Climate change, “replacement” theory, guns, and personal nihilism all intersect

Near Uvalde, TX, 1985, near the southern end of the Texas Hill Country

There has been a lot of anguish in the news again the past two weeks, with two different shooting rampages.

I wanted to present three videos that offer some interesting perspective.

First, Al Jazeera-plus offers Sama Saeed giving the analysis “Replacement Theory Is Everywhere: Here’s Why” (May 26, 2022).  She starts out by reviewing the history of claims about the threat of overpopulation that were popular in previous decades.  She moves into the subject of climate change, with a rather blunt assessment that people in the world’s richest countries today are, by their consumption patterns, driving the carbon dioxide (and other) emissions.   Along the way, she touches on the inevitable temptation for societies to slide into eugenics.

Of course, one of the dangers today is that a country (like Russia now, apparently) will decide that there is not enough room in the world for any but its own “superior” people.  Indeed Putin deserves to be called “Putler”.  That is one reason why the sovereignty Ukraine now, even though it was within the previous Soviet orbit and not part of NATO, can be so critical in preventive something like a pre-emptive nuclear or even EMP war now.  This is what we call fascism now, and actually is a collective system, where loyalty to one’s own blood and soil is the demanded behavior (including giving it children).

near Black Mesa, OK, 2022-5-21

So we come next the notion that replacement theory (even as Tucker Carlson presents it in terms of importing “obedient voters”) as an ideology itself is dangerous and driving mass shootings.  It’s true, that in some of them, like Pittsburgh, New Zealand, El Paso, and Buffalo (recently) and Charleston SC in 2015, perpetrators have cited it.  But in many other incidents, there were many other driving circumstances, essentially a personal nihilism, as with Uvalde, Parkland FL, Dayton (which was left-wing driven), Rodger (incel), and even Columbine.   In a few cases, perpetrators have left “manifestos” of their ideologies, which often deal with personal failures and grievances more than with a specific alt-right ideology.

Niagara Falls NY/ON, near Buffalo, 2019-7-29

That leads us back to the resistance in the United States for consistent standards for background check or for limiting the possession of military-style weapons by civilians.  Yet Trump tells his supporters, “The existence of evil is one reason to arm law abiding citizens.”  Should you learn to use firearms to be a teacher?

OKC memorial for 1995 event, 2006 -7 photo

Amy Goodman from Democracy Now interviews  Robin Lloyd from Giffords.org. I remember the Giffords incident in Arizona in January 2011, the Saturday morning after my own return from a business trip.  

The mere accumulation of weapons in the US makes the interstate problem almost uncontrollable.  Compare that to Australia, a country with a lower population, with started a confiscation in 1996 after a single incident.  Add to this the complication of 3-D printed or ghost guns, which often do not work reliably for long. On the other hand, I understand the desire of a citizen to defend themselves (incl. family), and there are rarer cases (like that of a pregnant mom in Florida shooting a home invader) where the strength of the weapon seemed necessary.

Finally, Dr. Todd Grande examines “Dangers of Cowardice” and the partial inaction of the Uvalde police, which held back at first. Grande describes cowardice as the “shameful inability to control fear with retreat from danger”.  He says it is reasonable to expect less from police than military soldiers.  But think about conscription (male-only, as with Selective Service registration now, 30 days after 18th birthday – so is 18 too young to own guns as a civilian?), and what is demanded of men (biological males) in Ukraine right now, over an idea of national and ethnic identity.

(Posted: Saturday, May 28, 2022 at 4 PM by John W Boushka)

“Cold Civil War” by Jim Belcher (book review)

From pro-abortion protesters after SCOTUS leak, 2022-5-16, pretty graphic language on some posters, particularly about the prospect of another Trump presidency term

Review of book “The Cold Civil War: Overcoming Polarization, Discovering Unity and Healing the Nation”. (Amazon Sitestripes link).

