The Beginning of Conservatism Is to Love

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W.G. Hoskins staring loving at, no doubt, a bit of English landscape.

To be human is to be lost. Whether we admit it or insist on pretending otherwise makes no difference. At the core of our nature is an undeniable alienation from the world in which we find ourselves. Even when we try to deny the poor fit between the world we inhabit and the world we long for, the gap comes bounding out of the shadows, demanding a confrontation: the room is too cold, the tomatoes won’t grow, our beloved dog runs away, wars devastate millions. The real world is always at odds with the way we intuit it ought to be. When peace and rest do come, they rarely last. We are, none of us, long at ease; rather, we are all, in myriad ways and at all times, quite dis-eased.

We can respond to our situation in one of two ways. We can look for and cultivate those things which root us and console us by hinting at some other, finer world beyond; or we can determine to create for ourselves here and now a world in which our existential quandary can be resolved in a haze of technocratic bliss.

The first of these is the conservative path. Rooted in the Christian apprehension of the world’s fallen nature, a true conservative accepts that no amount of tinkering with markets, or transistors, or DNA will ever solve a problem so basic to our existence. Instead, the conservative seeks to preserve those aspects of our lives that shore us up, strengthen our resolve, and bid us be patient laboring in our hope.

Chief among the things a conservative must conserve is tradition, which means not merely “the way people used to do things,” but rather “those things handed down.” Tradition is the accumulated wisdom gathered through the ages for how best to live in a world that falls far from our intuited ideals.

A large part of this inherited wisdom involves loving real things as they really are. The great freedom of the conservative lies in not having to subject all that exists to a program of improvement in the service of some imagined future utopia. Admittedly, this definition of conservatism is at odds with much American Republicanism of the last four decades. The party’s ideology, with its free market fanaticism and its laissez-faire approach to moral and social issues, has often been subject to a utopianism of its own.

Finding examples of the conservatism I am describing in the American political landscape is nigh impossible. Perhaps this is true because this sort of conservatism stems from a general posture toward life that American culture discourages. This is a conservatism is a mood more than a platform, with ideology and policy prescriptions playing, at best, a secondary role.

Not long ago, I finished watching a series of old films. In each, British historian W.G. Hoskins walks about remarking on the various landscapes of the English countryside. This is my favorite:

Each of these films captures what I am trying to describe. Their quiet nature, the observation of the world from the distance of one not totally at home in it, and Hoskins’ absolute delight in the landscape as a given, all these capture the essence of what I am calling the conservative disposition. (If you enjoy these films, by the way, you might enjoy the work of Hoskins’ heir apparent, Richard Vobes.)

The delight Hoskins feels in the landscape is a direct result of his love of it. This should not be astonishing. Central to the conservative mind is the affirmation that the world, in spite of its many failings, contains much worth loving, defending, and preserving, much that speaks to a future in which our alienation might be overcome.

This is the point Felix Miller made recently in his article, “The Right Needs Joy.” Miller is concerned with the anger among young reactionaries. Much of that anger, Miller acknowledges, is justified.

From the article:

It is understandable that so many young conservatives and reactionaries are resentful. In many cases, they have been raised in a world that in fundamentally at odds with reality and human flourishing. They have been taught from childhood that happiness is to be found in debauchery, selfishness, and relativism. Coming from broken homes, attending broken schools, and being fed by a broken media, they have come to traditionalism not through natural, lived practices, but instead through disillusionment with progressivism. They have been tormented by the living hell that progressivism, feminism, multiculturalism, cultural Marxism, and all other forms of modernism have created in their perverse image and likeness.

Justified though it is, this anger is not enough to sustain a movement. For that, we must instead cultivate a love for reality as palpable as Hoskins’. Miller holds out Chesteron as an example of a joyous conservative. I offer you Hoskins who, whatever his politics, produced work that typified the joy at the heart of conservatism, the joy that delights in the world in spite of our alienation from it.

Trolling Leftists into online fights they will lose and watching them cry when vanquished no doubt has its appeal, but its appeal is the joy of destruction, not of creation. In the long run, cultural tides are turned by what is built more than by what is torn asunder. Even if we manage to destroy the infrastructure of the occupiers, we will only be living in a wasteland, without undertaking to build something in its place.

If conservatism has any chance of building something worthwhile from the ruins of modernity, we must begin not with politics so much as with loving those things right in front of us. We must take as our models no longer the Sean Hannitys of the world, let alone the legion of Kek-worshipping anons on Twitter. Rather, we must devote ourselves, like Hoskins, to love of the particular: a particular spouse, a particular child, a particular vocation exercised faithfully in a particular locale. Only by doing so can we build a movement of people with the vision to look up someday toward the landscape and to know, at last, where they are.

