Trash Culture, Part 1

. . .whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8 NASB

It is an irony that one of the stupidest shows on television is carried on The Learning Channel. This show is so stupid that it is now used as an argument by supporters of public broadcasting against the libertarian argument that the free market provides alternatives every bit on par with what you can see on PBS. This argument carries much weight as the History Channel is now flooded with conspiracy theory shows, UFO abductions, and pawnbrokers. Meanwhile, Discovery Channel gives us various people living in the wild surviving on insects and animal dung. Suddenly, a few tax dollars for Sesame Street doesn't seem so bad.

The libertarian argument against public broadcasting isn't so much a condemnation of government waste but an assault on what we can only call "cultural elitism." Advocates of public broadcasting shy away from this argument because they don't want to appear as cultural and intellectual snobs. But it is their best argument. Public dollars give us Masterpiece Theater and Nova. The free market gives us Honey Boo Boo.

The libertarian responds to this argument with a "so what?" Who do we think we are in trying to elevate a culture? At this point, even conservatives part company with libertarians because conservatives believe culture is important and is the glue that holds a society together. A debased culture leads to a debased people and vice versa. As such, the government has a compelling interest in promoting cultural values. The only debate between progressives and conservatives is over what those values should be.

The reason a show like Honey Boo Boo is picked over more elevated fare is obvious. The show is a ratings winner. The cost of production is low. And the viewers feel smarter after having watched it even if they aren't smarter in actuality. This brings us to the conundrum that every entrepreneur faces. Should we give people what they want? Or should we make people want what we have to give?

It is always easier to give the people what they want. This was the situation in Elizabethan times when Shakespeare was writing his plays and going through all that trouble to stage them. Shakes had some competition from guys like Marlowe and Jonson. But his primary competition came from the bear baiting down the street. Why produce plays when you can chain a bear to a stake and sic wild dogs on it for the delight of the crowd?

The vulgar masses always prefer the visceral and the comical over the true, the good, and the beautiful. The result is a trash culture that exalts the false, the bad, and the ugly. Many who believe in the true, the good, and the beautiful decry this tragedy, and they assert their standards and remedies. The misfortune of these people is that they usually take one element of this formula and stretch it into a distortion that is to the detriment of the other two.

People who believe in the true tend to embrace science as having all the answers. The result is that they end up subordinating good and beautiful things to purely utilitarian and economic ends. This would be the father who supports his son's desire to become a doctor but pisses on his aspirations to play piano. People who believe in the good over everything else are the ones who give us the Christian bookstore in the mall selling figurines and other trite items from their Christian ghetto. And those who exalt the beautiful over everything else usually end up starving as they try and scam NEA grants to create art out of their own excrement.

The true, the good, and the beautiful come together. It is a package deal. Eliminate one of these from your worldview, and you don't keep what remains. You lose that as well. The postmodern nihilist does not believe in the good or the true, so he or she chooses to shock. The Christian ghetto artist believes in the good but not the beautiful or the true, so an instrument of torture and death is packaged with stuffed animals. And our beloved geeks make the world work, but they can't understand why people want simple and elegant computers.

The would be savior in all of this confusion and mess is the critic. The true, the good, and the beautiful does not reduce to a simple formula. If it did, our utilitarian minded peers would mass produce it for massive profits. Understanding what is true, good, and beautiful takes knowledge and skill. Naturally, everyone hates the critic, but the critic is the only thing we have against the rudderless chaos of the vulgar masses. Not all critics are good, true, and beautiful in their criticism. Sometimes, they are flat wrong. But we depend on the critics to determine our canons, to preserve our past, and to point out where the present gets it right. This process is not always pretty or pleasant, but it will always be necessary. Critics are the guardians of transcendant values in the culture.

The problem with the present culture and with current criticism is that a belief in transcendant values is withering thanks to deconstructionism, postmodernism, and a secular worldview that diminishes the value in anything beyond that which can make money. Art is now entertainment. Films are now eye candy with zero plot and minimal dialogue. A bestselling novel is pornography that would have been sold in a brown wrapper a generation ago. That same author even put together a classical music album under his Fifty Shades brand.

I should not sound like an alarmist or a prude here because it has always been this way. The Romans had their brothels and their Circus Maximus. Trash culture has endured as long as civilization. But it survives in much the way a barnacle clings to a ship. It is along for the ride, but it does not keep the ship afloat. It merely slows it down.

