My name is Russell Newquist. I am a software engineer, a martial artist, an author, an editor, a businessman and a blogger. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and a Master of Science degree in Computer Science, but I'm technically a high school dropout. I also think that everything in this paragraph is pretty close to meaningless. I work for a really great small company in Huntsville, Alabama building really cool software. I'm the owner and head instructor of Madison Martial Arts Academy, which I opened in 2013 less to make money and more because I just really enjoy a good martial arts workout with friends. I'm the editor in chief of Silver Empire and also one of the published authors there. And, of course, there is this blog - and all of its predecessors. There's no particular reason you should trust anything I say any more than any other source. So read it, read other stuff, and think for your damn self - if our society hasn't yet over-educated you to the point that you've forgotten how.
There are no men like me. There is only me.
My book review of SJWs Always Lie combined with yesterday’s post about originality in my mind to remind me that many of my readers may not actually know what an SJW is.
SJW stands for “Social Justice Warrior.” Although the phenomenon has been around for at least a few decades now, the term itself is relatively new. There’s some debate about the origins. Some say the Social Justice Warriors named themselves. Some irate SJWs claim that others coined it as a pejorative term. I’m more inclined to accept the former story for reasons that will soon become clear. But I have to admit straight up that I don’t actually know.
SJWs are a particular, radical subgroup of the political left. In particular, they embody an especially radical form of that distinct liberal ideology known as “progressivism.” They can be readily identified by the following features:
They move in a herd. They are often also referred to as “rabbit people.” That’s kind of an in joke – a reference to a particular evolutionary psychology theory that some use to explain their behavior. There’s strong debate about the validity of that theory, but the name stuck because it fits. SJWs are finely attuned to the thought of the group and always move with it. They are incapable of forming their own opinions.
They often possess very slightly above average intelligence (say, an IQ in the 105 to 115 range). They are convinced that this means they are actual geniuses. They have not spent enough time around actual geniuses to know better. Many have been told all their lives that they are actual geniuses. Yes, if you’re wondering, Millennials make up the largest portion of SJWs. Baby Boomers are next.
They will always find a way to make everything about them. And it will always be about how they are victimized, because they are always victims. They simply don’t know how to operate in any other way.
They exhibit a phenomenon very similar to the famous “two minutes hate” of George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984. The herd will select a target based on their “heresy” to some particular part of the SJW Narrative. You never know who this person will be or why they will be picked, because the Narrative is always changing. Yes, that’s another similarity with Mr. Orwell’s classic. Most of the time they choose their targets from the political right, but not always. Those on the left who are not SJWs are not-infrequent targets. Sometimes they will even turn on their own, in a process that seems more akin to something out of Lord of the Flies than anything else. Nobody is safe.
I am very definitively on the rightward side of the political spectrum, yet this is not an attack on all of those on the left. I have known many on that side that I can at least sit down and have a rational discussion with. We may not change each others’ minds, but we can at least talk. You can’t have a rational discussion with an SJW – even if you’re on the left, too. It’s simply not possible to do.
This sounds extreme. Many reading this will think that this can’t possibly be right. Yet I can assure you that these people exist. I have met them. I have had run ins with them. I have watched them literally destroy the lives of their targets. I even briefly had one try to turn the two-minute-hate on me.
I know a lot of folks who are, shall we say, “attempted bloggers.” They have a blog. It exists. They’ve even made a few posts. But they haven’t updated it in forever – sometimes years. They tell me that they plan to get to it. Eventually. Yet they never do.
Almost all of these friends are hung up on “originality.” It’s not the only thing holding them back, but it’s a big one. And it’s common among writers of all kinds. “I want to say something original.” Fair enough – we all want to say something original. But originality is hard. It’s also overrated.
Most people honestly can’t process truly original thoughts. To the average person, when you say something original they just hear crazy talk. That’s because truly original ideas don’t yet have enough conceptual framework to introduce them to the masses. A truly original idea often requires a large body of supporting knowledge that the masses simply don’t have. Even educated people – even highly educated people – often don’t have the specialized domain knowledge necessary to process something truly unique.
