March 12, 2014

Hypocrisy and Conformity

I went to high school in Calistoga, California, the very heart of the Northern California Wine Country. People in my hometown had a saying, "There are two things never discussed in polite company: politics and religion."

Naturally I have spent my entire life discussing both. I suppose that means I am not polite company. In my own defense, it seems to me that politics and religion, dealing as they do with the here and now as well as the hereafter, are the only topics worth discussing in polite company.

Unfortunately, in today's America we have become extremely polarized. Rational debate, the bedrock of a functional democracy, appears to be impossible. We as a nation have reached a point that was only implied all those decades ago when I was watching adults pretend to have meaningful conversations while never mentioning the things that were truly important to them. Looking back now, it seems that every time two adults went their separate ways the one I was with always mentioned to me something hateful about the person they had just been having a polite, cheerful conversation with. At the time that hypocrisy seemed incomprehensible. Then I got married and wound up in Japan.

Japan takes dualistic relationships to a level unimaginable to most Americans. Two concepts are so deeply ingrained into Japanese culture that two of the oldest words in the language are used to explain them: honne/tatemae. The Japanese know there are two qualities to every person they interact with, the honne, or real heart, and the tatemae, or front face; or, as I like to think of them, the bones and the mask.

Japanese are known throughout the world as one of the politest societies in existence. This is because all a stranger ever sees is the tatemae of the Japanese person they interact with. This front face, this mask worn by everyone everyday, hides the darker side of Japanese culture. The other side of Japanese culture is counting heads to gain payment after a battle, treating foreign POWs like animals, using Southeast Asian women as prostitutes after hiring them as entertainers, and holding high school students to such an inhuman academic standard that in some schools one in ten commits suicide.

It is critical to understand this about Japan because many academic and political leaders in today's America are dedicated to moving American culture into a social climate very similar to the historic Japanese ideal of honne/tatemae. There are people in positions of powerful influence who believe you should not have the right to think or feel differently than they do. They are so convinced of their own rightness that it is impossible for them to even consider the possibility of dissent. Therefore, they would greatly prefer a culture where anyone who feels differently simply has no cultural or social justification for expressing that disagreement. They don't want to remove the First Amendment, they simply want to live in a world where it is unnecessary because social and cultural stigma prevent anyone from expressing their honne.

Ironically, even as various forces are driving us into a more repressed and repressive society modern Japan is slowly but irretrievably moving away from a society ruled by complete repression of personal desire. It took the Japanese two thousand years to learn that not only is complete and total repression of human emotion impossible, when those emotions finally do explode to the surface the results are catastrophic. If you really want to know why young men grab the nearest weapon and slaughter a theater or a school full of innocent people, there is only one place you need to look to find your answer: a repressed emotional life. Something has convinced these young men that their personal emotions are invalid and thus, they themselves are invalid. In my opinion you need look no further than this insane drive toward social conformity, political correctness, and universal "acceptance". These young men feel differently than they are told is "natural" and someone in a position of authority such as a parent, teacher, school principle, or pastor, has demanded they stop expressing themselves.

Which brings me to the most important point in today's post: in every single case that I have personally encountered the individual who is demanding social conformity from someone who depends on them for leadership is the same person who demands everyone around them must be more open-minded, more accepting of social deviation, and more willing to move America in a direction where "more rational minds" dictate how everyone else thinks, feels, eats, speaks, works, plays, and lives. They insist they are demanding a more open society, and they often belong to some kind of group that advocates for a more open society, but in reality what they are demanding is exactly the opposite of what they claim. They fear an open society. Their worst nightmare is a chaotic social situation where everyone feels, believes, and speaks ideas that are different from their own. They demand fundamental Christians accept homosexuality as a valid lifestyle while refusing to allow Christians to sponsor a nativity-based Christmas play at the local school. Or, conversely, they demand prayer in public schools while demanding Hollywood stop making movies and television programs about homosexual couples.

No one has the right to demand other people choose the same lifestyle they have chosen for themselves. Parents have no right to demand this of their children and politicians have no right to demand it of our society. Even worse, no one has the right to demand laws are passed enforcing their chosen lifestyle. We don't need more government control over our lives. We don't need society dictating what kind of food to eat, what kind of drinks we consume, who we spend our lives with, what we believe, what we don't believe, who we associate with, or who we refuse to associate with. Hatred is just as valid as love and it does not matter if you or I like this idea. The simple reality of human existence is that some of us are filled with hate, some of us are filled with love, and some of us cannot experience any emotions at all. Reality is what it is, regardless of how you or I experience it, interpret it, or feel about it.

