Category Archives: Culture

Gaining the World but Losing our Souls

Poor ol’ David Duchovny

There is no arguing the fact that freedom, democracy, and human rights have made enormous advances around the world in recent decades. Technology, medicine, and science have also improved the lives of humanity in general. We live longer and more comfortably due to abundant entertainment, futuristic medical care, and food options that a king in any other century would kill for. A blue-collar family in Missouri, by most measures, lives better than Caesar. If Caesar could hop on a Harley, ride home to a Thanksgiving dinner of eating and watching football, he would no doubt do it in a second. Although, he might miss his concubines.

Even the third-world has made incredible progress. China and India, after mostly ending their socialist experiments, have pulled literally hundreds of millions of people out of the subsistence lifestyle that had limited them in previous centuries. A lot of work is left to be done to create global prosperity for all, but as Francis Fukuyama said, it looks like “the end of history.” Poverty will gradually reduce as technology and global trade allows us to use our resources more wisely and efficiently to humanity’s benefit. What could there possibly be to complain about?

Well, now that many in the developed-world have their basic needs met, and it looks as if the rest of the world is quickly catching up, what now? We’ve been fighting nature just to stay alive since our species came into existence, but if that struggle is destined to ease dramatically, what is this life we’ve been struggling to keep really all about?

The human experience used to revolve around being part of a family, which was part of a greater community, that participated in a local culture, that was informed by a greater worldview or religion. Family, Community, Culture, and Faith were the glue that held us together, and what mostly defined our identity, but each are being challenged, changed, or just discarded for this new life.
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Are Dogs Just Furry People?

No, they aren’t. Sorry to break your hearts, but they are, as far as I’m aware, just animals. Now, we can love animals, invite them into our homes, and treat them with affection, but they remain animals. I felt compelled to set the record straight due to some creepy trends.

A recent study showed that 83% of pet owners call themselves, “mommy” or “daddy” when speaking with their pets. Yeah, they speak to their pets. I guess dogs can recognize many words, so maybe that’s not crazy. But giving birth to a canine would be. Also, in the study was that 70% of pet-owners sign their pets’ names on greeting cards, and 78% give their pets “several gifts a year.”

I think I realized that it was I who was out of the mainstream, not pet-mommies and daddies, when my college roommate’s girlfriend (now wife) told us she was late because her family had to take their dog to get surgery. When she described how expensive it would be (over 5-figures), I couldn’t help but asking a few questions. “Dogs can get surgery!?” “Why would your parents spend that much money on that?” “Why didn’t you just get a new dog?” The questions seemed logical to me, but after the glare I got, I could tell they struck a nerve. I decided to shut-up because I wanted to stay friends with her, but my opinion of doggie surgery hasn’t really changed much.

It boggles my mind that people justify spending so much money on animals by buying them gifts and giving them top-notch medical care? One woman recently gave her entire $13 million inheritance to her cat. And a young man has spent over $60,000 trying to get a dog back after his girlfriend left him and took it with her to the West Coast. The most telling quote from this story, which you can watch by clicking the name below is, “Knuckles is my son. And I don’t mean to come off like he’s more important than an actual human child, but to me he is.”

Knuckles

Picture of the $60,000 puggle named Knuckles

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Racist Until Proven Innocent

Possibly the most frustrating part of being a conservative or Republican in modern America, is the fact that the media and popular culture at large assume a racist motivation for much of what you say or do. It doesn’t matter the subject, whether it’s the War on Terror, immigration, the “social safety net,” the need to show photo ID to vote, or even Obama’s health-care law, many will begin with the assumption of a racial motivation when trying to understand your positions on these issues.

Do not bother pointing out the fact that it was in fact the Democrats and the Progressives, from the days of slavery all the way up to the 1970′s, that were the overt racists. Apparently though, all that history was dumped right on the conservatives laps in a political version of hot-potato. “Oh, you guys were racist last!” This is because some racists left the Democratic Party after the Civil Rights-era was over and joined the other side.

