advocates of slavery fighting it out with the friends of freedom?  Again, though, the greater issue is the danger and the evil of strictly linear thinking, which always assumes that the past’s meaning must rest in where we are (or fancy ourselves to be) right now.  That the Confederate flag does in fact represent racial supremacy to many of the few redneck idiots still actively “klanning” among us is a travesty… but it’s more folly, honestly, than outrage.  That we consider ourselves, as a nation, to be blazing into a future a course of slavery-eradication scouted by that eagle of emancipation, Lincoln, is far more hazardous to our spiritual health.  Most Americans, for instance, have forgotten that Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia and were not in fact “invaded” by Putin.  We appear ready to pounce, there and elsewhere, on behalf of democracy and liberation because… well, because that’s what the children of Lincoln do.  Isn’t it?

The treatment of Hitler by historians from the cathedra to the armchair is actually very instructive.  Why is Hitler a demon escaped from Hell while Stalin and Mao are virtual saints in “educated” circles?  Isn’t it entirely because the latter, though their butcher’s bill was much longer than the Fuhrer’s, were trying to create an idyllic utopian state and unfortunately broke some eggs as they whipped up their human omelet?  The Nazi program, on the other hand, explicitly fashioned its propaganda so as to resurrect glories of the past (most of which never existed).  The over-the-shoulder gaze of fascism apparently disqualified it from satisfying the linear march of progress… or seems to have done so to the inattentive.

The truth is that the fascist, too, is a progressive “linearist”.  He cries (in that Nietzschean fashion which remains quite audible in the Green Movement), “Bourgeois capitalism has degraded us into puny insects, into identical manikins!  Cast off convention!  Leave your manners and your clothes behind, and return to the primal glory of Man the Hunter!”  The romantic scenario offered here is linear insofar as it rates our present position as “negative progress”: we had to proceed a certain way along this path to discover that it leads into the abyss.  Now we know better.  Now we can move forward by backtracking.

If Hitler had vilified Jews as guardians of a suffocating patriarchal past rather than as financiers and engineers of a cruelly dynamic future, would his project of extermination have drawn such ringing damnation from the Left?  Hasn’t the Left, indeed, “updated” anti-Semitism to vent just such hostility to the Jewish tradition’s non-linear patterns of thought?

For (to wind up what might otherwise become a very long excursion) Judaism is probably the preeminent example in our culture of a closed system—a “classical” worldview: fixed human nature governed by fixed laws and undermined by the same old temptations under fluctuating surfaces… nothing new under the sun.  Even Christianity, these days, must constantly resist (and seems constantly to be scrapping all resistance) to the ascending line of progress.  We contemporary Christians are exhorted to forgive, practice charity, and abstain from destructive behavior not to prepare the soul for a higher reality, but to create a more perfect society—a utopia—here on earth.  (If I may call but one witness, consider Pope Francis’s outspoken promotion of gun control.)

The one kind of thinker absolutely not tolerated in our sophisticated company is the thinker in cycles: the spiritual nomad lingering in this sad world who understands progress as intensely personal and oriented to immaterial dimensions.  To such a one, Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee are not steps on a staircase, the former representing the Genius of Progress and the latter the Demon of Past Privilege in some insipid morality play.  They are, rather, individual human beings like you and me, their virtues and flaws magnified thanks to display on a very public stage but not in the least alienated from movements we may spy in our own hearts as we go through our day.  They live in us, not as heroic runners in a relay race’s first leg who have lately handed off the baton, but as equal brethren—as next-door neighbors whose old house, after their funeral, is now being completely remodeled.  We remember them as if we had spoken to them yesterday… for they were rocking on their rickety porch just two years ago.  And maybe we miss one of them much more than the other; but it’s because of the kind of person we divined in each of them, and not because they mentioned us in their will.

Yes, that’s it: that’s the real reason I keep wanting to say, “Wait a minute,” when yet another figure of the past is burned in effigy.  I knew that man.  Through my own heart, I knew him.  You say he was dead before I was born?  But he left words, written and spoken, as well as deeds (which are said to surpass words in authenticity, but which often require words if they are to be properly deciphered).  You, on the other hand, yet live… but do I know you better, just because you live?  Does life not indeed provide more opportunities to obfuscate than death?

