Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal

Summary:  Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To gain anything, something of equal value must be given.  That is life’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange, and applies to thing tangible and intangible — matter, energy, and spirit.  When America learns this we will be back on our true path.

As describe in dozens of posts on this site, America has come to a point where the burdens of self-government are too great for us to bear.  Our national motto seem to be “It’s not my fault”, which should replace  E Pluribus Unum on the dollar bill. **   This is the ethos of a nation in decline. 

What’s next?  When a people’s conceits and delusions are burned away, we must fall back on our core beliefs.  Those are seldom enough, at least IMO not enough for America.  Belief in freedom, free markets, human rights, and a republican form of government — all valuable and important ideals.  But America is in a sense an intellectual project, which gives it a basis in our minds but not our hearts.  So it should not surprise that these beliefs did not prevent us from our current situation — similar to that of  a jet aircraft with sputtering engines, pilots bickering, and passengers panicking.  Neither self-interest or love of our nation provide guidance in such a crisis.

All we have left are our myths. Unfortunately our modern myths reflect the spiritual weakness that is one cause of our crisis.  For example, most of them tell about about people who find a magic dingus and become great, or have powers bestowed on them by some Great MacGuffin.  James Bowman calls these Hollywood’s “slacker heroes”:

In XXX, for instance, the charm of the scenario lies in the idea that lazy, undisciplined slackers like, well, moi, can wander in off the street and instantly outperform the highly trained secret agents that were the role models of yesteryear (or a) similar imposture: that enough of the right technology can render skill and discipline unnecessary. … Discipline, practice, sobriety, hard work, training, all of this counts for nothing. I could do that all that stuff — being the kind of “street-smart” character that I am.

But we have other myths that better match our past — and can lead us to a greater future, stronger food for our spirit and imagination. 

Bruce Wayne as a young boy watched the murder of his parents, and spent years studying and training to become Batman, one of the most formidable men of his time.

James T. Kirk studied for years before entering Star Fleet Academy, working to become a great Starship Captain.   When an instructor at the Academy his students saw him as “a stack of books with legs”, familiar with both ancient philosophy (Spinoza, mentioned in the TV episode  “Where No Man Has Gone Before”)) and the major battles of history (described in chapter 2 of “the Kobayashi Maru” by Julia Ecklar (1989).

Now we have a generation growing up watching Fullmetal Alchemist (first broadcast to the US in 2004; see Wikipedia for details), whose tagline (slightly paraphrased) is

Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To gain anything, something of equal value must be given. That is life’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange, and applies to thing tangible and intangible — matter, energy, and spirit.

If America were to take this belief to heart would again become a formidable nation. 

These are just stories, but they represent a part of us — of our culture, our society — to which we can look to for inspiration in the dark times ahead.

About culture

I use these myths as a means to to describe the state of our culture, and its depths and strengths.

As described by Allan Boom in his great work The Closing of the American Mind, as (to closely paraphrase his words in page 187-188), culture is …

everything that uplifts and edifies a people, as opposed to commerce. It constitutes a people, binding individuals into a group with roots, a community in which they think and become a moral unity — of which the arts are an expression. It is the peak expression of man’s creativity, our ability to break out of nature’s narrow bonds, and hence out of the degrading interpretation of man in modern natural and political science. It is profounder than the modern state, which deals only with man’s bodily needs and tends to degenerate into mere economy.

Bloom also notes that many foreigners, such as …

“Charles de Gaulle and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, see the United States as a mere aggregation of individuals, a dumping ground for the refuse from other places, devoted to consuming; in short, with no culture.”

We will prove them wrong.  We have taken the refuse from other nations, but from it have forged something new and great.

Conclusion

We cannot forecast events because we do not know how people — even ourselves — will react, or on what myths we will draw during adversity.  Our minds and spirits are a maelstrom of discordant elements, amongst which we choose.  Those choices define us, and play a great role in determining our fate.

Footnote

** As faith in religion died out in America after WWII, we pretended it was not so by more fervent professions of that which we no longer believed (which were not necessary when we did believe).  In 1954 Congress added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.  In 1956 they changed the national motto from the powerful and appropriate E Pluribus Unum to the increasingly false “In God We Trust.”

