Friday, October 30, 2009


Well, I just finished my print copy of ‘The American Prospect’ for November.

Several of the articles in this issue seem to be circling around the same trope, and I think an interesting overall course-change can be gleaned from plotting the trajectories of the individual short articles.

On page 10, Mark Schmitt has a one-page piece entitled “Title IX Dad”. Frankly, my whiskers always twitch when I see an avowedly ‘liberal’ (as the term is nowadays defined, which really isn’t liberal at all) magazine pundit start gushing about parenthood. ‘Family’ and ‘dad’ (and – who can deny it? – ‘male’) haven’t been such really popular topics for the past couple-four decades among the chattering elites.

So, the old Izvestia and Pravda reader wonders: what are they up to now with this piece?
It’s a gush piece: ‘dad’ is mooning over his little girl-child playing baseball, thank to “Title IX”.

That 1972 Title, you may recall, imposed “the requirement that federally-funded education programs not discriminate by gender (with extensive exceptions for single-sex colleges, fraternities, sororities, and beauty pageants” [parenthetical comments part of Schmitt’s text].

You might have wondered, back in that far-off and irretrievable era, thinking that it seemed much ado about not so much. But of course, the ‘thinking’ behind it was that there is no difference between a male and a female (Nature’s and Evolution’s rather substantive ‘discrimination’ notwithstanding) and if per impossibile you could pour a little-girl ‘self’ into a little-boy body, the little-girl would rather instantaneously function rather well as a ‘boy’. It was all a matter of ‘gender’, which was ‘merely’ a social construction and a matter of perception.

Title IX then would be a bit of house-keeping legislation that would simply bring the nation into conformity with ‘reality’ (although a reality-per-impossibile). As with Roe, the Party-line was that after just a few years of its elite guidance the blundering herds of American society would be properly re-educated into ‘reality’, or ‘the new reality’. Neat.

You may recall Congress mandating as well that Little League change its charter to refer to “young people” as opposed to “boys” and to drop its goal of promoting “manhood”. That’s worked so well for Us, hasn’t it? The government got out of the manhood business, since – apparently – little boys don’t need any training or formation in either character or masculinity. Are they presumably just going to blossom into a decent maturity and maleness and manhood?

Come to think of it, that’s what the Flower Children presumed: that if you just let everything ‘be’, it would ‘naturally’ blossom into its ‘natural goodness’ and not be twisted by – they channeled Rousseau here – ‘society’ and ‘conformity’ and, of course, all those unreal ‘perceptions’.

Around the same time Boy’s Town had to change its entire operating concept (not, if I recall correctly, Girl’s Town). And all-male colleges much the same. Although, neatly, female colleges were considered the very epitome of cutting-edge.

The driving force, ya’see, wasn’t forming youth – it was that the boys had gotten a lot of neat stuff and now deserved zilcho, while the girls should get not only their dessert but the boys’ dessert as well. It was a piece-of-the-pie sort of thing; culture and youth, mastery and maturity would take care of themselves, once freed (and perhaps poured into new moulds).

Government by Flower Children – ah, that takes Us back! Summer of Love, 1967, summer revolutions (as if winter would never come round again) – wheeeee!

Schmitt tiptoes by a little bit of problematic ‘evidence’: in this Year of Grace Two Thousand and Nine, his little dickens is the only girl on her Little League team. Nor, curiously, does he make any fuss about that (‘disparate impact’, subtle discrimination, de facto discrimination – all the usual suspects). No, he’s just a happy dad and family man, gushing over his little munchka out there on the field.

But in case you might be wondering if you aren’t being taken for tea at the Mad Hatter’s just on the other side of the famous Looking Glass, Schmitt starts ladling and pouring with a will. “As one watches these kids round the bases and cheer one another on, it’s also obvious that there’s a lot more to it than just athletics [italics mine]. This generation of children is unfailingly decent to one another, respectful of one another’s different personalities [including gender-based differences, I wonder?], and attentive to and proud of one another’s successes. The petty cruelties of childhood are rare.”

Oy. If your dentist knew you were gobbling this much treacle … best to both brush and floss after reading this confection.

The kids sound like little adults – which isn’t quite the purpose of the thing. Although it makes Schmitt and his chattering sistern and brethren seem like highly cultured and successful child-raisers. I get the idea he’s looking to congratulate himself and all the Utopia-land Gang who have been pushing all this ‘progress’ for decades.

I wonder sometimes about their own childhoods, these elite chatterers. Children have a ‘secret’ world, hidden from adults not by the children but by the inattentiveness or selective observations of adults themselves. So whether almost four decades of Title IX has eradicated “the petty cruelties of childhood” (which have been around since the dawn of the species, I’m going to bet) is a good question. Although for Schmitt, the question seems to have been ‘answered’; or at least must be considered to be solved by anyone who wants to keep his/her Correct union-card. Or Party-card.

If he’s right about the elimination of petty cruelty, then are We presumably on the cusp of a no-cruelty America as soon as these munchkins and munchkas grow up? It would have to be a pretty recent miracle, since the cohorts just a few years ahead of them are texting indiscreet photos of themselves to each other. Probably on personal communication devices purchased for them as rewards by still-employed elite parents who wish to reward the eradication of the aforementioned “petty childhood cruelties”.


He pulls himself away from his enlightened musings, there on the sidelines of the game (he doesn’t mention the score or which team won – but then again, as We are now finding out in Iraq and Af-Pak, winning isn’t everything, or maybe shouldn’t even be a primary consideration … demonstrating that Title IX has proven to have had great effect far beyond the gender/culture-wars and is now working its magic in real wars, real preventive wars of occupation; funny how the night moves, as the songster saith).

“What can we take from these moments?” quotha. First, “that small gestures toward equality and fairness can have vast implications for the future”.

Who can deny it? But of course, comrade citizens, “equality” and “fairness” are code words that are hugely freighted. “Equality” as Correctness understands the term means that there is no difference between the little male and the little female ‘self’, and the female self should have every right to an equal chance at a male body, or at least role. Interesting theory, and deserves some significant and extended research – although not necessarily a hastily-deployed national policy. But – ooops – too late.

Ditto “fairness” which means that piece-of-the-pie stuff, with no actual thought as to whether the societal arrangement reflected any deeper reality or was connected to other substantive realities within the ‘body’ of culture and civilization.

The entire process was carried on in the manner of Shylock’s dampdream: I have a right to what I want here, I can get it, and I can do it without causing any dangerous consequences – and even if some dangerous consequences arise, that’s the way the cookie crumbles and just deal with it. Oh yeah!

Marvelous. Although I was rather firmly of the impression, back there in my youth, that Shakespeare (that dead, white, European male) had pretty much demonstrated the rather grievous shortcomings in Shylock’s analysis and his business plan.

But Schmitt is going somewhere with this. “Title IX, with all its limits [italics mine], was a nudge that set off a chain of social transformations”. Just in case you were thinking that it caused more trouble than it was worth. But of course, Correctness also decrees that a ‘transformation’ is by its nature a good thing, and will have only good consequences, or at least mostly good consequences, or at least that its good consequences won’t be outweighed by its bad ones (which it would be ‘insensitive’ and ‘backlash-y’ to notice even if they existed).

Still, so far so Correct and so predictable. The usual liberal gush and mutual … back-patting and high-fiving. Chardonnay all around, barkeep, and keep’em coming!

But that “with all its limits” sounds a new note. A note of regret? Circumspection, certainly, which – have I not gotten all the Memos? – has been for quite some time a ‘former concept’, an ‘abstraction’ that once was discussed but is no longer part of the working vocabulary of New Feminist Man. Is it being – and does Stalin agree? – ‘rehabilitated’? May its name once again be spoken out loud without an immediate delation to the Thought and Correctness Police?
Interesting times indeed! I haven’t felt this excited since the Wall came down, twenty years and a lost eternity ago.

Or, as once happened in 1956, may we sodden masses expect some change-that-is-not-to-be-seen-as-a-change after Mr. Big addresses (secretly) the Party Congress?
And by the most amazing coincidence, Schmitt moves to his second point: “Many liberals have become wary of getting too far ahead of the culture”. Say what the frak what? This is not a straw in the wind, Comrades; this is a complete refurbishing of the Kremlin décor.

Is this the opening gambit in a mistakes-were-made exculpation by Party cadres who now would rather not be too closely associated with the Revolution? A sort of oh-well-let’s-just-move-on-and-forget-about-it replay of 1989?


I had mentioned in the first of my 3-Post miniseries on feminism last week that it seemed to me that the cadres were anxious to brassily declare victory and then get out of town, along the lines of the late Teddy K (about whom more below). And now here’s Mark Schmitt and the trusty liberal mag ‘The American Prospect’ informing the cadres that it’s – ummmmmm – not such a good idea to spit in the face of the country that ‘you just don’t get it’ and then go throw throw a revolution (or two or six).

For a moment I can see Clouseau indefatigably not-noticing his most recent frak-up and moving with undentable self-satisfaction and self-confidence into the next scene.

But no. The cadres billed their ‘creative destruction’ and ‘social transformation’ as a ‘revolution’, and they meant it, and they copied the methodology of those ace practitioners Lenin and Stalin and threw in the PR chops of the late Reichsminister fur Propaganda as well.

Now they want to start backing away. But without fixing anything because – hey! – they didn’t break anything. The revolution was a huge success. It’s just that … well, that was then.


He is assured by “sensible liberal legal scholars” (as it were) that in the matter of Roe, the revolution “got ahead of changing attitudes on reproductive rights”. Well, of course you did, Comrade – it was, after all, a revolution and you said so yourself. What else does a revolution do but ‘get ahead’ of attitudes? Indeed, Comrade, the ‘revolution’ is not a tea-party; it reaches out and grabs ‘attitudes’ by the scruff of the neck and by the seat of the pants and by the very throat … and shoves them in the Correct direction that the lumps are too unenlightened to take under their own steam. As Dzherzhinsky said of his police organization: ‘The Cheka does not investigate; it strikes’. Just so.

Schmitt goes on to lay out – as if describing an accomplished fact – that “many of us are also hesitant about pushing the point too hard in areas of the country that don’t seem quite ready”. Ah. And where precisely would that not be?

And if you are indeed backing away from the wrack of your happy-face revolutions, and perhaps even looking to mend fences with the former ‘lumps who just don’t get’ and the former ‘male backlashers’, then is this half-snotty stab at those parts of the country that “don’t seem quite ready” really advisable?

But is this the New Direction for the revolution? Are We seeing here the Central Cadres letting the many committed minions know what the new Party line is? How to think? How to think about the dead white males (who are, alas, not quite dead and actually even may be getting better)? How to think about the self-hating females who are still letting themselves ‘be defined’ instead of fearlessly defining and forging themselves? O brave new world, to have such people in it!

