The Need For Thede

Hitler was wrong because he was a racist.

What’s that? Too pedestrian? Too commonplace? Too banal? You were expecting something more edgy and unusual out of me? Well, fear not – I don’t mean that the same way most people do.

What I mean is that Hitler’s myopic focus on racial purity was far too limited a vision to be truly useful. It left too many questions unanswered and too many issues unaddressed. It was, in fact, utopian in its own way, and the truth is that the conflict between Nazism and Communism was one of competing utopian visions. Communism believed that utopia could be brought about if we could just get everyone to believe the right set of ideas. Nazism believed that utopia could be brought about if only we could get the right people to build it. It has its own kind of logic to it: perfect people will naturally create a perfect world.

The only problem is that both visions are bollocks. Perfect people don’t and never can exist, and utopia is a fantasy that won’t ever come to pass in this world no matter who’s building it or what they believe. That doesn’t stop people from being utopians, however (hopeful delusion is one of those human flaws that we’ll never get rid of). There are lots of dead-ender Marxists still around (some of whom admit that thats what they are, and some of whom don’t). But there are also plenty of people around who believe in Hitler’s equally silly utopian scheme.

Here I do not mean to point an accusing finger at people who simply wish to exercise freedom of association in order to be around others who they perceive to be like themselves. The desire to do so is simply human nature, and after a couple of centuries worth of the disastrous failures of utopian schemes that have attempted to deny human nature, we have all hopefully had our fill of them. Neither do I wish to wage my own “war on noticing” by pretending that it is not true that certain racial groups seem to have naturally differing levels of average IQ, organizational skills, and propensity to criminality; nor by pretending to not understand why someone might want to live among a group that scores high in these areas. That is all understandable, and I have no criticisms to offer about any of it.

But myopic focus on ethnicity alone still too limited a worldview to be useful for our task of rebuilding the civilization that 250 years of leftist utopianism has utterly trashed. Consider, for example, the “Portland problem”. Portland is the whitest major city in America – but what are its politics like? And Portland is hardly an isolated outlier. There is a reason that leftism – and especially Cultural Marxism – has been referred to as “White Peoples’ Disease”. To those who fashion themselves “white nationalists” I say this: Fix white people first, then get back to me about white nationalism.

So we need something else – more than just the “Master Race”. We need to think more broadly – partly about people, partly about ideas, partly about technology (both social and scientific), partly about culture, partly about religious faith, and partly about history (both shared history, and the trajectory of future history). We need to take of these things into account as we consider how to survive what is to come, and how to begin to rebuild and create societies that recapture what was good, workable, and sustainable about the past, while adapting them so that they can continue to be robust in the future.

We need more than a Master Race; we need a Master Thede.

“A what?” you may ask. Well, to fully explain, first I must pull back a bit, so that we make take a realistic look at things the way they really currently are. So here is a no-bullshit assessment of the way things stand in the United States, and indeed virtually everywhere in the West at this point in history: If you are of the right or are even merely not a dedicated Cultural Marxist, if you are a serious Christian, if you value the traditions and culture of your people as they existed prior to World War II, and/or if you are a realist and not a fanatical utopian cultist, then the current system and every institution in it, from the government to the media to the corporate world, from the Supreme Court to the Boy Scouts to NASCAR, with only the possible exception of a handful of religious organizations, is lost to you – permanently and irreversibly. Nothing you can do will change this. There is no amount of protesting, or boycotting, or hashtag posting, or – especially – of voting that will do anything to alter this situation. Not ever. I know it, and – deep down, underneath any denials you may be tempted to offer – you know it, too.

So what do we do now?

To start, there is some good news. The current system and its institutions – everything that has been coopted by the left, and that we have lost to them – will collapse under their own weight anyway, and sooner than you might think. They are, to borrow a wonderful word that the environmentalist left taught me, unsustainable. There are many reasons for that, which include massive debt and other structural economic problems, imperial overreach, moral bankruptcy, resource depletion (and here I mean more than energy – look at California’s recent problems with not having enough water to go around), looming demographic crisis, loss of legitimacy and public trust… problems so numerous and complex that going into all of them in any detail would take me far beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that all of the institutions that make up the Establishment as it is presently constituted are living on borrowed time: they’re going to disintegrate, and it is probably for the best that the left will end up holding the bag when they do.

Well, great – but what do we do to survive in the meantime, and how do we put ourselves in a position to rebuild a decent and sustainable society when the time is right? The first step is that you must transfer your primary loyalty away from the current system. Among other things, you are allowed to ask of it: “What have you done for me lately?” Invade Iraq? Sue my neighbor into homelessness for politely declining to bake a gay wedding cake? Propagandize and promote all manner of sexual deviancy and unwarranted guilt to me and my children? Drive the faith of my fathers out of public life? Sneer at me on Comedy Central? To hell with all that, and to hell with them. You must stop believing in them, stop being sentimental about them, stop feeling any obligation to them, stop looking to them for moral guidance, stop protecting or serving them, stop singing their songs and waving their flags, stop being their fanboy, stop wearing their logos on your t-shirts, and stop acknowledging any power that they have over you which they do not impose at gunpoint. You must be willing to break all the programming given to you by years of public school and talk radio and television and advertisement and patriotic movies. Here I do not mean to adopt a survivalist lifestyle; you need not imitate the Unabomber by moving to a cabin in the woods and subsisting on wild berries. If you need an iPhone, go ahead and buy one – but do not feel any personal loyalty to Apple. If you need a professional certification from a university, go ahead and get it – but do not think of yourself as “a proud alum of the old alma mater”. Pay your taxes and register your car, because you must – but do not think of yourself as a loyal citizen who owes any allegiance to the government.

This last one will likely be the hardest for many people. Those on the right are by nature predisposed to patriotism; it comes easily to them, and abandoning it can be a bitter pill to swallow. Of course, it is perfectly possible to love one’s native land – its people, its history, its traditions – and to hate its government. But in an nation as gigantic as the United States, is loyalty on a national scale even possible or wise? Think: if you live in, say, rural Virginia, what real loyalty do you owe to Hollywood? On what do they base their claim to your loyalty? Hollywood is full of people who hate you – who do not share your faith or your cultural values and who actively work to see them eradicated; who laugh at you and think you a rube to be manipulated; who wouldn’t live in your “flyover” town if somebody paid them a million dollars to do it. What loyalty do you owe to New York or Washington or San Francisco, either – all places full of people who feel the same way about you? Why? Because they’re “fellow Americans”? Not good enough, say I. And what of the government? What has it done to deserve your loyalty? If you hold on to the Constitution, then you hold on to nothing – that scrap of paper has been DOA for ages now, and if it had ever possessed the ability to prevent what has happened from happening, then it would have. As for the rest of the machinery of government, it makes stupid ideas official policy, and consistently acts against your interests. This may speed up or slow down a bit depending on the results of this or that election, but it will never, ever stop. To willingly give loyalty to that beast is insanity; is suicide.

No, we’re never going to get through this by giving loyalty to people who hate us. We’re all going to need something better to transfer our primary loyalty to. What, then? Family? Friends? Church? Community? Like-minded people? Sure. But how about something that includes aspects of all of those? For that, we’re going to need to establish a thede.

So what is a thede, anyway? (Neal Stephenson explored a similar idea in his novel The Diamond Age, but used the term “phyle” to describe it). The most basic definition is that a thede is a group of humans who band together under a strong shared identity. This identity is usually based on a common trait or set of traits. These traits can vary depending on the nature and scale of the specific thede, and can include anything from blood relation to a common religion, class, language, philosophy or ideology, culture and history, IQ and education level, geographical location, shared experience, or any of a long list of other traits, or any combination of them. Ethnicity is, of course, one such possible trait, and is frequently a component of thede identities, but is neither necessarily nor always a component of them. No matter what set of traits they may be based on, thedes by nature must be exclusive – those who do not share the common traits that define the thede cannot be permitted to join it (and even possessing those traits may not be a guarantee of entry). Thedes can be large or small; there can be subthedes within larger thedes; there can be similarity and overlap between different thedes, such that two thedes which differ in some ways but are alike in others can be allied with each other. Thedes can be either formally or informally organized, and can be either localized in one geographical area or distributed. It is possible (maybe unwise, but possible) for a person to belong to more than one thede at once, but only one can have their primary loyalty.

Perhaps some examples can help to solidify the concept. One good example of a thede would be the Jews. “Jewish” is a strong shared identity that is fundamental to the individual identities of the people who are a part of it. It is, at least theoretically, centered around a religious faith, yet many who are strongly atheist in their religious beliefs still consider themselves Jewish, because Jewish identity is also partially based (and perhaps primarily so, in a de facto sense) upon aspects of culture, history, and ethnicity. The Jews have, at some points in their history, had a homeland – a common geographical location to call their own – and at other times have been a distributed thede. For many Jews, “Jewish” is the primary shared identity with which they identify themselves, and represents the thede to which they give their primary loyalty. The modern state of Israel, for example, was founded by Jews from many nations, who, justifiably or not, saw being “Jewish” as the identity to which they owed their primary loyalty, which is why they left the nations in which they were born in order to fight for, an become citizens of, a new nation based on that thede identity.

Another example of a thede would be the Freemasons. Wherever he may travel, if a Freemason wears his ring and does the secret handshake, other Freemasons will recognize him as one of their own even if they have never met before. Once they do recognize each other, Freemasons are expected to come to each others’ aid in whatever way they can, whenever such aid is needed. Many is a Freemason whose job interview was a mere formality, conducted with a wink and a nod by someone who was wearing the same ring that he was. Many others have received help in times of dire need as well. (When was the last time you heard of a homeless Freemason?) This aspect of mutual aid and obligation is not a feature of every thede, but is a vital part of any serious and robust one.

