Sunday, May 31, 2009



Edward Zwick’s film “Defiance”, an adaptation of Nechama Tec’s book of the same name, is reviewed by Timothy Snyder in ‘The New York Review of Books’ (April 30, 3009, pp.17-8; subscription required).

Both book and film relate the story of the Bielski brothers, dwelling in Belarus during the Nazi invasion of Russia. They took to the almost impenetrable forests and set up a movable camp where for two years they sheltered as many Jewish folk as could make their way there, hundreds of men, women and children. In the process, Mother Theresa not being available, they drew upon the skills of their native town’s assorted smugglers, pickpockets, thieves, con-artists, and pretty much the entire panoplium of such foibled skills as any human community would provide.

He raises a couple of very useful points.

First, there are reservations about the film in both America and Poland, and the reservations themselves speak volumes.

The Americans seem upset that there are no Nazis onscreen. No ‘Major Strasser’ who did so much to help focus the Grrrr in ‘Casablanca’. This perhaps reflects the fact that, barring an evil Other, Americans are hard-pressed to pull themselves away from their own daily round. It gets me to thinking that there is a strategic purpose in so many Advocacies in the past decades raising up the specter of this or that ‘evil class’ to ensure the support for, or at least acquiescence in, whatever plan they can talk the pols into to ‘solve’ the ‘crisis’. Of course, in any one country you can only use that ploy just so many times … but it’s uncertain whether that tipping-point has been reached yet. For apparent lack of any other useful diversions, the pols still seem willing to go along.

It also indicates that Americans like to think of the past in terms that not only flatter them but reassure them that ‘evil’ has been eradicated. We did, after all, beat the Nazis – and ran a whole series of trials on their butts as well. Adolf and his bhoys (and female SS camp guards) will never eat lunch in this town again. We hung out the washing on the Siegfried line and hung Siegfried out there as well.

Ah, those were the happy times.

The Poles, on the other hand, are miffed that there are no Russian baddies. What Americans don’t like to recall is that Poland (like Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and other unhappily-located countries) really didn’t benefit from the eradication of the Nazis. They were ‘liberated’ by Stalin’s Red Army, which is as clear a case of ‘from the frying pan into the fire’ as History is ever likely to provide.

And neither Hungary (1956) nor Czechoslovakia (1968) got much help from the West. If you haven’t caught the PBS documentary miniseries “World War Two Behind Closed Doors”, do so.

Though the Free Poles fought ferociously for the Brits – especially in the muddy, bloody, weather-battered campaign to take Monte Cassino in order to advance up the boot to Rome and beyond – they found that Churchill, bowing to military realities, allowed Stalin pretty much to have his way with Poland after the war. Indeed, when Britain held its victory parade in London right after the war – inviting contingents from all the various nations that had fought in the Allied effort against Nazi Germany, the Poles … were not invited. The presence of ‘free’ Poles would have upset Marshal Stalin. The Poles don’t think much of Churchill.

But then, the Soviet Union sustained well over half of the casualties in the war against the Nazis (the US suffered 2 percent). And who here wants to think of that? Twenty million military casualties alone, the Red Army sustained. And We like to think that We are serious about things?

There are battle scenes that are largely fictional. The entire operational goal of the Bielskis would have been to survive, not to expose themselves to ‘battles’ with German forces. (Look what happened to the French Forces of the Interior when they prematurely rose and engaged the Germans in open battle, before the Allied forces had advanced far enough from the Normandy beach-heads to support them.)

The Bielskis developed an alternative to the deadly and false binary: do you turn the other cheek or do you fight? They deployed all their energies and resources in the service of saving and ‘keeping safe’ as many as possible. This should provide food for thought in these troubled times when that binary has been raised up, most frequently by those who have already committed themselves to ‘fighting’, preventively, aggressively, and eternally.

There isn’t any reference to the alleged cooperation of the Bielski group with the NKVD. But this is a reality that Americans simply cannot digest easily: there were no long-term good choices for anybody in Central Europe in World War Two. There were the Germans with their Nazi philosophy directing their brutality – and that only got more feral as they started losing big-time. And the only military force capable of getting rid of them was … the Red Army of Stalin’s USSR. So you made a deal with the vampire to get rid of the werewolf that already had its paws around your throat. Then what? Best not to think, just to hope - just keep on without hope.

The amazing thing was that anybody in that part of the world carried on against the Germans at all, knowing that as soon as the Germans were defeated, the Soviets would flood into the vacuum thus created. It was a more numbing reality than that acutely enough limned in the Korean saying Kono itta, san itta – beyond the mountains … there are mountains. It’s more the sense that if you finally do manage to claw your way up to the deck and off the sinking ship, you will have to jump into a vast ocean, filled in your immediate vicinity with many, many very competent sharks.

It is some testimony about the human being that any activity was carried on at all, back in that time and place.

This is a complexity the American mind and heart have never been able to compass. And even less so now, given the impatient, entitled, cartoonishly simplistic attitude that far too many Americans consider to be their A-game.

Snyder notes that the reviewer A.O. Scott, in ‘The New York Times’, was miffed because “the film affirms an anti-Semitic stereotype of Jewish passivity by suggesting that more Jews would have survived had they embodied the Bielskis’ manly virtues”.

The point of contention is whether character or circumstance count more.

It’s an illuminating way to pose the question, but ultimately insufficient as it stands. The Bielskis had the forests of Belarus, looming, primeval things that make the woods in Central Park or even the depths of all but the deepest Alaskan forests seem like untended gardens. Tolkien’s Fangorn would be a vivid depiction of the tree-lands of Belarus.

They had them and they knew how to carry on in them – something that the Germans did not know how to do. We forget how disorienting the Russian vastness was for the soldiers of the Wehrmacht: coming from the small and well-tended lands in the West of Europe, they had never seen such vast and endless plains, let alone forests, stretching ahead and behind, from horizon to horizon, day after day. And that was in summertime; when the whole place was sheathed in snow and ice, it became an otherworldly hell for them. Even without the Red Army. And the partisans.

And living that close to Muscovy, the Bielskis knew the abyssal depths of terror and mindless violence that could be unleashed into the world. Centuries of experience had seared that lesson into the collective memory and the culture of Belarus.

And the Bielskis were – if not peasants – certainly residents of a non-urban environment. They knew the rhythms of life and death from daily experience with farm animals and few hospitals available to mitigate the accidents of life. They knew how to live in the wild. It was their element. But that also meant that they knew they didn’t ‘own’ or ‘control’ that element; they could, at best, work with its rhythms as best they could manage; that required humility, patience and resilience (skills or virtues which are no longer in large supply in the (over)-developed West).

The Jewish inhabitants of Western and even Central Europe had no such skills. They had developed complex and well-defined societies in the cities and the towns; they had participated in the remarkable flowering of civilization that was ‘Europe’ at its height, much of which had survived the admittedly stunning awfulness of World War One. They were truly active members of that bourgeois world (and I use that phrase in its best possible sense).

And the Nazis were used to that world. Hitler was used to it. He used its every weakness and characteristic to climb to absolute power (which, We recall, he did legally, through elections). When the Jewish inhabitants of that world saw it start to turn on them, it was being directed by a calculating mind that knew that world inside-out, and planned every move, blocked every exit, stifled every opportunity. There was no way those Jewish folk were going to be able to resist: Hitler had foreseen it, knew their world as well as they did, and had already spent a great deal of time calculating how to block all its exits and potential hiding places.

Nor could any civilized mind ever have imagined that – war or no war – any European government would ever have contemplated the utter extermination of an entire people. Yes, the Russians had gone after ‘classes’, especially aristocrats. But look at Mussolini: since 1922 the Fascists had run Italy – when he first became Chancellor, Hitler had even gone hat in hand to visit the great Duce in Rome – and the Fascists had not made it unusually difficult for anybody, so long as you didn’t get in their way. So nu?

I can’t see how any significant force of Jewish ‘resistance fighters’ could have developed in Germany or any of the ‘developed’ areas of Europe, let alone have survived for more than a brief moment. By the time the Reich’s intentions became clear, it had already sealed the exits and bolted all the holes. I can’t see, frankly, how even ‘John Wayne’ or even a bunch with the skills of – to use a contemporary example – Navy Seals or Special Forces, hobbled by registration and identification as were the Jewish people of Western Europe, could have lasted very long as ‘resistance fighters’.

We forget how thorough the Nazis were in their preparations and in their control. The Jewish communities would have had to divine the Reich’s plans by the mid-‘30s at the latest, and then stockpile secret caches of arms and supplies, keep all of that secret, and then start to conduct operations when things became unavoidably clear. But supplies stockpiled for how many? The entire Jewish population? Just the hypothetical fighters? How assemble them? Where? In the cities and towns? In the woods? In the mountains? Secretly?

On the chessboard, Hitler had made all the essential moves and positioned his own pieces before the Jewish communities even knew that his awful game had begun.

Snyder rightly notes that “we still know very little about Jewish resistance and self-rescue”. Surely, there was some, and any successes – effected by Jewish folk themselves – would have been marvels of courage, ingenuity, and sober daring. And upon them all be peace.

But it is as misguided to take umbrage over the possible answer to an insufficiently well-posed question as it is profoundly careless to imagine a low-resolution cartoon history of the truly schrecklich and chiaroscuro complexity of the Nazi era, as it stretched over Western, Central and Eastern Europe through the course of a dozen highly eventful years, snuffing out but also igniting all manner of life and dignity and courage.

And while We’re at it, let Us take increased devotion to the cause of maturely and soberly grasping the vital complexities of Our own era, here and abroad, the better to shape a course of events that will create circumstances that nurture character. Which is what genuine civilization is all about.

