“The Way It Is” Versus “The Way it Should Be”

This missive is my reaction to Bandon Smith’s 8/12/2014 column, posted at PersonalLiberty.com, “Order out of Chaos: The Doctrine that Runs the World.”

I like Brandon Smith’s columns because they usually contain strong philosophical components, and because Smith is very good at communicating the connection between abstract philosophies and everyday events in a way that readers can quickly understand. Not many news/opinion writers can do this, but Smith manages to pull it off. In that, he has a firm grasp of the art of rhetoric: the art of gathering facts into a persuasive argument.

For example, Smith’s writing about the Hegelian Dialectic clearly illustrates its presence in events, large and small (at least for those who’ve taken time to read about and understand the Hegelian Dialectic). From what Smith has written about “the dialectic,” I’ve come to wonder whether Hegel, when he wrote about it, was formulating a method to deliberately bring about large-scale social and political changes or simply describing the way that all changes, large and small, usually occur.

More simply, did Hegel say, “This is the way it should be,” or “This is just the way it is”?

I’ve often wondered the same thing about Karl Marx. One of my undergraduate philosophy instructors emphasized that Marx’s main theoretical tenet wasn’t that we should all be “communists.” His main theoretical tenet was that humanity is either controlled by or at least explained via economic principles: who gets what, how do they get it, when do they get it, and where do they get it. (An undergraduate political science professor asserted that these economic principles are the essence of politics.) Marx wasn’t so much saying that this is the way it should be. He was saying that this is simply the way that it is.

(I will insert here, as an aside, that Karl Marx was likely not an atheist. He believed in God. But he did not like the way wealthy, government rulers first inflict suffering on “the masses” and then use religion as a tool of pacification. Hence Marx’s famous observation: “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” What Marxperhaps in the weakness of his faithdid not see is, given the way wealthy, government rulers inevitably succumb to greed and wreak their havoc on everybody else, faith is the only means by which people can escape the ensuing strife and attain some peace of mind. Instead, Marx seems to have advocated violent revolution against the greedy government rulers. But The Who’s Pete Townsend cogently addressed that idea in the song, “Don’t Get Fooled Again,” with the lines, “Meet the new boss: same as the old boss.” In other words, greed is a persistent human characteristic that will always be present in our rulers; their greed is what drives them to rule. If “the masses” would violently rebel against their “greedy rulers,” then “the masses” can more or less plan on living in a perpetual state of violent revolution brought about byyou guessed itthe Hegelian Dialectic.)

Marx apparently believed that the best world is one in which, from an economical perspective, food, clothing, shelter and other goods and services (or the money to buy them) are equally distributed (a somewhat unrealistic world in which greedy people don’t exist). This isn’t crazy or evil, and saying that Karl Marx was the first one to think of it is ridiculous. Philosophers and writers had been debating economicswho gets what, when, where, and howfor thousands of years before Marx came along. The economic debate rages on, mostly because, at one extreme, greedy people want more than they need or can even count, and at the other extreme, “lazy” people want a good living without having to earn it. Human beings still disagree about how “capital” (property) should be distributed and, apparently, they always will. Who should get more, who should get less, why and, most emphatically, which system of distribution is most likely to work?

This is such an expansive discussion that it’s impossible to address it in an entire volume, let alone in my comment on this Web site. Nonetheless . . ..

Friedrich Nietzsche weighs in with his theoretical “ubermensch,” (“over-man,” or “super-man,” or “super-human”): the one who authoritatively creates values and beliefs for “the masses” but, ironically enoughbecause he or she is “above” the massesdoes not subscribe to the values and beliefs he (or she) creates. Whether these people take the authority to dictate what “the masses” believe, or “the masses” give them that authority, or “der ubermensches” (or “der uberfraus”) simply have authority over others as a matter of nature, is and likely always will be a matter of debate.

I did some graduate research on the subject. Some say Nietzsche got his “ubermensch” idea from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and some say Dostoyevsky got the idea from the memoirs of Julius Caesar, who wrote about men who, by their nature, have thrust upon them authority to create beliefs and values. Nobody knows for sure, but it’s nonetheless clear that neither Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, nor Caesar were the first ones to ruminate over authority. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (to name just three early Greek philosophers) all discussed and (except for Socrates, who didn’t write anything down) wrote about the concept of socio-political-economic authority hundreds of years before Caesar did and thousands of years before Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche did.

To sum all of this up, Hegel said “the dialectic” is the means by which humans make decisions, Marx said the main decisions are based on economics, and Nietzsche said “der ubermensch” makes the call by choosing, for “the masses,” what they will believe.

I think it’s interesting to note that, while the theories of these three 19th-century philosophers are attached to one socio-political-economic system or another, their theories are in fact present in all of humanity. Hegal and Marx, for example, are widely associated with so-called “communism,” likely because so-called “communists” seized on and claimed ownership of the two men’s works. But, no: Hegelian and Marxian theories are evident in all of humanity. Likewise, Nietzsche’s “ubermensch” theory is widely associated with so-called “fascism,” likely because so-called “fascists” seized on and claimed ownership of his works. But the idea of a ruling elite that is above the laws it makesi.e. “der ubermensches” and “der uberfraus”is foundationally central to “communism” or, for that matter, to any socio-political-economic system.

I think “the founders” who wrote the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, as astute observers of history, recognized that absolute authority in human hands is a recipe for evil. So, they sought to disseminate the federal government’s authority into three branches and further disseminate authority to the “several states.” But they knew that, even though the law of the land calls for the dissemination of authority, those with authority are greedy and will inevitably consolidate their authority and make it absolute. So, “the founders” further added the Second Amendment: not merely the right but the responsibility of the citizens to take authority away from those who consolidate it and make it absolute, because consolidated and absolute authority is against the law of the land. Taking authority away from greedy rulers often includes some sacrifice among those who benefit from the largesse of those in authority, but it is “necessary to the security of a free state.”

Just for funfor those who benefit from the largesse of those in authorityI’ll throw in one more theory, this one from a contemporary philosopher. The Dalai Lama noted that all charity is based on religion. It ultimately follows, then, that Hegel’s, Marx’s, and Nietzsche’s theories, as applied to this socio-political economic system or that one, are inseparable from religious morality. Ironically enough, it further follows that, in the United States, those who benefit from the largesse of those in federal authority do so in violation of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the federal government from making laws in support of religion. According to the Dalai Lama, federal entitlement programsbrought about by federal legislationthat amount to charity are based on religious morality, and are therefore illegal.

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Back to “The Good, Old Days”: Systematic, Substantial Economic and Social Regression Under the Guise of Superficial Progressive Idealism

The following missive originated as a comment posted on USA Today’s Web site in response to this USA Today opinion column and this PersonalLiberty.com report.

I think the articles’ claims are both true and deliberately underreported. (I think the articles’ claims are part of what should be a top media issue.) It’s not that the U.S. has a shortage of qualified personnel, for “STEM”  (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs or any other jobs. It’s that the U.S. has a shortage of qualified personnel willing to work for what U.S. employers are willing to pay.

The trucking industry has the same situation. Trucking companies are lamenting a supposed shortage of truck drivers and making dire predictions. But the trucking companies seem pathologically unwilling to increase wageswhich are about the same as they were over 15 years goor improve industry working conditions, which require truck drivers to work 70- and 80-hour work weeks at all kinds of crazy hours without overtime. They’d rather import an entire population of new, lower-income workers.

The U.S. doesn’t have a shortage of truck drivers. Our retail shelves are full. None of our freight goes undelivered. But the U.S. does have a shortage of truck drivers willing to work long hours for low pay ordue to specific trucking-industry conditionsbe on the job for entire days and nights without any pay at all.

I think it’s a myth that America needs laborers “to do the work that existing Americans are unwilling to do.” I further think that articles like the two I’ve citedwhich are published way too seldomare indication of a larger event occurring in the country.

Take a deep breath.

America’s rank-and-file workers’ standard of living is being systematically decreased. People who take jobs now are being forced to work harder for longer hours at lower wages and salaries, and the job market is being artificially kept weak to give employers the leverage to force these conditions.

An employee’s primary bargaining leverage is a strong job market. With a strong job market, employees can demand and receive better working conditions and wage and salary increases. But if the job market is kept artificially weak, then those who have or are seeking jobs have to take whatever they can get or, as is the case with many skilled, well-trained, experienced and qualified American workers, simply refuse to work at all.

Much might be said of this. The U.S. governmentregardless of which major party “controls” itcould do a lot to strengthen the job market but has given all kinds of rather lame reasons for not doing it. (For example, we can’t mine domestic fossil fuels or complete the Keystone Pipe from Canada because we want to “save the planet.” Meanwhile, Canada negotiates to sell its oil to China which, with its weaker anti-pollution laws, will do a lot more damage to the global environment, and the U.S. government has just opened the door for domestic oil companies to export to foreign markets.)

Ultimately, from a macro-economic perspective (which I gleaned from economist Jeffrey D. Sachs’ book, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities of Our Time), the U.S. is being forced backwards in the path of economic development, towards the developmental stages of countries like India, Brazil, and China, that have huge populations of very low-wage workers and very tiny populations of high-end executives and political leaders who pay themselves and live very well.