One more example would be the Mormons. Mormons take their moral guidance from the elders of their church, not from a court full of political appointees in Washington. If the elders find that marriage is something that only exists between people of opposite sexes, then that, not the opinions of a distant panel of lawyers in Hogwarts costumes, is the law by which they live. Similarly, the ladies of yet another thede, the Amish, wear long dresses because that is one of their thede’s customs. If they’d like to remain part of that thede, then those customs are, effectively, law to them. Here, a Marxist insight is useful: Whoever exercises authority over you is your de facto government. If you give your primary loyalty and grant the position of legitimate moral authority to your church elders, if the commandments of your faith or the customs of your thede are what you hold to be the legitimate laws by which you are bound, and if you see the de jure government as essentially an overgrown crew of corrupt gangsters, to be politely obeyed when their enforcers are watching and discreetly ignored when they aren’t, then your thede becomes both your people and your government, and the de jure government, along with all of its formally and informally associated institutions, becomes a burdensome but manageable annoyance.

If a thede is robust and resilient; if it is not just willing, but also able, to provide effective mutual defense and mutual aid to its members; if it is based on sound and enduring principles which resonate with high-quality people and attract them into the thede; if it can offer a space that encourages and rewards pro-social behavior; if it can help people to achieve the Good Life in a spiritual sense, a material sense, or both; in short, if it can be a worthy place for worthy people to direct their primary loyalty, then it will become a Master Thede. Once built, a Master Thede will serve (in the words of the Czech anticommunist dissident Vaclav Benda) as a parallel polis – a set of parallel institutions; a parallel culture with parallel art, philosophy, laws, customs, and manners; a parallel de facto government with instruments of defense, aid, education, and internal conflict resolution. It will not seek to replace the current government nor to declare independence in a “1776” sense – at least not for the foreseeable future. It is not intended to be an instrument of revolution under any common definition of that term, and it will as much as possible seek to avoid any engagement with the current government and current institutions altogether. A Master Thede forms a means of internal exit (especially for those unable or disinclined to move to a foreign country) – both a refuge from the current system and a basis on which to rebuild after it finally collapses. It is building just such a Master Thede (or thedes), and not trying to change the hopeless, doomed current system, that should be the focus of any practical action for reactionaries and traditionalists.

Ideally, everyone would already have a thede readily available that suits them and with which they can place their primary loyalty. In the midst of our highly atomized and individualistic Modern society, however, most people do not. In practice, any thede that will expand to a useful size will almost certainly either have to grow out of an existing institution (likely a church – no other civic institution capable of incubating a traditional thede really anymore exists) or organize through the internet. Much of it will be slow networking – finding trustworthy people, working out policies, and so on. Once a Master Thede is built, it will become successful, and when it becomes successful, it will attract others to it (especially as currently-existing institutions start to crumble and general prosperity declines even further). There will be challenges. Quality control will be primary among them: a Master Thede will have to reject many – entryists, freeloaders, insincere bandwagon-jumpers – who wish to become part of it. In terms of the people involved (and in terms of basically everything else), it must always place quality over quantity. Maintaining order and avoiding Conquest’s Second Law will also be difficult. Some within the thede may seek to change certain of its policies for reasons both good and bad. Good-faith discussion of how best to proceed should be encouraged as a tool by which the best decisions can be reached. But on core issues, the thede should follow a strict FIFO policy – “Fit In or Fuck Off”. Just as the nation-state’s ultimate enforcement mechanisms are imprisonment or execution, the Master Thede’s ultimate enforcement mechanism will be expulsion – i.e. those who won’t abide by the thede’s policies can go back to taking their chances with a government and a set of institutions that hate them and that with each passing day become simultaneously more oppressive and incompetent.

Much remains to be discussed about this topic (I do plan to return to it in the future), and doubtless many mistakes will be made, and hopefully learned from, during the creation of robust and resilient thedes. It won’t be easy. But creating them, transferring your primary loyalty to them, building them up, and defending them is your only choice. The currently-existing system and its institutions are your enemy – they will not help you, they will only seek to either bring you to heel or to destroy you – and anyway do not have all that very much life left in them. Circumstances are forcing you to look elsewhere. Let us take the first tentative steps toward creating an “elsewhere” to which we can look.

The Sponsoring Post

First, I’d like to start off by extending a heartfelt and very sincere thanks to everyone who is helping me through my current financial crisis. Every donation, large or small, is needed, is valuable, and is deeply appreciated. Under normal circumstances, I would take the time to publish a list of all of the people who have donated in order to thank them, but we do not live in normal circumstances, and I don’t want to get anyone Eiched, so I will simply say: If you have donated, you know who you are, and so do I, and I am touched and humbled by your generous actions.

That all said, I am unaccustomed to having to beg for help, and I would much rather do something productive and useful for the money I receive. So, inspired by the “Aurini’s Insight” series of sponsored videos that Davis Aurini has created, I have decided to offer to write reader-sponsored posts. For a minimum donation of $100 dollars (which is the same amount that Aurini charges for his videos), I will write at least 500 words (though that’s a minimum word count, and the finished product would likely be more) on any subject that the person donating may desire. Projected turnaround time will be one week from acceptance of the assignment, though if I do write a lot more than 500 words, receive the request at a particularly busy time, or end up having to do some heavy reading in preparation for writing the piece, it may end up taking just slightly longer. The default assumption would be that it would be published here in this space, though since you paid for it, you can publish it on your own website if you like, as long as my byline stays with it. I can also email it to the sponsor privately if they would prefer to keep it to themselves entirely for some reason.

It should be understood that these will be in addition to my regular writings here, not instead of them. My normal work will continue, and will always be free of charge. It will also be in addition to, not instead of, my Ask.FM account, which will remain open for anyone who wants to ask me a quick question. But Ask.FM is a format for short answers, both in terms of how long they are and the amount of time I spend on each answer. A sponsored post would be geared more towards someone who wants a deeper analysis of an issue or a more detailed answer to a question.

That all said, there will be a few ground rules for these posts:

1) I reserve the right to refuse any request, so email me to make sure that I’ll accept your assignment before sending me payment. In practice though, I’ll really only ever refuse if: a) the request is an obvious troll, b) I would have to doxx myself or others as part of writing it, or c) I honestly don’t know enough about the requested subject to feel comfortable taking money to write about it.

2) What you will get will be my honest opinion on the subject. No matter how bad my finances look, no amount of money is worth destroying my reputation over. I will not write anything that I do not actually believe.

3) Sponsored posts that are published here will be clearly marked as such. At the sponsor’s request, I will either share their name (real or pseudonym) or keep them anonymous.

I want to emphasize that sponsored posts can be about any subject, not just the sort of things that I normally cover here. If you want me to write about politics, history, or philosophy, that’s fine. But if you’d like me to write about brutalist architecture, or 80s pop music, or post-WWI literary Modernism, or Star Trek vs. Star Wars, or my favorite spaghetti sauce recipe, or any other matter that may strike your fancy, I’ll gladly accept that assignment as well. And, of course, I’ll be happy to do reviews of movies, television shows, anime, video games (I own an iPad and a Nintendo 3DS, and do not own, but have access to, a PS4 and an Xbox One), books, restaurants, albums, websites, podcasts, YouTube videos, prepackaged food, consumer electronics, toys, literary magazines, vacation destinations, or anything else you might like to hear my evaluation of. The only caveat is that if you’re making the minimum donation, and if I have to spend more than a couple of bucks on something in order to review it, the cost of whatever it is should be included over and above the amount of the donation.

So if you would like to sponsor a post, contact me by email at: antidemblog at gmail dot com with your request.

After this, I’m going to go back to writing normal blog posts, because that’s what people – especially the ones who have been donating – really come here to read. But please do keep donating if you can; it’s really helping a lot. And now that I take requests, don’t be shy about letting me know if you have one!

P.S. My Facebook page is now open! Feel free to come by and browse. Comments have been turned off here on the blog for ages, but I will link to every new blog post on Facebook, and anyone who wishes to can go there and comment as they see fit. See you there!

The Begging Post

In my two and a half years of writing as AntiDem, I have never had any intention of making any money off of the project. I’ve always meant for it to be a labor of love – love of the truth, love of what is good and just, and even sheer love of writing and contributing to something bigger than just me. Besides, in all this time, I’ve never really needed the money. The past few years, I’ve been living in what Fred Reed once called genteel, grad-student poverty. A little extra cash would have always been nice, but was never an absolute necessity, and I always considered it a little bit unseemly to put my hand out and beg for donations.

In fact, I still do consider it so, and I wouldn’t do it unless I absolutely had to. But some very desperate circumstances have appeared very suddenly, and the truth is that I have no one else to turn to than all of you. To give you all a short and oversimplified version of a long and complex story, I was expecting a rather large sum of money to come my way through family channels this summer, and based my finances around the idea that I would be receiving it. It now seems that the relative who was in charge of making sure that this would happen made some financial decisions such that the money I was expecting no longer exists to be given to me at all. This is a knockout blow to my finances, and changes the status of my poverty from “genteel” to “desperate”. Desperate as in: I don’t know how I’m going to be able to pay my rent or continue to make my student loan payments, much less eat or put gas in my car.

And so, dear readers, I turn to you. If ever anything I have written has brought you joy, has encouraged you, or has given you cause to think, now is the time to show your thanks by donating whatever you can. If you are unable to give anything but good wishes, I understand and appreciate them sincerely. If you can donate only a small amount, please know that anything will help, no matter how small it is. If you can donate more, please do – I desperately need it.

Whatever happens, I will continue to write – as much as I can, from wherever I can, for as long as I can, until I am no longer needed. And whatever happens, I do appreciate all of you who come here and read my humble words. Thank you all.

