What The In Crowd Knows

A tale as old as time:

Dominant liberal culture is, if nothing else, fiercely rule-abiding: they get very upset when they see anyone defying decrees from authorities, even if the rule-breaker is the official who promulgated the directives for everyone else. 

While I appreciate the willingness of Glenn Greenwald, a man of the Left, to call out the hypocrisy of our Ruling Class, this observation isn’t quite right, actually. Dominant liberal culture is all about rule promulgation, not necessarily personally abiding by rules. As time goes on, the pretense fades, and why wouldn’t it? Nothing ever happens to the Ruling Class.

Dobie Gray, a more perceptive social critic than our man Greenwald, was all over this way back in ’65:

I’m in with the in crowd
I go where the in crowd goes
I’m in with the in crowd
And I know what the in crowd knows
Any time of the year, don’t you hear?
Dressin’ fine, makin’ time
We breeze up and down the street
We get respect from the people we meet
They make way day or night
They know the in crowd is out of sight

Back in ’65, the term “out of sight” roughly meant cool, fashionable, au courant, like that. Some 56 years later, out of sight has a more conventional meaning: in the shadows, behind the curtain, holed up in nondescript office buildings in and around the Beltway. Our in crowd is an industrious lot, and they keep coming up with more rules at all times, whether our Congresscritters weigh in or not.

Any time of the year, don’t you hear? Mocking fools, making rules

But many of our fellow citizens don’t hear, nor are they listening. Instead, we all hear our animatronic Leader of the Free World as he is sent out to joust with the Teleprompter.

We make every minute count
Our share is always the biggest amount
Other guys imitate us
But the original’s still the greatest

Just ask them. If you can identify them.

 

 

 

Being Locked Down And Nothingness, Part II

As I pointed out yesterday, I didn’t have a lot of personal sturm und drang during the “lockdown”. Life changed, of course – but I don’t think I especially did.

I was listening to an NPR science show a few weeks back. It discussed new discoveries about the interconnectedness of pleasure and pain – literal pleasure and pain,, in this case, and their role in addiction.

Doing something pleasurable triggers a jolt of dopamine – which is pleasant, and makes you happy. Doesn’t matter what the pleasure impulse is – a small victory, a shot of bourbon, sex, a good TV show, it all triggers dopamine. Of course, there’s an inner pendulum of sorts – as the body experiences pleasure, it pushes back, so the pleasure is followed by nearly equal, nearly opposite pain. Sugar is followed by crash; Big victory is followed by “so, what’s next?”.

One of the article’s many points was that humans have more stimuli for dopamine now than ever before; 24/7 entertainment, smart phones, porn on demand, drugs from caffeine to Fentanyl and everything in between. Humans aren’t built for all the pleasure modern times presents them; eveolutionariliy, everyone in the world is a virtual Norwegian Bachelor Farmer, expecting an aescetic life.

And this past 19 months have stripped away a lot of the stimulation people used to get – and made some of the more transient ones, video games and cell phones and the like – old hat. Buzzes get old; to quote the great psychiatrist Axl Rose, “I used to do a little but a little didn’t do it, so a little got more and more”.

And “creatives”, I think, are much more addicted to more dopamine, more need for stimulus and variation, than most.

And those are the ones writing the extended laments of the misery of thjis past two years.

Being Locked Down, And Nothingness, Part I

Back around the fall of 2020, in respect to the mewling avalanche of navel gazing in the media and among parts of my social circle about how 2020 was “the worst year ever”, I made two observations.

  1. Tell that to anyone alive in 1942, or 1916 (or the 1918 Influenza), 1861, or any of the various Bubonic Plagues. Those that didn’t hit you with a brick would laugh a bitter, condescending laugh.
  2. Worst ever? It wasn’t even the worst in my lifetime, from my perspective.

This last observation was a little controversial in some parts of my social circle – but among years in my life, 2020 might have cracked the bottom five, maybe. Just off the top of my head: 2008 was horrible, 2003 was a grueling slog of unemployment, 2000 involved all the fun and frolic of a divorce and 1988 was a hideous morass of depression.

