Is This Love?

Death Culture_Noa Pic
Noa Pothoven.

One of the greatest duets of all time is John Denver and Placido Domingo’s “Perhaps Love,” not just for the melody and lyrics but because the teaming of a country singer and an opera tenor to create a masterpiece is one of those occasions which would be labeled “impossible” until it was done. One of the lyrics to “Perhaps Love” says,

And some say love is holding on and some say letting go/

Some say love is everything and some say they don’t know.

It’s romantic, absolutely, but like so many romantic ideas, unless it is reigned in, it can burn out of control and be used to justify things that have no business being defended. And one of those things is suicide.

Noa Pothoven was a girl about whom everyone (myself included) should think when we feel tempted to ask why the universe is treating us like its punching bag: when she was 11, she was sexually assaulted while at a party at a friend’s house and then, when she was 14, she was raped. It was because of these traumatic events and the pain that they undeniably caused her, that she decided that she would end her life. Euthanasia has been legal in the Netherlands since 2001, with even children as young as 12 being eligable to request the State kill them IF their parents give their consent. It was initially reported that Noa had been euthanized by the state but this turned out to be a case of sloppy reporting. She had requested to be euthanized last year but was turned down by the medical clinic. Stymied in that avenue, Noa took matters into her own hands and literally starved herself to death, refusing food and water. Her parents and doctor all decided to not intervene.

On a now deleted post on Instagram, Noa defended her decision saying “Love is letting go, in this case.” Again, in the context of Denver and Domingo’s song, sometimes the loving thing is to let someone go in a relationship because they are just not meant to be with us. But when it comes to a situation like this, with Noa, this idea of love becomes terrifying.

It should be pointed out that love, naturally is terrifying. In Christian theology, love is the force that created, not just the world or the cosmos but Reality as a whole, including the fundamental but invisible parts of it, such as Space and Time (neither of which existed before the Big Bang). Graham Greene in one of his stories (the name of which I’ve completely forgotten) has one of his characters, a former priest turned atheist, explain that he became an atheist because he was terrified of the Love of God, the force that made the bush burn and the sea to split. Real love mimics this by, quite literally, shattering worlds. When two people love each other, they are no longer alone which means, in some sense, they are no longer totally independent. The world that you knew, the world that you created for your single self is shattered by the arrival of a new person. If you marry, that shattering increases, not only in home and work life but if  baby comes, that shattering extends into the entire world because a new life has been brought into being. At its root, this ability of love to do all these things comes from its nature–putting the genuine good of the other person above your own needs, wishes, inclinations, desires, and, even, your genuine good; making yourself always the servant of the person you love.

Love is not terrifying–the world shattering it causes leads to the creation of something not just different but better–but it can be described as “aweful” in the 18th century understanding of the word which meant “filling one with awe.”

But Western society has neutered love though, turning it only into a feeling-in-the-tummy, which is why a few years ago (whether this is still a practice now, I have no idea) some couples had their vows read not “Till death do us part,” but “Till love do us part,” the not so subtle implication being that once the feelings of love dissipated, all promises and duties and obligations and bonds between the two were snapped out of existence, leaving the two free to form new attachments and start the process over again. Pick up any woman’s magazine and you will find numerous examples of women justifying cheating or their decision to make their marriage “open” by an appeal to happiness which, in every case, is a euphinism for pleasure, or the feeling of happiness which they have equated with love.

This neutering trivilizes love and denies its awesome power. The neutering doesn’t destroy the power; as a primordial force, like fire and water and air, love’s genuine power can’t be destroyed. But, if it is denied and hidden, that power can and will be corrupted. And that is what is on display in the case of Noa.

Love can be expressed by letting go in relationships, as already mentioned; it can also be expressed by letting go in the case of death when the time has come for death to claim a life, whether through disease, accident or the simple flow of time. These are all events and conditions which are completely out of our hands since not even the power of human love can force a cure or bend a bone or organ to mend. But killing oneself–whether that is through willful neglect or assisted suicide–is another case entirely. If love is putting the good of another ahead of your own, this rules out helping or standing back and allowing someone to kill themselves because the good of another can never include that person taking their own life. At the most fundamental, this is because life is always more valuable than death becasue as long as their is life, there is hope and the real potential that life will improve. While the past is solidified and the present is an ever fleeting “Now,” the future is unwritten. This can be exploited, of course, much like how G.K. Chesterton explained that the reason why so many people prefer the future to the past is because the past is full of heroes and truths, heroes we do not think we can emulate and truths we would rather forget; while the future, being unwritten, can be whatever we want it to be (at least, in theory). But this nebulousness of the future can also be a source of good because it represents the chance and opportunity to start again.

