Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Perception - Emotion - Reason

Here is the way my brain is organized (and yours, and everyone else's on the planet since people first appeared): perception--emotion--reason. Know what that means? Perception goes through the more primitive emotional part of the brain first, to the more advanced rational part of the brain last. People always respond emotionally first, even the most egghead of "rational" intellectuals.

Those who control perception, control people. Perception is everything. I should really say they control "the masses" or the "herd," because people individually can't really be controlled all that well, although they can be pressured by the herd. But when you use propaganda techniques against the masses, baby, you've got a propagandist's dream come true.

People should always understand how propaganda techniques work. They'd be shocked at how well they work. I'm not talking about getting them to buy certain products, but to march off to war on the flimsiest of pretexts. No wonder the herd is called "the sheeple."

One man everyone should know is Edward L. Bernays, the American disciple and nephew of Sigmund Freud. He was for all practical purposes the founder of modern propaganda techniques.

Bernays despised most people and regarded them as his inferiors, especially because of intellectual or social claims. (See how it works? I just appealed to your emotions, and convinced you Bernays was attacking you. You fell for it, right?)

Bernays not only pretty much founded modern propaganda techniques, but was also the father of modern PR. Although, you could say they are same thing, and that there's really no difference between them.

In his 1928 book, Propaganda, Bernays wrote, "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country…"

Remember that quote. Burn it into your memory. Bernays thought people should be ruled by an extremely small elite, who should manipulate them through propaganda. That means you. People who believe in the wonders of government, and that it is their friend, should think twice about it.

In another book, In Crystallizing Public Opinion, Bernays wrote how governments and advertisers can "regiment the mind like the military regiments the body." This can be imposed, he said, because of "the natural inherent flexibility of individual human nature," and suggested the "average citizen is the world's most efficient censor. His own mind is the greatest barrier between him and the facts. His own 'logic-proof compartments,' his own absolutism are the obstacles which prevent him from seeing in terms of experience and thought rather than in terms of group reaction."

Bernays also thought "physical loneliness is a real terror to the gregarious animal, and that association with the herd causes a feeling of security. In man this fear of loneliness creates a desire for identification with the herd in matters of opinion."

Bernays claimed that "the group mind does not think in the strict sense of the word…In making up its mind, its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader. This is one of the most firmly established principles in mass psychology." What Bernays called the "regimentation of the mind" is accomplished by taking advantage of the human tendency to self-deception [logic-proof compartments], gregariousness [the herd instinct], individualism [exalting their vanity] and the seductive power of a strong leader.

Good Lord, he's talking about the Borg, the scariest villains ever, the ultimate collectivists, Commies in a Cube! About group Borgification, the late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in his seminal book, Leftism Revisited, wrote that people have "a herd instinct, a strong feeling of community that regards another group with hostility." He believed it "tend[ed] to efface self, tend towards an 'usness' in which the ego becomes submerged."

I think he would call the Borg a "terrifying, bigger and more pitiless conformity." If you don't want to use the word "Borg," just use "Mass Man," "the herd," or "the sheeple." They all mean the same thing.

Bernay also expressed the opinion people "have to take sides...[they] must step out of the audience onto the stage and wrestle as the hero for the victory of good over evil." This means appealing to our narcissism, our inborn tendency to see everything as either good or bad, with little or nothing in-between.

He also noted the need for people to feel as if they belong to something larger than themselves. This also means appealing to our narcissism; it's why nearly every tribe in history -- and nations are just tribes writ large -- has called itself "the People" or "the Humans." Or "the Motherland" or "the Fatherland" or "the greatest nation on earth."

When people consider themselves as part of the Humans (by whatever name they call themselves), they exalt themselves. And, of course (and ominously) those outside the tribe are non-people. Although today we call them "collateral damage."

"Mental habits create stereotypes just as physical habits create certain definite reflex actionism," Bernays wrote. "...these stereotypes or clichés are not necessarily truthful pictures of what they are supposed to portray." Perception is everything, the truth matters little or not at all.

Now, let's boil all this down and see what we have:

Mass Man, the herd, cannot think, and is instead ruled by its feelings. The herd will look to a leader to save it. The best way to accomplish this is for the herd to feel it is under attack. The herd will draw together, expell those who see the truth and protest, and then march off to war.

Nazi leader Hermann Goering had this to say about the masses: "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Tell the herd they are the Humans, or the People, or best of all, have God on their side. Paint their enemies as insane and evil. Again, this is appealing to people's narcissism, the tendency to see everything as either good (us) or evil (them). Evoke paranoia and hysteria in them by convincing them the insane evil ones want to conquer and destroy them. What will happen? You can get them to march off to war by the millions, just as Goering noticed. The truth doesn't matter, only the manipulation of perception.

Americans have been manipulated through propaganda into marching off to war. Bush's handlers had him say, "They hate us for our goodness," and it was "evil ones" who attacked us. Keep it simple; make it into a contest between good and bad, with nothing in-between. We were told "the evil ones" were insane, and were going to fly drones of death across the Atlantic, or detonate nuclear weapons in the U.S., or feed us feet first into a woodchipper. People responded just as Bernays -- and Goering -- suggested. They went group-hysterical and overwhelmingly supported the wars. Protestors were branded as traitors.

If it's done right, you can get people to give up their freedom. This has been noticed for a long time. In the famous "Grand Inquisitor" scene in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky has the Inquisitor say, "For centuries...we have been wrestling with...freedom, but now it is ended and over for good." The author was commenting on the fact that many people want to give up their freedom to "authority," to that one leader who they believe will save them and take care of them, as if they are children and not adults. The Inquisitor goes so far as to claim, "they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet."

The mechanism of propaganda is available in many books. People should take a look at them. By bringing the techniques to light, people can immunize themselves against them.

Perception--Emotion--Reason. It's altogether too simple, and too easy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Most Powerful and Awful Spell of All

Psst. C'mere. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Want to know the most powerful and awful spell of all, one that can be used to send millions of people to war like sheep going over a cliff? Oh, you do? Okay, here it is:

"All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

What? you ask. That's it? That's all there is to it? Yep, that's it. Those 27 words, that short spell is really all you need to know to know to start paroxyms of war.

That spell is from Herman Goering, Nazi Minister of Propaganda. If you want to know that whole quote, here's what he said:

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

Why do I call what he said a spell? That word, "spell," literally means "to talk," or "tale." I certainly don't believe in toe of dog, wing of bat, or Love Potion Number Nine for that matter, but it's not even debatable that spells exist. People can be enchanted, or better yet, ensorcelled, if they are susceptible to it, by mere words. The point is moot.

If you don't believe me, all you have to do is watch Triumph of the Will, and you'll see how Hitler, one of the most hypnotic speakers ever, walked through a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people who parted before him like the Red Sea when Charleton Heston waved his staff. He had literally ensorcelled those poor, deluded and willing fools. He had cast a spell on them, and this was in the 20th Century.

You want to know how to make people susceptible to falling for the Goering spell? You tell them they are the Good Guys, ones being attacked by slavering evil homicidal maniacs who, like the Terminator, will not stop in their attempts to wipe the Good Guys off the face of the earth. Those defined as the enemy also must always be defined as evil. That's worth repeating: they must be defined as evil. Not mistaken, not deluded, but mad-dog drooling crazy evil.

If you want to see something illuminating, just look at any fairy tale in which the village is under attack by a fire-breathing dragon. What always happens? The villagers band together to fight the dragon. If anyone was to say, "Hey, it's not a real dragon, just a paper mache' one," he'd be attacked as deluded, crazy, or traitorous. "Hey, what's wrong with you? Are you on the side of the dragon? If you don't like it here, why don't you leave the village, huh?"

People's response to this particular spell is so predictable I consider it a law of human nature. In some ways the whole thing is just too darn funny. It's also a heart-wrenching tragedy, but then, that which is a tragedy in real life is quite often funny in your imagination. Chang and Eng, that's the relationship between humor and horror. The Three Stooges are funny on the screen, but who would want to deal with their catastrophes in life? Not me.

Call me afflicted with a terminal case of daffiness, but I see no evidence the people on this big round world of ours are any different than those of, say, 10,000 BC, pace our SUVS and cellphones. We do all of the same Sodom-and-Gomorrah badness, only intensified through the Cooper's Law of high technology, and not an iota more of the same goodness in spite of the Sermon on the Mount. The latter of which we mostly give lip service, anyway.

We even believe in Hoodoo Men, only now we call them "intellectuals." They try to cast a spell on the susceptible, telling them they are under attack by dragons, ones who will eat everything in the village, men, women, old folks, children, dogs, cats, goats. And the villagers can only be saved if they listen to the Hoodoo Men and put their spells into effect with missiles and machine guns.

I can tell you the names of some modern-day Hoodoo Men: Max Boot, William Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, David Frum, William Bennett, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Victor Davis Hanson. All are trying to convince us we are under attack not by people, but by horror-story monsters.

It's the old story of absolute good and absolute evil. In reality it's a continnum, but reality's no good for conning people and starting wars. The first thing Hoodoo Men have to do is say good is right here, with us, and bad is over there, with them, with those defined as the enemy.

That's how you can recognize Hoodoo Men. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, they always use the concepts of an absolute good and an absolute evil, with nothing in-between. Otherwise, it wouldn't be possible to create dragons.

