The China-US Arms Race: If One Arm is Right, the Other Will Be Left, No?

This worthy and public-spirited column seldom dives into the thickets of military hardware, which it regards as excessively technical. However, the arms race between China and Washington is of enough gravity that its more exotic armaments may be of interest. Herewith, the truly dangerous weaponry of the contending sides.

C-919 A Chinese narrow-body intended to compete with the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. Designed and built in China by Comarc. Not quite up to Boeing’s standards, not as fuel-efficient, uses a lot of Western-manufactured parts. (Think  of it as a 1966 Toyota with wings, nothing to worry about.)  Comarc has 570  orders for the 919, almost entirely in China. That’s 570  orders nobody else will get. The domestic market will provide the oomph to improve. By 2024 China is projected to be the world’s largest market for airliners.  

Not to worry. They can’t innovate.

US Nuclear Weapon Upgrade Program: “CBO estimates that nuclear forces will cost $348 billion between FY 2015 and FY 2024. Three independent estimates put the expected total cost over the next 30 years at as much as $1 trillion.”

Artist’s conception of planned $100 Billion Chinese-Made City in Malaysia. Near Singapore “Scares the Hell Out of Everybody.” Will have 700,000 people, almost entirely Chinese. Pundits assert that in twenty years China will own Malaysia.
The Gerald R. Ford, $12.8 billion + $4.7 billion R&D (estimated). The Navy wants ten.

Sunway TaihuLight, World’s most powerful supercomputer, a Chinese design built with Chinese silicon. China leads the planet in supercomputers, both in power and numbers.

 

The B21. Yes, there is a seat for Robin.

The B21 is a new thermonuclear bomber for  the Air Force. “The head of the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command… envisions some 175–200 bombers in service.[8] Initial operating capability is expected to be reached by 2030. ”at a cost of $550 million each (2010 dollars).

It was rumored that Armour Star would be the lead contractor for the B21, but this was cancelled as being unduly candid.  The B21 will funnel huge amounts of money to Northrop-Grumman and, in the event of a thermonuclear war, will arrive at the bubbling remains of targets several hours after the Navy’s D5 Trident II missiles get there. The aircraft relies on the assumption that, in thirteen years when it enters service, anti-stealth technology will not have reached the point of making it even more obviously useless.

This marvelous revelation from Wikipedia: “In July 2016, the U.S. Air Force stated they would not release the estimated cost for the B-21 contract with Northrop Grumman. The Air Force argued releasing the cost would reveal too much information about the classified project to potential adversaries.”  As, for example, taxpayers

One accepts yuan. The other doesn’t. Can you guess?

Columbia, the Navy’s upcoming new nukey-boomer, formerly ORP, Ohio Replacement Program. “The total lifecycle cost of the entire class is estimated at $347 billion.”: Wikipedia

Chinese freight cars in Europe. More all the time.

A Few News Blips

China is the greatest trading partner of the US, Germany, Japan, India, and Australia, among others. Russia’s biggest trading partner is Germany, followed by China.

“China is already South East Asia’s largest trading partner and is now one of the largest investors in the region.”

Argentina’s top trading partners: Brazil, China. The top trading partner of South America is China.

Trump’s proposed increase in US military spending is almost as big as Russia’s entire defense budget.

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”:  Sun Tzu, Chinese

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Sally Cone Hits the Dating Scene: Kind of Weird, but Maybe….

Oh Lord, where is my Haldol? Recently I saw online a documentary on sex robots. The reporteress, a short-haired woman seething with quiet indignation,  Viewed  With Alarm the very idea. Progress is rapid on these love assistants, she said. They move. Some do, anyway. They talk, but not too much. Before long they will have skin-temperature silicone. Today we have all those deplorable men sitting home, lonely and isolated, choking their chickens and pondering suicide. Soon they will instead be rocking and rolling with Robo-Barbie.  This worried her. She said.

If this be true, the why, one wonders, do men want sexbots? Aren’t there already women all over the place at skin temperature?  Sez me, it’s because women have lived too long in a monopoly economy and so let down quality. It used to be that men had jobs and money, and women had that, so they married to let each get some of what the other  had. The woman had to be agreeable as a selling point. Now women have jobs and don’t need men, or to be pleasant. Some are nice anyway, but it’s no longer a design feature. Of course they often end up old and alone with a cat somewhere on upper Connecticut Avenue, but they don’t figure this out until too late. Anyway, they stopped being agreeable. They learned from feminists that everything wrong in their lives was the fault of men.

It is a real problem: American women are inoculated from birth with angry misandry insisting that men are dolts, loutish, irresponsible, and only want sex. (To which a response might be, “Uh…What else have you got?”)

Of course, in some cases women, real ones, offer a lot. Even in America, women exist with intelligence, a sense of humor, maturity, and a recognition that marriage  isn’t a guarantee of uninterrupted bliss. Such women are a delight, both of them. The problem is knowing when you have one. They all talk a good show as long as things go well. When they don’t she gets a lawyer, the kids, child support, and moves to Okinawa with a colonel she met in a meat bar.  You never see your kids again.

No, this didn’t happen to me, but I see a lot of it.

Dating an American woman entails both high overhead and high risk. The costs are great in time, money, and emotional discomfort. She will grow on you, or try to. Sooner or later the dread question will arise, “Is this relationship going anywhere, or what?”

The wise answer is “Or what.” This will arouse that sleeping horror, relationship talk. Spare me, oh God, spare me, I’ll do anything. Then, unless the monastic life appeals to you–at this point it may–you will go out and do it again. It costs work, time, money and anguish. This suggests the wisdom of getting a vasectomy and a sexbot.

OK, back to sexbots. The short-aired reporteress  wondered why men could be interested in such confections instead of real women, the tone being one of elevated moralism and horror. Beneath the usual factitious objectivity one could hear, “How could...what is wrong with….?” and so on.

In the documentary, the short-haired reporteress talked to an ugly anti-sexbot crusader woman who said testily that using sexbots “objectified women.” (To me it sounded more like womanizing objects, but never mind.) These two dragons continued to  the effect that sex was about intimacy and closeness and bonding. I wondered how they knew. But understand: They weren’t worried about competition. Oh no. They wanted to preserve intimacy and bonding. They were worried about those poor miserable men.

Uh…yeah.

In modern America I see no sign that women are concerned about masculine misery, and indeed that most of them rather like the idea. Be that as it may, the reporteress went to various factories of custom women which had body parts lying about ready for assembly according to checklists from clients. Business, the makers report, is brisk. To judge by the number of rubbery honeys–they really are lovely–in mid-birth, they would seem to be truthful.

 

You could do worse.

Consider the charm of a sexbot. She will be not only beautiful, indeed perfect, but perfectly beautiful just as you want her to be. She will have an “Off” button. She will have user-selectable personalities instead of changing wildly and unpredictably as happens with human women. You can choose  sweet, furiously lustful, kinky to taste, shameless hussy, Honkytonk Angel, whatever floats your boat. She won’t do relationship talk. She will do quickies and nooners without complaint, never have a splitting headache, and never have three-day huffs that no man can figure out. Fast, easy, back into her closet, and you can get to work again.

Variety appeals. It will be unlimited. There will be streaming services. Realdoll.com offers “Extra Faces.” Feminists sneer at this as mere masturbatory fantasy. To which a guy might respond, “What you mean “mere,” Sugar Britches?” Anyway, America was built on self-reliance.

Of course what the shocked and appalled women are really concerned about is competition. They are dismayed at their coming automation. While women are more sexual that men–the better ones are, anyway, usually Democrats–men are more urgent about it. This gives women great power as they are the only sexual outlet men have, except in Scotland. Now they watch the coming sexbots with the unease of a McDonald’s worker watching the installation of an automated burger-flipper.

And the competition is more than skin-temperature silicone.  With goggles offering three-D virtual reality, a young man can do the deed with silken-skinned smokey-eyed temptresses in the opium dens of Shanghai or engage in furtive passion with the mistress of Pablo Escobar in secret palaces of Medellin. History nuts might give Messalina a toss.

The social consequences will be profound. Marriage will decline sharply. (“What? That again? We always have leftovers.”) Women will have to find something to offer that Sally Cone doesn’t. What?

True, in many foreign countries women are feminine, agreeable, realistic, often delightful, and not waiting to get in touch with their inner cobras. They appreciate a decent man who doesn’t hit them, cares about the kids, and provides a good life. They consequently behave in  way that makes him willing to come home at night. Further, Asian women don’t talk through their noses and sound like kazoos. But not every man can move to Mongolia. 

Finally, it might be worth keeping in mind that a rich vein of hypocrisy underlies the prissy female  horror at men coupling with electrically-heated plastic. As many studies have shown, women watch porn too, and  buy vibrators, objectifying men, or at least part of one. (And men are sexist? I mean, Sally Cone is at least all there, and if her personality comes in a memory module, at least she has one. Or several.)

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The Marine Corps, 1966: Not Too Many Snowflakes

This is criminally long. It will probably leave no  space on the internet for anything else. It was published in the magazine of Army Times in 1979. It describes a Parris Island that no longer exists. In fact it describes a world that no longer exists. The thought of some  effeminate Sanowflake telling a Marine DI that he needed a Safe Space so he wouldn’t feel uncomfortable, poor darling–well, it just charms me. He would develop a whole new understanding of “uncomfortable.”

Anyway, the piece will resonate with a few Marine old-timers now long in the tooth. Semper fi.

 

Boot camp. Yawning gateway to military life, an adventure outrageously funny and frightening, source of a lifetime of lies, all growing worse with each bull session. No one forgets boot. Get two GIs together over a bottle of gin, talking about old times, and sooner or later the talk will turn to tales of boot, a few of them true.

Not many, though. It is all right for most stories to be based on fact, but the better recollections of boot have only a nodding acquaintance with truth. Facts inhibit flexibility. They stultify.

