Sunday, February 28, 2010



A recent article about Harvard Professor Ellen Langer’s work on ‘mindlessness’ and ‘mindfulness’ prompts some thoughts.

What caught her attention was that – contrary to the professional assumption that human beings make their decisions on a rational, cost-benefit calculation – most folks most of the time simply made myriads of typical decisions “mindlessly”. No examination, no reflection, no analysis, no deliberation – not even any intentional presence in the ‘mind-part’ of the self – just a sort of knee-jerk ‘decision’ tossed off with the minimum amount of effort.

The brain – in her image – is on autopilot.

There’s a lot in that image, I think.

Autopilot isn’t a bad thing – but it requires a pilot to know when to switch it on and off. And yes, you can say that nowadays we’re heading toward drones with no pilots at all, but a drone’s pilot is there – simply not in the craft itself.

Ships – especially if you think of a naval vessel – yield an even more fruitful image.

Commanding a vessel is not something that you do ‘on autopilot’ or ‘mindlessly’. The vessel is a tremendously complex and dynamic system of machinery, electronics, human beings, and lots of stuff that could catch fire or blow up if they’re given half a chance. Out of respect for the complexity and importance of the task, the competent commander always brings his A-game consciousness to the task, 24/7.

In fact, in order to do Command well, you really have to allow your responsibilities to Shape your consciousness and the rest of your Self: a tremendous maturity is required to keep your own volatile self from getting in the way of the tasks that have to be accomplished, the missions that have to be achieved. And further, to train that Self so that it can actually contribute its best potentials to the task.

You can maybe get the sense of just how not-cool this approach is in the contemporary American scene. Being ‘Shaped’ by ‘responsibilities’ is not what most folks want to hear. That’s true of just about any human being: it’s a lot of work to achieve such self-mastery, and if there’s anything about humans that stands out, it’s the ability to look for short-cuts.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a short-cut, per se. The kicker is taking a short-cut that in the long run doesn’t wind up costing you more than the ‘long way around’.

The past 40 years or so in American culture has complicated matters lethally: whereas before then the natural human tendency to want to avoid a hard task whenever possible remained strong, there were still the formative forces of parental authority and a culture that was more responsibility-centered than nowadays.

Much of that is gone now. And indeed, given that the industrial-productive economic milieu that enveloped American culture half a century ago has dissolved, you can see how that might have come about.

Langer is concerned that people are not “mindful” enough – not operating primarily, consciously and intentionally, through their more advanced brain capacities but rather go through the motions of a day and a life as many drivers, I suppose, drive a car: as if this sooo familiar task were thoroughly mastered and tamed, and you could layer on a couple of other tasks or diversions to do while you were behind the wheel.

I’ve always felt that the task of being human was at least as complex and important as the task of commanding a naval vessel, and should receive at least as much attention from each human being.

And if it’s true of mastering and shaping a human self and life, it’s also vitally true of being a Citizen, one of that community of character and value committed to anchoring and governing their government.

Lots of things stand in the way, and there are forces arrayed against such a fond hope.
There is the natural human tendency to want to avoid the hard parts of being. And that’s reinforced nowadays by the ‘deconstruction’ of any authority that might move a youngster toward the higher realms of self and being.

The literal orgy of Youthism that was bubbling up even in the 1950s, but really exploded with the Boomers in the later 1960s – when the Democrats decided that ‘Youth’ would reinforce ‘Women’ as a powerfully reliable electoral demographic – has not served Us well: neither the (now former) youth nor the (formerly mature) national culture have fared so well.

There’s a lot of mindlessness in the country. I’m not using this as a subtle epithet against those whose ideas differ from mine as to politics; I’m talking about the much deeper and more profound level where far too many Citizens are indeed ‘mindless’: not paying attention, either to their Self or to what of vital significance is going on around them.

Which, alas, is just what consumer-and-credit based economy would want: where a commanding officer brings the full weight of deliberation to any proposal, the mindless consumer simply buys and buys.

The commander’s ‘happiness’ – if the term applies – is in achieving the best possible decision, whether it be Yes or No. The consumer’s ‘happiness’ is in taking something new out of the wrapping and ‘having’ it.

As you can see, ‘happiness’ comes in all sorts of levels of quality: a kid’s happiness with a new toy is not quite on the same level as a commander’s satisfaction at sensing himself operating at his best possible level. (This may explain why the Navy – and it’s not alone among the Services – is having more troubles than it cares to admit in training truly competent commanders nowadays.)
So Langer is on to something here.

But as with so many valid psychological insights – I’ve written before about Carol Gilligan’s breakfast-table ‘ethics of care’ on this site – you have to be very careful in where you apply the insights.

Gilligan, if you recall, noted that a mother presiding over a table of squalling children must demonstrate her ‘care’ rather than her ‘abstract reason’: babies are famously not interested in ‘reason’ - are incapable of it - when they are in the throes of emotional electrical storms roaring across their consciousness. True enough.

But the ‘mother’ is qualitatively more ‘mature’ or ‘advanced’ than the infants, and that gives her the right and responsibility to function as a ‘Sensitive Despot’, re-arranging the breakfast table world as she sees fit to handle the tykes.

But this is a marvelous insight that will not work well if translated to national politics: if the government – or those elites who ‘get it’ – cast themselves in the role of the ‘mother’, then the Citizens are willy-nilly cast as the ‘tykes’, the unripe children whose bumptious emotions must be handled by superior maturity.

And that doesn’t really conform to the American concept of Constitutional government and government by the People – not at all.

Now Langer has a good point here.

But when she says – rather validly within the bounds of individual functioning – that “things are not good or bad – what’s good or bad are the views we take of things” … well, you can see where that insight, like atomic energy, can cause a lot of damage if it gets free of its containment facility.

Just as John Rawls – although with more intent – provided ‘benefit of philosophy’ to the last 40 years of ‘revolutions’ in this country, Langer’s insights can be used to provide 'benefit of psychology', to be applied in an arena where they don’t work well at all.

Surely, her quote about ‘the views we take of things’ offer some (but not total) constructive help to a person seeking to master his/her human powers. There are many times when a negative predisposition will taint any effort to analyze or even face up to a challenge. And consequently, an awareness that you as a person tend to ‘yaw’ a bit toward the negative will enable you to purposely take that into account when you are facing a challenge.

But that doesn’t – although from the quote it might seem to – mean that your ‘mind’ and your ‘attitude’ are the sole determinant variables in the equation; there actually is a ‘reality’ out there beyond the self, and another part of mental maturity is being able to stay in touch with reality. Your ‘attitude’ and your ‘perceptions’ can be changed if you determine them to be unjustifiably negative; but it’s another thing entirely to override the realities facing you and hope that the simpler task of changing your perceptions will change the world out there.

There is a moment when one’s ‘negative perception’ about Titanic’s continued buoyancy is not a ‘bad attitude’ but rather a sober and serious awareness of what is really going on out there – and intensifying your ‘positive thoughts’ really isn’t going to help and indeed, if you are in a position of authority can be morally irresponsible in the extreme. There is a moment when, running out of fuel in the middle of the ocean because you did not calculate carefully enough just how much would have to be expended, ‘positive thoughts’ aren’t going to create more fuel.

Langer is correct when she surmises that there is an almost magical potential within the Self, whereby the mind (she doesn’t say ‘spirit’ but I wouldn’t rule it out at all) can have an impact on the body. The complexity of the human self – especially the interaction between its material and non-material components – is still not greatly understood or appreciated, especially now that the corpus of experience embodied in religious traditions is largely ignored.*

And again, ‘mindfulness’ put to the use of getting a gold Caddy – or the equivalent of that – is not going to achieve a working maturity.

So “the psychology of possibility” – and this is no put-down of Langer – is certainly something that individuals could stand to explore and develop some skill in.

But – as I’ve said – life isn’t all simply a matter of ‘attitudes’ and ‘perceptions’. You don’t have to go very far in an internet search to see the tremendous problems that – to use one example – the Service academies have gotten into, assuming that any new politically-expedient initiative can be made to work merely by forcing everyone to ‘have the Correct perception’. You can’t go through life simply saying that ‘everything is on the level, if you just hold your head at the right angle’.

And you can see where ‘the psychology of possibility’ can be grossly misapplied when it is used as the ‘justification’ for vast and sweeping politically expedient culture-wide and society-wide ‘revolutions’. Those who ‘just don’t get it’ can be airily or arrogantly dismissed as not willing to engage the ‘possibilities’ inherent in the revolution. Too much of this is a recipe for a government-sponsored madness.

And surely this ‘psychology of the possible’ and of ‘positive thoughts’ blew through the upper reaches of the Pentagon and the Executive Branch when the last decade’s interminable series of wars were launched. “We will be greeted as liberators” is probably as acute an indictment of mis-applied positive thinking as you can find, rivaled only by “Mission Accomplished”.

So I agree with her about the vital and urgent value of paying attention to your Self and your life.

Other thinkers, the article notes, have taken her thought even further. Some – no doubt infected by the radical-feminist aversion to ‘male’ reason and “cold” logic (shades of Gilligan’s breakfast table!) – have called attention to the “rich tangle that incorporated emotion, evolution, and the particularities of the human body” when trying to figure out how folks think and decide.

Well yes, but no.

Yes, that there is indeed a tangle (please, let’s put “rich” up on blocks in the national garage for at least 20 years) inside the human being. So much the more then is there a need for the human mind – working with the heart and all the rest, perhaps as a sort of Chair – to impose some sort of order. It is necessary to achieve an accurate balance between the marvelous complexities within the individual human being and the challenging complexities beyond the human individual, ‘outside’ as it were.

In fact, even if it sounds ‘male’, I’d suggest that there has to be that attitude of the Master and Commander (hearking back to the series of books and the film) that defines the individual person’s attitude toward his/her Self, that marvelous vessel, and the various emotions and impulses – that bumptious but hearty crew – that comprise the Vessel.

“Whenever you’re making a choice, you have to notice things, and that makes us engage” says Langer. Yes, and noticing is a vitally important thing. Too many folks too often take the short-cut of not-noticing, and that means first and foremost, not noticing (and appreciating) the marvelous but also tremendous complexity of the human Self, and the long and narrow path to maturity, to an achieved competence in the higher possibilities of this amazing life-form.

