Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Response to John Nugent: Part 6 - Brainwashing

I was eleven years old and it was December 1993. In just over a year the now legendary Nebraska Cornhusker coach Tom Osborne would win his first of three national championships. In just about exactly a year I would be baptized. Standing there in the foyer of our parent church, I could see no higher purpose for my life than to serve the living God, Creator of heaven and earth. I knew I could not know the future, but even at that young age I realized it would be no cakewalk, and that making a lifetime commitment was a serious thing since lives last so long. In that time I sought out challenges and knowing the challenges of being a Christian was more an attraction to me than a repellent. In about eight months I would go to a new school for sixth grade, a private Christian school instead of going on to the public middle school. I would learn for the first time that being really smart wasn't actually very cool and was not the best way to make friends. I learned how to be funny and a goofball in order to hide how smart I was and that I am not a normal person. To this day it is still necessary, but in the end people always find out, and I know now what to do when that happens. I move on before they start to hate me. I can't handle any more bad endings.

In about six months I would go with my family on a short term medical mission trip to Russia. I had been on another one of these before, to Haiti when I was three. I still have a scar on my left shoulder from failing to navigate a barbed wire fence in an attempt to feed the ducks on the other side. I remember watching through our screen door as my dad tried to kill a tarantula with bleach and a board. I remember being the only white people in a church full of dancing, singing Haitians, standing there like a flag pole cemented to the ground and feeling out of place for the first time in my short life. I remember a field of sugar cane and two puppies in an empty fountain. But I remember little else from Haiti. Russia was another matter. It was only three years after the fall of the Soviet Union. I remember everything from Russia, but what I remember most is standing on the balcony of our flat the last night we were there, crying and praying over these people. I desperately wanted to help them but I didn't know how. What I remember most is the crushing weight of despair and hopelessness hanging over the entire population like the clouds on an overcast day. I remember the way people were at restaurants and other public places, walking around with their heads down and shuffling their feet. I saw the burnt out kiosk at the open market by the metro station. My parents explained that the mafia had destroyed it because the owner didn't pay an extortion fee. No one was friendly in public like in the United States. Nobody smiled, and the people behind the counter helped you when they felt like it and not before. The best restaurant in all of Moscow was McDonald's, and the prices there reflected that. So did the cleanliness of the bathrooms. The tales of disgusting, horrible Russian public bathrooms would horrify even my college friends that I went to Mexico with. The toilets were holes in the ground which you could usually reach if you didn't mind stepping in all of the urine-soaked shit that missed it. Compared to that the bathrooms at McDonald's were like heaven. We even took a tour of the factory that made their cheese like it was some kind of tourist attraction. In just the six weeks we were there, the ruble inflated three hundred percent against the dollar. Kopecks were still around, but by that time they were worth less than the dirt under your feet, and that's where I usually found them. When we needed rubles we traded dollars for them in the morning and spent them as soon as possible. When the Russian people could get American dollars, they hid them away in a safe place like they were precious gems. It was about the only way to keep your money from becoming worthless in short order.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have stayed a conservative through college without this formative experience. I have seen the stark contrast between a society like America and another one that lived by a different philosophy for three generations. I have seen a great and proud nation brought low by simple economics, and it is not a pretty sight. It is terrible. It hurts. It makes people despair of life and love and happiness. Every last one of them knew their lives would never be any better than they were. Not only that, but they had seen things get much worse. Even in China there was at least some hope depending on whether or not you could succeed in the highly competitive school system, but their best restaurant was still McDonald's. In Russia there was no hope whatsoever. Everything was breaking down, both the physical buildings, all from the 60s, and institutions like schools and hospitals. And that was just Moscow and St. Petersburg, cities in which the communists had spent vast sums they couldn't afford to hide the even more severe effects of communism on the rest of the country. I saw a poor family kill the fattened calf for us and fill a room with smiles because the Americans were their guests. I had borscht for the first time and liked it. I hated the kvas, but all of us did. We never quite believed them when they said it was non-alcoholic. I now know that Russians drink beer to sober up. For them, kvas is as non-alcoholic as water. I heard one of the permanent missionaries tell us to eat some street vendor hot dogs before we went in case the food was inedible. It was actually pretty great, at least this time. They had to put their best foot forward for the Americans. The Russians are a prideful people. I saw the same thing playing out in that summer of 1994 as they spent large amounts of money to restore medieval castles with real gold and expensive amber artwork even as they hovered just above starvation. I understand why a people might accept a tyrant like Putin, who at least was able to preside over some measure of an economic rebound. This is what happens when a nation loses its pride. This is what happens when a country falls apart. I would do anything within my power to prevent that from happening to any people, but to see it in the future of my own nearly twenty years later is unbearable, especially when we of all people in the whole world ought to know better. I have been there. I know that road, and I know exactly where it ends. It doesn't help healthcare. It doesn't help education. It doesn't create jobs or help the economy. It doesn't help the poor and needy, the hungry or the homeless. It doesn't make people righteous or happy. It makes everything worse. For everybody. And no one can tell me otherwise with mere words. I have seen it with my own eyes. It sucks.

