Proud Boys

An enduring challenge for conservatives is the constant campaign of disinformation from the Left regarding our organizations, tactics, and beliefs.  Conservatives are limited to a few bastions of barely-tolerated resistance:  the Republican Party, the Cato Institute, National Review, etc., organizations that fastidiously hold to an ever-more-narrow range of acceptable discourse.

That, of course, is a huge source of President Trump’s appeal—he smashed through the barriers the Right’s enemies imposed upon it, and it won him the presidency.  You could feel Americans breathing a nearly-audible sigh of relief that, finally, someone was saying the things we were all told we weren’t supposed to say.

It was in the heady days of 2016, then, that edgy, fun-loving dissidents like Milo Yiannopoulos and Gavin McInnes rose to prominence in the conservative movement.  McInnes tells some sordid stories about his wild, punk rock past, but largely his advice would have been deemed commonsensical just sixty years ago:  get married, have kids, work hard, love God, love Western civilization and the freedom it brings.

Now, uttering some of those same tenants gets you sent to the cultural gulags.  Take, for instance, McInnes’s fraternal organization, the cheekily-named Proud Boys.  The organization has come under fire lately as an allegedly sexist, racist, xenophobic order (it allows men, women, immigrants, and all races to join), and because it is proudly “Western chauvinist,” meaning it champions Western civilization as the best civilization.  Given Western civilization’s inherently universalist claims to human rights and liberty, it’s clearly open to all peoples of all backgrounds who accept its basic premises.

Primarily, however, it’s been criticized for engaging in self-defense.  Instead of taking beatings from radical, violent Antifa terrorists, the Proud Boys fight back.  Their whole maxim is that they don’t start fights, but they will fight back in self-defense.

Not surprisingly, noodle-wristed hand-wringers of the NR persuasion foppishly bemoan this completely reasonable response to unwarranted assaults with their usual appeals to decorum (the comments on that linked piece are instructive of how out-of-touch NR has become even with its own readers).  “Just take the beating” is apparently the primary admonishment.

While we could certainly have some discussion about Christ’s famous instruction to “turn the other cheek,” it seems completely permissible to strike back at the masked hooligan waving a piece of rebar at you.

At the risk of breaking my general injunction against telling people to watch lengthy videos twice in one month, I’d refer you to this excellent explanation from McInnes himself:

To alleviate the unnecessary legal suffering of some of the group’s members, McInnes reluctantly but decisively backs out of the organization.

For further reading, here is Milo’s piece about the libelous death of the Proud Boys:  https://www.dangerous.com/50463/i-too-must-bid-adieu-to-the-proud-boys-a-spunky-pro-western-mens-club-defamed-to-death/

 

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E.T.A. Hoffman & Romanticism

As a Roger Kimball fanboy, I appreciate the cultural commentary at The New Criterion, his publication dedicated to covering high culture.  Kimball proves that you can appreciate, understand, and analyze the best of Western civilization’s cultural output while still supporting Donald Trump.  If these “artistic” types on the Progressive Left were truly tolerant, they’d read The New Criterion.  Yes, Executive Editor James Panero sounds like someone you’d want to give a wedgie, but he’s a bonafide cultural conservative (side note:  check out that link to his lecture on Russell Kirk’s ghost stories).

Regardless, Hannah Niemeier wrote a charming piece about E.T.A. Hoffman, “The man who made Romanticism“; it is well worth the read.  Hoffman is a somewhat forgotten figure whose literary works inspired (and were inspired by) some of the great composers of the classical and Romantic periods.  For example, Hoffman wrote the short story that served as the source for Tchaikovsky’s beloved The Nutcracker.

His life eerily mirrors one of his most famous devotees, Robert Schumann:

Both were reluctant lawyers, right-brained men in a left-brain profession, with personalities subject to extreme moods that bordered on mental illness. Schumann’s music famously spans the creative continuum between mild and wild, and in his compositional method, he was like Hoffmann’s Kreisler: “sometimes mad, sometimes lucid.” He wrote the eight-movement Kreisleriana, a representative work of Romantic-period piano music, in four days in 1838.

