Charlie's Blog: SOC 10


SOC 10

Life is for action, and if we desire to know anything, we must make up our minds to be ignorant about much.

That Kirk quote nags at me. The reason for this nagging is because of the fact that we live in an age of a veritable flood of information. More information hits the web in a single hour than you can read and consume in a year. The consequence of this fact is that you have to make choices about what to read and what to ignore. Naturally, people tend to read the things that reinforce the thoughts and opinions they already have. This leads to the echo chamber problem which is a kind of intellectual inbreeding. On the other hand, marital infidelity is great at curing inbreeding but creates problems as bad or worse. Similarly, reading hostile sources of information create the same sorts of problems as adultery. You become faithless to your first love.

I call this problem of mine the "editing" problem. One part of me says that I should not edit and just let the information come at me as it will. Another part of me just wants to turn off the computer and retreat from InfoWorld. That is the part that laments the time spent and wasted on reading things that I don't really need to read. Between these two extremes is the mean, and I am trying to find that mean.

This is a subject I touched on before in my Renaissance Man vs Zen Man internal debate. The basic conclusions that I came to was that the Renaissance Man ideal was impractical because you couldn't even come close while holding down full time employment. Conversely, the Zen approach seems to be a desperate attempt to avoid full time employment which is what Leo Babauta seems to have achieved. Is there a third way? I think there is. I call it "Blue Collar Man." I will explain.

Back in the 90's, I was a hardcore basketball fan. This probably came from Michael Jordan pushing the NBA to new levels of popularity and the fact that I was living in Orlando which had an NBA team. I would catch the end of games at the bars I would go to after work when my shift ended close to midnight. I would watch ESPN for the highlights. Basketball was a thing for me, and I ended up gravitating to liking a certain basketball team from a certain time. This was the Detroit Pistons lineup from the 80's that came to be known as the "Bad Boys."

I don't necessarily like their name or mentality, but the Bad Boys led by Coach Chuck Daly had a certain philosophy about basketball. They played really hard on defense. They employed what is basically a full court press and would work the other team to death. It would produce two championships for the team.

This Bad Boys mentality is best described as "Blue Collar." The Pistons were not exactly the best team in the league. They weren't the most talented players either. But they played really hard. While other teams were trying to be talented and sophisticated, the Pistons packed their lunch pails and went to work. It was simplicity, and it worked.

That blue collar mindset has never left me. I see it at work in other fields of endeavor. It is the power of the simple. For instance, if I were asked who was the greatest rock band of all time, I would have no hesitation on the answer. That band is AC/DC. Yeah, that is a shocking answer. You have your Beatles, your Stones, the Who, Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath.Then, you have the progressive rock of Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, and Rush. Then, there was glam rock, stoner rock, punk rock, and hair metal. In rock music, you have genius and the ridiculous. It can be hit or miss. Then, there is the band that just delivers. That band was AC/DC.

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones said that AC/DC only played one song, but it was the best rock song you ever heard. The truth of this statement comes from the fact that AC/DC was and remains stone simple. They simply rock. They were the blue collar band in a white collar world of posers.

It is quite a leap from basketball to rock music. They are different worlds, but you can see the commonality between those Pistons and AC/DC. They both have that same blue collar grit and simplicity. There are many ways to get the job done, but I tend to that "blue collar" path.

The essence of blue collar is basic. The first is that you simplify. You eliminate tricks and gimmicks. You cut to the most brutally effective. I call this the "essential." It is going with necessity instead of the flourish. The second part is the work ethic part. You eschew talent in favor of hard work. This is where the "grittiness" comes in.

Make no mistake about it. The blue collar way is ugly. If you are a pretty boy, you might want to look into being a model or something. There are no points for style in the blue collar way. What matters is the end result. In the case of the Pistons, it was having more points on the board than their opponent. With AC/DC, it was putting on a show that simply rocks from beginning to end.

