SOMETHING MUST BE DONE
Copyright Michael Bunker 2009
These early chapters of the book where I am defining words, explaining concepts, laying the foundations, and removing objections are important to our overall understanding. We’re going to get to the nuts-and-bolts of Off Off-Grid Living pretty soon, but we do want to make sure our foundation is sound.
Our lives are rarely defined by the measure of our character taken during the long lulls of quiet and sameness that make up most of our time here on earth, when we do the things we think we ought, and when we keep the patterns we’ve always kept; it might be better if they were. But our character is usually defined, and we are usually remembered by how we act under stress and pressure, during times of crisis, emergency, or drastic or dramatic change, or by the detours we choose to make in our lives that take us off the well-worn path of least resistance.
Whether it is fair or not, the biggest impact we will ever have on ourselves, our families, our friends, our loved ones, and our culture is when we are put under stress, pressure, or strain, or when we depart from the way everyone else has chosen to act, to be, or to live. Going along with the throng never changed or affected anyone, much less ourselves. Acts of survival or acts that cause us to operate contra mundum (which means against the world) are the acts that are most likely to cause the greatest impact in our lives, and are the acts that are the most likely to impact others.
It is an interesting truth that extraordinary people are deemed extraordinary by the things that they do which are contrary to what is expected by the world, and likewise I find it very interesting that many of the words in our language that have the most powerful imagery associated with them, or that move us to awe, respect, honor, and appreciation, are those words that define how people act when they are acting contrarily to how the world would act. In fact, it is the exclusivity of these words, or their nature of defining some unique quality, that gives them their power. Some of these words that I am talking about here have been abused and overused in our modern world, so I refer you to their original and their most pure meanings. Words like integrity, heroism, bravery, fearlessness, audacity, courage, and boldness are words that historically have been used to define actions or behaviors by people who have operated contrarily to what was expected from them at the time. Think about that for a moment. The words that mark a person or an act as exceptional are words that also identify people or actions as an exception. As an aside, this is why it is so offensive to hear these words (like “hero”) used to describe just about anyone today who does their duty and gets rewarded for it. Today, all soldiers are heroes, all teachers are heroes, all mothers are heroes, all police officers are heroes, etc. The word has lost all meaning because it has been so horribly misused. All of these words once had the foundational inference that some act or deed was exceptional, which means “far beyond or different than what is normal,” “exceeding or surpassing what is common,” or “deviating widely from the norm.” It is an interesting irony that a world that forces assimilation, that rewards amalgamation and syncretism, and that preaches a doctrine of mediocrity and consumption, would still use such interesting words to idealize those who refuse to be assimilated, or who act contrarily to the world’s expectations.
Nowhere is our character more on display, and nowhere are we more likely to impact others, than when we are in the Valley of Decision, that place where we are forced to decide on a course of action that will have dramatic effect on ourselves and others. Our true character is made known when we are faced with choices that will define our lives to the outside world.
When a person comes to the conclusion that they are in an untenable situation, or that they are living an unsustainable lifestyle, or that their practices and ways are not conducive to the ends that they say they desire for themselves and for their progeny, they enter into the Valley of Decision where a crucible is presented. A crucible is a vessel used to melt metals and other materials. It is a vessel that will not melt when put under the high temperatures necessary to melt the metals. A crucible is where steel, iron, gold, and silver are refined. As people, we are refined in the crucibles of our lives: those times when heat, pressure, and stress are applied. It is at these times when we feel the most uncomfortable, and it is when we are facing huge challenges or obstacles, that we are most susceptible to being refined by the heat of decision. Exceptional people become exceptional in the Valley of Decision.
It is during these times of stress, crisis, or challenge, when hopefully it becomes obvious that something must be done. Other options often only become apparent when our first and easiest option is blocked or goes away. This is true on any scale, from the smallest details of life to the biggest decisions of living. If we have determined that we intend to travel to a certain location (say Dallas), and we head off on our journey, and somewhere along the way we come to the certain conclusion based on irrefutable facts that we have made a great error and that we are traveling away from Dallas, it would only be wise and prudent then to re-chart our course, to make fundamental changes in our direction. Likewise, if we were to start our journey with the correct direction and heading, but through further investigation and information gathering we discover that our chosen route is blocked, impassible, unmanageably dangerous, or impossible to maintain, it would only be wise and prudent to come up with another plan. This is what I mean when I say that something must be done. The crucible often doesn’t appear until our first plan is proven to be a failure. When our current trajectory means absolute and unquestionable failure, we determine that something must be done.
