Terminal Thoughts

The other day I made reference to the fact that I would be unlikely to be flying anywhere in 2020, and might only do so in late 2021 — and for the first time in my life, I said to myself, “…should I live that long.”

I think the most depressing thing about getting old is that you get wary of making long-term plans — the old joke “I’m so old, I don’t even buy green bananas anymore” is a perfect example — and it can be depressing.

It doesn’t have to be, of course.  A friend of my own vintage recently embarked on a business venture which involves a massive construction project, and when I asked him when the whole thing will be finished, he said airily, “About fifteen or twenty years’ time.”  If that is true, he would be around eighty years old at completion date.

I’m not sure I would do anything like that.  At the same time, I’m still buying green bananas, so to speak, so there’s that.

At some point in a person’s life, you become resigned to the fact that you’ll never climb Everest, or race at Monaco, or make a billion dollars, or sleep with some famous beauty (maybe because she just died).  Those are the big dreams, of course, and mostly — realistically, even — just pipe dreams.  Still, their disappearance is a little of a jolt;  which is probably a preparation for a much bigger disappointment when you realize that your age precludes you from doing something that you did only  little while ago.  As an example, I’m most likely never going to be able to go deer-stalking in Scotland with Mr. Free Market, Doc Russia and Combat Controller again, because the trudging over the uneven ground of the Cairngorm Mountains is, to put it mildly, unthinkable.  I made a joke about that with the guys during a telemeeting, the other day, and said that if I were to do it again, I would only ever shoot at a distance no further than 50 yards away from the Land Rover — i.e. close to the road — whereupon Mr. Free Market said bluntly, “Then you’re never going to take another shot” (because most of the stalks now involve a prospect of a mile or two’s scrambling before the deer even come within a respectable shooting distance, assuming they haven’t moved in the interim).

So goodbye to all that, then.

It’s even more poignant when you think of your approaching end with regards to family and friends, especially family.  New Wife’s elder son has given her a grandson;  my own kids’ prospect of doing the same is becoming more and more remote with each year.  That, actually, doesn’t bother me too much as I’ve never been one of those parents who pushes their kids to provide grandchildren — in fact, I specifically told mine that I would never push them that way, and I’ve kept my promise.  But it also means that I’ll never be able to do the grandfather things with grandsons that my own grandpa did with me, and that’s a little sad.

If you reach that point where you start making a mental list of “things I’m realistically never going to do”, two things are going to happen:  the first is that you’ll give a mental shrug about some of them and say, “Oh well” and realize that the left undone isn’t important — I’m never going to fly an ultralight aircraft again or take my first parachute jump, for example.

But for the others:  do not be surprised if some of them hurt (as in the grandchildren scenario above, for example).  I will in all probability never meet up with some old and valued friends ever again, simply because of geography.  I will never hunt bear in Alaska (see “Scotland”, above, for reasons) — in fact, I may never hunt anything again, except maybe high birds with Mr. FM next year — and even then, I’m going to need to save a bunch of money to be able to afford the trip, money that I’m not at all certain of making (see:  Chinkvirus and similar disasters for reasons).  And I might need not one but two years to save that money, at which time I’ll be nearly 68 years old.  Fuck.  I might not even be able to make the walk from the Range Rover to the shooting positions at that age, and my already-shaky and fast-deteriorating eyesight might make the whole proposition impossible anyway.

As one gets older, one’s options start to shrink.  I watched a feature about Paul Newman the other night;  he only started auto racing in his early fifties, and won his last race at age eighty.  That doesn’t give me any hope at all, mind you, because Paul Newman was also a zillionaire, and lots of money does have an annoying tendency to make dreams come true a lot more quickly.  For some old guy drawing a meager Social Security check and needing a side gig to make ends meet, those — maybe any — kinds of dreams become increasingly unreachable.

