Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Bill Whittle Destroys A Few Classic Childish Delusions and Other Left Logical Fallacy.
The mythical sub that never was. Yep, the 'Big Lie' of my early childhood. Yes, if only every eternal five year-old could build an entire soggy Kingdom of Cardboard Fantasy...well, now you can! Simply become a left liberal.
Everyday I get hold of something great it comes overwhelmingly from usually conservative [sometimes even libertarian] but still essentially conservative sources. No, really. I'm a conservative barely libertarian myself, for want of a better phrase. If Huffington Post and Daily Kos are two of the top left liberal forums and they apparently are, well it can only be as Lester Burnum said in American Beauty, regards his morning wank in the shower, "its all downhill from here".
The left are overwhelmingly interested in their abstract ideology above all else, non-ideas that they have invested heavily and totally in. This is above the objective truth of most anything. It's easy if you have absolutely no intention of living out a single fantasy you spout and advocate for others, eh? I have found that such cheerless chums are usually incapable of possessing the curiosity to actually do any serious research and analysis whatsoever. Hey, but then the whole house of socialist cards would come tumblin' down if they ever did. [Thus David Mamet's slow, late yet profound conversion to the conservative facts of life.] Yep, while many lefty types surprisingly never wake up, there is many a liberal eventually mugged by harsh and unforgiving reality, ie: a newly converted conservative.
The unproven and non-provable "ideas" of the left exist in the same two places almost exclusively: within their moral vanity and the set in aspic future that never arrives except as an inevitable disaster. Today all leftism springs from these twin stupidities. Authentic conservatives, [and not phony alleged ones or even semi-ones or zero ones such as RINO's in America and LINO's in Australia] are firstly interested in proven and unchanging core values including freedom of the individual above all else.
This means free speech, private property rights, the right of the citizen to effectively defend themselves and their family from crime and historically common government tyranny, respect for life, limited government and low taxes and personal responsibility. All conservative ideas come form these proven principles.
There is a limit on what a true conservative will believe in. There is no limit on what a left liberal will believe in, except for facts. In his stripped down and beautifully clear way, I present for you one of the most outstanding and hip pieces I have ever happily stumbled upon. But then, the cool of mind always meet up at the same oasis. I added some other great bits of Bill's, because I just had to Mister!
But I digress. Regards the incredibly weel read, researched, factual, rational and ethical Bill at his fabulous and indispensable 'eject eject eject' website, I'd misplaced it among the files but dig it all. This is Part 1 and this is Part 2. Groove on it as Bill takes down and crumples into the waste paper basket of history, many of the major cognitive delusions of our time. Oh God, it's beautiful and as my ten year-old son would say, it's "awesome" to behold.
Apart from Thomas Sowell, P.J O'Rourke, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Bruce Lee, Groucho Marx, Malkin, Mark Levin, Zo, zombietime, thepeoplescube com, Klavan, Prager and Mark Steyn etc, my boy Bill is our main man as they say.
SEEING THE UNSEEN Part 1.
Folks, as in The Olden Days, this is a long read. It is an essay, not a blog entry. Print it, copy and paste it, or just grab a cup of coffee and settle back. Oh, and all the pictures enlarge with a click, if you are so inclined. MMMnnnnn...pictures....
I’d like to begin this sermon, if I may, by employing some of the rhetorical restraint of the BushHitler crowd and tell you about the worst case of child abuse EVER in the annals of recorded history.
I grew up on an island. I was in the water almost every day. I wanted this Polaris Nuclear Sub more than I wanted the sun to rise. I had picked out a grotto where I could keep it docked. Taking the ferry across the bay from Hamilton, I would look over the rail in anticipation of the day when I would shadow that churning wake, the periscope a thin reed lost in the foam, pursuing those fat clueless prefects into a perfect firing position and their watery graves!
And I am not alone. In finding this picture, I discovered that there are thousands of boys like myself, begging and pleading for the six dollars and ninety-eight cents it costs to build a fully functional, 7-foot, 2-man nuclear submarine that had:
•Controls that work!
•Rockets that fire!
•Electrically lit instrument panel!
I stared at this ad for months and months on end as a small boy. And though I must have read each word a thousand times, I have no memory of the phrase “sturdily constructed of 200 lb. test fibreboard!” It finally fell to my father to inform me that “200 lb test fibreboard!” is, in fact, garden-variety cardboard. My immediate response was “but wouldn’t that get all soggy out in the ocean?” And I am deeply ashamed to admit that after all that time, it is only now, in posting this on the internet at 47 years of age, that I realized for the first time that the damn Polaris Nuclear Submarine doesn’t even have a propeller.
Well, that’s seven-year-old boys for you. Had I been so inclined, I was certainly smart enough to have determined that one could not build a Polaris Nuclear Sub with missiles and firing torpedoes and all the rest for $6.98. All $6.98 would buy you in 1967 was a cardboard box painted like a submarine.
I believed it – like so many of my cohorts – because I so desperately wanted to believe it…and the X-ray Specs, and especially those damn Sea Monkeys with their little briefcases and hats and aprons. What heartless son of a bitch wrote those ads? I hope he chokes on his brine shrimp, the bastard.
We live in a sea of information, an Information Age: and yet, it has been almost half a millennia since mankind has been so unwilling or unable to use critical thinking to separate the intellectual wheat from so…much…chaff!
Critical Thinking -- the ability to analyze data, determine it’s usefulness and fidelity, to learn how to assess reliability, question methodology, weigh expertise and all the rest -– is in shockingly short supply these days. It’s not just a shame; it’s an epidemic, it is a fatal metastasizing disease in a democracy where information is used by the public to make the decisions that steer the ship of state. For the ability to think critically allows us to see the unseen; to find the truth behind the falsehood, as well as the falsehood behind the truth.
Today, it seems that legions of people – growing legions – are falling victims to ideas and beliefs that on the face of it are patently false...things that are so clearly and obviously nuts that you really have to wonder what deep, mighty engine of emotional need could possibly drive a brain so deep into a hole. Seriously now, there are millions and millions of people on this planet who will torture logic and reason to mind-bending extremes in order to believe monumentally ridiculous “theories”… theories drawn from an emotional need so warped and debased that you are catapulted beyond anger and disbelief directly into pathos and the desire to call 911 before these people hurt themselves.
So perhaps we could take a walk through Fantasy Island armed only with a shotgun of logic and a few fact-filled shells and see what intellectual tumors we may safely blow into atoms. Time is short! So let’s start with the easy stuff and work our way up to the Lord God King Mack-Daddy falsehood of our age.
Let’s shag a few easy fly balls to warm up, shall we?
The Chickenhawk argument goes something like this: anyone who favours military action should not be taken seriously unless they themselves are willing to go and do the actual fighting. This particular piece of work is an anti-war crowd attempt to silence the debate by ruling that the other side is out of bounds for the duration. Like all ad hominem attacks, (argumentum ad hominem means “argument against the person”) it is an act of intellectual surrender.
The person who employs an ad hominem attack is admitting they cannot win the debate on merit, and hope to chuck the entire thing out the window by attacking the messenger. This is a logical fallacy of the first order, because the messenger is not the message.
The messenger is not the message. That’s all you need to throw away the entire Chickenhawk response. But why stop there when this one is so much fun?
If you ever see this charge again, you may want to reflect that person’s own logical reasoning in the following fashion: You may not talk about education unless you are willing to become a teacher. You may not discuss poverty unless you yourself are willing to go and form a homeless shelter. How dare you criticize Congress unless you are willing to go out and get elected yourself?
Your opinion on a National Health Care System is negated out of hand since you are unwilling to get a medical degree and open a clinic. And as far as your opinions regarding the Democratic Underground or The Huffington Post are concerned, well, you can just keep them to yourself, mister, unless you can produce an advanced degree in Abnormal Psychology and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Using the internal reasoning behind the Chickenhawk argument means you cannot comment on, speak about or even hold an opinion on any subject that is not part of your paying day job. It is simple-minded and profoundly anti-democratic, which is why it so deeply appeals to those who sling it around the most. But wait! There’s more!
If you accept the Chickenhawk argument – that only those actually willing to go and fight have a legitimate opinion on the subject of war – then that means that any decision to go to war must rest exclusively in the hands of the military. Is that what this person really wants? To abandon civilian control of the military? That’s the box they have trapped themselves in with this argument.
Now to be perfectly honest, I think Robert Heinlein made a very compelling case for just this line of reasoning in Starship Troopers (the book, not the clueless projected travesty). Heinlein said that the only people who should be allowed to vote are those that have served in the military, since only they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the state. I don’t agree with that. I think civilian control of the military has been one of the pillars of our nation’s success, and it has withstood the test of both World Wars and Civil ones. But that is the world you are stuck in when you toss that little Chickenhawk grenade.
Finally, if the only legitimate opinion on Iraq, say, is that held by the troops themselves, then they are overwhelmingly in favor of being there and finishing what they started. I recently received an e-mail from an Army major who is heading back for his fourth tour. The Chickenhawk argument, coming from an anti-war commentator, legitimizes only those voices that overwhelmingly contradict the anti-war argument.
WAR OF THE BUMPER STICKERS.
I’ve said before that living near the People’s Republic of Santa Monica gives you an unparalleled opportunity to see legions of people who can put their entire moral philosophy into a 3x10” piece of adhesive vinyl, applied to several tons of steel, hurtling down an eight-lane superhighway at six or seven miles per hour.
Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:
Somewhere in Texas, a Village is missing its Idiot. I chose this one first since it’s the only one that has a particle of real wit. But the Bush is an idiot meme is very tired, and the most cursory look causes it to fall apart like -- how can I make them understand? -- like a lemon almond biscotti left too long in a grande’ caffe verona.
For starters, you can of course point to the fact that the man did graduate from both Harvard and Yale, but that was with a C average, and clearly, the idea of being merely in the middle of the pack of those getting advanced degrees from America’s two preeminent universities cuts you no slack from those community-college theater major drop-outs who love to level the charge.
So let’s leave that aside for a moment – Poppy’s connections and all that – and take a moment to look at this, if you will:
This is a Convair F-102 Delta Dagger. It is a second-generation, supersonic fighter-interceptor. It cruises at 845 mph.
