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  • Writer's pictureStephen W. Browne

Disagree. It's what free persons do.

Steve Browne is a single dad, a writer/columnist, martial arts teacher, and dog lover who has lived and worked in various places around Eastern Europe, the Middle East and who now resides in that part of the Midwest where the weather hurts your face. He is the author of "The View from Flyover Country" a collection of his newspaper columns, "Word Play" an examination of linguistic based humor, and the upcoming "Ruling Class Crisis" a look at what's wrong with the country but unfortunately not how to fix it. That's up to you.

Be the dad you wish you’d had.

Humans in general are "infected" with a desire for certainty, even more so when they are afraid. It takes great intellectual courage to admit uncertainty, and it's a very hard sell.

In my video anthropological musings I define "civilization" as the social technology of living in larger groups than the "natural" human society size. (Called Dunbar's Number though actually a range, about 150-250.) It's from the Latin "civis" or city. Part of the technology of living in large groups is called "politics" from "polis" which is Greek for city.

From this we infer that phenomenon we call "the progress of civilization" is the expansion of the in-groupthat group of people we feel obliged to act ethically towards.


Here in the West we've arrived at a place where the in-group is at least theoretically the whole human race.

The problem is, not everybody has arrived at the same conclusion and so far we have no evidence that a civilization built on that assumption is long-term stable.

Theory without experience drifts into fantasy. Experience without theory just drifts.

Steve's Four Rules of Power:

Demonstrate your power over others by:

1) Making them constantly afraid of giving offense unintentionally.

2) Making them give up cherished customs, symbols, pastimes.

3) Making them pay lip service to ideas of breathtaking absurdity. 4) Making them do things that disgust and repel them.

Corollary: Give a nonentity a taste of power and he will never let it go.

For many years I taught martial arts students that no insult was worth fighting over.

Now, I'm not so sure. It appears that when people get the idea you can be insulted without limit and without consequence they will conclude you can be oppressed without resistance.

On the other hand, someday you’re going to realize I was trying to save your life when I told you to walk away from a fight. Unfortunately that’ll probably be when you’re lying on the pavement bleeding out.

The Nazis said they were socialists. The Swedes say they aren’t. American socialists say they’re both lying.

Certain insults have become so common across our political/cultural divide that I wonder if some people know what they're saying.

When you call someone a "racist" or a "white supremacist" you're saying they are a morally reprehensible person who should not be allowed to have a career in any of the professions.

When you call someone a "fascist" or a "literal Nazi" you are saying they are a morally reprehensible person who should be killed.

When you call someone a "socialist" however you're generally calling them what they denied they were a few years ago and are starting to call themselves now.

There is a strong cultural bias that is so much a part of the American national character that we seldom if ever realize it's there. I only stumbled across it while discussing such with a class of Asian ladies.

Americans believe all problems have solutions, and all situations can be improved. We're the ultimate meliorists.

When I asked my students if they'd noticed this they said yeah, that describes Americans to a T.

When I asked what they thought of it, they said, "That it's not true."

The consequence is, we don't deal well with situations where EVERY alternative sucks and the only thing to do is try to find the least bad one. When forced to confront it, many tend to react with rage.

Worse, they'll reject any proposal to ameliorate the situation if it doesn't totally "fix" the problem.

I don't have an opinion on religious dogma I'd stick a finger to a match for, much less be burned at the stake. But I've also had my nose rubbed in the truth of that observation attributed to Chesterton.

"When men no longer believe in God they do not believe in nothingthey believe in anything."

"The opposite of the fanatical religious is not the fanatical atheist, but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not." - Eric Hoffer

I'll add this, speaking as one of those gentle cynics. Militant atheists are a pain in the ass. A pain I was once in my youth (a memory that makes me cringe).

One gets the strong impression about militant atheists that it's not that they don't believe in Him, it's that they do, but they're mad at Him.

On the subject of whether there is a God and whether he speaks to us.

I once heard a voice that was probably God speaking to me as I held a pistol to my head thinking I'd fucked up so bad this was probably the best alternative.

The voice said, "That's impossible," and damned if I know what that means but there were distinctive overtones of "You idiot."

So I don't have to believe in God if I don't want to, just because I heard Him speak to me.

In my travels I've noticed there is a way to design a pub that either facilitates conversation with strangers, or inhibits it. People sitting at tables rarely reach beyond the table, unlike people sitting at a bar.

