Bookcase: Robert Nisbet’s “The Quest for Community”

If you are trying to make sense of the seismic changes going on all around us in society, sociologist Robert Nisbet tied it all together in his classic work “The Quest for Community.”   It’s not a light read, but it is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how to maintain a free society.  It’s a prescient work, and it helped me understand where so much of the alienation and eerieness of this current election cycle has come from:  the brokenness of civil society, the continuing dissolution of strong community ties.

I find it fascinating that Nisbet was writing about the breakdown of community and alienation back in 1953.  This was half a century before Robert Putnam wrote “Bowling Alone” and 60 years before Charles Murray examined the devastating effects of family breakdown on community in his 2012 work “Coming Apart.”

As the ties that bind people together fall away — family, church, civic societies and private associations– alienation and loneliness in society grow.  But Nisbet noted that as this happens, the strong human impulse for community would remain.  We would merely grope around for a substitute.  So as social brokenness grows, people turn to the government to replace those ties.

It’s so bleak to consider all of this, because it’s happening with ever greater speed before our very eyes.  Worse, too many people cannot comprehend the irony of it all:  dependence on the mass state only leads to even greater atomization of the individual.  Even greater alienation. Is there anything cuddle-worthy in the mass bureaucratic state? Absolutely nothing.  All it can deliver is even greater loneliness.

Here’s an excerpt from Nisbet’s Preface, dated December 1952:

“The real significance of the modern State is inseparable from its successive penetrations of man’s economic, religious, kinship, and local allegiances, and its revolutionary dislocations of established centers of function and authority.  These, I believe, are the penetrations and dislocations that form the most illuminating perspective for the twentieth-century’s obsessive quest for moral certainty and social community and that make so difficult present-day problems of freedom and democracy.”

And in the preface to the 1970 edition, Nisbet noted this about youth and apathy:

“It has become steadily clearer to me that alienation is one of the determining realities of the contemporary age. . . By alienation I mean the state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible, or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility.  The individual not only does not feel a part of the social order; he has lost interest in being a part of it.  For a constantly enlarging number of persons, including, significantly, young persons of high school and college age, this state of alienation has become profoundly influential in both behavior and thought.”

Wow.  And that was 45 years ago!  Think about the mass cluelessness all around us today.  Think about students’ utter lack of knowledge of history, of civics, of the humanities.  Consider the lack of connection they must be feeling as they grope about, trying on all sorts of personas whether it’s a new gender identity persona or the persona of “social justice warrior.”    The divorce culture has rendered more than half of all children in today’s America the wards of broken homes.  Sure, children can be resilient.  But they so often feel broken and alienated as a result of the disruption in their ties with parents.  It takes its toll. Pathologies abound while folks scramble to find safe haven in the State.

And here’s the catch:  at the same time that the state gives  free stuff to individuals, it takes away from the individual’s personal relationships and associations.  As those relationships continue to weaken, State power grows. Let’s not forget that our families, our institutions of faith, our civic and private associations have always served as buffer zones balancing the freedom of the individual against the power of the state.  We’ve no choice but to defend and rebuild them.

The Transgender Movement is a Vehicle for Censorship and State Power

All transgender law involves state-sponsored censorship. (Image: wikimedia commons)

Few people have considered my thesis which is stated in the title above.  Most assume the transgender movement is just a simple matter of protecting from discrimination a tiny demographic —  .03 percent of the population who consider themselves transgender.  Far from it.  When you consider the enormous degree of state-sponsored censorship that is required by the movement — and the punishments meted out to people of conscience by each and every one of the laws its activists seek to pass — a far different story reveals itself.

Last week I spoke about all of this to an audience at the Family Research Council in Washington.  You can watch the video by clicking on this link:

http://www.frc.org/events/bruce-or-caitlyn-why-everyone-should-care-about-the-transgender-movement

My goal was not to discuss the finer points of “gender identity” and what being transgender means for any particular individual. Instead, I focused on the broader and bigger picture of what the transgender ideology means for society at large.  Transgenderism is an ideology that is based on the presumption that all human beings have something called a “gender identity that may or may not match the sex they were assigned at birth.”  Notice how the word “assigned” is used to hide the reality that your biological sex is based in physical reality.  This premise is written into every gender identity non-discrimination law. It basically aims to legally erase male and female sex distinctions. It applies universally — to each and every one of us.