I see this sort of thing in other fields of endeavor. For instance, I found frustration in learning martial arts whether it was traditional forms like karate and kung fu or modified forms like the mixed martial arts of today. The problem with martial arts for me was the complexity. Each style has its own philosophy, forms, and discipline. And when you find yourself in an actual self-defense situation, they are quickly forgotten sort of like the way karate black belt Ron Goldman found his martial arts skills useless when he was murdered by OJ Simpson. Needless to say, I don't have a lot of respect for most martial arts. They are too complicated to be effective in a real world situation.

But there is one martial art that is unlike the others. This is the martial art used by the Israeli Defense Forces known as Krav Maga. Krav Maga is the blue collar martial art. It simplifies what is complicated. It is ugly. And it is brutally effective. When you find yourself in a real world self-defense situation, you won't forget Krav. It might save your life.

By this point, you should see the trend here. You want the essence of the thing, and you want the grit. This is the blue collar way of things. In everything, I find that blue collar path of doing things. I don't want to overstate things on this. Coach Phil Jackson has done wondrous things with his complicated triangle offense. But I tend to agree with Patton's wisdom when he said, "A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week." The gist of that remark is that we spend more time waiting for the perfection than getting the job done.

In my spiritual life, this is why I have gravitated towards the teachings and way of St. Josemaria Escriva. A common criticism of Escriva and Opus Dei is the simplicity of the spirituality as if it was a bug. For me, that bug is a feature. People who want a deeper spirituality may join an order such as the Carmelites, the Dominicans, the Jesuits, the Benedictines, and the Franciscans. But this requires deep commitments to things like poverty, celibacy, and the like. What are married people in the world left to do? Those orders offer third ways for the regular people in the world, but they are burdensome to people with families and jobs and still amount to crumbs falling from the table.

Escriva was like a revelation to me. I see in Opus Dei the same pattern and strategy I see in Krav Maga. Krav was distilled from other arts and teaches the essence of those things. Likewise, Opus Dei draws on the spirituality of the entire Catholic tradition and simplifies it to its essence. And then, it shows you how to live it in the real and ordinary world. It is a blue collar spirituality even if many of its practitioners wear suits and ties.

I find that most of my frustrations in life get resolved when I find and follow that blue collar path. Find the essence and find the grit. This path is the one natural to my thinking and temperament. For instance, my writing style is plain and simple. Blame it on Ernest Hemingway. I learned a long time ago that fancy writing is bad writing. So, I don't do fancy writing. The result is that a lot of people like the way I write. There are a lot of deep thoughts behind those words, but you should write in a way that anyone with a basic education can understand. When I read the writings of other people, I find it loaded down with unnecessary complication.

My life is loaded down with unnecessary information. I just have a hard time drawing the line between those things I need to know and those things I don't need to know. I either drink too much from the information well or too little. So, I am taking out my knife and doing the hard work of cutting it down to the essence.

The first area we can dispense with is mainstream media. Once upon a time, mainstream outlets offered useful journalism. Truth ruled over partisan politics. But as this last election made clear, those days are over with. CNN, NPR, and The New York Times are little different than Mother Jones and The Nation. There is no such thing as unbiased media. Every journalist has an agenda. The general public has figured this out which is why they have gravitated online to get the real scoop and then spread these stories on social media like Facebook and Twitter. The mainstream Marxists have figured this out which is why "fake news" has become their new thing. To me, fake news is that crazy crap you read in a tabloid. For the MSM, fake news is any news they didn't create. So, they have now turned to Zuckberg to turn Facebook into a censor.

I am done with the MSM. This started when I stopped listening to NPR after work and started listening to conservative talk radio. My favorite is Mark Levin. That guy is a true intellectual conservative. Once upon a time, I used to be a regular listener of NPR , a watcher of CNN, and a reader of the New York Times. Now, I listen to talk radio, watch Fox News, and read the Drudge Report. I was averse to being so right wing centric in my media consumption in the same way that I used to think eating a "balanced" diet made sense. But balance is a myth. My current diet is considered extreme by virtually everyone, yet I have never felt better in my life. Similarly, a media diet tilted extremely towards the right is having a similar effect on my thinking.