A link by which you can donate is below, and another will remain at the top of the sidebar indefinitely. And I’ve just joined Patreon, as well. Please feel free to donate there if that method suits you better.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

I Don’t Care About Black People

In light of both recent events and long-simmering racial issues in this country, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time for me to state my sincere and forthright position on race relations, specifically those involving the black population. So here it is: I don’t care about black people.

In our age of Totalism, this needs some clarification. Totalism means that there is no middle – one must either love something with all of one’s heart and be willing to work tirelessly for its benefit, or (clearly) one must hate it and wish to see it destroyed with maximum force. By no means can there be any in-between. This paradigm is a tool of control – one common in history, but particularly loved by Puritans, which means that it is now primarily in the hands of the puritanical left. Few want to be seen as so heartless or vicious as to hate something – or, commonly, some group of people – enough to wish destruction upon it. And so, accepting the Totalist frame, most people feel compelled to insist that they do love it, and would bear any burden for its betterment. They dare not take the risk of being painted as a villain (which these days usually means someone who doesn’t believe in the sacred dogma of equality). But there are some of us who know better, and who reject the frame given us. And that is what I mean to do here.

I don’t care about black people, which means by definition that I don’t hate them. In order to hate something or someone, you must care about them deeply. Hate is a serious, long-term emotional investment, and one must actually care very much about the object of one’s hatred in order to make it. As is often said, hate is not the opposite of love; indifference is. And I have come to be very indifferent about the fortunes of blacks.

I don’t care about black people. Their problems are not my problem. Their enemies are not my enemy. Their concerns are not my concern. I feel no need to understand them or their ways, and I don’t care whether or not they understand me or my ways. I wish them well – in fact, I know not a single white person, no matter how outwardly racist, who does not wish that blacks were doing better than they are, if for no other reason than that we must all live with the effects of their failures. I hope that the issues that seem to ceaselessly dog their community all get solved somehow. I have no desire to do them and theirs injury, except as punishment for injury done by them against me and mine. But I don’t care about them – there is nothing more I want from them other than to simply leave me alone, and in exchange, I will gladly leave them alone as well.

Lest one think that this is all motivated by sheer meanness and lack of charity, there is another reason for my lack of enthusiasm for the cause of helping black people. The truth is that I don’t know how to help them, and I don’t know anyone else who does. For at least fifty years (more like a hundred and fifty, really) whites have been trying to find a way to solve the problems of black people. We must now be realistic and admit that all of these attempts have failed miserably. Fifty years into the War on Poverty, drive around a black ghetto (if you dare) and note what you see. It is indeed certain to look like there has been a war there, but it is equally certain to not look like any victory over poverty has been won. What you’ll find there is the result of whites having tried everything they could possibly think of to uplift blacks, and of it all having either not worked at all or having actually made things worse. As evidenced by the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Americans are notoriously slow to understand that their plan hasn’t worked and to accept defeat, but at some point, reality asserts itself in a way that is undeniable.

So here is the undeniable reality: when it comes to whites trying to solve the problems of black people, none of our plans have worked, and we’re pretty much out of ideas. I, certainly, have nothing new to add on the issue – believe me, if I did, I would. I have no secret, sadistic desire to see blacks suffer, and I, too, must live with the results of their failures. But like everybody else, I don’t have any more solutions to offer.

And I am not alone in my sense of resignation on this topic. Some are angrier than I am, and frequent, horrific reports of interracial crime – statistically almost all black on white – give them reason to be. Among many others, what has been termed “negro fatigue” has set in – an exasperated feeling of just being sick and tired of constantly hearing about blacks and their seemingly endless problems. Even on the left, which instinctively senses that the excuses and rationalizations for the failures of the black community (most especially its disproportionate rates of criminality) are wearing thin, the effects of this can be seen. One aspect of the establishment left’s recent push for gay rights is that they are quietly but visibly dumping blacks as their most favored oppressed minority in favor of gays. This is largely a simple matter of political practicality. When nice white ladies of the sort who often vote for Democrats turn on the TV and see large groups of feral blacks burning down Baltimore, it makes an impression. Doubtless so too have the nice white ladies’ own previous encounters with lower-class blacks. Say what you will about gays, but they are, as a group, not greatly given to torching senior centers or stealing purses. It makes their cause an easier sell.

In addition, it seems obvious that the left is as out of ideas about how to help blacks as everyone else. The election of Barack Obama was supposed to make all of this better, but it plainly has not, and the only other idea that the left has been able to come up with is trying more of what has already spent half a century not working. There is no reason to believe that any of it will suddenly start working now, and the need to defend the absurd notion that it might is, even with the mainstream right being as feckless and cowardly as it is, a serious political liability. Best to simply move on to the next big thing without any further comment.

As for my own solutions to the state of race relations – which are bad, and getting worse – I have precious few. Voluntary separation based on freedom of association would seem a wise and humane way to handle things. But grown adults deciding for themselves who they want to be around is prohibited by federal law, and is harshly punished where discovered. Ethnonationalism, in which each race lives in its own territory, under its own system, and makes its own laws, which it is itself responsible for enforcing, also seems to be a decent and viable solution. But this will not happen without the breakup of the United States and/or a civil war, which, while inevitable, is not on the immediate horizon.

So it seems that neither I, nor anyone else, have any workable answers to offer. It is time then, I believe, to invoke the spirit of the Serenity Prayer, and to learn to accept that which I cannot change. Again, I wish blacks all the success in the world; I hope they can find a way to do better and that a solution to their problems makes itself apparent. But other than in a vague Christian sense of wanting the best for my fellow man, I can no longer bring myself to care about them.

Thus, to black people, my message is simply this: Good luck, but don’t call me for help.

 

P.S. There is a long list of other people who I similarly don’t care about, including but not limited to: homosexuals, transgenders, Jews, Latinos, and all manner of exotic peoples in faraway countries. I wish them well, I’ll never go out of my way to harm them without provocation, I hope they get right with the Lord, and I’ll be happy to say a prayer for their souls while I’m in church. But I’ve had my fill of hearing about their problems, and I’m done caring. Whatever plagues you, work it out yourselves. Leave me alone.

The Wit And Wisdom Of Psycho Dish

It was just around midnight when I sat down at the bar to order a beer and wait for Psycho Dish’s shift to end. The brew pub was a nice place – sure nicer than a lot of other places he had worked. The buses didn’t run too late out in that part of town, and Psycho Dish was once again without wheels of his own, so I’d offered to come pick him up and drive him home. The bar closed at 2AM, but the kitchen closed at midnight, and even on a Saturday night they wouldn’t really need him at the dishwashing station after that. The next morning he’d come back, finish up any leftover dishes, take all the beer bottles piled up from the night before out to the trash, and maybe even chop some vegetables with the prep cooks before heading over to St. Giles for the 12:30PM service. But the buses would be running again by then, so he wouldn’t need me for that.

Everybody around me hates Psycho Dish. My dad says that he’s a bum and I shouldn’t have anything to do with him. My mom tells me that he’s mildly scary, though I don’t know that I’d go that far. My old girlfriend used to say that he’s a weirdo and a magnet for bad luck. I won’t deny that there’s a little bit of truth to that last part. But I guess I always saw something in him that they didn’t. Maybe I just have a higher tolerance for flawed people and hard luck cases than they do. Or maybe it’s that all of the most interesting people I’ve ever known have been weirdos.

I’d been nursing my beer and tapping away mindlessly on my phone for maybe fifteen minutes when the barstool next to me slid back and Psycho Dish settled onto it. He’s in his mid-50s, tall, with a beer gut and short, thinning hair that was once a dark blond, but is now as gray as not. He was still wearing his linens from the kitchen. He looked tired, but in good spirits.

“Hey, dude…”

That’s his normal greeting.

“You paid for that beer yet?”

It was an obvious offer to pay for my beer. Unexpectedly generous. Don’t get me wrong, Psycho Dish isn’t naturally stingy. He’s just naturally broke all the time. Some people are like that.

“Yup. Typical – when it’s time to pay a bill, you’re always late”, I answered.

Psycho Dish held up his right hand and raised his middle finger at me. Well, as much as he could, anyhow. The middle finger on that hand is missing above the center knuckle (it all had something to do with his having “borrowed” his dad’s WV Beetle without asking one snowy night when he was 16 on a quest to maybe get laid, and having ended up wrecked in a ditch), so all I got was the half-bird. He smiled though, and turned toward the bartender to order a beer for himself.

It was late, but we had time, and the crowd had thinned out enough already that it wasn’t too noisy to sit and talk. I still owed him one for flipping me off, so I decided to start with a topic that would really annoy him.

Psycho Dish on Interracial Romance:

“So… how’s The Empress?”

Psycho Dish groaned the way he always did whenever someone brought her up, and half-whispered “Aw, fuck…”

The Empress is Psycho Dish’s ex-wife. She came from China, and was the daughter of some army general back home. I guess someone that important not being able to find a husband for her should’ve been a bad sign. Man, the temper on that girl… what a hellraiser. She never learned that if everything is X, then nothing is X – if everything justifies a volcanic eruption, then nothing does. If you go straight to the redline over every little thing, then nobody has any way of telling when something’s really important and they need to pay attention. The important stuff just gets lost in the noise. And she was always really good at making noise when she flared up.

The story behind them goes like this: Sometime in his late thirties, Psycho Dish decided that it was time to finally get respectable and go to college. That’s where I met him. He was living in my dorm building and, being tall, pot-bellied, and almost 40 years old, he stood out. To tell the truth, college really did expand his horizons. He got fascinated with Asian culture – he ended up taking Japanese for his required foreign language and even joined the kendo club – and through all of that, he got fascinated with Asian girls, too. There were lots of them living in the dorm, but the fact that he was 1) chronically broke and 2) old enough to be their dad kept him from having much success with them until The Empress showed up. She was in her thirties too, still not married, and was being shunted off to school in America by her family for reasons that were not entirely clear. She was open to his advances, they had a whirlwind romance, and before long they were engaged.