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest are:

Some posts about America:

  1. A philosphical basis for the Batman saga, 23 July 2008
  2. Symptoms of a fever afflicting America’s culture, 5 November 2008 — About our heroes.
  3. The war for America’s soul, 23 December 2008 — Our changing attitudes to “It’s a Wonderful Life”
  4. Can Americans pull together? If not, why not?, 29 July 2008
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28 thoughts on “Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist is an import, it wasn’t produced within our own culture, it was produced elsewhere and brought here, Funimation just grabs things successful in the foreign market (Japan), and brings them to the US in the hopes that they will meet similar success. Anime, while popular, remains a niche phenomenon.

    Since we’re talking about animation aimed at the late teenager/young adult demographic, lets take a look at something ‘home-grown’ with similar popularity: The Venture Brothers.

    “Publick: “This show… If you’ll permit me to get ‘big picture,’ This show is actually all about failure. Even in the design, everything is supposed to be kinda the death of the space-age dream world. The death of the jet-age promises.”

    Hammer: “It’s about the beauty of failure. It’s about that failure happens to all of us…” “Every character is not only flawed, but sucks at what they do, and is beautiful at it and Jackson and I suck at what we do, and we try to be beautiful at it, and failure is how you get by.” “It shows that failure’s funny, and it’s beautiful and it’s life, and it’s okay, and it’s all we can write because we are big fucking failures. (laughter)””

    In movies, here is an example of the culture given to the next generation, like it or not, note the family structure of the heroes, the representation of gender roles, the attitude towards accomplishments of past generations, and care of the elderly: The Spiderwick Chronicles.

    When the biggest ‘social issues’ of the day relate to public tolerance of drug intoxication, infanticide, and sodomy; with the issues of euthanasia, bastard children, and divorce ‘decided’; and the lifestyle our ancestors shed so much blood, sweat, and tears for is denigrated both in popular media and in the behavior of public officials and elites, can you really describe the culture as anything but sick?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I absolutely agree that America is sick. The FM site has a few articles describing aspects of this illness, whose roots and nature are beyond my understanding. Still, I have faith that we have the will and ability to restore ourselves.

    “Fullmetal Alchemist is an import, it wasn’t produced within our own culture, it was produced elsewhere and brought here”

    True, but irrelevant. Most of American culture was borrowed from elsewhere. Our ability to learn, borrow, and adapt is perhaps our greatest gift.

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  2. A boy becomes a man when a man is needed. A nation of man/boys becomes a nation of men when such is needed. You rightly point out that gloating about how opening a can of economic wupass on ourselves will ironically fix what’s wrong with us is patently idiotic. Better to mourn our coming loss of innocence, help the truly suffering as best we can, and brace for the coming national transition to manhood.

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  3. 1961 gave us the film Judgment at Nuremberg, featuring Spencer Tracy as a heroic judge who condemns Nazi depravities, including (of course) torture.

    Fast forward 48 years, and — Excerpt from “Never Again? That’ll be Quite a Speech, Mr. President“, Peterr, posted at FireDogLake, 21 April 2009:

    …on Thursday President Obama will be giving the keynote speech at the 2009 National Holocaust Remembrance Commemoration at the US Capitol. The event is sponsored by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the theme of the event is “Never Again: What You Do Matters.”

    Here’s where the speechwriter’s problem comes in. As the museum’s press release says,

    “The notion that the Holocaust was the result of the actions of one man or a handful of leaders is false,’ says Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. `The ability to carry out the genocide depended upon the participation of tens of thousands and the acquiescence of millions. This year, as we remember the victims of Nazi Germany and its collaborators, let us reflect on our own responsibilities in a world of rising antisemitism and continuing genocide.”

    So, one week after the DOJ releases memos that made torture the legal policy of the United States of America, and shortly after Obama announced that those who carried out this policy would not face prosecution, the speechwriter has to craft a speech for a Holocaust remembrance event.

    Good luck with that, WH Speechwriter.

    This may explain the difficulty of creating movies featuring true heroes today.