So we say, “Something Must Be Done”. Let’s examine these words a little closer:
Something – Not just any thing, or nothing, but some particular thing. Some new course of action must be adopted, engaged, and followed. You hear a lot of talk about “change” today, especially in politics. People shout “change” as a mantra, as if change in-and-of itself is valuable and intelligent. When most of the people who shout “change” as a political platform are questioned as to the specifics and the target of the change, they are usually unable to provide any details. When radicals or rebels demand change, they usually get it; and history proves that they are rarely happy with what they receive. They say, “We need change,” but are not willing to say what that change is or what it will be. Change is only good and intelligent if it is specific, objective, achievable, and moral. When we say, “Something Must Be Done,” we advocate change; but it is necessary that we also identify our destination, and that we understand the means and methods used to bring about that change, and that we intelligently pursue the specific change we advocate. “Something” is a particular thing, some correction or right action that will bring about positive change.
Must – The word “must” means “to be obliged or bound to by an imperative requirement.” Must means “to live or to be under a requirement,” “to be compelled” to some particular action. When we find ourselves in an untenable situation, if we are intelligent, engaged, and responsible, we come under a compulsion to positive change. We are bound by our responsibilities to our duty, to our selves, to our families, to others to whom we owe service or protection, and most particularly to God, to engage in some change of course that we pray will bring about substantive and positive change.
Be Done – Be attempted and hopefully accomplished. Our methods must have an end. Our endeavors need to have a goal or destination in mind. Understand that, when we are obedient and dutiful, results are not completely under our power. Obedience is ours, results belong to God. We are responsible to act properly, to move and act deliberately and according to moral and intelligent means; but this does not mean that ends or purposes become an idol. Obedience is our intent, but it is an intention that works towards a specified end. When we say we plan and hope for substantive change, we ought to be declaring that we have a specific change in mind, and that that change is our focus.
Something Must Be Done
Now let us put this understanding into a real world context. Going back to our example, if we have set off on a course for Dallas, with the intention of arriving at that destination, and if we learn that our course was erroneous, or that situations have caused that course to be no longer maintainable as a means to achieving our destination, then we must intelligently and deliberately re-chart our course. Course changes are often necessary, good, and right. Sometimes we do not learn about our mistakes and errors in planning until after a disaster or calamity has occurred. Other times we may not see things rightly for months or years, and God may let us continue in error for long periods of time. Oftentimes we only see our failures through the window of regret and sorrow. This is the purpose and the cause of repentance when it is given to us. Sometimes we do not know how we have failed until it is brought to our attention through other means. Even then, so long as we are alive, and so long as we have survived our ignorance and failure, we are invited to repentance and ought to be exhorted to use our failures as effective tools for change. Just because we have been wrong all along does not mean that we should give up or quit. That we still live means that we still have duties and obligations, and that we still are responsible creatures.
A True Story
As I have mentioned here a few times, it has been a relatively short time since Western society embarked on the great industrial experiment – shorter than you probably imagine. I would like to tell you a story of how our philosophy and how the things that we think and believe, ultimately affect us and our destinations.
