The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another…
…Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification…
But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.
Academic Freedom. This lovely phrase is supposed to mean that academics are free to pursue whatever line of thinking they want without having to worry about being attacked. Only their peers are qualified to criticize them, as everyone else is assumed to lack the necessary expertise to understand them. Think of it this way: you hire a plumber or an auto mechanic, but are forbidden to judge their work. Instead, only other plumbers and auto mechanics can say if the drain drains or car runs well. Even though you paid for the work, you are in fact prohibited from raising any issues, lest you infringe on the sacred freedom of the plumbers and mechanics, whose arts and mysteries are outside your ken, you commoner, you.
That’s academic freedom. (1) What could possibly go wrong?
In the mean old days, before we had academic freedom enshrined as a foundational principle of our universities, without which certain unspecified evils were sure to beset us, people like provosts and parents and financial backers assumed they had a say in who taught and what they taught. They could get professors fired for being immoral or teaching treasonous or merely insane things.
In addition to the merely pedestrian libertines among the professorial class, Marxists, Freudians, and other frauds didn’t like this state of affairs. So, by the 1930s, anytime anyone attacked academics for being frauds or traitors or simply lunatics, all the good people would circle the wagons and declare: academic freedom! All criticisms, no matter how reasonable, are summarily dismissed as lacking standing. All sorts of idiocy and evil are thus immunized from attack.
This use of “academic freedom“ has proven indispensable to Marxists and their useful idiots as they took over the schools. Insiders were subject to political power plays; outsiders were excluded from the discussion.
Thus, 18 year olds are subject to a homogenous intellectual environment, where they’ll never hear any professor say, for example, that the idea that everything is a social construct is self refuting and moronically stupid. Nope, all they’ll see are heads nodding in agreement. This complete homogeneity of thought, this utter enslavement of academics to a single school of ‘thought,’ in fact, enslavement to a single political idea, is the necessary and intended result of academic freedom.
Yes, college professors are glorified plumbers and mechanics, only much less useful. I went there.
All Easter Season, the daily Mass readings have featured Acts and the Gospel of John, the first readings showing how the Church grew in her infancy, and the Gospel presenting a mystagogia of sorts, an in depth answer to Jesus’ question that occasioned Peter’s great confession: “Who do you say that I am?”
Jesus is the Bread of Life; the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the Good Shepherd, the sheepdate. The Father and He are One. Today, we wrap up this period of post-Easter instruction with the story of its fulfillment.
The big question has long seemed to me: how come the Apostles and disciples, when they received the Spirit, immediately became these powerful preachers and miracle workers, while we, most often, have to remind ourselves that, with the reception of the sacraments, we, too, have recieved and continue to recieve that same Spirit? Why (usually) aren’t we powerful preachers and miracle workers?
We have yet to make room for the Spirit. God is always polite and respectful of the free will He has given us, and will not force himself upon us. (Give Him the slightest opening, and that’s another story.) Unlike almost all of us, the people present at Pentecost had been completely emptied, even, after a fashion, destroyed. These were people raised from birth to await and seek the Messiah, the fulfillment of all their personal and national hopes. They found Him! As Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”(Matthew 16:16-19)
And He dies in ignominy, He doesn’t restore the Kingdom, He doesn’t even fight, or allow his disciples to fight, to keep Him from being handed over to His enemies.
Then, when all hope had been crushed, when the man they had staked their lives on died like any other man, promises unfulfilled, He rises from the dead, and appears to them! And then leaves them, again, with an incomprehensible promise to be with them always, and to send His Paraclete.
Try to imagine what it would be like, emotionally and intellectually, to have gone through the Passion, Death and Resurrection in a matter of days, after 3 years of miracles and teachings by turns profound and incomprehensible. Imagine having your hopes raised beyond your dreams, then crushed in fear, shame and agony, then raised again to yet higher heights – and then, being abandoned again with vague or at least mysterious promises.
Those Apostles and disciples, in that room with His Holy Mother – they were empty of everything, except for the ineffable joy and hope they had received at His Ascension. There was nothing left in this world for them, no worldly hopes or dreams, nothing to do or see – only waiting.
The great saints get to this level of emptiness, where the Spirit has room to make His home in them. They, like the people in that upper room on Pentecost – the Church, considered in its divine nature – had been emptied, too, sometimes by trauma, sometimes by a life of penance and love, often by both. They did become channels of grace, powerful preachers, miracle workers. We, still too full, see as in a glass darkly.
In a strictly human sense, we should not envy them. The cost, dying to ourselves, is very high, much too high for any mere earthly reward. If we are somehow able to get out of the way even a little, God will not only fill us with His Spirit, but that Spirit will empty us, nudges, dynamite, whatever it takes, until we live only for Him: the definition of eternal joy.
