Two Quotes on Ignorance and Tyranny

Let’s spark imaginations, not stupid Molotov cocktails.

Maximillien Robespierre was a major figure of the French Revolution, probably best known for his role in the reign of terror.  I only bring him up because of this fascinating quote:

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

In that same vein, Thomas Jefferson noted:

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

But what is education?  What is ignorance? What do those words mean?   Today, only a clear and free mind — not one that has been pre-programmed — can begin to approach the true answers to those questions.  And that’s because our language has been so throughly corrupted by radical education reforms that have replaced content knowledge with politically correct scripts in our schools.  In his novel, 1984, George Orwell showed how the corruption of language leads to a dystopia whose people will accept as true such slogans as “Ignorance is Strength” and “Freedom is Slavery.”

So we need to demand the teaching of real knowledge.  Our schools should encourage natural curiosity instead of enforcing politically correct scripts that squash that curiosity.  They should allow for real tolerance instead using a PC label of tolerance that’s only meant to empower the power mongers, and to smear anybody with whom they disagree.  If we don’t do these things, we have essentially given in to the building of a cult mindset.

Instead, let’s encourage the building of axemaker’s minds that will promote innovation, self-reliance, true community building, and real knowledge.  And let’s fight the mind arson that’s been committed for too long by radical education “reformers.” By doing all of these things, we can begin to spark the productive fire of imagination, not the ignorance that causes people to mindlessly throw Molotov cocktails.  In this way, we can promote domestic tranquility, real friendship, and the possibility of real love among us.

 

About Blog Dormancy

Asleep at the keyboard. (“Sheila the PC Cat” @ Wikimedia Commons)

My lulls in social media use and posting to my blog come down to two things: aversion and fracturing.

First, I’ve built up quite an aversion to social media. Have you? The sad fact is that we live in an increasingly uncivil society, and the trend line only shows that the vulgarity and hostility fueled by political correctness is getting worse.  That’s not constructive for getting anything done.

The second issue is that extensive internet use — and social media in particular — is disruptive to the process of deep thinking. Constant mental gear shifting has a fracturing effect on the mind. You can read about this phenomenon in Nicholas Carr’s excellent book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. I’ve been trying to avoid the constant browsing that the internet and social media require, because so much of what I am trying to explore in my writing requires a very deep focus.

Our age is distracting enough, especially with the growing attacks on civil discourse.  The recent rioting intended to shut down speech at UC Berkeley and NYU have shown beyond a doubt that we’re in a bad way in that department.  So it’s more important than ever to nurture one’s ability to think clearly and deeply. And independently. Then we should try to spread that habit to others so that they and all of society can flourish in an atmosphere of civility.

I thank all who sent me messages through the contact form.  I very much appreciate your thoughts and support.  If I missed getting back to you about a question you had, I regret that. (Correspondence has become a bit more unwieldy too.)

Going forward, I hope to intensify my efforts on the subject of propaganda awareness.  Propaganda — along with its latter day spawn, political correctness —  is anathema to independent thinking, which means it is hostile to human conversation and friendship.

In the future I hope to post regularly at least twice a month.  Please subscribe if you’re interested!

“The Donald” vs. the Clinton Machine

In case you haven’t noticed, tomorrow is Election Day in America. I would guess that many Americans don’t really have great faith in either of the two main candidates running for president. But this choice isn’t about what we used to call “character” in quainter times. It’s more about choosing whether America should change course or continue at breakneck speed in the same direction (which ends us up over the precipice.)  Another big question is:  Do we even have faith in the electoral process anymore?   Many issues are muddying the waters when it comes to free and fair elections.  A few of them include:  digital technologies susceptible to hacking; the attack on voter ID; and the growing ignorance about the Constitution itself and why preserving it is important. (A few months ago, I also wrote of my concern that our right to a secret ballot could soon face challenges.)

But I think highest on the list of factors that got us where we are is that we are living in a post-virtue society.  The culture has become so coarse and our institutions have become so corrupt, that we seem to have lost the capacity to govern ourselves.  Such are the conditions that gave us the candidates we now have. I’ve wrestled for a while with the idea of voting for Donald Trump. Yes, he has a penchant for speaking and acting crassly — as do a lot of our celebrities and so many of whom pass today as role models. The reality is that a Hillary Clinton presidency will put us into hyper drive in growing the bureaucratic Borg State. Such a state would end the right to live a private life.  It would essentially cancel out the Bill of Rights.

We are where we are.

So the other day, I explained in greater detail why I decided to pull the lever for Trump:  to allow for a chance to get some breathing room for the Constitution.  You can read it at The Federalist here.

 

A Follow-Up on Age Identity

Following up on my post the other day in which I wrote about my Federalist piece “The Trans-Aged Deserve Equal Rights, too” I see that the idea is starting to get a bit more circulation.  Last week, Newsday ran an essay by J Peder Zane, titled “If Gender is Fluid, What about Race and Age?”  This sounds a bit like my headline a couple of years ago asking , “If We Can Pick Our Gender, Can We Pick Our Age? Our Race?”  I do not understand why so few pundits and virtually no legislators are exposing the parallels here.  We’re talking about self-definition, self-identification becoming a protected category in law, without regard to physical reality.