When my grandmother was a young girl, her life was not much different than that of little girls 300 years before her. She was born in 1909, 100 years before this book was started. Motorized air flight had become a reality six years before her birth, but the thought of flying was still science fiction for most people. Most of you have heard or read about space flight, but it is almost certain that you have never been on a rocket ship. In 1909, there were motorcars; but most people, except those in large Eastern cities, had never even seen one, and that was the year Alice Ramsey, a 22-year-old woman from New Jersey, drove a motorcar across the whole United States. It took her two months. Only a handful of people had ever made such a journey in a car. By contrast, almost all travel in 1909 in rural Texas where my grandmother was born was by way of horse power, just as it had been around the world for most of the preceding millennia. Alice Ramsey, the intrepid motor car record holder, was the anomaly and the exception in 1909, whereas my grandmother was the rule. Most of my grandmother’s food was grown by her family, and it was cooked in woodstoves and later in gas stoves (after 1922, when they became more common) using fire for heat. She did not have running water, or indoor plumbing. In fact, historically speaking, it would not be improper to say that, compared to the lives of many little girls in Rome in the 4th Century, my grandmother lived a pretty basic, uncomplicated, and simple life. She would have been considered backwards and unsophisticated by the Romans. Life in the early 20th Century (for most people) was not remarkably different than life in the 15th century or even in the 12th Century (although things were about to change, and very, very rapidly!) Rural folks lived lives of relative freedom in America in the first couple of decades of the 20th Century. They didn’t know much of debt and mortgages and tricky financial instruments. Most people owned their own land, or they worked as tenant farmers on the land of someone who did. Whatever a family needed that they didn’t provide for themselves, they purchased, traded, or bartered from folks who had what was required. The people were not generally enslaved to the tyranny of markets and of the whims of the consumer economy. Sadly, back then my grandmother and her family did not even know how free they really were, because they had not yet had a glimpse of the slavery that modernism would bring, nor were they aware of all that the new industrialism (new at the time) would cost them. The Industrial Revolution had been going on for more than 100 years in 1909; but in real terms, without electrification or motor vehicles, the Industrial Revolution really just meant that there were some handier and cheaper gadgets available at the store for the back woods people of the early 1900’s. The change was on its way, but it hadn’t yet really arrived. The most important elements of life and living had not changed for hundreds and hundreds of years.
In order for industrialism to take root, and for it to have its intended impact on the lives of rural Americans, an intensive period of colonization and brainwashing was necessary. My grandmother’s generation was even then being taught that they were poor and “backwards” and bereft of all of the “good things in life”, and that the only solution to their newly understood condition was to fully embrace the onrushing new Great Society. A couple of generations before her, they lived much the same way that she did; but none of her ancestors would likely have considered themselves to be poor. In the Bible, the “poor” were widows, orphans and those who, because of some infirmity or affliction, were forced to beg for food. In other words, if you were not begging bread, you would not have been considered poor by any but the wealthiest and most affluent people in society. No one working the land and with food and raiment considered themselves to be poor. The concept of someone being considered poor just because they did not have the most modern conveniences would have been strange. The word “poor” didn’t come into its modern usage until the Industrial Revolution by way of marketing, merchandising, and consumerism. It was a marketing ploy, a rhetorical button; and it was all about engendering rampant covetousness and the burgeoning consumerist mentality. After the colonization and intense mind training of the Industrial Revolution, everyone who lived without electricity and without the newest modern time-saving conveniences (which is to say everyone who lived exactly like their parents and ancestors had lived) was to be convinced by the advertisers and the marketers of the new order and by the public educators and prophets of the Industrial religion that they were the pitiful poor. According to the new thinking, everyone was poor except the very rich; and everyone was inundated with mass advertising and with cultural and social pressure that they should want more than anything else not to be considered poor. Upward mobility was the new hallmark of success, and financial condition was measured solely by how assimilated a person or family had become with the new consumer world, and within that society or mindset there was no other more objective way to measure ones spiritual or physical condition. Either you had electricity, or you did not. Either you had running water, or you did not. Either you had an automobile and a refrigerator, or you did not. It was unthinkable that someone would not embrace and rush out to purchase these things… unless they were (gasp) poor. The poor were to be pitied and not admired. No one would choose to deny their flesh such “necessary” toys, that is, nobody except someone who is crazy. It was understandable if you did not have the latest gadgets; but it meant that you were poor. The only possible excuse for simple living was poverty. This became the new thinking, and it does not take long for “new thinking” to become common, and for common thinking to become gospel.
Whenever the new thinking, however weak and anemic, becomes the common thinking, the mind becomes quick to lock out the old thinking as “impossible” or “not practical or desirable.” An equivalent comparison today can be made by looking at modern air-conditioning. I am young enough to remember when air-conditioning was considered an option, either in the house or in the car. Most houses did not have air-conditioning and it was absolutely not considered “standard” to have air-conditioning in the car. Today, air-conditioning is not even considered an option for most people. The new thinking has prevailed, and thousands of years of experience have been thrown into the dustbin. The single comment I receive the most by people who first come upon my philosophy is this one: “I don’t think I can live without air-conditioning. I just wouldn’t make it,” which is to say, “I’m more unviable and weaker than 99.9% of the 100 billion souls who lived on this planet before modern air-conditioning was invented!” Once the mind is colonized and trained, decolonizing it is a monumental task.