The implications are vast — for our language, for our relationships, for preserving a free society. There can be no question that all of the gender identity anti-discrimination laws amount to little more than censorship laws, intended to modify everybody’s behavior and everybody’s language on pain of punishment.

So, in short, the transgender movement is operating as a vehicle for conformity of thought. And in the end, that means it is a vehicle for dismantling freedom – in the name of freedom – and for building the power of the State.  In the end, it puts laws into place that abolish the right to free expression and suppress independent thought.  The power of the state enters that vacuum, as it always does under such circumstances.

I’ve identified four features of the transgender movement that serve as indicators of its role as a vehicle for state centralization of power:

  1. Transgenderism is such an extreme form of individualism that accommodating it in law will only create a vacuum for State power.  By its very nature it demands that an individual’s inner sense of reality trump any commonly held understanding of reality.  This makes it unsustainable.  Its extreme individualism demands the breakdown of society’s mediating institutions – such as family, faith, and private associations — that serve as buffer zones that protect the individual from State meddling.
  2. Transgenderism sows chaos into the language, requiring us all – universally and without exception – to accept a seismic change in the definition of what it means to be human, and what relationships mean, particularly family relationships.  Freedom of speech and association are casualities.
  3. It requires a very aggressive program of censorship in order to sustain itself and prop up its illusions over any commonly understood reality.
  4. It depends on a very aggressive campaign of agitation and propaganda to condition people to get with the program.

It thereby sows the conditions for totalitarianism.   We have no choice but to speak out in the face of its censorship. For more, see my talk at the link above.  And let’s never forget that free speech is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition.

Iran’s War on Dogs is Part of a War on All Personal Relationships

Stray 

Wanton cruelty to animals is well known to be a precursor to cruelty to humans. So humaneness to animals is a quality that any civilized society should insist upon. I touch on this in my recent Federalist essay: “Iran’s War Against Dogs.”

Dogs are amazing creatures, and it’s no wonder that there is a strong bond between them and human beings.  As companion animals they have a childlike innocence, a trust and loyalty that tends to melt our hearts. If we are in pain, they often sense that and will stay by our side to lend comfort. They are balm to loneliness.

The empathy and loyalty of dogs to their human companions runs deep.  They are great protectors and morale boosters who bring us joy and laughter. Everybody benefits —  including those who don’t particularly care for dogs — in a society that recognizes and cherishes the canine brand of companionship and unconditional love.

So what are we to think of people who have no qualms about the wanton killing and torture of dogs?  (My essay includes a video of the killing of dogs by acid injection, something I did not post here.) Obviously, there is something sociopathic going on with them.

We ought to understand that that’s the type of mentality the Obama Administration is propping up as it lends hefty support to the authoritarian dictators of Iran. We all know that the mullahs there not only preach death constantly – to America, to Israel, to Jews, to Christians, to Muslims they deem apostate – but they are also in the process of building a nuclear weapons program.

Americans seem to have become desensitized to the gravity of that threat, and even to the beheadings in the Middle East. But the sanctioned barbarity visited upon helpless dogs in Iran is something that can at least direct attention to the nature of that regime.

This is not just a war on dogs, but a war on all personal relationships.  The Iranian government would like all dogs completely banned as companion animals, especially now that more citizens there have dogs and the bond of love is growing. This is in keeping with any tyrant’s pattern of separating people from one another in order to control them. This pattern of isolating the controlled is a specialty of sociopaths like cult leaders and wife beaters too.  The idea is to separate their victims from any source of happiness independent of the tyrant’s control.

Let’s just remember that all dictators have on their agenda the intent to control every aspect of every person’s life.  In Iran this extends right down to the intent to forbid citizens to enjoy the companionship of dogs.

Our Gordian Knot, Part V

Ben Carson took to the streets of Harlem recently just to talk to people in his own quiet and unassuming way.

He spoke about the tragedy of lost youth and broken homes and how important it is to take a close look at the causes of problems in order to find solutions. Government dependency is not a solution, but a palliative measure that perpetuates the problems.  We should all be able to see by now that broken families are the main source of this misery. Real freedom and happiness only comes about through the sense of connection people get from strong personal relationships. And those kinds of relationships depend upon the institution of family that passes on a sense of stability and purpose to children.  Without strong families, there can be no strong communities, and people end up at sea, alienated and separated, which makes them ripe for manipulation by social experimenters.

