From Incivility to Insanity: The Terminal Quality of the Twenty-First Century’s Teenage Years (Part One)

Everyone seems to be writing about incivility these days—and no wonder.  To some, Donald Trump is the poster child of the uncivil.  Relishing the moment when people are bluntly told that they no longer have a job (and marketing that moment for many to enjoy privately who publicly disapprove), drifting from one supermodel-wife to another, slapping price tags on exquisite landscapes and seeking to deface them with hotels and casinos, the Trumpster has become a living caricature of the Ugly American.  His quondam henchman Corey Lewandowski, for good measure, has been accused of molestation by no fewer than two exponents of rightwing views.  And let us not forget the boorish remarks and Tweets about Carly Fiorina’s looks, Marco Rubio’s height, Ted Cruz’s honesty, etc., etc.  Again, all of that sniping took place well within the right side of the aisle.

But if one has a bit of class, one shows the impressionable how to take the high road—whereas the Left has exploited the “Trump pretext”, it seems to me, to unleash a war on every last vestige of civilization observable in our lives.  Of course, I remember the Sixties.  Hairy people in scant clothes with an insuperable aversion to soap are nothing new.  But the Hippies, besides, were distinctly non-violent as a group (perhaps thanks to a little chemical inducement).  While not zealots for hygiene, they also didn’t leave feces on cop cars or in mailboxes.  Antifa is something new under our post-civilizational sun.

New, as well, are incidents involving public attacks on public figures that stop just short of deadly force (or cross the line, if you include the shooting of Steve Scalise and several other U.S. senators).  I cannot recall another occasion during my six and a half decades of life when anybody—even an accused pervert or convicted murderer released from jail—was hounded out of a restaurant or mobbed at a movie theater or treated to damp projectiles while quietly visiting with friends and family.  No, this kind of thing has never happened before.  Not here: maybe in Paris of the Thirties, where fascist thugs would openly beat up citizens on street corners for being too “wimpy”.

Fascism: the Trump camp is supposed to bear that banner, with its outright loathing of “wimpiness” in all varieties.  But here’s where things get convoluted (or go helter-skelter, as Charles Manson would say): the wimpy side—people of indeterminate sexuality, people wearing vagina hats, people who hug trees—are now the pool of candidates from which street thugs are recruited.  The card-carrying NRA members, despite the mainstream media’s best efforts to cast them in contrary roles, are moms and dads whose most terroristic activity is to make their children do their homework.  The Squishy Left has usurped the part of the nihilistic, antinomian urban guerilla… or urban gorilla, if you prefer.

To be historically honest, this isn’t really a Blue Moon event, either.  In their days of infancy, if not throughout their lifespan, both Bolshevism and Nazism had strong ties with sexual deviancy and featured a cult-level hostility to traditional faith.  The deified Che was certainly a scintillant piece of work.  His own mentors in the art of mass-murder were disturbed by the prurient fascination he showed in those moments when a victim’s final sparks of life bled out.  That Guevara and Manson are two of the dark saints adored by people whose attention to their genitalia dictates a luxurious, pain-fleeing life is a profound paradox with which, collectively, we have yet to come to grips. Did sadism bring an orgasmic satisfaction to the two psychopaths… or does the mushy lifestyle of the Sybarite conceal inclinations known to the sadist?

Even as an individual, I’m not sure I get it… and now the phenomenal paradox, admittedly nothing new on a broad scale, is rising exponentially in our stressed republic.  Let me frame the conundrum this way: why are the best educated people who hail from areas of greatest affluence most likely to scream obscenities and coprologisms in public as they “demand” the utter breakdown of rational order?  Why does the cultivation of the mind in our society cause us (the young of our socio-economic elite, especially) to lose our minds?

Why do women who demand that mink and ermine no longer be slaughtered for their fur also demand the right to slaughter their own fetuses?  Why do people who demand that children not be parted from their parents also demand that “stereotypes” of the traditional nuclear family be expunged from textbooks?  Why do people who demand that guns be banned also threaten to rape commentators on the issue’s other side or to kidnap and brutalize their children?

I don’t have answers that completely satisfy me.  I suppose insanity, by definition, is inexplicable in rational terms.  But the escalation of this mass-insanity to a force that begins to have political clout is little short of terrifying.  Why don’t I just slap you in the face the next time we meet?  Well, because a certain mutual respect operates within civil societies… because sane adults do not resolve disagreements with physical violence (if skin color or a cap’s logo can constitute a disagreement)… because the slightest particle of spirituality should inform me that I’m not without flaws, either… and finally (if I’m too close to the animal state for any of the foregoing to gain traction), because I’ll go to jail for assault. But maybe I’ll get off, if I scream “Nazi!” and “Racist!” loud enough.  If I play one of our numerous get-out-of-jail cards, I can practically commit murder.

Where do these cards come from?  Why do we accept their paper as currency?  Why is it that a certain nexus of guilt-ridden ideas drives us to suppress our indignation when A walks up and spits on B out of the blue?

Is it a phenomenon of the Electronic Age—do we simply no longer connect with the Other as sharing the essential elements of the Self?  Or is it a product of childhood neglect, nourished both by smartphones and by AWOL parents, which allows any exhibitionist act a free pass?  Or could it be the predestined abyss of worldly affluence that drives the wealthiest man in the world to death traps like Everest and Antarctica in search of a new pleasure… or in search of that forgotten spice of life, pain?

I don’t know.  And I’m not sure that knowing would make any difference.  This seems to be a disease for which there is no cure other than anguishing affliction rewarded by a lifelong immunity in rare cases of survival.

