World Peace Game

For a class this week, we watched a TED Talk — this generation’s Bible I think — about a teacher who has created a game where students (usually gifted and typical only in height and weight I presume) are grouped into nations/countries that each work to create wealth and assets as well as solve major conflicts with other nations. Swell, right?

Hell naw. Not in my opinion. This generation of privilege checkers seems to just keep on adding on to the privilege of some. I’m starting to think a liberal is one who stands on the back of the lower class and protests the government for their posture. Instead of focusing on the problems in education and working to solve them for all, it has occurred to this teacher — and many others — to educate his students by not really educating them at all. So far as I can tell, the game is primarily going to teach students to think a bit too much of themselves and assume they know whats best for everyone else. Some day, after graduating Yale and enjoying the Ivy League school’s sex week and all it’s many other manifestations of a liberal infestation, these students will enter some high ranking position at a corporation or bureaucracy and, having never been poor, start throwing around ideas about how they can do their duty to the poor.

But instead of helping the poor, they’re just going to increase their bottom line, get more poor people on welfare or at the nearest office of the state asking for something their employers won’t give, and, among at least 100 other things, receiving education based on the latest, innovative, cool, fucking spectacular theories that promise new learners for a new world. In reality, they’ll be new learners ripe for the great crippling that is this society’s maturation process. The kids who never grew up playing games that taught them to believe they could solve everydamnthing in the world will still, just as they are now, grow up to believe anything except that they can solve everydamnthing in the world.

Lately I have been toying with the idea that perhaps education is successful. With so many theories out there all boiling down to education as an institution for preparing children for the world they’ll enter, I think it is safe to say they have prepared children for the world they are entering. The thing is they have not changed who the children are fundamentally. You can give a dog the latest gear, a $60 raincoat, some nice rubber boots, and put it on a ship to sail the great pacific — that doesn’t make it a sailor.

Likewise, education has prepared children for the world, but the nature therein the students resists and cannot cope successfully.

Of course this may be a strain of the idea. I’m willing to secede the point and just say it’s a failure. But there is something to make of all the talk about trying to prepare students for the world while educators and administrators are also filling their heads with the idea that they can believe in anything, be anything, do anything, and they will still be special and magnificent.

I guess what I mean to say is that students enter the world beholden to the ideas they’ve been inculcated with for 18 years or so. A failed education wouldn’t even leave a mark, save for the scar brandished by the regret of having spent so long doing nothing.

Anyways. This World Peace Game should be an example to those in and outside of education of what selfward narcissism we are capable of sticking in a classroom and calling it learning.

“You and your soapy eyes
Called it off so late at night
But your hand’s on your heart
Cause your head’s always right

Juno, you’re tired
Juno, you’re tired”

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Capitalism’s maiden name

I once said Capitalism’s maiden name was Slavery. It would appear that Pope Leo XIII (pray for us) might agree:

a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself. 

From Rerum Novarum

When I was atheist, I considered myself socialist — though only having read The Communism Manifesto like once and not very well understanding it, and joining a local chapter of the Socialist party, I had no clue what the hell that really meant aside from people shouldn’t be poor and should have enough money to take care of themselves.

The timeline of my conversion to Catholicism overlapped my disillusionment with Socialism, insofar as I understood it. I started to think Capitalism wasn’t so bad, that with a free market it’s just a system in which people are given the freedom to do the right thing for one another.

A few years later and all I can say is it takes the precision of Grace to nuance this era (or error) in my life and not call it a second innocence or bald naivety. For the same reason that we believe capitalism could expand and satisfy great portions of human need and want, it only makes sense to accept they absolutely will not. The very freedom with which we — the loosest application of the pronoun I’ve ever granted — assume will work to the benefit of the greater lot of mankind is just the instrument for nearly all of the destruction we view in the world.

I would come to blows to defend that point. Or at least stare emptily into the eyes of someone defending it while I pray that Christ’s Most Sacred Heart shall have mercy on me. It should be obvious, especially to conservatives, that the same spoil of character which we easily accuse this or that celebrity of when they behave publicly like they don’t know how to behave is the exact and same dissolution of virtue likely to be common among those who do not step in front of a camera but instead decide, for their own profit, where the camera looks.

The moral failures are mostly obvious, or so I’ll assume. But what is not so obvious is the fact that no one really has a choice about what kind of system they’ll participate in. Capitalism and democracy don’t belong in the same sentence without their incompatibility made painfully salient. Chesterton noted both these points in a chapter of Utopia of Usurers. In “The Church of the Servile State”, he anticipates that

the new community which the capitalists are now constructing will be a very complete and absolute community; and one which will tolerate nothing really independent of itself.

