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

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

When All News Is Fake News - Artificial Intelligence And The Happy Demise Of 'The Truth'

Donald Trump was on to something when he branded everything coming out of CNN and MSNBC 'fake news'.  Of course their news was pure and utter fakery, nothing more than a cherry-picked show-and-tell, hammering this one and sanctifying that one, rants and screeds, selling misfortune and happenstance  really only storybook tales of baby foxes and rabbits, dungeons and dragons, or the bald, invented, hilarious fiction of 'the truth'. 

CNN presenters were hucksters, snake oil salesmen, carny barkers and Borscht Belt tummlers with not a whit of serious investigative journalism because numbers not only lie, they are bo-ring. The business of television news is not to tell the truth, but to sell fiction and peanut butter, Toyotas, and beer. 

The shoe could have just as easily been on the other foot.  No one has ever claimed that Fox News or Breitbart were anything less than vaudeville, facts removed to make room for the jugglers and comedians; but the nature of this two-sided coin is irrelevant.  The public doesn't want anything resembling the truth, only what seems to them to be the truth.  

Why should anyone assume that a population weaned on Hollywood, Las Vegas, soap operas, carnivals, and revivals wants anything but showmanship and a good ride?  When have politicians offered anything other than Christmas lists? 

Evangelists are the best tooth fairies ever.  They work with the most lucrative product imaginable and the most saleable fiction ever devised - an unprovable god and his unlikely promise of salvation.  "Faith", they shout.  "Have faith and God's light will shine on you. Take Jesus Christ as your personal savior, and his kingdom will be yours".  A shell game, a pyramid scheme of fantastic proportions, and this fake news of all possible fake news is a big time moneymaker. 


So it isn't hard to jump to conclusions about anything else. If millions can take the Bible as the actual word of God and believe that every word, in every translation in every language is His and his alone, then believing in any lesser assumption is child's play.  

Secularists suffer from the same delusion but do not have any Child's Garden Book of Verse to cite. They believe in what they say is 'the obvious', oxymorons and tautologies all, illogical deceptive fictions based on air.  'The science', that absolutely confirmed, ineluctable truth which must be believed despite Ptolemy, homunculi, mal aria, the Heisenberg Principle, and Quantum Physics, the latter two disciplines which suggest that there is no certainty but uncertainty. 

'Science is evolving', said Dr Fauci, better safe than sorry, and to be sure schools were shuttered, businesses closed, social patterns interrupted, the entire flux of life dammed.  'AIDS is everyone's disease', said the gay men's coalition in San Francisco in the world's greatest self-serving fiction and contributor to the spread of the disease.  Neither COVID nor AIDS were treated as epidemics - find the vector and isolate it.  The science? Where?


Now comes Artificial Intelligence, that powerful cybernetic tool which can transform reality.  Anyone with a PC can create likenesses of presidents and movie stars, weave fabulist stories about them, create a series of alternate realities and send them virally across the ether.  Was that really Joe Biden, a swishy gay man pitching Bud Light?  Sure could have been, the way Joe looks and smiles and talks; and was that Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez at a Trump rally? Could have been, a Latino looker with a good voice. And Greta Thunberg asking women to give up their battery-powered vibrators to save energy and the planet?

The examples are endless and the promise limitless.  For the first time in human history, reality is on the fast way out.  Only the virtual, fake, artificial world will remain.  And no one really cares. Virtual reality - a world created subjectively, a personalized dream world where history is rewritten, reshot, and reconfigured to be one's on version of the way things happen - will always be preferable to bricks and mortar, the cold, hard ground of the steppes, hectoring wives, mothers-in-law, and jury duty. 

The point is that no one cares except those in Washington with time on their hands and money to be made for doing something, anything to show they are serious about governance and reform.  Stop it! Shut it down! Cancel it! they shout worried silly about their avatars showing up, thanks to AI, in the most unsavory places.  If Joe Biden can look convincingly like a swishy South Beach gay man, then God knows what they will become; so get rid of it!

Of course they can do nothing of the kind.  Not only is the genie out of the bottle, but the people love him.  He is an American icon, the very image of A Thousand and One Nights in cracker and bass boat country.  Already we have become dependent on AI, use it at will, creating, re-creating, coloring, and inventing.  How fun is that!?

