Thursday, July 27, 2017

Why The Long March?

     After undertaking a brief, informal survey, I concluded that (much to my surprise) Antonio Gramsci’s call for “cultural hegemony” – i.e., his exhortation to Marxists to undertake a campaign of conquest of the West’s systems of education, information, and culture – is not yet known to many American conservatives. (More recently, we have Rudi Dutschke’s “long march through the institutions,” which drew the enthusiasm and support of Herbert Marcuse.) Oh, they’re adequately aware of the damage that’s been done to education, journalism, and entertainment; those things are too obvious for anyone to be unaware of them. However, they appear unaware that the Left mounted a systematic drive to conquer those industries.

     I recently wrote about this with a particular emphasis in mind: that the Left has become desperate. While I do believe that to be the case, I also recognize the power that inheres in longstanding institutions. That power, like Tolkien’s Sauron, can withstand a long series of defeats without suffering worse than temporary setbacks. It cannot be offered an armistice; rather, it must be destroyed root and branch.

     That aspect of the Left’s institutional campaigns has thrown a new shadow for me, owing to Bookworm’s latest piece:

     What the Marxists figured out during WWII, thanks in no small part to the Left’s huge push to bring America to the aid of the Soviet Union once Hitler invaded Russia, was that, while Americans were not amenable to hard Marxism, they could be totally swayed by soft Marxism. This idea landed hardest and best in America’s colleges and universities. There, mild-mannered professors in rumpled, tweedy suits carefully indoctrinated their students in a whole new way of thinking about America’s liberties.

     Mostly, these academics inculcated in their middle-class students a sense of guilt about America’s bounty — never mind that the bounty resulted from hard work and innovation. To the Leftists, America’s wealth, no matter that it was earned, not inherited, was evil, and young people had to pay for their countries’ sins. Moreover, when students protested against this indoctrination (and yes, back in the day, some did), the same Marxists hid behind the Constitution’s protections.

     This was a brilliant strategy. If you’ve got the college students, you’ve got the next generation of elementary and high school teachers, and the next generation of news people, and the next generation of screenwriters, and the next generation of women’s magazine writers, and the next generation of college professors. And with each iteration, with each generation that passes through, you can dig in the messageharder and deeper, until you end up with the insanity of intersectionality, cultural appropriation, safe spaces, triggers, political correctness, and all the other tropes that work as vehicles for intellectual tyranny.

     There’s an insight buried in those three paragraphs it could cost the life of our nation to overlook.


     Consider for a moment the drive of recent decades to put essentially all of our high school graduates into college. Whose idea was that? Why has “higher education” – why yes, those are “sneer quotes!” – become the one and only respectable destination for a high school grad? And why on Earth did Americans ever accept that funding colleges and universities is a legitimate function of the federal government?

     Until the post-World War II repatriation of our overseas forces and the passage of the “GI Bill,” “higher education” was regarded as appropriate for only a minority of high school graduates. College was understood to prepare the collegian for a rather narrow range of futures:

  • Scientific research;
  • “Captain of industry;”
  • A college professor.

     Of those three, “captain of industry” was the most significant: the most common motivation for sending one’s high schooler to college was so he might become well acquainted with the scions of other rich men highly placed in American corporate life. It was quietly accepted that not a lot of “real learning” would occur. The most important thing was connections: making them and solidifying them, that the family lines of the great men of industry and commerce would remain firmly allied with one another. Smith’s spratling would become a chum of Jones’s, and would like as not marry Jones’s sister.

     The rush into the colleges that followed the war changed all that. The acceleration of technological progress and the desire of many to participate was part of the propulsion. However, an even greater part, fueled by a systematically nurtured “New Deal” anticapitalist-egalitarian sentiment, was the desire to penetrate the haunts of the rich and influential, especially those that separated them from the hoi polloi. If the sons of grocers could attend the same institutions as the sons of industrialists and financiers, perhaps in time the grocers’ sons might become industrialists and financiers as well: “cargo cult” thinking as applied to “education.”

     Yet owing to the determined efforts of John Dewey and his fellow thinkers, as early as the late Forties America’s colleges were firmly in the hands of the Left, which had no intention of turning out patriotic, well educated, or productive young persons. Quite the reverse.


     Totalitarianism, regardless of the “flavor of the week,” is inherently centralist. A “decentralized totalitarianism” is a contradiction in terms. Moreover, totalitarianism doesn’t centralize political power alone. It demands the centralization of everything that’s important to the life of Man.