As an example of what I’ve been driving at, I’d call attention to Langer’s week-long 1979 experiment conducted with a group of men in their late 70s and early 80s in a rural monastery: they were divided into two groups, each of which was to speak only about events of 1959. One group would speak about those events in the past tense, and one in the present (as if it were, there in 1979, actually 1959).

At the end of the week, both groups showed improvement in mental functioning – but the group that actually spoke of 1959 in the present tense had improved significantly more.

Now this says a lot.

Yes, it shows what a remarkable power the imagination can have – the power of fantasy – to improve some significant areas of human functioning.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that as soon as the gents who believed it was 1959 stepped outside the monastery grounds into 1979 … they weren’t going to be able to find Elvis.

It would take a lot of follow-on work to somehow capture and seat the positive benefits of the experiment without leaving the gents seriously ‘reality-challenged’.

And I can’t help wondering if this experiment – interesting as it is – doesn’t also provide a sharp example of the Beltway, where too many find enhanced functioning by having pretty much imposed a filter of excessive fantasy (or Correct imagination) to make themselves feel good, even as the country beyond the outer boundary of their personal fantasy literally declines and goes to hell.

The article concludes with her recalling a friend who while on a trip took a photo of an Indian guru; the guru did not show up on the film.

Langer’s take-away is: “the inability of many people to believe the story, due to our mindless adherence to longstanding views”.

It strikes me that this is a fine encapsulation of the point-of-view that has done so much damage to the country, the culture, and the society in the past decades. If you believe that ANYthing is possible, then any skeptical hesitation merely proves your ‘mindless adherence to long-standing views’. (It has served the radical feminists well, Rumsfeld’s Pentagon not so well.)

In other words, if you don’t believe the story, then “you just don’t get it”.

Well, given the remarkable creativity of the human mind-imagination-spirit, and given the fact that not every ‘idea’ it comes up with is going to work, then such cultural artifacts as tradition, common sense, and a reliance of past performance are a helpful way to counter the legitimate novelty-impulse with an equally legitimate preservation-impulse, at least until one is reasonably sure the thing might work and is the way to proceed.

This was all ‘deconstructed’ in the mad rush to effect “many revolutions at the same time” (Gerald Ford channeling Chairman Mao in the 1976 Presidential elections). And Teddy K’s “dream” is right up there with it as an exercise in misapplied fantasy.

So I’m all for more Mindfulness – and the more Citizens are accepting Mindfulness as a primary element in both personal and civic maturity, the better.

And if folks can also work a little improvement in their own lives by using their imaginations and minds to help them over the irrational and wounded rough spots in their personal make-up, so much the better.

But the temptation to fantasy is going to be great now. Whereas for the past 40 years (at least) it’s been a fantasy of continuing progress and almost national omnipotence (We held Ourselves to be, as Madeleine Albright liked to say, “the indispensable nation”), now the temptation will be to escape the challenges of a national decline – to no small extent a consequence of the previous decades of binge.

This will constitute an “existential failure” on the part of individuals and of Us as The People.
Because human beings are not simply possessed of an interior life of the Self, but also an exterior life comprised of the doings of all the other Selfs in the country, and the world.

And while it is a nice thought that perhaps those who ‘get it’ can impose their fantasy on everybody else (with the government’s help) so that everybody sets everybody else off with ‘positive thoughts’ and Correct feelings, like 300 million tuning forks setting each other to vibrating in a large room ... there’s still a country to be run with at least modest competence.


*There is a strong and almost magical tendency in some of the more popular TV ministry ‘religion’ that seeks to burnish its attractiveness by promising something to the effect that God wants to give you a gold Caddy if you just let yourself accept it or some such. But those are not, I would say, manifestations of any authentic Christian belief; rather, they seem to be an Americanized and consumerized version of the World War 2 ‘cargo cult’ beliefs seen in the Pacific when isolated islanders were suddenly confronted with the full cornucopia of 20th century Western industrial powers whose agents could call down showers of consumables simply by going through the ritual of speaking into a small metal can-shaped object. Aircraft, radios and radio waves, and industrial mass societies were completely beyond their ken.


I don’t usually do this, but I ran into so much material today that seem relevant to what I said in this Post that I’m going to do this extended and somewhat wide-ranging addendum.

In the April issue of ‘Reason’ magazine, there is an article entitled “Five Lies About the American Economy”, enumerating five of the biggest whoppers the government is trying to tell folks about the economy. It refers to “a fictional economy that bears little resemblance to the economy that the rest of us inhabit”.

The first thing to note is that this seems simply par for the course in the Beltway now: they are so wrapped up in keeping up the illusions that their political pandering and their indenture to PACs have demanded that they are now indeed presiding over a “fictional America”, one that is in the Beltway mind, corresponds only modestly to the actual America ‘out there’ that the rest of Us inhabit, and that is – by operation of the consequences of their decades of programs and wars – becoming further removed from reality every day.

On top of the economy (the article is well worth a look) there is the military where gender-integration has merely added to the complexity of a military sharing in the decline of its nation; see AOL today with an article about American military and naval decline (including links to three significant official reports in pdf. Nicely, the current Pentagon solution is a concept called “Air-Sea Battle” which is being widely touted as the Next Big Thing although the article politely notes that there seems to be no substance whatsoever behind the concept and nobody knows what this marvelous all-conquering Air-Sea Battle would look like (or how to pay for it).

A concept with no substance or even vision comes mighty close to a dream or a pipedream, in my book.

The ‘Reason’ article then continues with a discussion of Ben Bernanke’s “distortion field”, the tissue of diaphanous murmurings and outright untruths that are supposed to make Us all feel better and to reassure Us that We are not facing a situation where – in Lincoln’s anguished phrase – “the bottom is out of the tub”.

Once again, while government’s always ‘spin’, they usually do so with some circumspection. After all you can only go to that well just so often before folks catch on. BUT there has been so much ‘positive thinking’ and spinning these past Biblical 40 years, enforced by a government-approved Political Correctness and ‘sensitivity’, that huge slabs of unreality have started choking the national lanes of thoughts like bergs in the North Atlantic.

As I have said before on this site, you only have to glance through a couple of recent feministical ‘victory lap’ histories of their ‘revolution’ to see not only ‘spin’ but ‘self-delusion’ on an industrial (and a Beltway) scale.

And of course, ‘positive thinking’ and ‘believing the impossible’ and 'getting beyond your preconceptions' were – along with outright hostile ‘deconstruction’ – absolutely essential elements in the ‘success’ of the radical feminist agenda. And again, I offer the military – especially the Navy’s – experience with the beast as an example whose awesome and awful ultimate consequences are still not fully revealed. (But of course, to notice such things is the problem; an ‘attitude problem’ and a ‘perception problem’ and once they figure out how to change everybody’s ‘attitudes and perceptions’ then everything will be solved, so why bother Us with dark reports now? Once We are all ‘re-educated’ for ‘attitude and perception adjustment’ everything will be fine. And the band plays on.)

And who can forget the many send-ups of ‘positive thinking’ in that marvelous – and stunningly early – 1975 Monty Python movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”? Remember the Black Knight at the ford whom Arthur has to fight? He loses an arm – it’s just a scratch; another arm – just a flesh wound; a leg – “I’ll do you for that!”, and the second leg and Arthur walks on – ‘Running away are ye? Come back here and I’ll bite your legs off!”. Or the whole image of Arthur and his knights ‘riding horses’ when really they are just hopping along on their own two legs like toddlers with servants making clip-clop sounds by banging coconut shells together rhythmically? Is there a better image of the Beltway in the past 40 years?

And of course, if you get to define your own ‘reality’ – which is a core element of the feministical agenda – then you run a serious risk of thinking that ‘your’ reality is ‘reality’, and indeed the whole idea behind imposing the feminist revolution was that ‘women’s’ reality (not all women, I quickly add) would become everybody’s ‘reality’.

This was the dynamic behind Political Correctness: to force people to stop thinking in certain ways and to make them think in certain ways. And the government bought into the project, which was a decision fraught with hugely anti-Constitutional consequences (but then, the Constitution, put together by oppressive and patriarchal white males was “quaint” anyway, as they have been teaching in feminist law courses for decades now – though We haven’t been officially told yet).

And how ‘real’, really, is ‘reality TV’?

And how realistic is it for large numbers of folks to spend their time and energy and precious attention – what they have left – ‘participating’ in reality-TV polls and ‘votes’? While the country slides deeper now down the Rabbit Hole and through the Looking Glass.

It won’t be long before this won’t simply be a pleasure-binge; rather, it will be an ‘escape’ from the frightful realities which untended consequences have created and which are now too far advanced to be corrected without massive changes to the way things are done (think the USSR in the 1980s). And is anybody in the Beltway going to go into that night gracefully?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I’ve just finished reading Michael Sandel’s “Justice”. He is a philosopher at Harvard who has been putting a lot of thought into just what works and doesn’t work when it comes to defining Justice and putting some sort of national policy together.

It’s finally helped me – after 38 years; I’m no towering intellect – to get a grasp on what went wrong in the ‘liberal revolution(s)’ that burst upon the country in the early Seventies. (And please don’t assume that since I have put ‘liberal’ in quotation marks that I am a ‘conservative’: both of those terms have been largely undermined now, since both Parties have descended into the trough of a politically and humanly immature politics that has regressed and coarsened Our entire national discourse.)

A moment to recall the relevant history.

In the marvelous first-phase of the Civil Rights Movement (up to the first week of July, 1965) the country was engaged in the fulfillment of the Civil Rights promises made and paid for by the Civil War. Martin Luther King led a campaign in which all Americans (some die-hard Southrons excepted) could take heart, a renewal and fulfillment of the national commitment – morally and religiously as well as politically grounded – in the full political enfranchisement of the American Negro (the term in use at the time).

The federal government had to step in – in some cases with armed troops as well as battalions of Federal marshals – to enforce laws long-neglected and even subverted, stretching back to the end of Reconstruction in the mid 1870s.

Since the Jim Crow culture of the pre-1965 South was so thoroughly entwined around the ongoing political repression of the Negro, then the government wound up spearheading a profound cultural change – drastic and of necessity immediate – in the South. That had to be done; when a culture becomes deranged to the point where it flaunts the Constitutional guarantees, then the culture is going to have to change in order to conform to a genuine embrace of the Constitutional guarantees.

