There’s a concept called the hierarchy of needs and it basically boils down to this: As soon as your most basic level of needs are met (i.e., you have air / water / food), you forget about them and progress to the next level of needs (i.e., shelter and clothing for protection from danger and harsh elements), and then to the next level (i.e., securing a stable source / supply of those needs), and so on and so on until you get to the need for status.
And today, despite people complaining about crushing debt and limited buying power and lack of affordable health care, we are by and large living fat ‘n’ sassy and can afford to worry about status.
Our economic system has spent literally centuries telling workers that they were useless unless they produced wealth for someone else.
Even so-called self-made gazillionaires were producing wealth for investors and stockholders, not exclusively for themselves.
Anybody who tries going off the grid is dismissed as an impractical eccentric at best and a kook at worse.
Culturally, it’s even more daunting. It doesn’t matter if you are a bona fide hermit or a California nature lover or a self-contained religious cult or an early Delta blues musician or a jazz player or a rock’n’roller or a Greenwich village bohemian or a Beat or a hippie: If you opt out of the rat race, if you set your own goals, if you establish your own standards then you are suspect at best, despised most likely, and actively persecuted with depressing frequency.
We are expected to participate in the grand scheme of things.
The model created at the beginning of the industrial revolution is no longer viable: Large numbers of human beings aren’t needed to grow food or make things; most of those jobs can be eliminated.
What do we replace them with if not a consumer society?
How can you have consumers if they have no money with which to consume?
The average human being travels in a relatively small community.
I’m not referring to actual physical location, but to the people who make that community up.
Most people have about 250 people in their lives whom they interact with enough to be comfortable with.*
Facebook and other social media lets us have thousands of ”friends” but in truth once one starts growing their Facebook friend list beyond a hundred or so people, one discovers those people are really fans or followers, people who find something interesting in your posts and keep an eye on what you’re doing.
Which is fine.
Nothing wrong with that.
But there’s a core of around 250 people who matter to us, even if they’re just Facebook friends or pen pals.
We want them to look favorably on us.
Even among the world of celebrities and / or billionaires, there’s only 250 people they’re trying to impress.
They may want fame and fortune so that millions of schmoes will envy them, but having millions of schmoes envying them is how their 250 friends rank status.
We have an economy and attendant culture based on making / moving / marketing things.
We encourage people to consume things not for the obvious basic reasons of pure survival, but because by conspicuous consumption our status may be displayed to the rest of society.
shit stuff >means> “They make a lot of money” >means> “They must be important.”
We literally live in a culture based on this deliberate and incessant perversion of the Tenth Commandment: Thou shalt covet…
Our digital world is undercutting all this.
We no longer need to physically possess something in order to enjoy it.
We don’t need ownership for much of what we want, merely access.
So why do we need things to display status?
Consider a society / culture / world in which status was adjudged by doing something.
Hard to imagine?
That’s the world most people lived in the western world in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and early part of the 20th century.
That’s the world of classical Greece, of pre-Columbian American, of the Polynesian peoples.
A world rich with amateur and semi-pro athletics, of literary and art guilds, of amateur musical groups ranging from choirs to brass bands to full symphonic orchestras, of amateur theatrical troupes, of home makers displaying their skills and competing in local / regional / national competitions, of animal shows, of gardening clubs, of a thousand and one special interest groups, all built around the concept of their members doing things.
Read any history of popular culture in those eras. People worked hard, but had no mass produced diversions; they had to entertain themselves.
What happened to that world?
Consumer economy, that’s what.
[to be continued]
* “Comfortable” here does not necessarily mean pleasant, merely that both sides know their respective roles in the relationship and can thus anticipate what the other will do in a given situation.
little baby, who will you be?
who will you be in thirty years?
will you be an adult with responsibility?
will you be old and approaching senility?
will you be yet a child, full of imbecility?
little baby, what will you be?
All the unimaginative neo-nazis and their alt-right fans glom onto certain catch phrases the way anxious middle schoolers glom onto the latest slang in a desperate attempt to pass for one of the cool kids.
Catch phrases and slogans are a great way to avoid thinking, and when you avoid thinking you dupe yourself into believing you are also avoiding responsibility, that if anything goes wrong then “they” are responsible and not “me” because “I was only following orders” or “they said it was okay”.
Sorry, we allow none
of that bullshit here.
(Only the very finest butter.)
Here we do the math, we show the work, we follow things through to their logical-even-if-painful conclusions…and we live with the results.
So let’s look at two phrases the neo-nazi propagandists and their stooges like to bandy about.