But this extends to beyond just the case of euthanasia and assisted suicide. This idea of love is just letting go veers directly to the idea that love is allowing the people we care about to do whatever they choose because “If we love them, we will want them to be happy.” But there can be no real and lasting happiness without an attachment to what is true and good since without those transcendentals  whatever we find to give us happiness, however genuine our happiness seems to us at the moment, will lose its gloss sooner or later. Real love then doesn’t sit back, neutered and weak; it roars like a lion and fights to protect the beloved. This doesn’t necessarily mean screaming fire and brimestone; power and strength does not usually equate with theatrics. It may be the strength of fire, intense and hot; it may be the strength of water, moving inexhaustibly for the other person and their good; it may be the strength of the earth, immovable and unyielding, even in the face of impossible odds.

At the end of the day, I don’t condemn Noa who must have suffered mightily from the evils inflicted on her. Instead, I condemn a culture which has lied to us about the nature of love, a lie that has been so strong, to this point, that it has even succeeded in nullifying the natural love of parents for their child.

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The West Kills Socrates–Again

Roger ScrutonBritish philosopher, Sir Roger Scruton, born in Buslingthorpe, England, has one similarity with Wisconsin born, American actors and director, Orson Welles–both men should not have to wait for death for their names to become household names. Welles, who died in 1985, missed that goal. Hopefully, Sir Roger will have better luck.

Reading Scruton’s bio on his website, someone might be tempted to think that there is a very good reason why his name is not a more common and recognized one; much of his accomplishments read like the achievements of many other academics. And so, while he might be held in repute among academic philosophers, his name shouldn’t be expected to breach the borders of other niches.

But, as James Delingpole has written, this bio, while factual, does not tell the whole story, such as the fact that Scruton smuggled banned books and supported dissidents in Communist Czechoslovakia. It also does not detail the fact that what makes Scruton so worthy of being considered a treasure of the West today is that he is an actual philosopher. It’s true that philosophy departments across the country are shrinking, a victim of universities focusing time and resources on sports, medicine, law and the harder sciences. But there are still plenty of philosophers in circulation who, for the most part, are not engaged in actual philosophy. A brief overview of some recent philosophical articles will give an idea: “In Defense of Madness: The Problem of Disability” (“At a time when different groups in society are achieving notable gains in respect and rights, activists in mental health and proponents of mad positive approaches, such as Mad Pride, are coming up against considerable challenges. A particular issue is the commonly held view that madness is inherently disabling and cannot form the grounds for identity or culture. This paper responds to the challenge by developing two bulwarks against the tendency to assume too readily the view that madness is inherently disabling…”); “Beyond the Call of Beauty: Everyday Aesthetic Demands Under Patriarchy” (“This paper defends two claims. First, we will argue for the existence of aesthetic demands in the realm of everyday aesthetics, and that these demands are not reducible to moral demands. Second, we will argue that we must recognise the limits of these demands in order to combat a widespread form of gendered oppression.”); “Racial Justice” (“‘Racial justice’ is a term widely used in everyday discourse, but little explored in philosophy. In this essay, I look at racial justice as a concept, trying to bring out its complexities, and urging a greater engagement by mainstream political philosophers with the issues that it raises.”) 

Unlike so many of his contemporaries, Scruton does not go for whatever is popular and in vogue at the moment; he takes seriously the etymology of his field, “love of wisdom,” and, like Socrates, is continually asking questions that are not what the cultural powers that be claim we should be asking, but questions we need to ask, such as what is beauty and do we need it in our art and architecture today and what is the nature of conservatism and why it is better for the environment. His work has been deemed of such importance (in the past at least) that he was appointed as Chairman of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, which, it should be noted here, was an unpaid advisary position to the Tory government.

