Monday, April 25, 2016

Social Disorder and the Threat of Chaos

In ancient Mesopotamia - the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers - the old stories tell of great battles between the forces of order and of chaos. To the Sumerians, for example, the greatest evil wasn't rulers who resembled Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Instead, the greatest evil were the forces of chaos that might break free of their prison to shake the foundations of the cosmos.

In one Sumerian tale, Tiamat, a great dragon, threatened the peace of the gods. To subdue her, they sent out a hero, Marduk, equipped with divine weapons. Once he defeated Tiamat, Marduk created the cosmos from her (not quite dead) body. The Sumerians celebrated the new year with a reenactment ritual that would prevent Tiamat from rising up again to destroy the order of the cosmos.

In ancient, as well as today's terms, the greatest evil consists of those forces that threaten the order of the world. Those forces threaten to disestablish the institutions that maintain and protect society from falling apart.

Progressive dogmas threaten the institutions that hold and bind our society together. By their very nature, they pick at and unravel the fabric of society, and in so doing, threaten chaos and evil.

As just one example, look at the dissolution of the institution of marriage.

During the 1960s, the free love movement took hold, promising a Utopia of unrestrained sex with no consequences. Despite being utter nonsense - sex does indeed have consequences - the movement appealed to those who valued sensual pleasure above the ideals of a stable society based on long-term male-female relationships. Immorality became the "new" morality. Unleashing the dragon with the promise of sexual paradise, progressives succeeded in unraveling the institution of marriage and family to leave chaos and disorder in its wake.

The consequences over the past 50 years have been astounding:

  • Marriage Devalued - Divorce rates soared, only to be stemmed by a staggering drop in marriage.
  • Children Devalued - Abortion rates soared, peaked in the 1990s, and have remained around one million children destroyed each year.
  • Women Devalued - While teen pregnancies have reached their peak, the number of single mothers, especially among blacks, has reached epidemic proportions.
  • Disease - Sexually Transmitted Diseases have reached epidemic proportions with about half of the US population having some kind of STD.
  • Men Devalued - Progressive dogma blames men, especially white men, for all of society's problems. The consequence of this dogma is an increased number of men who do not actively participate in the well-being of marriage, families, or society.
  • Biology Devalued - Progressive dogma has destroyed concepts of maleness and femaleness, denying biology, to promote the ideals of sexual preference and gender fluidity.
  • Marriage Broken - So-called "gay marriage" denies the social purpose of marriage, reducing the institution to a love relationship between any two (three? seven? twenty-four?) individuals.

Keep in mind, this is only one example from the progressive ideals to let Tiamat loose in the world. Some of the progressive chaos will have grave consequences as we continue to unravel marriage or to wantonly slaughter the unborn.

As with many ancient civilizations, the path from order to descend into chaos caused the fall of even the greatest civilizations. Can we continue on such a path without suffering the same consequences? Even the Sumerians, who built their city 5,500 years ago knew the answer to that question.

Those who progressively unleash the dragon have forgotten the lessons of the past.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Students Protest Everything, Then Complain, "It's Not Fair!"

I've been teaching a long time and have had many, many, many occasions where students felt entitled to special treatment. (Did I mention there were many occasions of this?)

The conversation starts something like this: "I don't feel that I deserve..." or "I don't agree with your policy on..." or even "I have so much work, I can't...."

Being the consummate professional that I am, I have always responded to students with a polite restatement of my class policies.

The usual answer to my responses is, "That's not fair!"

That is the new logic, propagated by the left. The argument goes something like this: I don't like X. I will complain in order to change X. If X doesn't change, I will protest until I change X. If X still doesn't change, it's not fair! I will then start name calling.

In just one class this semester, four students complained the first week of class. All wanted me to change class to suit them. All began the process by 1) arguing how unfair their life was, 2) demanding special treatment, and 3) telling me how mean/unfair/stupid I was for having such a policy in the first place. They became especially "put out" when I didn't give in to their demands for special treatment.

Many students now start the process by sending rude emails or texts. In their emails, they don't pretend to civilized behavior, hidden behind the relative anonymity of the interwebs.  More frequently, student responses are aggressive, accusatory, rude, or abusive.

Inevitably, when denied special treatment, these students file grievances with my department, which must then be investigated and settled. The process wastes everyone's time. (As I am perfectly justified in outlining and keeping class policies, not a single grievance has ever moved past my department chair.)

The mental state and ignorance of today's university students is cause for concern. In my classes, I attempt to teach civilizing lessons and to model good behavior, but that is a drop in the abyss compared with the vast wasteland that our university system has become.

I have few answers to help today's epidemic of ignorance, other than the hope and ideal that someday we may return to the standards of learning from the past and helping students develop real skills in thinking, rather than the pale imitation of thought most students now seem to have.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Taxes, Taxes, and More Taxes

I finally sat down last night to finish filing my taxes. While always an inspiring joy and an unbounded pleasure to find out just how much the federal government has ripped me off, here are some notes about living in the Obama Fantasy Socialist Republic of the United States.

