On the Educated Elite’s Adoration of Centralized Authority: Part Two

Thanks to an almost suicidal work load this weekend (created mostly by my own excessive ambition), I’ve been tardy getting back to my reflection about intellectuals and central authority in the contemporary world.  Time was when an intellectual would almost surely be a “liberal” in the sense of believing (to the point of doing hard time in prison, like Silvio Pellico) that individuals should choose the course of their own lives—that they should not be pawns on the chessboard of the mighty.  How times change!  Now the liberal is he or she who wants a central authority to provide health care, assure a minimum income, fund free education all the way to the graduate level, certify the safety of food and drink, keep leaded paint off of toys, inspect hot water heaters… Super Nanny and Grandfather God all rolled into one.

I prefer my freedom.  And it’s no longer just an aversion to being tucked in at night by Big Brother: survival is at stake, I’m convinced, at the most rudimentary level.

I’m sure that I will have shocked a few eyes last time by declaring that I don’t want to see freebies distributed generously far and wide to the “needy” (however we may define that group: it’s a moving target).  Here, then, is why you will end up sending vast droves of humanity to the slaughterhouse if you encourage such publicly funded magnanimity—and why you yourselves, o sapient and progressive intellectuals and noble paragons of moral sentiment, will likely be funneled down the same chute.

Simple, really.  There isn’t enough money to pay for Ahmed’s education and Rosalita’s hip replacement and Jesse’s five kids and Maggie’s birth control.  We’re about twenty TRILLION dollars in debt at the moment… but the more accurate figure may be at least four times as great if one adds in the so-called unfunded liabilities—commitments such as Social Security which government has made in recent decades without bothering to consider where the cash would come from.  Printing paper dollars as needed is just one of several scenarios that end in an economic abyss.  There really isn’t any clear way back up the slope from our present position, either.

Now, it would not be naive to assume that many of our legislators are a) too fixated on selfish, short-term gain or b) too scantily endowed with native intelligence to understand the looming calamity.  But I would take a wild guess that a quarter to a half of them understand it perfectly well.  What, then, is their endgame?  How can they merely open up the throttle as the plane rolls into a fatal nosedive?

The only answer I can possibly imagine is that plans are being discreetly discussed to “manage” us.  Means of management might include 1) sterilizing huge segments of the population without their knowledge, as by an element infused into the annual flu vaccine; 2) precipitating a war in which anyone not supplied with a state-of-the-art concrete bunker would be vaporized; 3) allowing the situation to degenerate until rioting n the streets forced the authorities to declare martial law and “neutralize” dissident factions.  Messy, that last one… but may I remind you that Barack Obama spoke openly before his first term about the creation of a national police force, that indispensable ancilla to any totalitarian dictator?

The masses are needed at the moment only to vote the elite into positions of power; and the elite, in turn, buy these votes by offering more and more manna from heaven. At some point, when the general public becomes sufficiently degraded that it denounces elections and cries for a king, its utility will have ended. Seems to me that we draw very near to that point, to judge by recent events.

The more dependent we become, and the more dependent we allow our brethren to become, the closer we draw to the butcher’s sledgehammer.  It isn’t smart, my academic friends and colleagues, to aid and abet a society of piglets permanently suckling one great sow.  It’s really quite stupid, and quite dangerous.

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Insanity Begins Where Truth Evaporates

In just the past week, I’ve been bombarded with so many outrageous claims and patently made-up fantasies that I’m somewhere between headache and nausea.

Did you know that illegal aliens actually commit crimes at a lower rate than other residents—overlooking the fact that illegal entry is itself a crime, I mean?  Of course, being illegal, many of this group don’t call the cops when they’re robbed, raped, or mugged in the barrio… but I’m sure that whatever study the professor was quoting to Tucker Carlson took this into account.  Right?

High rates of Ruthenium 106 have been detected in the southern Urals… but, hey, Russia isn’t engaged any longer in the covert weaponizing of nuclear materials, and Jared Kushner’s chat with a Russian lobbyist remains a far greater threat to our security than Hillary’s Uranium One deal.  Anyway, who’s to say that Greenpeace Russia isn’t lying as part of a Trump pay-off?  Right?

Today I saw a video claiming that Native Americans have observed Thanksgiving as a day of mourning for centuries, and that the actual date marks the occasion of a massacre wrought by the Pilgrims upon their swart, dark-haired, fatally naive hosts.  The narrator was a Native-looking young lass who truly seemed to be very distressed.  Why would she lie?