Is this going to be America’s 1989?

Are the cadres of Correctness trying to reverse course and get away from the wreck while still congratulating themselves on their victory over “the vanquished”? Are We going to see a ‘kinder, gentler’ revolution? One that actually respects The People and a democratic politics and the profound complexities of social and cultural change?

Is 1969 suddenly gone? 1999, when the revolutions and the Correct cadres were poised for their utter sweeping ‘vanquishment’ of the sodden, lumpish mass of American society and culture?

As Miss O’Hara would say: Mah, mah, mah.

And – can it be? – that in order to rehabilitate themselves, the Cadres of Correctness, on the orders of the Central Committee, are going to rehabilitate Us as well? That We are no longer lumps who just don’t get it and no longer hateful backlashers seeking to oppose the revolution simply in order to continue the myriad oppressions of the past (fill in the blank) years of human existence? That We may once again refer to Ourselves as ‘Americans’ out loud?

Let me share something. I want a piece of the Wall.


Well, it looks like a good-sized Post and I didn’t even get to the piece on ‘The Polanski Paradox’ and on Teddy Kennedy’s gleaming legacy on behalf of - waitttttttt for ittttttttt - “the working class”. Those will be in the next Post.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009


This will be my final Post in this little mini-series.

You may want to take a look at Corey Robin’s article in ‘The Nation’ entitled “The First Counterrevolutionary” here; Robin is reviewing a book about Hobbes and the concept of republican liberty.

I’m not going to get into Hobbes at length but the discussion brings up some essential elements of the (take your pick here) ‘old’, ‘oppressive’, ‘abstract’, ‘logocentric’, ‘hierarchical’, ‘dead white male’ philosophical assumptions which formed the conceptual foundations of the complex structure of the American vision and of Constitutional government.

It is precisely these foundations that the radical-feminist agenda had to destroy in order for their ‘revolution’ to “vanquish” all before it (and as you saw in Part 1 that’s what the graying cadres and their nomenklatura would now like everybody to accept as Mission Accomplished! and congratulate them for).

As I have said, the entire methodology of ripping out foundations while expecting the huge building built upon them to stay up … is kind of unwise if not an indication of incompetence or insanity.

But then, revolutionary propaganda solves that problem neatly by insisting that there is nothing ‘solid’ and that everything is up for (political) grabs because there is no ‘nature’ to anything or anybody and so everybody can do whatever they want and be whatever they want (so long as they don’t violently oppress anybody else) – although those with the political clout to use the law to send the Correct message can exercise such violence, although then it isn’t ‘violent’ in a physical sense so then it’s all a matter of ‘perception’, and there are Correct perceptions and there are the perceptions of those ‘who just don’t get it’, and it’s never bad to suppress those latter.

The profoundly damaging violence to the conceptual bases of the entire complex structure of a civilization, which is rooted as much in beliefs and assumptions as it is in any material elements such as monuments, laws, and bricks and such … well, that’s not violence in the revolutionary sense that’s been used among Us for the past few decades, and even if it is, it’s all in a good cause and the revolutionistas meant well.

But human beings are creatures with an inescapable and profound need for belief – and those are not ‘material’ things that you can see or put an address to. ‘Concepts’ and the thinking and deliberation that constructs them are the only human artifacts and tools (immaterial though they may be) that can operate in this vital if immaterial dimension of human being and human affairs.

Who are we? What should we hope for? What ought we to do? Why are we here? Who cares about us? These are questions that are never far from the hearts, if not the minds, of human beings. To imagine that they are merely childish blather is to do the child’s mind a great disservice and to utterly underestimate the way in which the human self ‘works’.

And these questions are not simply a matter of ‘opinion’ or ‘perception’ – some may more accurately reflect the actual nature of reality. Sort of like the laws of thermodynamics and physics kinda accurately reflect what (little) We know about the material world around Us. So whether or not there is ‘gravity’ – say – is not really just a matter of ‘perception’, and great undertakings based on the inaccurate belief in this regard will not go very far before failing and causing a lot of damage.

Of course, the revolutionistas’ counter this with the assertion that there is no ‘nature’ to anything (except, it would seem, that ‘men’ are oppressive and violent and either always will be or will be at least for the next few centuries or millennia). But if you try to sail an airplane across the ocean, or fly a cruise-ship at an altitude of 37,000 feet you’re going to find out that while both types of vessel are possessed of remarkable capabilities and even some real versatility, the ship cannot fly through the air and the plane cannot sail through the water.

If that sounds a little simplistic, yet it goes to the heart of the almost cartoonish ‘justifications’ for the admittedly successful revolution of radical-feminism in the past few decades.

And it is a credit to that revolution’s propaganda success (drawing upon the work of such great – and male – practitioners as Edward Bernays and Josef Goebbels) and the tortured and addled complicity of much of the political and media and professional academic communities – which should have known better. But subverting ‘elites’ is one of the goals of a revolution, especially in a functioning democracy where you’re not actually going to be using guns for a shoot-fest (thus unlike the early Reds and somewhat like the Nazi subversion and overthrow of Weimar).

So if you’re going to simply rip out the conceptual foundations of a culture and perhaps a civilization – either by claiming that they have no real claim on authority or that they simply don’t exist and that only the power of ‘politics’ exists – then you’re heading into awful and tortured territory, and perhaps want to think about Mao being so absolutely sure that his “Hundred Flowers” revolutions during the awesome frakfest that was the era 1966-1976 in China would be another Great Leap Forward. Alas, It turned out to be something far more sinister and lethal, with grave consequences for Chinese culture as well as their polity.

The conceptual underpinning of both the Medieval and Renaissance Humanist worldviews was that there was a sufficiently (though incompletely) known natural order to existence: there was God on the highest dimension or plane of existence; then there was the material plane of this world’s existence, which God had created along with human beings.

Human beings were a curious blend of the material and the non-material; they were immersed in this dimension, yet they also somehow retained the capacity to be aware of and participate to some extent in the activity of that higher dimension.

Inside the human being, there was also a hierarchy of abilities: there was the ability to relate to the Divine, which was called the ‘soul’; there was the ability to think and deliberate and to reason things out and get at least a modest concept of the order of things in the universe; additionally there was the ability to ‘feel’, not so much ‘the emotions’ of ‘feeling’ that We would call them today but rather the Passions – the great sweeps of emotion, powerful and visceral, that rage over the human being from time to time like great storms on a forming planet, bypassing the higher brain competences. And these Passions are somehow intimately connected to the most characteristic and powerful human desires: for security, for food, for sex.

(Remarkably, later study of the brain revealed that the human brain is comprised of three elements: the oldest is the ancient brain shared even with reptiles, seat of some of the most basic but also the most primitive human functioning; then there is a brain shared with the mammals which mimics much of animal and primate behavior; and then there is the relatively large prefrontal cortex, unique to humans and the seat of its most advanced capacities: deliberation, tolerance of ambiguity, postponement of gratification, empathy … the exercise of these skills (once an individual achieves some level of mastery of the brain-capabilities) is tied into this marvelous brain part, and much of humans’ long period of maturing is the result of the long slow physical maturation of this part of the brain.

And it is the mastery of the capabilities and powers of this part of the brain that require the maturing of the human individual which is the goal of any advanced civilization, organizing itself around the tasks of ensuring that its members are able to exercise some effective level of competence in the energies and skills of their most advanced and most uniquely human capacities. So the earlier eras of human history weren’t quite so wide of the mark in many profound ways.)

The purpose and goal of the human religiously and spiritually was to hone and seat the relationship with God.

The purpose and goal of the Enlightenment era’s ideal human was to exercise a mastery over him/herself in all of those marvelous but also dangerous potentials, trying to be less ‘reptilian’ driven and more ‘prefrontally’ driven, it might be put nowadays; operating out of the ‘higher’ and more uniquely and genuinely ‘human abilities and according to the higher ‘human’ guidelines rather than out of the ‘lower’ reptilian modalities, which were less modulated, less subject to the input of reason and thought and communal deliberation.

It was this type of ‘prefrontal’ individual – if I may – who was the ideal Citizen of the Enlightenment dream, and why the Framers supported education, and presumed the indispensability of family and marriage and parenting as utterly necessary to helping the human infant on its long and iffy climb to genuine competence in all its unique powers and potentials.

Further, the human had not only a Mind (seat of the reason and the prefrontal abilities of analysis and deliberation) but those Passions, and those Passions could hijack Desire and Will (the ability to choose and decide) action. So the human – much as Plato saw it – was like a charioteer, having to control a team of horses pulling the chariot of the individual self: Reason, Passions, Desire and Will. As with any multi-horse team, the driver (the human ‘self’ or ‘soul’) had to achieve mastery over getting the best mix out of the specific qualities of each horse in his/her team, while at the same time avoiding any individual horse’s dangerous potentials from throwing the whole thing out of whack.

None of this was considered anything less than the primary human drama, and a hefty one it was. (Religion, of course, would say that this mastery must then also be put in the service of the relationship to God, which added another layer of challenge to the entire task of maturation.)
It is hard to see how anybody growing up with such a vision of Self and Existence could be too bored.

Without a culture and a civilization dedicated to this type of mastery and ‘fulfillment’, then the Framers’ vision and the Constitution they constructed and the democratic politics and the Constitutional Republic they erected would not be able to maintain the ability to cohere and to function. Everything – conceptually – was built on a mature human individual, not an In Your Face overgrown child who imagines that ignoring ‘old’ stuff is ‘brilliant knowledge’.

Were there slaves? Were females to some extent and in some ways popularly presumed not to ‘need’ to do this? Yes. No era is perfect (and the Southrons let it be known right off in no uncertain terms: no slaves, no United States).

But that’s what history is for, and what a democratic politics is for: making things better. Turning the Great Ship without ripping her apart.

What I am going for here is that you will never make the building better by ripping out its foundations, and you will never make the ship more ‘flexible’ by ripping out its essential frames.

Which is what the ‘revolution’ has done. If this country let its industrial infrastructure just slip away* it literally and verrry purposely ‘deconstructed’ its conceptual infrastructure in a sustained, decades-long, government-abetted assault on its own foundations. This is not only a consequence of the radical-feminist ‘revolution’; it is and always has been a stated objective at the outset (later given benefit of philosophy by the Multicultural assertion that there is no ‘American’ culture anyway and there never should be).

And equally bad, the ‘revolution’ has unmoored the young and all the Citizenry from any sense of Meaning and Purpose. The ‘personal agency’ of radical-feminism is merely a Flattened, one-dimensional, purely political to-do list that cannot address the deepest human need for Meaning and Purpose. As Tocqueville noted, a genuine religion saves us from the degradation of self-absorption and frees humans for the free and dignified performance of common moral duties.

