Every now and then, I get a letter from someone who has temporarily lost their cable TV and, desperate for something -- anything -- to fill the void, they write me asking what my pre-Eject! life was like.
Well, kind of run-of-the-mill, really. Like pretty much every other American Teen, I took a sharp interest in Astronomy, hung out at the local planetarium, got my first-ever job taking tickets, and was soon running the multi-media star shows. Who among us can’t look back to those crazy summer nights in high school, hiding up in the catwalks behind the inner aluminum dome, trying to catch a Frisbee in the strobe lights used to suggest a rocket launch, or blasting Pink Floyd at 380 decibels at 2:00 am while flying through space in a million-dollar installation before we were old enough to get our drivers license?
Anyway, there was this exhibit out in the lobby –- they’re actually fairly common –- that was very simply a hard plastic funnel, like a 6 foot diameter solid tornado. You took a steel ball bearing and gave it a push, and looking down from above, it looked like it was ‘orbiting’ the hole at the center. It would drop down into the gravity well, accelerate, then loop up and out to the flatter region further away –- a perfect elliptical orbit.
It’s a great exhibit, because it simply and accurately displayed a concept that changed the way we looked at the entire universe. Einstein realized that Newton’s mysterious attractive force –- Gravity –- could be explained as a warp in spacetime, like this funnel. It was a new way to see things, a much better way. Science today is hot on the heels of a theory to unify all of the forces in nature: the Grand Unification Theory.
I believe I have come up with such a theory for politics.
Sometimes it seems like half of what I learned this past year has come from the comments section after each of these essays –- and when I say half, I mean, the good half.
One of the things that makes the current political debate so rancorous is that we do a lot of talking past each other, because the old labels no longer seem to apply. As one of my readers brilliantly pointed out in my comments section, it’s not like the vast sensible middle of the nation is divided into Red and Blue camps, Republicans vs. Democrats, Liberals vs. Conservatives, Left vs. Right. Today’s politics are more like a Rubik’s cube, where someone you may stand shoulder-to-shoulder with on one subject, can become, with a simple twist of the issues, a bitter opponent in some other fight.
This is where Whittle’s Theory of Political Reduction comes in handy. (If that’s too wordy we can call it Bill’s Electric Razor.)
I contend that there is a single litmus that does indeed separate the nation and the world into two opposing camps, and that when you examine where people will fall on the countless issues that affect our society, this alone is the indicator that will tell you how they will respond.
The indicator is Responsibility.
Political Correctness, Deconstructionism, Trans-National Progressivism, Liability mania, Crime and Punishment, Terrorism, Welfare, Gun Control, Media Bias, Affirmative Action, Abortion, Education Reform, Social Engineering –- all of it –- will divide people according to their idea of Responsibility.
I suspect that there are really only two schools of political thought, and these are based on competing theories of how the human creature is constructed.
Again, a caveat about the ever-changing quicksand about labels. But with that said, it appears that people we generally group as ‘the left’ are convinced that society is responsible for pretty much everything that happens in our lives, that group responsibility trumps individual responsibility because they see the forces of the group –- culture, history, economic background –- as overwhelming determinants to individual outcome.
Those on the other side see individual responsibility as the final arbiter of human behavior. The United States of America is, without question, the most individual-centric nation in the history of the world. We have enshrined in the structure of our culture impressive guarantees of individual freedoms, and because of that, we see an enormous spectrum of behaviors –- some noble, others... shall we say, ‘colorful,’ and some completely vile and disgraceful –- that are the natural outcome of allowing people a great deal of personal freedom. Such a society will produce a US Constitution, a Bill of Rights, a Voyager probe…and unlimited episodes of COPS and The Jerry Springer Show.
We all profess to be in favor of more freedom. Freedom is the Platinum Visa card. We all want one. Responsibility is the credit rating. Not so much enthusiasm for the kind of discipline needed to earn one of those.
I talk often about evidence, and the idea that we owe ourselves a worldview that conforms to the facts we see around us. And to be fair, we have to admit that there is some evidence that people who believe in group responsibility can point to.
B.F. Skinner is perhaps the most famous of the Behavioralists. He did brilliant and groundbreaking work showing how much of behavior is based on conditioning. These experiments were highly predictive –- when applied to rats. Somewhat less so, although still very compelling, when applied to monkeys. Erich Fromm makes a convincing argument that much of human behavior is based on avoidance of responsibility in his classic Escape from Freedom.
But to understand whether or not these experiments –- and this theory of humanity –- accurately reflect how we are built, we have to get to one of the thorniest philosophical issues since the dawn of human history: namely, is there indeed such a thing as free will? Because if there is not, then we are in fact products of our environments, our cruel or loving parents, our materialistic, ruthless or nurturing state, our religion or lack of it, our economic status at birth, and all the rest. If there is no free will, then Ted Bundy and Timothy McVeigh and Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are just automatons responding to root causes in the environment, mere executors of a pervasive, systemic disease rather than the authors of private agendas and the owners of the consequences of their actions.
