There have been a few articles on the Internet recently about Garet Garrett, an author who wrote about the impending American empire back in the 40s. Decades later, the John Birch Society re-published some of his work, and a friend gave me one of those books, which I enjoyed very much. I was particularly intrigued by the biographical sketch of the author, which stated that Garrett lived in a cave toward the end of his life. A cave!
As a young — well, younger — man, I suspected that this subterranean existence indicated that there might be a few cogs missing from Garrett’s gears. Dealing with the absurdities of the Roosevelt administration could do that to a fellow. And, being of a down-to-earth mentality, I couldn’t keep from wondering how you obtain a cave. Are they for rent? Do you buy one? And what about utilities? Will the gas company run lines into your cave? Or the electric, or gas?
Now, as I soar unimpeded into geezerdom myself, I wonder less about such mundane trivialities, and find myself thinking that Garrett was a wise man. Indeed, I glance at the real-estate section of the week-end paper, looking to see if there are any caves for rent or sale.
It needn’t be a cave, actually. I bet that Garrett himself merely picked the cave because it was there, like Everest. The idea was not cave, or tree house, or undersea bubble, but withdrawal. For some, it’s "if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em." For others, it’s more "I can’t lick ‘em, and won’t join ‘em, so I’m out of here."
The world, quite plainly, is going mad. Or perhaps it’s already there. I can’t escape it, but at least I don’t have to immerse myself in it. Living in a cave, at least figuratively, with some good books and records, and my hobbies to keep mind and hands nimble, looks better and better. If Garrett felt that way in the late ’40s or early ’50s, think how he would feel today! In those days, the pillars of society were showing hairline cracks. Today they’ve collapsed. Civilization is askew, if not downright upside-down.
Religion was a powerful social force in my youth. People didn’t talk much about it, but it was there, and it influenced human activity. Oh, to be sure, people committed all of the usual sins, but they knew they were sinners. They didn’t dismiss the very idea of sin, or confuse evil with illness. Today religion plays no role in society at all, and for good reason: it has degenerated into psychology 101, as taught by rank amateurs. "Let’s all hold hands and sing!" What was sublime is now merely silly. The awesome has given way to the insipid. Eternal damnation has faded so far into the background that, in the modern religious mind, it just doesn’t exist; and the idea of branding certain practices as sinful or wicked is simply too judgmental and un-caring! Phooey! Remind me to include a Bible in those books I take to my cave.
Government, which at one time was justly regarded as a preserver of the peoples’ rights, is today involved with protecting the business interests of its cronies. Government lawyers don’t fight for the rights of the people, they fight to protect the government from the people. All government officials take an oath to support the Constitution, which means that they are all (possibly there could be an exception or two) liars. There isn’t anything remotely Constitutional about government activities today; indeed, no one takes the Constitution seriously at any level of government. This, also, is nothing new, but what is different, perhaps, from Garrett’s time, is the disinterest in this lawlessness shown by the population. I read the other day, for example, that George Bush and Tony Blair were dark-horse candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize! The only thing more incomprehensible than such a thing is the fact that it aroused no comment whatever. Ho hum. If Al Capone had been nominated for Illinois Man-of-the-Year, at least the local newspapers might have had some comments about the obvious incongruity.
The media, of course, are as degenerate as the politicians they write about. The uniformity of the attitudes of the major newspapers and TV networks would strike us as remarkable if we weren’t so accustomed to it. Loyal opposition? That’s folks like Rush Limbaugh, William Buckley, or Bill O’Reilly. Harsh critics of government, sort of; but stopping well short of offering any real reform, such as wholesale abolition of most of it. More loyal than opposed.
Something else I won’t miss in my virtual cave is the modern world of art. It is hard, offhand, to think of a bigger con game. To take the daubs and rusting trash referred to as painting or sculpture today seriously is impossible. I’ve had my eyes open since birth. I’ve seen beauty in all its various manifestations, and I can tell it from ugly. A more bare-faced and frightening manifestation of the insanity of our age would be hard to find than a modern art museum, although you might be equally disturbed by the modern literature in the public library.
Good manners? As obsolete as good grammar. Attractive and appropriate attire? What’s that? Elegance of expression? Yer kiddin!
Look around you, with your eyes wide open. Listen, if you can stand the din. Ugliness, cacophony, and injustice — on a nationwide, and increasingly, worldwide, scale.
If you don’t see me around, don’t come looking. I’ll be content in my cave with the treasures of the past!