She took him to China to meet her family (I couldn’t tell you where the money for that came from), and I think that’s where he really fell in love. For weeks after he came back, he talked about China – all the things he’d done and all the places he’d seen and all the people he’d met and all the food he’d eaten. He loved what he saw and he wanted to be a part of all that. When they got married, he finally was.

And then the reasons why her family had sent her a few thousand miles away from all of them started to become clearer.

By that time, she was pregnant with their son, and things were complicated. They kept it going for a few years, but in the end the divorce was probably inevitable. When it came, it was messy and nasty and made everyone miserable.

“I’ll tell you, this is what happens when you get married for all the wrong reasons,” Psycho Dish told me, as he stared down into his glass, “and it’s easy to do when you’re blinded by the other person being different or exotic. Relationships between people of different races or cultures are tough that way. I’m not saying that nobody should ever do it, but you gotta be extra careful – way more than you’d be otherwise. You have to make damn sure that what you’re marrying is the girl: not her culture, not her country, not a mystique, not your dreams of what Asian girls – or whoever it is that you’re involved with – are like. Marry the girl, or don’t, because in the end, it’s her – not any of that other stuff – that you have to wake up next to every morning.”

Psycho Dish on MGTOW:

Psycho Dish took a long swig of his beer, and waited a little while before he let his next thought pass his lips.

“Here’s the honest truth – women got two things: pussy, and bullshit. It’s all a matter of how much of one you’re willing to put up with for how much of the other.”

That one made me smile a little. “So the problem with The Empress is that she’s got a bad P over B ratio?”

“Right now, dude, all of ‘em do. Bad enough for me to stay away, at least. I did the husband and father thing, and I tried my best at it. I like to think I’m still a good father to the boy. But where I’m at in life right now, I’ve got my little place to myself where it’s nice and quiet, I’ve got my books to read, I’ve got an old laptop with Netflix on it, I’ve got a fifth of not-half-bad whiskey sitting on my shelf, and no offense to womankind, but I can’t think of anything much I need to add to that to be content.”

“Nothing?” I asked, with a little smile.

Psycho Dish smirked. “Yeah, okay, so maybe Netflix isn’t the only kind of videos I watch on that laptop. But getting the real thing just isn’t worth disturbing my peace over.”

I took a little sip from the drink I’d been nursing, and thought. Finally I asked: “Does that mean you’re done with women for good?”

“Hey, if the right one came along, who knows? But I’m not putting myself out on the meat market just for the sake of doing it, and I’m not going to chase after women I don’t really like just to not be alone.”

“So what you’re saying is that no company is better than bad company?”

“I’ll drink to that!” – he raised his glass, and so did I.

Psycho Dish on Personal Responsibility:

There was a little pause in the conversation, and when I looked back at Psycho Dish I saw that his smile had faded. He looked serious; even a little regretful.

“I’m not saying that none of it was my fault, though. I’ve made mistakes. Lots of ‘em.”

And that he had. I knew about a fair share of them. He had a talent for talking his way into jobs he couldn’t really handle and then getting fired after a few months when the bosses finally caught on. This was usually followed a long period of poverty. Sometimes serious poverty – there were stretches he’d spent in homeless shelters, some of them for months on end (he’d never landed The Empress in one when they were together, but they’d come close a couple of times). Even when he had money, he was never any good at keeping it. He had a bad habit of blowing the money in his pocket on nice things that he really couldn’t afford, and then not having any to pay his bills later on – a habit which he called the “Fuck-You Budget”. It didn’t make for a lot of financial security. The Empress might not have handled it the right way, but that kind of thing wasn’t going to make any woman happy.

But at least he knew about his faults, and didn’t make excuses for them. You’d think that his time living among the poor and the homeless would have given him sympathy for the tales they told about how they ended up where they were. But it was just the opposite; he’d heard too many of their stories, which were all basically the same and that all basically turned out to be horseshit. They usually weren’t completely untrue, mind you – but they always held back some important details and inflated some others, which left the impression of them being way less responsible for their own sad circumstances than they actually were.

“Everybody’s got a story that’ll make you cry” is what Psycho Dish would always say about them. And it’s true – the world is full of hard-luck tales. The people in the shelters had tons of them. They’d tell stories about losing jobs, going through divorces, ending up in bankruptcy, getting kicked out by relatives – all for no good reason whatsoever; never because of anything they’d done to make any of it happen. Always it was bad luck, or somebody else’s fault: a jerk of a boss, a bitch of an ex-wife, backstabbing friends, racist cops and judges, incompetent social workers, or any of a whole army of people who had it in for them and who were responsible for them being where they were.

Anyone can catch a bad break or two, and there are real traps to poverty: payday loans, check-cashing ripoffs, having to buy cheap merchandise that constantly needs to be replaced. But with patience, hard work, and good judgment, the bad breaks can be recovered from and the traps can be avoided. The thing that Psycho Dish had found out in the shelters is that what nobody can recover from is refusing to be honest with themselves, to take responsibility for their own bad decisions, and to work on improving themselves. It’s easier to blame the whole world, and to tell all the people you meet a story that’ll make them cry. But at this point, Psycho Dish was immune to those. And so was I, because I’d remembered something he’d told me once long ago: “Never trust anybody who always has a reason why all the bad things that’ve happened in their life are somebody else’s fault.”

Psycho Dish on the Work Ethic:

I realized there had been a long silence when I looked over at Psycho Dish and saw that he was plinking away at the screen of his phone. They’re cheap nowadays, and he’d finally been able to afford to get one. To tell the truth, I think he probably could have gotten one before he did, but he’d resisted it for a while. They’re the future of computing, that’s for sure. But they’re also prepackaged, sealed little boxes that you can’t really tinker with, and I know that bothers him. Psycho Dish was always fascinated with computers, and he’d always wanted to work on them – almost all of those jobs he’d talked his way into and gotten fired from had to do with them in one way or another. But the firings told the real story: as much as he liked working on them, he wasn’t ever very good at it. No, I’d only ever known Psycho Dish to be really good at two jobs: washing dishes and driving a cab. He was great at both of those, though. There was a cycle to his life these past few years. He’d get fired from a computer job, be poor for a while, grudgingly go back to dish washing or cab driving, build up some money and confidence, apply for another computer job, talk his way into it, and the cycle would start over again. At least it was predictable.

Normally, getting fired all the time might raise questions about somebody’s work ethic. But not with Psycho Dish. You could question his computer skills. You could question his judgment in not giving up at a kind of job he didn’t have any talent for. But you couldn’t much question his work ethic. As a matter of fact, the nickname “Psycho Dish” was given to him by the people back in the kitchen at some or another of the dishwashing jobs he’d had – they said he washed dishes like a psycho, and that was a compliment. You could’ve just as easily called him “Psycho Cab” too, though I’d imagine that wouldn’t have made any of his customers very confident about riding with him.

When it came to customers in his cab, Psycho Dish considered it part of his work ethic that he had some rules for them, too. But there were only two of them, and they were real simple:

1) Shut up

and

2) Pay up

Those two rules were negotiable to different degrees. Rule 2 was not negotiable at all. Rule 1 was a strong preference – he’d heard plenty of bullshit stories in his time, and didn’t really need any more of them – but under the right circumstances, he’d be flexible on it. For example, there was that one woman…

“Hey, what was the name of that crazy rich broad you used to have in the cab all the time back when you drove for Taxi Unlimited?” I asked him.

He answered without looking up from his screen: “Mary Parker”.

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

Mary Parker, that was her name – and a truly crazy rich broad she was. He’d told me all about her. She was a trust fund baby who had apparently decided to drink herself to death because she didn’t have anything better to do. At some point even her money and her family name couldn’t save her driver’s license from yet another DUI conviction, and that’s when she became a regular customer of Taxi Unlimited.

One night back in the early 80s when Psycho Dish was young and new to cab driving, Mary Parker got into his car someplace downtown and wanted to be driven home. She was drunk out of her mind, as usual, and probably had some impressive amount of cocaine in her system too (it was the 80s, after all). She blabbered on and on about one thing or another for the whole ride; a total violation of Rule 1, but she always paid and she usually tipped pretty well too, so as much as it annoyed Psycho Dish, he let it go. When they parked, she asked him how much money he’d made in his best night of driving ever. After he told her, she offered him the same amount to come inside and listen to her talk for the rest of the night. That was it – nothing weird, nothing kinky, and no sex – he just had to sit and listen to her until either the sun came up or she fell asleep (which, considering the amount of cocaine that Psycho Dish figured she’d done that evening, was sure to be a while). It was easy money, and better yet, it was guaranteed, which making money never is when you’re driving a cab.

So he came inside, got the money (even back then he was smart enough to know that you always make drunks pay you in advance), and sat down to listen to her talk. And talk she did – rapid-fire, on and on, not making a whole lot of sense. He couldn’t recall what she talked about, and wouldn’t even care to try – she paid him to listen to what she said, not to remember it. A couple of times she offered him some vodka, but he said no – she wasn’t paying him to get drunk, either, and eventually he had to drive the cab back to the garage. He did exactly, and only, what she was paying him to do: to sit there and listen to her booze-and-drug-fueled rantings about something or another the whole night long. In the end, she passed out on her couch right around daybreak. With her out cold and the sun coming up, the job he’d gotten paid to do was done, and it was quitting time.

When he got to the door, he turned around and took one last look back at her as she lay there on her couch in the glow of the morning sun. Poor little rich girl – she couldn’t have been a day past 30, wasn’t half bad-looking, and was rolling in cash, and yet she had to pay a broke cab driver money to keep her company.

Oh, well. Everybody’s got a story that’ll make you cry – but at least she had that and money. That’s better than a lot of people ever do.

