Canaries

(This has been sitting open on my computer for 2 weeks. It is incoherent. I’m hitting publish nonetheless.)

What are some physical signs of that our current secular millennialist insanity is fully in death spiral mode? Let me quote me, from a story I once threw up here:

The last straw was Reality’s refusal to bring about the Apocalypse. Several centuries of millennialist fervor has to go somewhere, and came to take any number of odd shapes, like the water in a balloon being squeezed. Heaven and earth, with remarkable indifference, showed no sign of passing away. We’d been promised 4 Horsemen, workers of the world casting off chains, or at least some ice caps melting. Something, some sort of comeuppance. But nope.

The children of the Puritans became the children of Marx, the environ-mental-cases, the Deconstructionists; fervor and zeal undiminished, their spirit flowed into all the isms pouring forth from the fevered imaginations of the world’s butt-hurt toddlers of all ages.

The dogmas of the abstracted are infinitely flexible. But zeal for their father’s demise consumes them, under whatever liturgical trappings this week’s catechism dictates.

Behind all the gloating and insanity are a whole lot of very hurt, very scared, and very angry children of all ages. It helps me feel more sympathetic when I keep in mind that many, perhaps most, Americans today were raised with

  • No or intermittent fathers
  • Crazy mothers (1)
  • Therefore: No family stability or consistency. The man of the house (if any) was not your dad; your siblings (if any) shared one parent with you. This situation mutated regularly. By the time you finally ran away from home or moved permanently into the basement, you had experienced any number of transient arrangements, each with its own rules and rulers.
  • No glimpse of the good, the true, and the beautiful

Even in the upper middle classes, with their higher rates of marriage and of two-parent homes, those two parents have probably made it clear to you in a million not so subtle ways that you and your happiness take a back seat to them and their supposed happiness: you were raised in daycare, had only the finest afterschool programs keeping you out of mom’s and dad’s hair, and were shipped off to a ‘good’ college as soon as possible.

Signs: a huge percentage of Americans believe as the fundamental dogma, thus incapable of refutation, that we are “destroying the planet.” Never mind that this curious phrase is never defined. It is the filter through which all ‘evidence’ is screened. Note that, for example, on the whole, forestation around the world is increasing, that the Amazon rainforest is growing back as fast or faster than it is being cut down, that the glaciers we were promised would be gone by now are still there, as are the costal cities we were told would be washed away, and you are a bad person. Note that oil pipelines are safer, on the whole, than any other way of moving oil around, or that fracking is no more destructive than any other way ever devised for getting stuff out of the ground, and you’re evil.

Certainly, one must never allow to rise to consciousness the reality that those solar panels and electric cars involve a whole lot of getting stuff out of the ground – natural gas and oil (plastics, power), common and rare earth metals (the latter resulting in massive pollution in China, because we are too squeamish to mine them here) and that those solar panels, batteries, and cars will in turn need to be disposed of, which will require more stuff to be taken out of, and put into, the ground. The proper skepticism that would greet claims that nuclear waste can be safely disposed of is nowhere to be found when the question is the inevitable damage done by going green. Wind power killing birds indifferently and in great numbers? La la la I can’t hear you!

Nope, we are destroying the planet! We’re primed for disaster, and our psyches demand we get one, even if we have to make it up ourselves.

So we did. It is extremely unlikely at this point that COVID will kill more people than the lockdowns. Even disregarding the real but difficult to measure upticks in all stress and panic related deaths – suicides, heart attacks, drug overdoses, medical problems made worse by deferred or skipped treatments, accidents – the destruction of international trade all but guarantees massive starvation and other hardship will be visited upon those third-world peasants who had only recently risen out of poverty, a rise fueled by cheap and ubiquitous shipping. Our Dickensian hand-wringing over factory conditions blinds us, it seems, to the reality that people for the last couple of centuries have flocked to factory work pretty much whenever it was available. That’s the engine that has reduced poverty, worldwide, from ‘almost everyone’ to ‘single digits.’

The canaries in this coal mine died long ago. Family, village, and church have all been forbidden to gather, gathering being the basic physical manifestation of their essence. Faces must be hidden behind face diapers of submission, because seeing face to face is how families, neighbors, and churches are what they are. Fear, panic, and submission must replace intimacy, comfort, and friendship as our basic modes of relationship.

We are in the middle of what seems to be one of those rare, brief ages where leading people think, if they think, that civilizations are robust in themselves, that not only is it unnecessary to work to keep what you’ve got, but that if you destroy what civilization you have, a better one will spontaneously arise from the rubble. Saner ages understood that maintaining any civilization at all is a full-time job. A Charlemagne ruled from the saddle at the head of an army, not because he was some sort of meanie oppressing people. He was going to rule from the saddle if he were to rule at all. And his horrible, ever-so-evil tyrannical rule lead to the Carolingian Renaissance, to the spread of the idea that things could, in fact, be better than endless, brutal, tribal warfare. We see oppression. The people at the time saw it differently. They thought Charlemagne a saint or a god.

I’ve long been amazed at how much praise exists for Sparta, nearly as dreary and miserable a civilization as I can imagine. But to contemporary and many later people, Sparta was a marvel of stability in a sea of chaos. They didn’t have revolts, tyrants, or mob rule; for centuries, their cities weren’t sacked, their weren’t men slaughtered, and their women and children weren’t sold into slavery (or worse). On a given afternoon, that had to look like a very much an improvement to your Athenian, Florentine, or Parisian.

Now? We live in fear of saying the wrong thing. A 9th century Frank or 4th century BC Spartan feared getting murdered, having his city burnt to the ground, his loved ones sold into slavery or worse, and everything he cherished destroyed. He feared this because he either saw it happen, did it to others, or heard it in tales from the cradle.

