Psychology

The fruits of meaninglessness

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Without a vision of God, the people run amok. ~Proverbs 29:18

My friend, Bill, recently posted a comment in which he states:

FWIW, you have changed my mind on more than a few things, and one that I was very resolute about. I still have trouble digesting the emphasis on God in your posts though, not on an individual level but in it’s relation to society. It honestly seems like exactly the opposite of a position you’d hold so I’m missing something. Would love to discuss further some time 😉

This presents a very complicated issue, one that will require more extensive thinking and planning than are needed for most blog posts. I’ve thought about this what a post explaining my stance would entail, and felt that I perhaps would be too lazy to properly express myself, or perhaps merely incapable of doing so. My response could take a book, and there are many books written that would far surpass anything I could put down that would enunciate why I think that without God, society goes mad. Even as those who note society’s growing madness cannot fully grasp why this is happening. They still grasp at materialist reasons.

Several years ago, I gravitated toward Existentialism , not in a deliberate manner, not in a seeking for some “ism” to satisfy Man’s inherent need for meaning, though existentialism speaks primarily of Man’s need for meaning. The need for meaning is at Man’s core–without it he falls into madness, despair, self-destructive behavior, and loses almost all ability to examine himself. He becomes a ship without a compass, floating on a sea with no islands and no shores. His ship is quickly running out of food and drink. Even when I read of anti-theist movements like Bolshevism, there is the need for a driving force, a cause, a need to get up in the morning, for energy and drive.

Many who’ve read my writings or who’ve had cursory political conversations with me may believe that I am an ultra righter-winger, with no sympathy for the root of socialist or Communist thought. They would be wrong. My family on both sides was blue collar through and through. Welders, wood cutters, mill workers, union members. I know how tough physical labor is; I’ve done it myself on many occasions throughout my life, and I hated it; it was so boring all I could think of was the end of the day. Marx speaks to me at several levels. He talks about how the proletariat’s work is boring and provides only enough money to scrape by. Though I’d argue that my blue collar family did better than Marx would have predicted. My father, as a mill worker and welder, and my uncle as a boiler-maker, another uncle as a commercial fisherman, did quite well. The Communists and Socialists for the 40 hour work week and 8 hour days. People in Britain during the Industrial Revolution used to have to work 10-16 hours a day, 6 days a week. Believe it or not, being in the US Army made me more sympathetic to Marx, not less. I’ve seen how some managers and leaders will work people to death to make themselves look good, with almost no thought for others as human beings. On the other hand the Army has many traits inherent to a Socialist society, and these too create many problems. But in truth, I consider the US military to be one of the most un-American organizations in America. It removes too much choice, freedom of thought and audacity. It suffers its own consequences.

The people who fought for  justice for workers should be commended. There is a tendency toward increasing efficiency in any business, and often this results in people being treated as mere commodities. But not always, and I would argue that business can get more out of people and attract better people by treating them well.

One of the problems with the Manichean universe of Socialist/Capitalist conflict, is the belief that material needs are the basis for happiness. The Communists want us to believe that money is evil, and yet in many cases it is them who want the poor to have more money. It is they who primarily argue that money and the material comforts that it brings is what makes life bearable. Both Capitalists and Socialists argue almost the same thing. Almost. The big difference is that most free-market capitalists argue for freedom, that people should be free to get as rich as they please. It does not necessarily make a person evil to do so. Our nation is founded on basic freedoms, agreed upon in the Bill of Rights.

Even more important to me, is that Communism’s root is atheism. Communism expresses that Man’s only salvation is through materials, the exact thing that Marx explicitly railed against, but then built an ingenious argument for. Communists and their softer cousins, Progressives, expect too much from this life. The more you expect from this life, the more you will come to hate it. The more you come to find joy in small things, the more joy will be imparted to you.

Of all writers, perhaps Dostoevsky understood Man’s conundrum the best.

And so I seek a deeper meaning for myself and Mankind. Shredding all the money in the world, as the Communists want, will not bring nobility or contentment to humans. When I read the writings of the old Communists, Lenin, Mao, Marx, I’m astounded how men of such genius and energy could be so blind. Where did they get their energy? How could 75 years of hard living on this Earth give them enough motivation to fight so hard for something so transient? Where could they find the raw energy to commit such sustained atrocity, and to write with such power?

When humans drift away from the deeper meaning of existence, they almost always fall into self-destructive cycles. The West is abandoning God. The message is that only the uneducated and unthinking believe in God. And yet the further we drift from God, the more uneducated and unthinking we become. Our depravity, fed from an infinite well in a meaningless universe, was its own end. The message fed to us has been that freedom from God was the key to happiness. Much or our “art” is a celebration of our basest instincts, a celebration of historically aberrant behavior, drug use, arrogance, hate, raw sexuality, the pointless accumulation of money and trinkets.

Marx’ opening statement in The Communist Manifesto rings true, but it is not complete:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

In truth, all men have striven for meaning. Take away God and provide Man with only raw materialism, and we find that what Whitaker Chamber’s said presents a much fuller picture of human history:

“Man without mysticism is a monster”

And so, since the powerful motivator of “The Cause” the ideologies like Communism provided men like Lenin has been replaced by vacuous nihilism. Without an external materialistic philosophy to drive him, Man turns from killing one another and turns to killing himself. But what proof do I have? Aren’t Americans more comfortable than ever? Maybe, but are they happier? Look at these statistics and decide for yourself:

How are we better off? Are we a more or less religious people than we were through the 30s, 40s and 50s?  We are in very concrete ways, more violent, depressed, and stupid. What more measurement could we ask for to prove our decline?  The first challenge of doomsayers such as myself, is not to convince of the correct medicine for our sickness, but to convince people we are sick at all. If the demise of civilization were apparent to everyone, it would never happen. But as TS Eliot noted, it’s not with a bang, but a whimper that we die.