     When totalitarians acquire power by revolution, they immediately move to occupy the news media and the schools. James Clavell’s cautionary tale The Children’s Story was intended to warn us about that. However, totalitarians are quite willing to work in the opposite direction: to occupy the news and educational institutions first, then to use them as instruments for attaining power.

     (In America, adding the entertainment industry to the Left’s quiver took longer, because the original attempt was too overt. Cf. The Hollywood Ten)

     The Left’s Triple Alliance of education, journalism, and entertainment has proved deadly to Americans’ comprehension of freedom, of the intent of our Constitution and constitutionalism’s conceptual foundation, and of the dynamic of power and the motives of the power-seeking. More, those industries have been relentless in their efforts to suppress emergent competition. Though they seem to be fighting a defensive, holding action at the moment, their endurance is considerable. They might yet outlast the recent developments in “citizen journalism,” homeschooling, and indie fiction and filmmaking, whose financial bases are tenuous and uncertain.

     They’ll surely bend all their power, resources, and political influence to the effort.


     If there’s a central point to this tirade, it’s that The Left’s strategists know what they’re doing. They do it consciously and with malice aforethought. Indeed, in light of the many parallels in journalism and entertainment, it’s reasonable to suspect that the push to get everyone from high school into college is a conscious component of Leftist strategy. No other aspect of the educational system has been as effective at occluding American history and inculcating Leftist sentiments in our young people. Moreover, it’s “philosophically compatible” with the Left’s overall instinct toward centralization. Feeding all the meat through a single grinder gives the best chance of producing a uniform product.

     It’s somewhat heartening that an increasing number of young men have been exploring the trades and other alternatives to “higher education.” But don’t expect the Left to let that trend pass unchallenged. It has already struck back on two fronts: social altitude (i.e., occupational “prestige”) and marital prospects. There might be other strokes to come.

     Food for thought.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Function And Terminology

     Once again I’m “under the gun” – sheesh, I had more free time (and got more and better sleep) when I was still solving other people’s problems for a living – and must shortly be away from the keyboard, so please bear with me if this rant is shorter (or rantier) than most.

     Some species of aberration are more difficult to confront than others. The one I have in mind this fine July morning concerns that hoary old Leftist tradition, the promiscuous spouting of utter nonsense in a frenzied attempt to compel others to accept it:

     Zachary Antolak, a/k/a “Zinnia Jones,” a/k/a “Satana Kennedy,” a/k/a “Lauren McNamara” is a person familiar to regular readers here. An atheist transgender activist and Internet pornographer, Antolak/“Jones” has tattooed himself/“herself” with a symbol used on the cover of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible modified with transgender symbols.

     The bizarre semantics by which Antolak/“Jones” claims that the penis is not “male genitals” is a perfect example of the lunatic ideology of the transgender cult. As I noted in the case of Eyrne Daymont a/k/a “Aryn Maitland,” crazy is a pre-existing condition. When confronted by the rhetoric of transgender activists, we must recognize that we are dealing with seriously disturbed people. Their efforts to distort language, to change the meanings of words, and to force the rest of to accept their revised definitions, represent a dishonest attempt to obtain validation by compelling others to ratify their delusions.

     This is getting to be “par for the course” for the more “out there” transgender activists. While I certainly won’t claim that “they’re all like that,” there are enough seriously disturbed TG activists to make big trouble for the ones who merely want to live quietly as they choose.

     For those who are interested in dealing seriously with such lunacy, I present the following:

Terms arise to fulfill specific functions;
They cannot be meaningfully separated.

     That “really” ought to be “obvious,” but there’s that word again.

     We don’t call the penis and testicles “male genitalia” for purely arbitrary reasons. We call them that because they fulfill a function that, very long ago, we deemed “male,” just as we deem the vagina, ovaries, and uterus “female.” The terms male and female are functional designators above all else. They designate the distinguishing properties and functions of male and female bodies that preceded everything else about Mankind and our societies.

     More concisely, male and female are about the function we call reproduction. If your body can fertilize a human ovum, you are functionally male; if your body produces and stores such ova, and is at least potentially capable of sheltering a developing human zygote, you are functionally female.

     To disassociate the terms from their functional origins is to render them meaningless. We cannot use meaningless words: a statement that approaches tautology. But the Left would be delighted to render all our words meaningless. It would make deceiving us far easier.


     Now that I’ve disposed of the word-mincing of this “Zinnia Jones” person, please allow me a few million words about transgenderism generally.

