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!

 

Muggeridge on the power of words

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/be/Malcolm_muggeridge.jpg

Malcolm Muggeridge

I hate flying, but I love to read on planes. Aside from other stuff in my bag, including my old smallish laptop, I generally only have one book with me — the paper kind — selected for its light weight and the length of time it spent languishing on a shelf, unread.  This last trip it was The End of Christendom.  Not really a book, but a very slim volume of two lectures by the acclaimed British journalist and Christian apologist Malcolm Muggeridge.

It’s a gem through and through.  But I was particularly intrigued by this little passage he wrote about words:

Perhaps the most beautiful of words, the subject of that marvelous thirteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Corinthians, is the word “love.”  Just think of how that word has been polluted and corrupted so that one scarcely dares to use it.  Similarly with words like “freedom” and “liberation”  The truth is that if we lose the meaning of words, it is far more serious in practice than losing our wealth or our power.  Without our words, we are helpless and defenseless; their misuse is our undoing.”

The Transgender Project is Exhibit A in today’s War on Language and the misuse of words.  You’re probably familiar with the “Purple Penguin” Project in which teachers in Nebraska have been instructed to refrain from referring to children as boys and girls or male and female.  There’s an accompanying diagram of “The Genderbread Person.” The agenda is huge and — make no mistake — it redefines the humanity of us all, and it’s now aimed directly at children.

Indeed, it is a war on words that goes right for the jugular:  your identity. In the process of destabilizing each person’s sense of self, the transgender project serves to isolate and separate each and every one of us because it in effect turns each and every one of us into disembodied beings in law.  Your sex is not something identified at birth, but, according to gender identity non-discrimination laws, it is “assigned at birth.”  The wording here is meant to apply universally.  It’s not really about the transgender demographic.  It’s primarily about everybody else.

What this does, of course, is wipe out the distinction between male and female. Legally.  The implications for human relationships and human identity and human dignity here are vast and depressing.   Losing the meaning of words means losing our ability to think — and communicate. And especially the meaning of words that identify us as human.   In the end, it’s an assault on all human relationships and imposes separation and loneliness on everyone.  It’s pretty much what cults do.  But that’s for another post.

Singleton Nation

Rise in single adult Americans since 1976

 

Check out the above chart that was published last week in a Bloomberg News article about a growing trend among Americans to stay single rather than marry.  For the first time ever, a majority of the adult US population is single.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics — which supplies the figures in its monthly jobs report — calculates the percentage of “selfies” as 50.2 percent, or 124.6 million adult Americans.  That’s up from 37.4 percent in 1976.

I see this shift as an indicator that the individual in our society is becoming more “atomized,” with individuals less connected to others in strong relationships.  Fewer marriages mean fewer children in marriages and more detachment from a sense of family.  This in turn can lead to a strong feeling of displacement, a feeling that there are no community bonds either.

In fact, only natural families can build natural communities that nurture young and old alike:  communities of faith and voluntary associations that include deep friendships based on trust. When a sense of belonging is gone and trust in others is diminished, people look for comfort in other places: shallow relationships, gangs, the anesthesia of drugs, and government programs.

It all makes for the perfect vacuum for the State to fill.  The State is always promoting its own brand of artificial community that can’t substitute for intimate bonds of love.  It’s been taking over the functions of family in policies like state-run childcare, elder care, health, and education.  People who feel isolated naturally look to these programs when there’s no place else to go.

But the silver lining is that 75 percent of adult Americans are either married or say they want to get married, according to a 2013 Gallup poll.  And when high school seniors were asked how important a good marriage was to them, the results were even more encouraging: 84.5 percent of girls and 77 percent of boys replied that it was “extremely important.”

So people still desire strong relationships, and they still say that they do.  We should remember that because it’s cause for optimism and offers a window of opportunity.  It means people really do believe in their hearts that strong family ties are the best way to defeat alienation and loneliness.  We need to reach out and find new and effective ways to convey the obvious truth that strong marriages make happy communities.

“The Giver” is Worth Seeing and it’s Still in Theaters

Play the trailer below to get a faint idea as to how Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver was adapted for the screen.  

