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From mid-century onwards certain utopian schemes to retard maturity in the interests of a greater good were put into play, following roughly the blueprint Rousseau laid down in the book Emile. At least rhetorically. The first goal, to be reached in stages, was an orderly, scientifically managed society, one in which the best people would make the decisions, unhampered by democratic tradition. After that, human breeding, the evolutionary destiny of the species, would be in reach. Universal institutionalized formal forced schooling was the prescription, extending the dependency of the young well into what had traditionally been early adult life. Individuals would be prevented from taking up important work until a relatively advanced age. Maturity was to be retarded.
In this contest of the generations, I stand entirely on the side of those with a future. My generation of rightists has wasted its chance for success. We can only point to humiliations, continued marginalization, and internecine strife as our war record. Nor have we provided much assistance to each other, unlike our enemies, who like the ancient Spartans as described by Xenophon, “suffer and rejoice together.” Most of my generation of paleos has done little to establish a sense of community. The more fortunate ones have husbanded their resources while doing next to nothing for their allies.
That the young are still groping for a way out of the wilderness is to their credit. It is also the privilege of youth to be looking for new paths, and especially given the failures of their quarrelsome elders. Charles has noticed the obvious here, that the “new paleos” have little to feel happy about as they view their country and most of the Western world in the grasp of cultural gravediggers and a reckless political class. Does he dispute the justification for this pessimism or the justification for the young paleos’ unwillingness to pretend that the solution for Obama is electing more GOP politicians? As for his censures about their sexual morals, which Charles may fear do not quite meet the standard of Trappist monks, I don’t see the licentiousness here that he does. None of the young paleos, to my knowledge, is leading a life of wine and roses. For one thing, they don’t have the disposable income for fun and games that their neoconservative enemies are being showered with. Moreover, compared to the philandering Catholic monarchist Charles Maurras, who spent most of his adult life tumbling from one mistress to the next, the “new paleos” seem to be models of Puritan sobriety.
Let me stir the pot further by drawing another distinction, between those who want to be political activists and those who do not. Many of the paleos I’ve listened to show an otherworldly side, when they’re not bashing each other in geriatric rage. They glorify Catholic monastic ideals or invoke the memories of Christian crusades. They complain ceaselessly about modern life and insist that we return to scholastic precepts and medieval models of social organization. But such advice cannot possibly resonate in the current climate of debate, and it is foolish to castigate those young people who wish to have impact on the present age for not following someone else’s nostalgic reveries.
An unjustifiable faith in rational self-determination... as opposed to original sin and disordered self-love? Do those who sin actually hold to some sort of ideology in order to justify their choices? Perhaps a few who think themselves educated and having ready justification for their actions. But what of the rest? How do we explain the choices that they make? And how much of an explanation do we need to give?
If there is to be any hope of stopping this societal hemorrhaging, then we must first identify the cause or causes of this decline in paternity. What exactly is making so many fathers abandon their posts?
I would like to propose that the demise of fatherhood is largely the result of a relatively recent and thoroughly unjustifiable faith in rational self-determination. Indeed, nearly all of the culprits that cultural observers have previously identified—contraceptives, abortion, women’s liberation, increased secularity, the usurpation of the functions of the father by the state—can probably best be understood as instances of this more general tendency.
In regard to paternity, the two most conspicuous and destructive instantiations of this unconstrained vision are voluntarism and functionalism.
Voluntarism, the new and Constitutionally validated philosophical undergirding of parenthood, is the notion that no person has any special duties to any other person unless he has explicitly or implicitly consented to them. To be duty-bound for any other reason, such as circumstance or biological kinship, would be to find oneself despotically ruled by irrational forces. This notion lies at the heart of reproductive freedom, championed by organizations such as Planned Parenthood, whose very name echoes the unconstrained view. “Reproductive freedom—the fundamental right of every individual to decide freely and responsibly when and whether to have a child—is a reaffirmation of the principle of individual liberty cherished by most people worldwide,” declares the organization’s website.and
Functionalism, for lack of a better term, is the legal and cultural notion that fatherhood is only incidentally related to biology and that the traditional functions of a father can be fulfilled through a patchwork of other relations or surrogates. On this view, there is little that is distinctive or even significant about a biological father’s relation to his son. On paper, it would appear that all of the functions of a father—providing affection, attention, protection, financial support—could be carried out by anyone or any group. How could something as incidental as a genetic link between two people possibly determine so much?What of the impact of radical feminism? Or of the Second World War? Or the growth of an industralized and centralized state? In addition to personal sin, should we also consider whether some sort of emasculation has taken place? The lack or failure of male leadership, specifically the headship of the husband and father. Some may claim that how a man acts as a husband is separate from how he acts as a father, but perhaps there is more of a connection between the two than one might initially think. Often it is the case that a father no longer husbands the household. Being an 'adherent' of consumerism, he does little more than train his children to be good little consumers. There is very little exposure of them to the ethical life. How many fathers fail to give their children the moral formation that they require?