And I doubt many young people today even understand themselves – as human beings and for the purposes of developing a sense of personal mastery. And without the personal mastery, then the ‘personal agency’ which is the totem and icon of the feminist agenda becomes simply a bigger engine on a powerboat with no steering gear and an operator who has no idea how the whole thing is supposed to operate or his/her role in the process. This will not make for safe boating.

If it’s difficult enough to explain to youth that they may be on the wrong track, it’s even worse if you have a national ‘philosophy’ (limpidly expressed in Casey by the Supreme Court) that there is no ‘track’ at all, except what you want it to be. Would you get on a ship or plane whose captain lived by that 'philosophy'?

And generations of students now have had no guiding image of the human being, let alone any idea of how such a marvelous contraption works or is supposed to work. Yet they have been told and told that once they were ‘oppressed’ but that now they’re freeeeeeee! What efficacious meaning can that proclamation possibly have in the context of the general, imposed ‘deconstruction’ of any fundamental or comprehensive sense of what a human being is or is about or is for?

Worse: the political slavery which in Hobbes’s day was ascribed to any people not politically free but rather subject to the orders of a monarch or any sort of centralized and all-powerful public authority, was considered by ‘traditional’ thinkers of that era as secondary to the individual slavery of a person ruled by his/her Passions, a person incapable of mastering the various dynamic aspects of the self (and perhaps also unguided by any God Who provided the ultimate source of Meaning, Purpose, and (in the Christian vision) Consolation and Assistance as well.

And of course, if you have a society that is presumed primarily or most significantly to be comprised of ‘victims’ and ‘predators’, then an authoritarian government will be required to save the helpless and passive victims from the predators. And for the ‘victims’ to consider themselves ‘active’ simply by virtue of their vigorously calling up the spirit of authoritarian government … is unwise in the extreme.

So it would be useless to imagine a political liberty that was not based on the individual freedom (from ‘slavery to the Passions and lower brain-parts, as it were) of each of the citizens. Again, such a political liberty among such an ‘unfree’ or internally-enslaved bunch of individuals would simply be – to use a modern image – like sending unskilled drivers out onto the highways with the ‘absolute right’ to operate increasingly powerful motor vehicles. (So I’m saying here that drivers needing to be licensed – and theoretically educated and trained to a certain level of competence to get the license – is really a good idea. And the opposite is not.)

Political liberty would not work if there was not an interior freedom of the individual citizens who had mastered their human capabilities and energies. As Marilynne Robinson notes somewhere recently, “the spirit of political liberty – the ennobling activity of its citizens – depends on the spirit of religion”. If that’s true then the current American political and cultural posture and trajectory have been heading in the wrong direction for quite some time – and many seem to think that it’s a good idea and constitutes progress. Oy.

So much has been overthrown by the radical-feminist revolution, in conjunction with such philosophical theories as ‘deconstruction’ and the sustained propagandistic pressure for public opinion to be formed not on the higher competences of reason and deliberation but on the lower and more primal Passions. A stampede may move faster than a 20-mule team or a wagon train, but it’s not going to necessarily get much accomplished. Except destruction, and not a very ‘creative’ destruction either.

Hobbes himself, looking to justify the power of the sovereign and all-powerful government, had to get around this and make things easier. So he simply re-defined ‘freedom’ as the absence of external restraint to whatever it is that the individual wants to do. If you were not ‘restrained’ or ‘blocked’ then you were free; and if not, not.

Neat and simple. But hugely inadequate to the human reality.

And if there is no interiority, no self-awareness nor sense of the dramatic and urgent stage of human action required within the person, then internal mastery and the freedom that it brings from behaving in less-than-mature, more reptilian and mammalian ways (those brain parts, you recall) then simply removing all external restraints isn’t going to provide much genuine and authentic freedom; it’s simply going to lead to a crash-fest out on the public ways.

This, alas, was what the Boomers and Mao thought was going to be a Hundred Flowers and a Hundred Revolutions “blooming”. And it would, both the Boomers and Mao thought, lead only to a lot more ‘goodness’ (though Mao and the Boomers would have differed on what ‘goodness’ is).

And this is very much the tack taken by the radical-feminist revolution: simply declaring that ‘women’ (or by implication any human being, though they themselves only evince sustained concern for ‘women’) can be whatever they want to be (see the previous two Posts in this series) and nobody can tell them anything about what’s right or wrong, wise or unwise. And this is what the radical-feminists are now ‘celebrating’ as a total “victory” in which they “vanquished” the old fuddy-duddy stuff.

So this is like the Naval Academy throwing away the books and all knowledge of how ships work and what responsible officers are supposed to do aboard them, and just send forth scads of graduates who have been assured that they are wonderful just for being themselves and that there is only boundless and infinitely plastic ‘opportunity’ ahead of them. Out there on the deep? On a dark and stormy night? With bad (or at least misguided) people shooting exploding things at you?

The ‘academy’ of American civilization and culture has been made to do the same thing. I doubt it will yield much more good fruit for the civilization than it will for the military.

I think that they have simply set a whole lot of unmastered folks (not that young males now are any more skilled, since the entire culture has been regressively damaged and it has affected all youth and has now for decades) loose on the public ways. This is a political catastrophe in the making, as well as a profoundly human catastrophe.

Because Hobbes then figured that in order to have the power to remove all ‘obstacles’ from everybody in order to achieve a wider and more complete ‘freedom’, you needed an all-powerful government to enforce the removal of such ‘obstructions’.

And this is frakking hell and gone from the American Constitutional vision. Which – I assert – is precisely why We have seen so much Constitutional failure spreading into all levels of political and legal affairs now, as well as so much confusion – lethally so – in any sort of ‘moral’ guidance and reasoned deliberation.

And why the post-9/11 argument about government power over Constitutional rights has continued to fail. After all, long before 9/11 the entire Constitutional infrastructure was ‘deconstructed’ in the pursuit of the radical-feminist “victory”.

And this has not received the sustained, serious, and truly urgent examination it deserves.

Let me add this thought: the Russian Revolution, please recall, was actually the one that took place in March, 1917. It dethroned the Tsar and the monarchy, and brought in Kerensky who was trying to start a form of democratic government centered on the Duma, the nascent national legislative assembly.

But then there was a second revolution in October of 1917, the “October Revolution” (hence the term “Red October”) in which the Communists, who were convinced that they and only they had the real key to a “workers’ paradise”, overthrew the Kerensky government and its nascent democracy and imposed Communism.

I think that something of the same thing happened here. In the matter of women’s rights, the genuine political achievement was women getting the vote in 1920. Thus equipped women were now empowered to participate in democratic politics, and with the putative power of their collective vote, then changes on their behalf could be effected according to the canons of democratic process.

But then in the revolution-addled later Sixties, a revolutionary ‘feminism’ – mostly of the radical variety – pulled off a second revolution. And it was hell and gone from democratic politics, bearing instead all the characteristics of a putsch or a Long March designed to impose their visions on America and Americans, men and women alike. In my whimsical moments I think of it as a Klatschkrieg, where the cadres who ‘got it’ gathered around tables not to deliberate the conceptual integrity, coherence, and consequential probabilities of their agenda, but simply to plot and ‘strategize’ how to grab political power and do what they thought was best for themselves (and, as all revolutions assume) what was best for everybody, though many of those upon whom it would be imposed ‘just didn’t get it’, and were merely ‘ignorant’ and ‘backlashing’ masses. How Lenin! How Mao!

And a vote-addled Congress and a sensation-starved media went along, in far far too many instances. And still do. What’s ‘philosophy’ when weighed against the power of a huge and reliable voting bloc? What is ‘conceptual integrity’ when weighed against a nice, vivid ‘good vs. evil revolution for liberation’ that promises to provide gripping and simple-to-tell stories for the next umpty years?

Let Us not be deceived by ‘hindsight bias’: that oft-made mistake in analysis by which humans presume that what ‘is’ always had to be. The second, October revolution did not ‘have to’ come about. Ditto the radical-feminist revolution cannot hide behind the sly verbiage that since it ‘happened’ then it must have been ‘what was supposed to happen’. Nope. Both revolutions made it into the books because dedicated cadres decided to impose them, and persons who might have stood up for something else did not.

The Russians of autumn 1917 might be forgiven for not having a sufficiently robust and informed grasp of ‘democracy’ and ‘liberty’; they had only a few months before emerged from an ancient monarchy. But the American political elites in the 1970s? They can hardly make the same defense – at least, not without indicting themselves.

And here We are.

And make no mistake about it: gooey burbles to the effect that if anything the Sixties were the fruit of an “excess of democracy” is baloney. The ‘revolutions’ were indeed that – revolutions, spear-headed by the radical-feminist revolution: they were specifically intended – in content and method – to undermine the foundations of American ‘culture’ (it was ‘patriarchal’ and ‘oppressive’).

That there was no thought given to the intensely vital, almost-organic links between the most genuine traditional root-visions of American culture and the entire ethos of genuine, mature, humanist ‘political liberty’; that there was no thought given to the Flattening thinness of purely political activity as a source of ultimate Meaning and Purpose; that there was no thought given as to whether or how such a ‘revolution’ could be actually justified and then effected … that there was none of this constitutes, I believe, the greatest bad-faith and incompetence on the part of the revolutionistas and their political useful-idiots and fellow-travelers.

The Boomers were repelled by ‘conformity’. They were thinking of an external conformity to ‘outside’ stuff like traditions and folkways and customs, as adolescents will do. But they took no thought as to a certain type of interior conformity that that the individual willingly take upon him/herself: once you have figured out what these human selfs are all about and what they are for and how they work, then you conform yourself, Form your habits of mind and heart to that fundamental blueprint. And get on with conducting a life.

That step was not only missed by decades of youth now, but was utterly tossed out – along with any awareness that the human being has a sort of ‘blueprint’ that helps you get a handle on your self and your life. Which perhaps by now is becoming obvious.

And without a ‘soul’ or a ‘self’, just what is it about a human being that becomes the touchpoint of “inalienable rights”? No God and no soul or self, then just where inside the human do you plant and ground the tree of rights and dignity? And if there are no rights and no dignity written in the living rock of a created human spirit, then why go to the trouble of having a democracy or a Republic at all?

It’s Fall of 2009. Much is being made of the history of 20 years ago, that still stupendous Moment when the peaceful collapse of the Red October Revolution – and all its bloody, deceitful pomps and works and the wrack, wreck, and ruin of innumerable lives and the snuffing out of myriad historical and human possibilities – when the peaceful collapse of that Revolution opened up breath-taking possibilities for the world and for the human community.