If, on the other hand, there is something about being human that transcends Skinner’s box and his wire frame monkeys, if we do indeed, through the unique capacity of self-awareness, have the ability to see how actions we commit that harm others could be unpleasant because we can imagine them being done to us, then we indeed are ourselves responsible for our actions. If this is true, then in the moment of the act of murder, or rape, or torture, we are presented with the most heartfelt pleas for mercy and hideous cries of agony, and nevertheless make the decision to continue our barbaric actions...well, then we, alone, bear the responsibility for what we have done, and while childhoods of horror may have steered us to that moment of decision, they do not absolve us from the consequences.
It has been our long, bloody and noble history to rise to this idea of individual responsibility; because if it is indeed correct, then it –- alone –- is the liberator of ourselves as a species. Individual responsibility frees us from our past, from the fate of our birth, from the millennia of class and caste and of failed ideas that have kept so many in bondage for so long. If we indeed do have the ability to control our own selves, then we can free our own minds from the river of history and experience.
Those on one side see individuals as rafts on that river of culture, swept along inexorably downstream, perhaps capable of a weak paddling, displacing our paths a few feet from side to side. I, on the other hand, and others like me, see human potential as a powerboat, a nuclear-powered hydrofoil, one capable of cruising side to side at will, as easily able to race against the current as with it. I don’t believe people are rafts adrift in the destiny of their culture. I think all people have propellers, whether they use them or not, and rudders too. And rather than commiserating with people about the rapids that they endure and the battering that is their lot in life, we should be teaching them how to start those engines, take the wheel of their own futures, and steer themselves wherever they damn well please.
This issue of free will has been debated since we’ve had language. It’s not going to be resolved on these humble pages. So which view to adhere to: individual responsibility, or the predominance of culture? I say there are vast sets of evidence to prove that both are correct. So here’s what I believe. I agree with the left on this: I do think we are indeed the products of the doctrines that have been fed us since birth. How else to explain the wild differences in human culture from a single species with no detectable biological propensities for intelligence, cunning, hard work or success? The fact that some cultures are free, fair, open, safe, creative and prosperous, while others are cruel, corrupt, repressive and poor –- all while using the same raw human materials –- means clearly culture plays a predominant role.
Which is why we must all fight, fight tooth and nail, fight to the death if need be, to defend this freakish idea that we are individuals responsible for our own actions. Because when we do, we have taught ourselves how to break those chains of history and birth, energized our own destiny, and inoculated ourselves culturally against the dictates of culture.
We are the first group of peasants to transcend the idea of peasantry. Here in America, we believe the words of the often-despicable Huey Long, Every Man a King. We are, as a direct consequence of this philosophy -- the belief that the common man can be trusted to wield great responsibility -- the most successful, creative, powerful, wealthy and free individuals who have ever lived. We are, indeed, in the words of a man who understood more about human freedom and its costs and responsibilities than any of us, “the last, best hope of earth.”
Many years before his election as the nation’s 16th President, this man, Abraham Lincoln, spoke at the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois on January 27, 1838. It is worth our time to whisper these words aloud, to ourselves, to be sure that we understand what he is saying across a gulf of a century-and-a-half of differences in rhetoric and speech.
We, the American People… find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us…We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them -- they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; 'tis ours only to transmit these, the former, unprofaned by the foot of an invader…to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.
How then shall we perform it? -- At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? -- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! -- All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
The idea of individualism, of personal responsibility, is the centerpiece, the granite foundation, of the very idea of a free people. For that reason, it is under direct attack on many fronts from people, who, through motives well-intentioned or ill, find such an idea intolerable because a nation of individuals is immune to repression, coercion, social engineering and control by the elite. The threat, as Lincoln so eloquently foresaw, comes from within and it is here, now, well-established and growing.
We have to fight back. We have to fight back hard.
We have to fight back now.
How much damage has been done, so far? Consider this passage from Prairie Justice, by Will Bittle:
The American West: 1884
From afar, the only sign of the small homestead was a thin line of smoke rising from the chimney in the humble, wooden-frame house. A dusty porch overlooking a small corral, where horses were bred and raised. Out back, a small garden grew just enough vegetables for this small frontier family: a father, worn and weather-beaten, looking far older than his thirty-six years of rising before the sun. His wife, in the kitchen, baking a fresh pie for the two of her four children that survived to the age of four –- but she too was bleached, severe, her hands those of a grandmother from years of lye soap and scrub brushes. A shot rang out from the woods beyond, and moments later, a boy of thirteen emerged, holding a dead rabbit by the ears, while a girl of six hauled bales of hay larger than she was from the barn to the small corral.
A small group of men rode up from over the nearby hills. The father made a move for his rifle, but squinting hard -- his vision had been failing for years, he saw at the head of the party the local sheriff and deputy, along with five other riders, one of which appeared to be handcuffed, his head hanging in shame.
The wife stepped out off the porch, wiping her hands on her apron, and her husband took an unconscious step to place himself between her and the men that had ridden to the small homestead.
“Sheriff… deputy,” said the homesteader, nodding. He was a man of few words.