There were some minor aerodynamic problems with the F-102. For example, at certain power settings and angles of attack – like, say, take-off -- the jet compressor would stall and the aircraft would roll inverted. It is no picnic, skill-wise, to fly a modern F-16 with advanced avionics and fly-by-wire flight control systems. The workload on the F-102 was far higher. The F-16 has an accident rate of 4.14 occurrences per 100,000 flight hours. The F-102’s accident rate was more than three times that: 13.69 per 100,000 hours. 875 F-102A interceptors were built; 259 – almost 30% - were lost to accidents or enemy action while serving in Vietnam. George W. Bush flew hundreds of hours in the F-102. Now look at this:
This is the cockpit of the F-102 Delta Dagger’s successor, the F-106 Delta Dart (I could not find an F-102 panel, but they would have been very similar)
Now, picture yourself in this chair, at 40,000 feet, travelling at one and a half times the speed of sound. Now imagine that someone has painted the windows white – you are flying on instruments. Now imagine that not only do you have to be able to fly blind, by referencing these instruments, but that you also have to stare into that orange jack-o-lantern of a radar, and interpret a squiggle that will lead you to your target.
Now imagine that in addition to not hitting the ground, or your wingman, and watching the squiggle, you also have to turn those switches on the right side panel to activate weapons systems, to overcome enemy countermeasures…without looking outside, as you hurtle through air at -40 degrees F, air so thin that should you lose pressure, you have about 4-6 seconds of consciousness before you black out and die.
I maintain that the instant George W. Bush closed that canopy and took off on the first of his many solo hours in an F-102, it is quite impossible that he was either an idiot or a coward.
Here is a random question from the instrument rating exam I had to pass a few years ago. Refer to figure 91:
What should be the approximate elapsed time from the BOSEMAN (BZN) VOR to the DUBOIS (DBS) VORTAC if the wind is 24 knots from 260 degrees and your intended True Air Speed is 185 knots? (The magnetic variation is 17deg. E)
A. 33 minutes
B. 37 minutes
C. 39 minutes
(It’s C., obviously)
If he had been a civilian rather than military pilot, Dubya would have had to have passed 60 questions like this with at least 70% correct. Questions on weather, radio communications, mechanical systems, aerodynamics, pilot physiology, airspace, navigation and a hundred other things. But, since he was military, he also had to know how to operate that primitive in-flight radar, plus weapons systems, rules of engagement, electronic warfare, hydraulics, fuel systems...it goes on and on.
People like Michael Moore and Bill Maher and Keith Olberman would not be able to figure out how to close the canopy on an F-102. These people would be weeping with fear when those afterburners light up and you barrel down that runway hoping that engine doesn’t flame out and roll you inverted into the asphalt, or when you’re rocketing through the soup at 300mph watching two little needles chase each other, praying the next thing you see out the window is a runway and not a mountain goat.
George W. Bush is not stupid. It’s not possible to be a moron and fly a supersonic jet fighter, and everyone knows it.
What George W. Bush is, however, is inarticulate. English is his second language. From what I can see he does not have a first language. Abraham Lincoln spoke in simple frontier language in an age of rhetorical flourish. Like Bush, he was considered a bumpkin and an idiot, and like Bush, he realized that there were times when having people misunderestimate you repeatedly was a real advantage. That’s goal-oriented. That’s playing the deep game. That’s cunning.
I personally have gotten to the point where Bush’s malapropisms cause me to look at the floor and shake my head with an affectionate smile, in much the same way supporters of his predecessor used to do with every new revelation of coerced sex from former employees. He is what he is. But he is a damn sight more intelligent than the graphic designer in the Mini Cooper with the Village Idiot sticker. Me, personally, I look at the man’s entire catalogue of flaws in the same way Lincoln looked at Grant and his drinking: I can’t spare this man. He fights.
So to me, anyway, given the above information I feel that anyone calling President Bush a moron and an idiot comes off sounding like…well…a moron and an idiot.
No Blood for Oil!
Sometimes, the best way to examine a radical assertion is to assume that it is correct and examine the likely consequences. For example, proponents of the Loch Ness Monster assert that there is a surviving plesiosaur lurking in the murky depths of a Scottish lake. We are then drawn into endless discussion of distant wakes and grainy photos and claims of hoaxes, etc.
But if you cut to the chase, so to speak, and grant the premise, where does that leave you? Plesiosaurs are air-breathing reptiles that have to daily consume massive amounts of fish to survive. There are essentially no fish in Loch Ness. Does it order out for pizza? Also, as an air breather, we would not have a surface sighting once or twice a decade, but hundreds of times a day. If you grant the premise of an air-breathing dinosaur the entire proposition becomes ridiculous, not on the basis of the evidence, but on the monumental lack of evidence supporting the idea.
Likewise with a “war for oil.” What would a real "war for oil" look like? Well, US troops would have sped to the oilfields with everything we had. Everything we had. Then, secure convoy routes would have been established to the nearest port – probably Basra – and the US Navy would essentially line the entire gulf with wall-to-wall warships in order to ensure the safe passage of US-flagged tankers into and out of the region.
There would have been no overland campaign – what for? – and no fight for Baghdad. Fallujah and Mosul and all those other trouble spots would never even see an American boot. Why? No oil there.
The US Military would do what it is extraordinarily well-trained to do: take and hold a very limited area, and supply secure convoys to and from this limited area on an ongoing basis. Saddam could have stayed if he wanted: probably would have saved us a lot of trouble, and the whole thing would have become a sort of super no-fly zone over the oil fields, ports and convoy routes, and the devil take the rest of it. Sadr City IED deaths? Please. What the f**k does Sadr City have that we need?
That’s what a war for oil would look like. It’s entirely possible that such an operation could have been accomplished and maintained without a single American fatality.
We have lost thousands killed and wounded because they are being blown up as they continue to provide security, electrical and water services, schools and hospitals to a land ravaged by three decades of fear, torture and barbarism. It is the American presence in the cities, providing security and some semblance of order for Iraqi citizens, that has cost us so many lives. If we are going to be tarred and slandered and pay the public relations price for “stealing Iraqi oil,” then the least we can do is go in and actually steal some of it, instead of dying to protect that resource for the use of the Iraqi people. Which is what is happening, because, as usual, there is not a shred of evidence to the contrary, no matter how many imbeciles hold up signs and dance around in giant papier–mache heads.
You’ve probably seen this word spelled out with various religious symbols.
Who can argue with this? Not me, certainly.
What I CAN argue with is the idea that if only enough stupid, warlike Americans would just get on the Coexist train, then the world would be a happy and peaceful garden. Who else are the people with these bumper stickers preaching to, if not their ill-informed, knuckle-dragging neocon fellow commuters?
Unfortunately, here’s where reality inserts its ugly head. There is no more multi-cultural society on earth than the United States. The United States owns the patent on Coexisting religions and ethnicities. Drive half a mile though any major US urban area and you will see more ancient ethnic enemies living cheek by jowl in harmony than any other spot on the planet.
Thursday morning water cooler conversations about Dancing with the Stars wallpaper over more ancient ethnic and religious murders than history has been able to record, and this despite Hollywood and the news media’s deepest efforts to remind you on a daily basis that the black or Hispanic or Asian or white friend in the next cube is secretly seething with racial hatred just beneath that placid veneer.
Americans are able to coexist because they have subjugated, if not abandoned, those ancient religious and ethnic hatreds to join a larger family, that larger family being America. And this is why, if you truly value the idea of coexistence, you should be dead set against multi-cultural grievance and identity politics, which do nothing but pit one ethnic group against the others and reinforce, rather than dilute, ancient resentments and grievances.
Now as it turns out, there is one member of the human family that seems to be having a little difficulty with the whole coexist thing. Muslims are at war with Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are fighting Animists in Africa, Hindus in Kashmir, Buddhists in Southeast Asia…they are blowing up nightclubs and schools and police stations and trains and buses and skyscrapers and are under daily orders to kill Jews on sight anywhere in the world.
I don’t mind preaching so much as preaching to the choir. When I see Coexist bumper stickers in Islamabad and Cairo and especially Riyadh to the degree I see them in Venice, California, I will be a happy man. They will make a very welcome sight covering over the Death to the Infidel! stickers that seem to be somewhat outselling Coexist messages in that part of the world. Until then I think we should coexist and carry a big stick.
End U.S. Imperialism Now!
Can I just take another quick second of your precious time to put this one to bed once and for all?
It is a staple of the left to accuse the US of “Imperialism.” That so many people can level such a charge with a straight face is a testament to the efficacy of forty years of standards-free education reform here and around the world.
An “Empire” is defined as a nation state that has political control over other nation states, and uses that political control to extract the wealth and resources from the subjugated country.
The United States of America does not have any political control over any other sovereign nation on the face of the Earth. We have influence, but influence is to control as a rich uncle is to a prison warden. That’s all you need to know. The entire idea of American Empire and U.S. Imperialism is dead on its face after that. No control means no empire. Period.
But we do have a large footprint in the rest of the world, and have military bases all across the globe. Is that a form of empire?
Look, the whole point of having an empire is to take the wealth out of the colonies and return them to enrich the home country. The US not only does not pull in the resources of other nations…it does exactly the reverse.
We pump billions and billions of dollars annually into those nations that host our facilities, and the minute any one of those nations decides we are no longer welcome, we pack our bags, leave and turn those billion-dollar institutions over to the host country. (Look up Subic Bay and Clark Air Base in the Philippines for some recent examples)
This is not “imperial behaviour.” It is, in fact, the precise opposite of imperial behaviour. I guess somehow STOP U.S. ANTI-IMPERIALISM just doesn’t have the same snap somehow for the North Korean-backed International A.N.S.W.E.R. crowd. Colour me shocked.
There are millions of people – actually, probably billions now – who genuinely believe that the wealth of the US was stolen from third world countries. This is one of the great perks of living a life free of the ability to think critically and do a little research. I have heard this slander repeated so many times I decided to look into some actual numbers to see if there is anything to this charge. This is a perfect example of how critical thinking allows you to see the unseen. That attitude, Google and ten minutes is all you need to shoot lies like this down in flames.
Okay. The US Per capita income is $41,300. That of a poor, third world country –Djibouti, say -- is $2,070.
Now it gets interesting. The US gross domestic product – the value of everything we produce in a year -- was last measured as $12 trillion, 277 billion dollars (hundreds of millions of dollars being too insignificant to count in this economy).
The GDP of Djibouti is 1 billion, 641 million US dollars.
A little basic arithmetic shows me that the US has a GDP 7,481 times greater than Djibouti. A 365 day year, composed of 24 hours in a day, yields 8,760 hours per year. Hang on to that for a sec.
Now, let’s suppose the U.S. went into Djibouti with the Marines, and stole every single thing that’s produced there in a year…just grant the premise and say we stole every goddam thing they make. If we hauled away all of Djibouti’s annual wealth, how long would it run the U.S. Economy, which is 7,481 times greater?
