From Benson’s ‘Lord of the World’

Papa Angelicus:

It was Papa Angelicus whom he was about to see; that amazing old man who had been appointed Secretary of State just fifty years ago, at the age of thirty, and Pope nine years previously.  It was he who had carried out the extraordinary policy of yielding the churches throughout the whole of Italy to the Government, in exchange for the temporal lordship of Rome, and who had since set himself to make it a city of saints. He had cared, it appeared, nothing whatever for the world’s opinion; his policy, so far as it could be called one, consisted in a very simple thing: he had declared in Epistle after Epistle that the object of the Church was to do glory to God by producing supernatural virtues in man, and that nothing at all was of any significance or importance except so far as it effected this object…

…he had said that on the whole the latter-day discoveries of man tended to distract immortal souls from a contemplation of eternal verities—not that these discoveries could be anything but good in themselves, since after all they gave insight into the wonderful laws of God—but that at present they were too exciting to the imagination.

Fr. Percy:

Persecution, he said, was coming. … But persecution was not to be feared. It would no doubt cause apostasies, as it had always done, but these were deplorable only on account of the individual apostates. On the other hand, it would reassure the faithful; and purge out the half-hearted. Once, in the early ages, Satan’s attack had been made on the bodily side, with whips and fire and beasts; in the sixteenth century it had been on the intellectual side; in the twentieth century on the springs of moral and spiritual life. Now it seemed as if the assault was on all three planes at once. 

But what was chiefly to be feared was the positive influence of Humanitarianism: it was coming, like the kingdom of God, with power; it was crushing the imaginative and the romantic, it was assuming rather than asserting its own truth; it was smothering with bolsters instead of wounding and stimulating with steel or controversy. It seemed to be forcing its way, almost objectively, into the inner world. Persons who had scarcely heard its name were professing its tenets; priests absorbed it, as they absorbed God in Communion—he mentioned the names of the recent apostates—children drank it in like Christianity itself. The soul “naturally Christian” seemed to be becoming “the soul naturally infidel.” 

Persecution, cried the priest, was to be welcomed like salvation, prayed for, and grasped; but he feared that the authorities were too shrewd, and knew the antidote and the poison apart. There might be individual martyrdoms—in fact there would be, and very many—but they would be in spite of secular government, not because of it. Finally, he expected, Humanitarianism would presently put on the dress of liturgy and sacrifice, and when that was done, the Church’s cause, unless God intervened, would be over.

Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson

Written before WWI. Benson feared what would happen if the ‘humanitarian’ aspects of modernism – socialism – worked, what might happen if secular powers were able, by intelligent management, to eliminate the physical causes of human suffering, and, by making suicide a sacred, state-supported right, cause spiritual suffering to be something avoidable and individually chosen.

Looked at from Benson’s perspective, we have been spared, I suppose, the curse of successful socialism. He was writing before the horrors of the Russian Revolution and the subsequent horrors under Soviet, Chinese, Cambodian and so on, Communist regimes. His worries that secular management of everything would WORK proved baseless. Instead, we have the curse of those committed to the idea that a paradies is around the corner despite it never having resulted from previous efforts, that it will work if we just keep trying, in the face of mountains of evidence – and mountains of bodies – proving it won’t.

Hurray! I guess?

Question: In that last paragraph, did Benson overrate the shrewdness of secular government? Is he right about the adoption of the trappings of liturgy and sacrifice?

Front Row Kids Revisited (Yep, the d*mn Virus)

Since I generally stay away from the popular press for sanity and utility reasons – tends to drive me crazy and be useless – I don’t know how that whole ‘front row kids’ thing from a few years ago went over. I suspect that Arnade’s division seemed obviously true to many people, and obvious balderdash to many others. I’d also imagine that, of those two groups, the first would be a lot more engaged in talking about and promoting this analysis, while the second would be more likely to role their eyes and find something better to do.

Chartiers Elementary School Classroom | Historic Pittsburgh

Accepting for the moment this front row/back row division of the world: for a front row kid, this idea that he is defined by his place in school is very appealing; I’d go so far as to suggest doing otherwise is almost unimaginable for him. Unfortunately, I’d say the same for most back row kids.

What’s lurking here: school is the primary formative experience of all front row and most back row kids. Coming from a rootless, cruel, and self-centered personal life, where mom and dad have divorced, moved, and remarried, often several times, school for such emotionally battered children is an oasis of order. Unlike their relationship with their parents, the rules in school are pretty clear: to be valued, to get approval, just do what the teacher says.

In the process of seeking personal fulfillment and career success, they have learned from their families, such as they are, to casually sever whatever non-work related relationships they may have otherwise formed. A child leaves a house full of emotional and sometimes physical insecurity, and spends most of his waking hours in a place where success is clearly defined for them.

To tell such a child, now grown into a physical adult and inescapably defining his success in terms of compliance, that something an authority figure has told them is wrong, is never going to be seen as a mere intellectual dispute. It is an attack on that which defines who he is. It is an assault on his entire world.