“Howdy Luke,” replied the big man with the badge, his stern face tightening into what was almost a smile. “That a huckleberry pie I smell, Sarah?”
“It is,” she replied. “We got just enough for you and your men.”
“Well that’s right kind a ya, Sarah, but we’re here on business.” The sheriff turned to the handcuffed man in the middle of the posse. “Luke, you recognize this feller?” The Deputy knocked the prisoners dusty hat off and raised his chin. He was grizzled and mean, and his pale blue eyes made contact only for a second.
“Son of a bitch--!" Luke took the hunting rifle from his young son, cracked the breech to see if he had re-loaded –- he had –- and snapped it shut, leveling it at the man on horseback.
“That there’s the son of a bitch that tried stealing my horses two nights ago! I missed him in the dark; I ain’t about to miss him now! Move outta the way fellers!”
“See what I tole ya?” said the prisoner.
The sheriff frowned, shook his head, and looked down at the ground. He nodded at the deputy. “Show him the leg, Bob.”
Bob pulled up the prisoner’s torn trousers to reveal a nasty red gash.
“Luke,” said the Sheriff, looking down out of embarrassment, “I’m afraid I’m gonna hafta take you in.”
“What the hell are you talking about, Pete?!”
The Sheriff sat straight in the saddle. His job was not a pleasant or an easy one.
“This here feller injured himself on your property, Luke -— climin’ over yer barb wire fence. He done got hisself a lawyer from Harvard university and I need ta take you in to get you deposed and such-like.”
“It’s all infected, too,” mumbled the prisoner, sullenly.
“I cain’t believe what ah’m hearin’ here!” Luke shouted.
“Luke, his leg’s all infected-like.” The Sheriff surveyed the corral with a cool professional eye. “I notice that none a yer barb-wire there got any ah them OSHA-mandated cork tips on ‘em. That’s why this feller here got that nasty scratch on his leg.”
“If’n he didn’t want a leg-scratch or a hole in his head, he shouldn’t a been in my corral a-tryin’ ta steal my god-damn horses in tha middle a tha’ night!” shouted Luke.
“Whoa, now, Luke! This here feller’s had a rough time,” said the Deputy, getting a little too worked up for his own good. “He was sittin’ there at the Starbucks cross from the Dry Goods store --“
“Naw, that Sturbucks ain’t worth a tub a' spit!," said the prisoner. “Them fellers always put way too much sugar in their Grande Frappuchinos. Was the one below the whorehouse, right next ta tha saloon.”
“Anyway,” continued the Sheriff, “his pants got all tore up, and some t’ other fellers started laughin’ at him.”
“Done lowered mah self-esteem," said the prisoner, more confident now. “Ya couldn’t understand it -– it’s a horse-thief thang.”
“You just can’t go roun’ lowerin’ a man’s self-esteem like that Luke. You oughts to know that,” said the Deputy.
“You shut the hell up, Bob!” thundered Luke. He turned to the Sheriff. “Pete, that son of a bitch tried ta steal all my god-damned horses! That’s all I got! We should be hanging that low-life horse thief! How the hell am I supposed to feed my family with all them horses gone?! We oughts ta shoot that thievin’ sack a s--!”
“--That there’s hate speech!!” said Deputy Bob, pulling out a notebook. “I’m writin’ Luke’s name down!”
The Sheriff’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Now Luke, you listen to me now, and you listen good. As long as I’m Sheriff ‘a this here county, we are gonna maintain a commitment to a diversity of ownership viewpoints. Do I make mahself clear?”
“So that’s it,” said Luke, eyeing the rest of the posse. Their hands rested nervously on the court-ordered injunctions and restraining orders they had strapped to their waists and legs. “You gonna hang me now, is that it?”
“Oh hell no, Luke! We’re aimin’ to break tha cycle ah violence! I rounded up the therapy posse so we could have ourselves a little man-to-man sensitivity trainin’ seminar, maybe a little group drummin’ and some visualizations, tell you and yer kids and the misses about some ah the root causes concerning horse-thievery and the like. Then we’ll hafta safety-cork that barb-wire, get it up ta code. And I reckon yer gonna need to give this feller four, maybe five horses to make up fer the humiliation and sufferin’ he’s had to endure…”
“And throw in that huckaberry pie, too!” barked the prisoner. “I cain’t even look at a horse no more without getting all nervous and twitchy-like!”
“That seems reasonable enough to me,” said the Sheriff.
“Right! That’s it!” Luke turned to his wife, disgusted.
The Sheriff looked down, shook his head. He dismounted in a fluid motion, spitting a bullet of chewing tobacco into the dust. He advanced on Luke with arms outstretched. “Well, now, I reckon it looks like someone here could use a hug,” he said, his voice rattling like a sidewinder.
Luke turned his back on him. “Sarah, you pack up everthang we can fit. Jake,” he said, turning to his son, “fetch Rachel and get the cover on tha’ wagon. We’re packin’ up an' goin’ where men are men and a man’s word is his bond!!”
“Where we going, daddy?” asked the young man.
“We are movin’ ta France, God-damnit!” said Luke.
