A Gift to Lift You (Poem)

March 21, 2011

Where are the dear students of Jackson Park Middle School? What became of Mr. Grossman and Mrs. Silvio and Miss Ferguson? The dynamic, confident society that they belonged to has made some wrong turns. Did Ambition have something to do with it? This poem, by Carl Dennis, speaks of the heart feeling that loss and trying to reconnect to that past somehow. It’s from a collection edited by Garrison Keillor.

Can anyone under 30 understand what Dennis is talking about? I dearly hope it is possible for them to make the connection to traditional America, so close and so far away from us.

I disagree profoundly with Keillor’s politics, but he is a person who keeps alive a sense of what pre-1960s America was like. He also has the skills of a politician in connecting with individual members of his audience. I met him once at a book-signing and wanted to have him sign a book as a gift to a friend. We had been instructed to write a note telling him who the book was to be dedicated to and what kind of message we wanted. He looked at the note and asked me a few questions, then wrote an inscription far better and more appropriate than what I’d had in mind. A bit of a Ronald Reagan that way – not that he’s appreciate the comparison.

Invitation

This is your invitation to the Ninth-Grade Play
At Jackson Park Middle School
8:00 P.M., November 17, 1947.
Macbeth, authored by Shakespeare
And directed by Mr. Grossman and Mrs. Silvio
With scenery from Miss Ferguson’s art class.

A lot of effort has gone into it.
Dozens of students have chosen to stay after school
Week after week with their teachers
Just to prepare for this one evening,
A gift to lift you a moment beyond the usual.
Even if you’ve moved away, you’ll want to return.
Jackson Park, in case you’ve forgotten, stands
At the end of Jackson Street at the top of the hill.
Doubtless you recall that Macbeth is about ambition.
This is the play for you if you’ve been tempted
To claw your way to the top. If you haven’t been,
It should make you feel grateful.
Just allow time to get lost before arriving.
So many roads are ready to take you forward
Into the empty world to come, misty with promises.
So few will lead you back to what you’ve missed.

Just get an early start.
Call in sick to the office this once.
Postpone your vacation a day or two.
Prepare to find the road neglected,
The street signs rusted, the school dark,
The doors locked, the windows broken.
This is where the challenge comes in.

Do you suppose our country would have been settled
If the pioneers had worried about being lonely?

Somewhere the students are speaking the lines
You can’t remember. Somewhere, days before that,
This invitation went out, this one you’re reading
On your knees in the attic, the contents of a trunk
Piled beside you. Forget about your passport.
You don’t need to go to Paris just yet.
Europe will seem even more beautiful
Once you complete the journey you begin today.

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On the Disaster in Japan

March 14, 2011

I feel preoccupied with the horrible loss of life we are learning of in Japan. I have friends there although, thankfully, none in the areas struck by the tsunami. I certainly agree with the bloggers and writers who have commented on how the Japanese response to this disaster shows the advantages of belonging to a high-I.Q., homogeneous population. Apart from that, it seems to me that Japanese society has a blend of order, attention to detail, honesty, and decency, qualities realized in a unique national character that can’t be imitated or fully explained.

But really, this is not the time to project our selfish concerns upon a people undergoing terrible suffering and loss. I’d rather refrain from comment and just send good wishes and prayers to the people of Japan.


Extraordinary Popular Delusions

March 14, 2011

I’ve been reading Charles Mackay’s 1841/1852 book Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Noonday Press, 1932), on the recommendation of a friend. It chronicles, in entertaining, anecdotal fashion, a variety of popular crazes that took place throughout European history, including alchemy, animal magnetism, the Crusades, and witch hunting. (The Crusades had a real justification, but that is a topic for another time.) It is most admired by economists for its accounts of three famous economic “bubbles.” The first is the Mississippi Bubble that took place in France in 1719-1720, a consequence of out-of-control speculation on the French colony in Louisiana under policies orchestrated by John Law, Scottish economist and Controller General of Finances under the French regent, Philippe d’Orléans. The second is the South-Sea Bubble, which happened in Britain at almost the same time, also bursting in 1720. This was the result of speculation on the South Sea Company, which had been permitted by Parliament to take on the national debt. The third is the Dutch “Tulipomania,” a collective frenzy of investment in tulip bulbs that fell apart in 1636-37, and is known as the first recorded economic bubble.