At that Moment, this nation, as the ‘winner’ of the Cold War, was in a remarkable position.

But it was distracted by the almost immediate megaplosion of the ‘second revolution’ here, of the radical-feminism that had studied far too well the content and methods of Lenin and Mao (and the propaganda playbook of Goebbels). As they radical-feminists saw, Bush 1 was desperate to please and Clinton was ready to do business anytime and anywhere. **

And although everything was artfully draped in the sheep’s-clothing of ‘liberation’, it all led to a government by manufactured ‘emergency’ fueled by nothing more than ‘fear’ and ‘outrage’ (carefully stoked). And by the ‘deconstruction’ of all the obstructive (and so ‘oppressive’) traditional conceptual foundations that would have – and were purposely designed to – prevent just such Passionate stampedes at the instigation of any group’s demands for ‘utopia’ or ‘paradise’.

This is what the “victory” consists of, more rather than less.

And We and American culture and civilization are thus “vanquished” by the massive self-dissolution of the American ethos that American ‘elites’ have engaged in so intensely.

And come to think of it, didn’t the Beltway go and make that same mistake in Iraq? Having completely imposed its own ‘perceptions’ of the challenges and realities of the situation, it went in – much like the radical-feminist revolutions had been doing for decades over here – and simply figured to impose its solutions – and without a moment’s delay. I think you could make a good case that the radical-feminist frakkery – self-serving, highly-selective ‘explanations’ that conveniently also ‘proved’ a ‘state of emergency’ – migrated over to the foreign affairs folks. Which of course nowadays meant the foreign wars folks.

And, if I read the tea leaves correctly, the radical-feminists and their spawn now seek to support the government that has been so good to them: We have to keep up these wars because they will improve the condition of ‘women’ over there (wherever that ‘there’ may at the moment be).

Apparently though, the ‘patriarchs’ and ‘oppressors’ scattered thickly around the world have not caved as easily as they did over here. And their objections have resisted even military force, which – in the absence of any ‘abstractions’ such as Justice and Decency – are pretty much the radical-feminists’ ultimate means of ‘persuasion’.

Funny how the night moves.

And the darkness is growing.

If the financial situation remains unstable, or indeed gets even worse, then corporate capitalism’s natural preference for predictability and order will blend with the awareness of the political class that it will have to impose a more authoritarian ‘democracy’ in order to preserve itself as well as ‘order’. But if that happens, then the skids will already have been greased by a radical-feminist revolution that has for decades now waged a war on this or that version of ‘men’ and conjured the police power of the government ever more deeply into the civic and private life of the nation and the Citizenry.

And at some point, as always, there remains the abiding fear that has haunted big governments since the times of the Chinese Emperors: that you will 'lost the Mandate of Heaven', which is a nice way of saying that the people's belief that you are worth having there in the Imperial City suddenly reaches a tipping point. And when that happens then that sugar-coated human ability to fantasize vital matters (such as politics) ceases to protect your track record with an aura of good-feelings. And when that happens, folks begin to notice that you're not wearing any clothes.

So I’m not breaking out any champagne, with all due respect to every American’s birthright for liberty and freedom.

Democracy, famously, begins at home.

Freedom, not so famously but even more crucially, begins with the self and the individual Citizen. Or else instead of a Citizenry We shall be reduced to a herd, pushed this way and that by an omnipotent sovereign government of those ‘who get it’ – precisely what Hobbes was going for. Precisely what the Framers, knowing a devil when they saw one, rejected.

Let’s use the remaining time – and daylight – well.


*Although Michael Lind opined in a recent Salon article that the Beltway let other nations get assorted pieces of Our industrial capacity as a bribe to allow America to retain the position of economic and military hegemon – and if he’s correct then the level of government treachery makes Vietnam look like a sandbox game.

**It’s interesting in this regard that the radical feminists pulled off a shrewd play in Pentagon circles: the entire women-in-the-military and women-in-combat issue was being strongly resisted on practical military grounds by the Service chiefs; despite efforts by the redical feminists to pack the reporting committee, the recommendation against, backed up by voluminous material, was sent to the President (Bush 1) in late Fall of 1991.

The next day Clinton won and Bush simply sat on the Report. Immediately upon taking office, Clinton forwarded the Report to Congress without comment – though it was a White House Report . Within days of his taking the Oath, ‘suddenly’ the biggest problem facing the military was ‘gays’ – and the women issues – and the radical feminist plan – slid by in the dust cloud generated by the stampede over ‘gays in the military’.

This even though Clinton had been advised by gays-in-the-military advocates that it was too early to bring the subject up. Some commentators think this is just an uncharacteristic political miscalculation by a master politician, but I don’t think so. At a stroke he could tell the gays he had tried and failed; the radical feminists would get the cover of the gay brouhaha to take the focus of any deliberation about their own highly dubious agenda for the military; and the reputed ‘traditional’ and ‘military friendly’ Republicans could claim that they stood tall against gays, (while acquiescing in the feminization of the military). I think Clinton knew exactly what he was doing.

A revolution is a dog-eat-dog thing, even if the dog you eat is theoretically on your side.

So much for a kinder, gentler America and a kinder, gentler, but still competent military organization.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Meanwhile, over at ‘Reason’ magazine, another writer participates in an interesting debate. ("We are all cultural libertarians", by Kerry Howley, November 2009 issue, pp.32-5, available only in print until the next month’s issue comes out.)

She has set herself the task of demonstrating to ‘libertarians’ (the readership of ‘Reason’) just why feminism is perfectly admissible within the libertarian umbrella of ‘individual liberty’ concerns.

A most interesting project.

Although I’d say first off that there is a rather large gap between ‘feminism’ and feminism-as-it-has-evolved. That ‘evolved’ form is radical; revolutionary; divisive; joined to Multiculturalism and that ‘deconstruction’ which rejects ‘abstractions’, the power of thought and reason and substituting instead the primacy of raw emotion; rejecting the usefulness of any authorial intent (such as, say, the ‘text’ of the Constitution and its dead, white, male ‘authors’); dedicated to the revolutionary proposition that The People ‘just don’t get it’ and that there is no People anyway; and now as established a Player in the Beltway lobbying frakfest as any corporation.

But that’s not where she goes with it.

She asserts that libertarianism is not simply a political caution, keeping government out of the affairs of the individual and preserving ‘negative’ liberties and the freedom-from governmental intrusion and control. Rather, libertarianism should be about “cultural values”, since those are what feminism sees as really and truly interfering with the ‘liberty’ of ‘women’.

In this view, “cultural values” are soft, and as such far more malleable and pliable than ‘political’ values.

But I don’t think that’s accurate at all.

A nation’s culture is far more than simply its manners, and its folkways. A nation’s culture is the expressed fruit of a wide and deep public consensus on matters of fundamental belief. Each great civilization evolves a culture precisely to express and therefore unite its members in matters of the common belief.

And ‘belief’ is not merely a private matter, as to whether you go to this church or that one, subscribe to this philosophy or that one. ‘Belief’ stems from one of the most profound – perhaps the most profound – of human characteristics: the need for Meaning which will ground one’s life and endow it with Purpose. This is one of the most enduring and fundamental human characteristics.

And crucial, because without such Meaning and Purpose human beings tend to drift into alienation, lawlessness, and a profound ‘boredom’ with life that renders them lumpish and – depending on their temperament – either lethally passive or lethally violent, and always irrationally so.

None of which bodes well for a civilization, and certainly not for a democratic politics and a Constitutional ethos. (In this regard, perhaps the ‘fear’ of crime which has in the same time frame as the feministical ascendancy raised this country to be the world’s most prolific imprisoner of its citizens, surpassing even the USSR in its heyday and China under Mao and China today, stems from some visceral awareness that the feministical agenda will lead – as Montesquieu and others saw – to such widespread human dysfunction.)

Further, I would say that “cultural issues” are therefore not simply extra frosting on the cake of civilization – mere “convention” – but rather constitute the deepest ‘structural’ level of human functioning. Thus you can’t simply be changing or ‘reforming’ them, deeply and widely and all at once in the bloom of a hundred simultaneous revolutions (as Gerald Ford sorta burbled, seeking to placate feministical pressures of his day but unintentionally channeling Mao).

Radical feminism’s borrowing from the Boomers the hippie fantasy that ‘good’ arises naturally and ‘culture’ simply gets in the way of that ‘natural goodness’ served the Movement well, but has been a disaster for the nation and for American civilization and its Constitutional ethos and polity. For while the hippie dampdream presumes an infinite and ‘good’ plasticity in humans and their affairs, it then also ‘justifies’ all the ‘changes’ you might demand to make, and further assures you that any such ‘deconstruction’ of ‘culture’ will only yield a fuller and richer explosion of ‘good’ stuff.


And the Constitution is quite actually a ‘machine’, a conceptual machinery constructed carefully precisely because there is no such ‘easy goodness’ that is ‘natural’ to humans or to their affairs, and certainly not to governments to whom humans surrender their power to conduct their common weal. And of course, the actual result of the feministical agenda has been precisely to engorge the government power over the lives of its citizens, demanding State and, increasingly, Federal and Congressional intervention, even in matters of home and hearth and of sexual and relational intimacy.

I would venture that no government in the history of the species has been as ‘empowered’ to interfere so profoundly in the lives of its subject people as has the US government and the States since the dawn of the feministical ascendancy. Not Stalin’s Russian, not Calvin’s Geneva, nor Rome at its height, nor Egypt nor the Babylonians nor the Sumerians.

Of course, the grounds presented for what must be admitted as the feministical demand for government engorgement are and always have been presented as ‘facts’ that could not be questioned but could only be accepted: there are the “social pathologies” of “patriarchy and nationalism”.

Nationalism, certainly, is a dangerous thing, especially when its cycling in the negative, violent frequencies of its spectrum. But there is that patriotism, that ‘love’ of one’s country which Montesquieu even postulated as more important for a citizenry than the ability to think, to deliberate, and to reason. (Most folks never really master their rationality, he thought, but everyone can ‘love’ their country.)

But “patriarchy” is a very new ‘discovery’, and far too quickly termed in the current age’s trumping conceit, a “social pathology”.

For one thing, it is uncertain just where “patriarchy” shades over from a purposeful instrument of political oppression by an oppressor class to being the evolved expression of and solution to characteristics and pressures that the species has tried to deal with since its earliest times.

Second, if “patriarchy” is presumed to be so ingrained as to be unintentional because thoroughly pre-conscious, then this is an assertion of an immaterial cause that requires the most extensive analysis. (Which is not what revolutionaries like to see; they want results, they want them now, and those who ‘just don’t get it’ will learn to like it after it’s been imposed – or else.)

