Nationalizing the Family

Mark Steyn makes some excellent points in this four-minute excerpt from his speech on “The Nationalization of the Family.”

http://www.steynonline.com/6203/the-nationalization-of-the-family

He notes that the takeover of the family was by far the most consequential act of state ownership of the late 20th century.   No question about it.  A faceless bureaucracy is being substituted for the only bonds that can create a healthy society:  family bonds.  Steyn also recognizes that we should grieve far more over the waste of lives than the waste of money by this bureaucratic state.  Amen to that.

But I’d like to elaborate a little here.   The organic family unit — father, mother, child — is really the template for all healthy human relationships.  We all know this in our gut.  Without the security of the human bonding in a family, something great is lost to any human being who’s been deprived of it.  Children end up more isolated and alienated, and they take all of that baggage into adulthood.   People become more detached from others if their sole source of “care giving” is a faceless bureaucracy. In a very real sense, the state can then mediate and dictate all human relationships.  For example, a poor single mother is less likely to get married if she knows she’ll lose state entitlements.  It’s disturbing as we come to realize that nationalizing the family goes hand in hand with abolishing it.

Also, let’s note how the cliques ruling the bureaucracies can’t recognize human potential, creativity, and innovation. Even if they could, they’re hostile to it all.  They squander lives and talent. And they’re in the business of squashing love.

Our only choice, in the end, is for each of us to compete with this machine.  It sounds daunting, but we must find a way to build a culture that reaches out in human love and understanding to anyone at risk of falling victim to the machine, and even those who already are.  I hope to explore in future posts how we might try to do this.

Who am I to you? The State Will Decide

“If We Can Pick our Gender, Can we Pick our Age? Our Race?”  That’s the headline of an article I published in The Federalist today.  Logic requires a “yes” answer for both age and race.  Today the state of Maryland joined 17 others to pass one of those laws that purports to protect “gender identity.”  It’s a dangerous and de-humanizing path.   You can read my essay here:

http://thefederalist.com/2014/03/27/if-we-can-pick-our-gender-can-we-pick-our-age-our-race/

Transgender laws are based entirely on self-perceptions.  They don’t permit a common understanding of human reality. Rather, they end up foisting upon everyone a new definition of what it is to be human.  But the rule of law can’t survive these sorts of ambiguities.   The state will enforce acceptance of certain perceptions and punish those who do not recognizing those perceptions.  This will have a profound effect on how the state views — and ultimately dictates — relationships.

We need to resist such laws, especially legislation in Congress like ENDA — which falsely claims to be an “Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”  Because, in the end, it’s all about the state dictating our relationships.

 

Faith of the Whos: Freedom Through Song Part II

whos

Since 1966, an annual TV tradition at Christmastime is Dr. Suess’s beloved animated story “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”  Watch what happens after the Grinch steals all of the Christmas stuff from the Whos down in Whoville:

I’m going to digress a little bit.  Bullies always try to control others.  One way to do this is by theft, or by cultivating scarcity.  This is virtually a matter of policy in totalitarian societies run by dictators.  Scarcity breeds discontent.  The idea is that if you take people’s stuff,  they’ll be dependent on you.  Scarcity also divides people so that they can be made to fight like dogs for any scraps.  But that’s not so possible if people are allowed to bond together freely in autonomous families and communities.  When they have the strength of personal relationships based in trust, people learn from one another and pool their resources.  They can build faith, goodwill, and real trust, the best defenses against tyranny.

Singing is a timeless way of spreading that goodwill. When it’s joyful and spontaneous, it stirs the soul and creates an irresistible urge for human fellowship.  That’s why some thugs — like the Taliban in Afghanistan — actually ban singing altogether.  They see it as a threat to their control over others.

The Whos were industrious, happy, prosperous, and friendly.  The Grinch couldn’t stand them and especially hated the sound of their singing on Christmas morning.  So he devised a classic plan:  just steal all of their stuff while pretending to be Santa Claus!  He took the Whos’ food, their presents to one another, their decorations, everything.  Then he looked forward to hearing their sobs as they woke up to the desolation.