I know this much: if you respect those who can no longer speak in their own behalf, then I’m much more likely to take you as you present yourself.  If, instead, you manicure the graveyard so that it provides a grand setting for your gateway just around the next lifting turn, then I have reason to believe that you won’t handle me with great care, either; for each of us, even among the living, is always just an instant away from permanently ruptured friendship and petrification in another’s “gallery of progress”.

Forbidden History: Excerpts from Tocqueville That You’ll Read Nowhere But Here

The second volume of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America was published in 1840.  Reading that volume’s initial overview of the plight of a Native Americans and of African slaves should be required of every high school history student.  I can see the former section about the clash of European and Indian cultures finding its place in today’s curriculum (with plenty of vitriol stirred in by the instructor, who will no doubt ignore Tocqueville’s stress upon the situation’s tragic complexity and opt, instead, for self-righteous denunciation).  The latter section—about the agonizingly durable practice of slavery—would likely be airbrushed from the record as racist, simply because the complexities here are too many to reduce to academe’s cartoonish Manichaeism.

My title above is a little pretentious: you can, of course, read Tocqueville readily in many formats.  But you wouldn’t read these particular passages on most college campuses.  They elicit too much thinking and indict too much hypocrisy: all we do in the Ivory Tower nowadays is gin up support for “protests”.  I’ll have much more to say about the excerpts (my personal translations) later, I hope.  For now, I need to stand back and let them speak for themselves.  Even as excerpts, they form quite a little mass of material.

Let me add that I do not offer Tocqueville as an inerrant source: no human being is that.  Yet not all sources are equal just because none lacks bias.  Tocqueville is a brilliantly shrewd observer with an admirable sense of fairness and a profound respect for the facts.  He has, perhaps, a tad too much of that French taste for irony and antithesis: the age of La Bruyère and La Rochefoucauld has not passed entirely out of sight in his writing.  For instance, I find his characterizing the South as averse to physical labor due to the link between sweat and slavery a bit absurd, given that a huge majority of Southerners had no slaves and a huge majority of those few slaveholders had but two or three.

Please do not indulge the snobby bigotry of our own time, furthermore, so far as to misjudge the final excerpts as racist.  The terror of race war was extremely electric in 1840, and the brooding sense that it was inevitable clung to the seeming impossibility of the two races ever mixing significantly.  Tocqueville by no means believes that a mulatto child would be somehow “degenerate”: he merely doesn’t see white society—either Northern or Southern white society—as capable of surmounting ingrained prejudices in a vast movement.  Let us remember that Lincoln very actively sought to interest free blacks in an expense-paid deportation to Panama (lest they eventually interbreed with whites).  Let us honestly ask ourselves, too, why those who most readily shout “racism” among us today appear most eager to induce something like a race war.  Time has not yet proved that a critical mass of good people exists to lay this hellish ghost to rest.

EXCERPTS

Racial prejudice seems to me stronger in states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists, and nowhere does it appear more intolerant than in the states where servitude has always been unknown.

It is true that in the north of the Union, the law permits blacks and whites to contract legitimate alliances; but public opinion would decry as infamous the white who would unite himself with a black, and it would be difficult to cite an example of such a deed.

In almost all the states where slavery has been abolished, electoral rights have been bestowed upon the black; but if he presents himself at a polling place, he risks his life.  He can seek legal redress if denied such rights, but he will find only whites among his judges.  The law, of course, opens a path for him to sit on juries, but prejudice pushes him back out.  His son is excluded from the school where the descendant of Europeans goes to be educated.  In theaters, he could not buy with solid gold the right to seat himself beside the man who was once his master; in hospitals, he lies in a separate quarter.  He is permitted to pray for the aid of the same God as do the whites, but not to pray at the same altar.  He has his own priests and sanctuaries.  The doors of heaven are not shut against him, yet inequality scarcely ceases at the brink of the other world.  When a black man lives this life no longer, his bones are cast to one side: differing conditions appear even in the equality of death.

Thus the black is free, but he can share neither the rights, nor the pleasures, nor the labors, nor the sorrows, nor even the tomb of him whose equal he has been declared.  He can nowhere manage to place himself in the same scene with this other, either in life or in death.

In the South, where slavery still exists, blacks are kept less punctiliously to one side; they sometimes share in the chores and amusements of the whites; a certain amount of mingling with them is allowed; legislation is harsher where it pertains to them—but customs are more tolerant and gentle.