Whatever is true, good, or beautiful needs to be produced, promoted, and defended. To do this, you actually have to believe in the true, the good, and the beautiful. Unfortunately, this belief is now accorded as much respect as the believers who attend charismatic snake handling churches. This is the potent argument that libertarians wield when it comes to defunding public broadcasting, museums, and the like. In a relativistic world, how is the Guggenheim any better than South of the Border? And why is Masterpiece Theater superior to Honey Boo Boo? Since the cultural elites sawed off their own legs on this, there is nothing they can say. At the end of the day, anybody can shit in a can and call it art. You don't need a subsidy for it.

Belief in the true, the good, and the beautiful is a religious belief. You can dismiss this as silly and unsophisticated, but those silly and unsophisticated people are the only bastions we have left for the true, the good, and the beautiful. Museums are filled with garbage. Universities tell us words have no meaning. Libraries are merely centers for people to hack the firewall to download internet porn as books go unread. Music is just so much noise. Educational television gives us reality programs about stupid people. Science is less about truth than about money. Who is left to promote and defend the true, the good, and the beautiful?

Happy Thanksgiving!

O God, source and giver of all things,
You manifest your infinite majesty, power and goodness
In the earth about us:
We give you honor and glory.
For the sun and the rain,
For the manifold fruits of our fields:
For the increase of our herds and flocks,
We thank you.
For the enrichment of our souls with divine grace,
We are grateful.

Supreme Lord of the harvest,
Graciously accept us and the fruits of our toil,
In union with Jesus, your Son,
As atonement for our sins,
For the growth of your Church,
For peace and love in our homes,
And for salvation for all.
We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Q & A

Q: Are you turning your blog into a Catholic blog?

A: Nope.

My interests right now are with Catholicism, so this is what I write about now. At some point, my interests will go in a new direction, and I will write about that. But I've been doing this gig for some years now, and I have never not ever pigeonholed myself into blogging exclusively about a subject. The downside of this approach is that I have probably forfeited an opportunity to build a following such as what Leo Babauta has done with Zen Habits or Seth Godin with his blog about marketing. The upside is that I never run out of material.

Becoming a Catholic has been a seismic shift in my thinking because it affects my viewpoints on a variety of things both political and economic. Plus, my wife is always stimulating my thinking and making me look at things I never considered before. I would write more, but I am trying to process it all.

I have given some consideration to starting another blog about things I find true, good, and beautiful, but I tend to be overly ambitious and fail to complete these projects. Right now, keeping this project going while I tend to my reading takes all my resources, so I think I will take a more modest approach to my projects.

I'm sorry that this blog has become what it is currently, but 2012 has been a momentous year for me. At some point, I will settle into a boring routine again, but I am having too much fun at this time. All I can tell you is to stay tuned.

[SOC] Blog Overhaul, David Petraeus, Moral Leadership, Abortion, Gay Marriage, Civilization

I have only had one cup of coffee, and this makes this post a one cupper. You, Gentle Reader, deserve better than a one cupper. Pardon me, while I make a fresh pot. It will be worth the patience on your part. I guarantee it.

One of the things on my mind lately is the need to overhaul my blog here. My life has changed dramatically in 2012, but the C-blog does not reflect those changes. So, you may see some changes here, but I don't think they will be revolutionary or anything. If anything, they will be a simplification of what is on tap here. I have a terrible habit of beginning ambitious writing projects and not completing them. This is usually because my thinking changes on me in midstream. I need to temper my ambitions.

More and more, I see the problems in our world as moral problems. When you think in terms of politics and economics, you see problems as failures of policy, and you see solutions as being better policies over inferior policies. But the problem in any system is the moral value within those people. Morality begins with good leaders.

The recent scandal with David Petraeus highlights what I am getting at. I was listening to NPR discuss the story when they asked a simple but staggering question. Is it reasonable to expect a four star general to be faithful to his wife? I was stunned by the question. I took it as a sure sign of moral decline when a mainstream outlet such as this ponders whether fidelity is now an extreme expectation. The NPR story went on to explore what it is like for people in uniform to serve while also remaining faithful to their vows.

I asked other people in my workplace the same question NPR asked, and the response was virtually the same. What a man does in his private life is nobody's business even if that man is a leader or even President of the United States. I turned the table on those people by asking if the same rule should apply to a wife beater. Suddenly, they all become apoplectic when that debate grenade gets tossed into the room.