Times have changed. There were some major problems with Frontier Justice: it was brutal, it was often error prone, and once made those errors could not be corrected by cutting down the offender, apologizing, and sending him on his way.
But Frontier Justice did have one immeasurably attractive virtue. It understood, in a way we are rapidly forgetting, the difference between perpetrator and victim. It realized that the former started into motion a chain of events, and that all of the consequences could therefore be laid at the feet of the individual person committing the crime. It recognized that as a creature with free will, a man at some point had to make a decision to do wrong, and that free-will decision to do good or evil was the centerpiece of their view, and mine, that we should treat people like adults and allow them as much freedom as possible, secure in the understanding that if they abused such freedoms, they would pay the consequences.
And even more importantly, Frontier Justice did not punish the victim. It was crystal clear and steely-eyed in this one essential element, the only one that really matters: it understood who was responsible.
A society, like any other complex mechanism, will seek, and eventually find, equilibrium. If you create a society with unparalleled human freedoms, you must build into it a corresponding counterweight, and that counterweight is the idea of individual responsibility for your actions. That’s why you can do no better, as a blueprint for a happy society, than the folksy sentence, Your freedom to swing your arm ends at my nose.
Now if Freedom is the credit card, and Responsibility is the monthly payment, it should not come as a surprise to us to realize that human nature says we want the spending spree, but not to put in the overtime to pay for it. And if this were just happening on a one-on-one basis, there would not be too much to worry about.
The problem is, there are many groups who have taken it upon themselves to preach the elimination of personal responsibility, and they are having a deeply corrosive effect on this experiment in self-determination. Some of these forces do it for money –- personal injury attorneys come to mind –- and others have darker and more obscure motives.
And so we have group identity advocates. Because if you can convince someone that they are not responsible for their failures and shortcomings, and that someone else is –- not a hard sell if you think about it –- then they will be willing to subsume their responsibility into that of the group –- and with their responsibility goes their political power. Then all the responsibility of the group – and all their power –- is concentrated in the hands of the very few who have led them to this position.
People like Jesse Jackson. Or Pat Robertson. Take your pick.
Who controls a nation of free individuals? No one. That is deeply unsettling to people who crave political control the way a heroin addict needs his fix. What would Bill Clinton have been without politics? A wildly successful Little Rock car dealer -– that’s what I think. And his wife? What of her? Who would have heard of this obscure partner in some backwater law firm? What power and prestige and ability to tell others what to do would she have wielded? And it’s not just Democrats –- Nixon was cut from this cloth. Truman –- a Democrat –- clearly was not.
What do you think drives such people? Power. Control.
How do you convince free people to surrender their power? Well, one way is to go in and take it by gunpoint. Sadly for them, Lincoln’s –- and our hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors, foresaw this probability and put the gunpoint in the hands of the people. They assumed that if our system was worth having, if their theory of people was correct, then they could be trusted with such absolute power because they were willing to accept responsibility for it –- as by and large, we have been.
So, taking our power was out of the question. Our power, and its concomitant responsibility, had been granted to us by the Founders. They’d have to talk us out of it. They’d have to con us out of it.
No one wants to give up power. But lots of folks cheerfully want to abandon responsibility. The two are flip sides of the same coin. Get people to abandon responsibility, and their power and freedom goes with it. That’s the way in.
Lincoln was speaking of something overwhelming our innate power, the insurmountable power of free people. He saw, correctly, that such a thing could never happen. We would have to give it up, willingly.
As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
Keep this in mind, my friends: when someone tells you It Takes a Village, remember that the corollary to that philosophy is It Also Takes A Village Leader.
Take a guess who that might be.
Give your responsibility to the group, and you give your freedom to the group. Freedom without responsibility becomes –- very rapidly -- a farce. When laws become farcical, the result is anarchy. Anarchy is unacceptable –- so measures are taken to reduce freedom and increase controls on the population.
That is precisely what is happening at full gallop. Lets take a look at some case by case examples. When we are finished, you’ll see who’s responsible for this cancer, and even better, you’ll learn who can stop it.
Before we go looking for trouble, we have to delve a little deeper into another thorny philosophical thicket.
How much freedom can we allow people?
The answer seems to be, as much as they are willing to accept responsibility for. But a deeper and more interesting question is this: if freedom is power, then how much power are we willing to place in the hands of single individuals?
To find that answer, we have to again try to connect with another rapidly-disappearing trait, one tied directly and causally to the idea of responsibility.
That second essential trait is common sense.
If we had read the above-mentioned Prairie Justice to actual inhabitants of the American Frontier, they would not have found it comical or ironic –- they simply would be unable to follow it. It would, quite simply, read as Greek to them. The idea of punishing the property owner while rewarding the thief would so violate their common sense, their keenly developed sense of responsibility, that they simply could not believe what they were hearing, and that is because for those people, cold, hard reality stalked them right outside their front door, and moronic inversions of cause and effect would quite simply get you killed. That’s why it was called common sense…it was the Minimum Daily Requirement of intelligence and logic that one needed to survive on a daily basis. Those who didn’t have it were too stupid to live, and had been eaten by wolves or prairie dogs, depending on just how stupid they were.