Republicans were considered more “traditional” at the national-level and got the Southern presidential votes. At the local-level though, Democrats retained their Southern power. In 2010, my state of North Carolina actually just achieved their first Republican majority in both houses of the state General Assembly since 1870. So, most of the local boys have stayed Democrat (despite voting Republican for President) while racism has gradually become less and less acceptable for all parties.

To complicate the who-is-more-racist game though, many other national Democratic figures stayed in the party. Al Gore, Sr. and Sen. Robert Byrd filibustered until they were blue in the face to prevent civil rights for blacks, but remained Democrats in good standing until the day they died. Bill Clinton even tried to do a little re-writing of history at Sen. Byrd’s funeral. Byrd held a high-rank in the Klan and was a prominent figure in the segregationist movement, but the Democrats just pass it off as a youthful indiscretion (despite his being in his mid-40′s at the time). The main point is, neither party was willing to embrace the old South’s segregationist platform, so the supporters fractured, the message was rejected, and no serious politician I’ve ever heard of has repeated these goals.

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A Critical Theory on Critical Theories

I know. That is an incredibly dry title but I promise you one paragraph from now you will be in the midst of a bitter love triangle and your attention will be captured.

Did you ever wonder how, after the West won the Cold War, and it was clear to the whole world that the Free Market provided a much better standard of living for people, as well as more freedom, that hip young Westerners have gradually grown to see us as the bad guys and people like Che and Mao as misunderstood heroes? Maybe a little story would help illustrate what has occurred.

Imagine if you will, a guy, we’ll call him Mark Sizm, who really likes a certain girl, we’ll call her Prola Tariat, but Prola wants nothing to do with Mark and instead is going steady with a certain Freemar Kit. Mark follows them around and makes advances towards Prola, but she just looks at him skeptically and says, “No, I’m happy with Freemar. He provides me nice things, and let’s me live pretty much how I like. Anyways, didn’t you used to date my friend Cindy? She said you were super-controlling and … didn’t you like, kill her whole family too?”

Mark continues his advances for awhile, but soon realizes it is hopeless. He can’t compete. She really likes Freemar and Mark has kind of a bad reputation. He needs another plan. What if he just followed them to all their dates and was critical of everything about Freemar? Eventually, she would probably come to hate ol’ Freemar and might warm-up to him.

During a movie one night Mark said, “Prola, did you know that Freemar’s great-great-grandfather stole this land from a Native American family?” Another day while they were grilling in the backyard he added, “Also, his great-grandfather made slaves build them this nice house on the land.” Later when they were sitting at a nice restaurant, “Oh, and his grandpa made his grandma have a bunch of kids and go to church every week!”

Freemar starting to get annoyed finally spoke-up, “Shut up, bro! Didn’t you massacre over 100 million people and collapse their economies, while taking away basic freedoms and stuff?” (Every metaphor has to break-down at some point.) Mark moved in for the kill, “How dare you try to judge other’s actions?! How can you claim the moral high-ground with a bloody, oppressive history like your family has?” Freemar, not having a PHD like Mark, felt a little out-gunned intellectually, and decided not to confront him again.

Years later, after Mark’s continued criticism, Prola looked at Freemar and realizing she no longer loved him, said finally, “You … disgust me.” and left in Mark’s Volvo. She is now flirting a little bit with Mark Sizm, but hasn’t necessarily decided to make the switch yet.

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Islam and the Marketplace of Ideas

People love the idea of a market. We love to go out and choose the items we need or desire, and freely buy them from those we believe provide the best product at the best terms. We love this freedom so much that, at least in the West, we even sometimes view our search for meaning in life through this prism. Finding a worldview is at some level an economic decision which involves competing worldviews in the marketplace of ideas.