All of which makes the picture in my masthead a lot more poignant even than it was when I first chose it.  I am wonderfully blessed by having found New Wife so that at least I can share the rest of my life with someone I love;  but figuratively speaking, our age might just cause us both to be confined to that lonely bench because with age, options disappear, horizons shrink and dreams fall apart.

And what happens when you can no longer afford green bananas?

Remembering

The other night I watched a little movie on Netflix entitled simply “Itzhak”, which unsurprisingly was a little mini-biography about virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Some background is necessary before I go any further.  I attended a classical concert in Chicago many years ago, and the “house band” was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, then and now one of the finest orchestras in the world, conducted by Georg Solti, one of the finest conductors ever to wield a baton.  The opening piece (if I remember correctly) was something by Beethoven, and the CSO played it wonderfully.

Then Itzhak Perlman came to the stage, painfully hobbling along on his crutches, his polio-ravaged legs waving helplessly as he made his way to the First Violinist’s chair.  He sat down, rearranged his legs with his hands, then waited while the CSO began playing Brahms’s  Violin Concerto in D major, which is characterized by a lengthy introduction before the lead violinist plays a note.  Then it came time for Perlman to play… and the CSO took off like a fighter jet.  In other words, one man’s playing grabbed the already-magnificent orchestra and literally propelled them into a performance of unbelievable virtuosity.  The standing ovation from the audience lasted nearly as long as the performance itself, and several of the orchestra’s violinists dabbed at their eyes with tissues, so moved were they by the experience.

Itzak Perlman was and is a force of nature.

So when I saw this movie on Netflix, I hit Play with gleeful anticipation, and was not disappointed.

Itzhak Perlman is no ordinary man.  Quite apart from his virtuosity with the violin, he is a man of infinite compassion — his charitable works and teaching violin alone would set him apart from most people — he’s been married to his priceless wife Toby forever, is a devoted father to his large family, and loves his pet dogs almost as much, I think, as his children.  He is also wonderfully funny — his description of looking up something Jewish on the Internet as “Jewgle” made me guffaw for several minutes.  I have always loved Perlman’s playing — who could not? — but this was something different:  the longer the movie went on, the more I fell in love with this incredible, singular man.

But, of course, he’s Jewish.

And this would make him a target for all the assholes in the world:  the Muslims, the alt-Right, the academe and intellectuals (especially in Europe) and people like the loathsome Labour politician Jeremy Corbin who are infected with their foul brands of anti-Semitism.

Make no mistake:  to these people — think of Hitler and his Nazis as just the extreme embodiment — this man Perlman, this extraordinary, wonderful man who has been one of the greatest gifts to civilization ever, would be just another Jew to harass in the street, another Jewboy to kick and spit on, and just another Untermensch to load onto a train to be sent to Auschwitz.

Almost two years ago to the day, I wrote these words:

Pound for pound, the Jews have contributed as much or more to Western civilization than any other group — it’s even called the “Judeo-Christian tradition”, FFS — and to discount this contribution deliberately, to me, shows a shallow intellect at best.  (At worst, Hitler, but I’m not going to go there.)  Of course, I know that many Jews are socialists, communists, progressives, one-worlders, and all those things that are not only themselves distasteful, but are contradictory to Western thought.  Ending slavery in the Western hemisphere (an action performed solely by Western nations, lest we forget) is not the same as allowing Western culture to be perverted or submerged by inferior cultures — and let’s be perfectly honest, when compared to Western culture, all other cultures are in general absolutely inferior to ours.  To say otherwise is to be ignorant of history, or to be able to consciously deny the fact of the matter despite all evidence to the contrary.  Judaic culture, by the way, is not inferior to, say, Western culture and civilization because in no small part, theirs is almost indistinguishable from that of Western Europe because of their commonality.  That Israeli liberals seem perfectly prepared to help bring about the destruction of Eretz Israel was always a mystery to me until it was explained to me (by one of my good friends, an Orthodox Jew) that these liberals hate the state of Israel because it is culturally closer to Western European democracy than it is to Eastern European socialism.  And the liberal Israelis have camp-followers all over the world:  in Europe, Britain, the United States and anywhere that Jews can be found in any numbers.  Does that mean “conspiracy”?  Sure, if you’re a moron, because there are many, many Jews who are conservative, too — but somehow, the Conspiracy seems to have passed them by?  Not credible.
So:  am I pro-Israel?  You betcha.  I’m even more  supportive of Israel when I look at the nations of assholes who want Israel destroyed.
Do I think that a lot of Jews are liberal assholes?  You betcha, again. (Don’t even ask me about Jews and their support for gun control, unless we also mention JPFO, who also seem to have missed the memo.)
Am I prepared to become an anti-Semite because of The Great Jewish Conspiracy?  Think again, Adolf.
Would I stand aside if some anti-Semitic pricks started playing their little neo-Nazi reindeer games with Jews in the streets?  Not only would I not  stand aside, but I’d be standing between the two groups, telling the anti-Semites that they’d have to get past me first.
Ich habe Dachau gesehen.
And as long as I have breath in my body, “Never again!” will not be just an empty phrase, even if that seems to be the case with some Jews(!), who think that their tribe’s survival of the Holocaust was somehow irrelevant in today’s world.

