The Monopoly on Normal

The state is defined by some as being the entity that has a monopoly on violence. 

But there’s more to a society than just who has the guns. There are other forms of control. 

I’m more interested in the entity that has a monopoly on normal.

And that entity is not necessarily just “The State.”

What is acceptable?

What can you do?

What can you think?

Who is it that you can criticize? And who is it that you can’t?

And who makes these rules?

There’s this tendency, which I find laughable, of constantly deriding the 1950s as an era of overwhelming, stifling conformity, a boogeyman to be invoked every time we beat our chests and crow about “how far we’ve come.”

And while certain things are better–many, in fact–in other ways thigs today are just as stifling. 

Every era has its problems. And every era has standards that you will be nudged to comply with–at first gently, and then with increasingly greater force. Until, eventually, the guys with the guns, threatened or actual, will come pay you a visit.  Continue reading “The Monopoly on Normal”

Make America Humble Again?

While neighborhood-scouting in the tony areas of Northern Virginia with my family, I saw a house proudly decorated with signs reading the following:

MAKE AMERICA HUMBLE AGAIN

I wasn’t able to get a picture since I was driving, but here’s how they looked: They weren’t homemade, so I know there’s some enterprising company wishing to express this sentiment (which only seems to arise when a Republican is president, but I digress), and there are obviously people who want to pay for this sentiment. 

The text was meant to simulate something, a name-card, maybe, reading “Make America ________ Again,” like a political mad-lob. The word “humble” was written in a cursive script in the blank space, and the whole thing was on a pinkish background. 

Not the sign, but the closest picture I could find.

The signs got me thinking about the concepts “America” and “humility,” which is a persuasion win on both the signmaker and the sign-hanger’s part. 

But given what I know about America specifically and geopolitics at large, was America ever humble?

It’s the same way people wonder if America was ever great (hint: It still is, but mostly in relation to most everywhere else). 

America began life as a gigantic “Eff You!” to the most powerful empire in the world. 

It prevailed against incredible odds, and somehow survived the difficult decades after, to emerge some two centuries later as the world’s only superpower.

It’s kind of hard to be humble with a history like that. 

Look, we all know it’s not going to last. All empires–because that’s what America is, like it or not–have their ups and downs. And they change forms. 

Look at England, for example. It’s not the same country it was in 1066, or even 1966.  And yet it persists. 

America isn’t even that old, and we already don’t exist as founded. We haven’t for a lot time. 

America as founded died a long time ago, and is now firmly in the “smells funny” phase.  Continue reading “Make America Humble Again?”

Movie Review: Silenced: Our War on Free Speech

silenced-movie-poster-1

There’s so much talk about free speech these days. But what does “free speech” even mean? Why does it matter?

As Americans, free speech is our “first right,” from which our other rights flow.

Free speech is constitutionally guaranteed in the First Amendment, arguably one of the greatest codification of fundamental human rights in existence, as one of our God-given rights.

Even if you don’t believe in God, you have the right to free speech by nature of your being a human.

Despite the importance of free speech to American society, even those not “plugged in” to contemporary politics and culture can sense a narrowing of what is acceptable speech and what is not, about political correctness and the unwritten list of things one can and cannot say.

Is the government behind the increased stifling of free expression these days? Or is this political correctness and silencing of the “wrong” speech coming from somewhere else?

These are the questions asked and discussed in Silenced: Our War on Free Speech, the new documentary film from Loren Feldman (director) and Mike Cernovich (producer). And as an original Kickstarter backer of the film, I was lucky enough to have the chance to watch the film before it’s release.

As Harvard professor and First Amendment lawyer Alan Dershowitz says in the movie, we’ve largely won the free speech battle against the government. Our current culture of censorship, silence, and intimidation is coming from ourselves.

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Silenced is a film I am proud to have helped make possible, even in small part.  

I’ve written about Mike Cernovich before, the mindset expert who made a name for himself with his book Gorilla Mindset, and, most recently, with his journalism and political activism. Silenced, his first film, explores Americans’ current obsession with censoring each other and what it means for the future of our politics and culture.

And while Cernovich himself is on the political right, don’t think this is a “political” film. There are many guests on the left, in the center, and those whose politics no one knows. And regardless of their personal politics, they all share a common belief: Free speech is vital to a free and open Western society. Choke it at your own peril. Continue reading “Movie Review: Silenced: Our War on Free Speech

Playing the Democracy Game: Why It’s Still Good to Vote

I got my absentee ballot, and I’m ready to vote! November 8 is right around the corner and–thank God!–this election cycle will soon be over.

I say this with a mixture of relief and regret. Relief, because this has been nasty, truly bringing out the worst in many of us. And yet, at the same time, I think we’ve also seen the best in some people, some strange political bedfellows that might be working to change the system, or at least raise serious questions about it that might lead to change.

What do I mean? Well, for starters, if you’re an American reading this, and even if you’re not, you’ve probably heard much hand-wringing from both presidential candidates about rigged votingOne has whined more than the other, but they’ve both gotten into the game.

(And yes, I know that there are technically four presidential candidates, maybe five in some states. But only two of them have a realistic chance.)