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Tyler, Texas: Biopsy of a Red, White, and Blue Cancer

Believe me when I say that I don’t really want to write these words—and I most certainly wish that the events behind them had never happened.  But they represent what’s on my mind to the point of crowding out other thoughts… and this reflection as a whole poses a contrastive kind of bookend to the promise of independence that my new residence held out during our July 4 visit. I usually like contrasts. I wish this one weren’t so stark.

We returned to Tyler, Texas, for one last span of packing and waiting.  At some point, a bad dream degenerates into a nightmare… and it is along that seam that our present lives appear to be unfolding.  Ever since an “inspector” stuck his nose into every corner of our 50-year-old house, things have been malfunctioning.  The oven’s light fades in and out according to cryptic rhythms.  A strange wet spot has appeared under the bathroom sink.  Now we find that one of the hot water heaters (no, I don’t know why we have two, and nobody can tell us) will not keep its pilot light ignited.  Perhaps the man who charged me $370 to replace a “faulty part”—only to leave the tank in the same cold coma as had gripped it before—was a con artist, or perhaps he was simply no more competent than I at knowing how to resuscitate this mysterious model.  I wish I’d never met the guy…

And I wish the “inspector” had never whirled through our house.  In the light of all the failed lights, etc., I picture his time on our property as a re-enactment of the scene in the Tain Bo Cualnge where Cu Chulainn first takes arms.  Seventeen spears are rattled to splinters before the frightful lad finds one to his liking, and seventeen chariots are shaken to shambles before one finally withstands his “inspection”.  Our “inspector” must have some ancient Celtic DNA in him.  The paces through which he put our old warhorse left her more dead than alive.

And why an inspection?  We never had to jump through this hoop before, though we sold three houses within ten years as I struggled to generate some kind of career out of the Ivory Tower slaughterhouse.  I think it’s because the buyers in this case have no interest in actually inhabiting our digs.  Though a few years shy of thirty, the couple seems to me far less concerned about starting a family than about being the next pair on Flip or Flop.  Because they seek a loan not just to buy the property but also to gut and transform it—for a regal profit—the bank is insisting on ironclad assurances that its money is being well invested.

I can understand that—and I’m not unappreciative of the realtor for reaching out to this couple immediately rather than slapping a lockbox on our door and forcing us to bail out of the house every time some home-hunter wanted to take a little fantasy voyage through it.  But my wife and I have begun to feel somewhat “played” on several occasions since the all-too-easy deal went down.  At this very instant, a squad of roofers is pounding and hammering just above my.  The roof doesn’t leak anywhere… but the “inspector” decided that it needed to go.  That’s another $1,700 of deductible before State Farm will pay anything.  (The property is worth nowhere near the almost 200 grand that SF plugged into its formula to ratchet up what we have to pay: I’ve never received an adequate explanation of the figure.)

This has to be what a wildebeest feels like as it lies dying and watches the first vultures peck at its ribs.  What I hate most about the feeling is not knowing if I’m being hoodwinked or if, after all, I’ve just grown a little paranoid in the flurry of activity.  The poor fool who “repaired” the hot water heater was probably just in over his head.  The “inspector” was probably just a bit overzealous in shaking joints and stressing connections.  The realty/roofing/insurance complex… there I start to assume a “cornered prey” posture.  And while I’m sure that the two future stars of Flip or Flop Tyler have no particular flim or flam in their young minds just yet, their relationship with our realtor strikes me as extraordinarily cozy.  He negotiated the price… will he, perhaps, stand to benefit in some way when they put the face-lifted Taj Mahal back on the market?  I wonder.  I can’t help but wonder.

For this is Tyler, Texas.  Without money, you don’t exist—and everybody wants to exist, to be somebody.  Twenty years ago, my humble family was quickly assessed (by various “inspectors”) and cast into the bone pile.  Actually, frugality has left me better-heeled than many of the city’s distinguished citizens… but they don’t know that, precisely because I don’t advertise it.  On the contrary, an old guy who mows his own lawn, cuts his own hair, drives a second-hand car, and wears his clothes until they fall off… who would consider him advantageous to know or enviable to contemplate?

I would have liked to sell the house to another young family—for it has a generous back yard which I modeled into a pretty passable playground for my son.  (The buyers want to dedicate half of it to a pool.)  As I was digging up my movable trees in a bid to save them from the impending purge, I sometimes got a little choked up.  Three of my apple trees, and certainly my two almonds, have prospered far too well this past year to endure uprooting and transport.  I raised them from seeds and sticks… as I did my son.  In this back yard, we fashioned baseball contests, one against one, that we played with tennis balls (until he was consistently knocking those over the fence).  The ghosts of a boy and a young father linger about permanent bald spots where we had a pitcher’s circle and a home plate.

And then the boy played Little League… and his love of the game was almost destroyed by a man who ordered him to stand up on the plate and try to get hit by pitches.  I dared to gather a few of the team for a practice at our local school one afternoon… and then I, too, was issued orders: stay away from The Man’s team.  He had a cabinet full of trophies and a dream of big scholarship money for his grandson, whom he was pitching in alternative tournaments—against the rules—over weekends.  That’s why we never practiced.

So the boy played in another league the next year—Tyler’s “Negro League”, the YMCA.  For one year, we had the time of our lives.  The following year, the league was forever ruined when its organizing elite decided to arrange games all over East Texas, the plan being to draw families onto the field (a series of fields) right at supper time and rake in big bucks from the concession stand—cold cash, money in a form that could go missing from the drawer without a trace.  Same venality, different cultural approach.

