The Fanatical Cultists Among Us

There’s a good chance that people aspiring to murder those who disagree with them about politics are, among other things, fanatical cultists. We tend not to view them as such because they espouse no traditional religion, and indeed often profess atheism; but an immovable conviction in the existence of a universe that bears no resemblance to the realities before us isn’t just metaphysical in nature, but fanatically so.

If you believe that everyone deserves state-of-the-art health care and that politicians who stand in that initiative’s way should be executed as murderers, then you’re a fanatical cultist. What you desire is a real-world impossibility. We must all die in the flesh of something someday, and most of us—alas—will be ill on many days along the way to our last one. It’s the human condition. Miracle drugs may come along occasionally, but they are so expensive to concoct in their early stages that not everyone can afford them. A triage of some sort is inevitable. Maybe it shouldn’t be based on degree of wealth… but should it be based on degree of poverty? Maybe the young should go first—but is it not more sane to appeal to the community for charitable donations that a child might be saved than to legislate that the older guy has to get the ticket to the next world?

You’re not living in any world possible within our given dimensions if you refuse to weigh any of these questions, plug your ears, and keep droning, “All for everyone! All for everyone!”

If you believe that anyone who opposes the complete disarming of society is an accomplice to every murder that occurs and hence deserves execution himself, then you are a fanatical cultist. If only cops have guns, then Black Bart can drop a brick on a bypassing cop, steal his revolver, and inaugurate an irresistible crime wave. If you disarm even the cops, then the brick itself becomes a highly effective assault weapon… or a pitchfork or baseball bat or steak knife. A 98-pound female can currently chase off a 250-pound male just by waving her Smith and Wesson. Once we return to the Stone Age, her assailant will not need any weapon at all to do with her as he pleases. Your insistence that things would not degenerate to this point is childish and, beyond a certain point, lunatic. A responsible adult has no right to walk around with a kindergartener’s estimate of human nature. Your lunacy is probably attributable to a cultic belief system… which makes you yourself a potentially dangerous quantity in any society that allows you to vote.

If you say that anyone who obstructs the complete dissolution of national borders is impeding beleaguered people from finding food, shelter, and freedom and hence deserves to be executed as a passive mass-murderer, then consider yourself a fanatical cultist. Among other things, we must consider what diseases an alien population might introduce among us if not screened. Particularly in societies that offer an extensive net of social services, we must realize that thousands will rush our cities to gain access to free food, free police protection, free education, free medical attention, and so forth. Such resources are not inexhaustible; on the contrary, they must be doled out very carefully to those most in need and in a manner that encourages eventual self-sufficiency. Along with the poor and oppressed, as well, a criminal element will be sure to cross any unenforced border to a wealthier community. The situation is a goldmine for evil-doers: gather loot where it proliferates, then skip back across to another territory that will not pursue criminal acts committed “over there”.

If, in spite of all these liabilities, you really believe that we can and must exist as one big happy family in one great house—and that naysayers should be shot like mad dogs because of the obstacle they pose to “real progress”—then you are seriously delusional and a menace to yourself and others. You are a fanatical cultist who has no use for the world as it was made and must ever be.

How many of these are out there, I wonder? And why are we preoccupied with ISIS when our own society is nourishing a variety of fanaticism at least as dangerous and—now, it seems—homicidal?

 

Manners vs. Measures

I’ll be consumed by other chores over the weekend, so forgive me for making this a long entry.  Nevertheless, it represents just a few notes on what could well be a book. (My specific reasons for having such a spate of thoughts on this subject are substantial but also pretty subjective, and so not relevant.)

Manners are, etymologically speaking, mere arbitrary measures of behavior. If the Hoolahoop tribe blows a whistle through curled fingers while hopping on the left leg whenever one member greets another, then hopping on the right leg or failing to produce a whistle might be styled a gross breach of etiquette. Yet few instances of mannerliness are thus divorced from any sort of moral value in modern society. Most courteous behavior is also generous, charitable, protective, or otherwise beneficial to its recipients. In the same way, the Latin and Greek words mos and ethos have come to signify right conduct, not simply habitual conduct, even though these words both mean “habit” in their original tongue.

