Inexplicable Realities vs. Sensationalized Claptrap: TV Takes the Wrong Side Again

I was watching something on TV the other night (okay, okay: it was Ancient Aliens) that reviewed a really astonishing kind of psychic phenomenon… and then proceeded to handle it in a wholly whimsical, even childish manner. I believe the first time I was ever exposed to the idea that people can remember scenes and events from a life prior to their own was in Blackwood’s Magazine (praised be its memory), the oldest literary monthly of them all. I learned style and taste by combing through those pages, and I rue to this day the inevitable demise of “Maga” (which came, I think, in 1976).

Anyway, as I recall the story, it involved the case of an Australian who remembered a Scots castle down to the last detail. This young person was visiting the British Isles for the first time, and was staggered to find the very structures he had dreamed about, though in a somewhat dilapidated form. The author, who chanced to encounter this unique tourist, was enough of a local historian to realize that the recalled differences were indeed accurate images from earlier centuries. By the way, the piece was presented as entirely non-fictional.

The phenomenon was called a “racial memory” in that presentation, and the suggestion was made that memories may somehow be passed down through our DNA (since the Australian visitor was actually a descendant of the castle’s one-time inhabitants). The incidents highlighted on the TV show, in contrast, did not seem to involve cases of shared genetic material (or they may have, and the producers chose to suppress that “minor detail” in order to spin a more spectacular theory). Let it stand, for the sake of argument, that you or I might somehow be born with clear memories of the Battle of Waterloo even though we had no progenitors there. That’s a really fascinating condition that we cannot presently explain… but what in the world does it have to do with reincarnation?

The reincarnation of A in B would require B to recall every detail of A’s life, not just a castle or a battlefield; or if most memories have been washed away in the River Lethe, then why did any at all remain? Why, in fact, does a small handful of images covering a very brief period typically haunt the “receiver”?

And if this is the universal fate of all souls—to hop from a dying body into one just getting born—then what happens in generations that have more bodies than their predecessors did? Or fewer? Do some bodies not have any soul at all—or do some souls shuttle between a dozen bodies and earn overtime? Do excess souls chat quietly in a cosmic waiting room, hoping that abortion doesn’t catch on?

If you have a metaphysical belief in the reality of the soul, then each individual must have a single, unique soul. This is a moral necessity, if you also believe that the ultimate end of human life is to serve the cause of goodness. The murdering tyrant must answer for his atrocities in another dimension that won’t let him off scot-free, as likely happened in this world. The tyrant’s martyred victim who died protecting innocent children must also have his snapped thread caught up in the weave of a greater reality. If belief in an immortal soul is not subordinated to a conviction in the triumph of goodness, then it’s mere, pathetic paganism that ascribes understanding to cows and makes the life-extending favors of demons worth cultivating. Such debased belief is worse than none at all.

I often talk and write about Boy That Cried Wolf Syndrome. If you air out an idea in a context which ends up trivializing or infantilizing it, then no sensible person will ever hear the idea mentioned again without laughing it off. There’s a heck of a lot we don’t understand about ultimate reality; but thanks to the way popular culture keeps sensationalizing the troublesome corners that don’t fit under contemporary science’s umbrella, thoughtful people are not going to take a serious look at those corners for a very long time.

Strong as a Man But Must Be Treated Like a Lady… Really?

When I first read that FOX’s Eric Bolling has been accused of sexual harassment and suspended from his normal employ, I thought of previous crusades against the likes of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. Ailes appears to have been a genuine creep—but of a strictly verbal variety, in whom lewd or off-color remarks probably have more to do with manipulation than with sexual lust. O’Reilly’s greatest sin was apparently to have cracked a blonde joke about serial guest and token liberal, Kirsten Powers. Charles Payne has also been smeared and suspended lately. If FOX’s own hierarchy had booted him out for having pressured a white woman into having an affair, CNN and all the rest would have screamed and howled racism until the rafters shook… and you know what? They would likely have been right. But because Payne worked for FOX despite his African genetic material, his succumbing to the kind of slip that the left-wing elite routinely absorb before their first cup of coffee is something on the order of Ganelon’s betraying Roland.

At any rate, I was primed to be unsympathetic to Bolling’s accusers. If rats smell of character assassination for both financial and ideological ends, then I smelled a rat. I’m not a frequent consumer of FOX News, I hasten to add—or of any other news outlet. I gather bits and pieces from sources on TV and, even more, on the Net, make serious and mandatory corrections for probable bias, and then try to figure out on my own what’s going on in the world today.