The bulwarks against people behaving as they usually did were cherished, defended, built up over generations. The king is dead, long live the king! Now, many lust for that beast, the typical human history reveals, to be released, his bloodlust fanned and fed. The original proponents of liberty, equality, and brotherhood were clearly the best educated, most enlightened, most moral people in history! Their army invaded the rural Vendee for, in this context, the crime of clinging to the proven bastions of order, those things upon which generations had relied to keep the beast at bay: family, village, and church. These peasants wanted nothing to do with the enlightened vanguard that was guillotining those who lacked proper enthusiasms and leaving religious people to starve and rot locked in decaying ships.

It was simply not enough for the Revolution to kill them. Peasants were bayoneted in the gut, so that their deaths would be agonizing and long; crowds were gathered on the riverbanks, stripped naked, the younger women and older girls raped, then all, men, women, and children, lashed together and shoved into the water to drown.

These are the representatives of the Enlightenment, far better, in their own minds, than the primitives they thus murdered. Our current self-proclaimed betters, equally certain in their superiority, dream of doing the same to us.

  1. A relative once pointed out, with ample examples in front of us, that men without women tend to brutes; women without men tend to insanity.

M.A.D.

Note: I have C. S. Lewis’s level of interest and knowledge of day to day politics. Despite having written so much of what might be called political observation, Lewis didn’t know who his own local representatives were. In a like manner, I typically concern myself (for whatever that’s worth) with big picture, long term stuff, but am hardly someone you’d go to for tactical stuff. That said:

I think if Trump can be said to have made a fatal error, it would be underestimating the level of M.A.D. * among our elites. That’s certainly what the rapid, simultaneous folding of so many of his political ‘supporters’ looks like. The swamp creatures were very reluctantly willing to back Trump as long as his presence in office provided some degree of protection from retribution. Their constituents demanded it, so they put on a show.

BUT – if people high enough in the racket started going down, all those public officials further down or one or two levels up from the target suspect all the sudden were guaranteed M.A.D. Imagine someone on Dragon Lady’s team gets caught dead to rights in something seriously illegal, say, selling out to China or having people killed, and manages to avoid getting Epsteined. Even if that guy doesn’t make like a canary, the implications of being associated with him will be bad. (This, BTW, is why control of the FBI is so critical. Crimes are not outed when investigations just don’t happen.)

If this seems far-fetched, look at the career of J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI was set up as a temporary step to deal with the organized crime that flowered under Prohibition. You all get *why* they needed Untouchables? Because so many people, and some important people, and local cops, and local judges, and so on, weren’t about to stop drinking just because some Puritanical Karens had gotten a law passed. It quickly became a religious war: those who thought it was their sacred right to use the force of the state to fix other people’s problems, versus ‘scofflaws.’

Scofflaw Was Created for a Contest

In 1924, a wealthy Massachusetts Prohibitionist named Delcevare King sponsored a contest in which he asked participants to coin an appropriate word to mean “a lawless drinker.” King sought a word that would cast violators of Prohibition laws in a light of shame. Two respondents came up independently with the winning word: scofflaw, formed by combining the verb scoff and the noun law. Henry Dale and Kate Butler, also of Massachusetts, split King’s $200 prize. Improbably, despite some early scoffing from language critics, scofflaw managed to pick up steam in English and expand to a meaning that went beyond its Prohibition roots, referring to one who violates any law, not just laws related to drinking.

From Merriam-Webster:

The FBI needed to keep their investigations secret, because if very many people knew, a scofflaw was likely to be among them. Once you throw in an Al Capone or three, who provides key links in the black market supple chain, makes a lot of money doing it, and doesn’t shy away from using force to protect his interests, you will need Untouchables, men who can’t easily be bribed or blackmailed. Every local cop, every local judge, every mayor, alderman, or civic leader was at least potentially a weak link, a scofflaw who would, at best, thwart your investigation, or, at worst, get you killed.

BUUUT – now you’ve set up a Bureau that conducts secret investigations. What could possibly go wrong? J. Edgar Hoover, founder and until his death in 1972, director of the FBI, liked his position of power. The Oracle Wikipedia states:

Later in life and after his death, Hoover became a controversial figure as evidence of his secretive abuses of power began to surface. He was found to have exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI,[2] and to have used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten others, including multiple sitting presidents of the United States.

“…in a position to intimidate and threaten others, including multiple sitting presidents of the United States.” Got that? A federal employee used his access to information and a large, sophisticated investigative apparatus set up to be outside the ready review of anybody to, essentially, blackmail *sitting Presidents*. In other words: MAD: he goes down, you go down. That’s how Hoover managed to keep his position until his death; that’s what Trump was up against.

Of course, after Hoover died and all this stuff came out, Congress, at the urging of the President, abolished the FBI, citing the obvious threat to democracy that having a bureau with huge, secret investigative powers inevitably presents.

Ha ha ha, I’d slay me, except I’m already slain, having made the same joke about Fred Roti a couple posts ago. Nope, hearing were held, a little muted outrage was expressed -and the people in power under J. Edgar kept right on keeping on, for the most part, and the FBI continued growing in power to this day. I wonder how they pulled that off? You want a definition and poster boy for what sane people mean by the Deep State? There it is.

In a sense, Biden is their Incitatus .

*n For you youngsters: Mutually Assured Destruction, the strategy (successfully) followed during the Cold War and mocked in Dr. Strangelove, of making sure all the nuclear powers understood that there was no way any one of them could strike hard enough to prevent a counterstrike from destroying them.