And while We’re on the subject of civilization and the Bielskis’ remarkable embodiment of the good that dwells in the human spirit, let Us note that they made very effective use of very real, very human, and thus imperfect people. There were a lot of ‘fallen’ and possibly unsavory folks whom they enlisted for their skills and strengths. We here are a little too used to the cartoonish vision of ‘good’ people doing ‘good’ things, and ‘baaad’ people doing ‘bad’ things, and never the twain shall mix.

Things are rarely that simple in real life. That’s why cartoons are so seductive – and cartoonish thinking.

The old Westerns used to employ that stock character, the whore – you should pardon the expression – with a heart of gold. Back in those benighted pre-Sixties’ days, a person with such characterological drawbacks would have been the most vivid example of the uncomfortable misch of good and bad that dwells within all human beings. Perhaps in their resolute band the Bielskis or other leaders like them enrolled the skills of some who nowadays would be eligible, say, for a sex-offender registry or some such. If so, such individuals yet ‘did their bit’, brought their skills and made their contribution.

A cartoonish mentality might have simply ruled them out. But there were no such ‘registries’ back then – except for the ones maintained by the Gestapo and the NKVD.

The Nazis are gone, and now the Soviets as well. But cartoonery – if I may – remains alive and well.

And as We saw in the 20th century, cartoonery can fuel awful things.

We are going to need all the services We can get, from all the citizens We can muster, to face the challenges ahead of Us now.

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Friday, May 29, 2009



In an acute essay, Spengler, the essay writer at ‘Asia Times’,* reflects on the differences between Chinese and American (hence Western) culture nowadays.

Using the phenomenon of Susan Boyle as his touch-point, he assesses that type of Western phenomenon in which a not-particularly-talented but nice enough person (she is a middle-aged woman from very modest circumstances) is suddenly ‘raised up’. That term is my own; I use it in full awareness that it comes freighted with Biblical density: the golden idols, the golden serpent, and Christ were all ‘raised up’ – Christ, in fact, twice in one weekend: on the Cross and then from the Tomb.

“There is an undercurrent of self-worship in the aptly-named ‘American Idol’ and its British knock-off which raised Boyle to stardom.” The Seventies ‘Me’ generation, distinct from the Boomers in their teen-Sixties, have somehow wound up merely self-worshipping, and brought their young along with them.

Spengler recalls one of his own insights of several years ago that “at some time during the 20th century, the people of the West elected to identify with what is like them, rather than emulate what is above them”.


Reaching for a Beyond – even more than an ‘above’ – is vital to genuine human development (let’s not go with ‘fulfillment’ – too freighted, and not in a good sense). This existence, to any perceptive human being, is simply wayyy too complex to face it on your own; to stare into the maw of existence, cavernous and frightening, will do baaad things to a human being.

You might wind up like staring into the flames and then jumping in, or chasing the thing all over the world until it turns on you, or hoping you can manipulate some angels or devils to smooth your path, or just standing up and saying either that you’ll do it on your own until you die or that nothing matters much anyway so partay away. That might seem like a lot of options, but … not really.

And it reminds me of something that John Maynard Keynes asked about his countrymen in the Fifties: how did the Brits manage to go, in the space of one generation, from being “Romans” to being “Italians”?

I think the answer to that question lies to great extent in the Brits’ exertions of the previous decades: World War 1 and its massive losses, the Depression and its pervasive deprivations, the Second World War with its monstrous demands as well as its acute self-denial (rationing, ‘going without’ for the sake of the troops, ‘making do’ with all manner of cheap substitutes), all the while holding themselves together as productive adults by ‘doing your bit’, under the added life-wracking threats of not only personal deprivation but also the risk of personal death and national destruction.

If you were born in Great Britain about 1900, it’s a sure bet that by the age of 50 you’d have had a history-book-full of experiences grappling with ‘History’, trying to hold your self and your life and your loved ones and your society and culture together by ‘doing your bit’; that’s enough challenge, romance, adventure, and existential exertion for anybody in a single lifetime. It’s no wonder that they dispensed with Churchill** as soon as possible, and voted in Labour, in the hopes that now their government and perhaps History would do something for them, instead of the other way around.

After all, they had mused, look at the Americans: ruddy, optimistic, well-provided-for, and annoyingly cocky and self-assured in that ‘young’ and sort of thoughtless American way. They sort of felt that they were owed, and that feeling is hardly irrational, given what they had been through.

But they also felt that none of the ‘old ways’, the ‘old virtues’, had really made their lives much better, compared – certainly – to the Americans, who seemed to have it all, and effortlessly so.

The big problem, however, was that while the British people had a definitely justified right to feel that they should be given a few nice things, Great Britain was financially exhausted and the Empire – especially as regards India, lynchpin of Britain’s world-class wealth – was breaking apart. The government was in no shape to provide for its citizens on the American scale.

(Rationing, started in the early war years, lasted into the 1950s).

But while the Brits started to see themselves as being 'owed', which started them down the road to the bread-and-circuses mobs of the later Roman Empire (and hence towards Keynes's "Italians") they never saw themselves as "victims".

That self-assumed identity didn't really catch on until the 1990s in America, where suddenly you a) were convinced that you had been done-wrong, b) were helpless in the grip of your pain and your outrage, and c) needed the government (prodded by 'your' particular Advocacy lobbyists) to do something to make the pain go away.

Suddenly, simply feeling pain and outrage became - oy - an 'achievement', a day's work, a life identity with its own 'meaning' and 'purpose'. It held great promise of 15 minutes of 'fame', which was probably more than you were going to get any other way in your life. Fifteen minutes - for far too many folks that seemed like a good-enough trade-off for the abandonment of any larger purpose and meaning. Anyway, all those 'abstract' words were just socially-constructed tools of oppression, so what else, really, was left?

And that became a wildfire mind-game that left "Italians" in the dust.

A solid point could be made that the Brits, by virtue – as it were – of their virtues, were in 1945 a far more mature people than the Americans who were dizzy if not also drowning in their material wealth and success. There are layers to human existence, as there are to the human self, and to have a solid operational competence in those higher, less material realms of existing, is a real achievement that no amount of cash can ever purchase.

But it’s a hard case to make in the best of times; We are, after all, a young species and still developing, and it’s a hefty leap into the warp-drive spaces of multi-level maturity; the astounding frontal-lobes capability is the most recent major development in humans, and it hasn’t quite been reliably mastered yet. In its way, it’s the difference between playing checkers and playing Spock’s Vulcan chess with its multiple stacked boards. It’s not yet a widely-achieved or popular skill, with its unremitting requirement for self-awareness, seriousness, self-application, patience, and careful, consequential thinking processes. Living so as to always enhance one’s capabilities, living as it were in the frontal-lobes rather than in one’s more primal brainparts, is a full-time task as demanding as sailing a balky ship on the high seas.

If anything, most of the Brits would have settled for a good game of checkers after a decent meal and a good pint and a smoke or a favorite show on the telly.

And that’s understandable, surely.

The Americans faced no such ominous shadows. They came out of the war in a hell of a lot better shape than when they started, and since the rest of the developed world was seriously damaged and exhausted, the Americans were doubly Number One.

But the American citizenry still felt they needed some peace and quiet, and some cashing in to make up for their own exertions during the war. Throughout the Fifties they basked in steady employment, good enough wages, an expanding economy, and a level of convenience – other peoples would call it luxury – that 50 years before was accessible only to the rich.

It was their kids – the Boomers – who grew up simultaneously pampered and bored, and they didn’t even know it. Excitement for them came in the form of being Hippies, the youth-ish adventure of not-conforming, rendered even more attractive to their teen-y selves by the fact that one consequence of not-conforming was the eradication of constraints, internal as well as external. You could tune-out, or you could give yourself to a big corporation … but either way you didn’t have to let yourself be ‘hemmed in’. Make love or make money, but do it without having to feel like you were in harness, like you were fenced-in, like you were nailed to some ‘structure’ that would keep you from ‘just being yourself’.

And then when the spirit of ‘revolution’ swept the developed world in the dizzying mid-Sixties and later, it offered the best shot for those who wanted to make a mark on the world without all the humdrum of a job; the more direct route to seeing yourself make a bang was ‘revolution’ and there were several available.

Impatience and purist intolerance of half-way measures became ‘virtues’ (though they would never be called that) and free rein was given both to the giddy rush of the ‘high’ and to ‘revolutionary zeal’ – there were no fences or trellises, internal or external, to slow or shape them.

The ‘freedom’ of ‘feelings’ attracted both Hippies interested in endless summer afternoons and revolutionaries who sought their own assorted versions of ‘better things’. It fueled them both.

The Brits just wanted a break; the Boomers wanted to break things (yes, some to get more better goodies and some to build on the broken ruins a ‘better world’).

But one way or the other, the West arrived at a place where ‘structures’ were considered oppressive; but I think that the great danger there was in rather thoughtlessly assuming that interior self-structure is as oppressive as assorted micro or macro structures external to the human being. That’s the equivalent of taking your ship apart to make it ‘less rigid’ even as you are sailing on a deep and unruly sea; whether you are on a pleasure cruise or a ‘mission’, taking apart your vessel’s structural members is a project highly ill-advised. The ocean will swallow your weakened vessel, no matter how good the intentions with which you deconstructed its vital shape.

But ‘feelings’ reigned, and a successful and surfeited West could afford to laugh at oceans and their dark, feral mysteries. We would be ‘sensitive’, and that – plus being ‘open’ to anything the Beltway pushed Our way – would constitute Our great progress and achievement. The sterner virtues of character and self-mastery were simply dingy and malicious oppressive tools of ‘the Industrial Age’ (which for those who have joined Us recently happened before the presidency of Ronald Reagan but after the resurrection of Christ, more or less). O brave new world!