In fact, it’s very easy to argue that not participating in the capitalist’s rules of engagement, community, society, or whatever it is to be called, results in poverty and the plainest tyranny — plain but no less tyrannical than capitalism.

For, on the second matter, that of democracy’s incompatibility with capitalism, Chesterton offers this poignant insight further in the same paragraph:

In every serious doctrine of the destiny of men, there is some trace of the doctrine of the equality of men. But the capitalist really depends on some religion of inequality. The capitalist must somehow distinguish himself from human kind; he must be obviously above it — or he would be obviously below it.

They will not fund public schools out of charity, they send their children to schools most people never heard of; they don’t eat with everyone else, nor the same food as everyone else; they afford better healthcare, housing, cars; have the lucrative jobs every MBA student dreams about; they, in short, have set themselves far apart from everyone else.

They rule from afar. Proper to the office of keeping slaves, they do well to promote a lively discussion  on the terms of our enslavement, rather than the rectification of any particular society itself which would abolish such a predicament. We may argue about free tuition, affordable healthcare or housing, raising wages, or immigration. We do not argue long, seriously, and publicly — not with the same manner — about breaking up banks, firing CEOs when their company misbehaves, making public shareholder meetings, evicting banks or corporations and keeping others out. We do not suggest a new law that would present a community with the opportunity to vote on a new commercial or apartment/condominium project, nor to have any of the towering traffic magnets knocked down once built.Who voted that California should spend over 3 times as much to build a train instead of desalination plants ; who did so after years of a drought?

Capitalist are frank about the despotism of a government that would so dare tell people how much they can earn or influence the behavior within markets. In the next breath they are defending America for being a democracy resplendent with freedoms and liberties. We have begun to talk more of free markets than free societies or, even more important, free communities. It is because we are being ruled, not represented. Capitalists have failed time and time again to recognize how much harm can be done to the average person because of vicissitudes in the workplace and economy, gentrification, free markets where perversion and vice are the rule of thumb, etc.

Leo XIII was entirely correct to claim the worker’s position is little better than slavery.  Chesterton was right to say that we can vote however we choose about issues we in fact have not chosen. Christopher Lasch was correct to claim that choice in America has come to mean choosing Brand X or Brand Y.

Thus, for all the facts, I think I am just in being angry with capitalism as an absolute failure of mankind.

Privilege

There is some truth to what Liberals say  about privilege, that it ought to be checked. A proper understanding of privilege would see it as the view that one’s actions go without harm, that one’s lifestyle isn’t at risk of making the world a worse place. This is a perception most people are guilty of, which is why it really should be examined by the individual.

But by focusing on power and institutions, Liberals cannot see that privilege is something far more human and therefore far more common. They cannot see how there might be some privilege at work in the mind of a lower class or poor black or hispanic person just as much as there is in the typical, white college graduate. Minorities regularly behave taking for granted the effort required for the things they have — they disrespect their parents and friends, wear expensive clothing, grow fanatic over celebrities, sexualize themselves and others, etc. If the solution to the privileged white person is for them to be educated and to check their own privilege, then it must be admitted that they really lack an ignorance of their privilege. By extension of this logic, if the a colored person is capable of the same exertion of disrespect and enjoyment of privilege, then they too are simply uneducated. This makes both the colored person and the white person equally ignorant, and therefore equally culpable for their actions.

Once more this points towards the individuals responsibility to achieve a greater understanding of their privilege. The liberal cannot point the way forward here though, unless they begin to mention virtue, specifically humility.

After all, every parent, every one that plays an active role in the life of their child and wants them to grow up to appreciate their efforts as a parent and the world around them, wants their child to grow in humility.

There are fewer opportunities for humility now than there were just 50 years ago. Part of the flourishing of what some consider America’s golden era is that it was just on the other side of America’s toughest years. Industrialism was at the right stage — which is to say ripe — and the economy was just booming enough for people to have the opportunity to begin consuming greater amounts while the harsher past wasn’t entirely out of hindsight. The combination was people who appreciated the food, clothing, shelter, cars, jobs, and society they had because the time when they didn’t have it still lived in in the memory of those living.

Generations have passed and the scarcity of earlier times has faded along with many difficulties Americans faced. We now expect our basic needs to be met. People who once fought over bread may now fight over Jordans.

For now, I leave the question of how to pass on and grow in humility unanswered. It is clear, however, that it must begin with a personal acquaintance with either hardship or the willingness to see that one’s actions are not without gravity or potential harm.

Blaming Yourself (Part 1)

I will begin this blog with a post dedicated to conservatism and also sharing some of my thoughts on why they should, as the title suggests, blame themselves.