Here’s Arnade’s definitions, from a Forbes article (in which the writer seems to accept the distinction, and has moved on to worrying over what to do about it). This is a masterpiece of Orwellian newspeak. I’ll offer my corrections line by line:

Front row kids:

Mobile, global, and well educated (Rootless, disdainful of local loyalties, thoroughly indoctrinated)

Primary social network is via colleges and career (Social network is shallow, diffuse, and ephemeral)

Intellect is primary. (Compliance is primary) View world through framework of numbers and rational arguments (Has internalized the idea that compliance is rational, and that only the numbers and arguments presented by authority figures count regardless of their inherent soundness)

Meaning (and morality) comes from careers and intellectual pursuits (Has no concept of what meaning and morality are)

Faith is irrational. (Has internalized a strawman) They see themselves as beyond race and gender (They are obsessed with race and gender)

View their lives as better than their parents and their children’s lives will be better than their own (Contrary to what they see all around them, they accept the fantasy that success in school guarantees success in life)

Back row kids

Stay where they are born. (Are loyal and patriotic) Education beyond high school degree is via smaller state schools, community colleges, and trade schools (Recognize, however dimly, that college is a fraud)

Primary social network is via institutions beyond work. (Don’t think of family, etc., as ‘institutions.’ Love, and has a visceral loyalty to the people who love them and recognizes a duty to love and be loyal in return.) Such as family, geographic community, and Church (Finds fulfillment and meaning as part of a family, village or neighborhood, and church)

Faith is central. (They know what faith means. They reject the strawman) They find meaning (and morality) through the “Decency of hard work” (They work for reasons other than mere personal fulfillment – they find fulfillment in performing their duties to the family, village, and church they love)

They have “traditional” views of race and gender (They reject the authoritarian indoctrination of the schools)

They view their lives as worse than their parents and their children’s lives will be worse than their own (They have a toehold in economic reality – it will be a lot of work for them and their children to get as far as their parents.)

A front row kid’s sense of reality will always be tenuous, because it will always be contradicted by experience. The approval of teachers and schools, the gold stars, the pat on the head, the straight A’s, the diplomas, the advanced degrees – these are what stand between them and the abyss of abandonment they experienced in their family life. On this level, a front row kid really is triggered by simple, harmless words – any words that point out the contradiction. ‘Fake news’ points out the perfidy and incompetence of their peers. Those elite journalists went to the best schools, got the best degrees, and are front row kids to a degree to which most front row kids can only spire. That they are getting mocked for being such obvious frauds is unendurable! Those journalists are both front row kids like us, and stand in the role of teachers as the vanguard of the institutions that give meaning to their lives.

The key here for today: front row kids truly believe that parroting what they hear from whoever stands in authority IS science, logic, intelligence, and reasonableness itself. Agreeing with teacher IS morality. Opposing what the person in authority says IS anti-science, irrationality, and stupidity, and EVIL. They have been told that they are the best educated, most reasonable and most moral people the world has ever seen – and, as the price to be paid for acceptance and approval and something that almost feels like love, they believe it. This price, this membership in the kool kids klub, demands any who express doubts about any part of the program be treated as heretics.

As of today, I have had someone I know, who has an advanced degree, unload on me for calling the COVID panic a fraud, and, with complete disdain for any evidence, logic, math that might enter into the analysis, call me tool for stupid, evil politicians who want to get us all killed out of pure malice. I was accused of promoting conspiracy theories, which was backed up by a stream of conspiracy theories.

A stranger called me a monster and insane for pointing out something completely obvious from all the available data: that a child stands virtually no risk from the Kung Flu. Unlike the case above, this time I got a chance to point to the CDC data that backs this up; pointed to the IFR calculable from that CDC data. It simply was not possible to change her mind, because it’s not a question of thinking. It is a question of personal identity established over 16 or more years of schooling.

Simply raising questions about the government’s response to COVID, simply pushing back at all on the assertions of the talking heads, is enough to trigger a strong emotional reaction in front row kids. To take any pushback seriously would be to shake the very ground upon which they stand. To accept any view contrary to the front row kid group-think would be to cast oneself adrift, to sever social ties (such as they are) and force a reevaluation of the premises upon which your life has been built.

To say this is difficult is a wild understatement. If an authority figure comes along and says something diametrically opposed to what was said yesterday, front row kids will believe it without a moment of cognitive dissonance. COVID was not a problem – until it was. Masks didn’t help at all, until they might help some, until they are mandatory. And the front row will switch allegiance accordingly, and woe to him who points this out!

For change to happen, the easier route, which has happened many times, is simply to change the authority figure. Our current authority figures are fighting this with desperate fury. Or, I suppose, enough cognitive dissonance might eventually get through. Resistance to this level of fundamental, definitional change is strong, life and death strong.

I do not need to point out to regular readers that this transference of loyalty from family to state via a certified agent of the state – a teacher – and the replacement of thought with obedience is exactly what Fichte proposed way back in 1807.

By the Way…

This was on Twitter, posted by a person with BLM and Antifa in her name. The comments were universally positive – meaning, in favor of destroying Western Civilization. That’s because she simply eliminated any that weren’t, because clearly those people were stupid and evil. (There is a lesson in this.)

Image

The very least we can do, in fact, what we must do, is refuse to use their language. A key battle in this war is getting everyone to accept the language in which these terrorists frame the issues. That’s why they go insane when someone suggests All Lives Matter: the key message is that BLM controls the discussion. Any deviation from their terminology is immediately denounced as, of course, racist.

