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Voicing the Modernly Unthinkable

Followers of my blog and writing know that I am a huge fan of the private intelligence company, “Stratfor.”  That they are so often right on when even the resources of a governmental intellligence agency fail to deliver functional results is because their clients — international corporations — need to know the truth in order to operate in an increasingly complex world.  Privately CEOs may support one political philosophy or another, but when it comes to business… it is all business.  Only a grasp of the geopolitical realities of the world in which they operate gives them a good shot at the revenue they seek.

Let the politicos duke it out over positions left, right, and in between.  They are all based on theories of how the world OUGHT to operate but rarely on observations of how it actually works.  And at the moment it does not take a deep covert spook to know that the world is in chaos.  Divides of ideology, faith, economics, philosophies, are turning ever larger areas of the planet into bloodbaths.  The promised peace and understanding of the information age  have failed to materialize like the hoped for Arab Spring.

But is there a root?  The often rancorous discord between scientists and social observers about underlying causes brings them to the point of a shooting war itself.  But somethings seem to have become accepted as completely out of bounds.  Our own leaders cannot bring themselves to accept that Islamic Extremist Terrorists even exist… they are now  labeled “armed insurgents.”  And no view bumping into the idea that there are some cultural roots of the discord are allowed, especially in academia where diversity and cultural tolerance are so evolved into an evangelical faith as to bump often into craven cowardice.

THat can work for politicians and sycophantic partisans.  but it cannot work for those whose businesses depend on trying to get to the truth.  And into that fray, marches Stratfor with a typically blunt, no-nonsense inquiry into causality not just correlations.  Reprinted with their kind permission below is such an essay.  It does not pretend to answers.  But answers will never flow from a denial of problems and issues.  Just as you cannot defeat an enemy you will not identify, you cannot solve problems you cannot identify.  Here is an essay asking hard, uncomfortable questions.  But they are questions with which we had better get comfortable.

———— STRATFOR ARTICLE ON CULTURE by JAY OGILVY———-

Mind the Gap

JANUARY 28, 2015 | 09:00 GMT

By Jay Ogilvy

The Charlie Hebdo attack and its aftermath in the streets and in the press tempt one to dust off Samuel Huntington‘s 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Despite the criticisms he provoked with that book and his earlier 1993 article in Foreign Affairs, recent events would seem to be proving him prescient.

Or was he?

While I am not about to deny the importance of religion and culture as drivers of geopolitical dynamics, I will argue that, more important than the clashes among the great civilizations, there is a clash within each of the great civilizations. This is the clash between those who have “made it” (in a sense yet to be defined) and those who have been “left behind” — a phrase that is rich with ironic resonance.

Before I make my argument, I warn that the point I’m trying to make is fairly subtle. So, in the interest of clarity, let me lay out what I’m not saying before I make that point. I am not saying that Islam as a whole is somehow retrograde. I am not agreeing with author Sam Harris’ October 2014 remark on “Real Time with Bill Maher” that “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.” Nor am I saying that all religions are somehow equal, or that culture is unimportant. The essays in the book Culture Matters, which Huntington helped edit, argue that different cultures have different comparative advantages when it comes to economic competitiveness. These essays build on the foundation laid down by Max Weber’s 1905 work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. It is only the “sulfuric odor of race,” as Harvard historian David Landes writes on the first page of the first essay in Culture Matters, that has kept scholars from exploring the under-researched linkages between culture and economic performance.

Making It in the Modern World

The issue of the comparative advantages or disadvantages of different cultures is complicated and getting more so because with modernity and globalization, our lives are getting more complicated. We are all in each other’s faces today in a way that was simply not the case in earlier centuries. Whether through travel or telecommunications or increasingly ubiquitous and inexpensive media, each and every one of us is more aware of the cultural other than in times past. This is obvious. What is not so obvious are the social and psychological consequences of the inevitable comparisons this awareness invites us to make: How are we measuring up, as individuals and as civilizations?

In the modern world, the development of the individual human, which is tied in part to culture, has become more and more important. If you think of a single human life as a kind of footrace — as if the developmental path from infancy to maturity were spanning a certain distance — then progress over the last several millennia has moved out the goal posts of maturity. It simply takes longer to learn the skills it takes to “make it” as an adult. Surely there were skills our Stone Age ancestors had to acquire that we moderns lack, but they did not have to file income taxes or shop for insurance. Postmodern thinkers have critiqued the idea of progress and perhaps we do need a concept that is forgivingly pluralistic. Still, there have been indisputable improvements in many basic measures of human progress. This is borne out by improved demographic statistics such as birth weight, height and longevity, as well as declining poverty and illiteracy. To put it very simply, we humans have come a long way.