Let Me ‘Splain…

No, it is too much. Let me sum up:

Let me explain (With images) | Princess bride quotes ...

I’m an amateur, not going to lie. But I do have a few what seem to me obvious generalizations about history, things you can’t not notice once you’ve noticed them:

The default state for us humans is something like a tribe. We will fall back into this state unless diligent effort is made to prevent it.

For today’s discussion this means: we see tribal membership as primary to survival, for the simple reason that, during the last few million years of evolution, it was. No lone man was likely to long survive, and, if he remained a lone man, he didn’t leave many offspring. You want to play the natural selection game? Better stick with the group , where breeding opportunities exist and children have a decent shot at surviving, too.

Tribes have leaders. While it is nice to imagine small tribes working things out democratically, the reality is that tribal peoples are (despite the endless propaganda to the contrary) typically very violent. The Mauri, the Yanomami, The Iroquois – sure, they may have plenty of redeeming qualities, but you want to see cultures where they would just as soon kill you as say hello? So, in such a setting:

Tribal leaders tend to act like Mafia leaders. When the Roman Republic fell, to take one example, they had a centuries old culture of trying to work things out, and had largely avoided internal political violence for a couple centuries. (Three long wars with Carthage also put internal issues on the back burner.) When it finally fell, leaders in the Senate had Tiberius Gracchi, who threatened their power, clubbed to death along with 300 of his followers – first significant political violence in a couple centuries.

It quickly went to hell. The resulting regimes looked a lot like a mafia sans the titles: Caesars were the people who the muscle would follow; turf wars/civil wars – tomato/tomahto; as far as they could manage it, everybody paid their protection money, and nobody got to do any business without clearing it with the local rep – who got a cut. Etc.

Even in Republican times, life in the Roman countryside (where 90% of the people lived) looked like this: a patriarch had his estate(s), everyone who did anything at all on his turf had to come pay him honor. You would regularly show up to share a graciously-provided meal at the patriarch’s estate, or people would check on why you didn’t. If you ran a business, it was because he let you run a business – and he took a cut. Fail to comply, and people do stuff.

A key feature: all the other clients are desperate for you to go along. To them, the local patrician *is* the government – he’s police, he’s the judge, he’s the one who settles disputes. If he were to murder you, a commoner, there’s no one around to do anything about it. And just like mafia dons, when things are going according to plan, you’re not whacking anybody. The sheep are therefore invested in not rocking the boat. You can play the ‘somebody has to maintain order around here’ card – you’re not exploiting people, you’re *protecting* them!

The transition from lawful government to mafia just isn’t much of a transition. You may have noticed that mafias do a lot of the stuff that governments do: collect taxes, enforce behaviors, ‘regulate’ businesses, ‘police’ their turf. It has long been said that, when the mob more overtly controlled Vegas, crime was all but non-existent there. There was no trial or warrants or any of that nonsense – you do crime on there turf, and there’s a few thousand square miles of god-forsaken desert nearby in which a body can be dumped and will quickly disappear.

Aaaand – that’s the way the tourists liked it! Sure, mom, dad, and the kids from Des Moines were not thinking about how Vegas was so safe – but they counted on it. I’ve heard – not going to research it – there’s more crime now that the mob runs things at arm’s length. All that law and order stuff getting in way of just, you know, solving the problem.

Did you all see the Daniel Day-Lewis movie Lincoln? * It is of course hagiography with a subtle message: Lincoln is shown early telling a story about when he was a lawyer, helping a (very sympathetic) murderer escape. Ignoring the law and his duty as a lawyer to uphold it, he does the ‘right thing’. Later, he tells his henchmen to do whatever needs doing to get the 13th Amendment passed, but don’t tell him about it – plausible deniability, you know. The film follows his team as they cut dubious deal, threaten, bribe, and bully enough votes to get it through.

The movie most definitely does not invite us to spare a thought about how Lincoln was behaving indistinguishably from a mafia don. Instead, we are to simply wipe a sympathetic tear from our eye and nod in agreement with the idea that our Greatest President ™ can ignore the law if he really, really needs to, to do the right thing. What, you want the poor beaten wife to get hanged for killing her abuser? You don’t want the slaves freed? All because of a pedantic belief that public officials should obey the law? YOU MONSTER!

Some of my beloved readers, in a perfectly understandable reaction, may think from my last post that I’m claiming Vinny the Neck has got his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office. Nope, nope, nope! Rather, what I think is that, after the manner of Lincoln as portrayed in the movie above, stuff needed to get done for all sorts of really really good reasons, way bigger reasons than obeying the letter of the law, and so people say things, people do things, and stuff happens. THEN: we reach a state of MAD: if I go down, you go down. Did Lincoln specifically tell thugs to go crack some heads? Did he buy the murderer a ticket out of town? NO! He merely stated his earnest desires – ‘will no on ride me of this meddlesome priest?’ style – and left it up to his underlings to get it done.

To conclude, this is why I don’t think it requires anything like a literal conspiracy for the election to have been stolen. There wasn’t a Democratic official anywhere in America who didn’t know that the Evil Orange Man needed to be defeated no matter what. They’re not waiting around for explicit instructions, which were never going to happen. Instead, they are seeing the same thing on the news we were seeing: Trump ‘inexplicably’ ahead in 5 states they needed. Nobody needed to order the locals to do something about it – they could figure that out on their own. And they’re unlikely to ever discuss it, before or after. What would Vinny the Neck want them to do? Are they getting a nod and wink next time they see him, or a frown of doom?

Hopes this helps.

* That it came out while O was running for a second term makes me laugh.