So – 2020 was #5 on the *hit parade. At worst.

I posted that list on another, lesser social media platform than this blog. And it drew…

…well, some agreement, and a particularly harsh reaction from some parts of my social circle.

I’m not going to say 2020 was fun – it was terrible, and for reasons that went beyond Covid. And 2021, so far, is worse; more people in my life, speaking for myself, have died of Covid this year than last year. Again, neither year comes close to topping any of the years I listed above.

It’s heartening to see others making the observation:

No one can or should emerge from that world-historical shock without a heightened sense of life’s transience. It is the lockdown, the pause in “busy-ness”, that has been infused with more meaning than it can hold. What started as twee high jinks about banana bread became a sour reappraisal of modernity by its principal winners: the educated, the urban, the mobile. 

It is mortifyingly non-U, in fact, to say that I enter the post-lockdown world with no new angle on life. But there it is. I am going to go out as much as I did before, thanks. I am going to travel as much as the friction of new rules allows. If some urbanites crave an Arcadian life, I encourage them to find it in the obvious places instead of bending cities to their tastes. To the extent that I have changed at all, it is in the direction of more speed and zest: passing some of my forties in an Asian megacity is a goal now, as it never was before.

No doubt, my failure to have a Damascene lockdown reveals an impoverished imagination. But then which side is more bovinely stuck in its ways here? What stands out about the great odysseys of the soul I keep reading is their familiarity. Metropolitans have always been prone to credulous nature-worship. Families have always been prone to urban flight. Mid-life ennui has always been dressed up as some fault with the outside world. What is new is the respectability that such attitudes have acquired over the past year and a half. In other words, the lockdown hasn’t changed these people any more than it changed me. It just dignified existing impulses.

Read the whole thing.

But I think there was one other factor at work.

More tomorrow.

Church, State, And The Condition Of The Soul

It’s been a longstanding issue — how does the Catholic Church deal with politicians who are Catholic, but who actively support policies inimical to the faith? Especially now, since Joe Biden, a lifelong Catholic, is in the Oval Office? The nation’s bishops are meeting this week and the matter is coming to a head:

This week at their annual spring meeting, the bishops of the U.S. Catholic Church — the largest faith group in the country — will debate the meaning of Communion and whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be barred from receiving it. The conversation and a vote among the church’s top clerics could have significant ramifications because it centers on one of the most intimate moments of Catholic worship and binds it uniquely to a specific political and policy position.

Intimate moment isn’t quite right; rather, the Eucharist is central to the faith. And within the Church, the centrality of the Eucharist means the stakes are high. But if you’re going to rely on the Washington Post to explain the matter, you’re going to get dogma of a different sort:

The vote comes after two decades of deliberate, passionate focus by Catholic political and theological conservatives to make abortion a litmus test for the sacrament, while church teachings on poverty, climate, racism and authoritarianism, among other things, become more subjective to follow. It also comes after years of hardening toward abortion opponents within the Democratic Party.

Much of that description is doubletalk, frankly. We have 2000 years of history with the Church and arguments about politics have been part of that history from the outset, but poverty has always been an ongoing concern. The default position of Catholicism is faith and works, which is why Catholics build hospitals and schools everywhere they go. And ascribing passion as the prevailing emotion for conservatives is cute, when you consider the behavior of the pro-choice side.

I, like Joe Biden, am a lifelong Catholic. Biden is an ostentatious sinner, but so am I. Understanding my faith has been an ongoing effort for me, especially since the Vatican II teaching I received was equivocal on many issues. I am a graduate of a well-regarded Catholic high school in Wisconsin (Top 50 in the country — just ask them!), but the quality of the religious instruction I received wasn’t very good. Scarcity applies not only to economic matters, but also to clear moral instruction. And in this Archdiocese, which harbored monstrous priests for decades, even the clearest moral instruction is tainted. Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and many other Catholic politicians benefit greatly from this loss of trust. But Biden is a Catholic in a secular world. And I cannot know the condition of his soul; assuming that I do would be a sin as well.

