Repeating myself 2011 (part 3)

We’ll go up through October with these. November and December would seem less like a “year in review” than like a “remember last week?” kind of thing.


Anti-government, anti-democracy

They do not believe in it. They do not believe in government of the people, by the people and for the people. They cannot believe in it because they do not believe in government. That word, to them, means one and only one thing: tyranny. And so they respond to Lincoln’s phrase accordingly — as though he were advocating tyranny of the people, tyranny by the people and tyranny for the people.

And so again I ask, if not democracy, then what? If we are not to govern ourselves, then how are we to be governed?

That’s just it, comes the reply, we shouldn’t be governed at all.

Hence my use of the word “hippies” above, because here we arrive at a bit of naive anarcho-utopian fantasy right out of Woodstock.

And Woodstock, or something like it, is the likeliest short-term outcome of the World With No Government they seek. The freeway will shut down and the basic infrastructure of food, water and sanitation be undersupplied and overwhelmed amid the chaos. The original Woodstock festival was billed as “3 Days of Peace & Music,” and three days of peace is probably as much as one could hope for in such an anti-government Anarchotopia.

Anarchy is unstable and unsustainable. It is always a very brief, transitional phase — the interim during which all that might prevent the strong from preying on and subjugating the weak is swept away. And once it is swept away, the strong are free to impose their will unimpeded. Power abhors a vacuum.

After that Woodstock interim, the final result of this anti-democracy fantasy would likely end up resembling not the first Woodstock, but its later imitations — the corporatized and commodified Woodstock-brand festivals at which everyone is free to buy what they are told to buy. The Galtian overlords running this corporate Aquarian Age will, for a monopolistic price, provide access to food, water, sanitation and security for all who can afford it, for as long as they can afford it and no longer.

To whom much has been given

What was Rick Warren thinking? That’s easy. He was thinking the same thing as anyone is thinking when they let something so venomous slither through their lips. He was thinking, “I feel spite towards people who earn so little income that they do not owe federal income taxes and I shall now express that spite by saying something false and bullying and spiteful about them.”

A more interesting question is why was he thinking that? Where did this spite come from? And what does he imagine to be true of his followers — virtual and actual — that would lead him to assume that they would share this spite, that they would find it clever and amusing and, God help them, edifying?

… Maybe it’s unfair to single out Rick Warren, because the sinful spite he boasted of is proudly proclaimed in thousands of pulpits by thousands of clergy who also weirdly seem to think that such resentment will earn them praise, who also seem to mistake this viciousness for a virtue.

So why is that? There’s yet another interesting question. Why do so many of our supposed spiritual leaders think that expressions of contempt for the very people Jesus loved the most are acceptable? Why would they ever imagine that such contemptuousness toward the vulnerable would be seen as praiseworthy?

It’s impossible to imagine Rick Warren or any other evangelical pastor tweeting, “Just spent an hour surfing Internet porn sites — awesome!” Yet it barely raises an eyebrow when they repeatedly send forth expressions of resentment toward the poor — accusing those who lack possessions of lacking virtue, accusing them of envy or laziness or unworthiness.


The full scope of the ‘climate-change’ conspiracy

But it doesn’t stop there. It couldn’t. As vast as we have already seen this conspiracy to be, its success depends on it’s being much larger than just what we have described so far. The conspiracy requires that it be much larger than that. It can’t be just the scientists and the sciences, the colleges and universities, the libraries, newspaper and the media who are in on it.

There are whole nations that are in on it. The Netherlands is in on it. And Bangladesh, Mauritius, Kiribati, Bali, Tuvalu and Grenada are all in on it. What do those nations all have in common? Only this: They have all chosen, for some reason, to become outspoken proponents of the climate-change conspiracy.

And rather than stand up against those nations’ lies and expose them as frauds as ought to be done, the other nations of the world have chosen to play along. Europe is in on it. The entire United Nations is in on it — not just the member states, but also the non-governmental organizations that work with it. …

Who, then, can still be trusted? Who is left untainted by the corruption of this vast web of lies, fraud and deceit?

Not the military. The U.S. military is in on it too, from the highest levels of the Pentagon on down.