“Churlish resentment of high culture comes from the slacker’s desire for reward with neither merit nor effort: the sort of artistic skill that requires years of discipline and sacrifice is a reproach to the indolence of the popular audience of the West.” Yes, that’s part of it. But it wasn’t just slacker-churlishness. There was the immature youth-y assumption that all that effort and discipline was just a form of confining ‘structure’ from which the Spring-like natural goodness of ‘life’ had to be liberated, in individuals and in societies; and there was the impatient revolutionary zeal that saw any discipline except the destructive purposefulness of revolutionary ‘progress’ as simply a form of obstructionist ‘bourgeois’ conformity to oppression.

The idea that culture and society was the achievement of ‘art’, that maintaining a certain level of civilization was an art-form, went overboard. To Hippie-slacker and revolutionary alike, it was all just ‘oppression’. And ‘liberation’ through getting ‘free’ of all that was the only way to go. Being a Citizen, then, was merely a form of cooperating with ‘oppressive structure’.

Further, the idea that the ‘self’ was a work of art, and that mastering the self was itself an art-form, also went overboard. The ‘self’ was just naturally ‘there’, and all you had to do was ‘let it all hang out’ and all would be well for you and – if you were thinking that big – for your world. Although, then, your ‘world’ had shrunk to whatever it was that you ‘liked’, and the rest faded off into a dim haze.

You can’t go very far in that direction before you get into some very dark woods, some very heavy and ominous seas. And things – and selves – will start to come apart.

“The fantasy life of nations has consequences in the real world.” Yes, and of individuals too. And the worst is that you lose the ability, which youthful immaturity doesn’t have to begin with, of distinguishing between your fantasies and any ‘reality’ out there, beyond your fantasies. (Can you say War in Iraq?)

Fantasies unanchored in reality will only be greeted as liberators for a while; after that they are revealed as lethal illusions. (And again: can you say War in Iraq?)

And into this morass of ‘feelings’ the people of the West sank. Whether in pursuit of the ultimate ‘high’, or in pursuit of fantasied or well-intentioned ‘progress’, ‘feelings’ fueled an unthinking Flattening of human life; the Beyond and its ability to nurture working ‘structure’ – however imperfectly realized – in self and society was lost. Tossed overboard, actually, by ‘slackers’ and ‘revolutionaries’ alike.

The Me-generation sank into its own desires and hopes. The revolutionaries sought to remove any impediments to its ‘progress’ that might be posed by – thanks to the Ideological Feminists – ‘thinking’, ‘tradition’, ‘discipline’, ‘mastery’, ‘excellence’, or any of a hundred other achievements of the West or – for that matter – any of the world’s great civilizations.

The Chinese, Spengler notes, aren’t going that route. They have seen enough of the world’s and life’s lethalities to understand that personal mastery and achievement in excellence, purchased through parentally-supported self-application and practice, are the only reliable paths to any realistic hope of conducting a life in this Vale of Tears (my phrase, and not one the Chinese culture would use).

It’s amazing – though not a point that Spengler makes – that despite Mao’s decades of ruthless and brutal destruction of any ‘traditional’ Chinese culture or philosophy, yet the Chinese have recovered the nub of their own civilizational roots (although incorporating some Western elements as well). I doubt that the decades of revolutionary wrack imposed by Mao and his ‘visions’ will fail to inflict further consequences on their efforts, but they’re on the Long March to mastery and achievement. That’s a ‘long war’ – if you will – that’s going to pay off bigtime.

They are living to achieve, not simply to survive or to ‘enjoy’. Nor are they going to allow themselves to be corralled into the soup-rabbit pen of believing in some fantasy that if you just ‘feel’ strongly enough then you will be ‘OK’.

Nor are they going to allow themselves the fantasy of believing that ‘feeling’ is itself a substantive and significant achievement. They aren’t going to equate mere ‘feeling’ with ‘living’; that’s only true of the more primitive brainparts. Their concept of ‘living’ and of being human is a lot more capacious than the Flattened, shrunken facsimile that is currently being touted over here.

What only Bobby-soxers and Beatles fans did on the streets outside theaters and auditoriums in the Forties, Fifties, and early Sixties, is what far too many people in the West do now, and consider it a successful day’s work. Indeed, trying to feel-good-about-yourself is now a full-time chore for a lot of folks.

Spengler raises the example of the British ‘rust-belt’ town of Blackburn in Scotland’s West Lothian. “There is life after economic death, but it is not pleasant … On Friday and Saturday night besotted boys and girls in extreme states … riot through whole quarters of ruined industrial towns … A good deal of Britain’s working class is unemployable at any price, too lazy to move to London to take jobs waiting tables or driving buses”.

The unemployability of children raised to believe that their ‘feelings’ alone are important, especially the ‘feeling’ that they are ‘oppressed’, ‘owed’, and – somehow – generally victimized, is probably more relevant here in the States than anybody really wants to think about.

The ‘slackers’ of the ‘90s were canaries in the mine, and doubly so: they had no interior structure or trellis – let alone Trellis – upon which a self and a life could be built and conducted; they had never been required by their parents or society to develop anything like that. But then too there actually were no longer any guarantees that the nation’s economy could provide even the semblance of reliable and even modestly remunerative work.

And perhaps, besotted by a too-limited diet of movies about winsome slacker kids in their 20s and 30s and video games with their ephemeral but ‘exciting’ successes, many cohorts of the young simply feel that ‘work is too ‘boring’, that anything less than the life they see on the screen (a fantasy too easily mistaken for reality) is distasteful and less ‘real’; they’ll wait until they get what they want – or until it comes to them, like Noah’s dove returned to him, only without having to do all that building the ark and getting laughed at and loading all the animals up and facing the mother of all floods. They’ll wait.

Wait for … Godot? What will be coming along? A ‘discovery’ by ‘talent’-hunters for ‘American Idol’? Or by an all-saving professional sports talent-scout? Or any of half a hundred mythical saviors who will write the checks that will provide the life they’ve seen on the screen and have assumed is the birth-right of every American or Western ‘kid’?

Meanwhile they ‘wait’, absorbed in texting vacuously to each other, spending their time and energy getting excited about the lives – or brief 15 minutes – of others or about the latest new this or that which they either have to have immediately or endure the reproach and self-reproach of being not-cool. And there are now cohorts of chronological adults with the same constricted sense of life.

It has turned into a Flattened existence in the West, regardless of how well-intentioned the dark paths that have led to it. We might all say with Chester A. Riley: “What a revoltin’ development dis turned out ta be!”. But the young never knew anything else but their fantasies, and now not even those fantasies can be sustained; the American Dream Machine is gone, baby, gone. And perhaps on some level they know that, whether their adults have the fortitude and maturity to discuss it with them, or the wit even to recognize it.

Worse, Spengler raises a point that nobody here wants to touch: economic recovery may indeed come, but not to the West.

Try rolling that around in your mind for a bit. That We here are now Britain in 1947 and nothing is ‘coming back’; that We’ll be lucky to keep up a standard of material living closer to 1940 than to 1999 or 2003.

Nor do We generally possess the internal structures and strength to handle that well; that’s all gone, baby, gone too. We disassembled Our spiritual and characterological strengths the way they took apart the urban and interurban trolley and rail systems in the late 1940s. And now there’s not enough cash to rebuild them, and probably not the industrial capacity to do it either.***

Our internal infrastructure as a people –let alone our competence as The People – is in even worse shape than Our material and production infrastructure. And even if some equivalent of the old Depression-era WPA and CCC were politically possible, are those in need of employment physically or spiritly (‘spiritually’ is getting a bit too specifically religious) fit to do the work?

“The terrible suffering of the 19th and 20th centuries left every Chinese parent with the conviction that the world shows no mercy to mediocrity.” Fat from its seemingly eternal material abundance and addled by a far too rich and sugary diet of fantasy, Americans opted to simply abolish mediocrity by having government bureaucracies prohibit its use as a term or a concept; Americans, they figured, are not ‘mediocre’ because nobody is allowed to say that anybody else is mediocre.

For all We know, some ‘advocates’ are in the Beltway right now agitating for a Constitutional ‘right’ not to be called mediocre, backed up by Federal civil-rights law and god-knows-what legal penalties. Or perhaps offering the constructive suggestion that to say a kid needs to move beyond a present condition of mediocre performance will be classified as ‘child abuse’, for which Byzantine or Soviet level strictures are already in place.

Meanwhile, the Flatness of the genuine human experience that the West offers to its young simply increases in density, even as the enfeebled economy becomes increasingly unable to pay for the life-long vacation at the fantasy-park. It’s a hell-hot irony that as the life-enhancing sense of the Beyond was deconstructed, the visions of bright sunny uplands promised in replacement by the tactically shrewd but profoundly unwise ‘revolutions’ have turned out to be the vehicles of a saccharine and insubstantial imprisonment.

Far too many in the West now ride on trains, almost as if in boxcars, to Flatness. And as Bonhoeffer ruefully noted, “Once you’ve gotten on the wrong train, walking backwards through the cars isn’t going to help”.


*He is now revealed as David P. Goldman, now on the editorial staff of the magazine ‘First Things’.

**Neocons who have raised up Churchill as an idol, take serious note here.

***Recently, a foreign company bought the rusting but still intact SS United States, tied up at a New Jersey pier; she was the marvelous liner built here in the very early 1950s, one of the most graceful and speedy liners ever built. They wanted to restore her, but to their surprise discovered that there were no American shipyards that retained the know-how to restore her.

On a less nostalgic note: imagine what will happen if We lost one or two of Our vaunted naval super-carriers. In World War Two We turned out quantities of large fast attack carriers quickly and competently; how long would it take American yards to provide replacements nowadays? And how would they be paid for?

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009



Helen Benedict is at it again on Alternet (the article was first published in 'The Nation'). She has published several times on Alternet; this is an example, and a search of that site or 'The Nation' site under her name will yield several more).

Coincident with a book she has published, and not for the first time, she asks plaintively “Why Are Women Still Treated as Second-Class Soldiers?”.

As if she didn’t know about the huge complications and the Ideological Feminists’ (IF) own shrewd and duplicitous policy strategies that have frakked up what was already a hugely freighted initiative.

