SubscribeStar Saturday: Malfunctioning Robots

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After two years under the befuddlingly tyrannical rule of a mentally-impaired geezer, our electoral standards have slid to meet the lowered expectations of our time.  Now a mentally-impaired greaseball wants to be the United States Senator for Pennsylvania, and until a disastrous debate performance that was impossible to ignore, it seemed that Pennsylvanians were willing to vote for him.

To be clear, I take no pleasure in the profound illness of another person.  John Fetterman suffered a stroke—a terrible thing—but he is still pursuing public office.  As much as Henry Clay disliked Andrew Jackson in the 1824 presidential election, he wasn’t going to throw his support behind Secretary of Treasury William Crawford of Georgia (the election was thrown to the House of Representatives; Crawford was in third, but had suffered a major stroke and would pass away soon afterwards, with Clay giving his support to John Quincy Adams).

But we’ve grown accustomed to power-hungry wives and political parties propping up brain-dead puppets in public office.  Indeed, the historians of the distant future will no-doubt look back at our time and think of it as The Age of The Impaired.  We celebrate every manner of impairment—transgenderism, paralysis (both moral and physical), gluten intolerance, etc.—as some kind of special mark of holiness.

Of course, we should treat such people with compassion, but we shouldn’t be electing them to public office, no matter how good it makes us feel about ourselves to do so.  Public service is hard, even for the able-bodied and clear-minded.  Being a United States Senator is exceptionally difficult—and a position with incredible amounts of power and prestige.

What we saw with Fetterman—much like Marco Rubio’s glitching out in 2016—was an Establishment robot malfunctioning on live television.  I’m only being mildly hyperbolic—Fetterman can only process incoming sounds via a computer.  That’s a miraculous bit of technology, but do we want a cyborg serving as one of the 100 men and women of the US Senate?  Even if we did, would we want one that was constantly breaking down in stressful situations?

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Great Coarsening

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A perennial saw of the conservative pundit is the decline of public morality.  Indeed, it is so well-worn that the ignorant use it as evidence that, because people have always complained about “kids these days,” it must mean that we’re just fuddy-duddies who are painfully out of touch.  Why, elders have always complained about their kids!

Of course, that’s not true.  The idea of a “generation gap” is a relatively modern phenomenon.  For most of human history, children grew up to be very much like their parents (indeed, I would argue that is still the case, just with the addition of angsty, extended adolescence tossed into the mix).  Yes, humans have always recognized the folly of youth—Proverbs frequently refers to children and young people as “fools,” or taken with folly—but it wasn’t considered to be either virtuous or some massive, unbridgeable gap.

But in a world with no connection to the past, one which exists in an eternal Present, it is little wonder that we witness—even encourage!—such a separation from our ancestors.  The United States particularly suffers from the pedestalization of youth:  we have come to believe that youngsters possess all wisdom, being spared the corruption of Reality—of real life.

The opposite, of course, is true.  Yes, there is something admirable about the energy and certitude of youthful moral righteousness, but it is often a quite short-sighted self-righteousness.  That’s not the fault of young people—they are, after all, young and inexperienced—but the traditional expectation was that they would grow out of that sunny idealism as Reality and Truth taught their hard lessons.  We should remain optimistic and thankful in the midst of adversity, but true foolishness comes from ignoring these hard-taught lessons.

That’s all a very long preamble to get to the thrust of this piece:  we are witnessing The Great Coarsening of civil and social life, in every arena:  politics, culture, art, manners, customs, etc.  How often do we hear the F-word dropped casually in everyday conversation—the way Nineties Valley Girls used the word “like”?  As a schoolteacher, I overhear this word frequently, as students and adults treat it as, essentially, a sentence enhancer.

Here is where the charges of fuddy-duddiness are most frequently leveled: “Oh, come now, Port, who cares about some word?”  It’s not the word itself, per se—although that word is exceptionally foul—but what it represents.

Or, rather, what it’s ubiquity represents:  the aforementioned Great Coarsening.

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TBT^2: Things That Go Bump in the Night

It’s the so-called “spooky season” again, which naturally turns my mind to things not seen.  Lately, I’ve been pondering the pre-modern mind, and how differently pre-moderns saw the world.  It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around it.  What must it have been like to fear God—naturally (as in, without the scientistic arrogance we moderns seem inculcated into at an early age)?  To suspect mercurial forces at play in every tree or lonely bog?

There’s so much we don’t know; so much we can’t see (even if it’s caught on video).  Ironically, for all of our assuredness about how the world works, we find ourselves in an age of constant epistemological confusion, one in which we seem incapable of knowing what is True or not.

Heady contemplations, indeed.  The possible existence of Bigfoot or any other number of odd creatures, corporeal or otherwise, is not insignificant:  if supernatural beings exist, God Exists (or, more probably, because God Exists, there are all manner of spirits and angels and the like at work, just beyond our perception).

Spooky stuff!  With that, here is “TBT: Things That Go Bump in the Night“:

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TBT: The Weather

Hurricane Ian is swirling about, sending everything and everyone into a tizzy (folks in Florida, please be safe).  It’s also thrown a windy wrench into my schedule, which was already planned down to the minute for nearly every day this week.

Well, no use crying over spilt rainwater.  I’m thankful for the relative safety of the inland, and that we live in a time when we have some advanced warning about the impending meteorological apocalypses that routinely batter us.

This hurricane aside, we’ve been enjoying some pleasant weather here in South Carolina—it almost feels like fall!  The mornings have been crisp and cool, and even required a light jacket one day last week.  Here’s hoping the sweater weather descends soon.

Here’s hoping my readers in Florida and along the coastal regions of the Southeast are safe.  Audre, be sure to batten down the hatches.