But boot is more than tall tales. It is part of American life. We talk of being a peaceful nation, but usually we have a couple of million men and women under arms and often a war going. A high percentage of Americans spend time in the military. They shape it, and it shapes them.

A particular aspect of the national character appears in the organized anarchy of military life. Literature finds the military a feast — Catch 22, M*A*S*H, A Farewell To Arms, Dispatches, and all the rest.

Boot is a gateway. Here’s to basic, as I remember it, as everyone remembers it, as I saw it in going back this year. A boy’s first great taste of life.
Next to finding a Portuguese man-of-war in the bathtub, the worst thing that could happen to a kid of 20 in 1968 was getting to Parris Island at a grainy-eyed two in the morning, flat exhausted, and meeting a drill instructor. Everyone’s heard the tales. DIs will pull your fingernails off one by one, make you run until your knees corrode, bury you to the neck in sand and leave you for the mosquitoes.

When the bus pulls into the swampy lowlands of South Carolina and Parris Island signs appear, it all becomes plausible. And there’s no…way…out.

I arrived on a chartered Greyhound crowded with Richmond boys who suddenly suspected that they weren’t a Few Good Men. It was a raw deal all around–cottony taste in the mouth, somebody else sure to get the girl back home, bus reeking of stale sweat and beginning fear, no thought yet about dying in Asia, just a sort of uh-oh feeling.

The driver had picked up a sergeant at the gate to give him a ride. “You wanna get off before the stampede?” the driver asked. Stampede? It was ominous.

On that loneliest morning I’ll ever see, my introduction to the Marines–the Green Team, the Crotch, Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children–was a little man 32 feet wide and about as high as my chin. He had killed Smokey the Bear and stolen his hat. He had a voice like Krakatoa in full eruption, and his name was Staff Sergeant Bull Walrus. At least I think it was.

He exploded into the headlights like one of hell’s more vicious demons, trembling with fury.

GiddawfadatgawdambusNOW!” he bellowed, blowing several windows out of the bus–I swear it, three windows fell out–by which we understood his desire that we disembark. We did so in sheer terror, trampling one another and no longer worried about our girls. To hell with our girls. Bull Walrus was clearly about to tear out throats out with his bare teeth, that was the important thing.

There we were, The Few, The Proud, standing in deep shock with our feet in these silly golden footsteps painted on the pavement. Move one inch, Walrus screams, and he will do unspeakable things, after which our girls will no longer want us. I figured they kept Walrus in a dungeon by day and just let him out to torture recruits by night.

We were groggy with fatigue, minds buzzing with adrenaline, and Walrus is inspecting our suitcases to take away glass objects. So we won’t commit suicide with them, see.

I imagine myself tearing out my carotids with an Arid bottle. Suddenly he is in front of me. I lied. He’s not 32 feet wide. He is 40 feet wide. He’s got arms like anacondas and his head is held on by a bolt.

He also is confiscating porn books, to protect our morals and read later. He reaches for a book in my suitcase and glares at me with eyes of tin and death. I realize, with calm that still surprises me, that he is going to murder me. The book is Medieval Architecture.

A recruit, a drill instructor told me much later, after I had been reincarnated as a journalist, “is the funniest goddam animal alive. He’s gotta be. You get these kids, some of them are street kids from the city, some of them farm kids, and these suburban kids who just don’t know nothing–every kind of kid.

“And dumb? Jeez they’re dumb. And they’ve got about three months to adjust to a complicated life they’ve got no experience with. They’ve got to learn how to think Marine Corps. Military thinking isn’t like civilian thinking.

“Half of ’em don’t even know how rifle sights work. Like this friend of mine is teaching a class about the M-60 machine gun, and he’s telling them its rate of fire, it’s gas-operated, and this skinny recruit says, ‘But where’s the gas tank?’”

“Jeez, they’re dumb.”

Sergeant Sly is a man with a sense of humor. He’s black, strac, and cocky — the DI cockiness that says there’s nothing on God’s green earth better than the Green Team, and I’m the coolest thing in the Marines, and, Prive, you gotta sweat to be as good as me. All DIs are like that, all the good ones anyway. Sly is a good one.

Sly runs recruits along the hot, dusty weapons ranges of Camp Lejeune — hot and dusty in summer, anyway. He tries to keep his recruits from getting hurt.

“All right,” he tells a platoon, standing in sweat-soaked utilities. Nothing looks quite as dispirited as recruits in a hot sun. “While you’re in the field, you gotta take certain precautions against the wildlife. I don’t have to tell you about some of it. Don’t feed the snakes, or try to pick’em up ’cause they’re pretty.

“I’m talking about the other wildlife. Most of it’s harmless, but one kind is bad news–what people down here call the Wampus cat. It’s related to the bobcat and it’s not too big, ’bout like a cocker spaniel, but you don’t want to make one think he’s cornered.”

Another afternoon at Lejeune. The recruits listen, barely.

A few scenes are so close to boot camp that they deserve inclusion here, embodying as they do terrors near to those of boot. A massive grinder at Camp Pendleton, California. A private, fresh out of training and spending a week on maintenance duty before his school begins, has been sent to pick up toilet paper for the barracks. Battalion issue has no box in which to carry it. He ponders, has an idea, sticks a dozen rolls on a mop handle, puts it over his shoulder like a rifle.

A bird colonel rounds the corner. The Marine is new enough to the real military that officers terrify him. Panic strikes. He hesitates and, driven by reflex or some buried death wish, gives a snappy rifle salute. The colonel’s jaw drops. His hat slowly rises on a column of steam.

You learn. It just takes a while.

Boot camp is a very quick education in the ways of the world–of many worlds. For a weird collection of people, the average training platoon beats midnight in a New York City bus station.

In my platoon we had a Mexican kid named Rodriguez who couldn’t speak English, a black kid who said he was Bill Cosby’s nephew, three college students–one of them a physical chemistry major, one a tiny blond guy who couldn’t have been more than 11 years old–and a bunch of judicial draftees. (“I’m gonna give you a choice, son,” says the judge. “Four in the slammer or two in the Marines.” It’s supposed to be illegal. So are a lot of things.)

Many of these judicial draftees were burglars from Tennessee. Free enterprise seems to be broadly interpreted in those parts and usually begins after midnight.

One of them was named Mulvaney. He had been caught in a second floor bedroom collecting someone else’s silverware. He preferred the Marines to the slammer, not necessarily a wise choice in those days. I later heard he got killed outside of Danang.

Anyway, Mulvaney was built like one of those Martian robots on the late show, arms like logs and the legs of an offensive lineman, and he had gray eyes and a long, slow smile that meant he was about to break your legs in 20 places. He didn’t get mad easily, but it was spectacular when he did.

For a college kid accustomed to settling disputes by reason, Mulvaney was a revelation. He didn’t care about right and wrong. Either he liked you, or he tried to kill you.

One night Mulvaney was standing fire watch in the latrine–the Marine Corps thinks they are flammable–and he somehow got into a fight with Rodriguez. A Mexican kid from Brownsville is not the best choice to throw hands with. We could hear it all down the squad bay — terrific thumps with a splattering sound like a sack full of hog kidneys hitting a tile wall, and not a word. Neither wanted to waste energy talking. It was one of those extended fights engaged in by men who simply like fighting.

Next morning it was hair, teeth and eyeballs all over the deck, and enough gore that you’d have thought they’d been slaughtering hogs. Both combatants looked like they had lost a discussion with a cement truck. Mulvaney’s left eye looked like an egg fried in blood and Rodriguez’s nose wasn’t quite where I remembered it.

“What you pukes been doing?” snarled the drill instructor. Pukes was the nicest thing they ever called us. He really wasn’t mad. Fighting was a sin, but not as bad as falling out on a run.

“Walked into the door, sir,” says Mulvaney, deadly serious.

“Wha’ sir?” says Rodriguez, looking puzzled. His English deteriorated when he was asked inconvenient questions.

For hours, Mulvaney and Rodriguez pounded round the grinder in full packs, holding hands and yelling, “I love Mulvaney more than poking my girlfriend.” When they finished, I bet they did. It was justice of a sort.

McCoy was the saddest thing I ever saw. McCoy was very tall with a long, sad face. He was disturbingly thin — your impulse on meeting him was to feed him — and beet-brown from heaven-knows-how-many-weeks in strength-building platoons.

McCoy didn’t have any muscles to enlarge. If he had any coordination, you didn’t notice it. His voice was soft and feminine and he was funny looking, a bad thing at boot. He reminded me of a clerk from a Dickens novel.

On the grinder he stuck up above everyone else like a weed and was always out of step. He tripped over his feet and fell into other people. McCoy struggled to do pushups until tears ran down his cheeks, but couldn’t do them. His back folded until his belly touched the ground, and when he got into the “down” position he couldn’t push himself back up.

The DIs wanted to get rid of McCoy. He didn’t belong in the Corps, they said. They offered him medical discharges and general discharges, and set him back time and time again, but McCoy wouldn’t quit.

Later we learned that McCoy’s older brother had gone through Parris Island and had been All-time Superprivate or something, a really hot trooper. McCoy wanted to finish to make his brother proud. He had never amounted to much and wanted to show that he could do it too. Trouble was, he had the guts for five Marines but the body for about a third of one.

The DIs bullied him to drive him out. They were practical men, and they knew he would die in Asia, probably getting several other men killed at the same time. They badgered him mercilessly and made him stand on tables and roar for the platoon. He’d stand there on a bayonet instructor’s table, surrounded by the platoon, and the DIs would torment him.

“Roar, McCoy.”

McCoy couldn’t roar. A muted groan came from his scrawny chest.

“Louder, McCoy! Let’s hear a Marine Corps roar!”

