The Chaotic View of Politics

An overview of complexity theory as it applies to the trouble we’re in

I’ve just finished a ridiculously lengthy project – I’ll add a picture of it when I can,  a three-legged, shallow dish of padauk and ebony, thoroughly weird and strange; five months of work and I can’t see what the point of it is, though the legs are so thin and supple that it quivers pleasingly – and thought I’d add another shout into the wind.  We have some wonderful storms in the Spring here on the Upper Left Coast, so there’s no shortage of wind to shout uselessly into.

I can’t expect many views, as the biggest reason people read junk on line is for a chance to call the writer names – people mostly read for an opportunity to react and not for comprehension.  I don’t give people that opportunity, as I have Comments turned off, even though I know that isn’t really playing the game, isn’t really fair.  Everything I do is first about sleep, a failing in myself.  I just can’t take the risk of encountering the nastiness so predominant in on-line discussion.  I admit it: in this, at the very least, I’m a wuss.

If I’m right about this, the application of complexity theory as the first consideration in thinking about societies of sentient beings, then the world will work out that way.  These ideas will prevail only if they’re useful to people, not because they are popular or because some better explainer than I am has convinced others of their correctness.  The idea of a politics made healthy by an abandonment of the delusion that Law creates Order needs no champion if it reflects reality.

We The People can fool some of ourselves all of the time, and we can fool all of ourselves some of the time – but we can’t all fool ourselves all of the time. Cultures of sentient beings are shaped by what those beings believe, even though their worlds are shaped by what really is.  Reality has a stubborn way of remaining reality, waiting for enough of us to wake up.  So far, that’s worked out – eventually, after we’ve avoided it as long as possible.

Will it always?  Will Thornton Wilder’s belief that we are a species that constantly saves itself but only just at the very last nick, by “The Skin of their Teeth”?

That choice is always yours, individually, to make.  It doesn’t matter at all what I might think about it.


We see our nation as something we design by the laws we pass, a complicated yet deterministic system that our choices control, a top-down ordering wherein the ‘unarguably evil’ nature of human beings is held down out of the fear we impose on others of Implacable Justice, humanity as a Frankenstein monster we must keep chained – oh, but never in the first person.  I must keep you chained; we must keep them chained.  This catastrophically wrong-headed view is entirely understandable; such intelligence as we possess arises naturally from the highly complex system that is the brain, but the demands of our ego structures strongly predisposes us to see ‘I’ as a hierarchy, the Will in charge of the Mind in charge of the Brain in charge of the Body.  This isn’t true; but to perceive the true animal-ness of our human existence, to see that most of what appears to us as Free Will is actually driven by subconscious emotional impulse, is simply too stressful.

Because of the critical importance of maintaining this false view of an interior command structure, we are powerfully driven to see the world around us as just this kind of heirarchy.  We tend to see Society as a centrally-controlled, top-down ordering.  We look upon highly complex systems and see simple, linear, deterministic systems; intricate, perhaps, but always in which some particular action – a law or regulation passed – has a predictable outcome, and if that outcome does not result, then the only possible answer is to make that law more Draconian.  We are hypnotized – sorry, Mr Letterman; HYP-mo-tized – by our certainty that the entire point of politics is to control the choices of others while demanding nobody try to control ours; we are seduced by the comforting delusion that the whole world is no more than a complicated nesting of simple mechanisms which will function only if we find the right set of controls on (other’s) actions lest they make what is clearly (to us) a mistake.  Gosh, if we don’t control other people, they could do anything!  We are choking ourselves with Law and Regulation, an orgy of top-down ordering, a mesh of control mechanisms that have become so fine-grained that only the very rich have freedom of action.

We are blind to this – in fact, we blind ourselves.  But we do this self-blinding only about our own approved-of attempts to control others.  The Left clearly sees that the Right has become entirely focused on controlling the  actions of others, driven into madness by their own Received Wisdom that of course we need to control women’s reproductive organs and the clearly criminal impulses of minorities, of course – because Jehovah!, because if we don’t, people may make choices that aren’t informed by Bronze Age superstitions and ethnocentric prejudices.  (See The Myth of White Culture.)  In their turn, the Left is as blind to the constant application of junk science, to the hopelessness – in fact, the cultural corrosiveness – of their own control attempts; of course we must outlaw the prejudices of the Right, of course we must make them wear seat belts, we must tell them how to flush.

And thus both sides are blind, willingly blind, to the other side’s Right to be Wrong.  Here’s an unwelcome message to both sides: If you don’t think abortion is permissible, don’t have one or cause some unfortunate woman to have that terrible choice to make.  If you think we’re running out of clean water, don’t use so much of it yourself.  If you’re worried about humanity’s interference in the planet’s carbon cycle, as well you should be, look to your own choices and how wasteful they might be.

The entirety of the modern Republican Party, now unarguably fascist, is about forcing all of us to confirm the Right’s tremendous cowardice – they’re terrified of everything, and the sillier and more delusional their fears, the more they cling to them.  First Generation Americans, documented or not, are, and always have been, a huge productive benefit to our nation, harder working, less likely than the rest of us to commit crimes or use communal resources.  And –  Sharia Law?  Are you kidding me?  Do you have any clue at all how stupid that is, how foolish, how delusional?  It would be less so to stand in the middle of a Kansas wheat-field cringing in fear of shark attack.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is being taken over by Progressives.  Some day soon, I suspect I will go ravening through our local Safeway, furiously tearing ‘Gluten Free!’ signs off crackers, pasta, rice – are you kidding me? – ice cream – are you kidding me? -hot dogs – are you kidding me??? – all the things you couldn’t introduce gluten into on a bet or to please your sainted mother.

And so our modern, corrosive politics – two opposite extremes, one with its little-girl panties constantly in a wad, out of their minds with craven fear, the other sneering and contemptuous of any thought but their own, both angry at the other side’s dictatorial impulses and blind to their own, because of course!  That’s the choice we’re left with:  We All Must, because Jehovah! or We Have To, because Think Of the Children!

Let me go on record herein, by saying ‘Screw you both!’

At least modern Democrats are, at least to some degree, resisting the Siren call of their own extremists.  Fascism has succeeded in chasing Conservatism out of the GOP; the Reagan Republican Party is thoroughly dead and rots in the ground.  At least the Democratic Party is trying to push back against their own extremists, the Progressives, though as a practical political matter, I’m not so sure they should be – and most certainly they are fools for using the corrupt methods they automatically reach for.

And yet I would ask you to consider that all this extremism, what has been called the tribalism of modern politics, may be inevitable, may be a sickness we must suffer, a lesson we must learn.  Our tendency to see linearity where it so clearly does not exist may always be with us, curbed only when we are forced to admit that the world doesn’t react well to our consistent attempts to control events and personalities.

It would be good, perhaps, if it didn’t have to be that way, if Science and Learning could inform us.  It would be well that logic and insight guide our actions, not emotion.

Not on this planet.  Not in this solar system.  Sorry.  It is in the nature of human beings – I suspect it is in the nature of sentience – that we race full-speed toward the cliff, swerving only at the last possible moment when we change course and speed on to the next precipice.


The lesson of complexity is clear.  The rules by which highly complex systems behave are odd, very odd to us humans so used to seeing simple machines, systems we can control and whose behavior is predictable.  If your cuckoo clock isn’t working, the mechanism may bewilder those not used to repairing clockworks, but any reasonably competent technician can see, by examination and testing, what each part does and how it is connected to other parts, what the sequence of events is that will make it tick.  The cuckoo may have lost feathers and the paint may be chipped, but it’s obvious that feathers and paint chips don’t matter to its workings – it is a linear, predictable, deterministic system.  You see springs, gears, and cogs, and though its mechanism may seem complex, it isn’t.  One part effects another in a linear way; put it back in order, and inputs – the winding of the mainspring – will beget fixed outputs – the hands of the clock moving.

Not so with highly complex systems.  If the cuckoo clock were a highly complex system, examination would tell you little.  Your human prejudice would still be to look for a linear event chain, but that gets you nowhere.  For all you know, were the clock non-linear, it might be the paint chips or the lack of feathers; or it might be something you can’t see at all.

And here is where our strong tendency to see linearity where it isn’t gets us in trouble – like the trouble we’re in now, where we’re going to lose our nation and its primacy for the sake of the fascist yearnings of the filthy rich.  To treat a complex system as a simple one is to collapse that system. To correct a simple system gone wrong, you take large, global steps to fix the central mechanisms.  Do that to a complex one and you will destroy it; both the tremendous order and the great productivity of the highly complex system that is a modern democracy are reduced by each and every attempt we make to force order upon it.  It’s inevitable, unavoidable.

The societies of sentient beings are more complex than the Universe that contains them.  Highly complex systems can, over time, become both highly orderly and highly productive for their constituent parts if, and only if, those parts are free to relate to their neighboring parts constrained by their natures.  All attempts to impose order on such systems from the outside – all attempts, even good-hearted ones, even objectively correct ones – must reduce order and diminish productivity.  This is always true, in all places, at all times.

That, then, is the real danger of our time, the true cause of Trumpist Fascism – that this particular highly complex system is being Law-and-Ordered to death.  There has been, for more than half a century, a continuous lessening of The Voluntary Society, an abandonment of Jefferson’s inailienable rights, for the sake of each side’s ever-more-strident ‘of course we all must’; the Bronze Age delusion of godhood brought down to Earth or the demands of the Enlightened Ones that the rest of us must do the things they themselves can’t be bothered to do.

Thus ends the American Century; not, I hope, with a bang, but at the very least with a pathetic whimper.