In the South, the master doesn’t fear to elevate the slave to his level because he knows that he can always, should he so wish, cast him back down into the dust.  In the North, the white no longer clearly perceives the barrier that separates him from a degraded race, and he distances himself from the black with all the more care in that he fears integration with him some day.

But if the position of the two races that inhabit the United States is such as I have just described it, why have the Americans abolished slavery in the North of the Union, why do they preserve it in the South, and on what account are they aggravating its abusive qualities?

The answer is simple.  Where citizens of the United States are destroying slavery, they do so not in the interest of blacks, but in the interest of whites.

Note 78: … In 1740, the legislature of the state of New York declared that the importation of slaves should be encouraged as much as possible and that contraband should be punished severely, as tending to discourage honest commerce.

The colonies had been founded.  A century had already elapsed, and an extraordinary truth began to attract attention.  The districts that possessed practically no slaves were increasing in population, in wealth, and in quality of life more rapidly than those where they abounded.

Yet in the former places, the settler had been obliged to cultivate his own soil or to rent the services of another; in the latter places, he would find at his disposition workers whose labor he need not remunerate.  On the one hand, then, were hard work and expense, and on the other leisure and savings… but the advantage remained with the former.

The result seemed the more difficult to explain in that the emigrants, belonging all to the same European race, had the same customs, the same civilization, the same laws, and differed only in scarcely perceptible ways.

Time continued to advance.  Forsaking the shores of the Atlantic, the Anglo-Americans thrust themselves ever farther into the solitudes of the West.  There they encountered new terrain and climate; there they had to vanquish obstacles of a diverse nature.  Their communities mingled, Southerners veering to the North and Northerners descending into the South.  Amid all of these factors, the same phenomenon reproduced itself at every step: in general, a colony where slaves were very scarce became more populated and prosperous than one where slavery was thriving.

As the nation expended, one could not fail to notice that servitude, so cruel for the slave, was lethal to the master.

Note 79: Not only does Ohio not allow slavery—it prohibits the entry of freedmen into its territory and denies them the right to acquire property.

The free worker is paid, but he works more quickly than the slave, and speed of execution is one of the major determinants of an economy.  The white sells his services, but they are not bought except when they are useful.  The black can claim nothing by way of payment for services rendered, but he must be nourished at all times; he must be sustained in his old age as in his prime, in his unproductive childhood as during the fertile years of his youth, in sickness as in health.  Hence in the case of both men, work is obtained only by paying: the free man receives a salary, and the slave receives an upbringing, food, medical attention, clothing.  The money that a master spends to maintain a slave trickles out little by little in minutiae: it is hardly noticed.  The salary that the worker draws is delivered all at once, and it seems to enrich only its recipient—but in reality the slave has cost more than the free man, while his labor has turned out less productive.

Almost everyone in the southernmost States who devotes himself to commercial enterprises and makes use of slavery has come from the North.  Every day, Northerners circulate in this part of the American territory where the combination of practices has less to fear for them.  They discover ways of exploiting the collaboration that the more settled inhabitants haven’t noticed: adapting themselves to a system of which they disapprove, they manage to derive from it greater advantages than those who defend it after having founded it.

From the time when a northern state prohibits in this manner the importation of slaves, it draws no more blacks up from the South to transport into its midst.

From the moment when a northern state forbids the sale of Negroes, the slave [there], not being eligible for any local transfer of ownership, becomes an inconvenient property, and an incentive is created to transport him to the South.

On the day when a northern state declares that the child of a slave shall be born free, the slave loses a great deal of commercial value; for his posterity can no more be trafficked on the market, and—once again—an incentive is created to transport him to the South.

The abolition of slavery therefore does not cause the slave to reach a state of freedom; it only causes a change in his masters.  From the North, he passes to the South.

Note 84: The states where slavery has been abolished ordinarily apply themselves to dissuading freed blacks from residency in their territory through harassment; and since a kind of rivalry in this effort emerges among the various states, the tormented blacks can only choose among different miseries.

Note 85: A great difference exists between the death rate of whites and that of blacks in states where slavery has been abolished.  From 1820 to 1831, Philadelphia saw only one white die for every 42 belonging to the white race, while one black died for every 21 belonging to the black race.  The mortality rate is considerably less exaggerated among enslaved blacks.