Beyond the scientific facts is my personal anecdote. And in the true existentialist tradition, anecdote is important to me. It is important to everyone, even the most rational among us. Nobody lives his life day to day on scientific experiment.  We know that getting hit by cars is bad for us, not based on Newtonian physics, but because we heard of someone else dying when they were struck by a car. And our parents told us not to play in the road. in my own experience, people now are indeed dumber, coarser, less able to see themselves as the world sees them. Lacking manners of the faintest sort, they are loud, base, uttering curse works in virtually every sentence. Many are unable to write a clear sentence, gravitate toward the most brutal and meaningless of music and cinema. If you want to know where a society is headed, look at its art.  This brutal music is not admired despite its barbarity and coarseness, but because of it. Many celebrate the worst traits in humans, while scoffing at nobility.

Why all people in Western Society, even Christians, must face Nietzsche

Nietzsche predicted the downfall of the West.  He declared:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

Nietzsche: “To make the individual uncomfortable, that is my task.”

Nietzsche, one of the few truth-tellers of the modern age. He is of the same blood line as Dostoevsky.  Nietzsche’s answer to the idea that God is dead and that we killed him with unbelief, is the construction of the Ubermensch , a human beyond the cares imposed on humanity by the inevitability of death.  To the Ubermensch, death, troubles, pain, mean nothing. The Ubermensch is able to find meaning in his life despite all of this. To Nietzsche, that is the only way to avoid utter despair and the logical conclusion of self-destruction: To become so strong psychologically, that none of it matters.

And that is why I, a Christian, still admire Nietzsche. He didn’t smooth things over for the atheists. He told them exactly what kind of world they would create. It would be a world, “beyond good and evil”, that is, evil. The classic Christian ethics would be tossed aside, and human psychology would be reduced to physiology.

And who has suffered first and foremost in our post-Nietzschean world? The intellectual elites in our universities, the libertine millionaires in Hollywood? No, it is the underclass. Our destruction is truly a grassroots movement.  There was a time in America when being poor was not synonymous with slovenly, greedy, thieving, bitter, uncaring, leading an unexamined life. I grew up poor and it was none of these things. There were of course exceptions, but now in many cases being poor is the direct result of a criminal mind.  And where did the criminal mind come from? It is the brood of a godless world. Unable to examine itself, a brute child who knows only the satisfaction and existence of its own passions.

We stand on the shoulders of giants. The slide to the bottom will not be instantaneous, but we have begun the journey.  The statistics that I posted above are but a small fraction of the facts displayed in several books that show where we are going. To some people, this decline will not be so apparent. America and Europe are, after all, not monolithic entities. Pockets of noble humans remain.  But even in many of these pockets, these noble humans have forgotten their Christian birthright.  And each generation’s memory lapses more.  And so, our society is not yet Somalia, but it is draining its well. As GK Chesterson stated:

The modern world, with its modern movements, is living on its Catholic capital.  It is using, and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom.

Make no mistake, the pale horse coming is not at a full battle gallop, but trots slowly at the horizon.  Ask yourself, if America were to decline and fall, what would it look like, if not exactly what it looks like now when compared to our past?

We must understand, that in this predominately agnostic society we created, we also created people who must do one of two things:

  1. Ignore the fact that all humans die, and that our life on this Earth means nothing without the hereafter. 75 years is the mathematical equivalent of zero when juxtaposed with infinity.  Any number is zero when compared to infinity.
  2. People who acknowledge the meaninglessness of a life and thus intentionally subscribe to nihilism and destructive though immediately satisfying behavior. I myself would do heroine if I thought there was nothing beyond this life.

All societies that have tried to create an Ubermensch-by any other name- have brought almost unimaginable horror to mankind.  The Nazis were directly influenced by Nietzsche. The Communists attempted a humanist utopia made of men who lived beyond the natural needs and desires of humans. The mountains of corpses generated from these societies are a lesson that the atheists of our day try to sweep away with their postmodern cynicism.

In ending, my thesis is that our society is disintegrating in very concrete ways. And why is this? Because we no longer have a reason to live, to do good…to even try. 

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Confessions of a lifelong introvert

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Today I feel better than usual. Today I realized something about myself, saw what I am more clearly than I have ever before seen myself; I am an introvert.

I’m fairly skilled at hiding the fact that I’m an introvert, and all but my closest friends, and my wife, would likely be surprised by this revelation. In fact, I’m so adept at hiding my own introversion, that the discovery even shocks me.

By introvert, I do not necessarily mean that I cannot be around people, only that being forced to engage with people whom I do not completely trust is a painful, exhausting ordeal. This sort of engagement condemns me to interact when I would prefer to disengage.

I discovered this fact about myself while examining the cause for my discomfort in the Army. I do well at everything the Army asks me to do, but I never feel comfortable. Hardly ever a day of peace. Then it came to me, as if on the Damascus Road. The Army celebrates extroversion almost as much as a Gay Pride parade. Not only are the top NCOs extreme extroverts, but introverts are actually quite severely punished.  I’ve seen NCOs relieved of duty for not yelling at soldiers. NCOs are expected to scream and rant and rave. They are supposed to have strong personalities. That’s ‘leadership.”  Believe me, it takes an extreme extrovert to eyeball a complete stranger from across the street and yell at him for not wearing his patrol cap correctly.