Trump Was Predictable; How, and Why

Having written that extremists taking over both sides was inevitable, here’s when and how

This is a rant that’s been planned since the start of this blog – though, you know what?  Having written about Slug Control, maybe this should be called a ‘blug’ – Since I started this blug, but wanted first to find the article that spelled it out so clearly, so it could be referred to.  That’s been given up, though, as a lost cause.  The article existed, but I don’t know enough about how to do research of this sort to find it.  It was an op-ed by one of the big names of the 1970’s that appeared in a Sunday edition of the Grey Lady, and you would think that would be easy for even the clunkiest to find; but apparently my clunkitude knows no bounds.  Hell, it was only two posts ago I was all giddy at figuring out how to include a link!

Nevertheless, as one of John Cleese’s Monty Python characters said, ‘adapt, adopt and improve’.

To begin with, a barbershop my dad took me to at around age five or so, in the middle ’50s, in a middle-sized town in the middle of the Middle West.  I was struck by the barber telling me that guys should get their hair cut every three weeks, and then the world, he said, would be a better place.  That was when I first realized that people adopt a philosophy that is primarily informed by their own self-interest.  And no, I’m not saying that I would have put it that way at the age of five.  I’m sure I said nothing more brilliant than:


Still, it stuck with me, and I thought about it a lot growing up, not that I have – old, yes, but not up; and I kept hearing different versions of the same self-informed wisdom from Really Old People (you know, old people, like teenagers and even older!) constantly – that a person’s thinking starts and ends with what makes their own life better, or, as I would have put it as a kid:

“Boy, adults sure are dumb.”  Not sure I didn’t go so far as to add, “… as dirt!”

(It was a different time: The Lone Ranger and Davey Crockett didn’t swear, so we didn’t, either.  Not saying a better time, just different; my first swear word came out of my mouth at age 19.  It was “Hell.”  It was, interestingly (or not), in the Green Room of the Fir Acres Theater at Lewis and Clark College, and Markie Post, of ‘Night Court’ fame, was but one of the hearers who were shocked, not at the word, certainly, but that I said it.  We were playing a card game called Sargeant Major, and . . .  But I digress.)

Then a few years after that, a deeper aspect of the same thing became apparent: Our brains work in ways very different than it seems to us they do.  Much of our intelligence is aimed at inventing justifications for the things we want to do – it’s pretty clear that this, and little else, separates us from the other apes – and which I dubbed, some time around the age of eight or nine, the ‘Yellow Light Syndrome’.  It’s the way people tended to think, a kind of automatic self-excuse-making habit that applies in so much that people do, noticed as a passenger in my parents’ car, back in the uninformed Neolithic, when kids could sit in the front seat of an automobile.

The driver gets close to an intersection when the light turns yellow, and steps on the gas rather than the brake; and, when I give them the fish-eye (I never did have much patience with adults, who I thought of as hopelessly silly, which is at least one of the reasons why, even after more than six decades, I still refuse to become one) they said, more to themselves than to me, “I was too far into the intersection to stop.”

No, you weren’t, you clunk; you just didn’t want to stop.  When I started to drive, this same process happened in me the first time I came to a suddenly-yellow light; but I wanted to be a good driver, so I absolutely refused to go along with this dangerous foolishness, and learned to react by braking, and so never once have run a red light.  Still, it meant a lot to me that I could feel, could sense when this excuse-making process started up within my own brain in any situation, and tried to become instantly distrustful of it.  That started a lifetime process of questioning any impulse, in myself or others, that seemed to be compelled by emotion.

So that’s by way of pointing up my own prejudices.  Other observations that have contributed: The moment in the Kennedy administration at a meeting of church members held to express opinions about the growing conflict in Southeast Asia, with Old People standing up and ranting about ‘godless Comm’nism!’, when I first realized that communism, a clearly failed system, was never going to find support within the United States, but fascism could easily be adopted as a result of mindless fear; the moment when, with bowed head, I first heard the Presbyterian pastor of our lovely Mid-Century Modern church slip into our prayers to a merciful God that He bless and aid our brave soldiers in Killing Commies for Christ; the description in civics classes from the fifth grade on of our system as ‘a voluntary society’; Republicans telling the lie that the War on Poverty was a failure, despite all the studies and statistics that showed the opposite, because they had to lie about its unquestionable success; and, of course, the entire Nixon administration.

That’s the end of the intro – what Walt Kelley’s Howland Owl would have termed ‘the poor parlors.’  For some reason, the pretty skunk lady Miz Ma’m’selle Hepzibah, though French, never corrected him.  Say la vee, Pogo.

It was after the Nixon nightmare ended, in the administration of the first of what now has become a tradition of Republican Presidents not winning election, and a man who was actually much more athletic and graceful than Chevy Chase portrayed him as – by the by, did you know Chevy’s actual first name was Cornelius?  No, I didn’t, either – it was during the administration of Gerald Ford that a Sunday editorial appeared in the New York Times stating the staggering idea that, at least in terms of policy, the long competition between Liberal and Conservative concepts of governance was over, with Liberalism winning hands down; that though the debate would go on in words, the political struggle continue, yet at least as a theory of how actually to govern, Conservatism was DOA, and all government structures from now on would be quietly Liberal in construction.  It was tightly reasoned and very persuasive; the Great Society, as proposed and passed by LBJ and as perfected in its application by Richard Nixon – as mentally deformed as he was, and as inept at war-making, he was, it will surprise you to learn, a very capable administrator who made the Great Society work – had made great strides at reducing poverty, and at advancing equality and opportunity, and so had laid the groundwork for moving bravely into the future, sweeping all opposition before it on a tide of magnificent success and increasing wealth.  There would still be political parties, still Right and Left, but for the most part, Conservative and Liberal would be labels rather than descriptions; behind the scenes, Liberal policy, which had worked so well, would continue to work for the foreseeable future.

It was all so clear, so unarguable, so persuasive.  And I could see instantly that, though correct as far as it went, it was so frighteningly inadequate.

I was staggered.  It was a moment I still recall, sitting in our simple, knock-together dining room with the paper spread before me, reading this opinion piece as it was carried in our Oregonian.  I could see the future unfolding so clearly, as if the clouds had rolled away revealing in frightening detail the gradually appearing expanse of a horrifying vista.

First, I saw that, to the degree the debate really was over, it meant that good people on both sides would leave politics.  With little more than the details of surrender to be worked out, decent, hard-working, dedicated people who dominated in both parties at that time, the giants of legislative and administrative brilliance, would slowly leave Politics for other fields; after all, brilliant minds want to do brilliant work, and if the job was done, why hang around?  This would leave a vacuum for lesser minds to fill, opening both parties to extremists of Right and Left, and clearing governance of all pretense to respect for my beloved Voluntary Society and the Jeffersonian ideal of liberty.  And so it rapidly evolved, with haters and racists coming to dominate the Right and prim, humorless control freaks the Left, which further drove talent and wisdom from both parties.

I could foresee that the Republican Party would rapidly become enslaved to reactionaries – and, as I argue in a moment, inevitably to fascists.  They would first work to weaken public education and the liberal national news media – because a well-educated, well-informed populace tends toward liberalism, and thus would be a threat to their control.  An urge to control the population would become an inevitable goal of the Republican party; nature abhors a vacuum, and if good men and women of fine character and honest, sincere personality left for other fields now that The War Was Over, the power that Republicans – and, from different impulses, Democrats – still held would now be used for other, more self-informed goals.

And it was clear what those goals would be: Service to the Rich, advancing the power of the Powerful.  That very day in the mid-Seventies when, with horror, I read that opinion piece, was the first time – but far from the last – I saw what would increasingly become the clear purpose of the Republican Party, and many Democrats as well:

Comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.

The Democrats too would suffer a slow but steady exodus of talented, dedicated Liberals who desired only to make ours a better Republic based on the free marketplace of ideas, to be replaced with others who wanted only to feather their own nests and strive for power without purpose, and those of such limited vision and so filled with hubris that they really imagined themselves singularly blessed by such wisdom that they could tell the rest of us what to do, in humorless, remorseless detail, sneering at and shaming any so foolish as to imagine themselves fit to decide for themselves the right and the good.  Those talented few who actually wanted to help people would avoid politics and instead just go out and do it, and they did, starting many very successful non-governmental organizations, leaving those who want power only as an end in itself; and without any larger reason behind them, those Democrats still attracted to politics would be purchasable by that same wealth that would purchase the Right.  The barber’s dedication to a philosophy that every man’s hair should be regularly cut would become the politician’s belief that the rich should support their political career for the greater good, no matter their party or political persuasion.

Please note this point: The barber of my childhood really did believe in haircuts; the politician really does believe in what he’s doing, no matter how conveniently self-informed his actions or his dedication to fund-raising from the rich, no matter how transparently useful to those rich his legislation might be.  Self-excusing behavior is part of the very essence of what it means to be human; it was a necessary development of the Mind arising from the Brain, the cause of the rapid evolution of bigger brains that occurred between 800,000 and 200,000 years ago – and all this magnificence you see around you, the powerful culture we’ve developed, our technological brilliance, is but a side-effect of that self-excusing mechanism so vital to that brain growth, central to how ‘mind’ self-arose from the increasing chaos of ‘brain’.  You do this.  I do this.  How then do we criticize this tendency in others or ourselves?  How do we move forward when everyone is so blind to their own emotion-centered thoughts that justify instantly even the most inhuman, brutal, vicious acts?  How can we keep from repeating the horrors of the past, of man’s inhumanity to man?

Jefferson showed us the way: that my rights end at the tip of your nose.  But even he did not rule that way as President.  How then for any of us?  Yet that is our only hope – and a fascist dictatorship of the Right, or a progressive one of the Left, is the inevitable result of abandoning Jefferson’s pledge to grant each other the rights to ‘Life, Liberty, and the Purfuit of Happineff’.  (It’s not my fault his ‘s’s looked like ‘f’s.)

