Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chain of Fools

We have the “one each” (except for Ron Paul) wins in the three caucuses/primaries so far. We have the road kill brigade – Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and Huntsman. And to add to the, ahem, “drama”, we have the pagan love feast that was the state of the union address. No one on the Republican side wants to face the fact that they are outnumbered by tax receivers, who are the new “silent majority”. All they can do is scurry and scuttle among the three least unelectable candidates, and occasionally feel their faces burning with shame when Ron Paul convicts them of being not really conservative, and shameless war mongers. And all the Democrats have to do is sit back and enjoy the show, secure in the conviction that their man is unbeatable in November. Unbeatable, that is, unless some real disaster intervenes. But what could that possibly be? We've gotten used to our economic woes, having come to accept the way things are as the new status quo... so it's hard to imagine a new economic catastrophe (or revelation about the old one) sufficiently grave to threaten Obama's chances. Plus, the Democrats – to give credit where credit is due – are absolutely brilliant at blaming anything bad that happens to the economy on the Republicans, no matter who's in the White House. Of course, in this they have the unstinting help of the mainstream media, who work day and night to maintain the halo and messianic aura that they placed on Obama's brow a few years back, when he was made president by popular acclaim (the election of 2008 being a mere technicality). If Reagan was the “Teflon president”, then Obama is the guy coated with the same tiles they use on the space shuttle to keep it from burning up on re-entry. When it comes to deflecting blame, his skill level is stratospheric... before which we can only prostrate ourselves and cry “We are not worthy!”

And that's an interesting point, actually. How smart, really, is Obama? He is a first-class orator... “presents well”... has “curb appeal”, as they say in real estate... has an attractive family... but does he really know anything, or is he, basically, the product of a committee? Is he nothing more than a "machine politician" but with more charisma? We know that in George W. Bush's case, for instance, he was completely unable to hide the fact that he was an idiot... and of course Carter's incompetence was so titanic that it was impossible to conceal. But most modern presidents have been, more than anything else, skilled actors – literally in the case of Reagan. So it really is impossible to penetrate far enough to determine whether there is anything inside of that well-groomed head. Clinton may have been intelligent, but his pathological personality was right out there for all to see, and I suspect that his close advisors had plenty of “cringe moments”. The ideal president for our time would, in fact, be someone like the Dowager Empress of China, kept within many layers of walls and guards, and never allowed to be seen or heard in public. We need, in fact, the White House to become the new Holy of Holies, which only the select few can enter, and even then with fear and trembling. I mean... our president is little more than a figurehead anyway, so why not admit it? Why not give in, once and for all, to the personality cult that seems to infect communist societies, despite all of their egalitarian pretenses? The fact that the person occupying the office can change every four or eight years is not a problem; after all, royalty come and go, hereditary dictators come and go... and that doesn't prevent personality cults from arising and being replaced by updated versions. And after all, look at the aura that clings to our presidents long after they retire – they are still called “Mister President”, they still get Secret Service protection, and all the rest of it. They are temporary, and accidental, royalty – but royalty nonetheless. If voting represents the egalitarian side of our system, then abject worship of the presidency, and of the president, represents the authoritarian side. As someone once commented, we Americans are a curious lot in that we elect a king every four years. We mold a man out of clay (or allow him to be molded for us) and then turn around and worship him like a graven image or golden calf. And I suppose that by doing so we actually worship “democracy”, i.e. ourselves.

The amazing thing is that, for a figurehead position, the presidency is nonetheless sought after with a zeal rivaling a religious crusade – which, I suppose, reflects the level of delusion of the people who declare their candidacy. And that delusion persists right through the primaries, the nomination process, the election, and the inauguration – at which point the hapless newly-minted president is finally let in on the secret... namely that he is a glorified servant, and that the real power is totally elsewhere. Oh, he can work at the margins and pursue his own pathetic agenda to some extent, but none of the real decisions – the ones that matter – are his. (The fact that George W. Bush referred to himself as “The Decider” should be sufficient to convince you on that point. No one with any sense would have let him "decide" anything, except maybe his choice of power neckties. He basically spent his eight years in office locked in a room with a bunch of Fisher-Price toys.)

Thus the flush of victory quickly turns into a scapegoating process – and the president begins to grow visibly more gray and worn out. You've seen it – it happens every time. And it's not because of the “pressures of the office” -- it's because the president is in the same position as the “executive monkey” in the classic experiment – he has superficial authority but no real power, and has to take all the blame for everything. And yet people who seem, otherwise, reasonably sane seek after this office more fervently than a drowning man seeks for air. It's a mystery.

Then we have foreign policy, which is a non-factor since Obama's is indistinguishable from the Republicans' (excepting Ron Paul, as usual). We are ready, prepared, and eager to go to war with anybody, at any time, for any reason; this pretty much sums it up. Oh, except that “no reason” also serves as a reason – so all of the bases are covered. But ask yourself this – is there any sort of folly in foreign policy that would turn people – especially his left-wing “peacenik” supporters – against Obama? Would a full-scale war with Iran do it? Doubtful. How about North Korea? Ditto. How about China? He might lose a few votes there, but not many. Our perpetual-war and ever-escalating foreign policy is, in other words, totally risk-free for a president or any other politician – which shows you what we have become as a nation. The liberal left that was so anti-war during Vietnam has developed a strange new respect for war... and the right, e.g. mainline conservatives, have always preferred to shoot first and ask questions later (if ever). So this is one area where we “stand united” as a nation – which is, I guess, why it never comes up in any discussions. But having said all that, it is somewhat possible that Obama is putting off a war with Iran until after the election – on the (realistic) expectation that it would be no more of a “cakewalk” than Iraq was. If he were really confident, he'd take us into war right now – today! But he's smart enough to realize that our goals in war no longer include actually winning, or even having a definite purpose in mind. He is as much a captive of the war racket as anyone else, so has to walk a tightrope between the demands of the war cabal and what he thinks ordinary people would prefer.

So the strategy of the MSM is working admirably, breathtakingly well. The Republican candidates have been forced to highlight each other's many failings – a process which will be taken up by the Democrats with vigor once the real race begins. And no one will be able to accuse them (the Democrats) of mean-spiritedness, because, after all, it's no more than other Republicans have already said. So if Rockjaw Goodhair gets the nomination, it'll be all about his status as a hard-core robber baron and corporate predator. And if The Grinch gets the nomination, it'll be all about his lobbying, his wives, his moon base... you name it. The Republicans are, even as we speak, writing the script for every one of Obama's election speeches; nothing further need be added. And as I said, the overall idea is to keep the Republicans off balance – to make inroads on that “inevitability” issue that seemed to make Goodhair a shoo-in before people found out he was rich.

Of course, the ultimate dream of the Democrats would be if Ron Paul decided, after the convention, to peel off and become a third-party candidate. This would – or so they believe – take a big enough chunk out of the Republican fan base so as to insure the defeat of Goodhair, or Grinch, or whomever. The problem I have with this theory is that I don't think many of Ron Paul's supporters would be caught dead voting for any of the others in a general election – no more than they would be caught voting for Obama. In other words, they are only engaged in the mainstream political process because of Ron Paul, and if he left the scene so would they. In fact, it's just possible that we're talking about people who have seldom if ever voted at all – so the erosion effect may be overestimated. (I know in my case that if I'm given a choice between a war-mongering Christian (or Mormon) Zionist and a socialist, I'm going to cast a write-in vote for Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.)