This was a huge and painful process, as it had to be.

It also set a verrrry dangerous example for follow-on ‘revolutions of liberation’ that were to come, but let me not get ahead of things here.

The whole country pretty much recognized (the Southrons to varying degrees excepted) that all this brouhaha was fundamentally only a belated correction of the derangement of the promises won by the Civil War that had ended almost a century before.

The Democrats, under LBJ, risked an awful lot. They had to accept the probable electoral loss of most of the South for at least a generation; in addition to die-hard out-and-out racists, there were many more Southrons who had grown up with ‘their’ culture and simply didn’t like to see it changed, especially (again) by armed federal forces and the power of the government in Washington.

But that grand week in July of 1965 came. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was capped by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Dems racked up a huge national achievement – but it promised to be an expensive one, politically.

Still, the indelible images of long lines of neatly dressed Negroes of all ages standing up against the worst that the South of that era could throw at them (supported by large numbers of white, Northern ‘freedom riders’) certainly made it all seem worthwhile (Americans love to see that third act where all the good folks finally come together and win – the classic Hollywood happy ending).

Alas, within 10 days of that July day in 1965, Watts erupted in a days-long orgy of rioting, burning, and looting which – thanks to TV news cameras – was also indelibly imprinted on the national consciousness.

The riots effectively gutted LBJ’s popular mandate – and his political ability to pursue a program of nurturing the huge gains just made.

And furthermore, I’m going to imagine, the Dems sat down there in Washington, did some calculations, and realized that the Negro constituted less than 10% of the national electorate. Which meant that even if all Negroes now voted Democratic, they still wouldn’t provide a safe electoral margin.

The Dems urgently (perhaps desperately) needed a lot more votes – in ‘demographic’ amounts – and they needed them fast.

Things got even worse as the second phase of the Civil Rights era suddenly erupted, in the Northern cities. But this second phase was hell-and-gone from the first. Angry urban ‘blacks’ – vividly represented by black activists who weren’t interested in help from ‘whitey’ and ‘honky’, who had read wayyyy too much Mao and ‘revolutionary’ theory, and who were more than willing to deploy violence against ‘the establishment’ – presented a much different picture from the orderly lines of freedom-marchers in the first phase.

It being the Sixties, revolution was in the air (Mao had instituted his own Cultural Revolution in 1966 and it seemed to be working wonders).

Along came the radical feminists – who basically cast their programme as a long-deferred ‘Civil Rights’ struggle at least as important (if not more so) than the Negro-Black struggle. They based all that on some not-so-obvious and not-so-widely-accepted assumptions: ‘patriarchy’ had been doing to ‘women’ for millennia what Jim Crow had been doing to the Negro in the South for a (mere) century or three; ‘women’ had been as unjustly ‘oppressed’ as the ‘slaves’ and the Negroes of the Jim Crow era; consequently the ‘feminist revolution’ was nothing more than a replay of the Civil Rights movement.

Except for that part about the oppression of ‘women’. (I use the term in quotation marks because it was never – and has never – been established that the majority of females in the country agreed with these assumptions, or embraced their consequences.) There was nowhere near the broad and deep national consensus about this newly discovered ‘oppression of women’ that there was about the still-unfulfilled promises of political equality made to the Negro through the winning of the Civil War.

But ‘women’, any Democratic pol with even minimal computational abilities could see, constituted 51% of the population – and THAT was a ‘demographic’ that seemed heaven-sent to rescue the Party from the triple-whammy of the consequences flowing from the eradication of Jim Crow in the South, the Watts riots and the Northern second phase of the ‘black power revolution’, and the overall smallness of Negro-Black electoral strength.

Almost overnight, the certainly consideration-worthy but still somewhat dubious agenda of the feminist revolutionary agenda (spear-headed by the most radical proponents of the thing) suddenly became The Next Big Thing: in the run-up to the 1972 national election the Democrats burbled that they were now ‘The Party of Women’.

And, as at Santa Anita, they were off!

But there were two problems, at least.

First, the country was not so easily and largely convinced that the plight of ‘women’ required or justified another ‘revolution’. Especially with the Black Power revolution now assuming disturbing proportions, eroding public order and assaulting the entire American ‘white’ culture. Was this the time to have a second ‘revolution’ now assaulting not only the national culture, not only ‘white’ culture, but ‘male’ culture and ‘men’ generally? *

It quickly became clear – although it was now no longer Correct to notice it – that if the second phase (the Black Power) phase of the Civil Rights movement was taking a verrry rackety turn, then the feministical ‘revolution’ (spear-headed by those most radical of the feminists) was trying to overturn the entire basis of American society and culture and even Western (‘patriarchal, oppressive’) civilization … and large numbers of sober folks could be forgiven for wondering if that was a good idea, or even a workable one.

But the Dems knew enough not to look a gift-horse in the mouth. And, consequently, they put the full weight of the nation’s largest and most influential political party behind everything the feministicals pushed their way. And you know the rest.

The sober folks 'just didn't get it'.

Second, the whole ‘revolution’ thing – proceeding to change American culture and society by means of the method and image of ‘revolution’ – so profoundly assaulting the fundaments of American culture and civilization, had no philosophical grounding of its own. Indeed, the American political process was precisely designed to handle competing agendas through the channels of public deliberation and the voting process – it wasn’t necessarily a quick process, but it made for a lot of underlying deep support as enough voters were won over and persuaded.

But ‘deliberation’ by the Citizens who would then express their will through elections at all levels of government was ‘slow’ and it was an ‘emergency’ and there was so much ‘outrage’ and ‘pain’ … the established processes of democracy were too slow; as they would say nowadays, the democratic deliberational process was “quaint”. It was too slow, and at the end of the day there was no guarantee that the Citizenry would give the new ‘revolutions’ what they wanted.

In the fragile rowboat of human culture and human events, democratic deliberation wasn’t a bad way to proceed; in a rowboat full of folks, a lot of sudden and large movement, especially movements calculated to chop away offending pieces of the boat itself, did not strike many folks as the grown-up way to proceed.

But it was an ‘emergency’ – so knew the Dems looking at their electoral charts, and so loudly plainted the feministicals (joined in due time by other ‘revolutions’ looking to run the same play).
Along comes John Rawls, mid-level philosophy prof at Harvard, who in 1972 produced his theory of justice that pretty much justified everything that the Dems and their new protégés wanted to do.

Needless to say, it caught on like wildfire among the new ‘elites’, who were enjoying unprecedented access to the most powerful levers in Washington.

Rawls basically said that if you simply imagined that you were alive as a Citizen but had no prior commitments or connections to anything, then from the vantage point of that ‘original position’ you would (he assumed) agree with him as to the shape of ‘justice’. And that consequently, the Dems quickly inferred, his way of going about things was the ‘right way and the only way’ to go – and to do All of it Right Now.

Sandel – getting back to his book – puts his finger on the key problem with this approach: no such human being exists, who has reached the stage of adult reason and maturity yet has absolutely no ‘commitments’ of any sort. Human life, Sandel reminds everyone, is a thick and dense and complex skein of commitments and an adult-without-commitments is a pure fantasy.

Rawls had basically undermined the whole concept of a human being having commitments, except those that he or she chooses consciously and deliberately. Any other ‘call’ on a person is unjustified and need not be honored.

(Acutely, Sandel notes that in Rawls’s scheme, ‘patriotism’ in any form cannot be justified, because no human being and no native-born citizen can ever be in the ‘original position’ of being able to choose or not-choose a ‘commitment’ to the country. Neatly, Sandel quotes Rawls himself, who when confronted with that very question, hemmed and hawed until in obscenely convoluted prose he finally allowed as how “it is not clear what is the requisite binding action or who has performed it”.**)

So Rawls asserted that no individual can be ‘held’ to a ‘commitment’ unless s/he purposely chose it.

This was the philosophical equivalent of manna from heaven to a feministical (not to say a genuinely feminist) agenda, in that golden age of Boomer-madness, that was demanding that every ‘woman’ be considered totally free of any obligations or even expectations generated by culture, tradition, reason, or even Nature (that thing about sex, babies – having and raising same).

Which of course justified a comprehensive ‘deconstruction’ (another bit of philosophy, imported from France where it had been yanked off the national stage when they realized that once you started ‘deconstructing’ any single element of a culture, the process could not be stopped until it dissolved the whole kit and caboodle). Which is precisely what it did when imported to these shores and turned loose (with the Dems’ approval and support): American culture, society, tradition, thinking … all unworthy of respect or credibility, and to be overturned ‘yesterday’ in order to liberate from ‘oppression’.

Thus each individual American was to be totally free of any commitments until s/he decided to accept same. And if not, not.

You wouldn’t need a Ph. D. in Anthropology or Political Science or the History of Civilization and Culture to see that any polity which adopted this philosophy would pretty much guarantee its own dissolution, under the acid processes of ‘deconstruction’ in the service of every individual’s total autonomy, liberation, and freedom of choice. It was a teenager’s damp-dream, and the Boomers were just about that age, and there were so many of them that they figured that they either were the new world-majority, or would be as soon as everybody ‘over 30’ died off. Ah, those were the days!***

The deep political upshot of Rawls’s fantasy was that the government would have to be morally and religiously ‘neutral’, since everybody would have his/her own conception of his/her binding obligations, and also would have that ‘total autonomy’ to make whatever choices they felt they wanted to.

There are a couple of problems with this. Really big and deep ones.

First – as Sandel asks – is it even possible for a government to formulate policies and laws that are really and truly ‘morally neutral’? He uses – not irrelevantly – the example of the pro-choice and anti-choice sides of the abortion matter (dating, you recall, from Roe v. Wade in the first weeks of January, 1973): the ‘pro-choice’ position is not describable as ‘neutral’ unless you first make the rather clear moral assessment that the fetus is not human. And if you have so assessed, then you have already lost your ‘neutrality’ in the very act of making that assessment.

But then, how can this abortion matter be approached ‘neutrally’ at all? At its irreducible core is the huge and profound moral conclusion that the fetus is or is not human. There is no way to move forward until you have made your decision about that.