The first is “social justice warrior” or SJW.
Let’s break the phrase down into its three components.
First, ”social”. From the Latin socialis “of companionship, of allies; united, living with others; of marriage, conjugal”; in this context it means “of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society.”
In particular, relating to an orderly, peaceable culture among people who follow basic principles that reduce friction and maximize benefits to as many people as possible.
A society adheres to certain codes / morals / taboos / ethics so as to maintain order.
Clearly, not all societies are the same, and what might fly in an Irish pub might not pass muster in a Moroccan coffee house.
However, both societies, Irish and Moroccan, possess certain standards they subscribe to, and woe to those who violate said standards by either acts of omission or commission.
If you deny a patron of either pub or coffee house their due rights in those environments, you can expect someone to stick up for them.
So “social” in the SJW context means a person who recognizes no one is an island, and that all of us owe one another basic rights and courtesies.
To be opposed to “social” means by definition to be anti-social, or to live one’s life only for one’s own benefit.
Not all anti-social people are destructive psychopaths, but by definition all destructive psychopaths are anti-social.
So to use “social” as part of a derogatory insult is pretty much declaring one is at odds with what society stands for.
This is not necessarily a good thing. Hunter S. Thompson wrote extensively about Hell’s Angels and other outlaw motorcycle clubs, and while he took a sympathetic view of them and pointed out the numerous times they had been framed or set up by the establishment, he also noted their isolation from society fueled their animus against it, a truly self-fulfilling / self-defeating prophecy.
The Hell’s Angels, a surprisingly conservative and authoritarian group on their own terms, at least possess a live-and-let-live attitude where they will not actively seek out confrontation if left alone.
Not so the neo-nazis, who see any gain by any non-neo-nazi as a loss for them.
Which brings us to the second part of the phrase, “justice”.
Bad movies and TV shows and comic books tend to obliterate the original meaning of “justice” and replace it with retribution.
Retribution is not justice.
Retribution is merely
Justice is what happens before any wrong occurs; justice is not about returning pain for pain.
The neo-nazi mindset scorns the idea of justice while embracing the concept of punishment.
Punishment is what those in authority mete out to those who dare disobey them, and this is the rationale behind the alt-right’s scorn of justice.
“Justice” in the SJW context means taking pro-active steps to avoid harm or injustice falling on someone.
Justice is served if a store isn’t robbed, it is not served if it merely punishes those who committed the crime.
This is why the neo-nazis mock the concept of justice, frequently linking it to a straw man of their own devising: Political Correctness.
“PC” is nothing more / nothing less than the golden rule — threat others as you wish to be treated — writ large. It is an open and above board effort to forestall problems and injustice and harm by rephrasing issues so all sides are treated fairly,
I have yet to hear an anti-PC argument that does not boil down to some variant of “I can’t call people [slur of choice] anymore without being criticized for it!”
Anti-PC rhetoric is the mark of the coward and the bully, not of fearless persons who can defend their ideas.
As noted previously, the neo-nazi / anti-PC mindset is incapable of tolerating anything that challenges its authority, despite such authority often being unearned.
When they hear an oppressed group should be treated with the exact same dignity and respect they demand for themselves from others, neo-nazis respond with anger and resentment that their “right” to treat others unilaterally without fear of accountability or reprisal is being challenged.
Their argument against “Political Correctness” and their argument against “justice” are one and the same, and knowing that an open and honest assessment of their arguments would demonstrate their intellectual and ethical bankruptcy, they lash out in pre-emptive strikes (literally and figuratively) to prevent themselves from ever having to live up to the standards established by America’s founding fathers.
Their claims that “PC culture” squelches the free expression of ideas is simply further proof of the paucity of their own arguments.
Ideas can be expressed in a vast array of means, and if so-called “PC culture” requires a certain vocabulary, then intellectually fully engaged people can make their ideas known — and known clearly! — in any number of ways.
Neo-nazis fancy themselves as people of action, not intellect, and as noted do not want a genuine discussion of ideas but only acquiescence to a system that benefits them at the expense of others.
They refuse to embrace any system in which they are not the dominant group but instead are one of many.
The final sneer from the neo-nazis’ lips is aimed at “warrior” which they use with deliberate irony, denigrating SJWs as impotent whiners while they are people of action.
They hurl this epithet at those who stand up and voice support for people who have received a raw deal by society and want to see them treated fairly under the law.