“Uhhhhh…oooo…uhhh…”

“Louder!”

“Make a muscle, McCoy.”

McCoy, looking sadder than ever, would tense his muscle for all to see and nothing would happen. But he wouldn’t quit because he was going to be a Marine and make his brother proud.

I forget how they finally got rid of him. If there is any possible way to do something wrong, a recruit will find it.

There was the ambidextrous kid at the grenade range at Lejeune. The idea was to stand between two walls of sandbags and throw the grenade over a high parapet. He pulled the pin and rared back to throw. Then he stopped. You could see the puzzlement in his face. No, that hand didn’t feel right. He casually tossed the thing in the air, caught it in the other hand, and threw it. By the time it exploded, the instructor was in the next county and accelerating.

I remember lying in lovely cold muck behind a log at Lejeune, firing at enemy oil barrels a few hundred yards away. It was one of those weird situations that occur regularly in the military.

Cold rain drizzling down my helmet and running neatly down my spine, my helmet slipping down over my eyes, and I’m in a firefight with a bunch of extremely dangerous barrels. The rifle is a worn out M-1 probably left over from the Napoleonic Wars, in use only because the government has several hundred billion rounds of ammunition for it.

The trigger mechanism is broken. Every time I fire it, the damned thing falls out and hangs down like a wounded clock. I slap it back. Bang, slap, bang, slap. Every fourth round, the clip pops out of the top of the rifle–spoing–and lands on my helmet.

Bang, slap, spoing, clunk, adjust the helmet. Bang, slap. I begin to see that it could be a long war.

A recruit was standing on a roof at Parris Island in the burning sun at parade rest. His DI had put him there to work on the roof and somehow had forgotten him. A passing sergeant noticed, stared curiously for a second, and bellowed, “Git down from there, prive.”

The private didn’t move.

“Goddamit, git down here,” bawled the instructor, unused to being ignored.

Nothing. The private looked deeply unhappy, but didn’t so much as twitch.

Another DI came along and yelled, but nothing moved the recruit. He gazed desperately ahead, either deaf or crazed by the sun. A group formed on the sidewalk, including a warrant officer, a lieutenant, and, finally, a passing light colonel.

The colonel snapped his crispest order. The private stared ahead. The crowd conferred, decided they had a mental case on their hands and prepared to send for a struggle buggy and some big corpsmen. Then the private’s DI returned.

“Jaworski, Ten-hut! Git your butt down from there.”

Down came Jaworski. From parade rest, you see, the only acceptable order is “attention”. The manual of arms says so.

“You see,” a drill instructor explained to me, “a recruit’s in a place he doesn’t understand at all, and nothing ever works for him. Back home, he knows the rules. Maybe he’s a big dude on the block, got it made. Not here. Everybody’s yelling at him and he can’t ever do anything right.

“So he figures he’ll do exactly what he’s told. It’s his way of protecting himself. If something goes wrong, he thinks at least it’s not his fault. This is what a drill instructor’s got to learn — nothing’s too crazy for a recruit to do if he thinks it’s what you told him. And you really got to think about it. Otherwise you can get him hurt.

“One time in winter a friend of mine, Sergeant Grunderling, had evening duty at some building and he wanted to go take a leak. So he tells this recruit who’s with him, ‘I’m going out for a minute. Don’t let anyone in who doesn’t know the password. You got that?’

“The recruit says, ‘Yes, sir,’ so Grunderling relieves himself and realizes he can’t remember the password. So he hollers, ‘Minter, open the door.”

“What’s the password?”

“I forget. Open the door.”

“I can’t do that, sir. You told me not to let anybody in who doesn’t give the password, sir.”

“Goddamit Minter, now I’m telling you to open the door.”

“‘No sir, I can’t do that.”

“Minter, it’s cold out here.”

“No, sir, I can’t do that.”

“By now Grunderling’s mostly frozen and so mad he can’t see straight, but he sees threats ain’t going to help him.

“Please, Minter, let me in. I ain’t gonna yell at you. I won’t do anything to you.”

“Aww, you’re trying to trick me.”

“No, Minter, honest, I ain’t trying to trick you. Open the door.’

“You’re gonna yell at me, aren’t you sir?”

“No, Minter, I promise.”

“Finally, old Minter opens the door and Grunderling nearly kills him. But he should have expected it. A recruit does exactly what you tell him.”

“You probably won’t see a Wampus cat,” Sergeant Sly continues, “but if you do, remember he’s fast. A cat isn’t built for endurance like a dog is, but he’s lightning in a dash. Don’t think you’re gonna tease a Wampus and run away when it starts spittin’ and howlin’.

“They’re not that fast — I mean, a Wampus cat can’t keep up with a cheetah or anything, but they’ve been clocked at 50. It takes a damn good shot to hit anything at that speed.”

A September day in a clearing at Camp Lejeune. Our company of trainees sits in weathered bleachers, scratching and, after three months of training, feeling as salty as three bosun’s mates.

A massive sergeant with a velvet Georgia accent is teaching us the care and feeding of a white phosphorus grenade, otherwise known as Willy Peter (and several other things unfit for a family magazine).

Willy Peter is an unpleasant weapon that throws white phosphorous around, a nasty substance that sticks to you and burns.

He holds the lethal cylinder in his hand, tells us what horrible things it can do to Luke the Gook–who was then the hated enemy–and announces that he will trot into the field and demonstrate.

That is fine with us, as long as we can sit in the sun and relax. We watch with interest as he lopes into the grass.

For days we’d been watching weapons specialists trot into Lejeune’s clearings, and something spectacular always happened. Something blew up or went bang or made colored smoke.

So the sergeant gets out there next to this little steel hut he’s supposed to hide in while Willy Peter does his stuff. He chucks this incredibly vicious grenade downfield and ducks into the steel hut.

Two seconds later he streaks out at roughly Mach Four, like Tony Green on a punt return. He has the unmistakable gait of a man who is flat terrified. About that time Willy Peter goes whoomp! and the air around the sergeant is filled with long smoky trails of flaming phosphorous. He streaks on as if he took showers in the stuff, ignoring it, a mountain on the move in blind fright.

Somehow all that smoking agony misses him and he reaches us panting hugely.

“Goddam wasps.”

Training has changed. Ten years ago, reveille at Parris Island meant a GI-can lid sailing down the squad bay at oh-dark-30. The lights would come on suddenly and 10 seconds later a hundred recruits would be standing at attention in their underwear, half-conscious and miserable.

Now the GI-can lid is gone. So is much of the stress of training.

“What happened, some kid’s mother heard about it and wrote her congressman. He came down and said, Oh dear, ain’t this awful, what if they hit somebody with that lid. So they made us stop that.

“And one time a recruit died of heat stroke carrying his first issue to the barracks, so everybody’s mother started writing her congressman. Now we gotta carry recruits around in cattle cars.

“Hell, you can’t put thousands of people through military training without somebody getting hurt. It just ain’t possible. If they don’t train hard, they get killed in combat. They ought to shoot the doctor that let that kid in here in the first place. Congress doesn’t give a damn about training.

“And you know what? The recruits want training to be rough. That’s why they joined-to do something hard.”

Parris Island can make a Marine out of almost anything with a detectable heartbeat. What a kid wants most at Parris Island is out, and the quickest way out is to behave. Most kids have a well-developed sense of self-preservation and see the wisdom of obedience. A few are hopeless.

I remember a tall kid named Gurdy from the slums who was terrified of the water. He had a tiny cue ball of a head and held it to one side, like a rattlesnake. There was a mean, cautious defiance to him, the look of a trapped animal. Gurdy had lived so much on the outside of society that he didn’t realize you ever had do anything.

We were lined up at the pool for the swim test, if you could call it that. I think you had to swim about as far as most of us could broad jump. Gurdy stood there wild-eyed and strange, leaning his head one way and rolling his eyes the other. He didn’t say anything.

The rest of us were going through boot camp, but Gurdy didn’t know what he was going through. I guess he thought we were going to make him walk the plank. He was out of some remote tenement world of Chicago, and beyond even the military’s ability to handle.

We could see him getting crazier and crazier as the line got shorter. Tension was building up in him like a head of steam. Finally he broke and ran like a jack rabbit — just shot out the door and kept going.

God knows where he thought he could run to on Parris Island, where it’s hard for a fugitive in a bathing suit to hide. I don’t think he much knew himself, probably figured it was like ducking a cop in the city. It was the last we saw of him.

I had thought it was borrowed from some book like Battle Cry, but it happens: Private Mulligan walking down the squad bay at Parris Island, chanting, “This is my rifle, this is my gun…,” firmly holding onto both.

The worst hazard for a recruit is not shrapnel or even dismemberment by Sergeant Bull Walrus. It is tattoo parlors. These garish dens abound near big bases and prey on recent recruits longing for any evidence of manhood. New soldiers spend 15 minutes getting that impressive eagle, and then they spend 20 years pricing plastic surgeons to get their boyhood back.

Some recruits go stark nuts over tattoos — Wasloski, for example, a red-headed Polish kid from Chicago I met in the drab barracks of Pendleton.

Wasloski was crazy. He had an angular, pugnacious face with half the world’s strategic reserve of freckles, and claimed he had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, which for obscure reasons he called UPI, and had less judgment than a volunteer for kamikaze school.

God help him, Wasloski discovered tattoo parlors. It had to happen. He showed up at the barracks one night with a half-naked Vietnamese girl tattooed on his forearm. It was conspicuous to say the least. I mean, it had colors like a Day-Glo detergent box and probably had batteries.

Before it had healed the poor maniac had another on the other arm, and then on an upper arm. I don’t know where it ended, if it did. He’s probably got naked bar girls running up his spine.

Nothing is quite so military as a tattoo, and he wanted to be military. He just didn’t know that guys with tattoos spend the rest of their lives trying to get rid of them. If Wasloski ever has a girlfriend, which is barely possible, he’ll have to have his arms amputated. And maybe his back.