(Still and all, it's a neat scam: if you are 'neutral' then a pro-choice choice will result in abortion. If you are pro-choice, then a pro-choice choice will result in abortion. And as the songster saith, "two outta three ain't bad".)

And what holds true for individuals then holds true for their government: the government must make that decision as well, in order to formulate law and policy in the matter. There’s no way around it, given the fact that in Our modern American reality there are those who hold – through an exercise of their autonomy – that the fetus is human and deserving of protections, and those who – through that same exercise of autonomy – hold that the fetus is not human and thus undeserving of protections.

It’s another question entirely whether any government in its right mind would not only open up this profound crevice in the national life but would actually seek to impose its own (politically motivated) answer upon the entire citizenry.

Because, Sandel says, as members of a national polity We all reside together in a “community of character”. (And if that statement seems a bit odd then you can gauge just how far deranged the national – or at least public – consciousness has become in the past 4 decades.)

But of course, can it be said any longer that We as Americans all inhabit a single “community of character”, whereby We all hold – to use a stock phrase – “certain truths to be self-evident”? That We have all accepted an obligation to live according to the morality flowing from those ‘truths’? (No wonder, perhaps, American moral behavior of late has demonstrated some serious flaws here and around the world; not only the Constitution but ‘morality’ and ‘truth’ have been considered “quaint” if not worse in some circles for quite some time.)

Indeed, Identity Politics would build on the deconstruction of American culture and society by asserting that Citizens’ primary allegiance is to their ‘Identity’ (race, gender, orientation, or whatever) and not to ‘being American’. (Although, I have always wondered, the Identities themselves presume that anybody born into their Identity may be counted for political purposes as a member of the Identity – whether they have officially and freely chosen to be so or not; a neat trick rather very similar to the old Southern gambit of considering their slaves to be less-than-human, but yet each slave would count as three-fifths of a human for census purposes.)

Sandel points out that Rawls’s system must be acknowledged as raising the most profound questions about the “nature of human freedom”. I’d go Sandel one better: you can’t talk about the “nature of human freedom” until you’ve got a grasp on “the nature of being a human”.

Are humans born as utterly and totally independent and Shapeless, ‘blank slates’ waiting like child’s clay to be Shaped into whatever forms the individual human chooses? Whenever in life s/he gets around to it? I don’t think this corresponds to reality at all.

I think humans are more like ships: they are launched – as it were – with a certain shape, and from the beginning must answer to the fundamental dynamic principles of the medium (in the ships’ case, wind-wave-weather) in which they will operate. A ship isn’t going to work on land; it would incompetent to try to drive one up onto a landmass, and if one were responsible for other lives, or one’s own even, then it would be immoral to try.

Human beings share a human nature. That ‘nature’ alone imposes certain dignities and ‘prior obligations’ from birth (or, as above-noted, perhaps even before birth).****

You can certainly have extended discussion as to just what that human nature consists of, and the consequences flowing from its dignity (or lack of it, if you choose to argue that side).

But people can’t – and surely a government can’t – simply try to sidestep the issue in order to pander to a preferred agenda demanded by a politically important constituency. Especially when that agenda demands that everybody else’s beliefs and traditions are “quaint” and even “oppressive” and unworthy of respect.

And surely no democratic government can risk such a hugely dangerous exercise.

But then, a Democratic one did. And succeeded to the point where it got the other Party to go along, sort of.

Thus the ‘liberal’ (only to use this term as it used nowadays) ideal of a ‘morally neutral government’ is a) impossible in theory and b) unable to justifiably impose its (impossible) ‘neutrality’ on all of its Citizens.

What We have had for the past decades is a government trying to govern a nation of human beings, although unable and even unwilling to come to any solid consensus about what it means to have a ‘human nature’ or whether there is any human nature at all.

Except that humans should always have as much ‘autonomy’ as possible.

But the very Shape of the ship limits your ‘autonomy’, even when you enjoy the full authority of the captain to command the vessel.

Embodiment – even the very fact of being a material being – imposes certain limitations from the get-go: as a human being you can’t pass through walls, you can’t fly unaided (unless you’re from Krypton), you can’t live in an airless vacuum (ditto) … And all of this comes before the question of whether, in your authority as captain, you can try to take the ship up onto the coast highway for a spin.

If you want total and perfect and pure autonomy, you pretty much have to get rid of the Matter and become pure unembodied spirit … but then you wouldn’t be a human being (you might qualify as an angel, but they too seem to have certain famous limitations on their autonomy – and there are consequences for trying to go beyond them). Or you might be a ghost – but not a living human being.

So you see the problems with a) seeking ‘total autonomy’ b) with no unwanted or unchosen ‘obligations’ and c) claiming that it’s possible for either humans or human governments to be ‘morally neutral’ with no functioning obligations.

If it might be proposed that the Great Britain lost her empire “in a fit of absence of mind”, what can be said about the United States, that lost its national unity and consensus in a fit of sustained deconstruction in the service of a ‘dream’ that was not only ‘impossible’ to achieve, but so phantasmagoric that it did not correspond to the reality of the human situation in the first place?
The ‘dream’ was impossible, alright: impossible in the sense that it had more in common with the Easter Bunny and tooth-fairies than with any serious effort by a politically mature government responsible to a politically mature People.

It is more accurately characterized as a 'daydream' or a 'dampdream' than to be dignified with the term 'dream' - let alone 'Dream'.

I think that future historians are going to laugh – or at least shake their heads in disbelief – at the project of ‘morally neutral’ government these past Biblical 40 years.

This is the kicker. It’s not best seen as a ‘secular’ problem – that casts it into the culture-war ‘religion’ mode, where the Republicans – whose political maturity is now as debauched as the Dems – have raised up the whackjob Fundamentalists as the representatives of ‘religion’. Rather, it’s the more philosophical ‘moral neutrality’ problem that should be Our focus of concern.

It seems to me that the Framers could construct so limited a government as the American Constitutional one precisely because they realized that the Citizens were being Shaped by a culture and civilization that preceded the government itself by long centuries. All that the American Constitution needed to do was guarantee that the government did not get in the way of those Shaped Citizens’ “community of character” and shared culture.

It was only when the government decided that it needed to ‘deconstruct’ that “community of character”, and all its traditions and assumptions and beliefs and practices, that the whole marvelous machine went off its rocker – literally, like a Ferris wheel breaking loose from its struts.

Thus the government now has not only weakened (‘reformed’, the Beltway elites like to think) the structure of the Constitution itself, but has greatly eroded the ground under the structure, the cultural unity of the People.***** AND the government has placed the Citizenry in the impossible position of maintaining their moral and religious beliefs yet not deploying them in the service of Citizenship and political activity.

Because if it’s impossible to conduct a ‘morally neutral’ government, it’s also impossible for the individual Citizens and the Citizenry as a whole to pretend (‘prescind from’ is the old formal philosophical term) that they don’t have any politically relevant moral beliefs and values.

In other words, the ‘Citizen in the original position’ – dreamed up by Rawls as a slick philosophical way of sweeping away any obstruction to the new demands and agendas – is just that: a mind-game, a ‘dream’, a ‘fantasy’, and an impossible one at that. We come into this world already burdened with claims and expectations made by the human community into which We are born, with limits imposed by Nature itself – and any theory that insists on ignoring that must have its tires most vigorously kicked.

Rawls's theory caught on quickly - it seemed to far too many to be so 'simple' that they took it as a proof of just how dumb Western civilization had been that it had not 'gotten it' earlier, that it had not seen such a clear and simple solution.

Of course, Rawls's solution was 'simple' in the same way that Hitler's plan to invade England might have been made simple: by imagining that the English Channel didn't exist - that those 20 miles of open water were only 20 miles of rolling fields - then a German invasion of England would have seemed simple indeed. And anybody harboring reservations would be derided as somebody who 'just didn't get it'. Yah.

And any government that gives itself over to imposing such a lethal pipedream on the society and culture for which and to which it is responsible must be held strictly to account for its witlessness or its treachery.

Which gives Teddy Kennedy’s “Dream” bit a whole new level of meaning. And now We have to figure out how to re-deploy Our communal national energies currently ‘dreaming the impossible dream’ – that afore-mentioned saccharine song from the 1960s Broadway hit “Man of La Mancha”; We’d best get serious and realize just what the elites have spent the last four decades trying to do with this country.

And let’s not forget that the government itself seems to have developed the delusion that it too has ‘total autonomy’ – which seems too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence.


*It also didn’t completely escape the public’s notice that the postwar economy – the source of American primacy in the postwar world , whose robust hegemony was presumed to be eternal from 1945 into infinity – was starting to behave oddly: in 1971 Nixon had abrogated the Bretton Woods arrangement of 1946; the dollar was no longer backed by gold (in Fort Knox – google it if you have to); there were sudden shortages of beef and sugar; and some powerhouse American corporations were starting to open up plants in other countries and to close plants here. Some nuts were even starting to predict that the price of a gallon of gas would go up to 50 cents or more. And, of course, the military that had won World War Two was having a hell of a bad time in a relatively small backwater in Southeast Asia. Was this really a good time to be declaring a domestic war on ‘men’ in general? Or to be agreeing that the whole national culture – Western civilization even – was nothing but a hollow excuse for ‘oppression’?

**I think that even more profoundly than being considered ‘soft on defense’, the Dems must have been terrified of being accused of being ‘against patriotism’ – yet their anointed court philosopher had no room for it in his scheme. Fortunately for them (though not for anybody else) the media did not pick up on it, since ‘philosophical’ questions aren’t ‘real’ enough to report about. Yah. But their consequences are real, verrry real indeed.

***The lyrics to Mary Wells’s 1968 or 1969 song “Those Were the Days” say it all: “Those were the days, my friend; we thought they’d never end, we’d sing and dance forever and a day! We’d live the life we choose, we’d fight and never lose, those were the days, oh yes those were the days.” Cast as a middle-aged person’s thoughts, standing on a sidewalk and seeing his/her reflection in the window of a bar where much youthful carousing had gone on a lifetime before, the lyrics – intentionally or unconsciously – issued a warning to the besotted Boomers that there’s a reason why Time and History come with capital letters.

