April 12, 2017

The Blind Faith Argument

Many of America's earliest colonies were political sanctuaries established by Christian Puritans seeking freedom from religious persecution. Those same theological foundations are present in America today and they color our thinking in very destructive ways. There is in American culture a profound tendency to believe the most outrageous delusions. This happens because so many of us are happy to accept abstract logical arguments on blind faith alone, ignoring real world facts that don't fit the logical framework. We learn this thinking in childhood. Children are assumed to be wise in their naivete. We talk fondly of "the wisdom of babes in the wilderness" as if it were something real, solid, and dependable. It's not. Children left alone in wild lands almost never survive more than a few days. Those few that do usually get lucky and find a water supply clean enough that avoiding death by dehydration doesn't bring on death by microorganism.

When I first saw the Tweet above about Ninjas stealing cookies, I quite literally laughed out loud. It was so typical of childish logic. Being a parent, I know from experience that sometimes it is impossible to debate with a child. One of the less pleasant aspects of being a parent are those occasions where the child is lying, and you know the child is lying, but you have no proof. It is very hard in those moments to explain to the child why you know they are lying and why it is important not to lie. If they persist, then they must be disciplined. The purpose of the discipline is to reinforce in the child that deception produces negative consequences. Unfortunately, it is hard to discipline a child just for being a child. It is sometimes difficult to set down hard rules and enforce those rules without explanation until the child is old enough to understand why the rules exist. It sometimes feels impossible to teach children both the importance of obeying rules and the importance of having their own mind, thinking their own thoughts, and making their own decisions. Demanding blind faith in parental authority while discouraging blind faith in favor of realistic thinking is one of the great paradoxes of nurturing children and teaching them to think for themselves.

The American progressive movement has decided that Pres. Donald Trump is a mere puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It does not matter how many facts are presented to refute this belief. There exists a simple, childlike blind faith in the reality of the Trump-Putin collusion, so much so, that it colors their ability to grasp the true significance of real-world events. The day the news broke that Pres. Trump had ordered a missile strike on the Al-Shayrat airbase in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, stories immediately began circulating online that this entire episode, from the chemical attack to the missile strike, was some kind of conspiracy between Trump and Putin to shift attention away from their "obvious" collusion. The simple fact that the only real world evidence of this collusion is Trump's victory over their beloved Hillary Clinton along with a couple of routine meetings between Trump campaign staff and Russian embassy staff does not dissuade them. These were perfectly ordinary meetings, by the way. Senior members of Clinton's campaign staff had a series of identical meetings with the same Russian embassy staff members, but somehow that simple fact has completely escaped the attention of American progressives. When it is pointed out to them, they insist the Clinton campaign staff meetings are routine (or they never happened at all) but the Trump campaign staff meetings are nefarious. How do they know this? They just do. It's "obvious". It is a blind faith logical argument identical to the five year-old claiming that Ninjas stole the cookies.

These two Tweets are identical. The content and context are different, but the logical abstraction is the very same. Something is true simply because "everyone" knows it is true. Facts, reality, the sheer impossibility of their contention, are all irrelevant. They believe in their heart that Trump colluded with Putin to defeat Clinton, therefore, Trump is Putin's puppet and anything that demonstrates otherwise is simply not real. It's "obvious" Ninjas stole the cookies and nobody saw them because nobody ever does. It's "obvious" Trump and Putin colluded together to create the Syrian crisis because if they hadn't, the crisis would never have happened. Random, unrelated logical abstraction has become the foundation for their faith, making it impossible to dissuade them from their delusions.

China-Russia-Iran-North Korea have formed a new, powerful series of military and economic alliances. How far this alliance will carry them is still unclear, but no one in the American left can even see this alliance. They are blind to its existence, and blind to the very dangerous implications it presents. Rather than seeing this new alliance for the dangerous potential it contains, they are focused on their delusional logical construct that has Putin magically controlling the American government through Trump. They cannot see the very real and imminent threat of global thermonuclear war that is hovering on the horizon because they cannot see the alliance that has brought us here. Anyone who points out this very real alliance is labeled a conspiracy theorist because their delusion will not allow for the possibility of its existence! In their delusional thinking, it is supporters of Pres. Trump who cannot see the "obvious" reality they have all blindly accepted as a way of explaining Clinton's loss in a Presidential election that every pundit and pollster expected her to win. Their inability to accept Clinton's defeat has created a huge blindness in half the population, a blindness that the leaders of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are happy to exploit. Any effort Pres. Trump takes to thwart this danger will be greeted with derision and claims of "false flags". This is an incredibly dangerous moment in American history. We stand on the verge of a global thermonuclear war because half the people in our country cannot accept the reality of a Trump presidency. This is unprecedented. Not even Pres. Lincoln's adamant and vocal critics entertained this kind of childlike, blind faith in their own worldview. None except John Wilkes Booth and his circle of co-conspirators, that is. But even they in their mad delusions of tyrants and dictators did not assume Pres. Lincoln was acting on behalf of a foreign power.