And if “patriarchy” is so thoroughly ingrained through loooong human usage, then it must have been doing something right, responding to some species-wide awareness, for it to have lasted so long. Hell, Lenin’s great ‘gift’ didn’t last 80 years – and yet We are informed that “patriarchy” has been going on since somewhere just after the beginning of the species. Which kinda gets you thinking.

And what about the “social construction of gender”? Yes, folkways evolve in different places and in different ways among different civilizations. And it’s conceptually as conceivable to alter a “social construction” that profound as it is to replace the keel and hull of a ship. But only with the most careful and informed planning, and only after the most careful preparations, and with the ship in a competent drydock.

To replace a civilization’s “social constructions” and greatly alter the presumptions – shrouded in the mists of the past and in the depths of a human civilization’s extended historical experience and consciousness – is an exponentially more daunting project.

And certainly not one to be undertaken for merely political reasons, accepted by a political authority not interested in conducting extended and wise deliberation, and pushed forward by a ‘revolutionary’ Movement that is convinced that it ‘gets it’ and that whether the agenda is rightly or wrongly conceived and justified, people will just get used to it once it’s a ‘fact on the ground’ through the strenuous and extended impositions of an engorged government authority.

And that objections and the notice of dangerous and bad consequences is to be dismissed as merely ‘backlash’ that deserves to be ignored and the noticers re-educated into better ‘perceptions’ (Mao’s most humane solution to the reality of opposition; though the barrel of the gun was always handy for the stubborn cases.)

And what is “patriarchy” and has it really existed in so florid a form that it is clearly identifiable?

And in so demonstrably widespread a purview that the ever-dangerous latencies of engorged government power can justifiably be summoned and raised up? This may occasionally be a required resort, but it is never free from danger; it’s like summoning the Devil to cast out a Demon, and that almost never ends well. As the Communists and their sorely bethump’t peoples discovered, after much wrack and wreck and ruin.

And even if “patriarchy” is demonstrably a major and urgent problem, then the ‘solutions’ must be carefully evaluated.

From the point of view of the feminist agenda, it is conceptually necessary that a ‘woman’ must be freed of the age-old burden of unwanted children, and without the burden of having to maintain a closer control of her sexual experiences than ‘men’ have to do. Thus abortion – in any instance the woman desires it – must be granted political legitimacy. (It need not achieve ‘moral’ legitimacy because there is no such abstraction as ‘morality’ in the deconstructed and Flattened universe of radical-feminism, and the only ‘morality’ is that the individual can do what the individual thinks best – so long, that is, as it doesn’t impose violence on anybody else, although – neatly – the unborn are not somebodies … a nice and neatly wrapped philosophical package, though a poorly constructed product.)

But the child-bearing capacity is not simply a political arrangement, imposed by the oppressive males who thereby keep themselves free to make whoopee. It’s an evolutionary reality – and Evolution, demonstrably, never does anything half-assed (as it were), and certainly not in the matter of a species being able to sustain the absolutely vital ability to reproduce itself.

So it has to be imagined that Evolution would endow the selected sex – the female – with an awful lot of specialized capability to ensure the success of reproduction, and this would be especially so in a species whose young take so long to mature. Thus maternity (and parenting and family).

Early on this was pooh-poohed by the feministical agenda as “essentialism” – that the female is oppressed by such constraints. But the Evolutionary logic seems incontrovertible.

And while there may be those females who wish not to have children, are there enough to overturn or hugely alter the vital arrangements made by a civilization to adapt to those stern but vitally important Evolutionary realities?

And – to continue on a conceptual and philosophical path for a moment – the result of this politically-necessary concept of “essentialism” is to undercut all of civilization’s grounds of Meaning and Purpose. Because if there is no ‘essence’ to anything, if there is no genuine ‘nature’ to anything – humans included – then the entire human enterprise as it has evolved to sustain itself – is cut loose from its moorings at a stroke.

In this regard I recall a comic book from the 1950s, where aliens attack earth with ‘water weapons’: when aimed at an object the weapon’s ‘ray’ turns it into water. So with no explosions or gunfire the aliens are mopping up the planet simply by dissolving the ground floors of buildings (and ditto dissolving military equipment) so that one ‘dab’ and the whole thing dissolves and buildings collapse.

This is precisely what has happened to the foundations of the ‘building’ of Western civilization (and any other civilization at which the radical-feminist dissolution-ray is fired).

And so much of the structure has started to collapse in on itself. And how can there be any realistic “individualism” or any “personal agency” and the freedom to embrace it when it is unknown what the nature of the individual human is or when (according to your assumptions) the human being has no nature at all?

I'm not sure what's worse: a radical-feminist assertion that they never meant to undermine the entire culture and ethos - which can only be a lie or evidence of stunning obtuseness; or that they very much indeed meant to - in which case either they assumed that 'individuals' now 'empowered' by 'free agency' could live together without a culture or it means that they assumed that they could easily enough build a replacement culture after they got through disposing of the original one. And you are welcome to take your pick as to which of those two is less stunning in its frakkery.

Are We really to accept the mooncalf bleating of the Supreme Court in Casey to the effect that every individual has the unbounded right to define whatever it is that s/he would like to be?

Are humans Shape-shifters? Or so fluid that our natures and being have no shape at all? This was the adolescent conceit of the Boomers: that knocking over an entire structure built laboriously over the course of millennia, airily dismissing an accumulated body of thought that had provided guidance for millennia – on the basis of their certainty that they knew better and that anything ‘new’ must be better than anyone or anything over thirty” as the saying used to go.

Is the corporeal human shape nothing but an empty shopping basket into which the ‘consumer’ can load whatever goodies s/he wishes?

Is the radical-feminist vision correct: that a female ‘self’ is just the same as a ‘male’ self, but simply poured into a body that is ‘perceived’ as female? Such that if a female self were merely poured into a male body it would function just the same as the male (and with all the fun bennies)?

I doubt it’s a coincidence that after decades of this type of thinking pressed upon it by the radical-feminist Advocacy in support of its demands, the Beltway conceived of the Iraqis in just the same way: that they inhabit Iraq the same way, say, that Norwegians inhabit Norway: simply waiting to be ‘democratic’ if poured into a ‘democratic polity’? (An image recently used by the strategist Edwin Luttwak in assessing the fundamental mistakes in the Iraq and Af-Pak misadventures.)

As if – then – you could ‘pour’ an Iraqi into Norway and s/he would instantly be a competent Citizen of a democracy just like any Norwegian. If the example of the Iraqis did not destroy this reckless fantasy, then the Afghanis most certainly will.

There is some sort of Shape to human beings; they are not limitless plastic and infinitely adaptable. Ditto a Shape to the female ‘self’ and to the ‘male’ self.

And while I am not here making a veiled plea for the female’s return to Kinder, Kuche und Kirche (kids, kitchen, and church), I am suggesting that the whole ‘total plasticity’ and ‘total interchangeability’ presumptions are hugely wrong. And everything that the ‘revolution’ has built upon them is thus also hugely ungrounded.

In this regard, it’s interesting to note that the Navy, recently, has been plagued by a problem very much similar. The traditional method of acquiring a new type of ship is to designate it first, according to its Purpose and Mission; then designers are given the task of putting together an array of equipment; and over them is a special supervisory office responsible for coordinating the visions and desires so that the basic hull is not overloaded with equipment that is either unnecessary or incompatible.

Because no matter how ‘ingenious’ the overall dream of what the ship should be able to do, there’s only so much that one hull and one crew can effectively manage, especially under at-sea and combat conditions.

The new class of amphibious ships is in deep trouble on precisely this score. They are already supposed to be amphibious assault ships, carrying and landing troops and equipment via helicopter and watercraft.

But on top of that, since there isn’t enough money for lots of new escort vessels, budgetary and political considerations dictate that the ships actually be capable of also doing the tasks of their own escorts: providing gunfire support to the landings and performing their own anti-submarine and anti-mine chores as well. They are supposed to be able to function as frigates and destroyers as well as already-complex amphibious landing ships.

This is wayyy too much of a good thing. Nor is there any technology so advanced as to keep itself organized and coordinated if all these tasks must be performed more or less simultaneously, which is hardly an unlikely scenario in combat operations. Nor is there any crew that can handle all of those tasks, unless it be much larger than the size and make-up of crews currently slated for the vessels.

So you see the problem.

And the entire development program is in trouble.

The feministical assertion of pure fluidity, unbounded and unboundaried possibility, all imagined as operating in a best-case fantasy of perfect operational competence … has migrated to the Defense Department, clearly. And wreaking a havoc that will only be surpassed if such vessels – assuming they can be built and manned – ever enter into serious combat conditions.

And it can hardly be a surprise that even the least-philosophically-inclined humans are going to feel deep and visceral misgivings about such a vast and deep social-policy project, simply on the grounds of what it surely promises to result in, and not on the grounds of any ‘genderism’, ‘sexism’, ‘patriarchalism’, or stodgy and fuddy-duddy old ‘backlash’.

We are corporeal beings, after all, and cannot simply function with the infinite and exciting plasticity of ‘Deep Space Nine’-type Shape-shifters.

It remains to be discovered just what capacities and competencies have been down-played in the female in the Evolutionary trade-off to ensure the species.

Certainly, males have been saddled with an aggressiveness that can hobble their conduct of a life significantly and the male requires a great deal of training in how to master his energies and channel them constructively within society (for which, of course, good parenting and family experiences and strong cultural support are crucial – and yet … those are precisely what the feminist agenda has been working to eliminate, in order to make room for its own views and visions of how society should be re-organized). This cannot end well. There are certain requirements that apparently go along with embodiment, and they create parameters and – yes – boundaries. But they also impart a Shape to human living and self-definition.

Culture forms a trellis, upon which the wild but dynamic plant of human-personality and being can be guided into a (hopefully genuine) Shape. Without a trellis, the human plant simply runs wild along the ground, growing haphazardly like kudzu or weeds. This will not yield a bounty of a productive Garden, but rather a Jungle. (And perhaps We are seeing that now.)

And such human vitality needs to be Shaped – in its male mode as well as in its female mode. The male is prepared by Evolution to be assertive and aggressive. Civilization’s task has always been to shape, channel, and harness that energy.

The first instruments of such Shaping are the concepts grounding the civilizing process – including those capital-letter words and realities that serve to restrain and refine the most primal Evolutionary urges. And the hands-on work is then done by mature parents in the family setting as the long development of the human child is guided.