     Blaire White, a highly intelligent and well spoken young transwoman, has stated that transgenderism is a mental disorder. If we proceed from the function-determines-terminology perspective, she is unassailably correct. He who was “born a man” cannot be functionally a woman; she who was born a woman cannot be functionally a man. Yet the disorder has no cure, and if ignored can lead to much worse problems, both for the sufferer and for those who love him.

     That having been said, contemporary medical and surgical techniques make it possible for one born male to “present and live” as a woman, and for one born female to “present and live” as a man. Some self-designated transgenders make use of the full range of medical and surgical options. Some “stop short” of the complete resculpting of their externals. I know transgenders of both kinds.

     And...girls, hold onto your boyfriends...given a willingness among such transgenders to conform to the appearance and behavioral norms of their preferred genders, there is no harm to the rest of us in it. The entirety of the burden falls upon the transgender.

     Yes, you read that correctly.

     The italicized phrase is the key. A sufficient degree of conformance to gender norms, even though contemporary medicine cannot affect the body's reproductive functions, allows the transgender to “pass.” Problems arise when “transgenders” dismiss or defy those norms: for example, the bearded guy in a dress who insists on using the ladies’ room. It’s entirely justifiable for the rest of us to be upset by that.

     Is there a gray zone? Of course, and such gray zones will undoubtedly become grist for the Left’s mill. In particular, gray-zone cases will be used to attack longstanding arrangements through the law, disturbing the comfort and peace of mind of the rest of us. I don’t know what can be done about that; I’m not a lawyer and haven’t even been asked to play one on TV. But the outriders of the gender-fluidity campaign make it plain that we should be braced for it, especially as regards so-called “public accommodations” law.

     My point is largely that, in observance of The Curmudgeon’s Carbohydrate Aphorism:

Keep thine eye fixed upon the doughnut, lest thou pass unaware through the hole.

     ...we should dismiss cosmetic matters, but take care to preserve the truly important things – and one of the most important things is the reliability of the meanings of the words we use.

     And with that, I’m off to my duties. Until later, Gentle Reader.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Assorted

     The past couple of weeks have been fairly bad for us here at the Fortress of Crankitude. Rufus was diagnosed with lymphoma. Beth’s minivan refused to pass an emissions-control inspection. The paving company my general contractor hired to extend my driveway messed it up badly and refuses to fix it. I had to jettison one of my vinyl storage sheds. We’ve just endured a torrential rainstorm that knocked out power and ruined all our potted plants. And I think I have aliens living in my barn. (What does it matter if they come from another planet? They should still go through passport control and Customs, right?) But as the philosophers said to the emperor (from a safe distance, of course), “And this, too, shall pass away.” So let’s have a little marginalia this fine Tuesday morning.


1. Fiction Promotion.

     I detest “social media,” in part because they’re dominated by idiots, trivia, and idiots spouting trivia, but also because I’m about as asocial as anyone alive today. However, after being bludgeoned about it for many moons, I’ve created a pair of Facebook groups, specifically to promote my two novel-series:

     Maybe they’ll help my flagging sales. (I know, releasing a fresh book or two would help too, but all things in due course.)


2. Klavan On The Left’s Not-So-Secret Weapon.

     The following Andrew Klavan video came to my attention only yesterday:

     It’s worth viewing for several reasons, most emphatic of which is that Klavan, an insider, can give personal, first-hand testimony about the media establishment’s absolute hostility toward the Right. Moreover, as he’s been a screenwriter for almost as long as he’s been a novelist, Klavan can confirm that the Left has used its media dominance to deny the Right a place in the entertainment industry for more than just the last few years.

     Books, the Internet, and talk radio have helped us, of course, but the bastions of the entertainment and journalistic media have remained closed to us – and as Klavan notes, those are the conduits through which the Left establishes its enduring historical vision and cultural hegemony. Yet the Right continues to advance...and it’s making the barons of those satrapies very nervous.

     The fundamental insight here, which Klavan only implies, is that the Left has become desperate. The Right is winning arguments and converts even though it has very few media outlets and the Left has demonized it at every opportunity. The one way the Left can prevent the Right from advancing is to deny the Right access to any platform – and when you see AntiFa / Black Bloc thugs trying to shut down a conservative movie, to silence a conservative speaker, or to disrupt a conservative or patriotic event, they're acting on that premise.


3. Control Of The Terminology.

     It’s well known among students of rhetoric that control of the terminology in which a discussion is held is tantamount to assured victory. That alone suffices to explain the Left’s attempts to dictate the words we may use and the contexts in which we may use them. It also suffices to establish my own, oft-repeated point about such things.

