The Implosion of the Elephant . . .

Almost thirty years ago, after reading Francis Schaeffer’s “Marking the Watershed,”[1] I had extrapolated that a similar dynamic due to an inherent ideological schism at the heart of the American experiment would invariably lead to civil war. Having had deep interest in U.S. history and civics; and a more impartial, albeit foreign understanding of American affairs than the myopic and partisan-skewed perspective of those living with that present cauldron; I had viewed the Sixties and Seventies, the warning shots of the present confrontation which threatens to turn violent, as the inevitable consequence of a long unravelling of a marriage of convenience between the third stream of Protestant/Evangelical Christianity and that of (largely English/Scottish) Enlightenment liberalism. The support of Madison/Jefferson on behalf of the incarcerated Baptist preachers against the Established State Churches in Virginia was symptomatic and symbolic of that larger ideological alliance.

With the early 1990 recession, I was detecting the opening strains of a widening disparity of income, wealth, and the underlying economic power leverage that undergirds that r > g dynamic. To put Piketty’s formula in laymen’s language; if corporate profits (rate of return on capital) consistently rise faster than economic growth, instead of a rough balance in the distribution of that economic growth as had occurred between 1945 and 1975, a widening income inequality and the concentration of wealth and the means of production was inevitable. Having complained to my father, a couple of years prior, about the larger economic consequences on wage earners, of which he was one, in his aspiration for a 7–10% real rate of return on his investments, I could hardly disagree with Piketty, who to his credit provided incontrovertible statistical proof (to what is or should be intuitive common sense) in order to pre-empt and overcome the sophistries and mendacities of the corporate shills.

Knowing my Bible (“Woe to them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the middle of the earth!” – Isaiah 5:8), and the histories of Sparta (Lycurgus), Athens (Draco and Solon), the late Roman Republic, and the French, Russian, and Cuban Revolutions; it is a historical truism that extreme imbalances in socioeconomic power and wealth between the social classes invariably leads to civic, social, and political inequality, two-tier justice, civic schism and social wars, the end of free civic polities, autocracy, and the economic and/or literal culling of the elites, who have isolated themselves in their Juvenalian contempt for the “deplorables” and their welfare.

Finally, in reading Christopher Lasch’s “The Revolt of the Elites” (1995), I could perceive the third leg of that civic schism, between the cosmopolitanism of the largely corporatist elite who have more in common with fellow cosmopolitans in the urban islands throughout the world against those of the hinterland, who still believed in the national heritage. I saw demagogic champions, purported tribunes of the people around the temporal corner, although I did not anticipate that it would come in the form of Trump.

On this basis, I concluded in a rejected submission to The Nation and The Atlantic in 2011/2, that America faced imminent civic schism and war on the crucible of what I iconically coined, Adam Smith, the Bible, and the Constitution (ABC). In a more general sense, since these dynamics can be detected throughout the globe; there is an ideological struggle between the descendants of Abraham (religion) and Plato against those descendants of Thales (naturalism) and Pyrrho (skepticism); an economic struggle as consequence of the inherent flaws within advanced capitalism; and a cultural struggle between the advocates of cosmopolitanism (which is as old as the ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire established by Cyrus the Great (ca. 550 BC)) and those of the various and disparate national heritages throughout the world. The struggle in Egypt since the so-called Arab Spring, the turnback from Ataruk’s secularist policies in Turkey, the Brexit plebiscite, and Marine Le Pen’s declamation of cosmopolitanism in the recent French Presidential Election; all are symptoms of the global nature of schism.

However, like 18th century France, or early 20th century Germany, America is the avant garde of this civic division, discord, and war. I do not believe that America has more than five years before it turns violent, bloody, and spectacularly and monumentally disruptive to the global order. The tell-tale symptoms of imminent civil war are erupting faster than one can keep tabs.