A Meditation on the Liking of Boobs

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America is suicidal culture. Our cultural elite burn with hatred against everything traditional and natural, everything that sustains us and makes the continued existence of Civilization possible. Their hostility to whatever stands in the way of their imagined utopia is bottomless.

The blow up over Clay Travis’ going on CNN and saying the two things he believes in absolutely are the first amendment and boobs confirms my thesis. Admittedly, his comment was coarse, puerile even.  From all appearances, he’s an obnoxious lout.

But, that’s not why anyone objected. We gave up those sorts of objections in the ’90’s. Howard Stern killed them with his bare hands.

Instead, the Left went apoplectic for more fashionable reasons. The ostensible reason for their outrage was Travis’ purported “sexism.” Here are some examples from twitter.

 

 

Though the outrage and cries of sexism seem trivial to the point of stupidity, they reveal a couple of important things.

What really incensed these people is not “sexism,” but the fact that a man would admit publicly and with not trace of shame that he finds women’s bodies sexually attractive. By doing so, he signals other men that they can admit such things as well. This is a problem for the Left because it has campaigned hard to demonize and shame such behavior. In recent decades, the Left has been quite successful in convincing both men and women that male sexuality, especially male sexual desire, is always dangerous. Men’s sexual desire for women, they’ve told us, is inherently exploitative, abusive, and damaging.

Male sexual desire is now only suitable for public display when it is aimed at the bodies of other men.  If a man desires the bodies of other men, he is an elevated creature from another, better realm. Men who desire women are despicable.

To prove he is not one of the ogres who likes women’s bodies, the typical man now goes to great lengths to pretend he does not notice them. He lives out his days as an essentially sexless creature hemmed in by professional and social cultures that cast even the mildest indications of sexual awareness as harassment. Admitting you noticed Helen looks nice in blue is a punishable offense. Admitting you like boobs is suicidal.

As terrible as this reality is, the Clay Travis incident reveals something still worse. The Left doesn’t hate male sexual desire only. They also hate its results. Male sexuality, if it takes its normal and healthy course, leads to particularization rather than to equality and to the creation of family.

Not all men are equally drawn to all female bodies. In fact, for most men a time comes when he focuses the bulk of his desire on one female body. He ceases to pursue women generally and dedicates himself to one, forsaking all others. Nothing is more unequal than that. It is this inequality the Left resents.

The second outcome of male sexual desire is even more threatening to the Left. See, a man desires women because their bodies speak to him, in a mysterious way, of comfort, of belonging, of home. When a man says he likes boobs, he is saying he likes a lot more than just boobs.

Those on the Left seek to shame this affection for the female body because all real comfort, all real belonging, all real love of home interfere with their plans for a perfect society. Nothing disrupts the plan for a society free of sexual distinction and the connections it fosters like falling in love. Orwell and Huxley knew as much almost a century ago.

And, the fact is that it is his fondness for a woman’s boobs (and all her other parts) that leads a man, if he is good and if he is mature, to fatherhood, to the starting of a family, to the founding of a little platoon. Such little platoons easily become fiefdoms outside the control of our cultural elites, incubators of resistance and old, but true, ideas. And thus, does the Left lust violently to shut down the wild, dirty, and glorious process by which they are born.

Michelle Jones, Child Murder and the Dynamics of American Status

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Michelle Jones photo via The New York Times

You know what would guarantee that an applicant would be rejected from any of America’s elite graduate schools including the one at New York University? If he admitted on the application that he had worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization devoted to defending victims of the pogrom against evangelical Christians. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a radical Leftist institution which the mainstream media continually cast as “non-partisan”, recently branded the ADF as a hate group. You can see why putting an association with such an organization on a resume would close off access to Harvard’s hallowed halls.

You know what doesn’t keep you out of America’s top graduate programs? Killing your kid.  According to this article, Michelle Jones, who was recently released from prison for murdering her four-year-old son, has been accepted as a Ph.D. student in American Studies at New York University. Some controversy has accompanied the move after she was rejected by Harvard when some professors and administrators there objected.

The objections weren’t, apparently, rooted in the horror of her crime, but rather in a fear of Sean Hannity. From the article:

We didn’t have some preconceived idea about crucifying Michelle,” said John Stauffer, one of the two American studies professors (who objected). “But frankly, we knew that anyone could just punch her crime into Google, and Fox News would probably say that P.C. liberal Harvard gave 200 grand of funding to a child murderer, who also happened to be a minority. I mean, c’mon.”

This situation is complicated because it is undeniable that Jones has done some good things. She obviously chose to make the best of her time in prison and seems to be focused on creating a positive future for herself.