The truth pales in comparison with the ingenuity, balletic moves, and pure theatricality of invention, fantasy, and clever deceit. Ivan’s Devil in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is a vaudevillian who tells Ivan that the world would be a very dull place without him. Goodness, truth, and morality are very overrated, and if we had to hew to the righteous road every day, we would be bored stiff. “Loosen up”, he admonishes Ivan. There is a time and place for moral rectitude and principle, but Lord knows, not always.

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Imagine a world where every statement was true; if  “I’m just going to pop out to get a quart of milk” was always exactly what the speaker intended? A world where ‘working late at the office’ meant just that?.  A world of absolute face value?

A man I know only dated ‘theatrical’ women – women for whom face value did not matter. Embellishing the truth was no different than eye shadow, makeup, or a sequined dress.  For them music always had to be playing, for atmosphere, mood, and ambiance were all part of staging.  His women were all scrim, orchestra lighting, grand entrances, and death scenes.

“Who cares?”, he said. “Who needs to know? It’s what they say, not what they do that counts”.  For him a woman’s personality was a function of her reconfiguring of reality, not her truthful account of it.  A woman was alluring in direct proportion to the ingenuity of her inventions.

A number of years ago an aged aunt had sunk into dementia. Fortunately she did not see demons as many demented people do, but simply altered the world to her own pleasant imaginings.  She told friends and family that the Pope had visited her convalescent home; that the manager had arranged a male strip show; and that she had been invited to the Copa by Tony Bennett.  Where she got these and other ideas was beyond anyone, but in any case she made no sense whatsoever.  

Yet the woman had not changed one bit.  She was the same irreverent, funny, ironic, and playful woman she had always been.  Her personality had not changed in this new invented world. Once in her fabulist, listeners could enjoy being with her in Europe, at the Vatican, or in Pink Flamingos.

In many ways her demented world was a far happier one than she actually led; which is why virtual reality has such promise.  Why be anchored to what is when you can travel in unlimited fantastical virtual worlds of your own choosing?  The aged aunt gave us all a glimpse of what that world might be like.  It wasn’t frightening at all.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Pimps, Crack Whores, And The Congresswoman - Diversity In The Corridors Of Power

Social reformers have reached what seems to be the bottom of the barrel in their search for invitees to the diversity big top.  Every possible combination and permutation of race, gender, and ethnicity has been sampled, sifted, strained and scooped up for membership.  The hierarchy is a marvelously inventive inversion - a last shall be first checklist of misfits, genetic mistakes, outliers beyond any social spectrum, attractions in any side show. 

When one's raison d'etre wears thin especially if the fabric is a cheap quilt in the first place, the canvasser doesn't reach for the highly intelligent, the beautiful, the endowed, and the talented, but continues to scrape up the nasty bits. Sunken costs. 

Every phenomenon in nature is subject to a normal distribution, and human society is no different. Most of us fall under the bell curve while far fewer cluster at the asymptotes, Camelot on one end and Barnum & Bailey on the other.  There is no shame in being dealt a bad hand for there are only so many possibilities even in God's deck, but there is no reason, in the name of inclusivity, to knock the smart and beautiful off their perches.  Diversity means a ticket for all comers, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs just as much as the crack whores of Anacostia. 

LaShonda Evans worked the block on Good Hope Road between 11th Street and MLK Boulevard and did her business in the parking lot of Seven Eleven behind the dumpsters in wheelless Broncos; and it was there that Artemis Jones, aide to Felicia Congdon-Harris, first term Congresswoman from the Bronx, leader of the self-styled 'righteous' crewe of black and Latino women charged with expanding representation of 'The Other' in Washington, trolled for poster girls of the slums. 

'What the fuck you want, bitch?', said LaShonda to the young, well-dressed black woman who showed up at the dumpsters one night. 'You on my patch, cunt'; but Artemis had been well prepared, and answered in turn, all chicken-neck bitchin' attitude learned in her own neighborhood from which, thanks to a smile by Sister Mary Joseph in the vestibule of St. Aloysius The Merciful and the tentative but then hungry reaches up Sister's habit, the church sponsored her education at The Seneca Friends School, one of Washington's finest private schools, and one which had taught Senators and Presidents. 


Artemis was a woman of two worlds, alternating at both asymptotes of the Bell curve, an up-and-coming political star on one end and a pimp's delight on the other; and she owed it both to her establishment patrons and to her homegirls across the river to make a difference, 

Thanks to her empathy with the streets nurtured by the radical progressivism of her Congressional patron, Artemis was the ideal interloper, the bridge between the two worlds, and she would bring a black sister into the inner sanctum, the seat of power.  