It's what Hoodoo Men Richard Perle and David Frum did in their book, An End to Evil, when they claimed the United States is good, and those who pose a threat, current or future, are evil and must be neutralized or destroyed. See what they're doing? They're the ones defining what is good and evil, and what is a threat. It's because they're smarter, more aware, and probably more moral than everyone else. In their minds, at least.

Easy, isn't it? If those two nitwits really believe what they wrote, then they obviously believe the whole world is a children's fairy tale, one populated by heroic wizards and people-eating monsters! And if there aren't any monsters out there, then let's create one! Or if there's anything out there sleeping that might pass for a monster, let's kick it over and over until it wakes up! Clowns like them aren't even good Hoodoo Men; it's waaaay too easy to see through them! If they were magicians, the cards would fly out of their hands in front of the audience!

There's one other thing that Hoodoo Men believe in besides absolute good and evil: murder. They exult in it, they exalt it. In their minds, since they dealing with monsters it's okay to rub them out. They ignore the fact monsters only exist in horror stories!

Of course, they never want to get their hands bloody; that's the job of the spell-bound sheeple as they fall off the cliff into piles that get larger and larger.

The problem with people ultimately is not that they are stupid or evil. They're asleep, and don't even know it. They think they're awake. As Rousseau, for all of his insanity, once wisely said: "One is misled not by what he does not know but by what he believes he knows."

Sometimes I just can't believe it. It's the year 2005 and we still fall for spells, cast by incompetents? And monsters, too, apparently, even if we have to make them up.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The War of Perverted Religion

Several days ago a friend of mine, who teaches college economics, called me in a semi-panic. "Tell me what you know about Nietzsche," he asked. It turns out he had jokingly told a philosophy professor he would cover one of his classes, and, the next thing he knew, he was scheduled to be a substitute teaching Nietzsche. About the only thing he knew about Nietzsche, he told me, was that he had a ferocious mustache and a genuis-high forehead.

"Tell the students," I suggested, "that when Nietzsche said, 'God is dead,' he meant the educated classes of his time had lost their religious faith. He believed that with no one to forgive them, their guilt would cause them to hate themselves, and ultimately, hate others. He claimed that because of this loss of faith the 20th century would have what he called 'wars such as have never happened on earth.'"

Nietzsche never meant there had been a heart attack somewhere up in the clouds. He concluded educated people had lost their faith because of 250 years of a science that had aggressively attacked religion, apparently believing the eradication of it would be a benefit for humanity.

Nietzsche, even though an atheist himself, thought otherwise. It turned out he was right, when he wrote his prophecy in 1882 in his book, The Gay Science. Although I've never considered him a philosopher in the traditional sense of the word – I'm not familiar with his ever writing about universals or epistemology or any of the other topics philosophers usually cover – he was a heck of a prophet. One who, when he was right, was terrifyingly right. He cannot be dismissed, even today.

He believed that when the people of his time lost their old religious faith, they would replace it with the new modern faith in rationalism and science – with atheism, philosophical materialism and evolutionary theory. Science would become the new god, he suggested – the new idol to be worshipped.

He also warned that when people gave up religion, which is international, they would instead become barbaric nationalists (as if there's any other kind), worshipping the idols of nation and "race."

He could see it coming, but like nearly every prophet in history, could do nothing about it. Rarely do more than a few listen. Usually, they end up as little more than a voice crying in the wilderness.

The Nazis and Communists were so influenced by the ills that Nietzsche diagnosed that
historians estimate they murdered a figure beyond imagining – 177 million people in the 20th century. But why?

Nietzsche claimed it was because of guilt. Guilt, he believed, was instilled in people before the age of reason. For all their vaunted belief in reason and science, there was still that guilt – and no one to forgive them anymore. And that guilt led to self-hate and the hatred of others.

Yet, I wonder if Nietzsche was completely accurate in his observations. It seems to me the problem has been, more than anything else, the lack of guilt. What guilt did the Nazis and Communists ever feel about their genocide?

I believe the ancient Greeks and the Hebrews had a more accurate analysis. It's not guilt, as Nietzsche thought. It's something that has nothing to do with guilt, except the lack of it – what the Greeks called Hubris, and the Bible, "pride."

During Nietzsche's time, when the educated ceased to believe, the only thing left for them in their nihilism was one of the greatest horrors ever: the worship of Man. Man will always worship something, even if it's, like Narcissus, himself.

This worship of Man as God is one of the main tenets of Leftism. And not surprisingly, the horrors of the 20th century were Leftist horrors. Nazism, Communism, Socialism, Fascism – all Leftist.

That witch's brew of Leftism is what led to the catastrophes of the 20th century – the loss of religious faith (indeed the hatred of religion), the worship of man, race and nation as God (and the concomitant lack of guilt over what they do to others), and a gross misunderstanding and misapplication of science.

Naïve science may say man is an animal, but every time man believes it, he has to turn himself into a god in order to deal with it. Otherwise, he will hate and despise himself – and others. Yet when he sees himself as a god, he will hate and despise not himself, but others.

Blaise Pascal understood those points: "It is dangerous to prove to man too plainly how nearly he on a level with the brutes without showing him his greatness; it is also dangerous to show his greatness too clearly apart from his vileness. It is still more dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both. But it is of great advantage to show him both."

It is because of the conflating of nationalism with race that those outside of the nation become less then human, even non-human. That, along with the materialistic assumption that Man is little more than an animal who had meaninglessly evolved, led Nietzsche to write: "If the doctrines . . . of the lack of any cardinal distinction between man and animal . . . are hurled into the people for another generation . . . then nobody should be surprised when . . . brotherhoods with the aim of the robbery and exploitation of the non-brothers. . . will appear in the arena of the future."

In reality, humans are imperfect, but they are not merely animals. In religious terms, they are "fallen." But when man is seen as God, he has to be perfect. And the belief in that perfection – and rightness – of one's own self, or race, or nation – is pure grandiosity. And "grandiosity" is just a modern term for Hubris and the overweening pride condemned in the Bible.

One of the reasons for the condemnation of grandiosity is that when one believes he is perfect, then there can be no guilt over what he does to others. If there are problems, they have to be someone else's fault. All problems – all evil – are projected onto another person, or race, or nation, or religion.

The term for this is "scapegoating," which the psychiatrist M. Scott Peck correctly identified as "the genesis of human evil." The scapegoater says, "I'm not the one with the problem. You are. And once I kill you, there will no problems in the world."

I know it sounds like a simplistic explanation, but I do not believe it is. The Nazis said, "Once we get rid of those pesky Jews and Christians, our problems will be gone." The Communists echoed them with, "Once we get rid of these exploiting capitalists, our problems will be gone."

What will supposedly be left after the "evil" are eradicated? A perfect world. Yet, it never has worked, and never will. How can perfection come about through murder and destruction? Yet humanity never seems to learn this lesson – it goes straight down the memory hole with every new generation.

Too bad Nietzsche is not around today. I wonder what he would make of the 21st century? I think he would see there are enough cracks in the false materialist and naturalist foundations of science to realize that it's no longer the Frankenstein's monster that it used to be. That's a good thing about science; it's self-correcting, even if it takes decades. Sometimes even centuries.

I think he would see something that might surprise even him: a century of religious warfare. One caused by the perversion of religion through Hubris.

Different religions, and moral codes, always agree there are three things needed for any society to be successful: don't murder, don't steal, and keep your word. When religion ceases to support those three things, it ceases to be true religion, and instead becomes perverted. That is one of the problems today.

Just as bad, and maybe even worse, is when religion becomes allied with the idol of the State. Then we get the grandiose "God and Country" (which is really "God and State"). The Nazis had their own term: "Gott mit uns." The Russian Communists: "Holy Mother Russia."

Since all States are based on the Political Means (stealing and murdering), all are, in religious terms, Satanic. This leads to the bizarre spectacle of those supporting "God and Country" (again, "God and State"), not realizing they're really saying "God and Satan."

This confusion is cleared up by the Commandment that reads, "You shall not use God's name for vain causes." It's the one that's almost always mistranslated as, "Don't take God's name in vain." It's got nothing to do with cussing.

Today, we have a President who believes God has chosen him, and not only that, talks to him. Since he is starting World War III, with the accompanying murder, destruction and theft, I would bet that if anyone is talking to him, it's the other guy.

Our enemies say the same thing: they have God on their side, and we are "the Great Satan." If I was the Devil, I'd be chuckling to myself, "I've got these fools unable to tell the difference between me and God!"

The problem is what I believe to be the basis of all crime: Hubris. God has chosen me. I am right and you are wrong. I am good and you are evil. We are going to kill you, or invade and "change" you. But Hubris, as the Greeks and the Bible both pointed out, is always followed by Nemesis.

"Pride goes before destruction," goes the actual saying, "and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Those observations not only apply to individuals, but countries. It's why all empires have fallen. Even if they're convinced they won't.

Even if Nietzsche isn't around today, there are still enough prophets to see what is going to happen. Even if they don't have ferocious mustaches or towering foreheads.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The State as Machine

"All Machines are Amplifiers" -- Cooper's Law

That's a true saying: machines are amplifiers, amplifiers of our inherent abilities. Machines are not moral or immoral; they're amoral. They can be used for good or bad.

So the big question is: how can you tell if they are being used for good or bad purposes? To answer this, I look to mythology. Not the old mythologies, but the new ones. Although, to be fair, the new mythologies are just the same old stories retold for modern sensibilities.