Not business. The business world is in on it too. The property insurance companies and reinsurers are, if anything, even more strident in promoting the conspiracy than the scientists themselves. …

Richard John Neuhaus did not think dominionism was a myth

The main difference between dominion theology in 1990 and dominion theology today is that 20 years ago, the dominionists were eager to exaggerate their influence. Today, having achieved much greater influence, they are eager to deny it.

R.J. Neuhaus noted in 1990 that “the proponents of this viewpoint do not hesitate to say, a theonomic social order is a theocratic social order, and a theocratic social order is a Christian social order.”

But today they do hesitate to say that.

And they hesitate to admit that they ever said that.

Or that anybody ever said that.

And they’ve got people like Joe Carter and Doug Groothuis and Larry Ross lining up to write weird little screeds affirming that this was never said and that when it was said no one was listening and besides R.J. Rushdoony and C. Peter Wagner are just figments of Sara Diamond’s imagination.

… But “a theocratic social order” was what they said in 1990 and they meant it then.

And they mean it still, even if they’ve become savvier about saying it quite as bluntly or honestly. Dominion theology is not a myth. It remains relatively small, but it is larger than it was in 1990.

And its ongoing influence continues to be, as Neuhaus said, disproportionate.


Two graphs illustrating the relationship between bigotry and stupidity

Consider this one more piece of evidence that the choice to embrace bigotry is also a choice to embrace stupidity.

Since we began with one graphic, let’s conclude with a second:

We know how to get out of this mess

The current situation of low demand/high unemployment is quite literally a text-book problem. It is a problem with a clear, effective technical solution. This is stuff, as Baker says, that we know how to fix.

One thing that has always amazed me about the Dark Ages was how we managed to stop knowing so much of what we had previously known about, for example, sanitation.

One of the nice things about the Roman Empire was the way it didn’t require one to walk around ankle-deep in human excrement. Much of the former Roman Empire later opted to revert to having feces in the streets. I can’t believe that was a matter of preference. I don’t think people in Rome were muttering, “I wish the Empire would just fall already so we can get rid of this wretched sanitation and go back to raw sewage in the gutters.”

And yet that happened.

Europe knew how to solve the problem of sanitation and then, fairly suddenly, it stopped knowing how to solve that problem. And it took more than a thousand years of filth, stench and disease before they would figure it out again.

We seem to be doing the same thing right now. We’re ankle-deep in a mess we know how to fix, but we’ve chosen instead to pretend we don’t know how to fix it. That stinks.


The inevitable injustice of unreality and Al Mohler’s ongoing crisis of faith

Al Mohler’s trademark combination of ignorance and condescension can be grating, but he’s generally less irksome than most of the culture warriors of the religious right because he’s not primarily interested in partisan politicking. He’s primarily interested in defending the faith.

And by “defending the faith” I mean defending his faith, which is a fragile construct he has come to believe requires the affirmation of several extrabiblical claims that have been thoroughly and devastatingly refuted by “secular knowledge.” Specifically, Mohler believes that if evolution is true then the Bible is a lie and there is no God, Christ is not risen, we are still dead in our sins and we are of all people most to be pitied.

And unfortunately for Mohler, evolution is, in fact, true.

So what we find in this column is what we find in nearly every Al Mohler column — him clinging white-knuckled to religious “truth” that he conflates with the Bible while shouting his refusal to accept nonsectarian truths that stubbornly refuse to care what he thinks.

While that gives me a measure of sympathy for Mohler and his perpetual crisis of faith, I also think it means he should never be allowed to serve on a jury in a case where someone stands accused of arson. Justice requires that verdicts be based on facts and evidence, on what Mohler would call, pejoratively, “secular knowledge.” For those who do not accept the legitimacy of such knowledge, there can be no such thing as justice and no such thing as truth.

There’s absurd, then obscene, then Paul Ryan

Rep. Paul Ryan says that Ayn Rand is “the reason I got involved in public service.” Rand would have regarded that term, “public service,” as an oxymoron, but let that pass. Rand’s importance to Ryan is underscored by the fact that he requires his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged. …

You like Ayn Rand? You were inspired to run for office by The Virtue of Selfishness and you require your staffers to read her didactic novels? Fine. But at least have the courage, honesty and decency to own that and to own up to it. If that’s what you believe, then don’t talk about the safety net for the poor as though it’s something you believe in, or approve of, or want to sustain.

Just tell the truth instead.

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