Jefferson's Law

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Jefferson
repays reading, as his observations are spread through his letters
and he makes 4 or 5 remarks per page that would be a book from a
lesser man. And he is very surprising, especially if you dig around
to really understand the details of the time in which he lived.
Indeed, scholars have done a real hack job on him, because many
won’t do the rather simple work, insist of looking at him from some
anachronistic class-consciousness view, or apply the bubble-gum
everyone-has-feet-of-clay concepts from the newspapers to the highly
educated and realistic citizens of the American Enlightenment. The
fashion is to try and tell Jefferson what he was really doing. That
truth is he has a lot to say to us. And we can directly apply today
the formulations he gave to the problems of the time and of human
affairs over the centuries.

The
French Shop Keeper

One
of his insights was what I call the “French Shop-Keeper’s Syndrome,”
Jefferson’s Iron Law of social decline. Chairman Jeff noted that
a real danger to republics and societies in general was when they
became distanced, by progress, technology, division of labor, from
the realities and processes that kept it all going. Sheltered in
big cities, like French Shop Keepers long emotionally and mentally
distant from what made their cities possible, they passed laws destroying
the country in the name of sentiment. In modern terms, they are
like cosseted passengers who tell the pilot to shut down the engines
as the noise disturbs them.

Jefferson
would have promptly recognized intellectual pretenders like Marxism
or feminism as bumpkin ignorance of over-sheltered scholars and
the morbid sensitivity of cruel and vapid women who vote, but do
not fight; tax, but do not produce. In a phrase, Jefferson realized
that a city sophisticate could be the most sheltered person in the
world, and his naïve conceptions, dressed in beautiful words,
most dangerous. This was a disease or growth pang of a growing society;
it’s remedy property ownership and self-reliance. Many, such as
Baden-Powell, apparently sensed his insight in the Boy Scout movement,
which was formed not so much by him as spontaneously by youngsters
who trooped the countryside, realizing there was something more
than schoolbooks and kitchens and directions from pompous adults.

Indeed,
I would argue Jefferson was an intuitive philosopher of history,
a sociological Wittgenstein whose off-hand remarks, when you realize
their full implications, are very fruitful. Old Witty, alas, in
my view was thought-provoking but wrong. Only he would discard the
ladder (in his much quoted image) when he got to the roof. Only
his hopelessly provincial interpreters, convinced that Adolf Hitler’s
boyhood chum (yep) and co-inventor or conceptualizer of the jet
engine (yep-yep) – which most of them are not aware of –
build careers ignorant of one little fact. Like many disillusioned
persons of the time, Witty had his Buddhist phase, without quite
understanding any of it. They do not realize that his famous statement
with which they impress co-eds was a mangled play on the Buddha’s
idea that when you are done with a mental vehicle that gets you
from A to B, like a ship to cross a lake, you don’t carry the ship
on your shoulder to go into town. But Buddha wasn’t saying you kick
the ladder down away, or sink the ship..

Jefferson
was, in contrast, original, thought provoking and dead calm on target.
And that is why he was talking about Witty 150 years before he was
born, in what strikes me as his one of his most important concepts
for understanding the good life and what it takes to build the free
society and keep it built. And which Witty and his playmates weren’t
so good at, to judge by the good old class of ’03 or whatever they
were up there in Alpine Linz that summer. There is no evidence Witty
read Jefferson. Adolf sure loved May’s cowboy yarns though. And
his crony Hess sure liked the Greens in his declining years, regaling
in the German movement’s statements such as that it was better for
a hundred boys to be raped and killed than a single tree cut down
in a forest. Better, they seem to imply, that humanity never have
been born. This is not a new attitude. Blood and nature mysticism
up North was noted by Tacitus, who also noted it still had a ring
over the effete Roman Shop Keeper’s daughter’s and son’s of the
time who sniffed perfumes as the more wild-eyed Germans infiltrated
their armies. In time, and this Tacitus did not realize, this was
a fatal marriage of de-rooted fruits civilization and rooty earthy
living with no fruit. It returned Rome to the forest, just as they
had promised. It brought Europe recently through a cycle of mad
revolutions and wars. For centuries there were no perfumes, and
in many localities bathing was a crime.