I don't want to ride all over David Petraeus since he actually seems like a decent and honorable man all things considered. Unlike Bill Clinton, the man had the decency to resign his post. Plus, there may be other issues involved if we are to believe the conspiracy theories out there. But the guy had a moral lapse, and he bowed out.

I think true authority comes from a moral sensibility and a core of decency. This is why what David Petraeus did matters. This is why you should never elect a guy like Newt Gingrich. Essentially, if you are a failure in your personal affairs, you will be the same in your public capacities. Adulterers don't make good leaders.

When a leader lacks moral authority, his only recourse is to resort to fear and tyranny. He has to make threats and carry them out. But this way of doing things feeds on itself, and the immoral leader always destroys himself in the long run.

I have only had one good boss in my entire working career. His name was Brett, and he was the guy I worked for while I was in Florida back in the 90's. That guy was awesome. He had a charisma about him that you made you work harder and do more for the guy. When you failed, you felt guilt and remorse because you let the guy down. I wasn't the only one that felt this way. We all felt this way. He was a good boss, and it showed in his numbers and the respect he generated. Naturally, he was hated by all his fellow managers and even his own boss. Catholics know this phenomenon as the "sign of contradiction." You know you are doing good when all the bad people hate your guts.

I have never had a good boss since Brett. I have worked for liars, drunks, and even a thief. Every one of them was slime, and I had no respect for any of them. The only thing that makes me anything like a good employee now is the residue of working for my old boss. I also learned from my own time as a supervisor that if you want good people then you need to be a good leader which means being a good person.

I see this nation as being in moral decline. Abortion is still going on as strong as ever, and it doesn't matter if you change the law. With abortion inducing drugs and the black market, it won't end with a reversal of Roe v. Wade. Then, there is gay marriage. I was very accepting of those things as a libertarian. But I find myself turning into Rick Santorum since my turn to Catholicism. I don't agree with many things Santorum espoused during his campaign, but I think he was right on the abortion and gay marriage issues.

Like it or not, government promotes morality. When they tell you not to murder, that is morality. When they tell you not to drink and drive, that is morality. When they tell you not to smoke dope, that is morality. But is government the source of morality? If it is, we are doomed. Governments are often very immoral. So, morality must flow from somewhere else.

Abortion has been practiced for thousands of years along with infanticide. Abortion was common in the Roman Empire, and the Didache, a Christian document from the early church, states, "Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born." By the second century, laws against abortion had found their way into the pagan code of laws almost certainly as a result of Christian influence. That is being salt and light.

Abortion is evil. It has always been evil, and it always will be evil. The sad thing is that many Catholics look the other way on this. The Church has never changed or wavered on this issue. But the sad thing is that many Catholics choose to disregard what the Church teaches on this matter. This includes priests and bishops especially here in the United States.

The other issue which is not as evil but is very serious is the issue of gay marriage. My libertarian viewpoint was "meh." I didn't care. I even thought gay marriage was stupid not because of the gay part but because of the marriage part. If marriage is so disastrous for straight people, how can it be great for gays? But getting married and going to Mass has an influence.

My conscience has become sharper, and I regret many of my past positions. I heartily repent of all of them. There is no good without God. I know this now. Without God and His people, this world would be indistinguishable from Hell. The picture of this is readily seen in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from the Book of Genesis in chapter 19. The city is visited by two angels, and the city wishes to gang rape them in the streets.

This is the sort of thing that happens in prisons. Prisons aren't bad because of the guards. They are bad because of the people inside. Prison rape is well known. We can imagine what it would be like if that evil extended beyond those walls into the larger society. This is what happened with Sodom and Gomorrah.

I am no theologian, and I always hesitate to say what I think about these things for fear of being in error. But I find that God's judgment and punishment is really a form of self-infliction. God simply removes His grace and lets you drown in your own evil. Our prisons today are very humane relative to the tortures of centuries past inflicted by authorities. But they are dreaded as much now as then because the prisoners themselves are their own punishment. I still think God punishes the wicked with His judgment, but He lets them get ripe first.

America is getting ripe. I can see it, and I can feel it. But if the Roman Empire could turn Christian, I think there is always hope even for a country like this. But I can tell you one thing. That repentance will never come from a secular source. It will be Christian. The atheist Steven Pinker can theorize as to why humanity became more humane and try and give credit to governments. But the real source of this humanizing influence was the Catholic Church. The more I read and study on these things, I find this conclusion inescapable. Kenneth Clark found this conclusion inescapable as well when he did the documentary Civilisation, and he converted to Catholicism.

