The Clenched Fist

“Look! His fist is e’en clenched in the Communist salute!”

Guy Gilpatric, The Man with the Walrus Mustache (1939)

The raised fist is a primitive gesture of menace that even many animals understand.  Indeed apes raise their fists to threaten violence, so the raised fist is a natural symbol with which to threaten violent revolution.  When brandished by communists, black panthers, feminists, or the organizers of a Latinx graduation ceremony, a raised fist expresses hatred of the system and an intention to smash that system violently, ruthlessly, and with all the righteous fury of revenge. Continue reading

Under the Iron Dome: Thomas Bertonneau on Transcendence

Transcendence was an abiding concern of our late colleague Thomas Bertonneau.  I say concern rather than interest because Tom did not simply study transcendence as an arachnologist studies spiders.   Tom yearned for transcendence and searched for it, much as a mother would yearn and search for a child that was lost in a dangerous wood as the sun was going down.  Tom was oppressed by our modern incarceration in an exclusively immanent world, depressed by the ever-strengthening strictness of our prison guards, and unimpressed by the primitive and perverse antics with which so many prisoners simulate transcendence and pretend that they are free. Continue reading

Fell Doctors and Fell Doctrines

“When . . . I am told that a war is a war of opinions, I am told that it is the most important of all wars.”

Edmund Burke, Letters on a Regicide Peace (1796)

We have the phrase culture war from the German Kulturkampf, a word that is more accurately translated as culture struggle.  A Kulturkampf is a struggle to decide which opinions will be taught as public doctrines.  Public doctrines are the opinions that are taught by official teachers, by the men and women who hold the public office of teacher.  The highest rank in this cadre of official teachers is, of course, the doctor, a certified officer in some minute bureaucratic department of the Ministry of Truth. Continue reading

Metaphysical horror

Perhaps you have experienced this too. You encounter an idea about the way the universe is and recoil from it in pre-rational disgust. “How awful if the world were that way!” I think the first time I felt it was in high school, walking around the gym during lunch break, when I overheard another student claiming to his friend that the past does not really exist, but only in memory. This was my first encounter with presentism, a crude version of it perhaps, but its more elaborate versions still inspire the same instinctive reaction–“What an appalling thought!” My reaction to event ontology–which takes atomism to the extreme and makes events the sole reality, so that nothing ever really persists through time–was similar, as was my reaction to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Continue reading

Should you get your kids the COVID vaccine?

I have no ideological commitments either way. To me, this is simply a matter of comparing risks. The probability that a given child will suffer life-threatening side-effects from the vaccine are small; the probability of a given child catching COVID and becoming life-threateningly ill is also small. Neither is zero. We must estimate these probabilities so we can compare them. The following are copied from the notes I composed a couple of weeks ago when the Pfizer vaccine became available to children 5-11. (My children are 7 and 11.) I have not updated my numbers since then; I will do that when I revisit the issue in a couple of weeks. I have no relevant expertise, but have just gone with what I could learn from the CDC website and miscellaneous Google searches. You may consider, critique, or discard it as you like.

Continue reading

The Wokesters Wanna Weed Our Libraries

“The whole apparatus for spreading knowledge, the schools and the press, wireless and cinema, will be used exclusively to spread those views which, whether true or false, will strengthen the belief in the rightness of the decisions taken by the authority; and all information that might cause doubt or hesitation will be withheld.”

Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (1944)

I just received a remarkable invitation to an upcoming lecture series entitled, “Weeding out Neutrality,” the advertised speakers being “activist librarians” who aim to destroy “old myths about libraries and neutrality” so they can curate collections that are openly and purposefully one-sided. Continue reading

Abducting the Children

“All monopolies are detestable, but the worst of all is the monopoly of education.” 

M. Frederic Bastiat, Essays in Political Economy (1859).

“The purpose of the formation of this party was to get control of the power of the State, so as to be able to use it for establishing our system of schools.”

Orestes Augustus Brownson, The Convert (1857)

You have no doubt noticed the ructions over what is being taught in the public schools, most especially over what children are being taught about race, sex, and the moral respectability of the United States in the first 245 years of its existence. The three roots of these ructions are, the growing diversity of the American public, the detestable monopoly of public education, and the messianic madness with which many educators are enthused. Continue reading