She starts, as so often nowadays, with a ‘story’. You might be forgiven for thinking that in matters of huge national import – and military capability is a huge matter not only in domestic affairs but also (is this a surprise?) in foreign affairs – you’d want to get right to the issues and the ideas.

But no. Journalism nowadays – and not without a monstrous influence by Ideological Feminism (IF) – is ‘softer’; you don’t start with ideas – you “hook’em” with a ‘story’. Funny, but in the benighted days of the late 19th and very early 20th centuries, ‘sob stories’ were popularly the province of a particular type of female author who were collectively known as ‘sob sisters’. But in the cutting edge modernity of Our present ‘revolutions’, you can’t suggest that the same thing has happened all over again, and that what possibilities some folks foresaw back then about a certain rampant and manipulative emotionality might actually have come to pass now. You could lose your union card for noticing something like that.

In the alternative, you can burnish your union creds by playing the same game while insulated from any critical notice of what you’re up to. Now that is a sweet racket.

Anyhoo, Benedict is on about problems with the women-rich military. If she’s accurate in her descriptions, then the problems are very serious indeed. But of course, her unwritten ground rule is that you can’t accept that the problems are indeed very serious unless you first accept as a matter of quasi-religious and procedural belief that the source of the problems can only be – not to put too fine a point on it – men. Or perhaps, more charitably, ‘patriarchy’.

That there might be some characteristic problems with women themselves in actual combat (as opposed to ‘peace-timey’ desk jobs and staff jobs); that the mixed-gender unit plan – if nothing else – is seriously flawed; that the IF Advocacy’s own maniacal support of the mixed-gender unit plan is part of the problem … none of these solutions are admissible.

Naturally, then, any ‘review’ of the problem is going to fail to come up with a workable solution. It’s the equivalent of the Wehrmacht and SS generals getting together in Berlin or Zossen to discuss the Wehrmacht’s problem with partisan activity behind the lines in the Ukraine, with nobody being allowed to bring up the Reich’s overall racial Untermensch philosophy as the prime source of the problem. Nein. Easier to blame the troops’ lack of discipline and ineffective officers.

That’s easier than having to face the possibility that the entire foundational philosophy is frakking whackery erected into a Plan. Do you vant tu go tu ze Berghof und tell him zat, Herr General?

She reports that “many female veterans … share anger”. Sharing is so good. “They join the military for the same reasons men do – to escape dead-end towns or dysfunctional families, to pay for college or seek adventure, to follow their ideals or find a career”. Well, you can join General Motors to do that (up until rather recently).

Benedict gives the IF game away a bit here: most males join the military to – not to put too fine a point on it – fight. Which works well enough since the military is set up – when push comes to shove – to fight, and to fight so effectively that it wins. Kind of a neat arrangement. Males, being more testosterone-endowed than females (the lesbian sistern only partly differing in this regard), are presumed – hardly irrationally – to be more naturally endowed for the fighting and combat chores.

This is neither the result of a ‘patriarchal conspiracy’ nor a simple matter of a mere common, culture-wide misconception or delusion that can be changed overnight if enough folks just ‘choose to believe’, just choose to ‘get it’.

The IF plan, as best I can make it out, was to turn the military into a huge employment opportunity for all the various sets of ‘women’ that it was ‘liberating’ from family, marriage, husbands, and patriarchy generally. It saw its main chance when the Soviet Union fell in 1991 and with just a few cocktails under the belt one might be induced to imagine that the military would never have to ‘fight’ again. Almost immediately, as well, the Clinton presidency began, and Hillary was even more woman-oriented than Bill.

The military could be seen as nothing more than a ‘lifestyle choice’ and ‘employment opportunity’ that should be open to all citizens. And the government would see to it, and sooner rather than later.

It would work out well if it were forcefully enough imposed: younger straight women would sign up for a hitch or two as junior-enlisteds, then move on into the civilian work-world with some government bennies and the creds of being a veteran. Those artistes formerly distinguished by their sensible shoes could go for full-career status, as senior non-coms or senior officers, and retire after re-making the military ethos, if not actually improving its combat capabilities. What was not to like? America was the world-hegemon and ‘combat’ was a thing of the past. Not only History but the frakfest of real combat was over.

They were sunny times indeed, the early Clinton years.

History and combat, alas, did not hew to the script assigned to them, and no amount of Congressional legislating could make them keep to their assigned role in the script. The sovereign Beltway authority could go down to the shores of History’s monstrous ocean and command and complain and demand all it wanted; the tides would not accept their orders. That incompassable Ocean just refused to ‘get it’. Who knew?

The tides refused to obey even those star-spangled generals and admirals who saw what the Clintons wanted and decided to go along to get along. Outrageous. You’d think that since ‘Nature’ was simply a creature of ‘patriarchy’, it would realize that it had been shrewdly outmaneuvered and simply roll over and pretend it didn’t exist.

In a hell-hot irony, the legislators’ equally powerful self-indenture to defense-industry biggies and various ‘allies’ almost guaranteed that ‘combat’ would remain alive and well, thus undermining the IF presumption that since there would be no more combat, then the numerous huge problems inherent in their women-in-the-military plan would be neatly mooted, sidestepped by deft Beltway lobbying. (And see Chris Hedgegs here for a warning about the perils of 'permanent war'.)

And here We are. The only option left now – assuming that an admission that the fundamental philosophy has to be taken off the road and put up on blocks for serious reworking is politically unacceptable – is to keep up a steady complaint that things aren’t working out and it must be the guys’ fault, as always. As in 1942 in that German capital, things have gone too far to change course now. Ach.

The women are now suffering from “the double traumas of combat and sexual persecution”. Good grief: does Professor Benedict really mean “persecution”? That there is a wide-ranging plan to deliberately cause torture-level pain and injury? Or is a question as to definition itself too ‘male’? Is it thinking too much? Too ‘vertically’?

Combat is indeed traumatic. And Fourth-Generation (4GW) combat is even more traumatic than the old-school WW2-style combat, and especially if you’re – how to put this? – not winning.
It will be especially traumatic if – hypothetically speaking – nature and/or evolution has primed you in the most profoundly complex neuro-biological ways to be attuned to human emotional interactions (which would be verrrry adaptive if, say, you were going to be bearing and raising the young of the species, especially so complex a species as the human species). Yes, even female lions hunt, for their young, but then again ‘hunting’ is not ‘combat’. And if combat takes a monstrous toll on male participants who are testosterone-loaded, how much more a toll will it take on those who are not thus neuro-chemically fortified?

But this, I think, brings matters to a glaring conundrum: If those who are not thus testosterone-fortified* are going to be in combat, then it will have to be in mixed-gender units, so that there will be enough males to keep up a sufficient combat-efficiency. But if you put males and females together in mixed-gender units, a-n-d under the incredibly intense conditions of modern, sustained combat contact, then there is going to be a stunning probability of sexual tension and sexual ‘activity’.

And then on top of that, given that outright ‘rape’ and a long range of interactional activities shading down into unwanted or even initially-welcomed romantic advances are all deceptively listed under the catch-all portmanteau-phrase ‘sexual assault’ … you can see how quickly one problem starts to feed off another until the mess becomes incredibly tangled.

To try to run in this setting the old 1990s ‘college play’ – that the military can be made as ‘sexually correct’ as an elite university campus – is … perhaps ill-advised. **

Benedict chooses to blame the guys. “Yet the military – from the Pentagon to the troops on the ground – has been slow to recognize the service that these women perform, or even to see them as real soldiers”. That some of the foregoing observations might actually be accurate, and that they might constitute some of the operational dynamics that are preventing ‘women’ from succeeding in the combat milieu – she will not consider that, even if she is a Professor and something of a public intellectual.

Instead, it’s the patriarchal “stereotypes” that are making it “difficult for women to be taken seriously as soldiers or advance in their careers, let alone win respect”. That the machine isn’t working because the rounded pieces will not fit into the square sockets – that cannot even be considered.

And the Eastern Front grinds on.

“Far from protecting women, men are attacking them.” She is referring to American male troops here, and they are “attacking” the female troops. You would think that if this were an accurate description of the situation, Benedict would want to get the women out of there forthwith and work out the philosophical and organizational conundrums later. But no. Because either a) that’s not the overall IF ‘plan’ or b) it isn’t really as bad as she’s making it out to be or c) both. Oy.

Nor does she – a journalism professor at a prestigious university – pursue the clear implication that part of the combat over there is that American troops are – through inadvertence or the exigencies of 4GW combat – killing women, Iraqi or Afghani or Pakistani. That very real attacking and killing of women doesn’t engage her concerns at all here.

Nor does the equally thought-provoking implication that she is advocating her already traumatized women-soldiers should be exposed to the (Triple? Quadruple?) trauma of killing women. And how much combat efficiency will be left when a unit’s female troops react emotionally to the experience of such killing? Or any amount of killing?*** Nor can I accept in any form the implication that to ‘keep women from’ this type of thing is either a) sexist or b) depriving them of an ‘experience’ to which they have an undeniable civil-right. But I do indeed point out that it is this very type of killing, and how you ‘handle’ it, that goes quite a way towards establishing your ‘creds’ among your combat peers. Benedict better really think through just what she’s demanding.

So the generals may be – though they dare not say it – concerned for combat efficiency: either a) because they can see the conceptual problems or b) because a great deal of those problems have already arisen at the front (though not reported out of Political Correctness).

In either case, the type of play Benedict is running is diabolically clever: while the full extent of the problems over there cannot be reported because of Political Correctness, she and others like her can whale away on the generals and the troops because they aren’t bringing ‘women’ into their frakkingly frightful combat ethos as quickly and fully as the PC mavens over here would like to see. What’s not to like?