Author: Jim Belcher, formerly president of Providence Christian College in Pasadena CA and founding lead pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach CA. Ph.D from Georgetown University.

Foreword by John D. Wilsey.

Details: 2022, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 340 pages hardcover, 274 of main text, with three parts, thirteen chapters, and a conclusion.  Endnotes.

Interview of author Belcher

The author tackles the “cold civil war” between animus-bearing portions of US society, and certainly would agree that democracy as we know it is in danger.  His conclusion (spoiler) is that religion, both as an interfaith effort and in his purview a Christian priority, needs to stand with the political order in bringing about reforms.  However, he does not go into the legal details of the reforms (such as how to shore up election integrity and the loopholes and imbalances in our democracy, which seem to favor rural and smaller places).

Interview of author Belcher

He presents the core of his argument pictorially on p. 37 with a kind of Nolan chart (remember “the world’s smallest political quiz”).  It is bounded by a square with Left and Right, and with Order and Freedom as the other two edges. There are three concentric circles that pass through each quadrant.  3 is the most extreme, 2 is closer to the ruling establishment, and 1 is presented at the end as his proposed center, which will comprise four souls: Freedom Left becomes the constitutional soul, Order Left becomes the republican soul, Freedom Right becomes the middle class soul, and Order Right becomes the statesman soul.

Again, very graphic language on posters about women’s body integrity

 Chapter 12 is “Patriotic Citizenship” and Chapter 13 is called “Christianity: The Second Constitution”.  He argues that Christianity provides a “soft” but stable, appropriately flexible (and non-denominational but essentially western derivation from what Christianity added to Judaism in his view) set of moral principles to evolve constitutional principles as technology overwrites older ways of doing things.  That claim in interesting to me personally because Chapter 6 of my first DADT book had proposed specific constitutional amendments to add to the Bill of Rights, as a Bill of Rights 2.  Admittedly, since this dates to about 1997 (when my own mainframe I.T. career was in its full maturity according to the world then) some of the proposals are outrun by history.  And that’s the problem with my trying to make such specific prescriptions and why some sort of systemic approach is needed.  (Ironically I talked about the first amendment and about bodily privacy a lot, and even the beginnings of “freedom of reach”, but not about the second amendment).

Belcher is most graphic in describing extremism on all sides.  He winds up forcing to conclude that the far Left, with the doctrine of anti-racism interpreted as required indoctrination (and now it seems that “critical gender theory” has sometimes joined the indoctrination when SEL is implemented in some school systems), becomes as authoritarian as the far Right.  They have both evolved into anti-individualism and hyper tribalism.   In fact, I think we need a book, or at least an essay, on “individualism v. tribalism”.  Probably Dave Rubin would be a good starting point for that effort (book “Don’t Burn this Book” Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason”, 2020, Sentinel, Amazon stripes link).  Belcher points out that the extreme Order Right is willing to use violent or illegal means to get what it wants (January 6, and all the “stop the steal” business) but doesn’t get into the specific weaknesses (like the Electoral Count Act of 1887 which definitely needs revision).  The far Left, however, is at least willing to disrupt individuals and small businesses with violence and vandalism in demands for tribute (well, Marxist revolution).

The moral common denominator seems to be how individuals see themselves, how they balance their own utility with greater common good.  As one of the videos below shows, this comes up with some social issues in rather obvious ways:  abortion, vaccination, and end-of-life (as in the Catholic video below), but in some other ways to.  Think about the loss of freedom and implicit sacrifice in the coronavirus lockdowns, and in conscription (just of men?).  Public health particularly pits individual autonomy against the good of the larger community as a whole (and this could have been said about the AIDS crisis in the 80s, which was very different from COVID). 

Authoritarian systems limit the individual by requiring “em” to personally identify with tribal priorities. Marxist systems pretend that everyone should start out equal and that belonging to a victimized class is a legitimate source of personal identity. Far right (“alt-right”) authoritarianism assumes that a ruling class comprises inherently “superior” people entitled to rule, and follows survival of the fittest (except inside the nuclear or extended family or inner tribe). However often a far-right “order” mentality appeals to the notion that its tribe had one time been abused.  This is certainly true in the Old Testament with the Israelites.