It took some doing to clean up LaShonda, dry her out enough to make sense in her personal interview with The Group; but it was not to be a remake, just a prison shower, deodorant and a pair of Mary Janes.  After all, Felicia didn't want one of her kind, Brooklyn College educated, high LSAT scores, pretty hairdo.  She wanted her new aide to look not like her but like one of her constituents - dropouts, hookers, pimps, and the homeless. 


This was affirmative action at its best, Felicia thought as LaShonda took her seat in the Congresswoman's offices, given no responsibilities as such but prompted to look good, i.e. ghetto-ready, and to keep up her ultra-bad Post Office attitude. 

Felicia knew that LaShonda was pilfering bibelots from her office - little knick-knacky things given to her by Black Lives Matter people and a faux-Egyptian Nefertiti look-alike amulet engraved with her name gifted by H. Rap Brown's grandson - and knew that it was LaShonda who was responsible; yet there was no way that she would ever confront a sister and imply that her best intentions regarding the street hire were ill-conceived; and only when LaShonda was caught in flagrante delicto with a second-tier associate from the Dirksen Building did she say something. 

"I ain't suckin' no dick", LaShonda shouted; but Felicia was unconvinced, especially since the episode had been caught on three security cameras.  "You can take the girl out of the ghetto", was the expected snide, nasty remark by a white staff member who overheard the exchange from the adjoining office of a Congressman from Utah's Second District. 

The indiscretion was overlooked with a 'Please don't do that again', but what with the missing tchotchkes and the goings on in the coat room, Felicia began to wonder if she had pushed the woke limits a bit too far. 

To compensate and temporarily ignore the to-do's of LaShonda Evans, Felicia fired up her harangues about white supremacy.  If the scene at one of the bell curve's asymptotes was looking iffy, it was time to have a go at the other.  The white, privileged, male who had for centuries arrogated authority and power to himself and in so doing stepped on the black man and trampled on his rights, must be removed, expunged from the body politic, left on the curb of history.  

She was marvelously eloquent, proud of her racial heritage and now in full flower and full voice to claim its own supremacy.  "The white man", she began every speech, "this social detritus, this left over scrap from discredited predatory royal courts of corruption and villainy, must make way for the black man".

She was a virtual whirling dervish, a woman with St. Vitus' Dance, and unstoppable, inimitable geyser of animus and racial hatred.  She became addled by her obsession, The Madwoman of Chaillot.  She needed to be caged; but she was a duly-elected representative of the people of her district and could not easily be silenced, censured, or removed.  Besides, she was simply stating the truth, the obvious truth, and was being condemned only for the anger and frustration in her words.  White supremacy was indeed a systemic problem, and the black man, superior in temperament, intelligence, and moral fiber must be re-throned and honored at his place atop the human pyramid. 

LaShonda went back to Anacostia, Felicia was re-elected, and Artemis Jones, Felicia's aide, quit her boss, applied and thanks to this more respectable higher-level affirmative action got accepted at the Kennedy School, returned to Washington this time as an aide to a white senator, left the ghetto in the rear view mirror, and prospered. 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

The Nasty End Of Diversity - Welcoming The Gamy Homeless Into The Big Tent

Eddie Fagin had been on the street for years.  He couldn't count how many.  His 'home' was Capp Street, a two-block street in one corner of the Mission, once the go-to, hipster-cum-Latino neighborhood of San Francisco turned open-air flop house, shooting gallery, and crack whore market.  Fixes were easy, Fentanyl cheap, restaurant swill dumped in saw-cut bidons in the alley behind the abandoned tool-and-die and leather shops, infested prison-issue blankets left in tied bundles on the corner of 19th Street. 

His buddies, Jacko, Merv, and The Goat had been on Capp Street longer than he, far longer; and since Los Angeles had begun to spray the streets at night with some kind of double duty rat poison so that both street people and vermin scattered and left, the rats to the Valley, Jacko and his lot to San Francisco where the Mayor and City Council had recently made access to municipal services free and easy.  No one was ever evicted in San Francisco. no arrests made for vagrancy, shopping cart violations, public nudity, or defecation. 

"We welcome our unhoused brothers and sisters to San Francisco, and we will do everything to make the city your home away from home", said the mayor. "Food, shelter, medical care, counselling, and comfort will be yours for the asking, all given in the spirit of generosity and respect", and so Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Oxnard oversaw the out-migration from 'a community of dereliction'.  