My grandmother’s generation was told that all the new things and ideas that were coming would be good for them, and would free them from hard labor to a comfortable life devoid of stress and turmoil. Now, to flash forward and to risk giving away a bit of the ending, it must be considered here that if these young people at the turn of the 20th century had been told that they were all going to die virtually penniless and alone in a sterile and cold nursing home (a waiting room for those waiting to pass on), crying out for a modicum of familial care and the simple warmth and care of home, I believe many of these people might have rejected the new way of thinking. Salesmen, however, and the prophets of modernism are not likely to mention the unhappy reality of death when they are trying to sell consumption and corruption. It is bad salesmanship. No, the salesmen of modernism focused on the middle future, and on the happy corporate dreams created by well educated advertising executives. The push-button society was going to free man to pursue intellectual and spiritual endeavors, and would eradicate poverty, inequality, and need. If you have become convinced you are poor, why would you not sign on to a philosophy that had as one of its main tenets the abolition of poverty? Why not grasp and hold a worldview that enthrones the idols of leisure time and endless entertainment? I’m not saying we blame them. They didn’t know any better, although a thorough study of the Bible might have taught them differently.
But by the time of the middle of that same century, modern society, high on the cliffs of the new industrial/consumerism, and flushed with paper money, was the envy of the entire world. This was the precipice (a high and lofty place) from which a people would be thrown into an abyss of mental and physical slavery. By the 1950’s, it seemed as if the promise was within reach. Everyone was rich, and only the willfully ignorant or lazy were poor. The massive carnage and destruction (culturally and financially) that would one day come of the consumer society had not yet shown itself. In the 1950’s, families were still relatively intact; and although the culture and morality were headed into serious decline, things still looked pretty good.
The elements of the Industrial Revolution that had the most dramatic impact on lives (electrification, cheap energy, and automobiles) happened during my grandmother’s life, and were as contemporary to her time as the home computer revolution is to my own. On the day she was born, her father would have never imagined the changes that would happen in the span of her lifetime. He had seen the advent of the motorcar and of the aeroplane. Together they saw the arrival of readily available, cheap grid electricity, and the arrival of the tractor and the subsequent death of the horse-powered farm. International manipulations, cultural imperialism, and the continuous reality of foreign wars and entanglements had created legions of colonized foreigners eager for American goods. But the harsh results in real terms would not be evident for decades. In four generations, our family (like most families in America) went from a family with the skills to provide almost all of the staples and necessities of life, to one that relied on the world and its corrupt system to provide everything for them. In four generations, our family went from a family of producers and freemen, to a family of consumers and slaves. In four generations, we went from being a nation of large, strong, patriarchal, nuclear families, to a nation of fractured, broken, and unnatural families and disconnected individuals with no historical understanding or memory. And the change has happened so quickly; it is stunning. And the worst thing is that most people don’t even know it has happened, and most of them do not want to know. I am reminded of the words of a Robert Earl Keen song:
“I wanna know…
Did your father own an automobile or a two horse carriage with wood spoke wheels?
I hear you used to walk to school seven miles a day
Did you ever ride a railroad train?
And the very first time you saw a plane did you think the world had gone insane?
Tell me what you’ve got to say
I want to know.
(Robert Earl Keen, “I Wanna Know”)
The failure of the industrial experiment is one of the most evident but unspoken and unrecognized truths in the culture. It seems to be a contradiction that some fact can be “evident” but “unrecognized.” That is the reality of colonization. It causes us to be blind to ultimate realities, and to deny facts in favor of conditioning. The truth is right in front of anyone who cares to look (it is evident), but the brain that controls the eyes and the thoughts that process the information from the eyes is a tool that has been programmed by the colonizers (it is unrecognized). When I think about a once vibrant, stable and strong culture now trapped on the industrial treadmill, drowning in the consumer mentality, enslaved by the insatiable needs of “time-saving” devices, mobilized only in the desire for any new entertainment, any employment, or any mental excitement or wonderment that will anesthetize the mind just long enough to keep it from recognizing its miserable existence – and its eventual end – I cringe, and I am saddened.