If you demand an end to pornography you are just as wrong as someone who demands Fox News stop broadcasting. To contend that video games are destroying America's youth is just as wrong as insisting that every child must participate in high school sports. To demand every high school athlete receive a trophy is just as wrong as demanding everyone who buys a lottery ticket receive a million dollars. Attempting to make everyone the same is unrealistic and can only have one end result: violent outbursts by those who cannot conform. In Japan those violent outbursts take the form of suicide. In America those outbursts take the form of mass murder. In both cases the cause is the same: unrealistic demands for social, intellectual, and emotional conformity. It both ironic and tragic that those demands most often come from people clamoring for a more open society.

March 03, 2014

Fascism and Firearms in America

Last year California began confiscating weapons from citizens who had purchased those weapons legally and had never used them in any criminal act. This year both New York and Connecticut will follow California's lead with even stricter laws that will no doubt result in even more widespread confiscations. And now New Jersey is preparing to up the ante even further with a new firearms ban that will cover the vast majority of small caliber rifles used by sporting clubs and amateur enthusiasts throughout their state. As Allen West rightly points out, echoes of the Weimar Republic can be seen, heard, and felt in this new drive to ban dangerous-looking firearms that hold more than seven rounds.

Just prior to Hitler's rise to dominance, Germany was governed by a very liberal political system known as the Weimar Republic. This Republic made many mistakes in their management of the German economy and German society at large. Those mistakes laid the foundation that Hilter used to build his Third Reich. One of the key elements in that foundation was the 1928 Law on Firearms and Ammunition (Gesetz über Schußwaffen und Munition). This law set up a variety of licenses controlling every aspect of firearms and ammunition use by non-military, non-law enforcement citizens. It covered everything from private reloading of ammunition to when and where both firearms and ammunition could be bought, sold, or traded. It was on the basis of this law that the Nazis disarmed their opposition and any other "unsuitable" persons after they consolidated power in 1933. (Because the 1919 law had completely forbade civilian ownership of firearms and ammunition, the 1928 law was heralded as a triumph of freedom and liberty when it passed.)

Fascism in all its colors is a political and philosophical system that sets up an ideal state of existence and puts a centralized government in charge of both creating and preserving that ideal. When anti-gun advocates, pro-choice advocates, pro-LGBT advocates, and other such far left groups declare their initiatives will bring more freedom to Americans they honestly believe this. They have all bought into a fascist ideal based on a shared assumption that if we have enough laws and a strong enough federal government then everyone can be rich, happy, and free. The problem is, in order to reach this utopian state anyone who disagrees with their ideals must be eliminated. That is why they are constantly demanding the federal government or their local state government "crack down on" "unAmerican" dissenters who do not share their vision of a better world. It does not matter whether the advocate is demanding gay marriages, access to abortions for teenagers, or "hate" crime laws setting up certain groups as a protected class, in all cases their intent is to strengthen centralized control over social order and individual choices in order to imprison anyone who disagrees with them. Every attempt to circumvent or weaken the Second Amendment is done with the same intent. Their intent is to deny people who disagree with them access to the one tool they can use to effectively preserve their freedom to disagree: a good firearm.

America is not like the rest of the world. It truly is a unique social and political environment. America is the only country in the world that began as a near anarchy and has gradually descended into a near tyranny. Every other country began as a monarchy, a tribal coalition, or some other highly restrictive centralized control system designed to limit the freedom of individuals and preserve a predefined social order. America did not. America began with a simple, three page Constitution that had only one purpose: create a loose federation of disparate states with enough authority to preserve the peace but without any authority to dictate the nature of that peace. Almost from the very first day that freedom has been besieged by politicians at both the local and federal level who have sought to gather more power and influence to themselves in order to "help" the rest of us "progress" to an even better state of existence. The foundation that progressivism is built on is this ancient assumption that since some level of control is always better than complete anarchy surely even greater control will bring even better conditions.

The founders of modern American progressivism drew their inspiration from people such as Karl Marx and Mao Tse Tung, but they knew that their heroes were associated with oppression, genocide, and mass social disruption, so instead of quoting their heroes directly, they misquoted more acceptable sources such as Abraham Lincoln or Mahatma Ghandi, providing a veneer of legitimacy to what was, in fact, a fascist agenda designed to increase social control and "bring order from chaos". As a result, we now have in America multiple generations of people who believe in a deeply fascist ideal society originally defined by Marx and then expanded on by Mao. These same Americans do not even realize the true nature of what it is they believe in. They honestly believe that by increasing the power of the federal government, forcing their fellow citizens to give up firearms and firearms related activities, imprisoning individuals who express hateful attitudes, and insuring only healthful food is available in our markets, they can save the rest of us from evil and bring America into a blissful utopian ideal.

