Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Creeping Terror

Generally regarded as one of the worst sci-fi/horror movies ever made (and a favorite among Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans), this title keeps coming to mind as I survey the vast array of presidential candidates from both “major” parties. There is a certain inevitability (that word again!) about it all, as if the populace is helpless in the face of an unknown entity that threatens to annihilate everything in its path – that is, in fact, already annihilating everything in its path in terms of logic and reason. On the one side we have the Hillary juggernaut, amply funded by the very people she pretends to oppose in favor of “regular folks”... and Bernie Sanders, an unrepentant socialist, who at least has some things to say worth listening to regarding the system and its deformed offspring. And on the other side, we have the Republicans, who have quaffed deeply of neocon Kool-Aid (Rand Paul having taken at least an occasional sip) and who promise to, on their first day in office, bomb Iran back to the Jazz Age if not earlier, all on account of Iran's bad taste in holding on to those American hostages for – what intriguing number was it? -- 444 days. (I guess if you multiplied by 1.5 you'd get 666, which is enough to put the Evangelicals into an even greater tizzy than they are chronically in.) Lost in the shuffle are the libertarians and paleocons, who have not given up the fight but who must be feeling the pangs of despair more and more often. (They want to “take the country back” -- but for whom? Most people don't want it back.)

And then, just to spice things up a bit, we have the Republicans squealing like stuck pigs over the Iran “deal” (which I think may be reasonably prudent, given the alternatives) -- and stony silence from those Democrats who grew up with the notion that Israel is the be-all and end-all of liberalism. (I remember that, in my ultra-liberal college, the stated goal of nearly everyone after graduation was to either move to New York City or “goworkonakibbutz” -- that latter being invariably said that way, as if it was all one word.) And in the meantime, Obama is, at long last, channeling himself as the young, radical community organizer he once was, finally setting a few captives – i.e. prisoners – free... better late than never, I say, but why wait so long? And then we have the marijuana legalization, or semi-legalization, issue, which to mainstream Republicans is the equivalent of opening the gates of the asylum and letting all the crazies out... committed as they are to the belief that marijuana is the greatest threat of all time to Western Civilization. (Well, OK, maybe second to communism, but nowadays it's the greatest, since communism is now on life support in most places outside of college and university campuses.)

Hillary promises to fix all of this, to be sure – but she can't talk too loud because the White House is occupied by a member of her party... unjustly, of course, because she should, by rights, have been nominated in 2008 and, by now, be the undisputed Dowager Empress and Suzerain of the Known Universe and Regions Yet to be Discovered. I've said it before, but it bears repeating – it's going to be interesting to see what happens when she takes office in January 2017 and gets what I call “the talk” that lets every new president know who's really in charge. Does she rebel? Go public? Nah – she'll be a good and faithful servant of the Regime, as ever, albeit with a bit of token grumbling and foot-dragging. And yes, I know she was “co-president” for 8 long years, but that's still not the same thing as being commander-in-chief. (“First ladies” don't get sufficient credit for their unofficial roles – I admit it. The only thing that saved Bill Clinton's administration from even greater notoriety was that Hillary was always willing to take the reins on those occasions when Bill was missing in action, which was – let's admit – quite a bit of the time.)

But that's all down the road. We still have 18 months to watch the antics of Obama & Co., and – to give credit where credit is due – he's acting like anything but a lame duck. And I have to confess – hold on to your hats! -- I actually like him better than at least half of his predecessors, i.e. the ones I remember, starting with Ike. Of course he's a pure politician – I mean, who talks about the Republican candidates in East Africa? Can those people even find the U.S. on a map? I doubt it – but at least he's showing some spirit. He's turning gray – who wouldn't? -- but is still slim and trim. And he doesn't act the least bit defeated by circumstances – a bit frustrated at times, and you can see that every time he does that closed-mouth, lip-puffing thing – and, I suspect, his post-presidential career will probably be interesting... more interesting, certainly, than that of Silent George. (It's been said that Carter was our worst president, but is our best former president – hard to prove for certain, but it's an interesting point.) (And as for Bill Clinton... well, where's the Rat Pack when we really need them? Scooby-dooby-do and all that.) (Frank, Dean, Sammy, Joey, Peter, and Bill – talk about a dream team!)

And then we have the military, and I don't think they've quite adjusted to the idea of perpetual war as yet. I mean, war is good business – it's good for “manpower” allocations, budgets, etc., but there's always this lingering feeling that a war is something that one must win, not simply engage in with no goals or exit criteria. Military people are trained to win – to keep their eyes on the prize. “Mission accomplished” doesn't mean having started a campaign; it means having successfully completed it. And yet they see that our military engagements drag on endlessly... and they start to suspect (correctly) that this is intentional. After all, the right people are making enormous amounts of money from it all, and the last thing they want is for peace to break out. Every president, or presidential candidate, wants to be a “war president”, besides which Congress has completely given over its war powers to the executive branch, at the behest of the “defense” industries. War is the health of the state, as has been said – but what was not said, in so many words, was that perpetual war is even better than intermittent war. And the best way to guarantee that a war will be endless is to assign no criteria by which to end it. “Oh, not over yet? Guess we have to stay.” Aiding this newfound mind-set is the ingenious notion of fighting not a nation, or a group of nations, but an abstraction – namely “terror”.  How do you kow when you've defeated "terror"?  You don't, because you can't -- it's impossible.  How does one defeat a feeling -- an emotion?  And yet that's what we're committed to do, and the military has to feel the absurdity from time to time, if only as something lurking in the shadows.  

