Trade Peer Pressure for Past Pressure

“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. . . Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Peer pressure is shockingly sneaky. Despite all the warnings against it, I’ve ended up falling into many of the lifestyle choices (high-consumption, etc) of people around me – even while being able to break the mold of peer pressure in other ways (skipping college, etc).

I want to try to live my own life, as fully as possible without the (unconscious) rule of following the masses. Maybe that’s possible for me. Maybe I’ll fail. But I have discovered at least one way of thinking about peer pressure that’s helping me on my way:

Even if it is impossible to break free of the sway of others, why settle for such a poor pack of peers?

There’s no particular reason I have to let the pressure of my 21st century late millennial, city-dwelling, and social-media driven peers be my only guiding light and influence.

I’m looking a little further back – and biographies have been helping to change my perspective on who my peers can be.

With the great “cloud of witnesses” of those long-dead I can pick and choose a much better cross-section of peers to pressure me.

I can look to people like Cato to learn how to resist corruption and face death bravely.

I can look to people like Frederick Douglass, who stood up to claim his manhood and freedom from slavery.

I can look to Richard Winters (of the 101st Airborne, Band of Brothers fame) to learn how to lead people well.

I can look to Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and other Americans of the Enlightenment era for inspiration on becoming a learned and accomplished man.

I can look to Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Sophie Scholl or Pino Lella to learn how to act from faith and justice against a system of darkness.

Spend enough time around the good and dead people of the past and you will grow in their direction – just like you might grow in the direction of your millennial peers. Our brains don’t seem to mind treating the dead recorded as if they were living. Several hours listening to an audiobook about Benjamin Franklin might have much the same effect of spending time with the man himself, and being influenced by him.

Listen to the words of wise, good men and women. Read their biographies. Imitate them – play-acting if you must. This past pressure is a far better and far more productive kind of peer pressure.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Rusty Mechanics

Nobody asked but …

Some say that the wheels of justice grind slowly.  Boy, howdy!  I’m not sure which outcome I fear more:

  1. It is taking this long to clear POTUS, or
  2. It is taking this long to spill the beans on POTUS?

In the meantime, what a complicated web we weave …

Will we lose faith in all institutions of government?  As a voluntaryist, that happened with me long ago.  I say let ‘er rip.  I’m getting tired of hearing that we get the government that we deserve — a “wet sidewalk” fallacy if ever I’ve heard one.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Flying By: My Experience of 2018

It’s that time of year again! The time when the planet Earth is at that one particular spot in its orbit around the sun where a lot of us like to pause, reflect on our lives and the world we live in, and get wasted. So here are my own reflections on the year-that-was, 2018, and my experience of it.

In a number of regards my experience of this year was a boring repetition of the same-old same-old. I lived in the same apartment, worked the same job at the same location, drove the same car, and had the same friends, the same family situation and the same coworkers as the year prior. I don’t view that as being a necessarily “bad” or “good” thing, it just is. It is/was the bedrock of stability from which I can look at everything else.

Traveling-wise, this year I traveled out to Las Vegas, New York City, West Virginia, Michigan, South Dakota and Chicago. So I was able to get some traveling in this year, albeit each one of these trips was a little short trip. I had the most fun in Las Vegas, which is kind of what the city is designed for. But going to New York City was my favorite of them all, simply because: I ❤ NYC.

My time in NYC this year was also probably the most eventful time for me, as far as different big events crammed into a small period of time goes. During my time there I saw a few long-time friends of mine, I ended the friendship with one of those friends, I narrowly missed meeting up with some new friends of mine, I met up with someone who was once a member of a cult that I was once tangentially involved with that nevertheless had a huge impact on my life, I became disillusioned with NVC (which some people also call a cult), and I realized there that going to public anarchist events is a waste of my time. Oh, and I also saw the remains of real-life dinosaurs!

This year I got involved with a bunch of different things/groups that go by Three Letter Acronyms: PCT, NVC, NFP, DSA, LSC. With each of these I went through cycles of thinking that they were quite interesting and that I had a bright future with them, to eventually thinking that they were quite boring and overblown. My thoughts on all of these things now is that they each have their place in life and the world at large, but also that putting too much faith or importance in them is best described with a Two Letter Acronym: BS.