Reality has receded far from the front porch in modern America, and in those isolated towers of law offices, bureaucracies and faculty lounges, all manners of thought inversions can grow and prosper. I recently heard of a woman who sued a car dealership. It seems her son had stolen a car from said dealership, gone on a joy ride -– drunk, of course -– and gotten himself killed. The woman claimed that if the dealership had maintained adequate security, her son would not have been able to steal the car and he’d be alive today.
This is madness.
Responsibility. Freedom. Common sense. Let’s take a few snapshots of society today and see how these three essential elements come to bear.
And watch carefully, because if we apply Bill’s Electric Razor, we will see that every one of the nasty modern monsters we are about to poke with a stick have only one thing in common, and that is this: they all try to convince people to surrender their individual responsibility, and place that responsibility, and that power, in the hands of a governing elite.
To be Politically Correct these days, you must accept the collectivist belief that words are like weapons, endowed with their own internal, innate power, and this power, like that of a chambered bullet, cannot be trusted to be used responsibly and so must be outlawed and banished from the community.
PC advocates have strict rules for what they call Hate Speech, and using such speech essentially makes you a criminal.
So much for the First Amendment. But the Bill of Rights never meant much to these people; indeed, they see it as an impediment to human progress.
Implicit in this belief is that I have the power to harm you by my use of language. Notice that all the responsibility falls on the speaker; the listener, the subject, is completely powerless, and has achieved the highest status with the group: victim. Note also that this worshipping of the victim, is in essence, the elevation of the most powerless and the least responsible to divine status. It is a very basic sleight of hand, that allows the controlling elites to maintain that they are only trying to help the poor and downtrodden, when in reality their actions are clearly nothing more than a naked grab for power that would shame the most ruthless corporate CEO.
Who decides what is hate speech? The group decides. If one person in the group seriously finds something offensive, then that term or phrase or entire concept is added to the list or proscribed terms, and this is how we get to office memo’s being critical of the term “brainstorming” as being offensive to epileptic co-workers.
If we buy into this idea of Political Correctness, we do several things, all ruinous: we give other people the power to demean us, we remove any chance at reasoned debate on any issue, and most importantly, in a group of 300 million professionally offended people, we come to a vocabulary of perhaps twenty or thirty words that have been so bleached of potential offensiveness and meaning that language itself becomes worthless.
If you have not read 1984 by George Orwell, you have deprived yourself of an entire education right there. There lies the eternal dictatorship, the ultimate all-pervasive Superstate. And how did such a monstrosity come into being? By controlling language. Not only controlling what could be said, but by so simplifying and infantilizing language that entire concepts became literally unthinkable because there were no words for them. Here we sit talking about Freedom, Liberty, Responsibility and all the rest. What if the act of speaking one's mind was described only as “ungood.” What if the only adjectives applied to a life of subjection and servility were “double plus good,” the very words subjection, slavery, servility, submission banished generations ago?
You look out into the street and see someone tearing down a poster of Big Brother; the offender is hauled away, never to be seen again. How do you describe such an action without courage, audacity, rebellion, resistance and freedom? You can’t. You can’t describe them to others, and you can’t think about them yourself. Ungood behavior. You’re a prisoner of your limited, puerile language, and that is precisely where the Politically Correct movement wants to take us, to a world where language and thought is rigidly controlled –- by them.
How much better, how much stronger and healthier are we, when we dare anyone to use whatever terms they choose, and rather than sitting as powerless victims, rise in angry and righteous indignation to fight the human filth that use words like nigger, spick, gook, mick, kike, dago, and all the rest? How much more secure, how much more inoculated, are we when we can hear these words knowing that those who use them are discredited and terrified infants so out of ideas and argument that they must resort to such childish tactics to reassure themselves? What words can hurt us when we refuse to be hurt by words? What simple and powerful wisdom is bound up in Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me?
I have been called a few choice names in the course of these writings, and I have quickly learned that I do not want to be admired and respected by totalitarians, willfully uneducated idiots, smug and jaded suburban revolutionaries, and apologists for dictators. If people like that agreed with me, I would be ashamed of myself. I’m proud to anger those people, and whatever names they choose to call me I consider a badge of pride, considering their source. We can indeed judge ourselves by the loathsomeness of our enemies.
The defense against this kind of free -- and repugnant -- speech is not to put our hands over our ears, our eyes, and someone else’s mouth. The way to fight this human virus is to do what we have been doing: hold those who use such language up to ridicule and scorn, to use our own words as a people blessed with freedom of speech, and to let such archaic and diseased notions and epithets die a quick death in the marketplace of better ideas.
It is a far more dignified, self-respecting and adult way to deal with life’s travails than crying and stamping your feet when someone calls you a bad name. Name callers will always exist, even within the competing factions of a PC universe. If we have free will, we can control our own hearts. And if we let mere words hurt us, we have abdicated this responsibility, and given it to someone else.
It's like surrendering an impregnable fortress without a shot being fired.
