The Setting Beliefs

In Japan’s chronically suicidal (and, in 1948, eventually successful) Osamu Dazai’s slowly-burning melancholic The Setting Sun, aristocrat-in-spite-of-himself, Naoji, tells his sister, Kazuko, that they are “[v]ictims of a transitional morality.” However, given the circumstances that have led to their victimhood, he can confidently confess that “[i]n this present world, the most beautiful thing is a victim.”  Set in early postwar Japan, these siblings, along with their mother, struggle to come to terms with the ideologically-violent social transition that has left few options for impecunious aristocrats other than to engage in perceived plebeian debauchery or to resign oneself to a dignifying death.

Ever since I finished this novel a few weeks ago while sitting on my back porch listening to a summer rainstorm [That particular detail seems pertinent for reasons only inchoately known to me], I have had the elegant spectres of these characters haunting my mental hallways, attic, and basement. As enduring literature resists containment to both time and space, ghosts of literary merit tend to wander freely across regional and periodic boundaries as well. Though the majority of William Alexander Percy’s life was spent in the Mississippi Delta, his influence, much like Will Percy himself when he was a young man, has traveled far beyond  “The Most Southern Place on Earth.”

In the introduction to Will Percy’s Lanterns on the Levee (though non-fictional, unlike The Setting Sun, like it one reads about the melancholic displacement of those caught in a time of transitional morality), his nephew and writer, Walker Percy, contrasts his uncle’s adopted Stoic vision to the Catholic one that Will left behind as a child but one that Walker would adopt later in life as an adult.  In describing this contrast, Walker writes:

While granting the prescience of much of Lanterns on the Levee’s pessimism, we must, I think guard against a certain seductiveness which always attends the heralding of apocalypse, and we must not overlook some far less dramatic but perhaps equally significant counterforces. Yes, Will Percy’s indictment of modern life has seemed to be confirmed by the holocaust of the 1940s and by American political and social morality in the 1970s. But what would he make of some very homely, yet surely unprecedented social gains which have come to pass during the same terrible times? To give the plainest examples: that for the first time in history a poor boy, black or white, has a chance to get an education, become what he wants to become, doctor, lawyer, even read Lanterns on the Levee and write poetry of his own, and that not a few young men, black and white, have done just that? Also, that for the first time in history a working man earns a living wage and can support his family in dignity. How do these solid social gains square with pronouncements of decline and fall?  

Walker wrote his introduction in 1973. Will’s work was first published in 1941. All any of us can do, based upon some degree of historical knowledge and a fundamental understanding of human nature and a willingness to call life as we see it, is chart where things currently stand and make predictions to the best of our abilities. Most of us probably will not have the luxury to see our predictions vindicated–or the opportunity for mortification if they should fall short of the reification mark. I suppose that it is for the best either way. [I must say, though, back in 2005 when I was working in the kitchen of Red Lobster–What else does one do with a master’s in philosophy? –I was raving about the coming dissipation of the US based upon a loss of social cohesion, idiotic military adventures in the Middle East, and a burgeoning astronomical deficit. Gee–who is now very likely to be elected on that platform? Petty as it now may seem, I will gladly take all those “You’re unpatriotic–don’t you believe in America?!” comments in regard to my opposition to the US’s immoral and delusional warmongering in the Middle East and gleefully say that I told you so. Well, gleefully if we were not talking about the destruction of Christianity in the Middle East and the non-refugee immigrant/terrorist/rapist invasion of Europe–along with its attendant displacement of native white populations and local cultures. //Rant finished//] However, based upon what I think I know and what I think I see, Will’s measured pessimism seems more vindicated than Walker’s cautious optimism. In other words, decline and fall. Yes, civil rights have come a long way since the 40s. However, what do we see now in the US? A racial utopia characterized not only by a rainbow-colored playing field of equal opportunity but also by a leveling of achievement among the harmoniously-living races? Like one of those gleefully post-racial  BBQ pictures in a JC Penney’s Memorial Day Sales catalog? How about the knockout game and an incipient race war. Yes, women now, despite the persistent myth to the contrary, make as much as men and can support themselves and their families. The result? Women, by and large, are just as unhappy as their wage-slave male counterparts, and the largely-manufactured tension between the sexes only seems to have reached an all-time high. Granted, I suppose that in theory climbing the economic ladder is still possible in the US, but according to this wage calculator from MIT, if a man in Mississippi (a state-by most reckonings, I would presume–in which it is not very expensive to live and my home state as well) wanted his wife to stay home with their, let us say, three children, he would need to make at least $25.32 an hour. How many people do you know anywhere who are making this?  In particular, what jobs in Mississippi–and how many of them–give workers hope that they, if they can keep their noses to the grindstone, can and will achieve this wage? Also, in the meantime, what about that wife and three children? Furthermore, most of us have yet to begin considering what is going to happen to most people–skilled and unskilled–as automation begins to replace them. Oh, but you should, dear reader, you should.

