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There’s always something to howl about

You know what? Despite everything: Happy New Year!

I wrote this last night in a comment to a post:

The United States is being run as a kleptocracy, but instead of plundering the treasury and the accumulated wealth of the nation in behalf of a small criminal conspiracy, we rob from a rapidly-diminishing productive sector in behalf of a vast and ever-burgeoning population of moochers — at all strata of society.

You can’t flip on the television without running across a cipher for your own grandmother proudly announcing how some politically-connected vendor has taught her how to rape the taxpayers — which is to say you and your kids, her own great-grandchildren — in her own behalf. This will be the real triumph of Obamacare — to turn every last resident of this once-proud nation into sniveling beggars, each one trying to snap up more benefits than his neighbor.

We don’t have to eat each others’ flesh to be cannibals, and it seems plausible to me that we will not be suffered to live a life of freedom and independence, in the very near future. The entitlement mentality is such a shameful thing that the people who use it as a means of enslaving each other will not suffer the contradiction of an objective renunciation of their creed. In any case, once you’ve eaten a meal taken by theft, you’re not as apt to make noises about law and order, property rights, all that sanctimonious nonsense. Who am I do judge, once I’ve drunk my neighbor’s blood?

That’s dour, but I’m afraid it’s much too exact. Yes, I know that things are always worse than they seem, that the doppler effect of the noise that is the news makes the onrushing crisis sound more ominous even as receding events seem to race away harmlessly. But I fear we are at a tipping point, a place where the grasshoppers so far outnumber the ants that there really is no hope, going forward, for a life based on self-reliance, on philosophical egoism, political individualism and economic free enterprise. The United States has resolved to resolve the contradiction of chattel slavery by making slaves of everyone. This is an obvious error — and not a new one — but nothing and no one stands in opposition to the course we have set for ourselves.

And we already know how this story ends, eventually: Ruin, famine, and, ultimately, mass murders in the millions. It is very hard, at times like these, to argue that people are not lemmings, madly rushing off of every precipice, searching out and celebrating every possible route to our mass annihilation.

And yet… Here is Teri Lussier, right beside me in my mind. And over there is Al Lorenz, always trying something new. Deep in the heart of Texas, Tom Johnson is practicing acupuncture on every political gasbag in sight. And all the dogs at BloodhoundBlog are hammering away at their keyboards, looking for more and better ways to deliver exceptional service and to earn exceptional profits. And here, always, is my Best Beloved, who has not one atom of evil within her. And even as I gaze upon the assembled hordes of lemmings, packed tightly together at cliff’s edge, breathlessly awaiting the command to leap to their doom, even now I have to stop and laugh, like Roark at cliff’s edge: We, Cathleen and I, are on the precipice of what will be by far our best year ever.

We’re going to prosper even as much of the rest of America destroys itself in a frenzy of mutual cannibalism. I would despair, but I’m not made that way. The only life I have the power — and the moral right — to control is my own, and, except in the rarest of circumstances, the only life I can save is my own. The lemmings will not live if I jump off the cliff with them, but I can live, with hard work and a little luck. And while I am alive, my values live on.

Nothing is forever, and nothing teaches people — usually good-hearted but almost always thoughtless — the error of their ways like starvation. It’s a shame that we’re going to have to go through this hell, but Dante’s argument is that it’s the only trustworthy route to heaven.

And it is what it is, in any case. Many moochers will die, and we can only hope that they won’t take too many otherwise innocent people with them. And we won’t know what the world will look like until we’ve made it through to the other side.

But my values will live on — through me and through people like me. The truth will out, even if we have to endure the awful consequences of every venal lie before it does.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

– Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

And, meanwhile, it’s New Year’s Eve. I believe in the power and glory and beauty of the human mind. I believe in work, and in the work of the mind. I believe that enduring prosperity accrues to us, when it does, because we have earned it. And I know that the pride — the reverence — the iridescent and inextinguishable glow of self-adoration that comes from having earned and deserved your own life — that pride can never be stolen by other people. The tragedy of the moocher’s creed is that the only riches they really want to take from me, from you, are the values of the mind that can never even be seen or touched — much less looted — by others.

And so: I wish you a Happy New Year! Now go out and earn it!

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  • 9 comments

    9 Comments so far

    1. Damon Chetson December 31st, 2009 9:21 pm

      This is why I admire you. All the best in the coming year.