And how does responsibility weigh on the issue of Media Bias?
Way back in ancient times -- before, say, 1974 -- the goal of a reporter was not to single-handedly bring down the government and become an international celebrity, but rather to report the facts as fairly and evenly as possible and provide the essential information that we use to direct ourselves as a republic. They had enough respect for the intelligence and decency of the American Public to allow them to make their own decisions.
They also knew that in times of war some things would have to go unreported for a while, so that the country and the free press could survive to read about it later.
But now most of the press –- long a somewhat rumpled and disheveled but nevertheless elitist group -– does not seem to be too happy with the decisions being made by the body politic, and have decided that the populace cannot be trusted with this responsibility. And so they color the news, not by out and out lying –- although there is more and more of that, symptomatic of deeper rot -– but by editorializing, by selective interviewing, by counting the misses but ignoring the hits.
They do not think we can be trusted to do the right thing. They, like most elitists, do not think the average American is up to the responsibility.
As a single example, CNN purposely withheld a number of Saddam’s examples of bestial behavior, torture and repression, ostensibly to maintain “access.” In fact, the elite determining what passes for news at CNN were opposed to the war, and decided on their own and without disclosing this monumental decision to present the war in the worst possible light. But if the price of “access” is the rote delivery of policy statements dictated by a mass-murderer -– as claimed by a few CNN reporters struggling to hold on to some shreds of integrity -– then what point is there to such “access” if all they do is mouth the party line of a dictatorship at odds with a nation of 290 million free people? We expect that from puppets like Comical Ali -– from an American news source, it is a disgraceful and shocking indictment of how elitist, arrogant and egomaniacal the news media has largely become. It is the willful destruction of the main pillar that supports our Republic. Such an act is a basic violation of a sacred trust, and I think such willing distortion ought to be legally actionable, tantamount nearly to treason or sedition. It is profoundly, poisonously anti-democratic.
The press hold in their hands enormous responsibility; they bear on their shoulders the immense burden of trust that we have placed upon them. We have trusted that they will do their job of providing the people of this democratic republic the unvarnished information we need to make responsible decisions.
What we decidedly do not need is some arrogant man or woman deciding, consciously or unconsciously, that they will present information in such a way as to influence people according to their own inner ideologies. Sorry, but this is not acceptable. Their personal opinions entitle them to one vote, not forty million.
We ask them to report the truth. Their response, increasingly, is you can’t handle the truth!
Who the hell are they to decide something of that magnitude? Who do these people think they are?
When you hear the Evening News report some new terrorist warning, and a slow-motion flag banner across the bottom proclaims Americans living in fear, who do you think is afraid, you, or some New York news editor? All of this verbiage about Americans living in fear, anxiety, gloom, terror? They’re the ones living that way. We’re getting up and going to work every day. Stop telling us how afraid we need to be, you pathetic terrorist-enabling weenies! We can handle the truth just fine; it’s you we’re worried about.
The Press has the responsibility to report facts. We have the responsibility to inform ourselves enough to make reasoned political decisions. How we make those decisions is none of their business. Give us the information and then get the hell out of the way.
Note to Dan, Peter, Tom, Wolff and Aaron: trust us. We can handle it.
That’s not a plea, by the way. That is a threat.
Trust us, or we will find someone who will.
Deconstructionism. If ever there was an intellectual movement specifically tailored for a certain type of mental illness, this must surely be it.
Deconstructionists believe in collective responsibility and the dominance of culture over individuality to such a degree that they maintain that one of the most striking examples of free will -– the ability to write down what one thinks about something -– is so colored by culture that the author himself has no real idea what he is saying.
Who, then, can truly know what Lincoln, or Shakespeare, or Hemingway was trying to say? Well, you can’t simply read what they say and take it at face value. Any common idiot can do that, apparently. What the hell fun is it being better than everyone else if everyone else can get the same information that you can?
No, to understand the true meaning, you have to take several college courses where some obscure and petty failed writer -– a man with a bust of Salieri on his mantlepiece -– will deconstruct the cultural and environmental factors and tell you what a real author was actually saying.
This level of arrogance is beyond my ability to parody, frankly.
Again, very popular with the professionally outraged crowd, because it allows them to overcome one of their most glaring deficiencies, namely, the lack of any facts or respected opinions to support their lunatic theories. So if they can, by fiat, announce that what Adam Smith really meant in The Wealth of Nations was simply that -– once you strip away the white, male, European, patriarchal and materialistic / hateful culture that he swam in -- we should all share and reduce greenhouse gases and most especially give money to the demonstrators, for they are as the salt of the earth.
This is not coercion of responsibility; this is highway robbery. The idea that a band of nitwits with too much free time on their angry and sweaty little hands, can sit in a small sub-basement classroom at Mediocrity U. and tell Shakespeare what he was really trying to say is simply the most reprehensible hijacking of responsibility it has ever been my unpleasant experience to see.
That is why, when I deconstruct Deconstructionism, all I see is a group of pathetic, talent-free, self-hating fourth-raters secretly sending out a message for someone with some common sense to ride into town and hang them all.