She deploys a few of the standard pot-boiler non-points. “Studies have long shown that some women’s strength matches that of some men”. Yeah, well, here and there, the occasional female might. But the whole idea of a military is that you can move troops around quickly and simply because they are generally and reliably ‘the same’ in capacity and therefore ‘interchangeable’. Thus: Sir, they need reinforcements in Sector 4-A right now / Send a platoon from the HQ Company / Sir, that’s been reduced to 60% females through attrition … No commander is going to run the risk of sending that platoon on the off-chance that a bunch of Benedict’s “some women” just happen to be in that platoon today. To send that unit would be taking a risk that the platoon itself will get into deeper trouble and have to be retrieved with troops that aren’t available, and meanwhile the actual initial operation is going south.

And for all We know this stuff already happens and has contributed to the – ummmmm – non-victorious outcomes We have experienced over there. Gack.

And those same studies – and who can trust Advocacy studies any longer? – have shown that “women use ingenuity instead of strength where necessary”. And men don’t? I thought it was a given in IF philosophy that men are ‘rational’ and that this is one of their biggest drawbacks? And just how – short of Star Trek – is “ingenuity” going to help in a direct combat situation? A male sailor is unconscious in a compartment that’s flooding; there’s only a female sailor there with him, and his inert body has to be carried up the ladder to the next higher deck. The female hasn’t got the body strength, the water is rising, and she’s going to do … what? Call Spock and have them both beamed the hell out of there?

In this regard, I couldn’t help but notice a recent photo (sorry, I don’t know how to incorporate photos into text, but you should be able to find it easily enough) that was allowed by the military: the first casket of a deceased soldier being carried out of a transport plane here: the regulation six soldiers, all male, carrying it. But in the mother of all Freudian slips, the military tacked on two more soldiers – a black female and a white female – at the front of the casket, as if they were carrying it too. The picture, meant to cover all the PC bases, actually demonstrates a) that PC concerns drive wayyy too much of military decision-making and b) that if you’re going to have females on the task, you will need to assign more folks to the task to begin with.

The Navy has now changed the number of sailors who should carry ship-board casualties on litters to the sickbay: more are assigned, on the assumption (an eminently rational one) that females will not be able to deploy sufficient strength. But what this also does is take more sailors away from their tasks while the ship is in a combat situation. You see the problem.

“And there is no evidence that women soldiers add to the danger of men in any way.” Neat. Since any officer reporting such a situation would be well-advised to start taking taxi-driving lessons because the now-PC-affrighted military command structures don’t even want to know such stuff (Sergeant Schulz report to HQ on the double!), then there won’t be any ‘evidence’ and people like Benedict can crow that ‘there is no evidence’. So much fun! You can get ‘studies’ that say what you want them to say and you can suppress any ‘evidence’ that demonstrates what you don’t want to have demonstrated.

Lastly, I can’t help but note that Benedict is a Professor of Journalism at Columbia University. This must be just her day-job, because what she’s given readers here is not journalism but ‘advocacy’. Indeed, she is also listed as an author, of the book “The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq”.

A public intellectual, a Professor – and of Journalism to boot – and yet she gives Us this. Why? I am starting to think that these ‘advocacy’ professors and authors are not trying to give anybody an accurate picture or discussion of the problem. Instead they’re after a more insidious three-fer: they misinform Us to their own advantage, while also providing an ‘encouragement’ to their ‘Identity-mates’ and also – ominously – providing yet another ‘book’ that can be waved in front of more or less willing pols to ‘support’ and ‘demonstrate’ the urgent need for this or that demand that they’re making.

It’s no way to run a military. It’s no way to run a democratic politics. And Professors – if it isn’t too quaint – should know better.


*No study has been done, to my knowledge, as to the ways in which lesbians’ somewhat larger testosterone load does and does not alter their ‘female-ness’, and specifically in terms of the ability to endure ‘combat’ experience. But with so little study and verifiable knowledge in this area, it’s hardly advisable to erect a national policy about the matter. And this is also relevant in terms of the female-on-female violence evident – though not widely discussed – in lesbian domestic relationships. And how much of this military sexual assaulting is female-on-female?

**And as always, may I say outright and without reservation that I hold no brief whatsoever for the unwanted imposition of sexual ‘experience’ upon any human being by another human being.

*** And as always, may I say outright and without reservation that I do not get a ‘rush’ out of the prospect of killing, even in combat.

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Once again, there are ‘coincidences’ that appear to the newspaper reader; and if you are humble and open-minded enough to take guidance from the hard-earned wisdom of Soviet citizens of that awful era, then you know that there are no ‘coincidences’ in the papers or the broadcasts.

Late last week a story was reported: the Irish State has just released a shocking report on child-abuse at Church-run orphanages, going back more than half a century.


“Abuse” is no longer a word that should be allowed anything but the strictest scrutiny: these days, it can mean anything from the most genuinely repugnant sexual assault to not-talking-to-somebody. Both of those activities each have their rightful place in public discourse, but they don’t quite belong stuffed together in the ‘portmanteau’ or ‘suitcase’ term “abuse”. Especially not when the prevalence of said “abuse” becomes the lynchpin of a concerted effort for expanding the government police power. There were, no doubt, some very nasty and some very unpleasant Polish folk among Poland’s citizenry in the late 1930s (as can be said of any nation’s citizenry at any time), but the term “the Poles” as used in Goebbels’s ‘newscasts’ was an insidiously duplicitous term deployed not to convey a truth or a fact but rather to effect a public-opinion stampede against the nation that Hitler had decided to invade and divvy up with his fellow-monster, Stalin.

Also, it occurs that this Irish-orphanage story is hardly new. It is, after all, 2009, and I recall seeing mention of it more than half a decade ago, when the priestly abuse crisis became big news in the very first days of 2002, broken by the ‘Boston Globe’. As sometimes happens with professional Advocacies, as well as Ministries of Propaganda, and the media that are eagerly indentured to them both, successfully ‘exciting’ ‘stories’ tend to get repeated, long after a thoughtful reader could be forgiven for thinking that something almost a decade old can’t really be termed ‘breaking news’.*

But then over the long weekend the President of Ireland herself shows up in Boston. As if by inadvertence, the paper reports that she is concerned for what is “the beginning of ‘a painful, necessary, national debate’”. Granted Ireland is far more attached to its past then America, but are they just getting around to this over there on the Oulde Sod?

But she’s “convinced the debate will be healthy and cathartic”. Well, from her lips to God’s ear. Since much of the West has been rather publicly carrying on the debate for the better part of a decade now, it will not be encouraging if it isn’t.

What caught my attention was a particular statement she made. In response to those of her fellow Irish citizens who feel that “the renewed focus” [italics mine] will contribute to more religious divisiveness in that religiously troubled land, she pertly asserted that such may possibly be true but “now is not the time for saying that”.

Valid observations and concerns, apparently, are not always valid, nor are they welcome. There is apparently a ‘time’ for them, and then there is a whole chunk of time when it is “not the time” for them.

This prompts me to think that the media (and most of the pols) are now working full-time on a ‘time-cycle’. There are waves of concern – as much manufactured as authentically spontaneous – and during such a wave then it is ‘time’ only for concerns, ideas, observations that go along with and support that wave. During that ‘time’, it is by working protocol “not the time” for disagreement or skepticism or doubt or serious reservations or tire-kicking in general.

We saw this approach metastasize here during World War One. Once Wilson chose not to play ‘honest broker’ to an international peace, but instead chose to get in on the fighting by taking America to war on – naturally – one side of the brouhaha, then suddenly the citizenry, who up to then had been deeply divided about America’s role in Europe’s Great War, were suddenly prohibited from any of the aforesaid disagreement or skepticism or doubt or serious reservations or tire-kicking in general. With the ominous revival of the odious sedition laws from over a century before, Americans could now go to jail for kicking government tire.

By the by, an ambitious government clerk, one J. Edgar Hoover, knew a good wave when he saw one, and cast his board out into the steeply rising surf, launching himself and what would become his personal fiefdom of the F.B.I. on a hunt for sedition among Americans. For the cameras he wore his manly trunks; the dresses he saved for after-hours. History is not only not dead; it’s positively complex.

When there is a ‘war’, once “the balloon goes up” as the Pentagoons like to say, then the time for debate is over. This is certainly the case in the military; once the command decision has been made, then the time for disagreement is past. But to introduce this operating principle into the citizenry is to militarize the citizens, and that cannot end well for The People.

And, as I have always held, beyond each American’s identity as an individual self, or as the member of some constructed Identity, each and every American has an identity as one of The People. And that identity must remain primary, and must be actively nurtured and exercised. Lest the government machine in all its Branches go off the rails.

The media’s job, in this schematic, is to keep the citizens well informed so that they may act as The People. If the media starts to act as a shill for the government and simultaneously as a panderer to those secondary identities of the citizens (can you say ‘soft news’ and ‘advocacy journalism’?) then The People fades. And the Constitution and the Republic with it. As perhaps We now are beginning to realize.

So, each ‘time’ corresponds to a more or less manufactured media ‘wave’, or – as We have seen so often in an egregiously loose and unserious use of metaphor – ‘war’; each big ‘wave’ is termed a ‘war’: the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the culture wars, the gender war, the war against men (well, this one they’d rather not call by so clear a name).

‘Wars’ all the time. You can’t keep a citizenry on a constant, decades-long ‘war footing’ without creating some serious deformation in the civic competence of The People.

And, in the hottest of History’s hell-hot ironies, it now looks like – under Democratic or Republican administration – this nation is going to be engaged in an all too real ‘Long War’ (although today they’d rather We call it Overseas Contingency Operations). Thus troops are now allowed – required even – to wear field camouflage combat uniforms when they go out in public on American streets, instead of the more peace-timey ‘service’ uniforms (uniform shoes, slacks, shirt, cap); after all, there will be no more ‘peacetime’ … no time for it now. No time for it any more.

And what’re you gonna do about it?