But in that December of 1993 I had seen none of this. I was concerned primarily with the minute hand of the clock reaching six. The hour hand was already at three, and the last day of school before Christmas vacation was nearly over. My fifth grade teacher announced that she would be handing out Christmas presents. Pencils! In fifth grade we all collected pencils. I had my own collection. We all had the pencils for our favorite football teams. We had pencils for the designs we liked. We traded them, we bought them and we never, ever sharpened them. Our teacher knew this, so she had bought us some cheap Christmas themed ones. All we had to do was line up in front of her desk, approach one by one and say, "I believe in Santa Claus," and we were out the door for Christmas vacation with the pencil. One by one every one of my classmates approached her desk and said, "I believe in Santa Claus," got their pencil and left. When my turn came I apologized to my teacher and told her I couldn't say it. Surprised, she asked me why. I didn't quite understand the question. "Because I don't believe in Santa Claus," I said, matter-of-factly. I don't remember exactly how she responded, but I was dismissed without a pencil. I didn't care. I had no school for weeks ahead of me, and a pencil was a small price to pay for the Truth. As far as I know, I was the only one in my class who didn't get one.

Weeks or months later, I don't really remember how long, I casually told this story to my mom. I thought it was funny. She didn't. To replace the pencil I had eschewed, she went out and bought me a fancy looking pen which I kept safe in my miniature locker on my desk at home mostly because I felt it was expected of me. I liked the pen, don't get me wrong, and I appreciated the object lesson, but I have never needed object lessons when it came to pursuing the Truth. It's what I do. Anything else does not compute. I know this woman was completely incapable of having asked us to say we believed in Jesus Christ and not just for professional reasons either. It's a strange world we live in when falsities are the only allowable topics for discussion. This world of lies is only fit for young children, apparently, and in this country we like to keep them young for as long as possible. There is something holy about youth, we are told. I only wonder what sort of thing is holy next to the Truth, especially in a world where the Truth seems so completely set apart from our normal experience. Kids are the absolute last people in the world we should be lying to, since kids are far more likely to believe it. And yet we say things like, "Oh they are only kids." It's like we don't believe that lies are dangerous. That what kids believe doesn't matter. I fear we will reap what we have sown.

I was taught other lies in public elementary school which were not so easily vanquished. One of my favorites is the story of Christopher Columbus. In 1492 he sailed the ocean blue. Columbus was a brave explorer, the story goes, and he believed the earth was round. Did you know children that everyone else in that time believed the earth was flat? They were so silly! But Columbus knew the earth was round, and so when everyone else sailed east and kept close to land, he sailed west away from land. Everyone thought he was crazy! His sailors advised him to turn back before they fell off the edge of the earth. But hark! Columbus was right after all! Instead of sailing off into space Columbus discovered America!

Everyone knows this story because we were taught it, if not in school then in television or the press or college, those three being equally helpful when it comes to American history. In fact this little fable is the set-up for the supposed real "truth" that only college professors are allowed to tell you: that people believed the earth was flat because the Bible told them so. Gasp! The scandal! I wasn't told the truth as a child because people were afraid I would stop believing the Bible, and we need the Bible to teach us how to socialize with our classmates and not talk back to the teacher! But the Bible really isn't about the Truth at all is it? It's really a book whose only purpose is to teach us how to behave like the good little boys and girls we are. We should look for Truth elsewhere. So the story goes.