My Body My Choice, Very Flawed Logic

(Posted Monday, May 16, 2022 at 1 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

The Day After — Mother’s Day (watch out??)

NIH Clinical Center, 2015-3; it was here in 1962

It’s time for me to react personally to all this talk of nuclear war.  Back in October 1962, when I was a “patient” at NIH but permitted to go GWU at night, I was the only patient who knew that the Cuban Missile Crisis was going on, for a few days at least. Not even all the staff understood it.  I remember a horrific lunch conversation where I said the world might survive a nuclear war but we as (“mental”) patients would be burdens, and would not be fit to survive in it.  

I’ll point to three news articles and then comment a little more.

Bryant Harris writes in Defense News, “US nuclear commander warns of deterrence ‘crisis’ against Russia and China”, link.

The Commander of U.S. Strategic Command Adm. Charles Richard testified about this before the Senate Armed Services Committee recently.  Over all, the threat of MAD may be wearing off, like vaccine protection.

On CNN, Ira Helfand and Michael Christ write “Opinion: It’s time Russia and NATO stop playing games with nuclear war”, link.  It refers to a Wall Street Journal story, April 27. 2022, Seth Cropsey, “The U.S. Should Show It Can Win a Nuclear War; Washington might study Cold War-era practices that had a major effect on Soviet policy making”, link.  So we’re supposed to pin our own future on the idea of “winning” a nuclear war.  That will destroy (sacrifice) the lives of most of us now.

I had not paid much attention to the conflicts within the world of former Soviet republics.  Democracy now has an interesting take on it.  Essentially, it comes down now to a proxy conflict between authoritarianism and liberal democracy, the latter driven by individual agency.

In general the two big forms of authoritarianism are fascism (including theocratic) and communism.  The latter has a tendency to move toward nationalistic fascism over time (as has China, in a sense).  Authoritarianism presumes the individual exists to serve the interests of eir tribal group.  (Note: I am starting to use the pronouns “e”, “em”, “eir” for singular, gender not specified but for a person and not an object). Communism, on its face, presumes that everyone will get a “chance”.  Fascism more blatantly presumes that some are born better than others, and that something like biological virtue must exist.  Softer fascism building in some parts of eastern Europe presume a duty to serve the interests of the national or ethnicity one is born into, and to fit  in at some predetermined (individual) station in life.  There is no nice way around it.  Normally there is a duty to provide new beings for the “nation” through the family unit. Being ‘born different” doesn’t change that. (As a side, there are indigenous societies that prescribe a separate servile but priestly role for “gender queer” people (there is no nicer term) but don’t allow such persons individual choice or agency; it’s still a kind of fascism.)

Seafaring societies tend to become more socially liberal before (largely) landlocked ones, which helps explains Russia’s extreme and reactionary social conservatism (even post communist) and addiction to authoritarianism.  At a personal level, many individuals tend to feel that the “purity” of others around them becomes important in helping them tick (and succeed within the family unit), so it is not surprising that individuals start buying into it.  Personal agency can be tough. Russia’s 2013 anti-gay propaganda law can be understood in this context (along with concern over population demographics).  

So, we have a super authoritarian Russia under a thug Putin, fearing that the social liberalism of the Left in countries surrounding it will gradually threaten its own society and the “king’s” hold on power. (That is, “there is only the king and his court”, which might be a president Putin and his secret security services and oligarchs.   When I worked for NBC, I shared an office with a young man of Ukrainian descent, and he often talked about the Moscow’s obsession with power. ) 

We also have a “king” with nuclear weapons, which makes the king a bully.  Nuclear weapons are pretty much like a second queen (after pawn promotion) in a chess game.  (I could go into the social insect world and call the “queen” the dictator, but that is too much for now;  needless to say the hive is an authoritarian society without individualism.)