One old story, told in a new way, burst on the modern world in the '70s. Everyone knows his name: Darth Vader.

Vader is a modern retelling of the story of Satan, in that his greatest sin is Pride, and he wants to be God and have absolute power over everything, but he's something that Satan or any incarnation of him isn't: he's half man, half machine, a monster who is, as Obi-Wan said, "twisted and evil."

Vader was a representative of the Empire, and everything about the Empire was a soulless machine: the Death Star; the identical Myrmidons known as the stormtroopers, Vader himself. There existed not the slightest evidence of any warmth, or love, or
community. Just the will to power. And as Carl Jung noted, you can have either love or power (meaning political power, which is the power to turn a live human into a corpse), but not both.

Joseph Campbell said something just as perceptive as Jung but funnier: he called Darth Vader "a bureaucrat," living under a system imposed on him. Vader could strangle people by pointing his finger at them, but he was nonetheless a bureaucrat
of the State just as much as a nonentity at the DMV.

On the other side, in the second movie, opposing the Empire, the Ewoks were added. They didn't really use many machines, and advanced ones not at all, but they had community. Compare them to the Empire, and it's easy to see the difference
between them.

Lucas did this split between the Ewoks and the Empire on purpose. He was using an old theme in literature known as the Machine State versus the Natural State. The Empire is a machine, a monster, really; the Ewoks live a natural, organic
life. You can see this same thing in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, in which the Eloi symbolize the Natural State and the Morlocks (who eat the Eloi) the Machine State.

What Lucas was saying is that when technology is appropriated by the State, it will sooner or later turn into a monster that conquers and destroys and murders, that uses up people and eats their lives. The obverse is that when not used by the State, it will almost always be used for good purposes. In other words, when used by the free market, good will come from machines.

You need look no farther than modern State militaries, eternally searching for ways to drug soldiers, to remake them so they look and fight like the Borg (also half human, half machine) – and to what end? To kill, to conquer. (Of course this is
rationalized as "bringing freedom" to the benighted of the world.)

I just mentioned the Borg. They are also representations of the Machine State, people turned into machines, to be used by the State to destroy and conquer. And not surprisingly at all, the Borg Queen complained, "Why do you resist us? We only wish
to improve the quality of your lives."

This "improving the quality of your lives" entailed turning people into automatons who had no free will, who never question their leaders because they cannot, not with all those machines screwed into their brains. For all practical purposes, they had no self-consciousness. This unquestioning unconsciousness is, ultimately, what the State wants from everyone. To be sheep who never question, and follow all orders. Since the State does not (yet) have the technology or drugs to pervert us into their desired, obedient machines, right now it has to use propaganda in its attempt to brainwash us into turning into their sacrificial little lambs.

Or, I should say, Borg, who never question. Or stormtroopers, who never question.

The Borg are, in my opinion, are a more accurate representation than the Empire. The Borg Cube is a gigantic womb, and the "people" in it are taken care of womb-to-tomb. Isn't this what the average hypnotized sheeple wants from the State? To never think, to avoid all anxiety, to be taken care of like a baby? They certainly have never heard what Frederick the Great said: "If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one of them would remain in the ranks."

What these people never realize is that the downside of welfare is warfare. Welfare/warfare are opposite sides of the same coin. You won't find one without the other.

You can see this warfare/welfare theme today in the U.S., which unfortunately has turned into an Empire. The State is trying to turn the U.S. into Nerfworld while slaughtering foreigners across the globe, in an attempt to turn them into us, i.e., the proto-Borg.

Or, as the Borg broadcast to everyone, "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated." This will never happen, of course, since people will fight to the death against us. Also, of course, as the old saying tells us, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter.

People also never realize that States try to make everyone the same, so that being equal and identical one can easily be replaced by another, just like a cog in a machine. The loss of an individual life doesn't mean anything. Notice how soldiers
came to be called "G.I.s," which means "Government Issue." It's also why all stormtroopers looked exactly alike, and the loss of one Borg meant nil.

When the State uses machines to destroy and kill, it turns into a monster, the way Vader was a monster, or the Borg. And monsters, even in the simplest of children’s fairy tales, are things that always menace good.

I read a fair amount of science fiction, which is the only truly visionary genre. Originally technology was portrayed as not having much of a downside -- a lot of it was like Heinlein's Starship Troopers, although there were exceptions, such as Fred Saberhagen’s Berserkers. But starting pretty much with cyberpunk, suddenly writers were looking very closely at the dark side -- or maybe I should say, the Dark Side -- of technology, until we ended up with The Matrix. But Star Wars preceded all of them.

And in nearly every story in cyberpunk, the State was in some way almost always involved in the badness.

Ezra Pound once called artists "the antenna of the race." You might say the same about schizophrenics, since the paranoid ones often believe machines are controlling them, machines usually operated by agents of the State.

And what these antennae have been saying for the last few decades is: be very, very careful of what the State does with its machines, because, contrary to the cheers of its deluded supporters, that monster will always use them to squash you like a bug.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The End of the World...Maybe

I decided many years ago I'm not excessively endowed with brainpower. I can't sing or dance, either, unless you want to count my imitation of Peter Boyle's Monster performing "Puttin' on the Ritz" in Young Frankenstein. My lack of genius is why I envy The Brain (of Pinky and the Brain fame). Although, I'm proud to admit, my head, as a child, was shaped like a lightbulb, just like The Brain's.

Being simple-minded, I seek simple rules. After putting in my time in public schools and college, I realized I had mostly been miseducated (except for a few classes, all of which I can count on one hand, excluding my thumb), and decided I had better find some basics. What I found is that the ancient rules, the ones that have been around for thousands of years, are the ones that work the best. The Ten Commandments, for example, are ten, easy-to-remember bits of eternal wisdom.

"Commandments" is an incorrect translation; "Utterances" or "Words" is much more accurate. I prefer "Laws," as in "Natural Laws." If you break them, bad things automatically happen. No cops are needed. The 20th century was a time of worshipping the false idols of Man and State, in violation of the First Law ("have no other gods but the one true God"). It doesn't matter to me if people believe in any sort of God or not; these Ten Laws still exist, and violation of their practical wisdom brings unhappiness, destruction and death. You can say, "As you sow, you reap," or "What goes around, comes around," or karma ("the moral law of cause and effect") or kismet, or the Tao, or whatever name you want to give it. Those laws are part of human nature. Steal, murder, commit adultery, and give false testimony ... and watch what happens to people and society.

And if people can't do it, it's doubly forbidden for governments (which in a sense don't really exist, since they are composed of people). The big difference is that governments try to claim a monopoly on force, which makes them unimaginably destructive. I've read estimates that up to 200 million people died in the 20th century at the hands of various governments. And all because of the violation of "You shall not murder."

Of all the wars the US was involved in in the 20th century, not one was any of our business. WWI was a European war; we should have stayed out of it. Woodrow Wilson (about whom H.L. Mencken wrote, "He thought he was Jesus Christ") got us into it to "make the world safe for democracy." It led directly to WWII. The Communist FDR manipulated the Japanese into attacking us so that Russia would not have to fight a two-front war against the Germans and Japanese. FDR also gave Eastern Europe to the USSR. WWII led to Korea and Vietnam. Panama, Kuwait, and Serbia were also none of our business. Kuwait led to 9/11 and Oklahoma City. Every one of these wars has led to unintended consequences and more war. As will our current war. And before 9/11, the US government was trying to start a war with China (I wonder if the Chinese are stupid enough to attack Taiwan? Or do they want their citizens to be "collateral damage" from having their water and waste treatment facilities war-crimed into oblivion, as we did in Serbia and Iraq?)

Right now there are a number of people who believe the world – as we now know it – might come to an end soon because of the events in the Middle East. They are entitled to their beliefs. I know a woman who believes aliens kidnapped her and took her eggs. She's entitled to her beliefs, too. Unfortunately, a number of these people are – in the name of God – actively working to achieve Armageddon. And they are trying to do it in some truly strange ways.

This raises the question: how can they reconcile "You shall not murder" with their attempts to bring the world to an end? They can't have it both ways. What a Catch-22! If you follow the prohibition against murder, you can't attempt to end the world. But if you don't attempt to end the world ... no Rapture, no Great Tribulation, no Jesus returning to sit on a throne.

Quite a few fundamentalists today unswervingly support Israel, the reason being they believe the restoration of that country in 1948 fulfills the Biblical prophecies in Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Revelation, and in Matthew and Luke. Therefore, Israel must be supported at all costs, so that the End Times may soon come.

This is why I believe we are involved in a religious war, one that King Dubya the Narrow-Headed doesn't really understand. If he did, our policy in the Middle East wouldn't be as it is. This religious war is why there is so much support for Israel among fundamentalists, and such silence on the slaughter over there. (What's that old saying? "Kill them all and let God sort them out"?) To these people, it's all part of God's plan before Jesus returns and gives a whuppin' to the Anti-Christ.

If I was King, I would take all the Christians and Jews who support Israel (and send money there) and deport them all over there. I would do the same with Muslims here who support the Islamic countries. As it stands right now, the US government is involved in 4,000-year-old tribal warfare, and is in fact supporting both sides in the conflict. The right hand knows not what the left hand is doing. When people move here, they are supposed to give up their ancient hatreds. If they don't, we end up being drawn into them. What good can possibly come from that?