Stuff

Another obvious thing, but I haven’t heard anyone say it simply, so here goes: What a positive COVID test results means varies widely from person to person. If a younger, healthy person tests positive, that would pose effectively no added risk to that person BUT add to herd immunity. Draw-Win! If they have no or past symptoms, super green! Thus, if the age bands and percentage of people showing no or past symptoms were included in the “exploding” positive test results, we might discover *comforting* news: all these people with no or past symptoms, or at microscopic risk, testing positive? COOL! We can forget about the lockdowns and throw away the masks, as herd immunity is here! Hurrah!

Right?

Now to the random updates & thoughts:

A. Had little to say about the election. Been looking for the right metaphor. This one isn’t quite there, but it’s the best I’ve come up with:

Imagine you’re taking a test. When it’s almost time to hand it in, the guy next to you takes your test from you, looks it over for a minute, gives it back, and then finishes his test.

He then says he didn’t actually copy any of your answers, he was just looking.

I mean, you can’t PROVE he was cheating, right?

Things were different in different states, of course. The sequence of events here in CA: We locked down in March, back when 15 days to flatted the curve was ‘the Science!’ Almost immediately, as in within days, our dictator-for-life toddler of a governor declares that mail-in voting will be mandatory* – 6+ MONTHS before the election, ignoring the 15 days idea, ignoring the ENTIRE KNOWN HISTORY of airborne respiratory viruses (they die out after a couple months, always have. Did this time, too.).

So, for California, for the vast majority of the vote, there is no chain of custody, no ID, no realistic way to validate any of it. A million extra ballots could be introduced into the system, and it would be next to impossible to discover them and single them out. But this was done for our safety from a virus, not to make us safe from electing the wrong people.

He was just looking, he didn’t cheat – you can’t prove it.

B. We can now lock down 36 million Californians because tests are revealing more positive results, so that maybe, some day, this time, actual objective Bad Things will happen to people at levels meaningfully worse than usual! As long as we can be lied to and bullied into imagining they *might* this time, any steps may be mandated to prevent what has never yet happened. And you’ll like it.

Now, of course, with all popular technology-based channels of communication under control, our self-proclaimed betters must make sure people, who, being people, want to talk to each other, get no chance to do so. They might spread the wrong ideas. Thus, the activities and businesses hardest hit are those where people, often even strangers, talk to each other – restaurants, churches, concerts. This, on top of promoting, with the tender mercies of the government’s monopoly on force, the dogma that people are disease vectors above all else and must be managed as such.

Thus, the official story becomes the only story. If the president actually succeeds in his efforts to have the courts throw out all the bogus ballots and root out the other patent fraud, the country will be largely blindsided.

Which was the fallback position from the start: delegitimatize.

C. Low Background Steel. I didn’t know that.

D. Just spent 10 minutes looking for the cup of coffee I made this morning – a nice big cup in an effective heat-retaining vessel. There are about a half dozen places I routinely set down a coffee and then walk off – near the piano, on one of two desk, kitchen table. Not there. Finally found it – I had taken a brief morning recon walk around the back yard, noticed some out-of-place items, put the cup down in a planter, tidied up, and walked off without it.

It’s been hours. It’s cold outside. The coffee was still well above room temperature.

Not sure I can say as much about my short-term memory.

E. Back to the election. When, back in 1886, the immediate ancestors of the Chicago Outfit threw the ballot boxes from the working class districts in the river, such that the voters for the opposition candidates would see them float away, I’ll bet the people in the better neighborhoods didn’t hear about it for some time. By the time they did, the claims had already been dismissed as sour grapes at best, but probably just more machinations by the hated Anarchists behind the 8-hour work day.

I mean, why would a sane person believe anything that deplorable immigrant rabble said?

*He actually didn’t say it was mandatory, but good luck finding instructions on any official site for voting in person – I tried. The rabbits all thought it was mandatory, so it, effectively, was.

The Amazing Power of Euphemisms

Never read any Goebbels, but he is reported to have said words to the effect:

Lie big, and stick with it.

and

Always accuse your enemies of what you are doing.

Therefore, it’s not enough to establish a group tasked with guillotining your enemies and persecuting and killing any who oppose you – you need to call it the Committee For Public Safety. You name your propaganda organ Truth (Pravda). You exterminate 65 million peasants and torture and abuse millions more, and call it a Great Leap Forward. Invade a country and start shooting people? You’re pacifying the population. Drive people from their land at the point of a gun? You’re rationalizing borders. And so sickeningly on.

More modern examples: imposing totalitarian control? Call it tolerance and critical thinking. Seizing control of 1/6th of the economy? Call it instituting Affordable Care. Label the most corrupt administration in history scandal-free. Imposing magical thinking under the threat of violence is believing the science. Or, to today’s point: imposing humiliation rituals and physical abuse? Call it public health measures.

The sad part: it works. It works like a charm.

Today’s mini-post: pay no attention to what the proponents of a position name their program or state their goals. Look instead at the details and evidence.

Hope?

Way, way TMI. You’ve been warned.

Can’t say I understand hope. It seems to be a blend of faith and love: if you believe that, in the end, we win, or rather, we ride the coattails of the Victor, then you have hope. This faith that everything turns out well in the end is inextricable from love, it seems to me, as a love of this vision, of justice and goodness, is needed, else the faith soon dies.

This is not what is meant by hope? It is a separate virtue? Or only separable in the abstract? Is hope the actualization of faith & love? Or something else entirely? I don’t know.

Yet, I feel the hope I don’t understand. On every level of life, from getting up in the morning to do what needs to be done that day, to persevering in the sight of mindless rampage, of cynical manipulation, of the appearances of the victory of evil – even in the valley of the shadow of death, a ray of hope breaks through.