The setting is a dystopian society, which, of course thinks of itself as utopian.  The perfect “community.” Children are assigned to family “units” and everyone lives an illusion of peace and harmony because they’ve been anesthetized not to feel any strong emotions.  All memory of human history was wiped out in order to protect them from pain and suffering.  Everyone lives a sort of outwardly pleasant robotic existence.  They practice “precision of language” and apologize to one another a lot. There’s no real personal choice. One’s life — just like the economy — is planned from on high.

And it all leads to blind cruelty.

In the story, one person designated as “The Giver” (played by Jeff Bridges) serves as a keeper of the memories.   It is a covert position that was established in the event the elders of the society ever needed to consult on a question requiring that knowledge.  (Meryl Streep plays the chief elder.)  A boy named Jonas (played by Brenton Thwaites) has to try to make sense of it all.

If you’re going to the movies this weekend, I definitely recommend The Giver.  Despite any flaws, it’s a rare and welcome message in these painfully politically correct times.  To learn more, click on Jack Fowler’s review of The Giver in National Review: “Take Someone to The Giver.” 

“The Wave” and the Cult Mindset

Human beings — especially Americans these days — don’t seem to understand how susceptible we are to group think.   A cult mindset can be very contagious if it is left unchecked.  Cults grow where people feel a sense of isolation, when they don’t ask hard questions, and when they are weak on discernment.  Below is a short movie called “The Wave.”  It’s based on actual events at a high school during the 1960’s.  It started with a teacher-supervised class experiment in group think, but it took on an ominous life of its own.

If you want to delve into the background, click here to look over the website www.thewavehome.com which was put together by the original participants. Here is an excerpt from the website:

In spring 1967, in Palo Alto, California, history teacher Ron Jones conducted an experiment with his class of 15-year-olds to sample the experience of the attraction and rise of the Nazis in Germany before World War II.  In a matter of days the experiment began to get out of control, as those attracted to the movement became aggressive zealots and the rigid rules invited confusion and chaos.  This story has attracted considerable attention over the years through films, books, plays and musicals, and verges on urban legend.  It serves as a teaching tool, to facilitate discussion of those uncomfortable topics of history, human nature, psychology, group behavior, intolerance and hate.

As an aside, I don’t want anyone to get too put off when they discover that Norman Lear produced this 1981 TV movie.  That’s fascinating, of course, because Lear is about as far left/statist as one can get in Hollywood.  And yet “The Wave” is an important story with urgent lessons for all of us. There seems to be a pattern among those who claimed to fight for independent thought in earlier eras, but who push political correctness so hard today. One can only wonder if the hijacking of stories and images warning against totalitarianism serve only to promote their power agendas of today.

“The Abilene Paradox:” Saying “Yes” when You’d Rather say “No”

The other day we saw how Solomon Asch’s conformity experiments, showed that people will deny what they see with their own eyes when under social pressure.   But what happens if the group pressure is not flatly stated, but only perceived  pressure?  Pretty much the same thing.   Watch the clip below of “The Abilene Paradox,” an organizational  training film based on the book by Jerry B. Harvey, professor of management at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Professor Harvey was trying to figure out why organizations so often ended up making decisions against their own self interest. Click here for a link to his book about this, which is a parable based on his own personal life experience.  His experience was a very uncomfortable family trip 50+ miles away in a hot car in the blazing hot 100+ degree Texan heat just to have supper at a cafeteria in Abilene that no one felt like going to.  The father only made the suggestion because he assumed that’s what everyone else wanted to do. He had no interest himself.  But they, in turn, assumed this was his wish and so all voiced agreement when not a single one of them wanted to go.  You’ll see a couple of other examples in the trailer.  A research and development guy who’s been tasked with “Project X:” making jet fuel out of peanut oil; and a young man and woman at the altar who don’t really want to get married to one another.

So when we do not want to embark on a course of action, why do we so easily agree to do so? And why don’t we at least communicate our disagreement?  Seems we just don’t want to rock the boat. Jerry Harvey’s conclusion is that human beings are always trying to spare themselves the pain of “anaclitic depression” or separation anxiety: Feeling cast out, unwanted, isolated.  It’s as though we’re always in survival mode when these defenses kick in.