One of my friends is half-Polish and half-Russian. I'm Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish, German, and Cherokee. We've decided we should not only hate each other, but also ourselves.

Joel Miller points out there is more evidence in the Bible against this current version of Israel being the Israel of the End Times than there is for it. Modern-day Israel was founded by a bunch of atheists and socialists. Does this sound like it fulfills the Covenant between God and Israel? It might, but I doubt it. If it doesn't, the Final Days are not just around the corner, no matter how much people try to kick-start it.

The Book of Revelation is so vague and symbolic it can be interpreted any way you want to interpret it. There was such bitter fighting over its being in the Bible it was barely included. I've seen people claim it proves flying saucers exist. It would be different if it read, "On 9/11/2001...." On the other hand, "You shall not murder" is so clear no one can argue about it.

There are people in the US and Israel who are on purpose trying to start WWIII in their hopes to bring the world to an end. If their attempts are not a violation of "You shall not murder," then what is? These people are not working for peace, but destruction. They may think they are following God's plan, but are they?

Lest anyone think I'm speaking against Israel, I'm not. But is not working for peace over there better than working for destruction ("Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God")? Arabs and Muslims don't have the ability to start WWIII; they are reduced to flying planes into buildings and using their own kids as bombs. But some Christians can.

As LRC's Gary North as pointed out, there are roughly three main views of Christian eschatology: premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism (these views are too complex to go into here; his article covers them completely).

What is important to remember is some of these groups believe that one-third of the inhabitants of Israel are going to be offed during the End Times. And they believe this is going to happen really soon. So, there are people working to bring this about because of their belief, for an example, in Zechariah 13:8, 9: "And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith Jehovah, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part into the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried."

These people have to die in order to fulfill what these groups see as God's plan. To this I can only say, "The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." I have no idea how many people have been killed in the name of God, but I'm sure it's been a lot. And yet, even today, in the 21st century, we still have people doing it. This is a perversion of religion.

I have for years been intrigued by the story of Satan, which I see as the most accurate and perceptive explanation of human evil. I see this evil as comprising three things: the desire to rule (to be God), the desire for attention (to be worshipped), and the desire to destroy.

Since these people are trying to destroy, what does this say about them? Who exactly are they serving, in their desire to destroy the world?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Tragedy of the Idealist

Before he was executed, Adolf Eichmann was asked to explain his actions. "I was an idealist," he said. An idealist, one whose moral compasses were spinning madly. Perhaps all idealists, in greater or lesser degree, have such compasses. The Nazis and the Communists were idealists, as are the greenies who blow up SUV dealerships and drive spikes into trees. To them, they are right; everyone who disagrees with them is not merely wrong, but evil. To them, there is no continuum from right to wrong. Everything is black or white.

All of them considered themselves to be idealists, ones doing "good," even if the sacrifice of other people's lives for their version of that "greater good" was, in their minds, necessary. Perhaps the sacrifice of other people is an inevitable part of that combination of idealism and force, which seeks a perfection on earth. The thought that they are doing wrong, if it flits across their minds at all, does so only briefly. The self-righteous -- innocents all -- can barely conceive of any ill coming from their actions.

Superficially it's a disturbing thought that more people have died throughout history from conscious "idealism" than from "evil." Yet, people like Stalin, who wanted to create the perfect "New Soviet Man," and Hitler, who desired a god-like Master Race, ended up with tens of millions of their citizens dead. The worst evil serial killer in the world is but a drop in a lake compared to the idealism of a Pol Pot or Stalin or Hitler.

So, on a deeper level, it isn't too terribly surprising that the idealistic desire for a perfect world, one rid of evil, has led to the catastrophes that it has.

Fundamentally, Bush and the late Osama bin Laden share much in common. Both are idealists, and their idealism, fanatics. And in their fanaticism and idealism, they divide the world into absolute and mutually exclusive categories of Good and Evil, with nothing in between. They seek by force to impose their vision of perfection on the world, no matter how many innocent people get swept away.

"I don't do nuance," said the modern-day Manichee George Bush. "And when you're trying to lead the world in a war that I view as really between the forces of good and the forces of evil, you got to speak clearly. There can't be any doubt . . . [O]ur goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorist networks and spreading freedom and liberty around the world." Put simply, he wishes to destroy evil and replace it with his version of perfection.

Osama bin Laden, another Manichee, didn't "do nuance" with the Great Satan, either. He was pretty clear about his idea of who was "good" and who was "evil," and whose vision should be imposed on the world and whose shouldn't. He, too, wished to destroy "evil" and impose in its place his version of "perfection."

Wrote Bruce Bartlett, in the New York Times Magazine: ''This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them . . . . "

The Manichees, heretics, supposedly died out over a thousand years ago. But they live on, in the soul of everyone who believes that people can be put into neat categories of Good and Evil. And those defined as "evil" must be eradicated.

"The most striking principle of Manichee theology is its dualism," notes the Wikipedia article on Manicheism. "The universe is considered a battlefield for control between an evil material god, and a good spiritual god. Christians recognized the evil god in Satan but, of course, could not accept the idea that Satan had as much power as Jehovah. Christians held that Satan, unlike God, is a created being. The term Manichaeistic is often used to describe any religion with a
similar concept of struggle between good and evil."

The 20th Century was the Century of the Manichee. Those false religions known as Communism and Nazism -- Manichee to the core. And if they did not consider their opponents to be as strong as they were, why did they feel it necessary to attempt to slaughter them to extinction? Why would George Bush use the phrases "the forces of good" and "the forces of evil" as if they were equal to each other?

And therein lies the problem with the modern-day Manichee: anyone who is on the receiving end of that term, "evil," will be lucky if he escapes with his skin intact. Or the skins of his elderly, his children, and his infants. It doesn't matter in the slightest if he and everyone else is innocent. Indeed, innocence is irrelevant, and is covered by the phrase, "collateral damage." All of this is the logical and inescapable result of dividing people into categories of Pure Good and Pure Evil.

In every mature theology, the idea of a purely good, idealistic Heaven on earth has always been considered blasphemy, and for the best of reasons: It always leads to genocide. The attempt to establish a Heaven on earth always leads to a Hell instead. The desire to conquer the world for its own good is merely a pretext for tyranny. "All tyrants call themselves benefactors," noticed both Jesus and Aesop.

Anyone who is idealistic enough, naive enough, and self-righteous enough to believe in those categories of Pure Good and Pure Evil is stuck with an unsolvable problem: Those defined as evil, even if they are not, are always dehumanized, then murdered. This dehumanization of those defined as "evil" is the basis of propaganda.

Excuses are always created; the murders are always rationalized. The innocent die with the guilty; all are bundled into an undifferentiated damnation and sacrificed to the false idol of "perfection." All the problems of the world -- all the evil in it -- are projected onto those defined as evil, making it necessary to rid the world of them. Thus the saying, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

We can have a very good world, one created by liberty and the free market, but we can't have a perfect world. Human nature stands in the way. It's the same human nature that does not understand the wise saying, "The Best is the enemy of the Good."

A solution to that problem is to give up those categories of Pure Good and Pure Evil, with one group putting itself in the first category and its "enemies" in the latter. Once those categories are given up, the projection of evil onto others ceases. In giving up that self-righteousness and that lofty but brittle idealism, there is also given up hubris and the hatred of others. Unfortunately, this doesn't
look like it's going to happen anytime soon.

It took me years to understand what that saying, "Love your enemies" means. It doesn't mean to "love them," not really. That's impossible. It means to see them as people, not subhumans, not things, not demons, ones to hate and project all of the world's evil onto, so that one can self-righteously use God and country as an excuse to slaughter them.

When those categories aren't given up, we're left those sins of which every religion disapproves: hate, rage, murder, self-righteousness, hubris, fanaticism. That's what comes of the belief in perfection: All those flaws are projected elsewhere, onto other people.

There is something beyond that simplistic, dangerous Manichean world of Pure Good and Pure Evil, in which a noble "good" must destroy "evil," no matter how many people die in that unending and impossible process, or else the "evil" will destroy the "good." To the Manchee, the gods are equal in power, and it's up to him to see the right one wins.

"The clearer our insight into what is beyond good and evil," writes Stephen Mitchell, "the more we can embody the good." Paradoxically, this means to give up the belief in perfection, of an ideal world achieved through force.

Once the idea of perfection is given up, so is the idea of other, evil people being the cause of the world not implementing that perfection. The problem lies ultimately not in other people, but in ourselves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Power of the Dog

A few months ago I had to put my pug to sleep. I did not expect to be so upset about it, but I was. Very upset. I was reminded of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Power of the Dog," which reads:

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--'ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long--
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Kipling knew of which he wrote.

My pug, Norman, made it to three-and-one-half years old. He had been born with a liver shunt, which is a vein that loops around the liver so that the blood is not totally detoxified. It can be surgically repaired, but the mortality rate is at least 20%. Many vets opt for non-surgical treatment, which is what I did.

He probably should have died before he was one, but I kept him going for a lot longer. And he was a perfect example of what Henry Ward Beecher meant when he wrote, "The dog is the God of frolic." He was unendingly amusing. Most pugs are.

By three-and-one-half, though, he was having seizures and kidney failure, and had developed a tumor pressing on his heart and lungs. He was alive -- barely -- and the quality of life was non-existent. So I made what turned out to be the hardest decision of my life.