That’s the frightening future I saw so clearly unfolding, now some forty-plus years ago.  And so it has turned out to be.  We are awash in Governance by Command, whether the hob-nailed, steel-jacketed, spike-encrusted Bible held high by the goose-stepping Right, all the better to club us into Holy Obedience, or the shaming, limiting, fettering, three-foot-high speed-bump- and ‘guardrail around the guardrail around the guardrail’-installing Left, both the belt-to-the-butt Daddy Government Rightists and the opposition-shaming Mommy State Left, both doing everything they can to display their usefulness to the One Percent – oh, but their One Percent, their own side’s approved-of and party-financing wealthy – with the rest of us running first to one side and then to the other for relief from the dictation of the opposite parent.

And as for Fascism: First, understand that fascism isn’t a swear-word, but a too-common organizing principal, not a dirty word but a descriptive political term.  Think of it that way, or else become part of what makes it so easy to establish.  Think of traditional monarchy, with the King as leader of government, of party, and of religion, controlling the entire society and granting monopolies that determine commercial success; and then add that the King anoints himself.  That’s fascism – a monarchy without nobility.  It’s important to honestly understand the word as description, because it is, in complexity terms, a random attractor; the fall-back organizing principal of humanity, the vortex self-government may always stray too close to and fall in, the monster always waiting for any civilization that clings like the cowards we tend to be to the Strongman whenever bravery simply costs us too much to display, or is thought rude.

And then understand the impulse to fascism, which is simplicity itself; the thought, including your thought, that if everyone would just shut up and do what I say – or what you say, or Trump says, or God says, or anybody – then we would be safe.  That first impulse that, if indulged, will lead to fascism if unresisted is nothing more than thinking ‘what we need to do about this is, we all must . . .” followed by any words, Hitler’s words, Trump’s words, Jesus’ words, Mohammed’s words, your words, my words.  It really is as simple, as common, and as dangerous as that.  There’s a problem; and ‘we all must’ get behind the solution.  The danger is never that there is a problem – there are always problems.  The danger is never that there is a solution – there are always solutions.

The danger comes in that simple belief – the ‘we all must’.

If I could impart to you any one message, it would be this: Complexity and variety gives life; only The Grave is uniform, only Death is normative, the only thing ‘we all must’ do.  And, yes, even that message, when imposed on others, is deadly.  None of this is easy, but that’s life.

In late grade school and through high school, I was so horrified by my parents’ generation’s World War, with our nation’s noble though late-to-the-dance fight against Hitler and the unspeakable, unendurable revelation of the Holocaust – my mom admitted to me, with shame, that, yes, they knew, that Americans paying attention knew about the camps from the beginning – that I was determined to read all I could about how this thing could have happened, and in one of the most advanced, in many ways one of the most progressive, of all nations.  It’s not the simple, self-glorifying story that Hollywood likes to tell and Americans prefer to believe, of a people gone mad at the Siren call of a hypnotic character, that it could all be blamed on Hitler.  It is, in fact, a natural progression that all political systems are subject to whenever any people becomes too weary, too frightened or too lazy to maintain respect for the rights of their neighbors, even their ‘right to be wrong’ as long as they are only wrong for themselves.

It starts in rural areas, and Religion is important right from the beginning; Religion and Fear.  And a mouthpiece – right away, you have to have a mouthpiece; in early-20th-century Germany, to buy small, local newspapers, the advanced technology of Hitler’s time.  You need to start right off telling lies, and in small rural markets, it’s pretty easy to buy yourself some liars, and plenty of poorly-informed braggarts and bigots.  It doesn’t matter to them what you are selling, as long as there is the opportunity for thugs to enjoy strutting and threatening, and for grievance.

In rural areas, it’s easy to find, and inflate, this sense of often-justified grievance, against the City, against the better educated, against the banker and the lawyer, and the foreigner, the ‘other’.  It’s easy to lie to such people, inflating real grievances – life in the country, on the farm, far from the easy ways of urbanites, is often enough a hard life, where a high interest rate is as frequently crop-destroying as bad weather or locust plague, and that makes it fertile ground to plant imagined complaints.  Always there must be a grain of truth to the complaint, but it need only be a tiny one, no more than a mustard seed.

And what is the mustard seed of our time?  The goodness and decency of the Progressive, which grinds all things exceeding small.  The good and just hearts, refusing to accept that hunger and want should be allowed in the planet’s wealthiest nation, just as they shouldn’t – and then the natural next step, the ‘we all must’.  That simple, decent, good-hearted step is all it takes to push a liberal respect for the Public Good into ‘Hey, I know what you should do!’ do-goodery that does one thing more than any:


Add governance and you get – yes, often, successful answers to real problems.  But for good or ill, it irritates.  It irritates, then pisses off, then infuriates, and more often doesn’t work, a result which the furious drive to do good blinds the really committed Romper Room DoBee to.  And that, in turn, propels conservatism, a respectable approach to governance (even if not one I could ever take) into first reactionary and then fascistic response.  There you are, far away from the world these eggheads live in, hardly a pot to piss in, ‘they’re telling us what kinda pot to piss in?’  It irritates. ‘Why would I feel any identity with this association of scolds you call a culture?’  Thus arise feelings of detachment from the mainstream that provides the fuel for evil people to use, and inflated grievance thus becomes an extractive industry.

Then there is the vital importance to such a movement of the Scandal – but it must be understood that invented scandal is far more important than any real one can possibly be.  In some real story, some complaint with a basis in fact, the story belongs to whoever wants to tell it, to expose it, easier for the well-connected, well-research Big City media to tell than the small, home-town sheet.  The important lesson for the Murdochs of this world: You can’t use a scandal you don’t control.

Invented scandal can be bent, shaped, controlled, exposed just as you want, to the end that best serves your goals, and most importantly can be blamed on anyone you want – best, of course, on those who can least defend themselves.  (Cowardice is as vital a part of far-right political movements as sneering condescension is to the Left, then as now; never pick on anyone who can fight back, never risk yourself being hurt.)  And there’s a tremendous benefit to the building of a wholly-owned media empire, which is so important to any fascist movement, a flack-filled, insincere propaganda arm without which this disease cannot be spread; if a scandal is real, serious journalism will investigate it, but when scandal is invented, the mainstream won’t even notice it – and then your propaganda machine can claim conspiracy, accuse serious journalists of being in service to all those who the growing mass of aggrieved distrust, greatly strengthening the propagandists’ claim to being the only trustable source of news.  Thus does the fake news become the only news the aggrieved ‘true Germans’ (or true Americans) believe or are ever exposed to.  Whether the Nazi press of those ugly times or Fox News today, the same vital message: Listen only to us, hear only us, everyone else lies.

This was, after all, the most powerful tool the Nazi (or the more recent Republican) propaganda machine had.  Yes, there was the power of the Big Lie, made up, then as now, of many smaller lies, repeated over and over, never admitting they are lies no matter how much the ‘lame-stream’ media proves them to be lies, simply repeating them any time you are confronted with the truth.  And yes, the projection; if you are planning on rigging an election, as Nazis did (and Diebold’s modern voting machines do), then the first step, before the rigging, is to accuse the other side of, horrors, rigging! so that when true accounts of Nazi-stuffed ballots (or Republican votes being consistently four or five percent higher in electronic balloting) arise, the press can cling to their favorite, convenient, comforting meme that ‘everyone does it.’

So, yes, the Big Lie and aggressive projection; but the most important, most effective lie is the wholly-owned scandal.  Nazi propaganda accused every opposing politician of scandal after scandal after scandal, repeating each one endlessly, blocking out any refutation, rolling over anyone trying to truth-test them – and completely bewildering serious journalists, who often didn’t hear of these ‘scandals’ until the gullible were up in arms about them.  Thus the effectiveness of the trap – to the already suckered, it’s more proof that only the fascist news sources can be believed, that the fix is in, that the conspiracy of the existing power structure would never allow the ‘scandal’ to be ‘honestly’ examined.  After all, how do serious people investigate a thing that never happened?

Such ‘scandals’ thus don’t have to make any sense at all.  Better if they don’t.  That’s how the popular, widely-supported and elected President Paul von Hindenburg was forced to appoint Hitler as Chancellor; ridiculous scandal after ridiculous scandal was accused of von Hindenburg, until even the big city papers started to call his a ‘scandal-plagued administration’ though each ‘scandal’ was clearly a lie, and then, as is inevitable – for all have sinned, and have feet of clay – one scandal has just enough truth in it to be believed by the many, fatigued and bewildered by the endless accusations.  Thus of the Clintons, as slick as any modern politician must be to appeal to our lazy, ill-informed populus but not more or less honest than we ever allow a politician to be.  As Winston Churchill so presciently said, ‘A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.’  That’s the practical use of the wholly invented scandal told to those anxious to believe it.

Bill Clinton, who deserved well enough his moniker of ‘slick Willie’, was put to this wholly-made-up scandal-mongery when he had been President less than two weeks.  He made a trip to Los Angeles, and while there, he held up LAX for hours – on a Friday, at five o’clock! – while he was getting a haircut from a celebrity hairdresser.  If you were alive at the time and remember those days, you are familiar with this, only the first of many Clinton Presidential scandals, proof of his detachment from the concerns of the common folk, showing his corrupt nature.

Only a few problems with this; even as this story was being repeated on all the news shows and reported on by every newspaper, reporters started noticing, and writing about, oddities in where the story started, and in what travelers actually experienced.  The very first alerts to this ‘scandal’ came out of the California Republican Party offices, three hours before it was supposed to have happened; reporters who were already at LAX, as well as every traveler interviewed, said there were no such delays; Air Force One was parked well off any runway, in a secure area out of anyone’s way, nor was it itself delayed – it was actually waiting, as planned, to pick up a sick child who needed to get to a hospital in the East (which melodramatic touch is actually commonplace, as it was, until Trump, a common practice as old as Presidential air travel); the haircut was also planned as a way to save time, and was being contributed gratis.