     A recent article at Return of Kings extends the logic of this process to five “up and coming phobias:”

     As every person on the right knows, the left loves to control language. Whether it is through so-called “hate speech” legislation or political correctness, the left strives to dictate what words can and cannot be used in society-at-large. And the left seeks to do this because they know that to control a person’s language is, quite literally, a way to manipulate and steer that person’s thoughts. It is a means of creating self-censoring thinkers.

     Thus, language-control is a way of gaining power over people. Furthermore, it is a power that makes people fight the left using the left’s own chosen terms, which means fighting the left on its own rhetorical terrain. And, as any strategist knows, you never want to fight an enemy on ground that he has selected. This is why refusing to use the left’s 1984- language is so crucial, as is positively fighting back against that language control.

     Now, in recent years, when it comes to the battle for language, everyone and their dog has experienced the explosion of the left’s ‘-phobia’ and ‘-ism’ propaganda war. You have homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, and so on. At the same time, you have racism, sexism, ableism, etc. All these terms are designed to elicit a positive emotional reaction from the left’s true believers while simultaneously seeking to shame the individuals or groups at which those terms are aimed. And, for a surprising number of years, these terms have been quite effective at shifting the cultural landscape in the left’s favor.

     What follows in that article might strike my Gentle Readers as fanciful...but I’m old enough to remember a time before “homophobia,” when open homosexuality was regarded by nearly everyone as a danger to young Americans. I’d take it seriously for that reason alone.

     As a highly relevant bonus, have a quick snippet from Florence King’s Lump It Or Leave It:

     Being guilty of “bad judgment” is now a sin in and of itself. It is morality’s scene stealer, standing alone in all its short-circuited glory, with no before and no after, no cause and no effect, no wheat and no chaff. Suggest that bad judgment leads to a decision that leads to an action, and that it is the action that constitutes the moral lapse, and you will find your name at the top of the –ist list.
     Did your Congressman fuck a Doberman on the steps of the Capitol. He’s guilty of bad judgment, not dog-fucking. Who said anything about dog-fucking? Where in the world did you get that idea? Dog-fucking has nothing to do with dog-fucking. It’s a question of bad judgment, and if you don’t agree, you’re not only an –ist, you’re a phobe.

     The late Miss King surely had as keen an eye as was her way with words.


4. The War Against Sexual Mutuality.

     You may remember this odious story from a few months ago, about which I ranted in my usual fashion. The notion that her orgasm pleases him offends some women – that is, it offends women who despise men, including the men to whom they open their legs. As bad a problem as that is, there are “men” who are offended by the notion that she might have desires of her own, and that he should take them into account:

     As readers of the red pill manosphere know all too well, you cannot negotiate desire. By its very nature, desire is the opposite of negotiation. And yet here we have this self-proclaimed expert plowing ahead as she gamely positions herself to help men everywhere who are in the awful predicament of not being able to get their leg over with their own wives.

     On and on she goes as she explains in torturous detail how she convinced couples to keep diaries so as to track how they negotiate their sex lives. The word comes up again and again. Arndt relies on the word almost as much as commuters rely on their smart phones.

     The situations and examples that she describes in this video are nothing short of pathetic. Men groveling for sex, a wife informing her husband that he is allowed to have 50 thrusts as long as he does not jiggle the book that she is reading, husbands crying when faced with someone explaining their daily sexual misery....

     As long as men listen to women then their problems will only compound and get worse. These long suffering men made their first mistakes when they listened to their wives. And yet here they are once again listening to a woman on the same subject.

     The linked essay pinned my “petty malice” meter. While I disagree with parts of Miss Arndt’s presentation, it’s hard to believe that anyone could shower that sort of bile on well-meant relationship advice – especially as the advice mainly consists of being willing to listen to and acknowledge one’s spouse’s desires (and lack thereof).

     Persuasion expert Michael Emerling once said that defining your desires as right and everyone else’s desires as wrong is the key to abject failure at persuasion. It’s also the key to a life of sexual deprivation. But that’s a point that makes itself, wouldn’t you say?


     That’s all for the moment, Gentle Reader. I’m behind on my current novel and must make some headway before I lose the thread completely. Until tomorrow, be well.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Uses Of Simplicity

     These days there’s quite a lot of “loose talk” about “tight stuff:” that is, talk about concepts that have precise meanings and shouldn’t be batted about in a careless fashion. Some such concepts are among the most useful ideas men have ever produced...but their utility depends upon precise comprehension. If you don’t understand it as it’s meant to be understood, you won’t use it as it’s meant to be used.

