Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hypocrisy and Immigration

I'll let Mr. Molyneux speak for himself, but I'll just preface this brief video to say that I fully support the nation of Israel having the right to determine and control who is allowed to immigrate to their country. They have every right to not only protect their citizens but to also maintain their culture. 

With that said, I also have to state categorically that other nations have the same right.

Stefan Molyneux asks jew why the hypocrisy on immigration

Friday, May 5, 2017

A Prayer for Owen Meany

Living in an area with too many people and cars, I spend a lot of time in mine. I can’t stand commercials and useless traffic reports, and I’m too cheap to pay for a subscription service.

Fortunately, I’m alive at the most wonderful time in human history! I have

I listened to A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving recently. I enjoyed the book so much I bought a hardback copy for my personal library—such as it is; I gave most of my hundreds of books to the Mt. Vernon, Iowa library a few years ago to lighten my load when I thought I was moving to Spain. 

But some books require your absolute attention and this is one of them. Listening while driving is a good way to get something out of your time in awful traffic, but you miss a lot. For some odd reason, other things keep taking your mind away from the book you’re listening to. 

You don’t want to miss a single word of A Prayer for Owen Meany.

One particular page caught my attention. The book tells the life of Owen Meany from his childhood. Owen is a small person, very intelligent, seems to have some powers of discernment and knowledge of the future, and believes he is one of God’s instruments on Earth. Toward the end of the book, our hero, Owen has passed through the age of innocence. Previously a rabid fan of JFK, he’s found out that President Kennedy had an affair with Marilyn Monroe and tells Johnny Wheelwright, his friend, and the story’s narrator,
“Those famous, powerful men—did they really love her? Did they take care of her? If she was ever with the Kennedys, they couldn’t have loved her—they were just using her, they were just being careless and treating themselves to a thrill. That’s what powerful men do to this country—it’s a beautiful, sexy, breathless country, and powerful men use it to treat themselves to a thrill! They say they love it but they don’t mean it. They say things to make themselves appear good—they make themselves appear moral. That’s what I thought Kennedy was: a moralist. But he was just giving us a snow job, he was just being a good seducer. I thought he was a savior. I thought he wanted to use his power to do good. But people will say and do anything just to get the power, then they’ll use the power just to get a thrill. Marilyn Monroe was always looking for the best man—maybe she wanted the man with the most integrity, maybe she wanted the man with the most ability to do good. And she was seduced, over and over again—she got fooled, she was tricked, she got used, she was used up. Just like the country. The country wants a savior. The country is a sucker for powerful men who look good. We think they’re moralists and then they just use us. That’s what’s going to happen to you and me,” said Owen Meany. “We’re going to be used.”

John Irving, speaking through his protagonist, Owen Meany, is right. This country is a sucker for powerful men who look good. The thing that’s so difficult to fathom, though, is that we continue to allow ourselves to be played for suckers. Every election cycle we’re fed the same bullshit and we keep eating it up. (Yes, I intended that sentence to be disgusting. It's exactly how I feel.)

I believe we are programmed to forget unpleasantness, and the more unpleasant, the faster we forget. I believe someday we'll find there's a gene that’s responsible for this behavior. I only have second-hand knowledge of most of the human procreation process, but by anyone’s standards, anyone I’ve ever known, the entire gestation period is uncomfortable, to say the least, fraught with problems or the risk of problems, and the birth process itself seems to be something no women in her right mind would go through a second time. But the human brain is programmed to forget just how awful the process was as soon as it’s over. Were it not so, the human race would have become extinct hundreds of thousands of years ago.

We also seem to have a gene that gives us an infinite ability to believe the future is going to be better than the present. Because of this and the fact that we so easily and quickly forget the past, we believe someday we’ll elect the right person and the laws of economics and human nature itself will all be changed. We’ll have heaven on Earth. Maybe this unquenchable hope for the future, combined with the innate ability, and even requirement, to forget horrible moments of the past is what keeps us all moving forward.

Unfortunately, we don’t seem to possess much of an imagination gene. We forget the past and look to the future, but without the ability to question whether just possibly we’ve gone down a bunny trail leading nowhere.

I can’t put my finger on exactly what’s wrong, but something is and we keep looking to powerful people to lead us, to fix all that ails us, to comfort us, and to be our moral leader through all tribulation. We keep wanting what we can’t have, so we keep disliking what we get.

Maybe next time we’ll get it right. Until then, I’m glad I can lose myself in writing such as John Irving produces. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

An Elegy to American Culture

Here’s a preview of my upcoming book, Where the Roads Lead, a memoir of my pilgrimage to Rome. Toward the end, it seemed appropriate to include some thoughts about what the experience meant to me. 

