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.

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/

A Reading List to Promote Sanity and Hack-Proof Your Mind

I offered “Ten Resources for Hack-Proofing Your Mind” in my Federalist article earlier this week, and I list them below. We need far more conversations about how political correctness – i.e., coercive thought reform – undermines our ability to think independently.  We also need to understand that when we lose the capacity to think freely, our minds become extremely vulnerable to being manipulated. On a mass scale, this is very bad for any society.

The resources below can help us inoculate ourselves against the process of extreme undue influence or brainwashing .  It’s a process that has no doubt affected the members of the death cult we call ISIS.  We can see the dangerous effects of undue influence in various other cults as well.  And we can also see that after decades of political correctness, coercive thought reform has become the order of the day on college campuses, coercing conformity among students.  In fact, any student who simply wishes to be left alone to pursue studies can end up harassed, like those who were hounded by protesters in the library at Dartmouth recently.  You can watch that incident here:

But I don’t believe those student agitators are really free agents. Their resentments have been so cultivated, and their access to diversity of thought has been so cut off, that they behave more like they have been mind-hacked by elites who have shamelessly recruited them for their own purposes.

The “safe spaces” that campus agitators demand really serve as little more than Pavlovian conditioning chambers that isolate them and guard them from exploring unofficial ideas. This way they are kept “safe” as fodder for  demagogues and propagandists.  What the students really need – what we all really need – are sane spaces where we can exchange ideas and develop friendships and goodwill.

A big part of the problem is that there has been precious little public understanding about the dynamics of coercive persuasion, and too little self-awareness about how vulnerable we all are to it.  So I’ve prepared a very select list of materials that I think are well worth exploring.  Ideally, people would consider these titles for book club discussions.  For a summary of each entry, you can go to my Federalist article:

  1. Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, ”by Doris Lessing (1986).
  2. The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashingby Joost A. M. Meerloo (1956)
  3. Cults in Our Midstby Margaret Thaler Singer (1995).
  4. The APA-Suppressed DIMPAC Report (1986)
  5. The Manipulated Mind:  Brainwashing, Conditioning, and Indoctrinationby Denise Winn (1983).
  6. Influenceby Robert B. Cialdini (1984).
  7. The Undiscovered Selfby Carl Jung (1957)
  8. We, by Yevgeniy Zamyatin (1922)
  9. NJ Safe and Sounda voluntary non-profit with the mission of educating the public about predatory alienation
  10. The Power of the Powerless,by Vaclav Havel (1978)

La Marseillaise and Defiance to Tyranny One Person at a Time

A while back, I posted a blog entry on the Marseillaise scene in the movie Casablanca.  I feel compelled to run this entry again as we contemplate yesterday’s terrorist attack on Paris.  Whenever we forget that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, we lose.  Let’s never forget that, as well as the fact that our little acts of resistance add up, even if they may seem in vain.  As Vaclav Havel pointed out in “The Power of the Powerless,” these acts of resistance have an illuminating effect. This is also very relevant as we contemplate the full frontal attacks on the First Amendment happening on college campuses these days.  Below is my post from February 28, 2014:

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.  The Nazis would then stir up enough folks to sing along with them to the point that the Nazi narrative would seem 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.

Militant Atheists Target an Old World War I Memorial

The Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial, or “Peace Cross.”

One of the latest targets of militant atheists is the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial Cross pictured here.  In my latest Federalist article, I discuss the lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association that demands the removal of this monument which is also known as Peace Cross.  I wrote it in anticipation of Veterans Day and I hope many in the Washington, D.C. area will attend the wreath-laying there on Wednesday. You can read my article here:  Killing the Dead:  Atheists Attack World War I Memorial.

It’s been standing there — at the crossroads of Annapolis Road, Baltimore Ave, and Bladensburg Road just outside Washington, D.C. — for 90 years. Two mothers of fallen soldiers broke ground for it back in 1922.  On a bronze plaque at the base are the names of the 49 local soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.  The monument is massive, but its size accurately and appropriately reflects the feelings of people in the aftermath of a war that was unimaginably massive and tragic (total casualities — dead and wounded, both civilian and military — was about 38 million.)

