Category Archives: culture

Doctor New

And there it is.

Like many current events, the reaction to “the backlash” far outweighs the backlash itself: nowadays the revolution will be televised, but nobody will tune in. Revolution is clean out of style. And in this sense, the BBC is way late to the party: they sex-swapped the Doctor’s venerable enemy, the Master, and pretty much nobody cared. And that follows years of other substantial changes to beloved characters the world over, none of which really have done much – either they’ve gone back to the old status quo ante, or else the changes killed the story – and after enough of that, well, the law of diminishing returns sets in. As a means of drumming up some welcome controversy to goose flagging viewership numbers, the Lady Doctor thus fails on two counts: it’s not all that controversial, and it entirely misses the reason why viewers have been falling away. And that reason can really be summed in three words:

STORY IS KING.

So, as for this change? Well, if it serves the story, sure, it could work, and Jodie Whittaker has a fine reputation in her field. But increasingly, it serves merely as the punchline to a joke nobody is telling. I doubt that THIS is the time we’ll all finally laugh. And on those terms alone, this is probably something the BBC should not have done.

But of course, they didn’t do it for story reasons, and that’s another substantial objection…

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If it is “go time,” where do we go?

Severian, Morgan, and a few of the emigos had a good email exchange in reply to the attempted assassinations of some Republican congressmen by a violent Leftist. Or – to be more precise – the email chain wasn’t so much about the assassination itself, but of the open and unrestrained celebration of the attempt by a non-trivial portion of the country.* We’re not talking mere fringe kooks, either, but plenty of persons gainfully employed in media and entertainment, who hold themselves out as respectable and conduct themselves as if they, and not their critics, are the reasonable ones.

Naturally, the critics might also be unreasonable, but as CS Lewis pointed out, Hell sends its errors into the world in pairs of opposites, hoping that you will fight the one by turning into the other: fighting sloth with wrath, or cowardice with recklessness. The true solution is to insist on the true thing, with the certain knowledge that it is stronger than any of the twisted copies. Courage is stronger than recklessness and beats it at its own game… but the trick is to be really courageous and to stick with it even at the moment where it seems that wild abandon is about to triumph.

I’m not seeing much of that in society today. That’s to be expected; the pendulum never swings to the middle and then stops there, and we also have to deal with the human propensity to revel in finally getting one’s own back. Given that we’ve been living for decades in a society where courtesy, restraint, and principle have been taking it on the chin, it’s even less surprising that those who have thus suffered find much less use for those things.

As I understand it, the Alt-Right has a pretty simple flowchart: they see that the Left has, without scruple or pity, slowly but surely ratcheted the culture and the law ever-further to their ultimate goal. They see an opponent who has been utterly contemptuous of the many warnings against dismantling the Western traditions and underpinnings of civilization: <i>”When the Devil turns round on you, where will you hide, the laws all being flat? Will you be able to stand upright in the winds that would then blow?”</i> As a result, it’s time to reap the whirlwind, and the Alt-Right plans to be the sickle and thresher… and they’re in no mood for “cucks” and “betas” who insist that the above warnings apply to us as well.

The flaw should be obvious. Just as the Left will not always be in power, neither shall the Right… so ultimately the sickle and thresher will pass to the next party, and they in turn will be in no mood to say, well, now we’ve learned our lesson and we must all play friendly. They’re the ones who would stick at nothing before all this happened – what are the odds that they will suddenly find their conscience while smarting from their fresh wounds? For the Alt-Right’s plans to “work” they basically have to remain in power forever, and the only way to do that is to become in practice the very thing they’re in such reaction against, only without even the pretense of the forms of justice. There’s a reason why totalitarian regimes still have sham elections and show trials; would the Alt-Right bother with that, or simply dispense with the pretenses in favor of a muscular honesty?

I’m reminded of the Justice League episode where the heroes are dragged into an alternate dimension where their counterparts have imposed just such an order. No crime, but also no freedom; the Justice Lords (as they are now called) rule. And what the show could not address (but it would have been fascinating)… what happens when the Lords themselves grow old and die? All of them eventually would, perhaps excepting Wonder Woman. Without the godlike power required to maintain such a regime, it would collapse in devastation and ruin.