But it turned out the Whos had a song in their hearts that couldn’t be suppressed.  As we deal with the tyrannies of everyday life, it’s good to remember this.   Our unique voices, when shared, are the basis of all that we can create, give, and love.  Sharing that song means reaching out and speaking truth in love so that others can discover their voices too.  Even the grinches.

 

Crude Demonization and the Propaganda in “Cosmos”

Did you catch the Sunday night pilot of the new Cosmos series on FOX?  If so, you probably watched with interest an odd cartoon that was injected into it.  The program featured some revisionist history in order to produce a thinly-veiled hit piece on Christians.  You can watch it here.  Take special note at 1:24.  Right smack dab in the center of focus is the Cross of Christ, just below a set of demonically-lit eyes of a church figure.

This is propaganda of the crudest sort, reminiscent of how Stalin’s Soviet Union characterized non-communists, or how the Hutus of Rwanda characterized the Tutsis, or, most famously, how the Third Reich characterized Jews.

 I imagine we’ll see more of this sort of thing in the future, so let’s try to figure out one formula some outlets might use to implement such demonization.

1.)  Take a fascinating topic that captures the imagination of viewers across all age groups.  In this case, space exploration.  Get the US President’s seal of approval

2.)  Invent the story of an obscure martyr, in this case, a church figure who promoted a theological heresy hundreds of years ago and was executed for doing so — Giordano Bruno.

1.       3.)  Win the sympathy of the viewer through twisting facts.  In this case, claim — in error — that the Church as a whole persecuted Bruno for his views on science and his imagination — when the reality was that the personalities running the church at the time went after him for his theological views. 
You can read more about this here and here.

4.)  Then inject a caricature that demonizes anyone associated with the symbol f the cross.  In this case, it’s a cartoon that places the cross right in the center of focus, underneath a pair of demonic eyes so that the viewer will join the producers in demonizing the cross and those who wear it.

Whether or not you agree that this is a formula for demonizing people, it all leads to the same place:  the persecution of targeted groups of people.  Throughout history demonization through caricature has always gone hand-in-hand with oppression:  separating people through smear-by-association.  So whenever we see such things produced by a major network or outlet, we need to ask ourselves a question:  Is the caricature intended to single out a group of people with the direct effect of inspiring blanket fear and hatred of them?  Or is it a more generic “bad guy” that would would find in the context of a well-written drama or storyline?  This hit piece from Cosmos is doubtless of the first category.

Casablanca: Freedom through Song, Part I

After entry of the US into WWII, Warner Brothers released the classic Casablanca (1942) starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  One scene in Casablanca offers a magnificent juxtaposition with the Bavarian pub scene from The Mortal Storm (1940) discussed in the last post.  The place is similar:  another restaurant– Rick’s Cafe Americain.  Also similar is a cast of Nazi officers, stirring up song (this one “Die Wacht am Rhein.”)   But the similarities end there, when one man, Victor Laszlo, tells the orchestra to play the “La Marseillaise.”  A thrilled and grateful clientele all rise spontaneously and triumphantly, drowning out the Nazis’ song.

Watch here:

If Laszlo hadn’t done what he did, what then?  Chances are everyone would just sit around sulking.  Until the Nazis could stir up enough folks to sing along with them to the point that theirs seemed the majority view.  Morale would continue to plummet.

It’s the little acts of resistance that add up to make the biggest difference.  These acts plant seeds in others, creating a cascade effect.  Sad to say, it’s the power mongers of the world who seem to know this better than the rest of us do.  That’s why they insist on our silence as a way station on their road to total control.  So let’s not hide our light.

“The Mortal Storm:” First, Imposed Silence, then Mandatory Enthusiasm

When power elites are pushing an agenda, the first step is to silence the opposition.  Political correctness is a tool that manipulates the universal human fear of being socially smeared in order to squash dissent.  PC begins by teasing out a spiral of silence that causes people to perceive majority approval for an agenda — even when it doesn’t exist — so that they remain silent instead of expressing opposition.

But that’s just the first step.  PC agendas cannot withstand scrutiny or open debate.  They get poor mileage and need lots of fuel.  So, at a certain point the silencing of dissent is just not enough to keep the illusion going.  That’s when power elites will ratchet it up and enlist your enthusiasm and approval.  And it’s mandatory.

A fascinating illustration of mandatory enthusiasm is in the clip below from the 1940 movie “The Mortal Storm,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.