From the very first day in the Army, I have felt a deep sense of discomfort, bordering on manic unhappiness. It began in Basic training when I was forced to lodge with dozens of other people, in very close quarters. Again, in everything I excelled. I was voted the best soldier in my platoon in Basic, Soldier of the Year at my previous unit. In AIT, a school that teaches soldiers their specific jobs right after Basic, I spent my weekends almost completely alone. I felt euphoria finally being able to experience solitude. Almost all the other soldiers would hang out together, but not me. I literally just wanted to go somewhere and read a book. I would go to restaurants, and read while eating my meal. If I saw someone I knew, I would turn and avoid them, afraid they would ask me to do something with them, which would take away from my time alone.

I hate Army “formations” in which soldiers are told to gather daily. Hate them with a passion.

One of the most euphoric feelings I recall in my entire life is my first day in Germany, after graduating Army AIT. The Army provided me with a hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany. Finally, I was a lone.

Looking back, I realize that almost all of my problems as a child in school were the result of being an introvert. The other kids seemed so open and desired to be with the group. I didn’t enjoy feeling like an outsider, but I didn’t particularly enjoy extroverts either. I did not feel comfortable in school until college, when I was finally given the power to run my own life. I could choose when and where to interact with people. The Army took away much of my power to be alone.

When I was a young man, one of my good friends said to me, “You’re the biggest loner I know.”

I’m sure he was being truthful; I’m the biggest loner I know, too. Characteristic of an introvert, boredom is never a problem for me. I am almost never bored. German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, an arch-introvert, said that introverts are rarely bored because they gain pleasure from an intellectual world, whereas extroverts gain pleasure more from the external, and more temporal, world. I am constantly amazed by some of the people I work with. They will complain about their work, and the moment they get a chance to relax, they say they are bored.

Arthur Schopenhauer: Kindred spirit

“That I could clamber to the frozen moon. And draw the ladder after me.”~Arthur Schopenhauer

I am never bored. And I am almost never lonely. The things that make me feel lonely are being away from the people whom I love dearly. But I do not need to be around people with whom I have only passing relationships. I work with many people who cannot do anything unless they are doing it with someone else.

Schopenhauer pointed out another characteristic that he had and shares with me, and is apparently an almost universal aspect of the introvert: Hatred of noise. He said that all his life noise bothered him significantly, and on one occasion, his weakness got him into trouble when he physically assaulted a woman in his apartment building whom he claimed was a chronic noise-maker. He was forced to pay her money from a lawsuit for the rest of her life. So while the introvert has significant advantages in certain areas, such as an ability to think deeply, lack of boredom, maintaining long-term friendships, and very creative, they are easily distracted by the outside world, do not maintain a “network” of people that can help them, and may come off as cranky. So easily distracted am I by other people, that I must do all of my writing and thinking in complete solitude, or I must have a drink of beer, which seems to dull the effects of external stimulation and allows me to remain in my own mind and continue writing amid possible distractions. . At work, I must sometimes shut myself in a room, telling my Captain that I need him to use his rank to keep people from bothering me, while I read intelligence reports and make sense of things.

At times I will return home from work feeling utterly exhausted, as if I had just run a marathon. I often ask myself what I have done that could have made me so tired that I do not do on my days off from work. The answer is that I interact with large amounts of people. I do not want to come across as someone that is a crank all day, though I find myself being more so than when I was younger. Only that my exhaustion is from trying to act like the extrovert I am not. Oddly, I feel dumber when I am with people I know only at a surface level. My instinct is to speak like them, to think like them, so as not to offend. Yet in my inner-most being, I almost never think like them and feel ashamed to tell most people the things I think about: Philosophies, metaphysics, religion, demographics, grand-strategies. All near useless trivia, really.  This facade is draining and debilitating.

I have just today, come to grips with what I am and what has caused me so much pain throughout my life. I am fine with it. I know now that I don’t have to appear gregarious if the mood doesn’t strike me. That being quiet is ok. I know that some may doubt my claim to introversion, being that I say some things on this blog and in other writings that may shock some. But I read that introverts are more likely to be intimate online, and I think it fair to say that many historic writers were notorious introverts, recluses, and hermits. All of these things bring to mind wisdom, and even in the age of the extrovert, they are something to hold dear.

There are people in this world that I look forward to speaking to often and I am lonely without.  Nothing can replace the smiles of my children.  But other than that, I rather look forward to being the old hermit on the top of the mountain, surviving on his own, beholden to none, just thinking, thinking….

The Talent of Obsession: Chess, multi-monomania, and the 10,000 hour-rule

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“This is not gonna stop. It keeps going on and on.” ~Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction. 

Since junior high school, I’ve been a semi-regular chess player. In high school I was on the chess club for two years. I had absolutely no formal instruction, just as with virtually every other skill (or obsession) I have.

I believe I am afflicted with what I call multi-monomania. A monomania is an obsession with a singular activity.  A monomaniacal person is otherwise sane, though his or her obsession can appear odd to persons not so afflicted.  I say that I am multi-monomaniacal because I go through phases of being obsessed with singular activities, but the obsession rarely lasts for very long, with a few exceptions.  In the past, my monomania has manifested itself in softball, weightlifting, writing, fencing, pistol shooting, and chess. I’m sure I’m missing a few things.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Gladwell writes about the “10,000 hour-rule”. This rule is based upon the studies of  Anders Ericcson, and professor at the Florida State University who found that what separated elite violinists from the merely exceptional was the number of hours they’d dedicated to practice. The elites got in 10,ooo hours while the could-have-beens logged 8,000 on average. Gladwell goes on to document how some very well-known people’s life circumstances enabled them to log 10,000 hours of study and practice in their chosen field, while some other people’s lives, due to environmental circumstances, make it nearly impossible for them to discover or use innate talents.