All week I’ve been reading about our “greatest president”.  No, not Barack Obama—the other one: Abraham Lincoln.  He promised not to free the slaves as a candidate, his proclamation freed them only in the South and not in Unionist border states, he freed them then only to find more cannon fodder for his unpopular war, he had to siphon off precious troops to suppress draft resistance in states like New York, he smashed presses and imprisoned editors when newspapers in far-from-the-front Ohio and Indiana criticized his policies… but these are all just charges assembled by Southern apologists.  I have it on the high authority of Glenn Beck, the official historian of Planet Earth.

A professional sportswriter penned something that crossed my bow yesterday.  It argued that we might as well usher all the Steroid Boys into the Hall of Fame and waive the character criterion, because the Hall’s prior occupants are a bunch of bastards.  Take Tris Speaker, who wouldn’t attend teammate Ray Chapman’s funeral because Ray was Catholic.  Naturally, the argument made in Charles Alexander’s painstaking biography that Chapman was born Protestant and that, in any case, he selected Speaker to be best man at his wedding reeks of bias.  I’m sure the no-name who has wearied of the Hall’s prissy “character” clause must have it right.

A certain relative at our Thanksgiving gathering launched a verbal tirade because my son beat her at chess.  She insisted that knights couldn’t leap over other pieces when moved—citing an Internet source which actually undermined her position… but that was just our interpretation of the passage.  And the Internet is always right, especially when it’s vague.

From the cosmic to the national to the trivial, I find myself wading through hastily stitched “facts” at every turn.  What’s happening?  Are we all losing our minds?  Am I, perhaps, a psycho for thinking that the sun sets in the west?

No, it seems to me, rather, that we’re falling into a habit of rewriting the rules (sometimes literally) to whatever game we’re playing so that we personally come out ahead.  And because I once thought that Putin could be trusted, and that Glenn Beck could be trusted, and that institutional or professional research could be trusted, I don’t think I’m the lunatic in this asylum.  Why not?  Because I’m capable of admitting error and changing my mind.

Here’s an exercise I recommend: think of three positions that you’ve had to surrender over the past year because the facts just didn’t support them.  Can you do it?

How to Hide in Plain Sight: Surround Yourself in Conspiracy Theory

Societies have always been vulnerable to blindness induced by their own prejudices.  If a child were born under the “wrong” alignment of the stars, or if a crow flew left instead of right as an expedition started out, then human ingenuity and determination could be negated by an invincible sense of doom.  To our own time of mass communication, instant dissemination, and absence of rooted values, however, belongs a special susceptibility to “being handled”.  Devious people can lead us all around by the nose with a bridle of two or three words… or even just one.

The idiotic coinage “judgmental” has been such a word since my early youth.  So we are not to judge anything?  But are we not judging, then, those who practice judgment?  And how does anyone abandon judgment without surrendering consciousness?  Don’t we still advise our children not to climb into cars with strangers?  Don’t we pass on eggs and yogurt if their container declares them out of date?

Of course, the whole idea behind “non-judgmental” is to judge very harshly and rashly a person or group designated by our handlers as caught red-handed in the exercise of principles.  It’s an easy sell to such as we have become.  Simply by turning off our brains, we ascend to the ranks of the “best” people.  We didn’t really want to think, anyway.  It’s painful.

Or take the phrase “conspiracy theory”.  Who wants to be detected in entertaining a crackpot idea?  That’s the only kind ever known to have been hatched by “conspiracy theorists”, you know.  They believe that reptilian aliens living in Inner Earth slipped Lee Harvey Oswald his rifle, shape-shifted to become Dick Cheney, and loaded the 9/11 jetliners with robots.

The truth is that a conspiracy is any plot to maneuver a person or persons into a certain behavior by withholding critical portions of situational truth.  Two or more must be involved in the subterfuge.  A lad who bribes a girl’s best friend to praise him lavishly to her has launched a conspiracy.  A dad who promises his son a new video game if he votes that the family should vacation in the Rockies instead of at the beach has created a co-conspirator.  Conspiracies are a fact of ordinary life.  To hear the “conspiracy theory” theorists, you’d think that all the laws on the books against conspiring to commit criminal acts would be redundant.  Few people would ever be stupid enough to conspire, and nobody would be stupid enough to believe them if they tried!