Psycho Dish on Communism and Anarchy:

“So when are you finally getting a car of your own again so I can stop wasting my Saturday nights coming down here to get you?” I asked him. That was kind of a lie, though. I didn’t really have much of anything better to do on a Saturday night, and besides, the brew pub was a fine place to be.

By this time, he’d put his phone down and was back to concentrating on his beer. “Soon, I hope.”, he answered. “You know, I’ve been thinking of maybe driving for Uber or Lyft once I get back on the road.”

“That sure sounds a lot more respectable than Taxi Unlimited.”

Psycho Dish gave a little smile of approval, and then said: “Yup. And a lot more stable, too.”

When he was 18, Psycho Dish left home and hitchhiked to California with nothing but the clothes on his back, a hundred bucks saved up from a summer job in his pocket, and the address of one of his grandmothers – a woman he had barely ever met and who lived somewhere just outside of Berkeley. Once he got there, he set himself up on her couch and started looking for work. He found it with Taxi Unlimited.

Taxi Unlimited was one of the communally-run businesses that had been founded in Berkeley during the hippie era. There were no bosses or employees at Taxi Unlimited, it was all just members of the collective – everyone had an equal say in how it was run, with decisions being made by consensus at all-hands meetings. The original members were people who had been part of the Berkeley Food Co-op and the Free Speech Movement, but despite their hippie leanings they were still mostly bourgeois middle-class white kids who had some basic understanding of things like good financial practices, the need to follow local laws, and basic business ethics. But by the time Psycho Dish joined a dozen or so years later, things were very different. People had naturally drifted in an out of the place, and the change had not been for the better. The fact that it was a collective and there were no bosses meant that nobody could hire or fire anybody – people just sort of showed up if they wanted to and started working (It should be noted that Berkeley was and is what’s called a “free city” for taxis – it does not require cab drivers to get a hack license, a fact which which further lowered barriers to entry for employment at Taxi Unlimited). The quality of the people involved started going down until, by the beginning of Psycho Dish’s time there, it was essentially a collection of burnouts, addicts, and petty criminals (many of which used their cabs as delivery vehicles for their main business of selling drugs).

For the first little while he was there, Taxi Unlimited was (barely) functional. The real breaking point came when it became obvious that the business had become big enough that it needed someone sitting behind a desk full-time doing the kind of paperwork that businesses need to have done. In the early days, each driver had taken a little time away from driving (which earned them money) to do some share of the paperwork (which didn’t). The free labor they donated was a form of what’s called a “tax paid into the commons” – a sacrifice that each individual makes for the good of everybody. The original bourgeois hippies who’d founded the place understood why this was necessary. The burnouts, addicts, and petty criminals had a harder time wrapping their heads around it. They tended not to do the paperwork at all; or if they did, it would be a mess precisely because they were burnouts, addicts, and petty criminals – the kind of people not known for their good business management skills. Without any bosses in the company, there was nobody who could make them do it, or make them do it right.

So in came Ginnie, the lesbian ex-hippie with a brand-new degree from S.F. State in Management and Accounting. The first thing she found was that nobody had paid Taxi Unlimited’s insurance bill in long enough that if it wasn’t paid right away, the insurance would expire, effectively putting the company out of business. She paid it, and the money had to come from somewhere, so everybody’s next check was light. Not a good way to start, popularity-wise. The same members who couldn’t wrap their heads around why they should do any paperwork started to speak up at meetings questioning why a person who did do the paperwork ought to be in the company at all. Somebody who sat in an office all day while they were out driving and whose work wasn’t directly bringing any revenue into the business seemed a little too much like a boss to them. Some even accused her of secretly being an agent provocateur sent from the government to sabotage the collective. It was a stupid thing to say, but again, there weren’t any bosses, so nobody had the authority tell them to shut the hell up, which was really the only reasonable thing to do.

Things got worse, especially for Ginnie. She’d do something responsible, checks would be lighter than expected, and the usual suspects would complain louder. And that wasn’t all. A few of the drivers made crude passes at her that were inappropriate even by early 80s standards. Ginnie broke down in tears at a meeting and asked the more responsible members of the collective to back her up, and some wanted to, but there was really nothing they could do about it. Nobody was the boss, so nobody could discipline or fire anybody else, no matter how badly they behaved. Factions developed – roughly, pro-Ginnie (i.e. people who wanted the business to be stable so that they’d still have a job in the future) and anti-Ginnie (i.e. people who wanted to take every cent they could get, right now, and to hell with the future). People denounced each other at meetings instead of making decisions. Getting anything done became impossible.

“I understand why communism always ends up with a tyrant in charge”, Psycho Dish once told me, “I was just about ready for a Stalin to come in to Taxi Unlimited, kick some ass, and put things back in shape.”

But no tyrant ever came to save Taxi Unlimited. Ginnie soldiered on for about a year and a half, but when the economy started picking up and she could get something better, she left. Over the next few months, more people followed her out the door until one day Psycho Dish realized there was nobody sober or sane left in the collective. He knew a sinking ship when he saw one, and made for the exits himself. Taxi Unlimited foundered on for a couple of years after that before finally closing down for good. Today all that’s left of it is a Facebook group open to all the ex-employees who didn’t end up eventually overdosing on something or other. Psycho Dish is on it. So is Ginnie, so I guess that not all of her memories of the place were bad ones.

The lesson that Psycho Dish took away from the whole experience was that communism works fine at the scale of about ten people who all know and trust each other. Get past a dozen people, and problems start to appear; beyond about 25, it gets totally unmanageable, and either collapses or ends up in tyranny. Trying to run a big enterprise or even a whole country like that – well, that’s just a non-starter.

Psycho Dish on Capitalism:

These days, Psycho Dish is a proud, unapologetic capitalist. He’s even tried his hand at being an entrepreneur. Of course it was a computer-related business, and of course he wasn’t very good at it, and of course it failed in the end.

The story goes like this: one of his firings came with some sort of severance deal which meant that he left with an unusually large amount of money in his pocket. So he decided to open a small computer sales and repair shop where he’d be the boss and nobody could fire him for not knowing what he was doing. (This, of course, ignores a basic truth of being a small business owner, which is that you don’t have one boss – you have a thousand bosses. You can piss off any one, or two, or five of them, but piss off too many of them, and you end up just as unemployed as if a single boss had fired you.) The Empress, who he was still married to at the time, bitched him out over it, telling him that it was a stupid idea and that he was going to waste his whole severance on it and end up broke. As usual, I couldn’t quite disagree with her logic, and as usual, she turned out to be right, but also as usual, she couldn’t have handled it any worse. He got defiant and decided to do it anyway. He somehow talked the city into renting him out a small abandoned firehouse that they’d closed a couple of years earlier for dirt cheap. He set up a connection with a wholesaler, blew most of the severance on inventory, and set a date for the grand opening.

As soon as I drove up to the place for the opening celebration I knew the business was going to fail, and why. I also knew why the city had rented him the firehouse so cheap, and why they’d abandoned it in the first place. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the place was in the middle of the ghetto. That’s not to say you can’t make money selling tech in the ghetto. In fact, tech represents one of the four kinds of stores you’ll always find in the ghetto: fast food, the beauty shop, the liquor store, and the cell phone store. But that’s cell phone stores, not PC stores. There’s a reason why that one episode of The Boondocks coined the term “niggertech” to describe smartphones and tablets. It’s the same reason why Apple sells iPhones in a tacky gold color designed to match cheap bling. Ghetto-dwellers love cell phones. Desktop PCs and components like Psycho Dish was selling, not so much.

The first customer in the door on opening day was a grossly obese black woman with three unruly kids in tow. She wanted to pay her cell phone bill. He wasn’t set up to do that. She left. The next few were all young black men who wanted to buy cheap prepaid phones and SIM cards for them – burners for their drug businesses. He didn’t carry those, and they were unmoved by his explanations of the superior capabilities of a full tower PC with an Intel Core i7 processor. A couple even looked around the place with disappointed expressions on their faces, as if they didn’t even see anything worth coming back in the middle of the night to steal. And that was pretty much how the whole day went, as I sat there bored and The Empress sat there stony-faced, with her lips pursed and her teeth gritted. At dinner after closing that day, I decided to pre-empt The Empress and say the same thing I’m pretty sure she was going to, but a lot more gently. I suggested that maybe he ought to adjust his business plan in order to offer his customers products that they might actually be interested in buying, which seemed to be cell phones. He wasn’t having any of it. He had a dream of running a computer store, and he was going to stick with it to the end.

A couple of months passed. The Empress must have worked him over pretty good in that time, because eventually he agreed to carry a small selection of burners and some accessories like chargers and cases. That helped things a little, but not enough. On top of that, the clientele was hard to deal with. Maybe especially so there in the ghetto, but they always are, everywhere.

One day while we were driving out to lunch he told me: “You know the problem with customers? Customers want everything for nothing, and they want it right now.”

I let my politics show a little more that I usually do when I answered him: “Ain’t that the truth. That’s the problem with democracy, too. In a democracy, the voters are the customers, and they want everything for nothing, right now. They want all their government services, and their Social Security, and their subsidized health care, and their huge military that makes them feel like they’re a part of something powerful, and they don’t want to pay high taxes or have anybody tell them about inflation or the debt clock. They want to have all the weird sex they can but without any consequences, to hire cheap labor from the flood of immigrants crossing the border but still keep their country like it is, to buy cheap Chinese-made crap at Wal-Mart but still have an economy that includes working-class jobs, and to start unwinnable hobbyist wars that make them feel strong but still stay a functioning world power. Only a damn fool or a con man would actually go along with that, but they’re the only customers in the world who can elect the people they do business with, so they end up electing a bunch of damn fools and con men who will tell them whatever shit they want to hear. And they’re gonna run the whole damn show right into the ground someday.”

