Category Archives: Culture

Culture for the cultured and uncultured alike.

Rule Five Civilization Collapse Friday

Could Western civilization be on the verge of collapse?  It’s probably not imminent – but it could happen.  Excerpt:

The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should that forward-propelling motion slow or cease, the pillars that define our society – democracy, individual liberties, social tolerance and more – would begin to teeter. Our world would become an increasingly ugly place, one defined by a scramble over limited resources and a rejection of anyone outside of our immediate group. Should we find no way to get the wheels back in motion, we’d eventually face total societal collapse.

Such collapses have occurred many times in human history, and no civilisation, no matter how seemingly great, is immune to the vulnerabilities that may lead a society to its end. Regardless of how well things are going in the present moment, the situation can always change. Putting aside species-ending events like an asteroid strike, nuclear winter or deadly pandemic, history tells us that it’s usually a plethora of factors that contribute to collapse. What are they, and which, if any, have already begun to surface? It should come as no surprise that humanity is currently on an unsustainable and uncertain path – but just how close are we to reaching the point of no return?

While it’s impossible to predict the future with certainty, mathematics, science and history can provide hints about the prospects of Western societies for long-term continuation.

The BBC article here points out the similarity of events today with the times of the fall of the Roman Republic, and that’s a fair comparison; but they (not surprisingly) get a few things wrong.  For example:

Meanwhile, a widening gap between rich and poor within those already vulnerable Western nations will push society toward further instability from the inside. “By 2050, the US and UK will have evolved into two-class societies where a small elite lives a good life and there is declining well-being for the majority,” Randers says. “What will collapse is equity.”

This widening gap in and of itself means little or nothing, except that it provides fat paydays for those in the business of promoting the politics of envy.  What matters is how that lower portion is living.  One of the things unique to Western civilization, at least the portion that still has more or less free markets, is that the it has produced the richest poor people in world history.  In the United States, for example, there is little or no abject poverty, only relative poverty.  “Poor” people in the U.S. have air conditioning, microwave ovens, cellular phones, automobiles and cable or satellite television – luxuries unheard of among the well-to-do only a generation ago.  And while this is the case, the gap between rich and poor really doesn’t matter a damn.

One more thing the BBC misses, and it’s a doozie; the BBC doesn’t mention the most virulently anti-freedom, anti-prosperity, anti-Western force afoot in the world today, that being fundamentalist Islam.

It’s amazing that the Beeb overlooks this – or maybe not, given their European location and the fact that Europe is well on its way to being assimilated into the Islamic world.   Maybe there is some self-preservation in play, although it’s more likely that it’s just run-of-the-mill political correctness.  But fundamentalist Muslims are the greatest existential threat the West faces today, especially for the slow-breeding Europeans.  Demographics, as they say, is destiny, and the destiny of ethnic Europeans appears to be to fail through apathy.

The article concludes:

“The question is, how can we manage to preserve some kind of humane world as we make our way through these changes?” Homer-Dixon says.

The biggest challenge will be dealing with the one thing – the one deadly, dangerous, civilization-destroying thing – that the BBC fails to even mention.

Absent that, Western civilization will go the way of the dodo.

Animal’s Daily Icons of Rock News

Thanks again to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

It’s no news to any long-term readers of these virtual pages that I’m a fan of old head-banging rock & roll.  To that, here are a few songs that stand out in the rock & roll universe; unforgettable songs that will last for generations.

The first:  An American success story of six guys from the Midwest who realized the American dream, and made a great American classic rock song along the way.  Here is Kansas with Carry On Wayward Son. 

Next, a song that not only ended up on my list of icons of rock, but also in a scene immortalized in Wayne’s World.  This is Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody.

Next, from the album Bat Out of Hell, here’s rock big boy Meat Loaf with Paradise by the Dashboard Light.

One more; a while back I listed my top five guitar players.  I’m not as up on drummers, but I do know one thing:  Neil Peart stands alone.  Here he is with the rest of Rush with YYZ.

I’d like to do Icons of Rock once a month or so.  Suggestions are welcome.

Rule Five Polygamy Friday

This story in PJMedia last weekend got me to thinking about the whole topic of plural marriage – not the arranged, non-consensual type practiced in parts of the Middle East and Africa, but the consensual, between-consenting-adults type practiced in the Western nations.  The PJMedia article focused on a bill passed in Utah outlawing bigamy; here’s an excerpt:

Another family — one man and his three wives — has vowed to never leave Utah.

“My concern is all this is going to do is drive the good polygamous people who don’t have those abuses more into hiding,” Meri Brown, a plural wife, told the Salt Lake Tribune, “and it’s going to make the people who do have those abuses just be able to do them even more.”

“It also classifies all polygamists as second-class citizens,” added her husband, Kody Brown.