That’s ok – you probably don’t have very many truly original ideas, anyway. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Neither does anybody else, really – or at least, very few people.
Those famous bloggers you read – the ones whose blogs are overflowing with great new ideas? They didn’t come up with those ideas on their own, either. Well, mostly. I know a couple of bloggers who have come up with some truly original ideas. Which is great. Until you realize that those same bloggers have written 14,000+ blog posts. How many of those were truly original ideas? Maybe a dozen.
And that leads to the key insight that I want to share with you today. Your audience doesn’t know everything that you know. Not by a long shot. I fight with this constantly. I’ve read thousands of books in my life. I’ve seen hundreds of movies, and thousands of hours of television shows. I’ve read tens of thousands of online articles, blog posts, reviews, stories and more. Possibly well over a hundred thousand. On all kinds of topics – fiction, non-fiction, politics, religion, philosophy, psychology, sociology, math, science, programming, language, history, and more. I have both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, and they’re not in the same field.
I’m not saying any of that to show off. I will have readers who have been exposed to more raw knowledge than I have. I probably already do have readers like that. The point isn’t the quantity of knowledge I’ve accumulated. The point is that there’s nobody else out there – nobody – who has read the exact same combination of books that I have. Nobody else has seen the same combination of movies. Nobody else has the same background knowledge.
And that’s true for you, too. You know many things that your readers don’t. Don’t be afraid to share that knowledge. It might be obvious to you. It might even be obvious to some of your readers. But it’s not obvious to everybody.
I have the opposite problem of what I’ve describe above. Whereas my friends don’t feel they have anything to talk about, I have plenty. But I also have a strong tendency to forget just how much background knowledge my readers don’t have. I’m aware of this, and I tend to write with this fact in mind. But I don’t always succeed. Even when I focus on it, I often leave out important details.
Either way, it’s very valuable to keep in mind just what it is that you know that many others don’t. Share that knowledge. Sure, you might not write it as elegantly as your favorite big name blogger. But as crazy as this may sound, not everybody reads that famous blogger’s work. And one or two of the folks who don’t might just stop by your blog someday.
It may seem like I’ve done a lot of reading recently. In reality, I’ve just finished a lot of reading recently. I’ve had a lot of books (especially non-fiction) spinning all at once, and they’ve all kind of wrapped up.
Last week I finally finished reading Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich. This is one that I’ve been reading since the beginning of the year. That’s pretty odd, because one of the great things about this book is how quick and easy of a read it is.
“Wait a sec,” you say. “How does that work?”
This book took me a long time to finish because I was too busy implementing it. Even before I was halfway done, I knew there were things in the book that I wanted – that I needed to do. For myself, I decided to focus on a few things at a time rather than trying to make every change all at once. I’ve had good results with that.
Let me get this out of the way: I detest self-help books. Most of them are completely full of shit and aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Most of them give you advice that isn’t all that helpful. Which is fine, because most of them are written for people who don’t actually want to change. This book isn’t like that. Mr. Cernovich actually wants to help you. For the typical self-help reader, that will make this a book they don’t actually want. But for those looking to actually improve their lives, this is the rare self-help book that’s actually worth a damn.
In simple terms, this book is largely about how to actually accomplish more and get things done. Not only that, it gives good advice on getting better quality out of what you’re doing. That particular combination is powerful for becoming more successful at basically everything you do.
The frustrating thing about reading this book is how many of Mr. Cernovich’s suggestions are ways that I used to live my life. I’ve let many of them slip. I had good reason to. I had some specific life circumstances that I had to react to. But those circumstances are long over, and it’s well past time that I returned to my old mindsets. This book gave me the boot to the ass that I needed to do that. It also brought some excellent new ideas that have proven to be very helpful.
One other thing that’s truly great about this book is that it’s not wasting space on filler. A great many non-fiction books have a single great idea, cover that idea thoroughly in the first few chapters, and then spend the rest of the book repeating that same idea over and over and over. It’s the reason why I have shelves full of non-fiction books that I’ve never finished. Once I got the concept, the rest of the book just wasn’t worth reading. This book isn’t like that at all. Each chapter is actually covering something different. Each chapter covers the basic concept, gives some examples, and then gives a checklist and some “homework” at the end. A few of them also have some interviews with experts. That’s it – there’s no wasted filler.