First, an overview of the Insane Eternal Brick Project (Eternal here denotes project duration, not assumed useful life). Several years ago, when this project was only a glimmer in my deranged mind, I made a bunch of nice diagrams on graph paper (of course I did) to help visualize, on the one hand, and estimate the number of bricks I’d need (answer: lots. thousands.) so that we’d know how hard to hit Craig’s List for free bricks. We’ve got LOTS of bricks. Enough, I think.
But pencil on graph paper is unlikely to scan or photograph well, and I’d have to look for them, so: here’s something lame I whipped up on Paint:
So: the recent unnecessary update had to do with the yellow In Progress area, as does today’s update to the unnecessary update.
The large root I removed yesterday was to the right of the water meter; today I worked on the trench for the footer on the upper side of the In Progress planter. It only needs to be about 4″ wide, as it only supports a single depth row of bricks (1) .
Guess what? There were more roots:
Trying to pace myself, in the sense of not courting heat stroke or a heart attack too vigorously, so I’ve had enough for today, will try again tomorrow. This is the area right in front of where the tree, a large, old walnut, had stood for 75 years or so, thus it’s hardly surprising there would be some serious roots right here. I’m telling myself that the next phase, the planter on the south border, farther from where the tree stood, will not have any giant roots in it. Right? Please? I’d like to get this done this summer, or at least within my lifetime…
The footer in the front holds up an 8″ double row of bricks; it is tied to the back 4″ footer at either end by the footer for the little towers that hold up the wrought iron style fence, and by little steel-reinforced concrete strips at two places in the middle of the planter. It acts as a whole 24″ wide structure. Don’t want my little walls tipping over en mass.
I SupposeI could come up with some metaphorical or even allegorical use of a story about chopping out an old root of a tree long dead, the presence of which brought progress to a halt, about how impossible it seemed until the rot was exposed, and – lame. Not sure it’s any lamer than just telling the story….
I think I’m ready for a little sissified organizing stuff type home improvement project, one you can do mostly sitting down. All manly-ed out for the moment. Recap: Sunday, got up early when it was cool out to excavate a few inches along the front of the property where I’ll put in a brick walk, and dig some trenches behind it for some small footings for a wall/ planter thing. Next steps on the Eternal Brick Project. Made good progress.
As the intrepid, not easily bored reader may recall from a couple blog posts ago, I ran into a root. A walnut root about a foot wide, partly blocking one corner of the footer trench:
My attempts to remove it on Sunday were failures: it wasn’t going anywhere until I dug around it, figured out its full extent and what was holding it to the ground. One end was not too far from where the tree stood, and so was likely detached from where we’d had the stump and major roots ground. (Guess they missed one.) The other end ran more or less toward the street, so chances are we’d detached it already, more or less, when we did the last round of bricklaying. But was going to need to dig to find out.
So I got up bright and early, went to early mass, grabbed a cup of coffee – and stalled until about 10:00. My spirit was willing and stupid; my flesh was less willing and wise. Spirit, being eternal and all, refuses to recognize I’m a 61 year old man – what is 61 years measured against eternity? Flesh, on the other hand, remembers, mostly in its arm muscles, what is involved in chopping out a root of that size. Eventually, enthusiasm overcame wisdom, and I grabbed my good ax, sharpened that baby up, grabbed a pry bar and shovel, and went to work.
Dug all around. Seems it was attached to branching roots in four places, had a parallel much smaller but still significant root running along one side (and thus in the way), but was, as expected, more or less detached on the end toward where the tree had stood. The biggest branch root ran more or less toward the street.
All that took about 10 minutes. The strategy: chop out the parallel root, chop out the obvious branching roots, then try the pry bar and see what happens. Best case, it comes loose; worst case, there are one or more roots heading down from the main root, where chopping them out will be involved.
A nice sharp ax is a good tool and fun to use, but it still requires that whole swinging thing.
I lasted maybe 15 minutes, until I had an almost involuntary ‘I have to sit down’ moment. But before I gave up, I tried the pry bar and, unlike Sunday, the thing moved! Progress! But more work ahead. The earth around it and the box containing the water meter also moved, indicating the root was still anchored somewhere, so just trying to manhandle it out seemed unwise. I don’t imagine utility companies laugh off breaking one of their meter boxes.
Seemed only the street-facing end was still attached – but it was good and attached.
Later that afternoon, decided to try again. Dug out around the edges, identified where I’d need to cut to free it up on the street side and near the water meter box. *Carefully* chopped it lose, and tried the pry bar again.