    Something tells me it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood features a torturer at the hero of its latest blockbuster. We’ve already moved in this direction with the latest Batman film, in which Batman exploys “enhance interrogation techniques” (AKA torture) on the Joker. You can see it now: after Arnold Schwarzenegger retires from politics, he’ll return to the movies, but this time as an heroic DHS torturer who isn’t afraid to brutalize young children in order to get that crucial info on the ticking bomb. Jack Bauer already does it weekly on the TV show 24.

    When torturers become your heroes, there’s not much hope for your society.

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  4. Perhaps the Americans should also consider the example of their leaders and how they act. There is a strong difference between a man like Jimmy Carter – who could be reading documents for days in order to make an informed decision – and a president like Ronald Reagan, who didn’t like to read at all. Most Americans prefer an uninformed and thus optimistic leader like Ronald Reagan instead of an informed and thus pessimistic person like Carter.

    I would like to add – however – that personality also matters. Reagan was – for all his rhetoric – deeply afraid of war and made huge efforts the defuse the Cold War in its last, dangerous stages. Empires seldom die peacefully, but the Soviet Empire did. Compare him to president George Bush, who almost never read a book and was proud of that fact. What did we get? War in Iraq, war in Afghanistan and war in Pakistan.

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  5. Petersen, be as critical of George W. Bush as you like, but please get your facts straight; Bush was a voracious reader, especially of history. He read as much or more as any of his senior staff, with whom he a friendly comeptition to see who’d read the most books. He often won. Now, whether he took any of those books to heart in making policy… that’s perhaps another question.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It’s sad and perhaps revealing that the popular image of our Presidents’ so poorl corresponds to reality.
    * Eisenhower was considered not too bright (a subject of much of humor by Adlai Stevenson’s supporters), which was incorrect.
    * Kennedy was an athlete and family man (we did not yet know about his poor health — or the midnight pool parties; did Jackie mastermind the assassination?).
    * Ford was a seen as a klutz, whereas he was in fact in better shape then most Presidents (an athlete in his past).
    * Bush Jr scores and academic history provides no support support the belief that he was stupid.
    * Although only a VP, Quayle’s image greatly differs from reality. His sponsorship of the Patriot air defense system looks prescient, and his 1992 “Murphy Borwn” speech sparked a discussion about the functioning of the family which continues to this day.

    It seems obvious that these images have one thing in common: all are crafted by our mainstream media and tilt towards the Democratic Party, and against Republicans.

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  6. “As describe in dozens of posts on this site, America has come to a point where the burdens of self-government are too great for us to bear.”

    What do you mean by ‘self-government’ in the contemporary (versus founding era versus Imperialist UK) context?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I mean what the words say.

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  7. Re Erasmus comment #6: In a tautological sort of way, that’s like asking “What does it mean to be a man?”. A good question, the ultimate starting point, but not too helpful.

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  8. An interesting review of a book. From Newsweek: “Generation Me”, Raina Kelley — “A new book says we’re in a narcissism epidemic. Why you’re not so special.”

    It is one of many issue’s we will need to come to grips with. The decimation of the intact family is another. Plus we are having a disconnect between cause and effect. Simply, You do something bad and something bad happens you. You do something good and something good happens. Fullmetal Alchemist is saying basically the same thing. I agree with you that we will figure it out but it’s just going to be a long process as we rediscover some of the “old” ways that worked. Overcoming built in arrogance takes a while.

    A little Kipling showing it’s not a new problem. I know it’s a repeat but just so darned fitting: “The Gods of the Copybook Headings“, Rudyard Kipling

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  9. I am serious. What does it mean in the current context?

    Personally, I find it meaningless unless defined. Sort of like how people these days bandy about such terms as ‘socialism’, ‘communism’, ‘capitalism’, ‘left’ and ‘right’. Without context the same term can mean a wide variety of things. Since it seems to be a core idea in your post, it would be helpful if you would define it.

    Are you implying that ordinary citizens have all that much input/power viz. their government in the US and/or that they are confused spiritually and therefore aren’t exercising it? If they did, how could they or rather : in what way would it be different from what is going on now? Seems to me there was just a fairly well covered and voted election cycle. The same boys are still in charge doing the same things. Who is responsible for this? The voters? If so, what different should they be doing? In what way are they not participating in ‘self-government’?

