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Bewildering Stories

Bewildering Stories Editorial

by Jerry Wright

Tribes and Diatribes

And now we will hear from that expatriate, that curmudgeon who lives in Mexico, that person of bizarre character... Fred Reed... and his diseased ramblings, with my own interjections.

I have seen it said that the national character of the United States safeguards the country against despotism. I doubt it. National character may exist at a given moment, but it is easily changed. A spirit of hardy independence, of “Don’t Tread On Me” and so on, cannot outlive the independence itself. America is no longer a nation of rifle-toting frontiersmen or self-sufficient farmers. It is a nation of employees. On average they are heavily indebted, imprisoned by the retirement system, unable to farm, fish, hunt, defend themselves, change their spark plugs or build a shelter. They cannot live without the state, which leaves…who in charge?

Of course, this doesn't seem to apply to the many (for example) Asians and others who come to this country legally and work hard, build wealth, and have highly educated children, for at least the first generation...

A curious phenomenon, of uncertain provenance though I have heard many theories, is the national promotion of psychic weakness as a virtue. Some of it surpasses parody. I see that teachers are eliminating red pencils for grading papers because the violence of the color might shock the sensibilities of the students. There is much of this. Presumably the effect, and perhaps the intention, is a cowering race of pitiable and self-pitying weaklings unable to withstand, well, much of anything. A red pencil, for example. Dreadful things, those pencils.

And of course, guns. Or pictures of guns. Or fingers pointing as pretend guns. Ah, the humanity of it all...

People want neither freedom nor democracy. They want a soothing mother domestically and an outlet, preferably overseas, for anger.

As a general rule, that is. Those who want less government, and the freedom to make their own mistakes rather than accepting the mistakes of the both paternalist and maternalist government, find themselves more and more marginalized. But where can we go for freedom? Robert Heinlein recommended moving to a new planet. Wish we could.

While political democracy does not exist, cultural democracy does. It can exist because it does not threaten those who govern. The common run of humanity has no interest in learning anything or in any sort of intellectual betterment. They resent anything they see as indicating superiority in others, though, and want assurance that, as kids used to say in Alabama, “you ain’t no gooder’n me.” The degradation of the schools serves to eliminate obvious distinction, improve docility, avoid unwanted study, and make people consumers of witless amusement provided from above, as for example terrible music and awful movies.

And all the tribes, be they Demlicans or Republicrats, or something in between say, "Trust us. We have your bestest interests at heart." At least the tribes in South L.A. only want your money, or your life if you get in the way. They aren't interesting in destroying your soul.

All of the foregoing I believe serve to make the public a somnolent mass paying taxes, buying things, and directing little attention to larger matters. The only freedoms most want are the freedom to drive nice cars, watch 300 channels on the cable, drink beer, and take an occasional vacation. Freedom matters to intellectuals. For most, prosperity suffices.

Fred's full column is available Here.

Do I want to cry? Sometimes.

Copyright © 2005 by Jerry Wright for Bewildering Stories

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