So we come up to Monday, May 9 (which will start in Russia at about 6 PM Sunday night, Mother’s Day, on the US East Coast).  This is supposed to be King Putin’s Victory Day. 

The most optimistic scenarios is that Putin could claim victory and allow a cease fire if he can take over areas in Ukraine’s East and South (that might mean complete cutoff of Ukraine from the Black Sea).  That might be his last “demand”.  A declaration of war against Ukraine, or even against countries in NATO (even the US, whose intelligence helped sink a ship) could be the alternative.  Putin could mobilize his people with conscription, to be sure, but he could conceivably try to relocate more of the civilian population out of populated areas, to the East and Siberia, to “win” a nuclear war and claim the planet for himself (before he dies of cancer).  It could make sense to use EMP strikes (instead of conventional nuclear explosions) to destroy civilian infrastructure in most western nations, which his “people” could outlast.

That is where it gets personal.  My own agency is everything in my life, and it does depend on the modern infrastructure provided by others.  Individually I am nothing without it, and I don’t fit in very well into anybody’s identity group. So a global nuclear conflict would be my own personal end, with no afterlife or memory of me or existence (would I want it?) but a more authoritarian civilization would eventually grow back, something I would be totally unsuited to exist in.

There is no way to sweet talk this.  All over a regional conflict in a formerly communist part of the world we thought we had nothing to do with.

I would also add that in retrospect, many aspects of the coronavirus pandemic seem almost like a deliberately designed (foreign enemy – the CCP) test of liberalism and individualism.  Look at the politics of “Zero Covid” in China now. 

But look back over the decades.  See how our lives, in relative freedom (if we were affluent enough – and BLM and critical theory comes to bear here) could be undermined by conscription – in my coming of age, the Vietnam era draft with its outs for “privileged” student deferments (it was a doctrine then, that a conscripted conventional force was a deterrent to nuclear war) and later the strict and harsh COVID lockdowns, especially overseas, which were a kind of conscription.  Even the abortion debate can be viewed that way.

(Posted:  Friday, May 6, 2022 at 12 noon EDT)

The Demands of Others

I wrote my previous post on “personal agency” earlier on the first day Russia’s big invasion, not knowing it would happen (coincidence).

But the question comes up, when does a world-wide emergency and massive suffering by others place moral or even practical demands that someone in my course respond and change plans.  Personally, I see it as “’The Demands of Others’ Problem”.  You can’t play Ayn Rand forever.

I have seen tweets, from individuals I like and correspond with on this question, about staying on course, because there is really zero one can do about it anyway.

Let me first just reiterate my current course. I, for reasons I have discussed earlier and with changes that started late last year (but especially January 3, 2022) paring down my sites so there will be just two sites, a personal one based on my legal name with this blog, and a business one that retains “doaskdotell” as a name.  By late in June (at the very latest) 2022 there should be only this one WordPress blog, and all new posts will go on it, grouped by carefully chosen labels.  I will also work on the screenwriting opportunities (tied to the books and a pitch-fest in NYC in April, and to participating in a Facebook group). The work on the large novel “Angel’s Brother” is halted for now because actual events (the Covid pandemic and at least indirectly Russia’s invasion of Ukraine) hamper the integrity of the storyline.

Let me reiterate than in a practical sense, there are limits on what I, or probably most Americans in my situation, might feel obligated or inclined to personally respond to.  Generally, we don’t feel we need to respond to terrible events in authoritarian countries around the world.  These might include a long list, starting with North Korea (the Warmbier incident was horrible), Myanmar, various communist countries (like Venezuela) or countries where many conditions are primitive, and this includes much of central Asia and Africa and where horrible and brutal stuff for ordinary civilians happens (like Nigeria).  With Afghanistan (more so than there was a few years ago with Iraq and Syria) there seems to be considerable interest in helping refugees, as there has been (with controversy) with the Mexican border issue throughout the Trump years. I am protestant, and I have not become personally involved with the religious violence that occurs in the Middle East, or between Israel and Palestinians (and the settlements), for example.

