The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Month: September 2015

I’ll Be Back

Dear Readers: I have been working on a new Cyrus Skeen novel (no. 13) and so I have been absent from Rule of Reason the last two or so weeks. There is of course a lot going on, most especially the invasion of Europe by the Islamic and Third World hordes hell-bent on subduing Europe, an invasion by invitation by ex-Soviet Socialist Angela Merkel, who believes that Germany’s guilt over the Holocaust and WW2 can be expiated by setting loose rapists, murderers, ISIS fighters, and other predators on the German population. That within a decade there will be no more “Germany,” just a fiefdom of Pax Islamia concerns her not. Sweden, again, is as wussy as ever in the face of the hordes swarming into that country. In Germany now calling the macho Muslims Nazis can get you arrested, or at best, beaten up by a Muslim gang (Muslims don’t like to fight one-on-one, never heard of it). So, the way to make up for having killed six million Jews is to let in hundreds of thousands of Jew-hating Muslims so they can take a turn at exterminating them, too. Anyway, I’ll be back in about two weeks.

Philosophy and Anger Management

My
first article on the European immigration/invasion crisis, “’Just
Do it!’ Kant and the Immigration Crisis,
” elicited some very hostile
responses from readers on Facebook, a response I was not aware of until alerted
to the cacophony by a friend. In the name of protecting the identities of the
perpetrators, I will not provide the link to that particular Facebook account
nor name names of those who called me “obnoxious,” an “amateur critic” of Kant,
or just plain but uncivilly and unjustifiably angry. I’m not sure if any of them has yet read “Part
Two
.”

After reading all of the comments on this
particular Facebook page, I left my own, not thinking I’d need to return with
more words to the wise. My Facebook comments here are edited for style and ease
of reading:
To
all the talking heads here who think I’m obnoxious, or who don’t like my
“manner” of commentary, or who think I’m an “amateur critic” of Islam and of
Obama and of Third World immigration and invasion and of all the other plagues
that threaten Western civilization, or who question my grasp of Immanuel Kant:
When
you’ve written four successful fiction series, including Sparrowhawk, the Skeen novels, the Hanrahan novels, and the Fury
novels, and a handful of nonfiction works, plus about 1,400,000 words of
commentary on Rule of Reason in over 750 columns, which do not include
numerous reviews in the Wall Street Journal and various encyclopedias and other
print publications over the years, risked your life by speaking your mind in a
public forum and possibly earning an Islamic fatwa or the unwanted attention of our own government – then you
may presume to judge my “manner” and any other offensive faux pas you wish to accuse me of committing.
As
Howard Roark, the hero of Rand’s The
Fountainhead
, did not discuss the merits of his work with members of the
Architectural Guild, I don’t discuss the merits of my work with people who
don’t seem to have anything else to do but nitpick (and when there are not nits
to pick). This is why I haven’t participated in your discussions here. I can
only thank those few who came to my defense on the matter of the
Kant/Immigration column of mine. And that is all I have to say.
But, the thread went on and on. I
finally felt it necessary to leave another comment.
Mr. K, on whose Facebook page this session of the Star
Chamber is occurring, wrote in answer to another commentator’s remarks: 
Peter:
I have not read Mr. Cline’s fiction, but I have heard good things from those
who have. Mr. Cline’s position on immigration, like his position on LGTB
people, plays right into the hands of the left. Leftists are forever saying:
capitalism is for straight white American men to get rich by oppressing
everyone else who is different. By saying foreigners and people with atypical
sexual desires are grave threats to civilization–as opposed to irrationality
and altruism–is to make their case for them, intentionally or not.
My reply was:
Mr. K:  You could just as well claim
that Rand’s fiction “plays into the hands of the left” and “makes their case
for them, intentionally or not” regarding capitalism and LGTBs and foreigners
and any other current topic one might wish to raise. As Rand didn’t write her
fiction unintentionally to “play into” anyone’s hands, so I do. I can’t control
what others “intend” my fiction to be or to represent.  She didn’t write
her fiction to raise the hackles of conservative William F. Buckley or to cause
indigestion in any leftist critic or intellectual.
You seem to be looking at fiction through a
counter-Marxist lens – the Marxist position being that fiction represents an
expression of class, or of race, or of gender.  Well, let the Marxists
make their “let’s give his texts a close reading so we can see what are his
subtexts and his encoded racial and gender messages” claims, but you shouldn’t
dignify their “deconstruction” of fiction by saying that my or Rand’s fiction
is somehow guilty of bolstering their arguments against capitalism (or freedom
of speech, etc.). 
Moreover, if I recall correctly, Leonard Peikoff once
received a proposal to produce Rand’s novel “Anthem” as a play with the
stipulation that it feature a multi-racial cast. He turned it down. I don’t
know his reasons, but I gather it was because there are no homosexual or
lesbian or black or other ethnic characters in any of her fiction.  There
are some “ethnic” characters in my fiction, particularly and necessarily in the
Sparrowhawk series, and in some in
the Skeen detective series; the homosexual ones are pathetic, the lesbian ones
vicious, and in China Basin there’s particularly
brutal bisexual, but in all the titles reason trumps their race or
gender. 
 I
suggest you sample my fiction and judge for yourself. But don’t approach it
with a “deconstructive” motive in mind, that is, expecting to find my intentional,
unintentional, or subliminal “subtexts.” 
I don’t “do” subtexts. You won’t need a secret decoding ring to get something
out of my fiction. You won’t need to subject it to cryptanalysis. There are no
“signifiers” or “signifieds” in my fiction. Should a deconstructionist claim to
find any, then he’s seeing things that aren’t there.
I half expect someone to reply to that by pointing to my “White
Literary Privilege,” that is, my making all my characters “white” with few
ethnic characters. No, I’m not being fair now. I would expect that from the
harpies of Academe. I will confess that I have one Chinese character in An
August Interlude
.
And then there’s that “anger” issue. So what if I’m
“angry”? How many of Rand’s columns were written from
“anger”? Plenty. Hell hath no fury like a philosopher scorned. But
it’s not okay for an “amateur critic” of Kant to write from
“anger”?
Mr. P left this suggestion:
What would
interest me much more would be to know if Mr Cline is open to having the basis
of his ideas challenged (not so much the principles, which I agree with) if
they were based on facts, on correct observations about current events in
immigration and refugees. I had a similar try with Mr Mazlish, who holds views
similar to his, and got nowhere with simply showing that many of his facts were
not real, but manipulated by his sources. Often they are conflations of truth
and fiction.

The truth is that, sadly today’s Internet and today’s radio and TV shows are
sadly totally unreliable to use as sources to build ideas upon. They are 80%
fabrications and only 20 % truth.
No, Mr. P, I’m not interested in debating my position. I don’t
need to validate it. Read what I have to say, take or leave it. I’ve already
done the heavy lifting. I’m guessing also that because I’m not speaking from a
position of “authority,” everything I have to say can be challenged. Challenge
away. Although Mr. P is right about the bias in today’s news reportage on the “refugee”
and “asylum seekers” investing Europe. But I don’t get my news from the MSM
anymore. I get it from Jihad Watch,
Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs, Gatestone,
The Gates of Vienna, Steve Emerson’s IPT, FrontPage,
and Sultan Knish, among many other sources. Those are all sources I trust to tell the truth. If I
read the MSM’s version of the news, it is with a jaundiced eye and a developed
skill of reading behind the lines, as I’ve read the New York Times for decades.
Here I end this column, my anger having been spent, to turn to
other, more pressing matters.