I believe that if the U.S. economy was left alone, it would progress naturally on the developmental path toward a smaller population of better-educated, higher-skilled, and higher-paid workers: in other words, a stronger middle- and upper-middle class. This is the economic pattern of countries, most of which are in northern Europe and Scandinavia, that have the highest standards of living in the world. They have progressed economically in the direction that seems to terrify stalwart, retentive U.S. business and political “leaders,” regardless of political affiliation. (The supposedly enlightened and progressive Democratic Partythe party that advertises itself as the party of the common man and friend to the poorhad the mandate to put the U.S. back on its natural, economically developmental path, but instead deliberately chose to keep the job market weak and drive wages lower.)

In other words, we don’t need more low-wage workers. We need employers who willsensibly, in my estimationdramatically reduce their high-end salaries and dramatically increase their employees’ low-end salaries; we need political leaders who are willing, not to pass wage-control lawsHeavens no: a capitalist, free-market economy is the bestbut rather to to genuinely lead: to speak out long and loud against corporate executives who award themselves increasingly exorbitant compensation while working diligently to drive their employees’ compensation lower. But alas: politicians—including democrats, obviouslyside with the wealthy (many of whom are democrat politicians).

An aside: I didn’t write this to rail against democrats. But I would like them, and the media who report about them, to at least be honest about who they are and what they want. Most of the wealthiest congresspersons are democrats, and  this scholarly article from Columbia University more or less explodes the myth that wealthy people overwhelmingly vote republican and poor people overwhelmingly vote democrat. More wealthy people vote republican than democrat, but by only a thin margin. Moreover, the article shows that the democratic presidential candidates routinely carry states with the highest average incomes, and it’s easy to find statistics—on government web sites, no less—showing that most of the wealthiest congress persons are democrats, and industry lobbies that make the greatest financial contributions make them to the Democratic Party; it is by no means the party of the lower economic classes.

That’s why I think raising the minimum wage, while it sounds nice, is actually a rather cruel slap in the face. Nobody who works in this countryfrom burger-flippers to mower-pushersshould be working more than 40 or 50 hours a week or earning under $20 an hour: $40,000-$50,000 a year. (Relatively few people would need “free health care” or other government entitlements if that was the case.) But that seems to be the wealthy elite’s ultimate nightmare, so they’ve workedand enlisted democrat and republican politicians’ help to keep the borders unsecured and the job market artificially weak; to drive workloads higher, work weeks longer, and wages lower. This makes the paltry minimum-wage increase look like some kind of generous gift when it’s actually a measure of cruelty: the paltry ten bucks an hour for which more and more people have to settle. Gee, thanks Mr. President! You really care, and it shows!

Meanwhile, and as the above-cited articles aver, the super-rich and socio/political elite pour out all kinds of reasons for importing a new population of impoverishedor, in the case of “STEM” employees, lower-wageworkers willing to work for less and gladly accept whatever meager “entitlement” gratuities the U.S. government, in its faux kindness, is condescendingly willing to “generously” bestow.

Who are those who tell us this is all good? They are the supposed “people’s heroes”: politicians (democrats and republicans), Gates, Zuckerberg, Murdock, and et cetera, lasciviously drooling over the prospect of a 17th-20th century America run by a god-like “industrialist elite” wielding all but supernatural authority over a huge population of impoverished, powerless workers, just like America used to be in the good old days.

I feel compelled to add that such massive populations of powerless, low-income people, willing to “patriotically” die for whatever high-minded ideal they’ve been fed, come in very handy when global power mongers start world wars to rearrange boundaries of global authority; and that global conditions today—significant technological and industrial advances, and wide-spread global impoverishment (arguably created by government policies)—mimic those that preceded the past two world wars. Given the hundreds of millions who died in the two previous world wars, I shudder to think of how many lives global leaders—who play with whole populations and nations’ economies as if they were toys—are willing to sacrifice in the next one.

This missive contains heady ideas and broad generalizations. (I could write in greater detail, but the result would be a book: inappropriate for this venue.) Nonetheless, evidence to support them is plentiful, and the events I’ve described have been occurring long enough to take shape and become defined. America is being changed: forced regressively backwards economically and, as a result, socially and politically, too, all in the names of high-sounding ideals such as human rights and environmental “progress.”

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Why do we blame the President?

I think that blaming America’s failures on Barack Obama is understandable but inaccurate. We blame our presidents when they don’t move heaven and earth because we’ve come to believe that they can and should work miracles; accordingly, they’ve found that the way to campaign is to make ridiculously grandiose promises; that they can and, if elected, in fact will move heaven and earth. Thus, if they do in fact lead us to anything, it is to rather stupidly believing—as we are wont to do—that our presidents have supernatural powers.

It’s one of several ridiculous “national beliefs”: the president has the supernatural power to do almost anything. No evidence supports it, and it features the co-dependent relationship between cause and effect: kind of like a fire that feeds itself. The more presidents make ridiculous, grandiose promises, the more we believe them. The more we believe them, the more ridiculous, grandiose promises our presidents make: and so forth, and so on.

We can rectify a bad president’s failure to keep ridiculous promises, but we can’t rectify a population that flocks to vote for presidents because they make ridiculous promises. Nonetheless, ridiculous promises are exactly what we want, expect and even demand that our presidents make when they campaign. If our presidents don’t make ridiculous campaign promises, we won’t vote for them.

As such, presidents like Barack Obama—with his grandiose, absurd promises, all of which are exponential expansions on Herbert Hoover’s “a-chicken-in-every-pot” promise—are, predictably enough, what we get. Barack Obama is not the cause of our problems, he’s the effect. He made the ridiculous—spoken and unspoken—promises Americans wanted to hear, and Americans dutifully elected him for it.

It’s worth noting that Hoover promised everyone a mere chicken, and he couldn’t deliver. Barack Obama promised “free health care,” economic recovery, and to save not just the planet, but the layer of gas around it, too. If Hoover couldn’t deliver a chicken, why did Americans believe Obama when he promised to, well, “move heaven and earth”?

More poignantly, why do we demand that our presidents lie for our votes? Starting this year, presidential candidates for the 2016 election will begin telling us the lies we demand that they tell us, and we will believe; and if the candidates give the slightest indication that they’re mere flesh-and-blood humans, or if they tell us the truth, we’ll dismiss them.

I’d say that the cause—and as it goes, the effect, in as much as cause and effect go hand in hand—of America’s failures is a little more complex: a population of people who believe they can, should and will have whatever they want, and leaders—both political and non-political—who are afraid to tell the people that they can’t, shouldn’t, and won’t have whatever they want. People who believe they can, should, and will have whatever they want will vote only for those who tell them they can, should, and will have exactly that. Moreover, such people will not listen to—and will in fact shun, and even demonize and persecute—leaders who tell them the truth: that they cannot and will not have—and it would probably be better for everybody if they did not get—whatever they want.

I think that the (news, entertainment and advertising) media have also incessantly barraged Americans—decade after decade—with the idea that they can and should have and do whatever they want, even without having earned it; and with the idea that Americans can even “have it all” and “do it all,” and they should never experience disappointment; and if they are faced with disappointment, it’s a crime, and somebody has to be blamed. As such, the media are also responsible for the destruction of an America—i.e. a people—that once accepted hard work and sacrifice as the only reality. Americans have been taught to spend wildly beyond their incomes, and to immorally and unethically do “whatever it takes” to get what they want, whatever that might be. “Whatever it takes” once meant hard work and sacrifice; now it’s work an angle, rig the game, pull a fast one, get over, get something for nothing, get rich quickly, and get away with it. We’ve elevated dishonesty to a legitimate job skill. Ivy league schools will likely be offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in “lying your fool head off.”

Whether somebody directly or indirectly gives it to us, or we directly or indirectly steal it, we believe that we can, should and will get whatever we want and do whatever we want.

On a deeper level, it could be that we Americans have come to believe that we can have and do whatever we want because of our decades of prosperity. Compared to most other people in the world, Americans—even most “poverty-stricken” Americans—have enjoyed a very high standard of living for a long while: long enough for us Americans to believe that we can and should always get just about whatever we want, and to therefore flock to politicians who make the ridiculous promise to that effect and, if we vote for them, we will get exactly that, or find ways to take whatever we want at others’ expense.

America is delusional the way a spoiled child is delusional and, like a spoiled, anti-social child, it attacks anybody who’d try to point out and rectify its delusion. As a result, we beat down those who try to set us straight, and we reward those who glibly croon the deceptions we demand. Whether such deceivers are politicians or entrepreneurs, we call them “brilliant,” and we flock to vote for and/or imitate them, and too many of them—including our current president—have learned to simply profit by continuing to feed us deception. We love our liars. Be they in politics or business, we reward them well.

Obama’s power is his ability to deceive, but he is by no means the only politician who’s relied only on deception. Our local, state and federal legislatures are chock full of such people: not even real human beings, but sound-bite images, crooning sweetly and “getting over” . . . and who can blame them? In our current social climate, honest, forthright politicians get dashed to pieces by the insane news media. Let one politician utter anything that disappoints voters, and the news media will seize on and exploit that disappointment and drive it to hysterical levels, all for a few ratings points. Our politicians can’t be honest with us. They succeed by deceiving us as we demand to be deceived, and our news, entertainment and advertising media ensure that it will not be any other way.

Businesses probably do more to create and maintain of our “culture of the con artist” than our politicians do. My dad couldn’t wait to retire, not because he was afraid or sick of working—he’d worked his entire life—but because the business climate emerging as the “baby boomers” (the “peace and love generation”) matured disgusted him.

