Things Fall Apart; the Centre Cannot Hold: 1968 Redux

WTH is going on in the world these days? One is tempted to quote Yeats and turn away in disgust.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Well, that may be a wise quote for us, at that. It was written in 1919 just after the world-shaking carnage of the Great War when seemingly all was in flux. Victor Davis Hanson in The Washington Times this week compared our time to 1968, another year that shook the world.

Almost a half-century ago, in 1968, the United States seemed to be falling apart.

The Vietnam War, a bitter and close presidential election, anti-war protests, racial riots, political assassinations, terrorism and a recession looming on the horizon left the country divided between a loud radical minority and a silent conservative majority.

The United States avoided a civil war. But America suffered a collective psychological depression, civil unrest, defeat in Vietnam and assorted disasters for the next decade — until the election of a once-polarizing Ronald Reagan ushered in five consecutive presidential terms of relative bipartisan calm and prosperity from 1981 to 2001.

It appears as if 2017 might be another 1968. Recent traumatic hurricanes seem to reflect the country’s human turmoil.

After the polarizing Obama presidency and the contested election of Donald Trump, the country is once again split in two.

But this time the divide is far deeper, both ideologically and geographically — with the two liberal coasts pitted against red-state America in between.

[…]

The smears “racist,” “fascist,” “white privilege” and “Nazi” — like “commie” of the 1950s — are so overused as to become meaningless. There is now less free speech on campus than during the McCarthy era of the early 1950s.

No news in any of that is there? It’s simply our daily diet.

As was the case in 1968, the world abroad is also falling apart.

The European Union, model of the future, is unraveling. The EU has been paralyzed by the exit of Great Britain, the divide between Spain and Catalonia, the bankruptcy of Mediterranean nation members, insidious terrorist attacks in major European cities and the onslaught of millions of immigrants — mostly young, male and Muslim — from the war-torn Middle East. Germany is once again becoming imperious, but this time insidiously by means other than arms.

[…]

If we remember in 1968 the UK was starting to slip into that malaise that became known as ‘The British Disease’ and the cure didn’t come until Maggie Thatcher took charge just before Ronald Reagan cured the Carter malaise.

And we watch as Mrs May turns the UK’s best chance since Mrs Thatcher to again become a wealthy country, thanks to the voters who voted for Brexit, changes her title to Prime Ditherer, as she proves a less capable leader than -Barack Obama, perhaps. Sad to see. There are plenty of people in Britain who know how to win in these circumstances, but like our own GOPe the Conservatives hide in their bubble, out of fear of the people, or change, or Political Correctness, or something, and so fumble their chance, and are likely to ruin the country by turning it over to Corbyn. Taking the title of Venezuela North from Chicago in the process.

Is the problem too much democracy, as the volatile and fickle mob runs roughshod over establishment experts and experienced bureaucrats? Or is the crisis too little democracy, as populists strive to dethrone a scandal-plagued, anti-democratic, incompetent and overrated entrenched elite?

Neither traditional political party has any answers.

Democrats are being overwhelmed by the identity politics and socialism of progressives. Republicans are torn asunder between upstart populist nationalists and the calcified establishment status quo.

And again showing the wisdom of the founders, we now see Steve Bannon gearing up to challenge every GOP Congresscritter (save Ted Cruz) in next years Republican primaries. He won’t win them all, I predict. But I also predict he’ll win enough to put the fear of the electorate back into the Republicans. Of course, if they were as smart as they think they are, 2016 would have done that.

Yet for all the social instability and media hysteria, life in the United States quietly seems to be getting better.

The economy is growing. Unemployment and inflation remain low. The stock market and middle-class incomes are up.

Business and consumer confidence are high. Corporate profits are up. Energy production has expanded. The border with Mexico is being enforced.

Is the instability less a symptom that America is falling apart and more a sign that the loud conventional wisdom of the past — about the benefits of a globalized economy, the insignificance of national borders and the importance of identity politics — is drawing to a close, along with the careers of those who profited from it?