So, as I said, everything is going according to plan. The Republicans are in disarray and Obama has his base -- as secure, unthinking, worshipful, and robotic as the North Korean army. The only saving grace in this election is the annoying (to everyone else) persistence of Ron Paul as a thorn in the side of... just about everyone. Pretty much everything he says is an indictment and an accusation – not just of liberalism but also of neoconservatism... and of statism, collectivism, totalitarianism, and big government in general. His are words that are seldom heard in the public forum, and they should make nearly all other politicians and “national leaders” cringe with shame. But we're in a different era of our history now, when the values of old are considered “hate” or some sort of “-ism”, and the new values (or anti-values) are those that any enemy of the United States would gladly aid and abet – either because they agreed with them, or because they knew it would only bring the system crashing down sooner.

So we dive into the deep to “save” the economy of Europe, only to find ourselves in that awkward situation of a lifeguard who isn't strong or skilled enough to get the distressed person off their neck – with the result that they both drown. Or, we commit our armed forces and our national wealth to the “defense” of a very small, very obnoxious country in the Near East, only to find that we've thrown ourselves on their funeral pyre. We are living, in other words, in the era of reductio ad absurdum – where all of the basic premises underlying “the American system” have finally shown their fatal flaws. It's like owning a car with multiple warranties, all of which expire on the same day. It's not that we were “right” before but are “wrong” now – it's that the flaws, like those in a physical structure, were always there but were subliminal... for a while. But they tend to spread and become more serious over time, eventually becoming fatal. It's not – as Pat Buchanan seems to believe – that we were once good, and great, and near-perfect, but have been taken over and co-opted by evil socialists, internationalists, and moral relativists. The seeds of our present discontents were there at the beginning, and have been slowly germinating... and are only now erupting as a mass jungle, to entrap the unwary and snuff out liberties. The fact that we were, apparently, “part of the solution” in times past only showed how much worse off the rest of the world was. But since World War II, we have been in the position of “the ugly American” -- riding in on a white charger to save people, and nations, from themselves... and our efforts are seldom appreciated, especially when people realize what we have to offer in exchange. Would anyone in any other country, witnessing what we are witnessing, really want to have a system like ours to select their leaders? Would anyone want to adopt our model of public education? How many would turn their economic fate over to bankers and the international financial cartel? How many would be willing to go into debt that can never be repaid, but which will be the basis for our servitude for generations to come? How many would be willing to sacrifice the economic future of their country for the sake of some other country (that gives us nothing in return but more demands and insults)? We commit all of these follies, and more – and yet there are people who sincerely want to be “in charge” of this process? I say we declare them all insane, lock them up, and start over.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Shakin' His Booty

A column by Max Boot in Monday's paper (“Mistakes in military assumptions”) contains more begged questions per column inch than anything else I've read recently. The point he is trying to make is that our defense budget, and our vigilance, and – I would say – our paranoia, cannot, and should not, be reduced one iota just because we appear to have made a strategic withdrawal from Iraq. No, because all of the dangers and perils are still out there! The world is full of drooling, ravening beasts, like cartoon wolves in the Little Red Riding Hood story – and they are, by and large, Moslem, which means less than human... and they are, needless to say, all “terrorists”, which means they don't fight fair. They don't stand up and fight like a man, but use crude weapons like IEDs – whereas we, who are much more gentlemanly, prefer to use unmanned drones.

Well, he doesn't say all of these things in so many words, but they are all strongly implied by what he does say. And his sense of history is somewhat... distorted, let's say. He has what I would call "causality issues". He starts off by criticizing Obama, of all people – a shameless servant of the armaments industry – for allowing our “readiness” to slip while, at the same time, warning against anyone getting excited about a post-Iraq “peace dividend”. In other words, while Obama preaches an endless and perpetual war footing, he's not putting the taxpayers' money where his mouth is – and Boot finds this objectionable. If we are to be in a state of perpetual war, then we should unabashedly provide the appropriate resources, and stop mealy-mouthing! The economy and “social issues” can just pick through whatever's left (if anything) after the war bucks come off the top.

So Boot points out that “defense spending was slashed by $487 billion over 10 years”. “Slashed”!! Now there's a scare word for you. $487 billion over 10 years is about like the average citizen saying they're going to buy one less pack of gum a month. Absolutely no felt need to question the magnitude of our current defense spending – especially how much of it is spent on bona fide “defense” as opposed to wars of aggression, religious crusades, and empire building.

Then we have that “special committee” that – as planned – failed miserably, resulting in an “automatic” $500 billion in additional defense cuts. Well, everyone knew that was a hoax in the first place. Sure, go ahead, hold “defense” hostage in order to force Congress to make budget cuts elsewhere. Actually, the committee's failure was the best possible outcome – now the “social programs” don't get cut and, when the day of reckoning arrives, neither will defense. They'll find a way around it, trust me.

So with all these faulty assumptions, Boot concludes that “the defense budget could shrink by 31 percent over the next decade” -- again, not questioning whether even larger cuts might not be in order. After all, as he points out, previous cuts were 53% post-Korea, 26% post-Vietnam, and 34% post-Cold War. It strikes me that 31% is about right from that perspective. But ah, that was before we were placed on a perpetual war footing by the Regime and its servants in Washington.

But how does Boot make his argument? He seems to believe that the “mistakes of the past” can be summed up in one phrase: “peace dividend”. If there is no such thing, in reality, as real peace, then how can we expect a peace dividend? If the wisest thing to do after any war is to begin preparing for the next war, than anyone who expects a peace dividend is living in a dream world. And I suppose, on some level, he believes that the best way to prevent war is to prepare for war – as he implies by citing previous instances of “failure” in this regard, like World War I, World War II, and Korea. Is it possible that the promoters of perpetual war are actually the realists of our time? And that, paradoxically, if we prepare sufficiently for perpetual war that the result will be perpetual peace? An argument can just as readily be made the other way – that if we prepare for war, we will be more likely to get into wars simply because we are prepared, and feel confident of the result. After all, and as I have pointed out, our post-Vietnam war preparations (despite that 26% cut) made it as easy to engage in the Gulf War as falling off a log. The military was ecstatic, in fact – at last, an opportunity to exorcise the ghosts and demons of Vietnam, and try out all the new “hardware” as well.

But what Boot doesn't ask – because he seems incapable of thinking along these lines – is, was our involvement in World War I really advisable? Was it (for us) a “just war”? Or was it simply an early manifestation of our missionary zeal to remake the world in our own image? Pat Buchanan has even asked if our involvement in World War II was legitimate. Does Boot really believe that if we had hung around Europe after Armistice Day, it would have prevented the rise of National Socialism? How precisely would we have managed to do that – maybe by prohibiting all meetings of over 3 people? And would we have stepped in before Hitler was made chancellor? I mean... you seem to have all the answers, Max, so let's hear it. (And when it comes to Japan, we actively sought out conflict in the Pacific – so how does his position square with that?)