Specific to the American sociopolitical landscape, there has preceded in each of the civic disruptions (American Revolution, Civil War) religious schism. While schism and separation between northern and southern factions of the same denominations in the decades prior to the American Civil war are commonly known, less known is the theological and ecclesiastic divisions as consequence of the First Great Awakening and the deporting of Anglican/Episcopalian divines in the 1780s to Canada, Britain, the West Indies and British colonies elsewhere.

In common with the decades prior to the American Civil War and in civic disturbances elsewhere, the governing leaders since Junior Bush (2001–9) have proven as singularly incompetent and hapless as they are arrogant.

Strange and soulless forms of sexuality are being paraded like Sodom, consistent precursors of other civic disruption (e.g. Weimar Republic, the Marquis de Sade, Catallus). Corruption abounds and private morality and civic virtues have taken the last train to the coast.

Judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yes, truth fails; and he that departs from evil makes himself a prey.

– Isaiah 59:14–15a

The center has clearly collapsed. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The necessary ingredients for free civic polities, that of, for instance, a common and sure-footed civic language is dissipating and undermined by a general assault on objective truth (as epitomized by the subjective and solipsistic definition of gender which others are socioeconomically pressured to give sanction) and on truthfulness. If truth be the first casualty of war, the nation is well on its tumble down that rabbit hole. And other axes of division (e.g. race, gender, religion) are proliferating like weeds.

Indeed, the war has already begun but conducted through the civic, bureaucratic, “deep state,” and judicial organs of government. Like the late Weimar Republic, (which involved both radical right and radical left paramilitary groups), low level mob violence and harassment are erupting in increasing frequency. Talk of factionalist discord and violence are now in the reader’s and listener’s face, (which but only five years ago was confined to the fringes of the sociopolitical spectrum). Laments and forlorn appeals for compromise and unity are falling on deaf ears while vehement and vitriolic partisans from both primary factions have resorted to yellow journalism and dehumanizing epithets of their sociopolitical adversaries. “The way of peace have they not known” (Romans 3:17). Like many a divorce, one faction’s existential integrity is deemed threatened by the continued relationship with the other. The larger sociopolitical schism is already setting brother against brother, and dividing and destroying marriages and families.

To reprise and revise Lord Chesterfield’s observation[2] concerning the present circumstances:

In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in History, previous to great civil wars and systemic changes in governmental structures, now exist and daily increase in America.’

[1] Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1984, pp. 43–66,

[2] Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, London: Chapman & Hall, 1837, 1.1.II. “Such things can the eye of History see in this sick-room of King Louis, which were invisible to the Courtiers there. It is twenty years, gone Christmas-day, since Lord Chesterfield, summing up what he had noted of this same France, wrote, and sent off by post, the following words, that have become memorable: ‘In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in History, previous to great Changes and Revolutions in government, now exist and daily increase in France.’ (Chesterfield’s Letters: December 25th, 1753.)”


The Benefits of Political Nihilism

 DISCLAIMER: While I subscribe to the factual realities described in the ensuing article, upon reviewing it, its tone sounded more like a mild Jacobin or Marxist Revolutionary pamphlet than an explanation. It is an irritated response to several condescending mainstream U.S. op-eds, as well as being “inspired” by a disturbing exchange on the commentariat with one of those Trumplets, whose inchoate response to any argument was basically to run his interlocutor over. While empathizing with the plight of the plebes, considering that I am, these realities just do not apply to the same extent in a nation whose GINI coefficient is significantly lower than the U.S.

People have this illusion that if they strike out they’ll accomplish something, but of course they won’t. They only accomplish something by having a smart idea about direction and policy. The violence that’s being fomented is not helping to formulate smart economic policies.

