Friday Flotsam – Psych Issues and I Get a Review!

1. First and foremost, my appalling ego requires me to advise you all to hop over to A Song of Joy for a review of my first published book: The Wisdom of Walt Disney. It’s also the first review of that book that I’ve received. To say more would be unpardonably self-aggrandizing.

2. In celebration of this fact, I offer the accompanying video tribute to Mr. Disney that I made to go along with an updated release of the book a few years back. All the films shown in the video are discussed in the book.

3. As I’ve noted before, I suffer from what I’ve been calling ‘Depression’. Now, the thing to keep in mind is that psychological issues are different from diseases. In a typical disease (at least, most of them) you have an objective constant in the form of the micro-organism that is causing it: the Smallpox virus or the pneumonia bacteria are species of organism that have certain characteristics and behave a certain way. But psychological issues don’t really have this; the brain begins acting in a particular way which may or may not stem from one of several causes and which may or may not follow the pattern of other brains under similar circumstances. In any case, when it comes to the brain, we only have the symptoms: there is no ‘depression virus’ where we can say ‘Ah, there’s the constant!’ In other words, as far as we know (at least from what I understand), a bodily illness is a substance – an objective thing – while a mental illness is an accident – a pattern.

Yes, I know that we have brain chemistry, but the thing is that 1. there’s a chicken-and-egg problem with that: do the chemicals cause the thoughts or the thoughts release the chemicals? The fact that we can direct our thoughts and recognize them as rational or irrational suggests the latter, at least in part. 2. Neurochemistry is such a new field that I wouldn’t hazard anything upon it that isn’t backed up by more established knowledge (brain scans have gotten results from dead salmon, so something’s not quite right there) and 3. Whether we call the symptoms thoughts or brain chemicals doesn’t really change the question: it’s still something that is happening in or being done by the brain, not, as far as we know, an objective entity that is reacting with it.

Which means that there is no real limit to the form of the pattern. The Bubonic Plague always acts within a certain range of behaviors because the Plague is only a particular bacteria. But theoretically there could be as many mental illnesses as there are potential unwanted connections in the brain.

4. Anyway, long story short, after being frustrated by various different approaches for recovery I’m working on developing my own. My particular issues seem to be an odd cocktail of depression, anxiety, a dash of OCD, and maybe a few other things (not that these ‘official’ diseases aren’t often found together), all tumbled together with a base character that’s fairly out-of-the-ordinary to begin with. So I’m trying to draw whatever seems useful from a bunch of different approaches designed to combat these various constituent issues and work out something tailor-made to my own situation.

Just starting off, in the ‘gathering info’ stage, but so far there have been some interesting results. At the moment I’m working through ‘Brain Lock’ by Jeffry M. Schwartz, which details a self-directed therapy for combating OCD. I’d definitely recommend it, even if you don’t think you have OCD, since I believe the approach could easily be modified to other issues: it’s simple, but makes sense and the methods advised have a solid pedigree, such as the insight that behavior changes thought, so that the key to change is to act contrary to inclinations: a fact embodied in the practice of ritual and objective moral law. Seeking to alter unwanted thoughts by recognizing their irrationality, dwelling upon the truth and acting accordingly is essentially just “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

In short, your feelings are secondary: your actions and your beliefs are primary.

I tend to trust insights and advice that A). recur across multiple different books from different authors dealing with different problems – the ‘action reinforces thought and thought directs action and both trump feelings’ insight keeps coming back again and again – and B). harmonize with traditional philosophical and religious thought: that is, with the ideas of the people who actually built functioning societies rather than the people who parasite off of them.

I’ll probably share more of this as time goes on.

Friday Flotsam: The Feast of St. Joseph

1. A blessed Feast of St. Joseph to you all! May the foster father of Our Lord Jesus intercede on behalf of everyone who reads this and for the Church and our nation as a whole.

2. A thought occurred to me this morning, listening to a sermon on St. Joseph (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OXUfeFFjXg). The priest points out that the Holy Family was the seed of the Church, the Church in miniature. That made me wonder: do we have an image of the two swords in Mary and Joseph?

Probably need to explain that. The two swords come from Luke 22:38: “But they said: ‘Lord, behold here are two swords.’ And He said to them, ‘It is enough.'” Traditionally, this has been understood, especially in the Medieval period, as referring to the spiritual and temporal elements in the Church: the spiritual sword of the clergy and the temporal sword of the laity, embodied in the monarchy. One exists to defend against error and sin, the other against persecution, injustice, and invasion.