Even now I do not understand how I could be so attached to a dog, especially one as completely stupid as he was. Pugs aren't the brightest dogs, but my God, Norman had the IQ of a turnip. But I had raised him from a ten-week-old puppy, and he slept with me every night. (I told people, women came and went, but Norman always stayed).

It's the rage today to put down America and Western culture in general. But living in it, I was allowed to have a dog, one that got treated like a baby. Which Americans generally do to their pets.

A few years ago, in China, a young girl died of rabies after being bitten by a stray dog. The police responded by killing every dog for miles around -- 50,000 of them, most of them beaten to death. Say what you will about America, but what happened in China doesn't happen here. I can't imagine it ever happening. If it ever did...then it wouldn't be America anymore.

I didn't have Norman long enough. Not nearly long enough, since pugs live to be about 14. But I'd do it again.

I wish I knew who wrote it, but I don't. It's a good way to end the article, though.

"The are your friend, your partner, your protector. You are their life, their love, their leader. They will be yours, faithful and the last beat of their heart. We owe it to them to be worthy of such devotion."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Squawking of the Chickenhawk

A blowhard and braggart I knew for less than ten days bored us for every one of those days with lies about his non-existent military service. He was just stupid enough, just self-absorbed enough, and just self-deluded enough to think we believed him. I don't think he was really conscious of lying to us; I suspect he was not aware he deluded himself first, then apparently just assumed we swallowed his fictions. After all, he did. Why shouldn't we?

If he really thought we believed him, then he was another proof of that old observation that the stupid often think they're smarter than their brainer betters. He was not only lacking in smarts, but also the slightest clue that none of us believed his huffing and puffing. With all the posturing and bravado, he reminded me of a yappy little dog telling me that if it wasn't for that fence between us, he'd rip the gizzard right out of me.

Finally, fed up with listening to such transparent fantasies, one disgusted fellow pointed to the wall clock and asked our conjurer what it read in military time. His answer? A feeble, "We didn't use military time when I was in." I was disappointed. Was that the best he could do? It was like watching a third-rate magician have the cards fly out of his hands. Not only were his brains on the fritz, his imagination had also parted company with him.

This fantasist, to be completely accurate about it, was a loser whose job was what I will politely refer to as a "career security guard." These days, $8.50 an hour, tops. Lacking in both brains and character, he could do nothing else.

Deep inside, below all that self-deception, he must have known he was a loser, one who shored up the shaky edifice of his self with grandiose Green Beret-wannabe confabulations. Of course, like all such people, he could never admit what he was to himself, not unless he wanted to pop like a hot-air-filled balloon. I would not have been surprised if the military refused him for a psychiatric disorder. I doubt it was his IQ, which would have at least placed him in the "cannon fodder, first wave" section.

All that braggadocio was a thin veneer over a ocean of stupidity, self-deception, paranoia, envy, irresponsibility, immaturity and insecurity. He couldn't lie to us about having a Ph.D in Physics, because even he knew no one would believe it. But he could lie about being in the military, which is about as hard to get into as it is to graduate high school. It gave him, at least (in fact only) to himself, an outward image of manliness that he was utterly lacking on the inside. His fantasy gave meaning to the meaningless life of a loser.

His self-image was so inflated he had no clue at all that everyone was laughing at him behind his back. In front of it, too. In some ways he was like a stuffed bird under glass, off in a little enclosed world of his own. He never even caught on to the smiles to his face. And how in the world could he be so paranoid as to believe anyone was angling for his job? But he was.

I wondered if he would be envious, or admire (which is the benign form of envy) someone who had been a corporal and a clerk-typist? I doubt it. I suspect in his mind he saw himself as a combination of Navy Seal and ninja, even if in reality he was dressed in a security guard's robin's-egg-blue blazer. What would he think of someone who had been in the Marines, even if that someone had been pudgy, bespectacled Drew Carey, who really was a jarhead? Slobber on them? Suck up to them, hoping some of what he imagined they were would rub off on him? Or could he only admire a lean, mean fighting machine who looked like Ollie North? I didn't know. I still don't.

It's not necessary for me to look up this fantabulist to ask his opinion about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I already know them, just as I know the opinions of every armchair-warrior chickenhawk: grr! grr! woof! woof! I'm all for the wars as long you fight and I don't!

I don't know what happened to this buffoon, but I do know that one day he disappeared, either transferred or fired. In all those neurons and synapses sputtering and misfiring in the disorganized clutter he used as a brain there must have swum up the vague thought that the jig was up, since one of the guards told me (with a little smile), that our story-teller had called him at home and yelled at him, blaming him for mistakes our fabricating fantasy-warrior had made. When one is a life-long FUBAR, I'm sure it's almost impossible to admit it. It sure is easy to blame your problems on someone else, though. Natural, in fact.

I had forgotten about this clown for years, until I read Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Mother Night. Vonnegut claims the moral of his book is "we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." Yet, what stayed in my mind beyond all else is the second encounter between the protagonist, Howard W. Campbell, Jr., and a former American soldier, Bernard B. O'Hare.

Their first encounter occured at the end of World War II, when Campbell, who is an American spy masquerading as a Nazi radio announcer, is captured by O'Hare. Since Campbell cannot prove his innocence, O'Hare sees him as only another Nazi. Still, Campbell is released on a technicality, and moves to America, where he lives quietly for many years.

Then, one day, 15 years after their first encounter, O'Hare is waiting for him at his apartment. His speech to Campbell is telling. He informs Campbell that instead of being a "doctor...a lawyer, a writer, an architect, an engineer, a newspaper reporter," he is instead "a dispatcher for frozen-custard trucks."

"I guess we've all had our disappointments," Campbell answers, in an ironic understatement from a man who had lost everything. O'Hare, who still didn't know that Campbell was an American spy and not a Nazi, doesn't even hear him. "His concern was only for himself," Vonnegut writes of him.

O'Hare, who has become a loser, decides the purpose of his life is to savagely beat Campbell, who, he tells him, is "pure evil." I won't spoil the plot, except to say that his attack on Campbell is aborted. As he leaves, Campbell has some parting words for him. They are the most important words in the book.

"I'm not your destiny, or the Devil, either!" Campbell says. "Look at you! Came to kill evil with your bare hands, and now you go away with no more glory than a man sideswiped by a Greyhound bus! And that's all the glory you deserve! That's all that any man at war with pure evil deserves."

Vonnegut, through Campbell, is being ironic; he obviously doesn't believe in pure evil. The reason? "There are plenty of good reasons for fighting," Campbell says, "but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part in every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It's that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive...It's the part that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly."

There is an entire book in that second encounter between the two men. O'Hare, like the lying security guard I knew, had become a loser. To give meaning to his life, to cover up his own self-hatred, he decided the purpose of his life was to destroy the Pure Evil that he mistakenly thought was Howard W. Campbell, Jr.

Self-hatred underneath, covered up with grandiosity, for both O'Hare and the story-telling security guard. Both blamed their failings on other people. The term for this is "scapegoating." It's when people take their problems and project them onto others. Once they get rid of those people, then their problems will be solved.

The psychiatrist M. Scott Peck accurately called scapegoating "the genesis of human evil." It's what the Communists and Nazis did, to the tune of 177 million people in the 20th century.

Scapegoating is why O'Hare thought that beating Campbell would solve his problems, and why the security guard tried to blame his own substantial failings on everyone else. Each had become grandiose as a defense against his own feelings of inadequacy. The greater the grandiosity shown, the greater the inadequacy it covers. You need look no further than the pillhead Rush Limbaugh.

This grandiosity on top, covering up self-hatred, makes me wonder about the typical sofa-samurai chickenhawk. Are they adults, or unfinished men with little or no meaing in life? I opt for the latter. Why? Because these losers have decided, like Bernard B. O'Hare, that their purpose in life is to eradicate Pure Evil. Their hatred gives meaning to their empty lives.

Thinking they can eradicate evil is pretty grandiose, to say the least. It's also impossible, even if one dismisses millenia of religion and instead relies on George Bush's MBA. Such delusion, such magical thinking, is for children.

These chickenhawks have decided they have good reason to hate without imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with them, too. They've decided that large part in them that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on their a good thing. Even though it's that part of them that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive... the part that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly...they still see it as a good thing. Self-righteousness does that to people.

Unfortunately, our opponents on the other side of the world think exactly about us as we think about them. It why the conflict we are in will not be decided on the nebulous basis of who's right and and who's wrong, but on the basis of our might is going to make only us right. Each is convinced their side is Good and the other side is Evil. The right to hate, and to murder, is therefore loosed on the world.

I don't believe in pure good or pure evil. They're fairy tales. Vonnegut obviously thinks so, too. When one decides he is pure good, like the sad Bernard B. O'Hare, such people always think they have the right to define others as pure evil, and then rub them out. Even Jesus denied he was good when a woman referred to him as "good rabbi." I no longer wonder why he answered as he did.

The most rabid, pro-war chickenhawks I've ever met have not only never been in combat, they've never been (like our security guard) in the military. I suppose underneath all their yapping they have doubts they are real men. Would they feel manly if an artillery shell went by their heads? Chances are they'd be too busy crying and wishing they were home to feel much of anything else. I sure wouldn't want them in a foxhole with me.