So the military is stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. They want to be useful, but every assignment is fraught with futility – it has an aura of doom. If anyone in the Pentagon were old enough to remember that there is a difference between “defense” and war in pursuit of empire, it would be one thing – but no one does, and if you brought it up you'd be dismissed as some kind of nut. The military mind-set is that anything they do is “defense” by definition, even though they call themselves “warriors” much more often than “defenders”. In this sense, their instincts are actually superior to their ideas. They know, on some deep level, what it is to fight for something of value – but can't explain to themselves or to anyone else why all of their battles seem to have no purpose that makes any sense. Their willingness to follow orders – essential in times of real war waged by a lawful government – thus winds up clashing with the reality, which is very likely, as I've said before, why PTSD is so common in our time.

But to get back to the election season, which has become as perpetual as war -- the point is that presidents come and go, but history marches on – as often in spite of them as because of anything they allegedly did or didn't do. And this actually provides a ray of hope, if “hope” is the word. The last president with any real power, in my opinion, was LBJ – the last tyrant. Everyone since has been an organization man, ruled by polls, committees, and devious underlings. And, of course, by the bureaucracy, which has all the momentum, and all the brains, of a slow-moving mud slide. And I don't know, quite honestly, which came first – the obsolescence of the presidency or the emergence of the corporate state; I suspect it was a kind of creeping symbiosis. Nature abhors a vacuum, as they say – and when the White House contains a vacuum something else will come along to take its place. Of course, no president wants to think of himself (“him” still applies at this point) as a mere figurehead or face in a suit occupying a ceremonial office; they are all obsessed with that thing called “legacy”, and it almost doesn't matter whether it's good or bad; the main thing is that there is one. They all want to have a “presidential library” somewhere out in the boonies that no one ever bothers to visit. It's kind of pathetic, really – but it's about all we have to offer any more. The real legacy – for any of them – is the corporate takeover of the government – you know, that thing that Ike warned us about, even though it had, arguably, already been going on for quite a while – dating back to at least the Civil War. One can blame this partly on the flawed structure of our system, but I think the bulk of the blame goes to plain old human nature. What did Nietzsche say was the primary motivator of the human species? Sex, a la Freud? Money, a la Marx? No – the will to power. Pure, raw power over the lives of one's fellow man. It's been said that New York is a money town, and D.C. is a power town – not that the two aren't fungible to some extent, but the emphasis is accurate. People go to D.C. because of the magnetic, Svengali-like attraction of power... and if they also wind up rich, well, that's a fringe benefit. There are better places to acquire fast money than D.C., if that's what you want (just ask Trump).

But then we have to consider that all of this seductive power is, by and large, illusory. It only lasts as long as one is in office, after which you become a slightly glorified nobody. And they all know this, or should – but it doesn't matter. A day in the sun is all they ask, and it seems to be enough – no one ever expresses regrets down the road. (This could be about cognitive dissonance too, of course.)

And yes, it's tempting to just sit back and let history take its course – sit under one's vine and fig tree and pronounce curses on all their parties. And that might reflect a healthy sense of priorities, but it might also reflect despair. “Heading for the hills”, either literally or figuratively, is a perfectly understandable reaction to current events, and I blame no one who does it. My personal preference is to hang around and be a “nattering nabob of negativism”, as Spiro Agnew famously said, even though there is a fine line, at times, between constructive criticism and just plain griping. Even conspiracy theories may be subsumed under the heading of “history” -- i.e. this is the way things are and have always been, and, as far as we know, will always be. Politics is the art of doing, on occasion, the right things for the wrong reasons, or – more often – the wrong things for the wrong reasons. A wise man or philosopher among politicians comes along once in a lifetime – one thinks of Daniel Moynihan, for example – but they are quickly shouted down by the rabble and by the mass (well-named) media. The average politician is no better than his constituents – and worse in some ways. And yet he or she has the ability to attract attention and loyalty – at least for a season, after which they wind up on the same ash heap of history as their ideas and failed programs.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Jonesin' for Aliens

Ever on the fringes of legitimate science, but not marginal enough to earn “kook” status, is the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life – particularly “intelligent” life, which I guess means as intelligent as we supposedly are (or, failing that, as intelligent as dolphins or some people's dogs). And it's not an unreasonable topic, or question – and as a scientific quest I imagine it's no more outlandish than many others. But it doesn't end there. The ET crowd is pursuing its goals with an extra-scientific fervor – some might even say “religious”. They are looking fervently for the slightest clue, the most minute indication, that a given planet might have the conditions necessary to support life – although, let's admit, their notions as to what those conditions might be are only modeled on what they know about life on our home planet. Sci-fi writers down through the years have never had any problem positing radically different life forms; in fact, they exist on virtually every sci-fi TV show and in every sci-fi movie. You say you've got a planet with an average daily temperature of 800 degrees, and an atmosphere composed mainly of nitric acid? No problemo, we have a life form for that. How about a planet that goes down to a supercooled minus 200, with no atmosphere at all? Can do! How about one that's all gas, with no solid ground? Piece-a cake. But unfortunately, the grim pronouncements of “real scientists” tend to take the wind out of the sails of the fantasists, even though the “real” guys are not loath to speculate within their own frame of reference.