“Just Do It!”—Part Two

“Act only according to that maxim whereby
you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”
Immanuel Kant, in Grounding for the
Metaphysics of Morals
,
1785
Or, to put Kant’s categorical imperative in
contemporary language: “Do
the right thing!
See my article, “Just
Do It!” – Kant and the Immigration ‘Crisis’
” for an explanation of today’s title.
On September 11th, I responded to Diane West’s
foreshadowing article, “Strangers
in Your Own Land
,” in which she details the inexplicable behavior of
European leaders in wanting to “redistribute” the invasion of the Continent by
raggedy hordes of Muslims and other “asylum seekers” or “refugees.” In her
article she expresses some bafflement about why German Chancellor Angela Merkel
and others are inviting the demise of their countries as Western countries
committed to Western values and civilization:
I
wonder about the wielders of power, the redistributors, seated in their elegant
conference rooms, sipping sparkling water, pronouncing on the fate of millions
of citizens across Europe. German Chancellor Merkel. Swedish Prime Minister
Lofven. European Commission President Juncker, and the rest. Either they have
no understanding of the plight of their peoples; or, they have full
understanding of it. That is, either they are insulated to a point of numbness
to what actually happens to Europe’s people – their churches and remaining
synagogues, their schools and languages, their marketplaces and streets, their
customs and their lore – when a town or neighborhood is engulfed by an alien
and predatory culture such as Islam; or, they sadistically relish the prospect
in the name of something they like to call “European values.”
Well, an alleged “European value” that contains the
kernel of its own destruction is nihilistic and no longer anything, least of
all “European.” In point of fact, an ethical “value” that prescribes the
suicide of the person who holds it is Eastern in nature, rooted in the
anti-life mysticism of various such systems that originated and thrived in the
Far East. It neither European nor Western.
And, you can bet that neither Merkel nor her
cohorts in treason will need to experience first-hand the inundation of Muslim
barbarians in their homes or neighborhoods. They will be living safely and
undisturbed in their gated or fortified communities, away from the chaos they
have birthed in the name of altruism and repudiating genuine, life-affirming
Western values.
I wrote Miss West this comment, edited for the
occasion:
Just read your “Strangers in Your
Own Land” column via Ruth King. Great piece. You are, however, one who also is
baffled by Angela Merkel’s actions and those of the EU privileged class (that
non-elected gang of bureaucrats you briefly mention) in deciding to allow tens
of thousands of innately hostile Muslims to change the character and
demographics of Germany and other European countries.
 I think Merkel’s actions are particularly
vicious; seeing the hesitation and often the resistance of Germans to allowing
even more rapists, killers, and welfare parasites into the country, she
deliberately dumps batches of them amidst the “foot draggers” with a “get used
to it” or “eat it” attitude.
Now, one reason
I wrote the “Just Do It!” piece was to underscore the Kantian premises of
European leaders. Ideas do have consequences, and Germany in particular has
never entirely shaken off the influence of Kant (and, implicitly, of Nazism).
One of Kant’s
categorical imperatives, as I illustrate in my piece, is that you must “do your
duty” even if it means your death – even when you know it will mean your death.
Merkel and Company are saying to their underlings in Germany and Sweden and
elsewhere: “We, the powerful, are doing our duty by welcoming hordes of Muslims
into our countries; you, the hoi polloi,
must do no less; it is your duty to tolerate Muslims even though they may beat
you up on the street, pursue your Jewish neighbors, prey on your daughters and
wives, demand more and better welfare benefits which you will pay for, and
enjoy more freedom of speech than we allow indigenous Europeans; that is, they
are free to spew hate speech against you, but you may not criticize them or answer
them in any way without incurring penalties.”
Merkel harks
back to the bad old days of Nazi Germany:
“If you thought
the scale of Russian rape in Germany once the Soviets occupied it was awful and
once that not very nice man Hitler was gone, you ain’t seen nothing yet! (‘Sie ist noch gar nichts gesehen!‘) Just
look at Sweden, the rape capital of Europe. But then, we deserve a sharp rise
in crime rates among Muslims. Don’t we? We
are all guilty for having killed so many Jews. Muslims hate Jews, and would
like to kill them all, but I’m sure some accommodation can be reached between
Muslims and Jews, so that fewer Jews are victimized. Why are you laughing, Blöd?
“You may not ‘provoke’ or ‘incite’
Muslims to violent behavior by wearing short skirts or giving a Muslim a dirty
look or refusing to serve halal food
exclusively in all European restaurants and schools. If physically attacked by
Muslim youth,  you may not defend yourselves without the risk of arrest or
enduring other penalties. Muslims may do as they please. Yes, we will prosecute
Muslims who commit really, really, really awful crimes; but, for the most part,
we must grant them a free hand to conquer you and subject you to their peculiar
barbarism and harassment and being beaten up by gangs of ‘asylum seekers.’
“Unfortunately,
many of our citizens must learn the hard way that they must correct their
‘White European Privilege’ and not flaunt it provocatively in front of our
Muslim brother citizens.
“Resign
yourselves to the inevitable!
“We know, from experience, that Muslims already here and this new wave
of Muslims – mostly adult males between 25 and 35 years old, and ready to
rumble, jihadist style, if you will –
will not assimilate into German or Swedish or Dutch or French culture; to avoid
conflict, you, the hoi polloi, must assimilate into Muslim culture.
You must accommodate their customs
and practices; it is the height of imperialistic hubris to expect them to adopt
our ‘superior’ ways. It is your duty.
Just do it, no questions permitted.
“We have done our duty, by
opening wide our borders so that you may prove your moral worth by submitting
to Islam; now it is time for you to
do yours. It is the altruistic thing to do, even if it means suicide. Do you
question altruism? Do you question our motives? It is the multicultural thing
to do, even if it means the submersion and more likely the drowning of Western
culture! You don’t think multiculturalism is working? Off with your head!
“If you won’t comply with our edict, then we can only conclude that you
are racists, or bigots, or Islamophobes. You are common lickspittle!   Dare we
call Muslims racists, or bigots, or Europhobes – even though most Muslims have
amply demonstrated those character flaws, intrinsic and prescribed in their
‘creed’? No. However, you will not be
permitted to point that out publically without incurring penalties. Europe
oppressed Islam and Muslims for fourteen centuries. Now it’s pay-back time. We
must do our duty and submit to
Islamic justice! Submitting to Islamic justice is our moral duty! If we don’t, we are immoral!”
Anyway,
Diane, I don’t know how else to better demonstrate the poisonous influence of Kantian
ethics that is governing European behavior. There’s really nowhere else to look
for a reason why Merkel and Company are behaving as they are. It’s a
philosophical issue first, a moral one second.
Merkel and Company say: We must do our duty – it is
categorically imperative! – even if it means soaking and choking Europe in the
swirling sewage waters of Islam!
Glug, glug. The sound you hear is Europe drowning.
Back home, Obama, heeding Rahm Emanuel’s advice to never
let a serious crisis go to waste
, has jumped on the Syrian refugee
bandwagon and announced that he wants to bring in at least 10,000 alleged
Syrians. These will be in addition to the tens of thousands of Somalians and
other Muslims he’s welcomed into various American towns and cities. Don’t get
me started on his open borders invitation to countless Mexicans and other South
Americans who have no cultural affinity with the U.S., but rather a cultural
hostility.
Syrians? Columnist Daniel Greenfield remarked recently
that Syrian passports are as cheap to buy as a European Union bureaucrat’s
honor. In his FrontPage article of September 11th, “Get
Ready: Obama Bringing 10,000 Syrian Refugees to U.S
,” Robert Spencer wrote:
The
Reuters
headline
was “Obama wants U.S. to prepare for 10,000 Syrian refugees next
year: White House.”
Prepare?
How can we prepare? Bomb shelters? Underground bunkers? Metal detectors at
shopping malls? Funeral arrangements? Exactly what preparations does the
President expect us to make?
I
know what you’re thinking: there you go again, Spencer, you racist, bigoted
Islamophobe. Here is Barack Obama magnanimously opening America’s doors to a
desperate population in crisis, and you’re demanding that our nation’s
hospitality not be tendered to these poor people – and why not? Just because
they are “brown”?
Nope.
That’s not the problem at all, although as always, charges of “racism” will be
used to drown out any dissenting voices. The real problem is that last
February, the Islamic State promised to flood Europe in the near future with as
many as 500,000
refugees
. That future is upon us, and it is important to note that the
Islamic State was not simply talking about engulfing the continent in a
humanitarian crisis that would strain its resources to the breaking point. The
jihadis were also planning to cross into Europe among those refugees, and now
they’re boasting that they have done so.
An
Islamic State operative
boasted last week that among the flood of refugees,
4,000 Islamic State jihadis had entered Europe. “They are going like refugees,”
he said, but they were going with the plan of sowing blood and mayhem on
European streets. As he told this to journalists, he smiled and said, “Just
wait.” He explained: “It’s our dream that there should be a caliphate not only
in Syria but in all  the world, and we
will have it soon, inshallah.”
And
now Barack Obama is bringing 10,000 of these refugees to the United States. How
many Islamic State jihadis will be among them? No one can say, but what jihadi
would pass up a chance to go to the Great Satan itself, and win his share of
virgins by destroying an American landmark or mass murdering American infidels
wholesale?
And what about those Syrian passports? Daniel
Greenfield provides the lowdown on just how “Syrian”  most of those “refugees” are in his September
12th column, “Syria
Happy to Help ‘Refugees’ Fake Their Way into Europe
.”
The
official story is that all those poor refugees are fleeing Assad’s oppression.
But
Assad seems eager to
help them go.
Lax
new rules handed down from Damascus allows passports to be issued abroad with
virtually no checks for just £250.
Why
is Assad doing this?
1.
Obviously money – Refugee smuggling is big business and his regime is happy to
take a cut. 10,000 passports being issued in August in Jordan adds up to 4
million dollars or so. Keep multiplying and you end up with half a billion
dollars.
2.
Russia  – Assad is an Iranian/Russian client and Moscow is obsessed with
destroying Europe, particularly the big three players, the UK, France and
Germany. A flood of Muslim migrants will eventually get that job done. Muslim
migration will also destroy Russia, but it’s not like anyone is thinking
rationally here. Instead the various Western nations keep using Muslims as
weapons against each other.
But
that was also true back in the Gates of Vienna days.
3.
Refugees as a Terror Weapon – There’s quite a history of countries using
refugee dumping to destabilize and damage other countries. Gaddafi is a famous
regional example. Assad is warning Europe that the alternative is a flood of
refugees and so it ought to meet his demands. Since Europe can’t actually shut
down the Syrian civil war, it’s a little pointless, but European leaders aren’t
known for having any understanding of the situation anyway.
4.
Mainly this benefits Iran, which can once again claim that it can stabilize
everything as long as its demands are met. Again, all it can do is prolong the
conflict, but that is what
it wants anyway
.
The Washington Post ran an article on September 12th,
Protests
in support of migrants expected throughout Europe
” about the “hardships” of
these “refugees,” complete with the standard tear-jerker photograph of a little
girl screaming her head off. No photographs or videos, however, showing the
overwhelming number of physically fit Muslim men rioting and throwing food and
water back at their benefactors in Hungary and Greece and Austria and trashing
the hostels they’ve been billeted in. It’s not the poor women and children – an
infinitesimal percentage of the Mongolian horde sweeping into Europe – that anyone
is worried about. It’s all those “asylum seekers” in their prime ready to go on
welfare and ready to wage jihad. They’re
escaping  the “war torn” Middle East and
North Africa, you see, so they can wage the same war in Europe itself.
Of course, with Obama, it’s not an issue of his
being captive to one of Kant’s categorical imperatives. He’s just a hateful
nihilist who wishes to subject this country to the same chaos that Europe is
now experiencing. He wants to beat down “whitey” by surrounding him with Muslim
brown and Mexican brown. But, don’t call him a racist. Or an ally of La Raza or
the Muslim Brotherhood or of #BlackLivesMatter.
That would be “racist.”