Well, 8,760 hours divided by 7,481 gives you an answer of 1.17 hours. In other words, it takes the U.S. 1.17 hours to produce what Djibouti produces in a year.
If the US really did go in and steal everything that the bottom thirty countries in the world produce, it might power the US economy for two or three days.
Conversely, the billions and billions of dollars the US spends annually in aid, rent, etc. – plus uncounted billions more from private American charities – would supply the entire GDP of Djibouti for hundreds of years.
Where’s your Imperialism argument now?
"You Can not Simultaneously Prevent and Prepare for War". Albert Einstein. [Old Albert showing his limitations. Colonel Neville.]
My first paying job in my life was teaching astronomy at the Miami Space Transit Planetarium. I have been fascinated by the stars and planets for as long as I have had a memory. I bow to no one in my respect and admiration for Albert Einstein’s stunning insights into the nature of space and time, matter and energy. That a young Austrian clerk sitting in a Swiss patent office could puzzle out the structure of the Universe using only logic and imagination is in my mind the greatest feat of intelligence in human history.
With that said, why aren’t the cosmological theories of George Patton or Dwight Eisenhower ever the subject of bumper stickers? Probably because cosmology is well outside their realm of expertise.
E=mc2 is a statement of such beauty and elegance that it commands belief in an ordered and structured universe. Human nature is not so ordered and structured. Psychology is not as predictable as gravity, and it is a mistake to think that it is. Human beings are subject to Murphy’s Laws, not Newton’s.
Quoting Einstein is an appeal to authority. But politics is not an area where Einstein is an authority. I give Einstein’s opinions on spacetime great weight; his opinions on politics and human nature, not so much. No one holds Einstein up as a great authority on fashion, grooming, family life, football or hairstyling. Why?
Because the modern era’s greatest mind clearly didn’t know diddly-squat about them.
Even in some areas where Einstein was an expert – quantum gravity, for example – he was flat-out wrong. “God does not play dice with the Universe," he wrote, trying to come to grips with quantum probability theory.
Well, turns out God does indeed play dice with the Universe, despite what Einstein says. Einstein refused to follow the quantum evidence based on the fact that he had a clear emotional aversion to the consequences of that theory. As a victim of national militarism in Germany, he quite naturally had an emotional aversion to that too.
But history is the laboratory of human behaviour, and history shows wherever you care to look that while being prepared for war may not guarantee peace, being notoriously unprepared is as sure an invitation to war as you are likely to see. To quote a politician on politics, rather than an astrophysicist: “Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because America was too strong.”
There is much more refined political wisdom where that came from, if you are inclined to look.
Quoting Einstein on politics is like catching a review of the latest Rob Schneider movie with the banner THE GREATEST COMEDY EVER MADE!! The source is never Variety or the L.A. Times, but rather the Palatka Times-Dispatch or the Oshkosh Super-Coupon Review. The quote is huge, the source type microscopic, because the authority is not much of an authority at all. (The smaller the source font on the screen, the more suspicious you should be.)
There is a restaurant near Santa Monica Airport, called The Spitfire Grill. It’s done in a WWII motif. In the restroom, at about eye-level for a person remaining still for a few moments, is a magazine page from 1947, talking about Soviet atrocities on local populations. The last sentence of the article almost took my breath away for its courage and moral clarity. It said:
PEACE IS FOR THE STRONG!
Gravitational lensing during a solar eclipse proved Einstein correct. History, recorded again and again through the ages, does the same for this unknown article writer, no matter what The Great Man had to say.
The day may come when the lion and the lamb lie down together, but if it does, we'd better damn sure be the lion. I don't know who came up with that line, but I wish to hell it had been me.
Give Peace a Chance.
Sounds reasonable to me. How much of a chance? Three years? Five? Ten years? See, now you’re playing me for an idiot.
We gave Saddam Hussein thirteen years before the Great Rush to War. He could have stopped the whole thing by coming clean, up until the instant the first tanks crossed the border. But he did not.
We know what “coming clean” to weapons inspectors looks like in the real world, because a few days after they pulled Saddam from his hidey-hole, Libya’s Colonel Khadafi turned over all the details of his nascent nuclear weapons program: blueprints, locations, stockpiles...the whole enchilada. We gave peace an even longer chance with the good Colonel, and we got bupkis: bupkis, and Pan Am 103 exploding over Lockerbie. That was our peace dividend. I can not see how anyone can deny that the idea of a little old-fashioned war and its consequence on dictators may have focused Mr. Khadafi’s mind somewhat.
War is not the Answer.
Okay. I’m listening. What is the answer?
No, you don’t get to say I don’t know but I know it's not war! If you admit you don’t know what the answer is, then it logically follows that you are in no position to say what it is not.
With regards to Iraq, Saddam started a suicidal war with Iran, and then with the United States. He then proceeded to break every single element of his cease-fire agreement...shooting at allied airplanes trying to belatedly enforce no-fly zones to prevent him from massacring even more of his own people, continuing with a well-documented and undeniable effort to obtain nuclear weapons, and all the rest.
So what is the answer, Mr. Moral Superiority? Sanctions? We sanctioned him for 13 years. He bribed the UN and stole billions of dollars for new palaces and industrial shredders for the opposition. Should we just leave him alone? The New York Times reported a few days ago that Saddam was a year or two away from a nuclear weapon. Do you trust the man’s judgment after Iran and Kuwait? I don’t.
War is an ugly, messy, filthy business, and the greatest slander I have seen in these last three years is the idea that somehow the pro-war crowd thinks war is a great thing. War is an awful thing. And yet I am pro war in this case. How can that be?
This is probably the most useful thing I’ll write in this essay:
Doves think the choice is between fighting or not fighting. Hawks think the choice is between fighting now or fighting later.
If you understand this, you understand everything that follows. You don’t need to think the other side is insane, or evil. Both hawks and doves are convinced they are doing the right thing. But it seems to me there is a choice between peace at any price and a peace worth having.
We cannot undo the invasion and compare that timeline to the one we have. The only data we can use to compare these philosophies is embedded in the pages of history. What does history show?
I cannot think of a single example where appeasement – giving in to an aggressive adversary in the hope that it will convince them to become peaceful themselves – has provided any lasting peace or security. I can say in complete honesty that I look forward to hearing of any historical example that shows it does.
What I do see are barbarian forces closing in and sacking Rome because the Romans no longer had the will to defend themselves. Payments of tribute to the barbarian hordes only funded the creation of larger and better-armed hordes. The depredations of Viking Raiders throughout Northern Europe produced much in the way of ransom payments. The more ransom that was paid, the more aggressive and warlike the Vikings became. Why? Because it was working, that’s why.
And why not? Bluster costs nothing. If you can scare a person into giving you his hard-earned wealth, and suffer no loss in return, well then you my friend have hit the Vandal Jackpot.
On the other hand, if you are, say, the Barbary Pirates, raiding and looting and having a grand time of it all, and across the world sits a Jefferson – you know, Mr. Liberty and Restraint – who has decided he has had enough and sends out an actual Navy to track these bastards down and sink them all... well, suddenly raiding and piracy is not such a lucrative occupation.
So, contrary to doomsayers throughout history, the destruction of the Barbary Pirates did not result in the recruitment of more Pirates.
The destruction of the Barbary Pirates resulted in the destruction of the Barbary Pirates.
And it is just so with terrorism. When the results of terrorism do the terrorist more harm than good, terrorism will go away. We need to harm these terrorists, not reward them, if we ever expect to see the end of them.
There are endless examples of this sort of thing. It makes me wish I had a mind on the level of Victor Davis Hansen so I could name every single one of them for you. But one example rings very loud to my ears.
After World War II, the allies captured the records of the German High Command. I was stunned to discover that the Wehrmacht’s generals were so appalled at Hitler’s decision to test the resolve of the Western Powers (by marching into the demilitarized Rhineland) that they were prepared to remove or even assassinate him should there have been any resistance to the move.
They were terrified of finding themselves in another war. Hitler, on the other hand, couched the violation in the same reasonable-sounding terms that Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi would have undoubtedly approved of, and in he went.
Thus began the most horrible and tragic appeasement in the history of the world.
According to the Germans' own records, a platoon of French soldiers, stationed on that bridge and unwilling to retreat (there’s your problem right there) would have caused the overthrow of Adolph Hitler, and the abandonment of his expansionist policies. Why? Because it wouldn’t have paid, that’s why.
As it happened, intimidating the West paid handsomely: The Sudetenland, Austria, Czechoslovakia…It was only when the West finally realized the fruits of appeasement that Hitler was stopped. If it had happened much sooner it would have been much easier. If it had happened at the beginning it would have been painless.
Even though I did not live through it, I don’t forget lessons like this. Not something this clear. Likewise, I do not forget things that I did live through: that bullies who take your lunch money will beat you up more if you give them money and less if you fight back. There’s a logic behind this – predators have to survive every encounter with their prey, so why take chances on anything other than the sick and the weak – and there is an emotional component, too: and that is respect.
Thugs and bullies cannot produce anything of value. They have to take it from those who can.
Giving it to them in the hope they will go away does not engender love or respect in them – just the opposite. It creates more contempt and confidence. If it didn’t – if they behaved like sensible people – they wouldn’t be thugs and bullies in the first place.
This projection of rationality onto irrational people is the linchpin of the liberal failure to understand human nature. To those who tend to believe every claim on innocence from career criminals, I recommend COPS therapy. Watch any single episode of COPS and you will see people earnestly swear -- I swear to God, sir! – that they do not possess the drugs they are holding in their hands. What’s that crack rock on your car seat? That’s not my crack rock, sir!
It’s in your car. This isn’t my car! I swear to God sir! There are five crack rocks in your pocket. These aren’t my pants, sir! A friend gave me these pants just before I left the house! I swear to God, sir!
I have heard it reliably reported that once a police officer confronted a heroin addict who had passed out with a needle in his arm. When confronted with this, he supposedly said, that’s not my arm!
Telling reasonable people what they want to hear is a survival skill for criminals. They don’t get very far without knowing how to play people. In Narcotics Anonymous they have a spot-on term for this kind of behavior. They call it “dope-fiending.” How did you get that car? I dope-feinded my mom into letting me drive it.
When a spokesman for Hamas or Al Qaeda tells you that they are only fighting America or the Jews because they are worried about Global Warming, you are being dope-feinded.
How much more control do we have over terrorists if they are people with a series of reasonable demands, rather than murdering misogynists who want women enslaved and Jews and homosexuals killed on sight? See, if it’s our fault, all we have to do is change and they will go away.
