Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Deep thoughts, omphaloskepsis, and other random musings.

Rule Five Code Duello Friday

I’m going to expand on some deep thoughts I presented a few years back, thoughts that I just had occasion to recall during a discussion with a buddy the other day.  To put it simply: Should dueling be legal?

I’m not talking about sparring on Twitter or in the comments section of some news story.  I’m talking honest to gosh, 18th century-style, pistols at ten paces dueling.

Dueling has been illegal everywhere in the United States, indeed in most of the Western world since the early 19th century at least.  But let’s set aside our ingrained prejudices for a moment and ask ourselves, in a society that honestly and completely exists under the concept of liberty – should it be?

Let’s say two men (or women, or one of each, whatever) have a serious disagreement, one which cannot be reconciled by any normal means.  Courts have been unable to arrive at a settlement acceptable to both.  Counsel has failed.  They are well and truly at loggerheads.

So, both of them, as capable, competent, consenting adults, in full possession of their faculties, agree to pistols at sunrise to settle the dispute.  They meet in a field with their seconds, who oversee the loading of the pistols; they take their places, step away from each other on the count and, when indicated, turn and fire.  One is killed, the other emerges the victor.

I’d use these, just for the sake of tradition.

Now – answer me this – what crime has been committed?

Oh, yes, I know there is a statutory crime committed.  But has there been a moral crime?  Both parties went into the affair knowing that death was a likely outcome.  I’ve read that back when the code duello was more commonly practiced, it was considered the gentlemanly thing to do to just pink your opponent in the arm or leg and claim victory without fatality, but fatal injuries were a normal outcome; it even happened to one of the more famous of our Founding Fathers.

But even in the event of a fatality – what qualifies this as a crime?  Both parties agreed to the duel.  Both parties know the likely outcome.  Both parties are, presumably, competent to make the decision.  If we are truly to be a society that values personal liberty, we must also be a society that allows people to face the likely consequences of that liberty.  Dueling may be an extreme example of that, but it’s no less a valid one.

So.  Should dueling be legalized?  If, in a society based first and foremost on the principle of individual liberty, two parties agree to settle their differences in one-on-one mortal combat, knowing the outcome is likely to be at least one of them shuffling off the mortal coil, then what role does government play in preventing them from so doing?

Obviously there would have to be some limits.  You could scarcely allow a duel between two people using nuclear weapons as the weapon of choice, for example.  I’d be willing to consider the following restrictions:

  • Weaponry limited to personal, individual weapons only. Pistols, swords, or even a sniper duel with rifles, but no explosives, machine guns or flamethrowers, entertaining as that last one would be.  Why?  Because of the possibility of the battle spilling over onto observers or bystanders.  That would be… bad.
  • Both parties obviously to be competent, consenting adults, willing to sign legal documents waiving any damages or legal penalty from any death or disability resulting from the duel.
  • I suppose I’d entertain the idea of a cooling-down period between filing of the legal paperwork and the event itself, since death is a likely (and final) outcome.
  • It seems to me that seconds would be a reasonable requirement. The seconds’ role is to act as a dispassionate advocate for the duelist.  The seconds act in concert, presumably without the inflamed passions that led to the duel, to ensure that the duel is fair, that neither duelist takes an unfair advantage.
  • Some kind of time limit to the combat itself seems like a good idea. Say the parties agree to a duel by sword; if they hack away for, say, two hours, until both are on the brink of collapse, there ought to be a way for the seconds to call a draw.

The trouble here is as with so many things; the limits here would have to be legislated, and as it is the nature of government to grow ever larger and more intrusive, eventually the code duello would be so full of requirements and conditions as to be useless, kind of like the tax code.  Really, it would be better to have the government as completely divorced as possible from the process.  The only law that applies would be contract law.

“But Animal,” some might ask, “wouldn’t a duel have the possibility of setting off a vendetta, say between two families?”

“Sure,” I’d reply, “…and as long as all parties agree to the code duello and the likely consequences, and follow the guidelines and rules applying, then, fine.  I really have very little problem with families who are so prickly that they can’t settle their differences by non-legal means thinning themselves out thusly, and besides, you can only have the duel if both parties agree; this makes it pretty easy to break the chain.”

“Even so,” the questioners go on, “wouldn’t you have the possibility of a revenge killing outside the code duello system?”