Therefore: I will never refer to someone’s sex as ‘gender’, never use ‘systemic racism’ except to mock it, always use ‘markets’ instead of ‘capitalism’ and others I’m nt recalling at the moment. We should start a list. Even ‘problematic’ is, well, problematic. Usually what is meant is ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’, but those words don’t signal in group membership the way problematic does. Class, oppression, progress need to be handled with care.

Language is the ground we cannot cede. Our enemies already control the public discussion through their stooges in the media, academia and government. We cannot let this pass.

How Crazy Are We?

Among some of the Twitter Catholics I follow, there seems to be a growing horror that some Catholics are not sufficient mortified, or not mortified according to currently popular norms, over racism. People I would have thought level-headed are outraged somebody might say, for example, that systemic racism doesn’t exist – that was the specific example given for why a certain apologist should lose his job – should be canceled. Yes, evidently with no irony at all, Catholics – good Catholics, I’m sure, better, at least than these sinners – were suggesting – well, demanding – that somebody loose their livelihood over not adopting the current language around racism.

If that’s going to be the shibboleth, I guess I should prepare for my tar and feathering, as I like to have terms defined in some clear way before giving full assent to what has become a popular catchphrase. I would request, first, not a reference to some feelings or trends, but a real, functional, definition by which one can distinguish what a thing is and is not. Right now, I can acknowledge racism is a problem; I can acknowledge the existence of systems and therefore the existence of systemic problems. What I’m lacking is a functional definition of what system we’re talking about, how, exactly and concretely it is racist, and clear, concrete examples of that system committing, if that’s the right word, racist acts.

That people are racist, sure. Am I? First, I note I am a sinner as much as any man ever, with the usual, boring yet deadly faults of Pride in its myriad forms, of sloth and cruelty and bitterness and lust – you know the list. When I can muster the courage to look into my own black heart, I am moved to throw myself at the feet of Our Lord and beg His mercy. The thought of the justice I deserve for my sins freezes my blood. Lord, have mercy!

But am I a racist? Well, let’s just say that a definition of racisms by which I am racist would be very, very broad, so broad as to encompass clearly unintentional and unconscious acts. By its nature, such a definition will convict me of a racism I don’t will and of which I am unaware, of a racism that is not, therefore, by any rational definition, a sin.

But the accusation is that the racism we must now concern ourselves with – and, evidently, acknowledge and repent of to retain one’s standing as a good Catholic – is *systemic*. OK, this must mean, if it means anything, that it’s specifically NOT personal. If, on the contrary, it is personal, willed racism, what does the word ‘systemic’ add? Assuming the word systemic is meant to distinguish this particular flavor of racism from run of the mill personal racisms, I, as a person, cannot be guilty of systemic racism. Or?

So far, I see no way I can personally be responsible for systemic racism, UNLESS I am personally responsible for the system in which that racism is manifested. Again, am I? This would require identifying the system, and my role in it.

Well? What system are we talking about here? The answer seems to be: ‘everything’ or ‘culture’ or ‘society’. Again, on the one hand, that’s so broad as to be meaningless; on the other, how can it be that I, one man among billions, is responsible for this rather amorphous system? If all I can do is try my best to be virtuous within whatever system I may find myself in, then I’m already committed to doing what I can do to fight this systemic racism, whatever it may be.

There are more problems with this idea. But, skipping ahead a little, I note that the idea of systemic racism is championed by critical theorists and other Marxists, most prominently by Black Lives Matter and Antifa. Now, a truly awesome intellect, truly refined according to Aristotle’s definition (a refined mind is one that can consider an idea without accepting it), could consider the claims of BLM and Antifa without first noting that they, according to their own websites and proud proclamations, want the Church destroyed, America and all its institutions burned to the ground, and reactionaries who oppose them executed. No, really – look it up. I can sort of pull it off, but I can’t pretend this idea of systemic racism exists in a vacuum. It’s a ploy, sports fans. BLM and Antifa don’t want racism to go away, they want to use it to burn the world to the ground.

That Marxists who want me dead would propose and use as a battering ram the idea that racism is the problem, and not just the kind of racism we individuals can mitigate by our own free wills, but a *systemic* racism that requires DESTRUCTION OF THE SYSTEM, which simply is Western Civilization – well, the appeal is not apparent. I like Western Civilization, and love the Church that built it.

And, not being historically illiterate, I know our nation is by any measure the least racist large nation that has ever existed. But I suppose saying that proves I’m a racist?

So: do I rush in where angels fear to tread, and try to counter these folks? Or do I let it go?

Book Review: Don’t Give Money to People Who Hate You

Brian Niemeier‘s 90-page book Don’t Give Money to People Who Hate You, is a kick in the pants to those of us who are still drifting along sedated by nostalgia, still paying for the privilege of a front-row seat to the mutilation and ultimate destruction of our own culture, willfully oblivious to the contempt and hatred of those who have appointed themselves our betters. I needed that kick – while I have long since revoked access to my wallet to Hollywood movies, and have never been much for games and comics, I still sometimes click on mainstream news articles and shop with major corporations. As explained below, these are now as much of the problem as the direct culture war waged in films and print. Many major corporations do all in their power to prove their hatred for me and mine and everything we believe and love. Don’t give them your money. Don’t give them your clicks.

So if you still are paying to consume blockbusters, comic book movies, video games, mainstream books and comics, or patronizing sports teams, retail outlets and ‘news’ media that have gone way, way out of their way to let you and the entire world know they hate you and everything you love – read this book. Now.