Kody Brown is legally married not just to Meri, but to another woman, Robyn. He is “spiritually married” to Meri, and Janelle and Christine, who have all taken his last name.

But here’s the part that jumps out at me:

HB99 would change the definition of bigamy to include people who “purport” to marry two or more people and live with them. Currently, only one or the other provision is required to be a bigamist.

Bigamy would still be a third-degree felony under HB99. But the penalty of up to five years in prison could go up to as much as 15 years if the bigamy is associated with another crime like abuse, fraud or smuggling.

Prosecutors in Utah have not prosecuted many cases of bigamy unless some kind of abuse or other crime can be included in the criminal charges.

OK, I have a couple of questions for the Utah legislature:

  1. Aren’t abuse, fraud and smuggling already crimes that carry potential prison sentences?
  2. That being the case, why is it necessary to increase penalties because of a supposed marital relationship?

Frankly, I can’t see how people’s household arrangements are the government’s business.  This is one of the reasons I’d like to see government out of the marriage business altogether; the very idea that a consenting, competent adult needs the government’s permission to marry another consenting, competent adult is anathema to the concept of individual liberty.

So this Kody Brown is “spiritually” married to three women.  (Better him than me; Mrs. Animal is all I can handle and then some.)  There should only be one factor that matters here:

Are all four of them competent, consenting adults who entered into this arrangement of their own free will?

If so, it’s nobody else’s furshlugginer business how they choose to live.  It’s most especially not the business of some snoop from the state of Utah, or any other level of government.

The second half of this argument is, of course, the collection of welfare benefits by wives who are not “legally” married.  Well, I have two possible solutions to that:  End the calculation of government-sanctioned benefits by married couple and apportion any government largess by household, or (better still) end the government distribution of charity altogether.  It’s not the taxpayers’ responsibility to subsidize you if you downloaded kids you can’t afford.

There is a basic concept at point here:  Liberty.  Liberty is the natural condition of human beings, wherein they live and act as they please, unfettered by government interference, as long as they cause no physical or fiscal harm to anyone else.   I can’t see how the polygamist Brown is hurting anyone else by having three wives, “spiritual” or otherwise, as long as no “abuse, fraud or smuggling” or any other illegal shenanigans is going on.

It’s a shame that the state of Utah doesn’t seem to get that.

Animal’s Daily Guitar News

And now, for something completely different; my list of the five best guitar players in rock & roll history.  Here they are, at their finest and in no particular order.  These are all live shows – no studio riffs here.

First up:  The irreplaceable Jerry Garcia, in 1990, playing lead in Eyes of the World.  Mrs. Animal and I saw the Grateful Dead in 1991, and this was one of the best tunes in the almost 5-hour show.

Next, the irrepressible Frank Zappa, from a 1977 concert, with his favored show-closer The Muffin Man.

Next, the irreproachable Stevie Ray Vaughan, with a live rip of his Couldn’t Stand the Weather.


And then there’s the irredeemable Jimi Hendrix, with a 1970 performance of his famous Purple Haze.

And finally, the only member on the list still walking the mortal coil; the irresistible Carlos Santana.  I didn’t pick one of his usuals for this; instead I chose a more intimate performance, where he met the radiant Faith Hill and accompanied her on her song  Breathe. 

So.  Thoughts?  I would have named my top ten, but I was running out of words that began with the ‘irr’ prefix, and besides, after five the choices widen out some.  I suppose I’d put Eddie Van Halen in that list, and Jimmy Page, and maybe George Thorogood.

Rule Five Killing Big Bird Friday

From one of our favorite libertarian scribes, John Stossel, comes this piece on the Trump Administration’s promise to cut a particular piece of fat from the Imperial budget.   Excerpt:

Next week, Donald Trump releases his new budget. It’s expected to cut spending on things like the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Good!

Government has no business funding art. When politicians decide which ideas deserve a boost, art is debased. When they use your money to shape the culture, they shape it in ways that make culture friendlier to government.

As The Federalist’s Elizabeth Harrington points out, the National Endowment for the Arts doesn’t give grants to sculpture honoring the Second Amendment or exhibitions on the benefits of traditional marriage. They fund a play about “lesbian activists who oppose gun ownership” and “art installations about climate change.”

The grant-making establishment is proudly leftist. A Trump administration won’t change that. During the Bush II years, lefty causes got funding, but I can’t find any project with a conservative agenda.

It’s not just the politics that are wrong. Government arts funding doesn’t even go to the needy. Arts grants tend to go to people who got prior arts grants.

But here’s the real money quote:

The New York Times ran the headline: “Why Art Matters.” Of course it matters. But “art” is different from “government-funded art.”

New York Magazine ran a photo of Big Bird, or rather a protester dressed as Big Bird, wearing a sign saying “Keep your mitts off me!” What New York doesn’t say is that the picture is three years old, and Big Bird’s employer, “Sesame Street,” no longer gets government funds.