I am reminded of the cup the people used in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Here it is:

It was a humble cup relative to the magnificent ones meant to throw people off. As Indy remarks, it looked like the "cup of a carpenter." Indy chose well as the Grail became salvation for him and his father. The thing I always thought was neat about the cup they used was that it was gold on the inside. It reminded me of the verse about treasure carried in a vessel of clay.

The gold seems to have come from the contact with the blood of Christ. It is just a movie prop, but the image comes to my mind again and again when I think about the Church and Christian civilization. The Catholic Church is a flawed institution with flawed men as its leaders. This should come as no surprise when you look at the 12 apostles Christ chose. The reality is that all of these great things that are done are not the result of mere human ingenuity and greatness. They are the product of the presence of Christ.

This combination of the flawed human and the perfect divine is what makes the Church what it is. It is also what makes a good nation. Christianity acts as a preservative to a society that could collapse utterly and completely in just a generation. America did not become great because it was free. It became great because it was free to be good. That is the purpose of freedom. It is to give us the opportunity to do good things. Freedom is not an end in itself. That is a libertarian notion. Freedom is the means to the greater ends of being happy and being good.

I will stop here.

[SOC] Biltmore Trip, Objective Standards of Beauty, Nihilism, All Things Noir

I am back from a trip with my wife to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. We went to see two things. The first was to attend mass at the St. Lawrence Basilica in Asheville, NC. We did this Saturday night, and we did a tour of the church after the mass. The church was designed by one of the architects of the Biltmore, Rafael Guastavino, who is entombed in the Basilica.

The Basilica was very moving. It is a beautiful building, but you can tell that it was constructed out of love. There is a touch of the divine in the design and the construction. It is hard not to be there and not feel moved.
The Biltmore Estate was a very different experience. As my wife put it, "You want to feel something here, but you can't." The reason you can't feel the same things at the Biltmore is because it may be impressive aesthetically it lacks any sense of the divine presence of Christ that you feel in the basilica. This lead to a discussion about personal indulgence.

The Biltmore is essentially a palace for self-centered hedonism. George Vanderbilt completed the estate in 1895, and the upkeep of the place depleted much of his inheritance. It is a product of the Gilded Age.

George Vanderbilt was a man of great taste and little else. He accomplished nothing except to build a tourist attraction to his own gratification. I can enjoy the home and gardens, but I marvel at how anyone could spend so much on himself and his family. Even today's billionaires do not build monuments like this, and their wealth eclipses anything Vanderbilt possessed.

So, I spent my weekend in a church and a gaudy American palace. The only place I want to revisit is the church. As for the Biltmore, the most beautiful part was outside the house in the gardens and the trees. The takeaway is that true beauty is found in God's house.

The thing I have been turning over in my head has to do with the concept of beauty. Atheists will tell you that evolution is what has produced our aesthetic sensibility. Catholics would disagree. The Catholics would tell you that our concepts of beauty are influenced by God. The true, the good, and the beautiful are inherently tied to God and cannot exist apart from Him. They are essentially facets of His greatness.

Nihilism is a rejection of the true, the good, and the beautiful. Nihilism maintains that there are no objective standards of truth, goodness, and beauty. This rejection is embodied in nihilistic art which is chaotic, disordered, repugnant, vile, and shocking.

I imagine Hell as being utter nihilism. The irony of nihilism is that it still reflects the Divine if only in a Bizarro Superman way. 

Bizarro is simply a disordered reflection of Superman. Similarly, nihilism is a disordered reflection of the true, the good, and the beautiful. Nihilists attempt to deny God but only as a means of negation. Bizarro is what happens as one moves away from God, but we can never really get there. The only way to negate God entirely is to cease existence.

The reason the Biltmore is a step down from the church is because it was a step down from the glory of God to the glory of humanity. All of our endeavors are like this. We either reflect God, or we merely turn and reflect ourselves. We are either becoming saints or becoming monsters.

My own writing has been of the nihilistic variety. My fictional alter ego, Charles Noir, is pure nihilism in writing. The purpose of every story I ever wrote under that name was to disturb and nauseate the reader with a nightmare world of nihilistic horror. True horror is a world without God.