Begin watching at the 2:00 mark:

When faced with this type of cascade of human madness, we have two choices, according to the story:

1. Safety through retreat, which is really a trap, because it only feeds the cascade and makes the problem worse;

2. Courage, which forces us to confront the evil, and allows us a fighting chance in defeating it.

Part of the fallout of PC is that it tears apart families and life long friendships.   At one point in the movie, the character Freya says to Martin: “You’re the only friend I have left and the only one I can talk to.  I’ve never felt so all alone in  my life.”

And that’s the aim of  any power-mongering force:  to separate dissenters from any source of support — from friends, from family.  To make sure they have no one they can talk to.  That message from the “The Mortal Storm” is timeless and urgent.

By the way, during the 1930’s Hollywood bowed to pressure from Nazi Germany and avoided any negative portrayals of the Nazis.  “The Mortal Storm” was the first time this pact had been breached before US involvement, and it resulted in a German boycott of MGM.   (If you’re planning to watch the whole movie, here’s a quickie review of its shortcomings: I wish it was more cohesive and had more natural dialogue in several of the scenes.)

Another interesting aside is that after WWII you’d be hard pressed to find an average German who claimed to be a willing member of the Nazi party.  It seems the old line about being “on the right side of history” can often serve as a manipulative and empty slogan.

On opinion cascades and marriage, read Doug Mainwaring today

If you wonder how the whole issue of genderless marriage took off so fast — from fringe issue to public policy in just a few years — read Doug Mainwaring’s excellent article in today’s American Thinker:  “Manufacturing Consent on Same Sex Marriage.”  You’ll find in it a fascinating discussion that goes beyond Marketing 101.  In fact, you’ll wish that that there was an insightful “Propaganda 101″ course readily available to all.   What has been happening is as confusing to folks as the current understanding of marriage seems to be.

Some of us thought that the public square was for talking through issues that were controversial.   Then after we reasoned things through, we’d talk some more just to be sure.  We’d argue.  We’d debate in a civil society that allowed all views to be heard.  We’d vote on public officials or referenda.  We’d try to learn.  To think independently.   And so on . . .

Silly us.   All the while, “availability cascades” were being tweaked and organized and used to create an illusion of consent for things that seemed implausible, rendering them “plausible” as more and more people were sucked into the spiral of silence that political correctness demands of dissenters.   As people feared social ostracism, they complied.  What passed for “debate in the public square” was manipulated and rendered predictable.

I plan to write more on this subject myself, especially since the frenetic pace of genderless marriage policy provides such an excellent illustration the mechanics of opinion cascades, and the understanding of how fragile they really are.  (Doug and I also co-authored a piece on this last year, which you can read here.)

 

Communism always means too much power in the hands of too few people. Always.

Cathy Young just published a sterling rebuttal to an all-too-recent apology for communism, the ideology responsible for the brutal murders of over 100 million people.  Please read her article in today’s Real Clear Politics.  You can also read the breathtakingly mindless — or soulless — article to which she responds, which appeared last week in Salon.com.  The latter is a bit less mind-numbing to read once you’ve digested Young’s excellent essay.

When I was studying the realities of communism, especially the crimes of Stalin, I concluded that cruelty and terror are inevitable under that system.   Not just probable or possible.  Inevitable.  Built-in.  It leads to the kind of barbarism that’s probably impossible to grasp even if you’ve lived in it.

As with all totalitarian systems, communism relies on driving people apart by isolating and atomizing them so that they are not able to trust their neighbors or even their family.  It relies on a spiral of silence — the fear of speaking truth.    Just ponder this observation by Pascal Fontaine who wrote about Cuba in the Black Book of Communism:  “The surveillance and denunciation system is so rigorous that family intimacy is almost nonexistent.”

The communist system absolutely requires the centralization of power.  And since personal relationships get in the way of that power, the State meddles ceaselessly, sowing distrust and ill will, often through enforced scarcity of goods and services,.  Think of it as misery with little if any hope for company.

And since the people most driven to raw power are also the most ruthless, in a system without checks and balances power usually ends up concentrated into the hands of one strongman.  Terror is a given because it’s just too much power in the hands of too few people who are invested in perpetuating their power.  Even passive resistance is viewed as a threat.