DGMTPWHY provides a quick tour through the who, when, where, what, and why of our current state of all but unwatchable, unreadable and unplayable ‘entertainment. The creators of mainstream entertainment have gotten converged, and, despite the hit to their corporate wallets, are now purveyors of nihilist propaganda masquerading as movies, comics, books, and games.

They must subvert and destroy what we, the sheep they despise, love. Manly men trying to be honorable, heroic and manly, and feminine women trying to be honorable, heroic and feminine, are right out – they are tools of the patriarchy, the cultural hegemony of oppression under which we sheep labor, and from which our purple-haired, nose ringed genderfluid betters are going to save us – or make sure we die from their trying. A character as complex as Rick in Casa Blanca, or even Luke in Star Wars, is to be simplified for the purposes of the cause. If you are so unwoke as to *like* such complex characters, well, our betters plan to fix that – by stories with no heroes and no villains, which leaves them with no plots or even logic. So things blow up.

And, of course, this all boils down to hatred of God. I’ve long held that all heresies are denials of the Incarnation. The basic ingredients of the dogma are a transcendent yet merciful God, creator of the Universe, Who, in an unfathomable act of humility and love, becomes one of us, suffers for us, and saves us. He defeats evil, and gives us hope. The purveyors of modern culture reject and mock each of these ingredients one by one, specifically. There is no God, nor any evil to defeat, nor good to defend. There can be no heroes, and no villains. Nothing is created from love, which is a lie. Humility is stupid; suffering is pointless. Only power matters, if anything matters.

There is no hope.

Modernism, of which this whole cultural war is the current manifestation, battles to defeat the good, the true, and the beautiful, even in such seemingly trivial forms as comic books and movies. But popular entertainment, from Homer to Shakespeare to Star Wars, is the way a culture is defined, nourished, and passed along. Just because it’s Batman and Thor getting the Social Justice treatment instead of (for the moment) Bach and Dante, doesn’t make it less dangerous Indeed, a lot more people have their morality formed by Superman and Harry Potter than by Milton and Flannery O’Conner. In a sane, healthy society, the popular culture and the highest high culture are formed by, share and communicate the same moral messages. For a century or more, that has not been the case in the West: our high culture is a cesspool of nihilism, while, up until the last 50 years, popular culture was still dominated by the theme of good versus evil – and the now novel idea that it’s better if good wins.

Brian published this work in April, before the rioting and the Antifa/Black Lives Matters psyops took over the ‘news’, and wrote it, I imagine, before the COVID hysteria and lockup. These are of a piece: the same people who show their hatred of you in movies and books have broadened their channels, and now show their murderous intent through the flexes and humiliation rituals of the lockup and masks and ‘social distancing’ (a phrase no one had heard of 4 months ago that is now treated like the Wisdom of the Ages), and by their apologetics, encouragement, and approval of those who would literally burn our country down. They destroy statues as phase one of an effort to memory hole anything that doesn’t conform to their contempt. I exaggerate not one iota when I say: Antifa and BLM dream of getting to kill you and your family. They are driven by the Marxist fantasy that bad people on the Wrong Side of History are all that stand in the way of paradise on earth. That paradise is the glorious End that justifies any means, including the slaughter of all who, in the minds of the Marxists, oppose it. Stalin and Mao, with their purges and Great Leap Forward, are not seen as history’s greatest criminals, but as role models. You and I are those bad people. They want us dead.

Don’t believe me? Read what they have to say for themselves.

The companies that even today are bending the knee and falling all over themselves in their rush to issue statements, not in condemnation of wanton property destruction and threatened and real physical harm up to and including murder, but rather in *support* of the rioters and vandals. The very idea that there are significant numbers of ‘peaceful protesters’ was always ludicrous: useful idiots and bored, antsy teenager of all ages, sure. Large numbers of people who take to the streets for weeks on end because a fellous thug who once robbed a pregnant woman at gunpoint while she pleaded for her life got himself killed by an out of control cop who is in jail awaiting trial?

That’s not what’s happening.

Back to the book. I know what Brian is talking about. Star Wars came out the summer after my freshman year in college. My girlfriend at the time kept raving about this movie we had to go see, even though she’d seen it several times already. I, a callous sophisticate as only a 19 year old can be, remained cool.

Then we hit the theater – with a line around the block. From the first scene, I was hooked. Awesome, and so much fun! So, of course, went back several times, and saw the sequels also several times each in the theaters, and got the videos as soon as they came out, and did my best to wear them out. So, yea – I get it.

Even after the road kill that was the prequels, with dread in my heart, I went to see the Force Awakens – and was mildly entertained. BUT – never felt the slightest urge to see it again, or get the DVD. Upon reflection, the movie got worse and worse: the pageantry and special effects – and the still-not-bone-dry well of good will earned by the original trilogy – distracted me from the cardboard characters, the utter lack of character development, the stupid, derivative plot, the relentlessly nonsensical motivations (or lack thereof) driving what little story they had. Rather than Luke’s textbook hero’s journey, we get a total Mary Sue; rather than family, honor, and friendship invigorating the characters, we had – what, exactly?