I suppose that I can go on, but if I make a habit of always composing long blog entries, then I will be even less inclined than I currently am to post regularly. I wish that I could honestly say that I still had–at least in any significant way–the Christian virtue of hope concerning our species and where we are headed. I do not. Let us say that my morality is currently in transition. While I do not think that it would be entirely accurate to say that I have abandoned the Faith, my Christian beliefs have begun to wane, and I am finding more solace than I ever thought that I would in Stoic bullheadedness. Decline and fall. Yes, the sun is setting, but there is still much that can be done before the coming darkness. Why? Perhaps is there is no truly satisfying answer–some will, some will not. Yet, in a world that seems to be increasingly populated by those who will not, those who still will seem to coming to their own personal Naoji’s dilemma.

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This Is It, Right?

Having been raised the way I was, I often find myself thinking that something has value only if it has an obvious eternal correlation, yet perhaps a moment has supreme significance simply because of its fleeting temporality.

I am led to think of this song from the greatest TV show: Northern Exposure. (What other show will you ever, for example, see an argument between a Lutheran lay person [consubstantiation] and a Catholic priest [transubstantiation] while arm wrestling? Nowhere.) Anyway, this was the series finale closing song; it captures everything:




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White Student Quota: It’s for the (Black) Children

In this gleefully subversive thought experiment, Steve Sailer proposes that it would be in the best interest of children from low socio-economic, err, family situations (read: non-East Asian/non-Jewish minorities), if schools maintained a quota for white students, and, as such, this should be a  cause célèbre championed by liberals. But why? He refers to a recent post by  Washington PissPost, Post— reporter Emily Badger in which she begins by concluding the following:

Wealthy parents are famously pouring more and more into their children, widening the gap in who has access to piano lessons and math tutors and French language camp. The biggest investment the rich can make in their kids, though — one with equally profound consequences for the poor — has less to do with “enrichment” than real estate.

They can buy their children pricey homes in nice neighborhoods with good school districts.

In other words, according to Sailer, “the worst problem with being poor in today’s America is not that you can’t afford to buy enough food, it’s that you can’t afford to get away from other poor people.” Being poor leaves one with very  few options but to remain surrounded by those who are also indigent. Though the Internet, as in so many other ways, may act a game changer in this regard, those who remain in economically depressed environments remain in environments where most are more concerned with hustling and “getting theirs” than with cultural enrichment and personal development. (If anyone thinks that I am relying far too heavily on materialistic premises, spend just an hour tutoring inner-city youth, asking them, while you are there, to describe their home lives and then get back to me. Of course, as with racial explanations, one can wrongly view environmental explanations as the key to unlock any door of inquiry, but I digress….)