For this to work properly, the metaphorical marketplace has to allow for those with competing worldviews and ideas to organize and package their ideas in attractive ways and to “sell” us on them without intimidation, force, or favoritism. Every idea has to be taken on its merits and the consumer must be able to judge whether this is in fact the best item on the market.

An old chain-store has just opened up a franchise in the West, though. It is used to a monopoly and does not seem open to changing the prior terms they have enjoyed for so long elsewhere. For this reason, this shop’s rules of operation may not quite fit in with the others in our market.

The other stores are allowing shoppers to enter, pick up their Lutheranism, atheist materialism, Mormonism, nihilistic hedonism or whatever else they are peddling, and choose to buy-into it at their own discretion. If they want to return this product later, “No problem, but we do hope you’ll return.”

Islam on the other hand, has some strict rules in place. First of all, others cannot criticize their product. Pick up the paper on an average day and you will find a number of stories showing the traditional attitude of the Muslim world to receiving criticism. Higher-profile examples, like the threat of a burnt Koran or a cartoon of their founding CEO, have left the marketplace riddled with corpses, but other smaller examples get virtually ignored daily.

Criticism of their product, known as blasphemy, was strictly forbidden by their founder and to this day it is not accepted. Examples from just this week of this are the arrest of a female Christian in Pakistan for this crime, where it carries the death penalty, and the unanimous vote by the Kuwaiti parliament to impose this same penalty for blasphemy in their country. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, and (soon) many of the newly-Islamized Arab Spring countries as well, have this anti-market principle as their rule on the street.

Imagine if Coca-Cola had this policy. If Pepsi or Dr Pepper dare say their drinks taste better, they must be killed. That’s no way to run a marketing campaign, at least if you want to be seen as a respectable company.

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In Defense of Chastity

No, I do not mean Chastity the stripper at your local club for “gentlemen,” but that is sort of what I want to talk to you about. Chastity is defined by Merriam-Webster as “purity in conduct and intention” with regards to sexual behavior. I know, this is a ridiculously outdated concept. There was a sexual revolution at some point in the 60’s, which means to look back to such concepts would mean revisiting some creepy 1950′s sitcom. Maybe one day we’ll make even more progress, to get rid of the concept of gender altogether or something, but it sure won’t be to go back to anything we used to do.

What these progress fundamentalists don’t consider though, is that history isn’t just a linear progression from old and bad towards new and good. There have been many periods in history where various ideas (including sexual liberation) have been tried out, found lacking, and then old ideas have been retrieved. I’m going to suggest that maybe we should take a look at the effects of tossing aside sexual restraint and wonder to ourselves whether progress really is the right word for what we see.

 

That’s Queen Victoria, in case you’ve never been introduced

Your average town or city across the country will invariably have a series of drinking establishments for the hard-working public to kick back and relax after a long week. After visiting many-a-bar over the years, more recently I’ve found myself troubled by what I observed by the end the night. Not that I expected to see Victorian gentleman with “purity in conduct and intention” and modest women guarding their honor, but it’s getting crazy out there folks.

A couple years ago in Mobile, Alabama, I was a new-in-town graduate student looking to mingle and make some friends. Two girls who I had briefly met at the school were kind enough to invite me out for a drink. Innocent enough. We met and went downtown to a bar to socialize. At one point, three Coastguard guys came and sat next to us, recognizing these girls from a wedding the day before. “Great.” I thought, “More nice local people to befriend.”

I wasn’t interested in either of these girls romantically but I started getting a little offended on their behalf at the sailor dudes’ comments. The biggest one leaned over to the one sitting next to me and said, “Stand up and let me see that nice butt of yours.” or something to that effect. To my dismay, she stood up and showed him. Then he started to comment on her breasts and she just started giggling. I looked at him, and as nicely as I could said, “Come on now, be a gentleman.”

At this he jumped out of his seat, threw his mostly full beer on the ground, and yelled across the bar, “What are you, gay!?” It was like a scene from the animal kingdom, when one male interrupts the other’s mating ritual.