“Again, sure,” I’d reply, “…and that would be a crime, to be dealt with by the legal system just like any other premeditated murder.”

“But… wouldn’t this disproportionately affect (insert name of particular aggrieved community/ethnicity/religion/whatever here)?”

“Probably.  So what?”

“What about the families they leave behind?  Their children!  Think of their children!”

“It’s not my place to think about their children; it’s their damn place to think of their children.  So, they leave behind some orphans?  Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

“But wait,” comes one final question, “…what about the Non-Aggression Principle?”

“That’s an interesting one.  It seems to me that both parties are initiating aggression in unison, by prior agreement under conditions also agreed to.  So, yes, both parties are violating the NAP – and neither are.  As the initiation is simultaneous – say, five paces, turn and fire – then both are initiating, and both are responding.  You can make an argument here that the NAP doesn’t apply.”

It’s a pretty problem.

Of course, this is just an intellectual exercise, and it’s unlikely in the extreme that dueling will ever be legalized, anywhere, in our modern era and, honestly, one would hope that civilized people have better ways to resolve their differences.

But the veneer of civilization is pretty damn thin.  If things ever got to the point where trial by arms was again an acceptable way to settle differences, it would be best to have some kind of guidelines around how to conduct those trials.

More to the point, I find the moral question interesting.  It seems to me that a duel is morally acceptable if both parties are competent adults, fully informed, and willing to sign on to a legally binding agreement to enter into mortal combat.

So.  Thoughts?

Animal’s Daily Back In The Saddle News

Boy howdy, was it ever cold in Colorado’s high country this week.

Loyal sidekick Rat had a tag for, and was seeking out, a fat cow elk for the freezer, while I just hung out with only a sidearm, soaking up the scenery.  Rat was unsuccessful in bringing in a freezer-filler, and the weather turned on us Friday night; Grand County went from warm and sunny to snowy and cold.

This isn’t unusual in the Colorado Rockies in late October. Saturday morning, opening morning in fact, we woke up to snow, which continued through that day and into Sunday morning.

Camp.

It was a pleasant outing nonetheless. My grandfather always used to say, “it’s not about whether you bring anything home. It’s about being outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine.”

As usual, Grandpa was right.

The road in to camp.

Interesting to note that the weather in our Susitna Valley home were more clement than the Gore Range during this time.

At any rate, a good time was had by all involved. Regular posts will resume tomorrow.

Rule Five Irrational Fear Friday

A recent piece I stumbled across, combined with the fire-hose stream of news out of the Middle East, has me thinking about fear, the nature of fear, and the fear that the Hamas assholes kicking up their heels in Gaza and Israel, or someone like them, might hurt or kill us or those we love.  I don’t think it’s an irrational fear completely; I don’t waste a lot of brain run-time worrying about it myself, as I doubt any fundamentalist Islamic shitbirds are going to go poking around in the rural Alaska woods looking for trouble and, even if they did, they wouldn’t last long against a bunch of heavily armed Alaskans.

But some folks worry more.  And turns out that it might be a rational fear (or, at least, not completely irrational), statistics aside.

In the U.S., about one in three people are worried about being the victim of a terrorist attack. In Europe, terrorism consistently makes it onto lists of people’s biggest concerns, and it was Europeans’ #1 concern in 2016 and 2017. Even if people aren’t in “terror,” they are anxious about it, and their behaviors have adapted to this anxiety. Most people believe life has permanently changed since 9/11. For Israelis, life may have permanently changed following the events of October 7, 2023.

How justified is this fear of terrorism? One line of argument is that it’s not justified at all.

It claims there are bigger and far more dangerous threats to our everyday lives. For example, in Europe, you are 50 times more likely to die in a bike accident, 85 times more likely to die in a heat wave, and over 4,000 times more likely to die in a car crash than die from an act of terrorism. According to this line of reasoning, our fear of terrorism is engineered by a sensationalist media and psychological biases. A sober risk assessment shows us that fear of terrorism is irrational.

But, according to a new paper by philosopher Eran Fish, the fear of terrorism is not unreasonable at all. There are perfectly justifiable reasons for why we should fear terrorists more than car crashes.

Here are those three reasons, abridged a little so as not to blow up the post; do go to the article linked above and read it all.

The first line of Fish’s argument stems from the idea that we are justified in fearing things that have an element of danger that is random and non-discriminate.