But these historic achievements have come at a price. It is not simple for individuals to master this elaborate structure we call modern civilization with its buildings and institutions and culture and history and science and law. A child can’t do it. Babies born into this world are biologically very similar to babies born 10,000 years ago; biological evolution is simply too slow and cannot equip us to manage this structure. And childhood has gotten ever longer. “Neoteny” is the technical term for the prolongation of the period during which an offspring remains dependent on its parent. In some species, such as fish or spiders, newborns can fend for themselves immediately. In other species — ducks, deer, dogs and cats — the young remain dependent on their mothers for a period of weeks. In humans, the period of dependency extends for years. And as the generations and centuries pass, especially recently, that period of dependency keeps getting longer.

As French historian Philippe Aries informed us in Centuries of Childhood, “in medieval society, the idea of childhood did not exist.” Prior to modernity, young people were adults in miniature, trying to fit in wherever they could. But then childhood got invented. Child labor laws kept children out of the factories and truancy laws kept them in public schools. For a recent example of the statutory extension of childhood known as neoteny, consider U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement that he intends to make community college available for free to any high school graduate, thus extending studenthood by two years.

The care and feeding and training of your average human cub have become far greater than the single season that bear cubs require. And it seems to be getting ever longer as more 20-somethings and even 30-somethings find it cheaper to live with mom and dad, whether or not they are enrolled in school or college. The curriculum required to flourish as an adult seems to be getting ever longer, the goal posts of meaningful maturity ever further away from the “starting line,” which has not moved. Our biology has not changed at anywhere near the rate of our history. And this growing gap between infancy and modern maturity is true for every civilization, not just Islamic civilization.

The picture gets complicated, though, because the vexed history of the relationships among the world’s great civilizations leaves little doubt about different levels of development along any number of different scales of achievement. Christian democracies have outperformed the economies and cultures of the rest of the world. Is this an accident? Or is there something in the cultural software of the West that renders it better able to serve the needs of its people than does the cultural software called Islam?

Those Left Behind

Clearly there is a feeling among many in the Islamic world that they, as a civilization, have been “left behind” by history. Consider this passage from Snow, the novel by Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk:

“We’re poor and insignificant,” said Fazul, with a strange fury in his voice. “Our wretched lives have no place in human history. One day all of us living now in Kars will be dead and gone. No one will remember us; no one will care what happened to us. We’ll spend the rest of our days arguing about what sort of scarf women should wrap around their heads, and no one will care in the slightest because we’re eaten up by our own petty, idiotic quarrels. When I see so many people around me leading such stupid lives and then vanishing without a trace, an anger runs through me…”

Earlier I mentioned the ironic resonance of this phrase, “left behind.” I think of two other recent uses: first, the education reform legislation in the United States known as the No Child Left Behind Act; the second, the best-selling series of 13 novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in which true believers are taken up by the Rapture while the sinners are “left behind.” In both of these uses, it is clearly a bad thing to be left behind.

This growing divide between those who have made it and those who are being left behind is happening globally, in each of the great civilizations, not just Islam. To quote my fellow Stratfor columnist, Ian Morris, from just last week:

Culture is something we can change in response to circumstances rather than waiting, as other animals must, for our genes to evolve under the pressures of natural selection. As a result, though we are still basically the same animals that we were when we invented agriculture at the end of the ice age, our societies have evolved faster and faster and will continue to do so at an ever-increasing rate in the 21st century.

And because the fundamental dynamics of this divide are rooted in the mismatch between the pace of change of biological evolution on the one hand (very slow) and historical or technological change on the other (ever faster), it is hard to see how this gap can be closed. We don’t want to stop progress, and yet the more progress we make, the further out the goal posts of modern maturity recede and the more significant culture becomes.

There is a link between the “left behind” phenomenon and the rise of the ultra-right in Europe. As the number of unemployed, disaffected, hopeless youth grows, so also does the appeal of extremist rhetoric — to both sides. On the Muslim side, more talk from the Islamic State about slaying the infidels. On the ultra-right, more talk about Islamic extremists. Like a crowded restaurant, the louder the voices get, the louder the voices get.