One can only wonder why there has been a revisiting of communism in recent times.  Why the apologies?  Is it ignorance?  Or is it something else?  Is there a drive for power, a sense of investment in that system that makes it attractive to some?  I’ll explore those questions in future posts.

In the meantime, please visit the Global Museum of Communism, a project of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.  It’s an amazing interactive website that helps us to never forget the those who died and suffered so much under communist regimes.

Woody Allen, Nietzsche, and a Spider the Size of a Buick

The Federalist just published my article about Dylan Farrow’s open letter reporting that her father, the acclaimed director Woody Allen, sexually assaulted her when she was seven years old.  This is the first time she’s told her story publicly on a scandal that broke in 1992.

We ought to pay special attention to Dylan’s statement:  “Imagine a world that celebrates your tormentor.”  Because it’s really all about the fallout from our culture of idolatry and celebrity worship.   Whether or not guilt can be established in this case, we can be sure of one thing:  a system that allows elites to control the lives of others is a system that punishes the innocent.  It’s an amoral system that allows some humans to act as gods who may use and abuse others with impunity:

If nothing else, Dylan Farrow’s letter is a wake-up call. It’s time for us to pour a lot of cold water on the notion that the elites   those controlling the media, Hollywood, politics, and academia — are entitled to a separate standard of behavior or a separate moral code from everybody else. The biggest equality gap today is really one of accountability and personal responsibility.”

You can read it in The Federalist here:  http://thefederalist.com/2014/02/05/god-complex-why-hollywood-thinks-sex-crimes-are-no-big-deal/

 

 

 

 

A Yogi Berra Translation

“You can observe a lot by watching” is probably my favorite Yogi Berra quote.

Of course, you can read a list of Yogiisms  if you’re in the mood (and who isn’t?) and find your own favorite. But let’s first explore the meaning of “You can observe a lot by watching.” This is not pure tautology. What I believe Yogi meant — and what we all know in our gut – is that you can learn a lot by paying attention.  We need to pay attention (watch) if we want to absorb (observe) or learn anything. If we don’t connect the dots, then we don’t get the picture.

Some of us try hard to pay attention. We want to learn. We want to use what was once quaintly called “the imagination.” And we believe in Truth, real friendship, motherhood, brotherhood, and all that’s good. So we throw up our hands in despair when the rest of the world’s eyes glaze over in the vortex of all the shiny objects out there: tech toys and stuff, sex’n’stuff, power’n’stuff, “free stuff.” All that stuff acts like tractor beams pulling human minds into a thick fog. It diverts our attention from what we can learn about ourselves and the real world. The sorry state of public education, along with family breakdown and the excesses of pop culture have rendered so many incapable of paying enough attention to learn anything.

Am I losing you now?  If so, my problem isn’t so much with the facts as with how I’ve packaged them.  Yogi understood this sort of thing, even if he didn’t know it.

Yogi doesn’t tell you to pay attention so you’ll learn something, not in those words.  That’s being a nag.  Yogi’s a real friend.  And he knows about packaging.  So, instead, he just makes a friendly suggestion that makes you do a doubletake and laugh:  Just observe by watching!

When we pay attention we learn that being a scold doesn’t work. Shopworn arguments don’t work, no matter how true. You may believe in the United States Constitution, in reason, and in liberty and justice for all. But if you’re really watching people, you learn that you can’t win when you are competing with so many shiny objects. Today’s culture is saturated with glitter and glam. People can’t let go of it without fearing you’ve come to take that stuff away.

The trick is to make the good stuff look like another shiny object.  Be Tom Sawyer painting the fence.  Come from a whole new angle. Shed unexpected light. Be a friend who says the unexpected, with love. Or just be a happy go lucky truth-teller for those who identify with you and like you.  Sometimes you have to scramble your words to get attention. Sometimes you have to rearrange the furniture when nobody’s looking.

After all, as Yogi might remind us: ninety percent of the game is half mental.*

* Update:  This reference is often attributed to Yogi Berra, but I’ve since learned it is more accurately a quote from Kansas City outfielder Jim Wohlford.  The exact yogism is “Ninety percent of this game is mental.  The other half is physical.”