Terrorism can be that (it can also be directed against specific military or, more often, political targets) but it can also be purely random; like Hamas targeting various Israeli kibbutzim for no reason other than they were within paraglider range of Gaza.

Fish’s second line of argument is that terrorism is an intentional act that can be prevented. Car crashes are accidents. While heart disease and cancer make up more than 50% of all deaths worldwide (which is far, far more than the deaths caused by terrorism), these aren’t entirely preventable. Someday, you’re going to die of something — might as well be cancer. Natural deaths are a natural part of life.

But terror attacks aren’t.  They can be prevented – mostly by killing terrorists – but the tactic will probably never go away completely.  Islamist nutbars aren’t the first people to use terror as a tactic, and they won’t be the last.

Fish’s third line of argument is that it is reasonable to fear insecurity, particularly when the people you put in charge of protecting you (namely, the government) fail to do so.

That’s certainly a fair point – if you are one of those people who relies on government to keep you safe.  In America, we have a different way to maintain our own security.  Remember when I said I wasn’t too concerned about Islamist nutbars trying to shoot up our Alaskan woods?  Because these people are essentially cowards, and won’t go anywhere where they may feel threatened themselves.

But it’s still, even so, a fair point.  One of the few legitimate roles of government is to keep other people from hurting us or taking our stuff.  Terrorists operate in those thin areas where government, for one reason or another, is unwilling, unable or simply unprepared to provide that protection.  That, whether it be in Israel or Chicago, is unsettling to lots of people, and no, that’s not an irrational viewpoint.

Especially in these ever-more-uncertain times.  Buy ammo, folks. And get out of the cities.

Animal’s Daily Religion and Politics News

Before we start, check out the next episode of License to Kill over at Glibertarians!

Now then: Sure, many Republicans and libertarians are also Christians.  That’s fine; most of both also believe the First Amendment codifies freedom of conscience for a reason.  But, some folks occasionally forget that some of us aren’t Christians.  Townhall’s Jeff Davidson has some thoughts.  So do I.

It happens so often that I am amazed when the contrary occurs. I am at a gathering of Republicans/Conservatives, and someone gives the benediction. This could happen at a luncheon, certainly at a dinner, and other types of gatherings. Usually, these prayers are only a couple of minutes in length. Then, after all has been said, the speaker adds a final sentence, “In Jesus’ name do we pray.”

Messaging Matters

I’m not the first to observe that Republicans and Conservatives have better programs and policies and a firm grasp of what actually helps the nation, but they have lousy messaging. The Democrats have harmful programs and policies but better messaging. They know how to twist and turn a phrase. Consider the difference between the terms “pro-abortion” and “pro-choice.”

When it comes to benedictions, conservatives can enhance their phrasing. Rebel is all you want, but citing the name of Jesus in the benediction is unnecessary. Once you say, “Heavenly Father,” or “God,” or “the Lord,” that is more than enough for a benediction in front of a group. 

I have no idea what Jeff Davidson’s religious convictions are; he doesn’t mention them, and in any case it’s none of my damn business, and sort of irrelevant to the point he’s making.

But my own convictions are well-known.  I’m an atheist, and very upfront about it.  Bear in mind that I’m not a militant atheist; that seems to be the province of leftist atheists, to want to belittle believers or force them to silence.  There is an old saw that says “If a conservative is an atheist, he doesn’t go to church.  If a liberal is an atheist, he tries to get all mention of religion removed from public life.”  My observation is that this is generally accurate.  Furthermore, I’ve never harbored any notions that I was smart enough to tell anyone what to do or think.  Robert Heinlein once wrote that his father had taught him to “…mind my own business, and always cut the cards,” and I think that’s a good general operating principle.

Mr. Davidson is not talking about religion so much as messaging, and making sure to consider the increasing numbers of Hindus, and Buddhists, and other religious groups entering the conservative movement.  It’s not a bad thing to remember, the concept of the non-denominational prayer; military chaplains have been doing it for many years.

Food for thought, certainly.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Last Monday was, of course, Labor Day, and while I tend to shy away from too much serious discussion on holidays, I did come across a good piece on some disturbing trends.  I thought it was worth highlighting here.

Unfortunately, the evidence is clear that working-aged men are not doing well at all. Across the board, they are suffering a generational decline in quality jobs and falling out of the labor force in staggering numbers. These problems have grim consequences, not just for men, but for women, children and our nation as a whole. 