Biden is also a symptom of a larger malady. As time has passed, Catholics in the West have been following the same dismal path that mainline Protestants have followed — the buildings remain, but the people aren’t coming. We still get decent attendance at my parish, but the faithful parishioners are aging rapidly and many young families are otherwise engaged on Sunday.

Still, hope remains. COVID has actually helped our parish school, which remained open while their public school counterparts were on a year-long Zoom call with cameras off. Parents who would not have considered enrolling their kids in a Catholic school gave Catholic education a chance and many of them are returning this year. And there is tremendous energy in the Church, mostly in places that were once missionary lands. It wasn’t a coincidence that the current Pontiff came from South America, even though his worldview is decidedly European, but there is a decent possibility that the next Pope will be from Africa or Asia. A revival is not guaranteed, but the Holy Spirit hasn’t left the building.

Planet Of The Humans, Part 0

I spent a lot of time thinking about this scene last week:

I first started paying serious attention to politics in about 1980. Like a lot of high school kids, then and now, I was somewhere out on what would be called “the left”; I wrote a platform for North Dakota Boys State (a statewide mock government program put on by the decidedly conservative American Legion) that called for systematic redistribution of wealth, abolishing nuclear energy and nuclear disarmament, and a whole bunch of stuff that would be pretty mainstream among the Bernie Bros today.

Three years later, due to the good graces of my English professor, Dr. Jim Blake, I had re-evaluated most of my assumptions. I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984, and never really looked back.

And I had no reason to. None of us did. Although the history books, all being written from the perspective of the Left, will never admit it, the two decades from 1980 to 2000 were, objectively, the last American Golden Age. I’ll squeak out an optimistic coda and add “so far”, but I’ll be honest – I haven’t been feeling it, but I’m a firm believer in acting like you want to feel, and so there is is. “So far”.

I’ll come back to that.

There’s no denying it was one of the high points of American history. We led an economic surge that brought more wealth to more people than any in history. We, as a nation, led a political surge that led to the collapse of one of the most evil regimes in history (although not the other one – so far).

Maybe it’s just the perspective of one guy’s lifetime – but I suspect you’d have to look long and hard to find a place and time when it was generally better to be a human.

Not just in material terms, but in terms of the tension between freedom and order, one of the hardest things about running a self-governing society, being in relative balance – and, more importantly, the general commitment to the system and process that kept all those moving parts in balance.

And it’s been downhill from there.

The arc from Morning in America in 1980 to last week’s skirmish at the Capitol – which, loathe as I am to come even close to Democrat chanting points, was a form of coup, not against President-Elect Biden, but against the states’ constitutional power to select electors – peaked…somewhere in the late ’90s – when one of the glories of the American system, gridlocked government, combined with a Peace Dividend brought about by the end of the Cold War (thanks, President Reagan), led to an outburst of technological, entrepreneurial and market power that brought so much wealth, and security, and general well-being, to so many people that it may have been as close to a uptopia, in some ways, as humanity can get. Because of the gridlock in government.

Somewhere between 1998 and 2005, things started to turn back south again. It’d be easy to point to the polarization of American politics, starting with the various Clinton scandals, through the fiasco of the 2000 election, the near-decade of squabbling over the War on Terror and the 2008 government-caused financial meltdown, as the cause – but it went in parallel with a lot of other changes in our nation’s political, moral and social lives that have led to their…

…I was going to say “culmination” last week at the Capitol. But of course, that’s not true. Last week’s sorry episode was, like last summer’s riots, and the social back and forth that gave us Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Trump himself, and the movements that supported them all in a way that was increasingly “un-American” (I’m still claiming a meaning for that term), and if you think that was the peak, or trough, or any sort of ending to the story, you just haven’t paid attention to 20,000 years of human nature.

So let’s not call it a culmination. Let’s call it a checkpoint, on a path that may be going up, or down, but control over which We The People need to take before the phrase “We The People” is forever relegated to the museum.