See, our idea of separation of Church and State would have made no sense at all to the Medievals for the simple reason that the King is himself part of the Church, being one of the lay faithful. We today (rather ironically given the stated goals of the 20th century reforms) tend to think of ‘the Church’ primarily as the clergy and religious, with the laity as a kind of external attachment. The Medievals would have thought of ‘the Church’ as comprising the whole of society, with only Jews, infidels, heretics, etc. being outside of it (and thus outside of society: essentially foreigners). The clergy had their particular duties, which were recognized as being the higher and more excellent ones of administering the Sacraments and defending against error, but the laity had their duties as well, including supporting and guarding the clergy and managing society; the ‘day-to-day’ affairs.

In fact, analogously very similar to the duties of a husband and wife: the husband’s duties being to support the family materially, to guard it, to set family policy and deal with the outside world, and to provide instruction and discipline. The mother’s duty being to keep the domestic, interior side in order, to be the chief nurturer, educator, and caregiver to the children, and to advise and assist the husband in his duties.

Focusing closer in on that very unique family, it was Mary who brought for Christ into the world, just a the clergy administers the Sacraments. Joseph’s duty was to guard her and the child and to care for them, while at the same time being their head and guide: it was he who received the messages to flee into Egypt and then to return, and he who made the judgment call to avoid Jerusalem and settle in Nazareth. Like how the lay rulers are the ones who set the general policy of their kingdoms, ideally for the good of those in their care, including the clergy.

3. The idea in all of this, you see, is that the Earthly is not simply overridden by or separate from the Spiritual: the two are part of the same whole, just as the soul and the body of a man are part of the same whole. This, it seems to me, is one of if not the core ideas of Christianity. We believe in the resurrection of the body, which is to say that the body – the earthly, material, created element of reality – will form an essential part of our eternal life. The flesh by itself availeth nothing, but the flesh enlivened by the spirit is made a vehicle for grace.

This pattern repeats itself over and over: the laity and the clergy, the grace-giving nature of the Sacraments, the two swords, the Incarnation itself. Even beyond the doctrines of the Christian worldview, we experience it in our own lives: just the simple act of reading or speaking repeats the pattern. For the letters or sounds themselves are material things, but they convey ideas, which are immaterial.

This, I believe, is one of the most important philosophical ideas to get down: human beings crave the transcendent, but we only experience the concrete. Therefore, the transcendent must come to us in concrete form. It must become incarnate as it were for us to experience it. This elevates and ennobles the material thing itself as it becomes an essential part of the transcendent thing that it is conveying.

4. Kind of drifted into deep waters there. The point of all this is that it seems to me that pattern of the Church as it was understood for most of its history and in its most vibrant ages fits the pattern of the Holy Family. The image of the two swords, and indeed of the clergy and laity in general shows itself in the image of Mary and Joseph, the parents of Christ. Christ Himself, of course, is the central figure in both arrangements, the reason both exist.

It is always encouraging – and slightly eerie – when the patterns found in doctrine and philosophy repeat themselves across seemingly disparate aspects of reality.

https://serpentsden.files.wordpress.com/2021/03/7fc8f-iu.jpg

St. Joseph, most chaste guardian of the Virgin, foster father of Our Lord Jesus, pray for us.

Friday Flotsam: Consequences

1. We really need to stop using the language of the other side. Among other things, I really hate when people use the term ‘divisive’ or list ‘being divided’ as one of the major problems we currently face. See, that implies that the dispute is the problem, not the content of one side or the other’s position. And if the dispute is the problem, the obvious solution is to just stop arguing, with the implication that, if you want to be the bigger man, to do your part for reconciliation, you ought to give in and compromise.

Condemning division as such is not a call for unity; it’s a call to surrender.

On that subject, don’t call for ‘unity’ unless you are willing to specify what people should unite around. Otherwise, again, you are not calling for unity but surrender.

2. Contemporary ‘progressives’ make me think of a jealous stalker: “No, this isn’t right! You’re supposed to love me!”

3. Listening to some stuff on the demographic nightmare of our present age, how most of Europe is going to be majority non-European before much longer, etc. The odd thing is, everyone notices this, but few people seem to point out that this is a direct and very predictable consequence of the advent of contraception and the shift in sexual mores. If you set up your society to allow for consequence-free sexual encounters – that is, encounters that do not either result in children or demand commitments from either side – then of course many, many people will delay or outright avoid having and raising children. Like if you make fraud consequence free, many if not most people will commit it, because most people prefer the easiest possible route that still gets them what they want. So, of course, the population will slowly decline, especially relative to populations that do *not* practice these things.