    Re Myths: playful piece on our real heroes set out in screen play format: http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/Even-Jack-Bauer-couldnt-stop/story.aspx?guid={BE0D1772-A628-454D-80BF-C4484CEBA7DF}&dist=SecMostRead&print=true&dist=printMidSection

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  10. I am curious, why is it that portraying a flawed hero is such an issue? A quick look at Wikipedia’s entry on the Tragic Hero shows that this method was employed by Mr. Shakespeare.

    Is the thought that things were better “back in the day” when heroes were simple and offered no moral complexity? Is it believed that an ancient Greek person was so simpleminded as to not understand that heroes could be morally complex?

    Please clarify, as I am missing something. It would appear that some of the commenters think that the modern depiction of a hero somehow reflects our moral or societal decay?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Please explain more specifically to what comment(s) you are replying. Bowman’s “slacker heroes” are not “tragic” heroes in any meaningful sense. Unless you consider lazy and unmotivated to be “tragic” flaws.

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  11. Our nation has simply reached the point where a republican form of govenment is no longer suited for it. There is no decay, no spiritual wandering. We must form a new government. People are just waiting for that. Until that happens, it’s a big party. I haven’t voted for 15 years, are you seriously saying that’s because I don’t participate? Who do I vote for, who speaks for me? No one.

    They said if I didn’t vote I couldn’t complain, well, they were completely wrong about that.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Here we see the consumerist mentality at work, one of the major causes of America’s ills. Xiaoding takes a passive attitude towards politics. Like watching TV or shopping, it’s the world’s job to provide products that meet his desires.

    Which is fine. Such folks have always been with us, chaff in the political machinery. Just get out of the way while the rest of us work to keep America running. If we fail, you really have something to complain about. But nobody will listen or care, then as now.

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  12. Re comment #6: ‘Imperialist UK’ or Imperialist Founding Fathers*? Many of the key disputes in the conflict were over the desire of the American colonists to expand (particularly at the expense of various Indian tribes), which the UK objected to. Similarly many of the Founding Fathers and key Rebels were the same who’d pushed for expansion in the Ohio Valley and Canada at the expense of the French.

    I think a key pointer as to the state of the nations spirit is always to read its children’s books. Who are the heroes for the kids?, what are the challenges they face?, what are their conflicts? etcetera. Current children’s literature that I’ve read doesn’t seem especially healthy to me. Frequently political, often narcissistic with an emphasis on passive reactions.

    * Not all obviously but that magnificent American drive to expand, to succeed and to create came about largely at the expense of others. Its not entirely fair to claim the UK was anti-Imperialist at that point either.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Great point about the children’s literature! As for the UK, in 1776 it was just starting another massive wave of imperial expansion (i.e., the second British Empire). To say the UK was anti-Imperialist is more than “not entireely unfair” — it is bizarrely false.

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  13. I, for one, am extremely skeptical that Bush Jr. was a voracious reader. Just like the WMD in Iraq claims prior to the invasion, I suspect that this was just a bunch of White Hours PR spin.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It’s possible. Being a voracious (if narrow) reader is compatable with incompetence (in any field). The source of these stories are White House staffers:
    * “Bush’s reading list: heavy on bios and baseball“, US News and World Report, 17 August 2006
    * “Bush Is a Book Lover“, Karl Rove, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 26 December 2008 — “A glimpse of what the president has been reading.”

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  14. I agree with Erasmus, here. Why worry about culture? Culture, including such hallowed political concepts as “self-government”, is simply a reflection of the underlying class relations of our society. “Self-government” is an illusory concept which serves the ruling class by masking the lack of real power possessed by the majority. And the debased fantasies of pop culture, including rough and ready common man heroes like John Wayne, merely reflect the debased condition of the lower classes. The question now is whether the current ruling class, and the dominant economic system, can survive the current economic collapse. If it can, it won’t matter much whether our next vocabulary of civic virtue is “liberal” or “conservative”, “international” or “green”. We will still have one set of virtues for the rulers, and one for the ruled. If it can’t, hunger, poverty, homelessness will provide a new vocabulary.