I use this expression, those who have “made it,” because the gap in question is not simply between the rich and the poor. Accomplished intellectuals such as Pamuk feel it as well. The writer Pankaj Mishra, born in Uttar Pradesh, India, in 1969, is another rising star from the East who writes about the dilemma of Asian intellectuals, the Hobson’s choice they face between recoiling into the embrace of their ancient cultures or adopting Western ways precisely to gain the strength to resist the West. This is their paradox: Either accept the Trojan horse of Western culture to master its “secrets” — technology, organization, bureaucracy and the power that accrues to a nation-state — or accept the role of underpaid extras in a movie, a very partial “universal” history, that stars the West. In my next column, I’ll explore more of Mishra’s insights from several of his books.

Read more: Mind the Gap | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

————– END OF ARTICLE BY STRATFOR ———–

It is interesting in how it echos some of the warnings I’ve written about simply by reading the Qu’ran and applying its dictates to the modern world.  As the Turkish writer agonized over his people focussing their energies on arguing over the proper head scarf while all of that talent and intellect was running toward the ash heap of history, we are no better.  We make philosophical minutia into earth-shattering importance and create a great political divide that accomplishes nothing except to take our collective eyes off of the real issues in the world.

I do not think the appraisals of history written in another hundred years ill be kind to us.

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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Sheeple Have Spoken

San Diego – Well, the good news is that it is over.  The lies and misinformation that dripped moment by moment from the politicians as they sought to outdue each other in the amount of venom and vitriol they could spew at the other side has been spent and they will have another few years to recharge their reservoirs of political bile.

The end came, unfortunately, too late for me to retain respect for some of my acquaintances who did not just fall into but rather flung themselves full bore into the hateful, distasteful, and often idiotic fray of yet more bumper-sticker intelligence and cartoon level thinking about issues that were incredibly important on a scale broader, obviously now, than their self serving, simplistic, often one-issue intellects could grasp.

And make no mistake, that preamble is aimed in ALL political directions.  The real issues that face us now and will face us in the near future as a nation were all but ignored by both sides as they sought simply to smear each other with the offal they could only be obtaining by scraping it of off themselves.  Both winning and losing sides studiously avoided a confrontation on truly critical issues of national importance.  The winning side did so because they had no standing to claim a shred of integrity or sincerety had they attempted to enter that arena and the losing side did so for reasons totally obscure to me but which could not be all that flattering.

And in the end, we, as a nation, got not what we needed (and probably could not have extracted from either side) but what we most likely deserve and what most likely will be the first major move down the path toward those “step” or “stage” changes prophesied by historians and political philosophers from Polybius to Marx I spelled out in a previous post.

Some of you old timers may recall that years ago, in the late 1990s and early 2000s I predicted that by the time of this election, we would set our nation on a path to reclaiming the shining example to the world our founders gave us or down the road to ruin retracing the same path and for the same reasons previous great civilizations took to their ultimate demise as virtual centers of the world in terms of geo-political importance and economies.  I hoped it would not happen in my lifetime but now, I am sad to say, I think I have lived to see it.

I have now seen the parasitical class out-vote the productive class.  It was bound to happen sooner or later but I truly had hoped it would be a lot later.  I have now seen those who believe they are entitled to the fruits of the labors of others out-vote those remaining few who think they are entitled only to what they can produce and accomplish themselves.  I have seen now those who believe that if there must be some consequence for their actions and behaviors, it is OTHERS who should bear it and not themselves out-vote those who believe  we should all bear the consequences for our own actions and behaviors.

Unfortunately, those feelings of entitlement and social justice have an economic impact.  Of course it does not — or in their minds, should not impact them because it is the others that are expected to pay “their fair share” when some pay nothing at all.  But as the Iron Lady said, pretty soon that approach runs out of “other people’s” money.   Certainly we have run out of our own as a country.

If that were not so we would not have a $16 Trillion dollar debt and be in immediate need of asking to borrow more.  You cannot claim to be solvent and yet require – REQUIRE – additional borrowing just to meet your liabilities.  And the result is each child now alive will be saddled with over ¼ million dollars in personal debt to the country if it is EVER to be settled.