As Mr. Cernovich himself points out, not every piece of advice in here is for everybody. There are a few things in the book that I don’t think will actually work very well with my own base personality. Take what works for you and apply it. As for the rest… see if you can apply the concept in another way. But if you can get through this entire book without finding two or three changes that will help your life in a major way, then congratulations on the amazing life you already lead. Keep living that life. For the rest of us, this book is a gold mine.
Gorilla Mindset gets five out of five stars. This book is an absolute must read.
Britain won’t be the last to exit the EU – and the next one won’t be overly long in coming, either. Most likely nobody else will exit before Britain’s two year withdrawal period is up. Everyone else will want to watch and see what happens to Britain. But when it turns out not to be the global catastrophe that many have predicted, there are several European nations that have strong incentive to leave.
The PIIGS – Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain are the obvious candidates. In fact, I’m personally surprised that Greece wasn’t the first to go. But with their current economic conditions, they have a good reason to be next. Getting out of the Euro and defaulting on their loans would remove their crippling debt and let them devalue their currency. Both would be painful – extremely painful – in the short run. But in the medium term, that combination would let them get their feet under them again. They can’t do it while they remain in the EU. The other PIIGS are in similar, though less severe, circumstances. If one of them is first, it’ll probably be Greece.
France is another strong contender. Marine Le Pen and the National Front have been gaining ground in France for years already. Brexit is likely to put wind in their sails and strengthen their cause. On top of that, France is… well, it’s French. They’re the ones who withdrew from NATO in 1966… basically because they just didn’t feel like being part of it anymore. It would not be a surprise for them to taunt Europe a second time. As a coworker suggested, they’re likely to wait for the absolute most chaotic possible time to do it – just because they’re French.
The counterintuitive but very plausible contender is Germany. France and Germany were already pulling more than their share to keep the EU afloat. The fifth largest economy in the world just voted to leave the EU. That isn’t going to make it easier for Germany. Merkel is already in trouble. Her popularity is dipping, and a lot of it is anti-EU sentiment. The German nationalists probably don’t have enough vote to claim her chancellorship… this round. But they’re growing just about as fast as the National Front in France.
Which one of these will be next? I’d guess Greece. On the other hand, France is the only one that just might do it before Britain finishes the process. Once again, it would be very French for them to cut a side deal with Britain as part of their mutual exit deals. In short, I think it’s most likely to be one of Greece, France or Germany – but I’m not ready to put money on it.
What I am ready to put money on is that it’s a matter of when and who – not if. Indeed, I already did put money on it. Earlier tonight I bet a steak dinner that ten years from now at least two more nations will have withdrawn from the EU. I’m officially documenting it here for the world to see. Why two? Nobody wants to be the first. But once the process starts, it will accelerate. It’s the nature of these things.
I’ve planned to read SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police for quite some time. With one thing or another, I’ve always found a reason to push it off. As a regular and longtime reader of the author’s blog, I had also witnessed firsthand as many of the principles in this book were developed. I already had a basic grasp on the concepts, so the book itself could wait.
A couple of weeks ago, however, something happened that finally forced it to the top of my list. In short, I knew that I needed to read it. The good news is that the book is quite short. I made it through the entire thing in only a few hours. The better news is that I really did have a good handle on the concepts. I handled the situation correctly, and following the principles in this book did indeed shut it down. The bad news is that this book proved decisively that I was indeed dealing with an SJW, a fact that I had previously been uncertain of.
Due to a gentleman’s agreement that I made with the “professional in the room” who helped me successfully deal with this issue, I can’t go into any detail about the exact situation. All I will say is this: the issue began with a baseless legal threat. When I quickly shut that down, it just as rapidly escalated into the beginnings of an internet lynch mob. Using the advice in this book, I shut that down very quickly as well.
The SJW phenomenon is absolutely real, and it’s one of the worst developments in American culture in my lifetime. These people do not believe in politics by discourse – they believe in absolutely destroying the individuals they oppose.