And that is the real reason why Scruton has been made a pariah. Scruton not only asks question and does what he can to make society think, but he also is an unapologetic conservative, becoming one after witnessing and partaking in the riots in France in 1968. Which is why he has been, for all intents and purposes, expelled from British society, as far as the ideologues on the left in Britain are concerned.

Last month, Scruton was interviewed by The New Statesman, a leftist magazine for which Sir Roger used to write as its wine critic. The interview–to put it bluntly–was a fraud, a hunt to find a few, select quotes that could be used to destroy Scruton’s career. And that is what happened, to a very large degree. Deputy editor of New Statesman, George Eaton, announced that the interview he personally conducted with Scruton was full of “outrageous remarks,” which caused the British Housing Minister, James Brokenshire announced that Sir Roger had been immediately and unceromoneously sacked from the aforementioned chairmanship on building beauty; George Eaton responded to that news by posting a picture of himself drinking from a bottle of wine and declaring that this was feeling he had knowing that he had gotten “racist” and “homophobic” Scruton fired from his government advisory job; a post that has since been deleted.

Death of Socrates
No good deed goes unpunished, Socrates.

Douglas Murray  of the UK Spectator, dissected the cheap tricks Eaton pulled; one of which was, as Mark Steyn described it, “talk[ing] to you for two hours and then pluck three partial quotes uttered twenty-five minutes apart that destroy your career and get you banished from public life.” One example: Eaton claimed on Twitter that Scruton stated in the interview that every Chinese person was just a replica of the next one, which was a “very frightening thing.” Since this seemed out of character for Scruton, people questioned Eaton on Twitter and, relenting, the deputy editor said that he had editor Scruton’s answer for purposes of editing and space. On the Chinese, Sir Roger had actually said, “They’re creating robots out of their own people by so constraining what can be done. Each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.” In other words, a “racist” statement was actually an attack on the Chinese government, which with its soon to be fully implemented social credit program, is moving closer and closer to making each of its citizens a cell of the Chinese Communist Party.

In a normal world, this would be seen as nothing more than a smear attack. And, to be honest, the push back against the New Statesman  and Eaton has been sweet to observe. But it’s because of “accountability journalism”–the idea that a reporter’s job isn’t to objectively report the facts and let the readers decide for themselves but to actively twist and mold a story to hold “those in power accountable”–this smear attack against one of the greatest living Western philosophers was able to happen in the first place. Scruton has questioned the sacred cows of postmodern leftism, not just [post]modern art but Islamophobia, homosexuality, foreign policy; things which the cultural elites do not want people talking about unless it’s to agree with them in lockstep. In other words: You can be a philosopher (much like you can be religious) as long as your questions don’t target the status quo.

But, of course, the job of real philosophy isn’t to act as a “yes man” to any one person, group, party, or course of action. It’s job is to QUESTION so that from the questions, we can arrive closer to the truth and from knowing the truth, grow in wisdom (the whole “love of wisdom” again). And that is a terrifying proposition for most people, regardless of which side of the political chasm they’re on because being questioned about you assumptions, your beliefs, your ideas, you risk your entire worldview collapsing because you open yourself to the idea that you are wrong. And if that happens, with what framework will you replace your broken one?

More than that, knowing the truth, means that you will be pricked by your conscience to change your behavior. Once you know that your ideas or incomplete or incorrect, you cannot in complete honesty hold to them. You must either rationalize why they are still right, regardless of the holes in them and the evidence marshalled against them, or you must learn to be comfortable with the cognitive dissicence of still holding a wrong idea. And change, as everyone who has worked to break a bad habit knows, is difficult, uncomfortable and challenging.

This is the reason why Socrates was killed by the Athenians. His questions probing them as to the nature of justice, piety, good government–concepts that had been taken for granted for generations–threatened the Athenian’s worldview and their way of life; it threatened their comfort. As such, he was charged with impiety and sentenced to drink hemlock. It is the same reason why Roger Scruton was attacked. Because in a world that does not want to think, because it is already convinced that it has the truth, philosophy and philosophers are not welcome.

 

 

 

Thought Crime Will Be Impossible!