Many shunned Carson as an “Uncle Tom,” which is exactly what we’re told to do by the dictators of political correctness.  Such propagandists never really explain the causes of poverty, preferring to claim it exists only as a result of racism, which is a very convenient way of breeding resentment, and, ironically, more poverty.  For them, family breakdown has nothing to do with anything.  (In fact, President Lyndon Johnson famously noted that his policies would “have them n—-rs voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.”)

However, Dr. Carson was able to connect with those who were able to listen. When we speak one-on-one and face-to-face with others, we bypass the noise of media technology.    It was this flesh-and-blood connection that caused others in Harlem to tell Carson “We love you.”  One said: “I’m a lifelong Democrat. I love you.” In fact, a lot of folks in this polarized society will always assume the “other side” is the enemy, until someone they identify with puts a human face on the Truth they’ve always known in their hearts.

Most of the battle is just about showing up.  Dr. Carson showed up with goodwill and outreach that has the power to slice through the tangle of misperceptions and resentment people develop when they are polarized and isolated from other identity groups of human beings.

I’m glad Dr. Carson continues to offer prescriptions, including yesterday’s op-ed in USA Today.

Years ago, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Jack Kemp reached out and made some inroads with the philosophy that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  But his policies went by the wayside except for a few other enterprising folks like Bob Woodson who heads the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.

Ultimately, it’s up to each one of us as individuals to resurrect such efforts and to cut through the cultural mess we are in.   This is a battle that is going to have to be fought one on one, in our personal lives — through conversations in the “hidden sphere.”

Our Gordian Knot, Part IV

A panel at the FDR memorial in Washington, D. C.

In summary, the Gordian Knot of totalitarianism contains at least three essential ingredients:  family breakdown, censorship, and ignorance.

Family breakdown leads to community breakdown, and that leads to a sense of alienation and dependency.  That, in turn, results in the sort of unrest we’ve recently seen in places like Ferguson and Baltimore.

Censorship is inherent in political correctness, but it’s coming down the pike full force if Congress enacts the Orwellian-named “Equality Act.”  The purpose of censorship of that sort is to inhibit communication among individuals and therefore obstruct autonomous personal relationships.  It sows distrust and fear and helps build a surveillance state.

Ignorance is cultivated first through the erosion of family bonds and community bonds because this separation destabilizes a person’s sense of self and makes it difficult to connect the dots about reality in the world around us.  It gets worse as the forces of this destabilization promote more ignorance by throwing knowledge of the historical record down the memory hole.  At that stage of ignorance, fewer and fewer have a clue as to how propaganda works or how we are being manipulated.

At the end of the day, in such a regime only a small clique of rulers dictate who may say what to whom and who may relate to whom.  As described in the panel illustrated at the FDR Memorial pictured here, these are folks who “seek to establish a system of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers.”

Unfortunately, that’s the goal of the agendas that are built into this Gordian Knot:  control of all personal relationships.  Those who are working to build this dystopia might call it a “new order.”  They might call it a “transformation.”  They can call it whatever they like.  But it is definitely not new and definitely not an order.  It’s just an ancient  divide-and-conquer scheme based on the sin of human pride and power mongering.  “Order” turns out to be something like the inner workings of a clock in which people are simply cogs in a machine and there is no way out.

It’s same old, same old.  And history has shown that it never ends well.  We can only slice through it from the bottom up.  Through individuals who share their knowledge of the truth, speaking in trust and developing real friendship with others.  This creates just the sort of ripple effect that family breakdown and censorship and ignorance are meant to prevent.  It creates the ripple effect that can free us.  Self-cocooning with like-minded folks is a trap.  There is no media or pop culture or academia to help out with this.  Those forces are currently all tied up in the Gordian Knot. It’s now an asymmetric war in which we must all invest in the ripple effect of one-on-one communication.

The Supreme Court’s Diktat on Marriage

Wedding in Delhi

I was on vacation all last week.  Thankfully, I was able to avoid the internet most of the time.  I heard about the Supreme Court’s edict on marriage in passing, during a layover at JFK Airport yesterday.

Also yesterday, the Federalist published my article “Fifteen Reasons Why Marriage Equality is about Neither Marriage Nor Equality.”  It’s my little compendium of overlooked realities and my expectations for what the future holds.  In short, we can expect the State to meddle a lot more heavily in all of our personal relationships as a result of this ruling.