Of course under the new order set in motion at the polls last night it cannot ever be repaid.  Why not?  Here’s a heretical idea, look at the logic.  It is simple Aristotelian logic and not complex at all.  Here are the premises…

  1. The only way to create sustainable revenue to the government is via increases in national productivity.
  2. National productivity is a function of jobs, solid jobs that create the majority of the goods and services needed so that the balance of trade can remain favorable.  And it is those employees who, if the winners of last night are to be believed, carry the major tax burdens and whose taxes keep the ship of state afloat.  So from all standpoints an increase in the productive workforce is mandatory for any sort of national recovery.

    However…

  3. The world that could easily employ lots of unskilled labor is dying at a rapid pace.  Today’s solid jobs depend on skill-sets and knowledge not dreamed of when I was just entering the work force.
  4. The only institution that can properly prepare future workers with those needed skill-sets is education.
  5. The only institutions that can hire and retain those workers, assuming the existence of requisite skill sets are businesses and corporations.

But…

  1. What institution is designated as the first to receive cuts due to those same budget problems that are claimed do not exist?  Education.
  2. What institutions are designated as the whipping boys for all the unfair ills around and so throttled with tax and regulation burdens to limit or stifle their productivity?  Businesses and corporations.

Is not the disconnect apparent to you?  Are you following any of this or am I going too fast and using words that are too big?  The answer has to be that no, you are not following this or the election results would have been different.

Luckily I am an old guy.  My “future” is well behind me and the truth is I had a very good run at it.  In my opinion we took the first big step over the edge last night but we have so much inertia going that even a dedicated transformer like our president cannot undo us overnight.  It will take a little while.  So I may never live to see it all utterly fall apart.

But my students will and I am sorry for them.  They will never see the America I saw as a youth; a beacon to the world as a place of opportunity and hope for all willing to buy into the culture and work for it.  A major nail was driven in the coffin of that old place last night. Maybe it will be the last nail needed.

But my students were and are among those cheering it all on, pleased at the outcome to savor the flow of entitlements and goodies they expect to come flowing down the government food trough.  So maybe I should not feel sorry for them after all.  They will get the results of the actions they have set in motion; actions and results I do not think can be reversed by the time this term will be over.  And it will be what is deserved.  I do not think they deserve the America that was, the America of dreams and fantastic potential.

(As an aside, yes, I do still think that there is the possibility the technology of efficiently extracting oil from shale noted in my last post will still happen… somewhere.  But having vast oil-based revenues, despite the major growth it has twice allowed in this country, is no guarantee of having things move in the best directions.  Riches do not guarantee a benign government.  Think Saudi Arabia if you do not believe it.  It can also provide the power for a tyrant-in-training to solidify their position by now passing out the goodies even more extensively.  We talk about the best politicians money can buy but the real worry is about the most dependent voters money can buy.)

Anyway…  If I were a national politician this morning, my attitude would be, “OK, you voters made your choice… so be it.  If this is what you want, even though you have no idea what you are asking for, then let it happen and happen quickly.”  Since my own pension and salary are secure as a member of congress, I would give the President everything he wanted with no problems whatsoever.  And make sure who is getting the credit (him) and who will, down the road, deserve the blame.

After all, if we are doomed to pass on through to the next stage, then lets get it over quickly so we can then start setting the ground work to move the cycles rapidly ahead and perhaps the next time we reach the point of wonder and power, we will be able to look back to when we through it all away and see what that cost us.  Perhaps next time we will learn from history rather than ignoring it.

Nah…

 

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Social Security… is Neither

San Diego — I’ve been a bit out of touch having some fun on a field trip with students to Yosemite (you can read about it on my travel blog from the link in the right hand column).  Besides, to be honest with you I was growing weary of trying to shout a wake up call only to discover readers and listeners had very effective ear plugs and slept right through the alarm.

But events transpiring while I was off in beautiful surroundings have not stopped our devolution into a country that is nothing like the one I grew up in and certainly not one I want to see develop.  So much has happened i hardly know where to start.  So for this post I’ll start by re-visiting an old posting on Social Security.

Some of you may remember back when I wrote that by comparing Social Security to a Ponzi scheme, Governor Perry of Texas should apologize… to Charles Ponzi.  In Ponzi’s case he actually seemed to have tried to make the pyramid scheme work while our government never has.

I took a fair amount of flack over that characterization but thought to just wait and see who turned out to be right.  This week the government itself just told us the answer… I was right.