SJWs Always Lie is an uncomfortable book. Many on the left side of the political spectrum will find this book uncomfortable. It is not fun to believe that those whom you might agree with are acting in this way. Moderates – those who actively seek compromise – will find it difficult to acknowledge that some people simply aren’t interested in it. Conservatives will find it difficult to accept the tactics that are necessary to fight back. Those with a libertarian inclination, like myself, will resist the necessity of leaving behind our “live and let live” principles.
Yet necessary it is. This book illustrates the tactics that actually work against these people – the tactics that will prevent them from destroying your life. And I can now say from personal experience that they do work.
This is not a happy book. It’s not a fun book. It’s not a book that you’ll enjoy reading. Yet if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of an SJWs two-minutes-hate, you’ll be glad you’ve read it. In short, this is a necessary book. Sadly, the future looks to make this book more necessary, not less.
And for what it is, it’s done perfectly. It is short. It is concise. It is clear and easy to understand. It lays out the principles you’ll need: how to recognize an SJW, and how to fight back. It doesn’t belabor the point, but it also doesn’t leave anything out. For that, I give SJWs Always Lie five stars out of five. Highly recommended – not because you’ll enjoy it, but because someday you’ll probably need it.
I sparked off an interesting Twitter conversation yesterday when I made a wisecrack about Apple withdrawing from the Republican National Convention. Specifically, one of my friends wondered why Apple was involved in the first place. I found the question itself to be shocking.
Why was Apple involved in a political party’s convention? For the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks: Washington is where the money is.
Another friend of mine jumped into the fray defending Apple, with the following factoid:
@rnewquist Apple operating income $53B FY2015 – spent 0.008% on direct lobbying. Google by comparison spent 0.07% of operating income.
— Michael Beatty (@protomech) June 27, 2016
To which I can only respond… so what?
For the record, I have not bothered to fact check these numbers. I know Michael well in real life, and I strongly suspect that he has a good source. Even so, the reality is that this is irrelevant.
First of all, that still means Apple spent over $4 million dollars on direct lobbying. That’s not a trivial sum. Even a company the size of Apple doesn’t throw that kind of money around without expecting a return.
Second, the fact that Apple is spending less than Google could mean that it’s getting a better return on the dollars it is spending. Or it could mean that it’s found that it’s not getting a great return, so it spends in other areas.
Third, this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison (forgive the unintentional pun). Google has several products that it sells directly to government customers and/or government contractors: Google Maps Servers (recently discontinued, but I know firsthand that government was one of their big users), GMail and related apps (Google went to a lot of effort and expense to get GMail approved for use by government contractors) and more. They’ve also been the target of real and threatened anti-trust lawsuits. Apple, on the other hand, sells boutique products – high end devices at premium prices. That’s the exact opposite of the government’s typical spending patterns. In short, Google has more reason for direct lobbying than Apple does.
Fourth, never forget that direct lobbying is only part of the story. All of the major tech companies have been playing roles in the conventions of both political parties for the last several cycles, and those roles have been getting larger. Why? Because we live in the digital age, and conventions need tech to operate. Providing wi-fi for thousands of people is a logistical nightmare. Streaming video of all of the important speeches is a big deal. Getting an app together for convention goers is expected these days. And that’s just the big stuff. Some of those services are donated and classified as political contributions. Some of those services are paid contracting services. This is, after all, part of what these tech companies do. Providing these services as a paid contractor is influential all by itself, even if you haven’t offered any discounts.
Fifth, Apple is a highly unusual company. But it’s a highly unusual company that’s in the process of becoming a rather typical big company. The Apple of today is already not the same company that it was under Steve Jobs. Expect that change to become more pronounced over the next decade. That’s exactly what happened to Microsoft after Bill Gates stepped down, and I don’t know anybody who would argue that Jobs was less directly influential on his company than Gates was.
This last comparison is even more apt than it at first seems. Microsoft spent very little money on lobbying – very little… until the late 1990s. What changed? In 1998 Microsoft was hit with a massive anti-trust lawsuit. But it didn’t come out of the blue. Everybody had known it was coming for a few years before that. Bill Gates later expressed regret that he resisted spending money on lobbying in the early days of Microsoft’s history.
