Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Stoics commencement speech

Thank you Principal _______ for that kind introduction, and for the opportunity to speak to this graduating class of 2018.

Before you walk across this stage and try not to screw up the handshake-diploma hand off, I would like to impart a few ideas I think are worth understanding.

Number one: The world does not care about you.
It wants to squeeze every ounce of production, or consumption, out of you.

If you are working for it, or dating it, the world wants everything you have. Maximum effort is what is expected of you. In return, the word will give just enough to keep you from leaving.

The other side of that equation is the world wants you to consume as much stuff as you can. Through an exchange of dollars or through your time and attention. It wants you to want. If the world can convince you to want it enough, it will own you.

Number two: Life is suffering tainted by malevolence.
If you are not suffering right now, wait a while, you soon will be. Even if you are not, chances are someone in your immediate circle of friends or family is suffering. It is as inevitable as the turning of the earth.

People have an immense capacity for evil, and that includes you. You know what hurts you, therefore you know just how to hurt other people. You will do precisely that, unless you learn to control it.

Number three: Happiness is a fool's errand.
Waiting around for something or someone to make you happy is letting the world control your emotional well-being. Sovereignty in your own metal state is critical. Do not sub-contract your emotional well-being to anyone or anything.

Number four: You are dying.
Right now, at this very instant, you are dying. You cannot get back yesterday; it is gone. You cannot reach into tomorrow, it may never get here. You have right now, and that is all you have. Do something with it. Which takes us to number five.

Number five: Find some damn meaning in your life.
Meaning will be the antidote to the suffering and malevolence. If your life has meaning, if you are doing even the smallest things to make you a better human being, you will be making the world a slightly better place.

So that's about it.

Many of you think you are going to 'change the world'. I'm sure you will hear many times tonight from other speakers, valedictorians and such. Let me assure you, you will not.

If you do change the world, you may just make it worse. The world is infinitely complex.  Our world is filled with physical matter we barely understand, with countless interconnected systems we do not understand, and inhabited by billions of people we can't possibly understand. All working together and opposing each other at the same time. Like I said, infinitely complex. You are not smart enough to fix everything wrong with this world, this continent, this nation, this state, county, city or neighborhood.

Accept that most of you will do nothing 'special' with your lives. You will not cure cancer, end oppression, or invent a device to turn something useless into something useful. With one caveat. You could turn yourself into something useful.

You want to do something useful with your life? Here you go:

Find some small part of yourself that needs fixing and make the decision to fix it. Then find something a little bigger to fix, then fix that. Repeat this process until you die. If you run out of problems with yourself, start on your family, if you fix all those before you die, try working on your neighborhood.

If we all did this, we wouldn't need to change the world. The world would be working just fine.

(Many of these ideas I stole from Jordan B Peterson lectures and his book 12 rules for life)

Friday, May 04, 2018

I can't tell you exactly why, but I know there is a change happening.

Some on the left may look at 2018 as the time everything changed.

This is the wonderful historian, Shelby Foote talking about southerners being able to think back to their high water mark during the Civil War. They had not suffered many defeats leading up to that third day of battle in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. They had out-fought, out-generaled, and plain outfoxed the Union army for three years. However, it was all about to come crashing down around their heads.

Lee had come so close to victory on that first day, and again came within a whisker of turning the Union flank on the second day. He thought an all-out assault on the middle of Meade's line would break the Union forces and send them into retreat back towards Washington.

Lee was wrong, and in his heart, I think he knew it. Longstreet, Lee's second in command was dumbfounded by the decision to attack. He knew all they had to do was to disengage and move to a position between the Union army and Washington DC, on ground of their choosing, where they would have all the advantages. Lincoln would force Meade to attack no matter how much the geography and fortifications favored the confederates. But as Longstreet would later say, Lee had his blood up, and said "The enemy is there and I intend to strike him." Lee over ruled Longstreet.

Maybe the only person who didn't understand the folly of what was about to happen was Confederate General George Edward Pickett. He had always been the reserve force, kept behind to plug holes and to cover any surprises that might come Lee's way. He was eager to finally get out front and lead a glorious charge that would lead to a critical victory.

I went with my son on his fifth grade school trip to the East Coast. One of the highlights for me was Gettysburg. I stood on the Emmitsburg Road and looked across that open, rising grade that ran about 3/4 of a mile from the woods to the stone wall on Cemetery Hill where Hancock's men waited to repulse the charge.

If I were in those woods, rolling a cigarette and putting a fresh cap on the nipple of my Enfield musket, looking over that field, I'm not sure I could have screwed up the nerve to get in line and march up that ridge. The were exposed to artillery fire the entire long, uphill slope only to face the entire Second Corp of the Army of the Potomac behind a stone wall. Pickett's men must have known they were headed into a meat grinder, but they went anyway.

Anyway, that line from Faulkner's novel kind of reminds me of what I think is happening right now in America.

When emotion over rides logic, the results are usually not pretty. On the far left, the social justice warriors and those who participate in what has been rightly named the Oppression Olympics, have been winning battles on college campuses and town hall meeting by screaming and shouting down anyone who dare oppose them.

Two generations of progressives have been taught to let their emotions and feelings drive their actions. What's happening now is simply the result of identity politics when you play it out long enough. The left are eating their own and they are being defeated by facts they cannot get past by screaming names at their opponents.

I'm not saying that conservatives are winning over converts as much as I'm seeing folks on the left getting bullied out of their own political beliefs. Not because they are suddenly moving to the right, but because they are not able to keep up with postmodern ideology of "intersectionality".

It does not matter if you marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in Selma, if you picked grapes with Caesar Chavez, or wrote a letter of support to Caitlyn Jenner; if you do not fully support this hour's latest social justice movement, you are not on the "right side of history".