Read the whole thing.  Give it some thought.  Now then…

On To the Links!

What could possibly go wrong?

Biden Family Business Boomed After Joe Attended Key Dinners

Probably not.

Here’s the thing; I don’t think Joe Biden knows he’s lying. I don’t think he’s mentally competent enough to understand the difference.

Of course they are.

Radioactive boars.  Yes, really.  See the full write up at the RedState link below.

I Had a Helicopter Mom. I Found Pornhub Anyway.

Of course they don’t want to solve the problem. There’s too much money to be made perpetuating it.

Navajo Leaders Challenge Chaco Canyon Drilling Ban.

Mark my words: Nothing will come of this.

Likely, yes. Inevitable, no.

MSNBC’s War on Truth.  That’s something of an understatement.

No.  All civilizations are not equal.

The Weekend at Bernie’s Presidency continues.

That’s gonna be one hell of a struggle.

I Left Out the Full Truth To Get Published at Nature

My RedState Stuff:

Note:  Thanks to a really good suggestion that I should have thought of myself, I’ll now start noting here which of these are VIP (pay-walled) stories.

If Biden Backs out of the 2024 Race, Who Can Take His Place?

Nick Begich Announces Another Run for Alaska’s Sole House Seat

The Myth of Nonviolent Crime

Radioactive Boars Threaten Europe

Alaska Board of Education Votes to Exclude Biological Males From Girls’ Sports

Is America Under the Thumb of a Shadow President?

Making Super Potatoes More A-Peeling

Homeless Squatters Trash Closed Motel in Casper, Wyoming

GOP Senator JD Vance to Introduce Bill Banning Federal Mask Mandates

Eric Swalwell to Appear at Juneau Fundraiser for Mary Peltola

VIP Stories (Pay-Walled):

Firearms Researcher Dr. John Lott: FBI Is Deliberately Misleading Americans on Defensive Gun Use

Sunday Gun Day VI – Five Rifles You Should Shoot Before You Die

What Is Labor Day All About?

A 98-Year-Old Nazi, Captured: Who Shall Answer For Evil?

This Week’s Idiots:

Salon’s Heather Parton (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

CNN’s Nicole Hemmer is an idiot.

The Nations’ John Nichols (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

CNBC’s Scott Cohn is an idiot.

MSNBC’s Zeeshan Aleem is an idiot.

Paul Krugman (Repeat Offender Alert) remains a cheap partisan hack, and an idiot.

The daffy old Bolshevik from Vermont (Repeat Offender Alert) is still an old fool, and an idiot.

This Week’s Cultural Edification:

Bob Dylan, America’s Songwriter, has crossed a lot of genres in his sixty-plus year career.  Folk, rock, gospel, even country (see his album Nashville Skyline) and more, the Maestro covers them all.

One of my favorite bits of his work almost takes the form of a hymnal, that being the 1967 song I Shall Be Released.  Here, then, is that tune; enjoy.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Flappr, Pirate’s Cove, The Other McCain, The Daley Gator, Bacon Time and Whores and Ale for the Rule Five links!

It’s Labor Day, and so I’ll make this brief. (I’m also making it brief because the family and friends we had visiting are flying back early this AM, and because Mrs. Animal departed yesterday for a visit with her parents, and it’s been a busy weekend.)

I will say only this:  Thanks for paying attention to the labor I’ve put into producing what I can only hope is entertaining material (as well as the usual displays of the Feminine Aesthetic) on this site.  Thanks also to those of you who have gone over and taken a look at my RedState stuff.  I wish all of you True Believers a restful and happy Labor Day, and we will resume normal posts tomorrow!

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Special programming note!  Tonight I’ll be live-blogging the first GOP Presidential primary debate with some of my colleagues over at RedState, from 9PM to 11PM EDT (5PM to 7PM here in the Great Land).  Join us over there for the best blow-by-blow coverage!

Now then…

On To the Links!

Presented without comment:

Dismantle The Inflation Reduction Act!  (We should be so lucky.)

No shit, Sherlock.

Gee, I wonder why?

I love a happy ending.

Texas Tells the American Library Association to Go Pound Sand

It’s time to eat!

Animal agriculture is here to stay.