And yet… well, practicing restraint when your opponent offers none has gotten us in quite a mess indeed. The Alt-Right have correctly diagnosed the situation of the moment, which is that the rules are only ever used in one direction. And they also correctly recognize that merely wringing our hands and bemoaning the state of affairs doesn’t actually correct them. I’ve written it before: “It can’t happen here” is a fiction. Every other place it’s happened, has been one of those places it could never happen – many individual civilizations have collapsed in ruin, conquered from without or decayed from within, with all the misery and decades to rebuild. Those who’ve gone quisling in the face of a spiteful foe have earned every ounce of the contempt shown them.

So it is necessary to fight back, and not merely complain or mourn – and the question remains, how do we fight?

It should be plain that to simply ignore the rules ourselves is not going to suddenly spawn a newfound respect for rules, either among the vanquished or the conquering. A vaccine only works because it contains a dead or weakened form of the disease your body must learn to fight – if you injected the real illness you would kill everybody.  We are faced with the rise of those who think that lining everyone up for the full dosage will result in robust health all around… or else those who have gone past the point of caring, and want it all torn down.

On the one hand, we have the tyrannical foe… and on the other, we are faced with either becoming their slaves, or their replacements. One way or another, that leaves us holding one end of a chain that binds.

I have no desire to live as an insect in a hive, beholden to the all-powerful State; neither do I wish to live in a kill-or-be-killed post-apocalypse wasteland. It is no good fighting Oceania with Bartertown. Like it or not, if civilization is to endure at all, it has to remain civilized. If there is to be a revolution, it has to be one of law and virtue against mere force. And that takes a conscious effort. One doesn’t drift away from virtue and default to a more primitive, yet still healthy, sense of honor. That state of affairs was itself a long, hard-fought victory against the true default of savagery and horror. We have a society that turns its nose up against the work required to do even that much and yet expects that the results of all that work will survive.

To echo John C Wright in his post here… may heaven preserve us from such folly.

*We have also to deal with their allies who, while not celebrating such things, lay down cover for them in the form of moral equivocations. (“Liberal-conservative vitriol” indeed.) But that is a topic deserving its own post.

Talk about crazy

This “quick random observation” of Severian’s …

Anyway, back in grad school I observed that it’s the girls who are almost kinda sorta halfway cute, or who would be almost kinda sorta halfway cute if they exerted some effort, who were the craziest.

…got me thinking a bit about his conclusion:

I’m tempted to argue that you can sum up all of pop-feminism with “we think we’re cuter than we actually are, and we’re going to get the government to force you to agree.”

Is it that they think they’re cuter than they are, or is it that they realize they’re not cute enough to get by on cute  alone, so they are determined AT ANY COST to make “looks” a dirty word – or even a punishable offense? We’re talking about lasses who could work their way into the 5-6 range, right? Well, that means that, in college, their absolute best efforts would leave them behind at the quarter pole of life, though with diligence they could be in that second wave of ladies who settle down (emphasis on “settle” in their minds) in their late 20s or early 30s with guys whom they would have considered beneath them in school, but who are also the only ones left once all the good catches are made.

(Full disclosure – I married just short of age 35. Pretty sure it’s the single eyebrow.)

Like Sev said, there are absolute hellbeasts who truly don’t care, but then there’s this large set of ladies whom, it seems, care quite a lot – the old cisheteronormative drive to “compete for a mate and a home” is normative for a reason – and so their smartest strategy is to play up “looks aren’t everything” to gain some sort of a counter-edge against the ladies with more obvious advantages. If they do it right, then they can beat the curve, so to speak … find someone better, earlier, and share a happy life.

This is a time-honored pursuit, of course. There’s a cottage industry of popular music with lyrics like this, and that, in its own way, is a reflection of the truth. It’s kind of bizarre to a younger guy: who praises his beloved by saying “Nature didn’t give you such a beautiful face”? But baby, you got what it takes… and the older fellow that I’ve become understands it. Looks alone aren’t really “what it takes.” I’m reminded of when I was a younger guy, going out for a post-game meal with the guys, watching the 30-ish ladies “who still got it!” trawling the bar. Someone asked an older teammate why he wasn’t over there chatting one of them up, she was actually pretty hot… and he shook his head and said, “Somewhere out there is a string of guys my age who are all sick of her shit.”

Point taken. Sooner or later you’ve seen all there is to look at.