“In business, it was always ‘anything goes,’” he said to me in his later years, “but this new generation coming up is . . ..” His voice trailed off. He couldn’t find words to describe the business practices he was seeing: practices that had once been immoral and unethical but had become simply what smart people do to get easy money: something for nothing.

“Easy money” is a curse, but it’s the only money that “the winners” want anymore. We make movies glorifying people who, in my dad’s time, were shunned as criminals and bad people. Now they’re “winners”; we emulate them, and they’re the worst among us.

I think that, ultimately, it’s a morality problem. Who says you can’t have it all? Who says you can’t do whatever you want to do and justify it with “science”? Who says, “The party is over,” and it’s time to sober up? Who says if you can’t afford something, you don’t borrow money and get it anyway; you do without it? Who says it’s wrong to deceive? Who says you can’t “do it until you’re satisfied,” because that will destroy you and those around you?

Who tells us those things?

Nobody dares tell us those things because, if they do, our media rise up in collective madness and destroy them. We’ve tranformed “liberalism” from the social or economic policy it once was into a policy of personal behavior: the mentality of a spoiled, completely unrestrained child who can’t understand, let alone abide, the concept of “no, you can’t.”

Conversely, we’ve transformed “conservatism” from the mature restraint and careful, thoughtful progress it once was into a neurotic evil. We get to do whatever we want and have whatever we want. We believe that living this way is a sign of intellect, and when wiser, “conservative” minds try to point out our insanity, we define them as sick and evil.

Worst of all, this “get and do whatever we want” mentality is now the primary characteristic of our governments. They’re out of control: mad with their own consumption. They take, and take, and most of what our governments take, they use for themselves. They have become a reflection of us as a nation. They’ve given up trying to lead us because we cannot be led; our governments have fallen to trying only to impose more control because that’s all they can do while they rig our various systems for their own benefit.

Much more might be said of this. Entire books have been written about it, but all that’s been said comes down to a few simple facts that are a lot easier to say than to live by.

Basically, we need our news, entertainment and advertising media to stop blasting us with the message, “yes, you can,” and start blasting us with the message, “no, you can’t.” You can’t buy it if you can’t afford it. You can’t “party” anymore. You can’t do as you please. You have one choice: live conservatively, and that means working hard, sacrificing, doing without, and forgetting about a government with a bottomless supply of money coming in, taking care of you, and cleaning up your mess because, realistically, the government cannot do that. Taking more for yourself at others’ expensewhether you’re poor and taking it from the government or wealthy and taking it from your customersdoesn’t make you “smart.” It makes you a big part of the problem. It makes you part of who and what is destroyingor part of whom and what has already destroyedthis country. (Such moral decay has always been the harbinger of any country’s decline.) The poor who spend money on booze, lottery tickets, new cars, clothes, and recreation they can’t afford, and the rich who charge hundreds of dollars for a 15-minute office visit, for a few bags of groceries, or for a tank of gasoline: both groups are part of the problem. It’s the behavioral libertine who seems to live for his or her next hormonal jazz; it’s the electronic sorcerer who exploits computer programs to further exploit the financial markets; it’s the Web entrepreneur who invades people’s privacy for marketing data; and it’s our political and business leaders and the news, entertainment, and advertising media who tell us, in one way or another, that this is all okay. In other words, we facilitate the ensuing catastrophe; we throw fuel on the fire of delusion that’s destroying, or that has already destroyed, us.

It’s not our president. It’s people who’ve learned that, whether it’s legal or illegal, if you can do it and get away with it, then it’s okay, morality’s common sense be damned.

You work hard. You sacrifice. You do without. That’s the rule. That’s what made this country strong. That’s what made it a land of plenty. That’s the side of John Wayne’s characters we don’t want to see. (We’re all high in the “swagger,” but not the years of sober hard work and sacrifice that one must endure to earn it.) That’s what made this country safe and secure; the absence of that is what has weakened it. We’ve stolen the prosperity that Tom Brokaw’s “greatest generation” worked hard, sacrificed, and went without to earn, and we’ve blown it on indulgences. We aren’t a nation without laws; God knows we have millions of those. We are a nation without morality or integrity—a puffed up scarecrow without guts, heart, or wisdom—and we’re damned proud of it.

Criticize and condemn that observation if you will, but I think it’s our truth, and it’s destroying us; and who will promise to save us from ourselves?

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The Catcher in the Rye: Classic for All the Wrong Reasons

For most of my life I have, in an off-again, on-again kind of way, been stuck between the noble tragedy of wanting to live for (what some would call) a “bad” reason and the absurdity of wanting to die for (what others would say is) no reason at all.

Much might be said of that, I guess. People have written entire books about it and, truth be told, I just more or less stole the idea from near the end of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, which I’ve just read.

I read it before, a long time ago; I think it was when I was actually studying English literature, i.e. literature written in the English language, not literature written by people who live in England, although I studied plenty of that, too. I don’t suppose anybody can study literature written in the English language without studying plenty of literature written by people who live in England.

I read Catcher in the Rye the first time because I wanted to know that about which all the fuss was. People had been saying that it’s a wonderful book: a classic, even. So, I read it a few decades ago and didn’t get it; whatever it was about the book that made people say it’s a classic (or a masterpiece, or something like that) was lost on me. I’d found it rather tedious: the completely self-absorbed wanderings of a nasty, spoiled young man named Holden Caulfield who haphazardly screwed up everything he did but always got another chance because his wealthy dad kept bailing him out. I have long thought that what Holden needed most of all was somebody to say, “Get over it, you jagged-edged, amateur malcontent. Your feelings aren’t all of reality. Go out in the world you indulgently condemn, work with the people you childishly find so reprehensible, and make your own way. If you make it, you make it, and if you don’t, you don’t, and that’s about all of it. Few people can care much about your ongoing tantrum, although you’ve made it the center of all of life and the whole world: the tedious conniption of a pampered youngster whose wealthy father has afforded him the unfortunate luxury of prolonging his outburst: his narcissistic, post-adolescent (and, as the story goes, apparently somewhat post-traumatic) rage.”

The worst thing that happened to Holden Caulfield, as far as I was concerned, was that his dad was rich. If his dad hadn’t been rich, Holden wouldn’t have had the luxury of melodramatically sublimating his painful but nonetheless run-of-the-mill problems into a burdensome, destructive passion play that goes on, and on, and on, long after its rightful end has come and gone, long after it has ceased to matter in the grand scheme, and long—about 150 pages—after it had ceased to matter to me.

Jeepers, kid. Life is difficult. Cowboy up and deal with it. If you can’t, then you can’t, and you’re certainly not all alone in that regard.

Some critics said that the book was written in the “subjective voice,” which is what Salinger intended. From that perspective, Salinger had accomplished exactly what he’d set out to accomplish, and I didn’t like it.

Maybe Salinger overdid the “subjective voice,” because—to me, anyway—the book wasn’t so much about “the world according to Holden Caulfield”—which would have been the “subjective voice”—but a world with only Holden Caulfield in it, and in which the only things that mattered were Holden Caulfield’s caustic feelings and observations. That is, after all, what the book was about.

So as you can see, I wasn’t all that thrilled with The Catcher in the Rye. But the title keeps coming up—a lot of people are really crazy about the book—so I decided to read it again, now, nigh on 35 years after I’d read it the first time, to find what I’d missed.

I figured I must’ve missed something. If everybody thinks The Catcher in the Rye is such a brilliant piece of literature and I don’t, I surely must’ve missed something when I read it. I’m not one to fall for the idea that I’m right—that The Catcher in the Rye is an okay story, but no “classic”—and everybody else—all these people who think it’s a masterpiece of American fiction—are wrong. (In other words, I am not Holden Caulfield.) After all, Catcher in the Rye has sold over 65 million copies, so it must have something going for it. Somebody must think it’s a one of the best books ever written. If I read the book again, I’d surely see why. I’d surely get it.

I just reread the book. I still don’t get it. It’s an okay story, but a “masterpiece”?

Maybe it’s a “masterpiece,” but not for the reasons people say it is.

I think The Outsiders—another “teen” novel, also written in the “subjective voice”—is a lot better: much more “human,” realistic, and quotable, beginning with its opening sentence.

But, truth be told, I’ve encountered a lot of “classic, masterpiece” literature in my time that I didn’t much like because, as it turns out, it had come out exactly as its authors had wanted it to. From this I learned that the beauty of this piece of literature or that one is very often in the eyes of the literary critics, and if even well-respected critics say a piece of literature is “a classic” or “a masterpiece” that doesn’t necessarily mean it is. It simply means that the critics liked it. “Beauty,” as it turns out, really is “in the eye of the beholder,” just as various astute observers of the human condition have long said.

I think part of the problem with The Catcher in the Rye is that it’s about a kid who lives in New York City, where most of the book’s characters also live, and where most of its plot occurs. This means, of course, that people in New York City will say it’s a wonderful book— a masterpiece—even if it’s not. I’ve been living in this country for over 59 years now, and I’ve found that this is true; people in New York City are fond of stories about—you guessed it—New York City and the people in it.

