Flotsam: Twenty Years Later

1. I try not to talk politics much here. I don’t have the background or knowledge as yet to say anything really worthwhile about it. So don’t ask me for a rundown of how the past twenty years have gone and what we as a nation have to show for it all, though I don’t think anyone would deny that we’re worse off than we were in just about every way. It looks to me like America’s entered a full-on decline, which is accelerating fast, but where that will lead, I haven’t the foggiest.

2. That day twenty years ago marked the end of the heady, hopeful interval of the 1990s following the end of the Cold War: the time where, for many people at least, it seemed we’d reached the happy ending of history, a golden age born of the triumph of the Baby Boomers. It was always an illusion, of course; merely the penumbra of a sin, between the commission and the consequence, when it looks like you’ve gotten away with it after all.

I’m speaking generally. The consequences were already being felt on an individual level, but hadn’t yet penetrated enough into the public conscience to cause the sense of unease and disaffection that they do now. At least, that’s my impression of the era.

In any case, that time came to an end on September 11, 2001.

3. Hard to believe it’s been that long. I remember it quite well. I was in sixth or seventh grade at the time. We were kept in at recess for no reason whatsoever, then at the end of the day there was an announcement: “We in this country sometimes forget how much more fortunate we are than some other people….” That’s how it began. Which, in retrospect, is a kind of disgusting way to break the news that thousands of your fellow citizens have been murdered: rather like beginning the news that a family member was killed in a drive-by with a comment on racial injustice. Bit of a herald of things to come.

As I recall, rumors were beginning among the students even before the announcement. Then I remember going home and turning on the news and seeing a big hole in the side of the building. At first I thought ‘oh, that’s not too bad.’ Then I found out that was footage from earlier in the day. It was a process of realizing what actually had happened: big holes in the building. One building’s partially collapsed. One’s collapsed entirely, the other damaged. Both are completely destroyed. It was odd to my twelve-year-old brain to realize that a great landmark like that was actually gone for good.

4. I also remember footage of people dancing and cheering in the streets in…I think the Palestinian parts of Israel it might have been? Somewhere in that area. I never forgot that over the next few years as ‘tolerance’ and ‘oh, how sad it was that Middle Easterners are being profiled’ replaced outrage and patriotic zeal. I remember how quickly that happened, by the way, and how little there was to go on. I may have missed something, of course, but I only ever heard of a few minor incidents of that sort of thing actually happening. Though it was common enough in TV shows.

5. I was a pretty enthusiastic supporter of the subsequent wars, of Bush, and so on for a long time. I wanted something to be done. I wanted America to reassert its dominance in the world, and I was then still fully onboard with the American creed. Quite a bit has changed since then, and I’m not entirely sure how.

Looking back, I’m still not completely against the wars, at least in principle. But then, I’m not against imperialism. But modern America is not cut out to be an empire. To be an Empire, you have to truly believe in your right to rule. That was true when Americans saw themselves as the shining city on the hill, the beacon of freedom to the world. Conquering large swathes of Mexico, Cuba, the Philippines, Hawaii, and so on were, therefore, a way of spreading freedom to more people.

We don’t believe in that anymore, at least the majority of the population doesn’t. We’ve been raised on tales of Vietnam and the movements of the 1960s and 70s, conditioned to regard imperialism as an insult, something that bad people and bad countries do out of greed and arrogance. So we had the ridiculous spectacle of America trying to do an empire’s job while insisting that it wasn’t an empire: that we weren’t ruling Iraq and Afghanistan, we were liberating them, and that they would be eager to accept democracy and so forth once it was offered to them, because who doesn’t want to be free?

I rather think that if we had acted as an empire, if we’d put down in these places and simply said “we’re in charge now, deal with it,” and claimed them as territories, that may have gone off better. A fait accompli is generally accepted better than a patronizingly half-hearted ‘we’re just going to rearrange the furniture a bit and make things better for you and then we’ll let you alone’. Because for most people, stability is far more important than the specifics of law or government. A settled and enforced rule as the new status quo is easier to accept, whoever the rulers are, than an indefinite and hazy promise of improvement.

But all that’s academic, and I may be completely wrong. I haven’t studied the situations either Iraq or Afghanistan, so I don’t know.