No one seems to ask the prior question of whether the above fable is actually true. In case you were wondering, it isn't. In case you were wondering, we know that western civilization has known the earth and the other heavenly spheres were round since about two thousand years before 1492. In other words, western civilization has known since the beginning of western civilization. In case you were wondering, the excuse for teaching us that the Bible says the earth is flat is vague references in Revelation to the "four corners of the earth," a clear poetic reference to the four cardinal directions which were in use even back then. And this is the same Bible that the vast majority of the Christians in Europe up to the time of Columbus were never allowed to read in their own language anyway. The only ones who could read the Latin Vulgate were also well aware the earth was a sphere. In case you were wondering, Christopher Columbus wasn't right about the earth and he wasn't in it just for the thrill of exploration. In contrast to most of the educated people of his time, he believed the earth was much smaller than it was. He also knew that if he could find a quicker route to India than the eastern trading routes currently available he could literally make boatloads of money. He even thought that when he landed at the island he named Hispaniola that he had found an island off the coast of India. Columbus continued to believe he had found India long after most knew better. That's why he called the natives of Hispaniola "Indians", a name that stuck. He was in it for profit from international trade and Christian proselytization, neither of which we can have our schoolchildren believing are good things if we want them to grow up into socialists. No, exploration was the real reason. The joy of discovery. That's it. We wouldn't want our children believing that the profit motive or Christianity leads to anything good. And even if they see through the fable, we'll simply tell them that it wasn't actually a good thing that Columbus found America. Now how could we accomplish that?

Another great elementary school fable is the tale of Thanksgiving. This one has the added irritation of guaranteed retelling every year in sync with the national holiday, and like the flat earth myth it has an element that is withheld until college (or television, movies, the press, etc.) so as to achieve maximum pathos. (Come to think of it, I seem to remember Columbus day celebrated every year in my public elementary school. Coincidence?) In this happy tale the Pilgrims of the Mayflower journey to the mysterious New World. Why? Well the same reason as Columbus did of course. When they got there life was hard and they had trouble growing enough food. But the Indians visited them and gave them food when they were hungry, even teaching them how to grow corn! So one day the Indians brought a bunch of food and sat down together with the Pilgrims and had a big happy feast together, which we now celebrate as Thanksgiving. Who were we giving thanks to? That part is left out. I wonder how many schoolchildren grow up thinking the thanks being given was to the Indians. The part of this fable we don't learn until we are older is that those nasty witch-hunting Pilgrims turned on their friends the Indians and killed them all to steal their land. The happy story has a tragic ending, and the noble Indians were killed for being nice and generous to strangers they should never have trusted. Children, we are the descendants of those very Pilgrims! Alas, the sins of the fathers pass on to the children! America is a tale of woe and we are the bad guys. Thus have entire generations of children been taught to hate themselves and their country. They are taught that adults know the real truth that we are the bad guys, and anyone who disagrees simply hasn't grown up yet or is simply embracing his inner evil American. They are taught the primary goal of all things American must be to pay penance for all her numerous sins. But why is this story told in picture books lining the shelves of our government elementary schools? What is the object of this Technicolor fable?

The childhood fable we learn about the Indians neglects to inform us of the rest of the Indian's part in this little morality play. In fact, even the adult version of the fable depends upon a system of apologetics defending their behavior. We will see what how this apologetic works in a minute. But first we need to remind ourselves of how ideological battles play out in the real world. In the Hollywood version there is a good guy and a bad guy. You can tell who the bad guy is because he's ugly and mean. Everything he does is automatically wrong because, well, he's the bad guy, just like the white Americans. We all know why he is there. He is there because if he wasn't there it wouldn't be much of a story. The good guy needs to exert moral superiority over somebody. This is the Hollywood version of morality, and most progressive propaganda is tailor-made to fit right into that framework.