1984
We are here to control your thoughts. To keep you safe, of course. 

I first read George Orwell’s 1984 when I was 15, receiving it as a gift for Christmas. As a typical 15 year old male, when I first read the novel the things that shocked and terrified me the most were the restrictions on sex (and more appropriately, love, though I didn’t grasp it at the time); the complete eradication of privacy (the telescreens always heard you and you never knew when they were watching you) and Room 101 (enforcing the Party’s rule through complete fear a la Batman’s nemesis, the Scarecrow).

Looking back on it know, those elements still are terrifying but they pale in comparison to the real tyranny that Big Brother exercises: the war against and complete subjugation of free thought.

The revelation comes in Chapter 5 of Part 1 where the main character, Winston Smith, has lunch with his friend, Syme, the philologist who is working on the 11th Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary, Newspeak being the language of Oceania after the Revolution, a supposedly purely logical language. At lunch, Syme pontificates with all the zealousness of a prophet about the real end goal of Newspeak:

‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,’ he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction. ‘Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?’

I thought about Syme and the Newspeak when I read about Facebook’s ban on several prominent commentators such as Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer and Milo Yiannopoulous for simply being “dangerous individuals.” According to the BBC,  these people were banned because they engaged in “violence and hate,” even though this is patently false. Whether you agree with any of these people or not, a brief look at their work will show that all they are guilty of is advocating and defending ideas that are not considered woke; which is not the definition of hate or violence unless those words are radically redefined.

This idea only seems cynical until you remember that actual, hateful organizations, such as Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood and hateful individuals such as Nicholas Maduro (the dictator of Venezuela) and Jim Carrey (whose latest piece of “art” shows AG Barr drowning in a pool of vomit) all have their Facebook pages preserved. Apparently, calling and working towards the destruction of the Jews and the state of Israel, causing untold suffering on your people and expressing your passionate hate for an administration do not qualify as hate or violence in Facebook’s rule book.

Many people have rightly argued that this is a blatant attack on free speech, just another example that in spite of it’s vision statement (“People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them”) Facebook is not a friend of free speech. But it goes deeper than that; just like the Party in 1984, by being an enemy of free speech, Facebook is showing itself to be an enemy of free thought.

The First Amendment often get’s reduced to free speech (and sometimes freedom of the press) but the five freedoms it lists–religion, speech, press, petition, assembly–are all tied together because all of them are directed towards finding the truth. If there was no such thing as objective truth–truth that existed separately from our feelings and desires and how we wished things were–none of the freedoms listed in the First Amendment would make sense. Instead of arguing to find the truth, instead of the press being free to hold the government and individuals accountable to some objective standard of right, instead of having the ability and the duty to seek the truth in religious matters, everything would be reduced to a power struggle because when there is no truth, anything can be the truth and when contradictory ideas and opinions are both equally valid, all people do is fight to force their own subjective ideas down the throats of everyone else.

But since objective truth is real (whenever someone says “There is no objective truth,” just ask them, “Is that true?”) all f our rights listed in the First Amendment exist so that we can find and then live in truth. In other words, our First Amendment rights exist because it is better to live according to the truth–reality–what Is–than it is to act differently from that. And the reason that is is because acting according to reality makes us radically free. This might seem counter intuitive at first because if we know what is and then are rationally duty bound to act in accordance to the truth that means that we will have to act in a certain way and wouldn’t that limit our freedom? But the opposite is true. If, for example, we know how math works, we will be free to actually do mathematics; if we know what music is, we will be free to play an instrument; if we know how the human body works, we will be able to fight disease; and, if we know what Good is, we will be free to act god. Knowing the reality and truth of things doesn’t limit our freedom but expands it.

And this is where free speech is necessary for finding the truth because since the time of ancient Athens and Socrates, debate and argument have been recognized as prime ways of reaching the truth. And this is because the truth is often found by pitting ideas against each other. Thomas Aquinas made it a point, when developing his philosophy and his theological arguments, to find the strongest arguments of his opponents, to find their best ideas so that by finding their flaws, the truth could be found. Thomas Jefferson repeated the sentiment, saying, “Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” By restricting free speech, free thought is suffocated.

If certain ideas and the people who defend those ideas are declared “dangerous” and are excommunicated from the community, the only ideas that will be acceptable will be those that the powers that be have given their stamp of approval. And when that happens, like Syme said in 1984, consciousness will grow smaller because the only ideas available to the public will be the right ideas. And, soon, the public will accept those ideas as the truth because they will have absorbed them through osmosis. Which means that whoever can control which ideas are “dangerous” or not are the ones who control thought and society.