When I started this blog over ten years ago I was one of the deluded. I grew up in California, went to California public schools, and went to church regularly. Between my Bible studies and what I had learned in school I saw myself as a victim of profoundly oppressive forces that I would never be able to comprehend or counter. It took twenty-five years living in a genuinely oppressive police state to realize I had been deceived. Japan is what every American progressive would like to achieve. It is a largely homogeneous society with a powerful central government, national social control executed by a standing police force larger than most armies, and a general populace dedicated to hard work and quiet conformity to the social order. For my first two years there I thought I had found utopia. As I matured and learned the true extent of social control being routinely exercised by the Japanese government I grew more and more disenchanted but I could not figure out what it was that bothered me. It was only after I came back to the United States and began to enjoy a greater degree of individual autonomy and personal freedom that I could finally recognize what it was I had spent twenty-five years feeling: tyrannical oppression.

Japan is a peaceful but highly regimentalized tyranny. The Japanese people feel wonderously free, but that is only because less than a generation ago they were under the heel of an even more despotic military dictatorship. Compared to what their parents had, younger generations in Japan have enormous freedom, but the freedom they enjoy is nowhere near the personal autonomy enjoyed here in the United States. They cannot own firearms, most of them are not able to own a car, they live in apartments smaller than most American two-car garages. Thugs and bullies run their schools or companies and there is nothing they can do about it. There do exist laws on the books protecting the rights of women and children and limiting the ability of corporations to bully their customers, but none of those laws have any penalties so when they are violated there is no recourse for the victims.

It pains me to watch New York, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts as their state legislatures work daily to circumvent or flat out ignore the limits of both the federal constitution and their state constitutions. Every year that goes by more and more people vote for politicians that promise them greater government control leading to greater prosperity and every year the quality of life for the majority of citizens continues to decline. You see, once you become dependent on the government for food, medicine, a mobile phone, transportation, safety, and a sense of well being, you cannot return to a state of genuine freedom. Once you have given up your personal freedom in order to gain a marginally better or incrementally safer society, you cannot surrender that dependence because you lose the ability to live without it. We have millions of people in the United States who would starve to death inside a year without the vast, generous social safety net enjoyed by their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. They are completely dependent on the government and cannot imagine life without government assistance. Every year this "safety net" expands wider and wider, creating more and more people who must vote for politicians who promise even more generous handouts because without those handouts, they will starve. And I don't mean welfare or Social Security recipients. Giant corporations like General Electric and General Motors would collapse without massive government purchasing. Small, family-owned businesses in every major city would have no way to buy supplies or offer products without government railroad subsidies, government highway subsidies, government construction projects, and tens of millions of government employees spending their paychecks locally. Without our vast, expensive, unconstitutional federal government Wal-mart would have no one to sell to, grandparents would have no money to buy Christmas presents, and you yourself would probably have no way to earn a paycheck.

We have created a vast government where both political parties must promise a fascist ideal future because the vast majority of us cannot imagine life without a powerful central government. The firearm regulations in New York, New Jersey, California, and Connecticut are not anomalies. They are clear indicators of our future, a future bequeathed to us by two centuries of progressive thinking that demanded greater federal intervention every time the people encountered some trial or tribulation. The Louisiana Purchase, the Abolitionist movement, the Monroe Doctrine, the dream of a Manifest Destiny, all of these have contributed to the tipping point we now find ourselves teetering on. The time is now. The day is today. The responsibility is yours. Will you stand on your own two feet, break the shackles of progressive reliance on government to solve your problems, then risk your health, wealth, and future to recapture the freedom our founding fathers designed for us? Or will you vote in another county commissioner, another senator, another city council member, and another president who promise you a better world in exchange for not having salt on the table at the local restaurant and harsher penalties for anyone who beats up your homosexual sibling? Do you want the local pharmacy to sell marijuana and cocaine or do you want them to restrict the number of Tylenol and limit the types of toothpaste you can buy?

I don't know what the future holds. I only know that I have seen the type of society so many Americans seem to be clamoring for and I have hated it with every fiber of my being. I cannot control your choices, but I can control mine. My choices will be ever greater freedom. My votes, my daily purchases, my political and social opinions will be targeted at one goal: taking this nation as close to anarchy as we can get without imploding. Unfortunately, what seems apparent to me is that the implosion is coming and coming soon, but it won't be brought about by moving closer to anarchy. It will be just the opposite. The step that carries us over the line into social collapse and civil war will be the one regulation too many that imposes the one tiny restriction that freedom-loving Americans who value their individuality can no longer accept.

Huffington Post (April 4, 2013): California Gun Confiscation Bill Passes
Huffington Post (December 9, 2013): Connecticut Gun Owners Rush to Register Firearms
Huffington Post (December 31, 2013): Federal Judge Upholds Most of NY Gun Control Law
Washington Times (February 28, 2014: NJ Bill is Outright Ban on .22 Caliber Rifles (March 3, 2014): Echoes of Weimar Germany
Stephen Halbrook (2000): Nazi Firearms Law and the Disarming of the German Jews (PDF file)