No doubt the Court’s action is a major watershed moment in the transformation of American law. But for those of us who have been pondering the same sex marriage trend line for about 20 years, this whimsical ruling comes as no surprise.

That’s not only because of the abuses of power by the Judicial branch (especially the corrupt nature of Justice Kennedy and similar infections in Justice Roberts) but mostly because there’s been too much brokenness in society — all around us — to sustain laws that protect family stability. Consider how Roe v. Wade dictated to all of us that the State must regard all unborn children as completely non-human.  This knowledge alone doubtless has damaged the psyches of many children growing up post-Roe.  Consider also how no-fault divorce allows children’s homes to be busted up at whim, forcing them to do the shuttling, forcing them to put up or shut up.  And consider how the epidemic of fatherlessness has broken the lives of youth.  With artificial reproductive technologies and same sex marriage, the law can now impose by design both fatherlessness and motherlessness on children.  In the end, it looks and feels not only like a war waged against the intact, organic family, but also against all personal relationships.  After all, the family is the default starting point for building true community.

All of these developments have created a heightened sense of separation anxiety and profound loneliness in society.  K12 and college education have piled on, saturating us with political correctness and the cultivation of ignorance, which further prevents anyone from building relationships that might help them learn how to navigate through all of this confusion.  This has softened the ground for the social engineering that’s been taking place under the convenient mask of “marriage equality.”  We really need first to look with fresh eyes at all of the dismantling and machinations that lay behind us before we can meet the challenges ahead.  The task is daunting, but it all comes with the territory of our human condition.  (I hope to write more on this in the future.)

Let’s also not forget that central planners have always targeted the organic family.  Utopians regard family bonds of loyalty as a thorn in their side and an obstacle to building a centralized state.  Totalitarians always demand state loyalty above any other kind. This may be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true.  History is filled with examples.

So, at the end of my “15 Reasons” piece linked above, I end with the reasonable question:  “What will the authorities decide to do to dissenters?”   We should persist in asking them this question directly, as much as possible.

Mulling over the Question: “Who is my Neighbor?”

In my latest Federalist article I reflect on how I watched a manhunt break out during a morning walk.  It led me to consider things both practical and spiritual:  “It was a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood — For a Manhunt

FYI, the clip above gives a bit of “ambiance,” though that segment was not filmed on my street.  The action shifted all morning.  But I didn’t even know they were entering houses until I found this clip!  It’s interesting that this was put up by Russia Today news.  (This makes me chuckle a little because it reminds me a bit about the way Soviets liked to do propaganda, and how they would have loved to zero in on something like this to show “very bad Amerika.”)

It was a wild morning for me.  In the aftermath I considered two questions, one practical and one spiritual.  The practical side had me thinking about personal security (as in firearms.)  The spiritual side had me reflecting on the question put to Christ just before his parable of the Good Samaritan: “Who is my neighbor?” And how do people get to be the way they are?

 

Fifty Blobs of Grey

“Fifty Shades of Grey” Vermont Teddy Bear

Planned Parenthood recently helped produce a video to introduce teen-agers to the sexual practice of sado-masochism.  As though it’s a good thing.  If you click on the link, you’ll see a rather ditzy young woman gush about it.

The hype for that sexual practice in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon has taken over like a science fiction Blob on the land.   The “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie based on the bestseller (over 100 million copies sold) serves to mainstream sado-masochism as a perfectly normal sexual practice.  In the process, youth are being bombarded with it like never before.  Even the Vermont Teddy Bear Company has cashed in on it.  My latest Federalist piece addressed the trend by introducing the reader to pediatric psychiatrist Miriam Grossman’s five-part blog series “A Parent’s Survival Guide to Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Dr. Grossman has performed a major public service with her writing on the topic, which is important reading for everyone, not just parents.

It’s odd that anyone would have to explain why Bondage/Domination/Sadism/Masochism (BDSM) is not a healthy thing, particularly for children and teens.  But we’re living in odd times.

The BDSM lobby (yes, they have one) claims that sadism and abuse is just fine as long as both parties “consent” to it.   That’s utter nonsense.  Domestic violence shelters are filled with women who thought they had to consent to real life abuse in order to achieve intimacy.    And now the “role-playing” of sexual abuse gets a Planned Parenthood imprimatur for teenagers.  That’s not just irresponsible, but cruel.  Dr. Grossman explains that her patients are damaged by all of the mixed messages over intimacy and relationships.  The 50 Shades trend adds even more weird and mixed messages into their consciousness. It shows a blatant disregard for the vulnerability of youth.  And for anyone lonely who is having a difficult time understanding and finding true intimacy.