But did any of these facts get reported on?  Well, yes – if you read the entire first-day article and the next-day reporting that showed this well-researched ‘scandal’ to be entirely phony.  But in Hitler’s day and ours, the popular press is a money-making venture, and boring old Truth is never as cash-generating as exciting lies. Big-name journalists want to keep being invited to all the wild parties, want to keep their celebrity, and only a few fail to value their reputations for even-handedness more than they value Truth, and thus must cling to any evidence they can find, or invent, that ‘both sides do’ whatever sins are displayed.  Hitler and his backers knew this, as did the Republicans of President Clinton’s time, as does Rupert Murdoch, as have Hillary Clinton’s many silly-scandal-inventors; it really doesn’t matter how absurd the made-up scandal is.  Just repeat and repeat and repeat, and depend on the laziness of reporters, the greed of the owners of media and the gullibility of humanity.

Thus also with Hillary.  A foundation that has done astounding work worldwide to ease the way for charities to become effective, to cut through bureaucratic inertia, to help millions on every continent, became ‘scandal’.  A terrible situation in Libya, caused more than anything by Republican refusal to pay to increase security, a situation a Secretary of State had nothing to do with, became ‘scandal’.  A desire, out of the exhaustion and defensiveness to repeated false accusation, to secure email from assault became ‘scandal’.  Scandal after scandal, all of them invented, all of them absurd, all of them successful; you know that Hillary is corrupt.  You know this, don’t you?  Screw reality – you just know she’s corrupt.  Why wait for Truth to put its pants on?

Works every time.  Worked for Hitler.  Worked for Billo, and Rush, and Rupert.  Works for Trump.  Works.  Every.  Time.

Does that mean that Democracy is doomed?  If the garbage that Rupert et al has been using for decades to destroy America for the sake of enriching themselves, put to no purpose beyond saving the Very Wealthy from paying back into our culture a reasonable fraction of the vast wealth our culture has provided them with, has worked, and always works, then what hope do we have?  Is this always the way Democracy dies?  After all, it died in its birthplace, ancient Greece.  Is this always the way a Republic dies?  After all, it died in its birthplace, ancient Rome.

Yes, it is.  This is the way self-government always dies.

That’s why our Fondling Fathers gave us this tinkered-together, clattering, messy hybrid, a Democratic Republic, with each part checked and balanced by another.  For example, we think of the Supreme Court as being the final arbiter, but it isn’t; if the Supremes decide something is true that sticks enough in the American craw, even they can be overruled by a Constitutional amendment, though such a thing is very difficult – on purpose.  And then the Supremes get to say what that new amendment means, while the President decides what it does, and on and on.  Every part is checked by another.

But that doesn’t make it proof against fascism.  If one Party decides its own rule is more important than the Nation, and can fool enough fools into foolishness, then such a Party can rule all parts; and if We the People stop caring, and don’t stop them, then there is no hope.  If one Party, through the time-tested sales techniques of the Big Lie, the Invented Scandal, the Propaganda Machine and the Frightened Public, takes over control of the Administration, the Judiciary and both houses of the Legislature, then the Constitution and its highly theoretical limits on the reach of governance become useless paper, fit only for the rich and powerful to wipe their asses on.

That’s fascism.  Not a dirty word.  Not the unacceptable term, never to be uttered in Polite Society.  A system of political organization where one Party controls every part of the State, where there are no boundaries between State, the approved Religion, the Judiciary, and those commercial and wealth interests approved of by and financing that Party, where allegiance is not to the country but to the Great Leader.  It always starts the same way, when the population of the republic becomes so frightened that they willingly give up their rights for the illusion of security; and if the thing they fear is invented or inflated and the security thus imaginary, it elevates and strengthens the very worst of that people, and those least qualified to lead so much as a funeral procession become Pallbearers in Chief.

That there are such people is a given; there will always be vultures.  The trick is not to give them a body to feed upon.  The Jeffersonian idea, which even he was not faithful to, was that a limited State would leave each of us free to decide for ourselves what happiness was and how to pursue it, as long as our pursuit did not limit the rights of anyone else to define and to pursue.  This turns out to be harder than it might seem – telling others what their happiness should be, and how they should pursue it, is just too tempting, and our brains just too good at excusing us for the telling.  We know we’re right.  And then we know we’re right.  And then we know we’re right.  And then we know we’re right.  And finally we KNOW we’re right.

And the most dangerous, this: When we’re right about being right.  That’s when we stop listening to the whimpers, the pleas, the cries of the people we’re crushing with our rightness.  That’s fascism.


The lungs of all social mammals contain within them a family of bacteria, just a few of the many symbiotic life forms that we depend upon for our existence.  Only this family isn’t there to help us live.  It’s there to help us die.

It’s something that came about because sometimes evolution happens on the level of the herd at the cost of the individual, and because lungs are, by their nature, dangerous.  We take the outside environment into ourselves, in and out, in and out, several times a minute.  We have many protections against the infectious life forms, toxins and other pollutants in that air; but when those protections fail, those lungs can, again, by their very nature, become a threat to those of our species we socialize with, who are, after all, likely to be our own family, our own genetic inheritance, breathing in the air we breathe out.  Therefore it can become an evolutionary benefit, even to our own gene pool, if we as an individual are removed, should we become a threat; and coughing up dangerous bacteria and toxins that have blossomed within our lungs makes us a threat to our own genes being successful through others.

Of course, that’s where predators come in, and why every species needs its predators to keep the species strong by removing the sick and the weak.  But if predation fails in one particular herd to take out one particular vector of disease, the whole herd can fail.  Evolution is remorseless; predation isn’t perfect, and without some fail-safe, having lungs can be just too dangerous.

That’s where this family of bacteria comes in.  The vast majority of lung-equipped individuals will live out their whole lives, and their progeny theirs, and these symbiotic life forms we carry will continue on as usual, reproducing at a very slow rate, never a danger.  But if our lungs become too damaged for too long, these bacteria start to reproduce rapidly and produce toxins so dangerous that we die.  Quickly.  It’s evolution remorselessly acting on the level of the group at the cost of the individual.

And that’s what fascism is to the body politic of all democracies, all republics, and our Republican Democracy.  When the checks don’t check, when the balances get out of balance, fascism is always there, a background, low-level infection that starts reproducing rapidly as indifference and fear and stupidity sicken us, weaken us so much that we die so that Freedom doesn’t.  I’ve said this before in this blug –

We need Freedom. Freedom doesn’t need us.

Another, better Republic will arise from the ashes, to make their own mistakes, to have their own prejudices, to steep in their own fears.

Freedom, then slavery, then freedom, then slavery, an endless cycle that continues on until either we develop a cultural solution to this automatic impulse to self-justification or until our technology becomes so powerful that, in falling, we end the species.  And then the planet will see if the cockroach can evolve a better intelligence.  Ecce homo.



Playing Political Ping Pong

How the False Idea of ‘Popular Mandates’ Maintains the Two-Party System and Gives Control to Extremists

The first thing we need to understand is that every American eligible to vote does, in fact, vote.  If you do not vote, that itself has a power and an effect in the system fully equal to that of the people who do vote; it itself ends up being a vote against the system, a vote to empower others, and has a meaning.  Whether you actually register and fill out a real ballot or not, you still vote.

With that observation understood, we can talk about the electorate – both those who vote at the ballot box and those who vote by not voting – as being divided into very roughly three groups.

One third has traditionally been called ‘conservative’, though this designation means very little any more.  For several centuries, the word ‘conservative’ has been applied to people whose interests are centered on an impulse to defend – that is, conserve – existing social structures.  Using that definition, which I insist is the only one that is of any use, we can more easily understand that President Obama was of this tradition, as every one of his decisions can best be explained as being solidly within those habits of thought.  He conserved the banks; he conserved General Motors; his Affordable Care Act was designed first and foremost to conserve and expand private health insurance; his judicial appointments have been people concerned first with conserving our legal traditions.

But this third no longer has any such beliefs.  They have come to believe in an aggressive, expansive, tradition-destroying, budget-busting extension of Government deep into people’s lives.  They have worked hard for decades to make sure their party is the only one that can legislate, administrate or judge; that wealthy backers of the party should have unfettered access to government processes at all levels; that their chosen religion should be recognized as the one official belief; and that anyone wanting to work with or in government should belong to the One Party and praise the One God.

That set of political descriptions has a name, and I will use it –

Fascism.  The particular fascist brand being pushed at the moment can best be called ‘Trascism’, but that is true only at this moment.

So that’s about one third of the electorate.  Another third has traditionally been called ‘liberal’, a word meant to describe the habit of thought that social structures should be open to change, with the understanding that the free marketplace of ideas debated outside of governance, rather than a slavish defense of tradition by the mechanisms of the State, should lead us to make better voluntary associations.  But ‘liberal’ also has very little meaning any more, with the power on that side having been ceded to Progressives.  Thus the concept of respect for the clash of ideas leading to better voluntary social structures has been replaced by the much more seductive idea that governance should be directed toward advancing specific causes and meeting social goals of equality and charity – that is, the perfecting of society – through law, tax policy and government programs.

Weak-minded Rightists have claimed that this, too, is fascism.  But fascism, as much as other boomers like me have thrown this term around very loosely, is in fact a specific, definable political belief; the seamless, boundary-free blending of One Party, all State mechanisms, one chosen Religion and that Wealth that supports the Party and its Leader.  Nothing the Left has done can be described this way – but in the end, it’s just as dictatorial.  Fascism is the dictatorship of Wealth; Progressivism is the dictatorship of The Good.  These are very different goals, very different processes, but both lead to the same place – the Voluntary Society being replaced by the Command Society.