Trump’s Covid Failures

I.  Will.  Not.  Comply.

‘Bidenomics’ Means Americans Can’t Pay Their Bills

Americans Aren’t Buying ‘Bidenomics’

I love a happy ending.

Get the eff out of Belarus!

Maui Wildfire Response Sure Looks Like Government Failure

China’s Economy Is Sick and Could Infect the U.S.

My RedState Stuff:

The Changing Face of Conservatism

Should We Ban Electric Vehicles?

It’s Time for the GOP to Punch Back

Mike Pence Looks Forward to GOP Debates

Mary Peltola’s Fishing Failure

Is the FTC Aiming to Take out Amazon?

Ford CEO Faces Hard Sell on EV Road Trip

IRS Agent Killed in Shooting Range Accident

The Great College Scam

What San Diego Is Doing About Homeless Encampments Offers Us Lessons

Tennessee Couple Missing in Alaska for More Than a Week Found Safe

Sunday Gun Day IV – What Happened to the 10- and 16-Gauge Shotguns?

They Need Us. We Don’t Need Them.

14 American Cities Aim to Ban Meat, Dairy, Private Cars by 2030

Her Own Worst Enemy: Kamala Harris and 2024

The Rise of the Passport Bro

U.S. Embassy in Belarus Advises Americans to Depart Immediately

Bill Maher: Vivek Ramaswamy Is ‘Such a Likeable Guy’ Who Could ‘Really Could Go Far’

California Contemplates Mandating Heat Pumps

Alaska Governor Dunleavy Endorses Donald Trump for President

This Week’s Idiots:

Salon’s Brian Karem is an idiot.

Vox’s Rebecca Leber is an idiot.

MSNBC’s Jessica Levinson is an idiot.

The Nation’s Joan Walsh is an idiot.

The Nation’s Jeet Heer (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

Salon’s Heather Parton is an idiot.

Salon’s Amanda Marcotte (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.  And again; the second one is stupid even for Amanda Marcotte, a serial idiot.

Robert Reich (Repeat Offender Alert) remains a sawed-off runt, and an idiot.

MSNBC’s Hayes Brown (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

This Week’s Cultural Edification:

I’m not sure what to say about this song, except that the song got a lot of radio play back in the mid-Eighties, and MTV, back when they were actually about music, played the video a fair bit.  OMC was, as I recall, a one-hit wonder, but How Bizarre at least was catchy.  Here it is, then – enjoy.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

OK. I’m a little embarrassed about this, as I’ve long said it’s something I would never do, although at least Elon Musk’s remake has  made things a little more tolerable, but…

Yeah. I’m on Twitter.

I did it mostly to keep up with my RedState colleagues and to stay abreast of the fire-hose of information that is the American socio-political scene, so as to gain more things to write about.  But boy howdy, does the noise-to-signal ratio ever suck.  Anyway, toss me a follow if you like, I’ll reciprocate, and maybe we’ll see the odd pearl here and there.

Now then…

On To the Links!

More signs of this being a social contagion.

Oops.

I was wondering what that humming sound was.

My latest over at American Free News Network: Ramming in Naval Warfare.

No, because it’s their fault.

Average Earnings Have Fallen 3.16% During Biden Presidency.

Walgreens is closing 450 stores.  The reason is left as an exercise for the reader.

The Biden Crime Family.

Coming soon to a major city near you!

Florida is no longer welcoming to illegal aliens.  Good.

Where’s Hunter?

Winsome Sears continues to be awesome.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.  How did you think unlimited Third World immigration was going to turn out?

This conversation should have happened thirty years ago.

BroDudes rule.

The greatness of America in a single sandwich.

Honoring a great man.

The weather isn’t that bad.

You can count on the Biden(‘s handlers) Administration to double down on stupid.

Which side of the Hot/Crazy Matrix?

Dark Age Patriotism.

Fuck off, commies.

My RedState stuff:

Pharmaceuticals and Price Controls: A Prescription for Failure

I’m Not Saying It’s Aliens, But…

An Atheist Perspective on Ethics and Morality: Liberty and Property

The CPAP Revelation: Joe Biden, Dementia, and the 2024 Presidential Race

Wokeness and the Adulteration of Literature

The Latest in Green Technology—Sails

We Cannot Afford to Allow the Left to Hamstring Alaskan Energy

The Changing Face of Friendship

Rent Control: A Bad Idea, Badly Implemented

Universal Internet Access – Another Biden Boondoggle

2024 Elections: Changing up the Dance Card

State of The Republic: July 4, 2023

Suffer The Little Children

China’s Looming Agricultural Melt-Down

This Week’s Idiots:

MSNBC’s Hayes Brown (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

Salon’s Heather Digby Parton is an idiot.