This is where one must pause and scratch one’s head at the number of military and law enforcement personnel who support neo-nazi beliefs. They are either woefully ill-informed on who and what they are supposed to be defending, or else they are deliberately and willfully betraying the nation that has trusted them.
And I write this as a military vet. Even in the post-Vietnam era we were all acutely aware we had sacrificed certain rights and privileges guaranteed our fellow citizens in order to serve our country by protecting those rights and privileges for those fellow citizens.
Too many military and police today do not see themselves as servants of their nation and what it stands for, but rather as self-justified authority, might made right by application of force.
It’s easy to grasp why this appeals to the neo-nazi mindset — inarticulate action aimed at others to force them to obey simply for the sake of obedience.
And it is a well documented fact that in many jurisdictions the police have indeed been infiltrated by crypto-fascists — klansmen, neo-nazis, and white supremacists — who subvert the mission of their own departments in order to wage war on those they consider “undesirable”.
Thus, whenever one hears the term “social justice warrior” used as an insult, one is very clearly hearing the speaker rejecting all sense of society and justice in order to claim unearned power and authority over others.
There is no escaping this truth.
In the case of the military and the police, this attitude besmirches the huge sacrifice made by others in order to protect the weak, the poor, the powerless, the defenseless, and the oppressed.
The military and police who support neo-nazis and their alt-right followers are for all intents and purposes wiping their asses with the Constitution and turning Arlington into a vast cesspool.
If that image offends thee,
soldier / sailor / airman / officer,
ask yourself why.
As stated earlier, there is no dodging unpleasant truth here.
Finally, the neo-nazis’ use of the term “snowflake” to denigrate SJWs. Again, the all too literal neo-nazi mindset fails to grasp the irony of their use of the term.
To them a snowflake is weak and ineffectual, melting at the first sign of trouble.
As with the fasces, the symbol they use belies their own philosophy.
A snowflake by itself is weak and fragile; every human being is.
You know what you call a bunch of snowflakes moving in the same direction?
And nothing stops an avalanche: You either get out of the way or you let it roll over you and hope you survive.
By their words ye shall know them. The neo-nazis and their alt-right supporters are incapable of recognizing how badly their own words portray them. They do not lack the intellectual capacity to grasp such ideas — indeed, in technical fields they often easily grasp far more complex subjects — but they lack the introspection to see how “social justice” is in fact a true measure of a person.
They lack introspection because they fear responsibility.
They love exercising authority over others.
They loath exercising mastery over themselves.
 Another sign of weak minded neo-nazis is not only a fondness for reducing everything down to simplistic slogans but then boiling those slogans down even further into abbreviations. What this does is remove all intellectual thought and rational articulation from the equation, suspends critical thinking, and renders complex, profound, and often nuanced and complicated issues down to pure visceral emotional reactions — reactions often totally at odds with the subject they are directed towards. Eventually even the abbreviations are discarded and replaced by a symbol designed to stir up violent emotion and spur unreflective action guided by others who are doing the thinking for those doing the work. “SJW” is always used in a sneering, derogatory manner, to ridicule and belittle those whom the neo-nazis and their alt-right sycophants have slapped this label on.
 Ironically, the very symbol of fascism — the fasces, or axe with the handle reinforced by a bundle of sticks — was co-opted by Mussolini and his crew of thugs despite the fact it symbolized the very thing they were opposed to! (i.e., trust, loyalty, and cooperation among all people).
 Yeah, I know, I’ve seen pictures of them, too. Irony is not one of their strong points.
 And the great tragedy — the great betrayal — is that honorable police officers, exhibiting loyalty to their own, allow the normalization of such treacherous behavior, and in doing so actually undermine their own real authority as well as the authority of the society that grants that authority to protect the society.
 Though neo-nazis and their ilk live in a mental comic book where they are great invulnerable superheroes who can do no wrong and make no mistakes.
© Buzz Dixon
From: General Clayton M. Abernathy [codename: Hawk]
To: All G.I. Joe personnel [active/reserve/former/in-training]
As you know, intelligence has determined there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that Cobra managed to hack G.I. Joe communications and is sending false information with the intent of undermining our mission.
Cobra is relying on the honor and trustworthiness of Joe team members to follow these orders and act on this information.
You are, by your oath as fighting troops of the U.S. military, by your oath to the unit, and by your conscience as honorable warriors, to obey every LEGAL order given you.
Cobra will attempt to trick you into obeying illegal orders.
You are required, once again by your oath as fighting troops of the U.S. military, by your oath to the unit, and by your conscience as honorable warriors, to disobey ILLEGAL orders.