It is my firm belief that in any decent society, in any civilization worth living in, the healthy and the fit have a moral obligation to render assistance to those in need. None of the people I consider friends and ideological companions cares to live in a country where children are starving on the streets. And we don’t, despite what the BBC or Pravda or The New York Times would have you believe. Actually, that comparison was unfair to Pravda.
Welfare, as envisioned, was designed to provide assistance to people who, through economic downturns or other swings of fate, were momentarily unable to care for themselves and their families. This is a noble idea, and one of many prerequisites for a decent and honorable society.
Furthermore, we must accept the fact that through disabilities of birth, or injury, or chronic illness, many people will be unable to make their own way in this world. And of those unfortunate people, there will be a significant number who lack the family and personal support networks available to others, and who will need to depend on public assistance for the rest of their lives. These, too, are deserving of our help, and it seems to me that a decent society has a moral obligation to provide care and comfort for those with such afflictions. A nation as successful and prosperous as we are can not only afford to assist these people; a people as decent and generous as Americans will insist upon it.
That was the plan.
The problems is, as I mentioned before, that we no longer have a safety net; we have created a safety hammock, where an entire subculture of millions of otherwise capable people have come to rely on public handouts for their livelihoods, with no intention whatsoever of assuming responsibility for their own lives.
I can truthfully state that I do not know the numbers, or proportions, of people on welfare who have no business being there, but they certainly appear to be significant.
If we are to speak frankly and intelligently about this issue, we must recognize that there are two sides of this coin of responsibility. The first is the obligation society has to the poor, outlined above.
What is not discussed is the reciprocal responsibility; namely: what obligation does the poor have to society?
I think there’s a simple answer for that, much simpler than most people realize. I think that if we have a moral obligation to help those in need, then those in need have a moral obligation to recover and stand on their own two feet as quickly as possible.
Let’s take a relative compassion test, shall we? Who is more compassionate: those that want to limit the helping hand in order to allow someone to get back on their feet, gain an education, recover their self-esteem, manifest their self-worth, and lift themselves from the crippling depths of poverty, or someone who wants to hand them an endless supply of meager checks, just enough to destroy their self-respect, hobble their motivation, and sentence them, and their children, and their grandchildren, and their children, to squalid and wasted lives?
I oppose the creation and maintenance of a class of people perpetually on the dole because we simply cannot afford it. And I’m not talking financially -– we have the money to do that until the end of time. We cannot afford the human cost. We cannot afford to squander entire generations of Einsteins and Sagans and Mozarts and Da Vincis by condemning them to a life that consists solely of pushing a lever and getting a food pellet. We need all the help we can get in this struggle toward a more perfect Union. Training people how to remain passive, dependent and miserable is not noble, it is not just, and it is least of all compassionate.
But being the person who brings those benefits home from Washington does, I have noticed, put a fair amount of power, prestige and money in the hands of those elites that call themselves “Champions of the Poor.”
If I were elected Champion of the Poor, my first goal would be the elimination of my job in as short a time as possible -– by teaching people how to care for themselves, how to succeed and thrive and prosper -– in other words, how to be poor no longer. Not by their own bootstraps -– I’m not that naïve. But we, together, should be able to provide the assistance to get this much-needed human potential out of the stagnant swamp that forty years of public assistance has put them in.
We have thrown a lot of money at this problem, for nearly half a century now, with no noticeable improvement. Maybe the answer is not to throw just money, but to throw attitudes. It seems worth a try. I don’t see how we could do much worse.
We could be here all day doing this, but we won’t. Just a few more quick observations, then it’s back to the cave until next we see the Bat Signal on a cloudy and threatening night.
I got started thinking about responsibility over the huffing and puffing done by the Perpetually Outraged regarding the death of Uday and Qusay Hussein. We were told they had been “assassinated,” that the US had “murdered Saddam’s children.” We, of course, were the ones to blame. We were the criminals. We were responsible.
There is so much revealed in such an attitude that a rational, responsible mind recoils as if having picked up a white-hot iron bar.
First of all, a brief review of the facts will show that an offer was made for them to surrender -– multiple times. I do not recall Lee Harvey Oswald shouting down to the Kennedy motorcade advising the President to get out of the limousine before someone got hurt, nor does history record anything of John Wilkes Booth slipping a note to Lincoln warning him that if he came back for the second act then grave consequences would result.
Those were assassinations. This was a raid to apprehend or kill two of the most despicable mass murderers in human history. The offer to apprehend being repeatedly made, and responded to with gunfire, pretty much rules out assassination to anyone but disgusting and reprehensible opportunists who will forgo the deaths of 300,000 -– three filled Superbowls of innocent families -- in order to see their own man or woman win the next election.
Then the critics harp on the use of overwhelming force. 200 plus soldiers, Humvees, helicopters… and yet, who would be shrieking the loudest if fifteen or twenty or a hundred US servicemen had been killed in this operation? The audacity of such a claim boggles the mind, given its proponents' endless quest for second-guessing military failures.