And to me, it really is breaking through, from the outside. Half a lifetime ago, faced with despair, I put myself at the mercies of the psychological profession for a season. Crazy, right? What I found out: by the measures that profession uses, I was seriously depressed, as in, there are people institutionalized (so I was told) that aren’t as depressed as I was. The nice therapist lady was, I think, trying to get me take it seriously. She also said that my frustrations over a lifetime of massive underachievement did not take into account how much of my energy was required to hold it together, to maintain a facade of functionality.

Well. This was supposed to be helpful, I suppose. Maybe it even was. Hard to tell.

That was a long time ago, 30 years of marriage and 5 children ago. One odd thing: while I was certainly willing to run the ‘can I eat myself to death?’ protocol, that was it. I have no idea why drugs and alcohol have no appeal to me – seems like they should. Neither does suicide. There are definitely times I wish I weren’t alive, but I’d never actively do anything to make that come about. Somehow, I’ve muddled through. Somehow, we all have.

But – the paradox: I remain one of the happiest people I know. I have 4 living children who love me, and, perhaps more important, love each other. One dead son any man would be proud of. And a loving wife who has put up with all this for 35+ years. I live in a land of plenty in a time of peace. And God loves me.

That last part isn’t a theoretical conclusion nor an act of faith. Things have happened to me. I have been cared for in inexplicable ways. I could no sooner deny that God loves me than I can reject the evidence of my eyes. One can come up with theories, just as one can convince one’s self that we live in the Matrix. Possible – but unconvincing. And, ultimately and by definition, insane.

In the same way, not all the time, but often, I see or rather feel rays of hope. Something from outside me lets me know it will be OK.

Blind Pollyanna? Nope, I’m about as gimlet-eyed in my view of the world as anybody. As Machiavelli said, you have to govern as if all men are animals, for they will sooner or later act like it. But – hope. We can be better. I can be better.

So maybe, today, I work on some short stories or novels or compositions that my fear of failure (and, possibly, an even greater fear of success) have moved me to set aside, often for years and decades. Perhaps I do something good, to shake a fist at the towering tidal wave of angry stupidity that looks like it’s about to break on top of us all.

Something makes me feel that wave will break short of the shore, kick up a mountain of foam, get everybody damp – and that’s it.

One can hope.

Thinking About Free Will

The formal class part of RCIA has begun for this year. I’m the go-to guy for history & theology (how profoundly frightening this is has so far escaped our beloved DRE). All this means is that if anyone wants, or, more likely, I decide on my own that anyone needs, a more formal definition or some historical context, I’m the guy who provides it. Such as I might. This leads to me thinking about how to talk about various dogmas in a way that isn’t too hoity-toity yet gets the essential nature and purpose across.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on Free Will. Where angels fear to tread, and all that.

While we were created in the image of God, God is still very different from us. God’s freedom is part of his eternal Being – it is not so much something He does, bit rather is a fundamental part of Who He is. Nothing outside constrains God; He freely acts in accordance with His infinite goodness and love. Every action of God is utterly free, and completely an expression of divine goodness and love.

While God is not compelled or constrained by external thing, it might be said that He just can’t contain Himself – His loving kindness boils over in His creations. All of creation is a free expression of God’s nature as a loving Father and Creator.

Creation is thus an expression of God’s life and profound joy. It is not like a clock, built once, wound up, and then left to play itself out. Rather, God loves the world into existence at every moment. In Him we live, and move, and have our being. Each of us is a unique expression of His boundless joy.

Out of this joy, God gave man and the angels freedom. This created freedom is a reflection of God’s nature, perhaps the key aspect of our being made in His image. It is a gift from God, loved into being by God, and as an aspect of God, as sacred as God Himself. As an essential aspect of this gift, God will not overrule us.

But to be free in our own little way, our acts must participate in God’s freedom. God’s freedom is always expressed through overflowing love and goodness. Thus, we can only be free when we, too, act in harmony with that divine love and goodness. Acting against God is choosing slavery; once enslaved, we have lost our freedom. Yet God, in His mercy, will always, as long as we live in this changeable world, hold out to us the opportunity to repent, to turn from the slavery of our sins back to the freedom of His will.

An example: A man on the edge of a giant cliff is free to step off the cliff. If he does so, he has lost all freedom: he is subject to the laws of physics, and will fall to his death, shattered on the rocks below. God did not give the man freedom so that he could jump off a cliff. Rather, He gave us freedom so that we, too, could share in His joy as joyful, loving creators in our own little way. Yet that freedom means that we just might choose to step off the cliff.

The moral law, another creation of God, is, in effect, a warning: don’t step off the cliff! As long as we work to avoid sin and repent of the sins we have committed, we have the freedom to act in accordance with God’s loving Will. We stay away from the cliff. Reject the law of God, and we at best court disaster. Without God’s loving guidance as expressed in His law, we will, sooner or later, fall off the cliff of our own free will!

That we are free is a gift and a miracle. The saints, who have surrendered their wills to God’s Will, who have willingly died to themselves, paradoxically enjoy complete freedom. It is when we humbly recognize that we don’t really know what’s good for us and don’t always want what’s best for us that God can show us the Way to complete, joyful freedom.

So, do you think this would be helpful to someone investigating the Catholic Faith?

Ruined: Followers continued

Aristotle, on a couple of occasions (Nicomachean Ethics, for one, I think) mentions how poorly raised men are incapable of philosophy, while well-raised men love excellence, beauty and truth, and are therefore well-prepared for at least undertaking philosophy. He recognized, from an unredeemed pagan perspective, that men could be ruined.