Then the boy played high school baseball—very successfully, until his senior year.  We were unwise enough to secure him a college scholarship at that point and to let our success be known.  The money-bags dad to whose son the coach had often promised Division I scholarship offers was furious, especially since his golden child encountered arm problems (another case of gross overuse in tournaments) and received no offers at all.  The coach, infuriated in turn, took it out on our son, bullying him for a while and finally benching him for good.

All of these adults, by the way, are active in their churches.  All profess that they have given their lives to Jesus Christ.  Same for the headmistress of my son’s first school—she who kept a Bible prominently centered on her desk.  When I transferred the boy in mid-spring to another school because of an abusive teacher whose snarling, glaring practices were not being modified, the staff were immediately told not to buzz in any of my family under any circumstances.  At the time, I was giving Spanish lessons gratis to several grades.

Tyler, Texas.  A predatory hunt for profits in every nook and burrow of the forest, coupled with an ostentatious but skin-deep piety that magnifies mere money-lust to a different category of depravity… how could I ever miss anything about this place?  I want to miss something.  I raised my son here; we spent the twenty most important years of our lives here.  Yet every time I trap a moment of nostalgia as I box up the house’s contents, the bittersweet pleasure is at once murdered by assassin recollections that surround it.  I would like to be able to bundle up a few fond memories… but all of them would conceal the bug of an infectious and fatal disease.  And so I leave them lying in empty closets and worn-out carpets.

As an academic of thirty years, I wish I could make the proponents of conservatism see that every problem in our society cannot be reduced to a) the propaganda of a progressive left and b) the grotesque dreams of that progressive left.  We have a sickness.  The rise of leftism has exacerbated it by distracting us from it and forcing us to treat superficial varieties of progressive lunacy… but it was a preexisting condition, that disease, and it cuts to the heart of our national soul.  Boys should be able to play a game without adults circulating sordidly around its edges to turn a profit.  Old men should be able to retire without packs of young jackals descending upon them to nip at their life-savings.  Government intervention isn’t the answer: we can agree upon that.  Practiced manipulators will always figure out ways, not only to skirt around the rules, but even to collaborate in making rules that favor their interests.  We’re all enduring an evolutionary stage now wherein we have to fight off the intrusions of a do-gooder Nanny State—intrusions that only leave the poor poorer and the rich richer.  We haven’t enough energy left over to address our impoverished spirits.

For what we really need is an uplifting of the spirit—something such as might be provided by… oh, I don’t know.  Maybe the Christian faith? But where is that faith?

Digging in Rock and Re-Learning the Stars’ Names

We spent all of July 3 and 4 in a house possessed of little furniture, as yet: a small table, three deck chairs, a pocket-sized refrigerator retrieved from a college dorm, and a cot (I slept in a bedroll on the floor).  By day, I spent most of my time swing-blading weeds that had grown waist-high since the construction crew last plowed an industrial mower through them (obviously months ago) and trying to pound holes in rock for my garden transplants.  The scything was urgent.  Wild critters tend not to approach a domicile too closely if you make and maintain a clearing, but they grow pretty bold if you have underbrush scratching at your windows.  As for the rocky soil, which thoroughly shocked me… I finally figured out that the builder had bored down to bedrock for the house’s foundation—good, very good—and had then simply strewn his stony shavings and scrapings all over the lot, to be kneaded into the red clay by massive treads.  Not so good.  And the same bulldozers had left piles of brush along the original clearing’s boundary rather than hauling off the deadwood.

I don’t know how much of such “minimalist” execution of duties is routine these days.  I recall my grandmother’s house in Austin, built in about 1875.  Yes, the floors creaked and the plumbing and electricity presented constant problems, even when I was a child; but the faux fireplaces were true works of art, and the plastering and wallpapering had lasted for decades without showing wear.  Frankly, the woodwork, for all its creaks, was sound and fresh.  All the corners joined.  In my new house, occasional stretches of molding are not even glued or nailed in along the floor.

I have to conclude that, a hundred years ago, people cared about the job they did.  They depended more on word-of-mouth advertising and repeat custom, true enough; but I also tend to believe that they just took more pride in their craft.  Now contractors are forced to engage gangs of laborers who move from job to job almost like gypsies, many speaking no English and having no sentimental tie to the region where this week’s contract takes them.  “In and Out” is apparently the name of a trendy hamburger franchise.  It might as well be the brand name of our entire private sector.

All of that having been said, I got a lot of satisfaction from clearing most of my “compound” out with my two hands in just a few hours.  I infinitely prefer such labor to pushing a snarly mower around the lawn, back and forth and forth and back, so that my curbside doesn’t embarrass the neighbors and draw a pink slip from the homeowners’ association.  The litter piles probably aren’t as bad as I’d thought at first.  I can burn the deadwood in a trench, little by little, and fertilize my grounds with the ashes.

Pounded rock and all, the soil in its present state hadn’t dissuaded most of my transplanted peanuts from greening up by the time we left.  (I’m going to let them stay in the ground and spread this fall; they’re my future protein source in the event of societal and infrastructural calamity.)  The Georgia rain had murdered two out of my three cactuses—but the antioxidant-rich prickly pear were booming along.  My blueberry and goji bushes were nestled in soft soil next to the house, safely within the deadly shoals created by the bulldozers.  They, too, would be fine in my absence.

On the outskirts of the rocky shoal, I at last found sufficient good dirt to plant my trees.  Oddly enough, the orange tree (which represents the last of any kind that I’ve been able to grow from grocery-store produce: GMO proponents take heed) seems to resist all efforts to kill it.  The pomegranates didn’t appreciate being blown about in a 70 mph wind for eleven hours… but some of them, too, will survive.  The pecan and apple had been dug up too soon in Texas, thanks to the builder’s continual fudging about our move-in date, and the former has undoubtedly fled its roots to wander Pecan Shadowland in spirit; but the apple, miraculously, was sending up the tiniest of green shoots out of an unpromising stump as we prepared to leave.  I thought of Noah’s doves.