Labeling intelligent suspicion of official accounts a “conspiracy theory” has now become a favorite species of disinformation.  If you and your cronies design a lie for feeding to the public, and if some group of skeptics indicts your veracity, play the CT card.  “Oh, sure, that’s right… we wanted to cover up the existence of an alien spacecraft at Roswell, even though its discovery would have revolutionized modern living.  We want to stay in the Dark Ages—and we lied about the Lizard Men who fought us for the wreckage, too!”

A dismissive documentary about the Roswell incident quoted a high-ranking general testifying before Congress in almost exactly these terms—and the narrator obligingly rated the testimony “devastating” to the conspiracy crowd, though it had no more substance than I have portrayed.  All you have to do is sniff, be a little snarky, and tilt your head in the direction of “the troglodyte set over there”.

An infinitely subtler use of the technique, however, is to finance your own “conspiracy theory” clique, broadcast, or website to cry out against the very conditions you wish to hide.  Instead of cozening interviewers for the Roswell documentary to ignore the evidence of an extraterrestrial encounter, play the thing up to the hilt.  Make your own film.  Carry it far over the top.  Spread rumors that one alien pilot survived and conferred with President Truman.  Create a list of everyone in the county who died over the next decade and speculate that government agents “took them out”.  Disgust the public with your lunacy.

I sincerely wonder if some of the more extravagant serials and documentaries about the Kennedy assassination, alien visitors, 9/11, and the rest do not have their roots in this more subtle kind of dissuasion: the “make the believers look like psychos on crack” approach.  But that, of course, would just be another conspiracy theory.

 

Columbus and Hitler: Nothing in Common

I have read bloggers and editorialists complaining for years about our children being taught that the New World was an Eden invaded by white racist males… and I always took it with a grain of salt.  Maybe that happens in the schools of Chicago and Oakland and Seattle—surely not here in my back yard!

I was wrong.  My eighteen-year-old freshmen are fully persuaded that Columbus was a slaver and genocidist who anticipated Adolf Hitler.  I wonder if I might dare to point out a few disparities off the cuff?

Columbus didn’t play the demagogue, stirring the masses up against a defenseless minority in their midst.  He traveled a very long way at great personal risk and blundered into a situation whose parameters he was wholly incapable of measuring beforehand (or even, for the most part, after the fact).

Hitler vigorously encouraged the development of advanced weapons possessing unheard-of lethality, such as the V1 and V2 rockets and the ME 262 jet fighter.  It is possible that his team of scientists even succeeded in producing a small thermonuclear blast experimentally before the success of the Manhattan Project.  Columbus was attempting to pioneer a lucrative trade route.  He hadn’t the slightest notion of bacteriological warfare, of course; and to hold him personally responsible for spreading smallpox and other diseases unknown to the New World is as preposterous as blaming the sun for skin cancer.

Hitler’s imperialism started at home and worked outward.  His aggressions were fully planned and systematic.  Columbus—and indeed, the later conquistadors (who admittedly were no choir boys)–scarcely knew what part of the planet they were on.  Their numbers were few, their technology not so very superior to bows and arrows, their situation entirely cut off from the restraining cultural forces of Europe, their diet uneven, their health fever-ridden, their morale inclined to the paranoia of castaways.  Many of them behaved badly, perhaps most of them; but they weren’t being wined, dined, and sycophantically placated like the German chancellor.

For the record, too, the Aztecs and the Maya practiced human sacrifice on a vast scale, some of it indescribably brutal.  Hitler’s victims hadn’t been piling up the hearts of young virgins, ripped from childish ribs as they were still beating, for hundreds of years.  Frankly, a “civilization” that tolerates such things, and even considers them holy acts, richly deserves to go defunct.

We always get history wrong, though we may make a much more sincere effort to understand than one sees in American public schools today.  We weren’t there: we can’t know exactly how it was.  What bothers me more about the attitude of my freshmen than their wealth of misinformation is the ease with which they self-righteously condescend to their elders and to the past.  Where is their “life experience”?  Why do they so readily sit in judgment upon centuries of human struggle?  Why do they offer so few traces of humility?  Who has made them this way?

Of course, the answer is “we who are their parents”.  These children haven’t been well raised. The true deficit in their education—far greater than a diet of “fake news” (from which we all suffer)—is the mature adult’s reluctance to pass snap judgments on complex situations.  They will judge us harshly, too, I suppose—these smartphone whiz kids; and we, at least, will deserve it.

But what will their own children say of them for buying up solar panels that left a clear trail of cancer villages behind in Third World nations?  How will their own children judge them for creating and bequeathing a world so electronically artificial that its inhabitants forgot basic manners and couldn’t forge ordinary friendships?  What will those of the next generation who aren’t aborted say about this one for ignoring an Aztec-level slaughter of innocents—not to appease wrathful gods, but to indulge in carnal pleasures without incurring inconvenience?