The devastation wrought by voluntarism and functionalism on the human family has been incalculable, but for the average man the unconstrained vision usually never rises to the level of these sophisticated -isms, however much they continue to poison the culture. What has caused the most damage to fatherhood is the simple fact that this age insists that anything outside of the control of the human will is intolerable. And at bottom, success in fatherhood involves faith; it is something outside of the control of the human will. If the success of one of society’s most fundamental and critical roles depended on rational self-determination, then civilization would have come apart long ago. And now that it is being claimed that success in fatherhood must be the product of wise planning, we should not be surprised to see civilization coming apart.He gives a rather odd account of tradition:
In Sowell’s language, the wisdom embodied in fatherhood is “systemic knowledge,” knowledge acquired from the accumulated experience of previous generations. The rituals, customs, and rules of conduct that have been bequeathed to us by our predecessors are not principally products of reason; rather, they are embodiments of the successful adaptations that humans have made to their surroundings in the past. Not being the express product of a given individual, these adaptations are rarely understood in full by any given individual.What explains tradition? Its success in promoting human... flourishing? "We keep it primarily because it works." Perhaps this is compatible with certain anthropological/sociological/evolutionary psychological theories of [human] culture, but is human history generally marked by decline or by progress? Who is to say that our ancestors didn't have a better awareness of the reasons set forth within tradition?
Instead of a restored Vermont Republic, Cascadia, and perhaps a new Confederacy, if America breaks up it is likely to do so along non-geographic lines. Fourth Generation theory suggests that the new primary identities for which people are likely to vote, work, and fight will not be geographical. Rather, they will be cultural, religious, racial or ethnic, ideological, etc. Following the sorts of massacres, ethnic cleansings, pogroms, and genocides such Fourth Generation civil wars usually involve, new geographically defined states may emerge. But their borders will derive from cultural divides more than geographic ones.
The fact that a second American civil war would be nastier than the first – itself no picnic – does not mean it won’t happen. That depends on whether the Washington Establishment can recognize it has a legitimacy problem, get its act together and provide competent governance. It is currently failing that test, and I expect it to continue to fail. Any member of the Establishment who dares subordinate court politics to the good of the nation or advocates more than very modest change quickly finds he is no longer a member of the Establishment.
For the record, Kaiser Wilhelm II was not a socialist, as Preston would learn from reading Eberhard Straub’s study Kaiser Wilhelm II in der Politik seiner Zeit (2008). The last German emperor ruled over a highly decentralized federal state, in which most internal governance took place in the constituent administrations of the Empire, which were a collection of kingdoms, duchies, and free cities. The total tax burden for German citizens in 1900 was somewhere below 7 percent for those who were employed, which was the lowest tax rate in Europe at the time. Although the German working class was the most literate and enjoyed the highest living standard in the world, the German welfare state had hardly taken off in 1900, if one discounts modest workers’ pensions and something like medical insurance. Wilhelm described himself as a “Volkskaiser” and oozed sympathy for the German Arbeiterschaft, but he did not place his country on the road to Obamaism. And one suspects that at least some of his rhetoric about standing up for the workers was related to his concern that the Socialist Party of Germany, which was theoretically Marxist and which by 1914 had become the largest party in the Reichstag, would not become a true revolutionary force. By the way, I have never encountered the statement ascribed to Wilhelm, that he would support American socialists if they became Prussian militarists. It sounds like something The Weekly Standard would manufacture to kill two birds with one stone, by beating up on the Krauts for the umpteenth time while linking socialism to evil reactionaries.