Tag Archives: society

The Impossible Red Car (of DOOM!)

Update: Due to the claim made in the comments below, this post has been updated somewhat. (A picture has been deleted) That might make the point seem less cogent, but perhaps not. Maybe it wasn’t so coherent in the first place…

Anyway: to start off with a good quote about what is possible and what isn’t.

First, not everything that exists in the imagination can be achieved. Wishful thinking is no guide to policy. Just because you desire something does not mean it will or can be achieved. The whole purpose of human logic is to estimate the odds and chances.

Second, though, within limits change of a positive nature is possible. That’s why one has to experiment and try. On these decisions and deeds many lives depend. The decision of American colonists to take on the strongest power in the world, Britain, in 1776 and that of Israeli leaders to declare independence in 1948 were risky ventures. Yet although outsiders might judge them more so, those involved realized that the attempt was not beyond the possibility of success.

But, again, you have to understand, with unflinching realism, the problems and the risks involved. This judgment is not a matter of ideology, of set and predetermined and unwavering blind belief. At a certain point, ideology gets in the way.

About so many things, moderns, especially liberals, wish to only try the impossible. They wish to change the nature of man, or reorder society like Mao in the Great Leap Forward. (And they want to be judged for their intentions, rather than their results… another childish characteristic.)

Mao’s stipulated purpose was to mobilize the entire population to transform China into a socialist powerhouse — producing both food and industrial goods — much faster than might otherwise be possible. This would be both a national triumph and an ideological triumph, proving to the world that socialism could triumph over capitalism.

That is from an article comparing several governmental interventions, project that tyrants of semi-tyrants plunged into to do the impossible. (and to take power and such.)

I also suspect that it is a remarkably similar idea that makes people believe that they can be good enough to deserve salvation… In any case, remember: You cannot do the impossible. You might be able to do something that most people think is impossible… which is an entirely different proposition.

 

Cultural Suicide

Some thoughts from Spengler about why antisemitism rises in dying cultures. I would also posit that all manner of conspiracy theory peddling (of which antisemitism has born the most evil fruit) is a symptom of a time where everyone wishes to blame their decline, their cultural suicide, their lack of personal success in life on someone else, someone powerful and shadowy.

A man walks into a Jewish restaurant and asks the boss: “How do you prepare your chickens?” “We tell them up front they’re not going to make it,” he replies. To those Italians who voted for Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Alliance, or Greeks who support the Golden Dawn movement, or Jobbik Party voters in Hungary, among others: Permit me to tell you up front that you are not going to make it, either. Your countries are dying because you no longer wish to live. One can “foresee a time when your land with its rivers and mountains still lies under heaven as it does today, but other people dwell there; when your language is entombed in books, and your laws and customs have lost their living power,” to paraphrase Franz Rosenzweig.

May I ask you to consider — just for the sake of argument — an alternative explanation? Hypothetically speaking, is it possible that the Jews have nothing at all to do with your misery, but that you are destroying yourselves?

Consider the facts: by 2040, you will have about 60% more elderly dependents than you have now, and about half as many young workers. Your economies will collapse, along with your social safety net. The trajectories in the chart below well may understate the problem. In the United Nations’ low variant, Hungary’s total fertility rate stays above one child per female. Excluding the Roma (Gypsies), though, Hungary’s fertility rate has already fallen to a chillingly low 0.85:

You are dying because you wish to die; that is, because you do not wish to rear children. Only 10% of Hungarian men and 12% of Hungarian women are married by age thirty, which is to say that only a tenth of young Hungarians intend to have children. If you don’t have children, you will disappear, Jews or no Jews. Long before you disappear, your economies will collapse under the weight of dependent elderly.

More Culture

I am at least briefly back from the craziness of the last few weeks. I managed to accomplish stuff despite the fact that my body declared war on me and got me sick right in the middle of everything. So, enough complaining, just a few thoughts.

From Roger L. Simon at PJ Media first (then me next…)

People on the right spend a great deal of time and energy excoriating Hollywood, Broadway, and the music industry. Entertainment has become the province of the Left and is hugely biased.

True enough — but it’s been that way for some time. And with all the complaining by conservatives and libertarian-types it may even have gotten worse in recent years. Certainly, it hasn’t gotten better. Whining, it must be admitted, hasn’t helped.

As the late — and increasingly lamented — Andrew Breitbart pointed out repeatedly, “Politics is downstream from culture.”

I agree with him somewhat, although he doesn’t really hit any feasible plans for influencing the culture. Mostly he says ‘Stop whining’ and ‘get to work’.  So while I sit here, waiting for my kinetics experiments, I figured I’d throw down some ideas.

1. Do not self censor your beliefs to make them more acceptable to the world around you. We are called to be in the world but not of it. Of course our ideas such as sin, damnation, right and wrong, are not liked.

2. Euphemisms are evil. I will probably post just on this in the future: the point is that perhaps euphemisms started as tact: today they are disguises for evil and sin.