Yet both men were aware of the dangers of artistic passion. Schumann was a genius, but an unstable one. He often went into creative depressions in which he could hardly function, let alone make music. Haunted by the idea that creativity and madness came from the same place, he said his greatest fear, which increased along with his musical mastery, was of losing his mind. But it was a fate he couldn’t escape; in 1856, at the age of forty-six, he died of syphilis. In a coincidence that seems to belong in one of his “uncanny stories,” Hoffmann had died at the same age, and of the same disease (though more than three decades earlier).

That moody artistic temperament is distinctly Romantic.  It no-doubt influenced some of the cultural instability of the 1960s counterculture, with its emphasis on the individual as his own god, ironically a slave to his inner emotional turmoil.  But it also served as a powerful counterbalance to the cold, mechanistic progress of the Enlightenment, reminding us that we have deep connections to God, to the land, and to each other.

Like the Romantic period his work inspired, Hoffman was a man of contradictions and tensions; a fascinating, brilliant individual.

Reblog: The Falling Down Revolt

Blogger photog of Orion’s Cold Fire has written a trenchant, insightful essay about the political and cultural revolution occurring in the United States now.  It’s called “The Falling Down Revolt,” taking its name from the 1993 film Falling Down, starring Michael Douglas.

In that film (as photog explains in a follow-up essay, “I’m the Bad Guy? How Did That Happen?“), Douglas plays a disgruntled private defense contractor who, despite obeying all the rules and following the script that was meant to guarantee a decent life, has lost his job, his family, and, ultimately, his sanity.  After facing numerous obstacles and inconveniences of post-modern life—gang violence, traffic jams, fast-food bureaucracy, etc.—the protagonist snaps, going on an intense, cathartic killing spree.

For photog, the film serves as a metaphor for average Americans who do everything they’re supposed to do—work, support their families, pay their taxes, obey the law—but are, in turn, rewarded with scorn, derision, and indifference (or even hatred) from political and cultural elites.  Those elites don’t see these Americans as the backbone of the country, but as “backwards” rubes who cling to outmoded, bourgeois and traditional social values.

Neither photog or myself are suggesting that working- and middle-class Americans should erupt into a bev-rage this summer; rather, the frustration many Americans (including ourselves) feel is that of being hoodwinked.  Instead of the beautiful cheeseburger in the picture, we got a squishy, shriveled mess.

In a comment on photog’s essay, I drew a parallel to the 2018 remake of Death Wish starring Bruce Willis.  To self-indulgently and arrogantly quote myself:

[T]his guy [Willis’s character] that did everything right was screwed by an elite indifferent to and incapable of addressing a rising tide of criminality and violence. He finally broke and took matters into his own hands. I’m not endorsing vigilantism, but he realized he was a chump.

I think (metaphorically) the country has woken up to the chumpitude our elites foisted on us for so long. Tucker Carlson’s monologue diagnoses this malady thoroughly, as you and I have both written about.  (Hyperlink added)

The “Falling Down Revolt” is an excellent name for this movement of normal, traditional Americans who just want a fair shake—and who are tired of being blamed for everyone else’s problems while their own are steadfastly ignored or ridiculed.  Kudos to photog for coining and applying such an apt metaphor.

Put Your Money Where Your Poll Is

According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 16% of Americans said they want to leave the United States permanently.  Not surprisingly, you can guess who most of these borderless, loyalty-deficient Americans are.

National Review reports that “Those who said they wanted to leave the U.S. tended to be members of groups that lean Democratic, such as women, youth, and low-income people.”  Indeed, 20% of women told Gallup they want to live permanently in another country, compared to just 13% of men; 30% of Americans aged 15 to 29 want to move.

So, young radical feminists, why don’t you put your money where your poll is?  I’d wager less than 1% of those who indicated they want to leave will actually do so.