Today, coincidentally, is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and this post is dedicated to all my Tribe Readers especially, but also to all my Jewish friends and acquaintances all over the world.

After watching the movie about Itzhak Perlman, a rage descended on me that has not dissipated in the days since, and I’m not sure it ever will.

So here’s what I’m going to do.  Winging its way to me on the wings of the USPS is a yarmulke (kippah) — something not purchased, but given to me by a Jewish friend because, as I explained to him, it would mean more to me coming from a friend than if I’d just purchased it somewhere.

It’s going into my jacket pocket, to be carried everywhere I go.  And from now on, every time I walk around in an area which might be regarded as anti-Semitic — majority Muslim, majority Black, majority alt-Right, whatever  — I’m going to wear the yarmulke, not because I’m Jewish, but because I’m sick to death of this bullshit.

And to anyone who may take issue with me over this:  fuck with me at your peril.

Trust, Religion And Institutions

I like this post, especially this excerpt:

The soft, feminine authoritarianism we see in the West is a free rider. It is possible because of the inertia from the old high trust societies that came before it. If Finland faced a real crisis, one that threatened its existed, the first thing that happens is their pixie of prime minister is replaced with a serious person. The same would be true in Canada, where their gender fluid prime minister is mostly a luxury item.

Which leads me to a tangential point.  Generally speaking, if Z-man is correct, weak rulers are an indulgence during times of peace and/or prosperity in democratic societies.  Harsh times, as he indicates, call for strong leaders — Churchill in 1940, De Gaulle in 1959, Pinochet in 1973 and Reagan in 1981.  And taking Canada as an example, they have been able to elect essentially weakling prime minister pretty much forever  (e.g. Trudeau Mark I and II in the 1970s and 2010s, respectively), living as they do under the protection of the United States.  I refer to them (and that Millennial Finnish premier) as “dilettante” leaders because in good times, they are not really harmful and can play at being leaders.

Now ask yourself these two questions:

  • Is the United States in such a position of peace, prosperity and security that we can afford to indulge ourselves with a weak leader?
  • Is there a single  Democrat presidential candidate that can not be described as a dilettante leader?  To put the question into perspective:  in any negotiation with China’s Xi, Russia’s Putin or even Iran’s Khameini, would the putative Democrat president (i.e. from any of the current candidates) emerge as the victor?  Put another way:  can any of the above candidates be favorably compared to, say, a stronger Democrat president such as Harry Truman?

Every leader in the world knew who was the stronger adversary when faced with Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan.  And they all likewise knew who was the stronger when the U.S. President was Jimmy Carter — who, by the way, is an absolute colossus compared to Buttigieg, Biden, Warren and the other socialist stooges.