There are two basic themes in my essay: the impact of World War I and the symbolism of crosses.  World War I was a cataclysmic event in human history that really set the course for so much of the violence of the 20th century, and the violence that continues to this day all over the world. And yet WWI is woefully neglected as a subject of study both in K12 public education and in higher education.  So more than ever, we ought to preserve and respect our memorials to World War I, not tear them down!  Second, the cross is basically a symbol of self-sacrifice.  It has been recognized as a symbol of sacrifice in war memorials for a very long time.

We honor the fallen because of their self-sacrifice. If you are able to grasp that reality, then you understand the need for an effective symbol to express it. More than anything else, the Bladensburg Peace Cross is a symbol of self-sacrifice in keeping with the enormity and the calamitous history of World War I. No other symbol so efficiently communicates self-sacrifice and suffering. No other symbol serves also to signify the hope that the dead did not die in vain, that they laid down their own lives so others would live in peace and freedom.

Understanding the history and the purpose of memorials is key here. If the plaintiffs thought this through in a meaningful and sincere way, they wouldn’t be doing mental gymnastics with the First Amendment’s establishment clause in order to tear down the 90-year-old Bladensburg Peace Cross.  Obviously, they have another agenda, which is to empty the public sphere of any and all religious imagery.   In the end, this is not just a war on religion.  It’s a war on history and memory.

 

Don’t Yawn About Local Elections! They Can Result in Major Social Engineering

Last May the Fairfax County School Board — at the behest of the Obama Administration — forced a policy promoting transgenderism on parents and citizens who showed up in droves at the meeting to protest it.  This is the theme of my Federalist article today:  “Ask Not Who’s Running for President, Ask Who’s Running for School Board.” Since school boards are local and nonpartisan elections, they tend to have very low level interest and can therefore end up in the hands of organized insiders with their own agendas. In the video below, you can watch at the 1:13:50 mark as one true representative of the people, Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz speaks before the vote.  (She’s not the one pictured in the frame.  She was the sole vote against in the 10-1 “ruling” with one abstention.)

This school board meeting illustrates just how enormous the impact of local elections is on our lives.  It’s beyond belief how little consideration people give them.  So few of us know who our local representatives are.  And yet it’s so easy to find them because they’re our neighbors!  This feeds right into my blog’s theme about the power of personal relationships.  And if we don’t watch out, local officials easily become cronies of the federal government, instead of tending to the best interests of the citizens.

Your child’s school curricula, public transportation, zoning, and “gun free zones” are just a few of the areas of local impact.  So when citizens don’t engage — or if they’re totally preoccupied with the glitz of the national stage of the presidential elections — they end up allowing less responsive officials to take over locally.  And in a one-party system, corruption finds its way in very easily.

Next week, on November 3 there will be local elections held throughout the nation.  Will any take place in your community?  If you don’t know, please find out!  Learn about your candidates and get out to the polls and vote.  And spread the word so that neighbors also go out and vote for good candidates. If you need to gather information, you can start with ballotpedia.  Here’s a link for municipal elections:  http://ballotpedia.org/United_States_municipal_elections,_2015  To get you started on finding information for school boards, here’s their page for the school board election in Fairfax County, Virginia: http://ballotpedia.org/Fairfax_County_Public_Schools,_Virginia  One of the first things it notes is that there is currently a Democrat majority of 10-2 on that Board, based on endorsements. It doesn’t have to be that way.  Though Fairfax County has been trending leftward for the past few years, it is nowhere near that lopsided in reality.

For County information you may have to dig a big deeper – into the website for your local paper or local “Patch” at patch.com perhaps.  You can also learn more about your county leadership by going to the website for the National Association of Counties.  

Here’s an excerpt from my article today:

All too often our local officials are elected by default. There is high turnout by insiders, and particularly organized get-out-the-vote efforts by teachers’ unions and others with power stakes in the local machines.