The striking thing I notice more and more is that the consequences of sin are actually built into the nature of human beings. Even in just the most simple, brute facts. Contraception leads to, well, the deterioration and death of your family line, nation, and culture. Fornication, divorce, etc. leads to weakened families with the resultant psychological trauma and unmet emotional needs of the next generation. The problem is that they aren’t usually immediate consequences; they take generations to fully manifest (so, abusing the act that leads to new generations requires generations to show its full effects. Who could have predicted that one?).

The interesting consequence is a paradox; one person using contraception or fornicating isn’t really going to affect society as a whole, and it might not even seriously affect him. However, if society condones that act, then it ensures that many people will be doing so, meaning that it will suffer those consequences.

By the way, I’m not saying the consequences make the act sinful, I’m saying they are a sign of its sinfulness. The key question is not ‘who is harmed by this?’ but ‘what would happen if this became normal, accepted behavior?’ Or, to put it another way, “by their fruits shall you know them.”

To move off of sex, Catwoman stealing gems from some spoiled society dame doesn’t really hurt anyone, all things being equal. But even Catwoman doesn’t want to live in a world where thieves can break into anyone’s house and take what they like. If that were so, she couldn’t even enjoy her own thefts because she would know that anyone might waltz in and take them from her in turn.

https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nydailynews.com%2Fresizer%2FJkaFXOyBrk19foGg9_sAaYWjzS4%3D%2F1400x0%2Farc-anglerfish-arc2-prod-tronc.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2FWNAULRSNI3GYAQSYRPLSMYBUTU.jpg&f=1&nofb=1
Enough about sex: let’s talk about Catwoman

Another way to put this is ‘what would happen if this became the norm so that you and yours would be on the receiving end as much as anyone else’? Or, more succinctly, “Do as you would be done by.”

Hence why it’s necessary to enforce the moral principle and not simply to try to avoid ‘bad consequences’. Because the bad consequences often don’t fully manifest until after you’ve abandoned the moral principle.

Which, come to think of it, is also true in the individual moral life: striving for righteousness, even imperfectly, ensures forgiveness and protection from many of the worst consequences of the sins we do commit. Crying “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner,” leads to justification. Refusing to admit that what we do is even a sin or claiming “I am perfect just the way I am” leads to further corruption.

Acknowledging the truth and striving, however imperfectly, for righteousness is always the first thing. Abandon that for whatever reason and you invite disaster and damnation.

4. In summary, whenever one generation asks “what could it hurt?” the next one usually finds itself saying “Oh. That.”

Friday Flotsam: Slack Tide

1. As I think I’ve mentioned before now, I don’t currently belong to a parish, mostly because my living situation is not one that I want to ascribe any kind of permanency to. However, I have been attending one particular parish as a rule for some time now, mostly because they kept offering the Sacraments throughout the Imposition through a combination of parking-lot Masses / Confessions and just having a lot of space for people to filter out (that and they are not fussy about masks). They’re what I would call a ‘faithful Novus Ordo’ parish: they engage in the usual post-conciliar nonsense (Communion in the hand, children’s masses, etc.), but they at least attempt to center their worship and their preaching on Christ. In short, they strike me as sincerely trying, so it goes down a little easier than it might.

This week on Tuesday, they actually offered a Latin Mass for what I think is the first time. I of course made a point of going (that’s ‘of course’ because I want them to keep doing it, not ‘of course because I’m so bloody wonderful it’s only what you’d expect of me’) and intend to make it a regular thing if they continue it. Attending the Latin Mass after months of Novus Ordo is unspeakably refreshing. But the real surprise came on Ash Wednesday Mass. It was a Novus Ordo of course, but about halfway through I realized that the priest was celebrating it ‘ad oriens’ (facing the tabernacle for those who don’t know).

I think something is happening at that parish. We’ll have to wait and see how it all goes, but I took that as an encouraging sign. Perhaps the slack tide has begun.

2. ‘Slack Tide’, for those who don’t know, is when the tide has stopped advancing one way or the other before beginning to turn. Basically it means that everything still looks the same, but the underlying mechanics have already begun to reverse. So, historically speaking, early 1942 was ‘Slack Tide’ for the Axis powers: Germany was making rapid advancements in Africa and the Soviet Union, most of the Soviet Army had been trapped and destroyed, Rommel was closing in on the Suez Canal, and in the Pacific the Japanese were nearing the point of establishing bases within range of Hawaii and the West Coast.