3. Buy and watch good movies/TV. Since most of us cannot make them, we can, at least, help make sure that those people who make a really worthwhile movie make lots of money too. On the flip side, don’t go see expensive trash like Avatar or popular bilge like ‘The Lorax’.

Speaking of good TV, I have been sick and grading recently and seen some of Justified. It probably deserves its own post as well. Its the story of a western style lawman in modern America, sent back to Kentucky. This is another show that frequently displays the moral difficulties of the world without trying to convince the audience that morality is ambiguous or relative. That and it is exciting, well made, struggles with important issues… and exciting 🙂 Also it has a strong streak of the pathos that inhabits the whole spirit of history.  The show has a similar feel to the song that closes the season (The Patty Loveless version is better, but this one is the one the show uses.)

Marriage

Unfortunately today is too busy to write my own article about marriage. However, before I block quote, link and run away 🙂 I wanted to mention a few thoughts about the culture around marriage. I have, as of today, been married for two years. A very short amount of time, true. However, it is certainly long enough to experience the vast amount of cultural negativity toward marriage that is part of the unexamined assumptions most people live by. When I tell my students I am married, they wonder why I would make such a commitment, why I don’t keep playing. They wonder why I chose to do something ‘so difficult’. It is, perhaps, the same mindset that makes it so that my students are shocked when I tell them to stop whining about college, it is supposed to be hard. That it would not be worth anything if it was all games and drinking. Anyway, back to marriage.

It seems to me that everything good, every blessing from God, has been fully poisoned in the cultural consciousness. People genuinely think that marriage is a prison and children are a curse. People are genuinely surprised when I answer the question ‘How is married life?’ with the answer ‘Good.’ rather than something like ‘hard work’ or ‘a drag’. (And I actually tone down how good life is, so as not to make miserable people jealous as well.) Now, I am 24 and will welcome my son into the world before I turn 25. I fully expect miserable people to try and spread their misery by telling me that raising children is hard, it is so demanding, you have to make so many sacrifices. But I remember that the world sees everything through a lens of moral inversion, and  marriage and children are gifts from the Lord.

So here, from PJ Media is a response to an article about the benefits of waiting until late to get married.

A recent article on Yahoo extolled “The Benefits of Marrying Later in Life.” The writer, who waited until age 46 to marry, listed the benefits to delaying marriage:

– Learning to love herself and accept her self-worth
– Time to become her own person
– Benefit of knowing who she is
– Experiencing life as her own complete person

With all due respect to the author, her list looks like a recipe for perpetual singleness. A decade or more of doing what’s best for “me” and learning to love and complete myself are not the best preparation for the sacrifices and selflessness required to be one half of a couple. Be honest: Would you want to marry someone who has spent two entire decades of her life “learning to love herself”? She’s going to be a tough act to follow.

It goes on to give four excellent reasons to get married young. It is definitely worth the read (obviously, I posted it 🙂 )

Amoral Society

No, I will not be discussing the fact that large numbers of Americans feel morally ok with things like abortion, nor is this about anything else that is usually discussed when people talk about amoral societies. This is for one simple reason. I think that people who believe that killing an infant before it is born (or as it is born) is morally acceptable usually tend to be people suffering not from a lack of morals but from moral inversion. Thus, smoking cigarettes, and eating animals (or kosher slaughter in which the animal is not unconscious) is evil and wrong, while abominations like abortion are acceptable. This seems to be not a lack of morals, but an inversion of them. I do think that this moral inversion is a product of the actual amoral society, and so they are connected, but an amoral society is one that does not make decisions based on what anyone thinks is right or wrong. (Leftists usually use different words, but it amounts to the same thing.) A society that makes decisions based on what it (or a majority, or even a reigning minority) thinks is right and wrong is fundamentally based on morality. Of course that is not the same as a righteous society, which is a moral society based on true morals.

Unfortunately, what I think best describes much of the world is the amoral society. Let me illustrate with the example that got me starting thinking about this. A few months ago, I was listening to the radio (890 WLS out of Chicago) and I caught a little bit of a debate about putting a strip club next to a convent, and naturally the nuns were trying to keep that from happening. (I am a little fuzzy on the details.) The argument of the man being interviewed basically boiled down to this:  ‘The nuns have no right to object to this because the strip club will pay taxes and the convent does not.’ That is amoral, and it is a direct result of over sized overspending government which encourages people to think, not in terms of what they believe is right, but in terms of what can be taxed.

This argument is also frequently used by Ron Paul fans when advocating legalized drugs. ‘The government could then tax and regulate them, so it is a good idea!’ Unfortunately, being the brokest nation in history, being epically broke, and living in a world where it seems like every other government is also in debt, (strangely to each other… like the US is in debt to Japan… how does that work?) encourages everyone to think in terms of how they can collect money instead of what they believe is good and right. The deep flaw here is obvious, if it is something people are paying money for, you can justify anything. Imagine an important looking man in a suit on CNN telling you that child pornography and prostitution should be legal because then this state or that could collect x millions of dollars in taxes, which it needs because otherwise firefighters will have to be laid off… Yes, every disgusting thing that immoral people will pay for (which is anything…) can be legitimized this way.