Junior enlisted men have a limitless capacity for avoiding work. Among the better recruits, this talent verges on religious inspiration. Trainees learn it quickly.

My first experience with this useful ability was watching a platoon that was walking in line across a sandy field to police up cigarette butts. Instead of picking up the offending butts, each man carefully pushed sand over them with this boots. They hadn’t planned it or seen anyone else do it. The idea simply came to them as the obvious response to the situation.

They left a spotless field. Thirty minutes later, wind blew the sand away and the place looked like a public dump. I suppose those butts had been accumulating for 30 years, buried repeatedly by generations of recruits.

Then there was McClinton, assigned to water the grass at a chow hall on a blazing California day. There wasn’t a puff of wind. The heat would have baked a camel’s brains, and asphalt was turning to a sticky ooze. McClinton was supposed to walk back and forth across the lawn, spraying each patch until it was thoroughly wet. A Russian would have done it, but the American trooper thinks for himself.

McClinton found the opening for a storm sewer in the ground in the shade beneath a tree. For three hours he stood in the shade and watered that grate. The grass never got wet, so he always seemed to be watering a dry patch. A hundred yards below, the gutter flooded.

“Now the Wampus cat isn’t any damn killer bogeyman, no matter what the locals say. All that stuff on TV about how it killed seven Boy Scouts in a swamp is so much crap. At least in my opinion. But it can get real savage, like any cat, and we do lose three or four recruits every year to it. It’s mostly their own damn fault because they don’t take the right precautions.

“When you put your tent up, just make sure you’re at least four feet from the tree line. Four feet, got it? And the Wampus cat tends to hunt on a north-south line, so I want those tents facing east and west. That’s all it takes, and the colonel won’t be chewing my ass because the Wampus cat killed one of my recruits.”

The beach at Lejeune, a chill gray day with fog wafting over greasy Atlantic rollers. A platoon of infantry trainees stands shivering beside the looming bulk of an amtrac–the old LVT P-5, the beach-assault vehicleof the Marines in those days.

It’s shaped like a steel loaf of bread with tracks. It runs up on the beach and drops its ramp, whereupon the grunts run out and get machine-gunned.

At least, that’s what the crewmen tell the grunts. The grunts are trainees. They’ll believe anything.

LVT P5. What I drove. Also known as a Wide Area Notifying Mine Detector. The gasoline tank was in the bottom. If you went over a mine, a four-hundred-foot plume of black smoke notified everyone within fifty miles.

The corporal in command yells and the trainees scramble aboard-37 of them. A trac is like a steel coffin, dark and cold inside, with only two small windows on the side.

Sometimes they become coffins for real. Once, a hatch was left open and a big roller came aboard, dragging the trac down in 150 feet of cold water. Nobody has heard from the occupants and, as this was some years ago, they are presumed dead.

The crew tell the grunts about it as the ramp closes.

The engine revs up to a deafening roar, hollow and sepulchral, for the dash into the breakers. The beast crashes into the surf and sinks to within a foot of its top, which is what it is supposed to do. Green water comes over the windows and shoots in streams through the minor leaks a trac always has.

The recruits don’t know this. They are very, very uneasy in this death trap, imagining the terrified scramble should it sink. There would be no hope of avoiding a watery grave.

A hundred yards from shore, the crewman stands under the machine-gun periscope and looks out like a U-boat commander.

He eyes the rollers, which break over the top, and says laconically, “It’s too rough up there, Charlie. Let’s take her down to 50 feet and hope the bulkheads hold.”

Three recruits faint. Trainees will believe anything.

I had this guy Handley, couldn’t do anything right,” one DI told me. “I mean, he was the kind of guy who tries hard, but everything he touches turns to crap. Big doofus guy outa Miami. You can’t persecute that kind of guy, because he genuinely is trying his best.

“One day Handley is sitting in this 10-holer latrine we had, along with about six other guys, all with their trousers around their ankles. Well, the colonel comes in to take a whizz, and Handley stands to attention and yells, ‘Ten-hut!’”

Oh-dark-30, a frigid morning at Lejeune. Our last day of training. We line up single file to go into the dark administration shack and collect our boot pay. We are harder and heavier than we were three months ago, a little cocky, confident, aware of new muscles. Inside the shack we have to stand to attention and do some silly boot rigmarole: “Sir! Private Smith reportingforpaycall-serial number twothirtyonetwentysixfiftyone Sir!” all in one breath.

We also have to stop just outside the door and count the crisp new bills. One of the squad leaders — Bergland, a beefy kid from Alabama — has been ordered to be sure we do.

He is feeling full of himself on the dark sidewalk and well he might. For the first time in his life, he is in charge of others.

A figure comes from the shack, like 20 before him, but counts nothing.

“Marine, count them bills!”

The figure doesn’t stop, so Bergland grabs him around the waist and pulls him back, unaware that he has grabbed the meanest gunny sergeant in Camp Geiger.

“Gityourbuttback…here…oh…my…gawd….”

Sir, what’s a Wampus cat look like?” a recruit asks Sergeant Sly.

“I wish I could tell you. You see, a Wampus is unusual in one way: It only runs backwards. It’s one of the mysteries of science. A lot of people have seen the back end of a Wampus, but nobody’s seen the front. That’s why you gotta run your tents from east to west, so the Wampus cat doesn’t back into it. And let me tell you, if you ever see the butt end of a Wampus cat coming in, you better kiss your ass goodbye, ’cause it’s all over.”

Noon in the Lejeune woods, chilly with autumn and the slowing drizzle, gooky red mud making sucking noises under our boots. Rain-laden pine branches brush across faces like cold hands. “S” Company is coming off the flame-thrower range for chow. Why the scene sticks in my memory I don’t know, but it is my most vivid impression of training: a company of sodden recruits, shivering.

There were inexplicable moments when it all came together and we were proud to be in the service, the real world, not pumping gas or pulling frogs apart in some tedious laboratory. A fair number of us would be dead in ten weeks, but we didn’t believe it yet.

Steam rose from the field kitchen, the only warm thing in the entire world, and we held out mess kits for the cooks to fill with savory glop. At 19 you’re too dumb to know when you’re uncomfortable. We were used to 3 1/2 hours sleep, at ease with rifles and seven-eighty-two gear, beginning to feel like Marines.

One blond kid with huge, round, blue eyes has lost his mess kit. He takes chow in his canteen cup–stew, spinach, bread, canned peaches dumped on top, string beans. It all goes to the same place, he says. When you’ve been up and running since 4:30, you don’t care what it looks like.

Sergeants bark at us, but act like we’re human, which may or may not show good judgment on their part. I line up with the rest of these olive-drab warriors at chest-high log tables. We eat standing up in the soupy clay, gray clouds rolling and twisting overhead. Someone passes a rumor that we have declared war on Red China. Some believe it. Some always do.

There is no such thing as a recruit with enough to eat. Chow wasn’t bad-not like at the chow hall where, when the cook scooped up the powdered eggs with an ice cream scoop, green water filled the hole.

Along the log tables are jars of peanut butter and jelly for making Geiger-burgers-two-pound sandwiches that keep you going through the training ranges of Lejeune’s Camp Geiger. Huge wasps and yellow jackets crawl around in the jelly jars.

The man next to me eyes a hornet the size of a heavy bomber in his jar. The beast is obviously dangerous. On the other hand, the Marine wants a sandwich.

It doesn’t pay to stand between a recruit and food. With a quick twist of his knife, he forces the hornet deep below the surface of the jelly and makes his sandwich with the top layers.

Others before him had done the same thing. I count seven buried wasps, some still twitching. You do what you gotta do.

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The Place of Christianity in History: A View from Without

In today’s irreligious and indeed antireligious climate the fashion is to dismiss Christianity as crude superstition, and to babble wisely about the separation of church and state. This is unfortunate, and stupid, since Christianity was the heart and soul of as yet the greatest civilization the world has seen. Those who know nothing of it cannot understand the last two thousand years and how our world came to be.

Renegade Jews founded Christianity (most Jews soon wished they had not), as a sort of heresy that got out of control, lost all resemblance to Judaism,  and eventually stretched across Europe, Russia, North and South America, Australia, and the Byzantine Empire. In all of these it shaped the culture, art, philosophy, literature, the very framework of mind. Much of this was superb and remains unsurpassed.

And what a magnificent thing it was! The traveler of today may have seen the gorgeous churches of Cuzco in the Peruvian Andes, Norman churches in Sicily, and Notre Dame, Salisbury, the wonderful cathedral of Barcelona, the Hagia Sophia, the ceremony of the Russian Orthodox. The artistry, the engineering needed to build many of them in times without structural steel are astonishing. Today in Mexico, in town after town one finds the churches on the central plaza, all different, many splendid, places of quiet and meditation. In any of these them, before Protestantism cast its drab cloak of half of the faith, a traveler could enter and understand everything he saw.

Barcelona Cathedral, built mostly in 1300s. Things of this caliber are no longer built. 

Architecture was just the first syllable of a long paragraph. From Christendom came classical music, much of it explicitly Christian: The Saint Matthew Passion, Handel’s Messiah, and the whole panoply of secular music in Christian forms. Jews came to the table late  in recent centuries and for a while–it seems to be ending–were wildly disproportionate in their production in the arts and sciences but within the framework established by Christendom long before. Now the Koreans and Chinese begin to do the same. Muslims characteristically have done almost nothing.

 The aesthetic element was pronounced, not just in music and architecture but in painting and literature and  illuminated manuscripts, One may argue whether Defoe or Cervantes invented the novel, or France or America the airplane, but both came from Christendom. The genius of the faith appeared not only in sacred art but also in tolerance for, indeed encouragement of, works in other themes. For example, Cellini’s Perseus is hardly Christian but was greatly appreciated in the Italy of the 15oo’s. It would not have been in Damascus. 