There's an old saying--and I have no idea where it's from--that the best warriors are the least war-like. I'll nod and agree with this saying, which I find to be true based on what I've learned from the grandiose, and hate-filled, squawkings of chickenhawks. They'd make lousy soldiers, but good cowards.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The State as Serial Killer

The evil man is the child grown strong. ~ Thomas Hobbes

If one person kills another, he is a murderer. If he kills 100, he is a monster. But if he kills 10,000, he is a hero. And the only way one can become this type of "hero" is through the agency of the State.

The victims of the worst serial killer in the world are but a drop in a lake compared to the political victims of Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, Stalin and Hitler. They are still but a drop compared to the victims of Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR. They're a drop compared to what Bush has done, and to the murders that will be committed by those who come after him. The State is the worst serial killer in the world.

How people can engage in such enormities with a clear conscience is something I understand imperfectly. But I do understand it to a degree. It has to do with our inborn narcissism, which perhaps may be a modern term for Original Sin.

To a degree, everyone is narcissistic. What psychologists call "primary narcissism" is an inescapable -- and universal -- phrase that all people go through as babies and children. We never grow out of it, a good thing in certain circumstances. But taken to an extreme, especially when politics is involved, and we have Hobbes' opening quote.

Our narcissism is what allows us to treat others as things -- to "objectify" them, to see them as objects. Perversely, the more power one person has over others, the more it is necessary to objectify them. Considering the history of the human race, power over others leading to the objectification of them appears to be inescapable. It would certainly explain the accuracy of the story of Satan, as told in the Bible, and in John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Taken far enough, this objectification is an example of the saying, "Power is the horse that evil rides." Power over others is intimately tied to doing evil to them. And power over others -- when those others can do little or nothing about it -- is the definition of political power.

"To some extent," writes Dr. Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, "leaders of all sorts -- political, military, or corporate -- [objectify people]. In a range of demanding professions -- surgeons, medical doctors, judges, law enforcement agents -- objectification efficiently fends off attendant horror and anxiety."

I don't think it's possible for a surgeon to open someone up with a scalpel and root around in his insides if he always had it in his mind that it's a living human being he's working upon. It's easier for the surgeon's peace of mind (and I'm sure for the horror-free, anxiety-free exercise of his abilities) to imagine the patient is a "thing" that has to be fixed, much like a mechanic working on a car.

Unfortunately, that "objectivity" is almost always part and parcel, in varying degrees, of grandiosity, the belief one is god-like. It explains the popular joke: "What is the difference between God and a doctor?" "God doesn't think he's a doctor."

Healthy narcissism can turn into malignant narcissism. The Greeks called malignant narcissism hubris, and the Bible calls it pride. A one-sentence definition of it is: you're a thing, and I'm a god. It's the reason why humility is considered such a virtue.

Perhaps anyone who actively seeks political power over others is already a malignant narcissist. If that is true, then Satan is a politician, the obverse being, all politicians are Satanic. I think history backs up that observation.

Vaknin's observation is also a great argument for decentralization and small government. It might be the best argument there is. The bigger the government, the more the citizens are going to be objectified. Not "probably." Always. No one has ever found a way around this problem, except to reduce the size of the government. The State always considers itself to be the chosen of God, indeed God on earth. Has there ever been an example in the history of the world when the State did not?

Let's take George Bush as an example of someone who objectifies others. What he's doing is not unique with him. Unlike others, I don't see him as an evil man, or a conscienceless psychopath. He is in over his head, as most politicians are, and is unqualified for his position. But then again, so are most politicians.

People are appalled at his lack of concern for the tens of thousands who have died because of his decisions. But no one should be surprised. No one could remain sane after what he's done, unless there are psychological defenses erected. He can't even look at the coffins of returning soldiers.

Bush has to rationalize what he's done, to distance himself from the effects of his decisions. It's not just him: it's all politicians. It is not possible for Bush, or anyone in his position, to maintain his sanity if he truly thought about the mass murder, the torture, the mutilation, the broken minds and bodies, the lies, and the theft, that wars always bring. He has to deceive himself, to rationalize, that what he has done is right.

In his case, he has decided, for one thing, that God has chosen him to be President. That's an awful big crutch, but I understand why he has to use it. He'd collapse without it. I certainly can't read his mind, but it seems to me he is thinking, "Since God chose me to be President, I don't make mistakes [grandiosity], so the deaths of all those people are irrelevant [objectification]."

Bush is part of the problem, but any President in his position might have followed the same course he did. A bigger problem is the neocons and their plans for remaking the world in their image.

Writes Vaknin: "The narcissist's pronounced lack of empathy, off-handed exploitativeness, grandiose fantasies and uncompromising sense of entitlement make him treat all people as though they were objects . . . the narcissist regards others as either useful conduits for and sources of narcissistic supply (attention, adulation, etc.) -- or as extensions of himself."

Vaknin is speaking of clinical narcissists, but what he wrote applies to everyone in some degree. It especially applies to some people more than others. One only needs to read the writings of people such as William Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and Richard Perle to realize how Vaknin's oh-so-accurate observations applies to them. I doubt they, or any of the other Would-Be World Conquerer neocons, perceive others as fully human, only chess pieces to be moved around (even if they are destroyed) to fulfill their plans to bring "freedom" and "democracy" to the benighted wogs of the world. They're trying to make the world into an extension of their very bad ideas -- of themselves.

Vaknin's statement echoes what Thomas Sowell wrote: "Most wars, however, are started by well-fed people with time on their hands to dream up half-baked ideologies or grandiose ambitions, and to nurse real or imagined grievances."

He also made the comment, "If you have ever seen a four-year-old trying to lord it over a two-year-old, then you know what the basic problem of human nature is -- and why government keeps growing larger and ever more intrusive."

Christopher Lasch, in his book, The Culture of Narcissism, had some relevant comments about narcissistic people: "He praises respect for rules and regulations in the secret belief that they do not apply to himself. Acquisitive in the sense that his cravings have no limits, he . . . demands immediate gratification and lives in a state of restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire."

Lasch's quote about praising respect for rules they don't believe apply to themselves explains the Chickenhawk ("You fight and die; I'll yell directions from the sidelines") that all neocons are. And that desire for immediate gratification and "restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire" does not bode well for the US and the world, since they plan on using the former to conquer the latter.

Some people can handle political power. The ones who don't want it. But those who seek out this power are the ones who shouldn't be allowed near it. They are invariably more childish and narcissistic than more healthy, normal people. They are the child grown strong, doing evil to others.

"In malignant narcissism," writes Vaknin, "the true self of the narcissist is replaced by a false construct, imbued with omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. The narcissist's thinking is magical and infantile. He feels immune to the consequences of his own actions . . . the narcissist cannot afford to be rejected, spurned, insulted, hurt, resisted, criticized, or disagreed with."

Magical, infantile thinking. Is that not the thinking of anyone who truly believes the US can invade, conquer and remake entire countries in its image? "Resisted, criticized, disagreed with"? The behavior the neocons exhibit when people point out what they really are is something I need not repeat.

Ultimately, the State is childish, narcissistic, and murderous. I can't see any way around that, except to get rid of it. It's astonishing so many people see the State as a good thing. It's almost a form of insanity, if insanity is defined by that old joke: "Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Worst Sin of All

Satan is the worst character in the Bible, and for the best reason of all: he exhibits the one trait that is the basis of all crime. Hubris. In fact, hubris is itself a crime, although nearly everyone has forgotten this fact. The Bible calls hubris "pride," but the word the Greeks used " hubris " is a far better term.

Hubris is a grandiose self-conception that reduces other people to things. Being things, they have no rights; they can be trampled on without guilt. Out of the Seven Deadly Sins " Pride, Avarice/Greed, Envy, Wrath/Anger, Lust, Gluttony and Sloth " the first five involve devaluing the other person into a thing. The reason the last two don't involve devaluing others is because they aren't directed at them; they're directed toward the self.

A more modern term for hubris is narcissism, from the Greek myth about Narcissus, who stared at his reflection in a pool until he wasted away and died. Whatever term is used, all mean the same thing: I am self-absorbed, self-centered, grandiose and god-like, and you are nothing. I am good, and you are bad. The most extreme form of a narcissist is a psychopath, who has no conscience, no guilt, and sees everyone as a thing. When serial killers (who are psychopaths) are interviewed about killing and mutilating people, they answer, " It's like working on a doll." A doll is a thing, not a human.

The hubristic say: since I am good, I will project all problems onto you, the bad. This projection is where the term "scapegoating" comes from. I will project all problems onto you, and then make you into a scapegoat and outcast.

This scapegoating is what the Nazis and Socialists did to those they didn't like. They turned them into smoke and ashes. The psychiatrist M. Scott Peck very correctly called scapegoating "the genesis of human evil." It's why in one of the very first stories in the Bible Adam and Eve get kicked out of the Garden of Eden, bringing evil into the world: because they deny responsibility for their actions and blame others. "You made me do it...I'm not the one with the are."

Unfortunately, those who are afflicted with hubris revel in it. That's why hubris leads to nemesis. Sufferers, believing they are invincible, don't think they can be stopped. But they always are.

Every instance of hubris in fiction and life ends with nemesis, destruction. In real life, the Roman emperors Caligula (who declared himself a god) and Commodus (who ended up poisoned, then strangled, to make sure the job was done). In the 20th century, Hitler, who shot himself in a bunker as the enemy closed in on him.