Consider some examples of mannerly behavior:

Physical Assistance: holding the door open for someone carrying a heavy load or impaired in some other way is basic courtesy. Even keeping a pneumatic door ajar so that the person right behind you doesn’t have to fight against its being sucked back in shows real consideration that costs little effort. Now, feminists over the past few decades have started to object to the opened door’s implication that they are weak and need male assistance; and as an aging man whose gray hairs occasionally attract similar homage, I can understand feminist irritation better than I once did. In such cases, however, I think one must be mannerly enough to respect the doer’s intent: accepting the “annoying courtesy” without complaint is itself an act of courtesy.

Honorary Observances: Yielding to the venerable graybeard is, in effect, an example of saluting someone for having navigated life’s shoals for several decades. Likewise, we allow our guests to be seated first if we host a dinner, and the speaker or honoree at a banquet is given the best seat at the highest table and served first. None of this implies weakness and need on the recipient’s part: it’s all aimed at giving a little bow, so to speak, before a person who deserves recognition.

Anticipatory Behavior: You remove a large hat in a crowded arena because you anticipate that it might obscure the view of someone behind you. Likewise, you shower after profuse sweating before attending a formal public event, you seek to contain unruly hair that may shed, and you cover up body parts not particularly pleasant to look at. This last, of course, is often a somewhat arbitrary measure of taste. In many cultures, a woman’s baring her breast to feed an infant is a routine and unprovocative sight; in ours, it draws stares and makes men, especially, uncomfortable (not so much because they object as because they feel themselves a little too eager to forego objection). Asking permission of one’s neighbors before lighting up a cigarette or a pipe also shows respect for the comfort of others.

Hygienic Consideration: Obviously, covering one’s face when coughing or sneezing shows a regard for others that might conceivably be required by law in situations where deadly flu is circulating. Even in less toxic circumstances, nobody wants to share your germs.

Traditional Observances: Finally we arrive at the kind of behavior which has no ethical component whatever in the more sophisticated sense. Here belongs the greeting of the Hoolahoop tribe. Practices of this order in our society include wearing a coat and tie or formal dress on the “right” occasion, putting the proper silverware on the proper side of the plate, using said silverware for the proper dish, or uttering the vapid “doing quite well” when someone asks after you as a splitting migraine explodes in your head. These acts are entirely “measure” rather than “manner”: they determine whether you are a tribal insider or a barbarian outsider. (I might comment further on how religious practices sometimes Pharisaically elicit these acts rather than others of true moral content—burnt offerings rather than deeds of mercy; but that would draw my entry out into a treatise).

Sensitive Gestures: I have deliberately put the ethically subtle after the ethically null to create a clear contrast. One abstains from cracking crude jokes in mixed company, from laughing when the mood is grave, from conversing about certain subjects when they are implicated in a present party’s loss or distress, and so forth. It’s almost impossible to teach real sensitivity, which is probably why these lapses of etiquette are the most common. Since a sensitive act requires that one divine another’s state of mind and soul, a kind of talent or special gift is involved.

Observation 1: As with the case of the door-opener who means no harm, the person who innocently commits an insensitive act should not be reproached, for the reproach itself would be rude. We cannot require that other people be able to read our minds.

Observation 2: Building on the previous point, we should recognize that sensitivity and tradition often collide in implicit (or explicit) contradiction. A person may easily violate an arcane social taboo. In that case, sensitivity would require that a truly mannerly onlooker seek to help the offender recover from his gaffe (e.g., as when a man removes his tie upon seeing that a younger, less tutored man has appeared at a function in an open shirt: this might also be style chivalry).