    Later addendum: I have to take issue with myself here. Generally, I would say that pop culture is created by the “ruling” classes precisely to keep the lower classes in place. In other words, pop cult heroes like Batman and Rambo, and pop cult sports like football, offer fantasy liberation from real economic conditions. On the other hand, the latest Bond movie, A Quantum of Solace, goes so far in the direction of exposing government as corrupt that I wonder if it doesn’t actually have a revolutionary message, and Daniel Criag isn’t some kind of proletarian hero. Anyway, “Quantum” far from the Cold War cliches of the early Bond movies.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: As for popular culture, it is IMO not entirely true that it is “is created by the “ruling” classes precisely to keep the lower classes in place” — although that is one thread in it. There is another that arises up from the masses, although this is often equally strong on wish-fulfillment. For an example of this, see A philosphical basis for the Batman saga (23 July 2008)

    “Self-government” is an illusory concept which serves the ruling class by masking the lack of real power possessed by the majority.”

    How nice that you have rationalized as inevitable your role as a serf. What a wonderful excuse for inactivity. All I ask is that you get out of the way while the rest of us work to re-build America.

    Posts on the FM site about this:

    * America’s Most Dangerous Enemy, 1 March 2006
    * Diagnosing the eagle, chapter IV – Alienation, 13 January 2008
    * Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
    * de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
    * The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
    * We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
    * The intelligentsia takes easy steps to abandoning America, 19 August 2008
    * Symptoms of a fever afflicting America’s culture, 5 November 2008
    * This crisis will prove that Americans are not sheep (unless we are), 8 January 2008
    * About security theater, a daily demonstration that Americans are sheep, 25 January 2009

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  15. As Spengler points out, culture is man’s answer to our awareness of our own mortality. If we were immortal we might muddle through by focusing on our own self absorption forever. Mortality throws a monkey wrench into our cogitations on the meaning of our brief existence. The work around is what we call culture. OK, we say, I’m going to die, and too soon, but through my contributions to our culture, my life will still have continuity, and meaning, and purpose. All three are important parts of the work around. Historical continuity through culture addresses the mortality problem, religion, as part of culture, gives our short lives meaning, and active involvement in self governance, an important part of our culture, gives the work we do there, and for ourselves, purpose.

    Many Americans feel that attempted self governance through political involvement is tantamount to digging holes and filling them up again, i.e. useless, meaningless work. I disagree. It’s just harder work, with smaller pay, than we are used to. In the coming economy, we will be doing a lot of work, for smaller pay, than we are used to.

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  16. Guy: fair points about imperialism etc. My query about self-government was assuming that what most of us think of when we read the term is something along the lines of a group of free men creating a new paradigm in a new world, rugged individualism, freedom from tyranny, etc. etc.

    But in the modern context with a 300,000,000 plus population of which 100 million in the last 30-40 years alone, I am not sure what that sort of expression (‘self-government’) means any more. Also, to be frank, I am not sure what FM think he means by it, hence my query. He chose not to give an answer.

    Seneca went further than I whilst echoing a subtext I did not express. (We should never forget the role of the Seneca tribes in influencing the Founding Fathers’ notion of a Federal conglomeration!)

    As to culture: I think it is very important except that it is a mistake to use the term in only a positive sense because there can be crappy culture, degraded culture, criminal culture etc. Culture is a general term that essentially refers to what the Chinese esoterics used to call ‘Zhong Chi’ or ‘societal energy’ if you will. Such energy is communicated more by speech-level than body-level mechanisms, i.e. language, dress, hierarchy, governance structure and so forth. Personally I think that perceiving this sort of thing is what most of our large brain capacity is designed for. It is not material and therefore not measurable and therefore outside the purview of so-called ‘science’. But that’s another topic!

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  17. Also, I really like this thread because I feel that myth or narrative best expresses and channels such cultural energy, or ‘culture’ better than anything else, certainly better than philosophy alone, or cargo cult things that come and go like materialist science, religious sects, populist movements and so forth. But within each movement/manifestation exists a kernel of narrative that is actually what it is about and as such, valid – albeit again in either confused or enlightened fashion.