Tobacco, cotton, and sugar cane grow only in the South; they represent the principle source of that area’s wealth.  In destroying slavery, Southerners would find themselves facing one of two alternatives: either they would have to change their system of cultivation—and then they would enter into competition with Northerners more vigorous and practiced in these new methods; or they would have to cultivate the same products without slaves—and then they would be forced to compete with other Southerners who still used slaves.

Thus the South has peculiar reasons for preserving slavery unknown in the North.

Here, however, is another motive force more powerful than all the others.  The South could certainly abolish slavery with sufficient determination; but how would it save itself from its black population?  In the North, slaves are chased out in the same motion as slavery.  In the South, one couldn’t hope to obtain this duel result at the same time.

When one announces that, starting at a certain date, the Negro’s child will be free, one introduces the principle and idea of freedom into the very soul of servitude.  The blacks kept in servitude by such legislation, seeing their children escape from it, would stand shocked by the inequity of the two destinies.  They would grow restless and irritable.  From that moment, slavery would lose in their eyes the kind of moral power that time and custom had bestowed upon it; it would be reduced to nothing more than a visible abuse of force.  The North would have nothing to fear from so shocking a contrast, because there the number of blacks is very small and that of whites quite large.  But if this dawn of liberty were to shed its light over two million people, their oppressors could only tremble.

These two factors [the deportation of slaves and the influx of European immigrants] cannot operate in the same manner among the Southern states.  On the one hand, the mass of slaves is too great for one to hope that they might be evacuated from the country; and on the other, Europeans and Anglo-Americans are loath to immigrate to a region where labor remains identified with vile servitude.  Besides, they rightly regard the states where the number of blacks equals or surpasses that of whites as under threat of grievous calamity, and they avoid transplanting their enterprises to such places.

As soon as one envisions whites and emancipated blacks being placed in the same position as two peoples alien to each other, one will easily grasp that the future offers only two choices: blacks and whites must either fuse racially or separate completely.

I have already expressed above my estimate of the first option’s occurring [i.e., that the obstacles it faces are too great].  I do not think that the white and black races will manage to exist on equal footing anywhere.

The danger, more or less distant yet inevitable, of conflict between the blacks and white who populate the south of the Union unceasingly haunts the American imagination like a painful nightmare.  Northerners discuss these perils every day, although they have nothing directly to fear from them.  In vain do they search for some means of conjuring away the catastrophe that they foresee.

In the Southern states, everybody stays mum.  One doesn’t speak of the future with strangers; one avoids trying to unravel it with one’s friends; everyone hides it from himself, so to speak.  The silence of the South has something more frightening about it than the clarioned fears of the North.

Surviving “Progress”: A Report From Heartbreak Hill

During the very little time that I’ve had to read anything over the past week, I recall a piece chastising the anti-GMO crowd for condemning Third World residents to lives of misery and brevity.  Most people, claimed the author, don’t want to toil several hours a day in the field behind an ox or over a hoe.  Most people prefer air conditioning in the summer to the sticky, smelly, mosquito-ridden shade of a hovel.  Most people are willing to pay to have something done which will make their existence substantially easier or healthier rather than sap their strength every day to reach a bare minimum of sufficiency.  It’s called progress. Most people like it.

Here I sit, having finally unloaded—after almost a week—the 28-foot trailer that contained all of our worldly belongings, a trailer that I had spent the previous week stuffing to its nine-foot ceiling four states away.  My do-it-yourself approach probably saved me about $7,000… but the situation became almost suicidal when the haulers informed me at the other end that they couldn’t negotiate our quarter mile of winding rural driveway to our front door.  I had mistakenly assumed that a tractor-trailer could take on anything that the 18-wheelers of the building crew had surmounted; but, in fact, the builders had produced a road fit only for their species of big rig.  They appear to have dumped more loads of rock whenever heavy rains fell (and rains fell at a record rate this spring in Georgia). Never in this debauch of rock-dumping did they give a second thought to whether my wife and I could make the same drive comfortably—or at all—in our smaller vehicles.  Their convenience came first and last; anything else was exclusively our problem.

My worst day, in terms of desperation, was last Saturday, when another heavy rain came playing through and left our shuttling pickup truck mired along a steep upward slope, a heavy dining-room hutch pressing its bed.  I thought of wagon trains that had left pianos and massive oaken sideboards in their wake as they tried to grind along the Oregon Trail.  Eventually I discovered the technique of cutting down pine saplings (which grow here like weeds) and strewing them diagonally up the slope.  The hutch endured a few scratches, as did just about everything else… but we reached our objective.