The story quotes her as saying of herself and her son:

“I have made a commitment to myself and him that with the time I have left, I will live a redeemed life, one of service and value to others.”

All this is good. I hope she fulfills her commitment.

At one level, this looks like a straightforward story about someone who committed a terrible crime, but who, in the intervening years, has worked hard to create a life of value. To the degree this is true, Jones should be applauded. But, it is also clear that her story has helped her earn a place within the machine creating the most influential members of our society. In a few years, Jones will likely be shaping minds as a faculty member at some elite institution earning far above the average income of the average, hardworking non-child-killing American.

To understand why requires understanding how social status in America is achieved within the dominant Leftist frame. In modern America, social status is achieved and maintained by demonstrating one’s willingness to defame anything traditional, especially anything associated with traditional Christian belief or morality, and by one’s ability to silence the natural revulsion we feel when we contemplate evil.

Michelle Jones serves as a means for those in powerful positions to engage in just these sorts of status enhancing behaviors. Jones’ activities in prison and her subsequent application to these elite graduate schools allow those making admissions decisions to see themselves as “good people”, people whose horror at the murder of a four-year-old child is not so strong that they would reject his murderer. By publicly showing their ability to overlook Jones’ crime, they have the opportunity to reinforce their own status.

The conflict between those at NYU who accepted her and those at Harvard who rejected her is really a debate among elite leftists over whether there should be any limits on who can join their ranks, specifically about whether murdering one’s own child should be an impediment to ascending to the heights of leftist society. The answer, apparently, is “no.”

Poor John Stauffer. As one of the professors whose flagging of Jones’ application eventually led to her rejection, he clearly didn’t apprehend the status implications of the situation. That’s why he’s now trying to deflect the blame onto Fox News and the millions of Midwestern dolts who love them.

Had Michelle Jones not murdered her child, she would not be in the privileged position she now enjoys. Because her crime allows elite Leftists to increase their status by helping her, doors have opened to Michelle Jones that would never open to most Americans. Those doors certainly would never open to anyone foolish enough to admit, for example, associating with the Alliance Defending Freedom or other conservative groups.  In elite America, child-murder can be forgiven. Being conservative is unpardonable.

Forgiveness, even for terrible crimes, ought to be part of the way society deals with transgressions. What we have in this situation, however, is not a forgiving society, but one that sees the dismissing of serious evil as a path to self-promotion. For this reason, Jones’ story is not primarily about the redemption of Michelle Jones, but about an elite establishment that, through its blindness and arrogance, makes its own redemption impossible.

Further Notes on “Depression”

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The conversation sparked by Andrew Tate’s claim on twitter that “depression” isn’t real continues. In this video, he is interviewed on the subject by Paul Joseph Watson. Tate’s attack on the myth of the “disease of depression” rattled more than few cages. A few days ago, I weighed in with this post.  As I have reflected more on the subject, several thoughts have surfaced. Here they are in no particular order.

One: Sadness exists. Extended periods of sadness and inner misery may characterize life for some people. I don’t think Andrew is questioning these obvious realities. I certainly am not. Rather, we must draw a distinction between the symptoms of what we call depression– a persistent feeling of sadness, lack of interest in and energy for life, feelings of low self-worth– and the idea of “depression” as a disease.

The fact that people struggle with some or all of those symptoms does not mean “depression”  exists as a disease. No one is questioning whether those qualities we think of as symptoms of “depression” exist. What we question is the biomedical model of “depression”, the notion that “depression” is a disease like malaria that instead of creating a high fever in its victims creates an imbalance of neurochemicals.

Someone on twitter asked me, in an obvious attempt to discredit my observations on this topic, if I were a neuroscientist. I am not, but I am a person who knows how to use Google. Had my critic taken the time to perform a few simple Google searches, she’d have seen that many experts are questioning the biomedical/ disease model of “depression.” Here is an article about the topic from Scientific American. Here is a relevant post from a psychologist at Psychology Today.

Once we separate the cluster of symptoms of “depression” from the notion of “disease”, we can easily see that the notion of depression as a disease of neurochemistry is only a kind of folk tale. Like a lot of folk tales,this one too doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Also like most folk tales, this one gets traction in our culture not because it’s true, but for other more dubious reasons.

Two: The fact that “depression” does not exist as a disease of neurochemistry doesn’t mean that there is no connection between what we call “depression” and the brain. Yes, sometimes people who are “depressed” have a lack of serotonin or some other brain chemical. Other brain conditions might be correlated with what we call “depression”. But, correlation is not causation.

That the brain changes in response to our repeated patterns of thought and action is well established.  Just think about learning to play the piano. Learning to play the piano is not just a matter of learning to move one’s fingers. It is also a matter of changing one’s brain.