Before we all start pig-piling on political whiners, let’s make something clear: VOTER FRAUD IS AN INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT ISSUE THAT SHOULD BE TALKED ABOUT.

I’m not hear to talk about politics though. I’m hear to talk about voting as a concept in a system that has a high probability of being rigged.

Let’s assume arguendo that the system is rigged. Would you still vote?

I would, for four very important reasons:

  1. Voting is a really good habit to get into;
  2. Voting is one of the few really powerful rights that we still do have;
  3. If you vote and the election is rigged, you have a powerfully legitimate grievance that needs to be addressed; and
  4. Screw the man.

In a republic with democratically elected representatives with a winner-take-all election system, like we have here in the United States, those who show up, win.

Let’s talk about rigging for a second. It’s incredibly naive to think that American politics aren’t rigged. Voter fraud is an American tradition going back at least 100 years. Dead people vote, illegal aliens and other non-citizens vote, some people–dead or otherwise–vote twice (or more), there is voter intimidation, voter suppression, and all other kinds of nasty stuff going on.

In other words, the chances that your vote is negated by some form of fraud is incredibly high. Continue reading “Playing the Democracy Game: Why It’s Still Good to Vote”

Notes on Government Work from an Inside Man

I am a small-government conservative/libertarian. I also work for the United States government. 

No, it’s not a contradiction. There’s no head-bursting cognitive dissonance. In fact, while I don’t want to share too many details, because then I’d have to kill you, I’d like to share some of my observations on government work. Maybe they’ll dispel some of your illusions the way they did mine. 

The rank-and-file take their job seriously. We all know the stories of laziness, graft, and corruption. But my experience among the other government working stiffs is that people really believe in their mission. For example,  big part of what my office does is keep an eye on expenditures and make sure we are not wasting taxpayer money. It’s great to know that my colleagues, regardless of their politics, take this as seriously as I do.  Continue reading “Notes on Government Work from an Inside Man”

Millennials: We Are a Symptom, Not the Problem


When you have children, your thoughts turn towards the generation gap. The most visible example of this is the current case of Millennials versus everybody else.

Hello Im a MillennialFull disclosure: I was born in 1981, so depending on who you ask, I’m either a Millennial or a Gen-Xer. But my parents were young Boomers (too young to be hippies) who had me at a very young age, so I tend to lump myself in with the Millennials despite being a good 15 years older than many of them. As such, I’ll be using the pronoun “we” when referring to Millennials.

“They’re spoiled!” the conventional wisdom goes. “They’re entitled! Mentally fragile!” And so on.

In other words, it’s trendy to bash Millennials. We all do it. But stop and think: We didn’t emerge from the womb the way we are.

In fact, it’s pretty clear that bad choices made by the older generations have created the millennial “monster” they now fear. And that monster doesn’t like them either.

And you know what? The older generations totally deserve it.

Further, it seems like a lot of Millennials are waking up and getting wise to our situation and how to make it better.

In order to fix a situation, you need to diagnose the problem. The issues facing Millennials are those that have formed every person since the dawn of time. People are a product of their parents and the society in which they live.

Parents

The parents of Millennials meant well in a lot of ways, but to be fair, did overly coddle their kids. But these parents–many Boomers, some Gen-Xers–were coddled by their parents, who also can’t escape blame.

A large part of this coddling is the belief that the good times will continue forever just because, and you’re owed a decent standard of living for just existing. 

Bad habits get formed. The wrong lessons get taught. Safety and security become virtues.

Yesterday’s rebels became today’s conformists when it came to raising their children.  Continue reading “Millennials: We Are a Symptom, Not the Problem”

The Cage of Safety

Hands gripping bars of cage

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re living like a caged animal, chafing at your bonds? That life is a little too boring, too safe, too sanitized? And that, worst of all, you feel kind of useless? Outdated? With no real purpose?

Congratulations. You’re probably an American male.

But enough about that. Let’s talk about Japan.

Have you heard about the phenomenon called hikikomori? It’s where young Japanese people, primarily men, stay in their bedrooms and refuse to come out. For years. There are many explanations for this, as well as for some of the other societal problems Japan is facing. Problems like men who refuse to get married, men who refuse to be involved in long-term romantic relationships, and men who refuse to have sex.

Sound familiar?

Poster explaining Hikikomori

Some researchers speculate that hikikomori may result from the toxic mixture of high societal expectations and overbearing mothers prevalent in Japanese culture. I’m not Japanese, so I don’t understand the minutiae of how things are in the Land of the Rising son, and my mother is a wonderful lady, but I can see the relation between these factors in my own life, as well as in American society as a whole.

I think there is a similar malaise in the United States caused two similar factors:

  1. Expectations set by the unprecedented–and quite frankly, unrealistic–economic boom experienced by the Boomer generation; and
  2. Overweening, helicopter parenting  brought about by a general feminization of the culture

Does that bother you? Don’t believe me? Look at how we talk about men, masculinity (“Toxic” masculinity? Ugh . . .), and what it even means to be a man nowadays.

It’s no wonder everybody’s so confused. Continue reading “The Cage of Safety”