For housing my tools, I had hurriedly bought a prefab shed at Home Depot.  (Rubbermaid, of all people, makes them!)  One of the features I liked was the solid floor pad—but I discovered that I hadn’t leveled a space with enough attention to create perfect stability.  I’ll carry back some old plywood pieces from Texas on my final run to slip beneath the pad.  Here and on several other occasions, I was struck by the importance of being “on the ground” and actually doing the job if one is to know what the job entails.  That our preferred method of operation, in all official—especially governmental—undertakings is instead to stick to some master-plan generated by remote bureaucracies doesn’t bode well for the nation.  There’s probably more energy, time, and expense wasted in conforming to inefficient boilerplate models than you’d spend in entering a work zone with no plan at all and flying by the seat of your pants.

The county code, for instance, requires that hot water heaters have pans beneath them if placed in the attic—but the dopes who drafted this wording assumed the presence of a single-story dwelling. Our tank is on the second story, not in the attic; so it lacks the pan necessary to ensure that the house isn’t ruined in the event of a rupture, and we’ll have to get a plumber out on our own to correct the gaffe.

At dusk on our final day, as she adjusted the cot, my wife alerted me that a “cougar” was walking along the gravel drive.  It turned out to be a bobcat—a colorless, long-legged silhouette ambling into the shrouded west.  I’m going to have to convince her to carry a small sidearm on her walks if she’s making T-Rexes out of geckos… and I thought she was a country girl!

My bedroll held down the far side of the fort (since we’re still a little unsure of what visitors might prowl by night).  From the floor, I stared for a long time at rising stars whose names I once knew but have mostly forgotten.  Sirius, Betelgeuse, Altair… Arcturus, Deneb, Antares… was any of these any of those?  Four decades have passed since I was a kid on the fringe of Fort Worth, inhabiting the last house before a prairie began.  Now all of that area is concrete, tarmac, traffic, and smog—and I’ve been living in other cities similarly immersed in a suffocating progress.  I need to go back to school and re-learn my constellations.  I should have plenty of leisure to do so, if God is patient with me.

The Weaponizing of Hurt Feelings (Part Two)

I have entitled these two pieces “the weaponizing of hurt feelings” because the aggrieved “snowflake” turns out also to serve on a kind of SWAT team.  Once you’re accused of being insensitive to race or gender or an alien culture, you have no defense, no recourse, and no opportunity even to present your side of the issue.  You are instantly guilty as charged.  (Sexual harassment law is indeed written in these terms.) The mere perception by one of the “offended” class—a person of color, a woman or gay or transgender, a Latino, a Muslim, an atheist—that you may not be one hundred percent “down for the struggle” suffices to convict you of major thought crimes.  Now you can only go belly-up and present your throat to the predator’s teeth.  Perhaps your life will be spared after your body is mildly savaged… but the terms of such clemency require that you remain forever more in a default position of worthless, despicable offender caught red-handed and shame-faced.

That the female enjoys particularly ready access to these weapons is obvious to anyone who has recently picked through the mine fields of Academe—but detonations may be heard far beyond the hallowed halls of ivy.  The #MeToo movement has already terminated many a career.  Most of the condemned deserved the firing squad, from what I can tell; yet the method of trial and execution remains disturbing to me.  The candidacy of Herman Cain was picked off a few years ago by dubious accusations that were never verified—and the Anita Hill attack on Clarence Thomas was a kind of sniping-school rehearsal for the ambush several decades earlier.

These cases were especially interesting because the sex of the accusers appeared to trump the race of the accused.  As much rhetorical ammunition as the Left has expended in arguing that we gun-and-Bible clingers continue to practice our old-time racist ways unrepentant, it is yet more invested in the notion that women are constantly abused and enslaved.  Judge Thomas was charged with having stacks of Playboy Magazine awkwardly displayed in his apartment, and Cain with having suggestively offered a job-applicant a ride to her hotel: such “horrors” (if they ever really happened) were supposed to concern us more than a black couple’s not being able to secure a home loan.

So who am I to undervalue the magnitude of such atrocities? The male has no right whatever to rate the trauma created by offensive incidents; their victims may be veritable Auschwitz survivors in their own minds, for all he knows.  Assume the supine posture, present your jugular, and shut the **** up.

If this isn’t the equivalent of being visited by the thug-enforcers of a “protection” racket in a Thirties ghetto and having your storefront rearranged, then I’m at a loss for a better parallel. Those men whose reputations and careers lie in ruins beneath the #MeToo movement’s juggernaut would probably have preferred to get off with a broken arm or a few shattered ribs. And while I do not condone their behavior—while I of all men, who lived my youth holding doors open, surrendering chairs in crowded rooms, and declining offers of one-night stands, have earned a title to deplore and condemn male coarseness—I also smell the rat of self-serving manipulation in certain cases. Women who don’t want their fanny pawed shouldn’t wear tight-fitting dresses into crowded ballrooms full of egomaniacs. Women who don’t want eyes leering at their breasts shouldn’t sport low cleavages where alcohol is liberally flowing. Women who don’t want to be chased around the furniture shouldn’t retreat with the producer to his bachelor penthouse. To call forth a man’s baser impulses and then sue him for a quarter of his net worth because he failed to resist… is that so very unlike snapping a photo of some politician in a compromising position with a “plant” and then blackmailing him for a crucial vote? Do you see how these indignant protests can uncomfortably approximate the tactics of the Mob?