*As is nowadays required, let me say right here that I hold no brief for the sexual assault of children by adults, whether in positions of authority or not; nor do I hold any brief for Catholic bishops.

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Monday, May 25, 2009



A substantive article over on Consortium News: there is a significant possibility that the Palestinian inhabitants of the territory now claimed by the State of Israel are actually the closest genetic descendants of the Jewish inhabitants of the Israel of the Roman era.

Many of the Hebrew inhabitants of the Roman era – perhaps with much less Roman pressure than has usually been presumed – spread out all over Europe and elsewhere in what came to be known as the Diaspora. In the process, they mingled and lost the actual ‘bloodlines’. The folks who stayed behind after the time of Titus retained more of their genetic integrity.

“There is also now the modern irony that modern Israel was established by Jews of European origin, many of whom may be ethnically unconnected to Palestine.”

I know that We have lost wayyy too much of Our capacity for being taken aback. Flannery O’Connor once responded to a criticism about the violent bizarreness of her stories by pointing out that ‘Southerners’ (this was in the 1950s) write so much more about “freaks” than writers from other parts of the county “because we can still recognize one when we see one”.

Things have changed. Under unremitting elite pressure from academics and politicians and even the media, We have lost Our sense of the “freakish” in the orgy of “non-judgmentalism” that overtook the country in the 1970s. In the effort to become a ‘kinder, gentler’ place, and – on a slightly more ulterior level – to crowbar open social and political ‘space’ for alternative lifestyles and conceptions of the self and the universe that humans inhabit, and to weaken the hold of patriarchal, categorical, and abstract ‘thinking’, it has become quite bad form to share out loud your assessment of this or that ‘development’, ‘progress’, or – surely – the ‘revolutions’ themselves.

America, of course, doesn’t permit Stalin’s solution: round up anybody who disagrees and shoot them. And round up anybody who may at some point disagree … and shoot them. Over here, the Goebbelsian approach was more workable: manipulate public opinion and induce the ‘press’ to go along. In this battle, at least, the Nazis have beaten Stalin. All that’s left of his approach is the sudden erection of ‘evil enemy’ classes against whom the surplus emotions of the populace might usefully be diverted and deployed. Although, in a bit of conceptual hubris that not even Goebby would have indulged, Our own ‘suspect’ class includes, in one way or another, 49 percent or so of the population … which may yet prove to have been all along a bridge too far.

But the concept migrated, into foreign affairs, and here We are now, confronted with a rather thickish straw in the wind to the effect that for the past half-century and ten, and especially the past 40 years, We have been supporting the takeover of a land in the admittedly well-intentioned purpose of providing a home for “the Jews”*, even to the extent of abetting the expulsion or destruction of the people – and “Arabs” at that, it was said, who had been long-established on the land.

And all along, it turns out that the actual genetic descendants of the Hebrews of yore are not the invading “Jews” nor their nationalist descendants the Israelis, but rather the very folk – farmers and villagers – who had been termed the enemy and the obstructive elements that had to be cleaned out.

If you run this around in your mind for a minute or two, is it possible not to feel a stunning symphony of emotions, none of them ‘happy’? And none of them flattering to America as a nation, and surely not to its governing elites.

All these decades of treasure, blood, and – oy – moral integrity, deployed in ever-astronomical amounts, spewed, sprayed, shot and dropped all over the place, all the feral panoply of ‘doing whatever it takes’, and all along We have been supporting – you should pardon the expression – ‘the bad guys’?

So that the next time you might chance to view those newsreels of the Allied liberation of the camps, the actual role of the current generations of Americans is not as the Allied liberation troops, but rather the German townsfolk filing by the piles of corpses and all that human wrack and ruin?

We didn’t know. We had been assured by the government that only the right things were being done. We had our own problems. It was war. Life is tough. Surely you can’t blame us for this? It’s over now, so why drag it all up? You must hate us to even show us all this, and remind us. We thought the fine ash was snow – this isn’t your fairy-tale Florida, you know.

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Ach. Oy.

Well, History – or God acting through History – has already started handing out sentences. Our democracy corrodes toward a ‘permanent war state’, the better to ‘support’ the Israeli ‘ally’. Our troops now walk the streets in their combat-field uniforms, where in an earlier era but not so long ago, they wore the uniforms of the day out among the civilians and left field-uniforms for field-operations.

In just over a week, on June 8, there will occur the 42nd anniversary of the sustained Israeli assault on the American naval vessel, USS Liberty: bombed, machine-gunned, torpedoed, dozens of Our ‘boys’ killed or wounded, life-rafts machine-gunned, and in its vote-desperate effort to pander, LBJ’s government refused to send rescue missions to drive off the attackers.

And it sat there – that government – eagerly ‘accepting’ ridiculously obvious faked Israeli ‘evidence’ that the whole thing had been (after the ship refused to sink and the crew refused to go conveniently to the bottom) a ‘mistake’.

The Israeli’s claimed they couldn’t see the flag in all the smoke, though there are photos from the ship of its planes coming in for leisurely bomb-runs in perfect sunlight; doctored photos of Israeli ‘gunsight’ cameras that include brushed out globs where the tugboats easing the ship into dock were depicted in the actual un-doctored photo; purportedly seasoned Israeli pilots and naval officers claiming that they mistook the massive Liberty ship, with its big white Navy letter-and-number markings on both sides, bow and stern, to be an Egyptian tramp steamer half its size and speed.

And LBJ himself, who said that he didn’t care if the ship and all its sailors sank to the bottom of the sea – he wasn’t going to embarrass his Israel “friends”. Could Biden put it any better? **

The hot ironies. The hot, hellish, demonic ironies. How much blood cries from the ground and the sea? The blood not only of the grievously afflicted ‘Palestinians’, but of Our own sailors.

Assuming that JFK didn’t meet his end because he opposed the then-current Israeli efforts to illegally acquire their own Bomb, then I place the moment of Blutbund – of the forging of the bond of shared treachery of spilled innocent blood – right there on June 8, 1967, between the US government (under Democratic control, although the Republicans allowed themselves to be dealt in later on) and the government of Israel (the one that has never signed a treaty of alliance with Us).

Johnson’s Historical punishment was swift. Though he sacrificed integrity and committed vile treachery for the sake of securing ‘the Jewish vote’ for the 1968 election, he would not win that election, and indeed preemptively removed himself, rather than face the voters. He lived only a few more years.

But Our own payment is being extracted more slowly. When History deals with large groups, it often takes its time. The fact that human memories, especially nowadays, don’t seem to go back very far doesn’t seem to bother History in the least. Unlike ‘victims’, History doesn’t mind if its retribution isn’t even recognized for what it is. If folks want to keep mulishly believing that History doesn’t exist and that stuff just happens, well that’s not History’s problem. We, after all, are not History’s ‘consumer’s – let alone its ‘creators’ – and History owes no fiduciary sensitivity to human beings.

And that’s just the secular take on it.

If one accepts the existence of Jefferson’s “just God”, then you can see how much drama and seriousness is still left in the affairs of human beings – nor do We need to manufacture ‘drama’ and pretend to ‘seriousness’ … those two elemental aspects of the human experience are alive and well and verrrry busy, thank you very much.

The German townsfolk, finally brought to bay and forced to see what had been done in their name – for the sake of their great Volk, suddenly realized that not only had History come to town, but that it was looking for them. Nor would it listen to polite, snarky, plaintive or angry suggestions that it move on to Berlin and take it up with the frazzled ogre in his Bunker. There was more than enough History to go around; the ogre and his Volk would be dealt with.

With all respect to hard-working Hollywood, who needs to go to a movie on Memorial Day? We’re in one. A big one. A block-buster. A people-buster.

Some sackcloth and ashes might be better than hot dogs and beer this day.


*I have said and say again that I don’t like the phrases “Jews” or “the Jews” and I do not use them to express my own thought. I use the term here because it’s the common-coin of terminology in the public discourse (such as it has been).

**You can go to and review the whole incredible collection.

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Friday, May 22, 2009



I had Posted here recently about Obama’s exhortation for judges to have “empathy”. A week or so prior to that, I had Posted about the concerns arising with ‘women’ (as opposed to ‘females’) as candidates for the judiciary.

Ellen Goodman has now rung in with a column entitled “What’s bad about empathy?”.

I want to say something about that. And not because I’m over-focused on the issue, but because it is an issue close-in to the heart of the matrix of problems bethumping Us as a Constitutional polity; and in my view, if We lose the Constitution and the Republic, then whether or how We come out of the fiscal crisis and how things work out on the Eastern Front and in the Middle East and just how big a slice of the pie each of the Identities gets … these things will not matter. These things will not be the Matter upon which Our stewardship of the American Experiment will be judged. And judged by generations who will not so much be standing on Our era’s shoulders, as wading through the swamps that overflowed everything that We had inherited and were supposed to pass along.

Lady Justice, snarks Goodman, need not wear a blindfold, because she is programmed by patriarchy in her very core, and the blindfold changes things not a bit. Objectivity is a myth, We recall the feminists*saying; ‘facts don’t matter’, and reason and reasoning are merely patriarchal ploys to keep everybody else oppressed.

Men, We might recall, are from Mars and women are from Venus, as the catchy title has it. In a sleazy comparing of the best possible of one with the worst possible of the other, this works out to men being violent but also coldly heartless, rational oppressors, while women – the script goes – are warm, caring, intuitive, peace-loving ‘feelers’, everywhere oppressed but morally and humanly superior. It’s cartoonish, but the terms of Our national awareness (there is little deliberation or debate) have been debased by the feminists’ own ‘revolutionary’ methodology of simultaneously undermining the public’s capacity to think while stampeding public opinion with ‘emergencies’ and ‘epidemics’, vividly and almost and almost cartoonishly presented, and all caused – but of course – by ‘men’ and their patriarchy.