The most generous argument, of course, is that relocating to another country is expensive and a lengthy process (the result of properly enforcing a nation’s immigration laws).  Also, American citizenship is, despite cheapening from birth-right citizenship and massive immigration, a golden ticket, one that people are willing to move across oceans and deserts to gain.

The real reason is that no person with a shred of common sense would ever give up the sweet bennies and lavish standard of living the United States provides, or at least not for merely political reasons.  Remember all those progressive celebrities who vowed hollowly to leave the country should Trump win?  Why is Lena Dunham still here?

What this polling boils down to, then, is a reverse of the “Trump Effect” from 2016 presidential polls.  A major, compelling theory for why those polls were so wrong is that Trump voters were afraid or embarrassed to tell a pollster they intended to vote for Donald Trump.

In the case of this Gallup poll, the opposite is occurring:  progressives are eager to virtual-signal their disdain for their country and president; thus, the inflated numbers.

Let’s put this out there for consideration:  the government could purchase cheap plane tickets for anyone who wants to relocate.  I’m sure Justin Trudeau will take in these “refugees.”  This policy, while initially expensive, would drain off some of America’s Leftists (they’d find plenty of jobs in Canada’s multicultural, social justice bureaucracy), and would be almost as beneficial as erecting the border wall.  Leftists would love getting free, permanent travel to another land, with the added benefit of feeling cool and sophisticated.

 

Reblog: The Normalization Of Ugliness Inevitably Becomes The Denigration Of Beauty

A piece demonstrating the virtue-signalling of our techno-elites, c/o Chateau Heartistehttps://heartiste.wordpress.com/2019/01/02/the-normalization-of-ugliness-inevitably-becomes-the-denigration-of-beauty/

In short, Facebook rejected an ad because it either idealized a healthy body type, and/or portrayed flabby abs and belly fat in a negative light.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, to be sure, but there are certainly qualities broadly accepted and recognized as beautiful—so much so that we could reasonably assume these qualities to be universal. The “body positivity” movement, like most such Leftist sacred cows, has a sympathetic appeal at its heart, but is otherwise a potentially lethal lie.

The appeal is simple, and good: we shouldn’t be needlessly mean to people based on their appearance. The lie, however, takes that appeal to good-natured sympathy and twists it into a forced acceptance—indeed, a celebration—of habits and lifestyles that are inherently unhealthy (and, dare I write it, ugly).

As a Formerly Fat American (FFA), I’m not unsympathetic to the difficulty of losing and keeping off weight. I understand that, for some Americans, glandular issues, or weight-gain stemming from other conditions, make losing weight harder than normal.
But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Healthy habits are difficult to maintain, and require self-discipline—a quality once considered virtuous. Now, rather than urge people to stop overeating or to go for a walk, we applaud them for their poor health, or try to make excuses.  I can also safely assert that I was fat for so many years because I lacked the discipline and willpower not to be—it was my own fault!

Beyond physical beauty, I fear this “normalization of ugliness” is prevalent in the arts, notably the visual arts, but also in music, dance, poetry, etc. Any sense of objective standards, of an understanding of and appreciating the great masters that came before, is abandoned for politically-correct drivel. “Art,” in the truest sense of that word, should not be willfully, knowingly ugly. We may produce bad art in the pursuit of learning our crafts, but we shouldn’t set out to create more ugliness (and, by extension, chaos) in the world.

These are some off-the-cuff reflections. Again, my goal is not to get some clicks at the expense of chubby Americans. Rather, we should be willing to recognize that obesity, like many social maladies, should be treated seriously, and should be gently but firmly discouraged, rather than celebrated as a “lifestyle choice.”

Teachers Quitting in Record Numbers – Reflections on Education

Today, I resume my teaching duties for the remainder of the 2018-2019 academic year.  In the spirit of that return from two weeks of glorious holiday loafing (and the prolific blogging it enabled, however briefly), the Wall Street Journal ran a piece over break about teachers quitting their jobs in record numbers.