Conversely—and ironically—there is much lower turnout by ordinary citizens whose lives the elections most affect. And turnout in local elections has actually been plummeting, according to some recent research. . .

We tend not to pay attention even though many of us may intuitively understand that the decisions of our local officials have a far more direct impact on our lives than those of a federal government that can keep its distance. The trick is to keep local power local, and that means paying attention to who’s minding the store locally.

 

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” RIP, Yogi Berra

Rest in Peace, Yogi Berra.  From the day I launched this blog, I’ve kept a Yogi Berra quote permanently up on the right sidebar: “You can observe a lot by watching.”  I analyzed this “yogism” in my previous post: “A Yogi Berra Translation.”  But now that Yogi has passed from this world, I want to write a few words to honor him on this blog.  And post this video:

And this one:

Even if Yogi was not famous — and even if he was not a ball player —  his goodness and humor would have still made an enormous difference in the lives of those whose paths he crossed.  But luckily for the rest of us, he was a rare sort of celebrity.  Which means that we are all enriched by the memories he built for us not only in the ballpark, but through the strength of his unassuming and cheerful personality. And his loyalty to family and country:  He was married to his wife Carmen for 65 years; and he fought on D-Day at Normandy in WWII.

But it’s likely Yogi Berra will be remembered by most folks for those “yogisms,” his unique and pithy expressions that make us laugh and think a bit harder about life and language.  No doubt you’ve heard several, including:  “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  That rings so true these days, doesn’t it?  But perhaps that’s because: “It’s deja vu all over again.”  Here’s another beaut: “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

A few folks dismiss yogisms, and think Berra should be remembered primarily for his incredible record as catcher for the New York Yankees.  Well, if yogisms upstage his statistics, that’s not such a bad thing. Because Yogi was so much bigger than baseball.  Sure, his amazing stats will live on in the record books.  In fact I’ll bet his yogisms will actually help keep them alive in more conversations. But it is Yogi’s personality and his words that will have far greater staying power in real life all across America.  And on another level, that is the case for each and every one of us.  We may accomplish great things, but how we treat others and give of ourselves is what makes the biggest impact in the lives of others.

You can read my tribute published last Friday at The Federalist: “Yogisms: Essential to Yogi Berra’s Legacy.”  Here’s an excerpt:

Ultimately, good legacies are always about how people have touched others’ lives. Their accomplishments and skills are part of that picture, to be sure, but how someone connects with others—as in the case of Berra—is an even bigger piece of that picture.

In the same vein, I think for most our connection with Berra as a legend has to do more with how we relate to him as a human being through the power of his personality than through the power of his swing. That makes his legacy all the bigger and brighter.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Deadly Spiral of Silence

Mary Cassatt. Young Mother and Two Children (1905)

I’ve added another mother-child painting by Mary Cassatt to accompany my post today because I find her work so beautiful and inspirational. It also serve to remind us that this is the most basic of all human relationships.  Without healthy family bonds — cultivated through the mother-child bond — a lot goes haywire in the world around us. With family breakdown we get community breakdown.  And now we’re dealing with whole scale communication breakdown.

This post is a re-cap of several pieces I wrote this week on how to break the PC-cultivated spiral of silence. Isn’t it crazy how much we are expected to police our speech — and therefore our thoughts — in everyday life?  One example is how the media schools us in how to use pronouns, assuming we are all draftees into its scam of transgenderism.  We also read about how millennials on college campuses have developed such delicate sensitivities to any non-PC expression that they get “triggered” into emotional meltdowns.  As we walk among the eggshells, we can all use a few pointers in navigation.

I’ve been trying to provide a little bit of a primer this week in my five-part series at the British web magazine The Conservative Woman.  We can not address the breakdown in communication until we understand the root causes of it.

On Monday I wrote about how little we seem to be aware of the power of traditional mothers.  Through their work behind the scenes they have the power to put communities of goodwill into motion:  “Traditional Mothers are the True Subversives: That’s Why the State Wants to Gag Them.”