You see, my dears, you also can be made to resemble Cortez and Pizarro.

Moral Chernobyl: A Place Where Kids Die Young

As the father of an only child who just graduated from a college in—of all places—Colorado, I was deeply saddened to hear that disgraced FOX News personality Eric Bolling’s only child Chase was found dead at his campus in Boulder. Apparently the boy had overdosed on some drug or other. Naturally, speculation about suicide runs rampant, given the notoriety that Eric had lately collected about the family name. At the very least, Chase must have been driven to the drug in a retreat from a situation that, by several accounts, was tremendously upsetting to him.

And understandably so. When your dad is accused of photographing his membrum virile for the benefit of certain women he wished to impress and sending them the portrait—and when his defense is a heated, “I don’t remember doing that!”—your filial universe has to be turned inside-out. Really, Dad? You don’t remember? So that’s something you just practically never do with the photos you take of Mr. Johnson?

At the same time, it occurs to me that a good many other segments in our society might share a little of the blame for this boy’s fate. What about the U of Colorado, and our colleges in general? What have they done to curb the culture of easy hook-ups, boozy parties, easily available drugs, and aloof professors? Professors, yes… for most of this boy’s teachers are bound to have known who he was. Because his dad was a hated Trumpista employed by the hated FOX network, did they decline to reflect for a moment that he was probably going through a very hard time? Did they, perhaps—God forbid—even add to his burden with a snarky comment or two? I almost don’t want to know.

Of the state of Colorado and pharmacophilia, I will say nothing, for I think little more needs to be said than this: when you acknowledge before young people the acceptability of altering unpleasant moods artificially, you purchase a small share of tragedies like Chase’s.

I’m not going to let neo-feminism off the hook, either. I think Bolling Senior probably has some utterly disreputable behavior to answer for, as I wrote weeks ago; and his “manly” bluster on behalf of Mr. Trump did not reassure me last year that his and my notions of male maturity had much in common. Yet as a young man in the Eighties whom women frequently refused to date a second time after the first adventure failed to land us in bed (thanks to my religious scruples and my distaste for exploiting giddy fools), I sincerely wonder just how many guys living in Eric’s New York fast lane get good results from obscene selfies and all the rest. I’m guessing that certain women must respond to such things in an encouraging manner; and I’m willing to suppose, even, that some of the women who accused Bolling months after the fact weren’t overly insulted until the hunt for his head was on.

How much of this crap—the lewd photos, the leers, the pawing, the dashes to a hotel at midday, the frolics on the office couch… the later fallings-out, the belated charges, the counter-charges, the broken marriages, the public disgrace, the professional meltdowns… the drinking, the drugs, the deep depression, the longing to be out of this world—how much of it would envelop us if feminists long ago had decided that imitating the very worst male behavior wasn’t necessarily the best way to prove they “had balls”?

How many young people have died because the older generation has created a moral Chernobyl amid whose toxic fumes they were somehow supposed to find adulthood without guidance?

One Last Plunge into the Ivory Sewer

For the umpteenth—but final—time, I begin September by asking myself why I ever became a teacher. I know the answer well enough. “We’ve been over this a thousand times,” I say to my pining soul. “You’ve always loved to read, write, and speculate, and you got academic awards in your youth for doing those things well. When you were in college, you kept retreating to areas where you’d found success. Then, when it came time at last to find a job, you were fit for nothing else but pedagogy and pettifoggery. A journalist? We tried that major: they sneer at good writing—takes up too much space. A lawyer? Never! Arguing for pay that the kettle is blacker than the pot hardly qualifies as seeking truth. A government position—living high and wide on taxpayer dollars for shuffling papers? And besides, by the time you came along, white males weren’t exactly receiving serious consideration for hire.”
And so I became a teacher. To be honest, I’ve always enjoyed my interactions with students (well, almost always, to be really honest)… but nobody ever told me how very secondary that was to the job. First and foremost, flatter and fawn upon your bosses. Do their bidding with a smile. Laugh at their jokes, fight for their ideas in committee, and clap vigorously from the first row when they deliver public speeches.

On a related matter, be the boss’s “pet”. Make yourself highly visible. Stay on campus from dawn till dusk, even though serious grading, lesson-planning, reading, and reflection can only be done at home. Don’t even attempt thoughtful work at the office: it will impede your being seen. Make frequent trips up and down the corridors of power as if you were on urgent missions—but always detain a passing dean or VP to remark how brilliant you think the new curriculum revision is.