But precisely the capital-letter words (and any dimension of the Beyond which grants them a beyond-human authority), the stable family structure, the parental responsibility (and maturity) … these are precisely the instruments and realities that radical-feminism has ‘deconstructed’ and done away with in order to create tactical and strategic space for its own utopian visions. This is a form of insanity.

(Although, the process does create an ominous type of feedback loop: the more un-Shaped the male vitality becomes, the more the radical-feminist Advocacy can point to ‘ale violence’ as an ongoing problem – resulting, as the Pentagoons like to say, in the marvelous ‘self-licking ice cream cone’, the Beltway bureaucrat and lobbyist dampdream … paradise indeed.)

Am I thus declaring a trumping-judgment against ‘feminism’ and against ‘women’? No. I am not ready to make any judgment because I don’t know the answers to all these questions. But then again, who does? Analysis was not allowed (since the revolutionary Modus Operandi is precisely and adamantly to prevent it).

Although the accumulated experience and thought of millennia of human history and its human actors cannot simply be dismissed as “patriarchy” that has to be immediately and thoroughly uprooted and burned. Bonfires are fun – if you have the time and leisure to enjoy them – but when you’re burning the Trellis, the conceptual Vessel that human civilization has constructed over millennia, then you’re going to have a real problem in the morning when the hot dogs, beer, and marshmallows have run out.

Ditto if you’re going to go ashore on a desert island paradise and burn your ship for bonfire fuel to celebrate your new paradise.

And yet how can such profound changes be imposed – and quickly – without serious analysis and deliberation?*

So either such “cultural changes” ain’t but a thang because ‘culture’ and its bases are sort of not-important, or else “cultural changes” are a verrry important thing indeed, but so much so that time can’t be wasted thinking them through.

This is an impossible and lethal choice, and a false one. We should not accept its terms and be distracted by the ‘choice’ that then has to be made, no matter who crows that their ‘side’ has been “totally victorious”.

And that We are “vanquished”.

We are The People. If We are “vanquished”, if half or more of Us ‘just don’t get it’, then the entire American Project is already doomed.

And is that what’s happening? And is that where We want to go?


*In this regard, I can’t help but notice the simultaneous and convenient rise of a certain concept in feminist-influenced legal theory called “expressive law”: when there’s a good ‘message’ that needs to be ‘sent’, then legislators should pass a law expressing that message, with no obstructive analysis as to workability and consequences, all of which can be ‘worked out’ or ‘dealt with’ later, either by the courts or subsequent legislation.

This is a recipe not only for policy disaster but for undermining the legitimacy of law-making and of the Legislative authority itself.

And since it stretches credulity to imagine that legislators will ever admit that they are passing a law to repair the mess made by their frakked-up passage of a prior law, then the chances of an unworkable law or one with dangerous consequences ever being rescinded or substantially repaired are slim indeed. Seen any ‘temporary’ taxes repealed recently?

Monday, October 19, 2009


I’m doing a three-part Post here on some aspects of feminism, prompted by three articles: one a book review by a female university prof (Modern US History is her subject area) and then an article by a contributing editor at “Reason” magazine and one about Thomas Hobbes in 'The Nation' magazine.

Let me start right off with my thought on the feminist developments of the past 40-plus years.

First, they have indeed constituted a ‘revolution’, in both content and method of achievement. Whether ‘revolution’ – in the sense of Marx, Lenin, Mao, and the French of 1789 – is compatible with a democratic politics and a Constitutional Republic is, however, another question altogether. And hardly irrelevant.

Second, I think future historians will come to see the ‘feminist revolution’ and its spin-offs (Advocacy-ism as it has evolved and Victimism, being the most significant) as one of the genuinely defining hallmarks of this age of American history – which (can anyone doubt it now?) has to be seen as an age of decline, and of profound political mismanagement of the challenges that confronted the nation.

I’ll comment on the book-review first, and then in the second and third Parts on the articles.

The professor (she is on the faculty at Bryn Mawr) is reviewing another woman’s book: Gail Collins’s “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present”. Which is indeed a topic that deserves, and has always deserved, far more in-depth attention than it has ever received.

The prof talks about what she tells her students, specifically: she points to the fact of an American president – and “a conservative white Republican from Texas” at that – creating the appointment of “a black woman from Alabama with a PhD, formerly a Stanford provost, to be his secretary of state”. Which is a genuine historical fact, or at least a factoid.

She cleverly speaks of the “appointment” and not of the tenure of Condoleeza Rice, and that cannot be an oversight here. Rice’s actual record in office is probably not something that anyone trying to be rah-rah about feminism’s* “victory” over the past almost-50 years would want to examine, and the prof here is striving manfully – sorry – to make this book look worthwhile (a task even she cannot bring herself to fulfill, but let me not get ahead of things here).

This reference to Rice raises two points.

First it is made into an ‘icon’ or even a ‘totem’, a single point which is raised up not to be examined but rather to inspire the troops. A historian never takes a single ‘point’ or ‘event’ and simply raises it up like Liberty leading The People across the barricades in Delacroix’s painting. A genuine historical examination is going to take an event and thoroughly examine it for its causes, its operating dynamics, its consequences.

But this is not what the prof does here, and I think that corresponds to a general characteristic of the ‘political’ feminism of the radical feminists: you’re not looking for ‘understanding’ or ‘comprehension’, you’re looking for results – and you’re not looking to persuade folks, you’re looking to inspire your cadres and overcome any opposition to your agenda and your plan of attack.

And that’s a revolutionary methodology, not the method of a democratic politics, where ideas and proposals are put forth for public deliberation and one sees what The People will do with it.

Revolutionaries aren’t looking to persuade because they don’t trust the masses (in America that must be the Citizens and The People) to ‘get it’ and they can’t wait for the slow and uncertain processes of public assessment and deliberation. Make the revolution, impose it, and then ‘the masses’ can be re-educated or at least cowed into acquiescence. This is the revolutionary methodology.

And while it is not at this point Correct to discuss it, I think future historians will marvel at the stupendous reality of how this nation – at the zenith of its postwar influence (and perhaps at the cusp of a possibly irreversible decline) – so largely succumbed to such an anti-democratic assault. Second, grave doubts arise in my mind as to just what students are being taught these days about ‘modern American history’.

If the mere fact of Rice’s appointment is considered a highlight, then what of the huge frakkery of the Iraq War and how it was incited by that same president and his coterie, and abetted by the Congress; what of the consequences of it; what of the profound and troubling implications of the ‘bubble-dependent’ national economy of the past quarter-century or more; and lastly, what of the profound consequences – and negative ones, and possibly now irreversible – that the radical-feminist “victory” (that military term, you recall) has set in motion? Is any of that raised and examined?

And Bryn Mawr is a predominantly women’s college, so I am going to imagine that whatever passes for ‘history’ at the nominally gender-neutral universities is even more attenuated at the avowedly ‘female’ institutions.

Nor can I take comfort from that the thought that some States (New Jersey being one) have removed the study of the Founders from the required-topics to be covered in its students’ history curriculum. Which doesn’t bode well for a Citizenry – and the university-trained ‘elites’ at that – being well-versed in the very dynamics and concepts of the American Constitutional vision.

The prof blurbs the “stunningly radical change wrought by the aligned forces of civil rights and feminism”. Yes, “stunningly radical” is surely the right way to describe it. But so is the idea of removing the keel or structural bulkheads from a vessel when it is afloat (and far at sea, and burthened with many ‘souls’) – stunningly radical but in many profound respects otherwise not advisable.

I sense here the radical-feminist need to “celebrate” whatever aspects could possibly support their declaration of “victory” yet clearly omitting any mention (let alone examination) of those elements of their campaign that do not support such a happy-face excuse to swill Chardonnay, declare victory, and go anywhere but ‘home’.

The consequences of radical feminism’s “victory” to poor females of any race or age; to the fundamental family and societal structures and institutions that support any culture and any civilization; to the very ethos of a democratic, deliberative politics; to the ability of the American People and their government to deal effectively with the awesome challenges of the world situation as it has been evolving since 1960 or 1970 … any and all of these matrices of consequences deserve very careful examination indeed. Although perhaps this will only be done post-mortem by bemused historians of a future era. Surely, I don’t see much hope for such examination from the likes of what I read in this review.

And again, I can say Yes But No when the prof asserts that “with the exception of the Civil War, it’s hard to imagine anything that has so permanently altered the course of American history for the better”.

Well, the alteration has indeed been profound, and perhaps irreversible. But “for the better” is, as inferred above, grossly premature, if not groundless. And to assert such a claim, given the absence of serious consideration of the consequences of the “alteration” is evidence either of historical incompetence or of historical bad-faith – and profoundly so.

And I would most certainly exercise extreme caution in burbling about the strategic propaganda and operational ploy of piggy-backing the feminist (radical feminist) agenda onto the Civil Rights movement, especially that halcyon first phase from 1956 to early July, 1965.

The nation – with the exception of many Southrons - largely approved the need to end Jim Crow as being the final phase of the Civil War effort to eradicate race-slavery and bring the Negroes (as they were called then) into the full panoply of civil rights so that they might participate in the American Experiment. And the nation was largely united in Dr. King’s call for all Americans to participate in this national spiritual renewal and a new birth not only of freedom but of national integrity. **

But in the late Sixties the demands of the even-then radically defined ‘feminist’ agenda – so early locked into such divisive issues as abortion-rights and the equating of the newly-minted ‘patriarchy’ with ‘slavery’ or greater than slavery as a national sin and disgrace – enjoyed no such pre-existing popular approval and consensus. (And still do not, as evidenced by on-going and increasing popular disapproval of abortion-rights; “in thirty years”, I recall radical-feminists burbling after Griswold and Roe, folks would be completely reconciled to abortion-rights … a prediction that has not borne fruit, and that fact alone should give any sober and competent historian pause. )

Thus too the prof’s breezy presumption that “the vanquished” (‘men’, the American People, the ‘conservatives and backlashers’?) “still don’t even acknowledge they were beaten, so fully have they internalized the core values of the winners”. Once again, the assaultive, calculated, military, and altogether revolutionary Modus Operandi of the radical-feminist Adovocacy are revealed – no doubt unthinkingly – by this bit of feminist-macho (there’s isn’t a word for this phenomenon yet, that I know of) crowing that – you also have to imagine – constitutes a significant chunk of her ‘teaching’ to the young minds of Bryn Mawr.

This raises the now-substantial specter of Identity Politics in its not-so-happy-face aspect: there are no longer ‘Americans’, there are ‘women’ (and female-identified males and male-identified females) and there are ‘the enemy’. This cannot but have had a profoundly corrosive effect on the concept of The People, which itself cannot but have profoundly corrosive effects on that Constitutional ethos and balance and vision in which The People both ground and ultimately judge the course and policies of their government***.