So what do we have? Vast arrays of data-collection devices, radio telescopes, and space probes all anxiously searching for ET (or something comparatively benign). We have “Trekkies” who have serious boundary problems between their favorite space epic and what's actually happening with the space program (ours, the Russians', or Richard Branson's). And what motivates these people? Is it just scientific curiosity? But they don't seem to be curious about much else – like where their particular obsession came from, for example. I think their motives fall into, basically, three categories:
  1. Longing for a savior/hero/master race/rescue. This would be the familiar mind set that has despaired of the human race's ability, or even its desire, to preserve itself and prevent some sort of inevitable calamity (you can pick from a large list that includes overpopulation, nuclear war, pollution, starvation, global warming, and many more). The notion – so common among humanists (ironically) – is that the human race is fatally flawed, and reprobate... that it represents an evolutionary mistake of the highest order... and that its only salvation would be if a “superior race” descended from on high – i.e. from outer space – to save us from our folly. No “Prime Directive” here, unh-unh – we want them to take over, kick ass and take names, and basically rule us for our own good. (Anyone see some disturbing similarities to Democrat voters here? Or am I just imagining things?)

  2. The great cosmic teacher/mentor. This is the notion that we aren't all that bad off – not hopeless, certainly – but would be much better off if we could only make a few key technological breakthroughs. So this superior race of benign ET's would happily share with us their secrets – like prolonging life, raising more crops on less land, eradicating all disease (both physical and mental), total control over our DNA, eliminating pollution, eliminating war, eliminating “hate”, racism, homophobia, sexism.... well, you get the idea. In short, making the human race no longer human, but angelic (or, more likely, robot-like). And they would expect nothing in return! No sacrifice of our first-born, no slaves, no hostages – just out of the goodness of their hearts (or whatever they have in their place). The assumption, of course, is that any superior race from another planet, solar system, or galaxy is automatically going to be benign and charitable. I'm not sure why this necessarily has to be the case, but there you are – no delusional system is lacking in unproven premises. 

  3. The triumph of materialism. This one is a bit more subtle. The bottom line of this train of thought is: At last, we can throw out the Bible! The human race is no big deal... nothing special... is just one out of, probably, “millions and billions” (channeling Carl Sagan here) of intelligent races in the Universe. And we – this generation – will, hopefully, be there at the beginning – at “first contact” -- not unlike the Indians who were the first to spot Columbus' ships out there in the Caribbean. And who knows, the folks from another planet who discover us might have, themselves, been performing the same search as we – maybe for eons! So the discovery is mutual, and a happy occasion for all, and let's all sit down to Thanksgiving dinner.
So yes, there is a scientific aspect to all of this, but a psychological one as well, and a quasi-spiritual one. A true scientist might play around with all of the probabilities involved, and decide that it's wildly improbable that we're the only intelligent life form in the Universe. But they would also accept the lack of evidence otherwise – at least for the time being. Either our data-collection devices aren't sensitive enough, or there really is no one out there (scary thought!). But they will remain cool-headed about the matter. On the other hand, those with a serious psychological “need” for salvation (in the material sense only) or rescue will be straining at every moment, riveted to the latest “news”, and apt to fall for pretty much any scam that comes along. And then we have the materialists, who will never be satisfied until the human race is put in its place once and for all, and liberated from dreaming, speculation, and superstition. Once we discover we're actually part of a vast intergalactic brotherhood of... well, not “man”, exactly... but of what? Of intelligence? Consciousness? Self-awareness? In any case, it would be humbling. We would have to take our place at the table, and the chances are it would be far below the salt. For after all, who are we? Who the hell do we think we are? We need to be taught a damn good lesson, and if electing Hillary isn't enough, we can always fall back on aliens (or other aliens, rather).

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Trump is a Card

Every presidential election (or primary) needs a clown prince... a court jester... a “fool”. The ones that don't are bland and boring – c'mon, admit it! There's nothing like a “colorful”, if hopeless, candidate to lend color and interest to what is, in our time, a predictably inane process. It sort of calls up what little remains of the American tendency toward crankiness and contrariness – to never quite “behave” in the way expected by our betters.

The one filling the role this time around seems to be Donald Trump, unless another contender appears. What is Trump's sin? Basically, saying what everyone else is thinking but doesn't dare say. This is also known as a “gaffe”, except in Trump's case it is anything but offhand and incidental. While other Republican candidates are walking on eggs, afraid of offending anybody for any reason, Trump is telling it like it is (or like he believes it is), and this has made everyone in the Republican establishment nervous. For, after all, don't we have a long history of third party or quasi-third party candidates acting as “spoilers”? Why, Trump could “blow it” for everyone else – for, that is, the ever-expanding list of Republican candidates, ranging from those who don't stand a chance to those who do stand a chance to be nominated, but don't stand a chance of being elected. The Republican field calls to mind the line in the Aretha Franklin song, “Chain chain chain, chain of fools” -- but at least Trump has decided that he has nothing to lose by saying what he really thinks on various issues. And this is refreshing – just as any instance of wandering off the Regime's reservation is refreshing. That brief, shining moment of “telling it like it is”, to be followed – as always – by the bland, gray, depressing reality of “the new boss, just like the old boss”. Unlike the colorful and picturesque Trump, the gray blandness of Jeb Bush seems ideally suited for the Republican campaign next year – and ideally suited to lose. And, just as with Romney, everyone will be wondering “What happened?” What happened was that you nominated a gray face in a gray suit – poor competition for the Democrats, who seem pretty good at coming up with colorful, if profoundly corrupt, characters. (And maybe the color and the corruption go together; this certainly seems to be what Louisiana voters believed for many decades.)