The lessons are still in their formative stages and slow in coming, but one thing I found walking through a few European countries: I’m strengthened in my feeling that one’s culture is worth preserving. That nebulous thing composed of shared history, values, beliefs, and language is irreplaceable and important enough to do everything in one’s power to maintain. We’re all on the Earth together and yes, we’re all human, and of course we all fly through the Universe on the same small planet. But there are very real and, more importantly, very valuable subsets of humanness and divisions of the planet that have resulted not only in envy, strife, mayhem, and warfare, but that have created pockets of creativeness and ingenuity because of the environment—physical, spiritual, and existential—in which a group of people found themselves. One’s culture is nothing to apologize for, be it Spanish, French, or Italian; Catalan, Proven├žal, Haute-Alps, Lombardy, Tuscan; or of Barcelona, St. Michel l’Observatoir, or San Gimignano. More, as I was walking through small European towns I found myself feeling envious of the residents who have a deep, ingrained culture through a shared history of countless generations of their families living in one place. When I return to the States after an extended period of time walking through Europe or living for an extended time in my adopted hometown of Granada, I feel engulfed by a cultural void. Here’s how I described my feelings about walking through Galicia in my previous book about walking the Camino de Santiago from Montserrat in 2012:

As I think back with help from the photos I took, I felt, and can still feel, an attachment to the country that I've never been able to muster for anyplace I've lived in the United States. When I was a child, my family moved frequently, owing to my father’s job, so I never had the opportunity to develop feelings of home for a place. Even when I got older and my family stopped moving so much, I didn't feel any attachment to a city, a state, or even the country in which I lived. I chalked this up to having lived a transient lifestyle, never settling in one place during those early years of life when we develop attachments to the land, a region, or a culture. Feeling an attachment to a geographical region was not even in my capacity to imagine in the past. But here, in Galicia, it was immediately easy to comprehend how people could feel oneness with their pueblo and with Galicia, how one could feel that, absent their homeland, they would be incomplete.
I had never had that feeling, but nevertheless, I missed it and envied Gallegos and all Spaniards for having it.
This feeling of emptiness was especially apparent when I returned from my first failed attempt to live in Spain and landed an employment contract in Phoenix, a city that can best be described, in my humble opinion, as a giant, new, gleaming, effervescent shopping mall. I know there is an old part of that town that actually maintains its long history, but the Phoenix I experienced had been inundated by all things bright and shiny and above all, uniform. It’s a microcosm of what the United States is becoming—sterile, without soul, without a history its people can admire and hold onto, and with a future that is anyone’s guess.

The U.S. is a ship without a rudder that goes whichever way the tides of other’s cultural forces push it. Since we want to readily admit, and even take pride in the fact that we have no cultural base worth preserving, we will almost surely founder on the rocks of multi-culturalism, which means in essence and in practice, no-culturalism. For people are, deep down, tribal animals. That in itself is not a good or bad thing. We prefer to be among those who are like ourselves, who share our values and beliefs, and this has kept humanity from extinction. We enjoy occasionally dipping our toe in other people’s pools, but left to our own devices, Polish people prefer to hang out with Polish people, Vietnamese people socialize with other Vietnamese, Russians with Russians, Afghanis with Afghanis, Nigerians with Nigerians, and so forth. This has nothing to do with skin color; it’s a matter of shared cultures and being able to communicate and truly understand each other on a level deeper than words can convey; each person stands on the cultural soil cultivated by generations of his forebears. Shared experiences, beliefs, world views—culture—becomes embedded in ones DNA. For this reason and this reason alone, each has an unstated, genetic understanding of others within his own culture.
Bruce Tuckman came up with a model of group dynamics some fifty years ago that is still taught and used as a framework for managing groups and projects. He listed four stages that a group goes through: forming, storming, norming, and performing. (Management models always have to have some pithy rhyme or sequence structure to make them memorable.) I see this same dynamic in the progression of the culture of the United States. We left the forming stage by the end of the eighteenth century. We went through a terrible phase of storming until the latter part of the nineteenth century. But somehow we got mired in the norming phase. Much of the populace refuses to allow it, as if norms—socially accepted values by which we identify our culture—are an evil that must be eradicated.

A Judeo-Christian culture brought America to where it was in the mid-twentieth century. Highly imperfect, but certainly not something that should be thoughtlessly jettisoned like so much flotsam from a ship’s bilge. Our main problem seems to stem from the fact that European civilization, for whatever reason, is particularly adept at self-criticism. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, but let us not conflate self-examination with self-flagellation. It was not America’s natural resources that brought and continue to bring immigrants here. It was not ideal weather or ease of life. What draws people to American shores is the result of our European culture, a culture that created, among many other advantageous circumstances, an environment of respect for property, individualism, and the rule of law. Although implemented imperfectly, these vitally important criteria have created a pretty good place to live. I’m not alone in that opinion; hundreds of millions since the founding of this country have demonstrated their agreement through their actions; people have risked their lives to come to America.

To be proud of your heritage and culture is in no way to disparage others, but we seem to be in engulfed in a popular worldview that forces us to violently tear down everything we’ve built, as if half the populace of our nation needs to go through “re-education camp,” as if our entire culture—repeating the disaster of Mao’s Communist Revolution—has to be literally destroyed in order to correct some perceived imperfections.

Nature abhors a vacuum. No less so, human nature. If the majority of people of the United States continue to deny that this country has a culture worth preserving, to try to maintain a cultural void, accepting any and all without defending our heritage, those who value their culture and take pride in their heritage, and who have the willpower to impose it will step in to fill that void. It has happened over and over throughout history.