This isn’t a bad thing. The same is probably true about people everywhere, and people who have built their identities by believing they belong to this group of people, or that group of people (such as the people who belong to “the group of people in New York City”). People in this state or that one, or people from a specific geographical region, or from a specific country, or people of a specific skin color, or socio-economic group, or political party, or from one of the two (I believe we have only two) genders, or even fans of a specific sports team: we are all the same way. We believe that everything that comes out of the groups to which we belong is full of truth, and honesty (which aren’t the same thing), and the real meaning of life, and all that sort of thing. You take any group of people, even loosely defined, and you find that the people in that group believe that their group is special and better in every way than all other groups.

I can’t really fault people for being this way because it’s more or less simply the way people are. People form their identities by calling themselves members of this group or that one. Sometimes they “join” groups by choice, and other times they’re simply born into them. But in either case, people believe—and advance the belief—that their group is better and more somehow significant than all the other groups. The music to which their group listens, and the clothes their group wears, and the food their group eats, and the booze their group drinks, and the language their groups speaks and, most of all, the things their group believe, are all superior to those of other groups.

“Hurrah for our side,” Mr. Stills sang in Buffalo Springfield’s song, “For What it’s Worth.”

This only makes sense, when you think of it. That is to say, would people form their foundational identities by calling themselves members of groups that they believe are inferior to others? Some people might seem to do that; they might identify themselves as members of the group commonly (and erroneously, in my opinion) known as “the inferior losers,” or “the unworthy rejects,” or “the group of people most disliked by others and down upon whom most others look with disgust and contempt.”

That is to say, some people like belonging to “inferior” groups and are proud of it. But ironically enough, these people—who, seeking an identity, opt to join or, by “accident,” are born into so-called “inferior” groups—find large measures of nobility in their supposedly widely perceived down-and-out social status; and in fact, given the chance to abandon identities as members of these down-and-out groups, these people will refuse because they’re just getting too much doggone mileage out of seeing themselves as members of the group of inferior, unworthy, down-and-out losers and rejects.

(Slogan: “No one loves me but my mother, and she could be jivin’ too.” – B. B. King.)

Maybe being a member of the “rejected loser” club, or the “victim’s” club, isn’t so bad, seeing as so many people who could part ways with these groups—and with their attendant identities—choose not to do so; and some of these people, when offered passage to happier, more “respected” groups, will even get damned angry.

Even this is not such a bad thing. It seems crazy to embrace membership in a defeatist group. But upon analysis, it’s understandable. If a person forms his or her fundamental identity by belonging to this group or that one—even if it’s the group of spat-upon wretches—it’s kind of hard to just quit and move on because by quitting and moving on, he or she is kind of admitting that everything he or she supposedly believed about him- or herself, and about everybody in the world, and about life in general, and about the universe, was all a lot of bologna. Such a move can call a person’s entire integrity into question, in his or her own eyes, and in everybody else’s eyes, too. People who change their identities like that: as easily and frequently as they change a television’s channel . . .. Who can believe in them? How can they even believe in themselves?

“Today I belong to the group of people who are flaming atheists. Tomorrow I’ll join the group of people who are Archbishops. So it goes.”

So people everywhere form their fundamental identities by—willingly or unwillingly, formally or informally— “joining” this group or that one and, for the most part, they believe their groups are more special and full of meaning than other groups, and they cling to that, and all of that makes sense. Again: this is what human beings do.

But this entirely human and therefore tolerable and understandable phenomenon becomes burdensome when it comes to “the group of people in New York City” because so many literary critics and publishers belong to that group. They naturally believe that everything about their group is superior to everything about other groups. The Catcher in the Rye is about people in their group, so they love it; and they believe that their beliefs are superior to other groups’ beliefs, so it follows: they believe that if they say The Catcher in the Rye is wonderful, then it really is.

But here’s the thing: most of the major news and information broadcasting companies have long been based in New York City, so “The group of people in New York City” also controls communication. They can flood the entire country—maybe the entire world—with the news that The Catcher in the Rye is “a masterpiece.”

“The group of people in New York City” believe The Catcher in the Rye is “a masterpiece,” their critics tell everybody it’s true, and their publishers print and market millions of copies of the book and—bingo—we have this phenomenon: it seems like everybody believes that The Catcher in the Rye is a brilliant masterpiece, and it might be true, and might merely be largely a fairy tale from the collective imagination of “the group of people in New York City” who, like Holden Caulfield, believe that their feelings are everybody’s reality. However, unlike Holden Caulfield, “the group of people in New York City” have the wherewithal to carry the ruse to an extensive degree. They can create the aura of “masterpiece” around a piece of literature, and it might not even be real.

I think that’s the case with The Catcher in the Rye. I don’t think it’s a very good book. Even though it came out exactly as Salinger wanted—the subjective voice of a disturbed, neurotic and somewhat spoiled teenager—and even though a lot of critics, publishers and news broadcasters in “the group of people in New York City” have long said the book is “a masterpiece”—and even though they’ve now flooded with world with over 65 million copies of it—I’ve read The Catcher in the Rye twice now; and I’m bright and well-educated, and I don’t think the book is as good as advertised.

Not long ago—within the past year or so—I was reading these opinions—proffered, of course by people from New York City—and they gave me the entirely wrong idea about The Catcher in the Rye. Other people who were or who had once been like Holden Caulfield—upper- and upper-middle-class New York City (or thereabouts) kids who’d more or less always had every advantage and not really ever known genuine hardship—identified with Salinger’s spoiled, snotty, decidedly unrealistic protagonist. In one sitting I read two or three critics’ opinions about the book, and they contained almost the same words: “I was so thrilled to know that I wasn’t alone; that someone else felt the same way and saw the same things that I do.” People liked Holden Caulfield and believed they were like him. I’d never admit to that, but Holden was a member of the “The People in New York City” club; so, naturally, other members of that club identified with him.

Gee whiz. The character Holden Caulfield—at least for the few days of his life as described in Catcher in the Rye—is hateful, boring, tedious, burdensome and neurotically self-absorbed: the kind of terminally narcissistic kid who, when he changes a light bulb, holds the bulb in the socket and stands still, waiting for the whole world to revolve around him, knowing full well that he can indulge himelf again because his high-dollar dad will bail him out—againwhen his grandiose delusions crash down around him . . . again.

If Salinger had written The Catcher in the Rye in 1970 instead of 1951, Holden Caulfield would surely have gone to the Woodstock concert, along with all the other upper-middle-class kids from New York City. He’d have believed he had copyrights on being stoned, and on having sex, and—of course—on reality as he alone saw it, and he’d have condemned everything that he, himself, hadn’t thought of, experienced, or seen; and because he lived in the city that controls communication, he’d have joined in erroneously identifying an entire generation—some 60 million people, 59.7 million of whom were not at Woodstock—as “the Woodstock Generation.”

As a “baby boomer,” I am supposedly also a de-facto member of “the Woodstock Generation.” Then again, no, I am not, nor do I want to be. I did not attend that concert, and to this day I believe that most of what happened at that concert, and most of the beliefs that seem to have come out of it, don’t amount to much.

I’ve had experiences like Holden Caulfield’s. I’ve screwed up and been kicked out of good situations, or lost my cool and walked away from great opportunities, all or most of which were, in one form or another, “gifts” to which I was in no way entitled. But even though my dad could’ve bailed me out, he didn’t. I always had to find my own way out of the problems I’d created and claw my own way out of the very deep holes I’d dug for myself. If I did something that I knew was bad and/or against my nature, I had to learn to live with the memory. If something bad happened to me—most often because of my own bad choices—I had to learn that it’s not just me; that bad things happen to everybody, and my misfortune isn’t worse than everybody else’s.

I had to learn that, after creating my own discomfort via my own bad choices, I can then grant myself the luxury of believing that the whole world and everybody in it is screwed up; but it’s neither true nor real, and I will pay for indulging my self-serving fantasies, and when I finally grow weary of paying that often high price, I will finally grow up and accept the reality of life on its own terms, which I cannot dictate.

For a short while, Caulfield dreamed of running away and getting a job pumping gas, but he didn’t actually do it. I did, and when my inability or unwillingness to get dialed in with the way things are came back around, and I lost the job pumping gas, or washing dishes, or cleaning bathrooms, I had to go out and find another because, unlike Caulfield, if I didn’t, I’d have died in a doorway, cold and hungry; and, yes, I’ve gone to bed in cheap, moldy rooms, broke, hungry and without any food or money for the next day. So I can relate with screwing up royally, like Caulfield, and making a king-sized mess of things, even at a very young age. But I can’t relate with not being accountable for my life and my behavior. I can’t relate with not having to the face the consequences of my unrealistic—or perhaps just plain bad—choices.

I can’t relate with believing that it doesn’t matter what I do—that I can be completely irresponsible, and condemn everybody and everything, and basically act like a complete horse’s ass—without worrying about the consequences. I surely have acted like an irresponsible horse’s ass, for sure: more times that I care to remember. (That’s the curse of growing older; you remember what you did and said when you were young and ignorant, i.e. a horse’s ass.) But when the inevitable consequences for my actions and beliefs came calling for their just due, I had to face them, and I took it directly on the chin in more ways than one: as often as Mr. Caulfield bailed his dumb kid out of trouble.