This makes sense, as cruel as it must be for those who have very little recourse to individuals or groups outside their social purview. Looking at my own undergraduate private university experience, I see how I benefited from meeting people my age who came from families who had exposed them to philosophical investigations and to fine arts performances and to theological discussions. Not to say that such exposure was totally absent from my upbringing, but those newly secured peers challenged me in ways that I had not been challenged previously–and in ways that I would not have been challenged, most likely, had I stayed in my neighborhood or had I attended a state university, as I had originally wanted to do. (I was also initiated into the art of heavy drinking, but with class.) Though my parents may not have articulated this, I am sure that this projected exposure to higher levels of, well, society played a role in their insistence that I attend a private university.

Going back to the Post article:

“Forty to fifty years of social-science research tells us what an important context neighborhoods are, so buying a neighborhood is probably one of the most important things you can do for your kid,” says Ann Owens, a sociologist at the University of Southern California. “There’s mixed evidence on whether buying all this other stuff matters, to0. But buying a neighborhood basically provides huge advantages.”

As important as neighborhoods are, though, the rub is this: given that school district eligibility is factored into housing costs, the better the school district, understandably, the greater the mortgage, thus creating, as is pointed out in the Badger piece, severely economically segregated (and, I would wager, racially segregated) communities. However, if a minimum white quota (and let us thrown in an East Asian and a Jewish one for kicks) were required in each school district, this might contribute to an equalizing of housing prices.

Sailer, however, as he is wont to do, notes the following challenge: “Of course, there isn’t much evidence that the kind of progressive education techniques that liberal white school districts like are good for blacks. Blacks seem to do best in KIPP-style boot camp schools with strict discipline and back to basic fundamentals. But not a lot of highly educated whites want to send their 1.6 children to KIPP charters.”

Well, shucks.


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Taxes or Not, Automation Cometh

Ramzpaul has suffered a hard time as of late. Through regular video releases on his YouTube channel over the past few years, his race-realist confessions, nationalistic views, Heartiste-inspired critiques on modern sexual relations, and criticisms of Israel have made him an anathema to the neo-conservatives who dominate the major media outlets and who might otherwise find in him a co-belligerent in many cultural and political battles. According to such outlets, however, anything he says can be disregarded and discarded because he belongs to the demonic alt-right, a Luciferian assembly who, as the accusations go, worship at the altar of racism, sexism, and antisemitism. Whatever–such quivering conservatives have been dismissed by the alt-right as cuckservatives, conservatives-in-name-only who care more about popularity and power than principles. Many in the alt-right, though, consider Ramzpaul a sell-out, for he is on friendly terms with Asians (even finds Asian women romantically viable) and has taken photos with Jews. He has even found the gall to befriend a pick-up-artist-turned-cultural-commentator of Iranian descent (Roosh) and to criticize the goons of assorted (and they are; there is no unity) 14/88 groups. This only shows that the alt-right is just as prone to excommunicate those deemed impure in doctrine as the most zealous cultural-Marxist outfit.

Personally, I think Ramzpaul has merely shown that he thinks for himself–a dangerous habit regardless of one’s ideological preference.

In this recent video, Ramzpaul argues against taxing the 45% of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes. While those in the upper income brackets starting with the top 20 percentile pay a disproportionate amount of all federal taxes, the amount of federal taxes that these people pay does not dramatically affect their lifestyles. They still have it good. In other words, while those in such brackets may not appreciate having to shoulder such an asymmetrical burden, they  do not have to worry about not being able to pay for their children’s shoes or food for their families as a result. This, according to Ramzpaul, cannot be said about the 45% who pay no federal income tax. Were they to be taxed, very drastic sacrifices would have to be made. While this is all food for thought (if you can still afford it), the most interesting points made in this video concern automation and robotics. He rightly notes that commentariats on neither left nor the right are talking about the *guaranteed* displacement of laborers through advances in automation and robotics that is coming.  According to Martin Ford, a founder of a Silicon Valley software development firm, in his The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, the displacement will not devastate only skill-less/low-skilled/industrially-trained workers, but it will also include a large number of white collar jobs as well: lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc. Ramzpaul’s position is for the institution of a guaranteed income, one that will keep those who no longer are employable from starving and/or, as I would add, rioting–rioting that would probably pit humans against robots who need not fear the pains of desperation.