Tuesday’s headline was:  “PC Propaganda is intended to Divide and Rule.”  The one critical fact to remember about political correctness is that separates people. The intended effect is to prevent you from having personal relationships and personal conversations that could get in the way of a PC agenda.  In fact people are excessively policing their own speech when talking to folks who could be their friends: neighbors, co-workers, classmates.  We need to push back hard against this sort of meddling.

On Wednesday I wrote “Fear Powers the PC Machine.”  Hollywood, Academia and the Media fuel it.  It’s so important to become self-aware, and recognize our weaknesses as human beings.  Our fear is ultimately about being separated from others if we step out of line.  How ironic then, that we actually perpetuate this cycle by feeding the PC Machine with our fear — separating ourselves even more from others.

Today’s headline is:  “Only Connect to Fight Back Against the PC Tyranny.”  This means, basically, what we must do in order to help unravel the tyranny is create the ripple effects of trust and openness in your daily life by connecting one on one with others.  Trust and friendship have a powerful effect in a age that’s becoming increasingly devoid of those things.  Friendship, in fact, is inextricably linked with freedom.

Tomorrow’s post will include a few rules of engagement as we go about breaking the ice with our neighbors, co-workers, and others we meet in daily life.  I hope you’ll check www.conservativewoman.co.uk to read up.  It’s critical that we engage.

Our Gordian Knot, Part VI “The Hidden Sphere”

Vaclav Havel, 1936-2011 author of “The Power of the Powerless”

I often write and talk about how power elites have pretty much taken over all of the outlets of communication.  I’ve assigned an acronym to the main three outlets: “HAM”– for Hollywood, Academia, and the Media.  Today I want to recommend to you a major essay that focuses on a vastlly more powerful outlet of communication:  the “hidden sphere.”  The hidden sphere is basically private life, which is outside the realm of HAM.  This means the activities and exchanges that happen in your personal relationships and your private conversations.  And it is these interactions which are actually considered the biggest prize of power elites.  If you think what you say as “just one person” is not important, think again.  The entire point of political correctness is to shut you up as “just one person.”  Being “just one person” makes you extremely powerful because what you freely say to others who like you and trust you — whether a neighbor, classmate, co-worker — has the power to shatter the fragile narratives of PC elites.

In the upper right hand corner of this blog, you can see a quote that’s been there from the beginning:

” . . . his action went beyond itself, because it illuminated its surroundings, and because of the incalculable consequences of that illumination.”

That’s from Vaclav Havel’s extraordinary essay “The Power of the Powerless.”  In it he speaks of the hidden sphere as the nucleus of freedom because it is that place in which people have one-on-one interactions that allow for the cultivation of trust and the cross pollination of ideas.  It might start very small, but as the ideas are pollinated by those who are influenced, there is a ripple effect of truth that becomes irresistible.  Here’s another excerpt:

The singular, explosive, incalculable political power of living within the truth resides in the fact that living openly within the truth has an ally, invisible to be sure, but omnipresent:  this hidden sphere.  It is from this sphere that life lived openly in the truth grows; it is to this sphere that it speaks, and in it that it finds understanding.  This is where the potential for communication exists.  But this place is hidden and therefore, from the perspective of power, very dangerous.”

Havel was an independent thinker and a lover of truth and freedom in communist Czechoslovakia.  This made him dangerous to the totalitarian regime.  Indeed, one could say he spearheaded the “Velvet Revolution” that ended communism in Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Havel then served as president of the Czech Republic.   His essay can be a bit difficult to plow through – and it’s very long — but it’s fascinating because it reveals to each of us our immense power as individuals.  Please get familiar with it, at least its basic premises.  From it we can learn how our decision to speak truth in love is an action that goes beyond itself.  It illuminates its surroundings and the consequences of that illumination are incalculable.   The Hidden Sphere is the sword that can slice through the Gordian Knot of totalitarianism.