As I read The Catcher in the Rye this second time, I realized that, if the story Salinger wrote has “literary classic” or “masterpiece” merit, that’s it; it’s a spot-on portrait of the neurosis into which an entire population of people can sink when they’re allowed to depart permanently from reality and live in an imaginary world that’s devoid of genuine consequences and personal accountability and responsibility. It’s the story of what happens to entire populations of people whose lives are so stripped of any genuine necessity that they’re allowed to sublimate their self-centeredness to grandiose levels of deified omnipotence, completely divorced from and at odds with,the realities of life and the world around them. It’s the story of people who’ve never known genuine hardship and never had to admit that—wow—they just screwed up really, really badly, perhaps for the tenth of fifteenth time, and they screwed up because they’re thick-skulled, selfish and unrealistic, or because they won’t get over their problems, and they thereby brought greater problems on themselves and—wouldn’t you know it?—on other people, too.

It’s the story of people who—by insulating themselves via their own words, actions and beliefs—have never been forced to see who and what they really are. It’s the story of people who vociferously and caustically condemn everything and everybody around themselves when they, themselves, are the ones who are and who perpetrate that which they condemn. It’s the story of people who’ve always—usually via wealth—been shielded from the truth about themselves, from the consequences of their actions, and from taking responsibility for who and what they are and what they’ve done.

In other words, The Catcher in the Rye is the story of people who are financially well off, and who condemn mistreatment of and even look down on the poor, but who are unwilling to part with any significant amount of their own money to help others; who, for example, profit from their investments in companies that pay higher stock dividends by paying dirt wages to low-echelon workers. It’s the story of people who lament “global pollution” and who rail about “climate change,” but who are unwilling to give up their excessively energy-consumptive lifestyles. It’s the story of people who lie awake at night dreaming up ways to get more for themselves by making sure others have less (because it’s no fun having plenty unless most everybody else does not). It’s the story of people who live in falsehood, who do not see themselves realistically, and who transfer everything they cannot stomach about themselves onto imaginary demons: scapegoats they’ve created and use to prop up grandiose self-images.

Yes: in that respect, The Catcher in the Rye is a classic of American literature and, true to form, those who love the book—those who relate with Holden Caulfield—have no clue: the book is arguably an insult to the upper-middle and upper economic classes. It’s the portrait of an entire sub-population of people who are shielded from reality in an aggressively maintained bubble of opulence and privilege. Others have rescued them from destroying themselves for unworthy causes, so they’ve never really experienced the losses they’ve earned.

But they should have because those who haven’t experienced the losses they’ve wrought in zealous pursuit of unworthy causes cannot even imagine genuinely living, and humbling themselves, for noble ideals.

In simpler terms, they’ve never grown up.

Salinger’s character Mr. Antolini, who I’d say is The Catcher in the Rye’s “moral omniscience,” gave me this idea, somewhere around page 230-231.

My idea isn’t the same as Mr. Antolini’s. Mr. Antolini actually got his idea from something an Austrian physician and psychologist named Wilhelm Stekel said: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” I read that, it got me to thinking, and I wrote this.

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“I’m tired, and it’s a lot of bologna.”

I'm Tired

My response to the “Root word”:

I think Mr. Root has inaccurately represented a few facts. (My response to Mr. Root’s column will make more sense if you read Mr. Root’s column first.)

First, Obama probably is a “scam artist,” although not one of the highest caliber.

I think he’s pretty much a pedestrian politicianway over his head on the federal leveland I’ve yet to witness the exemplary oratory skills his supporting media have directed us to believe he has. Obama—bless his heart—is “minor league,” and always will be. (His rip-snorting, class-dodging days in the “choom gang” might at least partially explain why.)

But Obama’s certainly not the only scam artist in politics. In fact, I think any successful politician is, first and foremost, a good scam artist. I believe that those who supported Obama did so specifically because he’s a scam artist, and they wanted one of his ilk—a so-called “leftist,” or “communist,” or whatever we’re calling them these days—in the White House this time around.

I think that what matters here is that, when it comes to scams, those being scammed play as a big a role as those doing the scamming. (Scam “victims” desperately want to believe that which they know isn’t true.) I think most people knew Obama’s presidency was a “scam,” but that’s exactly what they’d hoped it would be; and Obama’s had a successful political career specifically because he’s a scam artist, even though he’s not nearly as talented a scam artist as most of the others with whom he’s rubbing elbows. (I’d not be surprised to learn that the likes of Kerry, Reid, Pelosi, Boxer, Feinstein, and McCaskill see Obama as an “amusing but useful little man,” or something like that.)

In fact, it’s likely he’s been victimized by his own “scam” but, as Root has pointed out, he’ll come out of it in fine shape . . . except , of course, for his personal integrity. However, if he had any of that, or if that mattered to him, he’d never have gone into politics in the first place. He’d probably not even have gone to Harvard or Columbia. Northeastern, ivy-league schools are among the main portals into politics, and politics are scam artists’ heaven: the big league for the high-toned smilers and shoe-shiners among us.

Second, Lois Lerner’s email hasn’t “disappeared into cyberspace.” It’s retrievable from a number of servers, other computers, or even NSA files. If those investigating Lerner and her ilk don’t aggressively hunt down and obtain her “lost” email, it’s because they don’t want to; it’s because they know darned well that they work for the same organization for which Lerner works: U.S. Government, Inc. If U.S. citizens were made aware of what Lerner—and likely many federal bureaucrats—have written in their email, they (U.S. citizens) would likely develop healthy, well-founded mistrust and dislike for U.S. Government, Inc.; and all U.S. Government, Inc. employees—including those supposedly “investigating” Lerner—would suffer for it. So it’s likely that the very last thing anybody (regardless of political party) connected with U.S Government, Inc. wants is for Lerner’s—or any federal bureaucrat’s—email to be made public. They will provide us with a lot of fiery, entertaining dogma: fodder for the news media’s daily dog-and-pony show. But the last thing they want is a genuine investigation that reveals what Lerner and her U.S. Government ilk were—and, I suspect, still are—doing. (They were running the scam).

Third, U.S. Government, Inc. will likely make sure to heavily censor Benghazi “mastermind” Khattala’s testimony for the same reason it now claims Lerner’s most incriminating email are “lost.” If U.S. citizens got wind of how frequently, and to what extent, U.S. Government, Inc. engages in illegal and unsavory arms deals—to the extent the U.S. Government, Inc. operates more like an organized crime family, the likes of which would make the U.S. “mafia” look like the Girl Scouts—the results would be very bad for U.S. Government, Inc. indeed.

United States citizens are potentially the biggest threat to U.S. Government, Inc. Whether they know it or not, U.S. citizens do have the legal, political, and social muscle to take away U.S. Government, Inc.’s history-making power and authority. Information about U.S. Government, Inc.’s unsavory and likely very illegal arms deals (which, I suspect, the four Americans killed in the Benghazi “hit” had in their possession) is—like information about Lerner’s “lost” email—the very last thing anybody who works for U.S. Government, Inc.—regardless of outward political affiliationwants U.S. citizens to know, because U.S. citizens are the one collective force on this planet that can eliminate U.S. Government, Inc. in its current form.

Republicans aren’t going to “hold” Obama’s “feet to the fire” because, when push comes to shove, he’s their co-worker. He’s the willing tool they’ve used to bring trillions and trillions of borrowed dollars—that somebody else has to repay—into their corporation. He’s the willing tool they’ve used to expand their corporation’s unparalleled power and control to almost unimaginable levels. He’s one of them. He’s done exactly what they’ve hoped he’d do. He’s on their side, and they’re on his. All this haff-gaffing and harrumphing we see and hear in the news media’s daily circus is, well, part of the scam . . . and it’s a good one, too: one of the best anybody’s ever seen.

Imagine being able to pass laws—and having the “legal” authority (which you define) and the well-funded army to enforce them—that require people to give you and/or your cohorts unimaginable amounts of money and authority and—this is the sweet part—having the PR machine—the news media—to convince the people that you’re doing them a favor.

“Thank you, sir. May I have another?”

Is it a scam? Heck yeah, it’s a scam. Are those perpetrating it—U.S. Government, Inc. employees, regardless of outward political affiliation—going to end it, or do anything that might even remotely threaten it?

Seeing as they’ve worked for their entire lives to be part of it, and to partake of its hysterically excessive gravy train of unbridled cash flow and authority, I’d say, “no.”

I happen to believe that if Lerner, Obama and a lot of other U.S. Government, Inc. employees worked for private corporations, they’d be behind bars or—having been fired years ago and informally blacklisted from working anywhere else—mumbling to themselves in doorways now. But that’s not going to happen because they’re part of a really well-funded, well-orchestrated scam, and every election cycle, U.S. citizens willingly and eagerly buy into it hook, line, and sinker.

Again: those being scammed play as big a role in the scam as those doing the scamming.

Listen: I could argue that WW II was a masterful scam. German socialists/communists (the “Nazi Party”) easily could’ve taken all of Europe, but they didn’t. The U.S. could’ve located and sunk the Japanese aircraft carriers before the Pearl Harbor attack or moved its battleships out of harm’s way, but it didn’t. For all of that, the Japanese fleet could’ve totally destroyed and captured the U.S. military bases at Pearl Harbor and severely crippled the United States’ ability to wage war in the Pacificand then, perhaps, invaded the U.S. mainlandbut it didn’t. The people who made the decisions behind these events weren’t stupid; they knew what they were doing. They wereso I surmise, anywaycreating a means for very powerful people to bring the world out of its enduring economic slump and solidify their positions as global controllers, and somewhere between 50 and 100 million “little people” died to make it happen.

I shudder at the war the same kinds of very powerful people might now have in mind to bring the world out of its current enduring economic slump which, as the scam always goes, the world’s very powerful people—creating opportunities to reshuffle the global power structure—also likely orchestrated.