The simple fact of the matter is that Washington controls a tremendous amount of money. Government in the US collects 26% of GDP in tax revenue. Granted, that includes state and local governments. But the federal government’s $4 trillion budget is the lion’s share of it. That’s a hell of a lot of money. If you’re a major corporation like Microsoft, Google, or Apple, and you’re not making the effort to get at least some piece of that pie, you’re missing out. But that’s only part of the story. Government regulation plays a huge role in the economics of major companies: trade rules, tariffs, taxes, labor laws, environmental regulations, intellectual property rules, finance law – all of these things and more effect the bottom line of big companies. A small regulation change in any of these areas can literally cost – or save – a company like Apple millions of dollars. You’d better believe that they have their fingers in that pie.
This isn’t a diatribe against Apple. They’re not doing anything differently than any other huge corporation. But it is a simple reality: big government and big corporations feed and nourish each other by necessity. You cannot have one without the other.
But to finish with the thought that kicked off the whole discussion: don’t let yourself think for a minute that Apple gives a damn about gay rights or any other rights. If it did, then it would stop doing business with countries like Saudi Arabia that kill gay people – not just states that say you don’t have to bake them a wedding cake. Why does Apple do business with Saudi Arabia? Because it’s profitable. Why did it pull out of the RNC and stop doing business with South Carolina? Because that’s good PR for its core customer base: upper middle class coastal elites.
Like all big corporations, Apple doesn’t give a damn about your values or mine. It only cares about one value: the almighty dollar.
The following comment from Glenn Reynolds’s most recent column in USA Today gave me thought:
Over the past few decades, Washington has gone from a sleepy town with restaurants and real estate priced to fit a civil servant’s salary to a glittering city with prices that match a K street lobbyist’s salary.
This is just a tiny comment, almost throwaway in the larger article. As Mr. Reynolds himself would say, read the whole thing. But this is what I want to focus on – mostly because I can confirm it.
My grandparents – on both sides of the family – lived in the suburbs of D.C. In my very early childhood I lived in northern Virginia. Until about the mid 1980s I spent rather a lot of time in the city. The huge variety of museums, monuments and memorials – nearly all of which are free admission – made it an excellent place for a family to take children. Even after we moved to Alabama in 1985, we made regular trips back to the area. We spent almost every Christmas there, and more than once I spent a week or so visiting grandparents in the summer.
My maternal grandfather passed away in 1992 and my paternal grandmother passed away in 1995 (my paternal grandfather passed away before I was born). At around the same time, my cousins were rapidly graduating from high school, then college, then starting families of their own. As you can imagine, our trips became less frequent. But my maternal grandmother still lived in the area until she passed away last weekend, so we still made it up there.
Long story short: I can tell you from firsthand experience that Mr. Reynolds statement is absolutely true. In fact, we were in DC just this March for the first time in a couple of years. My wife and I distinctly noticed how the city had changed even in that short time. The city, even the touristy areas, are distinctly less family friendly than they used to be. Police are more common – far more common – and less friendly. Security theater is more omnipresent (I was denied entry into the Air & Space Museum over a MacGuyver/Boy Scout style Swiss Army Knife).
But these aren’t the only changes. As Mr. Reynolds notes, the city is considerably more expensive than it once was. This change is less recent. My own anecdotal experience says that the big increase came in the late 1990s and early 2000s – especially during the run-up to the housing crisis of 2008. Beyond my grandparents, I’ve had other family in the area. One relative recently sold their home, and I peeked at the listing price. It was mind-bogglingly high – yet not out of line, given where there house was. Yet I also know what kind of house the same price would get you here in North Alabama, and the difference is staggering.
I also know that there’s no way this particular family member could have paid that kind of price when the house was originally bought decades ago. In line with Mr. Reynolds’s comment, this was a dual-income family but both were civil servants. It’s a good house, and always was. Even when they bought it, it was probably a stretch on their income. But the new price simply isn’t one that a young civil-servant family could afford, even on dual income (an older civil service couple, nearing the top end of the pay scale, perhaps). The cost of living in the area has simply changed that much.