In the real world ideological battles play out through the construction of opposing narratives. We tell stories to each other. There is no clear identification between which stories are good and which are bad, in fact all of these stories have their good guys and bad guys. But how do we differentiate between opposing stories? The word "ideology" has a bad connotation because these stories are often faulty. Notice I do not say they are often false. Why is that? Well, because a lie is easy to detect, and once detected the person who tells it ends up like Dan Rather, who got caught by a no-name blogger. Once a lie is detected, not only does the story lose its value for ideological purposes, but the one who told it loses credibility. So these types of stories do not usually contain clear falsehoods like the flat earth myth. The preferred method of ideological storytelling is to leave out important parts of the story. Thus the liberal media does not lie. Instead they choose not to report stories or even parts of stories that don't fit their narrative. They choose to leave out important parts of the Truth. And when a story does fit their narrative, they cover it like it's the only news in the world that matters. The enthusiasm of their coverage of a story directly correlates to that story's value to the liberal narrative. Thus people believed that Rodney King was an innocent victim of police brutality because no one, except for the jury that acquitted the officers, saw certain parts of the video. It was conveniently edited before it hit the airwaves, to say nothing of everything that happened before the bystander began taping. Thus no one knows that there were two other occupants in Rodney King's car, both black, who walked away from the incident completely unharmed because they weren't drunk and behaving violently and irrationally like King was. Etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum for one hundred years until we come to today, where the 90% of children who grow up spending eight hours a day in government owned and operated schools where the curriculum is literally controlled by politicians believe that the Indians never did anything wrong. And Nugent speaks to us of brainwashing. Ha!

Not too long ago I was trying and failing to continue my education by taking classes where they teach you how to teach. Actually those classes were required by the government before I would be allowed to teach in government funded schools. If it were up to me I would never have gone, since they were mostly worthless, just as all my friends in college who got teaching degrees had told me. It amazes me that we can't figure out what the problem is with American education. Even teachers cannot be allowed to teach before they are forced to imbibe pedagogical propaganda. Anyway, one time we had a discussion on this very topic. I related facts that I had learned on my own from various books I have read (none of them assigned to me in school of course), such as the fact that the vast majority, roughly eighty percent, of American Indians died from European diseases that they had not developed any immunity to. Obviously that was a tragic but unintentional side effect of European colonization. But why, when eighty percent of the population of an entire continent was wiped out by diseases, is the dominant narrative today driven by stories like the massacre at Wounded Knee where a few hundred Indians were killed? But I continued to assert to my future teacher friends that of the remaining twenty percent or so, the vast majority of those were not forced onto reservations and or killed by the colonials. There was a Trail of Tears and the massacre at Wounded Knee did happen. But what happened to the rest of the Indians who were not among the few thousands killed in battle or reprisals or moved to reservations? They assimilated into the dominant culture, often by intermarriage. They joined the dominant culture of their own free will and left their original culture behind by choice. At this point one of the women got extremely offended and exclaimed to me that she was descended from American Indians and that because of this fact I was wrong to taint the mythology of her people's unjust suffering at the hands of their white oppressors with inconvenient facts. In other words, the proof against my assertions that most American Indians assimilated into a different dominant culture through intermarriage was that she, a fully assimilated member of that culture, was descended from Indians who assimilated into that culture through intermarriage. I was so dumbfounded by this that I simply gave up. From what I understand, this woman is now being paid by the government to read picture books to kindergartners who are forced to be there under threat of punishment by our legal system. This is the sort of person we are creating in our system, people who are unable to respond rationally when their deeply ingrained progressive mythology is challenged and whose deepest calling in life becomes proselytizing that myth to the next generation.

But, you'll notice, I still haven't answered my own question. Why this particular myth? Why lionize the Indians at the expense of American Christian culture? Have patience.

I mentioned before that progressives believe and teach that American Indians didn't do anything wrong. Well, did they? Of course they did, at least according to Judeo-Christian morality. American Indians often raided Christian European towns and farms, raping, pillaging and killing for seemingly no reason. In fact even Wounded Knee was a reprisal for such a raid. But, says the Wounded Knee narrative, they were justified in doing this because the Christian European settlers were stealing their land. Ah yes. The "white people took their land" motif. It is part of progressive anti-colonial myths everywhere around the world. But as it concerns American Indians it is particularly ridiculous. Anyone who has actually studied the various American Indian worldviews cannot help but being hit smack in the face with an undeniable theme: Most American Indians had no concept of land ownership.