If today’s woman is indeed so readily offended, maybe she should make the burqa part of her wardrobe. As a matter of fact, while pondering these issues, I have begun to discern a prickly similarity between the passive aggression of the “hurt feelings bomb” smuggled into our classrooms and boardrooms and the suicide bomber of radical Islam. How else to explain the seemingly nonsensical solidarity that leftwing causes like avant-garde feminism manifest for proponents of Sharia law… how else, but by recognizing the ambition of both to blow up stable, rational social structures?

For there is much passive aggression in most terrorist acts, too: this is another paradox that has nagged at me for years. I could almost agree with the smattering of ill-advised Democrats who professed admiration for the “courage” of the 9/11 murderers: they did, after all, kill themselves as well as thousands of innocents. Yet suicide isn’t so very gutsy, especially when you force others through the exit along with you. I myself knew plenty of alienation as an adolescent. My school days were a daily hell—and, in what would activate a flashing red alarm today, my budding masculinity sought a significant refuge in black-powder revolvers. I learned not only to become a fairly good shot, but also to melt lead and mold Minié balls. Never for the fraction of an instant, however, did I so much as idly fantasize about turning a muzzle on the rudest of my classmates. To my mind, such an act would have justified their contempt for me. I would have demonstrated that I was truly the lowest of the low: a spineless, murderous coward. If I entertained any silly adolescent fantasy at all, it was that I would step up and save the lives of those who would happily have watched me drop dead, they cringing and sniveling and I advancing to meet the threat head-on.

So how could these young men of our new century who crave a manly exit have hit upon such a vile means of defying the world and commemorating their misunderstood lives? How can suicide bombers be such loathsome, wimpy back-shooters—and how can the mass-murderers of Columbine and the authors of all subsequent campus atrocities, slaughtering helpless targets with the ease of snuffing out fish in a barrel, have supposed that they were leaving behind a manly mark? Are these not “feminized boys” seeking vainly a brief and final passage to manhood? With their irremediably hurt feelings and their one-way vengeance upon offenders without any defense, they seem to me a very odd and late development in our global epidemic of moral chaos. These boys aren’t acting at all like men. Why don’t they understand that?

Why don’t young women understand that it’s not sensitive to be over-sensitive—that obsession with one’s own feelings, almost to the exclusion of allowing anyone else to feel, is the very opposite of sensitivity and, indeed, the emulation of uncivilized masculinity?

Is the objective of the progressive female to transform herself into the worst kind of male? Is the destiny of progressivism’s haphazardly produced males to imbibe the most untutored qualities of a primitive femininity?

And as for suicide, as I wander back to that worst single hour I ever passed in a classroom… is it not significant that the very word is now the subject of a taboo, and that to scorn suicide as cowardly is no less forbidden and anathematic than denouncing abortion as human sacrifice?

The Weaponizing of Hurt Feelings (Part One)

It’s no longer at all original to comment upon the “snowflakes” among us: terminally spoiled late adolescents symptomatic of our lobotomized college community with their demands for safe spaces, comfort animals, and freedom from threatening speech.  I have chronicled more times than a faithful reader would care to recall my personal run-in with these anemic ghosts of intellectual limbo.  My casual use of the word “suicide” compromised an advanced class in English grammar for the rest of the semester, and in some ways the cloud never cleared between me and the “affected” students.  Naturally, I understand that there are many more severe cases cropping up everywhere.  A petition is circulating around the University of Toronto to dismiss Jordan Peterson from his position, not because of what he has said, but because of what he refuses to say: the nonsensical, idly concocted pronoun “ze”.

So there are certain things we must not say lest they have distressing connotations for someone somewhere; and then there are certain things we must say, because not to say them is to imply a disapproval that makes certain people “feel hurt”.  If I’m teaching a Latin class and a need for the word “black” arises, I had better opt for the poetic ater instead of the commonplace niger—or else I risk ending my career (which, mercifully, has now in fact ended).

Say that the Green Movement should decide that everyone must wear a green streak down his/her/zits left sleeve to show “solidarity with the planet” (whatever the hell that would mean—these phrases never mean anything coherent); then I must produce a green streak on the proper sleeve.  If I wear none, then I want to see us all poisoned.  If I streak my right sleeve, then I’m mocking the movement and giving the bird to the endangered Horned Owl.  If I’m a woman in a sleeveless dress (or a man who feels like wearing such a dress that day), then I’d better reconsider… or, at the very least, paint a green streak down my bare epidermis.

Not to salute at the moment scripted for the masses to salute is fatal.  Not to give the right salute is fatal.  To salute close-mouthed, without voicing the party’s condensed two-syllable slogan, is fatal (for cameras are rolling somewhere, and you will be detected).  To move one’s mouth for the cameras without actually saying anything might prove fatal (for party loyalists on either side of one might quickly become a lynch mob of righteous zealotry).

This is our brave new world.  Notice how I have already veered from the passive to the aggressive. The wilting cringe that follows when Cisalpine Gaul reminds young Chelsea over there of “kiss”, which reminds her of a bad date, which reminds her of how cruel the male sex is… the neurotic wave-effect of such occasions, I say, has now become a phalanx of clenched fists demanding the ban of the word “he” from campus.  Our fading flower, in other words, has mutated into a prickly cactus—and even into one of those tropical fly-catching plants that snaps up whatever haplessly buzzes in its vicinity.