General Observation: When manners are mere measures, they exclude outsiders from the group and thus gravitate against the accomplishment of moral purposes, inasmuch as the bedrock truth of moral behavior is that we are all human brothers and sisters in spite of superficial differences.

Concluding Comment: If you write to me via email and I, despite many duties and preoccupations (and also an ongoing struggle to keep computers from damaging my eyes and wrists), dash a response back to you lest you feel ignored, please do not denounce me as rude if I forget to append a “Sincerely Yours”, etc. Once you’ve treated me that way, I’ll have nothing more to do with you, for you will have just slapped my face.

 

Denver, Where Pygmies Play on a Sleeping Giant

Sorry, but  I don’t like Denver.  Don’t think I ever will.  I just attended my son’s graduation from a college there, and… and, as on every previous visit, I spent my stay feeling as though I were being watched–as though a huge hand were about to descend upon me from the sky, like a giant’s absent-mindedly swatting a gnat.  The Rockies themselves are not so very near as all that–less near than the Franklin Mountains to El Paso; but they throw down foul weather at all hours of the day with practically no warning.  One minute, it’s sun and big blue sky; then I strangely get that sense of being watched or stalked, I look over my shoulder, a huge black cloud comes spiraling in over my head, and lightning starts to flicker.

I’m never comfortable in places where the weather has no rhythm, but strikes like a rattler from behind a rock.  On Monday of this past week, we were about to take a hike when a hailstorm trapped us in the car for half an hour (as blue sky mocked us in the distance).

Of course, the city is full of rich Yankee-doodles in search of a scenic retirement spot and yuppie leftists seeking refuge from the political debacle they’ve created on the West Coast.  Same story as Austin, Santa Fe, and Phoenix.  As Tacitus would say, they make a desert and call it peace: or, to be precise, they descend upon a sublime natural setting, proceed to litter it with the unsightly sprawl ignited by their dollars, and then busy themselves with trying to legislate the squalor out of existence.  Such insane hubris–such arrogant self-absorption!  It’s the kind of mindset that draws thousands and thousands of unemployed, low-skilled migrants into a metropolis locally declared to be a “sanctuary city”, then piously denounces all the sudden car traffic and trashy curbside development.

The nouveau elite bring no sense of self-awareness or of practicality to anything they do.  They just spend their wad on nice digs, then encumber the rest of the community with contradictory regulations.  All the comforts of living the life of the haute bourgeoisie, all the feel-good sanctimony of forcing others to live by “higher standards”… this class of person makes me as nervous as unpredictable weather.

My wife wanted me to see the outdoor amphitheater at Red Rocks.  I saw it, all right.  I saw yuppified hippies walking their precious canines and buying tickets for the next concert, hiking and peddling for their all-important health (in expensive gear) on a Monday morning when normal people have to work, holding hands or locked in tighter embrace if paired as a single sex (heterosexuals almost never put on such public displays)… and I also saw mammoth stacks of brittle sandstone hurled cockeyed out of the earth by quakes, their inevitable destiny written at their base in the form of gargantuan fallen boulders.  If one of those walls should give way during a performance…

Human beings should leave places like this alone.  Instead, they swarm them to display some exhibitionist “love of nature”.  They run all over them like Lilliputians showing their mightiness on Gulliver’s sleeping face–or, in this case, advertising their superior sensitivity to the “green lifestyle”.  And, in both cases, an incredible small-mindedness peeks through.

Leave the mountain gods alone!

More on Attention-Deficit Narcissism: Clemson’s Racist Anti-Racism

I keep running across exhibitionist behaviors that model what I’ve called Attention-Deficit Narcissism. The sufferer of ADN is so consumed with his own image that the rest of the world might as well not exist–or it only exists, we might say, to the extent that he can project himself into it, always in the very favorable light of a merciful, compassionate, enlightened person or the very poignant light of a cruelly martyred victim. Yet our wretch has such a shifting, sketchy sense of self (probably thanks in large part to social media) that he must be forever projecting new images on top of old ones, often without any regard whatever for the coherence of the whole package. Such walking insanity renders the afflicted wholly inept as students, writers, scholars, leaders, lovers, or friends. They are emotional powderkegs that ignite without rhyme or reason.