Psycho Dish stared out the car window, obviously only half paying attention. When I finished he said simply: “Yeah, it’s pretty fucked up, alright.”

Well, anyhow, I thought it had been a good insight.

The more the store struggled, the more things Psycho Dish tried in order to keep it afloat. He opened up an online store as a complement to the one in the firehouse, which The Empress pointed out wouldn’t ever take off because Amazon sold all the same stuff he planned to, cheaper, with free two-day shipping, and they already had everybody in the world’s credit card number on file. He did it anyway, and of course it didn’t do any business at all. He tried posting flyers around the neighborhood, but that failed to drum up any interest in the ghetto over high-powered desktop PCs or the repair thereof. In the end, and too late, I think he did figure out an important secret of entrepreneurship. Yes, customers do want everything for nothing, and they do want it right now, which really is unreasonable, and you really can’t give it to them (even if you’re the government, you’ll fail at it eventually). But on the other hand, you have to at least try to sell them things that they actually want, for a price they’re willing to pay.

It had all been a mistake, but hey – he’s always the first to admit that he’s made plenty of those.

I had a job that kept me on the road all the time back then, so I wasn’t around when the store finally closed its doors. It started a chain of events that all happened in rapid order. He went broke, the Empress kicked him out for good, his car got repossessed, and he ended up in a homeless shelter again. He even kept running the online store from the shelter for a long while after that. I’d wonder how he managed to do it, but the truth is that I know how – it’s because he never got any orders, so he never had to figure out a way to fulfill them. Eventually, he got the job washing dishes at the brew pub, which brings us right back to where we started…

Psycho Dish on the Inevitable March of Time:

“Last call!” the bartender shouted. It was getting late, and the place was emptying out. Soon it would be time to go, but we still had a few more minutes to sit and finish our beers.

I don’t know what it was, but something made me think to say: “You know, I was out in Berkeley not too long ago. Up in your old stomping grounds around Albany Hill.”

“Is that right?”

“Yup. The back side of the hill’s all built up now. A bunch of new houses already there, and even more under construction.” I paused and took a sip of my beer before continuing, “Catherine wouldn’t have liked that one bit.”

Catherine was Psycho Dish’s grandmother; the one he’d stayed with after he hitchhiked out west. She was a Communist, too. And by that, I don’t mean she was a Democrat, or a liberal, or a socialist – I mean she was a lifelong, card-carrying member of the Communist Party. She’d been a Wobbly and a Freedom Rider and an antiwar protester during Vietnam, and even went through a brief phase of being a wife and mother (Psycho Dish’s dad eventually rebelled against his Communist mother by becoming an engineer working for a defense contractor that built Aegis missile defense systems for the Navy). In her old age though, she’d turned all of her energy towards a local issue: keeping the back side of Albany Hill free from development.

In the 80s and 90s, flush with new Silicon Valley money, the entire San Francisco Bay Area had seen in a boom in building. New houses and new businesses went up everywhere, and what was already there was got more expensive every year. There was a lot of money behind wanting to build more housing on Albany Hill, but Catherine waged a one-woman war against it. She did it by making a general pest of herself in the way that people who want to affect local politics do: by attending and speaking up at City Council meetings, by submitting comments to the Planning Board, and by calling the Mayor’s office over and over until they were sick of her. And it all worked. As long as she lived, the back side of Albany Hill stayed undisturbed and undeveloped.

Then one day she died, and they started building there almost before she was laid in the ground.

There are all kinds of good reasons to build houses on the back side of Albany Hill. It’s already in the middle of town, surrounded by streets and houses and businesses. The hill itself isn’t especially scenic or historic. Demand is high, and people need a place to live. There are parks around, and they’re nicer.

And Catherine was an old crank and a commie to boot and if she and I had ever talked politics (I only met her a couple of times, and it thankfully never came up) we probably would have ended up with our hands wrapped around each others’ throats. But when I’d seen the houses they’d built on the back side of the hill, I couldn’t help but feel a little touch of sadness.

“No, she wouldn’t have liked it at all.” Psycho Dish said in a gloomy tone, “She spent years fighting it. All of her later life, and all the time I really knew her. 25 years at least. All down the tubes, just like that.”

He took one last swig, finishing off the rest of the beer in his glass, and then he continued:

“But you know, dude, those houses won’t be there forever, either. Someday they’ll be gone – crumbled into dust. And the whole town around it, too. And everything you and I know in the world. You can’t get too attached to any of it. That’s why I’ve never cried too hard when I’ve lost everything and had to start over. The Kingdom of God is forever, but everything in this world is temporary – here today, gone tomorrow. You do your best; you win some and you lose some and in the end, you trust in God, because that’s the only thing you really can do.”

“Truer words were never spoken.” I told him, raising my glass in the air in a toast, then downing the last of my beer.

* * *

And now, finally, it was closing time. They’d started putting the stools up on top of the bar, and Psycho Dish helped with the last of them while I went to take a leak. When I came back out of the mens’ room, they’d turned off the lights, and the owner of the place was standing by the door waiting for us to leave so he could lock up. As I made my way to the exit, a thought occurred to me. There’s a lot of wisdom to be found on barstools. And a lot of bullshit too, so you’ve got to be careful sometimes. But if you know where to look and how to listen, you can learn a lot of truths about the world from the people who sit on them. Even – maybe especially – from people you probably don’t spend a lot of time listening to: working class people like deliverymen and house painters and garbage collectors, and even the guy who washes your beer glass.

We walked out to my car – the last one left in the parking lot – and got inside. While I reached for my seatbelt, I heard Psycho Dish, in a voice that was quiet and sincere, say:

“Seriously, dude, thanks for coming to get me. You really helped me out.”

“Yeah, well, I really shouldn’t stay up this late. Speaking of the Kingdom of God, I’ve got church in the morning. But hey – we’ll just say you owe me a glass of that whiskey you were talking about, and then we’ll call it even.”

“Any time, dude, any time.”

I turned the key, the engine came to life, and Psycho Dish and I drove off into the darkness of the night.

* * *

UPDATE: I hadn’t seen Psycho Dish in a while when out of the blue I got an email from him the other day. The news is bad and good (Isn’t it always?). His son flunked out of college for the third time, and, as he’d promised the kid he would if he came back without a degree in his hand this time, Psycho Dish had Navy enlistment papers waiting for him when he got home. Well, that’s not so bad – they say the service will make a man out of you, though maybe that’s not all that true these days anymore. As for Psycho Dish himself, he’s somehow ended up with a job that suits him so well I can hardly believe it. His new gig is driving a camera car around for a certain huge tech company that lets you view what a street looks like on their map site – the perfect blend of driving for a living and working in tech. He said he was up in Maine somewhere, but this job’s going to take him all around the country. So if you’re out on the highways and by-ways and you see a car with a big round camera bolted to the top, smile and wave – you might just be having your very own encounter with the one and only Psycho Dish.

Short Takes: June 2015

It’s been a while since I posted an edition of Short Takes – my regular roundup of thoughts that are worth saying, but too limited to warrant a full blog post. For the past year or so, I’ve been using Twitter as a platform for such thoughts, but now that I’ve decided to leave Twitter, the long-overdue return of Short Takes has become a priority. So without further ado, here are my very choicest brief thoughts.

Let’s start with a couple of thoughts related to competition:

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• In 1991, everyone believed that we had defeated communism forever. I remember the joyous triumphalism myself. Famously, the end of history was declared, and at the time, that did not seem all so very farfetched at all. But it is now obvious that 1991 was not an extinction event for communism, but an evolutionary event. It was the culmination of a competitive struggle for dominance between two closely-related subspecies, like that between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals. Soviet-style communism hit an evolutionary dead end, but its failure simply allowed a competing subspecies – Frankfurt School Cultural Marxism – to prosper. And with its competition in its evolutionary space eliminated, that’s exactly what it did.

• What explains the burning hatred that the left/the New Atheists have for Christianity? Simply not believing in it is not enough to explain it. They do not believe in Buddhism or Hinduism either, but do not express the same hatred of these faiths – not even of Islam, which is arguably even more antithetical to their beliefs than Christianity is, receives anything close to the same level of hostility from them. And besides, are these not the same leftists and atheists who not so very long ago, when they were the underdogs and were pleading for tolerance, used to quote Thomas Jefferson’s pronouncement that “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg”? If this is so, then the reaction of those who do not believe in God toward those who do (or those who believe in evolution toward those who, for religious reasons, don’t) should be only apathy. So their neighbors believe something that we regard as irrational – so what? The world abounds in irrational beliefs, both religious and secular. They will never all be eradicated, so why bother wasting time and energy in hating it and trying to talk people out of it? (Which the do, incessantly – one can barely say “God bless you” after someone sneezes without having some atheo-leftist who happened to be within earshot fly into an angry anti-Christian tirade).

The truth of the matter is that the left hates Christianity because the left is a fanatical utopian cult, and Christianity represents competition in its space. There can be only one utopia, and only one true path by which it can be reached. Either it will be the Kingdom of Heaven, reached by following the Holy Word of Jesus Christ, or it will be the Whig/leftist “end of history” eschaton, reached by following the Holy Word of Equality. There is no room for both – for one to be true, the other must be false, and in order for people to accept one as true, they must reject the other as false. Anyone who attempts to find a middle way is a fool who is wasting their time on an impossibility. Leftists understand this, which is why they despise anyone of genuine Christian faith and treat those who practice “progressive Christianity” as mere useful idiots (which is precisely what they are). The atheo-left passionately hates its competition, and works tirelessly to destroy it by any means necessary. The mainstream religious right does not fully understand any of this, merely dislikes its competition, and seeks ways to limit it via the gentlemanly rules of liberal democratic capitalism.

Who’s winning?