Mackay writes:

In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first. We see one nation suddenly seized, from its highest to its lowest members, with a fierce desire of military glory; another as suddenly becoming crazed upon a religious scruple, and neither of them recovering its senses until it has shed rivers of blood and sowed a harvest of groans and tears, to be reaped by its posterity. (p. xix)

The book emphasizes the moral damage that accrues to a society that becomes obsessed with obtaining something for nothing: order breaks down, the low become puffed up while the high debase themselves, and crime and immorality become the order of the day. Robert Walpole fervently opposed the scheme of the South Sea directors to take on the debt:

He warned them, in eloquent and solemn language, of the evils that would ensue. [The bill] countenanced, he said, “the dangerous practice of stock-jobbing, and would divert the genius of the nation from trade and industry. It would hold out a dangerous lure to decoy the unwary to their ruin, by making them part with the earnings of their labour for a prospect of imaginary wealth. The great principle of the project was an evil of first-rate magnitude; it was to raise artificially the value of the stock, by exciting and keeping up a general infatuation, and by promising dividends out of funds which could never be adequate to the purpose.” In a prophetic spirit he added, that if the plan succeeded, the directors would become masters of the government, form a new and absolute aristocracy in the kingdom, and control the resolutions of the legislature. If it failed, which he was convinced it would, the result would bring general discontent and ruin upon the country. Such would be the delusion, that when the evil day came, as come it would, the people would start up, as from a dream, and ask themselves if these things could have been true…. (p. 50)

As for the “Tulipomania,” who can forget the story of the Englishman who inadvertently destroyed a precious tulip bulb?

This gentleman, an amateur botanist, happened to see a tulip-root lying in the conservatory of a wealthy Dutchman. Being ignorant of its quality, he took out his penknife, and peeled off its coats, with the view of making experiments upon it…Suddenly the owner pounced upon him, and, with fury in his eyes, asked him if he knew what he had been doing? “Peeling a most extraordinary onion,” replied the philosopher. “Hundert tausend duyvel!” said the Dutchman; “it’s an Admiral Van der Eyck.” “Thank you,” replied the traveller, taking out his note-book to make a memorandum of the same; “are these admirals common in your country?” “Death and the devil,” said the Dutchman, seizing the astonished man of science by the collar; “come before the syndic, and you shall see”….When brought into the presence of the magistrate, he learned, to his consternation, that the root upon which he had been experimentalizing was worth four thousand florins; and, notwithstanding all he could urge in extenuation, he was lodged in prison until he found securities for the payment of this sum. (p. 93)

According to Wikipedia, the Tulip Mania may not have been a true bubble and may not have been anywhere near the scale described by Mackay. Mackay’s notion of popular delusion creates its own bias towards exaggerating the madness of crowds. In any case, this book is at once droll entertainment and a salutary warning for our own time. Economic bubbles in themselves are a real enough threat, but we have many, many more layers of delusion that we’ll need to unpeel, like that tulip-root, before we can get to the root causes of the wreck that’s been made of our society.


Open Sex and Open Borders

March 8, 2011

Oddly enough, it was in American Renaissance‘s news section that I picked up on the story about the “professor” at Northwestern University who arranged for his students to witness a live, disgusting sex act as an extra activity for his “human sexuality” “class.” AmRen is mainly concerned with issues of immigration and race, not sexual morality, and the article was linked only with the ironic complaint that, in contrast to this appalling occurrence, “a talk about race and immigration would probably be shut down.” And yet, there is common thread of degeneracy in American society linking this unfathomable abuse of the educational mission with the indiscriminate immigration (actually, immigration actively discriminating against the traditional American nation) that AmRen so rightly and valiantly opposes.

One of the most disturbing things about incidents like this one is the relative absence of firm condemnations, either from the authorities whose charge it is to prevent such things from happening, or from the public. The authority figure in this case was university president Morton Shapiro, who, after stating that he was “troubled” and “disappointed” by the event, said that

I feel it represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member. I simply do not believe this was appropriate, necessary or in keeping with Northwestern University’s academic mission.

Meanwhile, there were a number of very strong condemnations of the perverted professor from the “public,” that is, alumni, students, and Internet passers-by who commented on news stories about the incident. However, there were also quite a few who either supported Bailey outright or insisted that whatever one felt about his actions personally, as long as students were informed about what was going to happen and no one was coerced in any way, then “academic freedom” demanded that he be permitted to run his class however he wanted. This was the view put forth by student editors of the campus newspaper. Students on a TV story expressed a studied, cool indifference to the whole issue – in effect, “It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but hey, this is the 21st century, and who is anyone to condemn anything that takes place between consenting adults. Aren’t there more important things to worry about, like war, racism, and global warming?” Even Shapiro failed to issue a genuine condemnation of the act, resorting to the “poor judgment” cop-out that is otherwise so often applied when a nonwhite member of our society commits an appalling, evil crime.

I am not even very impressed with the responses given by writers for the National Review, here and here. One writer gives Bailey far too much of a pass for his allegedly excellent “research” of the past, while the other condemns him firmly, but for incoherent reasons, such as that the sex demo was degrading to women.

My friends, we are in deep, deep trouble. A majority of Americans, at all levels, apparently do not understand traditional sexual morality. In particular, it seems that many people under 30 lack even a vague instinctive sense of what is right and what is wrong sexually.

