It has been some many months since I penned the Field Guide Part One. As we edge ever closer to the circus that we so grandly call the electoral process it seem wise to turn our eyes once gain to the Sage of Baltimore for some keen observations and perhaps a shred of advice for dealing with the sewer of shit and dogmatic politics that is the current state of American Politics and Government.
I suspect Mencken would be appalled to see the mess we have made of the American system of government and politics. Much of what he warned us about has indeed to come to pass, and I do not think he would like the world he saw before him. Back in 1920, he wrote “The American of today, in fact, probably enjoys less personal liberty than any other man of Christendom, and even his political liberty is fast succumbing to the new dogma that certain theories of government are virtuous and lawful, and others abhorrent and felonious. Laws limiting the radius of his free activity multiply year by year: It is now practically impossible for him to exhibit anything describable as genuine individuality, either in action or in thought, without running afoul of some harsh and unintelligible penalty. It would surprise no impartial observer if the motto “In God we trust” were one day expunged from the coins of the republic by the Junkers at Washington, and the far more appropriate word, “verboten,” substituted. Nor would it astound any save the most romantic if, at the same time, the goddess of liberty were taken off the silver dollars to make room for a bas-relief of a policeman in a spiked helmet. Moreover, this gradual (and, of late, rapidly progressive) decay of freedom goes almost without challenge; the American has grown so accustomed to the denial of his constitutional rights and to the minute regulation of his conduct by swarms of spies, letter-openers, informers and agents provocateurs that he no longer makes any serious protest.”
How much less personal liberty does the average American have today? He is told by various overseers what color he must paint his house and landscape his yard. He must wear a seat when operating his automobile, and only the foulest black-hearted bastard would allow their child to enjoy the pure pleasure of riding a bike without a helmet as well as pads about the knees and elbow. He does not dare light a cigarette in his own office. There are those among us who would restrict the size of the soda she buys at the convenience store. City dwellers are under almost constant observation from cameras of one sort of another when outside of their home. Government agencies can listen to every single phone conversation you have and see every file stored on your computer at will. We must buy certain insurance contracts is we wish to move about in public and avoid certain penalties. We can only use intoxicants that are on the approved list. Every law, rule, and regulation passed by the US Congress down your homeowners association restricts out personal liberties, and we are not doing one single thing to stop it. As long as we the people have the internet, cable TV and cheap beer we just do not give a flying fuck.
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
This is the new essence of American Politics and government. We were not supposed to be a democracy. The founding fathers were afraid of pure democracy and turned to the Republican form of government. Citizens would elect learned and earnest men who would vote upon the matters of state and reach common sense solutions. Unfortunately, the learned and sincere men have become money grubbing shit holes whose entire purpose in life is getting re-elected to keep the money and blow jobs flowing in their direction. The founders feared this and created two houses of the legislature with only one house with very short terms of office and one with a longer term that governors and state legislatures would send to Washington to protect the interest of the state and its citizens. For the first 125 years o National existence this worked very well. So well, in fact, the politicians realized that doing away with this provision and allowing a direct election for both houses opened up a whole new path to personal prosperity. Now they could browbeat and scaremonger the general public into longer and more lucrative term of government. So in 1913 it was changed to allow direct election of Senators. The ordinary people of the unwashed electorate were now firmly in charge of the electoral process.
What does the great unwashed want? Whatever they can get. What will they settle for? As near I can tell the answer involves cable TV and beer. The public is being bent over double by elected officials, and their massive bureaucracy is giving it to the common good and hard every day and the public not only takes it they cheer for some of these morons and swear allegiance to their own destruction. If a politician can convince one sector f the Convinced that he is their champion he becomes not a mere money grubbing man but a disciple of truth justice and the American Way even as he violates them in the vilest of manners.
The fact is that the average man’s love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice, and truth.
Here is the truth of it all. We profess to love liberty, but liberty carries an awesome and awful responsibility for our own actions. If we are free, we have to accept the consequences of our choices. If we fuck up and get fired or lose our business we are on our own. If we make a wrong decision it is on our own heads and no one else is responsible. We have to actually read and think, tasks that scare the average person absolutely stone cold shit less. Our survival and prosperity then depend on our own achievements and efforts with no assistance. If we cannot make enough to buy the things we want, we silly will not have them. If we start a business that harms people or treats them poorly, then the failure is on our own head, and there will be no bailout. The free man pays his own way and is responsible for his own actions. If someone else achieves more than we do there is nothing the free man can do but strive harder to achieve more. Very few want that and will gladly trade the liberty to avoid the responsibility.
The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.
The ugly truth is that anyone who files to run for office should be automatically disqualified for moral reasons. Politicians are right there with religious leaders as members of the Absolutely Convinced that for some strange, bizarre set of reasons thinks they know more about how you should live your life than you do. The idea that someone could make their own decisions about where to live, where to work, how to raise their kids, what to drink or eat, who and how to love is a pure puzzlement to them. They have conversed with the universe and deities and are the truly enlightened that can you lead down to the path of righteousness and prosperity. All too often the path will result in unfettered imbecility and a great deal of ass raping.