     The field of heuristics incorporates several such concepts. If the term heuristics is unfamiliar to you, it’s the “applied” side of epistemology: the branch of philosophy that addresses what we think we know and how we came to believe it. Heuristics is the grab-bag into which we toss our techniques for solving problems and extending our knowledge.

     People frequently employ heuristics without knowing that they’re doing so. Of course! Any practical technique for learning something qualifies as a heuristic, so any method by which we approach a problem qualifies, informally at least, as a heuristic. If it works, that is!

     Probably the “best known” heuristic technique – those are sarcasm-quotes, not scare quotes – goes by the name of Occam’s Razor. It supposedly originated with William of Occam, a Fourteenth Century English friar, philosopher, and theologian. The “traditional” statement of his Razor was simple and evocative:

“Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.”

     Isn’t that an “of course” sort of statement? We don’t put unnecessary ingredients into our recipes or unnecessary parts on our machines. So why is this statement regarded as such an important breakthrough in thought?

     Well, in point of fact, the “traditional” statement says very little. It’s the way that principle is used as a heuristic – i.e., how it’s applied to problem-solving – that makes it valuable. In the problem-solving domain, most particularly the problem of explaining an observable phenomenon, it works this way:

  1. Gather as much information about the phenomenon and its context as possible.
  2. Now eliminate from the context all but one feature: the one that seems most likely to “produce” the phenomenon. Create a “test environment” containing only that feature.
  3. TEST! Does the phenomenon occur in the test environment?
    • If so, you have a workable temporary explanation for the phenomenon.
    • If not:
      1. Add another, plausibly related feature to your test environment;
      2. Return to step 3 (TEST!) above.

     The question the student new to Occam’s Razor will normally ask at this point is “But why? Why use that procedure?” And he is right to ask.

     The reason is supremely practical: The fewer elements there are in any proposed explanation for a phenomenon, the easier it will be to test. Therefore, we’ll finish soonest if we use that order to winnow through the possible explanations.

     Note: That’s not the same as the “vulgar” statement of Occam’s Razor – i.e., that “the simplest explanation is most likely to be correct.” That is quite literally nonsense.

     Consider the following, seemingly simple situation: I have in my hand a steel ball. I stand, hold the ball out at a height of four feet, and open my hand. The ball falls. Half a second later it hits the floor. Why?

     Of course you know the answer: Gravity! Plus simple kinematics, of course. Distance traveled from a standing start under constant acceleration equals 0.5*a*t2, right? Right! But wait just a moleskin-gloved minute there, Colonel: What’s producing that “gravity?” The ball itself? Would we get the same results if instead of a steel ball, we dropped a ball of feathers? Suppose we tried our test outside, in the wind? What then? And how about under water, or in interplanetary space?

     It develops that there are several other elements necessary to the context: elements we omitted to include in our summary of the experiment. The seeming simplicity of our original explanation was premised on an assumption: a solid object of high enough mass density to be negligibly affected by air resistance and air currents, dropped from four feet above the surface of the Earth. It’s the mass of the Earth that produces the local gravity vector. Galileo wouldn’t have got the same results under water, or on the Moon. (Fortunately, the crowd watching his famous experiment didn’t think to suggest those venues.)

     The simplest explanation – “That’s just what balls do when dropped four feet” – was incorrect. So would be any other explanation that omitted the size, shape, and density of the ball, the presence or absence of resistive media and currents within it, or the proximity of a spherical mass of 6*1021 tons with a diameter of approximately 7900 miles. It all counts.

     Were we utterly ignorant of the laws of gravitational attraction and determined to figure out why a steel ball dropped four feet takes half a second to hit the floor, it would be smart to test the simplest explanations first, not because they’re “likely to be correct,” but because we’ll eliminate wrong answers fastest that way.

     If you’re guilty of having misunderstood Occam’s Razor before this, don’t feel too bad. Lots of very bright people, including a number who have reason to know better, have misstated it and misused it to promote their preferred explanations for various things as “the most likely.” Some of them had axes to grind. Indeed, whenever you hear someone proclaiming a thesis that “can’t be wrong,” you’re not listening to reasoning, but to propaganda.

     The “global warming” crowd is especially culpable in this regard. Much of the time they don’t even bother with observable phenomena, but restrict themselves to simulations of nonexistent conditions and then claim that “this is what’s happening to the Earth.” When they do address observed phenomena, they almost never include all the relevant conditions in their proposed explanations of events – but they always claim they need more money and power. Were we to apply Occam’s Razor in their fashion to their behavior, we would surely conclude that the simplest explanation – i.e., that they want more money and power regardless of what the climate of the Earth is doing and why – is the most likely to be correct. And upon that note I retire from the field.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Day Off

     I had it in mind to write about Occam’s Razor, what it really means, and why so many people misunderstand it, but the essay grew far too complex for a Sunday, so I decided to take the day off from blogging instead. Perhaps it will appear tomorrow. Until then, be well.