It’s important to expose the BDSM snake oil for what it is, especially with your kids.  So, damn the teen eye-rolling. Full speed ahead!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Vomitorium

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1490-1510)

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Vomitorium” is the title of my Federalist piece from the other day.  I spoke about it today with R. Scott Clark in a podcast at Heidelblog.net.

The main idea is that the movement to codify same sex marriage – supposedly only for the purpose of “equality” — has already let loose a lot of fringy sexual excesses into the mainstream.

Things you would have likely not heard about before this stage of the sexual revolution are now being injected into general public discourse. For example, New York Magazine recently ran an article “What’s it Like to Date a Horse,” a graphic interview with a zoophile who complains that his sexual orientation is not respected by society.  Following that one, they published “What’s it Like to Date Your Dad,” an interview with a young woman promoting her sexual relationship with her biological father as just as legit as any other romance.  And of course we now have the impending release of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which serves to celebrate and mainstream the practice of sado-masochism.

There’s lots more where that came from, and I provide a short catalogue in my article. It’s all about excess and uncontrolled appetites.  The vomitorium — as understood in popular culture as a place where gluttony reigns so supreme that it can’t get enough of itself — seems to be where our society is headed.

But at the end of this road lies a society that’s lost its moorings. It’s an escapist culture centered around the Self.  At root, the sexual revolution wasn’t really about sex or even lust.  It used sexual desire to put people in a prison of Self and an empty cycle of gluttony.  It also served to create an easy means to escape responsible relationships. And we’re now at a phase when enough folks have swallowed that bait that their appetites have become unhinged.  At a certain point this state of affairs becomes not only ridiculous and dangerous, but also (to use a favorite term of self-described progressives) unsustainable.

This mindset of Self – brought to us by the sexual “revolution” — prevents people from seeing the world through the eyes of others, especially through the eyes of children. That’s an alienating and isolating mindset which creates a hostile climate for families and for all healthy personal relationships. Somewhere along this lonely path, the state will step more fully into that vacuum and take control of our personal lives, our relationships, and our conversations.

Potential book reviews; Singles Article in Federalist

Okay, I’m scrambling again to keep up with this blog.  When I travel, I generally get behind in stuff.  But I  do plan to do a couple of new things in the future.  One is to keep a booklist.  I’ll try to keep the “reviews” short.  I recently read Sheila Jeffrey’s book Gender Hurts.  It’s a fascinating radical feminist take on the whole gender identity thing.  I find myself agreeing with a lot of it, but parting ways with her on certain predictable points.  But there’s definitely a lot of overlap in terms of understanding where the whole gender thing is headed.  More on that later.  All of the books I’d like to introduce deal in some way or another with how we try to make sense of relationships and how we deal with the effects of social isolation.

I have another essay up on the Federalist (submitted quite a while back but just published the other day, so please excuse if it seems a bit stale) which was an extended response to Bella DePaulo’s criticism of my take on the whole idea of “Singles’ Rights.”  I also published a somewhat lengthy blog post on that a couple of weeks ago.  She believes in abolishing civil marriage because she says it discriminates against single people.  I believe that abolishing marriage is tantamount to abolishing all hope for a civil society.  And the effects of that would be disastrous for everybody. Once the state doesn’t have to recognize marriage, each and every citizen becomes isolated and atomized in the eyes of the state.  Family autonomy and privacy dissolve in this scheme.   This is not a good thing.   You can read the article here:  “Why Singles Rights and Same Sex Marriage Will Abolish All Marriage.”  Oh, my goodness.  I just now noticed that that article of mine has 593 comments.  Yikes, that’s a lot!   Well, I’ll deal with that later.  I generally can’t get too caught up in conments — and as you can tell, I don’t use them on my own blog.  But I will definitely have to scan those soon — there are so many — and maybe even write up a post about them.  Usually when there’s that many, though, it means a few people are arguing back and forth amongst themselves. (Of course I do expect to take some hits.)

I’ll find another way to post more often.  Some book review posts.  More posts on the issue of social conformity and the effects of PC/propaganda.  Loneliness and alienation is another important topic for these times.  And whatever else comes my way. Thanks for reading!