• Modern politically correct leftism is all Puritan, and Modern Puritanism is all politically correct leftist. But by what process does Puritanism turn into leftism? It does so because of a paradox that it cannot resolve any other way. Puritanism becomes leftism because it cannot abide hypocrisy, but it also cannot eradicate vice. As I have discussed elsewhere, most traditional societies understand that vice is ineradicable from the human condition, and thus accept as necessary a certain level of hypocrisy – that we keep vice in the shadows and condemn it publicly, even when we practice it privately behind closed doors. This was understood as a necessary compromise between idealism and reality. The Puritans, being idealist, utopian, and ideological – in other words, pure Modernists – upset this balance in the name of eradicating the tiniest bit of vice, no matter how hidden, in deed, word, and thought.

And yet they too eventually were faced with the unfortunate, yet undeniable reality that vice cannot be eradicated from the human condition. Prohibition was the last great experiment in eradicating vice, and when it failed the Puritans could no longer deny the obvious. But where did that leave them? Hypocrisy hides vice, and to eliminate hypocrisy means to bring vice out into the open; but if the purpose of bringing vice out into the open is to eradicate it, and if we must accept that vice cannot be eradicated, then what is there to do? One path would be to admit that their entire frame was faulty all along, and to go back to the proven, traditional way of tolerating a certain level of hypocrisy and turning a blind eye to discreet vice. That would have been sensible, prudent, and in accordance with the wisdom of our ancestors. So of course that was not what was done. Instead, the only other possible path was taken – that hypocrisy would remain intolerable, but that vice would be normalized. The paradox is resolved if it is declared that vice is not a bad thing after all; that the only wrong is being a hypocrite about it. And so modern Puritans continue to bring vice out into the open – only now to normalize it, to celebrate it, and to demand its acceptance.

In short, Puritanism now does the exact opposite of what it was created to do in the first place. That’s a common phenomenon in all the branches of Modernity (One may with difficulty recall that leftism was initially created for the purpose of protecting farmers and the working class – who were symbolized by the crossed hammer and sickle – from effete, decadent urbanized elites). This is because all Modernity prioritizes process over product. Modernity is heavily based on theory; specifically, on theories about social processes that will produce a good (or even a perfect) end product. The problem is that people come to believe so deeply in these theories that they lose sight of what the product was supposed to look like in the first place, and cling to their theories even even when it becomes obvious that they are not producing, and never will produce, the products that they are supposed to. Thus they will, in order to preserve the theories, either (like Marxist dead-enders) continue to delusionally claim that the desired product will show up any old time now, no matter how much evidence exists to show that it won’t, or they will (like the Puritans) adjust their expectations of the product until their definition of a good product is reduced to merely matching whatever the process is actually capable of producing.

Puritanism is unrealistic, utopian, heretical, and ignorant of human nature, and in the end has produced all that any such philosophy is capable of producing – decay and degeneracy.

• The left is licking its chops and reveling in the personal destruction of a family called the Duggars, who apparently (I am not much of a television watcher) are a traditional family that stars in a reality television program. The occasion for this destruction seems to be that, of their nineteen children, a single one of them made some exceptionally poor choices in relation to sex when he was an adolescent boy. Compounding this is the fact that, rather than instantly responding by having their son sent to prison for rape, thus ensuring that his life would be utterly and irrevocably destroyed, his parents tried every alternative they could think of to deal with the matter by other means. According to the left, that discredits all of them, their way of life, their religion, all of their beliefs, and anyone else who shares any of those beliefs or sympathizes with them in the slightest, forever. (Meanwhile, so we hear, though Stalin and Mao murdered tens of millions of people, that doesn’t count because they didn’t do that because they were atheists.)

No one should think that I mean to hold the Duggars blameless in this, because I don’t, but the mistakes they made were not the ones that the left (which apparently has no concept of trying to show mercy to an adolescent boy who made some terrible mistakes or to parents who wanted to not ruin their son’s life) accuses them of having made. No, their mistakes were ones which all traditionalists should take as lessons: Never, ever, under any circumstances, involve either the government or the media in your family’s private affairs. The media are jackals who delight in destroying even people who they were praising just yesterday; and if you are a traditionalist, they hate you like poison. They will look for any means to destroy you, as they have with the Duggars. Whether you’re in it to be a celebrity or to try to deliver some message you think is uplifting, it doesn’t matter – it’s not worth it. As for the government, if you love your family, DO. NOT. EVER. involve the government in your family’s private internal affairs, no matter how bad things have gotten. Government involvement will not make things better. Handle it yourself. That’s what men are for… what the expression “man up” means.

• The present-day leftist, unlike his more direct Stalinist forebears, does not seek to officially remove your rights, but to create so many burdensome regulations on them and exceptions to them that while in theory you still enjoy them, in practice you do not. If, for example, the government can tell you who you must or cannot hire at your business, what you must or cannot compensate them with, and who you must or cannot accept business from (not to mention taking a huge chunk of the money your business generates), then do you really “own” your business in any meaningful sense? Now the left is coming for the very free speech it championed while it was the underdog – the exceptions have started to appear: “Hate speech is not free speech”. First will come, not the thought police, but the thought vigilantes, saying: “No platform!” Later, well… the government does lots of things that twenty years ago I would have refused to believe that it would ever do.

So we enter the age of theoretical rights. This is the approach of the modern communist, who has learned from all the bad P.R. of showy things like the Berlin Wall and the Gulag Archipelago. Your rights will be taken away slowly, by stealth, and only de facto – you will still have all your de jure rights, but good luck trying to actually exercise them.

• In the wake of the Dylan Roof shooting, several retailers, including Sears, Walmart, Amazon, and eBay, have decided to stop selling Confederate-themed merchandise. According to the left, as private businesses, these outfits have every right to not sell such merchandise on principle. But your local bakery has no right to not sell a gay wedding cake. Because reasons.

Note that the Confederate flag is a symbol. That makes it important to the present-day left because they are obsessed with symbols and signaling. This, for example, explains their obsession with pop culture, and their constant vigilance about every tiny detail of pop culture remaining scrupulously politically correct. Despite their claims to intellectualism, they are shallow people who believe in insubstantial ideas because believing those ideas makes them feel good. It is no surprise that such people obsess endlessly over symbols, which are merely pointers to ideas instead of being actual ideas themselves. Evaluating actual ideas is hard; obsessing over symbols is easy.

• The removal of Confederate merchandise from important retailers is a presage of things to come. Soon, very soon, the left will start going after social networks, web hosting companies, and other internet platforms in earnest in an effort to have unapproved political speech effectively banned from the internet. The same logic will be used – that private companies have the right to refuse customers based on principle (again, unless it’s an unapproved principle). Free speech on the internet will then become yet another of the above-mentioned theoretical rights – in theory you will still have the right to voice whatever opinion you like online, but good luck trying to actually do it.

This push will be aided by the fact that the trend on the internet has been towards consolidation; towards effective monopolies, or at best towards having only a couple of serious competitors in any given space. There are, for example, online retailers other than Amazon and eBay, but few that matter, and even fewer that matter outside of a single specialty. Similarly, there are video sites other than YouTube, online payment systems other than PayPal, podcast hubs other than iTunes, blogging sites other than Blogger and WordPress, and social networks other than Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, but none that really matter. Once banned from these, having a meaningful online presence becomes far more difficult; people will have to go further out of their way to find you, and far fewer of them ever will.

A tech pundit (I think, perhaps, it was Robert Scoble) once said that for most people, the internet is Facebook, and while that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it is not all that much of one. For most people, the internet is a handful of high-traffic websites – Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, YouTube, Wikipedia, Netflix – and that’s about it. This means that only a few pressure points need to be hit in order to, if not completely ban unapproved opinions from the internet, effectively push them into the shadows where few will ever see them. This is far too attractive and easy a target for the left to ignore. And they won’t. Expect them to take action – soon, very soon.

• The contrasting stories of Dylann Roof and Omar Thornton (Who, you ask? Exactly.) perfectly illustrate the precise manner in which the mainstream press lies to us. They rarely ever say anything that is outright false; this would be easily enough detected. Instead, they carefully select which news stories to hype and which to ignore, as fit the needs of the narrative. They then hide behind the idea that the decision as to which news stories deserve wide coverage, and which do not, is subjective. This, like the reporting they do on the stories they cover, is technically true. Yet when a consistent pattern can be seen in the selection of stories such that it portrays the larger reality of the world as being something different than it actually is, then their reporting, collectively, represents a lie. Remember that – it is perfectly possible to lie horrendously without ever saying anything that isn’t technically true. Look past the details, and see the Big Lie.

• Related: The alt-right, and especially the neoreactionary movement, has been flooded with attempts at entryism from Neo-Nazis lately, and the more I’ve seen of these people, the more I’m convinced that no respectable alt-righter should have anything to do with them. They are a bunch of proletarian dullards who cling to their own brand of utopianism – the idea that if only everyone around them were the same race as they are, everything would be perfect. Not only that, but they are obsessive about their perceived enemies, and like all paranoids, make those enemies out to be supermen of positively mythical abilities. This rather counterintuitive mental maneuver exists so that they can avoid any responsibility for their sad condition being laid at the feet of themselves or their own people. One thing I’ve learned in life is that whenever you meet someone who always has a story about how every one of the bad things that have ever happened to them in their lives are all entirely someone else’s fault, and never any of their own, you should be very cautious indeed and should treat the things they say with more than a few grains of salt. This is true both at the individual level and at the group level. Look, for example, at the black community, which has been blaming whites for all of their troubles instead of trying to fix their own flaws for the past half-century. How has that worked out for them? We can – we must – do better than that.

In order to survive and be relevant, the alt-right must be two things: ruthlessly intellectual, and deeply soulful. With the present political system lost, it should focus heavily on self-improvement, both at a personal level and at the level of creating more robust communities with a more robust culture. We can’t do any of that if we spend all of our time obsessing about how awful our enemies are and how badly they’ve done us wrong. Even if it’s true, and they did, who let it happen? Why? How can we change our own perceptions and the ways in which we operate in order to prevent ourselves from making the same mistakes which allowed that to happen all over again the next time?