I believe that.

Apart from some negligible combat missions in the early days of the revolution, it was only in the end of July 2012 that the SyAAF became actively involved in suppressing the rebellion. This was done mostly by deploying L-39ZAs on bombing runs over Aleppo and its suburbs. These sorties resulted mostly in civilian targets such as hospitals and schools being hit, and unsurprisingly led to numerous civilian casualties.
"The Syrian Arab Air Force, Beware of its Wings." By Oryx, bell¿ngcat, 1/16/17.

Pearls of expression.

Horse Pizzle:
The locals speak Kurdish.
Shemp 4 Victory:
If you have a point, feel free to make it.
"Pentagon Furious After Turkey Leaks U.S. Base Locations In Syria: 'Hard Not To See This As A F-You.'" By Tylker Durden, Zero Hedge, 7/19/17.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Conversations

     A little earlier today:

     FWP: You know, we’re down to the last two bottles of water.
     CSO: I know. I have a rebate coupon for Staples, so I’ll pick some up later. Can you think of anything else we need?
     FWP: From Staples? No.

     Just a few minutes ago:

     CSO: Sweetie! I’m back!
     FWP: Need help with anything?
     CSO: Would you bring the water in out of the van, please?
     FWP: Sure. (trudges off)

     When I got to the van, I saw not one but three large cases of bottles of Poland Spring’s finest: 108 bottles in all, massing to about 150 pounds. After I’d toted them all to our pantry, I confronted the C.S.O. afresh:

     FWP: Three cases?
     CSO: (defensively) Well, it was on sale.
     FWP: (with majestic mock-severity) I’ve told you, and told you, and TOLD you: NEVER GO WATER SHOPPING WHEN YOU’RE THIRSTY!
     CSO: (indecipherable, laughing much too hard)

O Standards, Where Art Thou?

     In the days before I discovered girls, I received many exhortations from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, friends, friends’ parents, and miscellaneous other persons whom I regarded with a modicum of respect to try my hand at this or that undertaking. Their urgings encompassed everything from painting to pole vaulting. “I don’t think so,” I would normally demur, usually because I was engaged in something else and determined to finish it properly. “But you might be good at it,” they would reply, “and you won’t know unless you try it.”

     After I’d acquired some verbal facility, I came to call this the Asparagus Antiphon. (No, I didn’t care for asparagus then. I feel the same today. But I digress.) The parallel isn’t exact, of course. A child isn’t “good at” a vegetable; he either likes it or dislikes it. But the emotions pertinent to it are a match.

     Most kids don’t learn the fine art of changing the subject nearly as young as I did. It proved an excellent counter to the Asparagus Antiphon, even before I’d named it that. I got exceedingly good at it – so good that those who’d decided to hector me about attempting gymnastics, prestidigitation, the tuba, or what have you were mystified by how fluidly the conversation had left the track they’d embarked upon. It won me the peace I needed to persist at whatever challenge I’d already accepted until I “got it right.”

     Though young, I’d grasped something that many persons never do: that an enterprise of any sort, to be worth your time and effort, must have standards: criteria by which to determine whether you’d “got it right.” I was determined to know what standards apply to whatever I was about to attempt, and to meet them squarely. That’s much easier if you’re allowed to concentrate than if your attention is scattered over a large number of subjects.

     Today, to insist that there are standards for performance in certain endeavors is tantamount to blasphemy.


     This morning’s sweep of news sites, opinion mongers, and beloved blogging colleagues brought me, as it eventually will, to the lair of the esteemed Charles Hill. He quotes an amusing piece about a not-so-amusing subject: poetry:

     There’s zero barrier to entry with poetry — the rules for writing sonnets are right there, and not even the American educational system has so far managed to destroy literacy completely. If you want to go mano-a-mano with Shakespeare, your word processing program even comes with a dictionary and a thesaurus. There are 350+ million people in America today; Elizabethan England had maybe 3 million. Just as a matter of simple probability, there should be some world-class sonnet-writers around right now…
     …but, of course, there aren’t, because sometime in the later 19th century our universities started awarding degrees in English Literature.