The ruling class is overwhelmingly left.

"No no! The ruling class is old white conservative guys!"

I remember a time this was true, but not anymore.

What happened was in a drive to make the elite class more inclusive a generation of young people were promised a place in the ruling class for the price of getting a college degree, and holding all the right opinions within a very narrow range of permissible deviation.

This led to an "overproduction of elites."

This necessarily leads leftwards - because there isn't enough ruling to go around for all those who mean to rule. So they must have a much larger, much more intrusive government.

I think there is a fallacy that a theory can only be judged by experts in the field in question.

Yes, I'd give weight to their opinions absent a compelling reason not to. But the true test of a theory is how well it explains real-world phenomena, and if it's a prescriptive theory, how well it works in application.

Vis-à-vis Marxism, every single instance of the theory being applied to the political economy and legal structure of a nation has resulted in poverty, misery, and mass murderwithout exception!

"But they weren't really Marxist!" (Actual quote from an academic acquaintance, not a caricature.)

Sooooooo, a few dozen countries encompassing perhaps a quarter to a third of the land surface of the earth at one time or another, dedicated whole universities to the study of Marxism, sent their best minds to them, and still couldn't make it work.

And somebody who thinks it wasn't "real" Marxism is smarter than all of them put together?

America is indeed exceptional, and I know lots of people in other countries who say the same. Due to unique and not likely to be repeated historical circumstances, America achieved something different from the old ethno-nations of the old world, a nation built on a creed of political liberty.

It may not be long-term viable, we don't know because it's something new in history. But if it fails here, it will likely fail everywhere.

Though the talented would like to think otherwise, talent is not rare. There is far more of it in the population that lies undeveloped than we could ever run out of.

A deep source of frustration for social scientists has always been that the truths of human nature and human society have always been available to men and women who possess the insight to draw conclusions from introspection and observation.

However once you've spent years of your life getting a PhD you want to feel that you haven't wasted your time so there's a desire to find something new and original that nobody has noticed before.

And all too often that produces an attitude of "counter-intuitive is better."

One of the cultural assumptions of our civilization is the idea of infinite progress in all areas of human interaction. We assume without reflection that improvement or "progress" has no end point.

There is not a shred of evidence to support this.

In law, liberty and equality there is an end point: the point at which at least on paper all individuals have equal rights.

Beyond that, all inequities are the result of factors which exist not in law, but in the human heart: prejudice, bigotry, etc.

And that's when the MIFs (Moral/Ideological Fanatics who brook no dissent) want to do open heart surgery with an axe.

On Fascism.

If you’re serious on the subject of fascism, the first thing you should do is find out what the definition of "fascism" is, rather than use it as a term which means "political position I don't like." There's a good article in Wikipedia.

But beware, you'll find to your discomfort that it describes the position espoused by people like Sanders and Warren, i.e. an economy which is nominally capitalist but the distinction between public and private is blurred.

And if you really think hard about it you might reach the disturbing conclusion that the major players have divided fascism amongst themselves. The Democrats took the fascist economic program, the Republicans took the national greatness ideology, and Hollywood took the cult of youth.

Study anthropology as I did, and you learn that every culture has certain assumptions and blindnesses. Concepts that people raised in that culture have a hard time wrapping their heads around.

Spend enough time living abroad and you realize "every culture" includes ours.

One of our assumptions is that all peoples can get along and live in peace with sufficient good will.

There is not a shred of evidence to support this and a great many reasons to doubt it.

I think this short passage is one of the most beautiful in literature since literature was invented. Ruth to her mother-in-law after her husband died:

"And Ruth said, entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God -Ruth 1:16 KJV

What a world of meaning! Ruth and Naomi are not related genetically, but Ruth wants to keep Naomi alive though she has nothing to gain from it.

Or does she? Naomi later gives Ruth some sage advice on how to get the boss man to want to know her better.

Totally aside from the fact I'm heterosexual, I like the company and conversation of women.

However, I don't usually lead with that because it tends to put one in the "no chance" zone.

My theory is women either interpret it as, "Oh yeah right, he's going to try and jump my bones as soon as he can get us out of sight," or "What a wimp! He's saying he's not going to try and jump my bones as soon as he can get us out of sight."

I have called this the John Wesley Hardin Lesson.