****Just a quickie here on this matter of ‘human nature’. It goes back at least to Plato. He figured that while there are many types of ‘cup’, say, yet there is something that makes you quickly identify any genuine ‘cup’ as a ‘cup’ – regardless of its shape, size, color, the number and placement of handles, the amount it can hold, and so forth (although when does a ‘cup’ become a ‘pail’ because of the amount it can hold?).

And you can tell the difference between a ‘cup’ – no matter how unfamiliar its style or shape – and, say, a ‘helmet’ that for the moment is being used as a cup.

So he figured: there’s some ‘cupness’ that is a key archetypal Form in which all existing cups participate; all the cups have the quality of the Cup.

Now that’s kind of interesting and certainly not nonsensical. Although a ‘realist’ might say: I have seen lots of cups in my life, but I have never seen a (or the) Cup – so it doesn’t exist. To which Plato would respond that there must be some dimension where all these Ideal Forms exist, because everything in existence must have an Ideal Form.

Now then, when you apply this approach to human beings, then you start asking yourself: what is the Human-ness that makes a human being a human being? Such that you can discern it in the many different shapes and forms that it takes in this dimension.

What makes humans Human? What are the essential qualities, capabilities, characteristics of the Human and thus of all actual human beings?

You can go a long way down this road – and you wouldn’t be wasting your time.

*****And with the population’s sense of national identity and cultural unity dissolved and ‘deconstructed’, then the only source of identity and unity and civic order would have to be the government itself; and so the Regulatory-Preventive Nanny State State – what I call the reincarnation of the old Enlightenment illusion (‘dream’?) of Benevolent Despotism as ‘Sensitive Despotism’ – becomes necessary to instill civic ‘character’ and enforce civic order – to essentially Shape the Citizenry – even as the National Security State provides the war and ‘fear of enemies’ which become the only comprehensive common motivation left to the country. This is a recipe for catastrophe as a polity.

And for that matter, I wonder if things aren't so far gone now (the Beltway elites so debauched by their decades of political pandering to their 'bases' and their indenture to corporate PAC money) that the Beltway resembles nothing so much as the Soviet nomenklatura elites in the 1970s: they knew the whole thing was a failure and probably wrong from the get-go and now all they wanted to do was stick around long enough to make their bundle, retire, and get out of town to their dacha on the Black Sea.

And if that's the case, then to those who wonder if Obama has 'betrayed' his promise, I propose the example of the decent Gorbachev: he couldn't clean up the Augean Stable ... he couldn't and didn't 'reform' the Soviet Union, he had to shut it down.

Go thou and have a cuppa joe over that.

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Friday, February 19, 2010


It’s reported now that the Duke lacrosse rape case accuser has been arrested on charges of attempted murder, arson, assault, and child abuse; in a domestic violence incident she threatened to stab her partner and set fire to his clothes in a bathtub, and three children in the apartment were among those safely evacuated; it is perhaps not so much news that at the time of the incident it was not possible to determine whose children they are.

Thereby hang many tales.

The Duke rape case itself brought to public attention a number of elements that had taken hold in American society under the guise of ‘reform’, ‘liberation’ and ‘progress’.

The trip-wire presumptions that females are in large part at great risk in relationships with males, that the ‘victim’ (defined as whoever gets to the phone and makes the 911 call first) is always to be believed, that government police authority and the justice system are capable of maintaining their credibility and integrity when permitted sweeping expansions of authority through the weakening of rule of evidence and due process, and that the nation’s universities were comprised of competent and mature adults on their faculties … all these trip-wire presumptions took a big hit.

Suddenly the hardly-unpredictable consequences of too many ill-considered ‘reforms’ too-confidently adopted, with too little serious public deliberation (which in any case would have been tainted by a sensationalist media) … suddenly the resulting monstrosity became brutally clear. (And can you say ‘IraqWar’?)

A torturously complex and ultimately incredible report of victimization continued to receive serious attention. Although males are the most likely potential victims of violence in the country, the ‘empowering’ crusade to paint them as slavering, brutish lumps kept the ‘script’ glued to the female as the victim – Lifetime channel for real.

I can’t help noticing that a very neat though insidious feedback loop has now been established: in the name of a certain ‘liberation’ Parents, Family, Character, and even Adulthood itself (toss in Maturity and Decency if you like) have been tossed overboard, or at least stowed in the national garage, up on blocks.

This results in children – especially young males – receiving almost no substantive maturational guidance in the utterly vital early years. And so scads of young males grow up without any working mastery over the assertive and aggressive energies with which Evolution (not to say God) has endowed them. Which means that at an age when they start to go out into the world they are far more prone to misuse those powers. Which proves that they are chimpish lumps – in the cartoonish schematics of certain politically influential interests – and means that, at that age, only more Regulation and Prevention – provided by the State – can somehow hold them in check (let’s not even kid Ourselves that the State can mostly compensate for the lethal effects of the lost formative years).

But not to worry: they won’t ever be able to re-establish ‘patriarchy’; a Regulatory-Preventive police power, which will have to operate at near-Soviet levels – will keep after them, a Nanny-with-a-badge, the sole source of civic order.

And even as her story unraveled, reaching glaring levels of incredibility, she shrewdly stuck to it – which enabled the media to keep trying to run the established script, like an assembly-line machine that will simply continue to jam its round peg even though it’s clear to any observer that there is no piece with the round hole on the conveyor belt in front of it. In all the ‘deconstruction’ of oppressive myths, it seems a crop of new ones has been imposed to replace them: as for example, that human beings – once victimized or at least once functioning in the role of ‘victim’ – don’t lie.

That flies in the face of everything history and experience has taught about human nature (now deconstructed) and ignores the abiding human reality which the concepts of Sin and Original Sin (also now deconstructed) were designed to explain. In their place is the almost primitive presumption that once a human being acts in a certain role, then s/he cannot tell a lie.

Which in turn was proven to be grossly inaccurate when the local District Attorney was discovered to have made up his mind that this case had to be 'successfully' prosecuted* and began administering the (already weakened) criminal justice process in such a way as to make sure that ‘the rapists’ were brought to – as it were – ‘justice’. He committed such serious professional and official mis-, mal-, and non-feasances that the State’s Attorney General had to take over the investigation (and put an end to it); and the DA was then disbarred.

Which served in turn only to enrage a stunningly sizable chunk of the Faculty, for whom – as they insisted in writing and in comments – ‘facts don’t matter’. It may seem strange that a somebody paid as a professor in a University – and one that pretends to a rather high status – would officially put him or herself on the record as not being concerned for ‘facts’, but such is Our modern American reality. Even the University Administration supported them, until it became clear that going further along the Correct path was going to wreck the credibility and even the ‘seriousness’ of the University itself.

As best I can make out, the ‘facts’ of the case didn’t matter because they were overridden by a larger set of ‘facts’: that men are loutish, violent rapist lumps and that consequently any ‘case’ brought against them in civil or criminal law – even if such case is not quite solid, or even grossly un-solid – is still ‘legitimate’ because it is part of the great empowering and liberating emergency and revolution to erase the infamy of the loutish male.

No wonder the Democrats don’t want anybody looking back and would prefer that We all just look forward (to the comforting fairy tales erected in that direction). In their desperate bid to raise up political Identities to replace the broken New Deal coalition, the Dems indentured themselves not simply to the most whacked of radical feminist-with-Maoist-methods whackery, but to what in effect has been a ‘deconstruction’ of the entire vessel called American culture-and-civilization, and to what in effect has been a government-sponsored war on half of its population (which still doesn’t beat Stalin and Mao – who conducted a war on their entire populations, but it puts this country ahead of just about every other major rival).

This country – at this point – now imprisons more citizens and a larger proportion of its citizens (and almost all of them male) than any country in the world, including Communist China.

Clearly there are dots to be connected here. In the service of imposing quickly and thoroughly a revolutionary (or multi-revolutionary) ‘liberation’ the Beltway – first the Democrats but then also the Republicans** - has created – step by step and inch by inch – the Regulatory-Preventive, prosecutorial Nanny State – which indeed requires that the original substance of the Framers’ Constitutional vision to be declared “quaint” because there is no way in History or Creation that the vision underlying this new monstrosity is compatible with a Mature People and a Constitutional Republic that is Grounded by that People.***

And that Regulatory-Preventive State – now the only source of civic order, since the entire Trellis of living concepts imparted by Parents and Family, religion and tradition, maturity and adulthood has been deconstructed – has been aimed at ‘males’ specifically, resulting in an imprisonment rate (mostly without trials) of Communist-level percentages of the Citizenry. The United Secure States of America – the USSA. Or the United Safe States of America – take your pick.

And you thought that Our economic future was the only nightmare due for wide release in the upcoming season?

But in an effort at ‘balance’ the post-9/11, Patriot Act Beltway has dragooned just about everybody. If that’s any consolation.

There’s a reason why History is spelled with a capital ‘H’.

Welcome to your world.

We need to rethink Our revolutions. And maybe get back toward that Revolution whose fruits have been declared “quaint” with all the force of elite opinion and chicanery.


*This may seem "quaint", but a prosecutor is still an Officer of the Court and as such is required to ensure that "truth" (if with a capital "T", now deconstructed) is brought before the Court - s/he is as responsible as a sworn witness to provide 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth' to the Court. Nowadays, especially in the wake of decades of legal 'reforms' prosecutors are now seen - in the French Revolutionary mode - as avenging agents of the Truth who are therefore on a 'mission' sooooo 'good' that nothing can be allowed to obstruct their path to the 'successful prosecution'; truly the "facts don't matter" - which when applied in the legal forum creates hell-on-earth. (Yes, you may have noticed: there is no Truth ... except the revolution's Truth, which is the Politically Correct truth, which is what only those who 'get it' can see and what those who 'just don't get it' can't see.)

**Why? We may well ask. Politically, to nail down a hefty chunk of that 51% demographic constituted by ‘women’ – represented, however, by the cadres of the most radical elements of feminism, and with enough time on their hands to set up shop inside the Beltway and set up, as it were, housekeeping.

And perhaps also to create at least the semblance of Beltway competence and sustain legitimacy and authority at a time when, starting in the Seventies, it was becoming clear that the Beltway really had no way to A) sustain the great postwar American ‘success’ in a rapidly re-developing world and B) was so indentured (through PAC money) to corporate contributions that it could not have imposed any national economic policy on the corporations even if it had devised one.