Only, the underlying mechanics had already changed: they weren’t fighting the swaying, overspread British Empire alone anymore, they were facing the world’s largest nation, the world’s largest Empire, and the world’s largest economy. The Soviets were relocating their industry beyond the Urals where the Germans could never hope to touch it, neither Germany nor Japan had the capacity to strike any part of the American homeland, let alone its industrial base in the Midwest (not to mention that the US was functionally invincible as far as an invasion was concerned), and Britain alone was outproducing Germany in military material. Basically, if you could have looked at the actual facts of the situation, you could have seen that, contrary to all appearances, those facts were almost all against the Axis.

I sometimes have a sense that we are in such a period of Slack Tide both regarding the Church and the secular society. I obviously can’t say for sure (I don’t follow current events nearly closely enough to even approximate certainty), but that’s the overall impression I get. I think that what seem to be the obvious trends around us don’t actually represent what is going on ‘under the surface’, and that the next, say, ten or twenty years will be very different from what most of us expect at the moment.

That’s as far as I’ll go in terms of prediction.

3. Rather than trying for a third topic, I think I’ll just throw a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan at you

Friday Flotsam: The Possibility of a New Constantine and the Chance to Buy Me a Drink

1. First let’s talk coffee

You may notice the new tip-jar in the right-hand menu or the footer. If you’ve been making the rounds of our little corner of the internet, you’ve probably heard of Ko-fi by now. Simply put, it’s a service where if you like what you see here and want to show your appreciation in a substantial way, you can click the button and tip me a fixed sum of $3. Or about the price of a cup of coffee. I like my coffee (actually used to work in a coffee place), and $3 is strictly in the ‘token of appreciation’ rather than ‘greedy scammer’ range, so it’s a pretty good system.

You can learn more about how Ko-fi works by going here Naturally only drop some coin if you feel it’s worth it to you, and rest assured that it will be appreciated.

2. Here’s a thought that came to mind the other day: is anyone praying for the conversion of Zuckerberg, Gates, Musk, and the other tech giants?

Because here’s the thing: if we were going to have a Constantine moment in this country, it isn’t going to come from the political world. Politicians, frankly, have only a minor impact on the culture or society (thank God). Besides which, the structure of our system is such that only about half the country at best actually supports the leader, while the rest would regard whatever his position might be as the opposite of what they should take.

But the tech dictators, now that’s another story. They actually have power and influence (as we are being daily reminded). If one of them had a conversion experience, that would shake things up.

Sure, it seems impossible, but that’s only what we should expect, isn’t it? Though honestly, it strikes me as more possible than the conversion of, say, the Criminal Biden or one of the other major political figures of our time. I don’t think they’re even capable of real conviction: they’re soulless pits hungering after money and power, morphing into whatever they need to be to satisfy those who can provide them these things. As Prof. Von Hildebrand said of Hitler, they’re so stupid they don’t know what ‘God’ means.

But the Zuckerbergs and the Gates and so on of the world, I think they are capable of that. They seem to me to be at least more real, closer to actual, functional human beings then the likes of, say, the Clintons. They have some substance to them, even if it’s confused, misguided, or corrupted.

Likely? Obviously not. But God doesn’t deal in likelihoods. So, my suggestion would be to start offering up prayers for the conversion of the tech giants.

3. I’ve often thought we need an apostolate to the rich: people who are dedicated to reaching out to and ministering to the wealthy and influential. First and foremost, of course, because their souls are no less valuable than anyone else’s and are liable to be in much greater danger. But also because their power and influence largely determines what kind of society we have, and whether it is easier or more difficult for the Church to do its work.

If someone out there has a sense of mission, but doesn’t know what to do about it, this might be something to think about. Minister to the most neglected of souls: the rich and powerful.

Just imagine what could happen if even some of these elites genuinely turned to Christ.

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

Friday Flotsam

1. So, we had surprisingly massive influx of views this week to my Quick Word on Disconnecting post. If you’re joining us from elsewhere, welcome and I hope you stick around, though don’t expect a whole lot of content like that one. I try to minimize my commentary on current events and politics, though I suppose there might be somewhat more of that in the immediate-ish future.