Washington D.C. and it suburbs are now truly the home of elites – serious elites. Not the top 10%, not likely even the top 5%. The only people who can comfortably afford it are the top 3%, or maybe higher.
It’s not a good thing that our capital has turned into that. The residents of the city are decision makers for the entire nation, yet they live a life that is completely divorced from what the rest of the nation experiences. Brexit, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are all symptoms of a populace that’s tired of being ruled by people who don’t know and often don’t like us.
We don’t like you, either. And we’re more numerous, and we can vote.
Rosamond Griggs was born on December 27, 1920 to Robert Fiske Griggs and his wife Laura Tressel Griggs.
In the winter of 1940, while studying at the University of Michigan, she met Russell Steere at a dance. Legend says that Russ went home and declared to his sister Ruth that, “I just met the woman I’m going to marry.” After they both graduated with biology degrees, Russ was drafted into the Army as part of the second world war. But he made good on his promise and did marry her.
Rosie took a bus to Tullahoma, Tennessee where he was stationed, with little more than the clothes on her back, and they were married. They moved many times during the war, and in the later years she carried around her infant daughter – often on her own, while he was overseas. Three more daughters came later.
She spent her life playing Robin Hood at her childhood home in Chevy Chase Maryland, traversing the country with her husband, backpacking in the Himalayas of Nepal, protesting at foreign embassies and American governmental buildings alike, making secret illegal trips to Cuba, and enjoying her vacation property in Virginia.
Russ passed away in 1992 from lymphoma. Rosie managed another 24 years on her own – years that were never dull. She kept herself more active in her eighties than many people are in their youth.
Her father led expeditions into the frontiers of Alaska for National Geographic, had a mountain named after him, and was chairman of the National Research Council’s Division of Biology and Agriculture. Her husband took the first ever picture of the poliovirus and was president of the Electron Microscopy Association of America.
I knew Rosamond as “Grandma”, and the picture showing her with my youngest daughter was taken this March.
Grandma passed away this morning at her home in Gaithersburg, Maryland from natural causes. She was ninety-five years old. She is survived by four daughters, ten grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren.
Don’t let the title of this post throw you off. This is the day when I take off my Catholic Christian hat and return to my undergraduate roots. I’m putting on my philosopher’s hat. Even so, I’m going to make a strong claim that many secularists will take issue with. You see, we can best understand all of the major ideologies of the modern secular world as heresies of the Christian faith. This isn’t a theological claim. It’s a historical claim.
Christian heresies all follow the same general pattern. They either take a general tenant of Christian theology or dogma and overly simplify it or they take a single Christian virtue and elevate it above the others. Take for example the ancient heresies. Arianism, for example, overly simplified the doctrine of the Trinity by claiming that God and Christ were not consubstantial. Gnostic Christianity (distinct from but heavily influenced by the raw gnosticism that predated Christianity) claimed that the material world was fully evil. The claim is far simpler than Christian doctrine that the material world is fallen yet inherently good. Heresy begins as an attempt to simplify, but becomes heresy when it oversimplifies.
Or, as Ross Douthat put it in his most excellent book Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics:
The goal is always progress: a belief system that’s simpler or more reasonable, more authentic or more up-to-date. Yet the results often vindicate the older Christian synthesis. Heresy sets out to be simpler and more appealing and more rational, but it often ends up being more extreme.
The major modern western ideologies have all managed the exact same kinds of oversimplification. In many ways, they are mirror images of each other.
In each and every case, the movements behind the ideologies were historically founded by Christian communities. No other communities could have founded them. The virtues at their base are not to be found in the same ways in other major world religions. Even Judaism, from which Christianity evolved, does not view these virtues in quite the same way. Without that base view there is no intellectual foundation upon which to build these ideologies.
And yet each and every one of these ideologies also warped the Christian virtues upon which they were founded. In the end they have distorted the virtues so badly that it’s difficult for an outsider to even recognize them. Socialism looks like theft. Libertarianism can’t shake the appearance of hedonism. Progressivism morphs into something grotesque and intolerant in its own right. Capitalism looks for all the world like raw greed. In the end, oversimplification brings all of these ideologies to their knees.