Finally, without having to forcefully evict what had become a foul-smelling, shit-stained community of drifters, the cities were given a reprieve.  No sooner had the homeless gone than the street-sweepers powered up and force-washed the sidewalks, culverts, underpasses, and alleys where they had 'lived'.  The city, Chloroxed, sprayed, and sanitized would return to normal.  

San Francisco, thanks to its very permissive attitude towards residence, had always been a haven for derelicts.  Not only did drug gypsies come to San Francisco, but so did rent-cadgers who took advantage of the city's no eviction tenants' rights laws.  They squatted in buildings with demolition notices posted, and stayed on untouched, unbothered, and fancy free. Real estate came to a halt as hundreds of buildings in prime areas became untouchable. 

'Bums up, bums down', commented a conservative member of the City Council who represented one of the few tony neighborhoods left in the city, noting the bodies on the street and on the upper floors; but he alone could do nothing.  

His colleagues voted again and again for open-source, open-doors, and open-license. Haight-Ashbury, heart of hippiedom in the Sixties where everything was possible, became the ironic epicenter of the nouveau 'do-whatever' culture.  However this time the stoned, free-love, happy hippies had been replaced by psychopaths and drug addicts. 

Eddie Fagin had more sense than most on the street; or at least he acted like he had, and Jacko, Merv, and The Goat became his groupies, their easy life made even easier by a man who knew what was what and worked the system like no other.  Eddie was their fixer, their patron saint and they would do everything for him. 

In July of last year the New York Times sent a reporter to San Francisco to investigate the growing homeless crisis, and his colleagues pointed him to Capp Street and Eddie Fagin's crewe, men who were no less a public nuisance than any others, but lucid enough between 2-4pm to talk with a reporter for cash.  Eddie heard of the man and his intentions, and arranged to meet him.  

This man, Eddie knew, was the mark of all marks - a reporter from a national, respected newspaper which prided itself on 'all the news that's fit to print' but now turned compassionate advocate for victimhood. Under its new editorial direction, the revival tent expanded to include the more peripheral of society's victims.  Psychopathic homeless were the latest invitees; and the Times needed a cover story for the event. 


"Why, this man doesn't belong on the street", said the Times reporter after he had finished a series of interviews with Eddie, and used his influence and the paper's reputation to quickly dress up the man and show the readership that not all unhoused were psychopathic maniacs; and some, only by God's temporary oversight, were without permanent lodging. 

Somehow Eddie managed his window of opportunity well, and kept off the bottle and the needle well ahead of his interviews. Not a stupid man by any means, Eddie had the wherewithal to make sense when he had to.  Not only that, he was a poet when the spirit moved him, and when the reporter from New York came to Capp Street, he was to him a latter day Dylan Thomas, a lyrical poet of the streets. 

He spoke of his life of broken homes, abusive parents, down-and-out pool parlors, cheap whisky, and crack whores; but did so without a whine.  His was a tale of courage, gumption, and determination - all thwarted by forces beyond his control.  In his words he was a child with a broken wing, abandoned, left to die in gutter, but with the intelligence and the will to make something of himself, despite everything.   If given the chance, he would be as successful as any American. 

And the New York Times reporter, already primed and ready to believe in diamonds in the rough, gems untouched by the evils of a predatory, capitalist society, fell for it, and engineered a personal GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the education and social sanitizing of this hero of the  streets. 

Eddie went back to Capp Street with a feather in his cap.  He had conned The Man, snookered the New York Times and the donors who gave generously to the Eddie Fagan Enterprise Of Good Will, and he would soon have a home in Pacific Heights, dine at Smith & Wollensky's and maybe even run for office. 

Of course nothing of the sort happened.  Eddie ran through the money within weeks and ended up more drug-addled and useless than he ever had been.  The police gave him a bye, now that he was famous, but knew as they always had that Eddie was a worthless piece of shit that fouled the gutters and drains of a once storied city. 

The Times reporter wrote the piece, a three-page featured account of life on the streets; but the news cycle being what it is, the story held reader interest for a week, then gave way to other things. 

"Ain't you that guy..." the bums on Capp Street asked Eddie after the Chronicle had reprinted the Times story and his picture was displayed below the fold; but when they realized that the money had been spent long ago and that the famous caporegime of Capp Street was once again no more than a stain and bad smell, they went their own ways. 