2. Another thing I would add is that we ought to adjust our habits when it comes to media and…well, how we think of society in general. To keep things simple: we have the habit of thinking that it is important to get a ‘new’ movie or a ‘new’ book or a ‘new’ game. As if there were something special about a piece of content just because it’s recent. The thing is, though (and I’m sort of borrowing this from David Stewart, whose content I recommend you check out), any piece of fiction that you have not yet experienced is new to you. If you want to see a new movie, for instance, you have literally thousands of options available to you. There is nothing special about the films that happen to be being made available for the first time at the moment (unless you are already invested in the story or the world). This is not even considering the fact that many / most films being released at the moment are garbage.

I think this is a leftover societal habit from the days when people actually had little to no control over what films were available to be seen and so they watched out for what was coming to the theaters. After the video and then the DVD market came into being, we kept doing it, mostly because going to the theater was a special event: something out of the ordinary (that plus our natural love of novelty). But it’s long past time to break ourselves of the habit of thinking that it is at all important to seek out the newest films etc. We have about a century’s worth of material, most of it fairly easily available, to go through in preference to the junk that the people who hate us expect us to buy. If we decided to simply ignore current Hollywood, television etc. altogether, we would not lack at all for entertainment options, and most of it of a higher quality (yes, most of that is still owned by the people who hate us, but that’s another issue altogether. In any case, I can’t help thinking it must be galling to them to know that we would rather watch something made fifty years ago by people they despise than whatever they make today)

3. Of course, the big sticking point in the above is video games, which have a serious backwards compatibility problem. Emulators can do something to solve this (though coincidentally I just read how that’s likely to be more difficult in the future. Back up your roms now!), but it’s an issue I’ve long thought the industry needs to address. I would like to be able to feel sure that I’ll be able to play Half-Life and Command and Conquer in the future, as well as games for the SNES and so on. These are a part of our culture, and I want to see them preserved.

I think the console companies should invest in a kind of ‘universal’ system that can play games from all the company’s previous consoles thus far: so, a single console that has ports or at least the opportunity to play games from the NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, and Switch (not sure at all what that would require, but that’s what I would want to see).

In general, I really wish people with more programming knowledge than I have could work up some kind of preservation plan for these works: something akin to a great library or better yet a series of great libraries for games. Maybe some are. I certainly hope so.

Though it seems much of the industry itself is hell-bent on making sure whole generations of games die out entirely, but again: that’s a topic for another time.

Friday Flotsam

1. I have been feeling oddly harried these days as I try to hunt for a better day job and try to prevent too much of my headspace from being occupied by insane nonsense that I can’t control.

2. I’ve disliked the designation ‘Conservative’ for some time now. In the first place because ‘conservative’ is such a vague and broad term, the second because they have never once won a battle in this country, and third because at this point there isn’t really much about our political or social system that I want to conserve. ‘Restorationist’ would be much more accurate, as I would much more see things restored to how they once were, or to something approximating it. Although that term makes it sound like I fix art work for a living (I don’t. I kind of wish I did).

Some people have been starting to use the term ‘Based’, and I think there’s a good deal to be said for it (slightly painful etymology aside): it implies rootedness, solidity, and decency against ‘Debased,’ which implies vagueness, arbitrariness, and debauchery (an entirely accurate assessment of the other side). So I suppose that’s the term I’ll be using going forward, at least until a better one comes along.

3. Been watching The Rifleman with Chuck Connors lately. My goodness, what a great show that is! Writing is solid and thoughtful, characters grounded and believable as real human beings, the action (when it comes) is tight and viscerally satisfying.

The story is of a widowed Civil War veteran named Lucas McCane living with his young son Mark on a ranch on the New Mexico frontier. The title comes from the fact that, instead of a pistol, McCane carries a modified Winchester rifle as his primary weapon, and quickly gains a reputation as a deadly shot. Every episode he and his boy face some new problem or obstacle, often ultimately solved with a rifleshot, though not always the way you might expect.

I find the show does a very good job of not being obvious. Things play out according to the logic of the characters, not so much to a tidy formula. Some episodes don’t have particularly happy endings, and young Mark is sometimes left with a hard lesson, like one episode where his new friend turns out to be a murderer. Another episode had a brash young acting sheriff (played by a young Robert Vaughn: one of many current or future stars to show up) let his pride stir up more trouble than was needed or that he could handle, leaving him facing a duel against a vastly superior foe. It’s his own stupid fault he’s in that situation, but you’ve been shown why he thought he had to, leaving you with seemingly only two possible outcomes, neither what we want to see.

I won’t give away what actually happens, but it’s an excellent study in one way to keep the audience invested: make them sympathize with both sides while thinking only one can actually win. The show also tackles issues of prejudice, corruption, addiction, and the use and limits of violence. I’m enjoying the heck out of it and would heartily recommend it.