Gladwell does not dismiss talent. He merely states that past a certain point, say IQ or less concrete measurements of ability, opportunity matters more. He says that somewhere after an IQ of 120, the level of intelligence it takes to be a very successful college student, time, opportunity and hard work begin to make the biggest difference.

We have  a love/hate relationship with the geniuses of the world. At once we want to believe that there are people born special and yet we despise the thought because this would mean that most of us could never achieve spectacular results.  But I am now suspicious of the term genius and what it means. In fact, I believe most geniuses are merely monomaniacs. Take Mozart for example, whom people often remember for his childhood genius. After all, he wrote music at a very young age. But as Gladwell points out, young Mozart’s music was terrible by any measure. Mozart’s obsession, not merely innate genius, drove him to practice for thousands of hours, and thus become a legend. Eddie Van Halen would walk around his house as a kid, with his guitar strapped on, playing all day long. He locked himself in his room, stalking his obsession.

Obsession is underrated.  When I was younger, I became obsessed with men’s league, slow-pitch softball. I know this seems a strange obsession, but the sport is very popular, involving thousands of people in various cities around the nation. I first began playing at around the age of 17, playing with grown men who were much bigger and stronger. I’d always been a good athlete, and had a lot of power hitting a baseball. But softball required that the power come entirely from the hitter; the ball simply didn’t come in fast enough to bounce off a bat with significant force. I wanted to hit home runs, to hit for power. One guy on that team told me: “Doug, you’re not gonna be able to hit home runs.” I knew he was wrong. I was small, 160 lbs maybe. 5’8″. But I had the power of obsession. I had a hand-eye talent. I put the two together. I would practice for hours, hitting. A couple of friends and I would go to a field and pitch balls to each other, entire days spent swinging a bat. Lunacy. I jumped in on every game I could. I started lifting weights to increase my power.  Several years later, I was the cleanup hitter on a state championship team.

Another obsession was weightlifting. I saw its power to increase athletic performance when it came to softball. Why not see what kind of limits I could push? I bought Pavel Tsatsouline’s, Power to the People.  In the book, Tsatsouline outlines a simple plan to gain strength: Practice often on a small set of lifts, namely the deadlift and the side press. Tsatsouline’s premise is that if you treat weight lifting like training a skill, you’ll consistently get better. He is right.

A miracle ensued. About 3 years after buying the book, I deadlifted 485 lbs with only a weight belt, and drug-free. The lift was video taped in the basement of the police department I worked in. At my body weight of under 180 lbs, a 485 lb deadlift would have been enough to win a state championship.

At some point I also became obsessed with fencing. Yes, a weightlifter wanted to jump around in white tights. I won the first tournament I entered, amateur class (less than two years experience).

Then there’s chess, at random intervals through my life. As a kid, I was mildly obsessed, but did not have the life experience or formal training to know how to study the game properly. I didn’t know why I lost or won. I could beat almost anyone who had a similar level of experience, but fell flat when facing advanced players and I had no idea why.

Charles Krauthammer, a former psychiatrist and avid chess player, believes chess can become a monomania. It’s quite obvious this is the case in some. In fact, you can’t find a world champion who doesn’t spend the greater portion of their life playing an unimportant game. Bobby Fischer, considered by some the greatest chess player ever, famously stated: “Chess is life”.  How much more monomaniacal can you get? Of course, Fischer succumbed to full madness before the age of 30…

Fischer: The ultimate monomaniac.

Pavel Tsatsouline taught me several things, via his knowledge of Russian studies on learning skills:

1) You should practice your chosen skill at the expense of others.

2) You should make your practice regular; a little daily practice is more effective than a lot of practice lumped into a short time. Cramming is not the best way to go.

3) Through the “Reminiscence Effect” you can learn by resting. As you practice your skill, you will encounter periods in which you actually get worse at your skill. Small amounts of time off (not too much, however) can lead to increased skill.

4) Slowly increase the complexity and difficulty of your skill practice–but not too fast!

So it’s chess again for me. Well, there’s a few other obsessions I have right now, but chess is one of them. I recently made it a duty to play chess every day, or any day that I could, and to become a better chess player. I have Chess Titans on my computer, and play it almost daily. In a short time, about two or three weeks, I’m beating the computer on levels which whipped my butt before that.

Antoaneta Stefanova: One of only 10 Female chess Grandmasters in history, monomaniac. She began playing chess at 4 years old.

My thesis, is that almost all genius is actually obsession. The monomaniac gains an unusual pleasure in the area they study, and they study it intensely to the exception of most other skills. The younger the monomania sets in, the more likely the person can reach Ericsson’s 10,000 hours. Talent may cut some hours off, but it’s only the time that makes a “genius”. The key is that to a monomaniac, the hard work does not feel like work at all.

Technocrats vs Theocrats

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“We just heard of a brand new way..we’ll have to wait and see if it’s half of what they say.” ~Loverboy, The Kid is Hot Tonight

On a friend of mine’s blog, I often present alternate views to the blog’s author and to many of the people who leave comments.  Predictably my opinions tend to be more conservative than others.  One line of comments was about global warming.  Being a global warming skeptic, I felt it necessary to point out some problems with the current model as it now stands.  The author of the blog asked why I would believe the minority of scientists over the majority’s opinion.

It is a legitimate question and I’ll give only a short answer here because this post is not really global warming. My primary arguments against the global warming model is not so much with the individual scientists that conduct the studies, though several of them have been caught fudging data in order to strengthen the perception that more warming is taking place than is actually occurring.  My main argument is against the alarmists such as Al Gore, who claim warming will lead to imminent catastrophe.  But there are also loopholes in the logic employed by the scientists themselves.