People don't see or recognize the godlessness in the culture all around them. I see it constantly. Everything from the nauseating to the banal is a rejection of God. I also see my hand in producing some of that garbage. It is my personal belief that God allowed me to sojourn in the palace of atheistic nihilism for a season to drink my fill of that filth, so I could turn away from it now much as St. Paul or St. Augustine turned from their errors but were made stronger in the process. God wastes nothing, and my decade of decadence will be turned to good.

The only thing nihilism can do is shock. This is all it can do. An artist will craft something ugly such as submerging a crucifix in urine or fashioning something disgusting from human excrement. The shock is a blow to our sensibilities. In time, those sensibilities are deadened. This is the extinguishing of the divine within us. People lose their consciences, their sense of beauty, and their ability to discern what is true from false. This is what sin is. It is the corruption of the good things within us. It is the tragedy of the Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

It doesn't take much to see that the Gollum and Bizarro are essentially the same character. The Gollum is every single one of us to a lesser or greater degree. The Gollum is what we all are under the corruption of sin. This corruption extends to all things as we become monsters in our lives and vocations.

Atheists wonder how I could turn back to God, but it should be obvious. I don't want the nightmare anymore. I could only see dimly then what I see clearly now, but the world is a very ugly place when you get rid of God. So, atheists try to sneak God back in such as in Alain de Botton's recent work, Religion for Atheists. It may surprise many of my readers, but I know atheists who attend church weekly. I could never understand this considering it akin to a E.coli food poisoning survivor going to Jack in the Box. But the hunger and desire for God remains no matter what. Every atheist is like this. Even Richard Dawkins pulls the same trick as he attempts to blow the dust off of pantheism and bring it back as "sexed up atheism." What a silly fool.

I have to go to bed now, so I can wake up and return to the grind. I will write more on this in the future. Stay tuned. . .

The Morality of Minimalism

There’s no way that Michael Jackson or whoever Jackson should have a million thousand droople billion dollars and then there’s people starving. There’s no way! There’s no way that these people should own planes and there people don’t have houses. Apartments. Shacks. Drawers. Pants! I know you’re rich. I know you got 40 billion dollars, but can you just keep it to one house? You only need ONE house. And if you only got two kids, can you just keep it to two rooms? I mean why have 52 rooms and you know there’s somebody with no room?! It just don’t make sense to me. It don’t.

It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards “having” rather than being.
POPE JOHN PAUL II in Centesimus Annus

I recently had a conversation with a believer in the prosperity gospel. For those who don't know, the prosperity gospel is a materialist theology preached by the likes of people like Joel Osteen that teaches that Jesus died on the cross, so you could have a big house and a nice car. Nevermind that Jesus condemned material wealth and told people to sell their possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. Somehow or the other, Christians are supposed to live the "abundant life."

Secularists can condemn this sort of thing as moral hypocrisy, and it is. But they are not much better in living their consumerist lifestyles. The only favor they do us is by not claiming divine sanction for their lifestyles. An honest sinner is always preferable to a counterfeit saint. But this is only because they are one step closer to the true path.

My friend with the prosperity gospel was taken aback when I criticized preachers that drive Cadillacs. This was because my friend drove a Cadillac. His only defense to the log in his eye was to try and remove the speck in mine by criticizing my humble Toyota pickup truck. I bought it used, and I like it because I can haul stuff in the back. Otherwise, it has zero status points except over those without a vehicle. But I need it, so I own it.

I'm not big on owning things. I am a minimalist. If I lived in New York or San Francisco, I would sell my vehicle and take public transportation. I live in a humble apartment, and I still take my laundry to the mat. I buy my clothes from Walmart and Tractor Supply Company. I don't even like to write about these things because I feel like I am making a show out of being modest. But I have a really great life relative to those in the third world. So, I am grateful but also measured. This is because I would live no differently if I won the lottery.

I think we have a moral duty to live a minimalist lifestyle. This is a change for me as in the past I considered it as purely optional. But I don't think this way anymore. I think if you live a life of material excess, there is something morally wrong with you. Naturally, the only defense people have against this viewpoint is to make things ambiguous about where you draw the line. This is why someone like me with a modest utilitarian vehicle is suddenly as bad as someone with a Bugatti.