The Funeral Of Annie Cain - A Dress With No One In It

The minister began his eulogy quietly and respectfully.  “We are here to remember Annie, a woman of intelligence and good nature; a woman of particular rectitude and responsibility.  She was one of a kind, and will be missed. We are here not to mourn her death but to celebrate her life – a life like all, unique in God’s eyes, but unique among her colleagues and peers”. 

Here the minister paused and nodded his head to a woman in the front row, inviting her to come to the pulpit. “I never met a woman who worked so hard”, she began.  “Annie was never put off by anything – not John…”, smiling at an older man in the back row, “nor Delilah…”, nodding to a youngish black woman sitting under the banner of St. George, “or even Harry…” 

Annie was remembered as a whiz with contracts and fast at proposals, and her cute, disingenuous snookering of the competition was famous. “The Manila bid…who can ever forget that one?”.  Laughter, smiles, and luckily no homilies about her premature death, those she left behind, a reminder to all that the end can come any time any place like it did to poor Annie, walking down the 5th floor corridor to the Ladies Room and dropping over dead before she hit the floor.

“Annie was never late for a meeting….Tell me people, was she ever? And always the one to turn off the lights.  The Department will never be the same without her.”

And so the service went, one colleague after another lightheartedly reminiscing about Annie’s good humor, her diligence, her never-failing support and consideration; yet not one speaker went beyond Annie’s office doors.  No one talked of her in any other way but congenially and warmly.  Yes, she was all that her colleagues said; but no more?   Why had they all persisted so deliberately in casting her only as a good worker, a loyal colleague, and a model employee?

Of course she was nothing like the friendly drone described at her funeral service.  She had a real life, lovers, indiscretions, a troubled family.  She could be needy, demanding, unpleasant, and irresistibly coy – all pretty much the same, more or less, as anyone, just configured differently – but what was there to anyone other than a reconfiguration of oddities, tics and peculiarities inherited from Grandad Alphonse, her own father; or the depressing house in Haver’s Quarter where she had grown up, failure at school but trained as nurse at a time when nursing took most young women; success at her new profession thanks to a particular gentleness with patients and a dexterity which made the best out of the worst. 

Peter Townsend met Annie in a country only just recovering from a two-decades civil war.  Crime, civil unrest, social dysfunction without law and order, infrastructure ruined or in decay, and a population now made up of ex-combatants on both sides who only knew killing as a profession.

Tourism Observer: ANGOLA: Luanda Is Paris of Africa But Do Not ...

Perhaps it was because of this chaos, insecurity, and uncertainty that they became lovers – a common enough circumstance among expatriates on mission to unfortunate places – or because the time and occasion was right.  Being in a war zone readjusts morality. Deceit is not what it is back home.  Precariousness does wonders for emotional and moral liberation.  Michael Ondaatje wrote this in The English Patient:
There are betrayals in war that are childlike compared with our human betrayals during peace. The new lovers enter the habits of the other. Things are smashed, revealed in a new light. This is done with nervous or tender sentences, although the heart is an organ of fire.
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Or perhaps Peter and Annie would have been attracted to each other anywhere.  Or elements of all these.  The romance of travel, the excitement of war, the absence of anything familiar or reassuring and the unavoidable likelihood of physical danger or death, or something fine and attractive in each of them, found like Almasy and Catherine in Ondaatje’s story.  His characters might have been together in London or Paris, but it was the desert which not only brought them together but made the relationship happen.

Peter admitted that their two years of romance were too perfect and uncomplicated to risk commitment or anything more than affection.  They knew that the relationship would go nowhere, and until the day she dropped dead in the C Building they had a particular and remarkable affection. 

After twenty minutes listening to the weird anecdotes of her colleagues at her funeral service, he left.  The woman described from the pulpit bore no relationship whatsoever to the woman he had known.  Annie Cain was not unusual, particularly unique, or distinguished.  She was indeed a poorly-paid nurse and a willing and helpful colleague; but the bits of Alphonse, the rages of her father, the moronic antics of the boys in 9th grade, a sexuality inherited from her libertine Aunt Tally, and just making it through 35 years made her whole greater than the sum of her parts.  It was this particular uniqueness that was so absurdly absent at her funeral.  The woman described could have been anyone.

John Updike in Rabbit at Rest writes of the same strange disconnect:
The Minister talks of Thelma as a model housewife, mother, churchgoer, sufferer.  The description describes no one, it is like a dress with no one in it…Harry sits there beside snuffly Janice in her policeman’s outfit thinking of the wanton woman he knew, how little she had to do with the woman the minister described…
Perhaps this awkwardly arranged, familiar scenario must be be played as written.  No one wants to get personal at a funeral.  Better to let the dead stand on their perceived or contrived merits and leave it at that.  Everyone can reflect on the departed in their own way.  Or is it that ordinariness gets in the way of insight.