Perseus. If any other faith has produced the range and quality of Christendom’s art, I am unaware of it. The Italians no longer believed in the gods and myths of classical antiquity, but neither were they any longer threatened by them. 

The list could go on for volumes. After the Greeks and the dry spell that was Rome, mathematics was a Christian enterprise as were physics, chemistry, pretty much everything. Others would work within these fields. They didn’t originate them.

The other major religion of the Mideast, Islam, appeared in the Seventh Century and conquered vast territories, but quickly fell into intellectual sloth and has since produced almost nothing other than splendid carpets and some lovely mosques. This darkness was not of genetic origin. Many of the peoples conquered by Islam were advanced and impressive, as for example the Persians. Rather it is resulted from a deliberate revulsion against thought and inquiry. (The Closing of the Moslem Mind is good on this.) The alleged centuries of convivencia of the three religions in Spain, koom bah yah, and scintillating Islamic intellect are largely academic agitprop. (The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise deals well with this.)

Catholicism in particular has combined spiritual concerns with a strong intellectual bent. The Christian interest in questions of origin and destiny and man’s purpose produced profound thought from the Church Fathers to C. S. Lewis. Today consideration of such matters as death and meaning are held to be in bad taste. Insensible of the wonder and strangeness of existence, we watch Seinfeld reruns and  congratulate ourselves on not paying attention to that, you know, like, religious stuff. We live under a sort or Disneyland Marxism and descend ever deeper into complacent ignorance.

Russian Orthodoxy. Whatever else it is, drab it isn’t.

And so I see attempts to dismiss Christianity as a mere add-on or style having nothing to do with the achievements of Christendom. This is historical illiteracy. Read any of the thinkers and authors from late Roman times on until recently and you find that they took their faith seriously, that it created their mental worlds. Augustine, Newton, Samuel Johnson, Sydney Smith more recently, and in the United States the Puritans, Quakers, and so on. Many of these were men of high intellect. Their casual dismissal by professors of sociology is in the nature of monkeys throwing books from a window.

The Renaissance in its entirely was an expression of Christendom. Whether you are a Christian–I am not–isn’t the point. And no, Christians were no more moral than anyone else. Popes catted around like any man does who has the chance. Yet the civilization produced wonders.

The evidence is strong that Protestantism, far less ornate than Catholicism, led to capitalism, which led to the modern West (whatever one thinks of this). See, for example,  The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

In our material and not very thoughtful age the  fashion is to point to the crimes committed by the church, to its venality, hypocrisy, and immorality. They existed. Christians behaved, and behave, as horribly as everybody else. But this is usual in human endeavor.  As a moral preceptor Christianity was fraudulent. As a culture and civilization, it was of immense importance. One might note that the atheist dictators–Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot–hold the record for murderousness.

Then came in the Nineteenth Century the third great religion of Middle Eastern origin, or religion manque, Communism. Like Christianity directly, and Islam indirectly, it was a Jewish product. Never has so small a people had so great an influence on history.

Many wonder how a religion, Judaism, could bring about an avowedly atheist…what word do I want? Philosophy? The answer I think is that Judaism isn’t a religion but a matter of identity and ritual. At least, I don’t think I have ever met a Jew who believed in the six days of Genesis or that Lot’s wife became salt or that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and reappeared, undigested. Christians and Muslims actually believe things, though many of the former resort to mental athletics to reconcile faith and science.

Anyway, communism killed its tens of millions and died, leaving a foul stench and little else.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, by the Catalan Anatoni Gaukí, died 1926.  Whether you regard it as lovely or merely eccentric, it is among the last architectural gasps of a once-flourishing faith.

The future? Christianity seems to be dying out. A resurgence is hard to imagine. It simply isn’t suited to the modern world. The Old Testament in particular is ugly and immoral and its magical events I suspect are too much for the modern mind.

Islam, being fanatical and primitive, will presumably survive for a while in its own lands. The mental night that is Islam can be seen in virtually everything, from schooling to commerce and is attributable to a religious hostility to modernity. From The Closing, mentioned above: “In comparison the number of patents registered in the twenty-year period from 1980 to 2000, the report shows Korea with 16328 and nine countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, with 370, with even many of these patents registered by foreigners.”

 Judaism? Materialist in the philosophical sense and not requiring its adherents to believe things apparently impossible, it would seem better adapted to modernity. It imposes no restrictions on its adherents in science, culture, or commerce.

But Christendom was a hell of a show while it lasted.

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First Transgender President: Trump Becomes Hillary

Oh Lord, it’s happening–the remanufacture of Trump by the Establishment. During the campaign, Trump and the Basilisk had nothing in common but their hair dye. Now, almost daily, he looks more like her. 

He gets embarrassing. Regarding the alleged gassing in Syria, quoth Donald:

“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies — babies, little babies — with a chemical gas … that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. … And I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me … my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

God almighty. Who wrote this–a middle school girl with C’s in English, or the President of the United States? Did he retire to his bedroom for a good cry?

Apparently he ordered his missile strike without bothering to find out what happened. The usual suspects are driving him like a sports car.

The election was a choice between fetor and a lunatic. We chose the lunatic. Whether this was better than the alternative, we will never know, but Trump is going from bad to worse, or as the Mexicans say, de Guatemala a Guatepeor. 

Does he believe this stuff? Is he naive enough to think that there was something unusually horrible about the attack? Horrible, yes, but not in the least unusual. Do you know what everyday, boring artillery does to children? Five-hundred-pound bombs? Hellfire rockets? Daily Mr. Trump’s military and his allies daily drop shrapnel-producing explosives on people, cities, towns, adults, children, weddings and goatherds in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Good draft-dodger that he was, he probably has never seen any of this. Good psychopath that he may be, he may not care.

This whole gas-attack business smells to high heaven. It looks nicely calculated to force him to attack Assad. Gas was important: Killing babies, little babies with explosives is so routine that no one cares, but we have been programmed to shudder at the thought of Gas!

Actually artillery has killed several orders of magnitude more people, but never mind.

Targeting children was a nice touch. Definitely a PR bonus. So Donald goes into his Poor-widdle-fings weep, while Americans weekly kill more children in three to seven countries, depending on the date.

Is the man consciously a liar? Hasn’t got sense enough to think before operating his mouth? Actually believes what  he says when he says it?

Glance at a small part of the record and focus on his changing his tune, not on whether you agree with a particular policy. Erratic, erratic, erratic. He was going to run out the illegals within two years, absurd but he said it. Going to put high tariffs on Mexican goods. Didn’t. On Chinese goods. Isn’t. Tear up the Iran treaty. Didn’t.  Declare China a currency-manipulator. Isn’t. Ban Muslims. Hasn’t. Promote good relations with Russia. Isn’t. Get the US out of Syria. Ha. Make NATO pay for itself. Isn’t. The man has the steely determination one associates with bean curd. You cannot trust  anything the man says.

Having been reprogrammed as a good neocon, bombing places he promised to get out of, looking for a fight with Russia, he is now butting heads with Fat Thing in North Korea. He his said things closely resembling, “We have run out of strategic patience with the North. If nobody else will take care of it, we will.” Grrrr. Bowwow. Woof.

The problem with growly ultimata made for television is that somebody has to back down–that is, lose face and credibility. If Trump had quietly told Fat Thing, “If you crazy bastards scrap your nuke program, we will drop the sanctions,” it might have worked.  But no. Negotiations would imply weakness. Thus an ultimatum.

So now either (a) Fat Thing knuckles under, humiliating himself and possibly endangering his grasp on power or (b) Trump blinks in a humiliating display of the Empire’s impotence, possibly endangering his grasp on power.

Kim Jong Il, or Il Sung Jong, or whatever the the hell the latest one of them is called, shows not the slightest sign of backing down. So does the Donald start an utterly unpredictable war, as usual in somebody else’s country, or does he weasel off, muttering, and hope nobody notices?

Fred’s Third Law of International Relations: Never butt heads with a country that has a missile named the No Dong.

Many of us favored Trump, slightly daft though he was, because he wasn’t yet Hillary, wasn’t yet a neocon robot, and didn’t want war with every country he had heard of, apparently meaning a good half dozen. At least he said he didn’t, not yet having been told that he did. In particular, he didn’t want war with Russia. But when the neocons control the media and Congress, they can convince a naive public of anything and, apparently, the President.

Why is the Hillarification of Trump important? The necessary prior question: What is the greatest threat to the neocons’ American Empire? Answer: The ongoing integration of Eurasia under Chinese hegemony. The key countries in this are China, Iran, and Russia. (Isn’t it curious that, apart from the momentary distraction of North Korea, these countries have been the focus of New York’s hostility?) In particular if Russia and, through it, China develop large and very profitable trade with Europe, there goes NATO and with it the Empire.

Oops.

Thus the eeeeeeeeeeek! furor about Russia as existential threat and so on. Thus sending a few troops to Baltic countries to “deter” Russia. This was theater. The idea that a thousand garrison troops can stop the Russian army, which hasn’t gone silly as ours has, on its doorstep is loony.

Hillary was on board with the Russia hysteria and the globalization and the immigration and so on.  Trump could have screwed the whole pooch by getting along with Russia, so he had to be reconfigured. And was. A work in progress, but going well.

Too  much is being asked of him. One man cannot overcome the combined hostility of the media, the political establishment, the neocons, the myriad other special interests that he has threatened. Mass immigration is a done deal. China develops and America, already developed, cannot keep up. The country disintegrates socially. Washington, always depending on war and its threat, faces a new world in which trade is the weapon, and doesn’t know what to do. The culture courses. The world changes.