The best person to guide your life is you. As long as your actions are Hippocratic in nature and do no harm, then your politics should be based on the concepts of “Leave Me the Fuck Alone, and I will do the same for you” than any of the drivel produced by these two criminal gangs.
There are very few days in your life that could not be improved by the introduction of a plate of chicken fried steak and eggs. It is simply the best thing one can eat with all your basic food groups well represented. You have your meats in the form of a deliciously prepared cheap cut of steak tenderized viciously and then deep fried like one of Colonel Sanders victims. You have your gravy group in the form of the delicious sausage gravy slathered over the harshly tenderized cheap steak. Your vegetables are there with your perfectly fried hashbrowns and you have your biscuit group that possibly includes more gravy depending on the size of your appetite that particular day. And of course, you have your eggs which all know are healthy and good for you. All sorts of healthy outcomes are attributed to coffee so I usually wash mine down with a hot cup of joe.
In the midst of the worst truly awful, fuck the world I want to get off, day a good plate f chicken friend steak eggs with the proper trimmings can quickly and easily take the edge off the pain and suffering. It may not eliminate your problems but it should improve your mood at least until its late enough in the day to begin indulging in the age-old art of drinking one’s problems away.
I came across an excellent chicken friend joint last week on my way to Sanibel and my wife filed her usual thorough Yelp review.I ma a non-Yelper but she is a fan of the service. She wrote :
Six years ago I married this guy named Tim. Tim is a man with a passion. A passion for Diners. Now, do not be confused. By diner, I do not mean “Cracker Barrel” or “First Watch”. The occasional visit to a “Waffle House” will somewhat satisfy his diner addiction. But, what he truly desires is the type of greasy spoon one can usually only find on the back roads of small-town America. The Dundee Diner is one such establishment. Whenever we go on a trip, it is his mission to seek out and enjoy the cuisine of every mom-and-pop joint we come across. I cannot deny that I have aided and abetted this habit utilizing my skills on Yelp and Google. And, that is how we were lucky enough to stumble upon the Dundee Diner! Some folks may think it would be hard to mess up a simple breakfast of eggs and meat products but, let me set the record straight. A great diner is hard to find. This morning we hit the jackpot! We were greeted by very friendly staff, kept happy with a super server named Tasha who was quick to fill the coffee and checked on us throughout the meal. The grits were hot and delicious (says me- the Mister can’t stand grits). The eggs were fresh and perfectly cooked and the sausage patties and country fried steak were amazing! The homemade biscuits also hit the mark!! Overall, we thought the place was perfect and if you ever find yourself in the town of Dundee, FL (population 3,717) make sure and stop in at the diner. You won’t be disappointed!! Even if your husband is a diner connoisseur like mine!!
Chicken Fried and eggs. Getcha some.
Back in 1958 a man named Hume Logan wrote to his good friend Hunter Thompson requesting advice on what to do with his life. Given what followed for HST one might have expected the reply to suggest goodly helping of Sex, booze, dope and rock and roll but instead Thompson wrote one of the best letters about how to live your life ever penned. Picking the life you want and then molding your career around who you want to be is an incredibly powerful idea. It took me until I was in my late 40s to figure this out and begin to choose my life first and adapt my career to how I wanted to live and I have been about 7 and 1/2 fuckfulls happy since I did.
April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City
You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal— to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.
I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.
“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)
And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect— between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.
But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?
The answer— and, in a sense, the tragedy of life— is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.
So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?
The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.
I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre. These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.
But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors— but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires— including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.
As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).
In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life— the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.
Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN— and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.
Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.
So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”
And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know— is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.
If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo— this merely happens to be mine.
If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that— no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.
And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,
A million thanks to Shane Parrish for this reminder of this great reminder of contentment and desire from the Plutarchs Lives. If oyu arenot reading Shanes Blog, Farnam Street,I highly recommend it be the second thing you read every day after you have checked in at church.
The Romans, sir, are reported to be great warriors and conquerors of many warlike nations; if God permit us to overcome them, how should we use our victory?”
“You ask,” said Pyrrhus, “a thing evident of itself. The Romans once conquered, there is neither Greek nor barbarian city that will resist us, but we shall presently be masters of all Italy, the extent and resources and strength of which any one should rather profess to be ignorant of than yourself.”
Cineas after a little pause, “And having subdued Italy, what shall we do next?”
Pyrrhus not yet discovering his intention, “Sicily,” he replied, “next holds out her arms to receive us, a wealthy and populous island, and easy to be gained; for since Agathocles left it, only faction and anarchy, and the licentious violence of the demagogues prevail.”
“You speak,” said Cineas, “what is perfectly probable, but will the possession of Sicily put an end to the war?”
“God grant us,” answered Pyrrhus, “victory and success in that, and we will use these as forerunners of greater things; who could forbear from Libya and Carthage then within reach, which Agathocles, even when forced to fly from Syracuse, and passing the sea only with a few ships, had all but surprised? These conquests once perfected, will any assert that of the enemies who now pretend to despise us, any one will dare to make further resistance?”
“None,” replied Cineas, “for then it is manifest we may with such mighty forces regain Macedon, and make an absolute conquest of Greece; and when all these are in our power what shall we do then?”
Said Pyrrhus, smiling, “We will live at our ease, my dear friend, and drink all day, and divert ourselves with pleasant conversation.”
When Cineas had led Pyrrhus with his argument to this point: “And what hinders us now, sir, if we have a mind to be merry, and entertain one another, since we have at hand without trouble all those necessary things, to which through much blood and great labour, and infinite hazards and mischief done to ourselves and to others, we design at last to arrive?”
Do it for the children.
That’s is the deadliest phrase in the history of the world. It is usually uttered, nay not uttered but screeched, screamed, vehemently voiced, loudly expressed and just plain yelled by urgent and well-meaning reformers who would have us pass laws and regulations to protect the poor innocent children from the evils of life. At all costs we must enact the changes required by the well-meaning self-righteous folks of limited imagination and intelligence. Do it for the children is usually force fed to the emotionally powerful and intellectually weak shock troops to pass some political or religious measures that the Absolutely Convinced think needs to be in place.
Do it for the kids was one the rallying cries for Lyndon Johnsons Great Society legislation to reduce and eliminate poverty in America though social and entitlement reforms. How has it worked? According to hedge fund manager extraordinaire Stanly Druckenmiller not so good for the kids. He said last year that “So, if you could go back to 1965, the senior poverty rate in this country was 30%, and it’s 9% now. I think everybody can applaud that’s a great achievement. The problem is you go back to 1965, your child poverty rate was 21%, and now it’s 25%. So, all the gains we’ve made in terms of poverty the last 40 years have accrued to the elderly. If you look at the average per capita income in this country, we’re spending 56% of every worker’s dollars on the elderly, and we’re spending 7% on children.” 15 million children live in poverty in the US 55 years after we “did it for the children.”
How about the war on drugs. Nixon started it and every President since has embraced as a way to protect our children form the scourge of drugs? If your definition of protecting our children is locking them in a cage separated from society and the world then it has worked just fucking fine. About 25% of the US prison population is incarcerated as a result of drug charges. We lock up more of our young people than any other country in the world and most of them are in there on drug related charges. Has all this locking up our kids slowed down the supply of drugs? Not even a little bit but it has relieved tax payers of trillions of dollars so far. We did it for the children and the children have paid the price right along with the rest of us.
Gun Control. Keep kids safe from all those nasty guns. Sure seems to be working. There were 472 shootings in Chicago LAST MONTH. 90 of them were fatal. Many,if not most of the shootings, involved young people. Now do any of you precious souls think those guns were legally obtained by responsible citizens? If you please check yourself into the Church’s newly planned clinic for the rehabilitation of dogmatic morons immediately. My old hometown of Baltimore has a nice quiet Labor Day weekend with 22 people including a 4 and a 6 year old, shot over the final weekend of summer. Of course both Chicago and Baltimore have strict gun control laws making sure that only the bad guys have guns putting the entire city, including and especially the children, at greater risk. We don’t have a gun problem folks. We have an illegal gun problem but that doesn’t look good on a poster and would involve admitting we fucked up with the war on drugs we pursued to protect the children so we best not talk about that.
Education reform. Let’s do it for the children. But first we better buildup their self-esteem and make sure the little darling never taste failure. Little fuckers can’t read or write but they feel really good about themselves and have an extraordinarily well formed sense of entitlement so I guess that’s a win. To make sure we have experienced teachers let’s make sure the Teachers Unions are so strong no one can ever be fired no matter how incompetent or burned out they are. To protect the minds of our children’s from learning anything we do not want to them to we should build a bureaucracy that steers the curriculum and make sure no new money actually makes it into a classroom. We all know that original thought is dangerous for children with their poor little undeveloped minds so let’s make sure we implement standardized testing that crushes curiosity and intellectual adventurism.
I could go on ..and on…and …on. Anytime I hear some version of Do it For the Children I know that someone is trying to use pure, raw emotional force to pass some self-serving agenda that is probably really fucking horrible for the children and more than likely , me. Do It for the Children means there is a power grab or wallet emptying maneuver under way and heightened caution is required.
You want to do something for the children? Teach them to love reading and books. Expose them to music and poetry. Help them find their inner sense of wonder and curiosity. Teach them the value of hard work and how to construct a foundation under the castles they build in the sky. Teach them to dream. Teach them to explore. Make them laugh. Crush their electronic devices with a great big fucking hammer (BFH). Teach them to avoid anyone who is absolutely convinced of anything unproven in this life. Teach them Scientific method and probabilities so they might be better at thinking. Make them laugh. Make them study history. Make them earn what they want.
If you don’t want to do anything like this for the children then I implore you- leave the Children the Fuck Alone. We will all, but most of all the children, be much better off if you do,
Extend Us The Same Courtesy We Extend You
From the wife last week after my daughter was here for a week I’ve decided that everyone should have a Melvin. I have been blessed with three…
The End of The Line by the Traveling Wilburys
All the different places we can find answers