“There Was a Crooked House….”

…called our Cultural Establishment, of crooked little men
and cash-flush caitiffs and assorted other denizens of the ongoing cultural
scam with their crooked little smiles and crooked sixpence.
Have you ever wondered where all the trashy
literature and modern anti-art comes from? Or, rather, have you ever scratched
your head in wonder about who paid to have it produced? In large part, we, the
taxpayers pay for it, through Federal, State, and local taxes. These
unreadable, boring, super-naturalistic or unclassifiable novels, those
“controversial” or shock-jock or feminist shock-crotch plays, the sculpture
that looks like debris from the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11, the
crucifixes in jars of urine, the welded-together auto parts, the cheapjack,
hand-held camera movies one can find by the wheelbarrow-load on Netflix, each
crediting half a dozen or more oddly-named production companies – these are
also the products of private grant money.

Private sector grants are made annually in the
billions of dollars. So, we can’t blame the Federal, state, or local governments
for everything that’s rotten. The boards and selection committees of dozens of
“charitable” foundations, big and small, are also responsible for littering the
cultural landscape with consumable, throw-away rubbish.

This private grant business – or, I should say the
private grant racket, as it’s as much a racket as are the government’s –
together with the Federal government encourages, promotes, and enables
mediocrity and the otherwise unsalable in the culture. The irrational, the
sub-average, the hackneyed, and the prosaic passed off as “novel” or “radical”
are the touchstones of virtue worthy of a lifetime sinecure, a prestigious
teaching job, and lots of money. It is the practice of elevating the
undistinguished distinguished only by their banality.