But after World War II, we seemed to have learned a lesson – right? We kept troops in all of the defeated Axis powers, where they remain to this day... but that wasn't enough for Max, no siree! We apparently should have also stationed troops in South Korea in order to prevent an invasion from the north – as if, once again, we had any vital interests in that area. The Korean War may have been a war worth fighting if you were South Korean... but was it really worth all of our own dead and wounded? Then – to descend further into the inferno – we have Vietnam, which no one since has had the nerve to seriously defend. Boot cites many of the problems the Army had in the post-Vietnam era, which presumably led to lack of preparedness. Well, right – because Vietnam was a disaster, Carter punished the military (rather than the real guilty parties) with budget cuts and incompetent civilian leaders. And the “drug use, racial tension and insubordination” that Boot cites were, in many cases, direct or at least indirect symptoms of the Vietnam episode. In other words, one war led to lack of preparedness for the next war (which we didn't fight); it's hard to see how this is accounted for in his model – if war is good, then how can it have such bad effects? Shouldn't wars complement each other?

Curiously, Boot pretty much skips over the Vietnam war per se in his discussion, only citing some sort of mysterious “massive drawdown” in the 1970s. But shame on us! We failed to keep the Russians from invading Afghanistan, and did not respond with military force when the Iranian radicals captured our embassy staff. But let's say the post-Vietnam era was not the debacle that it was. Would we really have jumped into the ring to defend Afghanistan against the Russians, as he implies we should have? What we did do, it seems to me, was much more strategic, which was to support Afghan partisans. The fact that they later morphed into the Taliban... well, that's another story.

And why would we have needed a world-class and global army to rescue the hostages in Iran? This sounds like a small, elite unit operation to me. What kept it from happening was not lack of readiness, but gross incompetence on the part of Carter (who, it can be argued, caused the crisis in the first place by giving the Shah sanctuary). Let's not forget that the hostages were set free about five minutes after Reagan took office – not by an army magically transformed in that short time, but with a promise (made through diplomatic channels) to, basically, vaporize Tehran if they weren't let go.

But all was not lost. Things improved markedly later on, and the evidence for this is our victory in the Gulf War. But then, on the heels of that victory, we once again greedily insisted on a “peace dividend”, and I guess the result was the events of 9/11/2001. I mean, gosh, if we hadn't been so hedonistic we might have managed to prevent 9/11! (Once again, Max, let's see some evidence on this.)

And finally, we reach the bottom of the pit with Iraq and Afghanistan – and yet Boot seems to think that these, as well as all previous, involvements were perfectly jolly, fine, and necessary. He says, for instance, that “our abdication of leadership [after World War I] made a second world war more likely.” Well... who ever said that our involvement in World War I automatically made us a “leader”? A leader over Europe? Did anyone over there agree with that? Only in the feverish delusions of Woodrow Wilson would such a thing ever seem like a reality.

Do you see the reasoning (or lack thereof) here? Whenever anything good happens, it's because we were “prepared” and “ready”. When bad things happen it's because we insisted on doing something else with our lives besides making war. Or, as Richard Spencer pointed out in “Israel and Empire” (Taki's Magazine, June 25, 2008), “Setbacks are opportunities for demanding we redouble our efforts; successes are justifications for a long-term presence. All outcomes lead to the same policy.”* And with the current emphasis on small, agile, elite, high-tech units, why is Boot arguing for what seems to be the massive military structure of wars up through World War II? Isn't it obvious that human wave tactics are a thing of the past? Or maybe he doesn't think so.

And mainly, there is never any question about the justifiability of our war-fighting efforts – any war we get involved in is, by definition, just and proper. The only fault Boot ever finds is that we don't act sooner, or with more resources. Or, that we're not already in any place where war breaks out, in order to nip it in the bud. Clearly, his ideal world would be one in which the United States was heavily armed beyond even the wildest dreams of the Pentagon, and had troops stationed on every acre of land on the planet, in order to keep anyone else from starting anything. The fact that this would be, number one, impossible, and number two, self-defeating doesn't seem to enter his consciousness... nor does the question of whether this should be the sole mission of the United States. Were we really put on this earth to do nothing but police everybody else? While the rest of the world occasionally enjoys periods of peace, this is forbidden to us, because we have a higher duty to perform – and yet who gave us this assignment if not ourselves? Why is our military budget greater than that of the rest of the world combined... unless we really are supposed to be the world's army? But if that's the case, why does the rest of the world typically object to our efforts, and urge us to leave at the earliest possible opportunity (except the ones who are making big money from our military bases, etc.)?

It really is difficult, at times, to tell the difference between a ruling, dominant empire and a bunch of short-tempered, paranoid, delusional dupes. Max Boot is all for empire, but the delusion shows through as bright as day.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Warfare Art Thou?

You can't have class warfare without class consciousness. But mere class consciousness isn't enough; there has to be a feeling of injustice to go along with it, plus sufficient motivation to result in action – not just simmering resentment, but out-loud speech and political activity, with the possible addition of physical (“direct”) action.

For one thing, class consciousness of some sort has always been with us – in every known society down through history and in the present day. It is manifested in different ways and called different things, but it's always there, even in the most ostensibly egalitarian societies. (For in those societies, you still have to have someone in charge, and a ruling class or nomenklatura.) So we have classes, castes, estates, orders... what have you, all reflecting what I will claim is the natural state of human society, which is to be, or become, stratified.

But what is, or should be, the basis for this stratification? The old-time royalists will say that “blood” is the thing. A materialist will say land and/or wealth (as will the Protestants with their “prosperity gospel”). Then we have caste systems based on religion, sect, choice of prophet, cult... and race, ethnicity, occupation, place of birth, place of residence... just about anything that can be used to “unfairly” discriminate among people. And make no mistake about it – despite all of our pretensions, all of these factors, and more, come into play in this “democratic, egalitarian nation” when we start thinking, and talking, about social class, discrimination, and all of the thousand different "-isms".

And then we have the more enlightened view, summed up in the term “meritocracy”. This is the notion that people's standing in society should, by rights, be a function of their talents, achievements, and contributions to the general welfare, and that other considerations of the more atavistic kind should not be allowed to interfere. The major flaw in this position is that it ultimately amounts to a popularity contest; after all, who is to judge the worth of a person's talents, achievements, and contributions? Is it a matter of popular vote, AKA the market? Or should it be left to a council of wise persons, the way the Nobel Prize supposedly is? And if left to the market, then to which sector of the market? After all, a billionaire can “outvote” any number of ordinary people in just about any marketplace you care to name. If some Mr. Big decides that Joe Snuffy is the greatest artist since Rembrandt, and decides to built a museum to house his works... and this results in the price of Joe Snuffy's paintings skyrocketing, and Snuffy becoming inordinately rich... well, who is in any position to argue? The marketplace has spoken, and there is no use trying to confuse the marketplace with “public (or popular) opinion” because they are not the same, although they can, and do, influence each other. Public, or popular, opinion at least has the merit of being somewhat democratic, whereas the marketplace can be subject to the most extreme distortions (at the hands of the government, or speculators, or single individuals).

At any rate, we – in this country – have traditionally held that merit, whatever that might entail, is the most appropriate determiner of social status. And that really seemed to be the case in the beginning, with the Founding Fathers as examples – Jefferson most of all, perhaps. When you see prosperity, popularity, creativity, intelligence, and contributions to society going together – coming in the same package – it's easy to sit back and say, yes, that's how things ought to be. It's even easy, in those cases, to humbly acknowledge our own limitations: If I were more worthy, I might deserve more in the way of success, recognition, wealth, power, etc. -- but because I'm not, then I must be content with my lot, and, in fact, appreciate it as my just desert and no more... a manifestation of divine justice, if you will.