The neurological conditions we associate with “depression” then, can just as easily be a result as a cause. After a long period of sadness, for example, it may be that the brain changes in a way that makes ceasing to be sad more difficult than it would otherwise be. Perhaps, then, it would be better to talk about depression not so much as the kind of thing one “has”, but as the kind of thing one “practices.”

Since the brain conditions correlated with “depression” can just as easily be a result as a cause, we must ask why so much of our culture insists, without grounds, that they are causes. There are two reasons.

First, our materialistic culture privileges the material. The bias of our scientistic approach to life simply assumes that the causes of problems are physical. We assume that whatever our machines can detect and measure must be the basis of whatever problem we are trying to solve.

Still, a deeper motive applies: our cultural dream of amorality. The modern world is obsessed with the fantasy that all human actions, except for those that are “discriminatory”, are morally neutral. The argument that brain conditions alone are behind the “disease of depression” eliminates the possibility that the consequences of immoral, unwise actions might be loneliness, sadness and low self-esteem–exactly that group of symptoms we call “depression.” Casting “depression” as a matter of impersonal chemistry, shields people from the thought that actions have moral consequences and thus allows the daydream of amorality to continue.

Three: The biomedical model of depression ignores and thus protects from criticism a cultural context in which all unhappiness is pathologized.  Modern people generally operate on the notion that happiness is the default mode of living. When people experience something else, they assume it’s a deviation from the norm.

Honest and reflective adults, few of whom, admittedly, are walking around these days, know this is not the case. For most people, emotional life involves a constant thread of sadness and anxiety. These strains of sadness and anxiety grow stronger at some times and at others fade into the background. But, they are always there. Certainly, it may be the case that for some people the role sadness and anxiety play in their emotional lives is more pronounced. The distribution of such things probably falls on a bell curve with a few people who experience little sadness or anxiety on one end and people for whom these things are debilitating on the other. Most of us fall in between.

Yet, we ignores this reality. Our materialistic, atheistic values tell us that this life is all there is. If we believe that, we are inclined to think suffering of any type is a problem to be avoided since it compromises our only chance at fulfillment. And thus, we are eager to cast internal suffering as a “disease” to which we can apply a technological cure.

Four: Our society wants to call “depression” a disease in order to avoid changing. We live in a society that inflicts trauma. Through our casual attitudes about divorce and sex, as well as our worship of wealth, career and pleasure we do untold damage. This is our open secret, what everyone knows that no one is supposed to say. I mean, when you are told that your dad can stop being your dad and instead become a second mom, and that your duty is to be nothing but affirming when he does, that’s traumatic.

To protect our moral-free-for-all of a culture, we cast “depression” as an individual, psychological problem rather than as the predictable consequence of moral and social decay. All the energy that goes into seeking treatment for “depression” could just as easily go into, say, reforming divorce laws to prevent the trauma and the subsequent “depression”  divorce brings about in its victims. The “depressed’ are a huge group who, should they ever see their “disease” as stemming from the structure of our society, would be politically unstoppable. In short, we cast “depression” as an individual problem to avoid a revolution.

All these observations point to the same conclusion: that “depression”, at least as a simple biochemical “disease”, does not exist. Curing it is not a simple matter of correcting the chemistry at play in the brain. Most people who react strongly to these ideas do so either because they are suffering, or because they fear increasing the suffering of others. No good person wants intentionally to increase the suffering of others.

But, the truth hurts. Fortunately though, unlike the falsehoods our society pedals, it doesn’t hurt forever. Rather, when the initial sting passes, it heals like no medicine ever can.