I’m sure that this insight, too, isn’t terribly original… but it hadn’t really occurred to me until this past week, or at least had only been fuming in the beaker without crystallizing.  Psychologically, you see, it has really thrown me back on my heels.  I’ve known plenty of spoiled-brat kids who can’t face up to worldly realities—but I would never have fused their profile with that of the foul-mouthed, brick-throwing “revolutionary”.  A feminist might say that I have been held captive by my prejudices, and she/he/ze might be right.  I conceive of the wilting flower as overwhelmingly female and the fecal-friendly Yahoo as overwhelmingly male.  My recent experiences of being called an “idiot” by people I don’t know on Twitter seem to bear this out.  Male Twitterbirds like to shower those beneath their tree with deposits of “idiot”, “stupid”, and “stupid idiot” before passing on to words that I can’t reproduce here.  The female of the species seems much more likely to accuse one of enslaving or slaughtering millions with one’s views, like the aiai oimai wailing chorus of a Euripidean tragedy.

Yet having said this, I also sense a change.  Let us stay with Twitter for a moment.  Dana Loesch, who has put herself squarely in the crosshairs of the leftwing intimidation machine by defending the Second Amendment, receives almost daily threats upon herself and her family… but largely of the veiled variety, when they come from ostensible males.  Her children will be forever reviled and ostracized, she is told—or else her opponent in this “community forum” expresses the pious hope that her kids will be attending the next school to be shot up.  As I say, these passive threats come from what biology would be forced to call the male of the species.  To the female fall the pleasures of showering Dana with the linguistic spittle of a drunken sailor.  “Comedians” like Samantha Bee and Michelle Wolf (I couldn’t pick either of them from a line-up, but their voices appear to resonate for some reason) unleash comments—usually about other women—that blend sexual obscenity with coprology and fifth-grade narrative talent.  A really badly reared and socially stunted adolescent boy is the typical author of such utterances, in my experience… but now they flow from publicly celebrated female figures, and other females in the chatter-class cheer them on.

Has the morbidly vulnerable sensitive plant, then, interbred with the hell-raising sociopath because we have inverted gender roles—not erased them, but inverted them?  The more I think about this formula, the more justified it appears to me: not because I understand it at this point, but because it describes what I see.  The flurry of female ruffled feathers in my grammar class didn’t project any inclination to tears or deep, silent pouts.  These were killer-sparrows from an Alfred Hitchcock nightmare.  A rational explanation on my part wasn’t enough.  An abject apology (which I didn’t offer—not for a remark no more hurtful than, “You could have knocked me dead”) wouldn’t have been enough.  Upon reflection, I think the terms of the truce would have run something like this: “You agree hereafter that you are a person of diminished sensibilities who will continue to utter offensive remarks despite yourself, and who will therefore stand in constant need of our sufferance.  We agree, for our part, to tolerate you only to the extent that you admit to the moral inferiority inherent in your nature.”

Or, to put it a little more succinctly, “Shut up!  No, don’t open your mouth to explain.  Are you trying to speak?  What did I just tell you?  Shut up!  SHUT THE **** UP!”

This is how educated young women, increasingly, are “interacting” with their adversaries in public.  It’s been going on a while.  I’m only now, I confess, reading the copy of Professing Feminism that Daphne Patai sent me about twenty years ago… and the book is full of such incidents in Women’s Studies programs of the late Eighties and early Nineties.  Perhaps my comfortable exile in the backwaters of academe insulated me at that time.  Now the piranhas have swum upstream and populated every puddle.

Meanwhile, “men” are copying the feminine style of grievance and victimhood ever more often.  Even school shooters are turning out to claim intolerable bullying as a motivation.  The Mahdi of the anti-gun holy war is David Hogg, holding his slender feminine fist aloft and leading curious chants about defenselessness.  “Protect us!  We cannot protect ourselves, and we shouldn’t have to!  We won’t endure this vulnerability any longer!  We’ve had enough!  Put down all your guns and make us feel safe… or we’ll write down your name and make your life hell on earth!”

And thereafter follows an online shaming and slandering campaign that would lead a less stalwart, more adolescent character than Dana Loesch to… commit suicide.

In the not-too-distant future, will there be a David Hogg shooting the stuffing out of an NRA convention?  Hasn’t that already happened—didn’t something in the genre occur in Las Vegas?  We know that Stephen Paddock was a leftwing-fringe type who thought that Country Music and NASCAR fans needed to die in large numbers.  How different is this from the Hogg message?

So the offended people are now out for blood… and the blood-soaked mass-murderers are now victims of hurt feelings.  I’m not at all sure what’s going on here—but I’m certain that it’s insane, and I’m convinced that it is a manifestation of genuine evil.  I’ll try to parse it a little better next time.  For now, I can do no better than extend Jordan Peterson’s observation.  Forcing me to say or write certain words and never say or write certain others is an implicit species of violence, and not a normal expression of wounded sensibility.  Choosing words carefully is what you do in a civil society; demanding that others banish Word X from their thoughts because it clashes with your subjective vision of harmony is maniacal despotism.

(Since I will be preoccupied with the chore of moving from one state to another throughout this coming week, I’ll post Part Two tomorrow and then go silent for a while.)

“It’s My Body!”… Then Why Can’t You Control It?

What’s that whining Fifties jukebox favorite that goes, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to”?  That one invariably springs to mind when I hear the tired refrain, “It’s my body, and I’ll do with it what I want to.”  Many mutations of this peevish, childish taunt were run up the masthead during Ireland’s repeal of her Eighth Amendment last month—a plebiscite which effectively legalized abortion under most conditions.  Yet how true is that claim about one’s body, and in what sense might it ever be true?