The pro-Trump segment of the American electorate has thus abdicated a basic duty of a democratic citizenry: to hold a candidate accountable for his or her ideas. Worse, many seem to regard his crude simplifications as a feature, not a bug — a badge of uninvolvement in the corrupt Washington system

This condescending sentiment noted above is representative of an establishment elite who, enclosed within their own well-feathered cultural and socioeconomic cocoon, cannot comprehend and scornfully disdain the rubes who would nominate an uncultured Joe the Plumber, albeit a gilded one, who hasn’t a coherent governing philosophy, a consistent agenda; in short, who doesn’t have a clue.

It may be beyond imagining, within gated communities, how the savages outside could possibly perceive that the mere act of destroying the current social system could, by itself, improve their lot. But from the other side of the track, it appears entirely reasonable. And indeed, history grants some credence to the notion.

Continue reading “The Benefits of Political Nihilism”

Why Do We Hate Justin Bieber So

Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber.  (Justin Bieber – Anne Frank museum – April 2013)

I will confess that the initial response to this latest Bieberism was one of cheap moral opprobrium. And any disdainful comment would just become a drop in an ocean of scorn. And some are far more talented and practiced at Juvenalian satire than I. However, as witty and psychological satisfying as satire can be, it very rarely persuades. It merely confirms and hardens pre-existing biases of partisans.

I have written on the lad before. I don’t dislike him. For, how prudent is it to form opinions about another without actually face-to-face off camera encounters? However, in that piece, my resentment is less about him, but what he represents; the extreme dumbing down of mass culture. This brings us to the present topic. Why is Justin Bieber so hated?

As a curmudgeonly middle-aged man, I might be following the traditions of generations of curmudgeonly middle-aged men before me, who complain about the callow fecklessness of contemporary youth. The ‘when I was young syndrome…’ Sometimes however, these complaints are valid. Psyche and sociology professionals, who have a measure for everything, Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) included, suggest a statistically significant increase of measured protagorean self-regard and self-indulgence, over the last quarter century or so. The percentage of those engaging in academic cheating at college/university levels has doubled since first surveys were taken around WW2 to today’s epidemic proportions (80% of students admit). And either store owners have become pathologically paranoiac. Or there is valid reason for them to insist that all high school students park their duffle packs at the front of the store; something unheard of in my youth.

The story of Justin Bieber’s visit to Anne Frank House in Amsterdam follows with stories of widespread ignorance about Anne Frank amongst the teeny-bopper set: to which a witty but harsh tweet was contributed by a local comic, Jason Filiatrault. “Look, say what you want, but Justin Bieber just made 3 million idiots Google ‘Anne Frank’.” The fearful thing is that this ignorance about significant matters is frighteningly evident. In a Japanese car plant, I worked temporarily last year; the Japanese plant manager became flummoxed by one late teen-ager when she didn’t know who won the 2nd World War. There is pervasive evidence and complaint of cultural ignorance, moral reasoning, logic and common sense. What are parents and these public schools teaching nowadays?

The problem with the superficiality and ignorance of this upcoming entitlement generation is that it is unprepared as North America enters into a far more tumultuous period of its history. The economic decline, which has been ongoing for at least 20 years, albeit disguised by a debt-inducing, asset-inflating artificial economy, can no longer be masked or sustained. The extremes of economic disparity, decline in hope of socioeconomic mobility and steady economic, intellectual, moral and social disintegration of the lower classes, is certain to destroy the Horatio Alger mythology that has hitherto sustained the American civil peace. And in America, class war has taken on racial dimensions in these last two federal elections; as an overwhelming white European vote against the reigning President was trumped by an even greater Black, Hispanic and Asian vote.

And it is a fool’s wet dream to believe that the culture wars are going to be quieted. The logic and vitriolic folly of both wings of the philosophical divide ever widens. The sociopolitical schism becomes more disrespectful, uncivil, arrogantly contemptuous, vehement and militant. Add to that the first inklings of a new generational divide as the upcoming youth face the generational theft of their self-centered parents and grandparents. Or the Newtonian counter-reaction of bottom-up masculinism against the prevailing feminist sentiments, which dominate in law, family courts and that culturally gated community, which currently dominates the Commanding Heights of society. The existing gender friction is sure to exacerbate.