Yet if only Trump showed some sign of knowing what he is doing, and could remember from day to day, if only he realized that wars are more easily started than predicted, if only he were not becoming an unbalanced Hillary.

Yet, apparently, he is.

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Notes for a White Kid in University:An Introduction to the Blindingly Obvious

If you are a white student in college, you doubtless hear daily that white people are evil, the principal cause of everything wrong with the world. Whiteness is bad, white people are bad. We are to blame for everything.

If you believe this, you are being gamed. What you are being told is nonsense. If you have the intelligence and self-respect to think for yourself, ask:

“What have other races and ethnic groups accomplished in the world compared to what we white people have?”

This question will be shocking to you because you have been carefully programmed not to think such things. But ask. I think you will find that the groups who complain the most have accomplished the least. Check for yourself.

Kill Whitery-Cathedral

A white man’s stick hut. We began building these things in 1137.

Look around you. Can you find anything with a moving part that was not invented by whites?  Anything electronic? Cars, telephones, computers, aircraft, antibiotics, on and on–all sprang from the minds of white people. You are not supposed to say such things, and could be run out of a university for it–but ask yourself, if you have the courage: Is it true? Do not think that because things are commonplace or easy to use that they are not products of fields of extraordinary difficulty.

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The Hubble Space Telescope. Twenty-five hundred years of phenomenally complex math, physics, electronics, optics, and chemistry went into the Hubble. It is entirely a white man’s show. Nobody else has come close. Your professors will not want you to think this. They will not want you to think. But you have a mind. Use it.

Look around your university. Who do you see taking the hard subjects–math, chemistry, physics, engineering, philosophy, computer science? Whites and Asians…right? Are they the kind of people who complain constantly about White Privilege? You may notice a pattern here: Those who can, do. The rest bitch and moan.

How about your own classes? You are not blind. If you think for yourself, you can see who the smart ones are, and who are those getting a free ride. Usually, a free ride at your expense. Your professors will not want you to notice this either. The question is whether you have been so profoundly brainwashed that you cannot see the obvious.

Being very young, you will probably have little idea of the vast body of knowledge, won over millenia, behind all the things you take for granted. At your age, I didn’t either. It takes  years to get a handle on things. It will be harder for you because your universities will discourage you from looking around you. But glance at the very partial list below (I paste from an ancient column of mine)  to get an idea of what the white race has done over the centuries. You will never have heard of many of these things. And that is curious. While your nose is being rubbed into the virtues, often real, sometimes imagined, of other groups, your own race is seldom motioned except to revile it.

Euclidean geometry. Parabolic geometry. Hyperbolic geometry. Projective geometry. Differential geometry. Calculus: Limits, continuity, differentiation, integration. Physical chemistry. Organic chemistry. Biochemistry. Classical mechanics. The indeterminacy principle. The wave equation. The Parthenon. The Anabasis. Air conditioning. Number theory. Romanesque architecture. Gothic architecture. Information theory. Entropy. Enthalpy. Every symphony ever written. Pierre Auguste Renoir. The twelve-tone scale. The mathematics behind it, twelfth root of two and all that. S-p hybrid bonding orbitals. The Bohr-Sommerfeld atom. The purine-pyrimidine structure of the DNA ladder. Single-sideband radio. All other radio. Dentistry. The internal-combustion engine. Turbojets. Turbofans. Doppler beam-sharpening. Penicillin. Airplanes. Surgery. The mammogram. The Pill. The condom. Polio vaccine. The integrated circuit. The computer. Football. Computational fluid dynamics. Tensors. The Constitution. Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Aeschylus, Homer, Hesiod. Glass. Rubber. Nylon. Skyscrapers. The piano. The harpsichord. Elvis. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. (OK, that’s nerve gas, and maybe we didn’t really need it.) Silicone. The automobile. Really weird stuff, like clathrates, Buckyballs, and rotaxanes. The Bible. Bug spray. Diffie-Hellman, public-key cryptography, and RSA. Et cetera at great length.

If you talk about these things on campus, you will be called a “white supremacist.” This is silly. But calling you a racist is an effective way of making you shut up. Do you want to be supreme over anyone? I do not. Yet other races are proud of their achievements. Why should you not be?  Ask where they would be without electricity, sterile water, telephones and–well, just about everything.

You hear from your professors that white people were guilty of colonization, slavery, and oppression. This is true. What your professors will not point out is that such behavior was, and is, universal.  Human beings are a sorry species, given to murder, torture, genocide, thievery, looting, conquest, and slavery. This has been, and is, true of Africans, American Indians, Latin Americans, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Japanese, Chinese, and Europeans.

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The Larrge Hadron Collider, a gigantic particle accelerator at CERN, in Switzerland, a massive instrument for research in subatomic physics. It is one of the greatest and most challenging projects of humanity. The Japanese could do this if they wanted to badly enough and soon, perhaps, the Chinese. They didn’t. The technology is a white man’s show, starting from Athens 2500 years ago. Are you sure you should be ashamed of this?

You mgmt reasonably be proud of these things. Any other race would be. Your people invented virtually the entire modern world. But that is not too important. The important thing is understanding that intellectual advance comes from some groups and not others. This may not seem fair, and you are not supposed to notice it, much less talk about it. Yet it is obvious. You might prefer that it not be true, but it is true.

whitermen2

Think of the above as a white man’s cave paintings.

The current hostility on campus to white people is stupid. The human race faces many serious problems. Trying to cripple the group most likely to solve them is good neither for you, the United States, nor the world. We need a cure for cancer. For reasons involving science that you have probably not heard of, we are getting close. If I were cancer these days, I believe I would go into hiding.

When some team pulls the cancer rabbit out of the hat, it will very likely be a team of white people. The second best guess, and an increasingly good bet, is the Chinese. Third? Japanese or Koreans, but his is not likely. After them, nobody is in the running.

Recognizing the phenomenal achievements of your own race is no reason for arrogance. Arrogance usually betrays inner doubt. The successful do not need it. No, success does not justify you in looking down on others. It does suggest that you need not allow yourself to be scorned. You, as a member of way-and-gone the most successful and creative race and culture the planet has seen, should not put up with it. Don’t brag about our achievements. But know of  them..

As a man of appalling age, I have lived in Thailand, Taiwan, Mexico, Vietnam, and Cambodia, traveled in a great many other countries, and both like and respect their peoples.  They are not stupid.  May they flourish. And yet for whatever reason–the reasons are not clear–they have not approached the accomplishments of the whiter race. There you have it.

It is chiefly in the United States that those who can’t, haven’t, and aren’t likely to, constantly attack those who can and have. Note that while they rail and fume and grouse, they  depend utterly on a world created by the people about whom they rail and grouse. To them you might reasonably say, “Come back and talk to me when you have done something worth talking about.” A great silence would follow.

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The Authoritarian Impulse: Getting What We Really Don’t Want

As a society crumbles, as bitter divisions grow and disorder spreads and nothing seems to work, anger comes and people begin to want a man who will say “Enough!” and slap down the malefactors–by any means necessary. A man who will make the trains run on time. A man who will make it safe to walk in the parks.

This is the authoritarian impulse. As corruption grows,  as a coagulated government fails to function, the temptation comes. It is coming.

Recently I read that in Brazil some thirty men gang-raped a young woman, left her emotionally devastated, bleeding, with a ruptured bladder, and laughed as they did it before posting the video online. My first thought  was, that they should be rounded up, shot without ceremony, and dropped into a public sewer. I meant this without a trace of hyperbole.

Two questions:

First, what proportion of the general public would agree with me in private? Second, what proportion would say so publicly? That is, say to hell with legal procedure, clotted bureaucracy, years of appeals, plea bargains, the insanity defense, and how they were troubled youth.

The ratio of the first to the second I will call Fred’s Fraction in a  lunge for sociological immortality. It is an indicator of a country’s explosive potential, of how much anger exists and how tightly the lid is held on. When a great many are very sick of misbehavior, and government prevents both  discussion and remedy, people begin to want someone in power who will forcibly end the detested behavior.

As we read day after day after day of beheadings of priests in Europe, of trucks driven into crowds, restaurants blown up, staffs of newspapers killed, always to the cry of “Allahu Akbar,” how many people begin to think–Send the army to round them up, put them on a ship, and beach it on the African coast? How many dare say it publicly?

Authoritarian solutions are ugly, but  appeal when there are  no others, when governments allow no others. They work, quickly. Hence their eternal appeal in times of chaos. Often they lead to a society that no one would want to live in. In the short run, they are effective and satisfying. We live in the short run.

It used to be, and may still be, that the immigration card on landing in Singapore said in red letters–this from memory–”There is a death penalty in Singapore for possession in drugs. This penalty is enforced.” How much of a problem do you suppose Singapore has with drugs? As society falls apart, people will begin to think–have begun to think–that the approach would work for rapists, muggers, racial attackers, and armed robbers.

It doesn’t matter whether you, or I, think this a good idea. People behave according to what they think, not to what I might think they ought to think.

The authoritarian impulse arises when legitimate government can’t or won’t maintain order. Which is beginning to look like now. In America we have attacks by Muslim terrorists while, until recently, the government did everything it can to import more Muslims. Blacks engage in open insurgency of low but increasing intensity. Under Obama, a black  federal government supported them. Much of the country is sick of open borders, but the government has supported it. As government imposes more and more restrictions on what people can think or do, on how they must live, government becomes just another enemy.

Explosiveness is low in a civil society with little crime, in which people can leave doors unlocked and do not daily see stories of outrage and violation of civilized norms. They have nothing to explode about.  They will believe in due process when a crime is committed and not favor extreme measures.

Such was white America in 1955. Whatever the defects of that time, the suburbs and small towns were calm and safe. I  know. I was there. People were not afraid or chronically angry.

