Everyone is a propagandist… and cognitive science is scary.
Also, these things seem to be able to be actively encouraged and fomented: Transgender Social Contagion Reminds School Counselor of Salem in 1692
Everyone is a propagandist… and cognitive science is scary.
Also, these things seem to be able to be actively encouraged and fomented: Transgender Social Contagion Reminds School Counselor of Salem in 1692
Well the time has come… I have reached the conclusion that actually supporting Trump is the best choice we have for America. (In fact I’m starting to think that what we need is a Trump landslide…) I even got the hat. This election, supporting Trump is difficult for many conservatives, and so I feel I owe an explanation, or apology in the old sense, for the hat…
Just after the Indiana primary I was aghast that we were stuck with Trump. After a brief toying with the idea of voting third party (this ended long before the inanity of the ‘Libertarian’ ticket was fully exposed) I found myself convinced that the proper position of a conservative was the #NeverHillary camp. After all, I voted for Senator ‘only ever does something in the senate if it sabotages conservative goals’ McCain and Gov. ‘I basically invented state-run healthcare in America’ Romney in my own personal #NeverObama voting pattern. Sure, those candidates only pretended to be conservative when it suited them, but they were better than the alternative. And so it seemed to me that voting for Trump was not really any more of a ‘compromise’ of my conservative principals than voting for those two. I have long held a political theory that voting for principled governors and state representatives, school boards, alderman etc is where the real conservative revolution needs to be. (This is why I am a Scott Walker supporter, and a Sheriff Clarke supporter.) As for the presidency, in my personal system, I vote for the best candidate that might be able to win, and I hope that our bottom-up conservatism can take effect before our country’s top-down authoritarianism can ruin us. Its a close thing right now, and so I decided sometime just before the conventions that Trump might be able to buy our bottom-up conservatism some time, while Hillary would be game over. So I decided to vote for Trump.
So how’d I get from ‘ok I’ll vote for Trump’ to actual support. I mean, look at the garish hat, right?
Well, it started with an rant from Ace at Ace of Spades HQ. I don’t remember the actual page, but if you read through enough you’ll catch the general tone from Ace. I think, like Ace, that the conservative intellectuals who are actively working against Trump with the idea that we’ll get a conservative in 2020 or 2024 have lost their way. Basically, my general thoughts and feelings were summed up in toto by Publius Decius Mus in the ‘Flight 93 Election‘. What with Obama using the government to target and suppress political opposition (documented fact, not conspiracy theory) I do not have much confidence at all that there even would be a meaningful election in 2020 or 2024 with a Hillary presidency. I know… that sounds histrionic; but the entire government has been politicized and weaponized with just 8 years of Obama, into an entity that suppressed the political opposition in 2012 and that permitted Hillary and her entire guilty staff off the hook after being caught committing crimes. After all this, Obama is found out to have used a pseudonym to email Hillary, making one wonder if he has a privet email server… and what he might be using it for. We also have had the tyrannical, despotic, ‘John Doe’ investigations here in Milwaukee… does it stretch the imagination all that far that under Pres. Hillary we would have people who voice political opposition have their doors kicked in by SWAT at 3am? If you think this impossible, just remember, that that is exactly what happened in Milwaukee county and the man most directly responsible just got reelected!
Its not just this, though. There is a fundamental principal I’ll call the truth of little things. It is an apt saying that a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time, but Trump has said uncomfortable, true things, enough times that I am starting to think that, though crude and unpleasant, he is often right. I saw it said somewhere that Trump is like a doctor with no bedside manner saying ‘You’re fat, you need to lose 100 lbs and stop smoking like a chimney if you want to live much longer.’
Allow me to digress a little bit and then return to this ‘Truth of little things’ which I believe is something utterly fundamental to our (conservative) cause. We have come upon a time in America where the elected and media elite believe themselves unaccountable to the normal voter. They promise balanced budgets every year, and every year they build the debt. We’ve gotten border securing promises from politicians from both parties over and over and over… and hmm… they don’t do that because that is not what they, the enlightened ones, think is best. They think Trump is a disaster because the un-college educated want to vote for him, and because he is crude and unpolished in presidential debates.
In our age of trigger warnings and microagressions and men who are pretending to be woman being read into title IX… our elite government, the leftist totalitarians and their ‘right-wing’ enablers are very close to enforcing actual despotism upon us. When we fear being beaten in the streets for supporting a major-party candidate… when we fear that so much we buckle under and vote for what the powerful want us to vote for, if we do that, America will lose its very soul. We will have participated in our own subjugation. It is like the theory on communist propaganda. Kim Jong Il never pooped, not because people would believe it, but because forcing people to force themselves to believe something ludicrous is tantamount to making their reason and self-identity commit suicide so that they can be integrated into the collective whole.