There is also a constant churning about which enemies are most dangerous to our way of life (and this is outside the debate on climate change and some other threats like solar storms that we could all face).  After 9/11, it was radical Islam, and it stayed that way until the Trump candidacy.  Then it was North Korea, maybe with China’s help; then it was the far Right and white Supremacy in the United States and maybe parts of Europe and some other smaller nations, leading to January 6 (Antifa does pretty bad stuff to small businesses and some property owners and even the stability of some cities, but it is not quite the existential threat Trump became at the end).  Now quite suddenly (although we have had plenty of warning, if we think back about it, particularly to 2014) it’s Vladimir Putin.  I won’t elaborate further the crisis if Putin does move on to NATO allies (which include the three Baltic states, former Soviet republics).  To rephrase a friend. I have no “30 point plan”.

But it is true that the current crisis, as is, still lies within a part of the world I have perceived as authoritarian (essentially Communist) until recently, and not generally regarded as a personal concern.

But it does seem that in Europe right now, ordinary people are encouraged to house sudden refugees (or asylum seekers – the status is unclear) in their homes (especially in Poland, Germany, perhaps Romania).  If the crisis lasts, it would sound likely that some families (but that is normally only women and children) would come to the US and Canada.  Biden is likely to try to make it easier, and Canada already does (with advanced private sponsorship programs).  There would be a question as to whether the wives and children would return to Ukraine quickly if somehow peace is settled (no, again, no 30 point plan).  There are risks involved to the hosts now, including Covid (especially new strains).

Back in 2016-2017 considering the possibility of housing one or more LGBT asylum seekers.  The necessary discissions never quite happened.  I wound up selling the house in late 2017 and now live in a one bedroom condo, and I would not normally offer housing.

But if there were a push to house a large number of temporary “refugees” from Ukraine in North America, I could see supporting rental for them in apartments or housing units, not living with me.  This has already happened with Afghanistan (although I have not participated in that specific effort). 

A sizable portion of my assets were inherited (I discuss this monthly on my “DADTnotesblog” but that will end in April.  Moral logic would say I do have some responsibility to respond to sudden crises. In fact, I have made regular monthly organizations to a number of non-profits, some of which are legal beneficiaries of the trust and which participate in efforts to respond to crises. I try to make these steady and ample so I don’t have to make major changes in priorities when something happens, and respond to a flood of email and snail-mail requests.  With the Trust (especially the part with my mother’s name on it), there may be an opportunity to help, but it would require building a (“sponsorship”) bond with a specific refugee family (ies) who hopefully would be able to return home eventually. Trust disbursement is predicated on existing relationships, not abstract social causes.

I do like to speak with my own voice, as followers know.  I do not like to allow organizations to speak for me.  But that kind of attitude can sometimes interfere or dilute necessary social justice activism that others have started. 

Then there is the issue of volunteering time.  Yes, that is difficult as I have already set out my own priorities.  I have found that occasional piecemeal volunteering (which I did for a local community assistance at an Arlington church when I was in the “Drogheda” house) not very effective unless there is a minimum mass of commitment and engagement of other people somewhat personally. I do not see myself as belonging to a “people” or intersectional group

I often hear revanchist warnings of forceful destruction of our way of life, with the end of individualism, and a particularly shameful end for people with backgrounds like mine which may have been inappropriately “privileged”  (I won’t rehearse the details here, or how CRT — and demands for “proactive anti-racism” distorts them).  No, I am not going to become a doomsday prepper.   But I can think of situations where it would have been easier to volunteer if I also had more capability to defend myself personally than I do. 

(Posted: Friday, March 4, 2022 at 3 PM EST by John W. Boushka)