Government grants today are the whores’ whelps of
the Depression era Works
Progress Administration
(WPA) and the Federal Writers’
Project
(FWP). Their official progeny are the National
Endowment for the Arts
(NEA) and the National
Endowment for the Humanities
(NEH).
In sum, private and government grants have also
turned fringe writers and artists into the foremost. Receiving a grant,
fellowship, residency, or all-expenses-paid “quiet time” vacation at some
artists’ or writers’ colony or community is one’s official induction into the
cultural establishment. For example, see this Wikipedia entry on one of the
more famous “retreats,” Yaddo:
Yaddo is an artists’ community located on a 400-acre
(1.6 km²) estate in Saratoga Springs, New York. Its mission
is “to nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for
artists to work without interruption in a supportive environment.”[1] On
March 11, 2013 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
It
offers residencies to artists working in choreography, film, literature,
musical composition, painting, performance art, photography, printmaking,
sculpture, and video. Collectively, artists who have worked at Yaddo have won
66 Pulitzer Prizes, 27 MacArthur Fellowships, 61 National Book Awards, 24 National Book Critics Circle Awards,
108 Rome
Prizes
, 49 Whiting Writers’ Awards, a Nobel Prize (Saul
Bellow
, who won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976), and
countless other honors.
There are even sites that promote the writing grant
applications as a profession. Remember those matchbook correspondence school ads
that asked if you wanted to become a painter or a medical billing expert or a
dog handler, and “here’s how”? These are the online equivalents of how to get
started in writing government and private grant applications for yourself, for your
community
or business
, or for
others
.
I began taking notes for this column to discuss PEN,
and out of curiosity I went onto the PEN America Center
site to see what writers – known to me and unknown – were members of this
organization. There seemed to be hundreds
of members
– perhaps, I imagined, over a thousand.  I tried counting them, but it would’ve taken
me two mind-numbing hours to complete just one column of names and as a result
would have grown cross-eyed. And there were two
columns. I got through about 1/20th of just one column before calling it quits.
Then a PEN staffer answered my query about the
number of living, dues-paying PEN members: “Roughly 4,200.”
Red highlighted names are links to a writer’s own
blog site or to some program he is connected to or affiliated with. This
double-columned list, which seems to go on for several scroll-downs, is just
chock full of names of famous writers you have never heard of:
Many of these writers are recipients of MacArthur and Guggenheim
Foundation grants and “fellowships.” The MacArthur Foundation is singular in
its awards to some of the most ditzy “artists” and writers. The mission
statement of the MacArthur Foundation goes:
Now
led by President Julia
Stasch
, MacArthur is one of the nation’s largest independent foundations
with assets of approximately $6.3 billion and annual giving of approximately
$220 million.
The
Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to
building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the
MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global
conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how
technology is affecting children and society.
The Guggenheim Foundation’s purpose is similar in
ends and means:
United
States Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife established the John Simon Guggenheim
Memorial Foundation in 1925 as a memorial to a son who died April 26, 1922. The
Foundation offers Fellowships to further the development of scholars and
artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and
creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions and
irrespective of race, color, or creed. The Foundation receives between 3,500
and 4,000 applications each year. Although no one who applies is guaranteed
success in the competition, there is no prescreening: all applications are
reviewed. Approximately 200 Fellowships are awarded each year.
About those Guggenheim Fellowships, here is a clue:
Often
characterized as “midcareer” awards, Guggenheim Fellowships are intended for
men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive
scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.
Fellowships
are awarded through two annual competitions: one open to citizens and permanent
residents of the United States and Canada, and the other open to citizens and
permanent residents of Latin America and the Caribbean. Candidates must apply
to the Guggenheim Foundation in order to be considered in either of these
competitions.

I’ve seen some of the “productive scholarship” the
Guggenheim subsidizes. It’s on a par with “The History and Social Status of
Maori Tattooing Arts,” while much of the “exceptional creative ability”
sustained by the Foundation is along the lines of the notorious ribbon fence in
California. See also the works of Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano, and Richard Serra.
Many, many MacArthur, Guggenheim and other foundation
“fellows” are “double dippers,” that is, they are recipients of both government
and private grants. To wit:
Anthony Cerulli’s
next project, Sanskrit Medical Classics in Crisis: Language Politics and the
Reinvention of a Medical Tradition in India
, which he will pursue as a
Guggenheim Fellow, explores the impact of European colonial medicine on the
transmission of knowledge in one of India’s classical medical traditions, Ayurveda….
Cerulli
has been the recipient of fellowships from the American Council of Learned
Societies, European Institutes for Advanced Study, Fulbright Foundation, and
National Endowment for the Humanities. He has held appointments as Directeur
d’études invité at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris,
Chercheur invité at the Institut d’études avancées in Paris, and twice as
scholar-in-residence at the Rochester Zen Center in western New York. Since
2008, he has taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where he is Associate
Professor of Religious Studies and Asian Studies. Since 2009, he has been the
Managing Editor of the journal India Review.
PEN (comprising
of PEN International
and PEN World) opposes censorship
and champions the freedom
of speech
of many foreign writers jailed or persecuted by their
governments. Its mission statement reads:
International
PEN, the worldwide association of writers, was founded in 1921 to promote
friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere; to emphasize
the role of literature in the development of mutual understanding and world
culture; to fight for freedom of expression; and to act as a powerful voice on
behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned, and sometimes killed for their views.

PEN is strictly non-political, a non-governmental organization in formal
consultative relations with UNESCO and Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

PEN is composed of Centers, each of which represents its membership and not its
country, and membership of its Centers is open to all qualified writers,
journalists, translators, historians, and others actively engaged in any branch
of literature, regardless of nationality, race, colour or religion. Every
member is required to sign the PEN Charter and by so doing to observe its conditions.
PEN is supported
by a Mulligan stew of major corporations and government agencies, including the
NEA and the Open
Society Institute
(the latter is a George Soros creation to help bring
about Obama’s “transformed America”). But PEN can’t be “strictly non-political”
if is associated with the United Nations, with the Open Society Institute, with
the Ford Foundation, and with other left-wing “charitable” entities.
PEN’s overall opposition to censorship and restrictions
on freedom of speech may be commendable, but it is a policy which operates in a
moral and intellectual vacuum. There are some thirty PEN affiliates in various
countries. It views freedom of speech as an intrinsic value that ought to
thrive in any political context, and as a “right” that should be respected
irrespective of the character of a country’s political system. It is a
“floating abstraction.” Without property rights, there can be no freedom of
speech. If a government owns or controls all venues of expression, then
demanding that it guarantee its citizens freedom of speech is whistling into
the wind.
On a personal note, I would not be invited to join
PEN, nor would I be able to receive any kind of grant, government or private,
even if I applied for one, because my fiction has no “edge.” It’s not
“mainstream.” It performs no discernible or definable “social good.” It wasn’t
written as a “community service.” It would probably be deemed “violent,” “homophobic,”
“sexist,” and even “Islamophobic.”
No, this is not a “sour grapes” column. I haven’t
written it because I’ve been overlooked or ignored by today’s cultural
establishment and wish to send a zinger to PEN or any other leftward cultural
organization. My name and book titles are not household words in the homes of
establishment critics. I’d be unwelcome in any secular synod of contemporary
writers and artists.
Frankly, I’m grateful that I’ve been ignored or rendered
invisible in today’s culture. I’d rather be known for the company I keep, and
that’s all my fans and loyal readers.