And out it came! Seems to have been much wider and more solid on the top than on the bottom, which seems to have rotted out a bit since we had the tree removed 4 years ago. There are one or two much smaller branch roots which head off under where the path goes, which I should remove now rather than waiting for them to rot out and cause the brick walk to sag in a few years – no concrete under the path, just gravel and sand.
Lamest update ever. I felt good about getting that thing out without the help of my strappin’ male offspring (who would have helped, but were unavailable). Now for some more digging, some forms, some rebar, and some concrete. Then maybe rearrange a drawer or something.
A. Was talking with a 6 year old of my acquaintance, nice little boy. He was telling me that he gets to go to first grade next year, because he was nice and followed the rules. He said almost all the kids in his class get to go to first grade, there was only one boy who was in doubt, because he was always in time out because he talked. I opined that it was pretty normal to want to talk when you’re with your friends, but my young friend said this boy talked all the time and almost never even raised his hand.
No mention of learning anything, except that the price of advancement is being nice and doing what you are told. The young woman who taught at our school (she quit – another victim of the gender fascists discussed here earlier) was in the room. Sotto voce, I asked: how subversive should I get? She seemed to be for it, but I, thinking of this boy’s immigrant single mom, decided not to sow discontent too directly.
His 8 year old brother showed up. He showed me a set of paper strips whereupon were written compliments from his classmates. These included ‘funny,’ ‘generous,’ ‘kind,’ ‘friendly,’ and so on – I half expected ‘punctual,’ as these comments didn’t seem like the kinds of things the 2nd graders I’ve known would come up with on their own. He gets to go to 3rd grade. He is a very nice boy, too.
Once in a while, these kids will tell me about something they’ve learned, all excited about reading hard words or being able to figure out some math. I wonder how much of their school experience is really about learning basics. It seems all but completely about learning to be nice and follow orders.
On a more subtle and damaging level, any sense of real achievement is subverted into awards for mere conformity. Real achievement allows a child to develop a healthy sense of independence, a notion that he, himself, can do worthy things that are not merely plays for somebody else’s approval. (1) Our schools systematically defeat this, by rewarding compliance and compelling empty compliments. It’s telling that one side of the political spectrum went so far as to make ‘you didn’t build that’ a sort of mantra and litmus test. The very idea of achievement is seen as a bad thing. As people of low or no achievement, they hate and fear precisely the independence their opponents admire and hold up as an ideal.
This process of rewarding compliance while defeating any sense of real achievement is an implementation of Fichte’s goal of reassigning a child’s natural loyalties to the state, based on his claim that what a child wants more than anything is the approval of his father. Fichte stated this desire can easily be redirected into seeking the approval of a (state certified) teacher. The goal, according to Fichte, is to destroy family and paternal loyalty and replace it with loyalty to the state (for the child’s own good, of course).
Academics, of course, are all in on “social” explanations of historical phenomena. Being weak, ineffective people themselves, with no experience of life, the very idea of a Caesar frightens and repels them… so they construct theories of History in which it is impossible for a Caesar to exist. On this view, “social forces” (what they used to call “the relations of the means of production”) tore the Roman Republic apart; the Empire was its inevitable next stage. Assign whatever name you like to the Imperator — whether Caesar, Marius, Sulla, or Miles Gloriosus, he’s just the temporary face of the vast, impersonal social forces that control our fate. None of this “History is just the biographies of great men” for them!
Academics as the type specimens of the “Kool Kids Klub membership is the only achievement” crowd. In connection with Great Men, Severian observes something that should be obvious: any culture recognizable as a culture over many generations produces people who are motivated and equipped to
continue that culture. This should be a night follows day level truism. He gives Julius Caesar as an example, who as a 15 year old kid was sent on family diplomatic missions, given command of family guards, and took it upon himself to hunt down and execute some pirates who had kidnapped him and held him for ransom. While Julius was likely more talented than the run of the mill scion of a Roman patriarch, his training was typical. A teenage boy is hankering for some responsibility. The Romans, even if they may seem to us to have gone a bit far, gave such responsibility to their sons as befitted the keepers of a Republic (or an Empire, as needs may be).