How have we gotten from the peak of Western Civilization to…this, in my adult lifetime?

Let’s talk about it.

We’ll start with President Trump, next.

But we’re damn sure not going to finish with him.

Emotional Day

For the last few years, I’ve secretly left candy in the grandkids’ shoes on St. Nicholas Day, a family holiday tradition which stretches back five generations (that I know of) and possibly more. This year, my daughter decided the oldest grandson could take over the role. I’m no longer needed.

I said it was fine with me so long as she gave him the lecture I received from my Mom when I took over as St. Nicholas: He must keep the secret. The little kids are entitled to the magic of Christmas as long as it lasts, same as he was. Never break the spell. Allow them to believe.

I know in my head this is a good thing, passing the torch and involving the next generation. I know the oldest grandson will do a fine job. I didn’t really want to drive all the way over there in the cold and dark anyway.

So why do I feel like crying?

Joe Doakes

I hear ya.

Snappy Answers To Casual Gaslighting, Part IV

“Check your privilege”

OK. Let’s check my privilege.

I grew up descended from people from an inhospitable place that nobody wanted to conquer and that nobody managed to enslave (or who managed to kill everyone that tried). My dominant culture has no experience of being enslaved – indeed, it abolished slavery hundreds of years before the rest of the world. It’s a “privilege” that every human in the world should have, and that I’m more than happy to share.

I grew up in a family where the parents stayed together (until we were all adults, anyway), and worked their butts off to give us a stable, loving upbringing where we were expected to grow up into productive, self-sufficient adults. My parents themselves were “privileged” with the same basic family structure, notwithstanding the Depression and World War 2.

Those are privileges I’m more than happy to spread to the whole world, and have nothing to do with my skin color.

I went to a public school system that was more concerned with teaching me to read, write, calculate, present myself, and reason than indoctrinating me in a view of society. It’s a “privilege” afford to very few these days.

I got a post-secondary education (thanks to my Mom working at the local college, with the commensurate tuition break) that focused on reason, logic and critical thought, rather than post-structural twaddle – not merely a “privilege”, but a decisive advantage in so many areas of my life.

Somewhere, I got a work ethic. I was blessed with ways to exercise it – for which I’m thankful. I’m more than happy to do my bit, and more, to make sure you get the same privilege.

I am a free person, with all the rights God endowed me, and all the responsibilities that position gives me. Freedom and responsibility are “privileges” I’ll fight to provide anyone who wants them, and against anyone who’ll deprive either of us of them.

In no case are those “privileges” zero-sum. My freedom takes nothing away from your freedom (that you’re not willing to give up, or at least pretend you’ve given up). And taking freedom away from others gives you no more; Germans, the Klan and Red Guards gained no freedom, no prosperity, no happiness from oppressing Jews, Afro-Americans or “counterrevolutionaries”; quite the opposite, in fact.

Freedom is the ultimate “privilege”. And it’s contagious, if you let it be. Try it, Sparky.

You are, of course, not referring to any of those. You are referring to the stretchy, sketchy concept of racial privilege which is in fact almost entirely a matter of class, not race, and is almost entirely an attempt to expiate White Progressive Guilt.

All Shook Up

Modern airplanes are equipped with a “stick-shaker” that vibrates the
control stick with increasing harshness as the airplane approaches a
stalled configuration.  The hope is the pilot will feel the shaking and
correct the airplane’s attitude before the stall occurs.

My work computer has a time-out safety feature.  If I don’t touch the
mouse every so often, it logs me out.  Which would make sense if I only
worked on-line, but I have lots of other stuff to do off-line as well. 
I’m forever logging back in.  I’m stalled.

I need a stick-shaker for my mouse.

Joe Doakes

It’d also be a great feature on credit cards.

Human Nature

In college poli-sci classes, you learn there are two schools of thought about what humans would be like in the absence of government.

Some think humans are Basically Good and government corrupts us, so if we could get rid of government, everything would be wonderful.

