After the Jeremiads of the last few days, I think it’s time to “kick back” with an “assorted” piece.
Recently, an observation from Herbert Spencer has been much on my mind:
In the very nature of things an agency employed for two purposes must fulfil both imperfectly; partly because while fulfilling the one it cannot be fulfilling the other, and partly, because its adaptation to both ends implies incomplete fitness for either. As has been well said a propos of this point, “A blade which is designed both to shave and to carve, will certainly not shave so well as a razor or carve so well as a carving-knife. An academy of painting, which should also be a bank, would in all probability exhibit very bad pictures and discount very bad bills. A gas-company, which should also be an infant-school society, would, we apprehend, light the streets ill, and teach the children ill.”
[Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State ]
Now Spencer was talking about the insane multiplicity of functions that the English Parliament had assigned to the English government, but the “one item – one function” dictum obviously has a wider application than that. (Besides, if Spencer had lived to see all the crap American governments claim to supervise, he might have died of a stroke.)
What institutions of contemporary American society can you name that have taken on missions that clash with their core purposes? Might it be less taxing to list those institutions that haven’t done so?
Now and then, when I find myself without fresh reading material, I “take a flier” on a writer I’d previously dismissed as not worth my time. Yesterday was such a day. Unfortunately, the consequences were not good.
There is a writer, whom I’ll call Jethro (not his real name), whom I’d tried out a few years ago and recoiled from for several reasons:
- Unoriginal ideas and motifs;
- Ramshackle plots;
- Low skill with words.
Life’s too short to allow some things to occupy one’s time, money, and energy. That definitely includes cheap booze, vicious women, and mediocre books. So after two tries at his best known series, I decided that I would ignore Jethro’s rather copious output henceforward.
Fast forward to yesterday. While flipping through Amazon’s recommendations, I noticed a new release from Jethro. As he’s widely championed as the king of the “keep the pipeline filled” school of writing, curiosity impelled me to check just how many books he’d authored in the seven years since I first noticed his stuff.
I nearly died. According to Amazon, Jethro has authored or co-authored over 2000 novel-length tomes. (To be fair, when I delved further, it developed that a few hundred of those volumes were translations of his English-language oeuvre.) It didn’t seem possible…but while computers can be poor judges of some things, counting is not among them.
So I purchased his new release. “After all,” I said to myself, “with that many tales under his belt, he has to have learned something.” I downloaded my purchase, poured myself a fresh cup of coffee, and sat back to read.
It wasn’t long before I concluded that Jethro hasn’t learned anything.
Danny remembered the curt speech of a violin teacher who’d given him up in disgust twenty years ago:
“Practice makes perfect,” the teacher had said. “But it can also cut your throat.”
[James Blish, Jack of Eagles]
Verbum sat sapienti.
The more widely I survey contemporary goings-on, the more I appreciate the wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong…. Justice is not postponed…. Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty.
We have a striking example of this today:
The “#MeToo” phenomenon originated as a reaction against (supposed) sexual harassment of women in the workplace. I have no way of knowing whether the early, heavily publicized cases were just, or were justly handled. I do know, from personal experience, that ambitious women of low morals used the immense publicity given to the phenomenon to advance their own careers through falsehood: accusations of sexual harassment against innocent male coworkers.
But Emerson’s observation about natural justice has had its say, as the video above makes plain. The overall prospects of women in the commercial world have been set back by the amoral exploitation of “#MeToo.” A great many employers are now extremely wary of female employees and applicants. The EEOC committees are finding it impossible to discriminate between real instances of sexual discrimination and situations where nervous managers have turned women away simply out of self-protectiveness.
We can only hope that this backlash equilibrates against false claims of sexual harassment. Neither is something to celebrate, after all.
I’ve long admired John Whitehead and his Rutherford Institute. (I missed a chance to meet him some years back, on a visit to a dear friend who lived near his office.) In this piece, he points at a possibility that should chill the heart of any lover of freedom:
Get ready for the next phase of the government’s war on thought crimes: mental health round-ups and involuntary detentions….
In communities across the nation, police are being empowered to forcibly detain individuals they believe might be mentally ill, based solely on their own judgment, even if those individuals pose no danger to others.
In New York City, for example, you could find yourself forcibly hospitalized for suspected mental illness if you carry “firmly held beliefs not congruent with cultural ideas,” exhibit a “willingness to engage in meaningful discussion,” have “excessive fears of specific stimuli,” or refuse “voluntary treatment recommendations.”
Please read it all. Comparisons to the Soviet Union’s use of this method to suppress dissent are entirely appropriate.
That’s all for the present, Gentle Reader. It’s time for me to get ready for Mass, so be well and happy, and when the political scene begins to oppress you, remember: It’s always darkest just before it turns pitch black. Have a nice day.