We should probably add a third, ‘C’, about the Beltway’s increasingly frakkulous indenture to the State of Israel, but how much bad news can you take on a Friday morning?

***The National Nanny State requires ‘children’ and ‘victims’, not Citizens; the National Security State requires jingoist cannon-fodder. And the services of Lincoln’s “People” are no longer required, except to take vacation trips to Washington or Gettysburg and buy lots of old-timey souvenirs.


You can read one of my several Posts from back when the case was in the headlines here.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I’ve been watching this story develop, but until today it didn’t seem anything to Post about.

But it’s reported today that she opened fire during a meeting of 12 faculty members, seated around an oval table, at a faculty meeting.

A few things strike me.

First, after her initial burst of firing seemed to jam the handgun, she was rushed by the remaining five or six faculty members. They proceeded to push her out of the room and locked the door.

I note that they did not take the non-firing weapon from her, and they pushed her out into a hallway – with the weapon – where she might quite conceivably have continued her rampage by firing at other faculty or students.

I’d like to propose that while the members’ response was somewhat understandable, and certainly better than simply sitting there waiting for her to effect repairs on her piece, it was not really very impressive. Not when you figure that a faculty member is not simply an ‘employee’ but has some sort of responsibility for the well-being of a larger community.

Perhaps this is sign of the times – with so many people, certainly university faculty, not having much military experience.

Or perhaps it could be characterized as a not-particularly ‘male’ response, which stereotypically would include at least enough ‘aggressiveness’ so as to disarm her and perhaps restrain her (especially with a five-to-one advantage) while proper authorities were summoned on 911.

But then ‘aggressiveness’ is not something held in high esteem in certain circles nowadays. Certainly not in university circles.

But then again, this was ALABAMA, for cripe’s sake, not the bosky, effete precincts of some East Coast or West Coast ‘elite’ university. Mah, mah, mah.

It was a female professor, apparently, who took the lead in making a move on the shooter.

But – and this is perhaps a characteristic and not just an accident of circumstance – the woman did not attempt to subdue or neutralize the assaultive threat. Rather she simply tried to get it away from herself, pushing the shooter – still armed – out the door. (So it was then somebody else’s problem.)

In light of numerous larger thoughts, this may bear on the whole women-in-combat push so popular in elite Beltway circles.

In the Fort Hood shooting, one of the first responding MPs, a female, was shot and wounded when she came barreling around a corridor corner without checking first to see if the armed shooter was perhaps in the corridor she was about to enter. And things went from there. The media didn’t pay too much attention to that.

Yes, it was an emergency. But in the military world, two elements precisely should come into play – and the training is supposed to ensure that they do: one, training so powerfully instilled that caution – in the service of effective neutralization of the threat – comes almost instinctively. Two, that a male – with or without training – is by virtue of his ‘aggressive’ nature (so loudly bethumped and decried in most elite circles of discourse nowadays) would stand at least an instinctually greater chance of neutralizing the threat.

But then again, since the military nowadays is trying to ‘demasculinize’ males, and somehow effect an “ungendered” and “more compassionate and sensitive” aggressiveness (which is like trying to create ‘dry water’ or ‘cold heat’), then perhaps males have ‘aggressiveness’ trained out of them, so to speak.

Surely, the natural ‘emotional detachment’ of males, and their equally natural ability to be concentrated and galvanized by threats, and their equally natural tendency to want to ‘get’ the threat … surely all of these would have come into play.

Such is Our modern American reality.

Back to Alabama. This shooter had apparently had numerous problems before, going back decades.

When she shot and killed her brother in 1986, the local police chief in that town of Braintree – apparently at the behest of the shooter’s mother, a female municipal elected official – didn’t follow up, but quickly called the whole thing “a tragic accident”. Still alive though retired now, that official of the law is now blazing a dizzy trail in his public statements from day to day.

Matters aren’t helped by the fact that the entire corpus of police reports stemming from the incident has disappeared, and apparently did so while the former Chief was still in charge of the local police department. The DA’s office at that time also declared the whole thing an accident.

The current police Chief in Braintree says that the whole thing was handled “questionably” and he’s looking into it. Perhaps he might locate the original police files – although We recall that in the Salem Witch Trials (Salem not being far away from Braintree) the judges quietly destroyed their own trial records once they realized that the shedding of so much blood with their official authorization had sparked a rather negative response from their own superiors. Indeed, the Chief Trial Judge – one Judge Stoughton – then found his way clear to become Governor not many years later, and – who says History doesn’t have a sense of humor? – the town named after him lies just beyond Braintree’s border.

Then it comes out that she had numerous other problems over the ensuing years with an elevated tendency to get verrrry angry at relatively common aggravations and irritations.

The University is now claiming that since she was never convicted of anything, then their usual background check would not have revealed anything, so the institution really doesn’t see what more it could have done.

My thought is that if she was this disturbed, then it would have been obvious in even small everyday ways frequently.

But in an elite atmosphere where one doesn’t want to be ‘judgmental’, and perhaps since she was a ‘woman’, then you as a faculty member really wouldn’t want to be so insensitive as to notice anything ‘strange’ about her. After all, judging someone to be ‘strange’ is a form of oppression and elitism and is, really, just a matter of ‘attitude’ and ‘perception’ – meaning that if you sense its presence, then it’s your attitude and perceptions that need to be worked on.

And perhaps in the university world nowadays, especially if you’re … ummmmm … a non-female, then you could lose your own tenure and job if you were so insensitive and unreconstructed as to notice anything a little odd. And if you were a female, then you might start getting ‘the look’ and worse from other females who would consider you a traitor to your ‘gender’.

Such is Our modern American reality.

To its credit, perhaps, the University was not going to grant the shooter tenure – and that’s what set her off this time, it appears.

But as one administrator said, a deeper background check – “more extensive and expensive” – would have been an” invasion of privacy” and – to be sure – “they are so invasive”.

Such sensitivity. A man with – say – a sex offense, even one long ago or not sensationalistic – would have been very much ‘invaded’ (and perhaps a woman too); privacy in the matters of the current national Mania is considered merely a “quaint” obstruction to finding out what needs to be found out. Which is perhaps why We are noticing that the old Constitution doesn’t seem to be operating with its traditional robust and efficacious energy any longer – it is an ‘obstruction’, and has been since long before Bush-Cheney and the jingo Rightists took the country to war(s) a decade ago.

Lots of larger forces in this matter, under the surface.

Having fired at her brother twice in a room in the family home - with a shotgun! - hitting him fatally with the second blast, then firing a third blast into the ceiling for God knows what reason, this woman was enfolded in a string of official mis, mal, and non-feasance, all to her great advantage, and the result is that there are now more dead folks – shot with a gun.

Her husband – who to judge from his public comments seems to have had as much insight into her as Hitler’s secretary of many years, Traudl Junge, had into that maniac – claims that she was “just a normal professor”.

Well, who’s to say?

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Friday, February 12, 2010


I was going through the “Proceedings” of the US Naval Institute for December 09.

It’s an interesting mag, since it is used a) for frank and candid assessment of current Naval Services programs and activities, b) informative and issue-themed looks at this or that program or initiative, and c) some Navy-preferred happy-face boilerplate about whatever particular matter that the Navy wants to spin.

The editorial staff at the mag does a decent job of balancing these not altogether compatible objectives, but it’s always a good idea to look carefully between the lines and behind the text.

The happy-face boilerplate is a phenomenon that occurs with particular resonance in the military world, and Citizens are well-advised to be familiar with it. This may take some effort since unlike those Citizens of the former Soviet dreamland, Americans aren’t used to approaching ‘news’ with a skeptical eye and a pair of tire-kicking mental boots.

There is an iron-bound rule governing the process of in-house military acceptance and implementation of a policy or a program: there’s some time allowed for frank and candid* discussion by the subordinates involved. And then, if the Command decides to accept it, then it suddenly becomes “policy” and “the Command program” and critical comment is no longer the thing to do (if you want to stay employed): now you must be a ‘team player’ and ‘make it happen’ and if there’s any public comment – or even comment to fellow service-members – then it’s the Yes We Can – Ain’t It Grand, Though? – That’s The Policy type of comment or nothing at all.

So here’s this article, on page 52,**, replete with nice glossy photos, entitled “Common Sailors – Uncommon Achievements”. As is often the case with really high-level boilerplate, a Flag Officer (one of the four grades of Admiral (or General), from one-star to four-star) is the ‘author’ and is always significantly placed in the photos, looking chummy or stern depending on what the official Line is going to be.

This Admiral, a four-star, is looking thoroughly chummy; he is Vice-Chief of Naval Operations, a Washington job, but here he is in what appears to be the desert – although there is a body of water and a ship in one of the photos, just so you get the Naval sense.

He appears to be visiting Army troops; they’re all got-up in desert camouflage uniforms, either with soft bush-type hats or the full battle-rattle of helmets and weapons and dark-glasses.

Well, he’s somewhere over there in the Greater South-West Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and Our modern version of the Eastern Front is nothing if not full of sand – soft, yielding, yet treacherous in its own way.

But this is the Naval Institute “Proceedings” and he’s an Admiral with a particularly Naval type job, so … these must be sailors.

And they are. They are “individual augmentees” – a nice, vague Pentagon term for members of other Services who have volunteered for or been ordered to go – as ‘individuals’ rather than as units – and fill in billets and jobs for another Service.

And don’t think that this is just a temporary thing. In 2006, if memory serves, they opened up a “Training Center” for Navy and Air Force members in one of the Carolinas to learn how to do Army stuff. I don’t know: you give them a couple of weeks doing Basic Training all over again as an Army grunt and … they're soldiers? Some philosophy wag recently defined a “philosopher” as “anybody who draws a paycheck from a Philosophy Department” – so maybe anybody who draws a check from … well, do the math. If you look the part then you are what you appear to be – that’s the PC line for military service nowadays, if I’ve read the Memos in the Correct fashion.

Let anyone who disagrees be re-educated for ‘attitudinal adjustment’! Although that regulation can’t be applied to an ‘enemy’ … or to ‘the sea’. (Somebody in government already went down to the seashore to give orders to the sea … Canute, by name – and he failed to get the waves’ and tides’ attention. Who knew?)