How many hundreds of millions of burdensome, expendable “little people” will die this time, while wealthy, powerful “scam artists”—safe, as usual, on their lavish, tax-payer funded estates, or in their heavily-guarded, bullet-proof limousines, also courtesy of tax payers—shallowly decry the carnage between mouthfuls of caviar and champagne?

Watch, this November, as we put most of them back in office again.

Is it a scam? Heck yeah, and it’s a good one—among the best—and I wonder if we’d want it any other way.

Posted in Life In General, Politics | Leave a comment

Fantasy Government as Seen Through the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

As strange as it sounds, I don’t think those who’ve brought us the ACA are or ever were primarily concerned with providing health insurance for anybody. They always intended to spend a heck of a lot of (somebody else’s) money on some grandiose plan, but they never actually intended to “serve the people.” The idea of providing a useful product or service never crossed their minds.

I think that’s obvious. If those behind the law had ever been concerned with providing health insurance, they’d have at least provided a working web site for opening day; that’s not exactly an insurmountable task in this day and age, especially give the huge amounts of time and money available to those in charge of and working on the project.

(I’ve studied “project management” a little bit, and . . .. Well gee whiz, if somebody has billions of dollars and three years to build a web site, they build the site, and it works . . . if, that is, they ever intended to build a working web site in the first place.)

Moreover, if actually providing health insurance had been the law’s supporters’ genuine intent, virtually all of those who’ve sought insurance via the law would’ve by now found policies with which they can be satisfied.

(Again, this is just common business sense. If the U.S. government is going into the health-insurance business, it comes up with good health-insurance plans . . . if, that is, the U.S. government ever intended to go into the health-insurance business in the first place.)

I’m comparing the ACA “fiasco” (an oft-spoken but still appropriate relative pronoun) with private health insurers with which I interact. They survey their clients and prospective clients and make at least some attempt to meet clients’ needs and wants. The private insurers make at least some attempt to find out what their clients need and want and take steps to provide it; and for crying out loud, private health insurers’ web sites at least work. Customers can at least use the sites; private insurers don’t blow billions of dollars and waste years of time on web sites that, on the big roll-out day, don’t even freaking work.

In other words, the private insurers show a genuine interest in providing health coverage, but I’m not seeing that interest in those who’ve brought us the ACA. The sense I’m getting from them is that whether they ever genuinely provide a working, sellable product never crossed their minds. They were always focused on something else: perhaps some pie-in-the-sky, ideological fantasy.

Yeah, that’s the right word: “fantasy.”

Relatively few people will obtain health insurance through the ACA; of those who obtain health insurance through it, even fewer will be satisfied with the insurance they get; 20 years from now, the United States will still have tens of millions of people without health insurance (because it costs too much). All of this seems to be okay with those who wrought the ACA.

But still, those behind the law—and I’d say that includes a lot of people who work in the news media—are happy with it. They’re glad it’s passed. They’re showing that the law’s doing exactly what they wanted it to do. They aren’t saying what that is, but whatever it is, it has little or nothing to do with “providing free health care to 30 or 40 million Americans who can’t afford it,” or with providing acceptable, workable, satisfactory insurance to millions of others.

It’s an odd thing. The ACA has already cost billions of dollars, it’s probably going to cost trillions more, and it will likely never do what those who support it have promised it will do; that’s already showing. The president for whom the law is named is changing it as quickly and casually as he chooses new cards in a game of five-card draw. He and those who work with him are changing the facts about it, and now the means of measuring its performance, the way little children caught in lies change their stories, thinking that the adults won’t know.

It doesn’t even matter to them whether the adults know they’re not living in reality. In fact, it seems as though—again, like little kids—they neither know nor care about what’s real.

So from any sane, well-reasoned, common-sense perspective, the law’s a failure. The government has—at great expense, as usual—miserably failed to serve the people and, as crazy as it sounds, that’s okay among ACA supporters.

That’s why I think it’s clear that those who’ve supported and still support the law never had “serving the people” in mind, and they’ve become so accustomed to not serving those who pay their salaries that they’re not afraid to openly say as much. “Yes, we’re going to take a lot your money and, yes, we have the right to do that and, no, you aren’t going to get anything in return for it, but—oh, yes, yes, yes—it’s a wonderful thing.”

This seems to be acceptable government to ACA supporters: massive, grandiose, wildly expensive laws that don’t work—and for which somebody else has to pay—but that can be twisted around into some kind of crazy indication that euphoric dreams are coming true. None of it is real, and it costs a heck of a lot, but it sure is fun, and it fills some vague, intrinsic need . . . and that is the government of the United States of America.

The U.S. government takes lots of money and “serves” only itself, and the news media play along, and this is wonderful; this is success.  We are expected to cheer. “You are,” as the Commander in Chief has said, “going to love it.”

Someone should cross-check the list of participants in the C.I.A.’s Project MKUltra —which was all about behavior modification and mind control—against lists of ACA supporters and the news media’s personnel rosters.

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Raging Politics

Politics and political discussions in the U.S. have become more driven by negative emotions and outright hatred than at any time in my life. Political affiliation seems to have become more a matter of who people don’t like rather than what they believe.

It’s a curious state of affairs. It’s as though we’ve become football fans who, rather than preferring the best runners, passers, and signal callers for quarterbacks to lead our favorite teams now choose the cheerleaders who shout the loudest. It’s as though we’re not concerned about whether our “team” can compete; we focus on what they say they believe. Loyalty and like-minded compliance outweigh ability; it’s not even close.

From an academic’s perspective (mine): no genuine academic would utter a statement like, “I’m a very, very liberal democrat,” or, “I’m a very, very conservative republican.” Academics tend to shun overt, melodramatic hyperbole and superlative, preferring instead more sober observations that leave room for intelligent, fact-based discussion: thesis, antithesis, synthesis, and all that sort of thing. No true academic would bullheadedly choose ignorance and remove disagreement from his or her consideration.

To that end, I’ve tried, with my conservative and libertarian beliefs, to have intelligent discussions with others who feel differently, but it’s hopeless.

Maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd.

For one thing, the news media themselves present supposedly “factual” information that’s so fraught with “fudging,” in the interests of writing what people want to read instead of genuinely informing them, that the information is useless. A big part of the problem, as actor Paul Newman (playing character Michael Gallagher) observed in “Absence of Malice,” is that news media companies “don’t write the truth,” they “write what people say” and, when it comes to politics, people don’t say what’s true; they say what gets them more votes. News sources’ comments are usually heavily laden with emotional appeal and driven by the desire for attention.

To use just one tiny issue as an example: those who’ve based their political or bureaucratic careers on Obamacare say nearly seven million people have signed up for one of its health-insurance plans. Some news companies broadcast this without checking to see if it’s true, and loyal—not necessarily intelligent or even remotely “academic,” but loyal—leftists believe it without question. Conversely, those who don’t like and/or don’t want Obamacare and believe it’s a bad law fact-check that “seven million” number and find that it’s misleading; seven million people might’ve tried to sign up, but fewer people actually have, and among those who have, relatively few have actually paid, and among those who’ve paid, even fewer actually have coverage. Worst of all, most of those for whom the law was intended—the “30 or 40 million Americans who can’t afford health care”—aren’t even interested in signing up for one of the law’s health-insurance plans. They’re not rushing to get their “free health insurance.” The Obama administration has to use taxpayer’s money to pay for advertising and hire bureaucrats to go out, find “poor people,” lead them by the hand to computers, and get them to “sign up.” The administration is paying tax dollars to advertise Obamacare’s insurance policies. Why is that, if so many people want them?

So, we get two dramatically different versions of the same “facts,” and this sets the table for fierce confrontations between the two attendant “sides,” and it’s the fierceness, rather than intelligent discussion, that seems to be most important thing. People want to be enraged. They want an enemy to hate, ridicule and insult. This is so prevalent, even among people who think of themselves as “enlightened, intelligent academics,” that it surprises me. People who think of themselves as “open-minded” and “tolerant” are aggressively unwilling to even hear opposing views, or to even allow others to hear them.

When I’ve tried, at left-leaning publications such as Talking Points Memo, to present opposing views, I and my comments were at first blindly ridiculed, and I was accused of being a “troll.” After that, my account was apparently closed and, as nearly as I could tell, I was prevented from opening another one. Even at the slightly less radically leftist Huffington Post, every comment I makeeven those that are politically neutralis scrutinized before publication, which makes me wonder whether Huffington Post’s editors have somehow “flagged” my email address and/or user name because I might write something that will enrage those who just love to get enraged. But at least Huffington Post—unlike Talking Points Memo—still allows me to post on its site.

For all of that, I’ve seen the same thing at “conservative” web sites, and it saddens me. When some wayward leftist posts a left-leaning opinion or observation on a conservative site, he or she is met with insults and rage and, ultimately, banned from the site. (I was banned from RedState.comas its name implies, a conservative, right-wing publicationfor simply disagreeing with one of the butt-retentive moderator’s posts.)

In the end, if even educated people—for all of their so-called “academic” backgrounds—don’t even want to know about what others think (because they’re “very, very liberal democrats” or “very, very conservative republicans”), then it’s probably pointless to engage them in discussion. On the other hand, people who are willing to exchange opposing beliefs ought to be allowed to do so, but most web sites dedicated to one “side” or the other won’t allow it.