Suppose an alien race came to earth from outer space and start asking us for our air. Supposing they offered us warp engines, replicators and phasers for small portions of our air. Supposing each individual country made a few deals with this alien race, trading a few cubic kilometers of air for a warp engine. Not knowing how to make these things ourselves, we let the aliens stick around. What good fortune! We can now travel at ludicrous speed in exchange for nothing but air! We can make food from energy! We can vanquish the Russians with our awesome new phasers, and all for nothing but a small portion of our atmosphere, which no one really owns anyway! SuhWEET! What a great deal! Only after a long period of time of trading the air away or allowing it to be taken without complaint, air which the earthlings considered to be intangible, would anyone start to care that the earth's atmosphere was dwindling to levels which could no longer sustain life on earth. Eventually the earthlings would realize that air can in fact be owned, and only after it was taken away would they understand that. By that time of course it would be far too late, at which point they have several options. Some might unite to fight the aliens and be inevitably defeated. Others might make deals with the aliens to create bio-domes where small amounts of air remain in enough of a quantity to sustain anyone who would actually want to live there. But by far the best option is to simply join the aliens, travel to the alien's planet and live there, where the air from earth was being used to make life better than it could ever have possibly been on earth. But the one thing that would be certain: life on earth as we knew it would be irretrievably lost, and the reason cannot be reduced to a Hollywood morality play of good guys and bad guys. The reality of the situation is that an inferior culture lost out to a superior one, and now like it or not everyone is better off for it, especially those from the inferior culture who assimilated into the superior one, which is why so many of them did it. It's only an analogy, but it's a far better one than Avatar, a perfect progressive fantasy of how it should have ended.

For the Indians, land was an intangible quality. It was an assumed part of life, and it would always be there. It was not viewed quantitatively. The idea that someone could own it was preposterous to them. So when modern progressives accuse the Christian European colonials of "stealing" the American Indians' land, they are falsely assuming that the Indians had claimed ownership of it in the first place. They hadn't. The concept of "stealing land" only existed in reference to the Christian European worldview. To the Indians, land was an unlimited resource that was to be shared with anyone who happened to be around. But even more important than that, Indian culture did not have a strong sense of private property in general. They certainly had some concept of private property, but it paled in comparison to other values, especially honor.

When a young American Indian brave wanted to gain honor for himself, he would gather other like-minded braves and go on a raiding party. It did not matter who they raided, as long as it was not their own tribe. The reason for the raid was the need to gain honor in battle. It had nothing to do with guilt being assigned to the victims of the raid. The stronger the target, the more honor to be gained from attacking it. The greatest honor was reserved for "counting coup", a practice where during a battle a warrior would approach a dangerous enemy close enough to take something from them without harming them and get away without being killed in return. Why did this grant the greatest honor? Because it was the most challenging thing to do in battle. Anyone could kill someone and take their stuff, but it was hard to take someone's stuff without killing them first. Thus the concept of honor far outweighed the concept of private property.

Enter the colonists and their Judeo-Christian moral code containing within it the concept of sacrosanct private property. Enter a concept of land ownership and a strict system of drawing boundaries, completely invisible, imaginary and utterly incomprehensible to the Indians, within which the owner of the land was the absolute master of it. And so the young Indian brave with his tomahawk approaches the Christian European farmer with his matchlock. He has heard that these white-skinned folk possess the power of the gods and are the most formidable enemies of all. He is happy. Live or die the coming battle will bring the greatest honor of all to him and his family. The farmer sees the Indian approach. He is scared. He has heard the tales of these savages raiding farms just like his, killing the men and carrying off the women. He raises his matchlock. The farmer says, "Get off my land or I'll shoot!" The brave doesn't understand, even if he could have understood the words. All he sees is a challenge being issued, and the battle commences. It doesn't matter who wins. Perhaps the farmer shoots the brave, and he dies an honorable death. Perhaps the Indian kills the farmer and carries away his wife to be his own wife, honorably won in battle, the mother of his future children. Perhaps some of the farmer's people attack the Indian village, seeking justice against the one who murdered an innocent man and kidnapped and raped his wife. Regardless of what happened, there was never any chance of some sort of compromise or middle ground being reached. The two world views were one hundred percent incompatible. Honor for the one meant injustice to the other. The engine of prosperity and the basis of individual rights, freedom and justice to the one meant the destruction of the other's way of life. There was no possibility for coexistence or a multicultural society. Either one or the other had to go.