John Adams said, “Let us dare to read, think, speak and write!” Facebook has declared itself to be the enemy of that thought. It’s time for us to choose which one we want.

Hollowing Notre Dame

Image:Thomas Jefferson said that he would rather have unsure freedom than docile safety. Jefferson, today would be in the minority as most people, in and out of the United States, would rather choose safety then freedom. Part of the reason is that safety is comfortable, something that everyone wants.

One of the many drawbacks to that is that comfort makes us think that we will never see a terrible event. Of course, terrible things happen in the world; newspapers would be thinner if they didn’t and social media much duller. But they never happen to us and we do not witness them. Those things happen to other people.

This is a main reason I think the world reacted as it did to the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral. Something that had stood in Paris for 850 years and which had become a globally recognized building is not supposed to burn. It isn’t supposed to be destroyed. Since it has always been standing in Paris, it will continue to always be standing in Paris. If it is destroyed—because, we have to admit if pressed, these events are always possible—it will be destroyed sometime in the nebulous future, after we are all safely dead.

The silver lining from a tragedy like this is that it is these events that often bring out the best in people. Christians and non-Christians reportedly stood in solidarity and sang as the cathedral burned; several billionaires have pledged small fortunes for the rebuilding; President Trump called President Macron and Pope Francis to offer the assistance of the United States in whatever capacity.

It was also a time for the worst in humanity to creep out. On social media-especially Twitter-several people felt that the cathedral’s burning was “cosmic karma” (in the words of one user) for all the colonization and cultural theft that had taken place over the centuries by European countries; some others also rejoiced that “white people” were being triggered by the church’s burning.

Several people, noticing this small, but vocal trend, wondered why this reaction existed, asking what the burning of a cathedral had to do with cultural appropriation and colonization (construction on Notre Dame began in the 1100s, well before any of the European powers began to colonize outside of their continent) and also why people had to take a tragedy to use it for their own political benefit.

Holmes and Watson
Never miss an opportunity…

The easy answer is that these people are ideologues. Ideology is terribly master because while it gives you a complete circuit of thinking, that circuit is so small that much of the richness of human life is rejected or unrecognized because only what “fits” into the ideology is acceptable. To these people, it doesn’t matter that the church was built before the era of colonization; that, as a church, Notre Dame was an embodiment of the Christian religion, that was, often times, one of the only forces to actually defend the rights of native people and which acted as a moderating influence on the colonizers; one example that stands out is Bartolome de las Casas, a Spanish priest, who defended the Indians against the ideas and attacks of men like Juan Gines de Sepulveda, the Spanish humanist, who argued that the Indians were naturally slaves. It doesn’t matter that the cathedral was an anchor to the past for Western civilization, it’s ideas, faith, purpose and people. All that mattered were the premises of the ideology and those premises demanded that the destruction be celebrated.

But there’s another reason. Notre Dame was a beautiful church. Everyone agreed with that statement; it’s one reason why tourists flocked to it and why the people, even in post-Christian France, regarded the church as the heart of Paris. The problem with that beauty does not exist in a vacuum but is intimately connected to truth. As Dr. Peter Kreeft has explained:

 

Truth is not defined by consciousness, which conforms to Being in knowing it. Goodness is defined by truth, not by will, which is good only when it conforms to the truth of Being. And beauty is defined by goodness, objectively real goodness, not by subjective desire or pleasure or feeling or imagination, all of which should conform to it.” “Truth is good and beautiful; goodness is true and beautiful; beauty is true and good. But there is an ontological (not temporal) order: it flows from Being to truth, truth to goodness, and goodness to beauty. Truth is judged by Being, goodness by truth, and beauty by goodness.

 

Since everyone acknowledged that Notre Dame was beautiful, it means that it was only beautiful because it was good and it was only good because it was true. What was true about it? People will have different answers: the specific religion of Catholicism, the general faith of Christianity, the history and culture of the West, the ingenuity of Man and his search for meaning in a world filled with void and chaos, a mixture of all those reasons. Whatever answer one chooses, the fact remains that Notre Dame stood for something real, tangible and solid and true.