Unfortunately, these sterling qualities very seldom – at least in our time – seem to occur in the same person. Are there any Jeffersons out there? Not that I'm aware. So this forces us to choose among many possible signs of merit, and these can come into conflict and contradiction at times. Who is not, for instance, way too familiar with the philistine millionaire who could afford any sort of house and furnishings but seems content to live in the most oversized, kitsch, and tasteless surroundings? And do I even have to mention the obvious fact that talent as an actor or performer is not a good predictor of political sophistication? Supply as many of your own examples as you like; the point is that there is a massive, multi-faceted anachronism in our day between achievements and assessments of overall merit – and this is one thing that has contributed, in my opinion, to the friction and tension between classes. On the most basic level, the notion is that the person above me on the totem pole doesn't deserve to be there. Rather, I deserve to be where he is, or he deserves to be where I am, or both. This is class consciousness with the “wrongness”, or judgment, added to it. All that is missing then is me going down to the polling place and voting for the politician who promises to put that S.O.B. in his place – mainly by taking some of his money and giving it to me. (And if you don't think this is what motivates at least half the voters in this country, I'll have some of what you're drinking.)

But there are those for whom voting isn't enough – or who see it as, basically, a sham (and I can't disagree). So they are more inclined toward protests, demonstrations, writing, speechifying, and what not – hoping that some of the sleepier, more apathetic members of the oppressed class will wake up and join the cause, and ultimately convince, or intimidate, those in power to change their behavior. Or – as a bonus – making some of those who are living high on the hog feel guilty enough to change their behavior... AKA “liberal guilt”, a time-honored tool of the agents of change.

But what if this isn't enough? Then we have the option of violent demonstrations and strikes, rioting, insurrection, and revolution... some, but not all, of which we have been spared in this blessed land. And not to be dismissed is the mere threat of violence – you know, the “long, hot summer”-type rhetoric that is nearly, but not entirely, extinct at this point. What we are left with these days is demonstrations – on both the left (Occupy... whatever) and the right (Tea Party) -- with nothing behind them... no “or else”. It's a combination of moral claims and physical and economic impotence. In other words, it's an appeal to decency and good will – even though we all know that those qualities are notably lacking in the people being appealed to. When confronted with sheer, invincible power, we should not be surprised that there is not even a sham of decency and good will coming back the other way... and I, for one, see this as a healthy curative for so much naiveté among our activist class. Once you realize that the people in power just don't care, you can stop wasting time. But yeah, I know, hope springs eternal, and we have this fetish of free speech, and where there is free speech someone must be listening, right? Wrong. The ruling class of our time has learned to cool it with the ham-handedness, so we get pretty much all we want of the freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, etc. -- only that it does no good, because it's not going to result in any real change. And the reason for that is that the ruling elite has, at long last, consolidated its power to such a degree that it can simply no longer be threatened by anything “the people” think, want, or do. We might as well all be peasants trying to storm a castle with pitchforks and torches, and a moat full of alligators. We are, to put it another way, in that most unenviable and humiliating position -- that of being ignored, like a retarded child locked in a closet. Life goes on for the power elite, but we're not part of it and never will be. Our only strength is in our value as cannon fodder and a source of labor – which is like expecting farm animals to be proud of the fact that they may wind up on the master's table one day.

But let us return to this tantalizing concept of “class warfare” for a moment. What does it mean? Is it real war, like with guns and stuff? Well, it has been at various times down through history – most notably during revolutions, but also in the periods following revolutions (assuming they were successful). I mean, during the French Revolution the ruling class really was sent to the guillotine; this is not just stuff some Hollywood writer made up. Similarly during the Russian Revolution – except that now the bar was lowered to take in some of the bourgeoisie, that group which had been despised by the French revolutionaries but, as far as I know, not exterminated en masse. Then we had the (second) Chinese Revolution, in which not only were the upper and middle classes eliminated, but considerable numbers of the lower class – those who were deemed “uncooperative” or “counter-revolutionary” -- typically members of the peasantry. (I could include the Ukraine in this, vis-a-vis the Russian Revolution, except I'm convinced that was more of an ethnic and religious genocide than a class-based one.) Then we had the various “mini-me” revolutions that took after their larger exemplars – Cuba after Russia, and North Korea and North Vietnam after China. The most extreme case was probably Cambodia, where virtually everyone was considered a counter-revolutionary and undesirable, and it was only because Vietnam (of all places) stepped in that the Cambodians were prevented from exterminating each other completely. And yet that case served as an object lesson – a reductio ad absurdum – to show what the communist ideology ultimately amounted to... and why it was worth waging a struggle against.

But let's step back from the brink a bit and consider the other kind of class warfare – that kind more familiar to Americans, where violence is usually (if not always) replaced by politics. This, as I've pointed out before, goes back at least as far as the Progressive Era, and includes the labor movement, the New Deal, the civil rights movement, the cultural revolution of the 1960s, and brings us right up to the present day with Occupy and the Tea Party. And! It includes the media and the commentariat, who are actually using the term “class warfare” more and more these days.

But why? What makes what is going on now – much less violent than its historical predecessors – a “class war”? Does the use of the term just sell more newspapers and magazines, and increase TV viewership, or is there a more serious reason? Well – it's not always the media's fault, let's admit. The middle class and its representatives have been claiming, at least since the 1960s, that some sort of war is being waged on them. The composite working class and non-working (i.e., welfare) class has been claiming the same thing for much longer than that... as have their allies, the activist left. But again, language means something – and I don't recall the term “class warfare” having been in as much use during the Progressive Era, or the New Deal, or the 1960s, as it is now. And what I definitely don't recall – because it didn't happen – is the use of the term by the middle class to describe its own political/social/economic plight; that is something truly new under the Sun.

Let me clarify that. The cultural revolution of the 1960s was definitely a “class war” of sorts, but not based on social or economic class as much as on politics and foreign policy. And it was, above all, a culture war, as E. Michael Jones points out – a war not of class against class, or even between races or political parties, but of one cultural/aesthetic/moral vision against another. There were even philosophical overtones, which took us way back to our own revolution and that of France... and the metaphysical/epistemological aspects were prominent as well, in the endless discussions and debates about drugs. In short, everyone was involved... or could have been if they wanted to. Social class, race, ethnicity, religion, occupation... none were barriers to participation. And sure enough, when you look at the long-term results, they seem to have occurred all up and down the social and economic scales, and among nearly all racial and ethnic groups. In fact, they greatly enhanced the visibility and political power of a number of minorities. Just about the only people who seem to have remained untouched were the white ethnic working class, the farmers, and the ruling elite. What does that tell you? It was basically a revolt of the middle class against itself – or of the youth of the middle class against its elders. And as such, it had much in common with more “traditional” revolutions over the years, which, typically, at least start with a small cadre of disgruntled bourgeoisie and spread out from there. (The middle class has to convince the proletariat that it's oppressed, in other words.)