“Just Do It!”—Kant and the Immigration “Crisis”

“Act only according to that maxim whereby
you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”
Immanuel Kant, in Grounding for the
Metaphysics of Morals
,
1785
Or, to put Kant’s categorical imperative in
contemporary language: “Do
the right thing!
Just do it!
Don’t think, don’t hesitate, don’t wonder whether or not you will benefit from
doing “the right thing,” because if you think or wonder, then your action will
be impure – nay, immoral! – and won’t make you a moral person. It might be
praiseworthy by others, but the esteem you might be held in by them should not
be a primary consideration. The thought should never enter your mind.
If you hesitate, that means you were thinking.
Thinking is not allowed.
In fact, your wanting to be a moral person by doing
“the right thing” will also disqualify you from being a moral person. To be a
moral person, your doing “the right thing” must be scoured of all personal
interest, it must be eminently and literally disinterested, expecting no kudos, no laurels, and not even
personal satisfaction for having “done good.” When and if you see the “right
thing” to do, you must know it somehow beforehand –– that it is a priori the “right thing to do” – and
take action and just do it.
If “doing the right thing” means leaping trance-like
off a bridge without a Bungee, so be it. Others will mourn your passing, and
reflect on how moral a person you were. You did your duty.
So, if you’ve ever wondered why Europe is
committing suicide by allowing itself to be invaded by hundreds
of thousands of Muslims
and other “asylum seekers” or “refugees” from the
pestholes of the planet – in fact, by inviting
them to swarm over hills, dales, and borders to infest their countries with
their “culturally enriching” primitive practices and behavior – the answer lies
in understanding Immanuel
Kant
’s philosophy of selflessness and self-sacrifice and its death-grip on
Western leaders and Western culture. The ostensive morality is altruism; the
underlying morality is Kant’s nihilistic code of “just doing it” because it is
“good,” even should one’s own consequent death or the extinction of one’s
country be a certainty.  No thought is
required, necessary, or desired. Only a feeling
that action is the “right thing to do.” To Kant, a feeling is a tool of
cognition, a sense organ.  
One supposes that “doing the right thing” like a
robot would elevate one to sainthood, just as Islamic jihadists “do the right
thing,” as commanded by the Koran, and
kill themselves while killing others, to achieve “martyrdom.”  
We know, say the political leaders and champions of
enforced multiculturalism, that by allowing these barbarians to settle in our
countries, it will change the identities, character, and nature of our
countries beyond recognition, repair, and reclamation, but we must do it, because to not do it would be inexcusably immoral. Those
political leaders, of course, will expect their indigenous citizenry to “do the
right thing” in the most disinterested and tolerant manner, even while they
foot the bill for their own conquest and are exposed to the criminal depredations
of the barbarians. If they resist, they can be called “Islamophobic,” “racist”
and “bigoted.” Ordinary citizens thus can be shamed into submission.
These same political leaders would never think to
accuse the barbarians of racism, bigotry, intolerance, and a proclivity towards
crime.
On the other end of the bookshelf are Kant’s two
ponderous Critiques.
The ultimate test in a refutation of Kant’s noumenal
and phenomenal worlds, on the other
hand, is to ask whether or not any sentence or statement in either of his Critiques or in his Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morals is exempt from the
distortions he claims are inherent in his phenomenal thesis.  How can one know, when he writes, for
example, that “the
moral strength of a human being’s will [is] in fulfilling his duty,

he is stating just that, when in reality – or in the reality of his noumenal
world – it might be actually a recipe for bouillabaisse or beef stew or
instructions on how to repair a carburetor? Are printed words exempt from his
phenomenal rule? Are Kant’s books exceptions to his own rules? And if we cannot
know the “real” meaning of his printed assertions – if what we read in print is
merely a distorted rendition of some ethereal, crystalline entity somewhere out
there beyond our ken – then what can we know? Was Kant’s quill “real”? The ink?
The paper? Or were they merely distortions of what they “really” were beyond
even his perception?
Have these questions ever occur to Kant? Has they
ever occurred to any of his champions and teachers in academia? For if Kant’s
works aren’t exempt from the
conditions governed by his noumenal and phenomenal thesis, then his works are
all gibberish, what is being communicated via our distorting senses is rubbish.
And if his works are exempt from his
rules, then Kant was some kind of savant who, like Mohammad, received his
knowledge of the noumenal world magically from the Transcendental angel Gabbo
the Verbose who visited the caves of Königsberg, Prussia. Or perhaps Kant was a
space alien from that alternate, noumenal universe sent here to confuse the
human race.  
However, to quote from a book
review
that questions the inclusion of Kant as a champion of freedom and
reason, citing Kant’s purpose to save religion and a codified submission to all
things mystical, I wrote:
Religion
was what he wanted to save from the onslaught of reason. He appropriated the
term “reason” and then proceeded to eviscerate it of all meaning in two
brain-stultifying Critiques….
Kant’s Critiquesof Pure Reason and of Judgment – are what he is best known for, and through those
works Kant has had a profoundly pernicious and deadly influence on the course
of philosophy and politics in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Immanuel Kant was a malevolent leprechaun who
offered man a pot of lead coated with arsenic.
Robert Spencer of Jihad
Watch
asks: “Meanwhile, no one is bothering even to ask, much less answer,
one central question: why is it incumbent upon Europe to have to absorb all
these refugees?”
Spencer identifies
what Europe’s political leaders refuse to see.
Approximately
104,460 asylum seekers arrived in Germany during the month of August, setting a
new record. That makes 413,535 registered refugees and migrants coming to
Germany in 2015 so far. The country expects a total of around 800,000 people to
seek asylum in Germany this year. And that’s just Germany. The entire continent
of Europe is being inundated with refugees at a rate unprecedented in world
history. This is no longer just a “refugee crisis.”  This is a hijrah.
Hijrah,
or jihad by emigration, is, according
to Islamic tradition, the migration or journey of Muhammad and his followers
from Mecca to Yathrib, later renamed by him to Medina, in the year 622 CE. It
was after the hijrah that Muhammad for the first time became not just a
preacher of religious ideas, but a political and military leader. That was what
occasioned his new “revelations” exhorting his followers to commit violence
against unbelievers. Significantly, the Islamic calendar counts the hijrah, not
Muhammad’s birth or the occasion of his first “revelation,” as the beginning of
Islam, implying that Islam is not fully itself without a political and military
component.
To
emigrate in the cause of Allah – that is, to move to a new land in order to
bring Islam there, is considered in Islam to be a highly meritorious act. “And
whoever emigrates for the cause of Allah will find on the earth many locations
and abundance,” says the Qur’an. “And whoever leaves his home as an emigrant to
Allah and His Messenger and then death overtakes him, his reward has already
become incumbent upon Allah. And Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.” (4:100)
Why is it incumbent upon Europe to have to absorb
all these refugees? Because Europe is the captive of Kant’s categorical
imperatives, that’s why. According to Kantian ethics, it is indeed incumbent
upon Europe to “do the right thing” and welcome
its colonizers, its destroyers, its conquerors. It’s the altruistic thing to
do. How could anyone question altruism? Viewing the scale of rapes, murders, harassment,
welfare costs, and destruction wrought by the barbarians in all these countries
as mere “phenomenal” phenomena  – critics
of Islam and Muslims offer a “distorted” view of thing, don’t you know? They’re
just Nazis – Kantian-bred political leaders see instead a kind of noumenal
Nirvana of cultural “diversity” for having done their “duty.”
In closing, I cede the floor to Ayn Rand, who, in
her essay, “For
the New Intellectual
,” explains what Kant really means by duty and his
whole mare’s nest of non sequiturs.
The
arch-advocate of “duty” is Immanuel Kant; he went so much farther than other
theorists that they seem innocently benevolent by comparison. “Duty,” he holds,
is the only standard of virtue; but virtue is not its own reward: if a reward
is involved, it is no longer virtue. The only moral motivation, he holds, is
devotion to duty for duty’s sake; only an action motivated exclusively by such
devotion is a moral action (i.e., an action performed without any concern for
“inclination” [desire] or self-interest)….“

She quotes directly from the horse’s mouth:
“It
is a duty to preserve one’s life, and moreover everyone has a direct
inclination to do so. But for that reason the often anxious care which most men
take of it has no intrinsic worth, and the maxim of doing so has no moral
import. They preserve their lives according to duty, but not from duty. But if
adversities and hopeless sorrow completely take away the relish for life, if an
unfortunate man, strong in soul, is indignant rather than despondent or
dejected over his fate and wishes for death, and yet preserves his life without
loving it and from neither inclination nor fear but from duty—then his maxim
has a moral import” (Immanuel Kant, Foundations
of the Metaphysics of Morals
, ed. R. P. Wolff, New York, Bobbs-Merrill,
1969, pp. 16–17).
While you may love life, Islamists love death, as
they so often claim, and they are willing to be “moral men” – by Kant’s measure
– and live long enough to kill you, and entire Western nations.
They just “love” doing it.