That terrifies people because if there is such a thing as objective truth—which the phenomena of beauty gives witness to—logically, we must conform our lives to that truth, whatever it is. To not do so would be to willingly follow a lie, something which no one proudly proclaims on the rooftops. Even when people are not living by a truth, they have to make it seem as if they were because we all understand, consciously or not, that we should live according to the truth. And it is this conformity that terrifies people. It terrifies them because we have deluded ourselves with the idea that freedom means liberation from everything, including the truth. To be truly free, we have told ourselves, we must be able to define everything around us the way we want to define it. And because we have this poor and cannibalistic idea off freedom, we live in fear, not just of anything the embodies truth, but the past in particular. As G. K. Chesterton said:

 

The brain breaks down under the unbearable virtue of mankind. There have been so many flaming faiths that we cannot hold; so many harsh heroisms that we cannot imitate; so many great efforts of monumental building or of military glory which seem to us at once sublime and pathetic. The future is a refuge from the fierce competition of our forefathers.

 

This fear was on full display when President Macron declared in a now deleted tweet that the rebuilt cathedral would be a monument to modern, diverse France; and when Patricio del Real, an architectural historian at Harvard, stated, “The building was so overburdened with meaning that its burning feels like an act of liberation.”

When we try to be everything, we end up being nothing. It seems that Notre Dame will suffer the same fate and be the latest victim in this mad dash for “liberation.”

When Equality Dies

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The unfortunate reality is that as long as there has been civilization, there’s been corruption. Money, prestige, family connections, friendships have all had a hand in subverting justice and making sure that the guilty have been able to get off scot free from the punishment they deserve. Human nature being what it is (with every person having the line that divides good and evil running through his heart) this is just a fact of life. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we accept it, that we do not do what we can to fight against it; we always strive to improve the world and our society. But, at the same time, we take the world as it is and not as what we would want it to be, to paraphrase George Washington.

 

But sometimes, an example of corruption comes that exceeds the usual examples and which signals a societal shift. The latest entry in the Jussie Smollett “saga” is a case in point.

 

Smollett, the actor was best known for his role in HBO’s show “Empire” until he claimed that he was attacked by two men in MAGA hats who threw racial and homophobic insults at him, beat him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him—all at 2:00AM on one of the coldest nights in recent Chicago memory. Holes soon appeared in his story; police investigations turned up more holes and soon, it became evident that Smollett had staged the attack upon himself, hiring and paying a co-worker and the co-worker’s brother (both from Nigeria) to attack him. The saga seemed to come to crescendo with the city of Chicago charging him with 16 charges of felonies.

 

But on Tuesday, March 26, the story took a 180 degree turn when it was announced that all charges had been dropped against the actor. Furthermore, it was revealed that the judge had performed a …which boils down to the secular version of confession; Smollett’s police record is, with the stroke of a pen, wiped clean, no crucifixion or resurrection even necessary. In his statement, Smollett declared that he had always told the truth and that the city of Chicago had done the right thing and that he would never stop fighting for minorities and the oppressed. It was fairly predictable.

 

Also predictable were the reactions from the right. Over and over again, on Twitter, people on the right said that this was proof that money and fame and being a liberal are enough for someone to cheat the justice system and that if a white, straight conservative man had tried to fake a crime against himself, he would have been thrown in jail long before this.

 

All of these claims are true…and all of them miss the bigger point.

 

It’s worth pointing out, again, a point that I made when it was first unveiled that Smollett had staged the attack himself (though I made it on Twitter and not on the blog, if you’re wondering where I made this point originally) and that is: I believe Smollett when he says that he never lied.

 

I believe that he staged the hate crime; I believe that he, objectively committed fraud on us, the American public; BUT I don’t believe that he thinks that this was lying. Smollett is an ideologue and is firmly convinced that he lives in a country where what he described as the attack on him is an everyday occurrence; in his head, America is a country where Trump supporting, Jesus worshipping white nationalists rove the streets and hills, looking for anyone “different” from them to attack and abuse, if not outright kill. Smollett just tried to bring that “reality” to the public’s attention and since he was never there with a camera when one of these attacks occurred (darn the luck) he “recreated” one. In his head, he wasn’t lying; he was just acting.