Thornton Wilder in Our Town says just this.  Grover’s Corners is an ideal place to live, to grow up, and to raise children.  It is ordinary, but polite and respectful.  There is nothing shameful about the butcher, the grocer, and the pharmacist, nor anything to criticize for sameness.  ‘Uninspired’ is not a term to describe Grover’s Corners.

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As the townspeople of Grover’s Corners die and look down on the town the left behind, they realize that this ordinariness of which they were so proud, kept them from an appreciation of life itself.  Before they knew it, their short lives were over, and they could barely remember what they had done or how they had felt.

Peter never got over the funeral of Annie Cain.  He got over her death, but not the way she was remembered.  Did so many people really only see an empty dress? An ordinary, unremarkable life? An invisible person?

Like most of the rest of us, Annie Cain left few remarkable traces, forgotten by all but our closest families and except for amusing anecdotes at Easter Dinner, erased from history.  Peter thought himself particularly fortunate for having loved a woman no one else understood.  It was his own perennial Christmas gift.

Friday, January 26, 2024

The Greatness Of Empire - Fear And Loathing Of Kings, Shahs, And Emperors

 In these days of ‘diversity', ‘inclusivity’, and historical revisionism, it is easy to lose sight of where we came from – our collective legacy of Persian Shahs, Roman and Chinese Emperors, Mauryan Kings, and Russian czars. While we may not be descended directly from them, we are the privileged beneficiaries of what they built and did.   We have the Romans to thank for bringing high culture, language, public works, administration, and governance to the tribes of Europe. Thanks to the influence Constantine and his successor’s proclamation that Christianity was to be the official religion of the Empire, it spread quickly throughout Europe.

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French writers like Moliere and Racine grew in reputation and renown thanks to the patronage of Louis XIV who provided funds and commissions for artists, musicians and composers whose contribution to European culture was seminal, historically important,, and culturally influential.  He founded the Académie Royale de Danse, the first dance institution established in the Western world, the Académie d’Opéra from which classical ballet arose, and institutes for the arts and sciences.

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Under the guidance of King Louis, the modest residence at Versailles was transformed into the architectural and garden complex still seen today.  Every detail of construction was overseen by Louis who supervised the work of his select team of architects.  Charles Le Brun was responsible for all interior decoration, and landscape artist André Le Nôtre created symmetrical French gardens and elaborate fountains.  A visit to the Great Hall of Mirrors alone suggests the power and influence of Louis and his importance to European and world cultural history.

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Louis governed well and was responsible for the reform of antiquated legal codes, medieval practices in trade and commerce, and incoherent taxation policies.  In short his reign was one of the most influential in Europe building on the traditions of antiquity, the entitlement of the divine right of kings, and intelligence, insight, and a unique national and European vision.

The Winter Palace was an official residence of the Russian sovereign from 1732 until 1917, and the last, perhaps most influential ruler and the most like Louis in terms of architectural vision and patronage of the arts was Alexander II, who ruled from 1855 to 1881.  During his reign he acquired many new works of art such as the ancient and archaeological collection of the Marchese di Cavelli in 1861 and Leonardo da Vinci's "Madonna and Child" in 1865.  A walk through the Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace, is to walk through two hundred years of Russian imperial history.

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Long before European high culture and civilization and at its apogee, the Persian Empire extended its reach far beyond Persepolis.

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The Shahs of Persia were as influential as the European monarchs who followed centuries later and extended cultural influence, art, literature, architecture, and science.

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The Tang Dynasty is considered a golden age of Chinese arts and culture. In power from 618 to 906 A.D., Tang China led by powerful emperors like Taizong and thanks to Buddhism, spread its culture across much of Asia, and is remembered for its contributions to poetry, art, and calligraphy.  Laozi who lived shortly before the Tang Dynasty was perhaps China’s greatest philosopher; and along with Confucius and the teachings of Buddhism influenced not only Asian but European thinking.