    Put another way: narrative best expresses our individual and collective (there is no difference of course) cognitive processes. We have a long term life-time narrative stretching from birth through infancy, growth, maturity and death. We have class-related narrative that exists around every kitchen table in the form of ‘mother’ ‘father’ ‘son’ ‘daughter’ and so forth. We cannot get through even an hour of a day without the cognitive process that is the same as the one that perceives narrative thread. The sense of time, progress, waking up, washing, having breakfast, going to work, getting married, having children, being children, running businesses etc. ad infinitum, all involve narrative-based cognitive faculties.

    So this thread is right to point out that the narratives flying around the culture express what it is.

    But Seneca is also right to point out that, in terms of media-provided narrative, it is worth considering who is putting all that stuff out and why.

    Then on the other hand, perhaps in terms of ‘self-governance’, all of us have to ask ourselves why we find certain narratives appealing, others not etc. Including why so many people watch American Idol, listen to crappy commercially produced ditties and so forth.

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  18. BC in comment #16: “As Spengler points out, culture is man’s answer to our awareness of our own mortality. If we were immortal we might muddle through by focusing on our own self absorption forever. Mortality throws a monkey wrench into our cogitations on the meaning of our brief existence. The work around is what we call culture. OK, we say, I’m going to die, and too soon, but through my contributions to our culture, my life will still have continuity, and meaning, and purpose.”

    Spengler, aka David Goldman a new editor at First Things (Published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, to advance a religiously informed public philosophy), is one of the most brilliant, articulate and confused/confusing people around. He mixes deep insight, backed by broad real-world experience, with myopic theistic philosophies, not to mention tribal loyalties which muddy his intellectual broth (froth?) further.

    Culture exits in the moment that a mother first looks at her newborn child, father as well and at that moment a culture of three is born. This is not in response to anything. It is simply: (drumroll) : relationship. Just as a child is not born except through the relationship between male and female and all the drama and emotion and cultural context (aka ‘narrative’) this involves, so also ‘no man is an island’. We are a social species, i.e. interdependent upon others for our very existence and meaning. This has nothing to do with immortality or mortality unless one wishes to inject high-falutin’ concepts for the fun of it.

    Now: if you want to get into what is behind the ‘karmic forces’ involved in why beings are born and die, that is a valid topic. But whatever that is, it exists alongside ‘culture’ which itself exists the second any single one of us is born, long before we can think through things like mortality or immortality.

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  19. Dosco,

    Is moral complexity desirous in an individual? I am not so sure.

    The heroes of Full Metal Alchemist are tragic in a sense; the setting is the aftermath of them doing something incredibly selfish, which costs them dearly. The rest of the story is about them trying to fix it, which only comes about after selfless sacrifice by the older brother.

    I think the key to our long term prosperity is selfless sacrifice. But don’t tell that to our leaders. Instead they tell us they can heal America by shifting more of the tax burden onto an ever shrinking tax base. By vastly increasing something so oxymoronic as ‘paid volunteerism.’ And so on.

    FM repeatedly tells us that America’s OODA loop is broken. I think The Coming of the Forth American Republic explains why:

    “It is another example of “prisoners’ dilemma,” almost everyone would be better off if we dismantled the Special Interest State, but there is no easy way to get there and no one will volunteer to go first. Given that such a state exists, the rational response is to redouble one’s efforts to try to get an advantage over the other special interests…”

    In other words, the body politic is paralyzed and can not or will not act until the breaking point is reached. For example, how many special interest groups does a married hispanic woman, with children, who works as a public school teacher belong to? More to the point, how many SIGs with contradictory goals does she belong to?

    BTW FM, I don’t know if you are a fan of FMA, but they ‘rebooted’ the TV series at the beginning of April.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: An excerpt from “The Coming of the Forth American Republic” goes up here next week. I recommend reading it in full.

    Are copies of the new FMA available yet on YouTube or elsewhere? That is, with English subtitles or dubs?

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  20. Fabius replies to my remark that “self-government is an illusory concept . . .that masks the lack of real power possessed by the majority” with “How nice that you have rationalized as inevitable your role as a serf. What a wonderful excuse for inactivity.