Justice

 

The decision to drop all charges against him, to erase his record—even though the state prosecutor said that there was more than enough evidence to convict him—is a sign that we are no longer a just society. It’s true that there were examples from the past which made this same point but, in the past, there was still the veneer of justice given to these actions; the veneer may have been very thin and the stories concocted with them unbelievable, but they were still there. Appearances still had to be made.

 

Now, though, even the appearance of justice and a plausible story have been ignored. In the weight of all the evidence and the statements of the Chicago Police Superintendent and the State Prosecutor, all charges have been dropped and wiped away. Even worse is that it wasn’t the usual means that got Smollett off the hook: it wasn’t his money or his fame or his family that was primarily responsible for this but his ideology: because he THOUGHT the right way, that America is the horrible place where people are brutally and physically attacked for not “fitting in,” he was granted immunity from his crimes.

 

What other explanation is there? He’s not the richest man in the entertainment business today; his name is not the most prominent (many people, when Smollett first told his story, asked themselves who he was) and the same goes for his family. The only reason why he was let go was because he thought the right way.

 

John Adams said that nations should be ruled by laws and not men. Men were capricious and would rule in their own favor, regardless of who was hurt, whose rights were trampled in the process. The law, on the other hand, was unbiased and was blind; rank, wealth, name, connections all were disappear before it and everyone was to stand equal. But basing judgments on how someone thinks, on ideology, reverses that arrangement. Instead of being blind, the law (or the judicial system, at the very least) takes a very keen interest in what you think and if you think in the “right way” you will be treated differently than if you don’t. This destroys the very idea of justice. Justice is giving to another what is due to him, based on his actions. But this basing punishment or forgiveness on ideology means that actions aren’t part of the equation anymore. It also destroys equality because if the legal system is going to treat people differently based on how they think instead of what they actually do, how can we be equal under the law?

john-adams

And if we’re not equal under the law how can we be equal? Western civilization traditionally has said that men are equal in the sight of God and under the law because experience and common sense taught them that people were not equal in abilities, in talents, in opportunities, in connections, in wealth, and the like. But under God and the law—again—all those differences would be wiped out. It allowed people to understand that everyone didn’t have to be uniform (an end result that would require total control by some entity), people would room and motivation to improve themselves and they still could rest in the guarantee that they and their rights were protected. If ideology is made the standard, those protections and safeguards are gone; we are made into an Animal Farm society where “four legs good, two legs better.”

 

It’s good to be infuriated at the direction the Smollett has taken and there’s nothing wrong with a little rant about what money and fame and being “a liberal” will let you get away with. But after the rant, let’s see the forest for the trees and see what the big battles on the horizon are.

Will Prostitution Make Us Free?

 

Another essay I wrote has been published at The Federalist website! With Robert Kraft’s arrest and with Kamala Harris’ interview with the Root, there has been another wave of arguments (many from libertarian minded people) that prostitution should be legalized already since: it will stop (or, at least, decrease) human trafficking and abuse; it will expand freedom; and, what consenting adults do is none of any else’s business.

In the words of of Tony Stark: I respectfully disagree: freedom isn’t doing what we want but what we ought (to quote Abraham Lincoln); and consent isn’t a magic bullet that makes something good just because you consented to it; and looking at other countries that have legalized prostitution, it doesn’t improve anything.

You can read the whole thing by clicking the link here: Prostitution Should Stay Illegal Because Consent is a Garbage Minimum Standard for Goodness.

When Meritocracy Dies, We Get #CollegeScam

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Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin–future jailbirds. 

There’s the old saying, “Crime doesn’t pay.” It might be looked at quaintly today because, despite the saying, there seems to be an awful lot of crime that does pay, Washington DC being a prime example of that. But every once in a while, justice does dispense herself quickly upon criminals and this week proved that.

 

A federal investigation revealed that there was a million dollar scam created for the express purpose of securing a spot in elite universities for the children of the rich and famous. Some of the people arrested were actresses Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives and Lori Loughlin from Full House but there were many more; 50 people have been indicted already. The mastermind, William “Rick” Singer was paid $25 million dollars total to bribe coaches and administrators of institutes of higher education such as Yale, Georgetown and UCLA to insure a place for the children of Hollywood’s elite. The scam cheated on ACT tests and helped insure that children would be put on collage sports teams—even if they didn’t play—so that they would be eligible for scholarships.