More on the Demise of Country Music

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A reader left the following insightful comment yesterday on this post.  I thought it was valuable enough that you ought not miss it.  I present it here with minimal editing.
You’re right to point out how juvenile our culture has become. Nuance, blue-collar authenticity and self-reflection are ideas that no longer sell. Country music was the last bastion of heritage American music until the 90s ended. I read that after Pete Fisher took over the Grand Ole Opry in 1999, the institution started cutting back on the elder country singer bookings at the venue, in attempt to winnow out the old and bring in the new. The long-time loyalty of old country stars such as Charlie Louvin, Del Reeves and Stonewall Jackson was discarded. Link to the news article on Stonewall Jackson’s lawsuit against the Grand Ole Opry is here.
“Jackson claims his appearances on the show declined after Fisher was hired in 1998. Jackson said he approached Fisher on several occasions and was told, “I don’t want any gray hairs on that stage or in the audience, and before I’m done there won’t be any,” and, “You’re too old and too country.”
Fisher is gone as of Jan. 2017 but you see the damage this heartless, corporate mentality has inflicted on an American institution the past 20 years. Want to watch the American Country Music Awards? You have to sit through Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Rihanna pretending to be country music. Of course, the millennial “stars” in the audience egg it on because they’ve been brainwashed to hate their own culture and never sweated or got dirty working outdoors themselves, so who are they to judge? Taylor Swift’s banker daddy got her into a studio to pretend she was country when starting only to use the genre as a platform for her modern feminist garbage. I visited the childhood home of Loretta Lynn in eastern Kentucky and I can tell you, Swift will never understand the emotion and hurt behind the coal miner’s daughters vocals.
I saw the writing on the wall years ago, which is why I’ve made an effort to see as many of the real country stars as I could before they passed, since I’m a young man. I got to see Merle Haggard twice, in the past 6 years–the first time at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Also got to see George Strait on his farewell tour a couple years ago. Vince Gill is also a talented performer who covers all angles of the emotional spectrum.
Don Williams was part of a good batch of songwriters from the 70s that sang about real life. Like Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce, The Carpenters, Glen Campbell, etc. A time long gone but not forgotten if I can help it.
I had not known about the age discrimination suit against the Opry, but if the charges are true, they make clear that the kind of changes I’m decrying don’t happen by accident. Cultural changes that start as philosophical agendas pick up steam as they are transformed into products, like country pop, that sell, and as they take over and corrupt institutions, even ones as venerable, apparently, as the Opry.

Let the Sad Songs Play: On Losing Don Williams

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The Great Don Williams Performing Early in His Career

American culture has grown, in some respects, much cheerier in the last few decades. Movies today are all about the super good guy vanquishing an equally super bad guy, or about a few perky women singing their hearts out while on a journey to blissful self-acceptance.  Pop music is equally happy. Upbeat songs, sometimes about finding love and always about finding sex, rule the airwaves. Anthem after anthem assures us of the power of the liberated individual to overcome all limitations. We are all tigers now. You’re gonna hear us roar.

The passing of country music legend Don Williams last week seems to cement the change. Williams and other traditional country stars, most notably Johnny Cash, represented a time in America when it was OK to be sad. Their music, even at its most upbeat, was tinged with a streak of the tragic, just like real life.

Though not alone in this tradition, Williams spoke uniquely to me. His sonorous crooning about the trials of life worked to soothe the soul by reflecting back its struggles. My dad loved Don Williams too. I remember him listening to Williams, probably on eight-track tapes, when I was still too small to know anything about heartbreak and the power of good music to dull it.

I took my mother and father to see Williams perform about twenty years ago. At one point in the show, Williams paused in obvious surprise when everyone in the room began singing aloud the chorus to “You’re My Best Friend.” It was hallowed moment. I looked over at my father to see tears running down his face.

That kind of thing that was allowed to happen in the Old America. People then could have a full range of emotions and our popular art reflected that. Now, of course, we live in a carnival culture where the only moral obligation is to make every moment a party, the more raucous the better.

Even mainstream country music has been swept up in the happy craze. Much has been said about the transformation of country music from deep, serious music for grown ups to just more hedonistic, low IQ pop for a low IQ population. The only difference between pop and country these days is that when country does pop, it wears a cowboy hat.

Compare this Don Williams classic:

with this recent country hit.

The difference is, I think, obvious. The first is a serious, reflection on place, childhood and the power of memory. The second is a trashy ode to materialism and fun so ridiculous it seems to have the power, in just three short minutes, to make anyone stupid enough to listen even stupider.

These two songs mirror the great cultural shift toward forced cheerfulness. It is no accident that such a shift has occurred at a time when actual life in America has become more unhappy. Wages have been stagnate  for decades. Marriage has been destroyed. Family is seen more as an impediment to an active life in a materialistic world rather than as a refuge from it. We have lost all sense of a unified culture.

And yet, our mainstream popular culture more and more excludes talk of the difficulties of life and their accompanying dissatisfactions. As our actual culture becomes an ever greater disaster, our popular culture seeks to distract us by building a gigantic wall of fakery. Media outlets, corporations, and government bureaucracies all benefit when our vision is blocked. Keeping the population from noticing the moral hellscape where they dwell goes a long way toward keeping things quiet.

When popular culture constantly sends the message that the right kind of person is the one who is always ready to party, people hide their “non-party” feelings. Not feeling “high class” becomes the only sin that brings shame. Eventually, millions of people begin to divorce their bad feelings from the terrible things our culture has inflicted on them. Rather than seeing their feelings as a natural outcome of living in a “progressive” environment, they blame themselves.

Should any brave soul risk speaking up we have ways of dealing with him. Entire industries exist to convince him that he is “depressed.”  Even more powerful industries exist to distract him back into his stupor via video games, porn, and junk food. If all else fails, we’ll put him on disability payments and ask him to stay at home and cause no trouble.