In fiction, Shakespeare's Richard III. In cartoons, the Brain, of " Pinky and the Brain. " In popular fiction, any of James Bond's villains, such as Goldfinger and Dr. No. All are afflicted with hubris; all suffer the downfall of nemesis.

James Q. Wilson, in his " Crime and Human Nature, " pointed out the average prisoner has an IQ of 93 and is much more narcissistic than a non-prisoner. This observation makes sense. Such prisoners are so stupid, and so grandiose, that it never occurs to them that sitting in a car and pointing a .22 caliber pistol through bullet-proof glass at a bank teller isn't going to work.

The system catches the stupid and the narcissistic. The smart and the narcissistic usually avoid getting caught. Sometimes they go into politics. Maybe, oftentimes.

Let's take the case of the average politician. How many suffer from pride - hubris? That they think they have the God-given right to tell everyone what to do by force of law? How many suffer from avarice, or greed, and fill their pockets with taxpayer money? How many have problems with drinking, drugs and sex - lust and gluttony? How many are so slothful they would never go near a real job? How many are wrathful and envious?

Most politicians are afflicted with all of the Seven Deadly Sins. How many ever level any criticism at themselves? Obviously, most believe, " I don't have a do."

Gambling, food, alcohol, sex. That just about sums up the average politician. I'd sure like to see the bookmarks on many politician's computers. The ones to which only they have the passwords.

I drove a taxi for five years when I was in college. I became friends with all kinds of people, including lots of criminals. I got to know them quite well, which is why I know people like William Bennett, Jesse Jackson, Charles Schumer, and both the Clintons are grifters and scam artists. They don't know what they are, because their hubris blinds them. There should be an 11th Commandment in the Bible: "Thou shalt not lie to thine own self."

Some of the people I knew were gamblers and ex-cons. Some were whores and heroin addicts. One woman was both a whore and a heroin addict. Sometimes we would go to dinner together.

Joann didn't want to be a heroin addict. She didn't want to be a whore, either, but it paid for her habit. She used to ask me to drive her to customers and be a bodyguard, since she was always scared. I wore boots with thick heels, a big bulky coat and a hat. In outline I was six-four. Four inches of it was all bluff.

Right before she went into a 30-day treatment program for her addiction, she told me, "You know, you've never treated me any different than anyone else you know. I replied, "Who's worse? You, or George P.? You want to change, and he doesn't." This made her laugh. When she got out of treatment, she always carried her Bible with her. "It helps me stay off the junk," she told me.

P. was the prosecuting attorney for the city. He was slavering mad-dog rabid about running prostitution out of the city. He was as pretentious, ignorant and obnoxious as many a politician. Then he got caught on tape, in a sting operation, with a hooker. Turns out he'd been seeing them for years. The girls he had been paying for sex were the same ones he was trying to put in prison. The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. Or in P's case, maybe his brain didn't know what his doodad was doing.

P. suffered from hubris. "I am good, and you are bad." To maintain his good self-image, he had to project his problems onto other people. In his case, prostitutes. Since he was too weak to change himself (or denied he had a problem) he tried to change the environment, and other people. It never works.

He didn't try to change himself from "the inside out." He tried to use force to change others from "the outside in." Changing the environment, and other people "out there" was somehow supposed to change him "in here." That's pretty screwed up. But then, he was a screwed up man, just like the average politician.

P. didn't see those girls as people. He saw them as things. Little dolls for him to work upon, instead of working on himself. On one hand, he treated them as things for his lust. On the other hand, he treated them as things for his anger and wrath.

How many politicians are the same way? How many see people as things, to be used and manipulated because they are too weak of a human being to change themselves? Joann, even though she was a whore and a junkie, wanted to change herself. Who's worse - her, or a politician? The opposite of hubris is humility. Joann was humble enough to know what she was, and to seek help.

Many politicians are scapegoaters. When they gain political power they use it to project their sicknesses onto other people. It's why politics is so destructive, since it almost always attracts the sick, who try to change others through force instead of changing themselves.

When nemesis follows a politicians' hubris, and they get caught doing what they're not supposed to do, all say they are going to quit what they were doing. The only reason they quit is because they get caught. Do they have a real change of heart and mind? No, they don't. They just get caught. Very few truly repent, unlike Joann. The only one I can think of offhand is Chuck Colson - and he was involved in Watergate. That was a long time ago.

For years I wondered why Jesus hung out with the outcasts and scapegoats in his society. Prostitutes, for one. And drunkards, I'll bet. He said they needed "a doctor." Did he think they were more liable for a real change of heart, for true repentance, than the "elites"? He mocked the "virtuous" of his time, the grandiose, self-righteous, scapegoating ones who thought they were God's Chosen and saw no need to change what they were. If the typical modern politician had been alive in those days, they'd be Pharisees. This is why I believe politicians and politics can solve nothing. It's about politicians trying to change others through force instead of changing themselves.

The desire for true change, real repentance ( which means "to turn around and go the other way" - see our Newsletter " Repent - LRU ), is why I have respect for a whore and junkie like Joann, and none for almost all politicians. And Joann sure didn't think she had the right to pass judgment on others, as most politicians think they do. "Judge not, lest you be judged."

"The first shall be last, and the last shall be first." I'm not exactly sure what the last half of that sentence means, but I know what the first part means. I'm positive most politicians don't, though.

This is 2008?

Sometimes I have a hard time believing it is the year 2008. It just doesn't feel like it. I was at least expecting levitating skateboards, like the one Michael J. Fox had in one of the Back to the Future movies. Not that I would ride it. My dog would like it, I'll bet. There are few things funnier than seeing a pug grin. I'd even buy him a little helmet, like the one moronic adults wear when they ride their bikes on a busy city street.

Instead, what I see are janitors on strike where I work. These are adults, in their 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's. They're making $7.50 an hour. After taxes and deductions for their benefits, there ain't much left. They certainly aren't going to be buying skateboards, levitating or not. I saw one of the elderly female janitors going into her apartment, located in some not-so-hot public housing. Some of the cars on the street were not only not levitating up and down, they weren't going back and forth, not unless people pushed them. It's a bit hard to keep a car running on $7.50 an hour, even if it is an 250,000-mile ex-taxi that cost $200.

These janitors should be making $30,000 a year. My grandfather, who was born in 1893, dropped out of school in the 8th grade, yet was still able to raise nine kids and live a middle-class existence. He installed and sanded wooden floors. But in those days, taxes, inflation, regulations, and the federal deficit were but a fraction of what they are now. What he did is now impossible.

My father told me that when he was a kid, his father would send him to the corner bar to bring back a big bucket of beer for the workers to drink. My father was about ten. Let a kid try that these days. And if you think that's bad, I saw a 90-year-old man carded for a pack of cigars at a Walgreens. "How old do you think I am?" he asked the clerk. "I don't know," she replied. "I'll bet you couldn't find your butt with both hands," he told her, and walked out. That's when I found that trying to stifle laughter makes you snort. She had a J-Lo "I Only Need One Hand" butt. Speaking of butts, I'll bet mine is smarter than the entire management of Walgreens.

When my grandfather was a kid, opiates were legal, so you could buy Bayer heroin at the corner drugstore. But when he was an adult, it was during Prohibition, so he was a bootlegger. Too bad he didn't become filthy rich running rum, like Joseph Kennedy. I wouldn't be driving a 2000 Chevy Cavalier. And I'd be in Congress, chasing Ted Kennedy around, saying, "Here, stupid drunken fat socialist piggie."

All people understand that when they get a tax cut, their salaries go up. Few understand that when businesses get a tax cut, they use the money to give employees raises, otherwise other businesses will use their newfound money to hire them away. (I really shouldn't say "all people." Richard Gephardt, who is as lacking in brains as he is in eyebrows, certainly doesn't understand it.)

Mean average wages haven't budged since about 1974, which is when Nixon severed the dollar from gold (who was advising him? His dog, Checkers?) In the 20th century, the dollar lost 99% of its value through the government inflating the money supply. Forty-five percent of that loss has been since 1983, nine years after the Checkers-brained Nixon allowed inflation to proceed with no brakes at all.

I believe if the unconstitutional Federal Reserve Bank hadn't been created in 1913 (thereby allowing inflation), if the IRS had never come into existence, if the federal deficit was a single-digit fraction of what it is now, and if all these asinine job-destroying regulations didn't exist, then those janitors would be making $30,000 a year. Most people don't know it, but half of what they make goes to taxes. Most of those taxes are hidden. How many people know exactly how much tax is hidden in the price of a gallon of gasoline?

Historically, people who have half of what they make taken from them are called slaves.

I grew up on The Jetsons and the original Star Trek. (I spent hours in front of the mirror, trying to raise my eyebrow like Spock. And I succeeded. Even today, I can raise my left eyebrow. But not my right.) As a little kid I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey goggle-eyed. I halfway expected 2001 to be like 2001. I expected Jetsons flying cars and those little Star Trek saltshaker thingies that Bones used to scan patients with ("You need a heart transplant." Plop. "Okay, done.")

Today ain't even close to what I expected, and I blame it on the State. (I won't blame it for my jumping off the barn roof with a blanket as a parachute. At least I learned my lesson by getting the wind knocked out of me. Seven years old, and I was smarter than the feds. I only needed to make a mistake once.)