Review: Classical Liberalism – A Primer

I would recommend that Classical Liberalism – A Primer, by Eamonn Butler, be incorporated
into the standard curriculum of any university’s political science or economics
course, and be made required reading, qua
primer, except I know that in today’s educational environment pigs will fly
first class on Kuwait Airways before that ever happens. I would even recommend it be used as a textbook
in high schools’ “social studies” courses; however, I realize that is as unlikely as
roses blooming on Mars, as well, as long as public schools remain in the
government’s “public” hands. Public schools and universities are in the tenacious
grip of anti-American, anti-Western, anti-freedom, anti-freedom of speech faculties
of Marxists, collectivists, feminists, enforcers of politically correct thought
and language, and the advocates of tolerance for everything but free inquiry.
High school students who survive the dumbing-down
of their cognitive powers and the corruption of the evidence of their senses by
Common Core, and college students who successfully resist, at the risk of their
tenure as students, their incessant political indoctrination in academia, may
or may not have difficulty reading Butler’s brief introduction to the subject
of classical liberalism. It all depends on their commitment to take their
“education” seriously and their willingness to escape or combat the poisonous miasma
of contemporary educational philosophy. It all depends on whether they’re
satisfied with being the passive receptors of the “received wisdom” of Karl
Marx and Howard Zinn and the U.S. Department of Education, or have active minds
that are not satisfied or content with the zealous but pat explanations offered
by their PC professors.
Butler writes that Classical Liberalism – A Primer is “designed for students and lay
readers who may understand the general concepts of social, political and
economic freedom, but who would like a systematic presentation of its essential
elements.”
Butler is director of
the Adam Smith Institute in London, and has written a number of books on the
Austrian and other pro-freedom schools of economics. In this new title he
painlessly and in plain language introduces the reader to the whole panoply of
classical liberal thought throughout the centuries.
As a primer, Classical
Liberalism
introduces the student or lay reader to some fundamental aspects
of this school of economics, such as the upholding of the individual over the group,
the primacy of individual choice in terms of economic action over a government’s
“command economy” policies, and the long-range destructive consequences of
state interference in an individual’s life and in a nation’s economy. What classical
liberalism isn’t, is conservatism,
which bases its advocacy of individual freedom on religious or traditional
argumentation. Stephen Davies, in the Foreword, writes of Classical Liberalism:
It
is a wonderfully clear and well set out introduction to what classical
liberalism is as a system of thought, whence it came, what it is like now and
where it might be going. One valuable feature of the book is the way that it
brings out the differences and variety within what nevertheless remains a
coherent approach to political [and not merely to economic] thinking and
questions of public policy.
Davies explains that classical liberalism is:
…is
distinct from socialism and other forms of egalitarian collectivism such as
social democracy and social or ‘new’ liberalism. It is also not the same as
conservatism, being generally more optimistic, more trusting in reason (as
opposed to faith or tradition).
My chief reservation about all the classical liberal thinkers cited and discussed by Butler – beginning
with John Locke and ending with Milton Friedman and Robert Nozick but excepting
Ayn Rand – is that they all based the moral justification of laissez-faire
capitalism and freedom on either an explicit or implicit altruistic tenet: that
such freedom benefits society, it is for “the greater good,” it is the “greatest
good for the greatest number,” and so on. John Locke, Adam Smith, and Thomas
Jefferson, and their contemporaries can be excused that failing; to have advocated
in a largely Christian culture that man exists for his own reasons and for no
other, would have clashed violently with the overriding moral atmosphere of
their times, and had them excoriated.
But John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer especially
among all the thinkers highlighted by Butler are guilty of having characterized
freedom as a utilitarian value, not as
one that is derived from man’s nature as a volitional being. That failing
continues to be indulged up to the present day. The “practical” values of freedom,
reason and capitalism can always be denied by socialists, collectivists who
seize the moral “high ground” and declaim that these values have outlived their
purpose and assert, as Barack Obama has said, “It’s
time to try something new.”
Which, in his mind, was the expansion of government
powers. Hardly “new.”
Butler, intentionally or not, does credit to his
book by not challenging the altruist premises of most of his subjects. Still,
the moral foundations of classical liberalism, as presented in the book remain
woozy and adumbrate, even though such ideas as natural rights, spontaneous
orders, toleration, and the rule of law are treated at length.  
I would like to have seen Butler agree with Ayn
Rand that laissez-faire capitalism is a primarily a political system, and not
just an economic one. He could very well have quoted her from Capitalism: The
Unknown idea:
Capitalism
is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property
rights, in which all property is privately owned.
The
recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from
human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force.
In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of
physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a
society, is the task of protecting man’s rights, i.e., the task of protecting
him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man’s right of
self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who
initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory
use of force under objective control.
This means that the social system is a coercion-free
one, except in the circumstance of retaliation, and that the state’s role in it
is a subsidiary one. A society governed by a laissez-faire morality could be likened
to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel or to any other luxury hotel; such places are not
defined or known by how many doormen, valets, and maids they employ.
I would recommend Classical Liberalism – A Primer, but with two major caveats, and
one minor one.
The first is that Immanuel Kant
(1724-1804), the Prussian philosopher who never left his home town of
Königsberg, was not a “classical liberal,” even though Butler includes him among
past thinkers who contributed to the literature of liberty. He wrote far, far
fewer words about liberty and governments being restrained in their powers than
he wrote on philosophy, that is, on the noumenal
and phenomenal
worlds and the categorical imperative. He wrote that man
cannot know the “real” ideal world, and that our senses inherently distort what
we think we know. Kant was a dedicated enemy of the Enlightenment, which he saw
as a threat to religion. His categorical imperative is the basis for the notion
of “duty,” which let loose the horrors of Nazism and Communism (and, separately,
Shintoism for the Imperial Japanese government). “We’ve got to break eggs and
heads to achieve the perfect human society, regardless of reason and the lives
we sacrifice.”
Religion was what he wanted to save from the
onslaught of reason. He appropriated the term “reason” and then proceeded to
eviscerate it of all meaning in two brain-stultifying Critiques.
So any scrivenings he may have penned are distracting and utterly irrelevant in
any discussion of freedom and liberty, and should be dismissed as a very minor
footnote in the history of ideas, if even that. Kant’s Critiquesof Pure Reason
and of Judgment – are what he is best
known for, and through those works Kant has had a profoundly pernicious and
deadly influence on the course of philosophy and politics in the 19th, 20th and
21st centuries.
One wouldn’t call Hitler, Mao, Stalin or Mussolini
champions of free enterprise and individual rights just because they happen to
have once uttered those words at some point in their murderous political
careers. Drafting Kant as an ally of classical liberalism is like consulting an
Islamic supremacist on how to fight and defeat ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood.
My second reservation regards an exclusion, which
is the glaring and inexplicable omission of Ludwig von Mises from
Classical Liberalism in terms of a précis or two of
his positions on politics and economics. He is mentioned infrequently, and only
incidentally and parenthetically (e.g., p. xvi and p. 25, ), as a kind of “also
ran” contributor to the corpus of classical liberal literature throughout
Butler’s book. His works are not included in the list of “classical texts.”
There is no web link listed to the Mises Institute.
In the “classical liberal timeline” (p. 125), an early work of Mises’s, Liberalismus, from 1927, is grudgingly
mentioned but not explicated.
By omitting von Mises as a “key classical liberal
thinker,” and giving him very short shrift as an economist and innovator in the
field, Butler does his book a disservice. Snubbing von Mises, possibly because
of doctrinal
differences
between him and other classical liberals, is tantamount to leaving
Victor Hugo out of a serious discussion of the major Romantic novelists of the
19th century. When I read of the differences between the Mises camp and the
other camps, I can’t help but recall that tune, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing
Off
.” I do not know the nature of the animus Butler (and, by implication,
the IEA and the Adam Smith Institute) has for Mises. It would be interesting to
learn what it is.
My minor reservation concerns the designation of
Ayn Rand, whose philosophy is partly but erroneously distilled in the book (p.
105), as a “Russian-American novelist and moralist.” Rand regarded herself as
an American, exclusively, who escaped Soviet Russia. A better designation might
have emulated that of Hannah
Arendt
, who is called a “German-born political theorist.” Rand retained all
her life a heavy Russian accent, but she would have been the first to protest
the hyphenation of her nationality. She came from a Jewish family, but she
would also have objected to being called a “Jewish-American novelist”: she was
an atheist. The précis affiliates her with libertarianism, which she abhorred. She
was also a philosopher, and not a mere “moralist.” Her having written
extensively on epistemology, metaphysics, concept-building and the development of
philosophical thought over time, eminently qualifies Rand as a bona fide philosopher,
and not just as a classical liberal groupie. The skewed distillation of her
philosophy makes her sound like a champion of holistic mental health. She advocated
egoism and selfishness, not “self-actualization,” as the moral foundations of
any political and economic system.
To conclude, I would recommend Classical Liberalism – A Primer as a textbook, but only if I were teaching a course on the subject.
That way I could be certain that my students would be cautioned concerning my
qualified endorsement. And they are important reservations. A likely
alternative text would be Capitalism:
The Unknown Ideal
.
Classical
Liberalism – A Primer
, by Eamonn Butler. London: the Institute of
Economic Affairs, 2015. pp. 132.