Babies
are cute, but involve lovemaking, romantic disappointments and false
starts, and many a month of diapers If you want wealth, you must
produce. To play, a little work must occur. And until we have Star
Trek replicators, to eat, you must kill. And even then, the plants
will sup on your remains, and the lovely flower you admire and unthinkingly
cut to wear in your hair or give to your delighted old mother is
born of the death of your ancestors, whose ashes nourish the plant.
And, in so doing, like you, has no sin or blame.

The
Plants are Coming.

And
having begun with a typically learned but common-sense MG intro,
the learning that comes from a little sympathetic understanding
and riding a Harley where pseudo-intellectuals fear to tread, you
naturally realize we are about to talk about food.

In
Matt Drudge yesterday were conjoined three headlines. Let
me tell you the first two. In one European observers praised a decision
that a hospital was liable for letting some one be born who had
a sad set of defects. Not that they misinformed the parents –
that was not the liability. The idea was it was damage to be born.

The
second story, in interesting contrast, was causing an injured pheasant
to die. The UK Queen, no less, had strangled her dinner. How could
she, wailed the animal protection societies. This proves the demeaning
effect of guns, cackled the weapons control fascists. How unladylike
and…real, is what more than one repressed Rose of England thought,
too, I will wager.

Doubtless
some chicken-farm and poultry crony-capitalists are preparing a
statement that we should kill them humanely so they end up covered
in salmonella, just like the government mandated procedures of Our
American Cousins.

I
can see the lobsters yelling now: “Aunty ‘Em! Queen Mum! I want
to go hooooome…!”

Let’s
discuss food. Shop Keeper’s food. Because as everyone knows, Chocolate
Milk comes from Brown Cows. And real spaghetti comes from boxes.
And pheasant – or potted chicken, if you like that – in
cans. Little lovely cans that grow on trees or, perhaps, made in
factories. Food.

Not
food at a fine restaurant, but what comes before. As my great-aunt’s
aunt, cackling at 80, showed me when I was 6 when I visited my relatives
in the Dominican Republic and before they sold the last De Lemos
ranch. There I learned how to bite off a chicken’s head under the
lovable old crone’s tutelage. Not wring it’s neck like that timid
Queen of the Britons, so called, with her hapless little surplus
pheasants.

No,
senor. For as she revealed, dressed in severe black and one
thin hand holding a rubberized smock, it is impertinence to not
face the realities of what keeps you alive, and suicidal to your
grandson’s welfare. The wealthy man who avoids the simple realities
sets a bad example, and had better understand why he is doing as
he does. And the poor man who does not think upon them opens the
path to his brutalization, and closes his mind to the subtleties
that savor life. And watch out for middle-class fops, necios,
she instructed me, nice people (in an exaggerated accent
of disgust) who thought they could somehow survive without getting
blood on their hands. She did not want a sissy child in her family
like that whole poor land of misguided sensitivity up North that
would soon have them passing laws making the men have to get permission
from their wives and girlfriends to go to bed and make el amor.
God preserve you, my child, said she, and given the sorry mess now
where a man can be thrown in jail for life for kissing his wife
without permission three times (repeat domestic sexual abuser) or
not kissing her (three time emotional abuser, and they throw away
the key) on her say so alone (Uh-huh – you don’t believe? Look
it up. It’s happening also in more countries. A man in Australia
was jailed for rape of his wife for several years because he did
not withdraw in 4 seconds when the jury ruled he should have been
done in 2)…well, that woman to my mind was a seer.