On the current Eastern Front, you find out, there have been 77,000 of them (at one time or another), many doing Army jobs. One recalls the Soviet sailors taken from their ice-bound ships at Leningrad to function as ‘naval infantry’ in that great patriotic struggle against the land-bound Nazi hordes, in that other galaxy so long ago and so far away. There are at least 22,000 of them there in that Area of Operations today (including on ships one hopes), but at least 14,000 of them (more than half) are ‘ashore’ guarding prisoners and “detainees”, standing sentry duty, running convoy duty, running computers, keeping file folders neat, and even doing some “reconstruction” stuff.

And God knows how many are filling in Army billets over here or elsewhere on the planet, so that the Army itself can continue winning at the Front(s).

The text burbles in classic style that these are jobs – or “missions” – that “they never anticipated when they joined the Navy”. Ya think? You sign up for the Navy and you wind up in the Army. Well, actually that’s an Incorrect attitude: you join the Navy and become a “joint warrior”. But the ships of the Fleet, technological marvels, will pretty much sail themselves, so what the hey?

But then, it’s not as if the Fleet is doing so very well that it can afford to spare sailors. The entire Pacific Fleet is considered Unsatisfactory in its readiness and competence to carry out its seaborne missions, more than two dozen commanding officers (and not of tugboats) have been relieved of command for cause in the past few years, the grossly ignored complexities of mixed-gender crews continue to work their dark magicks even though the media prefer not to notice and the brass very much don’t want such things noticed … you’d think the Navy could use every able-bodied sailor it can get.

But no. Tens of thousands of Naval personnel are over there at the Front(s) carrying rifles and hup-two-ing.

Not that their efforts are wasted. “Joint commanders frequently praise their initiative, adaptability, analytical skills, and effectiveness”. As the French would say: Mais oui, but of course.

“Flexibility” and “adaptability” are their strong points. As is the case in the whole country now – a more impressive casting of the old Summer of Love sense of What The Hell?

Much different from “solid” as in performance, and “structured” as in “structural integrity” (sort of a big thing with ships, but then these folks may actually have served more time walking post with a rifle than they have aboard ship).

But not to worry: “Simply put, sailors are excelling on the ground”. Ja! And neatly, the text doesn’t quite go near the more acute phrase “on land”, which might lead a reader to really give some thought as to just what the frak is going on over there.

Not to worry, everything is going very very well indeed! Alas, History has not recorded the identity of that German citizen, listening to the propaganda broadcasts on the radio, who quietly observed that ‘we shall win and win and win until we lose”.

Some of their land assignments, however, include harbor duty (the Arabian Gulf is over there): they are living in shipping containers, keeping an eye on shipping and small boats. Oh, and guarding oil platforms. Can’t forget those. As the text is at pains to point out, the oil flowing there “translates to thousands of dollars every second to the people of Iraq”. Mais oui – to the people of Iraq. Here’s to ‘em! And may God (Ours or theirs or both) have mercy on them, for what they’ve been through.

This little factoid about the oil is one of those things that you just know wouldn’t occur to a swabby standing guard. It’s the sort of staff weenie factoid – perfect for Power Point – that is spewed out ‘for distribution’, to give everyone involved some extra tidbit of purpose: Yes, here I am standing here in a sandstorm with my rifle, but this oil constitutes a $1.53 a day bonus for every man, woman, and child in Iraq (adjusted for inflation perhaps, or according to the current day’s exchange rate in London or Dubai or Beijing. Oh, or New York – how could I forget?)

The Navy’s most senior enisted man – the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy – observes that “sailors demonstrate patience, restraint, and temperament usually reserved for far higher paygrades”. Marvelous – if not miraculous: the entire Navy is apparently actually comprised of senior enlisteds or – judging from the performance of the actual higher paygrades – admirals-without-the-stars. We live, truly, in wondrous times. To be alive must be truly heaven. Are you feeling that yet?

The peroration rings out, though in that flattish bureaucratese that can take the wind out of a typhoon: “Today’s Sailors [nicely capitalized] support the combatant commanders across the wide range of military operations, excelling where professionalism, adaptability, and determination are basic requirements”.

Nothing about ‘naval operations’ in there.

Or about ‘winning’. So don’t expect any happy-face news blurbs about that subject any time soon.


*Whenever you use “frank and candid discussion” in the military setting you have to make certain mental reservations and allowances. Successful survivors in this system develop a sixth sense of knowing just how much “frankness and candor” the Command is really looking for: certain whisker-twitches warn you where the further boundary is. Information as to just how things are going to go regardless of input and feedback can be gleaned from such seemingly irrelevant (and not actionable) indicators as the tone and melodic line of an official voice announcing the existence of the proposal, whether at an official meeting or – more likely – at a cocktail party or a chance conversation in the PX or Exchange parking lot. In a sense, every career military member is an ‘intelligence operative’, always on the lookout for signals and then evaluating their meaning. A lot depends on it.

**Membership required for online review.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010


I want to bring to your attention Hannah Arendt’s ideas in her book “On Revolution”, first published in 1962. As you can see, she wrote it before the late-Sixties and early-Seventies here exploded with Identity Politics and the re-basing of American politics in ‘outrage’ and ‘demands’ and ‘sensitivity’.

She notes that the goal of the American Revolution – “limited government” – was akin to the British concept of “limited monarchy”: that the monarch-government is limited precisely in order to provide the ground of political liberty.

And that therefore limited-monarchy is precisely the opposite of that other, Continental Enlightenment concept of Benevolent Despotism, where the monarch-government is precisely NOT limited in its powers because it is presumed to be ‘benevolent’ and needs all the power it can be given in order to do ‘good’ things to alleviate human suffering.

Arendt notes – in 1962, before the later-1960s advent in the US of the various ‘revolutions’ in favor of ‘sensitive’ government – that a government allowed to pursue the (probably impossible) goal of alleviating human suffering and making people ‘happy’ is going to require and assume limitless power (such as happened with the French Revolution, which started off trying to alleviate the sufferings of les malheureux (the unfortunates) and wound up resulting in The Terror and then in Napoleon’s empire and its imperial wars).

Although sensitive to and sympathetic to the ideals of the French and even Soviet* Revolutions, Arendt contrasts the French (or Continental) model of revolution with the model of its near-contemporary, the American Revolution – which culminated, as it was always destined to, in the US Constitution.

The French Revolution, she says, went off the rails when it based itself – with the best of intentions – in the goal of alleviating the suffering of the people rather than in the American goal of institutionally grounding the practice and ethos of Liberty through a careful encompassing of government power.

Since the French goal was both ‘good’ and limitless (you would have to be God to eradicate human suffering, even in one country let alone among all humanity) then two characteristics of the Revolutionary government followed immediately: 1) there could be no limits to the government’s authority and power because 2) it was engaged in achieving such a supremely ‘good’ goal.

You might also add 3) that since that goal was so unarguably ‘good’, then any dissent against the government had to result either from lumpish ignorance or treacherous and evil obstructionism. And for that you would need to be ‘re-educated’ (so that you would ‘get it’) or you would need to be eliminated from public discourse – the guillotine being the most ‘humane’ yet efficient solution in that case.

So that Terror was justified in achieving so good an end (can you say Iraq and Af-Pak wars?) and eliminating those who would disagree; thus the French Revolution took on a life of its own, enforcing Terror and presuming that in pursuit of such a ‘good’ goal it would be immoral to accept any ‘limits’ upon itself whatsoever. Traditional concepts of humanity, justice, and such minimal ‘due process’ as even a late-18th century Continental population might expect – none of these ‘old’ things ( ‘abstractions’ they might be called nowadays ) could be allowed to stand in the way of so marvelous a ‘progress’. (And again, my point about the Iraq and Af-Pak wars and ‘Gitmo’.)

But since this 'marvelous' vision of a government actually taking upon itself the authority (as well as – in JFK’s 1961 formulation – the ‘work’) of God for the sake of fixing what God was apparently powerless or unwilling to achieve was so contrary to what most French folk were used to, then the Terror would be necessary both to ‘educate’ them quickly and to ‘take care of’ those who didn’t ‘get it’ quickly and willingly enough. (So ‘get it’ or you’ll ‘get it’ was the French Revolutionary option for citizens, and Lenin and Stalin and Mao merely made later improvements on the methodology).

Worse, in Arendt’s view, is that where the Americans had had long colonial experience with local self-government, and were reasonably well-situated in terms of life’s necessities, the ‘poor’ of France were a) not experienced in self-government and b) possessed thoroughly by the consuming (and quite understandable) desire of the poor to ‘have’ and to ‘possess’ … as much and as soon as possible.

She does not make light of the plight of the poor, but she does note acutely that if you give to their approach the power of a government, you’re going to get something far different from what the citizens of the newly-erected Unites States created in their Constitutional Republic in 1787.

The poor are not primarily interested in ‘liberty’, they are in eager and urgent need of satiety.

So you wind up, in the French Revolution, not with limited-government (which is precisely what the American Constitution does) but rather with the mid-18th century pipedream of a Benevolent Despotism.

And worse, a Despotism whose declared ‘Benevolence’ justified even the use of Terror to achieve its sooooo Benevolent and Good purposes and visions.

America itself, she notes, would start to feel certain of these pressures once, in the later 19th century, many came to see the country not as the Home of Liberty but rather as the Land of Material Security (although in those days, you realized that you still had to make the most of Opportunity to achieve that Material Security).

I can’t help but notice that the American Constitutional vision and ethos are in deep trouble nowadays.

Nobody can deny or ignore the Executive encroachments made during the recently-past Bush Administrations.

But We are going to commit the monstrous mistake identified long ago by the Chinese – not naming accurately the challenges that confront you – if We let it go at that.

The Regulatory-Preventive State – a creature of Congress and the Federal bureaucracy as much as the Executive – has been engorging itself for the past several decades. You might even say that less than a decade ago Bush and Co. merely applied its dynamics and energy to the sphere of foreign affairs (or misadventures).