And again, as with Condoleeza Rice, the prof ‘justifies’ this assertion with a cutesy quip: “Sarah Palin for president anyone? Hello?”. Which is as stunningly self-defeating a comment in support of her assertion as it is an indicator of the low quality of her analysis. And if this is what passes for teaching nowadays ...

“Focusing on the drama of the past 50 years, Collins zeroes in on the women and events that kicked the can over completely”.


Again that queasy feminist-macho imagery – that it’s all been about “kicking over the can”. I think there’s been a hell of a lot more to it all than merely “kicking over the can”. If you want to stay on the level of metaphor, then I’d have to go with something like my ‘keel-ship’ metaphor above, or the idea of the cocky crew trying to alter the shape of the airframe while the aircraft – burthened with ‘souls’ – is flying at 37,000 feet.

The prof’s next example reveals here assessment of a crucial era in national history: “’Mad Men’, the brilliant TV series … actually portraying the closing moments of America’s gender and racial hierarchies”. If this is her essential take on the period of the early 1960s, then you can see how things have gone where they have in the national saga.

The early 1960s faced the awesome challenge of the evaporation of America’s postwar economic hegemony – by the mid-Sixties, and by 1970 at the very latest – the nation would be faced with the challenge of re-adjusting itself to a world increasingly recovering or developing rival economic potentials, thereby inciting a competition for resources and industrial productive capability.

The distractions incited by radical-feminism’s (successful) revolutionary agendas, so hugely divisive in so many respects, and buttressed by political Multiculturalism’s insistence that there was no ‘American ethos’ and no ‘American people’ anyway – all coagulated into Identity Politics by inadvertence or design – lethally (and perhaps fatally … We shall see) weakened the national consensus and the national identity precisely at the moment when the nation needed to focus its attentions and its energies in crafting a new position for itself among the world community of nations.

When the USSR dissolved itself peaceably and willingly in 1991, the US was faced with a second huge challenge: on top of its increasingly precarious economy and the ongoing dissipation of its industrial and productive capacity, it had attempted to spin itself as the world’s financial clearing-house, generating paper transactions and ‘ideas’ for the rest of the world. But it had also relied on its military prowess to provide the world’s primary protection against the Soviet military threat (such as it ever was). But in 1991 that second US ‘purpose’ also disappeared.

Which left open huge challenges, but also large opportunities for crafting and implementing a new national self-definition and new economic strategies, buttressed by a robust and competent diplomacy, in order to take fruitful advantage of that truly world-historical event, i.e. the peaceful dissolution of a monstrous and heavily armed State – an event never really seen before in recorded history.

But the US was distracted, and more by its internal politics than by the international scene. With the arrival of the Clinton administration the country was beset by a genuine orgy of “expressive” legislation designed to hasten the coming of the radical-feminist vision, including not a few ominously punitive measures against ‘men’, that 49% of the population which had become the ‘designated villain’ so necessary to the radical-feminist script.

By the Bush 2 era – even without 9/11 – the position of the US as hegemon was gravely precarious: its economy kept ‘alive’ by vast purchases of its Bonds by foreign governments, its ‘wealth’ increasingly phantasmagoric and generated by a series of ‘bubbles’, it now faced the daunting lack of sufficient natural resources – especially in the energy sector – to fuel its bloated life-style (its industrial capacity now hugely diminished and requiring less energy than it had ever needed before).

Indeed, the entire resource-control element of Bush’s 2002 National Security Strategy and the stunning frakkery of the Iraq War and the efforts to impose what I would call the Greater Southwest Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in the resource-heartlands of the planet can be seen as a convulsive, too-late, and purely military lunge at grasping an opportunity that demanded diplomatic solutions decades before 2003. But We were otherwise distracted, and are now “vanquished”, as the prof doth crow.

It is precisely in this awesome context – over and above a judgment as to the conceptual coherence, essential accuracy, and practical workability of its ‘visions’ – that the “victory” of the radical-feminist Advocacy’s agenda has to be judged.

And yet Collins – and the prof who is reviewing her here – gives Us a long collection of ‘stories’, the anecdotal ‘evidence’ meant to function not as elements of a sober analysis but as icons to fortify the cadres and – what the hey? – provide the firewood that will give off a warm and cozy aura at assorted well-heeled Chardonnay klatsches among the radical-feminist elites who are – they are certain – “victors” in a war with no ill-consequences, a bloodless revolution (which, as Shylock discovered, is impossible to pull off, taking the desired pound-of-flesh without otherwise creating any problems).

Phooey. Phooey and baloney.

The prof tries to pull in “African American women” as victors in this sustained assault. It is inconceivable how the prof or the author could justify such assertions. With the destruction of such institutions as marriage, family, a robust religious affiliation, and the prudent deployment of one’s sexual capabilities – all essential to the radical-feminist programme – black females, with the exception of Condoleeza Rice and her ilk, have become mired in single-motherhood and poverty.

Nor can this be ascribed to ‘racism’ or ‘genderism’ – the consequences I note are the hugely predictable results – intended or not – of the radical-feminist agenda.

“The central idea – that women needed equal access to achieve their greatest potential and that they should be the ones to define that potential – found a home in many quarters”.

“Equal access” is a portmanteau phrase, a suitcase that contains abortion rights and the elimination of any obstructive societal institutions. That suitcase has remained closed to inspection, although it shall prove – if you will – a Pandora’s Box from that hell where declining nations go when they have failed to truly rise to the actual challenges facing them.

And was it not evident decades ago that there would be far fewer well-paying jobs in a country now facing intensifying rivalry over production capacity and resources? Who would pay for all this ‘liberation’, if such it truly was? Of course, back then, even as the slide was beginning, there was still enough cash to solve that ‘problem’ by government largesse.

Although as the Eighties proceeded from dawn to later afternoon, the government was forced to resort to huge international borrowing (it was on Reagan’s watch that the country quietly slipped from ‘creditor’ to ‘debtor’ status on the world stage). And then ‘bubbles’, in order to keep up the government’s ability to plaster over the profound cracks in the plan with cash (or credit).

And all with the assistance of a Congress that had become indentured – for votes or simply to avoid the bad PR of being labeled ‘oppressive’ and ‘insensitive’ – to the agenda. On and on this Ponzi scheme, this smoke-and-mirrors show, rolled along, until the financial interests themselves figured that what’s been good for the goose would be good for the gander, and promised Congress that they could keep the ‘cash’ flowing if they were simply less-regulated.

And here We are now.

But the ‘stories’ are “so deeply moving”. Emotion trumps – another dubious blessing of this great “victory”.

This is soooo not-good.

The prof finishes up by trying to put the best face on the book’s drawbacks. “The rest, to be sure, is well-trod territory.” There are a lot of far more substantive analyses (granted the verrrry selective parameters of happy-face feminist analysis, of course) and the author does list them in her “exhaustive” bibliography.

“So why read this volume instead of one of the many books she lists?” Because the author “is certainly a zippier writer than most upon whose work she so heavily relies”. Zippy is one of those characteristics which delivers the razzmatazz to the cadres – especially the impatient and distracted young – a lot more efficiently.

But now to balance what may be a damaging assessment, the prof admits: the author “seems oddly housebroken here, sobered perhaps by the extent and gravity of her task”. This is one Party member trying hard not to embarrass another Party member in print while still retaining any professional credibility at all.

And clearly neither the author nor any of this type of Movement-Party, for-the-cadres, happy-face radical feminist self-analysis qualifies as a wide-ranging, serious and sober analysis of so admittedly huge a “success”. But if this thing is going to wind up on a Reading List or a Syllabus, then there has to be some justification. And parents and students will shell out $27.99 and an additional 50K-a-year to purchase the benefits of the prof’s and the author’s wisdom.

Good luck with that.

Having run a stupendously complicated Idea ( the vision of radical-feminist paradise) as merely a political game-plan, according to an explanatory justification inappropriately piggy-backed on an altogether different phenomenon (the first Civil Rights phase), and having squelched through the assorted mechanisms of Political Correctness all serious analysis and criticism, and now reaching a point where both the baaad consequences are starting to become unavoidably obvious and they themselves are now reaching the end of their productive years, a generation of well-heeled radical-feminists are looking to their ‘legacy’. And much like Teddy Kennedy, they want to declare victory before they get out of town – one last phantasm, and a self-serving one, of course – as their parting shot, to spin themselves as they’d like to be seen. Truly a revealing ‘legacy’.

Having run the same old bad play long past its sell-by date, to Our great and lasting detriment, they and their fellow-and-sister travelers and their useful-idiots would now like to ‘declare victory’ and go to that Valhalla of the elites, loaded with honor and honors and a lot of good Chardonnay and vegetarian canapés.

Phooey and baloney.

As their grip starts to loosen, We had best get in and start to see what can be repaired and restored.

Although their “victory” has indeed taken deep root, and much is probably beyond recall.

In that sense they have indeed “won” and We have indeed been “vanquished”.

How does it feel?


*When I use this term I am not equating ‘feminism’ with ‘all women’, nor am I presuming that ‘feminism’ is monolithic: there are moderate feminists and radical feminists, the former more inclined to create conceptual space; the latter given to achieving ‘results on the ground’ because they are political activists with an agenda and they are and have always been willing to ‘do whatever it takes’ to achieve their version of victory, and they have read a great deal of Marx, Lenin, and Mao.

I would add that, predictably, it has been the activists – so often radicals – who have gone out and organized the lobbying and pressure campaigns at the highest levels of national government and inside the Beltway. The more sober, careful, and acute ‘thinkers’ have written books and articles but have been much more often under-reported in the national discourse as mediated by the media.

Similarly, I do not consider ‘women’ or ‘American women’ to be a monolithic group: there are vast differences in economic class and in age and in temperament; and there are correspondingly vastly different challenges to those various sub-groups of ‘women’. Lastly, none of this Post is intended with any disrespect to anybody or to the particular challenges they face in this Vale of Tears.

**The ensuing second phase – government-imposed race preferences and urban revolutionary race-ideology – represented something else altogether, and there was no such pre-existing national consensus and unity of opinion. But thereby hangs another tale.

***And of course in the mid-Seventies Multiculturalism in its daunting political aspect would raise to the level of a philosophy and a philosophical ‘good’ the brute assertion that there is no ‘American People’ anyway, no American ethos, nor should there be – but instead that the officially government-erected ‘Races’ – which would later come to include ‘gender’ (I call them Identities) – are each radically and incorrigibly ‘different’ from one another (except that they are all ‘oppressed’) and that they should remain so. Michael Walzer even insisted that immigration had to be “kept up” precisely to avoid any natural ‘melting pot’ effect which would start to forge a common ‘American’ sense of identity.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009


There’s a bunch of hemming and hawing going on about the Boy in the Balloon story: boy trapped in soaring balloon – mustering of emergency services and media – boy not in balloon – boy hiding in attic – family trying to create reality TV script about themselves – family claims misunderstanding.