6. For me, the past twenty years, especially the past few, have brought considerable disillusionment. I don’t believe in the American creed anymore, for one thing: the notion of ‘the last best hope of mankind’, the ‘shining city on the hill’ and the rest of it. I view it in much the same way that I see classical mythology: beautiful as a story, but false and dangerous to believe in. But that doesn’t mean I’m no longer invested in my nation. I feel towards it much the same way that, say, a Catholic Jacobite in 18th England or a Christian in Japan might feel: precisely insomuch that I want it to survive, thrive, and be great, I see that it needs conversion.

7. A rather grim and downbeat retrospective, I’m afraid. Here’s an Mst3k short to lighten things up:

Flotsam

1. I am continually amazed, not just at how stupid, incompetent, and immoral our current societal elites really are, but also at the fact that so many of us continue to take them seriously. “Dr. Fauci says so-and-so.” Okay, and why do you care what that careerist moron says, exactly?

To say “I heard it on the news” is as much to say “I have the word of ignorant liars who hate me.”

2. If I were to take a stab at guessing why this habit of thinking that someone being featured on TV must be reliable, I would say it’s mostly an application of the ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ principle. We naturally tend to accept an explanation simply because it is an explanation, or a description simply because it is a description in lieu of simply admitting ignorance. If we are going to think of a thing at all, we have to think of it from a certain perspective and with certain names and forms attached to the mass of sensory data we receive to give it some kind of structure. But most people aren’t in a position to know what is going on at the national level, or lack the education, time, or interest to hunt down such information as they could find in order to discern the necessary forms. So any explanation whatever is accepted simply because it provides a structure to the unstructured, and we would much rather have that than be in the dark.

The fact is, though, that for most of us in most cases the answer to ‘what’s going on in the world?’ is “I don’t know.” This is one reason why subsidiarity is so important: baring extreme or very specific circumstances, local concerns are really all the matter or have an capacity to affect the people of a given town or community, so of course they should have as much authority to manage them as possible.

3. Okay, enough gloomy thoughts of current events. I’ve actually found myself growing a good deal more sanguine about world events lately, simply because the people in charge at the moment are so stupid, so desperate, and their ideas so contrary to reality that a crash seems to me inevitable. The only question is how violent it’ll be when it comes.

Wait, that was supposed to be the not-gloomy entry, wasn’t it? Oops.

4. From a co-worker: “If Stackoverflow crashes, half the world would lose their jobs.”

(Really have to be in IT to get it)

5. Interesting fact: I’m reading Herodotus’s History at the moment (short version: all cultures are different and most people are horrible). At one point he recounts how the king of Egypt wished to know the extent of ‘Libya’ (what the H-Man called Africa), so he sent out a crew of Phoenician sailors to circumnavigate it. And, as a matter of fact, they did it! It took them three years, stopping at planting time wherever they were, growing food, and then resuming after the harvest. Herodotus mentions a report, which he himself does not believe, that during their voyage they saw the sun on their right hand side, traveling South-Southwest. As a matter of fact, this little detail more or less proves the story true, since traveling into the Southern Hemisphere, the sun would appear on the right hand side going Southwest or West: something that sailors of Herodotus’s time and place would not have considered or made up as part of their story. So, men circumnavigated Africa in the time of Ancient Greece. Cool!

6. Another Herodotus anecdote: King Cambyses, son of Cyrus the Great, was, according to H, an absolute psychopath. At one point he asked one of his chief servants what the people were saying about him. The man diplomatically said “O king, they admire you in all things, except that they consider you are a little too free with the drink.” At which point Cambyses became furious and said, “Oh, they say I’m mad with drink, do they? That I’m a lunatic? I’ll show them!” So he picked up a bow and arrow and shot the servant’s son (who happened to be standing a little ways off) through the heart and proudly declared “Could a madman have made that shot?”

Needless to say, this wasn’t quite as convincing an illustration of his sanity as he probably expected it to be.

7. And I’ll take the liberty of parasiting off of David Stewart again:

Friday Flotsam: Pro-Life and Depression

1. Discovered that the March for Life is today. All things considered, I’m rather surprised they’re actually having it. You know, I’m thoroughly against abortion (whatever arguments can be brought in its favor, the answer is always “would that logic still apply if the child were born and we were talking about smothering it with a pillow?”), but I’ve never much liked the pro-life movement. If they succeed, then wonderful. I’m all in favor. But I don’t think they will, and they sure as heck won’t in the near future.