So what to make of those who ain’t a beauty, but hey, they’re all right? They should have a big advantage over ladies with looks who also turn out to be bananapants loony. For a long time, in fact, they did. But what they didn’t have was an edge on ladies with looks who also realized that after the looking was over, they had to have something to talk about. They worked on making themselves a complete package, and routed the field.

When feminists of my mother’s generation faced this problem they were fond of deriding such ladies with putdowns like “She only went to school for her MRS degree.” And that is the first hint I can see of the problem – the all-too-human impulse to refuse to admit one’s real place in the scheme of things. If you can turn that around and make it so that the scheme itself is the problem, then you A) can succeed in ways that were never possible before, and B) never have to change. That’s a terrible siren song to try to resist, and they weren’t up to it. They went ahead and amplified it instead, and convinced generations of their daughters that they were in it for themselves, just like the guys, and if the boys didn’t like it, that was their own fault.

They thought that they were doing this to get back at the boys, but it really looks more like they were doing it to get back at the other girls. Feminism isn’t really about “girl power” at all, it’s about “me power.” Wonder no more why feminists will straight-out savage women who are happy wives and mothers, and who praise their lives. If they were themselves happy with their choices they would have no need for this… they only betray their resentment that they don’t have those lives for themselves.

That brings us, in roundabout way, back to the Filipovics, Valentis, and Marcottes.

Over the years, they have both submitted to and in turn exerted a good deal of pressure on other women to not do what has come naturally to humanity for millennia, to “not play their game.” This has been the cause of a lot of misery over the years. They are unwilling (or perhaps incapable) of following the sensible advice of mothers since time immemorial, that you have to have something more substantial to keep the fella interested and happy – how bourgeois! Neither can they stand to see others of their own peer group follow that advice and succeed. So they flatter themselves that they’re above all that. They make themselves dumber, shriller, self-absorbed, and unpleasant. A guy like, say, 32-year-old me, won’t say “You know, she’s really fun to be with, has a great sense of humor, and can really hold a conversation… I’m interested.” I’m gone, if I have half a brain – and not because I’m being shallow, but because they are. They aren’t giving anyone a reason to take a second look. They are repulsive rather than interesting, for reasons that go far beyond appearance.

And though it’s impossible to quantify, I think there’s something to the thought that such behavior eventually does have an effect on the looks as well – sane, smart, happy people look better than crazy, priggish, humorless people. The happy people go from 6 to 7, and keep that 7 longer… the loons drop to 5 or 4 and decline rapidly.

The resulting accusation would be that “Guys think it’s all about them all the time,” and “How shallow! I’m living for myself, not for some man, maaaaan!” Those sound suspiciously like self-serving deceptions to rationalize being an awful person. Nor should they be taken in by the praise of fellow-travelers in this carny sideshow of crazy: that, too, is self-serving, because loons needs other loons around them to make themselves appear sane – that’s the only remaining strategy for landing some poor unfortunate chap who’s essentially got no other choice if he wants some constant company.

Because, you see, men aren’t the builders of this game, contrary to insane assumptions – we’re just fellow players. Just as there are plenty of women who can never land a Mr. Darcy, there are plenty of guys with no prayer of securing a Ms. Bennett. We all face this realization about our own status in life. I mean, do you think all men are equally handsome, equally ambitious, equally smart, equally accomplished? Plenty of us had to take stock while the top catches had their pick of our peer group, and quickly figure out what else could capture and hold someone’s interest. (Or, not so quickly. I was pretty much 35 years old when I got married – I’m not exactly Dr. Genius McQuarterback over here.)

Call them betas or gammas or whatever term is current… since we’re talking tradition here, I’m going with the traditional term: losers. And as a group, losers have few prospects, and have to work harder to cultivate them. It’s easier to take the lazy way and just scoff at the whole traditional idea – to be as equally-scornful of guys who get the girl, who are “only interested in one thing,” who are actually “awful, dumb, superficial jerks” and “why do women love morons?” That is just as anti-human as the reverse, and thus just as unappealing – not only to the fairer sex, but also to other guys. These losers are creeps whom nobody trusts and nobody likes.