Unhappily, the allegations make Bolling sound about as big a creep as Ailes—perhaps a bigger one, in that his solicitations went beyond the verbal. When I read of the charges that Caroline Heldman publicly shared, they were far beyond jokes about blondes or even being called “Professor McHottie” on the air. I don’t like men who behave this way. I never have. I can imagine Bolling being one of those men because of the way he rhetorically steamrolled everyone but Trump during last year’s primaries: it’s one of the things that made me desist from ever turning to FOX for information in 2016. No man (let alone a husband and father, like Bolling) should bombard a woman in the dressing room and through email with salivating comments about her looks and offer to arrange a lively toss in the hay. Need I say that a gentleman of the old school would have slapped a swine up one side of the skull and down the other for speaking that way to his sister… but now that feminism has contemptuously driven the gentleman from our midst, or tried its darnedest to do so, this is what women routinely put up with.

I’ve made that point in this space elsewhere. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Bolling did most of what he’s charged with. (The rebuttals I’ve read all repeat that Heldman is a whiney socialist professor who runs to every protest march with a placard: hardly a response to the details of the accusation.) Though Heldman is indeed a feminist—and an academic feminist, at that—I’m not going to take her to task for having very publicly bruised feelings while singing the refrain, “Stop treating me with kid gloves!” The point that rivets my attention in this case is much simpler. Caroline, why didn’t you stop doing the FOX gig? Once you figured out that Bolling was a sniffing hound, why didn’t you sever all association with him and his outfit? Why did you appear on his show dozens and dozens of times? Was the money that good—or the fame and the exposure, maybe? But if those were adequate compensation for Bolling’s leers and pitches, time after time, then… well, then: you got paid, my dear. And the price paid to you was what you set upon your honor—you yourself!

Honor. Gee, here I am talking like Beau Brummell. But if young women like Professor Heldman want men to behave like gentlemen, ideology notwithstanding, then they themselves must cling to certain qualities of the lady. Fair’s fair. When a man behaves dishonorably, a woman is equally dishonorable to continue putting up with him until she gets everything from him that she wants.

My suspicion, from what little I’ve read about Caroline Heldman (and it’s pretty fascinating), is that she has transferred the resentment she feels toward a dominant, rabidly Pentecostal father to other males, whom she can punish for their bullying at strategic moments without suffering any guilt… but I’m not Dr. Phil.

More Disgusting Lies From the Nanny-Campus

Have you heard about “male toxicity”? Apparently, some rather small private colleges, as well as the usual Ivy League suspects, are forcing eighteen-year-old boys to sit through accusatory lectures about the wickedness inherent in their gender. I honestly don’t understand why parents continue paying through the nose to send their children to such places.

The hypocrisy of the avant-garde feminist victimology-mill is truly stupefying—it soars above Himalayan altitudes. Feminists insisted in my youth that women had precisely the same right to sexual experimentation and promiscuity as males enjoy (the assertion that males in fact so behave having never been verified, or even held up for a second look). Naturally, college-aged boys were delighted—at least those who were not brought up with a resistant coat of gentlemanliness that didn’t crack under abuse for holding doors open. Promiscuity ruled the Seventies and Eighties until it created a culture of savage thirst for gratification and a sentimental nausea whenever love intruded upon sex. Young men, especially in the campus’s crucible, became boors. For the past several years, feminists have now tried to outdo each other in insults aimed at anything male. Despite evidence that slaps the observer in the face like a neo-feminist stormtrooper to whom you’ve offered your seat on a crowded bus, the contention these days is that manners are NOT taught. No: young men misbehave on campus because it’s in their genes. Their “maleness” may be subdued in some measure by toilet-training, just as a dog may be taught not to bark at strangers; but Mother Nature always lurks just beneath the surface—and the sneaky tramp is a male!

Enough, already. I’m a racist because I’m Caucasian, I’m a reactionary because I’m old, I’m a rapist because I’m male, I’m a Nazi because I’m anti-statist, I’m a flat-earther because I believe in a metaphysical reality… and did I note that I’m a racist because I’m a Southerner? We can double down on that one.

In short, before I’ve lifted a finger or opened my mouth, I am guilty of every vile, obscene, or atrocious behavior and conviction known to modern man… er, modern humankind. And the people who liberally pile these insults upon me do so deliberately and repeatedly, without one thought for my feelings, while not one of my innumerable offenses can be linked to any specific act that I have personally performed.

You see, my just being the things that I am implies to these deranged, slavering accusers that I am at least thinking forbidden thoughts. Implication is reality: if as long as they think wicked thoughts into my head, then I own the wickedness. I am responsible somehow for not adequately, visibly neutralizing the threat in my occupying the body bestowed upon me by the dictates of DNA.