The trouble is that abortion is a cornerstone of the sexual revolution, which a large portion of our current culture is based upon. You are either going to keep abortion and with it the perspective on human sexuality and human nature that informs our economy and social structure, or you are going to lose abortion and with it many of the basic assumptions that underlay how we as a society do things. No more casual sex as a matter of course. No more women devoting themselves to a career unless they’re either married or willing to be celebate for a time. In fact, no more holding ‘gender equality’ as a societal goal, because we’ve got this huge, objective difference staring us in the face without being able to sweep it under the floorboards anymore.

Not to mention the fact that we would have a large number of the population having to come to terms with the fact that they’ve committed a terrible crime.

This is why even if you legally overturn it, it will come back in a few years as soon as the political winds shift, because it’s embedded in the worldview of a significant portion of the population.

You see, we are never going to end abortion until we have a seismic shift in worldview in the west.

Again, I wish the pro-life movement well in this. I hope they prove me wrong.

I also find it rather amusing to hear the March for Life described as ‘powerful’ when it hasn’t achieved anything substantive in half a century. By definition, that is the opposite of powerful.

2. Honestly, all that isn’t really the reason I dislike the pro-life label. Again, I hope they succeed, I just am pretty certain they won’t. The real reason I dislike it is that I think many people have a habit of prioritizing the ‘pro-life’ label over Christian teaching. “How can we create a truly pro-life society?” “Pro-life means anti-poverty” “A truly pro-life position prioritizes the dignity of the human person, meaning that it includes forcing ever increasing dependence upon giant corporate entities is anti-poverty.” Or, to take the most obvious example “You cannot be pro-life and support the death penalty.”

Meaning that you are claiming that a truly pro-life worldview is contrary to that of nearly every other Christian in history up until a generation or two ago. Oh, Thomas Aquinas, King Louis IX, all those other saints? Yeah, those guys just didn’t really understand human dignity like we moderns do.

This, of course, only reinforces and feeds into the modernist narrative that we are unique among the generations of man and thus can ignore any experience, arguments, or insights from the past. A ‘Reset’ mindset if you will.

And I find that ‘pro-life’ usually devolves into simply being a cudgel which some Christians use to beat others for not following their preferred socio-political views (“climate change is a life issue”). All too often, this results in the absurd spectacle of proudly ‘pro-life’ people supporting ardently pro-abortion candidates on the grounds that they somehow ‘foster a culture of life’.

If someone says “you aren’t really pro-life unless you accept such-and-such,” the answer is “then I guess I’m not pro-life. Who cares? I am not obligated to conform my views to the implications of a bumper sticker.”

3. Didn’t really mean for today’s flotsam to turn into a rant of everything I don’t like about the PLM, but such things happen.

I was originally considering writing about depression, if that is what I suffer from (on the subject of the PLM: we today get way too hung up on labels and slogans to the point where we miss the reality that the thing is supposed to be pointing to). It’s what most people seem to call it, so we’ll go with that.

I’ve mentioned it in a Catholic Match post from a while back, but depression, in my experience, isn’t so much feeling constantly down or continually sad. It’s more of experiencing continual emotional pain. Like having an open wound inside you that keeps getting prodded.

If you know someone with depression, odds are they’ll often seem to be losing their temper or flying off the handle at seemingly minor things (this kind of anger is often a symptom). Know that that’s the equivalent of a dog snapping at you if you poke at a sore spot. They’re not trying to be mean, they’re trying to send the message: “that hurts: don’t do that!”

Because when someone prods that big open sore inside of you, you can’t really just say “ow! Stop!” Because they don’t know what they did that hurt you, and you probably don’t either. And it probably wouldn’t be anything reasonable that you could explain in any case. “Don’t poke my broken hand!” is easy to understand and follow. “Don’t reinforce the deep-seated impression of powerlessness and personal inadequacy that I’m trying to convince myself is not a true perspective of reality”, not so much. It isn’t like you can give a lecture on your own psychology a la the end of Psychonauts (“As shown on page 41 of your handouts”) every time someone or something jabs at that open wound so that they’ll know how they hurt you and how to avoid doing it in the future.