The chase after the golden mantle of cultural diversity, of which I wrote last time, has turned the Western world upside-down. Without the slightest real understanding of the group which they effusively (and briefly) patronize, the ADN-delirious rush in like the crazed followers of Dionysus, sporting sombreros or turbans or headdresses, and eat chili peppers or dolmades or toasted locusts for fifteen minutes. They create an image and move on. The elite strata of society, especially, teem with restless waifs who are thus inebriated, both because the pampered class is most immersed in technology’s toxic artifice and because it is most insulated from the real-life consequences of misjudging a particularly dangerous group (and, one might hazard, because its lives of fantasy are the most meaningless among our species).

I can’t think of any other way to explain how the elite brain trust at Clemson University could agree upon publishing a horribly, despicably, and genuinely racist announcement that students of African descent may not be penalized for showing up late to class. Supposedly, punctuality nestles in Caucasian DNA, but not in theirs. Did the pompous idiots who issued this decree stop to reflect upon the centuries of racial stereotyping that projected black people to be just such helplessly, hopelessly tardy dolts? Did they trouble themselves, for instance, to ponder the character of Lightnin’ on the old Amos ’n Andy TV show (originally created for radio)? Shuffling along and pushing his janitorial mop none too urgently, the brim of his baseball cap flipped up in the opposite of a “bear down” position, this unambitious young man couldn’t deliver the simplest message to Andy or the Kingfish without drawling a single sentence into half a minute, usually forgetting its beginning by the time he reached its end.

If you’re black, this is the kind of “consideration” you get at Clemson. I wonder if any student of African genes has come to a sufficient boil to wave aside all the freebies the ADN crowd wants to lavish upon him theatrically… and to file a lawsuit?

The Ruling Elite Take Another Tiny Step into the Sporting World

The trend is so new that I consumed fifteen minutes in finding a single photo to illustrate it. Just this spring, Major League Baseball has decided to start throwing accents liberally over Spanish names, both on the backs of uniforms and on televised graphics.

At first I thought that the move was “hypertrophic”–that MLB’s politically correct elite wanted so much to show sensitivity to diverse cultures that accents were ordered to appear where they had no grammatical business. Then I discovered that my Spanish isn’t quite as reliable on this score as I’d thought. The general rule is that the penultimate syllable of a word tends to be stressed, and that an accent appears whenever that tendency is violated. Beltrán goes against the tendency: Vargas does not. Ramos and Navarro are good to go as they stand: Céspedes and Rincón require an accentual alert. Yet a little research informed me that proper names seem to involve an unusual number of anomalous cases. Why does Márquez have an accent–or González, or Martínez? I don’t know… but, okay, I guess the MLB did its homework for a change.

Then again, upon still further thought, my old misgivings returned to me. Yeah, so all of those names ought to have accents in their original tongue… but who is going to maul the handle of someone named Gonzalez or Martinez? Where do we see a similar concern over the butchery of Italian names with the -ng or -gl consonantal clusters? The pronunciation is “Tony Co-nil-YER-o”, you dopes, not “Co-nig-lee-ER-o”! (And when the lovely Jen Carfagno of the Weather Channel pronounces her surname “Car-FAG-no”, I want to hide in a hole and cover my ears. So, Jen… do you order la-SAG-na at a restaurant?)

What about Gaelic names? Shouldn’t a guy named Toole demand Tuathal on the back of his jersey? Can a guy named Rowe insist upon Ruadh? There’s a lot more than a mere accent missing from these!