So it is that voting for Trump is a revolutionary act. Perhaps these last few weeks before the election are our last days of being able to speak our mind. Our last few moments to believe what our eyes see: to say, if you have an X and Y chromosome, you are a man. And for Christians, this may be our twilight days of our being able to say that homosexuality is sinful without being fined, our business shut down, our churches closed… This might happen even if Trump wins, our Republic may have been lost already. But one way or the other, I believe we ought to go down fighting, saying ‘I want to be alive, I want my country and my culture to live. I will tell the truth, even though the would-be god-kings of DC don’t want me to.’
I leave you with this from Chesterton: I think we may have come upon these days… ‘Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer.‘
I’d like to start this post with a stanza of one of my favorite hymns: Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying, by Stephen P. Starke.
And now: The Church of Christ Wields an Offensive Weapon.
There is an image of a warrior that resides in the back (or sometimes the front) of everyone’s mind. There is another image that, though usually pushed much further back in the mind, also takes its residence in everyone’s mind: A man dying on his knees. The warrior is tall, he is strong, his grip is iron, his eyes are bright. He may be ruthless and wicked, or kind, a shield to the weak: but he is strong. His enemies fear encountering him. The man dying on his knees is weak, pathetic even. He is bound and has been tortured. His head is shaved and he is thin from being a prisoner. In the mind’s eye, this man is broken into pieces: he is not a man; he is a heap of the fragments of a man. And yet he sings. This man, this broken and dying man, is a witness: a martyr. His blood is spilled because he refuses to deny his Lord Jesus.
Strange, how the mind’s vision is so poor. We ought to look again at the two men before us. It is a paradox that confronts us. When Christ came into this world, everything went inside-out and topsy-turvy. In reality, everything went right-side-up: but if everyone else is upside down, the one who sees the world right side up is ‘topsy-turvy’. When the people of God sing ‘The white robed army of martyr’s praises you’, we confess that these saints, who died ‘poorly’, in truth, died well; that these who were slaughtered with their hands tied, fought and even triumphed in the war.
In today’s world, the church spends most of its time defending itself. It defends its doctrine. It defends its right to speak about what it believes. It defends the lives of the old and the unborn. All this good, yet something of a shame. It is a shame because the church is fundamentally made and equipped for offence. It does not primarily exist to defend its values, or its doctrines or its people. The Holy Church wields, despite appearances, a sharp and well-made sword. It is made to ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’ It sends its warriors out, and often, they die, and the church grows. The strange paradox that slaughter has never annihilated the Christian faith is explained by the fact that in death, the martyr’s victory over the devil is won for him, and the sword of the church strikes true.
And again, the many in the church spend their time doing their best to sound good. The most charitable construction of this is that they are trying to not be misunderstood: so let us think that. Yet, it is a travesty that the church cares overmuch if it offends people. It is not a coincidence that offensive (the technical term for attacking in a fight) and offensive (as in someone was offended) are the same word. The church has been literally guaranteed to offend people. Are people offended when they are told they are sinning? Yes. Are they offended when they are told that this thing, that the church ought to call a favorite sin, that makes them feel so happy, is going to damn them to hell? Yes! Do people loathe it when they are told that even nice people, people they liked a lot, will go to eternal damnation (which is torment) if they do not have faith? Obviously!
And yet: those who engage in sexual perversion need to be told that they are committing sins, that they are perverted. Likewise, people who gossip need to hear that their gossip is also a vile sin that must be repented of. People within, and especially without, the church must hear the conviction of the Law of God. Without the condemnation of the Law, the Gospel has no impact.
The church must be offensive and call evil, evil; and good: good. The Devil, the world and one’s own flesh will scream. People will take you to court, they will close down your businesses with lawsuits, they will threaten you and may one day again make martyrs in the streets. But consider this: the Church is filled with warriors intended to be specialists in offensive combat, and the most potent weapon in her armaments is the witness of the lifeblood of the saints.