Why does any group of people have the right to impose thoughts upon me? Or let’s stipulate that sometimes I entertain some reprehensible thoughts: why does anyone have the right to ignore that my behavioral choices have overridden a dishonorable impulse in an assertion of reason and will—how can any human being be prosecuted, even correctly, for having a bad thought? And why do my persecutors get to have bad thoughts and to act upon them with free rein?

There’s such a stench to the moral saloperie that IS the contemporary nanny-campus that I can’t discuss it any further and keep my blood pressure down. You liars! You wicked, wicked liars! You disgust me.

 

On Pessimism and Misanthropy

Pessimism is the routine expectation that things will happen for the worst (pessimus being Latin for “worst”). Misanthropy literally means “hatred of mankind” in Greek (misos + anthropos)–but in common usage, its tone is somewhat milder, as in “not trustful of people”.

I have been called both of these; and while I certainly haven’t a lot of trust in people, especially in an age where young high school and college graduates are constantly encouraged to “follow their dreams” in idiotic commencement addresses (a recipe for disaster, given the irresponsibility of dreams nourished on video games and Netflix fantasies), I think “the worst” is most often averted when we’re suspicious of our neighbors. The founders of the republic thought the same thing. In my lifetime, it has been the optimists who typically open the door to disaster: the people whose expectations are so absurdly self-indulgent and rose-colored that cynical manipulators run circles around them and create a hell on earth. Then, when the “snowflakes” finally wake up and realize that they’ve been played, they become as naïve in their mistrust as they were formerly in their gullibility. They tend to lay the blame for all that has gone wrong at the doorstep of a certain designated group of villains, in a romantic kind of Manichaeism—good guy versus bad guy—rather than growing up and recognizing that all people have at least latent corruption nestled somewhere within them.

The trouble with optimism is that it can leave those whom it burns stupidly pessimistic. And on their way to getting badly burned, the naïve can get innocent people killed. I won’t repeat my remarks of a few weeks ago about Pope Francis.

Let me toss out just a couple of examples that sailed past my bow this week in illustration of why I don’t feel just all peachy soft and fuzzy about human civilization’s future.

One case stares at me from my Kindle almost every time I fire it up. The murder mystery seems to be to our casual reading public what oats are to a horse. Now, my mother loved mystery novels, and I think most of us enjoy a good crime drama on occasion. I had to give up watching Joe Kenda, however, because at some point I just couldn’t take any more young single moms letting strangers they’d picked up at the bar into their lives and winding up in a dumpster. Real murder, you see, is anything but glamorous. It’s the most squalid crime imaginable. The motive is generally some mix of lust, greed, egotism, and stupidity—with a very strong dose of the last: murderers are almost never evil geniuses. The murder itself is usually a brutal act of superior physical strength asserting itself over a victim screaming piteously, and pointlessly, for mercy. Even the higher predators in the animal food chain show more heart than the average murderer.

Yet nowadays, even as we create safe spaces and trigger alerts to coddle our epidermis-free sensitivity, we willingly accept murder into our amusements as an integral part of escapist fantasy. It’s the sanitization of murder in the pulp romance that gripes me—the degradation of mass taste that is implied in that makeover of human depravity. Joe Kenda’s tales were real enough to leave me mildly nauseated after a while: Joe Kindle keeps insulting my intelligence with teases about the latest “humorous, sexy murder mystery”.

One more quick example: I was looking up the Romanian word for “bull” because I know almost no Romanian whatever, and I needed to make a linguistic point about the modern languages descended from Latin. I’m not kidding you: the first full page of a dozen entries that popped up on my computer screen when I Googled my question offered Romanian street parlance for “bullsh*t”. Seems that we have all forgotten about the male bovine with a bellowing voice and what Jack Falstaff called a “pizzle”. How did we come to the point where coprologisms have more currency among us than basic words for basic realities? What does that say about us?

So, no, I’m not real happy with things. It’s because I can still generate the energy to be upset that the notion of effective action continues to mean something to me. Would we be better off just smiling every time our decadent culture serves us up a dish of “bull” when we ask for bread?

He Who Forges Lies About a Knave Is Himself a Lying Knave

I need to make a short “razoo” (as my grandfather would have said: ancient Texan for Italian razzia) to another state very shortly. The place where I always stay is sure to have that pompous, sanctimonious, snarky monument to journalistic anomia, Chris Cuomo, blaring away on CNN in the breakfast room; so I’m packing my ear plugs, and I will either get early dibs on the far table shielded from the TV by a corner or else graze parapatetically in the lobby.