I’ve seen none of the subsequent movies. Since Brian first mentioned his rule – never give money to people who hate you – a few years ago, my inchoate disgust got a name and a focus, and rather than just avoiding movies because I didn’t want to feel used, I began avoiding them on principle – the principle of this book.

Now, we need to expand the field in which this dictum operates to include all corporations and businesses that have kowtowed to BLM and Antifa: No, Corporate America, you do not need to prove you aren’t racist by anything beside treating all your customers with respect, providing good value for the dollar, and hiring and promoting people based solely on how well they do those first two things. Pandering to bullies earns my contempt, not my dollars; actively supporting people who want me and mine dead gets me fired up to look for and promote alternatives to anything you might offer.

Brief (promise!) D*mn Virus Update

By now, I’ve despaired of convincing anyone who can open their own eyes and look around and is yet not convinced that the COVID 19 panic is and has been from the beginning a fraud. If you can’t see that, I don’t know what I could say to convince you. But, for my own satisfaction:

Way, way back on April 3, using then-available number, basic logic and a little math, I came up with an infection fatality rate (IFR) of around 0.25%, and said that was still probably quite a bit high. About 6 weeks later, the CDC published their “COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios“. Digging around a bit, their most likely scenario used an IFR of. 0.15 to 0.26%. That means the CDC expects about 15 to 26 out of every 10,000 infected people to die.

Imagine. And they evidently based this on their very ‘generous’ counting of COVID deaths. Now, I’m not some genius sleuth or anything, just pointing out that the data needed to reach these very-much-not-worth-panicking-over-numbers were right there all along, so that even I could reach them. And I’d still bet the CDC IRF is high by a factor of maybe 4. Just a hunch.

Thus: even accepting a world where we all are encouraged to imagine ourselves under dire threat from a disease where 95% of the attributed deaths are among very sick, often very elderly, people with multiple health problems and short, as in months, life expectancies, that risk is still TINY according to the CDC driving the panic. If you’re not in a nursing home or otherwise under palliative care, you are literally under more risk crossing the street than from catching this virus.

Those watching Our Betters decide that rioting over the approved issues immunizes people, while golf or church or a visit to a restaurant is literally courting DEATH for MILLIONS, all while even the ridiculously ‘generous’ death counts plummet, and STILL think the lockup was a good idea and people who don’t wear masks are evil, are not going to be convinced otherwise by math and facts. But I tried.

Charts, because we haven’t done those since they got boring:

Worldometers, as usual. They are the worst-case numbers reporters. John Hopkins and the CDC are always lower by about 10%.

In the US, boy, are they trying to make it seem bad despite all the evidence to the contrary. In a country with 330M people, where close to 8,000 people die on an average day, we’re supposed to cower like rabbits because, with ‘generous’ counting, because around 500 people (and falling), almost all of whom were very sick and most near death before they (may or may not have) gotten infected, are dying while infected per day.

No deaths at all since May 26. Note the hilarious “correction” on May 25, where they can’t say: “we overcounted deaths by a couple thousand, which is about 10% of the total,” Because that would be too easy. Instead, they said:

“Spain: On May 25th, the government decreased the number of total cases by 372 and the number of deaths to 26837. The discrepancy is the result of the validation of the same data by the autonomous communities and the transition to a new surveillance strategy. Discrepancies could persist for several days. We’ve adjusted our figures to reflect the new numbers [source] [source] [source]”

Over. Was over once a) it had ripped through the nursing homes; and b) spring weather arrived.

Stick a fork in it.

Turned the corner yet? Hard to say. Southern hemisphere, but the population is mostly in tropical and subtropical climates – usually hard on airborne viruses. Not sure what’s happening, but remember: 220M people, many living in very poor conditions – kind of like Wuhan tenements. This level of deaths, while certainly tragic on a personal level, is not something to panic over. Will keep an eye on this.

Fuggetaboutit.

Mexico (pop: 129M, or twice Italy or France) is approaching the Top 6 in deaths (above). Will keep an eye on our neighbor to the south.

Also also: William Briggs took the data in the CDC report linked to above, and produced this chart, showing graphically the about 62M infections generating those 1.7M cases we’ve heard about. Again, it’s that whole functionally numerate thing: if this doesn’t make you guffaw, maybe numbers aren’t your thing?

And Dr. Briggs’ analysis:

As of Wednesday night, and using our standard sources (which exaggerate death counts), there were 1,689,630 reported “cases” (positive tests) and 94,352 reported deaths. The crude CFR was 94,352/1,689,630 = 5.6%. Again, this bug is not killing 5.6% of those with symptoms. The RFR was 0.03%.

The number of estimated actual cases are anywhere from 8 to 30 million Americans. That is, about 2.4% to 9.1% of the US’s population had symptoms or were otherwise cases.

The number of estimated actual infections are anywhere from 37 to 62 million people. That is, about 11% to 19% of the US’s population are already infected.

If actual deaths are lower, then all these numbers will be too high.

The point of all this: to find more cases, all you’d have to do is run more tests – the infection is out there in millions of (asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic) people. Panicking over increased cases is idiotic. Or, to be more generous, shows a lack of understanding of the data.

Word Salad – a Systemic Problem

‘Systemic’ is a nice word, like ‘problematic’. I get a visceral negative reaction when I hear either of them, however. Too bad, at least for systemic – unlike problematic, which is always used where ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ or ‘stupid’ is intended but not impressive-sounding enough, systemic does have a good fine meaning. So, here’s a small attempt to salvage it.