The post-modern ‘proof’ of existence seems to me to be a truncated form of Descartes. Descartes started with what he knew you could know: that, in fact, some thing ‘I’ can think. He then proceeded to prove that I was an existence, and then that God must exist. Then since God exists, everything that ‘I’ observe exists at least somewhat like ‘I’ observe it. This framework is far more subjective than I would posit, however it is a usable framework for thinking and living. I made a graph after the nature of reaction profiles. (If you have had some chemistry, you may recognize the format.) As you proceed from left to right you are following the case for the worldview and as you go up, importance increases.Let us contrast that to a post-modern fully subjective worldview is like.This latter figure is the new worldview. This worldview has several repercussions. For now, though, I’ll only mention one. Everything includes ideas, thoughts, truth, good, evil, right, wrong, cowardice, and valor. Since existence is defined by the mind and thoughts of the one existing, it is not necessarily the case that something observed by one is true to the other. The only reason, in this scenario, for truth and reality to be agreed upon (such as everyone agreeing on what is green) is social conditioning and pressure. There is no ground for insisting that something is wrong outside of societal norms.
This worldview is antithetical in every way to two things: religions of revealed Truth (Specifically Christianity, but that is another topic for another time.) and science. That’s why I think scientists should swallow their anti-religion pride and make some common cultural cause with the strict traditionalists of the Church in the arena of absolute, knowable, transmittable and immutable truth.
You see, if truth is only a construct of the mind, then science cannot exist. Science depends upon the core belief that the truth is knowable and constant. Our knowledge of it is flawed and in constant flux, in constant need of study, experiment, update and thought. If truth is not timeless and knowable, then a consensus of quality minds actually would define truth and therefore science. If that were the case, then the sun did indeed revolve around the earth for Ptolemy, while much later, after some cataclysmic solar revolution, it now is orbited by the earth due in large part to Galileo.
Every scientist, and probably every person not fully committed to the conclusions of this worldview, would find this ridiculous. And yet one academic department after another has fallen to this worldview. Perhaps because they are not grounded in observation, or perhaps because scientists are a particular brand of curmudgeon, the humanities have fallen first, long ago. Now however, even the hard sciences are under attack. The global warming consensus is (although it mayn’t be a consensus after all) the only consistent argument in favor of the theory and people peddle it as fact. Man-made global warming may indeed be fact, but there is not one model made to predict the future warming that predicted the current pause. When all the models are wrong, it usually means something about the assumptions of the modelers.
If that is the case, then anything in the religion that makes you feel upset or threatened must not be true –for you. Maybe someone else feels better knowing that God condemns sexual immorality of all sorts, then this religious belief is true for them. And if a large enough group of spiritual people agree that something is acceptable for god, then, it must be. That of course leads to the absurd idea that god was pleased by the Mayan human sacrifices. If that were the case, then you could very easily argue not just that societies make their own gods in the image that pleases them, but that god must also actually exist for their believing created it. I am sure this scenario sounds more plausible than the Ptolemy scenario above. That feeling is just the result of the overwhelming nature of the subjective worldview in every domain but the hard sciences.
So that is why I recommend not just a peace treaty between traditional Church leader and scientists but active cultural cooperation. The Church is not in any danger of being wiped out by a fleeting theory in the minds of men, but science may well have to come and take shelter inside the doors of the Church, running for sanctuary from those that scientists currently think are science’s friend.
If this happens, you can count on churchmen to preserve everything they can, just like last time the forces of nihilism swept the western world. But before that, why not pick up a sword and fight in the streets of civilization (the enemy is long through the walls) alongside the Church for Truth and civilization and life?
I don’t want to say too much, except this: if you have an iPhone, iPad, you should buy Haunting Melissa. Ok, you also have to like ghost stories. There is so much to complement from the outset, but I was waiting until I saw more of the story. First off, in an age full of instant gratification, here, in the Haunting Melissa app, you have to wait. You get doses of the story based off of some kind of timing mechanism from when you download the app, so everyone is on a slightly different schedule. One of the things I definitely believe about art is that it’s very form reflects the beliefs of the artist. In this case, Andrew Klavan and his pals have made something whose form is a unique expression of the truth. Here we have every viewer experiencing truth in their own way, however, there really is only one truth about the story, the viewer doesn’t affect the truth by viewing it, but the viewers do, in fact see it differently.
On a story level, the Haunting Melissa app/movie thing… has so far managed to avoid the number one fatality of suspense/horror ghost stories. As soon as the audience thinks: ‘Why don’t they just leave the cat…?’ or ‘If you know the place is haunted by malevolence, why stay?’ or the very basic ‘Just leave you idiot!’ This, I think is a major accomplishment through effective storytelling, unique pacing, and giving Melissa a compelling reason to stay. The story is almost entirely devoid of classic spooks, yet it spooks the viewer. And I think the more attentive the viewer, the more spooked you will be, yet almost never by the make-you-pay-attention-and-then-have-a-skull-jump-out-at-you kind.