In the past 3600 years there have been more than 14,000 wars. God knows where the human race would be if they hadn't been fought. With space stations, and with colonies on the Moon and Mars, I'm sure. Years ago I remember the writer Philip Jose' Farmer (who is now 84 years old) writing that as a teenager he hoped and prayed we'd be on Mars by 1940. I'll probably be dead before we have a colony on the Moon. The only way I'll get to visit is if I have my ashes put on a skateboard and levitated there.

I recently read an article that said it is theoretically possible to build a graser-a gamma-ray laser-in orbit. If it was powerful enough, it could be used to make the sun go nova. I just finished a novel – Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace – that postulated that within a few decades nanotechnology will be so advanced we will be able to put nanorobots next to a pile of sand and have them build a house. The people I talk to find that dubious. They're more liable to believe in an orbiting graser.

Such is what the State has done. They're always more advanced in war than peace. They've got the public believing it, too.

Now the US has turned into an Empire. I'm convinced we are going to invade Iraq, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and maybe even Egypt. When that zombie Alan Greenspan inflated the money supply in the 90s, it went into the dot coms. Now his inflation is going to go into weapons manufacturers. More advances in war, but not in peace. Dubya the Tongue-and-Brain-Tied, thy name is Stupid. Not only is my butt smarter than Dubya, so is my pug's butt.

Empires always fall. I don't understand why the deluded people in the government, and their foolish lackeys in the media – the Rush Limbaughs and the Bill O'Reillys – don't know this (O'Reilly reminds me of Alan Dershowitz: a big mouth almost completely unhinged from his brain). There are, fortunately, people who do understand what is going on. Unfortunately, they are a very small minority.

This very small minority is going to be the one that saves civilization. They're the ones who are going to be a candle in the dark. The ones who Albert Jay Nock called "The Saving Remnant," the minority who understands the truth, and passes it on to the future.

Who knows? Maybe one day the human race will get it right. Maybe we'll somehow end up with government that protects life, liberty and property, like it's supposed to do. Maybe economists will give up the crackpot Keynesianism and its belief in inflation, taxation and deficits. Maybe we'll give up the Welfare/Warfare Empire. And if that day comes, then janitors will make $30,000 a year. And, possibly, my pug might just fly.

The Irresponsibility of Nerf World

When I was four years old my parents took my sister and me to see my aunt and uncle. They had the coolest house in the world. It was set sideways in a hill. It was two stories high; you entered the second-story from the backyard! The backyard was one story higher than the front yard! To walk up to the backyard from the side, there was an old stone staircase.

One day I saw a rope hanging down from the top of that staircase. Since a rope is irresistible to a four-year-old, I pulled on it. It came loose, all right, as did a board at the top of the stairs. It sailed down and landed on my left foot, breaking my little toe. I don't remember the pain, but it must have been excruciating, because I sat down and screamed. I was unable to walk. A trip to the doctor confirmed a cracked toe-bone.

Never again did I do anything like that. I learned my lesson; you don't stand there and watch boards sail down from the sky without getting out of the way. I found the world wasn't made of Nerf, and I wasn't invincible. And I learned it at four.

One of the main problems with the Mommy State today is that it wants to make the world out of Nerf, to remove all danger, and make everything completely safe. This, obviously, is impossible.

I don't think it's a very good idea to make the world too safe for children. It's possible they don't gain the experience in life that they should. Then they grow up more irresponsible than they should. "I'm immortal!" they seem to think. "I can't be hurt!"

I see teenagers today doing things we never did when I was their age. I hear of them getting killed all the time while driving. This never happened when I was a teenager. Sure, we went out on old country roads and floored the pedal. But we did it on a straightaway. No one ever got killed. None of us ever had a wreck, and we used to hit 120 mph.

We never had any drunken drivers. And we started drinking when we were fifteen. That's the age some of the bars would let us sit and drink. Yet nobody drove while drunk. It was an unheard of thing.

We didn't have helmets when we rode bikes. We fell off and skinned ourselves up. No one ever cracked his head. Well, Vicki Marcus did, when she fell off and split her chin open. I remember that because she came to my door with her hand over her chin, blood just pouring out. I had the chickenpox and couldn't go outside, so instead I ended up dealing with a seven-year-old girl dripping blood all over the front porch.

Yet today I see adults riding bikes in the streets. And downtown! Do they think they're going to win a contest with a car? Didn't they ever learn the First Rule of Bikes in kiddom? You don't ride your bike in the street when there are cars around. What were these morons like as children?

When I was a kid we used to ride in the backs of our fathers' pick-up trucks. No one ever flew out. We didn't sit on the wheel well. We sat on the floor and grabbed the side. It was scary, but it was fun.

When I was ten I had a chemistry set (try to find a chemistry set in a store today). Some of the bottles were marked POISON. I didn't even open them. I contented myself with making things foam, bubble, and overflow. I didn't poison myself, the dog, the cat, the bird or any people. Or even my sister, who I doubted was human.

We had BB guns. We never shot anyone's eye out. I did once accidentally shoot George Todd in the leg with my pistol, but when he raised his RIFLE to shoot me back, I yelled it was an accident, so he didn't plug me.

Only one stupid kid shot himself in the lip with his own BB gun, and I only knew that because he came to the door so my mother could try to dig it out. He was stupid in all other ways; he was on our property without permission, because it was fun to shoot behind the barn behind our farmhouse. Years later, he died one night when he drank an entire bottle of hard liquor. Apparently he didn't know that booze is poison, and if you drink too much too fast, it'll kill you. But even as a kid, he showed, over and over, that he was stupid and irresponsible.

When we were 12 and 13 we got minibikes. We didn't wear helmets and we didn't get hurt. Well, I did, once, when I was riding down a levee near the river when the throttle came off in my hand. I flew over the bars and when I got up I had cut my knee open. Four stitches.

We used to have dirt-clod fights. Whenever there was a new house being built, all the neighborhood boys would gather there and throw dirt-clods at each other. There were unwritten rules: use only big soft clods. We barely could hit each other because it was so easy to get out of the way. One kid, Dennis Brown, got hurt, and that was because one mean kid threw a clod with a rock inside. It went through Dennis' cheek. It was impressive to look in his mouth, until the wound healed.

Once, when the aforementioned George and I were ten and nine, one Saturday we rode our bikes to a lake about six miles away. We just took off for the day. Our parents never found out about it. We rode on the side of the road, not on it. No one ran us over. No serial killers or child molesters tried to snatch us. If any had tried, I would have stabbed them with the stiletto I ordered through the mail.

When I was a teenager some of my friends lived on a lake. Seven or eight of us would go out on it in a big, inflated tractor-tire inner-tube, stand up on it, then rock back and forth until the tube tipped over. None of us drowned. The worst thing that ever happened to me was when everyone fell on top of me once. I looked up and saw all these guys coming at me, full auto, and then the next thing I know I about ten feet down trying to fight my way back up through a tangle of feet and legs. I broke the surface, whoosh, just like Prince Namor, to find everyone looking concerned. "God, you were down a long time," one said. "Someone kept kicking me in the head," I answered.

When my nephew Daniel was about four his father and I got in the backyard pool with him. I stood on one side of the pool and his father on the other. He let Daniel try to swim to me. He sputtered and thrashed and kicked and made his way over to me. He had a huge grin on his face, like he was having the time of his life. When he got to me, I grabbed him and asked, "You okay?" "Yeah, yeah," he answered, out of breath and spitting water. "Okay, ready to go back," he said, and thrashed and sputtered and kicked his way back to his dad. Pretty good, for a kid who didn't know how to swim. But he learned. He also learned if you weren't responsible, you could drown. At four.

When I was 16 I got a .22 single-shot rifle with a telescopic site. John Hummel and I used to go down by the railroad tracks and blow up gallon jugs of water. We didn't shoot anyone, and we certainly didn't go stalking people through the high school.

The only "sport" I was good at in jr. high and high school was dodge ball and bombardment. In fact, I was great at it. The more vicious and brutal it was, the better I liked it. No one could ever hit me, and if he could, I almost always could catch the ball. Oh, yeah! Bring it on! We'll see who wins! It was great for my self-esteem.

Our parents didn't try to kill us. But they let us go outside and learn to be responsible at an early age. And we did it, naturally, by playing, by being kids. That's what play often is. Learning, and rehearsing to be an adult. Play is how all animals learn. We picked up, at a very early age, what worked, and what didn't work in having fun while staying safe.

Nowadays, the State, interfering in what is none of its business, is trying to remove from children the natural education that comes with being a kid. It's trying to deny children their childhood and instead treat them as infants. And once they become adults, will they act as adults, or will they finally start acting like children?

That's what the Mommy State wants – for everyone to be children. It's trying to Nerfize the entire country. Tag, bombardment, dodgeball? God forbid! Bad for the self-esteem, and you might get hurt!

BB guns? Sweet Baby Jesus! Are you serious?! Those things lead to kids doing drive-bys or shooting up high schools! And teenagers with .22 rifles? Yikes! Are you completely insane? They commit suicide or shoot their whoois off! Dirt-clod fights? You could put someone's eye out! King of the Hill? You're looking at a broken neck there, bud!

Yet, somehow, things haven't gotten safer for kids, just a lot less fun. And we seem to have a lot more irresponsible adults, too.