Since the creation of a two-party system shortly after the founding of our nation, we have been at tremendous advantage due to the tension between these habits of thought – between conservative and liberal.  The parties have changed over time, with this constructive tension being as much within as between parties.  Issues of color have always been a large part of the changes that have happened to and within parties, and were responsible for the greatest change to parties – between Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, this tension stopped being within parties but came to define them.  In my childhood there were still conservatives, reactionaries, liberals and progressives – and fascists, on the fringes – in both parties, and it was, in fact, more likely that if you were a conservative you were a Democrat and if progressive, Republican.  The reactionaries and racists, pretending to be conservatives, were drawn to remake the GOP by Reagan; that ended the time of conservative-liberal tension within parties at the same time heralding the slow replacement of conservatism by fascists and liberalism by progressives.

So that describes about two-thirds of the electorate.  The final third largely consists of those who vote by not voting, composed of those who are more or less repelled by the too-Holy-by-half two-thirds, and often by past members of the other two sides too pooped by Ping-Pong Politics to play.  This third has an odd position in our Game of Governance; strangely, it’s both the only third that actually matters in elections and yet is the only third that makes absolutely no difference, has absolutely no power between elections.  With the centrist two thirds having at most a plurality, whoever appeals most to these immoderate Moderates and dependent Independents wins; but whoever wins, these unPartied make no difference either in support of or opposition to the choices the two parties make for them.  The exhausted, uncertain and disinterested mostly want to live their own lives without telling anyone what to do or being told what to do, though enough of them would love to tell others what to do if only they could make up their minds.

Thus, the set-up that leads to the Game of Ping-Pong which has best described our political system over my long, irritating life-time, a game that is being played with ever-increasing intensity, and has become the only game in town.

I know full well that, if anyone reads this, that reader will most likely belong to one or another of the two Statist groups. That means that, if you’ve gotten this far, you are angry at my description – not of the opposite group, but of the one you belong to.  This is unavoidable.  It’s easy to see the things that others do to achieve political ascendancy as ‘dictatorial’, but it’s nearly impossible for you to see the things that you want to force on others as anything other than Necessary and Good.  Because of the way our brains work, we are blind to our own acts of control by our desire to do good – our own decency and morality – so that the only limit we can possibly conceive of to turning our morality into The Official Moral Dictum is whether or not we are right about those morals.  If we see a problem, the impulse to turn to centralized control of society to impose our preferred solution on others is too strong; so of course we must (fill in the blank.)

People believe in this so strongly that their resistance to centralized control (by others, anyway) becomes limited by whether or not they can allow themselves to recognize the existence of the problem itself; once they agree that there is some specific ill to be cured, the assumption that the State must cure it – that “we all must . . . ” – is immediate and unchallenged.  Thus the inability of the Right to ‘believe in’ global warming.  The fascist Right is just as convinced as the dictatorial Left that a problem as vast as the anthropogenic unbalancing of the carbon cycle would demand a strong governmental program of controls on society, and that accepting global warming as ‘real’ would instantly mean supporting centralized solutions being imposed from above.  They cannot accept such regulation, but lack the intelligence or the objectivity to take the wiser position – yes, it’s a real problem that must be solved, but no, it cannot be solved by commanding behaviors.  So they square that circle by the easier method; deny the problem exists.

And there you have the ground rules for the American Political Ping-Pong Game.  I want you to try to see beyond your own chosen group’s habits of thought so that you can see this objectively; I propose to you the idea that this Game best describes our politics as, say, an observer from a different planet might see it.  For this reason, and somewhat in honor of those magnificent philosophers known to History as Monty Python, lets call them Team B and Team 2.

The third that mostly wants to be left alone, mostly votes by not voting, decides all elections and nothing except elections, is The Ball.

We’ll give Team B first crack.  They serve first; that is to say, their time in Governance begins the game.  They are convinced by their victory at the ballot box that they have a Mandate To Rule, and so they set about imposing their own, God-Endorsed policies and social constrictions on everyone.

The Ball reacts to this imposition with horror; they just want to live their lives, they don’t want to be told what to do, and so they are repelled by Team B, and fly across the net.  Our politics is absurdly dualistic; there are allowed to be only two sides with any power, so the only place The Ball can fly to in their fearful rejection of the commands of Team B is –

Team 2.  So now, after one or two elections, The Ball is on the other side of the net.  And now Team 2 convinces itself that they have A Mandate From the People, and impose their chosen commands on society.  This isn’t at all the truth; they have taken power only because The Ball has suddenly appeared in their court, flung there by The Ball’s rejection of the demands of the other side.  But this truth is invisible to their view, clouded as it is by their own desire to Do the Right and Good.  So they take this assumed but false Mandate to mean it’s full speed ahead for all their imposed commands, nor do they see them as commands, because ‘of course it must be so’.

And so, after one or two elections, The Ball, now scared and repelled by Team 2’s new programs and regulations, flies away from them.  And again, in our limited political duality, there is no where else for The Ball to go except into the court of Team B.

Back and forth, back and forth, each side empowered in its turn not by any actual mandate but by the temporary presence of people who have rejected the other side; back and forth, back and forth, each side in its turn deluded by their own desire to tell everyone what to do into thinking they have this chimeric Mandate.  Back and forth, back and forth; and since, when their side is In Command, each team is much less interested in cleaning up the excess of Law left by the other than in using Law to carry out their own desire to control, the only thing that is actually accomplished over time is that Governance gets more and more powerful, more and more entrenched, more and more the definer of what our society is and how it behaves, more and more the imposer or limiter of approved or disapproved behavior.

So in the end our democracy grows weaker, and Dictatorship as an assumed, unchallenged need gets stronger.  The only debate that those playing the game are having is about which side gets to be the dictator.  We’ve abandoned any pretense to being a Voluntary Society, with our entire political debate being limited to an argument over which side wins the permanent right to command all – to be the arbiters of the Command Society.

Right now, the repellent, corrupt, moronic, Russian-puppet Trump Administration is doing its best – at this point, very successfully – to work its way so deeply into all facets of The State that it can sweep away all resistance, destroying the protections of free speech and a free press.  The intrinsic right of every citizen to petition the government or be represented in the Legislature or protected by the Judiciary is being replaced by a system that will respond only to the needs of the One Party, the One Religion, and that Wealth that most supports the Glorious Leader.

People are, quite rightfully, repelled and frightened by this, and are protesting.  And how are the Progressives, the Democrats, reacting?  By choosing to see those protesting the Fascism of the Republicans as somehow, magically, being an endorsement not of our tradition of representative democracy and its checks and balances but of Progressivism.  People are in a panic, and with good reason – but Democrats only see this as opportunity.  We see article after article, discussion after discussion, not in support of the virtues of our democratic republican system but as a specific endorsement of Progressive control.

How can Progressives best take advantage of these protests to put themselves in power?  That’s as far as the Left is able to go.  The concepts of Liberty, the defense of the Voluntary Society, are nowhere to be seen; The Ball is being flung with tremendous force, a massive, powerful, emotional rejection of the now undeniable fascism that has swept all Republican and Conservative values into the garbage can and replaced them with a massive endorsement of the aggressive, intolerant Trump State – and all that the Progressive-controlled, liberal-values-rejecting Democratic Left is able to see is the political advantage that they can bend these protests into.

That’s the American game.  There can be allowed only two sides; only the most extreme believers on each side are allowed to play; the side that has the serve at any particular moment is that which has been fooled into thinking it has a Mandate To Rule by the voters who have temporarily fled to them in fear of the demands of the other side; and the winner is the side that can so thoroughly take command that the game can be ended.

And the loser?

The great American experiment in representative governance.  Thus ends the American Century.



A Call for Organic Politics

We can end the Trump mis-administration, but only by giving up a cherished idea – that we need to boss others.

The danger we now face of a sudden lurch into fascism can be averted, but we only have a short time.  The danger is that the very things that people instinctively do with problems, the direct government-centered actions that both Right and Left always fall back on, these attempts at control, are spinning us out of control.

Both sides are simply increasing these control-others actions as the only thing they can see to do.  People’s reactions are driving us further into Fascist madness, which results in more fear and thus more control imposition; we’re stuck in a devastating feedback loop where the very attempt to solve the problem is making that problem so much worse.

Think of what we’ve discovered about the dangers of pesticides.  A field is a highly complex system which humans overwhelm with determinism, in the form of plows and cultivators.  We remove all the other kinds of plants and sow just the one kind we want, and then spray all kinds of chemicals on the field to maintain that seeming control.

This doesn’t work long term, and yet doing this has led to amazing productivity.  We tend to think of systems as determinative when they aren’t, which creates all kinds of problems over time.  We don’t want pests or weeds in our fields, because we get less of what we want out of them; so what problem can there be to using a chemical that rids us of them?  Obvious, right?

But we now know so much more than we used to about the unintended consequences of all that imposed ordering; the problems of chemical use, not apparent at first, eventually overwhelm the good that their use does.  This widespread use of chemicals, as much as it may have done great harm, was done because the farmer wanted to make more food for more people.  The desire to do good by imposing order on a system led to doing a lot of damage.

Once the farmer had to live with the damage that chemicals did – that is, when the unintended consequences of his imposed ordering had swamped the intended good of his choices – he could see that a better approach would be to work with, rather than against, nature, and the organic revolution got started. This movement has done a lot of good; for example, organic foods not only are better for you but are also better tasting, and we’ve discovered why those two things are mutually dependent.  Just as this movement toward a more responsible, more natural food supply, at least where it has been applied, has healed a lot of the damage that modern agriculture was doing, so do we now need a politics of hubris, of accepting the limits of what can be done by command.

We need an Organic Politics.