First, I’d suggest that systemic be used only in regards to clear, preferably consciously designed, systems. Hidden, unexpressed rules absorbed unaware are better called ‘prejudices’. And, indeed, for years they were – in my youth, the world as reported was all about fighting prejudice.

Second, it matters if one acknowledges the existence of human nature. If people are people like any other creature from ants to angels, there are going to be more or less sympathetic and understandable behavioral quirks that just come with the territory. The prime example in today’s unpleasantness: as tribal/pack creatures, we naturally (human nature) are suspicious of outsiders, non-tribal members. This suspicion is overcome when the tribe is receptive and the outsider – identified as such by his clothing, behavior, speach, mannerisms, etc. – performs ritual actions designed to put the new tribe at ease. Dogs wag their tails; we smile and show our empty palms. And so on.

Interactions with strangers make up a huge part of literature and history. First contact stories are a subspecies. All such stories explore and play off of the possibility of misunderstanding. There can be happy endings or disasters or anything in between.

One party here is trying harder than the other to show they mean no harm; the heavy military back-up is merely prudent…

All such stories would make no sense if human nature didn’t exist. If every encounter was merely blank slate to blank slate, there could be no expectations, nothing to be surprised or horrified or amused by. The attempt to replace human prejudice with some sort of system problem just kicks the can down the road a bit: from what did this supposed system arise? Who built it? If no one, how is that different from the concept of human nature? (Calling it a social construct is just trying to kick the same can a little further.)

Tribal prejudices are not systemic in any useful sense of that term. But if one refuses to recognize human nature, what else could they be? Refusal to recognize human nature is the end, not the beginning, of any discussion of human behaviour.

Here’s a (predictable) example of real systemic problems: schools. A system was consciously put in place to achieve certain goals. Over the years, that system has become integrated to the point where it is largely invisible to most of the people charged with it execution – teachers and parents. The resulting behaviors cannot be addressed by simple appeals to personal effort, because by design these behaviors are habitual and therefore nearly ineradicable, and are reinforced at every turn in a society in which nearly everyone has been subjected to that system.

The system looks like this:

  • Divide kids into arbitrary groups by age. Kids are to see their tribal membership as something decided by others, by people in authority.
  • Divide their school time into arbitrary segments. Kids are judged by how well they comply with arbitrary bells and instructions
  • Divide learning into subjects, and reward staying on task regardless of the skill or interest of the child, enforcing the idea that their interests are secondary to the school’s interests.
  • Ignore or denigrate the child’s skills or interests that are not in lockstep with school programs. Only following directions and regurgitating on command are rewarded.
  • Enforce these divisions spatially and socially. Each grade has its specified classroom, recess time, lunch area, etc. School has the unquestioned authority to control your social interactions.
  • Exclude the outside world as much as possible. Unapproved adults – parents, say – are forbidden from the classroom except under highly controlled conditions.
  • Extend the school control outside of traditional school hours by homework, sports, extracurricular activities, pre- and after-school programs. School is more important and has more authority than family.
  • Put parents in the role of school enforcer by making the completion of homework their responsibility. School has authority in the outside world.
  • Measure success and personal worth solely by school approval. Smart people sit in the front row, pay attention and get good grades; dumb people focus on what interests them regardless of what the school wants.

And so on.

Schooling really is a systemic problem. The solution really is to defund the schools K-grad school. Unfortunately, this rhetoric has already been drafted for much less defensible goals.

We’ll Never Know

One of us? The evidence seems somewhat fragmentary.

I’ve sometimes said that the correct scientific answer to most questions is: we don’t know. This is so because a) most interesting questions do not fall under the purview of science; and b) the highly conditional nature of all true science usually leaves room for reasonable doubt even in the relatively small subset of questions where science can be brought to bear. In the first group fall such timeless questions as “what am I to do with my life?” “Does life have any meaning?” “Should I marry this person?” “What should we name our child?” These are really important question for which science isn’t much help.

In the second group, fall such questions as: “When did human beings arise?” It is thought that creatures one could argue were human arose maybe 4 million years ago. Maybe. Modern humans, people who could pass unnoticed at a cocktail party given a shower, a shave, decent clothes, and a zipped lip, maybe 500,000? Maybe a million years ago?

And you know what? We’ll never know the answer. We’ll never eliminate reasonable doubt. We’ll never dig up every fossil, never be very confident of our taxonomy or dating of such fossils we do dig up, and in general, will never be confident we have enough information to be sure, even under the relaxed standards of reasonable doubt. (1)

It gets much worse when we don’t even have the tools of science to play with. We could probably trace the decline of Western thought in all fields through Scripture scholars. I’m sure all this predates Luther, but he is the one the most people will have heard of. First off, he really was a scripture scholar – he learned the original languages, and, like everyone in the monasteries where he was educated and which he later fought to have shut down, really knew his Bible. He is reported to have answered a question about his translation by saying: “Tell them Luther says it is so!”

Be that as it may, over the next 3 or 4 centuries in the West, Scripture scholars came up with one interesting interpretation after another, untethered purposely at first, but then as a matter of habit, from tradition. One might say it became a tradition to reject tradition. But since scholarship is, at its roots, tradition, eventually they become unbound by any rules.