Her
view is it all started from sentimental alienation from the realities
of life. “Look that chicken in the eye,” she said, “Si, it
is a shame it must die that you must live, but if the positions
were reversed it would eat you. It shows no mercy to the
worm but kills it cleanly. To the worm you are the sword of a just
God, repaying the chicken in it’s own coin. Thank it for keeping
you alive. Respect it. Respect what you must do. And cleanly kill
it without much pain. Do not wallow in your foolishness, turning
your head away and leaving it to die alone as you clumsily wring
its neck, or worse, pretend it does not effect you. Face your destiny
and bite its head off, like la guillotina and not painfully
twist its neck. The worm will thank you and eat your remains to
feed the plant when your time is come. Do not listen to sissy men
and sentimental women who will say be a vegetarian. They hate themselves.
As an occasional spiritual exercise there is some merit, and if
you truly love animals that is fine, but the only reason they murder
the plants at will is they do not here their plant screams. When
nations grow rich, even in small groups or businesses, out come
the fofos (easily offended spoiled persons) and they soon
bring tyrants to serve their needs. The vegetarian does not think.
They do not hear the plant grieve for its aborted children as they
seize its fruit. Or reflect that the plant’s live off our helpless
corpses, and in the end are the most vicious and merciless carnivores
of all.”

“That
is a lot to think about, Dona,” I said.

“Hitler
was a vegetarian, idiot boy! Caligula cried over his horse while
he slaughtered millions! It is so in all things in life. And if
you are not thinking in 20 directions at once, seeing the full meaning
of things, you will be neither a man nor free. If you can’t face
a chicken with honor, what then are you? So think with honor, not
cackle like a stupid hen in dishonor. The chicken thinks like most
people, what is immediately before it. It merely lacks the human
intelligence to lie to itself about about it.”

And
she was right. I revered that chicken. I respect my food. And if
you can respect that process, respecting others is easy. It didn’t
matter if I bit its head off or tickled it to death. What was important
was to understand the reality of what had to be. And avoid superficial
explanations of foolish folks who collected the benefits without
the realities.

When
years later I read John Wyndham’s quasi-Libertarian masterpiece
The
Day of the Triffids
, it made immediate sense to me. There,
carnivorous plants roam the Earth mopping up the “I’m so offended”
remnants of society after a strange accident leaves most of the
world blind. Use a gun? On a plant? Some people couldn’t bring themselves
to do it. At last some people get organized and form a collective,
realizing no government will help them, and that the government
to come will be ruled by thugs.

The
action takes place in a post-apocalypse England.

The
Day of the Turtle.

This
kind of reflection leads to a sense of how things fit, and realizing
one has a responsibility to find out before taking action. I will
go out of my way to not disturb an ant, or remove a harmless bug
who has entered my home. Not like many a vegetarian I know –
who has not truly thought out why he was a vegetarian – who
go hysterical in their ignorance of nature and poison everything
with the Raid bug-spray.

Hunters
know what I am talking about. Those who have learned the bitter
lesson that curing symptoms that alarm your sensitivities or offend
you – and it is the true indictment of ourr time that people
think “I find this offensive” is some sort of argument or reason
– is a snare, that one must coolly look at causes deeper down,
will find my little parable resonates.

Don’t
be a Jefferson’s Shop keeper.

If
that Queen were a real Queen, or King, as that is her legal title
and is sex-neutral, simply meaning leader – she would not kill
for the fun of it, sure. But having set out for food, she wouldn’t
be daintily wringing necks like an emotionally conflicted Englisher,
and have her press nincompoops run interference when self-righteous
people with a serious reality disconnect object. She would (or if
soon-to-be King Chuck had it in him, he would) march out of Buckingham
Palace, chomp a few heads off for dinner in public, and make the
public like it. What the dickens do these pommy poofters think they
are eating? A real king would express that the only regret was being
unable to wring – or chomp – that buster twice.

King
Edward perhaps had a point, back in the early Middle Ages. Give
the peasants a day off, next the darned pheasants think they have
rights.