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The list of kings, queens, emperors, czars, and shahs is long; and the empires they helped create, extend and rule are the foundations of both Western and Eastern civilization.  Not all rulers were great and some were destructive, harsh, and punitive, but in the main the emergence of kingdoms and empires of power, wealth, and influence enabled rapid development of the arts, science, and governance.  Without the collective intellectual wisdom, artistic vision, and political purpose of these rulers, the world would not be the sophisticated, intellectually enlightened, and spiritually endowed place it is

To those who appreciate this long sweep of cultural history, the current move to ignore it, demean it, and worst dismiss it for its irrelevance seems barbaric – no different from the tribal world of Northern Europe before the Romans, the Middle East before the Persians, the Subcontinent before the Aryans.

The defiance of history and the purist demands for removing all characters and events except those that embody current political philosophy is even more misguided.   The Iron Age tribes that wondered Europe before the Romans living a basic subsistence existence knew no better.  Those who today choose to revile history as a whole, throw out grandeur, glory, achievement, merit, and brilliance in one great revisionist housecleaning should know better.  They should be able to understand the dynamics of cultural relativity – the impossibility of ascribing guilt to entire generations based on current convictions.  They should know that colonialism may have been exploitative but that it was also the vehicle for the extension of a more evolved, developed culture.
They should recognize that slavery has been part of human society since its beginnings, and that ancient Romans, Greeks, Persians, Aryans, and Africans kept and traded slaves.  That it was an institution, reviled only since England forbade slavery in the early 18th century.  It was not the make-or-break consequence of civilizations.

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Those who look at society only through the narrowest lens possible – to see current life as the only existential reality, devoid of antecedent, bare of influence, and stripped of historical relevance – are no different from Pol Pot who declared Year Zero, a moment before which there was no meaning, and after which would only be a Communist Utopia.  Pol Pot not only intended to reform Cambodian society based on his radical Maoist principles, but to destroy it, level it to the ground so that a new, pure, untainted society could emerge from the ashes.

The American revisionists of today are no different.  They are intent on first creating a Year Zero – a complete expungement of the American past; a derogation and complete erasure of all those historical figures who do not complete conform to their authoritarian criteria; and the creation of a society without class, without origin, without historical determinants, without ancestry, and without culture.  The new progressive society is to be as deliberately primitive as the pre-Roman Iron Age tribes of Northern Europe.

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The toppling of statues of American heroes – Jefferson, Washington, Jackson, and others – is only the first step towards Year Zero, a thuggish reactionary move at the most obvious targets.  Before long the leaders of the Cancel Movement will realize that historical pollution is everywhere.  Every name has retrograde connotations.  Every remembrance of historical events must be suspect and inadmissible.  Western civilization is not, for these cultural renegades, the best expression of human nature, spirit, and ambition, but totally corrupt, devious, and destructive. It must be forgotten, entirely, completely, and with no reservations.

Will this anti-historical, revisionist cancel culture juggernaut be stopped?  Doubtful, since there are few institutions equipped, ready, and committed to do so.  The Catholic Church, the central, universal cultural institution of the last thousand years, responsible at least in principle, for promoting and enforcing Christian moral values, is but a shadow of its former imperial self.  No secular institution is there to take up the slack. Historians are intellectually self-sequestered in universities, either fully supportive of or intimidated by woke, cancel culture of ‘inclusivity’, ‘diversity’, and ‘identity’.  Politicians looking for votes are afraid to offend, and since progressive watchdogs have hair triggers, they say nothing.

The leaders of China, Turkey, and Russia who understand the importance of history and hope to restore the imperial tradition to their countries, are reviled in the United States; and yet in their implacability, their fierce determination, savvy, and economic power refuse to give in to the demands of an increasingly inarticulate United States.  We don’t get it, and they do.  Before long we will be ungovernable, and they will have arrived.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Puritanism And The Marriage Trap - The Buttoning Up Of America

Sex is everywhere in America except in the right places.  The crotch-grabbing, booty-shaking Super Bowl halftime shows might suggest that Americans have finally shaken off centuries of Salem witch-hunting, Victorian prudery, and the sexual ordinariness of the Fifties, come into their own, and returned to the ethos of the Sixties when opportunity was taken for spare change, but no dice, for despite all the titties and pasties, America has returned to its Puritan roots. 

Gay men liberated and proud, have come out of the bathhouses to marry. Drag queens are happy to walk up the aisle, and girls and boys once postponing the inevitable, head for the altar, the suburbs, and pre-schools.

Any man knows that love with many women is the way life should be; and regardless of MeToo they want to be Pashas, kings and courtiers, men with a thousand and one women, a hundred thousand sexual delights, and want a life of happy, guilt-free sexual license.  