I absolutely can’t stand Cuomo. The last time I stayed at this venue, he drove me from the dining room fuming like an overheated waffle iron. I can’t detect a tinge of equitability in how he covers news. And the rest of CNN isn’t much better. The other day I stared in disbelief as, toggling off of Netflix, I discovered some reporter hot on the trail of an “incident” involving Trump’s thrusting another head of state to the ground. The video showed one man placing his hand gently on the other’s shoulder and sliding past him in a crowded room—but the audio described…

Well, something like newly elected Representative Gianforte of Montana’s decking, choking, and pummeling of a reporter. If you or I had behaved like this in public, we’d not only spend the night in jail (and, upon adjudication, probably stay there the next ninety days), but we’d also see our professional and communal reputation permanently ruined. Here CNN has a legitimate case of newsworthy molestation; and, since Gianforte is a Republican (unlike former Florida Representative Alan Grayson, whose pathological bullying was constantly airbrushed from national headlines), his outburst is being covered around the clock.

Yet Gianforte has now been elected to the US House of Reps. Perhaps even more vexatious, the list of luminaries in the right-wing commentariat who have defended him and/or impugned Mr. Jacobs (the reporter) in knee-jerk reaction to CNN’s feeding frenzy includes Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Dinesh D’Souza, and Brent Bozell, the last three of whom can lay a credible claim to being something more than showmen (though they might not appreciate the word “intellectual”).

Overplaying its hand, as always, CNN wants to maintain that Trump essentially committed the assault—that Gianforte was only his surrogate… which is preposterously absurd, and would be emotionally disturbing even in an early adolescent. (“Mom, it was that Wally who made me steal the PlayStation. I wouldn’t have done it, but I see him cheating on homework all the time.”) I didn’t vote for Trump (or his opponent), precisely because his reactions remind me so much of an early adolescent’s, and a certain amount of this misery has been drawn down upon him by his own buffoonery. But he hasn’t tackled anybody since his highly staged, burlesque drubbing of Vince McMahon on Smackdown.

Speaking of right-wing punditry… I’m really, really, REALLY sick of Limbaugh and Hannity referring to people who made my electoral decision as establishment-Republicans who think they’re better than the working class. Trump’s entire business life has been a long tale of playing insider’s games, and his political philosophy (insofar as he has any) is every bit as paternalistic and nanny-statist as Bill Gates’ or Warren Buffit’s. This kind of “with us or against us” analysis has all the finesse and discrimination of the mob’s decision to murder Cinna the poet after Caesar’s death because one of the conspirators was named Cinna.

But again, accusing Trump of dealing out body slams to foreign heads of state as he navigates through a crowded room is just as idiotic—or attributing to him the blows that fell from another man’s fists. Such idiocy is routine in the mainstream press, and it’s also international. Peter Helmes wrote at his site, Die Deutschen Konservativen, last month of a mainstream German news story titled, “Ferguson Three Years After the Unrest—The Fight Against Racism in Trump-Land.” I wouldn’t even let such tendentious garbage as that title leak into a blog entry (quite ignoring the minor detail that, as Helmes stresses, Trump was building hotels three years ago).

And as brutal and appalling as Gianforte’s assault on a journalist was, where have we seen any story on mainstream news chronicling California professor of philosophy Eric Clanton’s assault with a deadly weapon (a padlock attached to the end of a chain) upon the heads of three Trump supporters—young students all—at Diablo Valley College? The date was April 15. Well over a month ago now. Guess we’re not going to hear Chris Cuomo covering that one.

I’m getting sooo very sick of all of this! I don’t write about politics in this space, and I’m not doing so now. I’m writing about how ashamed I feel to be a human being lately. May I please submit an official Species Change Form to the appropriate authorities for immediate consideration?

Greed Downs Honesty 10-0 at Coors Field

My son, knowing of my fascination with the physics of baseball (and perhaps mistaking it for a love of the game as it’s now played), wanted to surprise me with tickets to the Cubs-Rockies game when I was in Denver last week.  That was the day when an afternoon hailstorm broke out windshields all over the city.  Rain continued non-stop: it was perfectly clear to anyone with half an eye and a two-digit IQ that no baseball would be played that night.

Yet the official word was that the show would go on.  So we duly drove downtown during rush hour in a cold, steady drizzle to crawl our way into a parking deck and trek miserably to the ballpark.  Since nobody could take a seat in the unprotected areas (and since Cub fans represent a massive cult in any American city), the bottled-up throng could scarcely be navigated.  Moving from A to B was like trying to get a red square on one corner of Rubic’s Cube without shifting the blue one on the far side.  (I could never master the Cube.)

With my martyred wife in tow, we tried to find something edible.  Really amazing, how a big league ballpark can’t even give a concession to Chipotle or Subway.  Disgusted by the options, we exited the stadium to explore nearby sports bars and bistros.  Of course, all were overflowing… and the rain continued to pour.

At last we returned to the park and managed to find a dry spot.  (My son had paid pretty good money for seats that turned out to be sheltered.)  No longer hungry, we just watched the great green field soak up more water under blazing light towers.  Half an hour later, the game was officially postponed.

No one can convince me that the string-pullers of this operation ever had any serious intention of giving the green light.  No–they saw a chance to draw thousands of people downtown to spend a pointless wait milling about beer, burger, and nacho concessions.  I’m sure the local bars also loved the decision.

This is one thing I hate about Big Baseball.  It’s big business, in the worst corporate sense.  It taps into a clientele so vast that alienating a few hundreds or thousands here and there, now and then, poses no threat to the overall Product.  We’re cattle, straining to get through the chutes and to the troughs wherein the Operators have poured an insipid swill for us to slop down.  No consideration for the struggles of the little guy fighting weather and traffic, not a thought given to the several dozen fender-benders that likely occurred around game time, a big shrug to the hundreds of cases of sniffles that children and oltimers would suffer the next day… hell, it’s a business.  If you don’t like the risks of patronizing it, go fishing.

Message to MLB: I’m not holding anything in my hand (or my wallet) that I’m willing to pass to your side of the table.  Go fish.

One Small Step for Incoherence, One Giant Leap for Anarchy

I used to think that I would eventually get used to student papers littered with sentences like. “Each patient knows their chances are not good,” and, “An author at that time would be rejected if they had no sponsors.” Nope. Ain’t gonna happen.

The third-person plural pronoun referring to a singular antecedent has become a fixture in our postmodern babble. Too bad. Sometimes the result is insolubly confusing. “The applicant who convinces the judges of their argument’s vulnerability from either direction will become a finalist”; “the patient whose doctors understand that they need more sleep is in good hands”; “a coach whose players perform beyond their expectations is very lucky.”

Why must we put up with this skull-mush purée? For it seems that we must; not only do you and I commit such agreement errors all the time in conversation (where misunderstanding can be quickly corrected), but the arbiters in university English departments are increasingly decreeing that third-person agreement gaffes are correct—not tolerable, but the only way to go. One ambitious termigant in my own department has refused to address me civilly in the two years since I challenged her championing of the singular “they” in a public email. I hadn’t realized that the issue was so sensitive. Guess I’m lucky that I didn’t get slapped with a sexual harassment suit.

And that’s what it’s all about, you know. Maupassant once quipped that all stories are about either sex or death, and this one is about both. Our language must die so that sexually specific pronouns may never again be spoken. If the student or patient in our sentence is designated a “he”, then we have just committed a sexist crime; and if we choose “she” to privilege the female, the new god is still not propitiated. In fact, we may have made our situation worse, for our willingness to shift feminine in all generic cases could be misread as a gesture arising from that hotbed of quintessential sexism, chivalry. (Naturally, “she or he” runs into the same quagmire if we try to redeem the offensive order of “he or she”).

Equal time for the genders is no longer what’s at stake. The new objective is the utter annihilation of genders.

I could go on and on about what psychological perversion lies at the heart of such linguistic anarchy… but really, what lies at the heart of anarchy in any of its expressions? “Evil, be thou my good!” cries Satan in the masterpiece of that arch-sexist poet, John Milton. The anarchist desires to see the world helter-skelter. Up must go down, and in must go out. Creation must be undone to the point that no clue of its original design remains. The people who push such counter-programmatic programs have some kind of invincible grudge against life. Since they cannot remake it to be just the way they would have liked, they will satisfy themselves (so they think—for these people are never satisfied) with stealing the sense of life from everybody else. At least they will have accomplished something, merely by doing that. They will have forced everyone to share their single guiding insight as they shout from atop an infernal dunghill, “None of it means sh*t! Nothing! None of it!”

You think this is too far a reach from a single solecism? After all, as the academic advocates of illogic never tire of saying on this issue, Shakespeare also used “theys” with singular antecedents once or twice (as if the Shakespearean corpus were the meticulous relic of a single intelligence writing under minimal pressure and entrusting his work to the capable hands of infallible redactors). Well, you probably don’t watch this sort of degeneration happening every day from a dozen directions, as I do. A brick here, a brick there…. The edifice isn’t going to blow up: that’s not the plan. It’s going to collapse into rubble one fine day when one brick too many is removed from a critical wall.

That day, by the way, may already have arrived.