Raising two sons in a foreign capital taught me to cringe whenever someone in America started prattling on about the importance of being childlike and filled with dreams. This philosophy is highly destructive. The real world destroys anyone and everyone who refuses to acknowledge the dangers it contains. We in the United States of America, partly as a result of our Puritan roots and partly as a result of our comfortable economic hegemony, have made delusional thinking a key cornerstone of our national culture. We call it, "visionary" or "idealistic" or "childlike fascination", but it is none of those things. It is pure delusional thinking and if we cannot break this habit immediately, we will pay the price long before Pres. Trump leaves office. The delusional thinking of half our population empowers both terrorists and nation-states that dream of a world without the United States providing the moral compass that ended fascism. That moral compass is not perfect, nothing ever is, but it has kept the world from self-annihilation for over half a century. If it fails now as a result of these delusions, then not only is America doomed, the world at large is doomed. There will be no one who speaks truth to power if we the American people abandon truth in favor of a comforting delusion.

Earlier, related blog posts:
Putin vs. Clinton, beating the drums of war
The countdown to nuclear war has begun
Book Review: Crisis of Character
Project Veritas reveals Democratic Party tactics
If Hillary becomes President than Syria is America's future
Hillary Clinton, the Second Amendment, the future of America
The facts about Hillary's "experience" are damning enough
Hillary's stance on gun control may have helped Trump win
The world is still on the cusp of global war
A story of two maps

April 06, 2017

I also write poetry


"Shards" is a notebook of poetry I started over a decade ago. I don't often add entries to it, even less frequently than I update this blog, but there it sits collecting virtual dust in a quiet corner of cyberspace.

I went back Writing.com today to check my mail and look for updates. I don't often go there anymore. Most of the writing I do nowadays is intended either as background material for publishable storytelling or as a piece of publishable storytelling. I am trying to build up a collection of Kindle books which I will then advertise using Amazon's PR tools. That's the plan anyway. Family vacations, head colds, influenza, real money work, and writer's block tend to dominate my time far more than actual writing. Right now, for example, I have a bad cold (or perhaps a mild flu) that makes it difficult to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes. After a pretty good writing month in February and early March, the last week of March was a family trip to Spain followed by this head cold, which means I haven't done any real writing since about March 15th. There are just too many distractions in today's world.

Where was I? (See? I cannot focus to save my own life!) Oh, right! Shards. I went to Writing.com and when I checked my email there, I found a review. The person who wrote the review read the first poem (and only the first poem) in Shards then wrote about 700 words extolling his love of poetry and reviewing poetry. After this long description of himself, he wrote a twenty-word review of my 50 or 60 word poem. I really hate it when people open Shards, read one poem (usually the first), then write a review. It's beyond silly. At the very least they should read five or ten of the poems before writing their review. How can they develop a sense of what the poetry in Shards is really about just by reading the first poem? That would be analogous to writing a review of a thousand page textbook after reading the 1500 word introduction!

Shards is a "book" item at Writing.com. I did this very intentionally. It annoys me when I open a item for review and find a single haiku or sonnet. Being a poet, I fully understand how much time and effort often goes into creating a single piece, but seriously, not even Shakespeare would bother publishing a single sonnet for review. He would expect any reviewer to read through at least a dozen sonnets in order to compare the techniques employed in each sonnet and examine in detail the ability of the poet to consistently capture emotion within the very strict rules of the form. Reviewing a single sonnet by Shakespeare would be like trying to compose a 2500 word news report based on a five line field note from a unknown journalist. To write the news report (or to review Shakespeare) the writer must provide a full context that illuminates the deeper meaning of the piece.

After I wrote a reply to the reviewer, I went to his portfolio looking for something to review. I found a 13-line "free verse" poem about how evil European colonists had stolen the North American continent from the natives. The language of the poem was very harsh, very self-righteous, and very condescending. It reeked of Howard Zinn and his unabashed love of Mao-tse Tung, who in turn was inspired by Karl Marx. I wrote a review. I was not kind. I hope I was not offensive, but anyone who opens a review with a 700 word self-congratulatory bio is probably going to have a very sensitive personality, so he will probably be offended. Thinking about his propaganda piece disguised as a poem, thinking about my current disenchantment with American political culture, thinking about my current level of disgust with American news media, drove me to write a short poem. Naturally, since I was already at Writing.com, I added the poem to the end of Shards.

I knew I'd started Shards a very long time ago, but I was unsure how long ago. When I checked the date of creation I was shocked to learn it had been over a decade since I wrote the short poem that opens the book. Well, technically, the introduction and the first three poems were all written at about the same time. Still, June 2006 was a very long time ago. This, in turn, got me to thinking how sad it is that almost nobody reads or writes poetry anymore. There are maybe a dozen poets in the entire world who actually earn money off of their poetry. It is not surprising that all of their work is highly politicized. They write in either "free verse" or "prose poetry". The first category is one I often use, the second is one I completely abhor. Prose is prose. Even if prose paints a pretty picture, it is still prose. Personally, I don't find any of the work of the dozen or so working poets to have much merit. All of it that I have read completely lacks music or any emotion beyond self-righteous anger.

I posted a link to Shards at all my social media accounts. Somehow though, that was not enough, so I opened my blog for the first time in months and wrote this entry. Poetry is ancient magic. When done well, it takes the complexity of life and reduces it down to manageable, bite-size pieces. It allows for a level of focus, rebuttal, and even enlightenment that no other form of communication can provide. Many people down through the ages have insisted that poetry is the highest form of art. I don't know if I agree completely with that sentiment, mostly because I am not inclined to lift any one artistic media above the others, but I will agree that poetry is an important art form that carries a special power all its own, a power that no other art form contains. I hope there is poetry in the future. Real poetry, not propaganda.