Others think humans are Basically Rotten and only government protects us from ourselves. If we got rid of government, our lives would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

Recent events don’t answer the question. Did people riot because government pulled back and let them, or because government was so corrupt they had to?
Ask yourself this: if we get rid of the police, and the Basically Rotten people are correct, what will take the place of the police? Individual citizens maintaining Eternal Vigilance, dispensing Street Justice? Are we certain that’s a better solution than a municipal police force? Are we willing to bet our lives on it?

Joe Doakes

The “better solution” our social justice-y betters are splaining to us is Camden – whose new, woke, exquisitely expensive law enforcement organization has improved it from the worst murder rate of any city of any size in the United States to tied with #6 (Kansas City), were it over 200,000 people, which it’s not; it may be the most dangerous small city in the US.

Diversity Falls Short

I am attending continuing education classes, required for Minnesota lawyers. The legal profession has a serious diversity problem. 
There are too many old white men at this conference,  too few young hot chicks.  
Nothing pleasant to look at, when the Power Point is boring.  
Joe Doakes

Pretty sure its true most everywhere these days. 

Stymied

Gloomy, rainy day.  I have things I should do, but don’t want to.  I have things I want to do, but shouldn’t.  So I’m sitting here, on-line, complaining about it. 
OMG I’m becoming a Millennial.
Joe Doakes

The email’s from last week. But the sentiment – and millennial kvetching – is eternal.

Suggestions Sought?

A co-worker is leaving the office to take a new job. We’re all supposed to sign the card. I have trouble with them. I overthink the message to make sure it’s politically correct and inoffensive, yet sincere and heartfelt.
First I tried “I’m happy you’re leaving,” but maybe that should be re-written as “I’m happy you’re leaving the office to start a new career.” Maybe not.
I thought about “Good luck in your new job,” but that sounds like the implication is “you’re going to need it.”
The problem is, I’m a poor liar. I hate to say “I’m going to miss you,” when I’m not. I hate to say “you deserve it,” when you don’t.
Is there a training class for this? How to be more sincere liar? Where do the politicians get their lessons?
Joe doakes

Have at it, mind hive.

Conversion

When I was a kid, cars didn’t have seat belts.  My Dad installed some and we thought they were a nuisance but I don’t have to listen to flight attendants, I know how to operate the buckle on a 1960-style seat belt. 
I remember when George Bush the Elder was running for President, Doonesbury made fun of his support for air bags, calling them over-regulation (Google the cartoon for May 9, 1980). 
I never used to think airbags and seat belts made much difference, I figured it was all a bunch of Ralph Nader hype. No longer.  I’m a believer.  My car is totaled but I walked away without a scratch (bruises, but no scratches).
Friday night about 9:45 pm, dark but clear skies and dry road, coming home from Wisconsin on Hwy 36, stopped for a red light at Century Avenue (the at-grade crossing just East of the snowman, the intersection with the Dairy Queen).  I was in the right lane, last in a line of cars, sitting behind a Chevy Trailblazer.  Wham!  I got hit from behind. Never saw it coming.  I don’t think I blacked out, but one moment I was looking at the truck ahead of me, the next moment there was no truck ahead of me and my car was slowly rolling toward the ditch, the windshield wiper was flapping, I could hear a car alarm behind me and smell smoke inside my car.  I got my car stopped in the right turn lane before it rolled into the ditch, shut off the wiper, turned on the flashers, and sat there for a few seconds to gather my wits.
A passer-by pulled his car over in front of me, ran back to my car, and helped me get out because we didn’t know if the smoke meant my car was on fire.  He helped me walk around the back of my car where I had to lay down on the edge of the road, my back hurt too much to stand.  The ambulance came, cops came, I went to Regions Hospital for X-rays, the car went to the tow company’s storage lot, my wife rescued me from the hospital.
I have a sore back, sore rib, bruises on my knees where they must have hit the dash, and a big rash on my left bicep where it must have scraped the airbag.  Oh yes, my airbags deployed (two of them, one in the steering wheel and one under the dash).  That’s the smoke I smelled – they use a powder charge to propel the bag.  No car fire.
The state trooper who gave me the PBT on the side of the road (I passed!) visited me at the hospital.  He said the kids in the car that struck me were 19 years old and did not pass the test (passenger was .08 and driver was .01).  They claimed the light was green, they were changing lanes, I was sitting in the road for no reason.  The trooper took one look at my car and laughed at them.  He said they never touched their brakes, no skid marks at all, they hit me at highway speed 55-60, and that’s why my trunk is all smashed in.  They hit me so hard, the garage door opener hanging on the visor came loose but by the time it started to fall, my car had already moved forward so far that the garage door opener ended up in the back seat.  The impact shoved my car into the back end of the Trailblazer hard enough to push my engine back a foot.
I asked the trooper if anybody else got hurt and he said no, the kids were fine and the guy in the Chevy ahead of me fled the scene.  Another passer-by followed him and got a license plate.  The trooper suspects that driver was drunk too, or uninsured, or had no license – some reason he didn’t want to talk to the cops.
There is no doubt in my mind the safety improvements built into my car saved me from serious injury.  I was searing my seat belt with shoulder harness which stopped me from hitting the windshield.  The driver’s headrest was properly adjusted to avoid whiplash.  The airbags kept me from hitting the steering wheel. The crumple zones designed into the car’s frame soaked up the impact on both front and back.
KIDS!  Wear your damned seat belts!
I’m stiff and sore but I’m going to be okay.  Going to get ready for church now.  Got a lot to be thankful for today.  Take good care, everybody.
Joe Doakes