We confronted the article writer, Eric Levitz. He said, “Big Bird has long functioned as a symbol of public broadcasting … Still, considering ‘Sesame Street’s’ switch to HBO, I concede that some could have been misled.”

You bet.

Big Bird doesn’t need government help. “Sesame Street” is so rich that it paid one of its performers more than $800,000.

I can’t add much to Mr. Stossel’s words, but I will offer some of Robert Heinlein’s words:  “A government-subsidized artist is an incompetent whore.”  I couldn’t agree more.

There are a lot of artists in the Animal family.  The Old Man is a Midwestern artist of note, and has been since the late Sixties.  He still paints today and just recently put out a book of paintings of Iowa wildflowers and birds.  For many years he had a reserved spot in the Iowa Capitol where one of his paintings hung.  One of my daughters is a freelance graphic artist and designer, and another is in a reputable art school studying to be a commercial graphic artist.

None of them have ever taken a public dime for their art, and none ever will.

All of Mr. Stossel’s arguments are great, but I’ll counter with a simpler one;  nowhere in the Constitution is the Imperial government allowed to disperse taxpayer funds to prop up artists who can’t make money by selling their work in the open market.  The Tenth Amendment prohibits the Imperial government from doing anything that the Constitution does not specifically allow.

That, True Believers, should be the end of the discussion.

I’m a Lumberjack…

Over at The Daley Gator, blogger pal Doug Hagin had an article (rightly) criticizing Bill Nye, the engineer who pretends to be a science guy; but the thing that jumped out at me was this photo.

I commented:  Regarding Lumberjack Guy above – look at those soft white hands! This gomer has never been near an axe or chainsaw in his life. The “outdoor” setting is probably at the edge of the parking lot for the photography studio.

We see plenty of these types around now; flannel and neck-beards have suddenly become popular among Millennial townies.  What will it be next – camouflage and Confederate flags?

Hey, everyone has the right to wear what they like.  I tend towards boots and my big gus-crown cowboy hats, even when bumming around town.  Now I grew up in a rural setting, and have run many a chainsaw and axe in my life – still do, from time to time.

But I can’t help looking down my nose a little bit at douchebaggery like that exhibited by the guy illustrated at top.  Wearing flannel and a neckbeard doesn’t make you manly.

Doing manly things, practicing the Manly Arts – that does.

Animal’s Daily Historical Parallels News

Is President Trump the new Andrew Jackson?  RealClearPolitics’ Thomas Chambers makes an interesting argument for it.  Excerpt:

Like the current president, Jackson was unpredictable, even considered wild by some. He drank heavily early in life, but later swore off spirits completely, as has Trump who claims he’s never touched a drop of liquor. Though Jackson lacked a formal education and Trump possesses an Ivy league degree, neither would be considered among the gentry and both might be labeled anti-intellectual, as when Trump claims he learns most of what he knows from “watching the TV shows.” There is a commonality of reckless youth followed by piousness. Trump was sent to military school as a teenager.

In his personal life, Jackson was accused of condoning bigamy because his wife was married to another man when they began living together. As is well-known, President Trump has been married three times, though at distinctly different intervals. These marital scandals plagued both men for years.

Once in the White House, there are also many striking comparisons, even considering the Trump presidency remains in its nascent stages.

Both men have seen themselves as guardians of the Constitution – according to their own personal interpretations – and as protectors of the people. But, they have also shared a craving for power. Jackson was sometimes referred to as King Andrew I, one who, like his 21st century counterpart, thought he could do anything he wanted. Trump sign executive orders in rapid succession.

As with Trump, Jackson fought with his opponents and with members of his own party. He was unpredictable and quick to anger. He even expressed himself publicly, not using Twitter, but via open letters to friends that were reprinted in newspapers. The trusted close advisers in both administrations, chosen for their loyalty, not expertise, have been looked upon unfavorably. Jackson’s “kitchen cabinet,” unofficial consultants who paralleled the presidential cabinet, caused a great deal of consternation. His real cabinet was made up of businessmen and politicians whom he thought he would control.

Out on a limb.

There’s one major difference, and it is one that makes President Trump unlike any of his 44 predecessors in the Imperial Mansion; even unlike Jackson.  Old Hickory commanded troops as a general.  Since his day, there have been several former military men in the Imperial Mansion, Grant and Eisenhower foremost among them.  But Donald Trump is the first man to hold the office without having ever been a military man or a politician.

His campaign broke lots of rules; his Presidency, nascent though it is, is shattering lots of old reliable traditions for politics.  It’s true, Jackson did much the same, but he had much, much less precedent to shatter.

It’s really too early to draw these kinds of comparisons.  We have four interesting years ahead – maybe at the end of the Age of Trump we may have a better idea how  history will view him.