I don’t plan on quitting education anytime soon—I rather enjoy teaching kids useful trivia and getting paid for it—but I would like to offer an “insider’s perspective” on the education field.  Granted, I teach in private school, but many of the issues teachers face are similar (albeit thankfully muted in a private school setting).

Generally, there seem to be two approaches to looking at the massive problems of education:  one is that we should spend more on education; the other is to pile more responsibilities onto teachers, and even to blame them for children’s lackluster performance.  Both of these approaches are, to different extents, flawed.

I’ll consider the second perspective first.  Conservative politicians will occasionally scapegoat teachers, sometimes fairly (as in the egregious examples from New York public schools with pedophiles on permanent, paid leave and the like), but usually without a solid understanding of what teaching entails.

I commonly see teachers—who get very prickly when people start noting the profession’s many perks—post online about how we don’t just get out at 3 everyday, etc.  There’s some truth to that; if you really do your job right, you’re spending a good bit of your time either before or after school, not to mention the weekends, grading or planning.  That’s especially true for first- and second-year teachers, who really have to do everything from scratch.

That said, if you stick with it—and if you don’t fall for the perennial educational fads that circulate every five years or so, all of which claim the previous fad was fatally incorrect, but that this one is the Brave New World of Education and is inerrant—you can pretty much tweak your lesson plans and approaches at the margins, rather than reinvent the wheel, from year to year.  I’ve known (and been taught by) many teachers that are overzealous about totally rebuilding their courses on a regular basis, but the perceived gains they see in the classroom are probably due more to their own passion than to whatever bold new system they’ve conjured up.

Which brings me to the other perspective mentioned above.  Progressives, who have an overly romantic view of education—and who see it as a means to indoctrinate generations to spew Leftist pabulum uncritically—think the education system can solve all of society’s ills if we just invest in it more.  Part of it comes from a desire to create more government jobs (and loyal Democratic voters) for people dubiously qualified to do anything productive.  Part of it comes from a sincere belief that they can save underprivileged kids.

That clearly doesn’t work.  So what is the truth when it comes to education, and how can we begin solving some of its problems?

For one, the complaints from those outside of the profession about our hours and summer vacation are not without merit, but they miss the point, too.  As noted above, good teachers—by which I mean teachers who will do their jobs as they should—will put in time over and beyond the classroom time.  You have to if you’re actually going to be prepared for class.

Summer vacation is a perk—we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.  Many teachers use it as an opportunity for professional development, but, c’mon, it’s also a time to hit the beach (I might be an exception to both—I do maintenance and grounds work at my school to make extra money, because I want to retire someday).  But it’s a big draw for many to the profession, especially women (and particularly mothers), who make up a huge portion of the teaching population.  As with the perennial debates about the mythical wage gap, teachers should acknowledge that less months worked = less pay.  The counterargument, one that I’ve made frequently, is that many of us put in twelve months’ worth of work in nine or ten.

As far as putting more money into schools, that’s all well and good—but where does the money go?  If it’s going to build some needless Mall of America school complex, or to hire another Assistant Vice-Principal of Islamic Outreach, it’s not doing much beyond feathering the nests of over-credentialed M.Ed. holders who took a couple of online classes in between naps and diversity seminars.

New technology and facilities are great, but they don’t teach kids.  All I need to teach history or music is some kind of board, something to write on, and some dog-eared notes.  I could probably get by without the board.  Jesus taught multitudes without a SmartBoard.  Aristotle taught Alexander the Great, probably with nothing more than some tablets and scrolls, and that guy conquered the known world.

More importantly, teachers need administrators to give us the space to do our jobs.  We all have little duties that cut into prep time, and that’s the nature of the beast.  But when politicians start decreeing ever-more tasks for schools to take on, they inevitably fall to the teachers.  The aforementioned AVP of Islamic Outreach isn’t the one writing the lesson plans about Muhammad’s views on marrying nine-year olds, even if xyr is forcing the Social Studies Department to add it; the Social Studies teachers are the ones figuring out how to make it happen, all the way complying with a thicket of misguided federal and State “guidelines.”