But if it’s who we are, rather than what we do – well that’s a little more scary, isn’t it? That might be a little too much for the kind, gentle, sensitive latte-sipping lunch crowd to fully get behind. But that is what I hear these 7th Century murderers saying, and that is what I see them doing, and I choose not to look away just because I do not much like what I see.
Some people will believe anything if they want to believe it hard enough. Which leads us to…
Bush Lied, People Died.
Recent reports of the advanced state of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, and the confirmed presence of 700+ chemical shells leaves this chestnut in some disarray. However, even if you take that away, the entire concept is a cowardly and petty retreat spoken by people who know better.
Here is a pretty decent encapsulation of what both Republicans and Democrats had to say about Saddam and WMD’s. You will find Bush’s and Rumsfeld’s rhetoric somewhat less adamant and warlike than that of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Al Gore, Robert Byrd, Nancy Pelosi, Hans Blix, Madeline Albright, Sandy Berger and all the rest. These were elected representatives who studied the same intelligence that the White House did, and came to the same conclusion.
Unfortunately for them, Al Gore in his unbridled enthusiasm went and invented the Internet, and so now there is a record of what they said and when, available to the great unwashed masses. It shows a group of people deeply concerned about what was a pressing threat to this country. And now, almost all of them claim they were lied to?
Are they capable of reading intelligence reports themselves, or did Bush have to read it to them aloud, with them seated at his knee in My Pet Goat fashion, skipping the parts he didn’t think would make a good sell? Some people say that they did not get the same intelligence that Bush got. To the degree that is or isn’t true, the record shows that it was the more outlandish claims that were not included, so that the intelligence that led them to come out against Saddam and in favour of military action was less provocative than the intelligence the President and Secretaries of State and Defence saw.
The invasion of Iraq was meant to prevent Saddam Hussein from using Weapons of Mass Destruction. This mission was accomplished by the time President Bush stood on that carrier deck. The huge majority of casualties we have incurred in the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq have come about by our willingness to rebuild and secure a country that we owed nothing to whatsoever.
Here is the legacy of the Bush Lied, People Died crowd: in the future, we know that no good deeds – building of hundreds of schools and hospitals – will go reported. We know that no foul deeds – a handful of idiots humiliating prisoners over the course of a few days – will ever be put into perspective.
So why do it? Why build schools and hospitals, and protect polling places, and suffer the casualties we have suffered to get a country on its feet, if all we hear and see is the negative and the undeniable failures? The next time we have to go and kick the hell out of some band of rabid crazies, why not just kick the hell out of them and then go home? Because there will be a next time, and I suspect sooner rather than later. By refusing to report the myriad successes and kindnesses, our compassionate and caring moral betters in the media have only shown there is very little reason to do them in the first place, except for the satisfaction of our own morality and conscience -- which I hope will be enough.
Let me leave you with something very, very important. It is the greatest logical fallacy of them all, and if you hope to gain any perspective in the world today, I believe you have to understand what I am about to say in your bones.
You cannot just count the hits and not record the misses.
May I show you something to make this point?
What you are about to see is a graphical representation of commercial air flights over the US on any given day. You will see dawn on the east coast as more and more flights get airborne, and watch morning spread to the west as the country comes alive. It is one of the most beautiful marriages of science and art I have ever seen. It is here. Go take a peek then come back. I'll still be here.
Every dot in that animation is a jetliner, carrying hundreds of people. This is the first time I have ever actually seen the miracle that takes place in our skies every single day.
Why am I showing you this? Well, because every single dot in that ocean of sparks is a successful flight. Tens of thousands of flights land in this country every single day and no one says a word about it. And yet, when there is an accident – and you would have to watch every dot in that animation almost 2000 times to get back to the last fatal accident by a large-scale carrier – that sticks in our minds, obviously, and that image of burning wreckage is what stays with some people on their entire flight. They do not think about all the millions of flights that land safely. Nor do they think about the thousands of car accidents that occur with so much greater frequency.
Because we are recording only the hits – the crashes – and not recording the misses, namely, the safe landings. If you had to drive to work every day listening to radio announcements of every successful landing, you would be listening to a cacophony of flight numbers twenty-four hours a day. After a few years of this you might be able to get a glimmer of perspective on the safety of modern air travel.
Likewise in Iraq. Hand out candies to children on a daily basis, and the smiles and gratitude are nowhere to be seen on US television. But if some death-loving lunatic decides to scatter body parts to the four winds you can bet that will get the News media’s attention. Complete a new hospital, or a water treatment plant, or bring electricity or television stations to neighborhoods that never had them before? Yawn.
On the day of the last Iraqi elections -- the day they ratified the constitution the press said these people would never ratify -- CNN's lead story was about nasty rain showers sweeping the southeast. About these historic elections there was heard not a peep.
Iraqi TV has a version of American Idol. Did you know that? They produce hundreds of hours of comedies, game shows – all that stuff. Sounds a little arcane for Iraq, you say? A little normal?
That’s because people who believe they are smarter than you have decided that such stories of hope and success do not fit the narrative needed to teach you poor ignorant slobs the lesson that you are supposed to be learning, and that lesson is that George Bush is a murderer while Saddam was a statesman, and that Iraq is a failure fuelled by the blood of poor, innocent, child-like soldiers too stupid to realize that they are dying to line the pockets of Halliburton.
My critical thinking skills, such as they are, tell me that you might be able to corral an army and send it over there under such false pretences. What I cannot explain is why so many people in the military re-up, two or three or four times, to go back and fight for this oil-soaked lie that people here maintain is the truth, despite what the people who have actually been over there have to say about it.
This is an all-volunteer military. Why would so many of these people keep returning to such danger, and put themselves and their families at such terrible risk, for a lie or a mistake?
If Iraq is a con game and an oil steal and an unwinnable quagmire then this just doesn’t make any sense. But back they go! That’s the data. The people most optimistic about Iraq – and those with the most to lose – are generally the same people. They are the men and women who are over there now because they believe they are doing something honourable and good. No one is forcing them to reenlist.
Hear that John? I’d hire any one of these people in a heartbeat. They are brighter than the general population, and they are so far beyond their Ivory Tower critics in terms of discipline, courage, ingenuity, integrity and honour that it makes one’s head spin.
Are we beating these terrorist scumbags and child-targeting insurgent bastards? Are we winning?
Well, let’s see if we want to switch sides with them. Let’s imagine the war where the insurgents have our cards and we hold theirs.
Imagine the US completely occupied by Al Qaeda forces, subject to Sharia law. We are able to take pot shots at a few of them, and we manage to murder a few dozen of our own people every day in an attempt to stop the population from collaborating with the hated invader. But more and more Americans seem to be turning to Sharia and want to get on with their lives. We find sixty percent of the population wants Al-Qaeda to leave, but hatred for the US insurgent forces – the Wolverines – is at about 98%. The people hate the occupiers, but they despise the Wolverines.
Now imagine that a year into the occupation of America, George Bush’s two daughters were killed in a fire fight with the enemy, which had surrounded the college sorority house where they were hiding. A year after that, President Bush was pulled out of a septic tank in Crawford by the Fedayeen, then put on trial and sentenced to hang, which he did on national television to widespread cheering. Condi Rice, captured in an early morning raid several years ago, has been a great source of useful information to target the American resistance, and Donald Rumsfeld was killed by a suicide bomber this last summer.
Everywhere you turn – in every street and every city in America – Al Qaeda forces run security patrols, training Americans to do this for themselves. The only way to stop this is by killing our own people, which further alienates us from a populace that already despises us.
Does that feel like winning to you? Me neither. Welcome to the insurgency.
Support the Troops – Bring Them Home Now!
Hey, I have an idea! How about we support the troops by bringing them home victorious? Whether the Iraqi people deserve it or not is not terribly relevant to me anymore. The troops deserve it. They deserve to leave that place on its feet, with an imperfect government – like every other government – and crime and death and all the rest but with some sense of hope amid all of that. Perhaps the same hope that keeps Iraqi men joining their police and security forces despite the danger and the horror. Regardless of what happens from now on, these people have accomplished something. They have given millions of people hope who had no hope before. That is noble and honourable and good, and nothing and no one can take that from them. That is theirs.
It’s a slog. It’s a slow, heart-rending miserable slog, and I find it as frustrating and disappointing as everyone. But I read history – a lot of history – and I have come to discover that from the inside, ALL wars are thus. We look back on World War II as a golden road to the inevitable victory, but it did not feel that way at the time. It was a miserable, awful, bloody mess with a list of disasters as long as the list of triumphs, but triumph and disaster alike were paid for in blood not because it was desirable or good or easy, but because it was necessary.
The people who are there now, who keep returning to finish the job, seem by and large to understand this. Supporting the troops by calling their mission a mistake and saying they are dying for a lie is not what I call support. Dennis Miller absolutely knocked the wind out of me when he said “I support this war, but even if I didn’t I’d lie and say I did, as long as we have those kids over there.”
This ongoing burden is a miserable solution to an ugly problem, but I believe it is the best of a series of very bad choices brought upon us not by our own doing, but by megalomaniacal lunatics who we will have to fight either now, over there, which is terrible and bloody, or later, here, which will be worse. Walking away from this fight now is like quitting chemotherapy early: immediate relief at the cost of long term consequences that are far more unpleasant.
I hate to be the person to tell you that the sub is made of cardboard. I wish it weren’t so. But sometimes all the solutions are awful, and it is the mark of a responsible adult, and a responsible adult nation, to realize that some problems you can not get around. Some problems you have to go through.
(In Part II we’ll look at 9/11 conspiracies, Global Warming, Chemtrails, professional cynics and Our Friends the Press)
Anyone interested in discussing any of this can do so over here. As for me, I'm always happy to hear from you.
CHAPTER ONE THE WEB OF TRUST. Posted by Bill Whittle at 01:57 PM July 24, 2006.
There was a time – and being born in 1959, I am old enough to remember it – when the idea of Civilization needed no explanation or defense. Everybody knew what it meant. Civilization was tied to another term, now likewise mocked, and that term is Progress.
Progress was the idea that society was moving forward, upward, toward higher goals – better medicine, faster transportation, the brutality of hard labor replaced by stronger, then smarter machines; abundant energy, increased wealth and leisure: all of these things were greatly desired, and society was proud to provide them, proud to show them off in World Fairs and Expos and in the mythology of the movies.