As if she had been elsewhere in the galaxy for the past several decades, she notes flatly that “We’ve already had preemptive strikes against three women on the media short list”. We, the lumpenvolk, are expected not to recall numerous prior instances where persons being considered for public office are examined as to their sensitivity to the correct concerns and agendas; scorecards and ratings are even provided by the correct watchdog groups.

Yet Goodman calls this a “scary radical” treatment.

But she has something there. As I said in a prior Post (linked above), while there is no problem with a female being on the Court, there is much more problem with a ‘woman’ being on the Court: she would either be a feminist cadre herself, or she would find herself sorely bethumped by feminists who expected her to avoid becoming a ‘gender-traitor’. (Yes, Goodman will piously intone that a ‘woman’ will be empathetic to all the oppressed, but beneath the sheepskin there is the fang of feminist correctness: she will be expected to further the revolution’s agenda.)

Goodman snarks on: “More bizarrely” (she really does want Us to think she’s been elsewhere for thirty-five years, and is honestly ‘shocked, shocked’ by what she’s just now discovering) "we have a full-throated campaign targeted against any candidate who might have a deep, dark secret buried in her resume. She may have, gasp, empathy.” Snark to the max. You go, Goody!

The main trouble here is that ‘empathy’ as it’s being deployed in all of this has a major drawback. It’s a code word. It is not what it appears to be. It’s a ‘portmanteau word’, a suitcase filled with all sort of things, and even with secret compartments to stuff darkling things where only the most persistent inspection has even a chance of discovering them.

It’s a code word for using a form of ‘feeling’ to undermine and override ‘patriarchal’ and ‘oppressive’ reason, which is that male thing. In the service of the ‘revolution’, those cadres and collaborators who ‘get it’ must use every weapon to destabilize and delegitimize the strengths of the target ethos. ‘Feeling’ will be deployed to undermine the male, patriarchal ‘Reason’ and ‘Thinking’. That’ll show the guys!

The crucial – profoundly and unutterably vital – problem here is that Reason, as Locke pointed out, is the heart of Law. Any ‘laws’ that are not based on well-reasoned thinking run a huge danger of creating vastly more problems than they solve, if they solve anything at all.

This is not at all to say that a Supreme Court and its Justices should be robotic thinking-machines, narrowly reasoning with no consideration for the wider world beyond their legal pads, law libraries and conference rooms. But it does mean that part of formulating law is to consider the integrity of the entire tradition. (You can see the problem here: the feminists are absolutely convinced that the entire American legal tradition – starting with the Constitution – is a product of patriarchy and thus needs to be – ummmmm – replaced. As your old Parris Island drill instructor might helpfully yell into your ear: Yooooooo-Hooooooooo!!??!!)

Can it be too much of a surprise that We are seeing so much dysfunction in Our polity nowadays? The entire rule-of-law is being undermined. Nor did Bush – that egregious frak – think this all up on his own. Nor did Darth Cheney and the other Sith lord-lets who until recently ruled in Washington City.

But another vital part of a Supreme-level analysis is to look at ‘consequences’ (especially since Congress, eager to keep its voting-blocs happy, has pretty much stopped doing it before it passes laws).

I have been reading such minutes as I can find online of the deliberations and Hearings leading up to the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. I get the strong impression that the legislators involved, and the attorneys and experts in favor of it, were simply looking for any ‘hooks’ or conceptual ‘cover’ that would support what they had made up their minds should be done. Potential problems, some of them large indeed, are raised by competent professionals – the national association of Chief Justices of States among them – but are pooh-poohed as stuff that can be ‘worked out’ later, after the law is passed.

The Supreme Court, deals not with trying and finding ‘fact’ but with judging laws that will introduce – individually and as part of a series of laws – sweeping policy changes, often by the acceptance of what seem to be ‘small’ and ‘reforming’ changes in legal practice. Consequences are something that need to be considered, since legislators are no longer doing that bit.
And by now, with decades of unexamined laws on the books, a reliably ‘correct’ Justice need only continue to assert ‘feelings’ as a way of short-circuiting further examination.

And there will be, I think, more cases coming up that will require careful analysis; more and more of the revolution’s ‘reforms’ have now been in place long enough for their baaad consequences to become clear.

Goodman herself gets a little ‘rational’: “Empathy”, she lectures, “is not sympathy”. True and well said. Empathy is the ability to stand in the shoes of others and see things from their point of view. True again.

“It doesn’t require that we take sides.” Well, this starts to shade into the shady. The ‘revolution’ has polarized matters by the very essence of its plan and methods; why else is a reliable Court required? A Justice must not be swayed by ‘abstractions’. A Justice must ‘hear’ the ‘stories’ (and ‘stories’ they indeed are, far more than We would like to think) and, ‘getting it’, go with the ‘story’ over the ‘abstraction’.

Given the vividly drawn now-‘classic’ narratives of victimization, and heaps of frightening ‘statistics’ that are so monstrous as to create an emotional stampede that will preclude a closer look at their dubious accuracy, a Justice must reliably allow him/herself to be suitably ‘empathetic’ and toss every other consideration out those tall, marble-framed windows.

Is it a good thing to “recognize another person’s reality”? Absolutely; a genuinely ‘liberal’ citizen should be doing that a dozen times a day. But it’s also essential, given the high stakes, to skeptically consider whether the ‘reality’ you’re being presented with is actually real.

And then on top of that, to consider whether that person’s reality – however vivid and moving – justifies whatever it is that the story is being put forth in support of.

Nor can it be forgotten that after decades now, there are Americans in their 30s and 40s who have been brought up with a very blurred conception of the boundaries between ‘my reality’ and ‘reality’ (let alone ‘Reality’).

Nor does ‘recognizing’ somebody’s reality mean that one must grant it primacy over all other considerations. This has been one of the great misfeasances of ‘victimism’: I am in pain and anything less than giving me what I want is simply to re-victimize me all over again. Recall – and most folks may not realize how profoundly biting a satiric comment it was – Cleavon Little’s black sheriff in Mel Brooks’s 1974 “Blazing Saddles”: he held his own gun to his throat and threatened the (threatening) townsfolk that if he didn’t get what he wanted, the sheriff would be shot then and there. And the townsfolk were stymied, stopping in their tracks.

Goodman tells a story: in a recent Supreme Court Hearing in the matter of a young female teen strip-searched in a search for drugs, “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remarked that she was the only one on the bench who knew what it was like to be a 13-year-old girl”. Well yes, But no. So what? This is the type of ‘trump line’ that draws oohs and ahs at klatschy Chablis-soaked sharing sessions, but is it really necessary – or relevant – that a Justice have that experience? Where does that sort of thing stop? And, surely, an ‘empathetic’ Justice – and I fully support the competence for genuine empathy - can enter into the ‘reality’ of those whose cases wind up before the Court.

Goodman tells Us that “The truth is that we want judges who ‘get it’. The myth of justice as a matter of pure objective reasoning that could be meted out by a computer is just that, a myth.” No Justice can be, or should be a computer – we don’t want computers driving our buses and flying our planes.

But I think she gives the game away with that ‘get it’. That’s the codeword and byword for the feminist cadres: if you ‘get it’ then you are reliable because you accept that the revolution’s ‘truth’ and the revolution’s ‘reality’ are the only truth and reality. This a dark and dangerous and fatal road, and the modern world has been down it before. And in the 20th century, as the American experience demonstrates so chillingly, each time We recover from a trip along that revolutionary road, We come back a little less robustly a democracy and a Republic. We fought the Kaiser and became a bit more of an empire; fought the Nazis and became a bit more like a Reich; beat the Commies and became a whole lot more like a Leninist revolutionary state, replete with brassy and gimlet-eyed cadres, entrenched government apparatchiks, ‘evil classes’ that must be contained, and a government police-power that crunches ever more deeply into the lives of its citizens, their minds, hearts, hearths, and homes.

Now the feminists want to continue their ‘revolution’, and claim that they’re simply stepping up to the plate for ‘feeling’ as opposed to robotic ‘thought’. If I thought that We could get the best of the feminist vision by simply eradicating the worstly-conceived ‘male’ tradition, then I’d sign on.
But that’s an illusion. A delusion. A lethal and, to a Republic, a fatal delusion. It’s a delusion that is a necessary delusion for the adherents of the feminist ‘vision’ and ‘plan’.

I can empathize with them, even step into their shoes. But I can’t walk down their road.

I want a Justice who is both empathetic and capable of thinking deeply and widely. And I want a genuine empathy: just as I don’t want a shill for the corporations who hides behind ‘empathy’ for them, I don’t want a cadre for a revolution that has already wrought so much wrack.


*There are, you recall, ‘equality feminists’ and ‘gender feminists’ or ‘ideological feminists’. The equality-feminists are closest to an ‘American’ way of proceeding: they have some excellent insights and legitimate concerns, and they can explain them, and they want to get their ideas ‘out there’ so that We might hear them and see what might be done.

The ‘gender (or ideological) feminists’, far more indentured to the more radical feministical illuminations, are ‘revolutionary’ not only in the content of their agendas, but also in the method of getting them established. They believe that a) men are by nature violent and evil; that b) ‘women’ are always victims and ever in-danger because of them; and that c) neither ‘men’ nor the benighted women who love them should be given the space for playing-out their sorry lives.

Worse, in terms of method, they are committed to the Leninist ‘revolutionary’ concept of ‘elite cadres’ who ‘get it’, organizing for the purpose of imposing their visions on an essentially brutish lumpen-citizenry, by-passing public deliberation using manipulative ‘information’ to create ‘emergencies’, and using ‘reliable’ judges and vote-desperate pols for their purposes.

In this Post, I will use ‘feminists’ to refer to ‘gender-ideological feminists’; if I refer to the more moderate feminists I will use the term ‘equality feminists’. Additionally, I remind you that I do not presume that ‘feminists’ actually represent all of the females in America, or even the majority of them.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009



In the ongoing unraveling of the American Psychological Association’s white-washing of psychologists working for the military in torture projects, yet another effort to spin and cover tracks has backfired on the military and the ‘professionals’ involved.