But because the “revolution” of the 1960s was more about culture and aesthetics than it was about politics, it was never a threat to the power structure. It was, in other words, easily contained and fenced off – so that what we wound up with was the appearance of change, and genuine change in some areas, but no real change in the overall power relationships... in “the way things are”. All you have to do for evidence of this is compare our foreign policy from World War II to the 1960s (including Vietnam) with our foreign policy since. See any significant differences – any real ones? No, me neither. Just substitute “terrorism” for “communism”, and plug & chug. If you want evidence of real change in this society, don't look to the society itself – to its superficialities. Look at its interface with other societies, other nations – that's where it really hits the road. We were “the ugly Americans” before, and we still are. And what makes us ugly is not even our warlike tendencies; that sort of thing has been around forever, and virtually defines “great” nations and civilizations. No, what sticks in the craw of the rest of the world is our pretensions and hypocrisy – the notion that we do what we do for their good, rather than for ours. Would the Romans ever have made that claim? Or the Crusaders? The British colonialists kind of did, but not seriously. No, we may be unique in history as a nation that makes staggering sacrifices for the alleged good of other nations, and receives very little but hostility in return. I suppose it's a tribute to our sheer energy and productivity that we've managed to keep up this charade for so long – and yet, it's finally beginning to show signs of terminal wear and tear.

But I'm not here to talk about foreign policy, honest. The “class war” if it really exists, is primarily a domestic matter. And if we are willing to ignore the media, and politicians, and their endless prattling, we have to admit that there is, in fact, something to the idea. We have moved from class consciousness – which is, as I said, universal – through the “injustice” stage (where we've been before) to the “war” stage... but what makes it so? After all, it could have been claimed, at any number of times in our history, that there was a war on between “the people” and the ruling elite... or between the black race and the white race... or even between men and women (if you want to stretch the definition of “class” a bit). Is what we have now any more war-ish than those examples? I would say yes, in one major respect – namely, that this time around the government has been actively enlisted in the war, on the side of the ruling elite. (Note that "the government" and "the ruling elite" are not synonymous; the government can be described as the visible cutting edge of the ruling elite, but the people who make up the government are, in nearly all cases, no more than highly-paid servants.)

Go back to the Progressive Era, the labor movement, the New Deal, and the civil rights movement, even feminism, and in all cases the government was – or appeared to be – on the side of “the little guy”, “the people”, “the working man”, “progress”, “minorities”, “the oppressed”, etc. The picture is a bit mixed when it comes to the labor movement, but I think we can see that, in the long run – or at least up to NAFTA – labor was favored. Even the income tax, which now reaches down to Joe the Plumber, was originally designed to punish – er, extract a “contribution” from – the very rich.

The first time the government appeared to be on the wrong side of the populist divide was during the 1960s, when – not coincidentally – we were also fighting the most blatantly unjustified and unwinnable war in our history (up to that time). So the government was not only against sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, but it was giving all the young guys haircuts and sending them over to Southeast Asia to be blown to smithereens -- “class war” indeed! The government that had up to that time stood for the people now became an instrument of persecution and vengeance against those people – or at least a goodly portion of them. This, in a sense, was the real seismic/tectonic/quantum shift in the relationship of the American government to its citizenry – or at least the first stages thereof, since the trend continues to this day. Others will claim that the biggest shift occurred at the time of the Civil War, or World War I, or the New Deal – and those were all significant, no doubt. But I say the image, almost more than the role, of government underwent a more radical change during the 1960s than at any previous time. Up to then, only the most die-hard, what we would now call paleoconservatives, would have considered the government the “enemy” -- but since then there has been nothing particularly rare or unusual, to say nothing of scandalous, about that characterization.

But even if we accept that government can, and does, wage war on the people, is this the same as “class warfare”? It is if you consider the ruling elite a distinct class – which they are. But if they are waging war on everyone else, what is it called then? Is it even about class per se, or is it about something even bigger and broader? Because “class” takes in so much; it is a frustratingly rich concept, as I tried to point out in a previous post. But if the rulers are out to crush everybody underfoot, in a non-discriminatory, “equal opportunity” way, it seems to me that's too crude an idea to be described as “class warfare”. It's more like a tyranny of old, where there was the ruler and his bodyguard and his army on one side of the wall, and everyone else (all other classes, etc.) on the other. It is, in other words, neither subtle nor nuanced... and everyone is involved, to some degree; you can't opt out.

Now, admittedly, this is not how most of the aggrieved groups see things. The “Occupy” movement is the inheritor of the populist movements of old, so in their book it's Wall Street vs. the little guy, and the middle class is... well, it's just not important, that's all. The Tea Party, on the other hand, sees the new style of class war as the ruling elite, by means of the government, stomping them all to dust while at the same time throwing their bones to the rabble – leading the middle class to the slaughter, in other words, while placating the unwashed masses... and all on the road to a two-class system with a missing middle. And one facet of this operation – a tried and true one – is to sic the rabble on the middle class, not only directly but through law, regulation, and sheer intimidation (including that hoary hag “political correctness”). Because, as we should all know by now, the chief emotion that motivates the middle class is fear – fear of losing not only their “stuff” but “the country we grew up in”... and also fear of the rabble and of their own powerlessness. And what, after all, are the mainstream media most adept at? Surely you don't think they write, and broadcast, all that stuff for the benefit of the proletariat! No, it's to manipulate and exploit the fears of the middle class. The proles are kept quiet and contained by “games and circuses” (and sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll) and are only occasionally riled up as the need arises (and typically only by “leaders” like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, or their Hispanic equivalents).

So – bottom line time! -- there is a “class war” going on, but there's nothing unusual about that per se. What's new is that the middle class is (finally!) conscious that it's being waged on them... and that it's being waged by the government on behalf of the ruling elite. And see, this is shocking for... well, for a number of reasons. One is that the middle class has always thought they were more or less in charge – through the voting booth, that is. After all, there are more of them than there are of rich people, right? And we all get one vote, right? So what's the problem? Exactly – so this is why the Regime gradually took over, and co-opted, the selection process for politicians so that only the ones who have their stamp of approval have a chance of being elected and of remaining in office. So again – the “right to vote” didn't have to be tampered with, only the amount of difference it made. (See how the fears of the middle class have been kept at bay for so long, and why the Tea Party movement is so significant?)

Now I've already considered, at length in other posts, whether the Regime is really acting in its own best interests in the long run by working to eliminate the middle class. For one thing, who's going to pay all the taxes? I guess in a true slave state there won't be any need for taxes – it will be the ultimate Marxist nightmare where a select few will own the means of production and the vast bulk of humanity will work at subsistence wages. In other words, the slavery is the tax. But I can't help feeling that there will be a major structural problem if the middle class vanishes – kind of like what would happen to a person with no backbone... nothing between the rib cage and the pelvis but a bunch of loose meat. But that's a discussion for another day.

The real question, at this point, is not whether there is a class war on, because there is. Why it's suddenly being called that is another matter – and I suspect that most of the people doing the calling are the self-styled victims, namely the middle class. They have, in other words, expropriated a favorite term of the left for their own use – causing great resentment, I'm sure. When a catchword of the red-flag-waving agitators, anarchists, and “wobblies” becomes a middle-class tic, you know things are evolving in an interesting direction.

For further evidence, take a look at who's saying there's _not_ a class war – mainstream politicians. And the media basically agree, because their position is that only the radical right-wing loonies actually believe there is a class war going on – imagine! With no Molotov cocktails, no barricades, no mass arrests... some people have mighty easy criteria for declaring something a “war”. And yet, if you're middle class, the assaults you see happening on your lifestyle and well-being are every bit as severe in your eyes as strikebreakers beating union members over the head with nightsticks would have appeared back in the era of severe labor strife. It's all a matter of perspective and expectations, in other words. The middle class never expects to get beaten about the head and shoulders, or thrown in the cooler, and they typically aren't – but they have seen their morals, customs, values, and culture assailed non-stop for close to 50 years, and are now witnessing what may be the mother of all battles – the war against their prosperity and their pocketbooks... against frugality, thrift, and responsibility... against long-suffering good citizenship and “working within the system”... against sobriety... against bourgeois refinement and good manners... and all the rest of it. And what must gall them even more is the spectacle of politicians and candidates who seem to be like them, more or less, going off and becoming members of the enemy camp – becoming the oppressors! (Oh, that left-wing word again – and it sounds so weird when it is spoken by middle-class lips... but these are desperate times.)