Ultimately, there are some behavioral issues that drive teachers from the biz, too; these are problems that, in part, begin at home (or, sadly, the lack thereof).  Those are social and cultural problems that are, frankly, beyond the power of educators and administrators to solve on the macro level.  We all do our part, to the extent we can, at the micro level.  I fear that some teachers overdo it, but that’s a topic I’d have to cover separately.

To summarize these stream-of-consciousness reflections, here are some things that would help aid retention in the field—and align educational goals more with reality:

  • Offer better pay if people are leaving; have flexible pay-scales that allow teachers with good track records (measurable in a variety of ways) better pay or bonuses (to be clear:  I don’t advocate blanket pay raises for all teachers in all districts—I’m sure some are well-compensated, and some not).  This doesn’t have to be pegged to test scores, but to a “holistic” assessment of a teacher.  If you’re teaching in Allendale County, South Carolina, you’re not going to have stellar test scores, so you can’t rely solely on those to assess the efficacy of a teacher.
  • Offer more flexible forms of alternative certification.  South Carolina currently has a severe shortage of teachers, but still insists that those without a teaching certificate endure a long, expensive, three-year process of alternative certification.  My proposal—which I pitched briefly to my former SC State Representative Jay Jordan—is to make it possible for private school teachers with, say, five years of classroom teaching to gain their certification automatically, or after taking the Praxis exam in their field or fields.  If the teacher holds a Master’s degree or Ph.D., knock two or three years off of that requirement.  You’d instantly have access to a huge pool of teachers, many of whom would be qualified from years of experience.  Also, there are a lot teachers that have their certification that are, quite frankly, crummy, so that magic piece of paper does not automatically a good teacher make.
  • Reduce administrative bullcrap.  Teachers quite principals, not schools—that’s a common maxim in education circles, and it’s true.  Administrators should realistically be support for teachers, and should avoid overloading their teachers with a bunch of paperwork (except where necessary).  Teachers can be whiny and catty—they tend to think they need more stuff to do their jobs than they actually do—but that just means you’ve got to have a firm but flexible hand steering the ship.
  • Allow teachers flexibility in lesson planning and sequencing.  A big complaint I hear from my public school teacher friends is that they can barely take time to answer an intriguing student question if the lesson plan doesn’t allow it.  As a private school teacher with a penchant for discursive asides, this blows my mind.  Nothing will kill a child’s interest in a subject (especially history) faster if he can’t ask some off-the-wall question and at least hope to get some interesting explanation or discussion.  Obviously, you can’t do this every class, but teachers shouldn’t live in fear of going “off script.”  Indeed, I don’t think there should be a script—just a broad, skeletal outline (of course, I recognize that this assumes the teacher is independently motivated and reasonably good at his or her job; sadly, I don’t think that’s the case with a substantial minority of public school teachers, per my comments above).

That’s a short, incomplete list of some possible proposals.  It’s not exhaustive, and as every teacher and wag will point out, there’s always an exception (I can’t tell you how many faculty meetings I’ve endured where some new policy has been discussed, and immediately dozens of exceptions or unique scenarios arise, to which I would say either a.) figure it out yourself or b.) just follow the policy as best you can, knowing weird exceptions will crop up—ask forgiveness, not permission).

If nothing else, I hope these reflections are useful (and, for any of my parents, colleagues, or school administrators who might be reading, know that I love my job and all of you, and that our little school is the best in South Carolina) and can spark some discussion.  Education is hugely important to the future of South Caroline and our nation; it deserves to be discussed frankly and dispassionately.

Tucker Carlson’s Diagnosis

A recent monologue from Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program is blowing up the right-wing blogosphere, and understandably so.  Carlson has been a vocal critic of the neoliberal deification of economic efficiency at all costs.  I used to be a member of this cult, until the candidacy of Donald Trump (and lived experience) knocked the idealistic scales from my eyes.