Still, I’m curious to know what a person means when calling him- or herself a “very, very liberal democrat” or a “very, very conservative republican.” I’m still curious about why they define themselves that way, what that means to them, what foundational beliefs they have that support these observations they’ve made about themselves, where they obtained them, and under what—if any—conditions they’d at least question them. I’d like to know what they mean by “liberal” and/or “conservative.” Do they use these terms in the classical sense, or in the shallow, uninformed, U.S. media sense? I’d like to know how they reconcile their supposed “very, very liberal” or “very, very conservative” identities with the U.S. political left’s and political right’s decidedly “very, very anti-liberal” policies: something I’d expect any genuine “academic” to have noticed, considered, and be willing to discuss.

I’m an “academic.” I’m curious. I want to know more and learn: who are these people who disagree so vehemently? Why are they so angry? Do they think their anger is justified and helpful? I’m not afraid to find out. But in the U.S., the primary, necessary ingredient in politics and political discussions are fierce anger, rage, negative emotions, and the desire to hate, insult, and offend. People want to find out what others believe, not to intelligently discuss and come to a “meeting of the minds,” but rather to find out whether they’re for or against each other, so they know whether to blindly embrace or blindly oppose . . . and I see in equal measure on both “sides” of the political fence.

Some people—even my relatives—hate me, want to injure me, and won’t even speak with me, because of my beliefs . . . and they’re “open-minded” and “intelligent”?

(March 25th was Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday, so I wound up reading some of her and other “feminists'” quotes; pure, unadulterated, quite obviously neurotic hatred of all things male, and that’s apparently what drove the “movement.”)

Ha! It’s like the whole freakin’ country, at least when it comes to politics and political discussions, has “borderline personality disorder” . . . and we can say it’s somebody else’s fault, but at some point we have to grow up, take responsibility for our lives and behavior, and stop incessantly spoiling to fight, injure, and blame.

“As so,” as Kurt Vonnegut famously observed, “it goes.”

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All Faith and My Faith

Everybody has faith, i.e. believes in something that can’t be proved. Many people also believe in things that have been clearly disproved.

Someone close to me often has denied the existence of God. “Prove it,” he would boldly and adamantly exclaim. But he told me he believes that, when he rides his motorcycle, he, the motorcycle and the road become one being.

I tried to explain. “It’s called ‘faith’ because, by definition, it cannot be proved. You ask for ‘proof’ of God’s existence, but you believe without question in your ‘holy trinity,’ comprising you, your motorcycle and the road. You believe it exists via faith.”

He gave me that blank glare that told me further discussion was pointless, but I believe his “faith” was based on convenience. His “faith” in his relationship with his motorcycle and roads didn’t interfere with, but rather enhanced, his lifestyle, while faith in God would’ve required that he alter his preferred lifestyle dramatically.

A friend and I were traveling once. We stopped at a store. I synagogue was nearby, so my friend went inside to speak with the rabbi, who told him point blank, in plain words, that the story of Jesus was all a fraud.

Some people vehemently deny that Jesus Christ was and is God but strongly believe other things that, in their own lifetimes, have been disproved. Some people refuse to even listen, or to allow others to listen, to proofs that their beliefs are false. We see this in politics, the media, and popular culture all the time.

I believe empirical evidence often plays little or no role in deeply felt faith. Sometimes it’s based on personal revelation: a personal “awakening,” or “epiphany” or “burning-bush experience” that can change what someone feels deep inside.

In other instances, faith is based on whatever a person believes those around him or her believe. I find this deeply fascinating because it becomes a simple matter of communication principles. Shrewd opportunists know that if they can widely broadcast their beliefs and oppress or otherwise debase others, they will create the perception that their beliefs are widely held, and others will “get on board.”

I have fallen prey to this phenomenon numerous times: repeated, hyperbolic exclamations from popular, respected people, extolling the virtues of this thing or that belief, and condemning other things or beliefs, and urging my participation. Those who participated were allowed to see themselves as more intelligent, or in possession of some knowledge that others did not have. Sometimes, when I was younger, I believed against my better judgment, simply to “belong.” I believed what I thought everybody else—the popular people, “the crowd”—believed. But I’m older now, and know better.

Still, I remain fascinated by the power of broadcasting: how people, seeing and hearing various beliefs and values broadcasted to hundreds of millions of others, adopt those beliefs and values as their own simply to “belong.” I’m a communicator by nature and by education, and I’ve come to see that these principles can be either more or less effective, depending on the audience. An audience’s willingness to believe is often based on its gender, culture and, more than anything, a curious psychological condition: a kind of eager desire to by roused, influenced, and led. “Tell us who we are and what we believe,” large masses of people seem to clamor. “Tell us who to love and who to hate, who to hear and who to ignore, who to destroy and who to support, what is the truth and what is a lie,” and this world has never had a shortage of despotic opportunists willing to comply: willing to tell people that what they want to believe is indeed the truth. I’ve come to see it as the sheer, inevitable madness of the human condition, compounded to tragically catastrophic levels by technology in the last 100 years.

But even thousands of years ago, it was possible for cold opportunists to rouse many thousands of people against many thousands of others.

God has blessed me with a belief that I’m not “one of the crowd,” and as I grew older and came more unto myself, I accepted this and stopped trying to “belong.”

God also blessed me with hardships that drove me to the edge of my ability to cope and to desperations and, ultimately, drove me to seek Him.

I would like to say that it was due to my moral strength that I sought God. But it wasn’t. It was my moral weakness and failures: the ongoing agony they wrought. It seemed like a curse, but it’s a proverbial “blessing in disguise.”

I’d like to say that it’s my moral strength that keeps me close to God, but it’s not. It’s my intimate knowledge of my weakness, based on repeated experiences, that has founded my faith in God, and in Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life.”

“The” is singular: a “definite article.” It does not allow for alternatives.

It’s popular to attribute my kind of belief with a singular, “burning bush” experience or an “epiphany.” People tell stories like that, and others like to hear them. But that hasn’t been my experience. The emergence and growth of my faith happened over a period of years; decades, actually, and things got worse—real bad—before they got better. As well, the more I prayed, and the more my faith grew, the more I changed in ways that I neither expected nor could explain. As with everything else, my faith in God was far different from what “the crowd” held as a matter of “popular belief.” I’ve come to see the dramatic differences between humanity’s stalwart—and, I think, somewhat ignorant—reliance on empirical proof, on the one side, and my faith, on the other, because God does not conform to human, empirical reality.

My faith in God is the single most profound event in my life. Nothing else comes close. God is what and who is. What is not God is that and who is not. When God said, “I am who am,” He wasn’t kidding or talking in riddles.

But my faith has come to this. When people ask me what I believe, I can unequivocally assert that, “I believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended in hell. On the third day, He arose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting: amen.”

I don’t believe this because somebody told me to believe it. Other people have told me to believe it, but I didn’t do as they instructed. I rarely do what people tell me to do unless I’ve discovered, on my own, that it’s a good idea. Very few people have my respect or genuine authority over me, and those who have it have earned it.

I believe what I believe because I learned it on my own. That’s the kind of fellow I am.

What kind of man was Jesus Christ? Oh, heavens, I don’t know. But I do know that He was the Son of God in human form–the Master of our reality–and, as such, was and is entirely capable of doing things and transforming people and the world in ways that confound human beings’ reliance on empirical data, and human notions of time and space. But I needn’t rely on empirical data for my faith because—against my own stubborn reluctance, and over a period of decades, via prayer, study and time-consuming contemplation born of desperation—I’ve seen and felt God in ways to which our world’s empirical data do not apply.

I know that people who don’t want to know God will not know Him; those who don’t want to know Jesus will not know Him. No amount of empirical proof, no matter how carefully presented and cited, will change that . . . and that’s good, because those easily convinced by mere empirical evidence will be as easily dissuaded, and those who believe in what’s popular today will quickly abandon their belief for what’s popular tomorrow.

Posted in Religion, Faith and Spirituality | Leave a comment

The Leaders in the World

I think the idea that Russia under Putin’s or almost any leadership would be a “partner” with the U.S. is somewhat naïve.

My reasoning is somewhat complex and therefore not simply stated. Basically, however, the world—including the U.S.—is controlled by incredibly competitive people who think on global terms. These are people who, if they do form “partnerships,” it’s not to “get along,” but to gain competitive advantage. As such, their “partnerships” aren’t permanent. Their “partnerships” come, serve the purposes of the competitive people who form them and, once those purposes have been attained, their “partnerships” go.

This is true on micro as well as macro levels. Some people merely get married just to gain a competitive advantage. Others seek to “rule the world.” So it goes.

Most people aren’t this way. Most people, relatively speaking, have a “live-and-let-live” perspective, and it’s reflected in their behavior. But fair-thinking, easy-going people don’t aspire to positions of wealth, power, and control, i.e. “leadership.” Those who gain wealth, power, and control (mostly control) are usually those who, due to personality make up, feel some compelling needsome vacuous, insatiable obsessionto be in charge. In some people—a relative few, percentage wise, but still plenty—this need is overpowering; they’ll do anything to get the control they need and, once they get it, they want more. It’s as though inside of themselves they feel they have no control, even when they do, so they incessantly want more; they can never have enough control. They’re like the “black holes” of humanity who consume only for consumption’s sake—because it’s simply what they do—and I think it’s noteworthy that these people aren’t the best “leaders.” They’re simply the people who, due to that unquenchable inner demand, need most of all to demonstrate—to themselves—their control over others.