But if politicians refuse to admit there's a class war on, they nonetheless use the term “middle class” in every other sentence these days – which is in itself quite notable. Since when have they stood up for the middle class? After all, don't we, as I said, have a history of standing up for “the little guy”, “the people”, “the working man”, “minorities”, “the oppressed”, etc.? Isn't that about class? But it was seldom identified that way, perhaps because it would have been considered too provocative – or too condescending. After all, if you're “for” the working class (defined, I guess, as people who “work” with their hands rather than with some other body part), don't you have to be “against” the middle class? Because, after all, the economic model the government has gone by for many decades now is a zero-sum model; for someone to win, someone else has to lose. So any loose talk about the “rights” of the lower classes was seen – and rightly so – as an existential threat by the middle class. “We're coming to get your stuff” was the message – and if the ghetto riots of the 1960s hadn't been so tightly controlled by the Regime, it might have turned out that way.

As I've said before, politicians typically start talking about something just before it's about to be taken away or lost – and this case is no different. Suddenly, politicians who've spent a lifetime railing against middle-class people, values, and priorities have turned into their champions – don't be fooled! It's all a way of preparing for that day when they will have to say, “Well, we tried, but what could we do? The banks, mortgage companies, and brokerage houses were too big to fail, and you weren't.” Or words to that effect. Not that the middle class (or what's left of it) will ever rise up in arms, but politicians do, still, like to be liked – that is the one remaining weakness in their character.

But consider, for a moment, what the non-middle class must think when they hear all of this babble about the middle class (assuming they listen to, or read, any speeches or statements by politicians). Don't the old class resentments bubble up? “I mean, what's this guy got that I ain't got? Does he work any harder? Or even if he does, why does that make him more deserving than me? I mean, people are people, y'know? We all have the same needs, so why does the government let him have more than me?” And so on. You can hear it in any tavern in Pittsburgh – or anywhere else in the country, I'll wager. It seems that politicians like Obama are taking a big chance when they get up and start defending the middle class, that they're going to offend more people than they please. In Obama's case, he's going to offend his base, just to please some people who might or might not vote for him. Unless it's all a sham, and is being done just so they can say “I did what I could”. I'm sure Obama's base is quite secure no matter what he says – and once again, who's listening? It's the middle class, quaking in fear, that hangs on the words of politicians; the lower class just goes on about its business (or lack thereof).

So... anyone who thinks all this class talk is just theory, or paranoia, needs to listen to politicians. They don't say anything, or use any terminology, that their masters would disapprove of. Talking about the middle class in those terms, in public, is a political ploy, but it's also a warning signal. What it means is that this is a real issue, we don't deny it, and we already know how it's going to come out, because that's the plan. Sayonara, baby.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sing a Song of Futility

The writing of campaign songs is, truly, a lost art... although I have made a few modest attempts over the past few years, as my long-time readers may recall. Well, the Iowa caucuses have offered fresh inspiration, and thus I submit a... maybe it should be called an "anti-campaign" song. In any case, it's designed to be sung by, let's say, Rick Santorum to Newt Gingrich, or by Newt to Rick. And it's short -- short enough that even Rick Perry might be able to memorize it, assuming he stays in the race, which seems doubtful at this point.

It's sung to the the tune of "Unforgettable", and bears an eerie resemblance to the classic:

Unelectable, that's what you are
Unelectable, though near or far
Like an apathy that clings to me
How the thought of you doesn't sing to me
Never before has someone been more

Unelectable, in every way
And forevermore, that's how you'll stay
That's why buddy it's incredible
That someone so unelectable
Thinks that I am unelectable too

How's that? I think it has "legs". And I offer it free of charge to any candidate who wants to use it. But it has to be sung by them, not by any hirelings... and no lip-synching! And it has to be done in public. Otherwise, there are no strings attached.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Your Resolution

I normally don't make a practice of New Year's resolutions, for the simple reason that my cup of unfulfilled resolutions – past and present – already runneth over. There is a backlog that can supply New Year's or any other occasion for years to come. And it's not that I don't act on resolutions; they aren't totally neglected. It's just that my talent for making resolutions far exceeds my talent for seeing them through. I am, in other words, a better starter than finisher, and I don't think that's an unusual trait in our time. The landscape (both physical and otherwise) is dotted with the hulks and remains of follies -- of what must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the resourcing, persistence, and endurance just weren't there. I suppose it's human nature to come up with ideas – and Americans are, after all, “idea people” extraordinaire – but much less common is the ability to accurately count the cost – especially what are called “opportunity costs”, i.e. the things you can't do because you're spending that time doing something else. Most resolutions are neither bad nor foolish; they are simply based on willful ignorance of what it would take to actually carry them out. Call it over-optimism... call it delusion... but we could avoid a lot of guilt and self-incrimination if we never overreached in the first place.

But! Having said all that, I will, nonetheless, offer a proposal to anyone who is shopping around for a resolution. You may think your life cannot be improved on, and have therefore despaired of coming up with any meaningful resolution. But, like any good marketer, I can offer you something you didn't know you needed. And I got the idea from none other than the old hippie guru Timothy Leary, who advised us to “Tune in, turn on, drop out” (not necessarily in that order). But how does this advice to furry freaks and acidheads of the 1960s apply to us today? Watch and learn...

TUNE IN: First of all, “tune in” to what's really wrong with this country. And that involves, above all, turning off the mainstream media, AKA the Ministry of Propaganda. All they want you to do is believe that things are just groovy... or that the minor problems that do exist can be readily remedied if only we allow government to grow even larger (completely ignoring the fact that the vast bulk of the problems were caused by big government). And by “mainstream media”, I don't only mean what “conservatives” usually mean, which is the liberal media which constitute the overwhelming majority of the mainstream. No, I also mean the loyal opposition – the supposed “conservatives” like the FOX Network, the Washington Times, etc. that are content with twiddling around at the margins of some issues, but are never willing to attempt any major surgery. The best evidence for this is that the liberal and “conservative” media are pretty much in agreement when it comes to foreign policy – one area where the misdeeds and folly of the government are most blatantly on display. And yet they all seem to think that everything's just peachy in that department.

So yes, don't listen to, or watch, or attend to in any way, the MSM, or its alleged counterparts, unless it's in preparation for a battle of ideas. And this would include virtually all TV networks, radio stations, and newspapers, and the vast majority of magazines. So where is the truth to be found these days? Well, on the Internet, for starters, and we can all be eternally grateful that something that was invented by the Defense Department has turned into such a useful tool for the political counterculture (I mean the real one, not the frauds like the Occupy movement). There is a certain delicious irony in that.