I’m a believer.

54 years ago this coming Monday, my mom was driving me around Jamestown in my dad’s old Mercury. It was a two-door – and folding front seats didn’t have seat locks. The dashboard was all metal, except where it was even more metal. Seatbelts? Forget about ’em.

This was also long before car seats. And I was a squirmy toddler who was standing up on the passenger-side back seat…

…when Mom slammed on the brakes when someone ran a stop light.

I still fairly clearly remember sailing over the folding back seat and face-planting into the all-metal glove box. I’m less clear on remembering the stitches that followed – six, I think – but the scar is there over my right eye to remind me.

What Joe said. Wear your seat belts. And stay sober when you drive.

Guilty

US currency is legal tender for all debts, public and private.

80% of all currency contains trace amounts of cocaine

Possession of a trace amount of cocaine on currency in your pocket is a felony, regardless of how the cocaine got on the currency.

You are required to use our money, but you are prohibited from using our money.  Catch 22.  Look, people, that book was satire, not a guide to public policy.  Fix the law.

Joe Doakes

To much of our administrative class, “everyone is an inadvertent felon” is a feature, not a bug.

Story

You know how you see a person and based on appearance and a few words, make up a story about that person in your mind?  Maybe you don’t.  I do.
I was at Cub, just walking up to the checkout (with actual cashier because I had more than 20 items).  A woman came quickly from an aisle and almost beat me but my cart was ahead of her so she stopped short, holding her basket.
I said “You only have a few items, why don’t you go ahead” and she said “Thank you” and did.  No problem, I’ve got time and she’s obviously in a hurry.  I noticed she’s not wearing a wedding ring but lots of women don’t.  40-ish, very tanned, curly haired, could have been mixed race or could have recently returned from vacation or maybe she hits the tanning booth, none of my business.
So she checks out and starts bagging, I’m moving my cart to the end so I can bag when my stuff is done scanning, she’s talking to the casher.  “Can I get the belt turned on?”  I notice her stuff is only half-way down the conveyor to her. The clerk tells her to push the button but she says “I want it to move constantly.”  It’s one of those padded black squares that you can push with your hip to make it move constantly. She wearing Spandex, not a silk dress.  I’m thinking to myself: lean on it, lady, it’s not that hard.
So right away, I have this story in my mind.  Pushy and not too bright.  Teacher.  Divorced.  Spring break tan. Big hurry because her life matters.  If I were to tell her “Hey, lady, we’ve all got somewhere to be, lighten up,” it’d be a giant insult and possibly a hate crime. I know it’s a complete fiction, a story that I made up in my head about someone I don’t know at all, but I’d be willing to bet I’m right about a lot of it.
Which goes to show why stereotypes are a good thing. They’re efficient.  They allow us to skip all the tedious fact-gathering and elimination of possibilities so we can go straight to avoidance.  It’s why Jesse Jackson is relieved to hear footsteps following him and find it’s an older White guy instead of a young Black guy.
I suppose it would be considerate of me to help other people write their own head-stories so they can more quickly begin avoidance and leave me alone.  Where can I get a MAGA cap?
Joe Doakes