Normally, it bugs me when people send me video clips to watch.  If they’re cutesy videos of the variety that drive clicks—think cats playing piano, or Goth versions of Christmas songs—I usually ignore them, no matter how hyped they are.  That’s not some virtue on my part; I just don’t want to take the time to watch them, especially on a cell phone (a pet peeve:  someone making me watch a video on their cell phone; I will refuse).

That said, I’m indulging in some hypocrisy:  you must watch this video as soon as you’re able.

For those of you that don’t want to take the time, here are some highlights:

  • Elites care only about maximizing economic efficiency, regardless of the human costs to individuals, families, and communities
  • That lust for efficiency drives income inequality, particularly benefiting the technology sector/Silicon Valley
  • “We are ruled by mercenaries, who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule”—a key idea; I’ve read a similar analysis from controversial blogger Z-Man, in which he argues that leaders in a democracy are, inherently, renters rather than owners, and therefore are heavily tempted towards asset-stripping while in office, rather than building and maintaining a nation:  http://thezman.com/wordpress/?p=15929
  • Because of the hollowing out of American manufacturing and declining wages (again, due in part to the quest for efficiency), men struggle to find employment or to improve their wages
    • Because of that, rural parts of the country are dominated increasingly by healthcare and education, female-dominated fields
    • While better wages for women is fine, Carlson claims that—whether or not they should—women are less likely to marry men who earn less than them, therefore

These are just some of the most interesting insights, but Carlson sums up in fifteen minutes what would take a legion of hack bloggers like me hours or weeks to explain.

Again, I urge you to watch this videohttps://video.foxnews.com/v/5985464569001/?playlist_id=5198073478001#sp=show-clips

America’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

Scott Rasmussen, writing for Ballotpedia, reports that 62% of American adults say their dream job is owning their own company.  That’s encouraging news, as it suggests that, despite decades of welfare state decadence, Americans still possess our entrepreneurial spirit.

That spirit has been with Americans going back to the colonial period.  Textbooks tend to focus on the Puritan planting of the Plymouth colony, which was certainly important, but the first permanent settlement in colonial British North America was Jamestown.  That settlement, and the entire colony of Virginia, was founded as a commercial enterprise, the efforts of joint-stock company in England.

French aristocrat and political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in Democracy in America (1840) over two centuries later (during the height of the Jacksonian Era), noted Americans’ keen interest in commercial matters, and the pulsing energy and enthusiasm of always hustling.  He also noted the positive effect of trade upon liberty:

Trade is the natural enemy of all violent passions. Trade loves moderation, delights in compromise, and is most careful to avoid anger. It is patient, supple, and insinuating, only resorting to extreme measures in cases of absolute necessity. Trade makes men independent of one another and gives them a high idea of their personal importance: it leads them to want to manage their own affairs and teaches them to succeed therein. Hence it makes them inclined to liberty but disinclined to revolution.

Despite enthusiasm about the idea of starting a business, Rasmussen’s findings show that only 5% of Americans are “very likely to start their own business” in 2019, while 11% are somewhat likely.

Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see that the desire to hustle is prominent among Americans.  The economic mojo of the Trump economy no-doubt improves Americans’ optimism (although I should note that many Americans started businesses during the Obama stagcovery, albeit for a different reason—they couldn’t find work).  That optimism likely fuels some desire to get in on the action.

On a personal note, I will say that even I, a high school teacher—teaching being a job uniquely suited to the risk-averse in general—have caught this bug (don’t worry, loyal readers—I’m not going to try to sell you massage oils with untested healing properties).  I’m excited to expand some of my side-hustles in 2019, including writing, performing live music, and teaching private lessons.

Regardless of how those pan out, the thrill of applying effort towards ones passions is exhilarating.  What could be more American?

Reblog: Who doesn’t like Christmas? — Esther’s Petition

A poignant piece from Esther’s Petition, an excellent blog about faith.  It’s been a tough Christmas season for some friends of mine, with death and heartbreak hovering around and darkening the usual brightness of this season.  Ms. Cox writes beautifully—wrenchingly—about how the holidays can be difficult, and how we should strive to be understanding of that […]