Now, when I cite the Internet, and the odd print media, and the even odder electronic media, as potential sources of truth, I know I'm introducing a virtually infinite array of possibilities. And when it comes to the question of “what's wrong”, there is a wide expanse, or spectrum, of opinion, ranging from the mildest right up to militant conspiracy theories, anarchism, what have you. So how to choose? What's the average citizen to do? In the old days, you might have one or two newspapers to choose from, and three virtually identical TV networks... and a handful of virtually identical news magazines. Were those really simpler times, or did the limited choices just make it seem that way? There were voices of opposition and protest even then... and some have vanished, others have been co-opted, and others are alive and well, if virtually underground. In fact, it's ironic in a way that the “old left” media have gradually been absorbed by the mainstream media blob, which means that most of the alternatives are either radical newish left, or paleoconservative (the Neocons being the main segment of the “loyal opposition” as discussed above). And I suppose, in a sense, this is the way it always has to be – the spectrum (or political bell curve) gradually shifts leftward, carrying the majority of the unthinking masses with it... and only the most radical “eggheads” have the courage and persistence to stay outside the blob, either on the left or the right. It's hard work these days being a true leftist, for instance, since the president, who has all sorts of claims to being a leftist, is acting like some fascist puppet the Nazis would have installed if they'd won the war. On the other hand, it's fairly easy to be a paleoconservative, since all one has to do is adopt the positions of mainstream Republicans of 60 or so years ago, as exemplified by Robert Taft. Another way of putting this is that there is a lot more room on the right than on the left these days... and, of course, there is all sorts of room on the libertarian side, whereas the collectivists and totalitarians have to be feeling a bit claustrophobic, since there are so many of them and they are all crammed into the same box.

But to return to the question – what to do? Where to go? And what I say is, start reading, start thinking, start surfing the Net on topics you're interested in. When you run across people and ideas that make sense, explore further, and never mind the ceaseless propaganda that portrays them as “nuts”, “crazy”, “haters”, “radical right-wing”, “conspiracy theorists”, and what not. Bear in mind that the establishment – the ruling elite – want, more than anything else, to retain the power they have and to increase it – and they have enlisted the media to aid them in that quest. Therefore, anything the media present in the way of “news” or “information” or “data” is designed to support that. Not to support liberty, or true education, or individual freedom – only to support the interests of the Regime. In fact, one can do worse than study who the MSM really have it in for (Ron Paul comes to mind), and then try and figure out why. The results can be very enlightening.

Let me go a bit further with this. I say don't believe the propaganda, but also don't accept the media's notions of what's important and what isn't... of what constitutes “news” and what doesn't. They not only put their own “spin” on stories, they also decide what stories are worth reporting – and that also falls under the heading of “supporting the Regime”. Look no further than the virtual news blackout on the Ron Paul campaign for evidence of this. But also, consider that no one in the MSM ever seriously questions the “two-party system” that has wrought so much destruction over the years. They never question the “War on Drugs” -- or any other war, for that matter. They never question the existence, or actions, of the Federal Reserve, or the IRS. I could go on, but you get the idea. The key is to assume nothing, when they want you to assume everything. To accept nothing and to question everything -- this is the truly radical position, which our so-called “leftists” these days are absolutely averse to. They sport bumper stickers that say “Question Authority”, but they are, in fact, the last people on earth to do so. Authoritarianism is not – nor was it ever – the exclusive province of the right, or of “fascists”; that in itself is left-wing propaganda of the first order. Any form of unthinking loyalty to a political party, a political cause, or even a nation, qualifies as authoritarianism, and should be subject to repeated hard questioning.

So... erase what's in your mind. Become pure... childlike. I'm serious! Be like the five-year-old who never tires of asking “why”, or the 14-year-old who says “prove it!” every five minutes. Skepticism is the one thing most lacking in the American character – although I dare say it was not always so. We supposedly escaped Old Europe and sailed over here on leaky boats to escape tyranny and dogmatism – and yet have established a more comprehensive system of both, sporting our own brand. And this is one of the countless things that should be questioned: It's “the American century”? Prove it! Our brand of “democracy” is the best model for governments world-wide, regardless of geography, economics, religion, culture, custom, tradition? Prove it! We are the “last, best hope of mankind”? Prove it! Because our actions demonstrate anything but. We go over to places like Vietnam, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, and start acting just like Vietnamese, or Iraqis, or Afghans – or worse. We “go native”, in other words – aided and abetted by technology.

So don't drink the Kool-Aid, as the saying goes... don't become a mind-numbed robot, or a complacent, obedient serf. “Rage against the machine!” There is all sorts of talk about “minority rights”, but what about “majority rights” -- i.e. the rights of the ordinary, average, halfway-decent citizen against those who want to control his every thought and movement, and turn him into some sort of android?

TURN ON: What I mean by this is to “turn on” to the alternatives – because, as people keep nagging the Occupy crowd about, “what's your plan?” I mean, it's one thing to point out things that aren't right – and that's a perfectly healthy first stage in the dialogue. But sooner or later people are going to want a plan. And the problem is that a fairly clear vision of what's wrong doesn't necessarily yield up a clear or workable plan. After all, even Karl Marx had a lot of insight into what was wrong with the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe – but his solution, his alternative, left something to be desired, as was so convincingly (to everyone but American academics) demonstrated decades later.

The most simplistic, perhaps, version of “the plan” is to just go back to the way America was before... you pick the catastrophe of your choice. Before the New Deal... before the Federal Reserve and the income tax... before the “robber barons”... before the Civil War... whatever. Everyone has their own idea about when America was still “OK” -- before it started downhill. (For my money, the War of 1812 was our last “just war”, so the slide happened somewhere between then and the Civil War. But that's just me.)

The problem with coming up with a plan – even in retrospect – is that there were built-in flaws present from the beginning, in our country's foundation. There was the moral, philosophical, and spiritual burden of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, which had a profound impact on our founders, on our founding documents, and on our “origin myths”. There was also – not unrelated by any means – the baleful influence of Freemasonry. There was our Puritan heritage, which, among other things, dictated that the Catholic Church was anathema, and that the truth was not in it – including its very valuable social teachings. There was our tradition of Protestant zeal and fanaticism, which impacts our foreign policy to this day – and, on the domestic side, a tradition of Utopianism, which impacts our domestic policy, and has at least since the Progressive era.

So the dilemma – in theory, of course – is, can America be re-made or do we just have to start over? Can we salvage anything from the ruins? Because if not, we are set back, on almost all fronts, more than 200 years. My modest suggestion for our thinking is that we adopt – at least on a tentative basis – the outline and basic structure that is represented by the Constitution, with improvements as needed (ones Justice Scalia and Ron Paul might agree with)... and then embellish that with Catholic social teaching, particularly in the economic area, like distributism and subsidiarity... but also with Catholic teaching on “just war”, which, if it had been put into practice 150 years ago, could have helped us avoid most of the catastrophes which have befallen this country.

My personal dilemma in all of this is that I consider myself to be a paleoconservative, and also a libertarian, and also a supporter of Catholic social teaching... and I'm convinced that, somewhere out there in n-space, there is a place where the three meet and can get along without falling into disharmony and fisticuffs. My solution, from day to day, is to adopt a kind of “shell” approach, with the libertarian model being the first, or outer shell... and the rule is to use libertarian principles as a baseline “unless proven otherwise”. The middle shell is paleoconservatism, which is more of a political model than a set of principles, although it overlaps with libertarianism to a surprising degree, the main differences being centered on Christian morality, which libertarians would typically not have much interest in. Morality, as in “ethics”, yes; “Christian” per se, no. So that's where I have to make a break with strict libertarianism, at least as far as genuine Christian morality goes – by which I mean to exclude such ephemera and crazes as the War on Drugs, unquestioning support for Israel, etc. Those are examples of things that are often presented as moral issues, but which are, by and large, political or just plain neurotic in nature. Then we have the inner shell, namely Catholic social teaching, which cannot be described as “Christian” if that includes Protestantism and the “Protestant ethic”, social Darwinism, etc. So basically, it's a good day when I come up with an idea that is consistent with all three lines of thought – and I have my work cut out for me when it violates one or two out of the three.