Aristotle was also famously not a democrat, in the sense that he did not think men in general, nor women, children and slaves, were fit to rule. They could not rule themselves, but were subject to passion and impulse. A city that promotes happiness, defined by the Stagirite as the activity of the soul in accordance with excellence, could not be governed well by those who did not understand, appreciate nor desire excellence.

One might say his dim view of the common man, let alone women, slaves and children, reflects the world he grew up in and not so much how people are in and of themselves. The problem with that view is that we still inhabit that same world Aristotle observed. Check the news lately? How many of your friends and coworkers and acquaintances would you feel good about being ruled by, unchecked? I mean, where they are making all the calls, not constrained by other, perhaps better, men such as the authors of the Constitution? How soon before summary executions and the payment of tribute in the form of nubile youngsters? By the second generation, tops, and that’s assuming some residual decency that takes a generation to dissipate. Tyranny doesn’t stop just because you have 1000 tyrants rather than 1. (1)

Thus, the idea of a Republic, which considered from this perspective is the required universal acknowledgement of a common wealth of morals, traditions, and aspirations (which often boils down to religion), plus some of the following: territory, language, stories, heroes – culture. This commonwealth, shared and enforced by all, shapes the laws and reigns in the sociopaths leaders who inevitably arise. Within a Republic, you can have democracy – a democracy in which all the truly important stuff is off the table, and the voter and candidates and issues all fall within the bounds, in both senses of the word, of the Commonwealth. (2)

In this sense, Aristotle and the Founders pretty much agree: only men who love truth, beauty and excellence are fit to rule. The Founders thought, or hoped in the face of thought, that a free people who nurtured and handed on an American Republic could be such a people as could rule themselves. Aristotle’s requirement of the love of truth, beauty and excellence are concretely expressed in those morals, traditions, and aspirations that form the core of the Republic – learn and love your Republic, and you could be trusted to rule as well.

I can just see Aristotle raising an eyebrow and saying a very dubious: maybe. He would, I think, completely understand Franklin’s ‘if you can keep it.’

Image result for benjamin franklin
That look on his face: He ain’t buying it.

Men can be ruined. This is the underlying truth behind the damnable half-truth of the Marxist/Gramsciite dogma of social oppression: it is true that people can be ruined by the wrong influences and the lack of proper guidance, and, ultimately, the lack of love. But all these things are, ultimately, personal. Parents and family, teachers and neighbors and priest are supposed to help us to know and love the true, the beautiful and the good and to want them above all else.

They will fail to a greater or lesser degree, and there is always the mystery of Free Will. What there is not is Society or some other abstraction acting as an agent. Society is a collective noun, a description, not an actor. The people within a society act, and by their actions sustain or change ‘society’.

Shifting the emphasis from individual people to collective abstractions means that personal behavior no longer matters: “the individual is nothing, the collective everything.” You see this everywhere. Refusing to look at individuals as individuals but rather seeing each of us only as instances of ‘Society’ stands the world on its head, and dictates the crazy and crazy-making efforts to change ‘Society’ in order to change the people in it. It’s a wet sidewalks cause rain problem.

There is a divide between ruined and not ruined people, with plenty of gray area between – a divide between those who just might be able to rule themselves and their country, and those for whom such tasks are asking far too much. At the far end are sociopaths, who never should but often do lead. Even the most pessimistic estimates put them at ‘only’ 5% of the population – one in 20 people have no empathy, no hesitation to use people, and often take pleasure in manipulating and lying. (3) On the other end are great saints and lovers of truth (4), who characteristically want nothing to do with ruling, or, more properly, nothing more than is strictly necessary. (5).

In the middle are 7 billion sheep. Me, you, anybody. Some sheep try to follow the Good Shepherd. Some, as stated in the seed quotation to this series of posts, follow anything that moves. Setting aside for the moment miracles, even while acknowledging that all true conversions are miraculous, what seems most often to be the case: those raised with love, who see the true, the good and the beautiful recognized and honored, have a better chance to become the sort of reasonable and responsible people who stand some chance of governing themselves well, and therefore might have a chance to govern the polis well. Those who are raised among The People of the Lie will not be able to govern themselves, and will misgovern the polis horribly if given the chance. They have been poisoned. They have been ruined. They are unconstrained by traditions they neither know nor love – family and personal honor, the law as a positive good, a life among family, friends, and neighbors directed to something other than self-fulfillment. Lacking these and similar things, and lacking a miracle, there’s simply no chance that the rule of such as these will result in anything but envy run amok, tyranny, and chaos. In short order, they will be lead by the most unscrupulous and violent, whether they like it or not. Their personal slavery to their passions will soon become a physical slavery to ‘anything that moves’.

That love of tradition, of place, of family, friends, neighbors, and the shared life in which human beings find expression for their freedom and personal genius is a key part of the Commonwealth. I’m not sure the two are not the same in practice. Lacking such roots and the humility that comes with gratitude for them, there simply is no chance a person could rule well.

I’ve long contemplated how there is always ruin in any culture, always those who through no fault of their own come from a situations without the basic love and support needed to grow up healthy. The difference today is, first, such people used to grow up in a culture where everyone understood that the orphan, the abandoned child, the broken home were wrong. Thus, even if I drew the short straw, I knew I’d drawn it and that there were better fates, better expectations, and that I could aspire to them. The result was that even those from horrible circumstances would often try to behave like people who had been properly raised. In other words, the idea that one could be properly or improperly raised was understood by everyone.