The premise of transgender law — that sex is not real, but simply “assigned at birth” — is a false premise intended to apply universally to everybody.  As wild as that presumption is, I believe it’s actually a lot easier to accept the premise of being “age fluid.”  I know I’m age fluid — in my mind.  Isn’t everybody?  Some days I’m 75, other days 16, and still others 32.  The fact that age-identity non-discrimination would mess with our concept of time and the calendar should be irrelevant as long as our Administration is in the process of de-sexing all of society anyway. Right?

We ought to press this point while we still can.  Seriously.

 

 

Why Shouldn’t “Age-Identity Non-Discrimination” be a Thing?

Finnish woodcut, Ages of Man (1831.)

A few months ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article for the Federalist entitled “The Trans-Aged Deserve Equal Rights, Too.”  I’ve made this point before, a few years ago: here and here.  But don’t you agree it’s high time we take this seriously now that the Obama Administration’s directive on “gender identity” puts the social engineering of our humanity in high gear?

I say that if gender identity is a protected category for non-discrimination, age identity should be as well.  Why not? Those who call for age identity non-discrimination have a parallel grievance with those who call for gender identity non-discrimination:  their identity does not match the age they were “assigned at birth.”

In fact, I can say with all honesty that I do not identify with my age “assigned at birth.”  Do you?  I imagine the percentage of the population who feel this way are far greater than those who feel dysphoria over their gender identity.  And yet a 52-year old who identifies as 71 can be turned down for medicare.  A 12-year-old who identifies as 20 is forced to stay in a middle school classroom.  And so on.

There is nothing to lose by pressing legislators (and judges) today to add age identity as a new category to non-discrimination law. We should be asking presidential candidates if they would support laws to halt age identity discrimination, especially if they support the social engineering that comes with the transgender thing.

Here are some excerpts from my piece:

Just as transgender activists will tell you not to conflate gender with sex, so no one should conflate age with time. Trans-aged individuals are just as entitled to anti-discrimination protection as transgender individuals.

Obama and his allies in Congress fully accept the idea that gender identity is a person’s self-perception of their gender whether or not it “aligns” with the sex they were “assigned at birth.” But they brazenly ignore a far more common source of inequality: total lack of equal protection for those whose self-perception of their age does not match up with the socially constructed date they were assigned at birth.

Discrimination on the basis of age identity is rampant in education, medicine, and employment, just for starters. I dare say it is orders of magnitude more common than discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Think of the 12-year-old who self-identifies as 19, but is stuck in a middle-school classroom. Think also of the 58-year-old who knows she is 75 but is ineligible for Social Security, and must suffer loss of benefits in silence. Let’s have some compassion for the 22-year-old (not to mention the 72-year-old) who knows he is 18 but is nevertheless not permitted to become an Eagle Scout, or even a Boy Scout. And what about the 69-year-old teacher who is forced into retirement even though she knows she is but 49—and is thereby deprived of living an authentic life?

 

The Devoted Mother is the First and Last Line of Defense against Big Brother

Mary Cassatt, Breakfast in Bed (1897)

Happy Mother’s Day.  For me this is a time to contemplate the difference devoted mothers make in our lives. And the difference is much more seismic than it is sentimental.  That’s the subject of my lengthy essay at The Federalist this past week.  Of all the things we take for granted in this life, the sacrificial love of a mother is at the top of that list.  We forget how that bonding has a such a stabilizing and humanizing effect on people — until we are confronted with the depth and breadth of today’s cultural rot.

And the gifts of devoted motherhood are magnified countless times over in the context of an intact family, when the child gains the positive effects of strong and healthy mother-child-father bonds. Unfortunately, broken families and dysfunctional motherhood and fatherhood are epidemic today.  So, we ought to ask ourselves: Whom does that brokenness serve?  There’s no question in my mind that it serves the bureaucratic, authoritarian State, the source of so many policies that serve to break up families.  In a word, the Orwellian monster known as Big Brother. He’s all about separating people and trying to extinguish real love and real beauty.

You can read my article at this link:  “A Little Mother Prevents Big Brother.”  The 19th century philosopher Edmond Burke wrote about the “little platoons” of society being the ultimate source of all other affections:  friendship, community, love of country, love of one’s fellow man.  Erase the little platoons, and you’ve erased the source of all human affections. Here’s the relevant Burke quote that I include in my article:

“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it; and as none but bad men would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter it away for their own personal advantage.”