Years
ago I cut a notorious figure in college because when I was asked
at a minor commons debate by one of the budding feminist boys “But
don’t you think it’s immoral to kill something
with a face?” “No, I said, but if you believe so, it is far
more immoral to slaughter helpless vegetables that cannot flee.
Answer: Yes or no!” The debate ended when order could not be restored.

Think
vegetables will get respect in this disconnected sloganeering atmosphere?
At the courtyard a parent told me the following story. A neighbor
mother told how their 5th grader smashed his plants when
they did not grow immediately. The teacher thought this was valuable
learning behavior and the whole class wrote an essay on how they
felt plants should grow.

Listen:
the fofos are coming. The mentally and emotionally scatter-brained,
morbidly hypersensitive weak people we are producing in assembly
line fashion, especially in the government schools that set the
tone for the whole culture, give way in their irreality to the strong.
And since the strong are not per se the competent, they in turn
are the paving stones of the way of the evil. The stories in Matt
Drudge are tacitly saying we should feel guilty for being born
from the best efforts of the doctors and for having to eat a meal.

This
is not at first obvious, since it is confused with meta-messages
like don’t you feel the pain of the little birdies and you
don’t want to be like a bullying monarch, right? But what we
are being told, behind the smokescreen of semi-legitimate concern
for humane behavior and discharge of industrial wastes, is exactly
as the Green honcho said. Let the youth of humanity die. Let their
corpses feed the forest. Smash those flowerpots, but the forest
and the fungi are patient, and the many creatures they shelter,
cute in zoos, deadly in numbers.

Which
leads to the third article. A woman of our time created a multi-car
accident in Switzerland when her turtle, who did not share her pseudo-sensitive
predilections, bit the daylights out of her as she navigated lanes.
Once reptiles ruled the Earth while mammals cowered, we are told.
Monsieur le Turtle in Switzerland sure thought so. We furry
critters have been around long enough. He certainly doesn’t care
who knows it. He would clearly have wrung her neck – no, bit
her head off – if he could. He had no interests in the
benefits of civilization, provided unthinkingly by his perfumed
mistress, driving on roads over the graves of Romans who once turned
that German forest into a town, taught them to give up cannibalism,
and lie forgotten. And alas, that is his nature. Animals like to
destroy by and large. That is their nature. The Spanish fighting
bull kills for fun; the dog will ignore dog food to eat its dead
master in an apartment. The dove is a merciless killer. We, as far
as is known, alone pause to limit destruction to the bear minimum.
Not so the deer that eats the garden and attacks a stray toddler.
Not so the little rose over the grave of some buried Caesar or Hercules.
Plants do not spare each other, and if you wish to realize clearly
how close you are to the reality of immediate survival, unplug your
refrigerator two days and see what strange botanical creatures,
now unleashed, gobble your food. That is how they arose and survive,
animals and plants. We meet them on their own terms.

The
Swiss aren’t what they used to be when I was young. They warned
not only the woman, but the police issued an hysterical bulletin
to the general public that turtles must wear seatbelts. The woman
endangering herself was one thing. But not the poor turtle? Nein.
No turtle seatbelts is a heartless practice now absolutely verboten.

In
a previous essay I warned of a movement afoot to make food political.
Who is the main course, then, here? There is nothing new here. It’s
Jefferson’s law – he had their number.

The
Day of the Turtle is coming, as in seat-belted comfort they chew
our proffered necks, while by cell-phone we sue the doctors who
brought us through a difficult birth, and guiltily swerve to dodge
the pheasant rulers of the road.

November
22, 2000

Michael
Gilson De Lemos, known as MG (articles at www.gilson.uni.cc),
is Coordinator of the Libertarian
International Organization
. He believes with Jefferson that,
along with Gibbon, Cicero and Tacitus should be read by all grade-schoolers.
In Latin.

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