The last thing they want to hear is you telling them ‘calm down!’ or being asked ‘why are you so angry?’ To their mind, that’s you saying “this shouldn’t hurt you, so I’m going to keep acting like it doesn’t” or “it’s your fault that you’re in pain and it’s up to you to act as if you weren’t.”

I haven’t come close to solving my depression issue, so I don’t have any real recommendations at the moment. This is more a set of observations. I know lots of people suffer depression these days (my therapist calls it ‘the common cold of psychology’), mostly, I think, because we’ve created a world that is thoroughly unsuited to human nature, so perhaps writing my own experiences will at least help any readers to get some clarity on it.

4. Well, this one has certainly turned into a downer, hasn’t it? Let’s end with a Dilbert:

Dilbert Has To Be Right  - Dilbert by Scott Adams

Quick Word on Disconnection

Like many people these days, I’m looking into ways to deal with, shall we say, changing world circumstances. This is going to be a condensed version of my thoughts on this subject: I’ll probably do something more fleshed out later.

Short version of our current situation: our civilization rests upon extremely complex, delicate technology that runs a limited number of operating systems controlled by a relatively small number of companies. The vast majority of the market is run through one of these companies. This includes a large amount of commerce, communication, research, news, entertainment, and even basic things like being able to perform simple office operations. This means that these companies are de-facto the government: if you say or do something they don’t like, they can simply withdraw their services from you. Since they aren’t formally the state, they suffer no legal consequences, and if it looks like will they can simply use their money and influence to ensure that the people who will support their interests get into power (we just had a large-scale object lesson in this fact).

Now, the reason they can do this is that, as noted, most of the country is dependent upon them for basic services, including business services. If, say, you sell books through Amazon then if Amazon decides to cancel your account, you would simply be out of luck as far as the world’s largest retailer was concerned. Are you really going to sue Amazon? Do you think that would go well?

The important point is not to hurt these companies (that’s not really in our power), but as much as possible to prevent their being able to hurt us. If I stop using Facebook, for instance, the impact on Facebook is functionally nil. But it means that Facebook cannot censor or de-platform me.

And even beyond the possibility of punitive measures, there’s simply a question of control of property. As many gamers have discovered, when your ‘property’ is stored on a company’s server behind an account wall, then there is nothing at all preventing the company from altering or even simply destroying it. Hundreds if not thousands of video games have been destroyed in this way over just the past few years.

Now, if you ‘own’ something on Amazon – say, a movie – then there is nothing that could prevent them from altering or even removing that content. Unless you were able to download and run it offline, that property which you paid for is gone forever.

In short, you do not have decision making authority over your own property under these circumstances, which means it is not really your property. You rent it.

Ladies and gentlemen, we basically have a defacto version of Socialism in this country. It’s just that we are managed by a collaborative collection of corporate entities that include the one called the State, rather than a single such entity. Oh, it’s not full socialism yet: we still have some options, but in practical terms it’s pretty close.

As a matter of fact, these labels and categories of thought really aren’t very useful anymore. It isn’t going to be the government that seizes all property in the future, or not just the government. It will be the state plus a handful of companies that will rent you ‘whatever you need’, provided you toe the line. If you buck the trends and get uppity, then they’ll deny you service and preen themselves as being just like those businesses who fought segregation or refused to do business with South Africa until apartheid was lifted. Because that is how they see you; not as an individual with certain rights, but as a backwards sub-human who needs to be forcibly shown the error of his ways and taught that they have no place in today’s world. They think they are making the world a better place (and, more importantly, proving themselves to be good people) by punishing you.

Which brings me to my point.

The way to counter this trend is not through full boycotts of Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. If you can well and good, but for most of us, that’s simply not practical (itself illustrative of the problem). Rather, the first steps to take now, for most of us, is simply to diversify. Not to eliminate our use of these platforms, but our dependency on them.