That’s the theme of the time we are in.  Both progressives and reactionaries, both left and right, have wanted to do good by their own lights to create a better culture.  These farmers in the field that is our culture have tried, and unfortunately succeeded, in imposing deterministic solutions on it.  This seems so intuitive, so obviously the right thing to do – ‘There Oughta Be a Law!’ – and was done out of the goodness and decency of different groups of citizens, as their own judgment best informed them.  Just as the farmer watching the pests die from spreading DDT cannot immediately see the future where all those chemicals destroy the natural balance upon which he depends, so Left and Right have been blind to the long, slow piling up of unintended consequences that their oh-so-obviously-needed rule-making has created.

Nor can you make them understand.  Trascism’s devastation of all that we have built up over these many generations is the political equivalent of Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ – a warning that we’ve pushed the culture too hard in our efforts to perfect it, and it’s now spinning out of control.  The effort of trying to explain to people on both sides that its their attempts to impose order that have created the disorder that fascism needs for it to grow is one that is beyond my poor ability to explain.

And besides – when people are certain that they are right about what you should do, explaining the dangers of imposed ordering on a non-determinative system like the cultures of sentient beings seems to them a surrender to the problem they’re trying to solve.  You become The Enemy.

For example, I can make a much better argument than the Progressives can that the just, caring community they seek is not only a good thing, but the only way we can survive and thrive in the increasingly challenging world we face.  But those very arguments, based as they are on Chaos Theory and the powerful discoveries we’ve made over the last forty years of how highly complex systems work, are invisible to those seeking a more powerful State strong enough to stamp out injustice and want.  Their desire to do good blinds them to the need for allowing people their own ‘Right to Be Wrong’, and anyone resisting their dogmatic approach becomes as evil as those they’ve set themselves to defeat.  Many of these political activists were taught in grade school that we were a ‘volunteer society’, but the lesson didn’t take – and so we’ve become a ‘command society’, leaving them stunned when, as is inevitable, they lose their role as the maker of commandments to those attracted to Governance not by a desire to do good but out of a lust for power.

Right now, if the Left (who are not more or less to blame than the Right, but there is that about reactionary conservatism that precludes thought or introspection) could only understand this one thing – this hard, anti-intuitive idea that you do vast damage when you try to tell others what choices, ideas and actions they should and shouldn’t take – they would find very many citizens on the other side of the political divide who are just as frightened by Trascism as they are, and could create a consensus to remove him from the office he is so disastrously unfit for.  But it will require that Progressives give up the one thing they are most addicted to –


Progressives do believe that there should be limits to the power of Governance.  That’s the true challenge of this moment – Trump is an accident of history, and well deserves being dumped into history’s wastebasket along with Hitler and Mussolini and Saddam Hussein, but he is if nothing else the pinnacle of all the many unintended consequences of the massive ordering that we all labor under.  Not even in the most ruthless dictatorships have there been as many laws and regulations upon a culture, nor have even the worst of them incarcerated as many as we do.  Can the Left come to understand that the regulations and laws they are so passionate about passing, all the good-hearted but unwise ordering of other people they’ve come to depend on as the goal of all their efforts, all these laws stifling and limiting us, have resulted in the ascendancy of the Orange Menace?

That the Orangutan is really the predictable result of everything they’ve been trying to do over generations?  That the Unintended Consequence is about to sink us?  That Trump is just being Trump, and it’s their own chemical spraying of the culture that has given shape to this Silent Spring of a dying nation?

My guess is, no.  It’s just too hard, too complex.  They know they are right about the things they are demanding we all embrace or avoid; and to make things worse, they are right!  And this rightness blinds them to the acid they’ve thrown on the culture.  But if they could – if they could –

It would make all the difference.  We are being choked by the Good Order that both Right and Left have imposed on us, and this has led to the accession to power of a very dangerous group of people who are determined, and well able, to replace our democracy with dictatorship.  This has shocked the Left; and yet the fact that the Right has felt for decades the chains of a liberal dictatorship is invisible to them.  And why shouldn’t it be?  The idea of a Leftist dictatorship is absurd, at least if you already agree with all the commandments the Left hands down; why worry about how others feel about it?  They’re so clearly wrong, and why should we care if they can’t see their own wrongness?  After all, aren’t we right about the things we’re trying to do?  Yes; the Left is as right as was the DDT-spraying farmer who was trying to feed a hungry world.  If the Left could see this, see that all of this is the predictable result of their own choices, and could accept responsibility for the damage they’ve done, it would change the nature of our entire debate about what the hell to do now.

And so I ask you to consider – what do you think are the limits of centralized authority?  What actions do you consider are too intrusive into your own life?  And then think about people you know on the other side of the political divide – that it’s not enough to consider just what you believe to be too intrusive.  What do they feel is too intrusive?

Wisdom comes with realizing that, even if you disagree with the other side about what state actions are too intrusive –

You, and I, and all of us have to live with the results not of where we think the line between ‘me’ and ‘us’ is, but of where other people feel it should be.  Our system spins out of control when too many people find the culture too constrictive, no matter what we may think they should agree to.  Were the Left able to understand this, and generate their own manifesto about such limits, they would find a lot of people they now think are The Enemy are actually their greatest asset.  We must defeat this mad man-child; but to do so, we must first accept our own limitations, and that everyone has the right to be wrong about their own lives.

What Happens Next

The coming terror, as near as History can say

Let’s first get clear on this:  President Bannon is using the approach President Cheney used so effectively – do a really lousy job of protecting us so that when the entirely predictable terror attack succeeds, you can use it to frighten the people into supporting you.


The 911 attack was successful despite what the Commission discovered were at least 125 different appeals to the FBI for investigation of the plotters and their activities; these reports, and probably several times as many other ‘hits’ we never heard about, were turned away as soon as they got far enough up the chain of command that they reached a political appointee.  Thus the most inept, clue-scattering plot ever conceived was, against all odds, carried to fruition.

This is a different gang.  These people now taking control of the nation are stunningly disorganized.  That’s going to result in the same thing; another clumsy terror attack is about to be successful.  We’ve made a lot of enemies, so there is, and has been continuously since WWII, a constant background of attempts to do harm.  Pretty much always, there are groups of people we’ve pissed off, or paid agents of one rogue regime (Russia) or another (Russia), with greater or lesser skill, having, from feverish commitment to drunken braggadocio, various degrees of intent.  The normal, not-spyish-at-all, ears to the ground, non-waterboarding, traditional intelligence procedures, when done by professionals, are quite good at stopping these, though one must expect that some will get through.  When they do, law enforcement is usually adept at finding the plotters and bringing them to justice.

Point is, just doing your job as President stops most terrorist attempts, and letting law enforcement do its job can deal with those few that work; and further, normal, constitutional, rights-respectful procedures in both efforts are entirely competent to deal with such threats.  That’s not to say such attacks are meaningless – just that they have much, much less importance in any real sense than our fear-loving, sadly cowardly public has come to believe.  They can barely stand to be distracted from Cleveland CSI, or whatever burg they’re in now; the average American sees so many cinematicly-perfect murders as it is, that when some actual mayhem finally forces its way into their fake-blood-soaked reality, they – you? – absolutely freak.

So you should get your heads straight on this right off:



Something is going to get through.  Last time, it was purposefully allowed to happen – with all those warnings, you’ve got to believe the Bush people – excuse me, I shouldn’t blame them, they were out of the loop – the Cheney people knew it was coming and did nothing to stop it.  This time it will be much more dangerous, because this group of clunks isn’t even smart enough, or concerned enough, to know what’s going on.  They’ve got bigger plans for America, and don’t care what happens to us little, non-Trump-Golf-Club-eligible peasants.

So we can expect something big.  Out of the constant background foam of anger, some clumsy attack is going to work out; a scruffy teen with a backpack saying ‘Bomb On Board’ is going to get past a Steve Bannon appointee or a major metropolitan area FBI station chief who was previously only a violent anti-abortion protester.

We knew – we knew! – that Al Qaeda was targeting the World Trade Center.  Just a month before those attacks, a major news magazine published a long article about the FBI’s top agent on Al Qaeda having quit in frustration because the Bush administration was ignoring the threat that the Clinton admin had told them was its number one security concern, and then took a job at the World Trade Center because he knew that’s where an attack would come.  True story; he died that day.  John Patrick O’Neill, who ought to be a hero.

But even knowing all that, when the expectable, predictable result – letting an absolute clown show of a plot go through even while hundreds were seeing it being enacted and giving out warnings – when the predictable result happened, we all got behind the bigger clown show that let it happen.

So get this clear right off.  It’s going to happen just that way again, with, again, the predictable result – stupid America, acting out of fear and ignorance, will rally around the President whose rank incompetence allowed an entirely foreseeable, preventable terror attack to succeed.  My fellow Americans, your fragile backbones are about to collapse again.


Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Show courage, refuse to accept the New York Times- endorsed meme that golly, we’ve got to support that goof waving the flag because golly he’s waving the flag, and so we’ve got to support him and drink the cool-aid because gosh, flag, waving, country, flag, look at all those flags the President is wrapped in!

Just refuse to swallow.  Take to the streets, and be prepared to stay there.  No violence – you must not allow violence – put your bodies on the line, knowing the danger that doing so will put you in.  Return no blow.  Just put your bodies in the way, in the way of ICE or James Comey’s Trump-supporting FBI or your state’s National Guard, even knowing they don’t care at all about your life.  Be the Tiananmen Square Tank Man.


But I know you won’t.  You’ll puke your fear and cover everything in it, over-reacting to a catastrophic but pointless event that doesn’t really mean anything past the immediate cruelty of the moment other than the official incompetence that allowed it to happen.  You didn’t see Agent O’Neill’s sacrifice, you didn’t notice the more than a hundred agents who testified to the Commission that they had gotten many alerts all across the nation to the clumsy plotters.  You just saw Little Georgie and all those flags.  You’ll do it again; you’ll start seeing exactly the boogie-men Trumpists want you to see.