Today in America everyone is angry, and perhaps the most angry are those who believe in what in all times and places has been regarded as civilization. The old  phrase “Silent Majority” applies, or approximates. This majority watches as mobs routinely storm podia and prevent politicians from speaking. They watch as rioters burn cities and loot malls, as college children out of control hold universities hostage.

Yet they cannot say so. They cannot say that looters and arsonist should be shot, that they weary of tolerating useless affirmative-action hires, or that misbehaving brats in college should be told to sit and and shut up or be expelled. Fred’s Fraction would indicate repressed anger.

An exercise for the reader: Calculate Fred’s Fraction for this recommendation: Those on Wall Street responsible for the subprime disaster should be summarily arrested and have their delicate asses immediately put, without recourse, into the general population of Leavenworth for ten years.

That sounds radical and seditious, doesn’t it? It is both. But how many are thinking it?

The anger is dangerous because it is not visible. The rigorous censorship we call “political correctness” prevents expression of ideas disliked by the ruling classes. It leads to surprises. It is why the Talking Heads were consistently, universally, and utterly wrong about Donald Trump’s chances of being elected. They continue to suffer from this cerebrocolonic congruence.

The Authoritarian Impulse flourishes in times of Weimarian social chaos, in which America has dipped a great deal more than a tentative toe.  Groups hate each other. Whites, blacks, browns, the traditionally moral, libertines, New Yorkers, Jews, Southerners. Much as Yugoslavia needed a Tito to keep the peace by force, so may the US. In 1955 the country was almost entirely white, Christian, Anglophone, and European, which provided enough commonality to permit unity-and communications and transportation were poor enough to  prevent friction between regions that would have detested each other: Massachusetts and West Virginia, New York and Alabama. The intercourse physical and philosophical made inevitable by the internet and easy transportation makes impossible the old live-and-let-live.

A happy ending is hard to imagine. Racial antagonism seems unlikely to subside, and worsens. Unemployment grows and will grow as automation advances. This is not fantasy, nor is it far in the future. The culture coarsens, imitating the ghetto.  Gun sales are way up, and there is a reason.

It could blow. Such a thing would not be pretty and the consequences would  be unpleasant. When people feel threatened, scared, or pushed beyond forbearance, their behavior becomes visceral, violent, and unthinking. If conditions grow uglier, as it appears they must, it will be chaos or a man on a horse. The Authoritarian Impulse.

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Social Justice Warriors and Bubonic Plague:Is There a Difference?

Today I will explain why America is going to hell, and probably deserves it. It has to do with conservatives and liberals, who may be thought of as Woofers and Tweeters. They should all be taken out and shot. The country would then be a much better place. Worth a try, anyway.

Some observations:

(1) Liberals posit the equality of groups that are not equal, attribute the inevitable differences of outcome to discrimination, and try to eradicate them through regulation, affirmative action, and punishment of those noticing the differences. This doesn’t work, assuring a  pretext for indignation that is non-depletable, like the liver of Prometheus.

Here we have the bedrock of American politics.

(2) Liberals believe that we should all  love one another, and hate those who don’t. This puts them in the morally invincible position of being against hatred. It also obscures the observable fact that most of us, certainly to include liberals,  dislike a great many people, and that most groups detest a lot of other groups, or will if placed in contact with them. Distance is prerequisite to love.

(3) Groups hate each other, firstly, the greater their proximity. Secondly, the more they differ from one another, and, thirdly, the more power one has over another or the greater the apparent superiority of one over the other. The result is a spectrum of hostility running from surliness to severed heads.

This explains anti-antisemitism. Jews do not assimilate: Bill O’Toole in America does not think of himself as Irish, but Rachel Cohen thinks of herself as Jewish. This is not a sin, which has nothing to do with it.  Proximity is close to a maximum since Jews are widely mixed through the population. Jews rise to positions of power, completing the triad. They can’t win.

There are those who believe that Homo sapiens came about through the mating of a Neanderthal with a pit bull. While this has not been confirmed, it fits the evidence.

(4) This brings us to the curious notion that diversity is a strength, which it obviously is not. Diversity is in fact the cause of most of the world’s troubles. If you doubt that diversity is a great evil, consider relations between:

Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka; Tutsis and Hutus in Burundi; Protestants and Catholics in Ireland; Israelis and Arabs in Palestine; blacks, whites, and browns in the United States; Anglophones and Francophones in Canada; Sunnis and Shias everywhere; Chinese and Indonesians in Indonesia; Chinese and Malays in Malaysia; Muslims and Hindus in India; blacks and whites in South Africa; Jews and everybody else everywhere; Spaniards and Basques in Spain; Spaniards and Catalans; Turks and Kurds;  to name a few.

Then consider the proportion of riots, crime, looting, arson, lynchings, racial attacks, complaints of discrimination, ill will, court cases, and legislation that would have been avoided in America over the years since 1600 had there been only one race in the country.

Thus sensible social policy should always be to keep different groups apart. Usually it is not that either of two warring groups is evil, but only that they are different. It is enough.

(5) The granularity of detestation descends well below the national and racial levels.  New Yorkers and West Virginians do not like each other, nor the urban and the rural. Massachussetans and Mississippians do not like each other, though these do not actually kill each other. (In the mid-1800s, they did.)  Those who like and those who despise President Trump hate each other. Women seem to hate men, which is why maintaining separate bars and clubs as sometimes retreats is wise.

(6) The only way to  make different groups like each other is to make them stop being different. Blacks who move in reasonable though superficial comfort among whites do so by adopting white speech, dress, and mannerisms; the Irish and Italians in America by ceasing to be Irish or Italian while keeping the names.  This suggests that good policy would be to allow, or encourage, different groups to separate from each other, or to force them to be like each other. The former approach leads to tranquility, the latter often to bloodshed. The current effort by Social Justice Warriors to make boys and girls into warped sexual interstitial amalgams produces angry, unhappy  men and women.

(7) This in turn brings us to immigration, which amounts to the importation of people so they can hate each other.

Open borders are supported by vaguely warm-hearted appeals to those who think with their glands. There are probably 500 million Indians, as many Chinese, hundreds of millions of Africans, more Muslims, and several hundred million Latin Americans who would like to emigrate to the United States. The question for Social Justice Warriors is how many of these should be admitted–none, all, or a specific figure between?

Anyone who makes noises in favor of immigration should answer this question as otherwise he will be engaging in mere moral posing. But to choose one number is to exclude another number. Not inclusive, that.

(9) The two primary political errors are liberalism and conservationism (who hate each other: See?)

Conservatives are hostile, darkly suspicious of almost everything, tribal, but not actually delusional, living in something resembling the real world but taking a dim view of it.

Liberals construct in their minds a world as they think it should be, and then try to live in it. Their goodness of their ideas is so obvious, so reasonable, so heart-warmingly right that we should have a happy multicultural society, black and white together, and brown and yellow and what have you, kum bah yah, and learn from each other, vive la difference. It doesn’t detract from the appeal of this theory that it allows those holding it to feel really good about themselves.

An example of trying to live in fantasia is the statement by Obama,Joe Biden and I know that women are as least as strong as men,” he said. “We’re stronger for it.”

Women are not as strong as or stronger than men. Perhaps they should be. We may want them to be. It might be a good thing if they were. But they are not.  If Obama believes otherwise, he is out of touch with reality–i.e., psychotic. People otherwise sane can be politically psychotic in this manner. Think of conspiracy theorists.

When it doesn’t work, the fault must lie with obstructive racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, Islamophobic, et cetera at unbearable length. We just need somehow to teach people not to act like people.

(10) Most  of Social Justice Warriorism deals more with feelings than with fact, logic, observation, or actual thought, all of which are regarded as nuisances and probably sexist. Thus there is no hope. We should all go home and slit our throats, leaving the world to bugs and things.

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Columnists

In Washington, where the rice paddies of self-importance are nourished with the night soil of mendacity, columnists are viewed with the seriousness properly reserved for lung cancer. This is ridiculous. Columnists, the rodent class of journalism, have the dignity of carney barkers and merit the social standing of bellhops. It’s a living. For most of us, barely.

A columnist’s job is to tell readers things that they already believe. His function is purely confirmatory. What he confirms may be nonsense, and often is, but this is irrelevant. There is after all everywhere a boom market in nonsense.

Liberals read liberal columnists to be told liberal things, conservatives, conservative, feminists, feminist. All want to be assured that their vacuous and pernicious delusions are the bedrock of cosmic truth. Readers of columns do not  want to learn anything. Most want to be protected from it.

Consistency is a columnist’s indispensable stock in trade. He must never tell his readers anything that they do not hold to be sacred lore. Thus an aspiring columnist is wise to choose an ideological position–it doesn’t matter which–and never, ever stray from it. Whether he believes it is not important. 

I once read of a columnist, perhaps in the Thirties, a savage conservative who eventually drew the ire of a leftish columnist on another paper, who began a campaign to have the conservative fired. The dispute became ugly with unpleasant accusations being traded. Lawsuits were threatened. Public interest became intense. Then it transpired that the two were the same man. Charged with lack of journalistic integrity, he resoponded that readers wanted to see their prejudices ventilated in lively prose. He was, he said, doing it for both sides. Stores sold more than one product. Why shouldn’t he?

In columnists, editors of newspapers value predictability, not thought. They want the writer to say the sorts of things he is expected to say. They do not want waves. They do not want to be surprised, to learn in alarm that “Smith said what? About who? Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus….” and have to put out fires and explain that Smith really meant something different from what he did say and obviously meant. They want columnists they won’t have to think about to fill accepted slots: George Will, for example, conservatism’s milkmaid, to say mild and vaguely right-leaning things to give the paper the claim of even-handedness without having a trace of it. Pat Buchanan, a hard-nosed paleoconservative but understands the rules and limits. Ellen Goodman, the female liberal. Walter Williams, the black conservative who can say things that the editors think but dare not say.