The revival of our culture will require making public space for negative feelings to come once again to the light. We need Don Williams more than ever. In the meantime, we must all undertake whatever acts of resistance we may. Homeschool your children if you can. Turn off the television. Read old books. And sometimes, whenever you dare, just turn out the lights and let the sad songs play.

The Sacrifice of Matthew Halls

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Matthews Halls, being totally not racist.

The increasing instability of our society gives rise to an increasing number of unstable people inhabiting it. Their instability, especially about the grounds of their identities, makes them susceptible to all manner of weird beliefs and behavior. By far, the most pervasive source of identity now for people severed from the normal means of knowing who they are –family, tradition, faith– is the activist Left.  By declaring their allegiance to the Left, unmoored people can locate themselves. Immediately upon enlisting in the social justice army, they are equipped with a narrative that, though simplistic, tells them they are one of the good guys in the ongoing struggle against the dark forces of ignorance, superstition, and oppression.

No doubt, the woman who recently overheard conductor Matthew Halls ask a friend in a

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Reginald Mobley

mock Southern accent whether he wanted some grits was one of these people. Halls was in Oregon working on the Oregon Bach Festival when he made the remark. As all good social justice warriors do, the eavesdropping woman knew minding one’s own business is a tremendous moral failing, and so alerted the relevant authorities that Halls had made a “racist” joke.

University officials responded to her accusation by firing Halls.  The woman who reported Halls is likely white. The university staff who made the decision to fire him are probably mostly, if not exclusively, white. Adding to the ridiculousness is the fact that the friend to whom Halls made the supposedly racist remark, singer Reginald Mobley, is black. Mobley is now speaking out against the injustice done to his friend.

So, we now have a situation in which a bunch of white people are rushing to prove how “not racist” they are by discounting and dismissing the words of a black man.

The absurdity of such situations belies these people’s claims to care about justice. Such behavior is obviously not about justice. It is about identity. The woman who created this  bizarre situation probably thinks of this as a defining moment of her life, the time she stood up to the evil racists. Reporting Halls to the authorities was, for her, most likely, a means of asserting personal power in an increasingly impersonal society.  Getting Halls canned might have been one of the few times in her life where she felt real efficacy.

Of course, that’s all speculation. She could just as easily be a person who has done this sort of thing repeatedly, a person addicted to the frisson of righteous indignation springing from accusing the guilty and seeing them punished. For all we know, this woman is a decorated veteran in the war to stamp out dangerous jokes.

The important point here is not so much this woman’s history, but the larger narrative that motivated her behavior. A person who reports an overheard joke as “racist” to authorities whom she knows are eager to punish lives inside a story that tells her such behavior is appropriate. The same story tells her that exposing a perceived violation of her moral code, no matter how slight, is what good people do. She, no doubt, longs to prove she is one of the “good people.”

The madness we are witnessing here is what happens when you combine millions of needy, rootless people with a cultural narrative that tells them Nazis are lurking behind every bush. Eager for approval and affirmation, some of these needy people will spot Nazis even where they quite evidently don’t exist. When those in power impose unjust consequences in the name of justice based on such flimsy testimony, they only amplify and confirm the original delusion. The case of Matthew Halls will lead to others who are unjustly punished. We have seen such cases before.

At bottom here is a cultural narrative concocted by the radical, activist Left that has now become dominant. The Left has cultural frame. Lonely, alienated people will act to relieve their suffering. But, when they act inside a frame as pernicious as the currently ascendant one, we enter into a culture-wide war, not against injustice, but against reality itself. Like all wars, this one too inflicts death and destruction on the expendable innocent. Matthew Halls is just today’s collateral damage.

Why Andrew Tate is Mostly Right about Depression

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People who are “depressed” are sometimes fond of repeating the aphorism “Depression is about chemistry, not character. ”  This catchy phrase has two benefits. First, it exonerates any lack of character on the part of those repeating it. Second, it relieves them of any burden to change. Believing “depression is about chemistry, not character’ does have one big down side: it keeps people depressed.

Kickboxer Andrew Tate set off quite a kerfuffle on twitter recently when he pointed out a similar truth. Here’s one of his tweets:

Tate went on to claim that “depression” isn’t real, and that what people believe is “depression” is really the choice to settle for mediocre, unfulfilling lives. Many, many people didn’t want to hear this. Replies to his tweets were full of claims that can all be summarized as some version of “depression is about chemistry, not character.”

Such an angry reaction isn’t surprising. It’s how modern people act when somebody tells the truth, especially in the confrontational tone Andrew chose. The freak-out he has caused, rather than make us doubt his claims, should serve as confirmation that he is onto something.