My parent’s generation is referred to as The Greatest.  Raised in the Depression, choked by the Dust Bowl storms, they stood up to their fascist threat – though that threat did much more damage because it took them so long to do so – and then made a world strong enough to survive and thrive the uncertainties of The Bomb and the Cold War.

But that was then.  We are now The Land of the people whose ancestors were Free, and The Home of those whose grandparents and great-grandparents were Brave.  You might want to start preparing your spider-hole.





Trumpism Uber Alles

What we can expect now that we all suffer from Trump Personality Disorder

There is an ultimate, foundational lesson to America’s swift lurch from ailing democracy to Trascist dictatorship.  It is invisible, unseen, but of such importance in shaping this moment in history that it successfully explains and describes these otherwise bewildering times.

Highly complex systems are those in which huge numbers of variables inter-relate over long time periods. Order in such systems can only arise from within, from the relationships that the parts of the system make with each other, limited only by their own natures.  Such systems can be highly orderly and productive, as ours has been; but both order and productivity will decline with any attempt to impose order on such systems.  They can be highly orderly – but they can’t be ordered.

When complex systems are treated like simple systems, those complex systems collapse into disorder.  There’s no avoiding this; treating a complex system as if it were a simple one, or composed of simple parts, ensures the collapse of that system.  That’s what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and we’re doing it for only the best of reasons – our inherent decency.

The attempts of Left and Right to perfect our culture through the force of Law have been the force that has driven the disorder that we have seen, and will see with increasing speed and violence, focused on either supporting or opposing the Great Orange Pimp – the new GOP.

The central, shaping point of this is that, though Trump as the particular clown show of the moment was not predictable, the conceptual mistakes of our shifting political system over the last half century have been predictable – and I know this because I predicted it.

It was in the cards that the Republicans, having adopted since the Nixon administration increasingly fascist viewpoints and methodologies, would have found some clown to nominate as their fuhrer, their Peerless Leader. Trump may be a hideous joke we’ve played on ourselves, but I think we can consider ourselves lucky that Ted Cruz is such a revolting person; Trump may be a buffoon, but far worse is great evil with intelligence.  Every other candidate was running for President.  Cruz and Trump were bidding for Emperor, which was just what the Republican voters were looking for.

That’s the disorder that I have seen over my lifetime; that good and decent people of all political stripes, out of their own goodness and decency, have come to accept the seductive, dangerous idea that very real problems that they wish to solve because they are good and decent people can be solved – increasingly they believed can only be solved – by the ordering of government.  The good people only saw the laws, the regulating of behaviors, the programs, and went away thinking the problems had been solved.  They didn’t see the problems were still there, that problems like poverty and addiction can only be relieved on the purely local level by the efforts of individuals; and they certainly didn’t see the little pool of resentment, disengagement and finally fury that each new law created.  Speedbump by speedbump, the culture has been limited, contained, curbed; as the robots on MST3K so brilliantly put it, with guard rails around the guard rails.

But the anger was there to see.  The good people were blind to it, because it didn’t make sense to them – we’re right about the ordering, so who that we need to respect can possibly object, because we’re right? – but it was there, the little pool that one law created adding to the little pool of the next, until there were puddles, and ponds, and streams, and rivers, and lakes of it.  Now an ocean of resentment and anger has brought the disconnected to vote for someone that many of them know is not up to the job.  Their anger, their detachment from any sense of community, has led them to the unwise but irresistible conclusion that it’s better to knock the whole structure to the ground rather than support more imposed structure, more external ordering.

So what’s next?

Since Trump is not so much a human being as a collection of automatic, defensive behaviors – as described by psychology as Narcissistic Personality Disorder – there will be a churning of aides and assistants in and out of the White House.  They will be bewildered by his behavior; but eventually, either from study or just by accident, one or another of them will discover how to deal with his disorder.

The key to working with a personality disordered individual is to learn a very odd three-step approach – something you must do, something you must not do, and something you must do.  And you have to do these three things calmly, with both warmth and certainty in your voice.  So many stimuli that you or I might not notice at all are, to the PD, intolerable; their reaction is strongly emotional, and the result is what strikes us as a childish temper tantrum, and it is.  Psychologists call this ‘infantile omnipotence’.

When this happens, an individual with some authority in the sufferer’s life must immediately make a calm, reassuring statement of sympathy not with the things the sufferer has said but to the emotion behind it, such as:

“Nobody likes to be misunderstood.” Or: “Anybody would be angry at being treated that way.”

This has the effect of reassuring the sufferer that his emotions are okay to feel.  Part of what creates a personality disorder is that the sufferer has an emotional reaction far more powerful than the rest of us feel, even as his developmental insufficiency makes it harder for him to deal with even normal emotions.  His lizard brain, which is where our emotions reside, creates a much stronger fight-or-flight reaction than others, and furthermore throws it into a personality much less sure of itself.  The immediate need, therefore, is for reassurance, not that the behavior is acceptable but that the emotions that lead to it are.

The second part of this three-step is very important, but is the hardest for us to understand; there must not be a connector.  No ‘but’ or ‘although’.  The first and the third parts must be assured and unconnected.

The third part has to be stated completely devoid of judgment or criticism.  The infantile behavior must not be permitted.  You have to state quite clearly but non-judgmentally that it’s not acceptable to act out in the infantile manner so automatic to PDs.  The sufferer has attempted to gain control – omnipotence – over others through means of tantrums – infantile behavior.  This cannot be tolerated.  Thus:

“It’s not okay to abuse those around you.”

And so the wise handler will wait until the tantrum is over, but not one second more, and say something like this:

“It’s perfectly understandable that you, or anyone, would be angry at being disrespected.  It’s not okay to abuse the people around you.”

Why no connection – no ‘but’ or ‘although’?  Personality disorders bring with them great difficulty at holding two opposing ideas in mind at once; in fact, both short and long-term memory are damaged by their developmental instability.  The sufferer is in a turmoil of emotion, and that emotion is so strong that it frightens him; that’s the only really significant thing about the tantrum to the sufferer, that his emotions are so strong and so scary.  So first the reassurance that the emotion itself is understandable.  After all, your emotions are things over which you have no control; you only control what you do with them.  Telling the sufferer first that his emotions are okay to feel, and particularly that they are a thing that everyone feels and so are not some foreign, inhuman thing –  which is what they feel like to the PD – is the first order of business.

But if you connect them to the last part – the firm but loving and non-judgmental statement that the emotion is understandable but the behavior is not – that ‘but’ serves in the PD’s tortured mind to erase the comfort of the understanding.  If you connect them with a neutralizing word like ‘although’, the last part wipes from the sufferer’s mind the first.  And all of this in as calm and firm a voice as possible.  The emotion, and by implication the sufferer, is all right.  The behavior is not.  Any connector, any ‘although’s, makes the first part disappear, and the PD feels only judgment and censure, which in the presence of the un-comforted emotional state becomes excruciatingly painful.

Eventually someone in his world will either learn this, or stumble across it.  That would be very bad news for the rest of us.  As long as Trump continues to bumble along in that pressure cooker of a job, his essential unfitness for his position will eventually destroy him.  But put some personality, some intelligence and ability, behind him, someone who knows how to guide him, to use him – and we’re all in trouble.

As for the rest, it’s a story easily foretold.  All fascist governments have been alike in their essentials; the slow erosion of rights, the calls to mindless nationalism, the imputation of disloyalty to any opposition, the manipulation of fear of the ‘other’; racism, sexism, regressive propaganda.  Trump has already done what Hitler did in his first few days as German chancellor – rid the foreign service (in our system, the State Department) of all expertise so he can fill it with his own followers, the ‘true believers’.

And progressives will do all they can to help.  They will make a great noise, take over the opposition – in our case, the Democratic Party – and become the most visible face of the anti-Trump forces.

All in ignorance of the single greatest lesson that Trascism has to teach us – that the American public fears the command, the sneer, the shaming, the condescension, the rules and regulations reaching deep into their lives of the Progressive movement more than they care about the problems Progressives imagine they are solving but aren’t, and more even than the possibilities of inept governance.  Trump may be awful, but his awfulness can be seen and resisted; Progressives simply cannot imagine that the rest of us are not thrilled at their snide bossiness, that anyone would be so lost in evil as not to instantly see their good.  Trump’s dictatorship will be obvious to all, and resistible; but from the relentless, humorless dictation of Progressivism, there is no appeal.  ‘We’re here to help – so give us your lives’.

And please note; this is being said by someone who has great sympathy for the goals of the Left.  In fact, I think that a convincing argument can be made based on complexity that the just, loving, caring, nurturing society the Progressives are striving for is the only way we can survive our technological advancement.  We need that future – we’ll devolve into inhumanity and greed without it.  But we cannot get there on the path Progressives insist we go down – that of giving control of our behavior over to Centralized Authority.  The only difference between them and me is that I know, as they do not, this essential, Complexity Science-driven fact of advanced cultures of sentient beings –

You can’t get to a better society by force of law.

Other Versions of the Three Laws

More poetic and precise ways of making the point that you can’t tell people what to do

This idea – that no matter how tempting, no matter how certain you are, no matter even if you are in fact correct, you simply cannot tell others what to do, and that all our dependence on perfecting society through the intrusion of centralized authority into other people’s lives is a mistake that destroys the order upon which society is built – this idea is anti-intuitive. That is to say, it seems so obvious, so natural that if your steps are misaligned, and I can correct your gait, I ought to – I must – help you to see your mistake. And if there are a lot of people moving wrong, there will be joint damage and wasted effort and it will take up the society’s resources, and all the wasted energy, so I have an obligation to society to institute rules that ensure everybody walks straight –

This idea seems, intuitively, true – but in fact is very wrong. The truth is that it takes all our thought and focus and experience to steer our own steps. Not one among us is so wise and all-seeing as to guide the paths of others.  You may well think that you have the wisdom and the calling to command the walk that others take through this terrible, wonderful world. You don’t.