You are correct if you think it is not your duty or privilege to set policy either for the United States government, the U.S. military, or the G.I. Joe team.
But you are required, if you have ANY doubts, to request clarification of any order you have doubts about.
If you receive an order, ask yourself if it sounds like something that would come from Joe headquarters or from Cobra command.
If you have any doubt, request clarification of the order to make sure you understood it correctly.
Good leaders never criticize their troops for requesting clarification; it shows the troops are conscientious in the performance of their duties, and desire to avoid any mistakes that might harm the unit, the mission, or the United States.
Good leaders never hesitate to provide clarity to a command, both for the mission’s sake and their own sake.
We have briefings on the importance of clarity in issuing orders, and you will remember from our last training session the point brought up about the disastrous charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. A messenger relayed a vague order to “attack those guns immediately.” When asked WHICH guns the order referred to, the messenger made an ambiguous gesture that resulted in the Light Brigade charging headlong into massed artillery, resulting in over 60% of the Light Brigade being killed, injured, or captured.
I know from personal first-hand experience that you are good soldiers, brave and reliable, willing to face overwhelming odds to do you duty to your country and your unit. I consider it an honor to have been placed in command of the G.I. Joe team, and I know you will stand by your oaths in the days and years to come.
The grown-up show I liked the most as a young kid was the one my parents wouldn’t let me watch, not because there was anything wrong with it but because it came on after my bedtime.
That didn’t stop me.
I would sneak out of bed and creep down the hall to peer myopically at the TV in the living room. My father would be in his chair, snoozing away, my mom would either be in her chair or ironing clothes.
I had a cover story in case I ever got caught and learned to muffle my laughter as I watched The Dick Van Dyke Show with them…only without their knowledge.
Like the lion’s share of writers in my generation, what I saw on The Dick Van Dyke Show proved to be a profound influence in my choice of career and life goals.
- I wanted to work at a cool, creative job like he did [Check]
- I wanted to have great, fun co-workers to share that job with [Check]
- and I wanted a wife like Laura Petrie [Check: The former Miss Yi Soon-ok, happily married for 43 years.]
Mary Tyler Moore was one of my childhood / early teen crushes, though after The Dick Van Dyke Show her career stalled briefly, appearing in a very bad Elvis movie, an even worse George Peppard movie, then finally bouncing back with a good supporting role in Thoroughly Modern Millie before landing the role of a lifetime in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
I call The Mary Tyler Moore Show the first real American novel for TV. It is an amazing show, a product of its time yet absolutely timeless as well. Tho not told in serial format, it really has to be seen in sequence because when viewed that way, Mary Tyler Moore’s incredible performance and growth of character is seen.
You can pick an episode at random and tell from her character not only which season the show comes from but when in that season it was written and performed.
She and her writers grew the character of Mary Richards from a 30 year old girl — and, yes, I am using that word deliberately and without irony; despite her age and apparent worldliness, Mary Richards had never assumed adult responsibilities before arriving in Minneapolis to start a new life — to a mature independent woman.
Ironically, Mary Tyler Moore was 34 when she took the role in 1970, and only 41 when the series ended, yet her character seemed to have matured — not aged — decades in that period.
This is not a criticism, far from it. The Mary Richards character makes more sense playing out the last season as a career woman in her 50s.
”You know what? You’ve got spunk. I hate spunk.”
Her most famous roles were all first cousins to one another — Laura Petrie, Mary Richards, Miss Dorothy Brown in Thoroughly Modern Millie — and her ability to project that splendid combination of wit, intelligence, an appealing personality, and at the same time a certain degree of vulnerability served her well.
Later TV projects did not do her justice, but it was not for lack of ability on her part. She demonstrated she was more than capable of extending her range far beyond her most famous roles. She could be an icy cold matriarch who triggers a family breakdown (Ordinary People) and a real life villain of Disney proportions (Stolen Babies).
She also had a very complex inner life and a very complicated personal one. She struggled with alcoholism and diabetes. Apparently she kept the former at bay, but succumbed to the latter.
I don’t want to think about that. It does a disservice to Mary Tyler Moore the human being to look only at a thin slice of her life that, no matter how exceptional, still represents only a tiny fraction of who she really was. She, like all people, deserves more than that.
But this is my blog, and I want to close this entry by remembering how I first saw her, peeping over the armchair with my snoozing father in it…
 She was a late night ironer, often watching the Late Show while ironing.
 “Can I have some water?”
 Wow! What are the odds of that?
 “Oh, Rohhhhhhhhhbbb…”