First and foremost, learn to accept inconvenience. The whole reason these companies have been able to lure us into this position is by offering convenience and low costs. Get your mindset to where you can accept a functional, but less optimized product if it means a greater guarantee of freedom. Me, I’m in the process of switching from Microsoft Office (frankly a con-job to begin with) to LibreOffice. I miss some features of Word, especially full-screen support (which alternatives like OpenOffice do offer, but at the cost of other problems), but it’s worth adjusting my workflow in order not to have the threat of losing version support or having to pay for software that I don’t get to own.

On that subject, always have an alternative for anything you use the internet for, and where possible make it your primary platform. So, use MeWe in addition to or as an alternative to Facebook, and let your audience know you are doing that. Upload videos simultaneously to DailyMotion or BitTorrent and to YouTube.

It is a bit trickier for business matters like self-publishing owing to questions of rights, simultaneous publishing policies and so on. I’m still looking into options there. But the point is to be able to say that the loss of any one of these platforms will not destroy you or lose you anything permanent.

The benefit, of course, is that the more people who do this, the less cost there will be for any one person. The more people use MeWe, the more useful it will be as a platform. The long-term goal, of course, is to get something like actual competition in the internet again, but that’s beyond the scope of any individual efforts.

Likewise, back up your digital property wherever possible. Remember, if you do not own the hard-drive it is stored on, you do not own it. This goes for movies, Kindle books (I’m looking into ways to back those up), videos, software, games, you name it. If you cannot run it offline, cannot transfer it from one hard-drive to another, or if it is dependent on a subscription service then you do not own it.

The Cloud? Anything you own on that is like having you things in a storage locker where the manager keeps the key. He wants to lock you out, he can do it (also remember the manager has dirt on the DA and every elected official, so nothing will happen to him if he does). I don’t care what their privacy agreements say: those only apply to people, not to lawless subhuman racists who dare to question the integrity of our democracy.

Not saying never use the cloud, just know what it is. Just like in gambling: nothing wrong with it as long as you understand that any money you gamble with should be looked upon as spent. Anything you store on the cloud is not being stored on your property, so use at your own risk.

Again, the point here is simply to eliminate dependence on any one platform as much as possible. The point is for us to maintain authority over our property and our businesses. Since the internet is such that one must be dependent on others to maintain a presence on it, the goal is to be in a position where the loss of any one of those supports does us as little harm as possible.

Brief Current Events Thought

I have not been blogging lately in part because I’ve been simultaneously preoccupied with what is happening in our country and desirous of avoiding exposure to it as much as possible. Even small dips left me so angry as to be nauseous. But through one or two trusted sources (there are only a handful of those, and none of them are professional news outlets) I’ve followed events enough to know what’s going on.

I was thinking about trying to do a summary of my observations, but frankly there’s too much there. I may try to do some extended posts in the future detailing each point: American exceptionalism, tolerance and other ‘will-o-the-wisp virtues,’ and a return to communal life being the chief items, but each requires too much discussion to deal with here.

For now all I’ll say is that this is one of those great historical disasters that do happen. We today often have a way of speaking as if all of that – the great wars, national transformations, redrawing of boundaries and so on – were in the past, which we in turn regard rather less as a part of our own identity than as a movie where we don’t like most of the characters. Now perhaps we’re waking up to the fact that it isn’t.

Welcome to history: you’ve always been here.

What the consequences of all this will be, I can’t say. No one can. Only that nothing will be as it was, and that the ways of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

“You shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.” (Matt. 10:22)

Forgotten Man at the Everyman

My latest post is up at ‘The Everyman,’ where I touch a bit on the present attempted coup.

Law has no force of its own. It only has what it is given by those in charge of enforcing it, whether directly (in courts and legislatures) or indirectly (through public opinion). At the end of the day, whether the law has any effect comes down to what some individual person chooses to do.

Sir Josiah Stamp, the English collector of internal revenues, saw the problem back in the pre-war days:

“The government are extremely fond of amassing great quantities of statistics.  These are raised to the nth degree, the cube roots are extracted, and the results are arranged into elaborate and impressive displays. What must be kept ever in mind, however, is that in every case, the figures are first put down by a village watchman, and he puts down anything he damn well pleases.”

Likewise, the news media doesn’t have to be colluding or conspiring with anyone; all that is needed is an editorial staff willing to ignore stories that threaten to invalidate the election of their favored candidate. All that is needed is for those in charge of these networks to be more invested in seeing their ‘cause’ triumph than in telling the public the truth. And we already know that this is the case and has been for a long time.