Vox’s Ian Millhiser (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

The Nation’s John Nichols (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

MSNBC’s Michael Cohen (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

The New York TimesAaron Tang is an idiot.

Roosevelt University’s Associate Professor David Faris is an idiot.

The Hill’s Glenn Altschuler is an idiot.

The Hill’s Andrew Koppelman is an idiot. (Another pattern.)

Well, duh.

Paul Krugman (Repeat Offender Alert) remains a cheap partisan hack, and an idiot.

The Guardians’ Margaret Sullivan is an idiot.

Slate’s Joseph Pace is an idiot.

This Week’s Cultural Edification:

When I went to Army Basic Training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, the great classic movie Stripes had left theaters but was still making the rounds on the cable networks (remember cable TV?)  So, of course, when the drill sergeants were in the mood to permit it, we always sang Manfred Mann’s Do Wah Diddy Diddy when we were marching.  Like this:

The original, of course, was originally released by a vocal band called The Exciters, but the best-known version (by me, at least) was done by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, released in 1964 on a single 45RPM opposite What You Gonna Do?  It’s a fun little tune from my childhood.  Here’s the Manfred Mann version; enjoy.

Rule Five Ninth Annual Commencement Speech Friday

It’s that time of year again, when high school and college graduates all over the country are trying on caps and gowns and making post-graduation plans. Today, for the ninth year, I will present here my own carefully prepared commencement speech to those grads – presented here because there’s damn little chance of my being asked to deliver it in person to a group of impressionable yutes.

So, here it is. Enjoy.

“Graduates of the Class of 2023, let me be the first to extend to you my congratulations on this, your day of entry into reality.

For the last four years you have been working towards this goal, towards this day. That’s a good thing. One of the most important skills you will ever need, one of the most important ways to achieve success in the world into which you are about to enter, is the ability to formulate goals, to plan how to achieve those goals, and to see things through until you reach those goals. Today you’ve shown you can do that. Congratulations and good job.

Now, before you go out to enjoy the rest of this day, before you go out to celebrate this goal you have achieved, let me tell you a few harsh truths about the world you’re entering. I’m not going to give you any trigger warnings; if you can’t handle what I’m about to say, there’s damn little future for you out there in the real world, so cowboy up. Moments ago I congratulated you on your day of entry into reality, so to get you started off right, here is a hefty dose of reality for you.

In spite of what you may have been told during all your years of education, nobody owes you anything, and you aren’t special. Any perceived ‘need’ you may have does not entitle you to anything – most especially, not to one red cent of the product of anyone else’s effort. If any of your professors have told you that, then they are economic illiterates, moral frauds or outright charlatans.

Our wonderful Constitution, which has stood for well over two hundred years as the founding document of our Republic, guarantees you the opportunity to your pursuit of happiness. It does not require anyone to provide you the means to your happiness at their expense. You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You have no moral claim on anyone else’s productivity. Accept that fact and you are already one step ahead of most of your peers.

You are entitled to what you have earned through your own efforts, and not:

One.

Damn.

Thing.

More.

If you are accepting a degree today in LGBT Studies, or Women’s Studies, or any of the other assorted bullshit Underwater Dog Polishing degrees our universities crank out today, then you have my sympathies. You are the victim of a fraud perpetrated by our university system, a vicious and cynical fraud that has resulted in you spending a lot of money for no gain. But more importantly, you are the victim of your own poor judgement. You decided to pursue a useless degree, and now you’re stuck. Here is another harsh reality: You are responsible for your own situation. It’s not anybody else’s fault. Nobody else is responsible. You are.

Your university experience had one goal – producing a young adult with marketable skills, someone who can provide value to an employer and to the economy. In this your university has failed, and in choosing this degree, so did you. You have relegated yourself to uselessness in the workplace, and when a few years from now you are working as a barista or checkout clerk and crying over your six figures of student debt, remember what I said a few moments ago: You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You made a decision; now you get to deal with the consequences of that decision. Pull yourself up, look around at the other opportunities around you, and figure a way out of this mess your youthful indiscretion has landed you in.