It’s not a matter of ideology or political belief or philosophical theory. It’s a matter of personal need, explained more via psychology than any other discipline. Personally, I think it the survival instinct, warped out of shape. People who are driven to absolute controland then to control even morefeel that if they do not get it, they’ll die. Their only morality is the measure of control they feel they have. If they have it, everything “right,” and if they don’t, everything is “wrong.”

These are the people who wind up in powerful, “leadership” positions. Due to their positions of power, they get to write the rules and beliefs for the rest of us. As such, they’ve defined the world and, to an extent, recreated it, in their own images. It’s an aggressively competitive world in which the ends justify the means. (I don’t think that belief is “reality.” I believe it is human error.)

(Personally, I’m not too comfortable with this, but . . . I don’t make the rules. I’m not rich or powerful, so my opinions, perspectives and beliefs don’t count for much.)

In this world, controlled by such people, the idea of “partnerships” simply because “partnerships” are better for everybody doesn’t gain much traction. Written records of human history show that those who must have wealth and power have dreamed of “controlling the world” since humans have been writing words. (Julius Caesar was among the first to identify such people—including himself—as “superhuman.” Dostoyevsky expanded on the idea, and Nietzsche is credited with formalizing it and, for the record, I don’t see such people as “superhuman.” I see them as troubled, weak, and burdensome, and we all have to put up with them.) Since the industrial revolution—perhaps before then—global dominance has been a realistic dream for the neurotically greedy and power-hungry among us. These aren’t people who form “lasting partnerships” to “get along.”

Seeing as these are people who believe in things like, “win at all costs,” and “whatever it takes to win,” and “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” we can expect them to do just about anything to have what they feel they must to “win,” i.e. to control everybody.

Sometimes they purport to come in peace, and in the interests of “human rights,” or “civil rights,” or these “rights,” or those “rights,” but as Stephen King asked through a character in his book, Fire Starter, “what is world peace if it is not world domination?”

Against this backdrop, the idea of “partnerships” between globally aggressive people—some of whom, such as “communists” and “socialists” (yeah, right: those labels are for saps) don’t use nationality to define themselves—is quite ludicrous.

Putin is incredibly wealthy. (A web site called The Richest say he’s worth about $75 billion.) So, this clearly is a man for whom “enough,” no matter how much it is, will never be “enough.” As well, he was born and has lived in a time and place—the “communist” (in quotes because I don’t think it was genuinely “communist”) Soviet Union—wherein aggressively taking what one wants—always in the names of peace, justice, love, or whatever high-minded ideal—is not only acceptable but preferred and rewarded.

Does this man intend use his position as Russia’s leader to expand his power and influence? Oh, yes, most assuredly. Will he? Yes. It’s what he does. Can anybody stop him without killing him? Probably not. Are his “partnerships” righteous and true? No.

Am I by any means the only one who sees this? No. Many others have spoken of it, but few listen. Our “leaders” have probably known about it all along, but given the results of their “leadership” in the U.S., and given their unwillingness to even discuss Putin’s aspirations, I’d go as far as to suggest that they somewhat naively believes they and Putin are on the same team: they’re “communist comrades” (quoted, once again, because I don’t believe they’re genuinely “communists”) who will bring about “the proletariat utopia,” and all of that nonsense. (Our “leaders,” for their own selves, are also very rich.)

Emerson’s quote comes to mind: “The more he spoke of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” When these wealthy, powerful, incessantly aggressive and morally vacuous “leaders” start talking about “brotherhood,” and “human rights,” and “saving the planet,” and “peace,” and “love,” and “justice,” and “helping the poor,” put one hand on your money, the other on your gun, and back away slowly. Surely do not vote for them.

These people masquerade as “governments,” and thereby claim allegiance to whatever country they’ve chosen to use for their own ends. But as with all their “partnerships,” the allegiances they claim with the countries they control are false. These are people who are in it, whatever “it” is, for themselves. They form, dissolve and “reform” entire nations of people, and entire land masses, as whimsically as they’d choose rye over whole wheat.

It’s happening in the U.S. too. Against the will of U.S. citizens, powerful people have all but dissolved its borders—a dangerous condition for any nation’s economy—sought to change its population, amassed incredible wealth and power, and forcibly taken control of health care, insurance, finance, banking, energy, education, and et cetera, all within our lifetimes, and all in the interests of—again—whatever high-minded ideal you choose. The U.S. government has also asserted considerable military (thus political and economic) influence in the Middle East and southern Asia, and that probably—and rightfully—scares the beejeebees out of guys like Russia’s Putin and China’a and Xi Jinping.

That’s the world as I see it. Yes, it has billions of good people who do good things every day. But it’s controlled by the worst among us, and one of the “worst” things about the “worst among us” is that they don’t stop, and when they die and move along to whatever awaits them in the great hereafter, others like them take their places.

Posted in Life In General, Politics | Leave a comment

You Say You Want A Revolution

Well, you know; we all want to “go out and change the world.”

To those who’ve bought into the “change the world” rhetoric, I say: be more specific. Any fool can speak in dogmatic, pumped-up, inapplicable, poorly defined abstracts. From what do you want to “change the world,” and into what do you want it?

Changes usually include destruction. As you “change the world,” what will be destroyed, who will be hurt, and how do you rationalize this?

Should you change the world? Why? Most emphatically, who says so?

Again: please be specific.

Change is inevitable. It will happen. We don’t have to force it, and when we force changes, we usually aren’t aware of what all the results will be. Forcing changes on people often imposes hardships on them. Are you willing to take responsibility for this?

Are you willing to force people to adapt to your changes? Do you have the right to do that and, if you do, where did you get it?

What’s more, if you have the right to force the changes you want on others, you’re giving others the right to force changes on you. This paradigm often results in a “might-makes-right” scenario, wherein those with the most power—in this world, that means the wealthy—have the right (often backed up with laws, court orders and armed police and/or soldiers) to force others to adapt to the changes they’ve imposed. Are you willing to accept this inevitability if you resort to forcing your changes?

Understand: I’m not saying change is bad. I’m just saying that ideas such as “go out and change the world” in the wrong hands, or in the wrong circumstances, are very dangerous because they seem to give people license to do as they please without being responsible for or even worrying about the consequences.

We’ve had a lot of that in the last 40 or 50 years and, as a result, we have some very serious problems, such as the simultaneously most expensive and worst-performing education system among industrialized nations, $17 trillion in debt and, worst of all, the dissolution of the family unit, which was this nation’s fundamental social, economic and cultural building block . . . and the only thing with which we’ve come up to replace it is massive, consumptive, intrusively authoritarian, and definitively ineffective government (hence the debt, the lousy education, domestic “spying,” and control by quintessentially self-interested, wealthy politicos and corporate types, with and their brilliant “changes” and “innovations,” which seem to always favor them and screw everybody else).

How many examples of this would you like? A dozen? A hundred? I can provide as many as you’d like: “brilliant innovators” who—passionately wild-eyed with excitement over their “go-out-and-change-the-world” ideas—forced changes on everybody else: changes that didn’t really improve anything and often made things worse. (Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Fantastic! Now we all have to work at night, too.)

Be careful with high-sounding ideas such as, “go out and change the world,” because none of us—and particularly the highly ambitious—are equipped to handle them.

We like and reward ambition. However, let’s face it: ambitious people are usually motivated by self-interest and therefore some of the most dangerous people on the planet.

More often than not, things are the way they are for a reason, and changes, simply for the sake of change, are silly and have been tried before. (The baby-boomers’ “sexual revolution,” for example, wasn’t really a “revolution”: it was a dumb mistake that previous civilizations had tried, found stupid, and abandoned.) After all, humanity has been around for something like a quarter million years. Our civilization might get the most information, but we’re likely not the most intelligent. For example, we keep coming up with ideas that we think are “new,” but they aren’t new; they’ve been tried before and found wanting.

Consider: by some accounts, most of civilization as we know it today can be traced back to the invention of fertilizers that resulted in revolutionary food production. It changed everything. Most people could suddenly get enough to eat. That sounds great, right?

We’ve been trying to handle the attendant problems ever since, and we haven’t found a way. Arguably, all we did is trade one set of problems for another.

Some might say I’m arguing against “food for everybody,” but I’m not, of course. I’m saying that “change”—even if it means “food for everybody,” which seems to be a good thing—is not at all synonymous with “improvement.” “Change” means something that’s “different,” but not necessarily “better.”

“Food for everybody” is great. People don’t have to struggle to eat anymore. But among “food for everybody’s” results are population growth, industrialization, and urban blight.

Prohibition sounded like a great change. Eliminate drunkenness: wonderful! Among its results are income tax and organized crime (and NASCAR, too, for all of that).

I could go on and on: “changes” that people have either agreed to or had forced upon them, and that have wrought unintended and unforeseen results.

Yes, yes, we all want to change the world. But “change” isn’t so simple, and I think we’ve heard enough fired-up, wild-eyed talk about “change.” I think we need to hear more talk about caution, thoughtful consideration, taking things slowly, and being personally responsible and accountable, because all the exciting talk about “change” has destroyed those qualities, and the world is a worse place to live because of it.

As for change: I’m not concerned with forcing it because it will happen of its own accord. I could argue that the only genuinely unnatural condition is one that excludes change.

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