This is not the way ‘progressives’ would like to spin the recent Massachusetts Senate election (where a Democrat – and female! – candidate was rejected in favor of a Republican male). To them this is all the work of ‘the past ten years’ and/or of unstable ‘independents’ (who, of course, ‘just don’t get it’) and/or economy-addled or unemployed and disgruntled blue-collars, and/or just those poor souls who ‘don’t like much change’ (and who then would surely be a little concerned over the past forty Biblical years around here; and there must be a lot of them). I am waiting for some well-placed ‘progressive’ to blame it all on ‘men’, but I don’t think the cadres of that particular persuasion want to be publicly quoted about that sort of thing anymore – which is certainly a change.

Yes, the assorted American revolutionistas of recent decades – and especially their legislative enablers – see their past forty years of efforts as nothing more than ‘extending liberty’. And back in that golden age of the first phase of the Civil Rights Movement that was indeed true. But ‘liberty’ in the Constitutional scheme means the right to vote and to be free from government’s sempiternal urge to gain power over its citizens; and it presumes Citizens individually mature enough to collectively deliberate and to ground the government and – like a rider does to a horse – hold the thing on the road and at a non-destructive speed.

And that’s not how things have turned out. In fact, you might reasonably wonder if it isn’t time to utter the prayer of Chester A. Riley: What a revoltin’ development dis turned out ta be!

My point, in relation to Arendt’s thought of 1962, is that the Regulatory-Preventive (or Nanny) State is not really new but is rather the insidious adoption of the French Revolutionary version of Benevolent Despotism, to the detriment of the American Constitutional vision, ethos, and construction.**

My thought is that the Politically Correct development of the Regulatory-Preventive State is not some cutting-edge new ‘reform’ or ‘progress’. Rather, it is the embrace of the Continental concept of Benevolent Despotism which is precisely what this country was founded to avoid.

So in other words, many of the ‘reforms’ of the past 40 years have not been best-suited to make the Constitution ‘better’ – or more ‘responsive’, even if they were spun and perhaps intended to be that way – but rather have constituted precisely the abandonment of the American Founding vision and the embrace of its opposite and nemesis, the Continental Benevolent Despotism approach.

Gerald Ford burbled in 1976 that this country can handle “many revolutions” all at once (itself a dubious assertion) – but the most lethal wrong-naming he made was that in reality those “many revolutions” were cast in the Continental revolutionary mode, not the American Constitutional revolutionary mode. It has proven a huge and lethal error (and does the Beltway want to acknowledge that now, at this point, after all the damage that’s been done?).

Not only were those “many revolutions” profoundly misclassified and misnamed to begin with, but the original huge mistake in Naming was sustained through the ensuing three-plus decades through the Politically Correct stifling of serious and free public discussion and analysis and deliberation; only the cadres of the ‘elites’ knew what was good for the country, in the general official line whose Leninist origins were shrewdly left unspoken.

I can't help thinking of John Murtha's 2005 description of the Iraq War: "It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion".

That’s bad enough.

But you can go a step or two further and wonder if such an intrusive type of government is now the only type that can ensure political (and even social) order at all.

Children are being raised without benefit of sustained parenting – and especially boys without sustained fathering, which bodes ill for their ever mastering the assertive and aggressive capabilities which Evolution (not to say God) has provided to them. Worse, they are growing up in a culture which offers absolutely no solid structures of belief and praxis that might compensate for the lack of structuring (Shaping, is my term for it) that might be lacking in their ‘family’ (however that is defined now) situation.

The UK magazine ‘The Economist’, in its most recent issue, identifies “a yobbo-hooligan culture” that is “taking over more and more public space, and the consequent “fraying of English civic culture” as one of the two most important problems that that nation faces as it enters the new decade.***

(And don’t forget: these aren’t just young males; being duly ‘liberated’ from ‘oppressive stereotypes’, young females have responded to the official encouragement that they too can do what ‘guys’ do … as the average ‘guy’ sets an example by descending in a spiral of increasing maturational inability to master his energies or his mores. Can this end well? Can it come as a surprise?)

It would be bad enough that the simple mechanics of under-parenting or immature parenting were beginning to play out into – by now – the second and third generation of kids.

But a whole lotta ‘deconstruction’ and the ‘valorization’ of ‘transgressiveness’ has been going on: think American ‘gangsta cultcha’ as consumerist fashion statement; think ‘non-judgmentalism’ pushed as a sufficient schematic for interpreting the world around you; think of them both being pushed as absolutely valid and useful choices for Shaping a Self and conducting an efficacious adult life.

In light of those ‘changes’, then what sober observer can really expect any sort of self-sustaining personal – and consequently civic – maturity among anyone under a certain age? Nor are things going to be getting much better merely on their own.

Indeed, to read any of the several recently published ‘victory lap’ feministical histories you realize that those cadres very much want their transgressive and deconstructive ‘successes’ to become “the new normal” and no more questions asked. And then, of course, We can all ‘move on’ into the broad sunny uplands of whatever wonders they are so sure lie ahead. They are quite satisfied that they should be greeted as ‘liberators’. (And can you say Iraq War?)

And as if on cue, Obama has recently tried publicly to sweep under the rug the latest revelations of Gitmo deaths – replete with an utterly impossible NCIS investigation report’s assertions as to what really happened – and bleat that the country should just “move on”. Surely Al Capone would have liked to have made the same plea to the Federal judge facing him, but even Capone would not have had the chutzpah. Just in case you might want to console yourself that such frakkulous mind-games don’t migrate within the Beltway universe; they have metastasized into foreign policy and the conduct of Our military and intelligence forces (which at this point are now, by the way, fighting battles of occupation on soil where the natives don’t appreciate the ‘help’).

So you’re going to need the government to do the job of the no-longer-up-to-it parents and the no-longer-operational family and cultural structures which served as the Trellis for youth’s primal energies. Government-as-parent … which, come to think of it, is something I recall one feminist answering decades ago when confronted with the question (that’s how long ago) as to who would raise the kids if Mom were off being an executive? The cadre replied with breezy assurance: That’s the State’s problem.

Well, you couldn’t come up with a better attitude to lubricate the rise of the Regulatory-Preventive Nanny State. (Kinda ironic: radical feminism leads to, even requires, the Nanny State … go figure. To paraphrase the unhappy Soviet Citizens of a bygone era: Such is our modern American reality. And as you can see, it’s spread to other countries. Such cultural and civilizational progress.)

An increasingly invertebrate, helpless, maturationally unripe citizenry, incapable of Shaping and deploying their individual energies and uschooled in either individual or public deliberation … these folks are behind the eight-ball even before you factor in low-paying jobs, not only among the former working classes but also among the aspiring elites. Would you shell out 160K for an MBA these days? Even law school grads are finding it hard to get hired. Although the military will take you as a recruit even if you’re 42. Good luck with that.

Arendt, reflecting on the French Revolution, notes that Rage and not Virtue became the requirement of ‘citizenship’. I’m going to say that that quaint 18th-century usage – ‘Virtue’ – would mean something closer to ‘Maturity’ today, although only if you included some usable element of ‘Character’ in your definition of Maturity (which, according to such Memos as I have received, is a PC no-no).

She calls Rage “politically sterile” and “impotent”. Cheerleaders for Identity Politics and Victimism – two major enablers of the Regulatory-Preventive State – would quickly crow that those two movements have proven verrrrrry potent indeed. And I would agree. Les malheureux reincarnated as les enragees.

Although the ‘changes’ they have wrought – and more specifically the consequences of those changes – have not been examined at all, although their hardly-negligible negative effects have now taken lethal hold.

And it doesn’t help that a lot of pundits from the Left don’t want to look at this problem at all. We are in dire need of some old-school Chinese Rectification of Names. (I’ll let the radical feminists – they were mostly ‘men’ – and the Multiculturalists – their culture is valid – slug it out as to the value of that ancient maxim.)

So I think Arendt has something of value for Our political and cultural situation just now.

She published in the year after JFK had issued his ringing peroration: Ask not what your country can do for you – Ask what you can do for your country.

Which, if you haven’t noticed, would have cost you your creds as a public intellectual if you had repeated it a decade later in 1971. Just so you get a sense of how far and how fast things ‘changed’ around here. (Nor have I heard anybody repeating it recently, and not even during the numerous obsequious funerary orations on behalf of the late Teddy, who made a political career out of exactly the opposite of his brother’s ‘Dream’.)

Me? I’m with Arendt, whose ‘dream’ seems to include a hefty amount of the Founders, whose ‘dream’, put up on blocks in the national garage and vigorously being disassembled so that it might never see the open road again, has been replaced with what shows every sign of being a ‘nightmare’. Traumatized, indeed – and We don’t even realize it.

Nor will this be a memory We can ever repress. Since it is not a memory at all – but the future.

You see what’s at stake in all of this.


*We recall that the Soviet Revolution took place not in February 1917 but in October 1917. The ‘workers’ had effected their revolution in February, resulting in the Kerensky government. Lenin had been caught off-guard and had to institute a second Revolution in October against the workers’ government. He was convinced that ‘the masses’ would be incapable of ‘doing the right thing’ – as he saw it – and that Russia’s only future lay in totalitarian rule by his Party and its cadres, those who ‘got it’ about what was best for the Russian people. Anyone who had ‘wrong ideas’ and dissented would be ‘taken care of’ either in Siberia or ‘against the wall’, and a Terror would be thoroughly enforced in order to quickly re-orient the entire mindset and heartset of the Russian population.

His Revolution, so ‘benevolently intended’ in its ultimate goals, was an improvement – as it were – over the French Revolution , which required a period of some years to stagger from the overthrow of the King to the enthronement of the Emperor and the bloody whackeries of the imperial wars.

**See for example this pair of Posts, here and here, examining the recent Oral Arguments in front of the Supreme Court in which the government is trying to argue, for all practical purposes, that to do the Constitutionally-required thing in this case would constitute “irresponsibility” on its part and that if it sees some way in which it can “help” the States then it should not be “helpless” to do so, regardless of what the States themselves think and whether or not they want the help in an area that – in the Constitutional structure – is none of the Feds’ business anyway. If that isn’t enough to give you serious pause, then consider that most (but not all) of the Justices can’t seem to see much wrong with the government’s assertion.

***’A History Lesson’, in ‘The Economist’ special issue ‘The World in 2010’, p. 102.

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