But you still have one thing going for you. You have shown that you can set yourself a goal and achieve it. Do so now.

So, where do you go from here?

Because nobody owes you anything, including a living, one of the tasks ahead of you now is finding gainful employment. If you’re going to find employment, it will only be because you can demonstrate to the employer that you can provide value to him or her in excess of your costs of employment. Employment is an economic transaction. In any free market transaction, both parties have to realize a perceived gain in value or the transaction won’t happen. If a prospective employer doesn’t think you’re able to provide value to his/her business in excess of your cost of employment, which includes not only your salary but all the extra taxes, fees and other various government extortion that you never see in your pay stub – then they won’t hire you. So be able to present yourself as someone who can provide value, in whatever field you have been studying these last few years.

Once you have gained that employment, once you are in the workplace, remember these three rules for success:

Show up a little earlier than the other guy,
Work a little harder than the other guy,
Never pass up a chance to learn something new.

Words that should never pass your lips include such things as “that’s not my job,” and “I don’t have time for that.” Your reputation in the workplace should be, to put it bluntly, the one who can get shit done. Results matter. Be the one that the boss can count on. Be the one who brings things in on time. Be the one who finishes the job. Be the one that produces value and you will never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.

Bear in mind also that you are entering the workforce as a tablua rasa as far as potential employers are concerned. You’re not going to leave these halls and be CEO of General Motors. You will be working in an entry level job, probably not making a lot of money, probably doing work your longer-term co-workers don’t want to do. Suck it up. There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people. Any work that produces value is worth doing. How do you know if your work is producing value? The answer to that is trivially easy: If someone is willing to pay you to do the work, then you are producing value. Bear in mind also that the job belongs to the employer, not to you, and if you don’t meet the employer’s expectations, someone else will.

How do you meet those expectations? Better yet, how do you exceed them? When you are doing that job, keep these things in mind:

Be known for your integrity. Don’t say anything you don’t believe and don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who means what you say and who delivers on your promises.

Be known for your reliability. Show up on time, every day, for every event. Show up on time for meetings. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who will always be there when you’re needed.

Be known for your responsibility. If you take on a task, finish it. If you commit to a timeline, meet it. If you accept responsibility for something, own it. It’s yours. Don’t expect anyone else to take care of it for you. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who, when put in charge, takes charge.

Be known for your dependability. Plan your tasks to bring them in on schedule. If that means long hours, work them. If that means working a Saturday, work it. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who can get the job done.

Success isn’t a mysterious thing. It’s not that elusive and it’s not even all that hard. I did it, and you can too, but it does involve one four-letter word:

Work.

Thomas Edison once said “people often fail to recognize opportunity when it knocks, because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like work.” At these commencement events it’s common to be told to follow your dreams, and that’s nice, flowery stuff, but in most cases nobody is going to pay you to follow your dreams. They will pay you to produce value, and that means work. Follow your dreams on your own time.

Finally, I will leave you all with some unsolicited advice:

All through your life, people will promise you things. Most of them won’t deliver. Many of those people will be people seeking political office, and many more of them will be people pushing some sort of supposed business opportunity. Some years ago the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein observed a fundamental law of the universe, which law is represented by the acronym TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Remember that; if someone offers you something for nothing, they are lying. If someone is offering you something at someone else’s expense, they are offering to commit theft on your behalf. The only moral answer to such offers is outright refusal.

There are only three types of economic transactions and only one of those – a free, unfettered, voluntary exchange of value – is morally acceptable. If a transaction is done by force, that is theft. If a transaction is done by deceit, that is fraud. Have no interaction with anyone who advocates either.

Accept responsibility for your own successes. Accept responsibility for your own failures. Learn from both. Rely on yourself. Rely on your own skills, your own abilities. Many other people will let you down, but you can always rely on yourself.

In her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand presents the protagonist, John Galt, describing his decision to solve society’s troubles by an epic act of creative destruction. He describes the ultimate moment of his decision process with two sentences, two sentences which I have found more inspiring than any long-winded ethical or political monologue ever delivered since the times of Plato and Aristotle. These words are the very essence of the self-directed man of achievement:

‘I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.’

Those are good words to live by. Now, today, you graduates see what has to be done.

Go out and do it.

Thank you and good luck.”

If anyone was offended by anything contained in this hypothetical speech, too damn bad.