I also think that most Americans who don’t believe in pixie dust, unicorns and Communism understand this concept absolutely;  which, by the way, explains why Republican voters chose Trump over the other Republican candidates in 2016, and why Ted Cruz — who is not a dilettante candidate — was their second choice, albeit a distant second.

Given the current state of the world and our position in it — and thus understanding that the United States cannot really ever indulge itself with a weak president — the choice facing us in Election 2020 is quite clear.  This is no time for a boutique president — it’s never a good time for a Marxist president — and I’m pretty sure that we Americans know it.

Tough Question, Simple Answer

…I think.

Reader TR sends me this head-scratcher:

“I must ask a question. When you refer to apartheid, you — like nearly everyone else — refers to it as an ‘evil system.’  Given what has transpired since the end of apartheid, is it appropriate to rethink that?  With the chaos that South Africa has experienced as it has descended to the African mean of madness, perhaps a more appropriate viewpoint is to think that apartheid was simply a logical adaptation to the presence of a population that simply cannot support or sustain a First World standard of living, done by people who very much valued the First World society they had created.”

Let me address the several issues contained in the above.  To anyone who was exposed to its machinations — let alone directly affected by it, as most South African Blacks were — apartheid was  truly evil:  only the absence of extermination camps differentiated it from the Nazism of the 1940s.  In actuality, Blacks couldn’t live or work in “White” areas except by permit, couldn’t own businesses in White areas, couldn’t be promoted past a certain point when they did work outside the “Black” areas, and were forcibly resettled into Black “homelands” without legal redress or the ability to resist.  Social intercourse between Blacks and Whites were restricted, by law, to business interactions only — any kind of interracial sexual activity was legally classified as “immorality” and summarily banned, carrying appallingly-high penalties in the breach thereof.  Crimes by Whites against Blacks carried penalties far more lenient  — to the extent of semi-official toleration — than those by Blacks against Whites, which were severely punished.  The education system favored White children over Black children and continued throughout life — to where “White” universities were ubiquitous but “Black” universities could be counted on one hand, with a couple fingers left over.  (Lest anyone is offended by the comparison to Nazism, simply substitute “Jews” for “Blacks” and “Aryans” for “Whites”.  That would have been Germany, from 1933 to 1945.)

So the disappearance of apartheid cannot be seen as anything other than a Good Thing.

Now, what has replaced this abhorrent socio-political system is not good, at all;    indeed, what has since happened in South Africa is typical of most African countries:  massive corruption, bureaucratic inertia, inefficiency and incompetence, and a level of violence which makes Chicago’s South Side akin to a holiday resort.  (For those who wish to know the attribution for much of the above, I recommend reading the chapter entitled “Caliban’s Kingdoms” in Paul Johnson’s Modern Times.)  Where South Africa differs from other African countries is twofold:  where in the rest of Africa the preponderance of violence and oppression was Black on Black — and therefore ignored by the West — apartheid was a system of White  on Black oppression (and therefore more noticeable to Western eyes).  The second difference is that apartheid exacerbated the virulence of the “grievance” culture which demands reparations (financial and otherwise) for the iniquities of apartheid.  This continues to unfold, to where the homicide rate for White farmers — part of the taking of farmland from Whites — is one of the highest in the world, and the capture and conviction rates for the Black murderers among the lowest — a simple inversion of the apartheid era.

Speaking with hindsight, however, it would be charitable to suggest (as Reader TR has done) that apartheid was “simply a logical adaptation to the presence of a population that simply cannot support or sustain a First World standard of living, done by people who very much valued the First World society they had created.”  While that statement is undoubtedly true, up to a point, and it could be argued that apartheid was a pragmatic solution to the chaos evident throughout the rest of Africa, it cannot be used as an excuse.  Indeed, such a labeling would give, and has given rise to the notion that First World systems are inherently unjust, and a different label “colonialism” — which would include  apartheid — can be applied to the entirety of Western Civilization.