Demanding the Correct Path be kept to will not help others as they find their way through this garden of horror and delight. It can only hinder them, and in hindering, will hinder rather than help society, encouraging anger and resentment that eventually destroys the culture. You have not that wisdom, nor do I, nor does anyone. Your path is yours. My path is mine.

So human intuition is a dangerous guide to how an advanced culture advances further, how it solves the problems those advances create. Since this concept, which the Greeks called ‘hubris’, is in such opposition to ‘reality’ as our top-down-ordering minds so strongly and so wrongly see it that it’s hard to put into words – at least for a non-scientist non-writer like me.

But one can find others who have put it well.

There went out a sower to sow his seed. And it came to pass, as he sowed, that some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up, it was scorched, and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundredfold. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
– The Gospel According to Mark, chapter 4, verses 3 through 9

A word of apology and an appeal for forgiveness is in order at this point, because I’m going to talk about Jesus as a teacher, and though this may give unintended offense, it has long seemed to me that the best way to refer to his teachings (at least as they’ve come down to us and assuming, in order to focus on the teachings without reference to the religious, that what we read is what he taught; there is, after all, much reason to think his words have been changed and added to, but to consider them as life lessons, that really doesn’t matter here) is to give him his most probable name, Joshua, or as some put it, Yeshua ben Yosef – Joshua, son of Joseph. No Hebrew names ended in ‘-us’. ‘Jesus’ as a name is something of an accident, a romantization of Joshua, from the Hebrew ‘Yeshua’ to the Greek ‘Iesoua’ (var) to the Latin ‘Iesus’ to anglicized ‘Jesus’.

I’m sorry if that offends. I’m not a religious man, nor have I any interest in any spiritualistic discussions; I don’t feel opposed to it, it just bores me. The unexamined life holds no attraction; Occam and his razor are the only thing in which I have any ‘faith’, that all measures of reality are provisional and subject to change. Well, that’s me. Whatever is true for you is just as true, and that’s fine.

I’ve always been fascinated with this parable. The accepted interpretation is about spreading the word, a sort of salesman’s tool. But think of how well it describes what actually happens every day to you and to me. As you go through your day, every act, every word, every snarl or snap or laugh, every joke you tell or oath you yell, the choice you make to give a nice word or complement or complaint, all of it, the things you choose to do or not to do – each has an effect on others, on the world around you, on your own mind and attitude. You encounter someone; do you smile? Frown? Ignore? Avoid? Every one of those things, or any other thing you might choose to do or not do –

Every one of those things done or not done is a little swirl of energy that flows out from you to affect the world around you. Probably any particular one means nothing, changes nothing. Probably it affects no-one. Just another little eddy in the vast river of life. But maybe it means a little something, maybe very much, maybe everything.

A stranger asks for a little help. You don’t help, or you do; and maybe that small act of kindness helps that stranger to find an answer not only to that problem of the moment but touches him so deeply that it goes on to change his life, to empower him to find better answers to challenges that had defeated him. Or maybe that refusal to help makes him realize he’d come too much to depend on begging. Either way, maybe – just maybe, we can never tell for sure – that stranger, so deeply changed by your kind act or kick, goes on to change the whole world. Maybe he was Christ returned, or the Buddha, or a brilliant scientist down on his luck who goes on to invent a whole new way to end disease or hunger.

Or maybe he’s Hitler.

Either way, the parable holds true. Whether you would or not, you cast your seeds about you with every word, every step, every choice taken or avoided, every second of every day of your life. You don’t need religion to see this. The science of chaos theory makes clear that this not only can be, but since we live within a highly complex system we call ‘society’, must be true. Nothing you can do – not even by becoming a hermit – can prevent these tiny or enormous whirlpools of energy from spinning out from your actions or inactions, your presence or your absence.

By now you’ve scattered seed enough to feed a world. Is it good seed? Did it grow beautiful flowers, or nourishing fruit, or brambles that scratch and trip and make others’ lives more painful? Or did it simply drop where it fell and blow away? For the vast majority of the seed you sow – you’ll probably never know what grows.

It’s the way the world works, but it’s hidden from us. It isn’t the way the world appears to us. That’s not at all an aspect of the world. It’s an aspect of our intelligence. For complex reasons, the tendency to see patterns, whether they exist or not, to see randomness as purposeful design and design as random behavior, is an almost unavoidable result of the hierarchy we assume must be responsible for the patterns we think we see, just as we see our own minds as being in top-down command of our bodies and our thoughts when mind in fact exists in a complex negotiation within the brain and body.

Assume Joshua understood this. How does he explain? By parable, like all his teachings. But such an anti-intuitive idea is hard to weave into a homely tale. A farmer who wasted such a vitally importance resource would be shunned, ridiculed, attacked. Even in my childhood, that seemed obvious to me, and as I grew up and thought about it, it seemed obvious also that this difficult lesson meant so much more than the Sunday school teacher wanted me to believe.

And then this question; how do we know if what we do is good and right?

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
– The Gospel of Mathew, chapter 12, verses 33 through 37

You have no choice about this. You scatter such seeds about you as you walk through this life, by deeds both kind and cruel, words both wise and foolish. You can only know which is which by seeing what does, or doesn’t, grow; the only guidance we really get is by the tree that grows from our seeds, tasting the fruit of it.

This strikes me as an elegant way of putting what I’m clumsily claiming as the rules all technologically advanced cultures anywhere must obey or perish. But I agree that this interpretation is arguable, even before anyone has a chance to inject their own pet spiritual belief system into it. There’s another way of putting it that I find applicable, although this one carries it’s own, though not religious, uncertainty. That’s the myth of a Ring of Power, as beautifully presented by JRR Tolkien in his trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings.’

“And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!”

Thus Galadriel, queen of the woodland elves and herself the bearer of a great ring. Now those of you more schooled than me in Professor Tolkien’s biography, will instantly yelp. We must remember that the good Professor grew up at the end of the Victorian era in England, when just about every other work of fiction was allegory, usually trying to impose some Christian dogma on the reader, and he was heartily sick of it. Still, he was uniquely dedicated to the idea that a mythology, to be of value, must be internally ‘true’ – that is, no matter what fantastical characters and imaginary world the writer creates, the beings within it must behave in ways the reader can identify as human and believable. His creation of Middle Earth, though not meant as a portrayal of the real world, nonetheless successfully held up a mirror to our life, which is to say, we can identify with behaviors, actions, attitudes as those we and others we know might have.

This was terribly important to him, and he put decades of intense effort into its construction, starting as a young man. This is why his works have their power, their endurance; and its absence from the Harry Potter novels, where seemingly random things and arbitrary actions, serving only the author’s needs of the moment and carrying no overarching logic, creates a mythology that fails, mystifying rather than informing the reader.

Thus Tolkien’s great masterwork succeeds, and by so succeeding – by creating a ‘true’ mythology – cannot fail but to represent the world around us, whether he would or no; not in the allegorical literary tradition, but representational nonetheless. And here I would have you consider –

Does the Dark Lord move by magic? It may be that, in creating his minions, he forms them and commands them by his mystic powers; yet when these forces act upon the other characters in his novels, they do so in purely mechanical ways. His armies attack with entirely physical weapons, and even his most powerful followers use blade and knife. His forces attack with all the tactics and weapons of any Earth-bound invading army. He may use terror as a motivating force, as have many very real generals here in our world, but even if his minions use the knife in the dark, its still a very real knife, no matter the unreal hand that holds it.

And isn’t that just exactly as happens here on Earth? His power motivates his forces; is that really any different than the moral certainty and God-given passion of the Crusades? Is the cruelty of the King of Angmar really of a different sort than that of the Trail of Tears and the smallpox-infested blankets we gave to those First Nation victims on their long forced march?

I put it to you that there is not one iota of difference between Middle Earth and the power of the One Ring to rule and to command great armies, and our world with its police so certain of their power and the obligation of the people to respect and obey that the deaths of the innocent are of little moment, actions to be automatically and instantly defended, the killer to be protected at the cost of whatever lie or cover-up is needed.

And for that reason, I see no difference between the Ring of that world, and the Vote in this; once the Ring is put on, or the Vote taken, the result is the same.  It invests its bearer with the right to rule others, a right not to be challenged, a power not to be resisted, leading, as Galadriel well understood – and as you don’t – only to evil and destruction, no matter how good the wearer. Would you have turned away the offer of the Ring, as she did?

Frankly, if you’ve ever voted for a law that reaches into other people’s lives to impose on them your own sense of right and wrong, to define a victimless crime like drug use or contract between consenting adults or the failure to wear a seat belt, then the clear answer is –

No. No, you would not.

Our politics is divided between those who would impel decency according to their God and those who would do so to save the whale and feed the poor. I admit I find the former cause absurd and the latter admirable, but the end result is exactly the same; men in dark uniform, in the night, with all the majesty of Law on their side, destroying people’s lives because of somebody else’s sense of Right and Wrong.

Galadriel passed the test. You failed. Think of this, now, January 20th, as a mentally unstable buffoon takes control of the forces of the State: The bell tolls for thee.

Still, this too is an argument, as any Tolkien scholar would loudly claim. But I’ve saved the best, most beautiful, most telling example of the Three Rules for last:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Because the forces of good and decency in our nation have failed to understand the vital need to defend the first sentence, they have empowered and unleashed forces that will carry out the rest. Because you know yourself to be Good, the reality of your Despotism eludes you. And so you have ensured the mayhem and destruction that is about to follow.

But worry not; cowards – fascism appeals most to the most cowardly of us – always start with the weak, the poor, the defenseless. So you still have time to sit back, comfortable, well-fed, and simply wither them with your (hidden) scorn.

Good luck with that.


And so, good luck to us all.  I say this to you with all the passion I can, as a warning:

Americans need Freedom, but Freedom doesn’t need America.