Now “progress” and “civilization” are ironic terms, in sneer quotes, muttered with that pathetic, bored tone of cynical nihilism started by the narcissistic brats that I have been ten years behind for my entire life. Today, I try to exercise and watch my weight only so that I may live long enough to see the last of these radical hippies die in their sleep.
The entire concept of Civilization has been so deconstructed, and vilified, that by having the audacity to defend the ideals of Civilized behaviour Your Author has been called a racist (nope – I happen to have African Ancestors!), a repressed homosexual (please – I have two pairs of shoes!) and even a potential cannibal! (What happens in Papua New Guinea, stays in Papua New Guinea.)
Worse than all of this – I can barely bring myself to mention it – I have been called a nerd by some of these horrible, mean, spiteful people! Me! A Nerd! I suppose that by having a banner on my website where a nerd compares me to another nerd by using a Star Trek reference somehow makes me a nerd! Preposterous!
Reading that made me so furious I just had to unwind and think. I removed my button-down triple-knit nylon print shirt (with all five Enterprises including kick-ass Enterprise E), and decided to just ‘go commando’ leaving only the black turtleneck underneath. I grabbed a Fresca, unzipped my boots and decided to pop in a cassette. (Man, that Dolby NR sure cuts the hiss!) Hanson or *NSYNC? ABBA or Partridge Family?
I definitely felt like some old skool, so I broke out the trusty old party mix with Starland Vocal Band and Gary Wright, plus some MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice representin’ that mad hip-hop flava I’m so down with, then put on my Yoda jammies and my bunny slippers, leaned way back in my plaid recliner, and began to ponder. Deeply ponder. Cogitate, even.
Why all the hatred? Why are so many people so ashamed of the most amazing Civilization that has ever existed on the face of this planet? What the hell have these people been taught to make them think such transparent nonsense?
I believe that human beings are interchangeable.
By this I mean that had Baby Billy been dropped off in the heart of the Amazon rainforest and raised by Yanomami tribesmen (and according to my mother there were times when I was in real danger of this happening), I would have spent my youth learning to hunt monkeys with my bow and 6ft. long arrows, and generally hanging around the shabono sleeping in till almost 6am. Likewise, if Baby Kopenawa had my parents, he’d probably be cranking out online essays at irregular intervals and shooting instrument approaches in experimental canard airplanes.
I don’t believe such a thing because I want to (although I do)…I believe it because to me it seems like coastline rather than map. I believe it based on the fact that wherever I look, I see a full spectrum of multi-colored barbarians and savages, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, a rainbow of the brilliant and the civilized and the decent. Rwanda and Bosnia are on different sides of the planet, and their citizens are as different-looking from each other as humans can be, but the horrors each perpetrated during the last decade should put to rest forever the idea that a few millimeters of melanin can save us or doom us one way or another.
There may in fact be some genetic component to intelligence, but if there is, I believe it pales compared to the effect of culture – and by that, mostly I mean the luck of the draw regarding your parents. In fact, I’ll bet my life on the fact that I can make astronauts and engineers out of any healthy babies of any color. I know I could make murderers and rapists out of anyone, and that this is far easier to do than the former.
So when we talk about the entire idea of civilization, a simple glance at history shows we are not talking about race at all. At various times in history the leading civilization has been black, yellow, brown, or white, and the barbarians lined up to tear down those civilizations have been of every color as well. So to make claim that saying one culture is civilized while another is not is somehow racist is patently ridiculous on its face. Anyone who claims otherwise is trying to shut down the argument because they know they cannot win it on facts and logic – which to some of these people are also racist. But facts and logic don’t give a damn what they think…facts and logic exist whether they like it or not. So do I, and I don’t give a damn what such people say, either. This intimidation tactic has silenced benign, well-meaning people for too long. How would a real Nazi respond to being called a racist? Hitler, dude, you’re like a total racist! That’s a compliment to goose-stepping sons of bitches. That’s a badge of pride for them. Only decent people are deterred by such rhetoric…and that is the entire objective. It works. But not here. Not anymore.
It’s not the hardware, it’s the software. It’s not race, it’s culture.
That’s what I believe.
There is a full-court effort to tear down civilization these days, to make ridiculous even the very idea of civilization, and that is a fight worth rising to. Because the unseen rhizomes of civilization – the impenetrably vast and intricate connections that exist out of our view, beneath the surface of our blinkered daily existence – produce so much that is good and necessary and completely taken for granted that to lose it would be to lose what makes us fully human.
And I don’t want that to happen. Do you?
Let’s start with the obvious, save the sublime for a moment….
I like to fly. Lots of reasons, but here’s one of the best: there is a moment during an instrument departure when – just for an instant – your head breaks out of the clouds but your body still feels engulfed in the mist. For those amazing few seconds you have a real, stationary frame of reference, and the sensation of brightening whiteness, followed by that incredible rush of speed as you punch through the top of the cloud deck, and the cotton turns to a blur as it roars past your ears…well, that’s worth the work it takes to do such things.
On the last day before my Instrument checkride, I departed from Santa Monica airport with my flight instructor to my right and my gorgeous pilot girlfriend in the back seat. We were given a clearance to climb to 4,000 ft. out to an intersection called SADDE. I expected we’d pop right out of the thin marine layer in a few seconds, as we usually did. But nooooo. This was several thousand feet thick – and dense. I can tell you in all honesty we could not see the wing tips ten feet away. It’s like the windows were painted white. Flying on instruments is just like regular flying, only you can’t see anything.
So barreling through the air at about 180 mph, I began my right turn towards SADDE. A glance down at the Turn Coordinator, a nice standard rate turn to the right, airspeed’s good, the engine seems happy…and then I notice that the Attitude Indicator – also known as an Artificial Horizon and my main view of the world outside – is showing me in a turn to the left, and increasing – fast.
Turn Coordinator showing right turn…Artificial Horizon showing one to the left. And in that instant, I felt something grab me by the toes. It was the sharp, tearing claws of panic, working their way into my shoes. I’ve had two engine failures in my flying career, and both of them were immediately followed by this same sick feeling. That fear has to be stepped on right now. If you start thinking about the hundreds of JFK Juniors I’ve read about and all the airplane wreckage scraped off mountainsides like the one I was approaching, then you are already most of the way to being dead.
Craig, we got a problem here. That was what I said, if in a vocal pitch that only dogs and flight instructors could hear. The turn coordinator and the AI are telling me different things!
He turns and looks at me calmly. Bummer!, he says casually, showing why the vast majority of CFI’s are not killed in training accidents but rather choked to death, found with finger-shaped bruises to the left side of the neck.
Then he gave me the best piece of advice I have ever received.
Kick its ass, he said. And that was it.
But that was all I needed to hear. God damn right! I’ll kick its ass! That’s a decision you make...a decision to not be ruled by fear and panic. It is a decision to take all of those hard-wired instincts that have brought us so far – the fear of falling, the rising desire to just call for help then curl up in a ball – and put them away. Forget what the seat of your pants is telling you: that’s an express elevator down to an NTSC report with your name on it.
The Attitude Indicator shows a turn to the left. Turn coordinator shows a turn to the right. But! Both the heading indicator and the whiskey compass also show a turn to the right. The A.I. – my only intuitive look at the world outside – is lying to me. I force myself to realize it is outvoted. We’re not turning left, like the little airplane wings on the little horizon in the little picture. We’re turning right.
This is the essence of training: the ability to do the right thing, not the instinctive thing. It is the voluntary placement of the human above the animal, the cerebral cortex above our reptile brain, which can be very LOUD in times like these. It is, in the end, a call to trust: trust your instruments, trust your airplane, trust your training and ultimately to trust yourself. This willing shift, this prying the claws of emotion from the inner voice of reason...
Trust, this is the very essence of civilization.
Trust what thousands of people have literally given their lives to teach us, even if it goes against instinct, survival and fear. Trust... It’s what makes the whole thing work.
Meanwhile, I need to notify Air Traffic Control that we’ve got a problem.
Socal approach, Experimental One Echo Foxtrot has a failed attitude indicator.
One Echo Foxtrot, roger. Do you wish to continue the approach?
No sir. What I’d really like is for someone to get a really big f***ing ladder and get us out of this mess.
Affirmative, One Echo Foxtrot will continue inbound on the ILS to Burbank.
One Echo Foxtrot, roger.
It’s much, much later that I wonder how and why the human animal – which when you get right down to it should really only need enough brainpower to make a sharp stick to throw at a gazelle – has enough reserve neuron connections to build a civilization so complex that a hairless ape like myself can chase a set of white needles across a four-inch instrument, while hurtling blind a mile up in the air at 150 knots without leaving nail and bite marks on the plexiglass. But, somehow, that’s what I did.
A few minutes later, I could see a patch of ground directly below, and then, after a little more needlework, we popped out beneath the layer. There, dead ahead, were the flashing approach strobes…Burbank Airport, right where those damn little white needles said it would be. Truth to tell, I was actually slightly to the left of the runway centerline, and Craig, my mute flight instructor in the seat next to me, was slightly to the right of it. That is a hell of a feeling, coming home to civilization, to an airport beacon right where it was supposed to be, to leave death up in the grey soup just this once with a weird, indescribable, clearly paradoxical mixture of burning pride and deep humility.
How many people were there with me that day? Not just the obvious two – Dana and Craig, whose support kept my monkey brain in the back of my head to return to throw pooh another day. How many guys were watching me on radar, keeping me separated from far, far better men and women who do this in their sleep up there?
How many people did it take to make the instruments, to mine the silica for the glass, to tap the rubber for the wires? Who laid the asphalt on the runways, who built the filaments in the approach strobes, and who attached the ceramic tips to my spark plugs? And how many millions of other unseen connections had to be made to allow me to do, routinely, and on a middle-class salary, what billions of dead men and women would have given a lifetime to taste – just once.
In those few minutes I just told you of, I stood on the shoulders of millions of my brothers and sisters, not the least of which were two sons of a preacher from Dayton, Ohio – now long dead but with me in spirit every day. I was atop a pyramid of dedication, hard work, ingenuity and progress, following rules written in the blood of the stupid and the brave and the unlucky.
I had tossed myself a mile into the air and landed safe in this Web of Trust.
Civilization is a loaded word, defined more often than not by its opposite: Civilization vs. Brutality. Civilization vs. Lawlessness. We’ll deal with both of those later. But for now, can we take a few moments to peel away the tiniest corner of the vast unseen web, to consider the depths of the Civilization we have built – Civilization vs. The Primitive?