I for one am glad the American Indians lost that particular culture war. Because they lost, I do not have to worry about my stuff constantly being stolen just because some person I've never met needs to increase his personal feelings of worth. I can travel across an entire continent and still be at home among people who will not attack me without provocation. I do not have to worry about the women in my family being in constant danger of kidnap and rape. I do not have to become a warrior and risk my life in battle for my life to have purpose and meaning. There are obvious advantages to Judeo-Christian morality. It is a superior system. Not only that, but I take pride in the way American Christians conducted themselves during this inevitable process. There were incidents, killings and injustices committed by both sides. But the overall narrative of history is that these people were mostly convinced peacefully that their ways were inferior. Person by person, bit by bit, they left those ways behind of their own free will. Against the backdrop of all human history, that is a victory for peaceful conflict resolution.

So why would this narrative be overcome with a different one a century or so later, one that ignores the broad trend and focuses on a few specific incidents? Why would a bunch of secular humanists, socialists, communists and progressives prefer the Indians over and against the colonists? Well, I have virtually already answered my own question. Like the Indians, communists do not believe in private property. To a communist and many socialists, private property is the source of all violence. Eliminating private property, so they say, would end all violence. It would also end inequality and make everyone equal. So the American Indians were right and the European Christians were wrong! Even if no one decides to reject private property, this fable is still worth it as long as everyone understands that Americans are the bad guys. They'll work on the private property thing later. On top of that, socialists and secular humanists believe that morality is measured by wealth and suffering, respectively. Who has the most wealth and material possessions? They must be the bad guys. Who has endured the most pain and suffering? Who was beaten in the end? Who was the underdog? They must be the good guys. What really happened isn't a high priority in comparison to these questions. The Indians must have been the good guys and the colonists must have been the bad guys, for how else could a Hollywood mind understand it? Since they must make this argument to a largely Christian society, they used Christian morals to do it, but they could not use a complete Judeo-Christian moral system. Rather they used only the bits and pieces of it that favored their point of view, and many Christians have swallowed it hook, line and sinker. The secular progressives have a foot in the door of the Christian heart, and their final aim is to destroy Judeo-Christian morality completely and replace it with secular humanism. But they cannot touch the Christian mind.

That is why men like John Nugent go to the Bible to find support for their confused point of view and end up mangling the Biblical narrative beyond all recognition. They are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. They have unconsciously accepted the progressive arguments tailored precisely to appeal to a Christian and are engaged in trying to smash together two points of view that are ultimately incompatible. But of course the secular progressive is not troubled by this. As soon as the Christians are on board with his political program, or at least not resisting it, his job is done. He leaves the Christians to their futile moral gymnastics and laughs all the way to the ballot box, which he uses to ensure that their children will hear the secular progressive point of view exclusively throughout their childhood and formative years when they are the most vulnerable. He aims to win the same sort of peaceful culture war in which the American Indians succumbed. Eventually, so he believes, Christians will come over to his side of their own accord. Only this time the story has a different ending. Why? Well what determined the ending before? Only the superiority of one point of view. So which is superior: secular progressivism or Christianity? Of course Christianity is superior. It will never be defeated. God cannot be mocked. The only question is whether or not Americans will continue to believe it or be stupid enough to abandon it for secular progressivism when they finally realize the two are incompatible. I believe the former. Christianity practically invented the game of peaceful persuasion. In the end, there can be no coherent universal system of morality but that which is imposed upon us by a higher authority. Morality cannot be measured by empirical means or gained by the human mind without God's revelation and assistance. It does not correspond to various levels of material wealth or human suffering. Christians alone have access to the one true God who has determined the moral standard for all mankind, one that makes sense and works. Secular progressives make moral arguments, but they have no moral system of their own that works, just bastardized, twisted and perverted facsimiles of some of the more earthly Judeo-Christian values. It cannot withstand sustained scrutiny. Like all evil, it is derivative of good. Like all falsehood, it has no substance of its own. It is nothing more than a denial of Truth, and the Truth is always out there for those who seek Him.