He is. In fact, he is mostly right. Before we discuss that, let’s consider where he is wrong. “Depression” as a medical condition, as some sort of neurochemical mix-up probably does exist. If it does exist, it’s rare. Here is the kind of case where I would suspect real, medical depression to be at play.  Imagine a guy who is fit and healthy, with a good family life. He has friends and at least enough money to spare him from constant financial worry. Sometimes life is stressful, but he manages it well. He is confident and has a deep sense that his life is meaningful and his activities worthwhile. When a guy like that suddenly stops wanting to get out of bed, stops wanting to have sex with his good-looking wife, and won’t go work, well, then maybe something is wrong with his brain and he needs to see a doctor.

But, here’s the thing: guys like that barely exist. In the vast majority of cases, people who have done the work to secure for themselves a healthy, stable, fulfilling life are immune to depression. This is a large part of Andrew’s point. If I read him correctly, he’s saying that depression, more than being an internal, mysterious monster that sneaks up on people out of nowhere, is a mostly a matter of circumstances.

When he says depression is a choice, he’s saying people can choose to tolerate the painful circumstances that cause depression or choose to work hard at changing them. He’s certainly right about this. Most people who are “depressed”  lack the right mindset. They refuse to seize their innate power to tackle tough problems and wrestle them to the ground.

Entire industries exist to perpetuate these attitudes. Medical personnel and pharmaceutical companies make gobs of money from this sort of “depression.” At the same time, most people have been taught that as soon as someone says he’s “depressed”, we should excuse him from all expectations. In this way, the general population has been induces to conspire in increasing “depressed” people’s misery. When we excuse “depressed” people from all expectations about living productive and respectable lives, we become complicit in their poor choices.

Our tendency to excuse and coddle people who say they are “depressed” has led us to a society that celebrates, and thus incentivizes, weakness. A society that makes special accommodations for every sort of unhappiness and irresponsibility will, predictably, see an increase in unhappiness and irresponsibility. Conversely, a culture that rewards rectitude and dignity will see an increase in those qualities.

This fact leads to a reality that Andrew has not mentioned. While it is certainly true that “depression” is not just some mysterious internal monster, it is also true that culture has a lot to do with whether people feel “depressed”. Fact is, we live in a deeply depressing culture. Think back to my example of the healthy guy with the good family and financial stability who isn’t depressed. Well, our culture has done all it can to make acquiring those things that guard against “depression”– strong family and community ties, financial stability, a deep sense of purpose and duty– almost impossible to obtain.

Instead, we live in a culture that pumps our heads full of lies and our food full of chemicals. “Depression” is a natural response to this kind of society. Being happy and fulfilled in our culture requires being actively-counter cultural, rejecting the habits and beliefs common to the masses. Seeing this and taking action to build a life at odds with the culture that surrounds us is crucial, a first step out of “depression” and toward a life that is rewarding, free, and, by our current cultural standards, necessarily strange.

Jory Micah, “Progressive” Christians, and a Dying Culture.

jordy
“Pastor” Jory Micah

Jory Micah is “progressive” Christian feminist like Rachel Held Evans, but without the intellectual heft and power, and that’s saying something. If you are at all familiar with Rachel Held Evans, you know what I mean. Evans is known for her weak arguments and hysteria. Jory Micah would have to up her game even to reach that level.

Still, Micah is an emerging figure in “progressive” Christian circles. As such, she often parrots the talking points of “progressive” Christians with even larger profiles. One of these talking points is to deny the perspicacity of Scripture.

They routinely deride the claim that the words of scripture are clear in most instances. “Oh no,” they say, “really the text requires someone with years of training in ancient languages, the philosophy of hermeneutics, and the history of ancient near-eastern peoples to even get close to understanding what the text means.”  Really, of course, what they mean is that only people with degrees from liberal seminaries deserve to be taken seriously. Regular believers and conservatives, “progressives” maintain, have no right to assume we can understand what is written in the Bible in the same way we can understand what, for example, Jory Micah writes on her blog.

This is all a ruse, of course. The real goal is not to receive the message the authors of the text intended to send, but rather to avoid it. This whole approach is simply an attempt to pervert the ancient wisdom of the Bible in order to make it fit with the wishes of the modern Left.

I have spent years conversing with and reading the works of “progressive Christians.” Not once in all that time have I heard them deny the clarity of passages they like. The only inscrutable passages are those that contradict the Democratic platform.

The end result is that when  the Bible says “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable,” we are supposed to pretend no one has a clue what that might mean, but when the Bible says “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” everybody knows for certain that means the United States must have open borders and that Trump is Satan.

I thought of all this again this morning when I saw this series of tweets from “Pastor” Jory Micah.