4. On that topic, one thing I would recommend to those who want to remain sane is maintain a steady diet of older media. C.S. Lewis recommended reading at least two old books to every one new book. When it comes to TV or movies, the ratio should probably be more like ten to one these days.

It isn’t really a question of relative quality: a new TV show may be objectively ‘better’ than The Rifleman in some ways. What’s really important is that older shows and older movies allow you to see how people in the past thought and acted. I don’t mean in the sense that, say, The Dick Van Dyke Show was a documentary of how people actually lived and spoke, but in the sense that these shows were made by people of the time for people of the time and reflected the values, tastes, and ideas then prevalent. As that famous detective Malachi Burke put it, “what people tell you is not a fact: that they tell it to you is.”

So, that hugely popular shows like The Rifleman were preaching the evils of prejudice and showing the use of racial slurs to be an ugly thing in 1958 is a fact. It’s objective. Any description of the time period has to include it. If you are presented with an image of the time that says such things were simply accepted and not questioned, you will now know that is not true, or at the very least an incomplete picture.

Besides which, whatever prejudices and blind spots there were in the past (and there always will be), they were not the same prejudices and blind spots that we experience today and thus are more easily seen and avoided. The more times you experience, the more you have to compare and contrast with the present. I have no sympathy for chronological bigots who hate the past simply for not being the present.

5. I have more thoughts related to current events, but I’m trying to space things out, both for my own sanity and because I think there is more good to be had offering positive posts that distract from the present than in adding yet another dreary take on things. I’m going to be making an effort to blog more often, in spite of the above mentioned sense of harassment, so stay tuned.

Friday Flotsam: Good and Bad or Social Types

One of the key dividing lines in the world, as I see it, is between those who think in terms of good and bad and those who think in terms of this or that kind of person. Of course, there’s a lot of overlap there, and the latter would say that they are thinking in terms of justice and right, but they think of these things in terms of abstract group dynamics rather than principles.

The example I like to use is when someone gets angry that a given person has a big country estate and all the comfort in the world, while hundreds of other people can barely make ends meet. The thing is though, it is highly unlikely that the former has his comfort because the latter are suffering. In any case, to be free from money worries and to live in a beautiful home is itself a good thing as far as it goes. Though, by its nature, it’s a good thing that not everyone can have. Is it really better that no one should have it? That this particular kind of good should never be experienced because it will not be experienced by everyone? Are there no benefits associated with such a state of affairs, either for individuals or society as a whole?

This is one reason I’m in favor of aristocracy; I think financial independence, family honor, and high titles are good things as far as they go, and I’d much rather have a world where such goods exist than one in which they don’t. Such a world would be (arguably is) infinitely the poorer for it.

That’s what I mean by thinking in terms of good and bad and not this or that kind of person. The issue is not if someone is rich or poor, the issue is the qualities he shows and the object state of his situation. If a man is ill, that is itself a bad thing that commands pity; the poor man is entitled to more concern only because and to the extent that he has fewer resources for dealing with it. I can easily imagine a scenario in which a poor man and a rich man are both in straights, but the rich man is the more deserving of the two: e.g. both find themselves in financial difficulties, the rich man because he was robbed, the poor man because he gambled.

To think in good or bad terms — the traditionalist mindset — means to judge by eternal, objective values; is this person kind or cruel, liberal or miserly, polite or rude, wise or foolish? It means to prefer good qualities over bad, regardless of what ‘class’ the person fits in. Of course, you don’t expect the same kind of manners from a Mr. Peggotty as from a Mr. Copperfield, but you expect courtesy and kindness from both. This is why things like people saying that Charlie Chan is a racist caricature because he is courteous and non-confrontational are simply meaningless to me; those are good qualities, whether they’re stereotypes or not.

The people I admire tend to have certain qualities; honor, dignity, intelligence, conviction, moral fiber, and so on. So, people like Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Douglass, Saigo Takamori, St. Louis, St. John Henry Newman, and so on. People I dislike or do not admire lack these qualities. It is a matter of indifference to me what social group they fall under.

However, you will note that this also gives what I think is the only rational basis for a non-prejudiced approach. If what you admire is a given quality, then you will seek it and acknowledge it whether it is found with an Englishman, an American, a Japanese, or an African. It may, for whatever reason, be more common here or there, but what does that matter? The quality itself is the important point.

This is, in fact, aristocracy in the truest sense; rule of excellence.