Life is too short to waste on left wing journalism. I used to make it a point to read hostile sources sort of the way snakehandlers will treat themselves prophylactically with snake venom to make themselves immune to snakebite. But I don't think this analogy is the proper one. It is more like treating yourself with heroin. I don't follow the same philosophy when it comes to pornography or watching violent films and ISIS beheadings. When you encounter left wing propaganda, you need to change the channel.

This brings us to "lunatic fringe media." These would be those sources considered to be alt-right. The irony is that these crazies get a lot of stories correct such as Trump winning the election. But then, they fall for crazy conspiracy hype like #PizzaGate. Alex Jones is working hard to put daylight between him and that hoax, but he is already on board as a 9/11 Truther. Glenn Beck is in the same sort of deluded mindset on things except his has a Mormon flavor to it. These people have the right politics, but they mix it with conspiracy theories and paranoia.

I listen to these things along with Coast to Coast AM as an entertaining diversion. But that pizzagate crap shows that this stuff is not harmless entertainment. That hoax involved real people and serious allegations. The reason Alex Jones and Infowars is so popular now is because it taps into the entertainment factor of the sensational. It is the same thing as when my grandmother would read the National Enquirer. Gossip and conspiracies are just more entertaining than real stories.

I am chopping out this fringe media stuff from my information diet. I am going with the boring stuff you see at The American Conservative and National Review. True conservatism is boring. This is because the basic message never changes. And conservatives are never surprised or shocked by the latest leftist outrage. They report these things with a certain irony and "I told you so" tone. There is a reason for this.

Conservatives have a deep understanding of history and a grounding in faith. People in the alt-right media do not have this. This is why the alt-right tends to be paranoid and fearful. The alt-right is a diverse movement, but it is clear enough to me to disavow it. It is not true conservatism. The alt-right is essentially a bunch of right wing punk rockers who have never read Russell Kirk, Edmund Burke, or William F. Buckley. The alt right has no coherent worldview beyond being anti-PC.

Most of my political movement has been on the right wing side of things. I was a Rush Limbaugh dittohead in my twenties, drifted into being a Ron Paul supporting libertarian, and now find myself back to being a Reaganite conservative once more. And why do I find myself here once again? Because it is the politics that makes the most sense to me. I find in it the essence and the grit.

Alt-right people are not real conservatives in the same way that Donald Trump is not a real conservative. One article I read described Trump as a modern day Whig, and I am inclined to agree. Trump is more nationalist than patriot. And he cares not one whit about the soulcraft aspect of statecraft. He ain't no Reagan.

We were always headed for another rough four years. The difference is we have a neo-fascist instead of a neo-marxist. Voting for Trump was akin to the way Anne Boleyn requested the French swordsman to slice her head off because the axe guy would probably need a few whacks to get the job done. There is a reason the guillotine was seen as a more humane method of execution.

Within the Catholic world, you see the same sort of divisions as you see in the political world. You have the Catholic Left promoting women's ordination, communion for adulterers, liberation theology, and the rest. They are represented by the National Catholic Reporter, America Magazine, and Commonweal. I don't bother reading those things.

There is a Catholic Right as well who remain faithful to the Magisterium. Then, there is a Catholic alt-right made up of Lefebvrists, sedevacantists, and other Catholic cuckoos. It all really comes down to Vatican II. Was there continuity or rupture? I am in the continuity camp.

The latest thing from the Catholic Cuckoos is referring to the Holy Father as "Bergoglio." They believe he was not a validly elected pope which makes them a more up to date version of the sedevacantists. I dismiss this nonsense. He is Pope Francis. Do I think he is in error? Unforunately, yes, I do. I am with the four cardinals and the others who are calling him out. In this war, I am on the side of the Magisterium, tradition, and the teachings of our Lord. We have had bad popes before. Pope Francis will almost certainly be included with them. He brings scandal upon the Church. I don't see this pontificate ending well.

To go back to the Kirk quote, I choose to be ignorant of all of the disinformation and garbage spread by these poisoned wells of information. Life is short, and we need to act. Once we know something to be false, we should reject it and ignore it. This is the strategy I am adopting going forward.

I'll have more on this in a future post.