Were You Really Surprised?

The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy our capacity to form any.

– Hannah Arendt

Were you truly surprised by the shooting of Republican congressmen as they practiced for a baseball game? Why? Was it that members of the ruling Establishment – rather than persons attending a rock concert – were targeted? Or, like so many of your neighbors, did you not see the connections that underlie processes of causation?  The Establishment’s mainstream media bullhorns were quick to explain the cause of the attacks as the availability of guns. You know, just like suicide-bomber attacks can be traced to the ownership of trucks, while cars cause hit-and-run-accidents! The shooting stopped only when someone with a gun – a D.C. cop in attendance to protect one of the congressman – shot the assailant. A number of the congressmen – all of whom were unarmed – remarked that, in the absence of the cop with a gun, they could all have been murdered. What if one or two of these men had been armed: would they all have been cowering in the dugouts awaiting a fate over which they had no control?

Intelligent minds must look beyond Wolf’s “Situation Room” or the New York Times editorial pages for understanding the world in which you live. “Guns” were no more the cause of this one-man attempted massacre, than were “witches” the explanation for the social changes arising at Salem.

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Do you seek causal explanations for this irrational, destructive behavior? If so, you must be a white-racist-peddler-of-hate! To suggest that looking to the content of thinking is to confirm an attachment to such bigoted premises of the Age of Reason as clear thinking, rational/fact-based analysis, and philosophic principles that can be clearly articulated. If this is where you’re coming from, keep your hate-filled opinions to yourself, and don’t go onto college campuses to speak to students. Most of these terrified youngsters will be found in safe rooms, in the protective arms of caring counselors, drinking hot chocolate; those who prefer more direct ways of dealing with your uncomfortable ideas will be out in the parking lot, setting fire to your car! A Libertarian Critique... Butler Shaffer Buy New $5.50 (as of 03:05 UTC - Details)

You will find it less troubling to accept the consensus-based conclusory thinking that explains Mr. Hodgkinson’s behavior as [1] the acts of a crazed, monstrous madman, and [2] having been caused by gun ownership. The “madman” explanation isolates him from the rest of humanity, and saves you the discomfort of having to consider that he might be the product of the same institutionalized thinking that you believe in. The “gun” argument will make you acceptable to the people who count; you might even get interviewed on CNN!  Furthermore, it helps to fix the blame for your misfortunes not on yourself, but on inanimate objects. It is more comforting to find alcohol as the cause of alcoholism, and to see guns and other violent weapons as the explanation for wars, murders, and the genocides that might otherwise compel you to examine the assumptions upon which our world is organized!

Events of late keep bringing me back to Richard Weaver’s observation that “ideas have consequences.” Of course, ideas are very destabilizing; they tend to challenge present thinking, a condition the Established order cannot abide. The Internet and other technologies are also troubling to our rulers, because they permit individuals to communicate directly with other individuals. Our world keeps moving from the vertically-structured (“we’ll tell you what we want you to know”) to the horizontally-networked (“we will seek truth together”). E pluribus unum is the collectivist motto of the American state that helps create the Establishment ideal in which we shall all become Pringleized as indistinguishable residents of air-tight containers.

People challenged by the complexities of nature are eager to embrace those who promise them certitude in life. This attitude serves the interests of those who own the machinery of the state. Elitists who comprise the Establishment have their flocks of self-appointed “experts” from within the mainstream media, the halls of academia, and the very institutions that presume to rule all of humanity. These experts are eager to inform the rest of us that life is far too complicated to allow us to understand, much less function, without their direction. Most of us readily accept such thinking, in part because we have been  consistently trained to do so; and in part because it relieves us from the hard work of doing our own thinking. As we were as children, it is easier to have “big daddy” bear this task.

So much of academia has given itself over to homogenizing minds in service to the narrow interests of Establishment owners as to merit being the basis for another edition of Charles Mackay’s classic Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. That some of the most highly-respected universities have become the bell-cows in the dumbing-down of minds is not to suggest that all colleges are subject to this virus, nor that all academic departments have become infected. The genuine sciences and engineering – fields of study that employ highly disciplined analyses relating to an understanding of reality – have thus far resisted this insistence on mind-muzzling. When one college announced a “no-whites-on-campus” day, a white biology professor showed up to teach his classes as scheduled. I suspect that denizens of “racial studies” departments were out in force to measure the amounts of melanin among members of the campus community.

The history of slavery – in both northern and southern states – can be documented, and those with a philosophic disposition premised on individual self-ownership can employ sound-reasoning to condemn the practice. But upon what evidentiary or principled basis could one professor maintain – as she did – that ancient Greek sculptors used white marble to carve their statues because of their “racist” characters? Could any intelligent meaning be found in a program on “LBGT physics”? Would a showing that a lesbian, and a “straight” woman, who fell simultaneously from the roof of the same building, fall at the same rate, be taken as proof that nature, itself, was bigoted? Would anyone but a eugenicist find purpose in an “African-American biological studies” program?

One thing that is being learned on increasing numbers of school campuses is that Weaver was only partially right: ideas do have consequences. Worse than that are the consequences of the total rejection of clear, rational thinking. When students at a respected college can circulate a petition condemning the search for “truth” as “racist” behavior traceable back to the Enlightenment; when “politically correct” speech has become a  norm the violation of which carries serious campus penalties; when rigidly enforced speech codes prevail in what used to be called halls of learning; when uncomfortable ideas are denounced as “hate” or “racism,” while meaningless buzzwords such as “social justice” are applauded; and when students are provided “safe rooms” as retreats, with counselors available to soothe the pains associated with energizing the mind, we quickly discover the adverse outcomes.