Belief-system-wise, my heart is still with The Beautiful Idea of anarchy/anarchism. There is no particular hyphenated ideology of anarchism that I am tied to, I am more interested in the whole thing in general. Yes, the whole social scene/subculture that surrounds anarchism is total shit, but I am lucky to have some friends who are anarchists as well as a body of thought that speaks to how I see life and the world at large.

Speaking of the world at large, 2018 has been a big year for Politics! I spent a lot of time paying attention to mainstream politics this year, mainly in the U.S., but also in some other countries as well. I view mainstream politics, particularly in the U.S., as being a kind of team sport, and this year I treated it as such. My team that I root for is the Democrats, and so as the scandals, investigations, testimonies and elections wore on, I cheered as my team scored points, booed when the opposing team scored points, and strategized as to how the next few moves can and should play out. I have no illusions that the Democrats, nor any other political party or politician, will ever bring us freedom, meaning, a brave new future, or anything else worthwhile. The whole system is based on deception, death, destruction and despair, it is all propped up with outright violence and the threat thereof, and while it all plays out the Sixth Mass Extinction Event for this planet is continuing on unabated. But team sports, be it political or otherwise, can be a fun way to pass the time, and so that was a game that I partook in this year as well.

Speaking of entertainment, in the world of science fiction Star Trek and Star Wars surprisingly were not that big on my mind this year. 2017 was a big year for me for both of those franchises, but not 2018. This year I would say that my favorite sci-fi TV show was The Expanse, my favorite new sci- movie was Prospect and my favorite new publishing sci-fi author was the wonderful Kim Stanley Robinson. Yes, I acknowledge that there are other genres out there besides science fiction, I just don’t see them as being interesting enough for me to write about here. 😉

Real-life science had an interesting year this year as well, what with SpaceX doing some cool things, a robotic lander successfully touching down on the surface of Mars, the first genetically engineered humans being born, and the details of our impending doom being laid out for all to see and ignore.

Speaking personally, one notable thing for me this year was that 2018 was the year that I turned 40. 40! There is no more pretending that I am a youngling anymore! Ten years ago, when I turned 30, I went through a huge existential moment of trying to figure out who I am and what I am doing in the world. Turning 40 was far less dramatic, more subdued, more accepting of my place in life. I wonder if turning 50 will be similar?

Happy New Year to all! And good luck to New Horizons as it flies by Ultima Thule!

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Trump v. Bump: A Potentially Deadly Holiday Decision

On December 18, just in time for Christmas, the US Department of Justice announced a new 157-page rule banning “bump stocks.” The regulatory move comes 14 months after Stephen Paddock’s murder of 58 concert attendees in Las Vegas, Nevada made the devices notorious.

The new rule is a dumb and dangerous piece of political grandstanding, and there’s no doubt who’s behind it. “We are faithfully following President Trump’s leadership” said acting US Attorney General Matt Whitaker, “by making clear that bump stocks, which turn semi-automatics into machine guns, are illegal …”

A couple of nitpicks:

First, both Whitaker’s claim and the definition in the rule itself (“a semiautomatic firearm to which a bump-stock-type device is attached is able to produce automatic fire with a single pull of the trigger”) are as inaccurate on the factual end as “bump firing” is where hitting targets is concerned. Bump firing requires one pull of a semi-automatic’s trigger per shot, merely allowing a shooter to pull the trigger faster, with a severe penalty to accuracy (if Paddock was a skilled marksman, his use of bump stocks probably saved lives).

Secondly, the rule is completely useless vis a vis its supposed goal. Bump firing is a technique that can be implemented using devices as simple as rubber bands, belt loops on pants, or even just one’s body. Commercial bump stocks are novelty items, not necessary tools for using the technique. The rule is the equivalent of banning pet rocks to reduce the incidence of rock-throwing.

That said, this rule has the potential to cost far more lives than Stephen Paddock took in Vegas.

The rule requires those possessing the banned devices to destroy them or turn them in to law enforcement within 90 days of its publication in the Federal Register (by right around Easter).