Take a primitive society as an example – the Yanomami, say. Their primitiveness does not convey any moral disadvantage – there are millions of brutal people hidden in the folds of every civilization – nor does it provide them any moral pedestal either, for primitive people spend far more time at war, and suffer far greater violence per capita, than civilized people do. But one can call such a society 'primitive' not only because the tangibles of civilization are absent – the cities and power grids and transportation lines - but because of the lack of complexity of their Web of Trust.
In a tribe of thirty individuals, with infrequent contacts with what are essentially the same neighboring tribes, a member of the Yanomami may perhaps extend his trust to a few dozen people. Perhaps there is a witch doctor who attends to the spiritual needs of the entire village, or some herbal specialists in certain families who can be relied upon more than others to relieve pain and mitigate the symptoms of illness. The hunting may be done by a smaller group, gathering by another...but when all is said and done the number of people you connect to is remarkably small.
It is this close-knit aspect that appeals to many Western romantics, who admire the sincerity and human closeness provided by such cultures…that is to say, they admire it from a distance, in the pages of National Geographic say, or on The Discovery Channel. Needless to say, there is not a person in the West who subscribes to either outlet that cannot more or less immediately pull up roots and go and live the rest of their lives with these noble, authentic, warm, Third World people.
And yet they do not. And it’s not hard to see why, for they too are in love with the standard of living that their civilization provides – a civilization some of them, certainly, profess to despise.
Every time two people come together and trade, wealth is created. Out of thin air. By magic. Every trade, every bit of work done by every human on the planet increases the complexity and order of the whole, and thus makes it more valuable. This is a rich subject, one we will return to in a following chapter. But for now, suffice it to say that if I, as a member of a hunter tribe, make great spears and crappy baskets, and you, as a gatherer, make beautiful baskets and miserable spears, then when we exchange my spear for your basket both of us walk away richer.
Every trade, every transaction, increases the total wealth – for both parties. In a primitive society, where there are at most a few score connections among the people in that society, there is very little wealth, and very little leisure. The simplicity of those connections is plainly obvious. But how much more complex is Western Civilization?
If you could hear each of these transactions – trade and trust relationships – would that help? Tribal life as the sound of stones thrown into a pond at irregular intervals; a small village, the clicks of a Geiger counter; a city, the buzz of a hive of angry bees… and the whole of our incredible, magnificent Western Civilization, the clear, pure tone of a tuning fork.
This complexity is absolutely taken for granted. No one sees it. Ah, but Grasshopper…that is because you choose not to look.
Let’s look at Western Civilization at its naked pinnacle, at the height of its sheer fabulousness: Oscar night! It’s almost time for the Best Supporting Actor award!
Let’s start with the obvious: The amazing set, the stunning lighting, the beautiful people – not just American stars, but world-wide phee-noms. This culture reaches around the world. It’s a fair bet that every other crazed Jihadi getting lathered up for a good round of beheadings in Iraq or Afghanistan or Malaysia is wearing a Spider-man T-shirt or a Miami Dolphins cap or a pair of shorts with a Nike slash or one of the millions of other little trinkets mass-produced as easily as skin cells falling off the body of a sleeping Goliath.
But let’s peel away layers, shall we? One by one?
What about the television network that allows us to watch such things in the comfort of our homes? How much work did that entail? I work in television; I know how television and computers work – in theory. I could no sooner build a television or a computer from scratch than I could walk to Hawaii. I would be utterly incapable of manufacturing the most simple, basic component of a computer – one of the keys, say, or the on-off switch. Completely, and totally beyond my ability.
How many people did it take to make just one plasma TV screen? Just one? Not just the people that assembled it – how many people made the components of that plasma set? How many people does it take to make just the little green power LED? That’s not done in a hut somewhere.
And let’s not even begin to imagine the work needed to build the transmitters and fiber-optic lines, the satellites and launch systems, the local cable service, and their lines, and the repair technicians, and all of that.
I routinely have to enter a major communications ground center to arrange satellite uplinks to New York from L.A. Imagine a wall two stories tall and fifty feet wide, covered with perfect, brand-new color monitors – several hundred in all – on which is every show being broadcast over only a single satellite system. Hundreds of programs, in scores of languages, going up and down from satellites 22 thousand miles high – the entire world talking all at once, and those giant gold statuettes only one little window among hundreds, and thousands more unseen.
And the world... yawns.
Peel another layer: somewhere, a man is walking across a poured concrete floor, inspecting huge generators that power an electrical grid that simply boggles the mind. None of this lighting or TV happens without it. In much of the world, electricity is still non-existent, or rationed to a few hours a day. Not here. And this generating plant relies on water being pumped through likewise unnoticed underground arteries, being watched over 24 hours a day by anonymous men and women up along the 5 Freeway, not watching the show because if they did there would be no show.
And another layer: Outside, a man stands on the street talking into a radio. His job is to coordinate the few hundred limousines lined up like rail cars at a switching station. No show without them, or their drivers. Or the people who run the gas stations that keep them running. Or the mechanics that repair the engines.
Or the people that deliver the ice to the 7-11 to fill the champagne holders. Or the people that delivered that champagne in trucks, moving through the city at 3 am. Or the people that made the tires for those trucks. Or the Portuguese Engineer's Mate, 3rd class, who is attending to a potentially dangerous hydraulic leak on the container ship that brings the tires into Long Beach.
And another layer: That man, on the radio? He presses a switch, and inside that radio a connection closes. That connection is made with a very small amount of gold. That gold was mined by another man in South Africa. That miner was fed by a cook from Thailand. That cook’s mother was saved by medication developed by a pharmaceutical lab in Philadelphia. One of the biochemists who developed that medication is alive only because of a pacemaker made in North Miami. The man who empties the trash in that medical office is a big fan of Andy Garcia, and one of his favorite movies is The Mean Season. And one of the reporters in the Miami Herald Newsroom in The Mean Season was…me.
And it never stops…ever. It just goes round and round. Any permanent break in the Web of Trust and the Oscars… go away.
But back to the show: Oh, look! George Clooney has won! Let’s see what he has to say? Uh-huh. He’s talking about how brave Hollywood is. For going out on a limb and speaking up against the repression machine. Yes, there he is, like all courageous dissidents: worth millions of dollars, his every utterance fawned over by armies of reporters and millions of admirers, telling us about the incredible courage it takes to speak up in Bushitler’s Police State. God, the sheer guts it must require to be a Liberal in Hollywood.
He’s just come off of two brave, brave adventures, you see: one where the heroes are pampered, high-powered television executives, who, in a time where they rigidly controlled all of the information going out to the vast majority of voting citizens, bravely stood up and refused to acknowledge that many of them were members of a foreign-controlled organization devoted to the destruction of their nation, and championed their unwillingness to take the same oath of loyalty required by the most destitute new citizen or the most simple farm-boy soldier.
My God! What heroes!
But the award is for his moving and nuanced role as a representative of the American government, and it’s complicity in the illegal assassination of a kind and deeply moral Arab leader who only wants his wealth to be shared by his people, before being killed by rapacious, soulless American businessmen who only live for chaos and war because it helps line their pockets.
And the next day, this brave, brave man will wonder with a straight face why “liberal” has become a dirty word in America.
IT'S AN IMPENETRABLE MYSTERY, GEORGE!
Of course, this is to real bravery what a painted flat is to a solid steel bank vault. Sure, McCarthy was a blowhard and a bully, and while there is such a thing as “treason,” “un-American” behavior would be beyond my ability to define. But the fact is, he was right. There were hundreds of people determined to undermine this system and replace it with one that has shot 100 million people in the back of the head at midnight in underground torture cells.
Fifty years ago. Now, as it turns out, only a few years ago, a film director was stabbed to death on a street in broad daylight. He was not threatened with being fired by his own company. He was not being asked to sign a loyalty oath. No, Theo Van Gogh was stabbed to death, and a note left on the knife blade embedded in his chest, because a filmmaker dared to speak his mind about something that actually involved real risk to himself. That sounds like genuine bravery to me.
Will our intrepid free-speech champion be covering that one next, I wonder? I suspect not. Those murderers are, unlike Joe McCarthy, still alive. There is a particle of real danger attached to making such a movie. Perhaps this brave, courageous, Clooney voice will turn next to playing Boss Tweed, or perhaps the Teapot Dome scandal will bring him Oscar gold in the years to come. And in the end, who are we to judge a man’s courage, when he has already proclaimed it so loudly for himself?
There are a few people who were not watching the Oscars that night, who I would like to take a brief moment to call your attention to.
Paul Smith wasn’t watching George accept his award for bravery. Paul wasn’t watching that night, because three years earlier Paul got on top of an Armored Personnel Carrier outside of Baghdad International, and provided the covering fire that saved his Brigade Combat team. Paul was killed during that action. How many people know about his bravery?
William Walsh missed the show too. He and some of his buddies were huddled in a stinking hole on Iwo Jima, and when a Japanese grenade came in to join them, Bill threw himself on it without hesitation. Here’s the really sad thing: Bill’s sons and daughters didn’t see the show, nor did any of his grandchildren, because he didn’t get to have any children or grandchildren. He was 23 years old. We share the same birthday, I found. But I had to look for him.
Andrew Jackson Smith was a Negro soldier in the Civil War. He apparently did not suffer any doubts about the worth of the nation that had held his people in slavery. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for risking his life to defend…a flag. Because of Corporal Smith, the regimental colors did not fall. That doesn’t mean much to people these days, but Smith was ready to die for it. He believed in this country.
It took until July of 2001 for him to receive the recognition he deserved – a shameful lapse. But the wheels of justice, while turning slowly here, did, in fact, turn.
We can go on and on and on – all through 3,461 current Medal of Honor recipients. Not one of them could be named by any schoolkid in a hundred. Add all the other awards for gallantry and you have a small army of heroes, all unremembered by the huge majority of the population. And ask any combat vet, and he’ll tell you that only a sliver of the daily acts of sacrifice and heroism go reported, let alone recognized. For every selfless Medal of Honor recipient there are tens, perhaps hundreds, who have shown the same courage unsung. These people gave their lives for us…for this country and this Civilization.
They gave their lives so we could live in the freedom, security and prosperity that alone allows us to be so callow, so cynical, and so relentlessly ungrateful to those who have sacrificed on our behalf.
We don’t see these things because we choose not to see them. But we not only have movie awards, we have movie awards season. Oscars, Golden Globes, SAG awards, People’s Choice…it goes on and on and on. A civilization that is this debased when it comes to who and what they glorify is in some trouble.