My personal scratches, frankly, number a little more than a few.  My left thigh (where I instinctively catch loads about to slip from my hands, apparently) is such a complex constellation of bruises that an Ancient Alien theorist would suppose ET to have tattooed Orion into my skin.  My fingernails (one of which is about to fall out over a blue blister) and toenails are a wreck.  My left eyelid somehow got severely scarred, perhaps by a pine sapling that didn’t want to be enlisted for road duty.  My sides have been gouged repeatedly by staircase rails (since the haulers didn’t include the right kind of dolly to take heavy loads easily over step overhangs—and my builder, who promised to loan me his miracle-on-wheels, kept that promise about as well as he had many another).  I have some kind of strange rash which I mistook for sun poisoning, but which seems instead to be related to sweating profusely without taking in enough water.

The night before last, I lay shivering in bed for half an hour on a hot July night, wondering, “What in hell is this?  Is my body shutting done?”  I pride myself on being in very good condition for a 64-year-old man (and ex-academic)… but I do believe that I had just about hit the boundary wall of my physical ability.

So exactly why do people choose to undergo such hardship when progress offers a better way?  I know there are people in the world who slave in this manner for pennies on an almost daily basis… but is the image of a virtuous primitive deliberately embracing the life of manual labor just another idiotic Ivory Tower fantasy?

I pondered that question during many of my “runs” to and from the trailer in my pickup.  In the first place, I should point out that progress had failed me several times in my present circumstances.  The haulers had declined to tackle Heartbreak Hill. The construction workers had laid a road that gave them on-the-spot, for-the-moment transit without paying any attention to the points where rainwater kept cutting through and jumbling their crude stone pavers.  The builder had designed a dolly-resistant staircase.  Nobody, of all these “seasoned professionals” representing our high-tech society, had cut me any slack at all.

And this actually raises a second, more significant point about progress.  Things become generalized and regimented.  Operatives are unaware of the situation “on the ground”, or else they are so busily lining up new customers that they give current ones only as much notice as is contractually required.  The robust paycheck that allows a white-collar worker to scoff at the $7,000 I pocketed and spare his old body is generated by business practices emphasizing volume and speed.  I very much suspect that, even in the contested area of GMO’s, we would find hidden losers farther along the future’s road of a malaria-free, malnutrition-cured society.  Genetically modified crops don’t really seem suited to the lifestyle of the small farmer, if only because (once again) they favor volume and system.  So more small farmers sell their little plot of land and move to the city, where ever greater masses of unemployed are competing for ever fewer blue-collar positions as mechanization takes over assembly lines… and at the end of the day, our erstwhile farmer is consuming filthy air and water in a crime-ridden tenement rather than trying to survive on a bowl of rice per day under a blue sky where the rain is free.

My wife and I haven’t enjoyed the last two weeks, and I’m not romanticizing them.  The three physically most arduous days of my life have to be contained somewhere in those two weeks.  Labor isn’t virtuous when it beats you down until your body can take no more.  But who will save us from our “saviors”?  I wouldn’t have been so obsessed with keeping seven grand in my bank account if a conspiracy of realtors, building contractors, insurers, and bankers hadn’t just forced me to replace the perfectly sound roof on my previous house for a third of that amount.  No, nobody really wants to put in the sweat required to grow beans and potatoes out of the soil… but the alternative is to eat whatever “they” serve up to you, whether you think it’s healthy or not.

A subject for another day would be the curious espousal by “conservatives” of this “progress is good” position which commits us not only to constant change but also to a naive dependency upon the moral decency of our suppliers.  I agree that the Left far too often adopts tree-hugging as a strategy without bothering to question whether this particular sapling would better serve humanity lying in a mud slick.  Conservation on the Left tends to be all pose and no understanding.  But “progress” on the Right—usually from the very people who endorse Ayn Rand’s nihilist rationalism of self-interest—tends to leave you standing at the roadside with a sophisticated container holding all of your possessions on earth… and no way to get it home, unless you have deep pockets.

That’s why young voters don’t abandon the Left en masse and swing Right: because, ironically, they seem to sense with a child’s intuitive radar that “progress” nudges you into the car of a stranger offering luscious candy.  Will we ever find our way to a conservative conservatism?