I wouldn’t be a conservative, nor Catholic, without recognition of an objective reality in which truth may be found without failure, and upon which we all depend to guide our consciences. Having read Russel Kirk’s Conservative Mind cemented the convictions that were gathering by reading Christopher Lasch and online publications like First Things or The American Conservative. Cracking open Conservative Mind again for the first time in I cannot say how long, I find a sentence directly relevant:”‘Nature’ is not simply the sensation of the passing moment; it is eternal, though we evanescent men experience only a fragment of it.”

Here Kirk is discussing our nature as beings. I won’t presently repeat the overwrought, copious, and too-often quoted misconceptions certain Liberals have about nature. It is enough to say that some just think our nature changes, or is changeable. I found myself falling into this pattern of thought at one point, much to my eventual dismay. If my nature is changeable, and I can change it or develop it — or if the society to which I unfortunately belong could — why hasn’t it? Or has it? If it has, why am I not happy?

In Kirk the hint at an answer could be found, as well as a warning. He continues: “We have no right to imperil the happiness of posterity by impudently tinkering with the heritage of humanity.” The modern world is in many ways an island. It has really sought to set itself apart from the past in as many ways as possible. Those who consider themselves Traditionalists know the result, some of them from their own experience: a feeling of desolation and alienation, as if you have no place.

I expect that none of this is new to many people reading, at least not the conservatives. That is why I hold conservatives largely responsible for the way America has turned out. Degradation does not occur in a vacuum, a culture doesn’t decline by it’s nature. If that is what someone believes, I should hope they’re another nihilist blasting crust punk or something, banging their head to emotive rhapsodies about humanity being shit.

As a mostly religious group, conservatives should be the last to hang their heads and say there is nothing left to do but wave a white flag (such as the progressive wolves among the right) or insulate themselves in faith groups and those of like minds (like many traditionalists and many other conservatives).

The right can complain about the liberalization of every institution all they’d like, but where is the thrust of anything else into the midst of these liberal-infested parts of society? Moreover, where are conservatives actually attempting to embrace the good outside of their own faith and in a secular society? The truth is they are not. And for such despondency, they suffer along with the rest of America — that is, if anyone still believes sin leads to suffering, not just damnation.

But I don’t know that conservatives do believe this anymore. People have been very eager to hear my own story of conversion, and I don’t doubt that many people I know or have met really understand suffering is inevitable in the life of a person who takes seriously the basic tenets of liberalism, but with all that knowledge, all I can see is that they’ve avoided liberalism and liberals, instead of clarifying a way forward for them.

Thus, if conservatives want to look for causes for our modern predicament, they ought to blame themselves. Over the years, they’ve withdrawn from every art form, the public expression of ideas, politics, the sciences, and public life in general. What’s left is a smorgasbord of liberals and republicans who used to identify as liberals. That is a behemoth of a subject to be tackled another day. Presently, it should concern conservatives how we are to get a remotely conservative society — child-safe music and film, pro-life laws, modest fashion, novels and stories ranked among alongside classics, lower crime rates, lower imprisonment, lower debts for our nation and ourselves, greater church attendance, more respect for the Constitution, and a standard of living that isn’t numeric and economically grown but virtuous — if conservatives are merely content to resign to inside jokes about the risibility of liberalism, church on Sunday, and knowing you didn’t commit any sins today.

This is a failure that keeps repeating itself with no end in sight. The most recent event which suggests some sort of change is the election of Trump, which is hardly a change so much as the culmination of defeated spirits sighing all for too long. Trump is only the man who promised more positive changes (a la Obama) to the right audience. Hell, it couldn’t even be called the right audience with a margin of a few percentages separating Trump’s victory from Clinton’s defeat.

If conservatives wish for things to change, they will have to start acting like the truth is not a blunt object to beat over the head of an opponent once their backs are in a corner. The right will have to find a temperament more akin to Christ’s although still rather human — a painful middle that is moderated by a desire for joy and the readiness to suffer to do the right thing.

We can start by no longer apologizing for capitalism or borrowing logic from liberals to baptize everything a wealthy person does with their money. It should be the greatest shame of conservatives that more CEO’s aren’t fired more often, that a free market clears the way for strip clubs, pornography, gentrification, underemployment, and welfare for those perfectly capable of working, the rising cost of food, a diet no doctor would recommend, and, among plenty more, allowing their own offspring to be saddled with debt before they’ve even entered their career. But for them to see how greatly these things conflict with the Gospels and their conscience, the right will have to encounter them somewhere outside of the internet, outside of the news, outside of any medium less palpable than the human heart.