With that, here is 29 September 2021’s “The Weather“:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Busybodies

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In casting about for a topic for this weekend’s edition of SubscribeStar Saturday, The Z Man’s latest podcase served as inspiration.  Entitled “Thinking About Athens,” the episode is an extended thought experiment on the nature of Athenian democracy, and the problem of generating consensus in a true democracy.  The problem becomes increasingly intractable the larger the group of participants becomes, to the point that “consensus” breaks down entirely, as everyone realizes that the groups that complain the most and take the firmest stances against compromise end up getting their way in order to maintain the “consensus.”  Yikes!

I often use the analogy of ordering pizza when illustrating this point to my students (usually in the context of the Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document, which required unanimous consent of all States—each of which had an equal vote—to amend the Articles):  there is almost always at least one student who will not anything but plain cheese pizza.  Some students will only eat pizza with toppings.  Rarely, a student will not eat pizza at all.  But if found ourselves in a world in which ordering one kind of pizza were mandatory, the outcome would either be a.) ordering no pizza at all or b.) capitulating to the lame person who just wants a plain cheese pizza.  In either case, almost no one gets what they want.

Even if someone attempts to “opt-out” of the system, that is a threat to the consensus itself.  By attempting to abstain, those who demand conformity with the “consensus” react with suspicion—why won’t this weirdo eat pizza with us?  It’s not enough that someone might just want to do something else; we must be forced to be free.

I touched upon this topic in an essay from 27 February 2021, “Authoritarian Creep.”  To quote liberally from myself:

Something with which I struggle to wrap my mind around is the authoritarian impulse.  I’m not pretending I’m immune to this impulse—this desire to tell others how to live their lives, backing it up with the threat of force for non-compliance—but the older I get, what little appeal the tendency held continues to diminish.

What I struggle to comprehend is the apparent need to boss people around.  I understand needing to be authoritative with children and students—setting clear boundaries, understanding actions have consequences, molding the child to become a self-governing adult—but this desire to boss around perfect strangers is increasingly foreign to me.

This impulse manifests itself in virtually every facet of our lives.  It creeps in bit by bit.  Modest policy proposals and laws suddenly becomes weaponized Karenism, empowering authorities and otherwise normal people to swagger about with impunity, assured of the righteousness of their cause du jour.

Why do we want to control one another so much?

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TBT^4: The Joy of Autumn

Today is the first day of autumn.  It’s about dang time!

Granted, I realize that autumn shows up on the calendar the same time every year.  Whether (weather?) or not it makes a meteorological appearance or not, however, is a bit dicey in South Carolina.  It’s very likely to be quite warm today—in the mid-nineties as of the time of this writing.  We’re enjoying some cooler, crisper mornings, with a bit lower humidity, but it’s still very much summer here in South Carolina.

Nevertheless, pumpkin spiced-everything is already in stores, so even if it feels like we’re about to attend a pool party, we can enjoy the tastes of autumn here.

Autumn is my favorite season, even though it is fleeting.  The period from Labor Day through Christmas is a blur of activity, with nary a weekend free for all the fall activities we see on television and in the movies.  Apple picking looks fun, but who has the time?

On the plus side, Halloween will be here soon.  It seems that folks have started decorating much earlier this year than usual—or have I missed something?  Some people had decorations up in August, which seems as blasphemous as hanging Christmas lights before Thanksgiving.

But I digress.  With that, here is 23 September 2022’s “TBT^2: The Joy of Autumn“:

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TBT: The Frisson of the Night

The night has always been a time of excitement, a time when—as I wrote a year ago—music “lives.”  There’s something exhilarating and fun about the night, which is why I chose the word “frisson” to convey the tantalizing possibilities of the night.

I’m more of a morning person these days, rising early, well before the dawn.  Well, isn’t that just another way of saying “the late, late night”?  There’s not much exciting happening at 5 AM (other than reading the Bible and talking to God), but it’s still pretty dark out.  Try waking up then and you’ll see!

Still, there is a real appeal to the night.  I’m at my most alert and mentally focused in the morning and—you guessed it—at night.  Afternoons would be naptime for yours portly, if I had my druthers—and a schedule that permitted it.

Regardless, night is when everything interesting happens.  It’s the time when things go bump.  It’s probably when Bigfoot comes out to play, too.

With that, here is 15 September 2021’s “The Frisson of the Night“:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Florida on My Mind

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Regular readers know that I was supposed to be trucking down to Florida this weekend, but an outbreak of The Virus (not on my end, no worries) put a stop to those plans.  Instead, I’ll be hanging around South Carolina with my girl, and we’ll do a little leisurely sightseeing.

Still, Florida has been on my mind lately.  Thanks to Governor Ron DeSantis, it’s starting to look like a refuge for folks fleeing wokeness, buggery, and all manner of other forms of progressive-endorsed foolishness.

I love South Carolina, but if I had to live anywhere, I think it might be Florida.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Unreality

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There is a distinct sense of unreality hovering over the West lately.  I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this sensation—if you have, please leave a comment—but the Zeitgeist of our age seems to be a sense of alienated disconnection from Reality itself.  We’re living in a profoundly unserious time, led by unserious people, debating unserious problems.

Men can have babies.  Children can choose their gender.  Everything is just a social construct, after all; in such a world, anything imaginable is possible.  And while there is no fixed morality, we’re told, questioning the social construction that everything is a social construction is an assault on a truth that doesn’t exist—but it’s still bad, so don’t do it!

The pretzel logic of nihilistic relativism twists us into macabre perversions of ourselves.  Such is the consequence of embracing the unreal and rejecting Truth and Reality.

But Truth and Reality are there, whether we accept it or not.  And they hit hard.

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