    Acknowledging our powerlessness does not mean that we will not act. It only means we won’t waste our time petitioning government for things it won’t give us. Acknowledging our powerlessness is a necessary step to realising who does have power, and how they might be “influenced.” For example, waiting for Congress to change its views on Israel is a waste of time (sixty years now, and not a millimeter of progress!), but boycotting Israeli products and academic speakers might have an effect.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t know what all that means, but I reject the assertion that we are powerless. We have the power, but we lack the will to use it.

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  21. They have it streaming on the funimation website.

    More on the 4th Republic: if the author is correct, we simply will not collectively muster the willpower to put an end to the special interest state. Why should we? It’s simple game theory… as long as enough people feel like they are ‘getting theirs’ in the moment the impetus for real change doesn’t exist.

    I do believe the next iteration is going to be just fine. What worries me is the interim period. Although I agree that rightists talking about stockpiling canned food and ammo are not being productive, I think they do have a point. The transition period is going to be ugly.

    For that reason I recommend The Sheriff – More Power than the President. It seems a little nutty, but he does talk about running for office at the county level.

    Even though we seem to be captive to the Special Interest State, I do see signs of hope. California is making noises about charging people $.25 for a plastic or paper bag at the supermarket, due to a ‘blight’ of plastic bags floating around everywhere. What the site doesn’t mention is that people on food stamps and welfare would be exempt – in other words the people most likely to not throw the damn bag in the trash or reuse it would be exempt from the very problem the bill purports to correct.

    Upon watching this my wife – predictably liberal – raised an incredulous eye at this. This leads me to believe that more people are finally waking up to the limits of the Special Interest State.

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  22. FM remarks: “It’s sad and perhaps revealing that the popular image of our presidents so poorly corresponds to reality.

    The most extreme examples in modern times are probably the self-educated Harry Truman, who had no formal schooling beyond high school, and the laconic Cal Coolidge. From “The Weakness of Barack Obama“, Ronald Dart, posted at Looking for Truthtellers, 16 November 2008:

    “As for reading the classics, President Harry Truman, whom no one thought of as an intellectual, was a voracious reader of heavyweight stuff like Thucydides and read Cicero in the original Latin. When Chief Justice Carl Vinson quoted in Latin, Truman was able to correct him. Yet intellectuals tended to think of the unpretentious and plain-spoken Truman as little more than a country bumpkin.

    “Similarly, no one ever thought of President Calvin Coolidge as an intellectual. Yet Coolidge also read the classics in the White House. He read both Latin and Greek, and read Dante in the original Italian, since he spoke several languages. It was said that the taciturn Coolidge could be silent in five different languages.”

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    Fabius Maximus replies: A great example! Thanks for posting it.

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  23. Captain Ramen writes: “California is making noises about charging people $.25 for a plastic or paper bag at the supermarket, due to a ‘blight’ of plastic bags floating around everywhere. What the site doesn’t mention is that people on food stamps and welfare would be exempt – in other words the people most likely to not throw the damn bag in the trash or reuse it would be exempt from the very problem the bill purports to correct.

    Please present supporting evidence for there being a link between unemployment/poverty and not reusing supermarket plasticbags as binbags. Seems awefully denigrating to me. Also what’s with the “my wife – predictably liberal -“? Are you trying to claim that woman=liberal? The subtext being the narrative that woman=weak/inferior -> liberal=weak/inferior? Nice touch using misogyny in your argument there.

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  24. I’m happy for you that you feel denigrated. ‘Righteous anger’ is a powerful drug, it certainly makes me feel good whenever I experience it.

    Go to three neighborhoods near you: A rich place like Rolling Hills Estates; a middle class city like Alhambra; an inner city area like Compton. Count the number of plastic bags floating around in the street.

    As for my wife, what I meant to say is that as a liberal, her positions on things are pretty predictable, i.e. I know what she is going to say on something before she says it. She comes from a family that all get together to decide how they are going to vote (democrats) before they do so. I am not criticizing that, as I am predictably conservative. I was merely expressing shock that she ‘got it.’

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  25. Respectfully, and at the risk of being an annoyance, I would like to comment on the material on the FM site re: the “Culture Wars”.

    I don’t think it’s just, or even/especially realistic, to expect that each citizen operating (living) in ‘freedom/democracy’ to have as their raison de etre the selfless reformation of their country. If they have other interests and aims in life it does not necessarily follow that they are passive sheep.