I’ve written articles on global warming, diet and evolution. In most cases my arguments are not the mainstream argument.  I also see some major problems with Psychology as a science.  I could be accused of being anti-intellectual or anti-science.  I don’t believe this is the case.

Essentially, my argument is one of Empiricism vs. Rationalism.  Both views hold legitimate value.  The Empirical view essentially says that human beings are limited in their knowledge because the only knowledge they can truly have is gained through limited senses.  Rationalism says that humans have innate knowledge and can extrapolate facts that are beyond human senses.  It is possible that a person take an empirical view of some phenomena and a rationalist view of others.  For instance, in my view of global warming and the current model of evolution, I am an empirical skeptic.  In the case of God and Christianity I am a rationalist.

Let me explain why I am a skeptic in some cases but not others.  I’ll use techniques that intelligence analysts employ to develop what is called the Enemy Course of Action.  As an analyst, I develop the enemy’s Most Likely Course of Action (COA) and his most Most Dangerous Course of Action (MDCOA). The analyst may compose several COAs. Think of these as hypothesis in scientific terms. Using information, gathered intelligence and careful thinking, the analyst draws up the plan that the enemy is most likely to employ against the friendly military.  The analyst also creates a product that shows the most dangerous actions an enemy may employ.  Much of the process is rational.  An analyst cannot know for sure where the enemy will be in the future, but he can extrapolate using analysts tools and logic.  But there are parts of the process that are empirical, too.  The analyst has to provide ways that his hypothesis can move up the scientific slide-scale to theory.  To do this, he creates Known Areas of Interest (NAIs)and Indicators.  NAIs are areas of terrain that would be monitored with intelligence assets in order to cull Indicators.  Indicators are “proofs” that the enemy is committing to a certain predicted course of action.  So, if a MDCOA states that the enemy will use chemical weapons against friendly battalion headquarters, an indicator may read like this:  “In NAI 1, enemy soldiers are wearing or carrying personal protective chemical gear. ” If intelligence collection assets see this, and the information makes it back to the analyst and commander, they can both begin focusing on the MDCOA as the enemy’s plan of action.

So what’s my point?  The point is that analysts can only give the most likely event that will occur as well as their opinion on what is the most dangerous. He has to back up his claims with potential indicators.  And here’s where I see the problems with global warming.  If I were an analyst using the above model to figure out what is going to happen because of global warming, I would say it global warming will have have very little impact on people’s lives.  Scientists can look at the empirical facts, like temperature measurements at various points around the globe.  They can see that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, because they can create closed systems and inject CO2 into that system and observe CO2’s effects on heat conservation. But there are many things that scientists cannot see empirically with global warming.  They cannot see the end result of global warming, they can only rationalize what the end result may be.  And if we use the past as an indicator for what may happen in the future, than we must come to the conclusion that the predicted temperature increases do not present a clear and present danger to mankind, because the Earth has been much warmer and contained much more CO2 in the past than it does now.  And let’s remember that the Earth is not warming as fast as climate models predicted, thus the weakness of rationalism.  Several years ago, Al Gore assured us of catastrophe.  But man-made CO2 is an extremely small percentage of greenhouse gas, and we know that temperature does not increase in a linear fashion with CO2.  The impact of man-made CO2 on temperature is not known.  It may be so low as to be immeasurable.  If someone tells me that human survival is threatened by global warming, they have to give me indicators and they also have to show how much impact human activity has on the warming in the first place, because otherwise we have very little control of what the weather does.  They also have to give explanations for past warming before the industrial age and why no warming has occurred in the last 15 years.  Most importantly, they have to show me why nations should spend trillions of dollars on programs such as the Kyoto Protocol.

Science is not very good at predicting.  The major areas of current scientific practice that most trouble me are the ones that seek to extrapolate over very long periods of time.  I see the problem like this: If a man who is shooting a rifle at a target 50 meters away misses by 4 inches, that same shot would have missed a more distant target by an even wider margin.  And yet in the case of evolution, scientists seek to tell us what happened millions of years ago.  Is it not reasonable to surmise that they may be off the mark just a bit? Global warming too seeks to tell us what will happen in the year 2040.  Both evolution and catastrophic results of global warming are fine hypothesis. But empirical evidence does not yet support those hypothesis as scientific fact.

Ideological thinking can and has damaged the science.  Take diet for instance.  In many cases, the thinking goes like this: “I like animals, therefore I don’t like to kill animals, and therefore eating meat and fat damages my health.” “I like nature, nature is the environment without man in it, therefore any man-made technology is bad for nature.” “I do not believe in God, therefore evolution is true.” The opposite also happens.  “I don’t believe in evolution because I believe in God.”  In other words, people do not believe certain things because of science, they believe the science because of certain other things.  As we know from the Nazis, science can be used to support any ideology. And times and thinking change.  Scientific consensus, like religious consensus, is subject to change.  As Loverboy sings: The kid is hot tonight, but where will he be tomorrow?  The hot new idea may fade, and thus laws should only be made in the case of strong empirical evidence.

The truly damaging aspect of this is the linear thinking that science and religion can never mix.

Do I hold Christianity and the existence of God to the same standard I hold evolution and the global warming catastrophe hypothesis? Yes I do.  The primary difference is that in one case, global warming, some people want to spend trillion of dollars  to change and in most cases slow down modern economies.  As far as my belief in Christianity goes, I do not want laws made that require people to be Christians because 1) That kind of Christianity would be wholly inauthentic 2) I may be wrong.

 I especially may be wrong on the small minute details of the religion, for God had to constantly correct the men in the Old Testament and the New. No man can conceive fully, God.  Moreover, no two men’s concept of God can be exactly the same, mathematically speaking.   Theocrats, such as the Taliban, want to calcify thinking.  So do the Technocrats or those that make laws based on science that extrapolates and does not see first hand.