According to Matt Vasilogambros of the Pew Trust,  the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives  believes there are more than 500,000 commercial bump stocks in the hands of American gun owners.

When New Jersey’s politicians passed a similar law, the number of bump stocks turned in was … wait for it … zero. If the incidence of bump stock ownership in New Jersey tracks national population averages, that’s zero out of more than 13,000.

If ATF wants those bump stocks, it’s going to have to start knocking on doors and forcibly taking them from hundreds of thousands of gun owners who have declined to voluntarily surrender them.

What could possibly go wrong?

The best possible outcome of this stunt is that it will simply be ignored both by its supposed enforcers and its prospective victims.

Otherwise, Trump’s Christmas present to the anti-gun lobby may well turn into an Easter basket for America’s trauma units and funeral homes.

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Insidious Deceptions

Nobody asked but …

A parallel phenomenon was a growing lack of faith in the mainstream media on both sides of the spectrum. Conservatives’ and liberals’ alike accepted unquestioningly the proposition that the stories put out by network news broadcasts and major daily newspapers amounted to little more than a stream of untrammeled, insidious deceptions.

— Matt Taibbi, in Insane Clown President

I agree with Taibbi, but then I also disagree.  The accusation of “insidious deceptions” is based on a premise that the media was ever a source of valid information.  None of my favorite reporters make any claim to factualness.  Mark Twain once reported on his own drowning because it was a slow news day.  Ambrose Bierce delighted in delivering the Devil’s version of a dictionary.  A. J. Liebling transcribed that “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” and “People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.” and “I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better.”  H. L. Mencken opined that “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”  Andrew Sullivan said, “I can barely remember what I wrote yesterday, let alone 10 years ago.”  Edwin Newman advised “Language is in decline. Not only has eloquence departed but simple, direct speech as well, though pomposity and banality have not.”  John McPhee wrote “No one will ever write in just the way that you do, or in just the way that anyone else does.”  Robert Higgs cautioned “Without popular fear, no government would endure more than twenty-four hours.”  Sheldon Richman held that “People with an investment in government power will torture logic like a medieval inquisitor rather than face the facts.”

I could go on.  The biggest problem with expecting information is that we mistake what we actually get for information.

— Kilgore Forelle

 

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Looking to The State for Justice

Discussion of the immigration question has been misdirected and pushed onto polluted soil in part by certain intellectuals who have focused their discussion on how an imaginary, completely privatized world would or should operate. Because this is not the world in which we live — and, indeed, is probably impossible to create in any event — these intellectuals have made the fatal move of supposing that pending the advent of the completely privatized world, one may legitimately treat the national government as the agent of the people now residing within the area ruled by that government and, further, suppose that the government’s keeping would-be migrants out of the country corresponds to what an ordinary private-property owner does when he obstructs trespassers or ejects any who have already trespassed on his property.

This move is even more far-fetched than the conceptualization of a completely privatized world. First, the current residents of the county, whether they be net tax payers or not, are not the owners of the country as a whole in any defensible sense. These alleged “owners” enjoy none of the attributes of true owners: the rights to control the property, accrue any income it yields, and transfer their rights in mutually acceptable sales and gifts. Second, the existing residents have widely differing views in regard to how they wish the migrants to be treated. Third, viewing the government as the faithful agent of the existing residents is preposterous. It comes much closer to the truth to suppose that the government is their most dangerous enemy, the one with the power, resources, and intention to override their rights and plunder them almost at will.

In short, supporting government border agents in the real world can in no way be justified as equivalent what private security people do for a home-owners’ association. In the real world, where the government pours billions of dollars into supporting vast legions of armed border agents, one must choose: shall I back the state or shall I back Pedro and Maria as they attempt to cross the state’s border — itself, of course, the product of previous conquest and plunder? Let us not allow our minds to be clouded by fantastical conceptualizations utterly without parallel in the real world. Looking to the state for justice is probably the worst species of error one can make. Whatever you do, don’t side with those who are violating your rights day and night, rather than with those who are attempting only to exercise their natural rights.

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