And it is deeper than even that. It is not just the unseen heroes. It is the unseen, anonymous people that make this whole thing work. Right at this exact instant, there are men and women making sure that you have clean, safe water. That your aspirin is safe, and works as advertised. That you can pick up a can of food in any store in the country and eat whatever is inside it without a second’s worry about its danger. Armies of people, millions of people, get up and go to work every day to make sure that all of the transparent, unnoticed and unsung strands in this Web of Trust function.
And even when you are all alone, in the wild, as far from the Web of Civilization as you can possibly be, it is still there with you: in a body free from the parasites and diseases that have killed legions unimaginable, in a body free from pain, from the deformity of unset broken bones, in titanium hips and pacemakers we give not a second thought to. It is there in the mental bridge, the bridge only the designer sees as he looks across a chasm, before the first rivet is driven.
Civilization is in our hearts when we stand around a water cooler with people from all across the globe: ancient enemies, perhaps...people our ancestors have fought with for centuries and millennia, and who we now replay Saturday Night Live routines for before heading back to our cubicles to refine a little more order out of the chaos.
So mark these words, for this is not something beyond our control:
Civilizations fall because people bitch and complain when the electricity is off for fifteen minutes, and never give a thought to the fact that it has been on for their entire lives.
I'm off to Oshkosh for a few days. Comments, critiques and anonymous ad hominem attacks can be made here. Posted by Bill Whittle at 10:46 PM
June 26, 2006 UP NEXT...
Well, it's great to be back. Thanks, as always, for all of the kind words.
I have done a pretty substantial re-write of RAFTS. It's cleaner, better organized, less redundant and a little more impassioned. Much of the "maps" material was cut and pasted from two different sources, and I may have hit COPY AND PASTE three or four hundred times by accident. Anyway, I like it much better now.
Next is CHAPTER ONE: THE WEB OF TRUST. Ever been to the Oscars? Me neither. However, that night is as good an instant as any to get an idea of what it is that makes up this civilization.
Hint: It ain't in front of the cameras. Hopefully in the next day or two. See you then.
INTRODUCTION: RAFTS. Posted by Bill Whittle at 11:03 PM June 18, 2006.
This is the introduction to a new book entitled AN AMERICAN CIVILIZATION. Regular readers -- and thank you for your support and patience these past long months -- may notice that there is in this chapter some recycled material, although none from the SILENT AMERICA essays. In this one case, I could not think of a better way to express an idea I had played with back in 2004.
[UPDATE: This post has been substantially re-written since it was first posted.]
There is a British tradition at Christmas time, a tradition I would love to see transplanted to these American shores. It’s an old form of interactive theater called the Pantomime.
I almost wrote ‘interactive children’s theater,’ but that would be to sell it short. Children’s theater today is completely Barneyfied – all syrup and rainbows. Pantomimes were derived from the classics, with pirates and other scary villains, and swordfights and the like. It was the kind of thing a young boy could sit through for two hours without thoughts of escape or serial homicide. It was the first live theater we children had ever seen, a magical experience turbocharged by the immediate proximity of the most magical night of them all.
There are two traditions that I remember clearly. First, the young male leads – Peter Pan, say – were invariably played by hot young women in tights, leaving eight year old boys watching swordfights, rooting for Peter or Puss in Boots, while in the deep back of the mind some faint but growing voice was whispering under all that cheering, saying Man, look at those legs! That was confusing.
What wasn’t confusing was the audience participation. Children and parents were encouraged to hiss loudly when Captain Hook entered the stage, to shout warnings of ambush and hiding places. It was a loud, screaming, cheering, full-on blast.
Now the other thing I remember is that moment in Peter Pan where Tinkerbell lies dying…dying from a lack of belief. It is at this point that Peter Pan would walk to the front of the stage, and implore us in the most desperate terms to clap as loudly as we could to show how much we believed in her, believed in magic, believed in redemption, believed in the power of our own belief.
We would clap till our hands were raw, clap and stomp our feet until the foundations shook, parents and children alike, while Peter would shake his head sadly and tell us it wasn’t belief enough. Then we would clap like furies, scream like Viking berserkers, mom and dad beside us, hollering and shouting and stomping their feet, a wall of sound, a rhythmic, pulsating tsunami of emotion…and then, just then, the slightest stirring of a delicate hand…
Humans are animals. I do not mean that in a negative way. But that is what we are: creatures capable of great good and great harm, susceptible to animal fears and passions, lower than angels but not without grace. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – a man who has seen a fair amount of both good and evil – wrote of that fault line, “that line separating good and evil, passing not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties, but right through every human heart."
As animals, we are wired to live in a state of nature. In the long marathon of our history, our civilizations are only the last two or three halting steps. It took millions of years to build the human animal. It will likely take that long again to design out all of the passions and furies that brought us here.
Until then, we live with a choice: to live in a state of nature, or a state of law. The state of nature is the default condition that the huge majority of human lives has lived under, and continue to live under to this very day – lives solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short in Hobbes’ memorable phrase.
Or, we can choose to impose upon our internal fault line a series of laws and customs, a Civilization, that imperfectly attempts to keep as many of us as possible on the side of the angels.
That Civilization is not a natural state. It is highly artificial and daily runs into our proclivities for murder, greed, pride and mayhem. And because of that artifice, it is a structure that not only must be built, but one which must be maintained, only once, and that is constantly. Victor Davis Hanson -- whom I deeply admire -- described this as rust build-up on an iron structure, rust that must be regularly removed if the structure is to remain standing. That seems exactly right to me. And so here is my poor attempt at providing something no more or less important than a small wire brush.
The maintenance of that Civilization requires many prerequisite tools, and in the following pages I hope we can examine some of them. But the elbow grease, the one indispensable element, is that belief: belief that this work is worth doing. It is the belief that we can drain the open sewers of our most base impulses, and in their place build lives of decency and civility. It is, in the long run, the belief that we can make Tinkerbell fly.
Now there are people who do not much admire this iron bridge we have built, this bridge from the terror and anarchy of the jungle to the distant shores of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There was a time when these forces were strong enough to tear down that bridge. That time may again come. But for now, they lack the power to pull down this Civilization. But they do have the power to get us to forgo the wire brush.
In the pages that follow, I will do my flat-out level best to try not to generalize, and to confine my anger specifically to those who daily unscrew the bolts and drill out the rivets of this magnificent Civilization. We are past the point of name-calling now. The hour is late. This is too important for arguments between Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, or Hawks and Doves. There are villains and heroes aplenty on all sides, and we are going to need every hand that we can get.
So where are we?
Islamist terror masters are about to go nuclear, and an army of foreign nationals are flooding over the border. Liberals haven’t had a new idea since the National Health Card, Conservatives would lose the next election if they ran unopposed, Western birthrates are plummeting, lawlessness is rampant, everywhere you look the seams are starting to crack, and above it all sits an Imperial Congress riddled with corruption, stone-deaf to the howls of public outrage, and looking very tender indeed at the merest thought of being held accountable for anything. Why, it’s calamity enough to put you in mind of Shakespeare:
Now is the Winter of our Discontent, made more of a Bummer by these Sons of Pork…
Yes, yes – I get it. To the Untrained Eye it looks like Western Civ is going to hell in a hand basket; each of its former stalwarts marching silently into the sea, our only consolation as Americans being that we appear to be at the back of the line, leaning to the side of the queue to see which part of Europe takes the Big Drink first; our own progress towards oblivion being delayed somewhat by the usual band of Right-Wing Gun Nuts, Morality Hypocrites, Talk Radio Blowhards and Chickenhawk Bloggers – all four categories of which, thanks to Hugh Hewitt and Kim Du Toit, I now find myself in.
It doesn’t seem to take much arguing to conclude that Western Civilization, if not on the path to utter destruction, is at the very least somewhat frayed around the edges. One gets that sense of desperation most clearly from my good friend Mark Steyn (whom I have never met nor spoken to and who doesn’t know me from Adam) and his reports from an aging and impotent Continent whose civilization has ruled the world for no less than half a millennium and who now stands hunched and toothless, without even the courage to shake a fist at the backs of their new overlords… who, indeed, seem only able to mutter their gratitude that they will not live long enough to witness the final collapse.
When my mother, who is British, thinks of the shores of England she sees Spitfires returning home after splashing the Hun invaders in the North Sea. Nowadays you’re more likely to visualize twerps like George “Shrinkage” Galloway, sunbathing in his red leotards on her pebble-strewn, frigid shores, and Red Ken Livingston sitting alone in the only warm patch of water in the entire English Channel.
And needless to say, we are not without our own species of Suicide Lemmings. Surely the existence of Michael Moore is proof enough – as if more proof was needed – that given enough Civilization, the laws of Darwin will often be supplanted by those of Murphy.
Everywhere I’ve looked – and I’ve been looking around a lot – I get the sense of powerless frustration, of standing on the beach as the Thousand Foot Wave rises up to block out the sun and take everything we have built and fought for with it.
The forces of ignorance and barbarism – bearers of ruin and despair wherever they make camp – are growing in confidence. But beside their will to destroy and die they have nothing.
These Death Cult barbarians think this is all they will need – that, and an initial alliance with the forces they most despise.
I still hold out hope that they will crack open a second book – a history book, say – that might at the eleventh hour give them some insight into the avocado nature of the Civilization they seem determined now to assault: soft and pulpy on the outside, impenetrably tough and hard within.
They are going to do more than chip a tooth on us, these raving, bloodthirsty lunatics: they are about to make, I think, the same mistake that others have made before them – to see the Cindy Sheehans and Michael Moores as representative of a corrupt and dying culture, rather than what they really are: somewhat entertaining animal acts we Westerners use to pass the time while waiting for the next opportunity to pull the gloves off, and kick some new inhuman, barbaric horde onto the ash heap of history, where reside Aristocracy, Slavery, Fascism and Communism, holding in common only the mark of our boots on their asses.
There was a time, an age ago, where the differences between what we call the Left and the Right seemed more or less academic; maybe the distance from one high-rise tower to its twin – close enough to see the coffee mugs and family photos on the other side’s desk. Then something happened.
Now we peer across a divide so wide that we can no longer see the other side; where the residents of the opposing camps are not viewed as having a difference of opinion so much as being considered insane.
Two worldviews this opposed cannot both be right (although they could both be wrong). I was about to write that one of them must be closer to the truth, but I stopped myself, for often people will define truth as conforming to their ideology, rather than the reverse. But surely one of these positions must conform better to reality, to the evidence, for anyone with an open mind to see?
Which one? And how do we tell?
People of good will on both sides value peace and freedom, yet we have diverging choices to make, and we have to make them now. We have to chart our course, a course for our country, and ultimately, a course for the entire world.