This week the government’s actuaries, who originally told the Obama administration and the public that the fund would be solvent… until 2036, re-examined their numbers and concluded that it will be in the completely out of money at least three years earlier than they thought when they tried their best to help Obama by saying that.  Now they have admitted the system will be bankrupt, that is not able to meet its obligations by 2033… at the latest.

Let me copy an article by Andrew Napolitano on this news.

“This revelation should come as no surprise to those who monitor the government and its deceptive ways. When he first introduced Social Security, President Franklin D. Roosevelt argued that under Social Security the federal government would be holding your money for you. He deceptively fostered the idea that Social Security would be a savings account, into which employees and employers would make contributions and out of which guaranteed monies would be paid to those who reached the age of 65. Essentially, he claimed that you’d get your money back.

“The politicians believed him, but the actuaries and the judiciary understood that the government would never hold anyone’s money for him — as if it were the custodian of a bank account. In the first of several challenges to the constitutionality of Social Security, the Supreme Court found that the Social Security fund did not consist of your money. It was merely tax revenue.

“Did you know that?

“It also held that since Congress’ law-making authority is limited to the 16 discrete delegated powers granted to it in the Constitution (a truism few in Congress accept as binding) but its spending authority is open-ended (a conclusion that must torment James Madison’s ghost), Congress could collect funds, claim it was holding the funds in a savings account and then spend those funds as it saw fit — for those in need after age 65 or for any other purpose.

“Did you know that?

“And, in a curious yet revealing one-liner in the Supreme Court opinion upholding the constitutionality of Social Security, even the court recognized that there would be no trust fund in the traditional sense when it found that the tax dollars collected and supposedly designated for Social Security were “not earmarked in any way.”

“Did you know that?

“Eventually, the government would acknowledge that what it first called a savings account and then called old-age insurance and then said would be fortified by a trust fund did not even establish a contractual obligation to those who have paid the Social Security tax — which would be all of us. Thus, the feds have conceded and the courts have agreed that the money you have involuntarily contributed to the so-called trust fund is not yours and can be spent by the government as it pleases, just like any other revenue that the feds collect.

“Did you know that?

“The so-called ‘trust fund’ is not money that the government “holds” for you, as FDR promised. It is not money to which you have a lawful claim, as he claimed. It is not a guarantee for you, as he led the public to believe. The so-called trust fund is merely the difference between what is collected and what is paid out. And the feds just acknowledged that in 21 years, they are likely to pay out more than they will collect.

“Perry did not succeed this time in his quest for the Republican nomination. But he did succeed in articulating a hard truth: The same federal government that prosecutes people like Bernie Madoff for paying out more than they collect does the very same thing under the color of law.

Is a Ponzi scheme — which is basically theft by deception — lawful just because the government runs it? The Supreme Court has, in the past, clearly said yes.”

This state, California, has done the same thing to its citizens.  The lottery, was sold to us and continues to be promoted as a source of funding for education, a need that in my opinion ought to be our first or at least second priority.  But the establishing law contained a clause that said if the State Assembly declared an emergency it could appropriate all of that revenue into the general fund.  And every year — EVERY YEAR — one of the first items of business when the Assembly convenes is to declare that emergency and appropriate all lottery revenues into the general fund where it can spend them in the same profligate ways it does all of the other tribute it receives from us vassals.

My Question is, “Are you OK with that?”  On either the state or federal level?  If so you will be thrilled with what is in store for you if Obama wins re-election.  The gloves are off and what you need to know is out there.  The problem is that the main stream news simply will not tell you, or else buries the data on the back pages knowing few will plow through all the garbage to get to it.

The real question, as November approaches, is a simple one; in fact I do not recall it ever being so simple and so straightforward.  Do you believe that you as an individual are entitled to protection from responsibilities and consequences and it is the government’s main role to provide you with everything you want?  Or do you believe  that each individual is responsible for their own well being and should rely on the government only when they have been blind-sided by catastrophic events for which they could not reasonably have been prepared?

Do you believe the government knows best how to run enterprise and best how you should spend your money and, in fact, how much you should make?  Or do you believe the best way to move the country forward is to have government do only what the Constitution, it now ignores, specifically provides grants it as its powers?

Do you believe the government ought to have the power to tell you how to live, what to do with your life and any revenues generated by your labors and can even force you to buy what it says or destroy your livelihood (as is going on now in Michigan where pig farmers are being told by the state that hogs are an “invasive species” and must be destroyed)?  or do you believe you know better what you should buy for yourself, how to spend what you earn, and have the right to apply yourself and move anywhere up the economic ladder your ambition and skills will take you and then be rewarded for that success?

