For this midweek post perhaps I will be forgiven for making just a little point about language. Sometimes, political writers use the term “meritocracy” for a system in which the citizens place those whom they consider the most qualified in public office. But often, the term is used for a political system in which those who consider themselves entitled, or who possess some sort of credential, shoulder the citizens aside and do what they think best. These two meanings are not the same; they are almost opposite. Yet we allow ourselves to slip back and forth between them.
It would be helpful if we could bring ourselves to be a little more fastidious when we speak. “Meritocracy” has become such a weasel word that we would do better to give it up.
When the Critical Race Theory workshop leader at your place of employment tells you that we must all “try to be less white,” ask him to list the cultural characteristics of whiteness. If he dodges the bullet by saying that whiteness is “exclusion of everything black,” as such people sometimes do, then ask him to list the cultural characteristics of blackness. While you’re at it, you might ask him whether there are such things as brownness, redness, or Asianness.
Count on it: He will try to avoid answering, for if he did, he would expose his supposedly antiracist ideology as insulting to persons of color. Every color.
So far as I know, the last time anyone holding this noisome ideology dared to give an answer to the question was in 2020, when the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture produced a chart on the “Aspects & Assumptions of Whiteness.” The release of the chart was a first-class fiasco. As a depiction of American majority culture -- in both its positive and negative aspects -- it might not have been quite so bad. People of any race might be participants in the mainline culture. As a depiction of so called whiteness, it provoked such a backlash that the museum had to withdraw it.
And no wonder. Among the characteristics the chart used to define whiteness were setting work before play, delaying gratification, practicing courtesy, thinking rationally, and taking time seriously. Taking this definition together with the demand to try to be less white, it would follow that everyone should try to be lazy, infantile, rude, irrational, and chronically late -- and that black and brown people are like that already, except to the degree that they have succeeded in internalizing whiteness. The Ku Klux Klan must have jumped for joy at the museum’s implication that Progressive “antiracists” are racists like themselves.
But they are.
The Justice Department is threatening those states which are trying to make sure that only eligible citizens vote. Now that fraud has been declared nonexistent, and legal protection against one-sided massive fraud is being abolished as "voter suppression," it doesn't take a prophet to see where things are going.
Though it may take a few more election cycles to develop, there will be an arms race in the weaponry of balloting. Instead of one-sided massive fraud, we will have an avalanche of two-sided massive fraud. There will be revolutions in the technology of flimflam. The genuine votes of living people will be unimportant. Elections will be decided by who can get more dead people to the polls.
It is sometimes remarked that elections are not only a way to choose rulers, but also a way to shape the character of the citizens. True. Bear in mind that duplicity is like that too.
The Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 has no more settled the dispute about so called gay marriage than its decision in 1973 settled the dispute about abortion. Both operas continue, and ought to.
At the moment I am addressing only libertarians. For some reason, many people of this persuasion think that their principles obligate them to support so called gay marriage, just as most of them think their principles obligate them to support abortion. Actually, their principles seem to obligate them to oppose both of these things. The question, libertarians, is whether you take these principles seriously.
In the case of abortion, the reason for opposition can be stated in one sentence: Abortion violates the right on which all other rights depend, the right not to have your innocent life snuffed out. In the case of so called same sex marriage, all of two short sentences are requisite: Before the law was changed, people were already able to have homosexual relationships. Changing the law didn’t enable them to do something they couldn’t do before, but made others do something they didn’t choose to do.
For no change in law was necessary to permit persons to have long-term same-sex liaisons. Nor was a change needed to permit them to say that they personally considered these liaisons marriages. But law is a public definition, and public definitions are intrinsically coercive. The only thing that has changed is that now people who do not consider these liaisons marriages are compelled, for some purposes, to treat them as though they are.
"Why don't you call me?" The young have never communicated with their elders as much as their elders have wished that they would. Lately, though, the generational schism has widened. Oldsters who don’t keep up with the electronic fads of the young are excommunicated with a shrug.
“I keep up with my friends through Facebook, Ma."
"But son, I'm not on Facebook."
"Well, Ma, that's your decision."
More and more people want to be paid for their goods and services in cash instead of by checks or credit cards. Why? Obviously, to avoid onerous taxes. Cash can’t easily be traced.
Now the push is on to make cash obsolete, so that all transactions become traceable. Government loves the idea, natch. So do all those companies that sell your most sensitive and personal data. If you think private, untraceable electronic currencies will provide a workaround, forget it. The government can ban such currencies with the stroke of a pen.
But people are inventive. Look for a modest rise in barter -- goods and services given in exchange for other goods and services.
Or maybe not so modest. It isn’t convenient for an entire economy to run on barter, or even mostly on barter, because barter is so inefficient. But if the government can’t shake its addiction to multi-trillion-dollar expenditures, we may come pretty close. That’s what happens in countries with hyperinflation, where every day money plunges in value.
Someday you may receive your salary in potatoes. And be glad to have them.
As the shame and terror in Afghanistan unfold, every day worse than the last -- as we watch the president of the United States crumbling before our eyes -- the reasons for calling him a coward seem compelling. For three reasons, I resist joining this cry.
The first concerns Mr. Biden personally. A coward flees from danger. Mr. Biden is safe and at ease. Though he is abandoning thousands who are in peril of their lives, he is not at risk. He does not rise to the level of cowardice. He sinks some degrees beneath it.
The second concerns our political classes. To pin the accusation of cowardice on Mr. Biden alone is to deny the perfidy of his partners, enablers, and predecessors. A great many experienced persons in responsible positions, both in the military and in the political branches of the government -- persons who ought to have resigned and gone loudly public rather than be complicit in this bloody farce -- have instead chosen to give him cover. Although the epicenter of the hurricane of spin lies in his own party, we have seen time and time again that the other party is not much better, in this and in other matters. The horror in Afghanistan illuminates the fact that our political classes have horribly failed.
The third concerns us all. We retain at least the trappings of a republic, and we empowered these people. Though we watch with shame not only the abandonment of our friends abroad but the unravelling of our social order at home, we cannot bring ourselves to pay attention to anything for long. Reality impresses itself upon us with scarcely more force than reality television. We watch social and international conflicts the way we would watch pro wrestling.
The scythe arcs down with such terrible swiftness. I used to wonder whether my grandchildren would escape the final destruction; then whether my children would; now I wonder whether my contemporaries will.
It is not entertaining when a writer repeats himself, but what we are experiencing is judgment. If we will not grasp that, we will grasp nothing. We are being judged not so much for the imaginary evils for which violent, deranged thugs despise the country, but for the real evils we have cuddled to our bosoms. We are just beginning to have the government we deserve.
Politics matters, make no mistake. But what we need is not just a different president, not just a political reform, but sorrow, soul-searching, and conversion. The rest -- let us hope -- will follow.