Sex is inherently connected to baby-making and family formation. If we want to live in a society with healthy families – with families at all – and with healthy, happy babies and children, we have to impose standards and restrictions on people’s sexual behavior. Who has sex, when, how, and with whom – these things are not simply matters of private choice, for all sex has serious consequences, and every variant of sexual activity has its typical and distinctive consequences. Further, to attain the aforesaid type of society – namely, a society composed of families formed from monogamous heterosexual unions – there needs to be a general expectation that normal adults should, to fulfill one of their basic obligations in society, get (heterosexually!) married in due time and form and support their families.

This expectation is still the norm in much of the world, even if the form it takes in many places would not be satisfactory to Westerners. Despite the ravages of Communism and the imposition of the “one-child policy,” for example, most Chinese people are still married by their mid- to late- 20s, and few divorce. It’s just what you’re supposed to do.

Birth control and abortion, by separating the sex act from family formation, obviously work against it, and the emotional consequences of this should be obvious even apart from the horrors of abortion itself. But the same is true of a variety of sexual practices – for example, relationships between members of the same sex.

Does this mean reducing sex to a practical act of fertilization or denying that it should be enjoyed? Of course not, and the traditional/Christian view has never done so, even if there may have been irruptions of “puritanical” pleasure-hatred in certain times and places. Indeed, the highest and most fulfilling expression of the sexual impulse is found within marriage. Nor does it mean that we should go on a campaign to stamp out all sexual behavior that is “nonstandard” or fails to contribute to a larger social good – an impossible task in any case. But what it does mean is that everything is organically connected. It is impossible to place sex within the framework of families, and simultaneously to treat it as a physical sport or emotional drug. Can we all get on the same page and recognize that a person who is fixated on “kinky” practices like exhibitionism or obtaining pleasure through mechanical devices providing inhuman and excessive stimulation is a person who has wholly separated himself or herself from the possibility of fulfilling his or her mature adult role as spouse, parent, and member of the community? And that therefore society should grant no tolerance or approval to such practices? (It is an abuse of language to refer to such a person as someone’s “fiance.”)

If we took such a moral perspective, we would not only be in a position to quickly purge sickos like Bailey from their respected social position, we would also be able to see that the “sex research” itself that he and others conduct does not aim at the benign pursuit of knowledge, but pursues a malevolent and harmful agenda.

Now, on to the task of how to bring about an American or Western renaissance. We have first, literally, to reproduce ourselves, that is, to have babies, and we are not doing an adequate job at present. But simply making babies is not going to save our civilization if the babies don’t themselves grow up into civilized men and women carrying on the legacy of their forbears. For that we need traditional families. This is the issue – and not whether Northwestern University’s image has been damaged or whether Bailey may have made positive contributions of some sort to offset his, to say the least, poor “judgment.”

The day that large numbers of Westerners begin to see this will, I suspect, be close to the day that they start to resist their dispossession, through mass immigration, by foreigners who are indeed making babies, but babies who will grow up, not to become Americans, Germans, Dutch, French, or Australians, but to replace them.


A Quick Report

March 1, 2011

I spent the afternoon in Windsor, Canada, on Sunday and looked around for several hours. It’s certainly in wonderful condition compared to Detroit – and people are quite friendly and helpful, as one would hope and expect from Canadians. It is striking how similar Canadian and U.S. English are, at least the standard varieties. And yet there are all kinds of small differences in usage. The public restrooms are referred to as “washrooms,” a word my father used to use, but which I doubt a single U.S. American under about age 65 uses today. Convenience stores are labeled “Convenience.”

A nice town – but not at all free of the sense of degeneration found in U.S. cities. It has a very extensive Arab section which reminded me of Dearborn in Michigan. According to Wikipedia the town is over 20% foreign born. There are also obviously large Chinese and Vietnamese populations. I am almost to the point of wanting to eat at a “native” place despite my fondness for Asian and other foreign foods, but I did break down and have Vietnamese food at a very lively place after being unable to find something other than not-very-appealing pizza and hamburger.

A somewhat sad phenomenon was numerous elderly people eating at places like McDonald’s and Tim Hortons on Sunday. Presumably they live alone and don’t cook for themselves. Some were in groups, seemingly enjoying themselves; others were quite alone. One old woman ordered, for herself, enough food for several people. You see this in the States, too.

Going in, I had a thoroughly pleasant conversation with a female Canadian border officer, who passed me through easily. Returning to the U.S. was much less enjoyable. The male officer never cracked a smile and asked me all sorts of gruff questions about what I was doing in Windsor for six hours. He checked my bags, trunk, and glove compartment. I try not to blame these officers for their deportment, since I know they’re forced to treat heritage Americans strictly in order to have cover to check the truly suspicious characters – and so it will continue until some force or event, as yet impossible to foretell, puts an end to the practice of (pretended) non-discrimination in security matters.

Our societies bumble on, and I often do not know what to do but pray that the punishment needed to shock us from our deluded way of living will not be as great as I fear it could be.