I think there is a limit to how well you should live. If a material possession legitimately improves your life, you should get it. This means that you should get a good reliable car like a Honda that serves your needs. But you shouldn't get a BMW, a Mercedes, or a Bugatti. This is because they are no better than the Honda at meeting your needs, but they are awesome at filling others with envy. In short, they are purchased for the sake of vanity.

Whenever you buy something, you need to consider this person:

You know this person. You already know his name. His name is Jesus. While you are driving around in your Cadillac living the victorious Christian life, Jesus is dying from malnutrition. It isn't your fault that Jesus is dying from hunger. You didn't cause that. But you can do something to remedy that. If you can blow money on needless things for yourself, why not blow some dough on this guy?

The response to this guilt trip is that our donations to charity aren't going to change anything. The poor will always be among us. This is true. But this is poverty in the abstract. You might as well close hospitals because death always seems to win. You might as well close restaurants because you will be hungry again tomorrow. Futility is simply the refuge of the scoundrel. If you feed one hungry person one single meal, you will have your reward. It will not be wasted.

The real waste is to add additional rooms to a house that have no additional bodies in it. The real waste is to buy a car with a fancier emblem to get you to the same exact place a Hyundai will take you. The real waste is buying expensive clothes that are trash by the end of the season as tastes change instead of buying real clothes that last and function. The real waste is buying a boat or an RV or a motorcycle you never use, and then paying to shelter and store that crap while Jesus gets to sleep under a sheet of plastic.

Consumerism and material gluttony are forms of intemperance. Life is not to be lived for the accumulation of material possessions. Material possessions are for the accumulation of life and being. This will be different for different people depending upon their lives, their work, and the size and location of their households. But we know when we have enough, and we know when we have too much. We should be satisfied with enough.

The price we pay for materialism is a spiritual price. This is why the USA is simultaneously one of the richest nations on earth but also one of the least happiest. Consumerism does not produce satisfaction but endless dissatisfaction. The appetite for more is insatiable. This is the price of vanity.

Minimalism is not about poverty. It is about modesty. Modesty is the mean between vanity and poverty. Modesty limits you to the essential while eliminating the needless and the extravagant. You should never buy things for the sake of impressing other people or to satisfy endless boredom within yourself. Choose a modest home. Drive a modest car. Wear modest clothing. Keep a modest number of outfits. And if you want to blow some dough, give it to a quality charity. And if people want to buy you needless crap, ask them to donate to your favorite charities instead. And if you have needless crap around the house, donate it to Goodwill.

I don't think there is anything wrong with being rich. Wealth is a blessing because it gives you the privilege of helping others. Rich people help when they employ others with their capital and when they aid the poor with their charity. And it is always to a rich person's glory when they live modestly. This is the pickup truck for Sam Walton, the richest man in the world when he was alive:

You could probably get one just like it from Craigslist for less than $2K.

Pride and vanity are vices. People who consume in a conspicuous way have something wrong with them. Modesty and humility are the better paths. Minimalism means being humble and modest. It means living with less, but the irony is that living with less is more satisfying. It brings fulfillment and contentment. This is why the wisest and most contented people are usually poor. It could be Gandhi, the Buddha, St. Francis, or Jesus Himself. I just know that the walls of a mansion become the walls of a prison and then the walls of a tomb. Enough is enough.

[SOC] Election Day Ruminations, Public Broadcasting, Good People

It will be good to get this election over with, so I can stop listening to people bug me about why I should vote for Mitt Romney. I am not voting, yet I have to listen to the crap about why I just have to vote for one or the other liar. This election is a false choice.

Turning Catholic is changing my political philosophy, but it has done nothing to make either Obama or Romney more palatable to me. Some would argue that I should vote for Romney because he would repeal the HHS mandate, but I would like to see that fight take place. The Catholic Church needs some persecution  to purify it here in the USA. When I see Catholics supporting a guy like Obama and the policies that Mother Church opposes, we don't need an easy out with the election of a pandering Mormon. We need to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I don't consider myself a libertarian anymore since I no longer embrace the individualism inherent in that philosophy. I'm more likely to vote for a guy like Rick Santorum though I find him very flawed as well especially on war issues. But Santorum is a change. He isn't Mitt Romney.

I don't think there is a political philosophy or system that will change things. A lot of my thinking revolves around the idea that a system or a solution is what is needed to change things, so you could put a trained monkey in there and things would turn out well. But this was the mistake they made when they drafted the Constitution. Change is not ideological. Change is personal.