Hardin was a gunfighter with 44 confirmed kills. He was eventually arrested and did 17 years in a frontier penitentiary. (And we think WE'RE soft on crime!), studied law, got out and apparently stayed out of trouble. But one day he exchanged words with a young man over a game of dice.

This fellow walked away and met his father.

"Mumble, mumble, that S.O.B. John Wesley Hardin!"

His old man freaks, "You got crosswise with John Wesley Hardin?"

Pops walked into the saloon, walks behind Hardin and blows his brains all over the dice table.

The John Wesley Hardin Lesson:

1) A reputation as a badass can get you killed. 2) No amount of badassery gives you eyes in the back of your head.

Oh, and the sequel:

The old man may have been slightly inconvenienced by the law but the general consensus was expressed by locals, "If he shot Hardin in the front, he was a damn good shot. If he shot him in the back he was a damn good citizen."

It's bad when intellectuals compare the present with hypothetical perfection. It's catastrophic when they compare it with hypothetical perfection they say they know how to achieve.

Read history. That gives you:

1) Perspective: this has happened before and will pass. 2) Consolation: we have not been uniquely betrayed. 3) Inspiration: others have survived worse and even triumphed.

Attribution of motive is always dicey because, 1) motives reside in people's heads, and 2) is what they are most likely to lie about - even or especially to themselves.

The only criterion of validity for attribution of motive is from ruthlessly honest introspection. "Could I see myself feeling that way if I were in that position?"

Hypocritical attribution always takes the form, "HE is acting from ulterior self-interest but of course I would never stoop so low."

There comes a time when the fact someone hates you becomes the primary consideration. You're not going to talk them out of it, the reasons for their hatred are irrelevant, you simply have to make your plans accordingly.

I was just asked if I was afraid white people will become a minority in my country.

I thought it was a dumb attempt to change the subject but it deserves an answer and here it is:

The answer is no, not a bit. Because I'm an American, and my identity as an American is almost unique in the world. Something shared by only a few cultures such as Jews and Icelanders.

My American identity is defined by our relationship to a body of political literature. Very loosely defined but certainly including The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and The Federalist (a sort of operating manual), John Locke, Abraham Lincoln, and maybe the Anti-Federalists.

Together they constitute a dialectic about the relationship of people in civil society.

that's what I want to survive. In fact, I think it's essential for the human race that it survive.

I don't really care what my grandchildren look like as I'm quite certain that somewhere down the line my descendants will be mixed-race, or a new race anyway.

George Bernard Shaw had kind words for both Hitler and Stalin. His good friend Winston Churchill was mystified how a man who wouldn't hurt a fly could do that, so I guess I can't say why either.

But I do love his plays and witticisms and I won't deprive myself of the enjoyment of them because he was a nutcase.

There is no point in seeking revenge against someone who is self-destructive. Learn to let go.

Then when they mess their own lives up you can enjoy revenge AND be self-righteous about having moved beyond the need for it!

A stable ruling class specializes in three areas:

1. Arms

2. Land (or production today)

3. Knowledge

A successful ruling class is open enough that ambitious people find it easier to join it that to overthrow it and inspires love or at least loyalty based on self-interest.

Today’s ruling class is unfit. Its members won’t fight and despise the profession of arms. They are less and less involved in production and more in financial manipulation, rent-seeking, and influence peddling. And the knowledge they peddle in expensive universities is crap. (For example, anything ending in "- studies")

It now appears that it's possible for people with elite education not to be able to join the ruling class because of an "overproduction of elites." Such people are frustrated and will work toward the destruction of a system they cannot reap the benefits of. It is evident that by and large they do not love their country and often seem to loathe it.

The dirty little secret of mobs is: rioting, looting, and vandalism are fun! And if nobody has the guts to make them unfun, rioters are going to discover the transcendent joy of murdering people in groups.

I have lived in a country at civil war. And not an African or Central American hell hole, but a country that to all outward appearances was civilized and WesternYugoslavia.

It was interesting and maddening and I don't think I was entirely sane when I left.

I do not want to spend my declining years killing my countrymen, still less being killed by them.

But there's one thing I want lessto pass this mess on to my children and have the experience blight their lives.

I’m about at the point I want to say, if this is what we're going to do then let's get it over with.

How oddly backwards my life has been. I spent my youth trying to avoid war. My middle age getting involved in other people's wars and revolutions. And now I'm wondering if war will come to me in my own country when I should have been sliding into a comfortable old age.

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