You cannot legally amputate a limb just because you take a disliking to it in most civilized nations.  This dark urge is rightly considered to characterize a mental disorder, and those who suffer from it are viewed as incompetent to make such decisions.  So… no, in that case you cannot do whatever you wish with your body.

The counter-argument might be made that the fetus is an invading, parasitic life form, so that the “amputation” analogy is inaccurate.  The modicum of truth in this protest, however, seems to me to undermine the broader claim irreparably.  Because the fetus is indeed another life and not just one of your appendages, you no longer have any right whatsoever to terminate its existence.

But (says the whining party-girl) you ignored the “invading” part, the “parasite” part!  I don’t want this parasite growing in me!  This is an entirely different line of argument that has completely abandoned the “it’s my body” umbrella.  Assessing its validity would require a close review of just what’s meant by invasion and parasitism.  A three-year-old child might well be deemed a parasite: we would certainly be contemplating a life form that cannot survive on its own.  Would the parent, then, be morally justified in murdering the child on the ground that the toddler had become an insufferable parasite?

But to return to the “it’s my body” contention… how does the “yourness” of this body reconcile with its having been successfully invaded by a parasite against your will?  You submitted your body to a course of behavior which rendered the parasite’s implantation highly probable.  Unless you are an utter idiot incapable of guiding her own Sharpie along her own demo-placard, you must know that pregnancy is a possible-to-likely consequence of sexual activity.  You made the choice to engage in that activity through your body.  If you own a car and you race it along a muddy, stony course for thrills, then your insurance provider is not responsible for returning the vehicle to its previous condition.  You chose to employ it in a risky, irresponsible activity: the consequences of that choice must be addressed with your own resources.  Why does society have an obligation to patch up the “damage” when your body was the vehicle of your joy ride? Because, you know, you’re demanding that society’s resources remedy your inconvenient predicament. Most abortions are not self-administered, just as most people can’t repair their own car.

Two further points arise here.  One is that you don’t really have a right to treat any item of personal property however you damn well like.  You can’t set fire to your car or your house because you enjoy the sight of smoke and flames.  The flames may spread to other people’s possessions; and, in any case, wantonness is considered morally reprehensible even in situations where it is legally permitted.  You could pay ten thousand bucks for an oil painting and then shred it without fear of facing charges… but your community would regard you with horror and disgust, as it should.  Even inanimate objects should not be destroyed for idle amusement.

Secondly, the public actually does have a stake in whether or not you give birth to the children you have conceived.  Societies that do not produce another generation do not survive: Western Europe is slowly (too slowly) awakening to this grim fact as I write, and even China will soon run into it around a surprising near-future turn of events after having promoted abortion for two generations.  Those who extol the demographically salutary effects of abortion in an overpopulated world, such as certain eugenicist members of my own family, may be right at some level; but notice that, once again, their position doesn’t support the “it’s my body” premise.  On the contrary, they maintain that society has an exigent interest in keeping your progeny off the face of the earth.  (I might add that their attitude often infects its elitist proponents more quickly than the seething masses: childlessness has all but exterminated my side of the family tree.)

Finally, I’d venture to point out that anyone who lives for more than half a century must begin to question just what kind of possession he or she enjoys over the body.  As you age, your body becomes a traitor.  If it were truly yours, it would behave better… but it doesn’t sleep as it should, it rebels against certain foods, it must relieve itself with irritating frequency, it torments you with mysterious pains never before known—it’s increasingly a ramshackle house that you are forced to rent.  You begin to understand that it doesn’t really belong to you and never really belonged to you: that it was always a rental property, and that the terms of the lease require you to endure a degree of inconvenience.  You’d rather have been a little taller; that won’t happen.  You’d like to have blond hair.  Well, that can be arranged temporarily… but probably at the cost of long-term damage to your mop.  You’re too fat.  That’s a condition similar to being pregnant, in that it follows upon certain choices you have made in pursuit of pleasure.  If you want to be thinner, eat less and eat better.  If you want to be un-pregnant, abstain from sex, or at least circle three days in the middle of your month to be reserved for fasting and meditation.

If you can’t read a calendar or count to thirty, find a friend who can.  Why is it that the most educated people appear to advocate most vocally for these positions that should never have relevance to the conduct of any but the very dullest?

But I forget: the most educated are busily changing the biological sex of their bodies even at this instant.  It seems that their body really wasn’t theirs, after all, having been switched at birth with someone else’s.  Is that perhaps what abortion ultimately represents in their minds—is it a kind of transferred suicide, a revenge directed at life for ever having interrupted their peaceful oblivion?

Leftism and Sexual Predation: As Closely Connected as Carnivores and Steak

S.E. Cupp is considered to represent views on the right side of the political spectrum, for reasons that evade me.  A few days ago, I read something of hers lamenting that girls in bikinis and stiletto heels (the participants in the Miss America pageant) were being chided by other conservatives for sharing their #MeToo moments, as they seem to have done during the contest’s few seconds dedicated to rhetorical skill.  The crusty right-wing position of default is that girls who wiggle lots of bare skin in public should expect the occasional pinch or lewd proposition.  Unlike Ms. Cupp, I don’t find this association of ideas pernicious; I’m afraid I find it perfectly sensible.  By way of analogy, say that I claim a right to walk in any part of town I choose at any hour of the day or night without fear of molestation. I may indeed enjoy that right in abstract; but in most cities today, no sane adult would dare to act as if it were in effect. In a fallen world, rights must be tempered with common sense.