Consistency is vital because readers are easily confused.  For example, a conservative columnist is expected to say that we must spend obscene amounts on thermonuclear weapons to fend off nonexistent threatening nations seeking to destroy our freedoms and children and pollute our precious bodily fluids. His readers will say, “Ah! Just so. Smith understands reality, unlike those sissy liberals.”   If Smith then says that we must save the redwoods, the readers go into column-shock, fall prey to an unpleasant uncertainty, a sensation that something is fundamentally wrong with the world. “Huh? Red…No, this is all wrong. He is supposed to say….”                      

This reader will then stop reading Smith. Here is another rule of the column racket: One lapse from the expected can undo years of slavish conformity. An arch liberal of the most impeccable unoriginality can for years write unobjectionable boilerplate, but let her lapse once into opposition to abortion and she is done. To err is human, to forgive isn’t.

Columnists are often said to be opinion leaders, but in secret moments of honesty we know we aren’t. No. We are shameless panders. Like manufacturers of dog food we produce an expected product, of only sufficient quality that the dog does not actually die. Almost never do we change anyone’s mind.

We get letters attesting our unrivaled brilliance, felicity of language, razor-like logic, and superb grasp of the material, but the writers mean only that we agree with them. We get letters saying that we have no grasp, miss the essence of the matter, and should stop spreading our childish and malign error, by which they mean that they do not agree with us. What we almost never get is a letter, “I hadn’t thought of that. I see that you are right. Thank you for….”

A column is a charlatan’s game involving bait-and-switch, sleight-of-hand, and shoddy goods covered in shiny lacquer. The columnist works with only a few used ideas because mankind has only a few. He arouses always the same emotions for the same reason: greed, hostility, schadenfreude, self-righteousness, derision. He must package these gewgaws, often in complete dereliction of reason, under voracious deadlines, and make them seem sufficiently new and cogent that the editors won’t notice their tired antiquity.

While we have no effect on the public, the public has an effect on us. To write a column is to become an ashen-souled cynic despairing of the human species, and indeed despising it. The columnist may take to drink, and brood on the corrective virtues of thermonuclear war. (“Are there deadlines after a thermonuclear war?” he wonders.) The cause of this melancholy is his mail or, today, comments on the internet. Contemplation of these might lead to suicide, except that hell might be filled with internet commenters. He clings to life.

Commenters are the graveworms of the intellect.  Many will not have have understood what he wrote. Some seem not to have read it. He thinks that perhaps he did not express himself well, and checks. No, he was clear as gin. He is being taken to task, perhaps vilely, for something he didn’t say perhaps opposite to it. “Oh god, oh god,” he thinks. “Illiterates who can read, sort of. I need a drink.”

Next come the gas-station louts who, to judge by commenters, make up most of humanity. They are hostile, angry, churlish, don’t like anything, and usually have the intelligence one associates with microcephalic lemurs. It is nothing that could not be cured with a baseball bat, but there is usually a dearth of opportunity.

There is a reason why journalists worthy of the name–before the arrival of pantied Princtonians worried about confusingly denominated bathrooms–were ashen-souled, chain-smoking drunken cynics with the optimism of a man on death row. Exposure to the human race will do that. And does. And has. 


I have been informed by delighted readers that in last week-s post I wrote William of Orange when I meant the Conqueror. This is because I am reading books on William and Mary and simultaneously on Marlborough which has fixed such mind as I have on them. I once wrote that Potemkin was an associate of Catherine of Aragon, which must have been news to her. Anyway, I apologize for disrupting the flow of time.

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Time and the Tidewater: Thoughts and Remembrance

If the reader will permit me this once a somewhat personal and idiosyncratic essay–heretofore I have never been either personal or idiosyncratic–I will promise never to do it again. No one can doubt the reliability of my promises.

I have played in writing over the years with my birth in West Virginia and my consequent but imaginary possession of twelve toes. (Most readers will not care where I was born, and a fair few clearly wish that I hadn’t been. Well, this isn’t your day.) Anyway, I entered this world in Bluefield General Hospital, McDowell County, West Virginia, because my mother was staying with her father, a medical doctor in Crumpler, an unincorporated coal camp up the holler from North Fork, while my father was gunnery officer aboard a destroyer in the Pacific.

In fact my people are pure Cavalier stock of the Virginia Tidewater. I am Frederick Venable Reed Jr, my mother’s maiden name being Betty Venable Rivers–a cousin marriage, which some will suggest explains a lot. The Venables were prominent in the gentility of Southside Virginia.

Why is this of interest, if indeed it is? There are reasonable people today who believe that traits such as politics, way of life, occupation, talents, and intellectual bent are genetically determined. Some time ago I found an interesting study showing that families–those studied were English–maintained distinguishable traits for many generations, suggesting that these were innate. For a generation or two similarities might be explained by children copying their parents. Over many generations, it would appear otherwise.

I wondered whether this would hold for my own family. It seems so. The first mention of Venables was of Walter de Veneur at the Battle of the Ford in 960. He did nothing astonishing, but I think that just being mentioned by name would suggest membership in something similar to the upper middle class.  The name is baronial, from the town of Venables, near Evreux, in Normandy. In France, it morphed into various Latin and French forms such as le Venour, or Venator, or Venereux, becoming, after the clan came to England with William the Conqueror, Venables-Vernon. (Spelling was not an advanced science in those days.) These never sank into the lower classes nor rose to produce dukes or earls, but several barons, members of Parliament and such.  Upper middle class. Honorable mention. Respectable, but not important.

Richard Venables is recorded as having purchased land in Virginia in 1635.  The Venables became a distinguished family, of the ruling class but without doing anything to get them into textbooks. They were in the House of Burgesses. In 1776 Nathaniel Venable founded Hampden-Sydney College, which provided schooling for many of Southside’s leaders.

Venable Hall, Hampden-Sydney College

The Cavalier society of Tidewater was perhaps the high point of American civilization. The people were extraordinarily literate, steeped in the thought of the Enlightenment, imbued with a profound and kindly Christianity. From them came the Washingtons, Jeffersons, Madisons, the Lees and Custises. It is hard to imagine any modern politician, or his ghost writer, writing either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, the latter being the framework, enduring until perhaps 1960, of an entire nation. The Virginians did.

They bore little resemblance–I might almost say “no resemblance”–to the wild and barbaric Scots-Irish of Appalachia or the communal-minded, meddlesome, and brutally intolerant Puritans of New England or, really, to anyone else in America.

Theirs was a hierarchical society. A happy quality of aristocratic rule is that graft and the sordid occupations of the lower classes are viewed as humiliating, noblesse oblige being expected. Manners and morals were not optional. No perfect ordering of humanity exists, but this was about as close as it comes.

Perhaps the physical environment had something to do with it. The uncrowded expansive loveliness of Virginia’s countryside, the wonderful quiet of a lingering summer with no sound but the keening of cicadas, the stillness of winter with only the rifle-report cracking of branches breaking under the weight of ice sheaths in the surrounding forest–these engendered a tranquility undisturbed by the stench and clamor of today. It couldn’t last, and didn’t. 

We were part of a thing brief but of immense value. The literacy, the attention to language, was of one cloth with that of the English, whose  mastery has never been equaled and seldom approached. It has lasted in the family. In evenings with my grandfather at Hampden-Sydney, a parlor game was to call out three numbers–“746, 2, 7”–page 746, column 2, seventh entry of a huge dictionary on onion-skin paper–whereupon the caller-out had to spell the word, define it, pronounce it correctly, and give the etymology.

Tidewater was in the current of the English  stretching from at least Sir Philip Sydney through Lewis Carol, Milne, Galsworthy, Kipling, Tolkien, Churchill and  a hundred others. A thousand others. This virtuosity is now lost beyond redemption as American society, once determined from the top down, has come to be determined from the bottom up. Can you imagine an American politician writing—well, anything literate, but especially the equal of Churchill’s A History of the English Speaking People?

But we were speaking of the curious continuity of families. Come the war, Charles Scott Venable served on Lee’s staff, and Andrew Reid Venable on Jeb Stuart’s. This was a continuation of the aristocratic sense of duty. Their country was being invaded by alien people and they, like Lee, like Jackson, determined to defend it. Both were graduates of Hampden-Sydney, as am I, as were my father and uncle.

After the war Charles Venable was an astronomer and professor of mathematics at the University of Virginia. My grandfather processed mathematics at Hampden-Sydney and served as dean. My paternal uncle passed the bar but chose journalism, my father being a mathematician. I am whatever I am–for years I worked my way through math texts because I liked them–and my daughters are, aside from being smart, a musician and an artist. One of them popped ninety-ninth percentile in math on some standardized test and was invited to attend a math camp. A weird continuity.

The war bore little resemblance to accounts fed to an ignorant public declining both in schooling and in respect for even the idea of schooling. It is a triumph of American civilization that as the opportunity for education has expanded without limit, its practice has fallen to the level proper to peasants.

A consciousness of family was very much a part of Southside. We knew of family early on even in my generation, and in the height of Tidewater, family mattered. There are books, The Venables of Virginia, The Reids and Their Relatives, The Cabells and Their Kin (there being apparently a boom market in alliteration). People knew from whence they came, and cared.

C. S. Venable. The facial resemblance to the men in our line is strong. So is the character and cast of mind. He may not look to have spent years  in heavy combat, but he did.

Today one must be careful in calling the Cavaliers an aristocracy. The word once meant rule by the best, to the extent that it is possible by fallible human beings. It now implies snobbery, even a certain trashiness which is the opposite of what existed in Southside. It evokes the “elites” of today, who are not elite but merely rich. The Cavalier aristocracy involved more a sense of what one should be, how one in a position of responsibility should behave. It is largely gone. I am not sure that we would not profit by its return.

I do not really have twelve toes. 

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