It is not national problems, traumas and disasters that bring nations down. Republican Rome endured the Pyrrhic military disasters and decade-long trampling by Hannibal, while the late Empire was easily swarmed by uncouth barbarians, with far less population and resources. It is the moral fortitude, intellectual creativity and wisdom of the people that face these threats that determines the outcome.

And Justin Bieber is the pretty face representative of the intellectual and moral caliber of this upcoming Glee generation. 

◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊

The other element of Bieberism lies in the corporate desacralization of our expressions of deepest human yearnings in art and culture. Bieber represents artistic expression as unabashed, undisguised manufactured product with inane ditties, scrupulous attention to snazzy packaging and self-promotion, usually geared toward making adolescent boys hard and adolescent girls wet, for the quick sell.

(A similar desacralization extends into American Churchianity, with industrial strength commoditization of souls through Altar Call assembly lines and their Sinner’s Prayers, Seeker-Sensitive churches and theological debasement of the Christian product in order to disperse it more widely.)

Ultimately, the rage is directed towards these soulless corporate wraiths, who mastermind the cynical exploitation and manipulation of callow, shallow and gullible humanity; in which the message and the medium are tailored by marketing surveys.

A business, its products and modus operandi are invariably extensions of the personality of those who govern it. This is more evident in proprietorships than the diffused corporate structures of large corporations. And although it is more than feasible for a corporate leader to develop a deep and wide array of interests; a super singular dedication, at the expense of all other facets of life, is often required of those who best succeed. In this singular devotion, having undeveloped sensitivities in other aspects, these Babbitts are disinclined to esteem true culture at the expense of basic material considerations.  

Thus, plastic wrap personas are prized and promoted. Such who volunteer are highly orchestrated and choreographed flesh and blood holograms, whose every motion and syllable is geared towards maximizing the greatest acclaim. Such hesitate to take on controversial subjects or unpopular positions for fear alienation their market. Such become cultural descendents of Peter Sellers, whose hollow and chameleonic personalities are beholden and transformed to the external environ of shifting opinion.

If there is one strong cultural message that these merchandized cultural icons promulgate, it will be that rags-to-riches story of capitalist success. Bieber is ideal candidate; being raised by a troubled single parent; and who through brilliant personal social media promotion, was able to garner a captive cut of the world market. He represents the face of capitalism; the perversion of the American Dream of 18th Century (and earlier) dreamers; from the good society with concerns for the overall common good to that capitalist bastardization of rags-to-riches individual success.

For many like me, our souls vomit at the inauthenticity and sawdust inanity which occurs when capitalism ceases to be thought of as a, but not exclusive, useful tool for improving the economic lot; and becomes its cultural motif, celebrating itself.

These complaints might be deemed cultural elitism in normal times. However, when the pop productions of this era are significantly debasements from the pop productions of prior eras; at what point, will we call rubbish, rubbish. The aspersion of cultural elitism loses credibility.

However, it should not be thought that statist culturalism is any improvement over its capitalist variant. I have suffered through environmentalist campsite productions, which reduced artistic expression to a public service message and morality play; the type of utility that Plato would place art under in his Republic. I have ruminated on the grandiose sterility of modernist Nazi and Soviet architecture and propagations.

It becomes evident that true culture emanates from those from outside, often from the toiling masses and the suffering. The sophisticated culturati vampires merely embellish with stylistic flourish, the heart-felt longings of those closer to existential realities. The late 19th Century composers, scouring their countryside for nationalist musical motifs, are best example of this dynamic. Or if an artist emerges from the obscurity, he/she finds his/her creative vitality quickly hollowed out and deadened by schmoozing with the vacuous desolation that is our celebrated culturati.

Justin Bieber is hated for what he represents and for what he signifies for our future.