Here we come to the larger point. When written words are an impediment to Leftists’ agenda, they will find some means, however ridiculous, of getting around them. The argument Micah is making here about the “living” nature of Scripture has been made in the political arena by Leftists trying to curb the the political liberties articulated in the Constitution. Because the Constitution is a “living document”, they argue, its word can simply be reinterpreted to mean the opposite of what every reader took them to mean until 10 minutes ago.

The antics of people like Micah matter even for those outside the church. “Progressive” Christians actively share tactics with their secular counterparts because, underneath it all, they too are members of the Leftist faith far more than of the Christian one. Secular “progressives”, in their ongoing work to destroy the last vestiges of traditional moral and social life, encounter resistance from the Church. The role of “progressive” Christians is to work to weaken that resistance from the inside, to erode the Church’s will and power to resist.

When the Church’s will and ability to act as a leavening agent in a culture is compromised, that culture’s slide into degeneracy accelerates. Such is our current situation. “Progressive” Christians like Micah are not the only reason for this, but they are a significant one. Any hope of restoring the church’s ability to be a light, to be a force for cultural preservation and personal edification will necessitate that people like Jory Micah be ignored and, as far as possible, expelled from the larger Christian community. Too much is at stake, both for the Church and the wider society, not to reject such people in the strongest possible terms. In short, instead of attending any longer to the dissembling speech of Leftists which leads to destruction, we must attend to the written and unchanging word which, though not “living”, leads to life.

On Women and Tattoos

Girl-with-hand-tattoo

A long time ago, a girl who lived in my apartment building used to lie on the grass out front mostly naked. On sunny days in the fall or spring, she’d traipse out there in her bikini, put down a towel and stretch out. For an added measure of daring she would undo her top, fully exposing her golden brown back.

She wasn’t especially beautiful. She was pudgy and addicted to cigarettes. Still, she was clever and had a wildness about her that made her magnetic.

I was, at that time, shy about sexual matters and inclined to be gentlemanly. I pretended not to notice her but, of course, I did. I mean, she was out there pretty much naked.

One day, I saw something new. She had a spot on her lower back. I could see it was a tattoo. Back then, getting a tattoo was edgy. This was the early nineties and she was at the forefront of what would become a trend, then a cultural wave and, by now, basically standard practice for young women.

She had her nose pierced around the same time, another clear signal that this was a girl serious about her dangerous persona.

Fast forward 25 years and all this is commonplace.

These days, it’s rare to see a young woman in public who doesn’t have some ink on display, or who hasn’t added some metal adornment to her face via an additional hole.

I’m not crazy about tattoos on men either. But, they’re worse on women. Tattoos suggest toughness, pain, grittiness. However bad tattoos look on men they at least emphasize traits that are not at odds with the central nature of the masculine.

Not so with tattoos on women. A woman with a tattoo is declaring herself to be at odds with the essential nature of her own femininity. She has marked herself with a sign that says, “Look at me! I’m hard!”  The decoration on her skin suggests a distortion in her soul. It suggests that she does not see feminine modesty, elegance and reserve as valuable or worth cultivating.

Most women who get tattoos these days never think about this. Instead, they get tattoos because it’s just what girls do. In the absence of any real training in womanhood or grounding for their identity, women get tattoos to show their membership in a sisterhood, to be like their peers or to commemorate some event.

Tattooing took off between the nineties and now, in part, because of the increasing transience of our society. As we have discarded stable family lives and rooted communities for greater professional mobility, it is no wonder that young women look for a way of creating  on their bodies permanent souvenirs of people and places and events that once mattered to them but which they have lost.

The fleeting nature of everything now –families, lovers, jobs, whatever– is hard on men and women in different ways. Women, who long for security, have an even harder time finding it in a disposable culture. No wonder then that they turn to tattooing for something permanent and something a little like armor behind which they can hide.

The widespread practice of women getting tattoos, though it suggests a rejection of traditional femininity, actually affirms its unchanging nature. The feminine wants to belong. Women want to belong to a family. They want fathers. They want husbands. They want to be marked as belonging to t a family, a tribe, a community. When they are unable to find these things, unable to find a figure of benevolent authority who will mark them as his, we can hardly be surprised that they would mark themselves in some way.

Occasionally, I wonder where the tattooed, naked girl from my apartment building all those years ago  ended up. My guess is that she is pushing 50 now with even more tattoos. She was a frontrunner in a race to destruction. As such, I fear she was also a sign of where millions of girls are now headed. She trusted our cultural map and, I suspect, it that has led her, in late mid-life, to an existence that is hard to bear, an existence characterized by loneliness, by a hardness and emptiness that are as unshakeable as a dark blot on her aging skin.