The fact of the matter is that when it comes to Africa, there is no good way.  First World — i.e. Western European — principles only work in a socio-political milieu in which principles such as the rule of law, free trade, non-violent transfer of political power and the Enlightenment are both understood and respected.  They aren’t, anywhere in Africa, except where such adherence can be worked to temporary local advantage.  Remember, in the African mindset there is no long-term thinking or consideration of consequence — which is why, for example, since White government (not just South African) has disappeared in Africa, the infrastructure continues to crumble and fail because of a systemic and one might say almost genetic indifference to its maintenance.  When a government is faced with a population of which 90% is living in dire poverty and in imminent danger of starvation, that government must try to address that first, or face the prospect of violent revolution.  It’s not an excusable policy, but it is understandable.

That said, there is no gain in rethinking apartheid’s malevolence, as Reader TR asks, because apartheid was never going to last anyway, and its malevolence was bound to engender a similar counter-malevolence once it disappeared.  Which is the main point to my thinking on Africa:  nothing works.  Africa is simply a train-smash continent, where good intentions come to nought, where successful systems and ideas fail eventually, and where unsuccessful systems (e.g. Marxism) also fail, just fail more quickly.

So there’s no point in reevaluating apartheid:  it was a savagely iniquitous and evil system, and the best thing that can be said about it is that it was no different to any other  tribal system already in existence in Africa — except that it was loudly and proudly unapologetic about its foundation (“Blacks are genetically inferior to Whites”), its goals (“protect the White race”) and intent (“keep the races apart”).

And yes, while apartheid existed South Africa worked better as a country — roads, medical care, electricity generation and distribution, financial systems and the economy all worked well, to the envy of the rest of the continent and even outside Africa.  But it was too evil a system to last, its benefits excluded too much of South Africa’s population and ultimately, its First World efficacy cannot be used to excuse it.

And many, many thanks to Reader TR for bringing up the topic.

One-Track Mind

Over at The Daily Timewaster, C.W. often posts scenic pics like this in his “Open Road” series (click to embiggen):

See, others are going to go into raptures over Nature’s Incredible Beauty etc. etc.  Me, I look at it and say:

“Yeah, beautiful.  I bet that little ridge on the extreme right would make a great backstop if one were to set up some targets and steel plates so that one could blast away in relative comfort from the truck (or next to it), without causing any damage or noise issues (it being somewhat Remote & Desolate).”

Am I the only one who thinks like this?

And a tangential thought:  does anyone know where that pic was taken?  I’m guessing Utah or maybe Arizona…

Update:  Reader RichK emails:

The location is in the Alabama Hills, part of the Owens valley of California, and is looking at the Sierras.
The high peak left of the road is Mt. Langley. The far one is Mt. Whitney. I have climbed both multiple times. Stunningly beautiful country. Sad to think it is part of California.

Thought For The Week

From the much-reviled Puritans (very relevant at this time of the year):

Puritans believed it was also “to knit the heart of a husband to wife,” a charming thought. One of the supposedly oppressive rules of the Puritans was that men should not get away with taking advantage of women. They were strict. They did not believe that a man and woman who were not husband and wife should be alone together, because they thought the temptation was likely to be too much for one or both of them. We threw that rule out, and guess what? It turns out it has a good deal of truth to it. Just because adultery does not occur in 100% of such situations, or even 30% does not mean it doesn’t happen more than is good for both individuals and society as a whole… [Puritans] did not foreswear the flesh, they merely believed it should be held under short rein.

So many of the “old social rules” which have been weakened and eventually discarded have, over time, been seen to be not only sensible, but whose absence has been very harmful to society.

But with the modern world’s insistence that we never ever ever go back to the old ways because that would be [pick any or all as appropriate]  reactionary, racist, hateful, intolerant, intolerant, silly, White hegemony, patriarchal and in general doubleplusungood, I’m gloomy about the chances of our ever reinstating any of those old customs, rules and mores.

Even if going back would be beneficial to, oh, just about everybody.

I think I’ll go to the range this afternoon.  That usually dispels my gloom.