I discussed “inevitability” in a previous post, referring especially to Hillary Clinton. She is, basically, poised to eat any and all Republican candidates for lunch, no matter their support, funding, or how they appear in the polls. The reasons are quite simple. She has demographics on her side. She has close to fifty percent of the citizenry (and non-citizens) who will vote Democratic no matter what, and she also has a party that is highly skilled and experienced in stealing elections (despite their disgraceful failures in 2000 and 2004). Plus, her constituency is the very segment of the American population that is increasing in number (despite her support for abortion on demand – a convenient irony, if you will), whereas the Republican constituency is the segment that is decreasing, and on the path to ultimate extinction. So yes, the Republicans remain a factor in state and local elections, but they are “history” when it comes to the presidency. And I'm not saying that this is either a bad or a good thing – it's just the way things are. After all, haven't the Republicans successfully taken over the Democrat mantle as “the war party”? And aren't they co-conspirators in virtually every attempt to increase the size and scope of government? The only thing lacking among the Republicans is “compassion” -- for aliens, minorities (both racial and sexual), the disenfranchised, women, and all other certified victim groups. They are, basically, standing in the way of socialist Utopia, where all will be liberated, free, and not threatened by expressions of “hate”, “triggers”, and “micro-aggression”. Who could possibly object to that?

Yes, I know – some of you are still worried about the Democrats/liberals/socialists gnawing away at the fabric of society... making America something other than what is once was... reducing us to second-class citizenship in the world... and so on. All I have to say about that is that, from the very founding, this country was sitting on a time bomb of its own making – a world view characterized by materialism, secularism, and “humanism”. The United States of America was intended to be a Masonic Utopia, which it was, I suppose, for a season (at least until Andrew Jackson appeared on the scene). But then strange, threatening things started to happen. We had the influx of Irish Catholics fleeing the Famine (which was, at least indirectly, an expression of British colonial policy). Then we had liberated blacks after the Civil War. Then we had the vast numbers of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe in the late 1800s. And so on. How are you supposed to have, and maintain, a WASP Utopia if you also have open borders (not to mention industrialists who need cheap labor)? (If this sounds familiar, that's because it is.) So the original intent of America was compromised – not from the start, but soon after. We had to tolerate all of this rabble... these Catholics... these garlic-eaters... in order to, somehow, keep the American Experiment on track. So America became diversified, and “multi-” pretty much everything. But the old guard remained in charge, for generations... and yet now even that dominance is starting to weaken. (A corporate CEO these days is just as likely to have an Italian, Arab, or Indian name as an old-line Yankee name. Most of the Huntington Biffington IV's are now in the State Department, where they can pursue their elitist and basically brain-dead (due to inbreeding) lifestyle free from the unwashed who lack Ivy League diplomas and trust funds.)

Let's not get too excited about this, though. White guys are still in charge – maybe not WASPs in the strict sense, but certainly following in their footsteps. “Honorary WASPs”, let's call them. And you might say -- “But, but – don't we have a black president?” Yeah, right. Have you noticed that, despite all of the populist rhetoric, he remains an abject servant of Wall Street and the money power? And anyone who follows him will suffer the same fate; they wouldn't be allowed to take office if they weren't already completely co-opted. Sure, they're allowed to talk populist talk, but when it comes to the bottom line, they follow orders from the corporate and banking world, the armaments makers, the EU, and Israel, which together constitute what I call the Cabal. (If you are thinking, “Why didn't he include the Evangelicals?” it's because they are hapless dupes, and not really in charge of anything. Their alleged political power is illusory; they serve as a cheering section and nothing more.)

This is simply the way things are, and it's useless to fight it, or pretend things are any other way. After all, there are worse things than living under the rule of the Cabal, or Regime. (Anyone for the Khmer Rouge? How about the Red Guard? The Cheka? Let's be thankful for small favors.)

Yes, it's true that our Masonic Utopia, which seems to be slowly turning into green slime like some monster in a horror film, is not the worst of all possible worlds. Catholics, in particular, have to be satisfied with being second-class citizens, but maybe it's better than being a first-class citizen in Sicily, who knows? The point – for people who consider themselves “persons of principle” rather than “pragmatists” -- is not just standard of living or quality of life, but a real, profound sense of freedom. Do we have it, or is it just an illusion? Are we skating on thin ice all of the time, only pretending that it's something solid? It's easy enough to find out the answer when some government agency like the IRS or the EPA knocks on your door – then you find out you don't have any more rights than some hapless citizen in a totalitarian society.