    2. Greg Swann December 31st, 2009 10:33 pm

      > All the best in the coming year.

      And the same to you, Damon. Fortune favors the well-prepared mind, so I know this will be a landmark year for your practice.

    3. Teri Lussier January 1st, 2010 10:11 am

      Really lovely, Greg.

      One of the things BHB has encouraged me to do is to really think about and consider words and their meanings. When I read this I thought about what ‘resolve’ it shows, then of course I thought about ‘resolution’ and the real meaning of those words.

      >I believe in the power and glory and beauty of the human mind. I believe in work, and in the work of the mind. I believe that enduring prosperity accrues to us, when it does, because we have earned it. And I know that the pride — the reverence — the iridescent and inextinguishable glow of self-adoration that comes from having earned and deserved your own life — that pride can never be stolen by other people. The tragedy of the moocher’s creed is that the only riches they really want to take from me, from you, are the values of the mind that can never even be seen or touched — much less looted — by others.

      This is a brilliant re-solution or re-solve, for a new year. An impressive way to steel and protect yourself against anything harmful or disruptive or evil, but also to celebrate each unique person and their own life, because you cannot think this about yourself without recognizing it in others.

      Thanks for everything you do.
      Happy New Year to you and Cathy!

    4. Ashlee January 1st, 2010 7:45 pm

      Happy New Year! This really made me sit down and think!

    5. Doug Quance January 2nd, 2010 12:09 pm

      Happy New Year to you, Cathleen and Cameron.

      I hope I will have something good to write about, soon. 2009 gave me very little to be happy about… and every time I sat down to write – it was all negative.

    6. Greg Swann January 2nd, 2010 4:21 pm

      >> I believe in the power and glory and beauty of the human mind. I believe in work, and in the work of the mind. I believe that enduring prosperity accrues to us, when it does, because we have earned it. And I know that the pride — the reverence — the iridescent and inextinguishable glow of self-adoration that comes from having earned and deserved your own life — that pride can never be stolen by other people. The tragedy of the moocher’s creed is that the only riches they really want to take from me, from you, are the values of the mind that can never even be seen or touched — much less looted — by others.

      > This is a brilliant re-solution or re-solve, for a new year. An impressive way to steel and protect yourself against anything harmful or disruptive or evil, but also to celebrate each unique person and their own life, because you cannot think this about yourself without recognizing it in others.

      I agree with this. If the interior experience of Splendor is what each one of us really wants from the brief span of time we are alive, then — if you are already moving rightward on the number line — just being aware of how your values are (self-)created and (self-)destroyed will keep you focused on learning, growing and being ever-more-worthy of your own self-reverence. And for those of us who are not moving rightward — away from the zero and all those negatives — it is only by openly acknowledging our own inescapable responsibility for our own happiness that we will start on the journey to achieving our values — each one of us individually and mostly introspectively, of course.

      We are each of us somewhere on that number line. Only the smallest few are very far to the left of the zero. But a great many of us are stuck in a Drunkard’s Walk with its origin at zero. Sometimes we do well, sometimes we do badly. But we lack all conviction that hard work will pay off in the end — perhaps because most of us are focused on the wrong values as being worthy payment for righteous behavior? — and so we never get very far from where we started. We are not wicked, awful, loathsome people. We are just not very good at pursuing our own happiness. And once we start to blame other people for our troubles, we settle in to the left of the zero and become the kind of self-rationalizing lemmings that truly wicked, awful, loathsome people can’t get along without.

      It works out the same, either way: The only soul you have the power to save is your own.

      > Thanks for everything you do.

      Likewise. I rejoice in the simple awareness that you exist.

    7. Greg Swann January 2nd, 2010 4:25 pm

      > 2009 gave me very little to be happy about

      I vote for 2010 being the year when you rewrite the history books. Experience and integrity have never mattered more in real estate than they do right now. Here’s to a record-breaking year!

    8. Al Lorenz January 3rd, 2010 1:36 pm

      Happy New Year Greg, Cathleen and all the hounds! Keep your thoughts coming since they will continue to live on much longer than any of us! Come what may with the rest of the world, 2010 is looking like a great year for those who decide to make it so!

    9. Greg Swann January 3rd, 2010 7:11 pm

      > Happy New Year Greg, Cathleen and all the hounds!

      Same to you, bud.

      > Come what may with the rest of the world, 2010 is looking like a great year for those who decide to make it so!

      Damn straight!