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Warped Wordbook

The late L.A. Rollins, humorously vitriolic curmudgeon, responded to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary with his own Lucifer’s Lexicon.  In Rollins’s The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays, one finds Lucifer’s Lexicon: An Updated Abridgment. It is from the Abridgment that I take the following gems, gems so polished that the wit is blinding. This work can be obscenely irreligious at times, but I suspect more people would be offended at the lack of political correctness (the reigning moral orthodoxy). Here are a few that amused me:

Agnostic, n. A Godfearing atheist.

Anti-Arabism, n. The other anti-Semitism. Fortunately for many American bigots, this prejudice is perfectly kosher.

Bullshit, n. A fertilizer essential to the growth of civilizations.

Capitalism, n. Moneytheism.

Conservative, n. One who favors limited government and total war. One who is against exercise because Jane Fonda is for it. As Franklin Roosevelt said, “A Conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk.” Of course, Roosevelt forgot to add that a Liberal is a cripple who wants to force somebody else to pay for his wheelchair.

Decadence, n. The idolization of idiosyncrasy. Sleeping with Satan on satin sheets. Sowing one’s Wilde oats while going against the grain.

Egalitarian, n. One who believes inequity is iniquity. A morally superior person.

Holocaust, the, n. A smokescreen obscuring the atrocities of the Allies and the Israelis.

I Do, Adieu–to freedom.

Isolationist, n. A selfish bastard who stubbornly doesn’t want to be bothered with slaughtering foreigners.

Liberal, n. One whose heart bleeds when the Federal budget is cut. One who believes that a woman should have the right to kill her fetus, but not with a gun. One who believes that gays should be allowed to join the military and form a Special Forces group called The Lavender Berets.  [hahaha]

Lynching, n. An application of participatory democracy to the judicial process.

Nirvana, n. The state of absolute felicity attained by blowing out one’s brains.  [hahaha]

Reality, n. An escape from drugs.

Subsidy, n. Government aid to the plunderprivileged.

World War II, n. The bigger-budget, bigger-cast sequel to World War I, which was also more successful at the box office.

Zenophobia, n. An irrational fear and hatred of paradoxes.



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Elvis “Unchained Melody”/Melodious Self-Affirmation

Before my family moved to mythical Mississippi, I was a lone teenage Southern Californian Elvis fan. Had we moved any later than we did, I am sure that I would have eventually found my way into the rockabilly scene. (Yes, I may or may not have worn a leather jacket and may or may not have used Vaseline to style my hair.) Discovering his Sun Sessions album was a game changer. After that, whenever anyone wanted to wag (or hoist, as the case would have been) fried-peanut-butter-and-banana-Vegas Elvis at me, I could simply hold up that album and snarl, all Elvis-like. Whereas ancient Greek boys looked to Homer, ancient Romans boys the Greeks, ancient Hebrews  boys the prophets, and well-formed Catholic boys the saints (when they were not-so-secretly looking to the Greeks and Romans), I looked to Elvis. I projected myself and, thus, my destiny, onto him by identifying with a mamma’s boy who was shy and who stuttered, but who found a release in music that allowed him to transcend barriers–barriers arrogant but, ultimately, unable to oppose a driving–if not divine (just don’t ask a Southern Baptist or a traditional Catholic)–raucous backbeat.