In the past, any crisis that did not destroy the United States ended up making it stronger. But for now, the fight grows over which is more toxic — the chronic statist malady that was eating away the country, or the new populist medicine deemed necessary to cure it.

• Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

And that is true too. The United States is actually doing pretty well, these days, which may well be why our left seems increasingly detached from reality, just like the NFL players biting the hand that feeds them. All gravy trains end, and so does extended adolescence.

No guarantees here but it looks to me if we keep on keepin’ on the way we are going, we may well make the United States stronger still. And if the UK can find their spine (a stiff upper lip wouldn’t hurt either) they may come through with the Union Jack flying proudly, as well. After all, we are the people who invented the modern world, we just need to do a bit of remodelling.

Advertisements

Sir Robert Scruton on Capitalism

Last week, Reaction published an article by Sir Roger Scruton. They class it as a long read,  which it is. It is also a most interesting read, which you should read and ponder. So, here it is, for your discernment, and if you are anything like me, enjoyment. And besides, it is something not to do (at least directly) with violence, which is a welcome change after the last few days.

So put your thinking caps on, get yourself a cup of coffee, and enjoy.

In 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were many cheerful people in the West who said, ‘Great! The battle between socialism and capitalism is over; and capitalism has won.’ They would have been astonished by anyone who told them that, a quarter of a century later, one of the favourite candidates for US President would describe himself as a ‘democratic socialist’, that the leader of the Opposition in the United Kingdom would be a Marxist, that radical socialist parties would be powerful forces all across the Northern Mediterranean or that Albania, having freed itself from the most cruel and ignorant of all the post-war communist regimes, would be governed by a party calling itself socialist. So how should we understand this surprising turn of events? Is it just a matter of words – that people call themselves socialists, for whatever reason, but act in quite another way? Or has the old disease really broken out again? Or was it not a disease but a cure? And if so, a cure of what?

My first response is to say that, yes, it is in part a matter of words. But no, the words are soaked in emotions, and the emotions are powerful. Take the word ‘capitalism’, introduced by Saint-Simon, to be taken up by Marx. It was supposed to describe an economic system, in which private individuals (the ‘capitalists’) own the ‘means of production’. On Marx’s view, capitalists formed a class, the owners of property, who stand opposed to the working class, the class of those who have nothing to sell except their labour. Out of this picture there grew the epic story of ‘class struggle’, leading to revolution, as the workers seized control of assets that had, in effect, been stolen from them. The epic story was immensely seductive. It gave people a just cause to fight for. It rationalised resentment against the rich and aligned the heroic intellectual with the poor in their fight to possess what is rightly theirs. It both justified revolution and predicted it as inevitable. And it made ‘capital’ into a kind of agent in history. The capitalists acted together as a class; they formed a kind of conspiracy against the rest of us. They controlled not only the means of production but all the institutions that stemmed from it and supported it – the church, the law, the schools and universities, the military. More, they controlled the ideology, the set of ideas and beliefs that represented their control as legitimate. In short, the word ‘capitalism’, introduced to describe an economic system, ended up as a description of an organised enemy of mankind, an invading army in the midst of us, which controlled everything, stole everything and meanwhile neutralised all our attempts at rebellion with the ‘false consciousness’ instilled through its propaganda.

Described in that way ‘capitalism’ ceased to be a word of economic theory. It became a summons to war. And then we need another word, to describe those who are on ‘the other side’ against this enemy. And that word is ‘socialism’. We are to fight for socialism, against the capitalist enemy. That is the message that has been drummed into us relentlessly since the Communist Manifesto. Of course, Marx saw socialism merely as an intermediate stage, on the way to communism. But he did not have the faintest idea as to how communism would come about, once the dictatorship of the proletariat had been established, and – what is more – he did not really care. It is the fight for socialism, and the revolution that would result from this, that interested him. And the same has been true of all socialists in our time. They take their inspiration from the thing that they are against, not from the future that is supposed to replace it.