    There have been a couple of responses to comments by FM that have basically stated (forgive me for paraphrasing) that ‘you’re just surplus weight on the wagon’ (of self-government). In reading such replies I have thought “that could have been the kindest, brightest citizen that was told that.” Perhaps they also help make America and Earth a better place.

    FM: “If we fail, you really have something to complain about. But nobody will listen or care, then as now.

    Does the same hold for our poets, chief amongst our eloquent dissenters, and rarely also activists, let alone politicians? (Granted, I have not read Jimmy Carter.) It has been stated elsewhere that to get out of a whole a person must stop digging – similarly, criticisms and especially skepticism regarding ‘self-government’ought not to be taken as antithetical to the program of ‘making things better’ but as (possible) contributions. Further, much of this apparent disagreement as I see it hinges upon this idea(l) of self-government. “I mean what the words say.” (FM) Someone who doesn’t believe that what the words say exists in reality might conclude that FM must be a Buddhist to account for his expansive definition of ‘self’.

    Good luck to all of you.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Do you believe that the following is a fair summary of what I said? It looks to me like a silly exaggeration, rather than a discussion of this issue.

    “to expect that each citizen operating (living) in ‘freedom/democracy’ to have as their raison de etre the selfless reformation of their country.”

    Citzenship carries burdens and responsibilities along with benefits. That’s Civics 101. Why do you find this difficult to understand?

    “In reading such replies I have thought ‘that could have been the kindest, brightest citizen that was told that.'”

    Being kind or bright are characteristics, not actions. “But it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.”

    “If they have other interests and aims in life it does not necessarily follow that they are passive sheep.”

    Everybody must take turns helpping push the wagon along. To sit in the wagon, enjoying your “other interests and aims” while the rest of us push makes you dead weight. No matter how pretty the poetry you write, how beautiful the artistry of your life.

    I have no idea what you are attempting to say in your last paragraph.

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  26. FM: If I exaggerated what you said to the point of silliness I didn’t mean to. In my last paragraph I was questioning whether the ideal of self governance is a reality. The issue seemed to me to depend on what is self in self-governance. Most people I’ve talked to do not feel like they themselves make decisions or govern on a larger scale than themselves; hence the reference to Buddhism whose followers purport to have no self.

    “Citizenship carries burdens and responsibilities along with benefits” (FM). I agree that it does. I for one could probably not live on my own in the wild. On the wiki society page a little while ago there was a great quote by Aristotle to the effect that only gods or beasts can live apart from society (I consider myself neither). My point is that the non-civically minded (especially if kind, kind bright and skeptical) can add to the betterment of our conditions. The point you made distinguishing characteristics and actions is well taken.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I suggest that you think about the wagon metaphor. Or the need for everyone in a household to take turns with the housework. Sitting on the couch and writing poetry does not clean the bathrooms, or get the necessary civic word done. In stable times more deadheads can relax in the wagon, but in times of stress everyone must get out and push.

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  27. Capt Ramen: “Is moral complexity desirous in an individual? I am not so sure.”

    How many people do you know that are “morally simple?” IMO entertainment is catching up with reality. My question is to wonder if this is a bad thing and reflects the general decline of our society …? I have my doubts.

    “I think the key to our long term prosperity is selfless sacrifice.”

    That’s probably true. I think one of the problems is that most middle class folks are used to an “increased standard of living” … “selfless sacrifice” therefore equates to driving a crappo car, living in a crappy/dangerous neighborhood, sharing a residence, etc.

    “But don’t tell that to our leaders. Instead they tell us they can heal America by shifting more of the tax burden onto an ever shrinking tax base.”

    One of the ongoing discussions here is about this subject. I’m not sure, the evidence shows that Keynsian spending should shorten the “bad times,” but common sense dictates that bad things lurk on the horizon after the recovery.

    “FM repeatedly tells us that America’s OODA loop is broken.”

    I agree. I think that it is a result of human nature … the classic battle between “being somebody” and “doing something” (Boyd’s words). I often wonder if there is a relationship between economic conditions and “Boyd’s choice.”

    In other words, the body politic is paralyzed and can not or will not act until the breaking point is reached.”

    See my previous comment.

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