Part of this approach – at least for me – is reading books and articles by the few people in our day who think clearly. This would include, for instance, Thomas Sowell, Justice Antonin Scalia, Walter Williams (economist), Joseph Sobran (recently deceased), and Pat Buchanan – also print media like The American Conservative, Chronicles, and The Wanderer (Catholic weekly newspaper). Then if you want to go back down memory lane a bit, there's G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. But avoid the Neocons and their various organs like the plague, because that's what they are. Ditto “liberal Catholics”, “progressives”, socialists (needless to say), etc.

And I don't say that everyone ought to adopt this approach; by no means. It is, I admit, a bit wonkish and egghead-esque. But on some level everyone has to decide what they believe, “in their heart” as Goldwater might have said, and how that ought to apply to the ways of the world. Otherwise we're all living in separate cocoons, and are ripe for exploitation by the people who do think about these things, and come up with answers that are evil, but they work... at least in the short run.

DROP OUT: Now we get to the tough part, because it involves that which we value most, namely our creature comforts and convenience. And I do not present myself as a model for this variable, since I am probably as addicted to my “stuff”, and technology, as most people. But it goes back to questioning, once again, the propagandists' line about how we ought to live – as “good citizens”, “voters”, “consumers”, and unquestioning slaves to any idea or program the Regime decides to impose on us. You can stay in the thick of things – in the midst of the battle, like Richard III in the Shakespeare play – or you can draw back, with the thought that with a certain distance comes freedom... freedom to think, and to reassert your individuality – two human rights that are scarcely mentioned per se in the founding documents, but which are always implied. For was this nation not founded on the assumption that its citizens would be thinking individuals? (And wasn't that assumption a bit far-fetched, at least in retrospect?) There is always the risk of confusing “thinking” with “ideas”. But in fact, some ideas – like communism – are so seductive, so appealing to our lower nature, that they cause all further thought to cease. In fact, I would go so far as to say that a person with only a single idea is not thinking at all; only by means of comparison of ideas – not only initially but as part of an ongoing process – can we claim that thinking is taking place.

In any case, what I want to suggest is that each of us, to the extent of our abilities and inclinations, “drop out” as much as possible from the servitude that the Regime expects of us. Get out of the matrix; pry that mind-control metal plate out of your skull.

This would include, for instance, not going into unsecured debt (or even better, no debt at all) except in the very short run. An example is the popular, but largely ignored, advice, “pay off all your credit cards each month”. But consider – what is the real engine of the Regime, of our rulers and oppressors? It's debt, and that means our debt, and that means what is euphemistically termed “consumer debt”. Get rid of that and you get rid of one of the major hooks that the Regime has in each one of us.

Another thing – boycott the mainstream media. Don't watch the shows, don't buy the papers and magazines. The sponsors will notice, believe me.

Don't support the “agents of change” who continually burrow into the body politic like a plague of termites. Whenever you have an opportunity to support “public education” and the social work establishment, don't do it. “Just say no.”

Like distributism? Then keep your money in small banks and credit unions, and to hell with Wall Street. Give to charity rather than voting for government social programs. Invest in real things, not just paper.

Like subsidiarity? Then support local governments and their span of control, as opposed to state governments, and support state governments over the federal government. Also, try and support local merchants; I know the “big box” stores are tempting, but they are soulless. Anything that drives people off the land and into big cities is highly suspect.

Don't invest in businesses that do bad things. Don't invest in mutual funds that invest in those businesses. And so on.

On a slightly more radical side, try to become self-supporting in ways other than simply earning a wage. One book that I've found quite inspiring in this area is “Better Off” by Eric Brende.

You don't have to rage against the machine in the streets, with pitchforks and torches. Yes, there is a place for that, but there is also a place for more subtle sabotage. What if, for instance, everyone just held on to their car for one more year before trading it in? Imagine the rolling impact that would make.

Why do Americans, who are known, supposedly, for their feistiness, willingly put up with all sorts of inconveniences, insults, and barriers to living a serene life? As the hippies used to say, “shoot your television”. Just start turning things off! Incessant noise is a time-honored brainwashing device, and don't think that's not one reason why we encounter it in a daily basis.

Try, just once, to cut down on the artificial – foods, clothes, smells, tastes, materials, and so on. These things blunt our senses and separate us from nature and from our natural survival instincts (which is, of course, one reason why they are pushed so hard by the system). And BTW, this includes air conditioning.

Embrace the classics – and I don't just mean books; also movies, art, architecture, drama, music... stuff that was done by men who knew they were men, and women who knew they were women. Yes, I mean that. I doubt if there is anything more demoralizing or alienating than this repeated (by the media etc.) mantra, “we're all the same”, when anyone with a grain of sense knows different. We have this hoax called “diversity” as a flavorless, nutrient-free substitute for real, meaningful differences among people and among groups – things that really deserve to be celebrated, but are now suppressed.

Don't be a “consumer”; be a frugal user. And most of all, take a vow of abstinence when it comes to “fashion”. What has the “metrosexualizing” of our society ever done for anyone except people selling things that no one really needs? And I'm all for real diversity and self-expression and all that, but have you had a look at what passes for “public art” these days? It's enough to make you want to go back to the Art Deco era with those allegorical statues around the Mall in Washington, DC, where everyone's neck is bigger than their head.

Assume that anything the Regime, by way of the media and the “entertainment” industry, tells you is not important is, in fact, important. This would include religion, family, ethnicity, and – yes – race, in the good, constructive sense. Prefer patriotism (genuine pride in place and heritage) to nationalism (a hoax, by and large). And above all, be unashamed. Shame has been brought back from the grave and has been turned into one of the principal motivators (or de-motivators) in American society – shame, and guilt... for being who we are, for being the way we were born. It's all designed to make the masses feel penitential (in a bad way) and dependent on the government for validation.

“Support the troops” by bringing them home and keeping them here. What if we defended our southern border with 1% of the resources we pour into the Middle East?

Try to avoid, or at least not totally buy into, any of the major rackets of our time. This would include conventional medicine and “health care”, processed food, “agribusiness”, “big pharma”, televangelists, professional sports (full disclosure: Go Steelers!), fashion (as I said above)... anything, in fact, that tries to separate us from our hard-earned money (and time); anything that requires us to trade our birthright for a mess of pottage.

See how simple it is – or can be? No one piece of this is all that radical, but add it all up, and let enough people do it, and there's a possibility we can reclaim some of what we've lost... or, better yet, stake a claim on something new... something that is alive, and not rooted in any of the many American mass neuroses. If this is truly the land of opportunity, it should also be the the land of opportunity to overthrow much of what has gone before – not our true and valid heritage, but all of the sick and perverse accretions that have built up over the years. But it can only happen if we, on some level and each in our own way, “tune in, turn on, and drop out” -- and it can only happen one individual at a time.