Much of our confusion today comes from the fact that the situation for which the word ‘capitalism’ was invented has disappeared. Marx’s picture was of an economy devoted to the ‘production’ of material goods, in factories that belonged to representative members of the ‘capitalist’ class. A few such factories and a few such capitalist owners still exist. But the modern economy is a ‘service economy’: it is providing advice, contacts, entertainment, travel, things for hire and rent. The enterprises that provide these things are rarely owned by individuals, but usually by shareholders who do not control them. The managers who control them are also employed by them. Employees enjoy varying degrees of influence over the organisation, from the bare minimum exerted by the office cleaner to the extensive control of the CEO. Power is delegated at every level, and each level of management ‘reports to’ the one above, rather than obeying explicit orders. The whole thing has evolved ‘by an invisible hand’, in accordance with the natural ability of rational beings to cooperate and to compete with each other. Who, in this arrangement, is the capitalist, and who the proletarian? The old story can no longer be told. So what on earth do people now mean by ‘capitalism’, and what is the ‘socialist’ alternative?

The one thing that our modern systems have in common with the system described (and to some extent invented) by Marx is private property, and the freedom to exchange it, to accumulate it, and to give it away. This freedom is not absolute: some exchanges are forbidden by law, most are taxed, and in some countries inheritance taxes and capital taxes penalize accumulations. Nevertheless the freedom to own and deal in private property is at the heart of the modern economy, and in so far as the word ‘capitalism’ means anything today it denotes this freedom, and all that has issued from it. At the same time new forms of ownership have emerged – shares, options, copyright, royalties – which blur the margins between private and public property. In these circumstances it is very hard to know what the alleged conflict between capitalism and socialism really amounts to.

Much more at The case for capitalism must be made afresh. Do go there and enjoy!

Hugh Hefner

So, at 91 years old Hugh Hefner has died. By his definition, he had a good life, and by any, a long one. So, if we choose we can mourn him or celebrate his life. I’m of two minds about it, myself. But he remains hard to ignore,

As a Christian, I deplore much of what he stood for, the entire philosophy he enunciated, the lack of morals, and yes, the hedonism. Set against that was his unyielding insistence on free speech and the freedom of the individual. I think he took this too far – to the point where it could and did hurt other people. But while there is a lot to deplore, there was also a fair amount to like.

But you know, a lot of this kind of stuff is settled in our youth, and who amongst us guys of a certain age could honestly deny that we didn’t look at the (semi, in those days) naked ladies first of all, and if we managed to get a copy, our friends were looking over our shoulder as we did so. If there is anything adolescent boys want to see, it’s naked girls, and I suspect Abel felt the same way. If we are honest, Playboy replaced the underwear section of the Sears catalogue. Who me? Certainly not! 🙂

And every once in a while, when I was in college it got kind of close since Bunny 1, Hef’s DC9 lived at the Purdue Airport, and sometimes you’d see it fly in or out.

And then there were the clubs, I was a keyholder for about five years while I was doing a fair amount of work in Chicago. If you wanted a nice, reasonably quiet place with good booze, good food, good service, and great jazz, and good security they were hard to beat, even if overpriced. And the staff were outstanding. Yes, they were gorgeous, and as far as I know, they obeyed the rule against dating patrons, but they were well trained in providing good service with a smile, and making one feel like the most important person in the world. One of my dates was so impressed with them that she bought her own key, on the spot. One of very few things I miss from Chicago in those days. But I suspect those days are long gone, as well.

As I grew older though, the cliché became true, I did still enjoy the magazine, and I did still look at the girls, but I also enjoyed greatly the jokes and cartoons, and the articles really were exceptional. Many of the best writers in America wrote for Playboy, William F. Buckley, Norman Mailer, Camille Paglia (whom I first ran across in its pages) and so many more. Its articles were as good as The Atlantic Monthly or Harper’s, which for you youngsters was a very high standard indeed in those days. But it was far less pretentious, those others had a faux patrician feel to them. Yes, they’ve devolved even further than Playboy has.

But always that hedonism. Even as a young man, it troubled me, as it did Bill Buckley who wrote in The National Review after Reagan was elected, as James Rosen tells us,

True corruption, Buckley argued, is “the Playboy Philosophy that philandering is good because anything that feels good is good.” The exception, he allowed–“maybe”–was “lynching uppity niggers,” and only then because, as he added: “(Playboy–and Hollywood–feel they have to draw the line somewhere.)”

In July 1985, bemused by a Playboy fundraising appeal, Buckley cited statistics projecting half of American children would soon be raised by single parents. “Because they all read Playboy?” he asked. “Of course not. But it is unquestionably the case that self-indulgence (‘The Me Decade’) has a great deal to do with the fragility of personal relations….[W]e have traveled a long distance from Nathaniel Hawthorne, who awarded a scarlet letter to adulterers, to Hugh Hefner, who thinks adultery is good plain American wholesome fun and takes pride in his magazine as the principal architect of the sexual revolution.”

It was an exciting time to be alive, and part of the reason was Hugh Hefner, who whatever we may think of him, went from a poor young man in Chicago to one of the publishing titans of America in a very short time. In a sense, he did this by building (I think) on his experience in World War Two. I (at least) always saw a bit of connection between the Playmates and the nose art of the Army Air Force, carried further, of course, than the brass would have permitted. But connecting back to it, no less than Herman Wouk’s characters couldn’t have been written without his experience of the World War II Navy. Pushing boundaries has always been an American thing, after all.

Or maybe I’m a pretentious ass, seeing connections where there are none. You decide. But I know I’ll miss knowing Hef is in the world, but not as much as the world I grew up in, or Bill Buckley, for that matter. It was a different time, and perhaps better. I think so.

RIP, Hef.

Conservatives Rising

Kurt Schlichter lays it out on Townhall just in case any of our so-called representatives would be interested in what the people that elected them think. I admit it’s unlikely, the gravy train and cocktail circuit in Washington is so much more fitting to their self-image. Here be ground truth or if you’re a Washington insider, monsters on the horizon, and they may be closer than you think.

I guess now we’re not supposed to be fighting culture wars anymore – man, it’s so hard to keep up with these ever-changing new rules! I’m old enough to remember way back to 2016, before Trump got nominated, and I could have sworn Conservative Inc., was gung-ho for the whole culture war thing. But then Trump actually fought it, taking on the big, soft target that is the spoiled, semi-literate athletes who like to rub their contempt for the flag we love in our faces in the guise of woke wokedness. Now we suddenly discover that fighting back is horribly uncouth and déclassé and “Oh, well I never!

Gosh, I would have thought from all those cruise panels about how our crumbling culture is slouching toward Babylon and the need to resist the liberal onslaught that maybe we ought to actually resist the liberal onslaught, but see, that was my mistake. I took it seriously when Conservative, Inc., promised to fight the leftist blitzkrieg against normal Americans. It was all a scam, a lie, a pose for us rubes. The Tru Cons didn’t actually mean it.

Jokes on them though, we meant it when we elected them, they’re replaceable, and I think some (maybe not enough) will be. We’ll find out soon enough. Yesterday, Alabama voters told us what they think.

Conservativism forgot about the real world conservatives we expected to line up behind us. While we were talking about free trade, we were ignoring that GOP voter who fought in Fallujah, came home, got a job building air conditioners, raised a family, and then one day watched the video of the oh-so-sorry CEO – who looked remarkably like Mitt Romney, because all these guys look remarkably like Mitt Romney – sadly informing his beloved employees that their jobs were getting shipped to Oaxaca. And our response to the 58-year old Republican voter who asked us how he was going to keep paying for his mortgage and his kid in college? Pretty much, “Well, that’s how free enterprise works. Read some Milton Freidman and go learn coding.

That’s not a response, not for a political party that requires people to actually vote for it. That’s an abdication, but what did Conservative, Inc., care? Priorities! “There’s this new tapas place in Georgetown everyone is talking about – the other night, my buddy from the Liberty Freedom Eagle Institute for Liberty, Freedom and Eagles saw Lawrence O’Donnell there getting hammered!

How about the guy who wanted to be a roofer in Fontana but he couldn’t because the contractors were only hiring illegals? What was our answer to him? “Oh well, the big corporate donors need their serfs, and if some pack of tatted-up MS-13 dreamers gang-rapes your daughter that’s just a price we’re willing to pay!

They try to crush our religion and Conservative, Inc., cowers because Apple’s CEO might say mean things. “Just bake the cake,” they say – it’s not worth the fight! They demand our tax money to kill babies and Conservative, Inc., passes the spending bills – “Gosh, we can’t risk the WaPo saying we’re mean!” They diss our National Anthem, we react, and Conservative, Inc., wags its soft, spindly fingers – “So, so very unpresidential! My word!

You know what is (not very) funny? I’ve got a lot of British friends who feel exactly the same way about the Tories, especially as led by Mrs. Dismay. You should hear them, some of them make Col. Schlichter sound very mild, indeed. They envy us though, because they’ve known enough Americans that they know we’ll do something about it, one way or another, and that we have the tools, and the experience, and yes, the guts to actually do it, not talk about it. I’m not calling them wusses, mind. They’d walk through fire for a conservative government that would tell the Frogs and the Krauts, not to even mention the Islamic terrorists, to sod off. That why they voted for Brexit. They envy us Trump, as well, and can’t see how such a figure could get to be their Prime Minister. Sadly, they have much right in that belief.

What’s coming after is militant normalacy, the not-so-polite demand that the lackwits and failures who style themselves as our betters stop dumping on us normal Americans who work hard and play by the rules (Gosh that sounds familiar, like it used to be a winning electoral recipe, if only I could remember where I heard it before).

Who are the normals? The Americans who built this country, and defended it. When you eat, it’s because a normal grew the food and another normal trucked it to you. When you aren’t murdered in the street or don’t speak German, it’s because a normal with a gun made those things not happen. We normals don’t want to rule over others. We don’t obsess about how you live your life, but also we don’t want to be compelled to signal our approval or pick up the tab. We are every color and creed – though when someone who is incidentally a member of some other group aligns with normals, he/she/xe loses that identity. The left drums normals who are black out of its definition of “black,” just as normal women get drummed out of womanhood and normal gays get drummed out gayhood. In a way, the left is making E pluribus unum a reality again – to choose to be normal is to choose to reject silly identity group identification and unite. Instead of saying “normal Americans,” you can just say “Americans.” [..]

That’s why the shameful abdication of Conservative, Inc., in the cultural fight is both important and irrelevant. It demonstrates that the first loyalty of many folks in the conservaracket is to the ruling caste to which they belong, and it also demonstrates that these wimps’ absence from the battle means nothing. […]

But we’re not giving up, and we’re not going to sit back and just take it. Militant normalcy is the result of normal people roused to anger and refusing to be pushed around anymore. We prefer a free society based on personal liberty and mutual respect. But if you leftists veto that option, that leaves us either a society where you rule and oppress us, or one where we hold the power. So let me break this down, both for the left and for their fussy Fredocon enablers: You don’t get to win.

Not for nothing did General Creighton Abrams, back when he was a Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 37th Tank Battalion, in the 4th Armored, as it led Patton’s 3rd Army to the relief of Bastogne, when he was informed that Bastogne was surrounded, say,

“They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor Bastards” 

 

Monday, Monday, so good to me

Steven Hayward over at PowerLine has some TV recommendations for us, at least if we have Amazon Prime. I do but I haven’t watched it yet, but think I will.

Looks pretty funny to me, and Steve says this, “It is a brilliant piece of work, supposedly “found footage” of a Romanian buddy-cop show from the 1980s dubbed into English. It is a wonderful satire of the way a podunk Eastern European nation saw the world in the late stages of the Cold War. ” Certainly better than most of the dreck out there.

He also says this movie looks good to him, and from the trailer, it does, indeed.

What could be funnier than the death of one of the two worst mass murderers of the twentieth century? That sort of thing is why the movies are (or used to be) so much fun. May this sort of thing increase.


On a less welcome note, I assume you saw the impertinence at Wembley stadium yesterday. Personally, I’ve given up on pro football, not so much a boycott as tired of grown men thinking that sports is the be all and end all of life, not to mention that they actually earn those multi-million dollar salaries. I just got tired of the whingeing. But that’s me, not anything that I proselytise about. I don’t really give a dame if they stand, sit, kneel or stay home for the National Anthem. If they are too stupid to realize how good this country has been to them, then nothing they can say or do is worth my time or interest. And it’s not. Nor is it helped, when I do end up watching a bit of a game, to have politics inserted between every play, and so the sports networks and the league itself are just as culpable.

But others care more. Toni Williams over at Victory Girls for one.

The spoiled brats that comprise the players of the NFL participated in the death of American football, as we know it, in England today. At Wembley Stadium in London, the players knelt and locked arms during the National Anthem. The National Anthem of the United States of America. And, then showing how galactically ignorant of history they are, the fools stood for the British National Anthem “God Save The Queen”. Today, the NFL committed “Suicide by Kaepernick”

The title of the article in the United Kingdom news outlet The Sun.comis entitled “TRUMPED NFL players take the knee during national anthem as Jacksonville Jaguars take on Baltimore Ravens at Wembley”. The Sun reported that Shad Khan, an owner of the Jaguars was proud as can be of his gridiron ignoramuses:

Shad Khan said: “It was a privilege to stand on the sidelines with the Jacksonville Jaguars today for the playing of the U.S. national anthem at Wembley Stadium.

“I met our team captains prior to the game to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks by President Trump, and was honoured to be arm in arm with them, their team-mates and our coaches during our anthem.
“Our team and the National Football League reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms – race, faith, our views and our goals.

“We have a lot of work to do and we can do it, but the comments of the President make it harder.

“That’s why it’s important for us, and personally for me, to show the world that even if we may differ at times, we can and shoudl be united in the effort to become batter people and a nation.”

Sorry, Shad. May I call you Shad? Good. I have to call bovine manure on that one. There is no diversity in the NFL. They are men who, at a young age, showed certain talents. They were nurtured and coddled and given opportunities that 99.999% of the Universe never get. There are no girls on the team, no super short people, no untalented people. If Colin Kaepernick were truly talented, and not a brainless twit, he would be playing somewhere.

And, you know, that’s the breaking point for me. We have our squabbles here in America, as we should. That’s fine, and it’s always been so. But when we go abroad, we should behave ourselves so as to bring credit on the United States, instead of this new form of ‘The Ugly American’. But overall, I’ll listen to my Boilermakers, which school actually does believe in free speech, and is actually playing fairly decent ball this fall. The NFL can go and choke on its arrogant condescending arrogance and its billions of dollars. I just don’t care, anymore. There are better ways to use my time. (No, not cricket!)

I just don’t pay spoiled children to entertain me, not least because they aren’t

 

 

Week in Picture, German Election Edition

The Germans vote today, so we’ll see if they’ve had enough of the Reichskanzler, who has been in office longer than anybody since you know who. The media says yes, but if you haven’t noticed they’ve occasionally been wrong,  but were right in France, so we’ll see.

mm

This could be true in Germany, too

Headline of the week. Ach, if only it were so!

Mostly from Bookworm and PowerLine.

Have a good week. And remember

%d bloggers like this: