One of the poignant aspects of that greatest of musicals, Les Miserables, and of the epic novel from which it is taken, is the story of Marius’ friends, the doomed revolutionaries of 1832. Heroic, but doomed, Enjolras and the others stand for the human drive for freedom, singing:
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!
But the people do not come to join them at the barricades, the revolutionaries are overwhelmed by the regime’s forces, and “where was their new world, now the fighting’s done?” Nonetheless, despite and perhaps because of their failure, Marius’s friends are heroes, winning our admiration and our love.
In the Southern US, there is practically a religion of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. The patron saint of this religion is Robert E. Lee. As one historian has said:
“Already revered during the war, Robert E. Lee acquired a divine mystique within Southern culture after it. Remembered as a leader whose soldiers would loyally follow him into every fight no matter how desperate, Lee emerged from the conflict to become an icon of the Lost Cause and the ideal of the antebellum Southern gentleman…”
This mentality of the Lost Cause was reflected in the depiction of the South and its characters in the epic movie Gone with the Wind. The central tenet of this attitude, and the reason for its lasting appeal, even for a Southerner over a century removed from the war or for a non-native Southerner like myself, is the romantic mystique of the Southern gentry such as Lee, Jackson, and Stuart. These men, with their daring, their panache, and their tragedy, embody the Cavalier spirit of an earlier age, fighting valiantly against the impersonal, industrial, modern army of the Yankees. It is the appeal of conservatism, in its simplest form: remembering and preserving what was. This same spirit animates us when we seek to preserve historic buildings, keep instant replay out of professional baseball, or resist a new layout on Facebook.
Whether it is Robert E. Lee, Enjolras on the barricades, or Rocky Balboa taking on Apollo Creed, we respect the man who goes down fighting, and even more so when he is fighting for a cause.
Consider the following:
Only 23% of Americans believe the government today has the consent of the governed. Many Americans are increasingly alienated and apathetic towards the government, and worried and even fearful of the future. Government continues to grow in expense, in size, and in power. The nation’s debt spirals ever upward, and those in power seem not to care, much less to have any solutions. The ruling class openly mocks those who disagree with it. That a phrase such as “ruling class” is coming into increasing usage is a sign of the times. Our young men are dying in desolate faraway places, and nobody is sure exactly why. That America faces serious problems is not in doubt. That our political class seems unable or unwilling to address these problems also seems not in doubt. “Is America in decline?” is a legitimate question for mainstream discussion.
All things come to an end. The Republic for which our flag stands will come to an end as well. It may continue in form, as the Roman Republic did long after it had ceased to be such in fact. Though it pains me to say it, I have doubts that it will survive my lifetime.
It’s tempting to give up, drop out, and let things go their course. I can understand the many who are alienated. Many times I’ve thought that my responsibility is only to provide for and shield my family, through whatever is coming. That is my responsibility, but not my only one. I cannot stand by and do nothing. I will continue to fight for America and for constitutional governance. I will do my part, however small. Maybe the battle will be lost. But it will not be because I didn’t fight it.
ETA: It probably does not help that among the most recent books I’ve read are The Decline of the West, The Return of the Great Depression, and We Are Doomed, Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism.
Don’t expect answers to all your questions in tonight’s series finale. LOST, like life, is full of mystery and unanswerable questions. I agree with this essay in the LA Times:
There have been too many characters, too many random images and scattered loose ends, to expect any unified theory of “Lost,” well, I’m not particularly anxious to get one. Answers kill mysteries, and in a mystical mystery like “Lost,” the answers will never be as good as the slippery things you can almost imagine.
No matter what happens in the finale, the journey will have been worth the ride:
This is the way we’ll remember Lost – less a destination than a journey, less a compelling answer than a series of confounding, fascinating questions. For six years – a flash before our eyes – we asked those questions of one another, using the luxuries of the modern age to enhance rather than spoil the mysteries before us. The final episode of Lost may disappoint. It may frustrate. But it shouldn’t negate the messy, bewildering and often brilliant ride it took to get there.
This online simulation puts you on the spot to decide how to bring the Federal deficit down to a sustainable level. It took me a couple of tries, but I managed to meet their goal, and without adding a VAT or a Carbon Tax. I renewed the Bush tax cuts on people under 250k income, and I kept missile defense and NASA missions to the Moon and Mars. I drastically drew down our troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, canceled TARP, raised the retirement age to 68, and I cut earmarks, Department of Education funding, the Federal workforce, farm subsidies, and many other smaller programs. I did not tinker with the Healthcare Reform Law, but I did raise Medicare premiums and implement malpractice reform. Most of my savings were through spending cuts, but I did raise revenues by dropping the deduction for state and local income taxes, and by limiting itemized deductions for high income brackets. Those were tough calls, but I wanted to keep the Bush tax cuts and had to raise revenue somewhere.
I’m not sure their methodology is completely accurate, but the exercise is certainly useful, if for no other reason than to impress upon the mind the magnitude and the seriousness of the choices that need to be made. Everyone should spend a few minutes with this simulation.
If I accede to Muslim demands that I refrain from drawing Mohamed or pigs or boars or ice cream logos or buddhas, I have tacitly conceded that I am Muslim. After all, I am conforming my behavior to Muslim doctrine.Muslims understand this. Their rage over these images isn’t about the images themselves. It is, instead, about incrementally drawing all of us into the Muslim faith. After all, once you’ve stopped creating images offensive to Muslims, and stopped making movies offensive to Muslims, and stopped writing books offensive to Muslims, and stopped saying things offensive to Muslims, and stopped your stores from selling the pork and alcohol offensive to Muslims, and attired your women in burqas to protect them from rampaging Muslims, well — you’re pretty much a practicing Muslim. You’ve been converted, and you didn’t even realize it was happening.
And once you’ve crossed that invisible line, a line known only to your new Muslim overlords, woe unto you if you try to reverse that conversion process. Apostates, after all, by turning their back on Mohamed, deserve death. So really, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you don’t comply with all the Muslim restrictions, they threaten to kill you — and if you do comply with all the Muslim restrictions, they still threaten to kill you.
So this is where the rubber hits the road. You’re between a Muslim rock and an Islamic hard place. Do you take a stand now, while your freedoms still mean something, or do you simply acquiesce, step by step, until you find that you have no freedoms at all, that there are no compatriots willing to stand by you in the fight, and that y0ur remaining options are between a living or an actual death?
….When we draw Mohamed today, we don’t do so to be offensive, or provocative. We do so to assert our identity and to declare, standing shoulder to shoulder with our fellow soldiers in this war, that we are Westerners dedicated to freedom of speech and freedom of worship.
This one has some subtle touches:
Awesomest iPad decal I’ve seen:
The truth revealed!
Coolest marketing ploy ever:
“It was necessary to first build capitalism, then make socialism, we must have something to distribute before doing so.” So says outgoing Brazilian President Lula da Silva. Perhaps our current wannabe re-distributors should take note that you can kill off capital, and that you have to encourage capitalism if you want to have any wealth to be able to spread.
It is mentioned in passing, in an article about how the upcoming Captain America film will actually not be filmed in the United States:
The loss of production business from “Captain America: The First Avenger” is another blow to the city of Los Angeles, which has seen its share of big-budget films flee to escape the heavy tax burden its state levees on films…..California’s taxes have been a boon to the British Columbian city of Vancouver, which in recent years has seen a boom of what would’ve otherwise been big Hollywood business (films such as the “Twilight Saga” have found a production home north of the border).
Perhaps this is part of why California is going broke. Again, you can kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Excessive taxation drives away economic activity. Why is this not understood?
Richard Russell, the famous writer of the Dow Theory Letters, has a chilling line in today’s note:
Do your friends a favor. Tell them to “batten down the hatches” because there’s a HARD RAIN coming. Tell them to get out of debt and sell anything they can sell (and don’t need) in order to get liquid. Tell them that Richard Russell says that by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country. They’ll retort, “How the dickens does Russell know — who told him?” Tell them the stock market told him…..
Retired Army Colonel Douglas MacGregor, PhD, maps out the geopolitical scene of the coming decade. Here is an extended excerpt; the whole thing deserves reading:
The question is whether the English-speaking peoples around the world will re-forge an alliance of their own or, even survive on the North American continent. Our weakened financial and economic condition makes a retreat from wider involvement in the world’s affairs unavoidable. For some period of time, we will have to reorient our attention to our domestic condition. Since nature abhors a vacuum, the vacuum will be filled. In reality, it’s already well underway.
Today, NE Asia is emerging as more than just an economic power house. It is already a center of technological expertise and strategic understanding. In ten years, Korea, Japan and China will collectively constitute a concentration of military power on a scale the world has never seen before; a concentration far greater than anything we have today. As the EU collapses, Europe’s German core will reemerge from a long hiatus. Together with the Russians who must of necessity turn increasingly to the Germans for political, economic and security assistance, the two will represent the enormous economic and military power that dominates the continent from the Atlantic to the Urals, a power once imagined by Bismarck, but thrown away by his successors in pointless, unnecessary wars. How this power will be used is unknown, but it too could dwarf our own inflated self-importance.
In the near-East, Turkey, not Iran will emerge as the true regional superpower. How Turkey and Iran get along under these circumstances is anyone’s guess. Israel may well be in a position to play the balancing power provided it maintains its military edge.
India, a country with one toilet for every 45,000 people is no superpower and it will not become one. Its principle challenge is to avoid a nuclear exchange with Pakistan, something that looks harder and harder to do just now.
The rest of the world – Africa, SE Asia and Latin America will behave much as it has for the last thousand years. It will struggle, remain vulnerable to the power and influence of the blocks of states already mentioned.
I always wanted to live in interesting times, but I’m not sure I like what is coming down the pike in our day:
On my to-read list is a book entitled “The Return of the Great Depression” by Vox Day. He prescribes ten measures needed immediately to keep the nation from going off the financial cliff ahead:
1. Stop pouring gasoline on the fire. The Federal Reserve must raise interest rates. . . .
2. No more financial necromancy. No more bailouts. An organization that is too big to fail is too big to be permitted to exist. . . .
3. Cut state and federal income taxes in half. . . .
4. Eliminate all federal spending that cannot be supported by a supermajority in both the House and Senate. . . .
5. Audit the Federal Reserve. . . .
6. Repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, the Carn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, and elements of the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980. . . .
7. Withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Europe, and most of the dozens of countries around the world where they are stationed. . . .
8. Halt immigration and provide significant financial incentive for married women with children to raise them at home. . . .
9. Ban banking bonuses. . . .
10. End the federal monetary monopoly. . . .
I haven’t read the book yet, so I’m not entirely sure about all of these, but the majority seem pretty self-evident and commonsensical to me.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, a top outside adviser to President Barack Obama, said time is “growing short” for the U.S. to address problems ranging from its budget deficit to Social Security obligations.
“We better get started,” the 82-year-old former central banker said in a speech yesterday in Stanford, California. “Today’s concerns may soon become tomorrow’s existential crises.”