I have come to the conclusion through rationalization, that there is probably a God, something or someone that created the universe.  And the logical conclusion I draw is the same as Nietzsche’s, that without God, there is no good and evil, that people can only make claims to right or wrong based on how they feel about things.   And the problem with that is that there will always be someone who feels differently.   The Taliban feel it’s ok to shoot disobedient women in the head.  No Atheist could argue with the Taliban on any moral grounds, because life had no meaning without the sacred, it only has fleeting feelings.

In the end, my belief in God does not harm people, at least as far as I can tell.  Indeed, using the classic model or what makes a man right and just, Christianity improved me significantly, so there is a utilitarian argument for Christianity in my case.  Should a law be made that all people had to believe exactly as I do, that law would most likely harm even me, because it’s unlikely my views in 20 years will be exactly as they are now.

And yet the Technocrats want to make laws that tell us exactly how we can think and act, sometimes based on very poorly understood and complicated things, like brain chemistry. I am not saying that we can never reach a level of adequate surety in these various areas, but it doesn’t seem like we’re there yet.   When an engineer builds a plane that cannot fly, the results are immediately evident. When climate scientists or pundits claim Florida will be under water in 50 years so we’d better spend millions, well show me the money.

Schools cannot teach alternative views to evolution, nor do they even talk about the unanswered aspects of the hypothesis.  Some children are forced by state law to take medication for ADD before they can attend school.  And our society accepts this Technocratic rule because it believes people who think otherwise are unscientific and stupid.  In essence, we have accepted science’s version of the Taliban.

Child rearing and international relations

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This morning, Emily, our three year old girl, yelled for Mommy from her room. She was in her high chair eating breakfast and watching cartoons. Since my wife was busy preparing the Thanksgiving turkey, I got up, knowing that Emily finished eating and wanted to get down from the chair. Emily looked at me and stated–with a slight scowl on her face: “I want down!” Now, since I believe in manners, I asked her what goes along with any request. She knows that she needs to say please, but at this moment, she decided that she was going to test my resolve. Emily’s face grew into a pout and she folded her arms. She was going to stand her ground. I told her that when she could come up with the right word, she could get down.

Nope. Emily was going to win. The problem is, I’ve found with children that it’s a very bad idea to let them win when you’re right. And it isn’t very often that an adult is not the one in the right when it comes to three year olds. So I left the room, reminding her that when she really wanted to get down, she’d just say the magic word. A few minutes passed and I poked my head in. Anything? Nope, still the pouty look that works with some people. Some people would have been guilted right into giving in. But the more you give in with children, the more wars you’ll have to fight in the future, even though capitulating can end the current battle. As George Orwell once said: “The quickest way to end a war is to lose it.” But then you’ve suddenly empowered a three year old beyond reason, and we all know why the world is not run by three year olds.

Finally I walked into the room again. I asked her if she was going to say please. About 5 minutes had passed since the little insurrection began. She stared at the television as if I hadn’t even spoken to her. Ok–I thought, time to increase the pressure. A little more firepower may be in order. I walked over to the television and shut it off, then started out the door of the room.

“Daddy!” I turned to see a distinctly changed visage. Contrite and polite. 

“I said I wanted to get down.”

I asked what word accompanied her request. “Please” she said. The war was over. If I’d given in, it may have been months of future battles before Emily forgot the lesson she’d learned; that if she can hold out and pout and refuse to cooperate, she can get what she wants.

Make playing nice the only option

 For several years now I’ve rolled the idea around in my mind that one could do exceptionally well in the world of international politics if, as a national leader, a person merely dealt with other nations as one would deal with a child. Now I know this sounds offensive on its surface, but in reality, I’m just using this as a mental guide that someone could refer to when the question arose on how America should react in particularly sticky situations abroad. Kind of like the recent North Korean attack on the South, in an apparent attempt to force the US to the negotiating table in regards to sanctions.

Now I know that not every nation is like a child, but I believe that humanity as a mass organism can be handled just like children. There are some that simply do not understand this, and so have empowered and enabled decades of violence. These people are the single moms of the world. Jimmy Carter is an exasperated single mom. Mr. Carter thinks that if he keeps giving the kicking, screaming three year old candy bars and cookies, keeps letting them stay up until midnight, and never ever makes the child uncomfortable for bad behavior, than the bad behavior will go away. Because that’s how rational adults act, right? But this isn’t a rational adult. The child doesn’t play by rules just because it’s the right thing to do. The child wants to push the envelope, find out what his limits are, get as much as it can.

Well Mr. Carter’s at it again. After decades of blaming the West and Israel for getting bombed by terrorists, he’s now telling us we should immediately go to the negotiating table with North Korea as a result of the recent attacks on the South. So lets train the child by letting him know that his unacceptable actions work. That hitting mommy and daddy gets you things. That throwing temper tantrums gets you cookies and candy. Mr. Carter ignores basically ignores the actions that got Korea into its current predicament. The fact that Kim Jong Il has repeatedly violated various rules in regards to its nuclear weapons program. He cites in his article that for 8 years, the West sent North Korea fuel oil under an agreement brokered by Carter under the Clinton administration, but then states that North Korea violated the agreement and so came under more sanctions. Does he not see the pattern here? Throw temper tantrum. Get stuff. Agree to new rules. Violate rules. Lose stuff. Throw temper tantrum. Get stuff. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Carter doesn’t want to be a parent. Not a real parent. He wants to fake it, and act like a good friend. In essense, it’s parenting “on the cheap”. It’s done by a parent who wants to pat themselves on the back for being tolerant, and who can’t stand the twinge of discomfort they themselves momentarily feel for doing the job they suspect that they should do. It comes with the easy-fix world we’ve come to live in.  Meanwhile, they’re enabling the child to become someone few can tolerate, not even the parent themselves. But no parent who’s doing their job is only friends with their child. Sometimes the hammer must fall. Sometimes a spanking is in order. And sometimes countries like North Korea should be told to go to their room and shut the door so their temper tantrum has no audience.