THe philosophies on open opposition in this upcoming election have never, NEVER been clearer.  Prior to this election, those two opposing views have never been the real core values and policies for voters’ decisions about who should be president.  But they are the ONLY questions of value this time.  Entitlement or self-sufficiency are the core but competing principles driving the two sides and for the first time in our history we seem to have a growing number of people, mostly from the fantasy land of academia, the thug-ridden world of unions, or the delusional world of young people raised with a sense of entitlement for simply being alive, who believe openly in entitlements, socialism, and communism as viable economic and political theories.

They have, with marvelous misdirection, wrapped their rhetoric in the banner of democracy as if that was a magic word or concept and relied on the likelihood that most of the dumbed-down populace does not realize our country has never been and was not supposed to be a pure democracy, something Plato referred to as the rule of fools.

To accept the ideology that any of the flavors of socialism actually works to better the society it rules, unless some outside source of revenue apart from the tribute required of the population (such as in Finland where oil revenue props up the government) you have to toss out all of human political-governmental history.  Why?  Because of all the times those social theories have been applied, not a single example exists where it has raised the standard of living and improved living conditions despite its promise to do just that.

This time getting truly informed about what has and has not worked and why is critical.  You must, MUST, as was never before really necessary, do your research on this.  Don’t take what anyone tells you, including me, at face value until you have done your own research.  Find out for yourselves what has, in the litany of governments around the world and throughout time, worked and what has not.  And before you fall prey to the emotional arguments of “fairness” or that great canard of “social justice,” research how the success of various systems of economic and political authority changes with the level of complexity and maturity of the population being governed.  What works perfectly on a tribal, hunter-gatherer level falls apart starting with the agrarian, surplus driven stage of development.  And that perfect tribal system turns really ugly in the industrial stage.

Please, I beg you, don’t take my word for it, don’t take ANYone’s word for something so important as the future of this country and therefore the future of your children and grandchildren. Become truly, personally, individually informed.  Only with an informed electorate driving this republic will it have a chance of continuing.  One of the founders (the quote has been attributed to several people) when asked what they had just given the people, responded, “We have given you a Republic… if you can keep it.”

Never before, has that issue been more at the forefront of an election than this one.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Will We Pay for the Government Feed Trough by Burning History?

San Diego – So just what will it take to convince you we are in dangerous times vis-a-vis our nations, its culture, its values, its morals, its very spirit?  Well, interestingly, both major sides of the political aisle are in agreement with that assessment.  The difference is in what to do about it.  But this is not a new or particularly unique debate since it has been around not just for years but for centuries. That means that for centuries the history of our attempts to move from from being hunter-gatherers and throw away our species’ core nature in the bargain to becoming first agrarian and then industrial societies where civilizations and various forms of government have been tried, leaves us with a pretty good record of not only what works and what doesn’t but of the nearly inevitable progression from something powerful and uplifting to something mean and crushing.

It is not as if that history has been locked in secret vaults so no rascal can read and spread the revolutionary data to the masses; it has been out there and available from the the days of the Ancient Greeks and Romans down to the present.  And now, with the internet, one need not have to sit at the feet of some master intelligence (usually self-proclaimed) to learn that saga.  One need only have a desire and the most modest of typing skills to access that information.  All of those great civilizations of history have reached a tipping point where the next step could save them or drag them to ruin.  Some even made a correct decision at one time but failed to learn from it the next time.  In the end, the story has come to the same conclusion and for startlingly similar reasons as nation after nation from Babylon to Britain has risen to greatness and then been swept back into the list of lost, or at best (and rarely), somewhat common place status unable to again achieve their former glory.

And then it was our turn to enter the lists and rise to a status even the ancients would envy.  But I would argue that our tipping point is upon us.  Some say it has passed and we blew it so why worry.  Perhaps, but I’d like to think that the internal fire that ignited those people who came to, bled for, sacrificed for, and somehow, maybe by divine providence or the sheerest of luck at the assemblage of courage and intellect, created The United States of America is still alive in enough of us.  No longer an open flame, surely, but perhaps still an ember that can be blown back into life.