Yet, at least up until modern Universalist Unitarians at the turn of the 19th century (2), each separate take on Scripture was considered a life-or-death matter. As hard as it is to imagine today, there was a time when a good Presbyterian passionately believed all Methodists were damned. There was a time when every new take entailed the founding of a new religion, the one true religion.

That was tiring. Sure, *Catholics*, enslaved to tradition, were of course damned. But, eventually, Protestants came to be more and more tolerant, in the sense of not attaching much value to the particulars of your beliefs, so long as you paid your respects to Jesus (Whoever He was) and were a good person.

And – here we are. Of course, the urge toward orthodoxy, the drive to find right worship, is more basic to us humans than any merely intellectual understanding. Like the parts of the water balloon you’re not pressing on at the moment, an obsession with right worship, and, even more important, on membership on the team doing the right worship, swell up and become dogma precisely when more intellectual dogmas are most denigrated.

A paean to uncertainty, with a nod to William Briggs, who (literally) wrote the book on it: The reason we need to be circumspect, the reason we need to act on principle rather than pretending to be pragmatic, is that we know so little. When I say I’m choosing a particular end the goodness of which justifies certain questionable or even horrible actions, I’m kidding myself. I don’t know if my actions will bring about the end I claim to seek, and, based on all experience up to now, I will never know. This is particularly true especially if that end is inherently vague if not utterly fantastic, as all Utopias necessarily are.

If I can’t know – and the future is always unknowable – I am acting on some other basis, whether I care to admit it or not. The wise understand that, to be free, we must know why we act. We must embrace our principles. To do otherwise is to embrace slavery.

Back to science. Let’s end with another quotation from that excellent Crichton Caltech address:

Let’s think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses? But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn’t know what an atom was. They didn’t know its structure. They also didn’t know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet. interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS…… None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn’t know what you are talking about.

Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it’s even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future. They’re bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment’s thought knows it

Michael Crichton’s 2003 address to Caltech

Science is in many ways a heavily hedged bet: under precisely specified conditions, performing the specified steps will get you the predicted results. Don’t follow the rules, and all bets are off. We should be more amazed than we are that it works as well as it does in the real world. And science is the best we can do in this vale of tears. (3)

  1. In one of many long-running, acrimonious debates among paleoanthropologists, where whether or not you got invited to conferences or got your stuff published in a specific journal depended on what position you took on some arcane proposal, some wag quipped: never is the battle so fierce as when the stakes are so low. It matters not one whit whether, say, some subspecies of Australopithecus is or is not in the main line of human descent or is some ended branch (any species that doesn’t end in us being some sort of tragedy, it seems). But try telling that to the parties involved. And – NOBODY WILL EVER KNOW FOR SURE!
  2. Think it was Vonnegut who quipped: “Unitarians don’t believe in anything. I’m a Unitarian.”
  3. Apart from metaphysical necessary truths, of course. But those are in some sense not of this vale of tears….

The Attack on Books

A large part of Marx’s appeal to the modern well-schooled student lies in Marx being the first and only example of thought they’ve been exposed to. All the authority figures they ever have in school accept the basic premises with greater or lesser degrees of awareness – because that is what they, themselves, were taught. (1) The student, again with varying degrees of awareness, accepts uncritically that everything is the result of the strangely willful movements of vast impersonal forces. Since every child has experienced deep feelings of helplessness, and, with the help of the schools, few have any sense of independent personal accomplishment (2), they can easily become convinced the individual is nothing but a twig afloat the river of events, where nothing he can do changes anything. History is presented as the story of oppression, without heroes, without valor, without any moments where an individual can shine or fail. (This, BTW, is why Star Wars ultimately HAD to be destroyed.) At the same time, witnessing to the Progress of History becomes the hallmark of virtue, even if you do it from the comfort of your living room couch.

Trouble in (the Worker’s) Paradise can be caused by other books. Marxists are pulled by the gravity of their faith into becoming, effectively, book burners. In the usual Orwellian fashion, the fury to get rid of competing books is framed as ‘being more inclusive’. We are to feel bad that few people of color, feminists and alphabet soup sexual deviants are included in the Western Canon, and only incidentally notice how these mediocrities squeese out real masterpieces of thought. Marx is a jealous, and, more important here, a tenuous, naked god.

A 3-‘n’ Western Cannon. Which is totally different. Or not….

Traditional Liberal Arts colleges have been relentlessly attacked by enlightened, progressive leaders since the middle of the 19th century, precisely because that is where most students first encounter the vast array of thought that precedes Marx, Fichte, Hegel and all the ‘Enlightenment’ thinkers back to Descartes (and, maybe, William of Ockham). Fichte (you knew we’d get there) saw reading as nothing but trouble, something to be taught, if at all, at the very end of a student’s education, after he’d been properly conditioned to do only what the state-approved authority figures told him to do.

In context – the context of 3,000 years of human thought – Marx is a patent dissembling minor leaguer. Aristotle and Thomas, the Book of Job, Sophocles, Thucydides, Machiavelli, Tacitus; Shakespeare, Dante, and Milton, and a dozen others (throw Gilgamesh and Beowulf in there, if you wish. I’ll add Sun Tsu), not to mention classical art, architecture and music, used to give at least some students a hint at what human genius looks like. These liberal artists in the classic sense were a bastion against the ambitious mediocrities that thrive, today, in our credential- and certification- addled world. Our Credentialarchy? Credentialocrity? I’m open to suggestions, here.