“Accent-mania” reveals the political elite (and, believe me, that elite is very much ensconced at ESPN and among owners of professional sports teams) wanting to put its support of cultural diversity on display for all the world to see; and, as usual–as always–that support reeks of condescension. Only select minorities are eligible for the big-brotherly arm around the shoulder, as if the Enlightened Ones were saying, “There, there, now, you lovable but ignorant Latinos. We know that you’re having a lot of trouble with English, and we don’t think you should even have to learn it. See? We’re going to require that the accents be kept over your names–your nombres. Or, wait… is that the word for ‘number’? Whatever. We just want you to know that we have your back. Ha-ha-ha! Your back–get it? Un hoko bueno, no? Musgrave, go look up the word for ‘joke’.”

The children of Hispanic immigrants that appear in my classes have often been given Christian names like “Ashley” and “Melanie”, even though there are a million really beautiful Spanish names. Their parents want them to assimilate. Our political-economic elite don’t care if the masses they invite to the U.S. ever assimilate or not; in fact, they would prefer the negative, since disoriented and needy masses always opt for a greater presence of Big Brother in their lives. Now, patrón is a good example of a word whose final syllable is stressed. You should get to know that one. It names a kind of person who’s starting to play a really prominent role in all our lives.

True Forgiveness Isn’t Always for the Asking

I’m not going to look up the names, because they’re irrelevant to my intent, and I also don’t want to leave the impression that I am judging harshly any particular individual. I can’t slip myself into the soul of the daughter whose aged father was gunned down last week by the so-called Facebook killer. Within a day or so of the incident, she appeared on CNN and announced to the world that she forgave the murderer and would indeed give him a hug if he were captured. Somehow or other, maybe this was what she needed to say for her own inner peace—and when CNN comes bearing down on you with a mike and squinty, manipulative questions, you might very well want to say certain things just to tie the reporters’ tongues into pretzels. I sure would.

What really disturbed me, rather, was the second line of talking heads—those who jabber about other media jabberers—eager to purvey this blanket forgiveness as a splendid testimony for the Christian faith. Glenn Beck’s channel, The Blaze, was ablaze with such interpretation. With all due respect to the grieving daughter… no, I wouldn’t call her words a beautiful testimony at all. God places us on earth, we must believe, to find our way toward Him as well as we can during our allotted span. Anyone who interrupts another’s journey, deliberately and wantonly, is playing God with the most hideous arrogance. It’s a wicked act, that peremptory cutting of the cord called murder; and ultimate forgiveness for it can and must come only from God himself. For such creatures as we are, striking a beatific smile and warbling, “It’s okay, it’s okay! I forgive you!” is not an option. The benediction sounds a bit as though we have decided to play God in one of His other famous roles.

We must take the murderer at his word if he claims that he has indeed sought God’s pardon, and we must wish him well in that endeavor while also holding him accountable to the laws of men. We are not to enact cruel vengeance, which would corrupt our souls as the criminal has corrupted his; but we must take all legal steps to deny him chances at committing similar outrages in the future. To shrug off the deed of someone who has presumed to declare life meaningless and short-circuit whatever meaning or understanding might have been emerging for another is to participate in belittling the divine plan. I don’t like the smell of that.

If a narcissistic lunatic like the callous Facebook murderer had cut down someone dear to me, I think I would have said this: “You’ll be caught, and I hope you are safely in a cage before you interrupt someone else’s life. I hope you stay in that cage until you can do no harm to anyone, or else—if it’s the will of society—that you be legally executed so that your sad end may intimidate other self-obsessed lunatics. I don’t wish agony upon you: may your end be swift. If you want to see me, explain yourself, and beg forgiveness, then I will consider myself bound to hear you out… but I’m afraid I haven’t the power to absolve you of anything. Beg forgiveness of him whose life you took, and of Him who gave no man the right to end another’s life for amusement. As for me, I have nothing to forgive. We’re all mortal, and we all leave this world in one way or another. I pray that the soul of the one I’ve lost has found peace. If you want peace for yours, then ask it of Him who can give it. That’s in your power.

“I will warn you, last of all, that I’m inclined to regard your contacting me as another bit of grandstanding—and I’m not in the least interested in being one of your spellbound spectators. You’ve already committed murder to put yourself in people’s eyes. If I detect that this plea for forgiveness is Act II of the same sick drama, then I get up and walk out when I get the first hint.”

Evil exists. You can’t fight it by forgiving it—and what portion of a troubled man’s soul it may occupy is not for us to determine.

Attention-Deficit Narcissism

A friend recently commented to me upon an office-memo (one which I’d never read, apparently: the easier communication becomes, the more garbage suffocates your mailbox) that exhorted us to wear denim “in solidarity”. Seems that an Italian court recently convicted a man of rape and then gave him a slap on the wrist because his victim had been wearing tight-fitting jeans—so tight that her cooperation would have been needed in removing them. Therefore… tomorrow, everybody wear jeans. Brilliant.

I immediately recalled Michelle Obama’s equally scintillant response to Boko Haram’s kidnapping of almost 300 Nigerian schoolgirls: use the hashtag, “Bring Back Our Girls”. Remember how well that worked?

And it did, you know: I mean, it worked as intended. It made the pompous, distracted fantasists who used the hashtag feel better about themselves. They were showing “solidarity” with the kidnapped girls. It didn’t keep the girls from being brutally raped, sold in to sexual slavery, and forcibly “married” to swine whose Satanic religious beliefs promote such practices… but the bored, desperate housewives of the Beltway could collect their morning Starbuck’s knowing that they had fulfilled some kind of lofty mission in Never Never Land.

My friend also reminded me of a recent “solidarity fad” that involved skipping lunch to commiserate with the poor. Apparently no one made the suggestion that the unspent lunch money be dedicated actually to buying canned foods for the Salvation Army. The objective wasn’t to do anything practical or useful: it was to make the participants feel good about themselves during the few minutes of their day when they impersonated someone a hell of a lot less fortunate than they.

Seems to me that there’s a genuine epidemic of this kind of thing—and it indicts a psychological pathology of some sort that we would do well to investigate. Are we not so immersed now in a virtual reality that it has become our default reality? Have we not so many ciphers and so much shorthand—avatars, selfies, Twitter names—to signal our fleeting electronic presence that a stable concept of self has grown a thing of the past? Why, we may not even be male or female for two days in a row! We may look Caucasian… but Caucasians are racists, so we “identify black”. It’s brutal and abusive (“it feels like rape,” in current parlance) to be forced into a group just because Mother Nature has put you there. Mother Nature, that great rapist, seems to have no regard for the purity of our hearts that wars with our disgraceful genes.

And so we are hunger victims for half an hour. We are not helpers of hunger victims—we are those victims. We are the rape victim in tight jeans for a day. We are the parents of kidnapped children. We don’t do any of the sufferers the least practical good, or even extend a shred of real moral support… but that isn’t our intent. We are not in search of solutions or means of offering comfort: we’re in search of drama and anguish that designate us as among the world’s wrongfully abused, its “owed-somethings”. We’re “owed something”. That’s the essence of our restless, protean, electronic self. We should be more noticed and more admired—and we’re just not getting that notice and admiration. The world, the great damned world, doesn’t see us in all our worthiness and high virtue.

If we were actually to help the suffering, that would mean that we had the power and resources to do so; and if we had power and resources, that would mean that we numbered among the privileged. No, no, no! We are not privileged! We are suffering! We’re not receiving our due! We cannot give, because we need!

I would modestly propose that our slippery, shifting sense of self is the precise cause of our feeling constantly disparaged and ignored. For how can something receive notice and admiration which is always turning into something else? We would be narcissists if we could only focus better on our own person… but with us, it’s as if Narcissus has been distracted from his handsome reflection in the pool by a dragonfly, a goldfish, a falling leaf that creates a ripple. Our all-exclusive image keeps fading from our view. Where did it go? Where are we now? Did you see where I went? I have to find me!

How can this be characterized as anything other than a mental illness?