There are safeguards in place to prevent all this sort of thing, but if the people in charge of them also decide to put ‘winning’ ahead of honesty then those safeguards will break down completely. Because, again, every single one of those safeguards depends upon someone – some person – actually choosing to do the right thing.

Hence, the forgotten man; the neglected fact that all these structures we hoped would guard us from the rule of fallen man can only be operated and enforced by men. Behind every human structure, behind every technology, every law, every regulation, practice, tradition, and safeguard, you only ever find a human face. And that human person can choose to be honest or dishonest, to follow the law or to skirt it for his own ends. No law or regulation can ever prevent that. It all depends on what he believes and what sort of person he is.

Read the rest here

The Five Stages of Election Fraud

Denial: “They’re not really doing this, right? No, surely even they wouldn’t dare…”

Anger: “YOU CORRUPT, ARROGANT SONS-OF-*****! WHEN I GET A HOLD OF YOU…”

Realism: “Yeah, what’d you expect? These are the great ones of this world; the people who sell their souls for the power to impose their brain-dead views on everyone else. They aren’t tolerating any kind of serious opposition for long. Welcome to the modern world.”

Despair: “Nothing matters: I’m done with this whole system. I mean, not as if any of us can do anything about it anyway it seems.”

Jewish: “I am never going to stop making mean, sarcastic comments about this…”

Fear of Death

“When you remove, like even in the schools, you remove prayer, you remove God, you remove the fear of God, you create the possibility of the fear of everything else. But watch this: If you instill the fear of God, you eliminate the fear of anything else!”
https://mobile.twitter.com/zhenryaz/status/1320102253865308161

I know nothing of Kanye West, but if he’s putting out messages like this I will gladly give him a shout out. We live in odd times: the Church neglects her duties, so God raises up the rappers and playboys of the world to pick up the slack.

I bring it up because he’s quite right (Churchill said something similar): when one fears God, one need fear nothing else. Remove fear of God, fear of everything else rushes in. Particularly fear of death.

The thing about fear of death is that it amounts to fear of everything. Just about anything could potentially kill you. The Jews or the Jesuits might be plotting your downfall right now (well, the latter probably are). It may seem ridiculous to you, but there’s the nagging question: what if you’re wrong? What if you die, or you get someone else killed because you believed your own lying eyes rather than the experts? And in the final resort, death is always in reach; if your masters want your obedience, they can just put a gun to your head.

(Which is why the narrative that religion, and particularly Christianity, are means of controlling the masses and keeping the elites in power is rather silly. Which is more conducive to earthly power: the idea that all men are subject to God, who rewards each according to his works and promises paradise after death to the faithful, or the idea that this life is all there is and nothing awaits after death, putting the worst possible fate squarely in the hands of human authorities?)

The trouble is that everyone dies, and everyone dies of something. The fear of death must ultimately rule your life, and as we’ve discovered it can very easily consumed everything that makes life worth living.

We live our lives always under the shadow of death. That is simply how this world works. We Christians have hope in death. But even apart from that, it has never been the way of mankind to allow fear of death to rob of life or to deprive us of our virtue. That is cowardice, and to do right in spite of fear is fortitude; one of the cardinal virtues. Maybe the Jews are plotting our downfall. But I am commanded to love my neighbor, and it is a base thing to turn on a man whom I have never known to do wrong, so I will stand up for Mr. Schneider down the hall. If he later stabs me in the back, well, that’s on him. And if there is a deadly disease going around, so be it, but I have a duty to visit my father in his final illness. If I catch the disease and spread it, I can’t help that. I shall live as a man and die when it is my time.

That is how we ought to act. That is the human, classical, Christian way (yes, yes; there must be prudence as well, but not to the point of neglect of duty). That is what happens when we fear God more than we fear death.

Today we pray for the souls of the faithful departed who are in Purgatory. It’s a day also to remember that, sooner or later, we’ll be following them. Just how or when that happens is in God’s hands; what we do in the meantime, what sort of person we make ourselves, is in ours. Do we really want to be the kind that spent his life cowering in the shadow of the inevitable?