One Captain Bryce Lefever of the Navy, interviewed on NPR, let a little too much out of the bag., and not only about the program, but about himself. It’s not pretty, but it’s informative.

It gives Us an idea of the psychology of officials who get into baaad things yet make it seem like a good thing.

“There’s something to be said for sending the message that the gloves are coming off”, says Captain Dr. Lefevre (I’m assuming he’s got a Ph.D, but maybe that’s being too generous). So you’re going to do it to ‘send a message’. Johnson kept trying to send such messages to the North during Vietnam, and Joe Biden figured it was worth passing a bad law if it sent a “great message” back in 1994 (Is he an attorney? Or is that being too generous?)

“You don’t take a knife to a gunfight”. Lovely. Quoting a criminal’s cute line from a mobster movie (the Elliot Ness remake with the guy from ‘Silverado’). If serious thought won’t float the boat, posture with a quickie from some flik.

Nor, you say, is American abuse to be compared with Soviet abuse: they, after all, were trying to conceal truth while Americans are doing it “for a righteous purpose – to reveal the truth”. Hmmm. Except for the truth about what they actually are doing. That’s a little convoluted.

You're mad because when important psychology types stated publicly that they disagreed with the positions you had stated in the interview, they didn’t first contact you “seeking to understand”. If you give an interview, one assumes that you’re trying to make yourself understood; if then others don’t agree with you, and say so, then in what way have they spoken without “seeking to understand”?

You go after NPR for ‘twisting’ and ‘manipulating’ “so egregiously”. You had been “aware of NPR’s reputation” but “had no particular reason to suspect” that it would happen to you. So you're no dope, because you ‘knew’ that NPR (and perhaps any media interview folk) do indeed tend, if the conditions are right, to do some creative editing; you can’t be fired for being too stupid. But at the same time you're a victim, because – and I lose you here – you didn’t see where that might happen to your interview … the one about the national hot-button issue of ‘torture’.

You object to the title “Military Psychologist Says Harsh Tactics Justified”, although what else could it mean that “the gloves were coming off” and that the Navy wasn’t takin’ no knife to a gunfight?

There are “similarities between what was called torture in one context and therapy in another”. I imagine I thought something similar in wondering whether arithmetic homework was torture or education, but I can’t see where ‘harsh tactics’ or ‘torture’ can resemble ‘therapy’, unless we’re thinking of ‘boot camp’ tactics and ‘tough love’ and maybe Esalen in the baaad old days.

And anyway, even if you’re doing an Esalen type of tough love on a detainee whom you think is ‘addicted’ to terrorism, you’re not trying to cure him – you’re trying to pump him for information. Pump, drill, and otherwise extract information from him. You are not there to provide therapy and you don’t see him as your patient; you see yourself as being an agent of the government. Your professional Oath and your military Oath diverge in the darkling wood.

Nor is the ‘truth’ that you’re claiming is the high-ground purpose that justifies your actions actually a ‘truth’ about the patient that will help him improve his life. You are going after ‘information’, not ‘truth’, and certainly not Truth.

So then you say that “empiricists, ethicist, behavioral researchers, academicians and philosophers need to debate and decide what constituted torture and the effect of context on the topography of behavior”. Sooooo, whatever professional education and training you’ve had hasn’t given you any insight into any of that? You’ve got a Ph.D. (or at least a Master’s degree) and you can’t come to any solid assessment about what constitutes torture? Federal and international law don’t help? It’s not your department – you’re just the little guy at the end of the hose or rope or barrel … is that it? I don’t think Mengele would have made that cheesy defense – he was too convinced of his ‘superiority’; but I think a lot of his underlings would have tried it. Ach. Don’t blame the teeth, blame the brain that told them to bite – that sort of thing?

Yet then you immediately go on to say that “It is important that those of us who can contribute to the war of ideas and philosophies do so, and that the right, reasonable, prudent and ethical side win.” So you are among the “us” who are making such a contribution? And yet you seem to also claim that you don’t know enough to be making any major philosophical, ethical, or behavioral decisions. So what are you doing then? What are you contributing, exactly? On what grounds? Or are you presuming that since you are on the side that has declared itself to be “right, reasonable, prudent and ethical” then whatever you do – no matter what it is – must be “right, reasonable, prudent and ethical”? Is it too quaint to recall here that ‘handsome is as handsome does’?

And clearly, you see yourself as some sort of ‘soldier’ in a “war”. That’s not an impressive primary attitude to have when you’re conducting ‘therapy’. Even if you see yourself as a ‘soldier’ in some ‘war’ against mental illness or delusion, you can’t really envision your patient as ‘the enemy’.

But you seem to feel that you’ve got a sufficient grasp of History to then assert that “the pacifist movement before WWII and the appeasers in England, France and other countries had catastrophic consequences on the events that set the stage for the invasion of Europe by Germany, Nazism, and the Third Reich”. Maybe there was a class in ‘Historical Psychology’ where you got your professional education. Or ‘Psychology in History’?

If so, though, bringing up Nazism and the Third Reich should prompt more immediately relevant reflections than a few clichés about diplomatic history. I mean, a lot of very intelligent and competent folks were in the SS and the assorted German medical corps, especially officers and those trained in the ‘helping professions’, and they – convinced that they were ‘right’ – did some mighty nasty things.

And then – Dr. Freud to Examining One stat! – you proclaim that you are “resoundly [sic] opposed to pacifism as I believe it is a moralistic-feel good about oneself – philosophy [sic]”. Had it occurred to you that your assorted tactics for justifying what you’ve done is pretty much an effort to feel good about yourself?

You claim that you pointed out that “I was waterboarded in 1990” and that it was “terrifying”. You were not, you claim, however, “harmed by the experience”. Either you don’t quite grasp the depth and consequences of a human being being “terrified” or you are making an incoherent statement. To be “terrified” results in a cascade of neuro-chemical and physiological effects that cannot but have an awful consequence. Haven’t all the ‘rape stories’ of the past few decades made any professional impression on you? A genuine rape is an awful thing to undergo, and waterboarding carries the added and profound physiological sensation of imminent and certain death.

Nor is any ‘controlled’ waterboarding, done in a ‘school’ environment by ‘friendlies’ who are on your side, in any way sufficient to produce the sense that results from being waterboarded by ‘hostiles’. And surely, you don’t mean to imply that the waterboard-ees saw you as ‘friendly’ and were under the consoling impression that the whole thing was merely being provided at no charge as a learning experience.

But then you philosophise straightaway: “there is no life free of pain or adversity”. Nicely Stoic, and have you read deeply in Marcus Aurelius? Zeno of Citium? Seneca? Epictetus?

But if this is the advice you might proffer to your ‘patient’ or whatever you would call the dripping detainee, then you cast yourself as the bringer of pain and adversity into his life. Which brings it all back to whether you as a professional are ‘doing harm’. Or do you wish to now assert that whether ‘inflicting pain’ is a form of ‘harm’ is a question properly to be considered by some other type of professional, like a philosopher or an academician or an ethics-guy?

But, in best self-help fashion (perhaps a stint on 'Oprah' is not out of the question) you confide that the “Waterboard made me stronger, more able to face the various problems of my life”. Where is Dr. Freud? – page him again, please. Clearly there are a number of problems you haven’t really faced, from what your letter indicates here. But, yes, it seems safe to agree that you do indeed now have “various problems” in your life.

But now, you turn – under pressure – on psychologists who disagree with you. (This is where things get positively Nazi, circa Fall of 1945.) Your “colleagues at APA [sic] have passed a resolution that has the breathtaking arrogance of [sic] suggesting how my military colleagues should and should not practice in settings that they have decided are or have been abusive to our Detainees”. The final “they”, I presume, seeks to refer to the non-military and arrogant colleagues. Had you had any English classes in undergraduate? Grammar or High School? I take it there was no written exam for Captain.

Then you let’em have it: “I am sure that there have been psychologist consultants to business and industry …” Zing! And I have to agree with you. Psychologists have been making a nice living all along, showing American corporations and advertisers how best to influence, inveigle, or manipulate the minds and hearts of American “consumers”. If memory serves, I seem to recall reading a few decades ago that ‘business’ was the largest employer of psychologists in the country.

So in a way you are right to feel – ummmm – singled out.

In fact, in my immediately preceding Post, “Jagged Schemes”, I discuss how a much more adroitly manipulative corps of professionals, the JAGs and military lawyers, have been carefully extricating themselves from the immediate vicinity of ‘torture’. And thus the members of their parent professional association, the ABA, have not had to profess themselves ‘shocked, shocked’ that taking the King’s Shilling might actually require doing the King’s dirty work.

So you are right, to some extent, to feel yourself singled out. But you are fortunate that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 will probably prevent you from winding up ‘downrange’ of that tastefully appointed meat-grinder that your fellow (and sister, of course) professionals run under the general rubric of ‘military justice’. That was part of their shrewdness: in making sure that they saved themselves they also sweetened the pot for all of their brother and sister professionals who, for the Shilling, had also walked on the dark side, however much they might tell themselves differently when they look in the mirror every morning.

But I think that you are now launched on becoming a symbol of what has gone wrong with the country and the government and the helping-professions of late. You got in on Empire early, perhaps too early, since much of the country still hews to at least the ideals of the Republic (quaint, alas, as they may now seem).

The good news is that most of the Beltway is also ‘cutting edge’, operating on the principles of Empire. The bad news is that you might be –for all your cuff-stripes and education – not so big a fish that they’ll be willing to save you from the pain and adversity that is now parachuting into your life.

Read as much of Zeno and Epictetus as you can. And be thankful that while you may now understand Marcus Aurelius on a whole new level, you probably won’t have to develop an intimate acquaintance with Boethius.

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