 

Retribution was swift from social media with people calling out the actresses and other celebrities who were willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain access to these privileged places of learning: Twitter and Instagram users posted anger, bile and snark not only on the actresses’ pages but also on the pages of some of the children as well, an underhanded move since none of the children have been indicted for the same and it’s not known, at this point, if any of the children actually knew about the scam.

 

There are many things that could be said about the story: how it shows the corrupting influence that money can be put to; the danger of having an elite who believe that they are owed X or Y; the ridiculous degree to which some institutions have been made into demi-gods because of their history and prestige.

 

But, for me, it demonstrates two things very clearly: the end result when meritocracy is destroyed and; the corruption and uselessness of the higher education system in America.

 

Meritocracy is an old fashioned idea; old fashioned in that it is old and old fashioned in that it is an idea that has been declared passe at best. It is old fashioned because the Founders believed in meritocracy; it was one of the threads in their belief of the natural aristocracy. While there people who were natural smarter, stronger, richer, more virtuous than others, the Founders believed that every person had the innate power to improve himself and that he should improve himself. Reward, then, should go to the man who was the best and not simply to the richest man or to the man with the most prestigious family name behind him. And it is an old fashioned idea because it has been declared racist. Professor Angela Putnam at Penn State Brandywine termed meritocracy a “whiteness ideology” and a “social construct” that makes people believe that they got where they are because of the sweat of their own brow. Professor Putnam is not the only one who thinks and teaches this; expecting black Americans and Hispanic Americans to work hard and be punctual is now racist; New York stopped assigning prospective teachers the Academic Literacy Skills Test because black and Hispanic applicants were struggling with it. The idea has been planted in our minds that hard work is a sham; you only got to where you are and achieved the success that you’ve had because of your color or your sex or your money. To paraphrase former President Obama: You didn’t achieve that.

 

Yale
A Yale education doesn’t get you what it used to. 

 

The collage scandal is what happens when meritocracy is spurned. If people only get ahead because of their color or sex, then you might as well live like and figure, what’s the point of working hard? What’s the point of even trying to work hard? Much easier just to cheat and get into a prestigious and posh collage. You didn’t earn it either way, anyway. The problem is that if meritocracy is done away with (as the elites are attempting to do in the country) then people WILL only get ahead based on their wealthy, prestige or name. Of course, some might say that this is the way the world works anyway; meritocracy is a sham and always has been since it has always been the wealthy and connected who received what they wanted and moved the world. And it’s true; the rich and powerful and influential have more clout than Regular Joe down the street. But meritocracy acted as a check on these people, making it so Regular Joe had, at the very least, a chance at greatness and history is full of Regular Joes who have done just that. Disparage the idea of merit, however, and that check is gone.

 

The outrage we are seeing is, in fact, hypocritical because we want to have our cake and eat it too; we want meritocracy to be a sham either because it absolves us of our failures and shortcomings or so that we can parade our wokeness to the world; but, at the same time, we are shocked and angered when people followed the logic and cheated to get ahead.

 

To move to the second point: the education system in America has been a joke for some time and this scandal has just proved it. That there were administrators and coaches willing to accept bribes in order for the kids of the rich and famous to get in is not the real scandal; human nature is corrupted (look at any history book or any news site for proof). The real scandal is that the parents of these kids had so little regard for what these institutions are supposed to be. Georgetown and Yale and the other schools listed in the investigation used to be seen—correctly—as centers of prestige because the education that students received from their was top-notch. But what was proved by this scandal is that this is no longer the case. Parents who paid to have their kids assigned a spot on campus showed that they suspected that their kids would be unable to get in (why else would they have cheated?) and deomstrated that they didn’t care that their kids would be unable to academically succeed at these schools (if you have to cheat to get in, how will you keep up with the course work?) Instead, these schools were seen as just factories to get a degree at the end of four years, a degree that was useless except for the opportunities it would open and the connections that it would make. Education, knowledge—they were seen as useless and unimportant. And who is to blame for that except the schools themselves, in large part? Schools and institutions that have forsaken their end of instructing so as to be woke and “relevant” in today’s environment?

 

Scandals are horrible because of the rottenness they reveal but the silver lining to them is that when the rottenness is shown, there is a hope and chance that it can be healed.