This is more common than people thi…

…OK – it’s more common than people think, as I personally imagine them thinking.

Miserably Woke

One of the reasons I’m such a yuge fan of Dennis Prager is his weekly “Happiness Hour” – in which he talks not only about the practice and moral imperative of being happy (hint:  it’s not just for you), but about the struggle to become happy.

One of his sayings, and his advice, on the subject comes close to an old Hungarian saying I’ve been fond of most of my adult life; “the best way to become wealthy is to appear as if you already are”.   Prager notes that this basic philosophy applies to so very much in life – about getting in shape, about falling or staying in love with one’s partner, and of course happiness.

There’s some science to the premise as well.  There’s a reason that disciplines from music to the military drill one endlessly on things they want to impress into the human brain – because almost nobody plays a piano scale or a guitar chord or clears a rifle jam automatically or intuitively.  But if you drill on them often enough, they become what people call “second nature”, because your brain develops space – neural pathways – for them.

Happiness works a little like that.  Not entirely – being happy isn’t quite as easy as playing a first-position “F” chord – but the idea of wiring the brain to be something isn’t all that conceptually different.

I believe you can push yourself toward happiness.  There’s some science, not to mention thousands of years of human experience, to support the premise.   It’s basic cognitive psychology.

And since one can wire one’s brain to be many good things via practice – a musician, a soldier, a happy person, whatever – it stands to reason you can do the same with unhappy, useless, miserable, depressing things.

Having raised, and working with roomful of, millennials, I’ve observed that the generation seems to collect psychological and psychiatric maladies in young adulthood the same way they used to collect Pokemon cards in childhood.  “I’ve got mild self-diagosed bipolar, which beats your dysthymia and separation anxiety!”.

Modern academia and media preach some miserable stuff to the kids; a common refrain among the young ‘uns is what a miserable world the “boomers” “left” them, with the misery being expressed in terms of climate change, the changing economy and, er, Trump.

And the few times I engage on the subject I mention that I can kind of relate – when I was a kid, the worries were nuclear war and overpopulation.  Of course, there actually were nuclear weapons all about the place, including 25 miles from my hometown, and there were still famines happening.   The nukes are mostly gone, and the obesity is a bigger problem among the poor than famine for the first time in human history.

And our presidents – Nixon and Carter – actually were corrupt and incompetent (respecively).   So compared with the world I grew up in, my kids have it pretty decent.

But I digress.

I thought about the way the world – academia, entertainment, the media – seem to be wiring the younger generation to be a bunch of dysfunctional, whiny mopes when I read this sad, pathetic story about a guy of color who dumped his perfectly good white girlfriend because, well, read the story.

Or don’t.  Maybe you’ll be happier if your brain doesn’t rewire itself just a little bit wrong with that little bit of dysfunction.

Or make yourself a little happier by considering that if this is all the younger generation has to fret about, we’ve done a good job.

Doakes Potpourri

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

We need universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, like these.

 

***

 

When politicians are spending taxpayer dollars, they have a moral obligation to get the most value for their money.  In olden days, that meant “cheapest price” but nowadays, it means “promotes social justice” which is why they have quotas for minority-owned and female-owned businesses that can’t compete on price.  Oddly, the school district is short of money, which couldn’t possibly have anything to do with intentionally overpaying for goods and services, could it?