If you mistakenly call someone by something other than their newest preferred gender pronoun, or you don't want to burn police stations to the ground, or you don't accept homeless deficating on the sidewalk in front of you doorway or business, you're a terrible person, rotten to the core. No room to apologize, no room for debate, no time for a reasoned discussion of the issues, you're a racist, a bigot, and probably a Nazi too.

I have seen so many people who were died in the wool lefties start to rethink their views after being attacked for not toeing the line in the crazy world of intersectionality.

If you disagree with any one thing, you're immediately labeled alt-right. Everyone who does not believe what the progressives believe is now a Nazi.

Ben Shapiro, who is a staunch conservative, and a practicing Orthodox Jew has been called a Nazi and a member of the alt-right even though he was named the number one target of the alt-right in 2016. You know you've jumped the shark when you're calling a practicing Jew a Nazi.

Dave Rubin is a case in point. He is a married, gay man. He's pro-choice, pro-legalization of drugs, he even had a show on The Young Turks network. He's pretty much the poster child for everything the left believes in. But he got fed up with the progressive's outrage at anything and everything that offended them. Their attacks on free speech.

He found out if you come to the defense of one of your friends who questions the progressive line, the left will attack you. He found if you question just one of their ideas, they will immediately call you a bigot and, even humorously, a homophobe. When you're calling a married gay man a homophobe, well, you know the rest.

Enter Kanye West. Oh boy. The guy who once stood up on live TV after Hurricane Katrina and said George Bush hates black people. Yeah, that guy. He shook up the world of rap/Hollywood/celebrity/popular culture with one tweet.

Candace Owens is a black woman who says it's not only healthy, but necessary for the black community to think for themselves. She warns the black community not buy in to the group-think that has kept them a monolithic voting block for the democratic party. She feels they are being exploited by the democrats and are in a worse position after decades of blind allegiance. 

Kanye's 28 million Twitter followers had a WTF moment when they saw that tweet. Well, that is after they Googled who Candace was. 

The backlash was swift and vicious. There is simply no room on the progressive left to agree with Candace Owens on anything. She is an enemy, and a dangerous one at that. A young, articulate black woman who will not be silenced by her critics. 

Then Kanye did something unforgivable. 

The progressive left almost had a stroke. Supporting a conservative/libertarian woman is one thing, supporting the Devil incarnate is something else. Heck, one rapper actually called for the Crips street gang to murder Kanye.

I point out these things because I think the progressive left reached, then passed, the tipping point years ago, it's just taken this long to see the ship staring to sink.

The sexual assault cases that rocked Hollywood has played a part too. The ultra progressives who have been telling the world about the republican's war on women have also been hiding the worst kept secret in Hollywood: Some of the biggest movers, shakers and democratic fundraisers on the left have been using that power to sexually assault women for decades.

Everyone knew, they just didn't want to speak up about these powerful monsters because it might cost them advancement, cash or their jobs. It's just easier to point your anger at conservatives while you are actually being abused by those who say they are the champions of progressive values.

Like I said. I think the price you pay for allowing extremism to run your party is you lose many of your friends along the way. Many mainstream democrats who think the Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and many of the social justice movements that now define their party are way too extreme for them to support.   

Many democrats are saying, to quote Jordan B. Peterson, wait just a minute Bucko. Not only has my party tolerated this craziness, they now demand that I support it unconditionally or I'm some kind of bigot or Nazi? No thanks.

I can already here the lefties response. What about the real Nazis? What about Charlottesville? Okay, lets talk about that. Yes, there are some real racists on the right who want to play this game of identity politics. Are they a threat to our society or our nation? No. They have no power. They have no numbers. Oh, and when they break the law, they are being thrown in prison.

In a nation of 340 million people you got a hundred or so people to carry Tiki Torches from Home Depot down the street at night chanting the Jews will not take our place. Very scary indeed. Remember that whole thing started as a demonstration about confederate statues. Many of the people there who opposed tearing down the statues were all lumped in with the Tiki-Nazis.

I think that's why Trump said there were 'good people' on both sides at Charlottesville. He wanted to keep the statues up (I don't by the way) and had that thought in his mind. He just said something off the cuff he had been thinking for the past few days without understanding what was going on with the Tiki-Nazis. Either that or he sides with Nazis who want to kill his son in law, who is Jewish, his own daughter who has converted, and his grandchildren who are being raised Jewish.

So either Trump just spoke without thinking, (I know, shocking right?) or he secretly hates his own family and wants them replaced by people more racially pure?

Back to the progressives on the far left.

I truly think the Marxist college professor class, the young socialist and the Hollywood elite will look back at the 2016-2017 years as their high water mark. The will look back to a time when all you had to is call someone a racist or a bigot and they would shut up and start to back-track and apologize. Even if they knew they were right.

When you call everyone a racist, a bigot, a homophobe and a Nazi, after a while people think, hey I know that person, they aren't any of those things. They start to question what else are these extremists lying about? They wonder what they will be called if they stand up for their friends or the values that once were bedrock planks in their party's platform?

I think we are at a point where many mainstream democrats are ready call B.S. They are ready to tell these people, if the democratic party cannot take back control from those who are playing the identity politics game, I'm out.

Many already have. If you are a Classical Liberal, someone who supports liberty over control, come find some new friends in the libertarian/conservative movement.

We don't care who you marry, what you smoke, or if you drive an electric car with a 'Vegans Forever' bumper sticker. If you are for a slightly smaller, accountable government, come on over. If you are for free speech, the open exchange of ideas, even and especially ones you disagree with, come on in. The water is fine.