Yet the virtues they are founded on are good virtues. We should care about them – and most of us do, even if we call ourselves “secular” instead of “Christian.” We fail only when we forget that all of the other virtues are also, well, virtuous.
It is time to put my Catholic Christian hat back on. We fail because we have turned to heresies in the modern age. We would be far better served if we returned to the source.
The biggest reason this isn’t immediately and painfully obvious is because modern westerners are so horrendously ignorant of history. This was not always the case. Westerners – and Americans in particular – have a long history of actually being relatively well self-educated on the subject. And I don’t mean “long history” in the sense of “back in my day.” I mean that going back to pre-revolutionary days, Americans knew their history. Yes, somehow they managed to have a good knowledge of it despite (or is that because of?) their lack of schooling.
But the last fifty years have seen a steady erosion of historical knowledge. We can pretty much lay the fault of that squarely on our “deteriorating” (working as designed) schools. But whatever the fault, the ignorance is growing.
“Right side of history” is not a logical phrase. It’s a rhetorical device. It’s intentionally designed not to further discussion but to shut it down. It’s designed to foster two thoughts in your mind. First, that history is “progressing” toward a particular end. And second, that this is somehow a moral good.
It’s wrong on both counts. Let’s work backwards, though. In order to accept the phrase, you must first accept the idea of “right.” It’s a moral statement. But by whose morals? The phrase is intentionally left vague. It’s a rhetorical technique called “assuming the sale.” By agreeing to the phrase itself, you’re implicitly accepting the morality chosen by the speaker. But should you? Christian morality is slightly different from Jewish morality. Both are quite a bit more different from Islamic morality. None of them are really all that close to Hindu or pagan morality. Buddhist morality is in a weird zone all of its own that kind of overlaps with all of the above but never quite matches any of them. And modern secular morality is a beast all of its own.
So which one should you accept? In this case, the phrase was coined by the progressive movement – and coined for a specific purpose. The progressive movement has a specific ideology of it’s own – the idea that history is “progressing.” Historical ignorance is the only reason we don’t see this for the utterly absurd concept that it is. Anybody with any actual knowledge of history can debunk this idea in about five seconds. There is no linear progression of history.
First, in order to define progress itself you have to pick a metric. But what metric? Pick any metric you like and then plot it over time. There is no linear progression toward improvement. It does not matter which metric you pick. History doesn’t move that way. It’s ups and downs and ups and downs. There is no long term trend.
The idea that there is one is a peculiarly western – indeed, almost a peculiarly American – idea. It’s largely an artifact of the last 300 years of material improvement, due largely to the industrial revolution. But the industrial revolution itself – and that material improvement – brought a lot of other issues with it. And that’s where we see the second issue. Progress in one area almost always means regress in another. Material progress in the western world has been huge since the industrial revolution began – but it brought huge social costs with it. We’re still fighting through many of those issues, and we still will be in another hundred years.
But the third issue is almost tautological. There can’t be a right side of history when history has no sides. History itself is a harsh master. It doesn’t care one whit about your morality – or mine, for that matter. History simply is.
The idea that there is a “right side” of history necessitates concepts that many of those who use the phrase would find themselves very uncomfortable with. The concept itself requires an objective standard of reality. What those who use it don’t realize is that the idea itself is Christian in origin (if heretical), and it shows in the statement itself. The phrase was deliberately designed to invoke the feeling of “the right side of God” – only that word was deliberately changed to be more amenable to the less religious. Yet it should always be remembered that those who coined the phrase believed it as my re-phrasing.
When you drop the idea of God, however, the statement itself falls apart. Who chooses the “right side?” Without God in the picture, the phrase forces us to imagine that all of humanity is moving toward a shared goal. If you actually believe that is happening, then you’re simply not familiar enough with the way people actually behave in the real world. Also, I have a bridge for sale. E-mail me and we’ll work out a deal.
There is no right side of history. Anybody who tries to tell you that there is has lost interest in rational debate – they are instead trying to shut you down. Don’t let them. Force them to actually debate the issues on their merits.