 

***

 

I’m confused by this protest at the police station.  What, specifically, is the solution they demand?

 

  1. Police should prove the shooting was justified?  They will, in good time.  So why march today?
  2. It doesn’t matter whether the police say the shooting was justified, shooting members of specific racial or tribal groups is never justified, ever, at any time for any reason, not even in self-defense!  Okay, so why march at the police station today, why not lobby the legislature for new law exempting certain groups from being arrested when they shoot up apartment buildings?
  3. Police shouldn’t shoot anybody, ever, at any time for any reason, not even in self-defense!   Okay, so why march at the police station, why not lobby the Mayor and City Council to disarm all cops.  Take guns out of officer’s hands, no more officer-involved shootings.  Simple.

I’d love to get on board with the protest but I can’t figure out what we’re protesting for.  Shouldn’t I know that before I hit the bricks?

Pfft.  All that matters is that you show up when told.

Edge Of Our Seats

On the one hand, few stories have cranked my claustrophobia to 11 quite like the story of the Thai boys trapped in a cave for…

…gulp…

…two weeks.

But as this is written, the staggeringly tricky rescue is finally underway:

Senior officials told Reuters and AFP that six boys had been rescued, but this could not be confirmed.

Rescuers will now need another 10 to 12 hours to get ready for the next stage of the remarkable operation, Narongsak said..

The plan is to take the rest of the group out in batches of four within two days according to the Journal.

All of the rescued were examined and found to be in good health, according to local outlet The Nation.

The governor confirmed this, saying the health of the four boys is “perfect.”

Another local outlet, Kahosod English, said one of the rescued soccer players was being “closely monitored.”

The Thai Navy Seals posted on their Facebook page that four of the boys had been rescued.

Am I the only one who thinks “well, this is the 21st century” on learning the Thai SEALS have a website?

And of course, in a world that venerates vacuous celebrity, it’s elevating to know that the world still has some real heroes 

Sgt. Major Saman Gunan wasn’t abiding by any orders when he joined the effort to rescue a boys soccer team trapped in a cave in northern Thailand. The 38-year-old retired Thai Navy SEAL did so by choice.

Gunan, who was working as a volunteer, passed out underwater during an overnight mission placing extra air tanks inside the cave, along the route divers use to reach the cavern where the 12 boys and their coach remain stranded and the oxygen in the air is depleting. He couldn’t be revived and was confirmed dead early Friday morning, according to Thai officials.

Hopefully this story will be over, with a happy ending, today.

 

They’re Coming For A Lot More Than Your Guns

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The story of how the court can seize a person’s guns based on one quip alone is bad enough, but I have two more thoughts:
When the cops seize your guns, do they run the serial numbers to see if they’re stolen; or test-fire them and run ballistics to see if they were used in a crime? If not, why not; and if so, what happens to the value of your never-fired-new-in-the-box John Wayne Peacemaker when they fire it and who makes good on that?
Second, assume the Liberal psychological explanation is correct – gun owners are compensating for having a small penis. In that case, taking away my guns would be physiological castration. If I were a gun owner considering seeking mental health treatment but the price I’d have to pay would be castration, you can forget about it.
“But it’s for your own good.” That’s what they told the tomcat. He didn’t like it either, but he had no choice. I do. If you want to reduce the number of men killing themselves with guns, you must find an incentive for them to accept treatment. Loss of manhood is not it.
Joe Doakes

Put it another way:   even back in the seventies, psychologists (in general) knew that telling homosexual children to not act gay was profoundly psychologically damaging; telling someone “don’t be what you are” is an invite for decades of misery.

Fair enough.

“Defend myself, those who depend on me, and my community” is as we discussed the other day a primary evolutionary imperative for men, and firearms are almost always the best way to do that.  Forget about japes about penis size – those are for people who are compensating for lousy comedic chops.  Disarming someone is an attack on what evolution tells them to be.

What could go wrong?