The solution to this, I think, is fiscal sanity. Only in a fiscally sane world can people converse about what they think is right and wrong without the incessant distractions and threats of closing government which does provide necessary and useful services that individuals cannot (or should not) do. That is why a social conservative who spends like a socialist should not be tolerated even though his stance on things like abortion is sound. A society based on mercenary decisions, an inevitable effect of the welfare state, is a society that ultimately must tolerate any perversion, even the most despicable.

Instead, I think a local community should be able to say what kind of businesses they think are morally wrong and not allowed in that community. That is the glory of localized self-rule. If the people think it is indecent to have a strip-club next to a convent, they should be able to keep that from happening. If all the people in the area think it is acceptable to have a strip club anywhere, that is their decision, and we don’t have to move there. But if we do, we should be able to try to convince those around us that is it improper and immoral, instead of constantly be lectured on the monetary value of the institutions.

National Identity

One of the interesting events on my trip to Greece took place sitting in a coffee shop. This activity seems to be the national sport of the Greeks. These coffee shops are not at all like American ones; not just because they are mostly outdoor seating which is an accident of climate, but because while you go to a place like Starbucks to grab coffee on the way to work, or go to places like the local coffee shop my wife and I like to go to wherein most inhabitants come to buy tasty coffee and write papers and do schoolwork; Greek coffee shops are about talking. Everyone is sitting around talking.

So, my wife and I discussed national character with two of her Greek friends. Among the subtopics of this wide ranging several hour conversation was: Whether the accretions of culture you are exposed to from the country you are born in is accidental to your personality or essential, What is the key element that makes a nation unique, and of course, Whether America is really exceptional with some sort of claim on being the greatest country in the world. While all the opposing arguments I encountered were not new to me, what was new was discussing them with someone who actually believed them.

Since there were Greeks and an American and a half 🙂 at the table, for the purpose of argument we decided to try and discuss what makes Greeks, Greek, and Americans, American and see if that could help show us what parts of these things were essential to one’s person or accidental. Interestingly enough, this is a very difficult issue, and the core of the issue comes down to, can you say anything different about what makes one person Greek and what makes another Turkish. The first answer to what makes Greeks Greek was the answer that has always been given from tribal societies to the Third Reich: Greeks are Greek (and therefore unique and special) because they were born to Greeks, they are ethnically, genetically Greek. This of course fails, because Turks, French, Italians, Spaniards, Arabs, nearly every nation and tribe in the world will give the same answer varied for their own ethnicity. There is actually nothing particularly special about being Greek, except for the fact that there are fewer of them than the Han Chinese and so it is a more ‘exclusive club’. So we moved on to culture, to religion, to language, all but religion being accidental to a person.

On the other side though, and the ultimate proof of at least the uniqueness of America is what I think makes Americans, American. America is a series of ideas, and anyone who believes some to most of them is American. Being American cannot be founded on race, we have a pretty fair sampling of them all. For instance, I am (probably) descended from Germans, Englishmen, Irishmen, Scots or Welsh, etc. My children, should the Good Lord give me any, will be half Greek. Being American also is largely independent of culture, we have bits and pieces of culture from everyone who has come here. However being American does mean something. There is something different between Americans and Frenchmen and Turks and Arabs and Chinese. And that can be found in ideas.

This is what makes America a unique country, it is a country not founded upon race, not divided upon culture, and only mostly connected by language. Honestly, if 200 years from now, all Americans spoke Chinese or Spanish, but believed in, and fought with votes (and guns if need be) for the same ideas, they would be just as American as I am, and even just as American as George Washington was.

It takes some gall to feel entitled to list the ideas that make the soul of America. Yet, fortunately I only draw on the thoughts expressed by others from our founding, and so I plough on. First, America was founded by Christian people fleeing the persecution of state churches who claimed (and believed) that their people were the new chosen people of God. And so the American government was based on the assumption that every individual is in a personal relationship with God. Hence, there are many rights that the individual has that neither government, other people, or anything else can take away. These are the unalienable rights of the Declaration. I would say that this is the central idea of America. The others include ideas like the idea that people should control their government, that if people do not like what their government does, they have the right to replace it, and that people have every right to pursue their own interests and happiness as long as it does not come at the expense of other people. These ideas engender the desire to feel and be free, to indulge in liberty and to chase one’s dream.

So, I argued that being Greek is not necessarily part of a person’s essence because it (as defined by the Greek Friends) consists of a large collection of accidents, like language, genetics, and cultural upbringing. However, being American can be part of a person’s essence because it is at its core a set of ideas and a worldview, which, though it can change, is part of a person’s essence.

For a fantastic discussion of culture and this topic (and how these ideas confront modernity) read the ill titled, yet excellent How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too)by one of my favorite commentators David P. Goldman (pen name Spengler).

Other things I will likely write about that came from this conversation are: Who has a better claim on being descended from ancient Athenian democracy, the ridiculous notion that America is too young to talk about these ideas and probably other things as I think of them. Also, I promise there will be a sonnet before tomorrow night; I refuse to lose to Thalia!