Our Cicada Culture

After
mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, fleas, flies and other tiny disease-carrying
insects that seem to exist solely to cause human misery and pain and which are
otherwise expendable, the cicada is the next most useless creature in the animal
kingdom. Ants and worms aerate the soil. Bees distribute pollen.

The
cicada, however, does nothing. It doesn’t even transmit a disease. It’s also so
ugly it resembles an
alien life form
. I’m surprised that no independent film producer has shot
and released “The Attack of the Flesh-Eating Cicadas From Planet Xylophone.” It’s
noisy. The mating call of the American cicada, as anyone who has ever heard one
(or a forest full of cicadas) can testify, is a shrill, high-pitched, compressed clicking similar
to the sound of a car’s gears being stripped. Or a DVD player spinning its
wheels. Or a badly designed alarm clock. It can outshout the mating call of a
tree frog.
I’d
rather listen to a forest full of crickets. That can be deafening, too, but at
least I know the crickets are not coming after me.
Basically,
the cicada provides an “ecological” service to everyone and everything by just
dying. It is basically a parasite. It doesn’t even feed on other parasites. Like
the equally useless bagworm, It sucks on tree fluids, becomes an adult,
reproduces, and dies.  It is only good
for being mulched in soil after it dies, or being consumed by ants and other
insects, and by squirrels, birds, and other animals when they’re desperate.
All
the websites on the cicada say that it is a nutrient-rich delicacy. There are
actually cicada recipes. No, thank
you. I have a hard time picturing people chowing down on chocolate-covered ants
and snails.
One
can’t say about the cultural cicadas that make a lot of noise on Netflix that
they’re “nutrient-rich.” These movies and TV series are not nutrient-rich – at
least not for one’s souls – and are otherwise useless as esthetic and/or moral experiences.
They are not produced for “uplift.” They do not provide what novelist Ayn Rand
called “emotional fuel” for one to pursue one’s values. They are a hybrid
cicada, and can burrow into one’s mind and soul to lay eggs. They are produced,
consciously or unconsciously, to inculcate an enervating epistemological and
metaphysical drone that life is pointless, that happiness is random and
arbitrary, and that existence is just one long sentence of spiritually eviscerating
numbness with no chance of relief or commutation.
In
her essay, “Art and
Cognition
,” from The Romantic Manifesto, Rand writes about an artist’s
choice of subject:
For instance, consider two statues
of man: one as a Greek god, the other as a deformed medieval monstrosity. Both
are metaphysical estimates of man; both are projections of the artist’s view of
man’s nature; both are concretized representations of the philosophy of their
respective cultures.
And,
in her essay, “The
Psycho-Epistemology of Art
” in the same volume, she observed:
Is the universe intelligible to
man, or unintelligible and unknowable? Can man find happiness on earth, or is
he doomed to frustration and despair? Does man have the power of choice,
the power to choose his goals and to achieve them, the power to direct the
course of his life—or is he the helpless plaything of forces beyond his
control, which determine his fate? Is man, by nature, to be valued as good, or
to be despised as evil? These are metaphysical questions, but the answers
to them determine the kind of ethics men will accept and practice; the
answers are the link between metaphysics and ethics. And although metaphysics
as such is not a normative science, the answers to this category of questions
assume, in man’s mind, the function of metaphysical value-judgments, since they
form the foundation of all of his moral values.
Finally,
in that same essay, Rand clarifies the purpose of art, whether it is written,
auditory, or visual:
Since man lives by reshaping his
physical background to serve his purpose, since he must first define and then
create his values—a rational man needs a concretized projection of these
values, an image in whose likeness he will re-shape the world and himself. Art
gives him that image; it gives him the experience of seeing the full,
immediate, concrete reality of his distant goals.
Since a rational man’s ambition is
unlimited, since his pursuit and achievement of values is a lifelong
process—and the higher the values, the harder the struggle—he needs a moment,
an hour or some period of time in which he can experience the sense of his
completed task, the sense of living in a universe where his values have been
successfully achieved. It is like a moment of rest, a moment to gain fuel to
move farther. Art gives him that fuel; the pleasure of contemplating the
objectified reality of one’s own sense of life is the pleasure of feeling what
it would be like to live in one’s ideal world.
Our
cicada culture offers drama that doesn’t let one rest, tells one that the
achievement of values is irrelevant and perhaps even discriminatory against
those who have no life-affirming values, and that the ideal world is one of
chaos, anarchy, and medieval monsters. Cases in point:
House of Cards:
I
have written about the American
version
of House of Cards (HOC)
before, here,
here,
and here.
Its star and co-producer, Kevin
Spacey
, is a committed Democrat, but in this series, being filmed now for
its fourth season, all the villains are Democrats together with a handful of
Republicans. A man is known by the company he keeps.
He is a Democrat and a friend of Bill
Clinton
, having met the former U.S. President before his presidency began.
He described Clinton as “one of the shining lights” of the political
process.[9]
According to Federal Election Commission data, as of
2006, Spacey had contributed $42,000 to Democratic candidates and committees.[45]
He additionally made a cameo appearance in the short film President
Clinton: Final Days
, a light-hearted political
satire
produced by the Clinton administration for the White House Correspondents Dinner.
In September 2007, Spacey met Venezuelan
president Hugo Chávez. Neither spoke to the press about their
encounter, but hours later, Spacey visited the government-funded film studio Villa
del Cine
. In December 2007, he co-hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert with Uma
Thurman
.
Spacey
is doing the Democratic Party no favors by portraying his party as a gang of
liars, thieves and frauds. So one wonders what his ulterior purpose is in
producing the series.  There are no heroes
in this series, only a few patsies and pawns and other victims of the
power-lusters, the politically and pragmatically ambitious, and the social
climbers. In HOC, Spacey plays Frank
Underwood, a ruthless Southern politician who rises to occupy the White House. He
is a murderer and an adept manipulator of others’ lives and values.
There
is no “uplift” or metaphysical reification of rational values in HOC. Many politicians and fans of the
series have claimed that HOC’s
dramatization of Washington politics is realistic and spot-on. Significantly,
President Barack Obama
is a fan of the series
, as is former president
Bill Clinton
. No surprises there.
The
“message” of HOC is that, for those
who are not in the power game, who have no connections in Washington, D.C., and
who wish to live their lives unimpeded and uncontrolled by government and
conniving politicians, your life is hopeless, futile, and owned by the likes of
Frank Underwood, his wife Claire, Doug Stamper, and other nightmarish
creatures. Spare them the “fiction”
that your life is your own. HOC goes
out of its way to drill into one’s mind that one is merely a gnat to be crushed
or manipulated by efficaciously evil men (and women).  
Orange is the New Black:
This
is, basically, the feminist depiction of American society, which, according to
the series, is nothing but a larger, minimum security prison, in which all men
are contemptible liars and philanderers and exploiters. Or they’re wussies. In
the series,
most women are okay, a few are exemplars of the superiority of women, and a few
not so much. Some are absolutely crazy. The series is billed as a “comedy
drama.” I have not laughed once. I have previously reviewed the series here
and here.
The series revolves around Piper
Chapman
(Taylor Schilling), a woman in her thirties living
in New
York City
, who is sentenced to 15 months in Litchfield Penitentiary, a
minimum-security womens’ federal prison (operated by the “Federal
Department of Corrections”, a fictionalized version of the Federal Bureau of Prisons) in upstate New
York. Piper has been convicted of transporting a suitcase full of drug money
for her then girlfriend Alex Vause (Laura
Prepon
), an international drug smuggler.
If
you have a strong stomach and want to see a cast of some of the homeliest,
unappealing, repulsive women ever to enter the acting field and then be assembled
under one camera, and also get graphic lessons in lesbian and bisexual sex, then
this is the series for you. There is even a token black/transgender/father/ex-firefighter
hairdresser character. There is quite a lot of #BlackLivesMatter and
#HispanicLivesMatter racial conflict for your delectation; whites get trounced,
of course. There isn’t a single character in the series whose circumstance or fate
should concern anyone with the least quantum of self-respect, or whose gaze is
fixed upward, and not down on the sewer.
Believe
it or not, the series is produced by Jenji Kohan, who looks like the
man-hating dyke that would produce it, but who is actually married with
children. Nevertheless, it is a man-hating series.
Mad Men:

This
series, starring John Hamm as Don Draper, a Madison
Avenue advertising executive, has reached its nadir. I watched a bit of Season
7, and yawned so much that tears began sting my eyes. I devoted some words to
the series here.
I had watched it infrequently up to the last episode I could tolerate, which wasn’t
the series conclusion. Don Draper is a boring non-entity. Literally. He took
his name from a soldier killed in Korea. Much of the story is about his hiding
his stolen character, or doing penance for it. The series is also as much about
the pseudo-fraudulent mechanics of advertising as it is about “sexism” and
adultery and even, occasionally, about racism and homosexuality. All of the
main characters attempt to escape from their predictable and boring lives by
having affairs here, there, and everywhere, and, of course, by drinking gallons
of high-octane liquor. This is a “slice of life” series.  I am done with it.
The Walking Dead:
This
hit series about a zombie plague, The
Walking Dead
, ironically has interesting conflicts between its principal
characters, and some interesting characters, as well. Overall, most of TWD’s dramatis personæ are more fascinating and addictive than are the “slice
of life” ensembles of HOC and Orange is the New Black. The series is
an extended if unpleasant study in emergency ethics, and will debut its sixth season in October. I
am not a horror-film fan, not in the least. I have argued for decades that the
director who made horror films “respectable” was Alfred Hitchcock, with The Birds, in which reality
revolts against man in metaphysical chaos. This film could also be deemed the
first environmentalist horror tale.
The
series has grown an enthusiastic “cult” audience that surpasses even that of HOC or Orange is the New Black. This is basically because the various
directors and cast members have developed characters whose actions and fates viewers
actually care about. So, the series is not just about plague survivors lopping
off zombie heads. It is also about their having to deal with survivors who have
turned rogue killers whose specialty is killing other survivors. The basic
survivor group, lead by Georgia ex-deputy sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln),
at first holes up on a farm (overrun by zombies), then in a maximum security
prison (attacked by the residents of another survivor enclave), and encounter a
“safe” haven, Terminus, whose residents turn out to be cannibals who serve up
anyone luckless enough to think they’re “safe.” The series is not without its
plot holes and lapses in consistency, but in a culture ruled by moral zombies
on TV, in film, and in literature, this is, by my own standards, the “best” there
is to watch.
A
final note on the absence of “nutrition-rich” art in our culture, by Ayn Rand,
in her essay, “Our Cultural
Value Deprivation
”:
The form in which man experiences
the reality of his values is pleasure . . . . A chronic
lack of pleasure, of any enjoyable, rewarding or stimulating experiences,
produces a slow, gradual, day-by-day erosion of man’s emotional vitality, which
he may ignore or repress, but which is recorded by the relentless computer of
his subconscious mechanism that registers an ebbing flow, then a trickle, then
a few last drops of fuel—until the day when his inner motor stops and he
wonders desperately why he has no desire to go on, unable to find any definable
cause of his hopeless, chronic sense of exhaustion.
There
is no enthralling pleasure to be experienced in any of the works discussed here,
except in the brief twinkle of light seen through a gray overcast sky or
through an impenetrable and increasingly poisonous fog.
Rand
noted in her essay, “Art and Cognition
in The Romantic Manifesto:
Potentially,
motion pictures are a great art, but that potential has not as yet been
actualized, except in single instances and random moments. An art that requires
the synchronization of so many esthetic elements and so many different talents
cannot develop in a period of philosophical-cultural disintegration such as the
present. Its development requires the creative cooperation of men who are
united, not necessarily by their formal philosophical convictions, but by their
fundamental view of man, i.e., by their sense of life….
The movies are still in the
position of a retarded child: born into a collapsing family, i.e., a
deteriorating culture, an art that demanded Romanticism was left to struggle
blindly in the midst of a value-desert. It produced a few rare, almost
accidental sparks of true greatness, displaying its untouched potential, then
was swallowed again in a growing tide of mediocrity.

I love movies. More and
more, to watch them, however, I must go back in time to enjoy them, to a time
when the cicadas did not rule the roost, as they do now. But were Rand alive
today, doubtless she would conclude that films are not governed by a tide of
mediocrity, but by a mob of medieval monsters. I don’t take these monsters for
granted, as the norm, as the expected. Anyone who has read any of my fiction,
will know that.

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