Every woman is different, a dazzling, delightful kaleidoscopic of sexual ambitions, desires, and marvelously intricate fantasies; and sex with them is like stealing into the Kabbah or climbing K2 - inimitable, unforgettable; one of many discoveries in a long series of adventures.  Women are wonderful, ceaselessly fascinating, imponderable, insatiable, and every man wants them all. 

So what has changed?  How did men let this censorious state of affairs happen? How, after the epiphany of the Sixties did men allow such a reversion to the two-tone, white-walled propriety of the Fifties, an era which was supposed to be over and done with, dead and buried, forgotten and dismissed? Do any of them really want to come home bored and tired to the same woman, the same rambler, dog, and bedtime stories?

The Age of Woman has come, but not the one men expected.  This one is a determined, suited, defiantly aggressive one, a cross-dresser, man-inside-Chanel skirt overachiever who has given up on Petrarch, the Sonnets, and Emily Dickenson for Milton Friedman, Hayek, and the Chicago school; or who has bitten into abortion, equal pay, and sexual abuse and liked the bitter taste.  Sex? Perhaps and under contract, with codicils, caveats, and proscriptions.

The bare-breasted, love-the-one-you're-with hippie is dead and gone, disappeared, a vapor.  Something so far-fetched that maybe it never happened; maybe this particular sexual rectitude has always been and always will be. 


Of course this all is an American thing.  Putin, Macron, Mitterrand, Sarkozy, even Kim Jung-Un have all the women they want as quickly as bed tea or a closed door; and while American men desperately want what they have, they are in look-but-don't touch territory. No Thousand and One Nights for them. 

Of course it used to be.  Martin Luther King was a sexual madman.  LBJ's Secret Service pimps procured for him night and day.  JFK's paramours were legion and the delight of the press corps who kept his dalliances quiet, prerogatives of power.  Kissinger, that fat, ugly, jowled old man had sexual favors whenever he wanted.  'Power is the greatest aphrodisiac', he said and took advantage of it. Even  Bill Clinton had his share of trailer trash as governor and blow-jobs as President.  

Today, of course, such adventures would be unconscionable, impossible, and revolting.  Even if President Biden could chase women, he would be slapped and censured for his obtuse, typical male behavior.  He, like most men in America have become pussified, pussy-whipped, and complaisant. 

Tolstoy in the character of Konstantin Levin noted that God's greatest irony was to have created Man as a sensitive, intelligent, funny, perceptive, and creative being, then to consign him after only a few decades of life to the cold, hard ground of the steppes.  A greater irony, however, is to have created men with a lifelong sexual desire but with only a few years to satisfy it.  

Women at least have dime-store romance novels to feed their desires and remote ambitions; but men in this age of the feminist iron maiden, sexual rack, surplice of the rat, Spanish spider, and fork of the heretic have nothing but ogling left to them. 

Women of course have their sexual bastinado - a self-enforced peculiarity of Virgin Motherhood, the be-all and end-all of femaleness once the boardroom and corner office have been discounted.  Marriage is right and important for all kinds of devious reasons - social legitimacy, a footnote to paternity, tax breaks - so lovers are to be considered but not taken.  

Somehow in all this female liberation sex got left out.  Women have freed themselves from patriarchy and male abuse, but still have to resort to the vibrator.  There is such a thing as universal morality, they argue, and although they could go out and have a rutting good time to get back at men for millennia of male deceit and oppression, they have bought into the middle class ethos.  

So America, despite the heady promise of the Sixties, is back to Salem 1692.  Not only is it a sexless place but a censorious, humorless, castigating place.  It is not enough to be abstemious and celibate; but we have to suffer for our impertinent desires. 

There are ways for the independent man to satisfy his sexual needs.  Washington has always had its high-class, secretive, air-tight security call girl services; and rube Congressman from the Midwest are always the first to jump in, damn the torpedoes, and rut until they're caught; but in the light of day they have to appear with their wives and act the part. 

There's hope that this progressive sanctimony will soon be put to sleep after the election of Donald Trump, a man of machismo for whom marriage only plays well if you have a trophy wife.  Progressives will fret and worry about the erosion of immorality, lack of integrity, and dishonesty that Donald Trump always brings with him; but the rest of the nation will breathe a big, deep sigh of relief at the end of sanctimony, righteousness, and moral authority. 

Sex without marriage, outside it, before it, and after it again; and it will be a rootin', tootin' pleasure.