Go to conferences in Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco, Boston… and maybe London or Madrid. Soak up coffee and doughnuts like a Hoover for junk food, and get yourself on the program with some five-page paper about Aphra Benn’s lost diaries that you cooked up from a note in a previous paper about Aphra Benn’s perhaps having kept a diary. There’s nothing you can say or hear at these gatherings that couldn’t have been (and isn’t being) disseminated over the Internet without the cost of airfare and hotel—but you need to be seen.

So how did I get myself into something so antithetical to my nature that the fanfare of the new school year quite literally makes me faintly nauseous? I know, I know… but that thousand-times-recycled answer is really no answer at all. The truth is a failure of character: I was too cowardly to fling myself into something for which I had no apparent aptitude or no previous training—architecture, agriculture, marketing—in order to escape from Hell. And so I have spent almost forty years—pretty much my entire adult life—drifting through Limbo, neither saved nor damned: a psychic zero.

No more. This is the last year. Whatever I have left of life will not be passed in this egotistical, futile maelstrom.

Slander Is Loathsome… But So Is Intimidation

A clarification: yes, I’m very, very tired of being called names because of my genetic material. The argument that a particular biological type is responsible for vast misery, not because of conscious choices made by representatives of the type, but because of overriding instincts irresistible to the whole group, is definitively fascist. It isolates the entire enemy-group (males, blacks, whites, Jews, aborigines) without reference to its individuals—without extending to those individuals any possibility of redemption. We call a man bad because he elects to do bad deeds: to steal, to cheat, to betray. We don’t call him bad because he grew up in a culture where anyone may walk into another’s house and carry off a bit of food from the larder. We certainly don’t call him bad because he has curly dark hair, and we’ve decided that curly dark hair indicates “oversexed” DNA conducive to sexual aggression. That’s “witch hunt” stuff. The very possibility of a “good/bad” determination about moral character is removed if the subject cannot make willed choices; and, indeed, to insist that a person is bad for something over which he has no control is itself bad, in that the judge has refused the terms of common humanity to the judged.

I reiterate, then, that to call a male a sexual predator merely because of his sex, to call a Caucasian a genocidist merely because of his race, and so forth is pure Nazi-speak. It’s self-contradictory, hypocritical, arrogant, inhumane… and, by the way, quite stupid.

Here’s the clarification. I do NOT therefore endorse behavior which licenses our showering deliberate liars with obscenities, pushing them off the sidewalk, punching them in the kidney, or criminalizing their exercise of free speech. It didn’t even occur to me, frankly, that clarification was needed there. When you’re slandered, you have every right to stand up and denounce the slanderer—and even, usually, a moral duty to do so; for if you allow a crime to be committed against you today with impunity, then it will very likely be committed against someone else tomorrow. But a denunciation consists of a rational argument from the other side built upon coherent principles and adducing truthful evidence to expose the perpetrated fraud: it’s not a series of counter-slanders.

Especially in this case, where men are being accused of eyeing every woman for a chance to rape her, to “double team” the assailant with an assault of twice the vitriol—and backed up with real intimidation, such as threat of a gag order or physically outshouting the other party—makes one look like the very kind of man one has supposedly been slandered with being.

I know that a lot of people as fed up as I am (probably men, especially) cast their vote in the last election because they’d had enough. They lacked a forum to bellow, “Sit down and shut up!” so that it would be heard nationally, but they found a figurehead who—they thought—got this message across. Unfortunately, elevating a “bogeyman” figurehead doesn’t address the issues underlying our culturally pathological indulgence of lies that slander large groups within the nation: it only makes us more closely resemble the unfair caricature.

Thanks to the other side for circulating all these caricatures, in the first place—you of the educated elite, I mean, who’ve been railing against “stereotypes” for half a century. The “brutal male” wouldn’t be nearly so prominent in our cultural life if you hadn’t insisted that all males are brutal. The best way to raise a thief is to accuse a kid of stealing things all throughout his childhood. Just keep up your good work in this area, O Ivory Tower Beacon of Enlightenment!

As for me, I cannot consider a guy who slanders slanderers to be a champion of truth—and I certainly don’t consider men who’ve lost every trace of chivalry to be paradigms of manhood. This side, that side… I just see one side, and myself not in the middle but far beyond the perimeter. I wonder more every day if I’m alone.