My tax rate went up from 2014. I ended up paying about 50 percent more in taxes over the previous year, even though I made about the same amount of money. One deduction that I've had for years no longer reduced my federal taxes (although it still reduces my state tax).

I presume the rate increased to help pay for the obscenity known as the Affordable Care Act. This means that I'm paying for my family's health insurance, as well as subsidizing others. This is classic double dipping, brought to you by your friend, the Government. My premiums for health insurance doubled over the previous year, even though one of my children is no longer on the policy. The deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses increased from 7.5 percent of AGI in 2014 to 10 percent in 2015.

Capital gains taxes increased from 15 percent to 20 percent. The capital gains tax has always been a "double dipper" tax. Even though two of my corporations returned capital gains, I had no income from them, so had to pay those taxes out of pocket.

I can hardly wait to see what my taxes will be like next year!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Alfred Lord Tennyson on the Modern World

Alfred Lord Tennyson always had a few things to say about the nature of life. In his poem entitled "Ulysses," he says this:

Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old; 
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil; 
Death closes all: but something ere the end, 
Some work of noble note, may yet be done, 
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods...

We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

In a day and age when men's hearts fail them, it is good to know that there are still a few of us willing to stand up to the great evils that now plague the world. Demagogues have been handed all power from the people of the United States. Corrupt and lying politicians flaunt the law and dare others to enforce it. A fallen and degenerate people now worship at the altar of selfishness.

We strive. We seek. We find. And we do not yield.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Some Thoughts on the Movie "The Intern"

My wife and I sat down to watch the video of The Intern last night. The movie stars Robert De Niro as Ben, an aging widower who seeks some fulfillment in life after the death of his wife, and Anne Hathaway as Jules, the founder of a burgeoning online clothing store.

I like both De Niro and Hathaway as actors. Both of them have grown into themselves over the years and produce likable characters, despite some of the scripts they've worked with. (For the record, I never have liked Taxi Driver.)

My purpose in talking about the movie isn't to review it, per se, but to offer some thoughts on the moral themes the movie.

De Niro plays a father figure in this movie, plain and simple. Hired by an up-and-coming online retailer as an intern, he is assigned to Jules, the "difficult" owner of the company. Jules ignores Ben at first. However, he quickly assimilates into the company, then into Jules' life. He becomes a problem solver, a mentor, and an all-around nice guy to many of the employees. The relationship he builds with Jules is kind, sweet, and caring, which is refreshing to see in movies where cynicism usually rules.

I appreciated the relationship between the two main characters. The two become friends and Jules turns to Ben for advice and counsel because she appreciates his age and wisdom. Ben is written, and more importantly acted, as a good person. This makes the relationship with Jules a rare thing in modern Hollywood movies.

Yet, throughout the interactions between Ben and Jules, I couldn't help but wonder where Jules' own parents were. It is obvious that Jules and her mother didn't get along. Jules treats her mother poorly. We never hear about Jules' father. Her parents become distant protagonists by providing another Hollywood-driven model of dysfunctional parenting.

What seemed sad to me was how starved Jules and many of the other office workers seem to be to accept someone like Ben. He helps them navigate difficult social interactions, difficult business decisions, and difficult personal relationships. The movie speaks volumes about the lack of wise, real, honest, and good fathers in people's lives.

In a rare moment of truth, Jules celebrates a rather silly situation (which I won't go into here) at a bar, with Ben and three other employees. In her drunken jubilation, she admits that in the modern "you go girl" society, there is no place for men.

I think the script writer, Nancy Meyers, has hit on a true, modern-day problem - probably accidentally. The common cause of progressive thought has elevated women by denigrating men in general, and white men in particular.

Men have no place in the brave, new world of social justice, of women's choice, or of progressive politics where a Hillary's vagina becomes more politically important than her dishonest and totally corrupt character.

Men try to find a place in such a world. In the movie, Jules' husband becomes a stay-at-home dad and takes on the role and responsibilities of being a mother. This is a classic role reversal, one that Hollywood has pushed for many years.

Yet we sadly note that a dad is not, and cannot be a mom. For example, the story makes a big deal about him playing the part of Ariel of Little Mermaid fame, all the while pointing out how ludicrous that really is.

The writer unwittingly also demonstrates, painfully so, that Jules cannot be a mom either, and makes no pretense of her being a dad. (Remember that men are persona non grata.) The result is a sad, fractured home where we really feel sorry for Jules' daughter who, like children everywhere, tries to make the best of a difficult situation.

The fact that Jules' husband has an affair also points up the bankrupt and cavalier attitude toward marriage held by the Hollywood elite. Jules' pain over the affair, as well as her irrationally accepting attitude toward her husband, only highlights how jaded we've grown over dysfunctional marriages.

It is a shame that we have become so calloused in our attitudes toward marriage and families that a movie such as The Intern reflects the paucity and nihilism of our sick society. The movie is a sad commentary on how far we've fallen in our human relationships.