Crime, video games, and how men really act in war

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Some of my readers may have heard about the recent video, published by an organization called Wikileaks, a self-proclaimed government and military watchdog organization. The video shows an Apache helicopter crew engaging a group of people in Iraq during the 2007 surge. At least eight people are killed and two children are wounded. What seems to outrage the critics the most is the verbage used by the pilots. Things like: “Good shooting” and “(laughing) They ran over a body.” Also, “Come on buddy…all you gotta do is pick up a weapon.” One pundit commented: “It’s almost like they’re playing a video game.”  Several times the pilots express glee at the sight of their kills.  

Here’s the video. Interpret the propoganda by Wikileaks as you see fit:  

But no. It’s not like they’re playing a video game. It could be said of those playing video games, that it’s almost like the gamers are at war. The people at war are not copying what they’ve seen in video games, people playing video games are obeying the animal urge to fight.  

Perhaps the greatest of all myths when it comes to war, is that men don’t like to fight and kill. What they really don’t like is to lose a fight, die or receive a catastrophic wound. This myth is a primary reason that the intelligentsia, who only study the cold movements of armies, the logistics and the death tolls, fail to fully grasp the nature of war. War is not–primarily–concerned with morality or rationality. This is particularly true in third world countries where the male urge to fight is not blunted by organized sport or entertainment.  

Many American men denied the opportunity to enter the military during WWII committed suicide. I can say from my experience in the Army that people in our current Army love to deploy to a combat zone. I rarely hear anyone complain that they are going to fight. Except for being away from their families, they’d rather be fighting than sitting in garrison. How much more does the insurgent want to fight, since after killing some Americans, he can simply walk back to his home and wife and children at night? It is primarily young males that play video games and engage in contact sports. And let’s not forget that males constitute 93% of the prison population, as of 2003.  

The nature of war and crime are closely related. Let’s look at some crime statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.   

The first thing that jumps out is that violent crime in the US has declined considerably since the 1970s. Contrary to the popular myth propagated by an ever-chugging media. violent crime has been declining for decades in the US and also in many parts of Europe. Let me suggest the un-suggestable: Could violent video games actually be partly responsible for reducing violent crime? Is the natural male urge to engage in violence being sated by virtual killing? Is it a coicidence that the fifth generation of home video game systems–possibly the most revolutionary leap in gaming realism ever– spawned in 1993? The early to mid 90s brought us the Playstation, Sega Saturn, and Nintendo 64. The groundbreaking game, GoldenEye 007 dazzled gamers with a level of realistic warfare never before seen. 

I am not suggesting that moral lessons and teaching the value of non-violence are of no use or that other factors aren’t involved in the fall of violent crime rates since the 70s.  I’d also have to point out that violent crime rose considerable from the turn of the century until the 60s.  I’m merely noting that there is a natural male urge to engage in violent, reckless and dangerous activity and that perhaps artificial violence has diluted the real thing, whereas is the 40s and 50s it seems real values did the job.. Left to himself, a young male will probably find himself in trouble with the law sooner than later. One needs only look at crime statistics in the inner cities, where fatherless young males roam the streets. These places have more in common with Sierre Leone than the American heartland. So, in the absence of moral teaching in youth, there is also the absence of internal safeguards against the use of violence. It could be that violent video games quench a thirst that exists precisely because the male has not been taught proper social interaction methods.  

What people really don’t like when they see the above video, is that the pilots seem to like what they are doing. The critics expect men fighting to experience horror with every falling enemy body. To cringe over each wounded opponent. If fighting were that psychologically trying, men wouldn’t do it. If the insurgents felt the same guilt from killing Americans that they felt from say, accidentally killing their own child, there would be no insurgency. What men have and always will search for, is a socially acceptable reason to fight. And in the absence of fighting, they engage in other activities that stress the subcortical regions of their brains and their adrenal systems.  

I can give first hand attestation. Nothing gives me the same high as competition.  I know many men who feel the same. War is the ultimate competition, and killing a socially acceptable target gives many men the ultimate high. As a police officer, there was a thrill in the chase, to violence–and it was socially acceptable. When criminals resisted arrest, I was more than happy to use legal violence. Afterwards, I felt euphoric. Lying about this will not change what every cop and soldier knows: We didn’t get into those types of jobs for the paperwork.  

The Apache pilots acted as men have for thousands of years at the sight of a dead enemy: They celebrated. Our politicians should set aside for a while the intellectual texts (though they have their place) that drive foreign policy and pick up a copy of The Iliad. Homer captured the sheer joy of combat experienced by warriors better than anyone since. The Greeks never separated sports from warfare, and in their myth, their best warriors were also their best athletes.  

Better than Clausewitz' On War

So, men who are victorious in war act in precisely the same ways as men who are victorious in sports or in video game sessions: They celebrate. They denigrate their enemy. We lie when we speak of the savagery of ancient man. We are the same now, only now we’ve figured out ways to expend our violent energies without actually killing anyone.  

Small Wars define the current generation of fighting. Warrior cultures, composed of youthful males without much to lose and nothing else to do but fight are the enemy. The enemy is not a professional but does gain much local prestige and even food, women and a place to live by being willing to kill Americans. Our politicians fail to accurately perceive the nature of our enemy and his reasons for fighting;  not so much a sense of injustice or outrage, which are only the social phantasms used to justify the fighting. An educated Demos will not  take away the reasons for people in Somalia and Afghanistan to fight unceasingly. It will only give them a way to create methods to channel aggression into other areas besides killing humans.