Who really believes that these two murdering bastards would put their hands up and march out to face the populace that they had tortured, murdered and raped for so many years? Who believes Hitler would have walked out of his bunker, hands in the air, and surrendered to Soviet authorities for a trial? What astonishing lack of comprehension does such a position reveal? What more evidence does one need to realize how deeply, fatally isolated these people are from the world they claim to criticize?
But here is the final outrage, one that makes all the others Sunday-school peccadilloes.
How dare these people, how dare they, absolve these two mass murderers of the responsibility of the deaths of so many tens of thousands of men, women and children, simply because they cannot get over their loathing of the President of the United States? These people have the nerve, the unmitigated gall, to claim the moral high ground? What depths will such people not wallow in?
Imagine that you are a seventeen-year-old girl tied with electrical cords in a basement in Baghdad. It’s Monday evening. Uday Hussein, a young psychopath given godlike power over life and death since birth, was driving his pimpmobile on Friday afternoon, and saw you walking home from your university classes. He ordered you into the car, took you to one of his compounds, and raped you for three days, sharing you with all of his sycophants. Then, when your family had the temerity to question what might have happened to you, they were brought to this basement. You were raped repeatedly in front of your father and mother, your younger sister, too –- just so she could see what was in store for her. Your 7 year old brother then had his brains blown all over a wall in front of the entire family. Then your parents were killed, or you were killed, or your sister -– the order doesn’t matter, since none of you are getting out of this room. Inhuman wails of agony, pleas for mercy, begging, promising, mothers offering to be raped in place of their daughters, fathers begging to be killed if only they will release his family -– all of this. Perhaps you’ll be raped to death, or beaten to death; perhaps electrocuted with a wire brush plugged into a wall as salt water is thrown onto your lacerated body. Maybe father will be placed into one of the industrial shredders –- head first, if you can imagine such a thing…that would mean Uday is feeling merciful. Feet first will take a few moments longer. No, looks like it’s feet first for him today.
And you? What is your last thought, a pretty seventeen year old girl majoring in Chemical Engineering, say? What is the last thing that crosses your mind before the lights go out on you, your future, and the future of all the children you will never have?
We know, from the pathetic, forever-scarred and infinitesimal minority that escapes such living hell, that the one thing they call for in their last plea to a God that did not save them, is for justice.
That those who did these evil things, that laughed while lives were destroyed by their own hand, face the responsibility for their actions. Not to live life comfortably after the massacre of hundreds of thousands, like that cannibal monstrosity Idi Amin, who lived like a sultan for thirty years after his abominations, courtesy of our good friends the Saudis.
Justice for these animals –- and Qusay, though less flamboyant, was by all accounts more prolific in this hellish competition -– justice for that girl and her family and the hundreds of thousands of other real people who died appalling deaths in darkened dungeons -– justice for them came when these miserable bastards faced the fact that they were trapped, cornered, and going to die. There was going to be no last minute rescue for them, just as there was none for those untold Iraqi families that pampered western idiots dismiss with a wave of their rhetorical and oh-so-compassionate hands.
No, they were trapped, and they were not getting out of that place alive. I hope they were terrified. I hope they shivered and cried in fear. I hope they had, in those four hours, a glimmer, a faint, animalistic, dim recognition that this is how it must have felt for those objects they tortured and destroyed in their palaces of mayhem and grief.
Uday and Qusay got a lot less than they deserved, but they did not get away. They did not escape justice. They did not escape responsibility. And they did not escape the United States of America, last best hope of this earth, for all her manifest flaws and failures.
Who did escape responsibility? Those who called this an assassination. Those who turned a blind eye to children’s graves and acid baths and rallied to the defense of these murdering bastards. They go about their lives today, looking for new apologies for Saddam and Osama and Fidel and Stalin. They walk our streets today, safe and secure, protected -– rightly -– from retaliation for their moral bankruptcy by the society they despise.
If we accept responsibility for our own actions, we are indeed worthy of our freedom.
This idea of individual responsibility is a new one. It works. It needs to be defended. If only a small portion of the mass of humanity can see clearly that this is the key to escape the bondage of history, class, race, sex and economic status, then that is simply a message we need to preach to anyone who will listen.
Many will not hear it. Perhaps most will not. As for me, I don’t give a flying damn about being on the side with the most adherents. I want to be on the side that is correct. Remember, there was a time when three or four people on the entire planet believed that the earth was round, and the entire rest of the species said they were demonstrably wrong, insane, and should be burned at the stake.
Finally, I promised I would tell you who is responsible for the mess we find ourselves in.
Proceed into your bathroom and take a long, hard look in the mirror.
I also promised to tell you who can get us out of this fix. Well, keep looking. While you're looking, make a decision.
When we surrender our responsibility, when we say we are not capable of facing the consequences of being allowed to smoke, or own a handgun, or ride a motorcycle without a helmet, or drink hot coffee in a moving automobile, then we have gained nothing and given away all. There are people who will gladly assume our responsibility in order to have our freedom and our political power. It’s a buyer's market.
As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
We’ve been warned.