Any school that tolerates – much less encourages – the shouting down of campus speakers or resorts to destructive rioting as alternatives to intelligent debate, has completely lost its purpose other than as a hangout for minds unburdened by the demands put on them by the complexities and uncertainties of nature. Rational discourse – which depends upon the newly-found “sin” of “discrimination” (i.e., the capacity to make rational, and factually-sound distinctions among alternatives) – is not to be tolerated. In its place, students will be trained in the kind of reptilian-brained sloganeering than can be reduced to bumper-stickers. Even those with “conservative” inclinations – who might harbor some faint sentiments that would run counter to the preamble of faith in the “brave new world” – can mumble little more than “freedom is swell” bromides on their behalf. The Wizards of Ozymand... Butler Shaffer, Butler... Best Price: $8.38 Buy New $12.33 (as of 05:45 UTC - Details)

Rather than learning how to live well in a complex and uncertain world, many literally lost souls are attracted to another “safe room” in which to hide: the world of fantasy. The world of make-believe is far more comforting, given that troubling details can be whisked away and replaced by features dreamed-up in the vast wonderland of imagination. This is why so many were attracted to the socialist, Bernie Sanders, a man who earned more than a million dollars in the marketplace last year. Who else but a millionaire could afford to maintain the self-righteous pretense of opposing the wealthy class of the one-percenters, of which he is a member?

I must give Bernie Sanders credit: as all political systems are “socialistic” (i.e., demanding the coercive authority, in varying degrees, to control the lives and property of individuals), Sanders has the honesty to so identify himself. “Liberals” and “conservatives;” “New-Dealers” and “neo-cons;” “Republicans” and “Democrats;” “Keynesians” or “monetarists;” can more readily trace their intellectual ancestry to “state socialism” than to “anarchistic” premises.

Following the attempted murders of Republican congressmen at a baseball practice, members of the political class responded as most of us do in times of fear: huddle together in a herd. We need to have more “unity,” to “come together” with a sense of “community” for the “common good,” we were told. Resort to the illusions of e pluribus unum were chanted in complete disregard of the fact that all political systems depend upon division and conflict; between categories of “us” versus “them.” The political Establishment could not exist without both creating and exaggerating “differences” grounded in race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, lifestyles, wealth, or other subdivisions.

For too much of our existence as a species, we humans have lived by the fantasy that our well-being depended upon the authority of powerful men and women to control our actions. Whatever the concocted source of threat to our lives: be it the dreaded “Nine Bows” across the river; or people of different religious persuasion; or sun spots; climate change,; or as one NASA PhD researcher suggested, aliens from another planet, we have been conditioned in the fantasy of collectivism. But when one searches for “collectives,” one discovers only individuals, many of whom have lost their uniqueness in herds organized by the power-hungry for their narrow purposes.

But fantasies depend upon illusory thinking. H.L. Mencken got to the essence of this dependency: “Men in the mass will believe anything that promises to bring in the New Jerusalem, and the more idiotic it is the more eagerly they will embrace it. Nothing that is true ever convinces them. They demand illusion, and on the political plane they get it.”

Where else would Establishment owners go to find the creators of illusion than in the entertainment world. These are the men and women who are well-rewarded for being able to amuse us. But the word “amuse” means to be without the influences of the muses (i.e., a-muse). As the verb form “muse” means “to consider something thoughtfully,” you get a glimpse of why the political Establishment has long had ties to Hollywood and other sources of “amusement.”

I am not a fan of Donald Trump and, not having voted in an election for fifty-three years, I did not go to the polls on his behalf. I did, however, hope that he would win, not because of any programs or policies he might engender, but because I knew that his presidency would so thoroughly upset the ambitions of the owners of the Established order; the gang that operates the machinery of violence in Washington. D.C.  Sure enough, even before the votes had been counted last November, Trump was beset by Establishment voices in both Congress and the mainstream media, to accuse him of factually unfounded wrongdoing from “unnamed informed sources.” I am reminded, in this regard, of Kurt Vonnegut’s crime of “suspicion of intent to conspire.”

This campaign is being directed not so much at Donald Trump, but at men and women who have the impudence to believe that they should be able to direct government policies to their ends, rather than continuing their duties of rubber-stamping the candidates and policies selected by the Establishment owners! The entertainers have been quick to “amuse” Boobus Americanus. Kathy Griffin, with her severed, bloody head image of Trump; the taxpayer-supported Shakespeare-in-the-Park update on Julius Caesar, with Trump as the stabbing victim; Madonna, who acknowledged to a cheering crowd, that she had “thought a lot about blowing up the White House;” Mickey Rourke and Lee DeLaria, who shared sentiments about beating Trump with a baseball bat; Robert DeNiro declaring that he would “like to punch [Trump] in the face”; Eddie Griffin, a “comedian” who told his Dallas audience, that a re-enactment of the JFK assassination would be a good idea; while Sarah Silverman – a Bernie Sanders supporter – suggested that a military coup (just as in those banana republics!) could help overthrow Trump.

With so many entertainers opening for him, onto the stage stepped James Hodgkinson –  a self-styled Bernie Sanders supporter and fan of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow – and began his “fish-in-a-barrel” shooting of unarmed victims. In contrast with the entertainers and campus warriors against the mind – most of whom seemed content to limit their violent dispositions to words – Hodgkinson decided to take his angry sentiments beyond the realm of words and ideas and elevate them into “performance art.”

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