A little shocked at the turn of events, but wanting to save face in front of a bar full of strangers who had recently turned their heads towards the comotion, I stood up at my full 6’6” and 210, and said the first thing that came to mind, not that I understand at all what it meant. “What…if I wasn’t?” He huffed and puffed and repeated my odd question loudly, then muttered it to himself a few times. He started looking very confused, and to my surprise, he just sat down. Even more surprisingly, we just continued talking like nothing had happened.

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Tale of Two Shootings

About a month ago two tragedies occurred in a single Florida town on the same night. The two incidents may have seemed unrelated and very different in detail from one another but were actually closely connected.

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The first one involves a young child, pictured above. He was visiting his dad in another town for a few days in a neighborhood he wasn’t familiar with. One night he decided to take a walk through the neighborhood to get some Skittles and an iced tea at the store down the street. On his way home, a white resident who ran the local neighborhood watch, took notice of him walking. The child was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, which, likely in combination with the fact that he was a young black male, caused this man to profile him as a potential problem for the gated community.

Paranoid about crime in his neighborhood, he called the police, like he had done many times before (often over very minor incidents). When the dispatchers told him to leave the kid alone, he ignored them and kept his pursuit. The child noticed him and becoming scared of the stranger, ran off. In his frustration at losing sight of the child, the man showed the prejudice in his heart by uttering racial epithets under his breath, overheard later on the 911 tapes.

Shortly after, and it is not clear exactly how, these two crossed paths again. At this point, the man initiated a physical altercation with the boy and then, despite his superior size, resorted to shooting this child in cold blood. The young boy was found dead when the police arrived. He was unarmed and had only a bag of Skittles.

Despite this, the local police let the man walk free after listening to his self-defense argument. Protests sprung up around the country demanding justice be done. Old racial wounds were opened again, bringing back memories of times when whites could commit violent crimes against blacks and not be held accountable. Many were forced to confront the fact that these times likely never left us.

What many did not talk about however, was another shooting in the same town on the same night. In this death, another young black male was killed by an older shooter. The 17 year old victim was a 6’2” high school football player who was in town visiting his dad. A few days earlier, the teen’s school had suspended him for graffiti and after finding marijuana paraphernalia in his bag, along with women’s jewelry and a flathead screwdriver they suspected were evidence of burglary.

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Entertain Us!

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The traditionally-minded people of this country want some entertainment and are willing to pay for it. A report by the website Movieguide found that movies with traditional themes, involving Christian, patriotic, moral, and capitalist messages, outperformed ones with more liberal messages by 6-to-1. In a marketplace, where the customer is always right, you would think supply would increase to meet this demand. This doesn’t seem to be the case though. Entertainment options look like they will continue to be overwhelmingly targeted towards the more secular folk.

In fact, if you perused the popular culture, you might assume that this country was made up of teenagers whose parents were out of town for the weekend, and would find very little evidence of this large Christian demographic. From the popular tv shows it might appear as if one of our nation’s favorite past-times was watching somebody’s face hit the concrete and then rewinding it to see it again in slow-mo.

One man who has made a killing at this gig is Daniel Tosh. He has a own show on Comedy Central, Tosh.0, that simply finds painful and embarrassing videos of human beings at their most degraded moments, and then adds further degradation with mildly witty commentary. “Oooo, that must have hurt.” It’s America’s Funniest Home Videos if every video was the one where the kid hits his dad in the nuts with a baseball bat.

Just to illustrate the extent that this type of humor will go, look at Mr. Tosh’s standup routine. In one bit, he makes a whole audience roll in laughter mocking a Christian boy that was decapitated (a real life tragedy in Atlanta) by a girl’s leg as she was going by on a rollercoaster. He had gone to retrieve his hat after the ride, and went beyond the safety-fence. The girl who collided with him shattered her leg in nine places and had to have a cast for over a year. It was a true story, and a heartbreaking one, but to Tosh he thought it was simply hilarious.