This is a long, painful and difficult process of study, self-examination, and soul-searching. Theories about how to best improve ourselves will have to be developed, debated, and ultimately, tested. It’s much easier, and feels much better, to just go online and rage about the Jews, or the blacks, or the Mexicans. Yes, easier… too easy; another case where “If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is”. We should not allow ourselves to fall into that trap.

• So am I a White Nationalist? To steal a line from John Derbyshire when once asked if he believed in God, the answer is: “Probably not to the satisfaction of most people who would ask the question”. It is my belief (actually more my observation) that it is simply part of human nature for people to wish to be around others who they perceive to be like themselves. Though it is far from the only way in which people could perceive others as being like them, race and ethnicity represent one obvious and common way in which they do. Whether this is right, or fair, or just, or logically optimal is beyond the point. It is human nature, and our experience over the past century or two with systems that have tried to operate in direct opposition to human nature (on the theory that they could change or overcome it if they tried hard enough) should be enough to demonstrate that it is foolish at best to continue to attempt to make any such systems work.

What, then, is the solution? I am not much of one for “human rights”, but if there is any right that I am closest to being an absolutist about, it is freedom of association (Which is also, perhaps not so coincidentally, the one right that the current leftist Establishment hates the most and has gone the farthest out of its way to abolish). So long as they do so peaceably and are not engaging in a criminal conspiracy (as might be defined under reasonable laws, not under a leftist ideological tyranny), people should have the right to associate with whoever they wish, and to not associate with whoever they wish. This extends to the areas of forming communities, engaging in commerce, offering or accepting employment, and, really, basically every other area of human endeavor. The right to peaceably exclude others (and here we understand this to include the right to, with the minimum amount of force necessary, physically remove trespassers who refuse to leave when asked) is a fundamental and long-underrated liberty of free citizens. It is also a deep threat to egalitarian true believers, who know full well that as soon as the government boot is off people’s necks, they will filter out into groups of others (some, but not all, based on race) who they perceive to be like them, as it is human nature to do.

I support people in their right to act in accordance with their human nature in this matter. Which to some degree does make me a White Nationalist – and also a Black Nationalist, and an Asian Nationalist, and a Latino Nationalist. So the answer is yes, I suppose, but again, probably not to the satisfaction of many who might ask the question.

• Speaking of neoreaction: History tells us that no restoration movement ever succeeds completely. Nor should it – if something needs to be restored, that means it failed somehow, and if it failed, there must be some reason for its failure; some flaw that should be fixed to the best of our ability to do so. We don’t want to be a reflection of Talleyrand’s description of the restored Bourbon kings: “They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing”. Neoreaction takes the conservative approach of a good engineer. Engineers understand that if there’s an existing solution that works well or a proven answer that somebody else has already come up with, then coming up with a new answer or a new solution is stupid, pointless, and wasteful at best, and potentially dangerous at worst. Engineers prefer the proven over the unproven, the tested over the untested, the known over the unknown, and for very good reasons. Where they do end up using something new and unproven because of some advantage it brings to the table, they’ll test the bejeezus out of it, over and over again, exploring and documenting every possible failure mode, noting both their likelihood and their potential severity, and coming up with redundancies in case it does fail, before they’ll sign off on making it an operational technology.

When it comes to social technology, good, functional systems have already been invented, but were abandoned for bad reasons in favor of new systems that don’t work well. That’s not to say that the old systems didn’t have any flaws – even good, proven systems fail sometimes, and even good, proven systems need to be adjusted and refined in order to minimize failure to the greatest extent possible. So let’s restore the old, good, functional systems, while finding ways to adjust and refine them to the degree necessary in order to correct their flaws and adapt them to new conditions. Investigating how to do that is what neoreaction is all about.

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That’s it for Short Takes for this month. I’ve been away from the blog, busy with real-world goings-on, for some time now, but I’m positively brimming with ideas and will be back with a whole lot more to say in the weeks to come. Keep checking in! I hope to richly reward your patience with me.

What To Pray For

Let us consider a question – an important one (perhaps indeed the most important of all questions): How should we pray? For what should we petition God? What is it right to ask Him for? Perhaps just as importantly, what is it reasonable to ask Him for? It occurs to me that many problems in our spiritual lives spring from not sufficiently considering this. We all hope that God will answer our prayers, but do we ever stop to wonder whether we’re asking the right questions in them? After all, if you ask a bad question, you’ll get a bad answer. That much is obvious. And it should be equally obvious that if you petition God for the wrong thing – if you ask for something unjust or unreasonable – then He will not be under any obligation to help you achieve it.

So then, what should we petition God for? Above all, we should pray for our will to be in accordance with God’s will, and for our actions to be in accordance with God’s commandments. That is what it is right and just to pray for.

Simple enough? Not so much, of course. If we were back in the Garden of Eden with the first man and the first woman, it would be far easier. But we aren’t, and we face the great complications of the imperfect, fallen world inhabited by our imperfect, fallen kind: temptation and sin. For our will and our actions to be in accordance with God’s intentions, we must avoid sin. And so we may – and we often do – pray for help in avoiding it. This, too, is a right and just thing to pray for. But the older I have gotten, the more I have become convinced that there is a right way and a wrong way to do this; a way that is reasonable and a way that is unreasonable; a way that will find the favor of God, and a way that will not find the favor of God.

What my own experience tells me is this: Every time I have prayed to not be tempted – to not face temptations that I would have to resist – God has not answered my prayers. But when I have instead prayed for the strength to resist the temptations that I have faced, God has been far more inclined to grant it to me. This has convinced me that the former is the wrong thing to pray for, and the latter is the right thing to pray for.

For example: is it really possible to “pray the gay away” as some people contend? I would say it depends on precisely what one means by that. If by that we mean “pray to no longer have any same-sex attractions”, then no it isn’t. If by that we mean “pray for the strength required to not actually engage in sexual activity with someone of the same sex”, then yes it is.

Every time I hear of some televangelist preacher or Republican Congressman who has been caught in a public restroom stall with a rent boy, (and if I assume they were ever sincere about their stated principles in the first place), I cannot help but believe that this was someone who prayed for the wrong thing. They prayed to not be tempted instead of praying for the strength to not give in to their temptations. By failing to do the latter, they never learned how to properly deal with the temptations around them. They prayed not for the strength to fight, but instead petitioned God to not have to fight at all. Thus, when they inevitably did have to fight, as we all must, they did not have the strength to do it, and lost.

John Milton once wrote: “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and seeks her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world; we bring impurity much rather. That which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary. That virtue, therefore, which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure.” By this he meant that those who simply try to hide from temptation, to close themselves off from it so that they never have to face it, are, like a cowardly knight who can claim that he’s never been defeated in battle only because he’s never actually been in one, neither truly strong nor truly admirable. God does not mean us to hide from the battles with temptation that are a central, inescapable part of the experience of being human – He means us to fight them and win them.

Sons of Adam, the Lord thy God never once promised you an earthly life free of temptation. Even Christ, who committed no sin, still experienced temptation while in human form. Yet in His mercy, God has said that merely experiencing temptation is not a sin against Him. It is only acting on it that is.

But what of the Lord’s Prayer? Does it not include a petition unto God to “Lead us not into temptation”? Yes, but let us read that carefully. It is not a plea for God to remake the world such that temptation does not exist at all, or to remake our own fundamental human nature such that we will never be drawn towards it. That is an unreasonable request; the first man and the first woman made their choice, and we must live with this imperfect world as a consequence. No, it is a plea that we not be led into temptation. Temptation will always exist in this world, and humans will always feel its pull upon us; the question is whether we shall give in to it and walk into the embrace of the things that tempt us, or whether we shall reject it and flee from them. It is the strength to do the latter that the Lord’s Prayer, rightly, petitions God for.

Neoreactionaries say: “It doesn’t matter what you wanted, it only matters what you chose.” Just so; but this can have more than one meaning. In the Puritan* and leftist worldview (leftism is, as I have discussed elsewhere, thoroughly Puritan in its attitudes and worldview**), what a person is thinking is of paramount importance, because sinful thoughts lead to sinful acts. In the Catholic and rightist worldview, the emphasis is placed not on thoughts but on actions. This is why leftist governments tend towards thought control, while rightist governments tend to focus on controlling actions. An example can be found in the concept of “hate crimes” – to the leftist, it is important to know what a criminal was thinking when he assaulted someone; to a rightist, all that matters is that he did assault someone. To the Puritan/leftist, it is people’s motivations that are important; to the Catholic/rightist, it is only the choices that people make, regardless of internal thoughts or desires, that are important.

Choices are a function of the will. Therefore, let us pray for our will to be strengthened, so that we may make the right choices, and undertake the right actions. This, rather than praying to be released from the obligation to ever face temptation or to have to build up the strength of will to choose not to fall to it, is what it is right to pray for. A prayer to be released from this obligation is wrongheaded, unreasonable – it is to pray for the coward’s way out, and God does not mean for His people to be cowards; indeed, in this world filled with temptations of every kind, Christians cannot afford to be.

It took me many years, and many mistakes made, at the cost of many lasting regrets, to learn what to pray for. Brothers and sisters in Christ, I beg you, consider what I have said, and pray wisely.

(*Yes, I know that Milton was a Puritan and held a post in the Cromwell government. He was the only one of them who was worth anything or had any thoughts worth listening to. What can I say? Sometimes good people fall in with a bad crowd.)

(**This is especially true in America. There are very nearly no non-Puritans in America. There are merely right-Puritans and left-Puritans; Christian-Puritans and atheist-Puritans.)