Allowing gays in the military will be a symptom of our decline, not just a cause

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There’s a disturbing and short sighted trend in modern thinking: That human behavior is spawned and exists in a vacuum. That an activity has no effect on other activities. That there is neither an Alpha nor an Omega.

Earlier this year, retired Marine Corps general John Sheehan testified before Congress that he believed the liberalization of the armed forces would result in the decline of its ability to fight.

Democrat Representative Carl Levin of Michigan hits Sheehan with predictable and very modern arguments. They are all prefixed with: What if? What if it can be shown that there is no decline in our military’s ability to fight, should gays be allowed to openly serve? Of course we must also ask: What if it can be shown that our ability to fight is mitigated by allowing open gays in?  

Levin of course believes that serving in the military is a right. I should like to see some of the things that are done in the military–all for the cause of maintaining good order and discipline–enacted on say, workers at a local supermarket. Maybe the shift supervisor can come and inspect their apartment at any time (1st Sergeants can inspect barracks and housing).  Maybe they have to do pushups as punishment for breaking some eggs while stocking the shelves (It’s called CAPE–Corrective Action Physical Exercise and it can be used for small lapses in attention to detail). Perhaps we can force them to work five additional hours per night because they were arrested for DUI two months ago and after a short hearing, the boss decided this was proper punishment. After an article 15 is issued to a Soldier, he can be required to perform “extra duty” for several weeks, this includes weekends, and usually amounts to picking cigarette butts out of the cracks in parking lots, sweeping and mopping floors, mowing lawns and other menial though tiring work.

In Sheehan’s testimony he speaks of some of the things European armies did in order to make the military “fair.” The Dutch brought in unions and allowed gays to serve. Other European Armies did similar things. Germans of college age must choose between community service or 9 months of military service. All of this has served to water down the martial atmosphere that warriors throughout all ages cultivated. Rights of passage, ceremonies, formations, marching, uniforms, all serve to remind each Soldier of his sacred heritage. Aside from the British, most European armies amount to police units, barely trained for peace keeping missions and lacking the public spine any army needs to fight without quitting. The Dutch recently decided it was time to quit in Afghanistan and voted to remove its 2000 representative NATO troops. Even the Israelis seem to be faltering. I recently read an article about the lax dress code for female Israeli soldiers. One Israeli female openly admitted that American troops are much more professional than their Israeli counterparts. Recent engagements with Hamas and Hezbollah may be the harbinger of future problems that Israel faces. Gays serving openly, civilian like attire and mandatory service, in Israel’s case, are as much because of a severe lack in manpower, as because of a movement to liberalize the military. The imminent danger that Israel faces daily may well prevent a complete softening. But Europe and America no longer have the Soviets to keep them honest. Fantasies about what the military ought to be are allowed to grow because harsh reality no longer keep the dream in check.

Back to the idea that individual behavior and habits exist in a vacuum. I saw how wrong this type of thinking was when I was a police officer. For instance, I could be driving down a particularly crime-ridden street while on duty. I may see someone wearing a particular type of clothing, talking with a known criminal, listening to hard-core Rap, while he smoked a cigarette. Perhaps he stares too long as I drive by. Perhaps he glances away too quickly. He’s got a tatoo on his neck, too.

After almost a decade of police work, I’d have been suspicious of the above-described person. Were any of his activities illegal? No. Taken separately and philosophically sifted, there isn’t a problem. But my brain, after having dealt with hundreds, if not thousands of criminal types, tells me that this is someone I at least ought to look out for in the future. As much as I may have rebuked myself for “profiling”, my brain just wouldn’t ignore the patterns that reality offered.

But studies show that individual traits do reveal a greater whole. Tattoos and body-piercing are highly correlated with risky and illegal behavior in teenagers. So is smoking, which made my Spidey-Sense tingle on any car stop. Smoking a cigarette while driving at night indicates a higher chance of a drunk driver. Did I arrest the guy for puffing his Marlborough? Nope. But I looked for indicators of drunk driving. My instincts would begin to place the puzzle together before my higher brain could react. Oh yeah. The military has rules concerning tattoos, too.

So does homosexuality mean someone can’t function in the military? No. But it does correlate with many other types of risky behavior, and behaviors that are detrimental to a martial spirit. It’s difficult to separate the homosexual from the complete paradigm that is that lifestyle. Liberals will call them stereotypes. I’ll call them stereotypes that I think are true. With homosexuality comes a whole truck load of problems, not just a regular guy who prefers to have sex with other men. This is not an essay about the causes of homosexuality. But I will say that we are incredibly complex creatures. To imply that upbringing, genetics, luck, or choice are individually and solely responsible for who we are is intellectually dishonest.

There are always the exceptions to the rule. Every rule. But we should not ignore the rule for the exception. The military is not a place for social experimentation, activism or just a place to find work. But neither is it close minded. The military was the first American institution to desegregate, for instance. I have nothing against working at a regular, civilian job with gay people. While I find their lifestyle abhorrent, I fully recognize their constitutional right to engage in it and I am sworn to defend their right to do so. But I need not endorse it. And the Army has no obligation to accept all things as being equal, especially when they’re demonstrably not equal. Should this administration remove DADT, it will be as much a symptom of the problems our military faces as it will be a cause. Our mind-set will have changed. We will have become as the Europeans: Striving to make all things equal while forgetting that each organ serves a particular function. Kidneys don’t make good hearts.