The second, regarding Jonathan Haidt’s book asserting politics is a function of morality, where he talks about classifying liberal and conservative, left and right, whatever, using 5 categories – care, fairness, authority, loyalty, and purity. (Note: that’s stretching the idea of morality past the breaking point, at least, as understood in the West for the last 1,000 years, but whatever.) Severian points out how Haidt’s analysis is exactly opposite of reality:
Start from the top. Care? Liberals very ostentatiously don’t give a shit if their policies actually help or not. How’s gay marriage going, for instance? Anyone bother to follow up on that? Did that loving gay couple ever get those hospital visitation rights that we were told, in story after heart-wrenching story, was the whole reason for gay marriage in the first place? As I’ve pointed out before, you’d think the Left would at least be doing some victory laps at this point — “haha silly wingnutz, you said the sky would fall if the gays got married, and look!” But…. nope. Obergefell might as well have happened in the 17th century, for all the Left cares about it now. Ditto the Great Society, the War on Poverty, Head Start, and all the other great Liberal crusades of the past 50 years. They very obviously did the opposite of what they were supposed to, but if Liberals bother to think about them at all — which they only do if you hold their feet to the fire — they just mutter “needs more funding” and change the subject.
Again, we have the dichotomy whereby, on the one hand, people who value achievement (and, therefore, more likely than not, have achieved stuff) tend to strongly care about if and how a proposal is supposed to work, meaning, among other things, they’ve had to wrestle with what ‘work’ means. On the other hand, there are the people I’m always going on about, for whom membership is the only achievement. They care only about signaling they are in the club, and seem truly baffled when people like me keep asking how a proposal is supposed to work, and, indeed, what work means.
My favorite example: when Obamacare was first on the table, I kept hearing wildly ridiculous claims, such as the profits of the drug and healthcare companies would cover the additional costs, and the implicit idea that ‘health care’ is like pork bellies or soy futures – completely fungible, so that the cost of healthcare in, say, Brazil, whatever that means, is somehow relevant to what we call healthcare here in America.
So I did a little research and crunched some numbers. Um, no. It was painfully clear that Obamacare supporters cared only about supporting Obamacare, as in no way was better, cheaper healthcare going to result from it, as events have since demonstrated. But to even go in the direction of considering likely results is a no-no, you hater, you.
It should not need to be said that individual success and the healthy independence it engenders do not exclude appreciation the contributions of others nor make one antisocial. On the contrary, it seems more common for one to both achieve nothing and fail to be grateful. It’s difficult for ingrates to be sociable.
Even though Foxfier kindly suggested in a comment to this post that organizing stuff is a perfectly manly thing to do, discreetly ignoring that what I literally did was spend hours making cute little wooden boxes and painting them cheery primary colors, I still felt the need do some, you know, manly stuff.
So I dug some holes and chopped some roots.
See the nice brickwork – manly brickwork, I hasten to add – in the background? Well, I need to do that again on this side of the water meter, visible just below and to the left of the white bucket top center. So yesterday I dug out about 10 wheelbarrow loads of our hard clay dirt, screened 4 buckets of gravel and rocks out of it (as you can see in the orange bucket) filled in some low spots with a couple loads and dumped the rest in that pile you can see top right center.
Then yesterday evening, ran into this:
Right next to the water meter, occupying the upper left quadrant of what is to be a footing for the little towers at the end of the brick wall, is a nasty, thoroughly not rotted out chunk of walnut stump & root. So I grab me a splitting ax – heavy blunt blade on one side, sledge hammer head in the other – and a long heavy duty pry bar, and had at it.
My hope was that it had rotted out enough that a little blunt trauma would loosen it enough to work it free without having to chop it out with a regular ax. Nope. Hit it a dozen time with the sledgehammer end, and – nada. Just bounced off. Next, tried chopping it a bit – you can see what little damage a heavy but blunt ax did. Finally, tried to ram the pry bar under it, in the fading hope that maybe it would pop up with the proper application of leverage. Didn’t happen.
Well, the sun had set, and the next step would be getting out the garden adz, shovel, and my good ax, excavate around it, then chop it out. which will take time. So I called it a day. A manly, sweaty day!
Shortly after showering and sitting down for a bit, my body reminded me that I am a 61 year old man. Took some acetaphetamine. Couple hours later, took some ibuprofen. Today, got up with high hopes of doing some more. My arms had different ideas. After breakfast, I sat down at the piano a bit. My right arm started getting numb – it didn’t even want me to hold it up over the keyboard. So, maybe tomorrow? Lots more digging to do, which, while tiring, isn’t, I think, as hard on my arms as swinging an ax. We’ll see.
Not half done with the digging, then need to put some forms down, add some rebar, and pour a bunch of 4″ concrete slabs to support a couple walls – the south side is not pictured, and it is getting a much simpler wall/planter, but there’s still digging to do on it. 15 year old son will help, when he’s home – he’s pretty good with an ax and has helped me pour a lot of the footings, so there’s that. The digging is pretty much me, however.
Hope I don’t hit any more major walnut roots.
On a cheery note, the cherries are ripening and the pomegranate is setting tons of fruit: