"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, April 30, 2021

The Man In The Mask –Biden And The Icon Of Righteousness

When Joe Biden walked down a long, empty marble floored, flag festooned corridor to the podium, masked and squinty, the image was undeniable.  To his supporters, it was the very image of right behavior, probity, and leadership.  Wearing a mask when not at all necessary – a fully vaccinated man in an open, empty, ventilated place – makes a statement.  Masks are the right thing to do – an icon of the solidarity, communality, and moral behavior which is necessary to defy and deny the virus and protect all Americans.

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To others, it was silly posturing, unbecoming of the President, sending exactly the wrong message to the nation – vaccinations do not work.  Worse was the message to the world’s leaders with whom he engaged in a Zoom conference.  Biden, masked and sitting as upright like a little girl in frills and bonnet waiting for First Communion faced the camera and the six unmasked members of the G7 on the screen.  When asked by a reporter what to make of it, Press Secretary Psaki said that he was making a statement to the world that vigilance, care, and consideration were at the foundation of his COVID leadership.

What Vladimir Putin thought of this can only be surmised –  Macho Man meets Little Nell – and the snickers by the staff of the presidents and premiers on the screen stood in for those stifled by the leaders.  Not only has Biden given away the store, but he has shown his caring, vulnerable side to adversaries who are Machiavellian at heart, willful, determined, and implacable.  By initiating social, fiscal, economic, and infrastructure programs which will cost trillions, he has given China a generous Christmas gift.    It will be the Chinese from whom America will borrow these trillions, to whom it will become even more deeply indebted, and relinquish any negotiating power in trade, finance, or geopolitics. Railing on about the Uighurs, Tibet, or Taiwan is seen by China as irrelevant, unimportant, meaningless hot air.  Linked with Biden’s schoolmarm prissiness, a flimsy cover for resurgent American exceptionalism, this give-away-the-store treasure bonanza, Xi can only chuckle.

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Putin has been as delighted as can be with Biden’s decision to stymie the production, refining, and delivery of domestic energy.  No XL pipeline, no fracking, no oil shale and, on the cusp of energy independence, America returns to foreign oil.  And, as in the case of Xi, Putin sees the mask-wearing, storybook Biden with amusement.  Not only has he turned the energy keys over to Russia, but he has admitted that he will push no longer on Ukraine, Crimea, Syria, Iraq, or Azerbaijan.  “Let us reason together” LBJ said disingenuously.  The man knew only confrontation, intimidation, threat, and political manipulation, so no one paid this statement any mind.

Nixon was the diametric opposite to Biden.  He and his Machiavellian Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, knew that realpolitik was the only policy in the competitive world of geopolitics.  Forget what’s good for others.  It’s what’s good for American that counts.  Donald Trump echoed the same sentiment and was expectedly reviled for it by progressive flacks.  Those men on the Zoom screen were of one mind – national interest, national influence, and national superiority.

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Biden’s followers have swallowed the goodness narrative hook, line, and sinker.  There is no give in the progressive political vision. Environmental action is ipso facto right and good, regardless of minimal risk, economic damage, and international compromise.  The radical redistribution of wealth is an absolute requirement of a just society, regardless of the economic and financial disruption it will cause. However, no major corporation will sit still for punitive taxes and restrictive regulations.  The top corporate and individual earners in the country already pay far more than their share of taxes. In 2017, the top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97 percent of all individual income taxes, the top 1 percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (38.5 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined. The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid a 26.8 percent average individual income tax rate, which is more than six times higher than taxpayers in the bottom 50 percent (4.0 percent).

The race-gender-ethnicity juggernaut, while applauded by the progressive Left, will, as it picks up steam under Biden’s tutelage, will encounter more and more resentment and opposition.  There is no way that the loud and aggressive transgender agenda, encouraged and supported by Biden, will not soon meet loud and aggressive opposition,  The transgender population is but a fraction of one percent of all homosexuals who account for barely three percent of the population, and most of America will soon cry ‘basta’ and be done with it.

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Despite progressive existential angst there will be no Climate Armageddon.  Human society has always been adaptable, innovative, creative, and willful, and there is no reason to doubt that if there is a human-engineered change in the climate that human beings will not prosper within it.  The doubts about climate change in much of America are not because of denial but because of reaction.  Biden’s trillions to be spent willy-nilly on climate change, resulting in higher taxes, foreign financial dependency, and local corruption will not be the applauded, heroic investment he claims, but a giveaway.

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Which is where the mask comes in.  Why is it that lone walkers in leafy, wealthy neighborhoods of Washington wear masks? Why do they dun those who don’t?  Why do they wear masks in cars, in breezy, open, clear meadowland and on mountain trails? It has nothing to do with COVID protection and everything to do with righteous image.  We, the mask wearers, are letting you know that we hated Trump, that we abhor capitalist ventures, that we abjure whiteness as a privilege, that the black man is primus inter pares if not the highest link of the evolutionary chain, that women can do no wrong, that there is no such thing as biological sex, and that the world can move, under the right leadership, to a better, more civilized and loving world.  Biden is the leader of this idealistic movement and he will never forego the mask, the very symbol of his righteousness.

If there had not been such sanctimony regarding the mask, so much investment in it as a progressive icon, compliance would have been far simpler, quicker and more universal.  Many of those refuse to wear a mask because to do so would be to don the symbol of the very political movement they hate.

Do masks work? Of course they do, otherwise they would not be standard issue in hospitals; but giving them this suspect political meaning and importance takes away from their fundamental purpose, use, and requirement.

Recent images of Biden fumbling for his mask, patting his pockets (“It must be here somewhere”), finding it, waving it like a flag, make him look ridiculous, transparent, and weak. 

Maskism has become one of the great dividers of America - not that we, living in an already horrifically divisive, contentious society need any more division – and as we have seen, even as the virus wanes and the economy opens, Biden, Fauci, an their claques refuse to give in.  Masks will be counselled long after they are necessary.  It is a point of political philosophy, of principle, not unlike the white and red roses of the houses of Plantagenet and Lancaster in 1455.

Not a few Biden voters, now after his first 100 days, are wondering what on earth they voted for?  The election of 2020 was less about Biden than it was about removing Trump; so now that the euphoria of his defeat has faded and voters are faced with the reality of the radical progressivism Biden promised, they are rethinking their 2022 and 2024 votes.  Those who knew exactly what a Biden victory would mean and who are not surprised but energized by the scope of his policies and programs are hardening their resolve and opposition.  This is good for America.  No democracy can survive a one-party White House, Senate, and House of Representatives.  Excess, intellectual corruption, and moral and economic bankruptcy have always been the result.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Greatness Of Kings, Shoguns, Shahs, And Emperors–Progressive Cancelling Of White High Culture

Louis XIV, the Sun King, was responsible for achievements in law, governance, and the arts.  His Code Louis established a system of uniform and universal laws governing every aspect of French society, economy, and finance.  He was a patron and supporter of the arts, and he gave protection to and encouragement of Moliere, Racine, La Fontaine and others.  

He established the Royal Academy of Dance, the Paris Opera, and the French Language Academy.  He built the Palace of Versailles, known for its formal gardens, Baroque salons, banquet halls, and elaborate chambers for princes, courtiers, and visiting royalty.  His achievements extended far beyond France, and under his long reign France became worthy of its historical legacy, the nation that defeated the Muslim invaders from Africa at Roncesvalles and so became la fille ainee de l'Eglise, the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church, and became primus inter pares among the nations of Europe.

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Abbas I, Abbas the Great, was one of Persia’s greatest shahs and like Louis XIV instituted the legal, commercial, financial, and social reforms necessary for the unification of the country, thus giving it a foundation for the emergence of empire.  Under his rule the arts thrive, and during his reign Persia experienced perhaps the greatest expression of painting, sculpture, architecture, and textiles in its history.

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The Chinese Emperor Kangxi was similar to other enlightened monarchs, and during his reign arts, culture, poetry, and science thrived.  As importantly – and not unlike Abbas or Louis – Kangxi reformed China’s system of governance, incorporating Confucianism into political rule.  He brought together scholars, religious leaders, philosophers, and jurists to provide the intellectual foundation for his initiatives and reforms.

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The Japanese Ashikaga shoguns combined art, philosophy, religion and culture.  While always aware of their status as warriors and need to maintain their military prowess, the shoguns of the Ashikaga era recognized the importance of a strong military, and the development of new administrative and cultural talents to rule the country effectively.  From the beginning, the shogunate promoted a culture that combined aspects of samurai culture and the arts of the imperial court, with the balance between the two shifting in accordance with the interests of individual shoguns and their advisors. With the ascendancy of Zen Buddhism and the interest of many prominent monks in Chinese culture, the shogunate absorbed the arts of Chinese literature, Confucian studies, the ritualized consumption of tea, ink monochrome paintings, garden design, and calligraphy.

Ashoka, Emperor of India was similarly responsible for unifying his country through culture, language, arts, and law.  He promoted efficient public administration and cultural interaction between the developed Gangetic basin and distant backward provinces,; and under his rule the culture of his palace, characteristic of his empire, spread to Kalinga, the lower Deccan, and northern Bengal.  As importantly Ashoka is important in history for his policy of peace, non- aggression, and cultural conquest; and despite the strong, well-armed, and disciplined military under his control, he preferred a strategy of peaceful engagement and reward.

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We descendants of these great civilizations are legatees of the best that human society has produced.  We are the heirs of Ancient Greece and Rome which provided the philosophical, intellectual, and administrative foundation for European civilization and by extension America’s.  We Christians are equally heirs to the preeminence of the Catholic Church – an institution which was responsible not only for its political influence, but its management of a world spiritual empire and the promotion of art and architecture which reflected its principles. Although we are not direct descendants of Persian, Japanese, Indian, or Chinese culture, European civilization was influenced by shahs, shoguns, and emperors and the cultural civilizations they created, expanded, and led.  Our lives have been formed by this international culture.

The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution itself owe much to the English Enlightenment which itself was based on the principles of Sophocles, Plato, and Aristotle.  Our nation was not created on political grounds – an objection to taxation without representation and the authoritarian rule the oppressed individual enterprise and reward – but on spiritual ones.  The rights in the Bill of Rights are ‘God-given’, divinely inspired, universal, and absolute.  The influence of Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Montesquieu is evident throughout.

The current political culture in America today runs counter to this legacy.  European civilization, rather than the foundation for American culture, arts, science, jurisprudence, and philosophy, is derogated, dismissed, and relegated.   Europeans, say progressives, were exploitative colonizers, oppressors, slavers, and brutal, entitled aristocrats.  However much England may have contributed to American arts, culture, and political philosophy, such contributions are negated given the overwhelmingly negative influences of his reactionary politics. 

The early Spaniards who discovered and developed America were little more than white entitled marauders who plundered for gain, killed native populations with arrogance and impunity, and lied, cheated, and manipulated them for profit.  Ferdinand and Isabella, despite their initiatives to explore the New World, to bring many kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula together to form what Spain is today, and through this unification, to strengthen Spain into an economic and dominant world power, enabling the spread of Christianity and the colonization of a New World, are excommunicated from the commonwealth of right nations because of the genocide committed by their soldiers and clerics. 

The French who ruled Haiti and were influential in Louisiana and the Florida panhandle were no different – slavers, racists, gunrunners, and pirates.  The Dutch who settled New York acted according to the same European rules of conquest, exploitation, oppression, and intimidation with no respect for native populations. 

Not only do today’s political progressives want to cancel individuals (e.g. Winston Churchill, despite his historic defense of Britain during the blitz and his moral courage and steadfast opposition to the Nazis, has been removed from historical consideration because of his unwavering support of Empire), they want to cancel entire countries.  Because European 19th century societies were exclusively white, racist, elitist, opportunist, and exploitative, progressives say, they have nothing to teach.  Their legacy is tainted; and we, their heirs have been corrupted, and defiled. 

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Worst of all, say progressives, European societies were responsible for the spread of slavery throughout the Americas; and that alone justifies their removal from history’s archives.  It matters not that slavery is an ancient enterprise, practiced in Ancient Greece and Rome, Persia, India, and China; and that Spain, England, France, and Portugal were following historical imperatives of the past and subject to them, and that their moral universe did not include the less-developed and -evolved societies of Africa.  Different standards, moral assumptions, and very different ethical principles applied.  Those living in the heart of darkness could not and would not be considered or treated as those of the developed, highly-evolved West.

Condemning slavery and those who perpetuated it may be justified on moral grounds even when such judgements occur within a relative historical context; but lionizing those enslaved as more morally just, and of higher value because of their victimhood, is not.  Cancelling those countries which engaged in the slave trade and are ipso facto morally renegade and socially derelict is absurd. 

If the cancel culture has its way, most of history will be expunged and only post -1965 America will take its place. All statues of Jefferson, Washington, and Hamilton will be toppled and destroyed.  Names of the Confederacy will be erased, all traces of the Civil War will be removed.

Cancelling white, European high culture on the basis of one issue is wrong.  Raising tribal culture – whether in Africa, Borneo, or the Amazon - to an equal position of cultural significance to that of Imperial Japan, the courts of 18th century Europe, or the great Chinese dynasties, is shortsighted and anti-historical.  

There is no permanence to any culture.  Human governance has moved beyond monarchy to democracy, and such democracy has become more democratic as time has gone on.  The difference – the inequality – between European, Japanese, Indian, or Persian high culture and tribal culture of the 19th century and before cannot be ignored or wished away.  To distort it and transform it to fit modern perceptions is fiction.  The tables may someday be turned and the cultural saga of human societies in the future may be altogether different.

Cancel culture is wrong, racism in the form of attacking white empire, courts, and nations is wrong.  Attacking whiteness per se is wrong; attacking blackness per se is wrong, but elevating blackness to a higher status is misguided, historically myopic, and intellectually irresponsible.  

Respecting and understanding history, reserving judgement and always assuming cultural relativity, and committed to inevitable social, cultural evolution is the only sane, rational way to view the world.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Ignoring Jefferson In The Age Of COVID–Individualism At The Expense Of Community And The Commonweal

In the nearly 250 years since Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and wrote that Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness were to be the foundational principles of the new Republic, these Enlightenment ideas have been interpreted, misinterpreted, and distorted.  They have become facile notions about living the good life, valuing individual freedom and liberty, and pursuing one’s personal goals above all else.   Their immutability, sense of fundamental morality and universality thought to be essential for the constitution, survival, and prosperity of a nation have been ignored.

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Jefferson never denied the importance of the individual – not because of any secular commitment to economic or social enterprise, but because of its relevance to achieving divine grace.  The Enlightenment itself, so insistent on logic, did not value rationality for its own sake but as a tool for spiritual understanding.   Everything that Jefferson and his colleagues wrote, therefore, had a profound religious sentiment.

Community should be seen as Augustine’s City of God – a place where faith precedes logic, but that revelation and spiritual evolution can only be achieved with both.  Augustine, perhaps the most influential of early church theologians made it clear in his Confessions and The City of God that faith must precede reason.  The only way to fully understand the mysteries of God was to put faith in his divine wisdom and to apply the logic necessary to more fully understand it.  Although his journey to faith was a long and difficult one, Augustine found faith and then, like the Christian thinkers who preceded him, used reason to explain and justify the words and intent of the Bible.

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American community for Jefferson was to be a secular home, a shared place of common interests, and for a universal consideration of God.   In other words ‘community’ was never simply a collection of individuals, but an expression of like moral and spiritual commitment.  An individual may pursue his own happiness, but only if it contributes to the commonweal and never detracts from it. 

Jefferson, an astute student of human nature, understood of course that these philosophical principles would be ignored, derogated, and co-opted for selfish ends; but it was necessary to state them, to set forth the ideals of a Republic.  Such has always been the case for seminal documents.  The Bible and the Koran are explicit in their statements of principle, godliness, and citizenship.  Many may ignore or defy them, but without them there would be no universal accord and no commandments against which to measure behavior, right and wrong.

So Jefferson and others were clear and unequivocal in their vision for America.  It would be a land of individual enterprise, free from the dictates of King, princes, or Popes and the exploitative interests of foreign colonial powers.  Armed resistance, righteous indignation, fiery refusal to buckle under to unreasonable and unworthy demands of oppressors should cease now that Independence was gained.  However we should never lose our vigilance for such arrogation of power and authority, which given the tracts of history, could very well occur again; but such vigilance should be peripheral to establishing a nation of complementary, communal interests.

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It of course is in the American mentality to debate, disagree, and contend; and Jefferson was no fool and understood that as the new republic grew and expanded, there would necessarily be contests of will, authority, and power.  The Constitution written soon after the Declaration addressed these political issues; but the intent was clear.  America was to be a moral, principled, and internally strong nation,

So it was with considerable disappointment that many Americans have witnessed the divisiveness in the country today – virulent, obsessive, hateful antagonisms at every level of public discourse and conference; a lack of willingness to listen, to compromise, and to act in the larger interest of the nation.  To be sure, the loudest, most shrill voices insist that they are not dividing the country but appealing for unity.  Unity on their terms of course.  Every new president, member of Congress, or holder of high office always claims to wear the mantle of unity; but few if any have succeeded in influencing a more temperate society. 

Identity politics have been one of the most disruptive, corrosive expressions of crass individualism and a lack of respect for broader community values.  Race, gender, and ethnicity have become the only characteristics on which to judge personal value, worth, opportunity, and ambition. 

Individual talent, particular intelligence, compassion, will, ambition, goodness, or spiritual grace are ignored; or as activists say ‘deferred’ until the battle for equality is won.  But in the meantime, in those years when Jefferson’s ‘divine soul’ or Nietzsche’s absolute will, or Sartre’s social existentialism are put aside, the selfishness, arrogance, and intemperance that must come from such a dismissal of more universal values will dominate.

The case of anti-vaxxer refusal to be vaccinated against COVID is a perfect example of Jeffersonian polity gone horribly awry.  The vaccine, proven to be safe, effective, and efficient, is the best way to protect oneself and one’s family, but as importantly to contribute to the herd immunity which will neuter the virus or at least force it into latent dormancy.  Refusing to vaccinate denies medical science and even more importantly denies and rejects Jeffersonian principles of equity, polity, and community.