But if freedom is an illusion, does that mean that freedom at all times and in all places is an illusion? Does it mean that we were never free? I think it means that if, on any given day, you can do pretty much as you please as long as it doesn't harm others, you are free in fact if not in principle. I doubt if the citizens of any society, past or present, have ever been free in principle – there are always restrictions, and not only “reasonable” ones but ones designed to perpetuate the power structure. One might say that if there is a power structure – that is, if the society is anything but purely anarchistic – that is, if it's a coherent “society” at all – that that power structure will seek to perpetuate itself and increase its power. This is, it seems, inevitable – and it may be one (or the main) reason why, with a relatively ancient continuum of government, we find ourselves where we are today. Historically, 239 years is not a long time – but for a single system, government, or regime, it's a very long time – time enough for anything with a half-life to have decayed into nothingness. Any governmental system, no matter how well-intentioned or originally benign, will tend to accrete power unto itself, and what this implies is that there is a natural life expectancy to any form of government, after which it ceases to be based on principles and winds up based solely on politics and raw power. And it's not as if we didn't have ample precursors to this in our history, starting with the Civil War or before. It's just that, for whatever reason, the decline has been slow (agonizingly so, according to the radicals). It was about culture and moral habits, which served us well in the past, but which are now being overcome, and again, there is an air of inevitability about it all. Could this Utopia have gone on forever? Perhaps it was just too contrary to human nature. In any case, the emperor has now been exposed in all of his naked splendor – starting with, I would say, Vietnam. If we are sustaining ourselves more and more on illusion and less and less on reality, then it's really just a matter of time before the entire structure comes crashing down, and the time for illusions is over.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Greece on the Skids

It's all a scam, basically. No, I don't just mean the Greek economic “crisis”; I'm talking about the European Union economic plan. The idea was, allegedly, all about strength in unity... providing economic and trade commonality and cooperation... having a single currency and no customs regulations (for ease of trade and travel)... standing up to the economic colossi of the U.S., Russia, and China... and giving the European countries a good reason not to go to war with each other... and maybe, just maybe, on rare occasions, helping out members in need – you know, temporarily, until they got back on their feet.

OK, that all sounded pretty good back then. Finally, a united Europe! An Unholy Roman Empire, if you will. We could all agree with that. All of the rough edges would be filed down, historical resentments would be smoothed over, religion would be ignored, and Europe would enter a new age that the empire builders of old could only dream of. And best of all, nations and peoples would cease being so damned different – they would cease being themselves. Germans would no longer be Germans, Greeks would no longer be Greeks, and so on. Oh sure, a bit of sterile “diversity”, like the kind we – ahem – enjoy over here would be permitted, but no real differences – nothing that might lead to resentment, hostility, and war.

But that wasn't the real plan, was it? Now it's becoming more clear with each passing day that the main agenda was to, basically, put the northern and western nations (AKA Germany, with help from the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg) in charge of all of Europe (or as much as the Russians would tolerate) and, basically, enslave the less economically-sound, chaotic, misgoverned, and foolish countries to the south (plus Ireland). (Not to mention, all Catholic or Orthodox. What a coincidence!) It was to be, in short, the Fourth Reich – a new German Empire – not overtly military this time (unless you include NATO) but purely economic, with politics the abject servant of economics.

And how was this enslavement to be accomplished? Much as the pusher enslaves the junkie – give him free stuff to start with, then start to raise the price. Before you know it, he's working entirely for you, and not for himself or his family. The EU raised the price on Greece and others by gradually turning the freebies into loans, for such things as elaborate social programs (including retirement benefits). And did those mendicant countries count the cost? Of course not – like credit card junkies, they were content to wait until the bill arrived, if ever, then only pay the minimum, if that. Those countries hopped aboard the gravy train, assuming that this was the way things really were in the world... they could now have their piece of the pie... their share in the new prosperity... and the bill would never come due. It was magical thinking, basically – but they were never disabused of such by those in charge, any more than a payday loan operation is scrupulous about truth in lending.

Another tack was to expect the governments of the “PIIGS” to naturally fall into line, and start to function in the same cold, rational fashion as the governments of the north, with zero or at least minimum corruption and racketeering. This, of course, was known to be impossible, but the attempt would further weaken the ne'er-do-well countries and accelerate their rush into dependence.

And I'm sure there were many other aspects to this scam as well. But the point is, the Greek “crisis” is no surprise to anyone. It is, in fact, part of the plan – or, let's say, a very small extrapolation of the plan. And so it can't really be called a “crisis”, any more than when we have an alleged “Constitutional crisis”; all it means is that those in charge have to actually go back and read the Constitution for once, in order to find out what to do next.

Besides, I fail to see how the failure of a single, non-illustrious member constitutes an existential threat to the EU. Think about a tree with a dead or rotten branch -- what's best for the tree and for its future health, leaving the branch there or cutting it off? So why shouldn't that apply to this case as well? Far from a threat, you'd think that getting rid of a, basically, parasitic member would strengthen the EU – and, by extension, stock markets both there and over here. Instead, everyone is in panic – or pretending to be.

And that brings up another aspect to all of this which should not escape our attention. The styling of all of this as a “crisis” may be part of still another scam – namely using it as an excuse for a broader financial upheaval, similar to our “Great Recession”. I mean, let's face it, the Greek economy is no more than a blip on the EU's radar, not to mention ours. They could default tomorrow and it would have a minor impact – the way the sub-prime mortgage crash here would have been a minor thing except that it was used as an alibi for everything that happened from then on (up to the present day, in fact). What I'm driving at is that we'll see just how important the Greek situation is by the reaction to it – it is reasonable, and measured, or is it an exercise in hysteria and fear-mongering? If the latter, you'll know that something much bigger is in the works, and that whatever it is was always part of the plan. It just took the failure of a profligate and woebegone nation to provide the rationale.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

You Were a Grand Old Flag

I have to admit, I've long been puzzled by the fact that, with the ascent of Obama to the highest office in the land, racial strife did not immediately cease the minute he took office. Because that was the promise – one of many – that we were given. All it would take to move seamlessly into a “post-racial” society was to elect The First Black President. And yet it didn't happen; in fact, things are starting to feel more and more like the late 1960s around here – more race consciousness, more division, more hostility, more alienation. Clearly something was missing. But now, at long last, we have an answer – it was That Flag. As long as the Confederate flag (battle flag, whatever) waved in the breeze anywhere in the country, we were doomed to suffer the effects of residual racism, no matter the good intentions of the president. But now that said flag has been banned, and is no more welcome than the swastika in present-day Germany, our troubles should now be over, because, as we all now know, flags have a hypnotic effect on people. They can turn otherwise sensible people into mass murderers. They are more than a mere symbol; they are an icon... a fetish... a “trigger”. And, as we also now know, there is nothing more dangerous to the mental health of the citizenry and the well-being of society than “triggers”, which, along with “micro-aggression”, can render people either homicidal, or helpless, or both. Our college campuses seem to be overrun these days with quivering little people who ooze around like eggs without shells, just waiting for the next traumatic event to render them even more helpless. They are even being offered sheltered recovery areas, complete with mood music, teddy bears, and binkies.

And this in itself is a mystery. After all, aren't all of these people products of the public schools, which offer a steady diet of liberal propaganda and historical revisionism that favors – nay, encourages – nay, demands – allegiance to “diversity”, and “tolerance”, and niceness, and sensitivity? Shouldn't those motives add to one's strength, resistance, and intestinal fortitude, rather than hopelessly compromising them? And yet the very opposite seems to be the case – all of which reflects the gradual conditioning and transformation of the populace into an infantile state where they will all be willing subjects of a totalitarian regime. Yes, everything is going according to plan.

But to get back to the flag issue – what do flags mean, anyway? What to they represent? What do they symbolize? The answers, I suspect, are as varied as the people to wave, carry, or display flags. In the case of the Confederacy, what we have is – to cut to the chase – the flag of a defeated nation. And this constitutes a stumbling block right off the bat, since the custom in the South has been to never admit defeat, and the custom in the North has been to never acknowledge that the South, i.e. the Confederacy, was ever a nation, even though it had, for those few short years, everything that other nations have.

When I was a kid in upstate New York, the image we had of the South was remarkably consistent – aided, in large part, by history and English classes in the public schools. The South was backward, if not downright primitive... hopelessly nostalgic (Gone with the Wind)... decadent and degenerate (Tennessee Williams)... and just generally weird (Faulkner). Abe Lincoln had taught them a damn good lesson, they had been dragged back into the Union kicking and screaming, and if they didn't like it, well, that was just too bad. And, being a good student and a product of Yankee culture, I pretty much bought the whole package. The first thing that happened that started changing my mind was my encounter with Southern breakfasts when my family started traveling below the Mason-Dixon line. No, really – I kid you not. After my first tastes of grits, country ham, and biscuits and gravy I started to develop a newfound respect for the South – anyone who makes food this good can't be all bad. Then later on there were further enlightenments – Delta blues, Sacred Harp singing, Cajun cooking, catfish, key lime pie, Kentucky bourbon, and so on. Yes, there was a real culture down there – foreign, alien, mysterious in a way, but quite real, and obviously satisfying to the people who lived there. And then I had the audacity to marry a Southerner! It's a wonder I wasn't shunned by my kinfolk.

But this notion of the South – the Confederacy – as a defeated nation just doesn't sit well with... well, with just about anybody. It's much easier to call them “rebels”. But what are rebels, and what is a rebellion? As I understand it, it's an armed uprising with the intent of taking over the government, or at least making a significant change in the government – its form or who's in charge. But the Confederacy never intended to change the government of the United States, much less to take it over. Their campaign was more akin to what we call “separatism”, which is, of course, quite fashionable in these times. Since the Iron Curtain was lifted, we've seen separatist movements of all sorts – some peaceful and relatively painless, others anything but. Example of the former include the breakup of the Soviet Union (with the exception of the Caucuses, where the battle still rages), and the division of Czechoslovakia (back) into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Examples of the latter – much more numerous – include the breakup of Yugoslavia and Sudan. And along the way there have been plenty of dismal failures; can you say Quebec? And then you have the Middle East, which is in throes of would-be Balkanization that would put the Balkans to shame. I would say that separatism is more common in our time than outright revolution.

The favored term for the “late unpleasantness” of 150 years ago, for the victors, is the Civil War. But again, this is a misnomer, because your typical civil war involves opposing forces fighting over the same territory – they both live there, in other words. (Northern Ireland comes to mind, as does Spain in the 1930s, Russia after the Bolshevik revolution, and China on any number of occasions.) Again, one can cut through this Gordian knot by simply allowing that the South seceded, they formed their own nation, and the Union did everything in its power to bring them back into the fold – never mind the reasons or the rationale, which are still being debated. (Was it all about slavery? This is the conventional wisdom in the North, but I consider it more of an aggravating factor, economics being the real driver.) When the South refers to the Civil War, they are more likely to call it the War Between the States, which is certainly accurate enough, and which, in a subtle way, reflects the notion that states were more significant entities than the national government (either one) at the time. (And again, Old Abe pretty much did away with the states as power centers, and anything he failed to accomplish has since been policed up by the Supreme Court, as witness the most recent decision having to do with same-sex marriage.)

And the story is not without its ironies. Once Reconstruction (so-called) died down, Southern politicians managed to become the dominant force in Congress based on seniority, which was, in turn, a cultural phenomenon; it was easier to elect someone to Congress for life in the South than it was in the North. (Eventually, the South also gave us a succession of presidents, about whom the less said the better.) But that's not all. The South, with its military traditions, also turned the U.S. Army into, basically, a Southern institution, which it remains to this day. So they have made their mark, for good or ill.

But about that flag – what does it mean? To Northerners and/or liberals, it signifies, first and foremost, a people and a culture that will not admit defeat, and refuses to be homogenized, absorbed, co-opted, or treated as a mere historical oddity or eccentricity. And that is considered a bad thing. To Southerners, it means the same thing, and that's considered a good thing. Does it really mean “racism” per se? Or slavery? Do Southerners really want to go back to “whuppin' darkies” out in the cotton fields? I find that hard to swallow – but the mainstream media present this as a very real possibility. Or, maybe it just represents “hate” -- that all-purpose abstraction that, along with “terror”, seems to have captured the fevered imagination of the American media and the public at large.

What the establishment is saying, in essence, is this: You lost the war, so admit it, and stop pretending otherwise. Cut out this “the South shall rise again” nonsense. (It already has risen again, in many ways – not least with the help of air conditioning and the unions -- with their strongholds in the North -- that managed to drive so much manufacturing southward.) They (the establishment) are also saying: “Southern culture” is a contradiction in terms, and you'd be much better off if you just gave up that nostalgic nonsense (including, I suppose, moonshine, guns, the Bible, and muscle cars). (After all, didn't Obama himself criticize people who “cling” to guns and the Bible? He didn't have to say “Southerners” because we all know who he meant.)

It is true that “to the victor go the spoils”, and it's amazing to see how long that process takes in actual practice. Where else in the world do you find people who are still P.O.'d about... oh wait, I forgot about Ireland, Ukraine, Armenia, Spain, India & Pakistan, sub-Saharan Africa, Native Americans, etc. The problem is, one people or nation conquers another people or nation, and they refuse to stay conquered. Real, bona fide genocide is a common enough thing, but it always leaves survivors, and those survivors are energized. They have long memories. (Note that the Islamists in the Middle East refer to the U.S. and Europe as “Franks”. That goes back to the Crusades!) The question always for the victors is this: To what degree do we “tolerate” cultural (ethnic, religious, racial) assertiveness on the part of the defeated? Should it be crushed outright, or is it better to allow for safety valves? And does it make sense, after 150 years, to still be stomping on the South for its “racism” and recidivist attitudes? Does it make sense to give rise to another generation of resentment, when things were already going fairly well? These are questions that would test the tolerance of any regime, but in this case nothing must be allowed to get in the way of the long march to totalitarianism, and the South and its flag are clearly stumbling blocks that must be eliminated.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

“Be Not Afraid of Their Fear”

I was struck by the Epistle reading during Mass last Sunday – it's from I Peter iii, verse 14. There are, of course, many translations, but the essence seems to be that succumbing to not just the fear of others but to their own fears is a trap and a hindrance. It is certainly true that (to quote another verse) “sufficient unto the day are the troubles thereof”, i.e we each have plenty of our own problems to worry about without getting drawn into the fears, anxieties, hang-ups, and phobias of others – getting infected, if you will.

And yet what is our society – and the world in general – but a hotbed of fear? And it seems especially accentuated for us, because we have more to lose – materially as well as in world-view terms. But most of it has nothing to do with our personal, direct experience – it is, rather, adopted. It is made part of our belief system, and thus becomes as real to us as an actual direct threat to our lives and well-being.

Now, much has been made of the role of the media in all this. Time was (and I remember) when you had to wait around all day for the evening news on the radio or TV, or the evening paper... or wait overnight for the morning paper. You could then indulge in reacting to the “outside world” for a while, but your everyday affairs still took precedence. But what do we have now? A 24-hour news cycle, hundreds of radio stations, TV channels, and the Internet, to augment the traditional “paper” media which have multiplied as well. And the question arises, or should – how much “news” is too much? Is this “global village” imploding, and collapsing of its own weight – its information overload? Is it really our duty as citizens to keep constant vigil – to be constantly on guard, with a panic button at the ready? Do we have the emotional capacity to “care” about everybody and everything that happens in the entire world? ( is a good example of what happens when someone assumes that we all have the time and energy to attend to all the problems of the entire world population.) And, on a deeper level, has the world really gotten that much worse in only a generation or two, so that we cannot be allowed to rest, even for a moment – to turn it off? If this is true, then the “good old days” really were good – but on some level we know it's not that simple.

That's one line of questioning. Another, which has grown somewhat more popular of late, is – what is the function of all of this fear... anxiety... panic? Is it really to inform? It certainly doesn't make life any easier, so it must have something to do with survival, right? Except that pretty much any piece of “news” that one runs across carries with it an element of despair – that there's nothing any of us can do about it. Or actually there is – namely to run to the open arms of the government, since it is the only thing on earth powerful enough... wise enough... good enough... to protect us from the myriad threats that we are forced to encounter on a daily basis. And this agenda, if you will, is the very one that Michael Crichton presented so masterfully in his book “State of Fear” (published in 2004). The book is identified as “a novel”, but like so many good works of fiction that deal with the future, near future, or present, a canny reader will say “novel schmovel, this is the way things really are”. That is, we are being manipulated at all times -- “played like a fiddle” as the saying goes – not only by politicians but by all other species of fear-mongers as well. And what is the goal? Just to sell more tranquilizers – more liquor? Well, no – it's to increase (not maximize, note – that would be too much for the Regime to handle) helplessness and dependence up to some optimum point, where we would do the government's bidding without question, simply because of the terrible consequences that might result if we did otherwise.

And I shouldn't have to dwell on the irony of all this. After all, don't we constantly brag about our “freedoms” and our prosperity, and standard of living, as opposed to the poor benighted peoples of other lands (especially the ones we insist on invading – for their benefit, of course)? In fact, isn't “freedom from fear” one of the Four Freedoms articulated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1941 State of the Union address? And yet we have become a fear-ridden society, with anxieties and bogeymen that our forebears (of 1941 or earlier) could never have dreamed of. The Regime promised us freedom from fear, then with barely a skipped beat presented us with the terrors of the atomic bomb and nuclear warfare. And so it continues up to the present day, with enemies real and imagined... disease... hunger... pollution... overpopulation... global warming and/or cooling (depending on where you take your sample of the propaganda)... war... more war... even more war... and so on, ad infinitum. (And let's not forget “terror” -- the fear of fear. So perfect for our times!) And it's not as if some of these issues are purely imaginary; they may exist on some level. The question, rather, is how much time should the average citizen spend thinking – i.e. worrying – about them, as opposed to minding his own business, earning a living, and sitting – if there's any time left – under his own vine and fig tree?

Where does one look for inner peace, after all? Is it among what are called “tax receivers”? Their anger and resentment seems to know no bounds; the more benefits they receive the worse their attitude becomes. Is it, then, among the rich – the ambitious, the capitalists, the “one percent”? They're too busy trying to get even more. It's easier to find smiling people in the inner city than among millionaires and billionaires. Is it, then, among the middle class? But they are set upon by every side by the media and the popular culture; they are a majority that is treated like a minority (or the way minorities used to be treated before they became the majority) – with mocking and contempt. Every effort they make to improve their lot meets with push-back from the Regime; the tax code is designed to inflict diminishing returns on their efforts to better their material lot. They are, in effect, slaves who know not that they are slaves, except on those rare occasions when someone – typically a “tea party” type – sees a glimpse of the truth.

The peaceful people of this world tend, it seems to me, to be those with religious faith – not necessarily of a given creed but sufficient in strength to overcome the frustrations of the world and the fear those generate (or are generated – intentionally – by the overlords). And this is not to say that the answer to fear is to not care – to be apathetic, or a happy idiot. It's to put the material in its proper place, and allow faith (or philosophy, if you prefer) to have the upper hand. And yes, it's a delicate balance, because few are called to be complete mystics – spiritual beings who just happen – by accident, as it were – to be in the world. But on the other end of the scale, the dissatisfactions of materialism are all too apparent: Those who have not, want. Those who have, want more. Find me someone who has enough – who is satisfied – and I'll show you a non-materialistic individual.

And of course fear – which is how this got started – has to be directed at something, and that something is typically some kind of loss – of life, liberty, friends, fortune, job, health, home... all perfectly respectable things in themselves, but the fear of losing them can become an entity in itself, and corrode one's outlook on life, stifling enjoyment of the here and now. Our rulers claim they want a contented populace, but in fact they want anything but. Widespread contentment would put them out of work, so it can't be tolerated. In its place, we have a finely-tuned mechanism for generating and sustaining fear – not too much, not too little, just right. You can see it in the media on a daily basis – the constant cycle of crisis and reassurance – but not enough reassurance to totally eliminate the fear generated by the crisis. So the residual fear builds up; its names are legion and it begins to manifest itself in the physical – in terms of our mental and bodily health – which then becomes still another basis for increased dependence on the government. And there are always new things to be afraid of; they cascade around our heads each day. New ones are being created faster than new “terrorist” organizations. If we took each of them seriously, we'd have to be afraid of everything, and would sit, paralyzed, in a catatonic state of fear – which is, figuratively, the way a lot of us live already.

There are no simple prescriptions for this disease of ours, but a sense of proportion and of skepticism would certainly help, as well as the awareness that we are, in fact, being manipulated according to an agenda we had nothing to do with, and for purposes we have no interest in or use for. And rather than indulge in escapism (another tool of the Regime), confront the Fear Machine head-on. Put in a good day's work re-asserting your freedom – not just of body but of mind – and then sleep well, because the battle will resume with the morning light.