The above video features an Elvis only weeks before his death. What strikes me about this video (apart from his powerful vocal range) is the following–his need for affirmation. At 1:42 he looks toward the camera/audience with beaming self-satisfaction, as if he had just completed a task given to him by a parent or teacher. At 2:20 he looks at the man holding the microphone as if here were looking for a sign of approval. The, at 3:24, he looks back at the audience/camera and nearly demands acceptance. He almost seems, as it were, to mouth the plea “Cheer for me.” (Nota bene: dear reader, please do confuse this with Jeb Bushwacked’s “Please clap.” One issues from an irrepressible urge to please; the other from a pathetic attempt to make sure his audience has not fallen asleep.) What I see underneath the glittering jumpsuit is the shy Southern boy who never fully felt as if he had been accepted, universal popularity notwithstanding.

Elvis was an alpha male. If there is any doubt, watch his 1970 Vegas performance of “Suspicious Minds,” focusing on the way he toys with both the audience and the musicians on stage with a zero-fucks-given attitude. Yet, for all the talk about frame control and irrational self-confidence, Elvis’s vulnerability–the uncalculated kind–still reveals itself. This, and not his Ed Sullivan bravado, is that which with I still relate–a sense that I have fallen just short of the mark and am hoping that nobody catches on to me.




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ISIS: Hopelessly Modern

London School of Economics political philosophy professor John Gray serves (most likely, unwittingly) as a satisfying corrective to modern liberal thought. Though the general tenor of his work is one of a breezy nihilism, he penetratingly points out the flaws of liberal thought. In his work Straw Dogs, he reminds, ” Modern humanism is the faith that through science humankind can know the truth–and so be free. But if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true this is impossible. The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth” (26). The Western democratic belief that through scientific developments and political schemes humankind’s level of knowledge and capacity for justice will continue to advance unabated is the core belief of liberalism. However, as Gray point outs, “The humanist belief in progress is only the a secular version of [the] Christian faith.” In other words, liberalism takes what is Christianity’s emphasis on personal perfection and externalizes it as a type of political manifesto, a program for political expression. Given this, liberalism is, despite the philosophically materialistic elements that commingle, essentially a religious vision that provides its adherents with a narrative of meaningfulness. Thus, as with many traditionally religious believers, liberals may be less inclined to pursue disconcerting truths than they are with keeping a narrative–and, as such, themselves–dominant.

In the latest issue of Lapham’s Quarterly,  Gray once again points out the new clothes of the democratically elected un-emperor of the liberal narrative–this time in regard to ISIS, one of the most pressing currents concerns, a concern that is constantly discussed in the most appalling unhelpful terms. Gray sets out to set to buffet this secular cow.

To begin, Gray claims that ISIS is utterly modern in its violent methodology:  “ISIS has brought with it many atrocious assaults on civilized values: the sexual enslavement of women and children; the murder of gay men; the targeted killing of writers, cartoonists, and Jews; indiscriminate slaughter at a rock concert; and what amounted to the attempted genocide of the Yezidi. All of these acts of barbarism have modern precedents, many of them in the past century” (par. 2). He goes onto mention a few names that many liberals might be disinclined to associate with ISIS: Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot. Yet, all of whom, like ISIS, were far more inspired by the events of the French Revolution than by medieval ecclesiology, as the slur oft goes.

The sharpest shiv that Gray twists in-between the ribs of the think global crowd is this:   “None of these features [e.g., such as its eschatology] go any distance toward showing that ISIS is other than modern. A transnational crime cartel, rapidly expanding apocalyptic cult movement, and worldwide terror network, ISIS could have emerged only in modern conditions of globalization” (par. 6). The rise of ISIS, contends Gray, especially given the US-facilitated chaos that arose in the wake of regime changes in Iraq and Libya, should not shock us, but it does because most of us–at least in the Western world–assume the liberal vision by default. (Perhaps not by default, as all of us imbibe it in our political mother’s milk.) To accept this would mean that we accept that “now as in the past some of the most modern movements are among the most barbaric. But to admit this would mean surrendering the ruling political faith, a decayed form of liberalism without which Western leaders and opinion formers would be disoriented and lost” (13). This, in turn, might lead to the further realization that “[c]ivilization is not the endpoint of modern history, but a succession of interludes in recurring spasms of barbarism” (17).


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