Here are a couple of his super-funny highlights, “And I know he was in a church youth group, and they don’t believe in evolution, but that kid was getting picked off sooner or later!” Hahahaha And now he turns his attention to the girl, who has to live the rest of her life with accidentally killing this poor kid. He is equally as pleased with her situation. “I don’t know if you’ve ever worn a cast or not, but everybody and their mother will come up to you, ‘How’d ya break your leg?’” Pause for more uproarious laughter. “She’ll get to say, ‘I fu**ing punted a guy’s head 90 yards.”

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Academia Nuts

 Would this man (Dr. Julian Savulescu) strangle a baby? …maybe

Recently, a series of prominent ethicists have put forth increasingly outlandish, dangerous, and decidedly “unethical” proposals about how we should approach various moral quandaries. With their current understanding of right and wrong, they are struggling to find any ethical problems with post-birth abortion (yes, you read that right, formerly known as infanticide), “euthanizing” the mentally ill, people with disabilities, and certain elderly, condoning polygamy, bestiality (as long as the animal consents, I’m assuming with a grunt of some sort), and, what party is complete without…CANNIBALISM.

Now you’d think that with views like that you would qualify for some ethicists “Kill the Insane Program” and would never be seen from again, but as it turns out, it may just land you a prestigious professorial gig at Princeton, Oxford, or another fine institution.

When those wigged and tighted founders of this country looked for an ethical foundation for our constitution, they started with a simple premise; that it was “self-evident” that all people were created equal by a being that endowed them with basic dignity and rights. To believe this you would have to hold a few basic principles in common with them, or else, apparently it may not be so self-evident. First, you’d have to believe, as even the Deist founders did, that such a being existed. Second, you would have to believe that this Creator held humans in some esteem, even the disabled and infant ones, and wanted us to ensure they had some pretty basic rights. The first right that the Founders mentioned was life; meaning we can’t just kill the inconvenient among us.

Without this foundation, it’s hard to really approach ethics in ways that truly respect human life as being beyond just a smart animal. If our intelligence is the only thing that endows us with dignity, it would make complete sense that we should treat the less intelligent among us with less dignity. Enough from me though, let’s hear it from the learned professors themselves.

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Rise of the Godless Right

You may have noticed brash entertainment acts like Howard Stern, South Park, Penn and Teller, and Adam Corolla (pictured above), and were confused when on a host of issues… they agreed with you. You may also have noticed a loud group of energized and trendy college kids yelling things about liberty and Ron Paul over the past few years. If you’re a traditional faith, flag, and family conservative, this has likely left you scratching your head.

Isn’t the in-your-face, juvenile humor supposed to emanate from the left? Aren’t young students loudly demanding revolutionary change also a force of the left? Well the times they are a changin’, and there are new rebels on the scene.

From its very founding, America has a great history of cultural rebellion. The left continued this tradition in the 1960’s, finding new things to rebel against. Their greatest legacy was fighting for full-equality for African-Americans, women, and other minorities. These were unquestionably noble battles to wage, but it didn’t end there. It seems we have been in a constant state of rebellion ever since. The traditional family structure, capitalism, organized religion, patriotism, and even basic sexual mores are all now on the chopping block.

The resulting nihilism has left America’s cultural landscape a chaotic realm for the youthful rebel. Does he join one of these revolutions and storm the Bastille of faith, family, or flag, or does he rebel against parts or all of the rebellion? Increasingly, youth are choosing the latter. As Peter Kreeft stated, “In an age that has jettisoned all of its tradition, the only rebellion possible is orthodoxy.”

There are many examples of this trend, but most interesting to me are two sons of liberal LA culture, Adam Carolla and Andrew Breitbart. Seeing liberalism lived out to its logical ends inspired both to abandon the worldview they were raised in, in the same way college students raised in conservative Christians households are known to do.

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