I remember when Reagan came into office. Reagan was flawed. He didn't always do what he said that he would. But he was a decent man, and that decency is what made the difference. It wasn't Reagan's conservative philosophy that made the difference. It was Reagan's character that made the difference. He was a good man. Every president subsequent to him has been deficient in both morality and character.

Ron Paul comes closest to what Reagan was except for one big difference. Ron Paul is pessimistic. Ron Paul is more of a prophet than a President. But I feel a digression coming on.

I think all revolutions are fundamentally moral revolutions. What made Western Civilization great was Christianity especially the Roman Catholic Church. The Church is a flawed institution with flawed people, but the treasure it contains was enough. That message was what has made the difference. That influence no matter how incomplete was enough to make us what we are today.

If you want a better world, you need better people. No political philosophy or system can achieve this. America is great when it is good. But is America still good? I don't think it is. The fact that we now have two non-Christians vying for the same office should tell us something.

As a libertarian, I used to believe that all we needed to make things better was freedom. I don't see it that way anymore. The fact is that the libertarian world that Ron Paul wants to give us already existed at one time in the founding of this nation. Under the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, we had as minimal a government as you could ever want to see. Any of those Founding Fathers today including Hamilton would be considered minarchist libertarians today. Why did freedom fail? Because freedom without morality is not freedom.

This struck me as I considered the arguments over government funding for public broadcasting. Libertarians and many conservatives argue that PBS and NPR need to lose public funding. Besides, that hole is already filled by the likes of the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, and the Learning Channel. The reality is that those channels now spew garbage programming like Honey Boo Boo. I find the best and most educational programs from PBS and the BBC. Both of those are government funded. The free market alternatives were good only relative to those public outlets, but they have degraded as they appeal to the masses and seek wider audience share and advertising dollars. Like it or not, PBS and NPR elevate the culture.

The problem with all political philosophies is they take a slice from the whole and try to make it the whole. Libertarians try to make everything about freedom. Progressives try to make everything about equality. Conservatives try to make everything about order. Catholic teachings indicate that we need all three. We need freedom to do good. We need government to maintain order. We need social services to help people who will never be able to help themselves like the mentally handicapped.

People can't understand why I am so enthusiastic about the Catholic Church, but I find in those teachings answers to intellectual dilemmas I have been having for over ten years. Most of those answers are simply a balance between extreme viewpoints. For instance, the Catholic Church opposes both communism and capitalism. Instead, it champions distributism which is simply capitalism for the masses. It is the midpoint between the extremes. That same dynamic occurs again and again. I see most errors in people's thinking as taking an element of truth and stretching it beyond its boundaries. Catholicism demands a universal understanding of viewpoints and synthesizing those viewpoints into what is common, moderate, good, and true.

I find myself becoming more balanced in my thinking. I am becoming more charitable to opposing viewpoints finding that element of truth while correcting the error. For instance, I once opposed war except in defense of one's country, but I can see where war in defense of some helpless country or population could be justified such as World War II or Kosovo or going into a region like Darfur. But wars of conquest or revenge are not justified. This is informed by Christian Just War Theory. Essentially, war is pursued to prevent a worse evil. Of course, this demands prudence which demands capable moral leadership. This is why no system can ever replace the personal. We need good leaders.

I tend to think in the abstract and the universal which is why a repeated criticism of me is that I overgeneralize. Overgeneralization is a product of abstraction. People have to fit into a category in order for the world to make sense. But people are people. They are not machines following a program.

All of this was brought to me as I watched a co-worker of mine leave my workplace. It was universally acknowledged among my other co-workers that this individual should be the one in charge of things. It was the same situation at a previous job where I had a boss who stood head and shoulders above all others and was run off the premises for his excellence of performance and character. I always believed that most problems in an organization could be solved by better ideas. This isn't true. We don't need better ideas. We need better people. Both of those companies made it a practice to eliminate better people. This election shows that policy on a national level. When you eliminate the good, only the bad will remain, and you will reap the consequences.

The world needs good people. Good people are what make the world good. As St. Francis put it, "Sanctify yourself, and you will sanctify society." Be good. It is so simple, yet it is so true. Be the change you want to see in the world.

For myself, I harbor no illusions about being a good person. I'm not a good person. I am a scoundrel. I have always wanted to change the things around me, but I realize that I should have been changing myself. It is hard to change yourself, but there is really no other way.