For instance, the story takes place in Melissa’s home, while her father is away (so far). Her mother basically went crazy and died there. (I will certainly try to avoid anything that cannot be inferred from the trailers.) In her insanity, Melissa’s mother was obsessed with crosses. They are all over the house, and there are probably around twenty in the room she died in… yet, her tombstone looks like this:
That weirded me out. Why no cross? I will leave out my speculations, not because they are well informed, but because I am uncannily accurate in predicting plots with very little information. (By the way, the picture’s link will also take you to the Haunting Melissa official website, because I think you should get it, if only to support an innovative entertainment option.)
Also, it is just plain cool to get a piece of the story at unpredictable intervals. That is because the other main problem for ghost stories is that in 2 hours the move is over, and frequently you gag at the ghost at the end it is just too dumb. (The most egregious version of this is Signs, even though that’s an alien.) here, I don’t know how it will turn out, but there is only excitement, no disappointment. And I cannot skip ahead, no matter how much I want to know, and no matter how attention deficit I feel. I get just that one piece at a time. Here watch a trailer:
Anyway, I have always liked Klavan’s idea of a ghost story (see Ghost Story and Agnes Mallory) This just continues the winning streak. I hope both for more ghost stories from Andrew Klavan, and for more entertainment apps like this.
Euphemism: A Euphemism is a misguiding word or phrase used in place of another that the speaker fears will give offense. That’s my definition of a class of speaking that should really be expunged from the language. Everything from calling the rioters in Stockholm this last week youths, to calling a fat person overweight introduces deceit into everyday language; and like yeast, once lies, however innocuous, infect a person’s habits they become every day more a liar and less honest. In the first case, there are some people already making the arguments that society must give up cultural euphemisms and call evil what it is: people like Mark Steyn and this guy in the Boston Herald:
It shouldn’t have to be pointed out that entire groups are not responsible for barbarians in their midst, but it also should not be uncomfortable to call those barbarians by their names, whether it’s in response to placing bombs at the feet of unsuspecting innocents, or the beheading of a young British soldier in broad daylight on a London street.
I do think, though, that the second case of euphemisms is destructive as well. We have become accustomed to speaking around the truth; obfuscation is the habit and clarity the exception. How can you expect a society to speak the truth about the big important things when they cannot even be relied upon to tell the truth about little things? The habits made in the small everyday things are what dictate the response of a person to a sudden ‘big’ thing. What people say about, for instance, the Boston Bomber, is very much influenced by what they say about the badly behaved children at school, or their overweight friend, or the bad novel their friend made them read. (Note to those of my friends whose novels I have read, they aren’t bad enough to fall into this category.) If someone is willing to tell their friend that their novel is poorly executed, or poorly conceived, they are much more likely to be able to recognize that the Boston bombers were terrorists slaughtering innocent people in the name of Islam.
For example, there is an author community site that I went to once because one of the authors of the ACM novel contest was using it and referenced the feedback received there. People would post chapters and such (sometimes whole novels) and the other authors would comment. No matter how badly written, inane, sloppy, or driveling the section was, no one said anything critical. Everyone either was pretending to like it, or they were so practiced at lying through euphemism that they could not tell the truth. Everyone said ‘well done’ when in fact it would be more helpful, more caring, and more kind (and truthful) to say ‘That is terribly done; you should probably either practice a lot more, or find something else that you are good at.’
I know that many people will disagree and cry out about tact. To be truthful (which is what this is all about, so I should practice it myself here.) I certainly have some issues in the area of tact. My mother always taught me that if I didn’t have something nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. And, as it turns out, I was silent… a lot. Nowadays, my wife will sometimes ask what I think about something, and I will tell her that we should wait until we get home before I tell her. So my version of tact is usually silence.
So, I will concede that, perhaps, euphemisms were invented for tact: so that you could talk about things tactfully with people. However, like everything human, euphemisms have gone rotten. They have infected every part of our speech, like clichés (discussed briefly here: The War of the Cliche) and in every case the nice way of saying something is now a lie. And nowhere do I see it written that it is ok to lie as long as you are making other people feel better about themselves.