Second, today dysfunction is not only not recognized as dysfunction, it is positively cultivated. It only takes a few leaders to lead millions astray. Today, the critical theorists and their useful idiots disparage all healthy behaviors and beliefs, and promote anger, envy and bitterness. Marxist end up creating something like the world they hate, with hatred, bigotry, alienated individuals, oppressive structures, and a yearning for totalitarianism. The delusion is that this evil, oppressive world is Out There, not merely a reflection of their own emotional and mental states. (6)

For people so damaged, projection is irresistible: the flip side of Goebbels’ rule to always accuse your enemy of what you’re doing is that people will willingly ignore what they are doing and know is true in order to hate the enemy. If this were not so, Goebbels’ rule wouldn’t work – yet it does.

This hatred of happiness and normalcy is completely insane. Attempts at reason, appeals to fact and objective reality, application of logic: not only do these not convince, they are taken as signs that anyone who uses them is the enemy. Peopled are ruined; they have built defences against anyone who could really help them.

By these standards, I should not be allowed to rule, as I am largely a failure in ruling myself. By this standard, few, indeed, would rule. The choice is not available to me and probably never has been to anyone, but if it were, I would humbly submit to being ruled by sane, good people. As it is, representative democracy within a solid Republic is the best we can get.

That Republic, that American Commonwealth of shared morals, traditions, and aspirations, if it ever really existed, is gone. A huge percentage of people are ruined, in that it would take a miracle for them to submit to any set of consistent and non-self-refuting morals, traditions, and aspirations such as a Republic could be built upon. Their ruiners run loose, and run our colleges and universities. Poison is everywhere. It’s gotten to be a cliche to post pictures of happy high school seniors, fresh scrubbed and smiling, next to their pictures as sullen, angry (and blue-haired and nose-ringed) college students.(7)

Where do we go now? Speaking theoretically, we can only have a Republic if we’re willing to enforce a certain minimum uniformity (this is where the Ruined scream ‘fascist!’) or willing to break the country up into two or more territories in which some set of shared morals, traditions, and aspirations are pervasive. Failing that, we fall back on 1) Empire: imposed rule on sets of people who each may or may not have a commonwealth. Empires tend to rule without an interest in enforced homogeneity, at least for a while; 2) Totalitarianism, after quick pit stops in ‘true’ democracy and anarchy; or 3) Aristocracy, where all pretext at equality before the law is jettisoned, and our betters simple make the rules outside the reach of the people.

Or we pray for a miracle, which I would recommend in any case. Interesting times, indeed.

  1. The infighting is the only potential positive, knowing the pigs will fight to the death. However, I don’t know if the grim satisfaction of knowing many of the leaders of the French Revolution were themselves guillotined outweighs the disgust at knowing some weren’t. But, overall, there can be only one, so most people will die fighting to be that one.
  2. We don’t have this anymore, here in America. I wish we did. But the Marxists who control our schools and all the non-RAD professions explicitly reject the Commonwealth. Objective reality being a social construct and history and religion tools of of oppression, ya know.
  3. A genius move by Kazantzakis was making St. Matthew a sociopath in The Last Temptation of Christ. Matthew just figures the odds: he’s seen the miracles and seen the effect Christ has on people, and figures the best angle is to be a follower, which he then does unto his own martyrdom. Kazantzakis wrestled, in other words, with how that 1 in 20 might be saved.
  4. C.S. Lewis portrays, almost as comic relief, such a one in That Hideous Strength: Andrew MacPhee is a sceptic to his core, but can’t quite let go of Ransom, an old friend, who is true be believer and surrounded by Divine Evidence great and small – and MacPhee sees, but remains skeptical, and stays! He is on the side of the angels whose existence he doubts.
  5. Footnotealanche! A Thomas More or a King St. Louis of France found it necessary to wield great political power, but remained heroically detached from it. That alone – having great power yet not clinging to it – should merit beatification. Well, and that Jesus thing.
  6. There is real oppression, of course. If Marxism were defined as an effort to redirect attention away from actual oppression toward delusions of oppression, there would little data to contradict it.
  7. On the flip side, over the last decade, we’ve had 5 children pass through their teenage years under our roof, and 4 go to college. To my surprise, they were and are each fun, helpful and pleasant. I’m nothing special as a dad, except for one thing: we kept them away from the ruiners. No graded classroom schooling; Newman list colleges. I was surprised because I had uncritically accepted the idea of the rebellious teenager. Truth is teenagers want very much to become adults; help them, and that rebelliousness may not surface.

Quick Note on “Those Shoes”

In case all 14 of you are wondering: That little story began with me thinking about NBA shoe collectors. Yes, they really exist:

Johnson's shoe closet
Not a store. An NBA pro’s personal shoe collection.

So, in your standard post-Apocalypse setting, people scrounge stuff. Stuff that’s sort of tucked away in private homes might be a little more likely to survive than other stuff.

And rich women have been known to have a pair or 50 of cool kicks. So, there you go.

Humility & Followers: Comments & Further Thoughts

Got some good feedback On Followers & Humility. Commenter Billy Jack raised some good points, and I of course have some further thoughts. So here we go:

Billy Jack:

One of the interesting wrinkles here is that the idea that it is inherently oppressive for a marriage to be chosen by fathers (or anyone else) rather than the spouses themselves comes not from “Modernity” or “Modern People” but from the Church. Trent, for example, was pretty clear on this. And I think Luther disagreed.