The result is that their only shot at marrying (or at least bedding) someone, anyone, is among the distaff side of their cohort. It all becomes a cruel self-fulfilling irony – they “refuse to play the game” and lose by default, getting stuck with exactly the sorts of people they accuse everyone else of being: they play white-knight to the damsels, who hate them for that and demand to be thought of as strong, confident, and capable; in turn they crumble at the least hint of disapproval; smarmy “backrub boys” (the delightful epithet of Sheila O’Malley) and wearying harridans.

You can be a loser all your life or you can at least try to win a little. It is, believe it or not, possible to rise from this rank – the first and perhaps hardest step is to admit that you are, in fact, rank. Cleaning up and getting respectable starts with looking for the soap and water, to have at least that much respect for yourself and those around you. The effort may reveal hidden qualities you never bothered to look for, and just the effort involved is bound to develop whatever qualities you do have to their best.

The Amendment Story

People of my generation will be very familiar with this brilliancy from the writers of the Simpsons:

It would benefit the sitters-in of Congress to take a look, perhaps – no doubt they can lounge back on their pillows, watching on their smartphones while munching all the goodies provided them. For those few of us already here, however, it might help to take a look at the actual Bill of Rights all over again, to see why these principles are too important to trample over in a rush.

At this point, we’ll get an important retort out of the way – “Where were you when this was about the Patriot Act, huh?” The short answer is, I wasn’t blogging yet; I didn’t open Hive 1.0 until late September of 2004. (Post One, for what it’s worth.) The longer answer is, I was in favor of it at the time, though I opposed the Department of Homeland Security and TSA – feeling that those were needless duplications of functions better-handled by the Department of Defense – but as it turns out, the warnings about it look like they’re coming true. I also note, ruefully, that the very people so convinced then of the dangers of such surveillance and infringement are precisely the same people guilty of expanding those abuses; perhaps they knew they wouldn’t be able to control themselves if given such power? And perhaps that explains why they think no legal gun owner can be likewise trusted to his own defense?

To sum up – either you were wrong about PATRIOT, in which case you shouldn’t support this nonsense, or you were right about it, in which case this is exactly what you were warning us about. Now back to our story, below the fold…

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First things First

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Amendment One – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is the grandaddy of them all, as Keith Jackson might have said in 1787. The Constitution proper outlines everything the citizen can expect his new central government to do; immediately following is a provision that broadly outlines the sorts of activities that a citizen can expect this government to protect and respect.

Note – not permit. There is no permission to be had. This is something a person can do merely by virtue of being a person. You have the right to worship as you please, and speak your mind, and print your ideas and distribute them, and gather with those of your own choosing, and you especially get to appeal to your new government when someone else forbids you any of those things – and especially if the new government is the one doing the forbidding.

That’s a lot to go over. All at once the State is made subordinate to the citizens – deriving their just powers from their consent, as you recall being quoted from the Declaration. Further, the will of the government as expressed in the law is not regarded as automatically superior to religious practice. The well-known “wall of separation” Jefferson referred to in his letters was not meant only to protect the State from any Church, but also the reverse. It was a guarantee that the government would not make laws interfering with the practices or particulars of any sect, nor to make one official over the others. (This reinforces the provision in Article VI of the Constitution proper that “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”)

Regardless of faith or lack thereof, we also have the inherent right to speak our mind. I’ve spoken a lot about this in other contexts, especially when it comes to those who, while not bound by the First Amendment, unwisely decide to use social pressures and other tools to make sure that those whose ideas they dislike are never given a hearing. Such things are perhaps a necessary consequence of liberty, since obliging somebody to sit and listen to me is just as bad as obliging me to shut up already. Nobody is forced to give a platform to anyone else. But the habit of silencing leads too easily to the loud demands that somebody in charge take it upon themselves to do the silencing for you; we’ve seen it repeatedly with mobs attacking a political rally in San Jose, state universities permitting protests to shout down or drive off disfavored speakers, and official punishment to those who invited those speakers (but none to the silencers).

This is a dangerous road, and a good enough reason for us to be wary when a large social platform selectively punishes only certain viewpoints.

Finally, we tiresome free peoples have every right to bug our elected officials about doing the jobs we’ve delegated to them, in the manner we direct. We can *peaceably* assemble to tell them so. In fact we can peaceably assemble to do most anything else, too – play disc golf, have a large choreographed dance number, play human chess, set a record for the largest cookie ever cooked in Kankakee County… you name it. And that doesn’t sit well with the gatekeeper personality…

Just a Second

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Amendment Two – A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The bete noir of the moment, subject to all sorts of misconstruals and derision; but considered to be a fundamental and unalienable right of humanity. Why?