     The insight in the final lines above is enormous: Many of the persons who pursued those degrees had no poetic ability and no taste. But they were determined to get degrees, and it’s a lot easier to sell pretense and flummery in “English Literature” than it is in mathematics or physics.

     Charles comments thus:

     I suppose I should consider myself fortunate that I have Facebook friends who will point me to contemporary verse without even the slightest hint of irony.

     (Note the subtly ironic term “Facebook friends.” In my experience – limited, to be sure – prefixing “Facebook” to a relationship term nullifies it completely. Compare this to the practice of prefixing an abstract noun with “social” and thus inverting its meaning. But I digress.)

     Time was, poetry had certain rules: criteria whose satisfaction was demanded of anything that was represented as a “poem.” If you wanted to be deemed a poet, you had to know the rules for the forms you proposed to practice, and you had to abide by them. Of course to be regarded as a good poet, rule conformance, though necessary, was not sufficient. You had to display something more: originality, elegance in phrasing, and some sort of substance. The point of your verse could be humorous, as in the odes of Ogden Nash, or it could be formal and grave, as in the works of Emily Dickinson, but it had to be there, or your verse would be dismissed as “doggerel.”

     The demise of the formal rules of poetry happened long ago. People who wanted to be poets...at least, to be thought of as poets...found all those niggling little requirements “too much trouble to bother about,” so they simply vented onto paper. After all, it’s the substance that matters, right? The profound insights; the great emotions; the expression of immutable and eternal truths! Or maybe not. Surely we should be inclusive of poetry that flows spontaneously from the lips as well. Why leave the hallucinators and the schizophrenics out of the fun?

     Free verse...blank verse...free and blank verse...stream-of-consciousness verse...verse composed of neologisms...verse rendered in shrieks and howls...the damnedest unversed verse the Universe can contain has rained down upon the noble field of poetry like a cascade of vitriol. With the dismissal of all the standards that once applied to poetry, poetry has been robbed of all point.

     And now there are no more poets, and no more poetry.


     The current, multifarious campaigns against standards of all kinds are destroying the very concept of achievement. If there are no standards for acceptability and quality, there is no way, apart from the most arbitrary and subjective of judgments, to grant laurels to any human product, whether of the hands or of the mind. When everyone is a poet, no one is, for poetry as a category of items distinct from all others has been rendered meaningless.

     The true horror is in this: There are persons whose conscious intent, whether overt or covert, is to destroy the concept achievement and all recognition thereof. They’ve had more success in some fields than in others. For example, what’s happened to poetry, painting, and sculpture hasn’t yet happened to archery, basketball, or real estate development. That chafes them greatly, for any field in which the participants can be differentiated from one another is an obstacle to the Harrison Bergeron future at which they aim. (In that vision, each of them imagines himself to be the Handicapper General. Yet another instance of Commissar Complex. But I digress.)


     I do only a very few things. I’m determined to do whatever I do as well as it can be done...or failing that, as well as I can do it, given my personal capacities and gifts. That requires that each of my undertakings pertain to a set of standards: rules for inclusion in the field, and criteria by which to judge achievement. Thus I have no interest in fields that have abandoned all standards. They’re the natural habitat of poseurs and pretenders: “artists” uninterested in hard work or critical judgment, and “critics” determined to place themselves on the same plane as the “artists.”

     Standards are what make possible justifiable human pride: yet another of the barriers to their hegemony the would-be commissars are determined to destroy. It stands in the way of their preferred substitute: the “self-esteem” they promote relentlessly in our “schools” that forbids all notions of right and wrong, or better and worse. (And as I sense that this is about to mutate into a tirade of a completely different sort, I believe I’ll close here. I wouldn’t want to digress.)

Friday, July 21, 2017

It’s Time

     Time for what, you ask? Time for God to re-enter the public square, from which so many have labored to eject Him:

The End Of Prayer Shaming from East Catholic High School on Vimeo.

     Without God – Without His clear, simple rules for Man’s survival and flourishing – there is no hope. Only with Him is there hope. All else is madness.

     (Shamelessly stolen from Peace Or Freedom.)

Self-Censorship In The Face Of Ignorance And Viciousness

     A long time ago, having observed – and experienced – the consequences of opinion-venting without prior acquisition of relevant knowledge, I resolved never again to speak or write on a subject before familiarizing myself with it. While that’s had a certain tempering effect on me...well, on some subjects, anyway...it’s also given me many occasions for amusement at persons who allow themselves opinions about subjects on which they know little or nothing.

     Unfortunately, it’s also given me many occasions for a facepalm over the behavior of others, including persons and institutions I value.