Since the great thinkers hardly ever agree in any detail, and more often vehemently disagree, one’s thinking gets honed trying to understand them: one gets used to the idea that really smart people can really, truly, disagree. Also – this is especially true of Aristotle and Thomas – one can see that opposing ideas are often each very appealing in themselves. One gets used to the idea that someone might have a very good point, and still be wrong, and that even brilliant people make stupid mistakes and harbor appalling bigotry, yet can still be right about other things.

It’s complicated out there. This appreciation of complexity and existence of multiple worthy viewpoints can somewhat immunize one against simple-minded theories that explain everything in one broad sweep – can raise one’s resistence to Marx, for example.

And so, as Woodrow Wilson, former president of Princeton and a Progressive icon, put it: the vast bulk of the people are to be denied the privilege of a liberal education and rather be fitted by public education for particular manual work. We are not to trouble our little heads with big ideas that might make life difficult for the likes of the extraordinarily well-credentialed Wilson.

This whole anti-intellectualism of the Marxists (against which label they will squeal like stuck more equal pigs, and make me laugh) is, in another example of Orwellian thinking, hiding behind their one fundamental belief: that they are smarter, more intellectual, than everybody else. Aristotle points out that a cultivated mind can consider an idea without accepting it; therefore, an uncultivated mind can (at best!) only consider ideas it has already accepted. This is what we are seeing when a Freudian analyzes the sexual hangups of his critics; when Hegel (and a host of others) classifies all who agree with him as the enlightened people, more or less tacitly dismissing all criticism as mere lack of enlightenment. And, preeminently today, when people are either woke or not, without any space in such a mental universe for one’s opponents to have a valid point, or even for them to be anything other than morally evil.

Books as a defense of civilized life are, as the saying goes, ‘downstream’ from family. The major attack, the prime position to be destroyed, remains the triumvirate of family, village and church. Right now, those with no or damaged families, who in any event reject family as foundational to culture, are burning neighborhoods and destroying the local businesses (and churches!) that make those neighborhoods at least potentially civilized. But this endless attack on the good, the true, and the beautiful, that has given us a crucifix in a bottle of urine and brutalist architecture, is hardly going to spare beautiful literature.

  1. Chesterton said students will readily ignore and forget what their teachers tell them, but will inerringly absorb what their teachers assume.
  2. What SAT was an acronym for changed from the ‘Student Aptitude Test’ – simply attempting to evaluate an unearned, morally neutral aptitude for academics – to the ‘Student Achievement Test’ – as if a high score was the Medal of Honor for kids. Those ‘front row kids’ now could study for the SAT -and, boy, do they ever! – instead of passively submitting to it as a diagnostic. It is the paradigm for everything considered an achievemnet in the front row kids’ lives: the approval of an outside authority that you’re worth-while.

Urgent Book Review: Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 1: Introduction and Death Counts and Estimates

Clarissa’s Blog reports that, due to public pressure, most notably by Elon Musk, Amazon, after at first rejecting the booklet without comment or recourse, today published Alex Berenson’s criticism of the COVID 19 overreaction.

Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 1: Introduction and Death Counts and Estimates is the first of a planned series of booklets about the wild panic-mongering surrounding the virus and initiating the lockdown. Berenson says he decided to publish this as a series of booklets because he wanted the information out now, and it takes time to compile and format it.

Short and sweet: buy this booklet now. Read it – it’s short. It’s the first part of all the data and analysis we’ve been batting around here for the last 3 months. It’s got the links, to all the official sources and reports from the major players. No sources that should be in the slightest controversial.

Berenson starts out from the same position as most people: that news out of Wuhan and especially Italy was very concerning. I gather the pictures were even worse – I don’t consume news lest it consumes me, so I didn’t see them. Then, he saw the numbers on age distribution in the March 16 report from the Imperial College and had, as Agent Smith might say, a revelation: old people were about 100 times more likely to die of COVID 19 than young people. Yet, this stunning fact had been ignored by the media. What was going on?

So he dug through the numbers. Readers here are already familiar with what he found: wildly overstated death rates, wildly inaccurate models, bait and switch on the lockdown, wildly uncertain, but almost certainly over-aggressive, counts of deaths and cases. And a psychotic resistance from the press to report on any of it.

Of course, he, like me, acknowledges that COVID 19 is a nasty bug for some people. An outbreak can be nasty to the old and frail. It’s not like it’s not a real disease or anything. Of course it is. It’s the wild, animal refusal of many terrified sheep to see any context that’s the worst feature, I won’t say of the disease, but of the panic surrounding it. That panic has already caused more harm than anything the virus could ever do.

The numbers are all there, in public, available to anyone. All it takes to see the lies is a willingness to look. The links are all there.

For those who find the more technical analysis at William Briggs’ blog sometimes daunting, this would be a good read. Berenson, a professional writer, presents the information in a pithy, readable way I can only aspire to. I’d say send copies to your panicked family and friends, but, alas! the panicked cannot be reasoned with.

The stupid Amazon reader won’t let me cut and paste, even for a review, so you’ll need to buy it and read it. It’s only a couple of bucks, and HAS ALL THE LINKS I got tired of including all the time. Do it now!

I eagerly await part 2.