That sort of thing.

One editorial opines that it’s a case of “false alarm, true emotions”.

Well, now, yes but no. Or: yes but hardly enough.

What are ‘true’ emotions? As opposed, say, to ‘actual’ emotions. It’s one thing to have an emotional response, and you can call that an ‘actual’ emotion. But is that the same thing as a ‘true’ emotion?

I would call a ‘true’ emotion one that corresponds to some significant and genuine element inside the person, perhaps you might even say inside the human being.

Although ‘correspond’ is the big problem nowadays, as it has been for quite a while in these parts. A major element of ‘deconstruction’ theory has been that there is no True (or anything else that deserves a capital letter) ‘out there’. And so the only thing that makes something ‘true’ is the simple fact that a person – any person – believes it to be ‘true’ or ‘real’.

This of course creates all sorts of fun political space where just about anything can be called ‘true’ simply on the word of the person who reports him/herself to believe it or to be experiencing it. And what great political fun it has provided over the past few decades.

But you wind up quickly at a kinda baaaad place where everything that anybody believes or reports themselves to believe is thereby automatically ‘true’ or ‘real’. And to doubt that is to be ‘insensitive’ and even ‘oppressive’.

Which gets you verrrry close to ‘spectral evidence’ – the old Medieval concept especially remembered from its role in witchcraft trials, even over here in the New World, as it was then known. Whatever the witness claims must be accepted as true by the court and the judges even though the judges cannot actually see or experience the ‘evidence’ themselves and thus cannot evaluate its truthfulness. But the ‘witness’ says so, and she (almost always) claims it to be true, and it’s an emergency because the witness is being assaulted, oppressed, and otherwise victimized by the Devil himself (always a he).

It’s a kind of very iffy sort of ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ indeed once you’ve started down this road.
So too with having or experiencing emotions. No doubt a person may feel an emotion and is feeling an emotion. But that’s just a starting point.

What is the emotion an expression of? Does it express a valid connection to reality out there beyond the individual? Or is it the manifestation of some dynamic operating within the individual that isn’t actually connected primarily with the thing ‘out there’ that seems to have prompted the emotion?

For that matter, is the emotion that is being experienced indicative of the individual’s healthy connection to life ‘out there’ or is it indicative of something going on inside the individual that should be – as they say – ‘worked on’?

So the editorial, without getting into the deeper questions, opines that about the only things “real” about the whole episode were the emotions of “wonderment and horror” that the viewers felt.

Well, those and the sense of “manipulation”. Without getting into that, the editorial skims over the more significant stratum of this entire episode: that the parents might well have shrewdly surfed the waves kicked up by the national habit – a baaaad one, I would say – of getting all worked up whenever a certain script arises: innocence in danger.

I suppose this is the occupational hazard of media. Recall the tremendous drawing power of that old scenario from the earliest days of film: beautiful girl tied on railroad tracks by evil guy in big black cape and top hat with moustache and train coming – or maybe, beautiful girl in nighties scooped up by monstrous but suave vampire and bitten on milky neck.

There is a fundamental goodness in human beings, an empathy for the sufferings of others of their kind. And that’s a ‘good’ thing. It’s a manifestation of a potential or characteristic that exists deep within every human being.

Although some human beings develop it more than others, because they have had a more nurturing upbringing in the critical early years or because they are simply by character more in touch with what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”. You might say that they are also responding to the pull of God’s grace inviting them into a deeper participation in their own best and most genuine and truly human potentials, but you might also simply say that it would be in the interest of evolution (or Evolution, if you wish) for members of the species to have some concern for one another.

But in either case, such an exercise of one’s better human potentials creates what you might call a genuine and therefore most really ‘true’ emotion – one that reflects the development of the human self upward into its best possibilities.

Assuming that you agree that ‘best’ exists on spectrum from ‘primitive’ emotions to ‘better’ emotions that are tempered by the higher qualities of empathy.

Although you then have to have assumed that empathy is indeed a ‘higher’ quality and potential within humans, and not just a sign of weakness and symptomatic of a failure to ‘develop’.

In the early days of the commercial age that accompanied the Industrial Revolution, many ‘old-fashioned’ folks were leery of ‘business’ and ‘commerce’ because to achieve ‘success’ in business and commerce you almost had to play a little loose with the higher potentials of empathy, along with truthfulness and respect for individuals. The ‘individual’ – worthy of your respect because because s/he too was an individual and also because you had to respect yourself as also having your own human integrity and character that you did not wish to violate – became the ‘customer’, and later the ‘consumer’ and the ‘stockholder’, and those roles were ones that the successful man (or woman) of business and commerce had to ‘use’ – not to put too fine a point on it – in order to ‘get ahead’ themselves.

It frightened a lot of folks back in an earlier age of America.

It was on the minds of the Framers too. Although their first concern was the attitude of the government that they were creating towards its Citizens. Governments tend to ‘use’ their Citizens as much as ‘business’ does, and the Framers were precisely concerned that in this ‘America’ whose government they were constructing, the ‘government’ would respect its Citizens, as individuals and as The People.

Which also meant that The People had to respect itself. Which meant that the individual Citizens had to respect themselves. This was the challenge of ‘civic virtue’ and ‘civic competence’: the individual Citizens must take seriously their own self-respect as Citizens and as Americans, which respect they must then also extend to all other Citizens. And then the Citizens acting together as The People would be capable of exercising their role as both the grounding source of the government’s legitimacy and authority, and as the ultimate judges of the government’s actions.

Now this is a lot to require of a Citizenry. It’s much more than was required of the subjects of a monarchy, who were basically the cattle and the herds ‘owned’ by the monarch, to be dealt with and expended and burdened as the monarch found most convenient.

It has always seemed to me that the rise of ‘reality TV’ (and You-Tube videos and such) indicated a dangerous falling-away from their highest potentials and responsibilities on the part of the American citizenry. Folks seemed ‘bored’ enough with the emptiness or flatness of their lives that they needed to get some stimulation from being spectators to other people’s lives, and especially to those lives in their more sordid and even inconsequential aspects.

And then – business being business – the ‘need’ for such folks to be on such shows with such ‘stories’ meant that some of the stories weren’t quite really – ummmmmmm – ‘real’.

And civic life was hit with a double whammy: folks who should be doing their ‘citizen work’ were instead distracting themselves with a sort of soap-opera-for-real type of thing, and on top of that, they were doing it at second-hand by watching TV.


And since the government had started to go down some dark and iffy paths of its own – and really didn’t want too many questions asked – then the government was kinda happy to see the potentially troublesome Citizens with their probing questions mostly distracted from the serious work by ‘shows’ and ‘stories’.

The frightening thing is that so many Citizens can feel so ‘bored’ that they need artificial stimulation to feel they have a life at all. It isn’t enough to keep yourself in the shape, to keep growing into the competence, of being a Citizen?

Religion of the Western variety had – even at the time of the Framers – been an instrumental element in the formation and maintenance of a Citizenry: just as you had a duty to develop your integrity and competence as a Child of God, you also then had a duty to develop your integrity and competence as a Citizen. The one fed and supported the other; indeed, the religious individual almost gave birth – you could say – to the civic individual.

I’ve always felt that religious formation – not the state-supported establishment of a particular religious organization or church – was an essential prerequisite for the type of Citizenship that the American Republic required and – really – relied upon for its ongoing success and existence.

Nor could the government actually provide such religious formation. It was – given the inevitable nature of governments to seek their own unbounded freedom of action and the control of their populations – to have no rival ‘authority’ within their jurisdictions. So you couldn’t expect the government to support what was in effect a rival (God) to its own authority and a ‘judge’ (The People) who would boundary its freedom to do whatever it saw fit.

Somehow now civic competence has slipped badly and thus the government is slipping its bounds.

It too has taken to providing ‘emergencies’ with ‘stories’ of a the good-tied-to-tracks-by-evil variety, and you can see it in the record of the Cold War, the Tonkin Gulf, the Iraq War, and a hundred domestic ‘emergencies’.

And way too many folks are feeling that their lives are meaningless, empty, flat, and boring – when really they simply haven’t embraced – or been taught and helped to realize – “the great task remaining before us”, as Lincoln put it.

And instead are distracted from their true civic calling. And probably from their own calling as Children of God, you might want to add.

Holy frakking cow.

‘Children’ are in danger, as even the editorial points out – and that always concerns folks. As it should.

But ‘in danger’ from what? They are most in danger – as even the editorial gingerly notes but quickly moves beyond – from the far too frequent reality of “an unsupervised child being places in jeopardy”.

‘The children’ are not being taught how to develop their civic and (if you wish) religious competences, so that they can begin to shape meaningful lives around the strenuous challenges and adventures of being an effective Citizen (and, if you wish, Child of God).

And at this point there are far too many chronological adults who have also been similarly deprived of such skills, or even the awareness that such potentials and possibilities exist for them, if they choose to develop themselves.

And with an emptiness and a flatness that they 'feel' they are yet unable to realize what's causing such 'feelings': they aren't about what they should be about.

And so they are looking for 'emotional' stimulation and the sense that they are 'alive' by watching stuff on TV. This is a very real case of "lookin' for luv in all the wrong places", as the song has it. Only it's not just 'luv', it's meaning and purpose and the sense of achievement that comes with embracing the responsibilities that go with that achievement.

This, surely, has to be the most lethally dangerous ‘oppression’ and ‘jeopardy’ threatening ‘the children’ and everybody else in this country today.

And that is the fierce urgency of now.


If I recall correctly, sometime right after 9/11, the educational poobahs of at least one State – New Jersey – removed the study of the Founders from the State requirements for History being taught in the schools.

No doubt because they were ‘dead white males’ and ‘oppressive’ and ‘quaint’ and it would be an act of ‘liberation’ to no longer ‘privilege’ them.

While the ‘cherry tree’ variety of history is no doubt worth dropping, the genuine insights and vision of these folks – human beings, all – are indispensable to a grasp of what this country is all about, what its meaning and purpose are, and therefore what the meaning and purpose of Citizenship in the country is all about.

It’s weird, really, that just as the country was gearing up to deal (not well, alas) with the assorted challenges of an explosively troubled world scene, and to assert the value of the American vision, the educational establishment – marching to the beat of an altogether different drum – chose to eliminate the possibility that students would actually learn anything essential to understand and continue the existence of that vision and that way of living and of conducting civic affairs.

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