We need a map. Several are for sale. How do we choose?
Actually, it’s not so difficult. We can choose the map that best conforms to the coastline we see unveiling before us. We choose the map that best matches reality – the objective, external, indisputable reality of bays and promontories, capes and gulfs and rivers and shoals.
We can, indeed, lay out competing philosophies on the table, and see where each conforms to reality and where it does not. No maps are without distortions; none of these are likely to be, either. And one map may conform perfectly to the coastline in one area, and be dreadfully amiss in another. We can cut and paste them as we wish. This is too important for us to be arguing about who is right – all our energies must go to getting it right.
And before we start, we must agree to one thing: we will never be so full of arrogance and blinded by pride that we dare confront a place where our map does not match the coastline, and proclaim that the coastline must be wrong.
I have a mental map of the world. So do you. So did Lenin, and al-Zarqawi, and Winston Churchill, and Attila, and Ronald Reagan. Everyone has an internal map of how the world works.
The problem is that we get rather fond of these maps. Some people feel that if one only had enough paper, and enough time, one could chart the world without ever going up on deck at all. They trade and collect and discuss these charts as if they were comic books or baseball cards. If they see something on another map that seems to agree, more or less, with what they have sketched out on their own, they feel vindicated. This is human nature. I do it, and you do it too.
How much pain and torture, how many human lives -- each as unique and wonderful as your own -- have been snuffed out of existence because self-righteous, power-mad bastards have waved maps written decades, or centuries, or millenia before, without so much as a peek out the window at how the world really works?
How many of the criticisms levelled at this civilization are genuine, and how many are nothing more than sketches on parchment in the minds of bitter and vindictive people who dare not face the light of day? How many people have died because a person would rather see a thousand people taken out in the night and shot in the head -- or a million people, or a hundred million -- seen them shot in the head, rather than facing the coastline and changing their mind?
When you use your common sense, your personal experience, over any of the so-called “social theories” being sold at fire sale prices, you are walking out of the dungeon of social theory and endless argumentation, walking up the ladder, mounting the bridge and looking out the window to see whether or not the map matches the coastline. If it does not, then it doesn’t matter how credentialed or tenured or respected the cartographer is or was -– he is wrong. He says river delta; there sits a barrier reef. Wrong!
Navigation by means of reason and logic, taking sightings from historical landmarks and always keeping the firm hand of common sense on the wheel, can steer us clear of these dangerous and confusing shoals. This sort of thinking, what is essentially scientific thinking, is a new tool, relatively speaking.
It is a powerful tool, one that makes powerful demands of us, asking us to forgo pride and ego and preconception. It asks us, as blind men and women in the darkness of the present, to walk into the future not by imagining a map that is to our liking, but rather to learn to navigate like bats and dolphins, pinging our surroundings, interrogating nature and history at every turn, finding fixed points of reference that we can use to triangulate where we are and where we are headed.
These people, down below, arguing endlessly in the chartroom -– they have a word for themselves that they find flattering. They call themselves intellectuals. A friend of mine referred to me as an intellectual the other day, and I nearly knocked him off the bar stool. What a repellent thing to say to a man who tries on a daily basis to pre-flight his facts to make sure his theories – his maps – are as accurate as it can be. Things change. Things that were once true sometimes no longer are. The map has to change or you are in deep yogurt. It is that process, not my map, that I am trying to teach to the best of my ability.
There was a time when intellectual meant someone who uses reason and intellect. Today, people who call themselves intellectuals are in a form of mental death spiral: they search for, and find, those index cards that support their world view, and clutch little red books like rosaries in the face of all external evidence. They are ruled by appeals to authority. Their self-image and sense of emotional well-being trumps any and all objective evidence to the contrary.
Many (perhaps most) things these intellectuals believe are so wrong, in so many places, that they are far worse than no maps at all. They draw all manner of hazards where there are none, and disastrously, they show open seas and smooth sailing in the most treacherous and deadly places.
Such maps are not merely worthless; they are dangerous. Ronald Reagan once said that the problem is not that these intellectual social theorists are ignorant; "it's just so much of what they know isn't so."
I am hammering this point here in the very beginning because so much of the corrosion attached to this American Civilization is, in the final analysis, nothing more than the assertions of pedigreed people who have an axe or two or three to grind, and in order to scrape off that corrosion, we are going to have to look at hard facts and draw our own conclusions.
How many students today believe what they believe because they met someone who knew a guy whose girlfriend turned him on to an article by Noam Chomsky? Noam Chomsky predicted, in his even, intellectual, authoritative, tenured manner, that if the US went to war in Afghanistan after 9/11, the result would be 3 million Afghan casualties.
How many of these students who worship St. Noam independently ask themselves why he had come up 2,999,500 bodies short? Noam is not wrong by a factor of one or two; Noam is not wrong by an order of magnitude. Noam is not wrong by a factor of a hundred to one. Noam is wrong by more than three orders of magnitude. Noam is wrong by a factor of 6,000 to one. Noam says the reef is three miles off the port bow, when in fact it is barely ten feet away. That’s six thousand to one. Noam says the ocean is a thousand feet deep when in fact the keel has been ripped out and is sitting on the sandbar back yonder: that’s a 6,000-to-one error. Extrapolating this accuracy rate, if Noam writes 6,000 pages on the evil of the United States, how many pages of truth might there be in such a twenty-volume set?
Does this mean that everything Noam Chomsky writes is nonsense? Not at all. He is a professor of Linguistics. I am not qualified to say how accurate the work in his field of expertise is. I can however make a stab at how accurate he is in the field of US foreign policy, and if you have a handheld calculator at home, you can make the same comparison and achieve the same results.
We are not blind, and we are not crippled, and the world is not a novel or a treatise or a theory or a manifesto. It exists. We can go look for ourselves. And on the way up, when those desperate elitist bastards start clutching at your ankles and implore you to stay below where it’s safe and argue some more…be sure to kick those sons of bitches right in the teeth. Their blind obedience to their Big Ideas have killed more people in history than anything except disease. Boot to the teeth, I say. But that’s just me. You’ve been around. You’re no sap. What do you think?
Socialist intellectuals will tell you that Cuba is a model nation: universal free health care, near total literacy, and essentially no gap whatsoever between the rich and the poor. They call it an island paradise where brotherhood and compassion reign in stark contrast to the brutal inequalities of the heartless and racist capitalist monster to the North, ruled by its Imperial Nazi King, who is the devious mastermind of all manner of Conspiratorial Wheels and is also a moron.
Capitalist intellectuals -– and there are not many, since most of these people have jobs -– argue that Cuba is a squalid, corrupt, poverty-ridden basket case, a land of oppression and secret police and torture chambers run by a megalomaniac who practices the most idiotic, inhuman and degrading economic system ever invented.
So here we sit in the chartroom, with our competing maps. What to think?
Well, ask yourself what it would take to give up your home, your country, your family and all your friends. Ask yourself how desperate you would have to be to sneak out in the night, and strap your family – your grandmother and infant son – to a collection of inner tubes lashed together and set out in the dark surf across 90 miles of shark-infested water in the dead of night, hoping against hope to make landfall. We can all agree, I think, that that kind of desperation could only be driven by a fairly passionate first-person opinion of such things. Surely this goes beyond what you or I would do to win a map argument at Starbucks.
So. Go up on deck, get out the telescope, and answer one simple question for me and for yourself:
Which way are the rafts headed?
We need to know how to cut to core truths. We need to practice testing our maps against the shoreline. We need to do this, and more – right now – because as we sit here together, you and I, something delicate and precious is dying before our eyes for the simple lack of belief in what it represents.
We need to put our children on our lap and clap like furies.
While the comments have gone, I fear, my main motivation has always been the words of support and honest criticism that readers have so generously taken the time to write. I'd love to continue to hear from you by e-mail. You can reach me at bill at ejectejecteject dot com.
LINER NOTES. Posted by Bill Whittle at 12:47 AM
June 16, 2006.
Hello, faithful, faithful reader! Thank you for continuing to check back, against all common sense. It’s been a long time.
As you probably know by now, I prefer not to get paid by the word, or the page, but by the pound. That said, I’ll try to make this brief because there is much work to be done at long last.
I have been meaning to return to these pages for months now – months! Everything I have written here so far has just shot out of me like a fighter jet off a carrier deck: one or two 3-4 hour sessions during which I contract a case of the vapors, then next thing I know I’m reading what the Invisible Hand wrote and out the door she goes.
But for months and months now I have been struggling with a single idea, an essay I wanted to call CIVILIZATION, and despite dozens of false starts, I tear it all up the next day because it reads like an okay parody of me. There was so much I wanted to say, so many bases to cover, that it was like drinking from a firehose – no fun.
Finally, this morning, after another hacking attempt last night, it finally hit me what I was doing wrong. I was trying to avoid delving into areas I had planned to save for later, but I needed these foundations to make the case, and it was going to turn into a 400 page essay. But 400 pages is not an essay. 400 pages is a book.
So, here is the plan: within 24 hours I will post the introductory chapter to a new book called AN AMERICAN CIVILIZATION. Then, over the next several weeks, I will post a series of chapters, looking at the various building blocks of such a civilization. Then, when those have been written, I will write that final chapter – Civilization – that ties it all together, and in doing so I cut the Gordian knot that has kept me flummoxed al these long months.
I will soon be on hiatus from my day job, and have about three weeks more work to do between now and the first week in September. I would like the have an entire book finished by then. And, unlike SILENT AMERICA, which is collection of disparate essays, this is an actual book-worthy idea, with each chapter building on the last and setting up the next.
I have been thinking about this for almost a year now, and I am loaded, cocked, sighted and my finger is inside the trigger guard. And I can tell you that a few moments after I had that revelation on the way to work this morning, I have felt like a genii let out of a long and painful isolation.
I can now turn that firehose outward and try my best to put out some of the fires that distress us all. Also during these next few months, I will put out a hardcover edition of SILENT AMERICA, fully proofed, with better formatting, a table of contents (Uptown!) and which will also include SANCTUARY and TRIBES, which did not get to the station in time to catch the paperback.
Of course, right now these are just words, and I’ve made assurances before. So let’s judge by actions and not words. But sometimes, you have to let a field lie fallow for a while or else the next crop is thin and reedy. Fortunately, there has been so much manure slung around this past year that I hope that fertility of ideas will not be too much of a problem.
But of course, you will be the judge of that, not me. And that’s as it should be.
Thanks for continuing to check in during this long absence. I hope that you will find the delay worthwhile. In any event, we will know soon enough.
Back with more later tonight.