While it is true that the Church, in the face of Frankish and Germanic tribes that tended to treat women as disposable and in any event not fully human (1), taught that, for a marriage to be sacramental, both parties had to freely submit to it, that just gives the woman, in theory, veto power. It does not mean she was expected to go find a husband on her own. It’s a huge difference, it seems to me, to say that one cannot be forced to marry against one’s will and saying that every daughter was now a free agent who needed to find her own mate. What the Church’s teachings put a stop to, or at least slowed down a bit, was the bartering off of women. So, as I described in the last post, a Christian father, who loved his children and wife and so would not want to run roughshod over their desires, was assumed to have a heavy hand in the selection of mates for his children, for their own good. The shadow of this practice persists in the fading tradition of a suitor asking his beloved’s father for her hand.

Nothing here is meant to suggest that all arranged marriages were smooth and the process was never abused, just that the idea that a good father would arrange for the marriages of his children is not an outrageous idea. I know a couple of Indians here whose marriages were arranged, and I asked them, and they weren’t bitter about it. They felt more like Tevye and Golda in Fiddler on the Roof who grew to love each other even though they hadn’t even met before they were married.

Women gained immensely from the Church’s many-century-long efforts to protect them from being viewed as less than human and bargaining chips to be sold for political gain or to the highest bidder. It’s not for noting that all those 12th & 13th century cathedrals were named after Our Lady. Nothing in this effort contradicted or disputed the practice of fathers, in conjunction with their family and other fathers and families, from arranging the marriages of their children.

So it’s funny for progressives who are dislike the Church to pride themselves on this view as an accomplishment of secular progressives, but it’s also funny for Catholic bloggers to be down on the idea.

Up until current times, it would have been scandalous for a woman in a Catholic country to arrange her own marriage in defiance of her father. Romeo & Juliet is a cautionary tale against just such presumption. The nurse and the friar are the villains of the story, overstepping their rightful duties. Until modern times, readers of the play all understood this.

Image result for romeo and juliet nurse
Look! A Sail! And a villain!

That Progressives and American Catholics (in so far as those two categories are different) don’t understand this is not surprising.

The case with religion vis-a-vis tribe or family is not identical, but it’s similar. Sure, we can point to villages and nations converting together. But while conquered pagan cities typically adopted the conquerors’ gods, conquered Christians generally didn’t, or at least knew they shouldn’t. And sometimes the leaders converted first but in other cases individuals converted first, and faced persecution and ostracism. The same goes on the family level. On the Christian view, religion is not something that a father or king has complete authority to choose on behalf of children and subjects. As Jesus said: within a family, it will be three against two, father against son, etc.

Certainly, I over-generalized quite a bit. You are correct that conquered or proselytized people responded in a variety of ways, and that Christians seem to have generally put up a better fight than most against forced conversions. My point was that, for much of mankind over much of history, it would not seem at all outlandish or unusual for a family or tribal leader to make a decision of what religion he and his would follow, and that the members of the household, village, tribe or even nation, would see that as appropriate and go along with it. That it didn’t always happen that way is not the point, really, it’s rather to highlight how we moderns tend to automatically recoil at the very thought, when, in fact, our ancestors at least for a good part didn’t.

The more general point I was trying to make: we all very much tend to overinvest in our own autonomy. We aren’t really nearly as ‘free’ as we thing we are, in the ways we think we are. And further, that this dependence on the wisdom and decisions of others is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in a family or tribe or village in which we have well understood mutual duties, rights and privileges.

More generally, sure, some of things that Catholics inveigh against about our time–and often rightfully so!–are just a return to things that were common before Christianity. Killing unwanted children, for example. But most of the unique characteristics of modernity, good or bad, would be unimaginable without the influence of Christianity, and I tend to think that much of the radical individualism that we see today falls into the category. A huge number of saints flat-out disobeyed their parents to follow their call. Did the ancient Chinese venerate that sort of thing? The Iroquois? Do any of the Bantu peoples have pantheons of people who told their parents to get lost? Well, I do think that Siddhartha Gautama did something like that, now that I think of it.

Both/and is the key Catholic teaching that is being lost. The radical part of radical individualism is placing the individual and his naked will first. The Church’s view is rather that we are each individually precious children of God AND members of the Body of Christ, and that these roles are not in conflict but rather arise one from the other. To paraphrase Paul from 1 Corinthians 12, we don’t get to choose if we are a hand or an eye or a foot. We are given those roles, and find our happiness and fulfillment in them, and should not envy any other roles. The whole point of that passage is that we do not get to be whatever we chose to be, but find ourselves when we surrender to the role we have been given.

So, I would disagree with the notion that radical individualism is a byproduct of Christianity, except in the sense in which it is a perversion of Christianity.

Right, I think the Buddha rejected his parents, I don’t know of any other such traditions.

The traditional Catholic stories in which a child defies his or her father tend to fall into 2 classes: the child having heard a call from God to a religious life, or cautionary tales. I can’t remember a single traditional story in which the defiant child is a hero, except those where that child follows a religious calling, obeying his Father over his father.

St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, a bunch of the early virgin martyrs and a scad of others – these folks defied their fathers in order to follow Christ. For a traditionally catechised Catholic, these stories are all familiar. The point of these stories is not that one should not obey one’s father, but rather that the authority of our fathers comes from the Father, of which they are only a vague, tiny shadow. It is the both/and teaching: we are virtuous to obey our fathers on earth AND our Father in Heaven, right up until that obedience conflicts – then, and only humbly and cautiously, we may defy our fathers to obey the Father.

I think part of our individualism comes from economic conditions, too, but that’s another story.

Yes, it is. I’d love to hear it. Once family, village and church are gone, what’s left but the individual? Not a happy situation, however.

  1. See, for example, ‘Merovingian Divorce’ as described in A History of Private Life, v. I, where the Church’s teaching against divorce was taken by the Franks as mandating the murder of any undesired wife.