Cupp, however, is among those younger female intellectuals who don’t understand why a woman shouldn’t be able to wear whatever she wants (more or less including the wardrobe choices of Lady Godiva) and still endure no wolf-whistles or fanny-pats.  I deplore bad manners as much as anyone, and probably more than most; but I also find something marginally insane about supposing that a girl should be able to engage in displays and behaviors explicitly designed to arouse men—then enjoy complete insulation from any little expression of arousal.  If a lion-tamer loses an ear after thrusting his head into an ill-tamed lion’s mouth, who’s at fault?

Full disclosure: I paid my “gentleman’s dues” many times over during the Seventies in dark scowls and snarled rebukes after holding doors open for “ladies” or offering them my seat in a crowded space.  In other words, men of my generation remember the days when women were wholly uninterested in mannerly conduct, and even aggressively opposed to it.  The “enlightened” girls of those days also, all too often, refused to shave under their fully exposed arms or to use deodorant on a hot day.  That, too, was their “right”, and to begrudge it was to cast them in the bonds of cruel servitude.  So to hear of supermodel-caliber lasses now seething because their generation has decided to flip all the male hormonal switches to “on” instead of “off” while expecting every onlooking man’s vital signs to flatline… I’m confused.  If a girl’s wearing a skimpy bikini, does the revised feminist code now allow you to hold the door for her?  Does it now require you to do so?

Of course, I don’t think most of the confusion is on my side.  I think the #MeToo tornado has been largely generated by decades of circular thinking on the part of women themselves. Girls don’t seem to understand men nearly as well as their grandmothers did.

But even many a grandmother, if she was a revolutionary in her youth, was probably making the same errors. Poor judgment may be less a sign of the times than of ideology. In the wake of the Weinstein and Schneiderman scandals, Rush Limbaugh lately opined that leftist men are quite often sexist pigs who talk the feminist talk just to have their way with their marks farther down the road.  This is very droll, and probably somewhat true; but it doesn’t come close to the heart of the matter.  Leftist males, after all, subscribe to an ideology every bit as self-contradictory as that of leftist females.  If the feminist female wants to be treated indistinguishably from a male in all circumstances yet also expects insulation from bad manners, the “feminist male” wants his women to be “pals” yet also to understand that, as females, they have something he needs.  That something is a cozy garage for his little sports car.  It’s not a lifetime of conjugal bliss, or even a shared apartment for two weeks (unless she pays the rent); it’s not children to bounce upon the knee and to comfort one in one’s declining years.  It’s sex: it’s “pleasuring”.  It’s a need on the same level as having to go to the bathroom.  You go, you relieve yourself… then it’s over and you can get on with your life.

The female “pal” is supposed to get all this.  Several characters in Jules Romains’s epic series of novels about the twentieth century’s first decades, Les Hommes de Bonne Volonté, model the behavior from within Bolshevik cells or nihilist artistic circles.  There’s no God, no life after this one, no values except those created by society, no society except what power and privilege have assembled.  Truth, therefore, lies where the last layers of conditioning have been stripped away: at the primal level, where male and female are beasts with needs and urges.  A man needs a woman to have sex.  A woman who embraces the revolution lends herself to satisfying a comrade’s need, even if it means being passed around in the group like a bottle of cheap wine.  In my day and long before, much of avant-garde feminism was invested in the idea that women have identical sexual needs—and so “educated” women were supposed to scratch their itches with the same indifference to circumstance and consequence as their hairy-ape counterparts.

The inequity that cannot be eradicated from these arrangements, however (and has hence fueled an explosion of lesbianism among “educated” women today), is the essential quality of sexual pleasure.  For the fully initiated leftist male, the woman remains a toiletry, though she be ever such a good “pal” about it.  Use, flush… and get on with the revolution’s business.  Though female initiates may also approach this state of depravity, they cannot redesign their role as receptacle in the exchange.  They are the object into which the maddening poison must be discharged—and, as such, they acquire a certain guilt by association with the interlude’s inconvenience and vileness.  They are the consumed butt of the smoked joint, the empty bottle after the last drop of whiskey is coaxed out.  Empty whiskey bottles rarely end up in curio cabinets.

What a man gets from sex is release—and the man of action wants a quick release.  What a female hopes to get from sex, even in its most degraded form, is a sustained experience of pleasant sensation.  The difference is very like that between a flask drained in a foxhole and a glass of rare Château Mouton-Rothschild savored over a candlelit dinner.

Given these irrefragable facts, the leftist male has not even the degree of sentimental affection for his casual sexual partners as he might feel for a dog.  With the dog, there is no physical contact in the relief of a burdensome need (after the fashion of a sheet of toilet paper), but rather the side-by-side warmth of a good blanket, unfailing devotion, and unthinking self-sacrifice in moments of high danger.  And the dog’s big loving eyes show a dumb oblivion to the future that a woman might try to imitate but can never match.

Now, to the extent that our contemporary, self-styled Che Guevaras in the broadcast-entertainment-legal complex have to mouth proper phrases about health care or gun control to keep their human puppies in a fawning posture, I’m sure they do so without a qualm.  What’s false in these professions, after all, is not so much their content as their degree of concern.  A Harvey Weinstein probably does believe that women should have condoms paid for by public health care—not to preserve their personal health, however, but to render them more readily amenable to his “needs”.  And what revolutionary would not vigorously endorse the confiscation of all firearms from law-abiding citizens?  A lion who bites off ears is all in favor of Q-Tips and aural hygiene.

I wish I could see young women making some progress in figuring this all out.  Hey, if you want to show off your beautiful body, fine… but it’s beautiful especially (if not uniquely) to males, and most of them are not sculptors.  Among men who claim to champion your long-denied rights as a woman, in particular, exercise caution.  Many tracks lead into the lion’s cave, but you will find none coming back out.