Without those bonds to our “little platoons” — which begin in the family, and specifically through the instinctive mother-child bond — there can be no real inter-connectedness.  Just a fake and forced “collectivism” that takes the place of love.  The instinctive maternal bond has been meddled with, abused and broken through a variety of forces.  The sexual revolution plays a huge role, along with the false doctrine of gender ideology and the siren call of government dependency.  And when we see how coalitions of big government and big corporations are bullying  small businesses and families to bend to the dictates of transgenderism — which has the end effect of abolishing motherhood and fatherhood — we can’t help but see traitors bartering away the family life of others for their own personal advantage, their own power.

But as C.S. Lewis noted in his essay “The Abolition of Man,” we owe a great debt to the “beneficent obstinacy of real mothers, real nurses, and (above all) real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses.”

Let’s try to shore up the remaining sanity by shoring up the strength of our little platoons and injecting them with a fresh and heavy dose of such obstinacy.  Let’s celebrate and encourage the devoted and sacrificial love of our mothers to help them deliver that antidote against the poisons of Big Brother.

Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Group Think Has Got to Go!

Students at Stanford University voted last week on a ballot proposal to reinstate the study of Western Civilization.  Whatever the outcome of the vote — and the results have been delayed, ostensibly because of a senate election that was “too close to call” — the fact that this question is being entertained at all is astonishing.  It’s a bold move.  And a victory for independent thought.

I wrote about it in my recent Federalist article “Stanford Students Fight Campus Group Think.”   After the study of Western Civilization was trashed about 30 years ago, group think was able to put down deep roots on our college campuses.  Political correctness created new enemies of thinking in the form of “trigger warnings” and “micro-aggressions.”  I don’t think this is a coincidence.  No way.

When tyrants aim to erase collective memory — by hiding or destroying the literature, arts, and history that bind a civilization together — they aim to create the conditions for conformity of thought.  All totalitarians know this.  ISIS militants, for example, are making a big point of destroying ancient artifacts, as the video below shows.

Obviously, ISIS takes a more direct approach than the cultural Marxists in the West.  But the goals are the same:  cultivate ignorance, promote group think, and destroy independent thought. It’s all about obtaining raw power.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“. . .  learning about Western culture isn’t simply about undertaking a cohesive study of the history, philosophy, literature, and arts that have enormously influenced the world in which we all live. It is also about learning how to express ideas effectively, how to separate fact from propaganda through specific tools of learningdeveloped in the West. Taking those tools away—such as the Socratic method, civil discourse, and rules of order and civil debate—hinders clarity, independent thought, and the powers of observation. It makes students far less able to resist conformity and group think.”

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.

Political Correctness is an Agitprop Tool that can be used to legalize anything

Public opinion is increasingly a reflection of what people are willing to say based on their sense of social rewards and punishments for expressing an opinion. (Graphic source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Social-media-communication.png )

If we revisit the example of the “quick public opinion shift” on same sex marriage — which was basically an implausible idea 15 years ago — we might ask: why did the activist push for it became so fast and furious? Couldn’t the idea withstand real public discourse and stand on its own merits without extreme public shaming of anyone who had doubts?  Couldn’t it have come about through the legislative process without an activist judge overturning the referendum results of an entire state? Or Supreme Court justices claiming that those opposed were filled with “animus?”

The answer is a resounding “No.”  In a previous post, I mentioned how availability cascades — opinion cascades, particularly on ideas that seem implausible — rely on a great deal of propaganda and agitation, through political correctness. They are very fragile things.  The survival of such opinion cascades requires a lot of tweaking and teasing and discipline and balancing acts by those pushing them, including activists, politicians, celebrities, academics, media moguls. This is the way you get masses mobilized to pretend they’re impressed with a naked emperor’s new clothes. It’s all about conditioning.

The process has a limited life span, and must be applied to public policy before the window of opportunity closes. Polls actually showed that public opinion for same sex marriage had already peaked by the time the Supreme Court made it a done deal in the Obergefell decision last year.  But we can’t really know what people believe when the environment for free speech on such an issue is so hostile that most who disagree would be loath to express it.

You may recall how Brendan Eich was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla, essentially for a thought crime. When activists discovered that Eich had made a private donation to the Proposition 8 referendum in California to preserve the legal definition of marriage as one-man and one-woman, they “outed” him and set him up for a virtual public hanging.  The point was not only to get him to recant — which, to his credit, he did not do — but to warn the public that free exchange of ideas on this issue was forbidden.

Through propaganda and agitation, you get behavior modification on a mass scale. Yesterday it was same sex marriage.  Today it is transgenderism.  Tomorrow? It could be absolutely anything at all.

My Radio Interview with Vicki McKenna

Vicki McKenna, NewsTalk 1130 WISN

Last month I was on Vicki McKenna’s radio show discussing the effect that propaganda, specifically political correctness, has on us as individuals — how it isolates us from others as we silence ourselves out of the fear of being socially cast out because of our opinions.  Vicki and I also discussed how political correctness affects society at large.  By conditioning people into policing their own speech, political correctness cultivates a surveillance state in which people increasingly police the speech of others. I hope you’ll have a chance to listen.  My segment starts at about 19:00 at this link:

http://wiba.iheart.com/media/play/26572451/