     One of those arrived just yesterday, at Mass. If you’re unfamiliar with how Catholics conduct Mass, one segment, which is called the prayers of the faithful, involves the reading of (supposedly) worthy intentions by the lector, to which the assembled worshippers are expected to reply with a chorus of affirmation. Those intentions will often include an appeal to God for wisdom and prudence in our high officials, which is about as worthy an intention as is possible when one is speaking of power-mongers. But now and then the intentions go further...unwisely.

     Yesterday’s prayers of the faithful included an appeal for the elimination of nuclear weapons. To say I was startled by it is a grotesque understatement. Yet I could hardly rise to object in the middle of a sacred rite.

     I have no idea who decided to insert that appeal into yesterday’s prayers of the faithful. Whoever it was must be ignorant of the history of the past seventy-two years. Not only did atomic bombs bring an end to World War II in the Pacific, preserving the lives of many thousands of American soldiers, sailors, and airmen; nuclear weapons have been instrumental in restraining armed conflict between nations ever since.

     To take merely one example: before they became nuclear powers, India and Pakistan were at war. The conflict between them was essentially continuous. When India acquired nukes, armed conflicts between them essentially ceased – and not because of ahimsa.

     Brendan at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler notes another important case — one that did not occur:

     See…these entitled, stupid ignorant halfassed millennials never picked up a book. Never read any history.
     Don’t know that, were it not for a sudden change in tactics, Peenemunde would never have been bombed. The British scientists sneered at the idea of an atomic bomb, calling it “silly water”. They and others laughed at the concept of such a device even existing.
     Then the V1′s and V2′s visited London. Thousands died.
     The reality came home…Germany had a delivery system...all they needed was the warhead.
     One detonation.
     London.
     A village.
     A demonstration strike on an uninhabited region.
     An ultimatum.
     “We have the atomic bomb. Surrender. NOW.”
     Those of us older, wiser, hardened and educated in the vagaries of Lady Fate, are in no doubt that, had the above occurred, this planet would have screamed for centuries from the nightmare that was the Third Reich.

     Ignorance of such things is understandable and forgivable...in the young and callow. It’s completely unforgivable in persons who expect respect for their opinions – and a pastor, priest, or member of the clerisy who parades his ignorance in such a fashion risks far more than personal ridicule.


     Among our race’s misfortunes is a tendency to defer to a loud voice on the assumption that the speaker knows what he’s talking about. That’s never been a wise assumption. These days it’s chancier than ever.

     There are a lot of loud voices in the national discourse. Very few of them have any basis for their assertions. The black race-hustlers, the feminist “patriarchy”-shouters, those who rail against “white nationalism” or “cis-heteronormativity” or other twaddle seldom actually present an argument for their positions. Rather, they rely upon the intimidation possible to one willing to sling invective, backed by the understandable desire common among persons of good will not to be attacked. Sadly, that results in the shouters and demonizers being granted more air time, larger audiences, and more respect than they deserve.

     One of my self-imposed duties is to oppose such persons, their idiotic assertions, and their overall vileness. Someone must do it, after all, and who would do it better? The consequences are often unpleasant, but usually only briefly, as it becomes apparent to any third parties to the exchange that only one of us: 1) is a man of good will, and 2) knows the subject matter. It’s heartening to be approached afterward and thanked by persons whose private convictions I’ve defended...and saddening when they add “but don’t tell anyone” and slink away before anyone can identify them. But then, courage of conviction isn’t a commonplace attribute any more...largely because the loud voices have acquired allegiants willing to employ violence to ensure that no opinion contrary to the ones they approve will be expressed.


     Yesterday’s piece, which I’ve come to think was improperly titled, addressed the chief barrier to Christian charity: fear. The loudest voices are the ones that engender much of that fear, whether it’s fear of being drawn into an ugly conflict or fear of being singled out for vengeance. The “Antifa / Black Bloc” thugs that have lately striven to suppress conservative events and views are only the most visible elements of the malady.

     It’s exceedingly difficult to build good will among us when fear has become as pervasive as it has in recent months. The quest for a remedy has become urgent. The well-being of the nation – indeed, of the entire world – depends on finding one. That the loud voices spout arrant, easily disproved nonsense should be part of the solution...but then, they probably know it already, so merely disabusing them of their “illusions” won’t help.

     With that, I yield the floor to my Gentle Readers. Put your thinking caps on, folks. I can’t do it alone, and the hour is getting late.

Everything that is wrong about our Syrian policy.

H/t: Zero Hedge.