The irony is that the human fear of social isolation runs so deep that we will navigate a huge portion of our lives around it and constantly make assumptions — often false — about what other people believe without really knowing.  In fact, you can know someone for years thinking they disagree with your views only to find out later he was on board with you with just about every issue.  But we never know if we don’t talk to people.  Do we?

Instead of acting on our assumptions , we ought to verify those perceptions more often.

The Abilene Paradox is another good lesson about how political correctness uses this human weakness.  By reinforcing this fear of isolation, people are less likely to get to know one another and exchange ideas.  Political correctness promotes this isolation so that open communication doesn’t get in the way of pushing PC agendas, and more folks can be nudged into agreement despite any misgivings they may have.

Good Fathers Never Die. They Love Beyond the Grave.

Father’s Day might be behind us for this year, but the impact of fatherhood is always huge, and it runs very deep.  In my latest Federalist essay, I examine the power of the father-child relationship:   “You are Twelve Men:” A Story of Fatherhood.  It’s an account of Francis Bok’s Escape from Slavery.

Imagine — if you can — what it must be like to be a seven-year-old boy who witnesses a massacre, and then is captured by one of the killers to serve as a slave:  In addition to enduring beatings, hunger, and degradation, you are completely isolated from anyone with whom you can talk.  The loneliness enshrouds you.  It goes on this way, with beatings and degradation, for ten solid years.  You are finally able to making a harrowing escape.

In Sudan, from 1986 until 1996, Francis Bok survived this unfathomable assault on his dignity and his childhood. How?  What sustained him and essentially saved him?  Answer: Calling on the memory of his loving parents, especially his father who instilled Francis with strength and trust in God.  Francis’ father would tell him: “You are twelve men!”  In the words of Francis:

“I told myself that I must stay strong. My father would want me to be strong. . . they could not touch my thoughts and dreams. In my mind I was free, and it was there in that freedom that I planned my escape.

‘God is always with you,’ my parents had told me. ‘Even when you are alone, He is with you. . . . When you ask God for what you need, He will help you . . .’ Alone at night sitting in my hut, I remembered that. My father once said to me, ‘Even when you are one, you are two. If you are two, you are three.’

I was really muycharko . . . I began to believe that my father had been right: I was really ‘twelve men.’”

The question we must ask is this:  If a father can have such an impact from the grave on a child so alone and oppressed, how dare anyone devalue fatherhood? 

In fact, this question is not rhetorical, because the answer is real.  It’s in Francis’s own words above:  His father’s love empowered him.   It made him free.  Unfortunately, those who seek to control us see this as a problem, and a threat to their sense of power. So these forces are always trying to separate us from those who truly love us.  How dare they?  We need to stay aware of — and fight —  these constant and insane assaults on our relationships.

 

 

 

My Presentation on Political Correctness

Below in SlideShare  format, you’ll find the first section of a multimedia Power Point that I’ve presented in various forms to different groups of people.  I’ve been trying to raise awareness about what exactly happens inside each of us when we succumb to political correctness.  How are we manipulated?  Why? By whom?  And what can we do about it?

As you go through the slides, you won’t have my running commentary.  But the basic idea is that political correctness is not just the hard sell of an agenda.  It’s a deceptive and highly manipulative method of coercive persuasion. It forces compliance by exploiting the universal human fear of being cast out of society.   But this compliance — usually through self-censorship — actually isolates us even more.  It’s important for us to recognize that we only dig ourselves in deeper when we cave in to it, because we cut ourselves off from like-minded people and only build an illusion that we are all alone in our beliefs. That, of course, is the main purpose of political correctness: to get us to paint ourselves into a corner and isolate ourselves from others. So the big question is how best to speak out and reach out.

Also, here’s the Steve Martin clip from Slide 9 (which doesn’t seem to run in the slideshare):


We often hear the words “group think” and “peer pressure”tossed about.  But it’s really important to go deeper into the meaning of those terms.  We begin by taking a hard, clinical look at what exactly happens to us as human beings when we are subjected to this method of coercive persuasion.  The term “emotional blackmail” sums it up well.