Well, it’s not the gun. One very foolish meme is that “I wish I had as many rights as a gun.” But of course the gun is a thing, and it has no more rights than a potato or a pine tree or a saltwater aquarium. Remember, we are the people, therefore we have the rights. One of those is the right to lawful self-defense. Hence, the gun.

It’s easy to bog down in debating what, exactly, is proportionate self-defense, but that’s an issue that must rely on the primary right, which is that we need not be passive targets. Just because you can’t shoot your neighbor when their yappy Yorkie piddles on your hyacinths, doesn’t mean that you have to sit helpless when some armed brigand tries to kick in your door. Long before there were any laws, governments to make them, or societies to require them, there was the simple fact – Ogg wants to club you and take your fire, your mate, and your bearskins. Unless you want to be unconscious, cold, lonely, and nude, you had better do something about it.

Beyond this, however, there is another consideration. We’re telling a story right now, and the first Amendment has set us up with a beautiful premise – we, the heroes, have all these rights, and we have a land we’ve set up specifically so that we promise that we will respect these things… not just from person-to-person, either, but when we exercise authority in the form of laws. Those laws will not infringe these rights.

People are, however, sneaky and greedy; they may well decide to ignore this respect and try to use the laws to get their way. After all, agreement or not, they’re in charge now. So they’re going to break up our pizza parties, close our dance clubs, outlaw our doctrines, burn our books, and we’re going to shut up and like it. What are the heroes going to do about it? It’s not like the bosses in charge are required to listen to our redress for grievances after doing all the rest, nor are they likely to act on those grievances.

Well, ultimately – and as strange as it sounds to our 21st-century ears – they had darned well better, because the right to self defense includes defending yourself against your own government. Logically, it must include this, or else the only thing preventing the destruction of your rights and the premature end to our story is if one group manages to get themselves into a public office.

And that’s how the right above comes into play. Because a free state requires a well-regulated Militia, your right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. That doesn’t mean that you, the citizen, must submit to regulation of your rights, either. The Militia – the people assembled for their own defense – needs regulating. We don’t want a mere mob. But a disarmed Militia is no practical use either. Where law and order has broken down entirely and the local police are overwhelmed, we’re back to the land of Ogg… only this time there’s fifty of him and they’re looting and burning the entire town. That’s when the Militia – a well-armed and disciplined people – assemble, and in concert exercise the right of self-defense on behalf of themselves and the defenseless. Such an ability is inestimably valuable.

Three is a Magic Number

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Amendment Three – No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war but in a manner to be prescribed by Law.

This one, at least, seems to be rather a moot point. We don’t generally have the Marines knocking on our doors looking for a billet. But this was one of the chief complaints of the colonists to the Crown back in 1776:

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world…

I have bolded the phrase and included the context in order to make it more plain why, exactly, this was a big deal to the colonists, and would be to us if it were happening now – this “pretended Legistlation” would obviously be of no import, a dead letter, if it were not enforced. To that end, the armies of King George were called in, and were not only putting punishment behind the hated Acts, but also hindering open trade via their navy, and all while shielded from accountability under the law.

The colonists rightly hated this, so much so that the United States seriously debated whether they should have a standing army at all, or merely that well-regulated Militia to call upon at need.

Further than that, however, remember the thesis that we’ve been developing so far – these Amendments are laid out as a story, building upon one another, setting a scene and then raising the stakes, leading us through complications to a resolution. You can worship as you like, say what you please, not only criticize your elected officials but also gather to protest them, to haul them before the law if need be. If they ignore this, then you have the right to defend yourself and your rights with armed force if you must.

The government, of course, while nominally respecting these rights, can render them a dead letter in much the same way George III did long ago, by having soldiers forever in amongst the people. How can you organize to speak out or defend yourselves with the state’s armed informants sitting at your dining room table and blockading your ports and roads? The witness of dissidents in communist regimes should tell you all you need to know about how that generally works out – silenced, disarmed, herded into work camps, unable from fear to reach out to anyone else, no matter how trustworthy, because you might be overheard.

So, what might a cunning and devious would-be tyrant try next?