Our country was founded upon the principle of FREEDOM as I’ve noted before.  But what is freedom founded on and how is it maintained.  The answer is that it is a product of individual and personal responsibility.  Only that responsibility can provide us with true freedom and the ability to enjoy, as the document so eloquently states, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  Only that responsibility lets us see clearly that the last phrase does NOT guarantee happiness; it only guarantees that we are free to pursue it as best we can.

The problem is, as it seems like it has always been, the citizens of successful nations quickly forget that their pursuit of happiness is not something created by the government, it is in them.  Instead they come to think, after a period of soft sheets and warm meals that the government is  in the business of providing the happiness itself.  And they forget that the reward of what Maslow called “self actualization” — our highest level of human need — derives only from our own efforts and soon tire of the efforts and instead look to the government to simply provide for them… period.  They have forgotten the heady euphoric rush of the endorphins that flow from a person following the success of prodigious effort and that the flow is proportional to the effort.  And soon become content with just laying back, watching the tube, listening to brain numbing noise passing for music, and decide the only effort they want to expend is what is required to hold their hand out for the government to fill.

It starts with a few, perhaps even some legitimately victimized by others or blind-sided by life but soon it spreads to others who learn to use and abuse that noble largesse for ignoble self centered purposes.  And then, like a cancer, the parasitic cry for “social justice” arises and, if voiced with sufficiently skilled rhetoric, sounds like a reasonable thing.  The government food trough gets bigger and bigger.  More groups decide to cash in on the handouts and marginalized segments of society grow as fewer and fewer are wiling to step back to the era of self responsibility.  They protect themselves from scrutiny and evaluation with unions and political correctness… and grow in numbers.  Whether it is the Goths, Vandals, and Huns at the gate or mobs of looters of both goods and spirit inside the gates, sooner or later the numbers reach a point to overwhelm the system already rotten and dying.

We hide behind the idea that it could not happen to us and deny that history has no reason to treat us any differently than it did the Pharaohs and Caesars.   And like a cultural Oedipus who blinded itself after screwing the mother country, we no longer can see where we are going.

It is not as if there have been voices crying int he wilderness and trying to get our attention.  In 1857 a famous British author and historian named Thomas McCaulay wrote the following lines

“The day will come when [in the United States] a multitude of people will choose the legislature. Is it possible to doubt what sort of a legislature will be chosen? On the one side is a statesman preaching patience, respect for rights, strict observance of public faith. On the other is a demagogue ranting about the tyranny of capitalism and usurers and asking why anybody should be permitted to drink Champagne and to ride in a carriage while thousands of honest people are in want of necessaries. Which of the candidates is likely to be preferred by a workman? … When Society has entered on this downward progress, either civilization or liberty must perish. Either some Caesar or Napoleon will seize the reins of government with a strong hand, or your Republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the twentieth century as the Roman Empire in the fifth; with this difference, that the Huns and vandals who ravaged the Roman Empire came from without, and that your Huns and vandals will have been engendered within your country, by your own institutions.”

The Spriit that created this country and carried it to the forefront of civilization is not about government handouts, indeed not about government control.  From the first Madison wrote that

“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

I would suggest that a simple mathematical appraisal of the state of our government today reveals that we have not obliged it to control itself and have, instead, facilitated and perhaps perpetuated its loss of self control and abrogated our right, our duty, of control over it.  Are we willing to take it back?  Or are we so desperate for being taken care of we will risk our country and our future for just a little more slop at the government’s trough?  We now see a marvelously crafted attempt to do an end run around us to get more money from us for that trough and to diminish the role of enterprise where our self reliance and responsibility are demanded.

Is that really what you want for you and for your children?  if so you will soon have a chance to support it or, if not, a chance to oppose it.  While I still can, I am determined to oppose it.  THe question for you is, who will you believe?  Forget me and other writers on all sides, forget the politicians whose motives are increasingly suspect.  But you do have a record to look at and its called history.  So will you believe those who argue for a system that sounds warm and fuzzy but never once in history worked and never once failed to lead to tyranny and authoritarianism?  That has a virtually guaranteed outcome.

Or will you decide that history is pretty clear and that the only way to get us back on the track of greatness is to reject the warm and fuzzy, reject the easy route, accept the individual and collective responsibility for yourselves first and then your country?  The truth is if we turn it around this time we may only be buying time.  But if we buy a generation or two then they can make their own decisions but at least we may leave our children a better place than we found; not a worse one.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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