I think everyone should do this one little experiment to see just how far their thoughts and speech have been infected by euphemisms. Spend one day without them. Every time you are about to use a euphemism, stop, and say the truth, and think about the difference between the two, think about whether this euphemism was just a nice way to say something or if it was really deceit and a lie. This will not be a pretty thing, the truth is not pretty, because humans are evil, the truth is frequently ugly (Even the word abortion with all its emotional baggage is a euphemism, the reality is babies dismembered alive: tortured to death.) But I do think it is worth the exercise. If anyone decides to give it a try, let us know in the comments. I think it would be an interesting follow-up conversation about which euphemisms people thought were harmless and which are disguised lies. (Also, I cannot do it, simply using euphemisms is difficult for me, so I am a terrible data point… 🙂 )
I sometimes think that Cracked has a few ‘spy’ authors in the mix. (For anyone not an online denizen, Cracked is a comedy website that is usually crass, and frequently hilarious.) The whole concept of a spy author (I think it is from C. S. Lewis… I may be wrong) is to be read and accepted by people who are usually antithetical to the Christian worldview and influence them. Depending on how deep the cover is, sometimes no one can tell. (Some Graham Green stories are in this category.) Anyway, if Cracked does not have actual intentional ‘spy’ comedy writers, they sometimes sure hit the common sense, conservative worldview (Albeit they usually are lightly explicitly liberals, but implicitly not… odd but true.) And sometimes this or that writer will excoriate some part of the modern worldview, while championing what you imagine old strict Christian Grandmas would say. The article that brings this up today was 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. The article makes a compelling, and occasionally crass, case against the culture of self-esteem. For instance, truth no. 2 is: What You Are Inside Only Matters Because of What It Makes You Do.
Another great section riffs on relationships:
Does that break your heart? OK, so now what? Are you going to mope about it, or are you going to learn how to do surgery? It’s up to you, but don’t complain about how girls fall for jerks; they fall for those jerks because those jerks have other things they can offer. “But I’m a great listener!” Are you? Because you’re willing to sit quietly in exchange for the chance to be in the proximity of a pretty girl (and spend every second imagining how soft her skin must be)? Well guess what, there’s another guy in her life who also knows how to do that, and he can play the guitar. Saying that you’re a nice guy is like a restaurant whose only selling point is that the food doesn’t make you sick. You’re like a new movie whose title is This Movie Is in English, and its tagline is “The actors are clearly visible.”
The whole article is, of course, written from a worldly point of view, but it seems to be, in fact, about vocation and the parable of the talents. God gives us talents (and makes us learn them usually) in order to help people. God does not need our writing, our music playing, our architecture, nothing. But people do need them. So, in our vocations, having skills that help people in some way, God uses us to do good things for people. The author give the example of all the people who ‘keep this or that in their thoughts’, and the Christian version of ‘praying for you’. As Christians, we believe prayer is efficacious, but that does not mean that we should not also try to do things for people. Frequently, the people we pray for are people we cannot do much for. They are across the country, or across the world. But, by working and doing things, God can use us to answer other peoples prayers, and we will (and should) never know.
This brings me around to to a thought that goes through my head every time I judge the novel contest. (my blog posts always do seem to be long digressions around a point… 🙂 ) There are many people who write a story (or sing a song, or paint) and the story (or the song or the painting) is crappy. (Don’ take this the wrong way anyone, we have numerous good and excellent entries… but there is always one or two that fall into this category.) Because Christians are taught that ‘God knows what is in your heart’ or ‘God doesn’t judge a thing by human standards’ Christians half-ass things. While those statements are on their face true, what is always implied and the real message of the people teaching it, is the same self-esteem garbage that the world talks about. ‘Your intentions are what matter’ and such forth. It is true that God doesn’t judge you by the quality of your singing, but everyone on earth does. You should strive to write the best novel, sing the best song, paint the best painting, (do the best chemistry… ahem…) not because the better quality is demanded by God, but because it is the work that God has given you to do, so you should do it to the utmost of your ability. And the utmost of your ability is very hard work indeed. And shall we pretend, although it matters not a jot to our salvation, that God is not pleased by effort and by His people working their talents a hard as possible? (The working of talents was the clue to where I am going with this…) Obviously not! Remember the ten talents given and the ten talents more… people who never bother to do what they do as well as they can are approaching remarkable similarity to the man who had one talent and hid it, and gave it back as it was before.
So, to try to return to the beginning, we are not saved by our usefulness to other people, to say that would be heresy. However, God does put us here to serve one another, and to work hard. We are in a garden or a field, though it is not Eden, and we have to fight extremely hard against the weeds. For anyone who has not gardened and is missing the point, gardening is very difficult, and requires skill and knowledge and ceaseless effort…