Back to our story. My grandmother died blind and lonely in a nursing home. I’m sure you didn’t see that coming.
Her last year was a sad exit from a world that had sold her all these lies. This is a story that no one would like to talk about, and that people would love to deny; but it is one that is repeated millions of times a year. It is likely a story that is true even in your own family. It is the third rail of family history: you just don’t touch it or talk about it, because it is the most prevalent truth in the story of growing old in western society today, and of death and dying in the Industrial world.
One of my clearest memories of my grandmother’s final year was of random and frightened phone calls from her in the middle of the night, or throughout the day. My parents had purchased her a phone for her bedside in the nursing home. The phone had extra large buttons so that hopefully, despite her blindness, she could count through and figure out what buttons to push if she needed to talk to us. However, whenever she became frightened, or lonely, or panicked, she would grab the phone and vainly, frantically, and randomly press buttons until somebody would answer. Since most of our numbers had been programmed into the speed dial, you never knew when she would call. And she wasn’t calling me, she was calling anybody. Actually she was calling a concept of family and of comfort and love that she had once known, but that the Industrial society had killed; but she couldn’t have known that that was what she was doing. Usually she was frightened and mumbling to herself, praying that someone, anyone, would come get her and talk to her and maybe take her out of that place. Her mind was mostly gone, sure; but somehow I know she knew what was happening to her.
Her children loved her and wanted the best for her, at least the best of what they knew. They only acted according to the training they had received from the society that had colonized them. Her children were trapped in the modern system and were exhausting themselves on the treadmill of achievement, debt, comfort and status. They didn’t have the time or the energy to care for an old, blind, helpless woman. The desire for stability, advancement, comfort, and purpose-driven progress made it all but impossible for them to be able to care for her at the very end. You could see it on their faces. They wanted to do more, but they couldn’t. They just couldn’t. Their worldview, philosophy, and the reality of the modern world did not allow for it. When the entire concept of survival is based on “going to work” and earning more money, and when the lusts for stuff and for comfort have caused you to live a life that requires every adult to “go to work,” then… every person must go to work. It seems like the only way, and since no one will ever question the premise, then, in reality, it is the only way. Happily for them, the industrial world had conceived of a solution: the nursing home. Or the “adult care facility.” Or the “senior care home” – whatever you want to call it. Specialization is king! Let us take care of your parents so you don’t have to. And just think of how many people now have jobs, getting paid to take care of old folks, and then spend their money in stores and on services so you and I can have jobs! It just works! Specialization has an answer for everything.
Now, to be fair, my family did make the effort. My grandmother lived with my aunt for most of her final years, and I am grateful for that. And most of her living children pitched in for her care, until the point where her body grew too weak and her mind started to go and she just could no longer care for herself while my aunt was away at work at the hospital. A few of my cousins and I tried to keep her out of the nursing home by rotating and staying with her on the nights that my aunt worked, but we were all in college and trying to get a toe-hold in the Great Society for ourselves. We had been trained by the Industrial society as well, and we had the hope that one day we could claim all of its promises for ourselves (and the cycle repeats: one generation is shuffled off, while the next pursues the dream). All of my grandmother’s living children worked jobs in the modern system. The “system” made it easy to hand her off to the nursing home. The marketing arm of the new world system kicked in and offered all the right solutions to the problem of “transitioning” old people out of this world. The family told themselves it was nice, and that it was clean, and that she would be cared for. Everything she owned of value, including her home, would need to be sold off to pay the nursing home fees. I guess it is wrong to call such a place a “nursing home”: some nursing goes on, but it is certainly not a “home.” It is a weigh station and a waiting room for the unwanted and unneeded as they await their time to drop off of the planet. It is where you take old and worn out human units so you can get them out of the way while you continue your own journey there. It is the island of unwanted toys, only for people who have outlived their usefulness.
We all visited her, and then we all went home. She cried, and her mind went. Sometimes she was lucid and talkative, other times she was lost in her own mind, having no idea to whom she was even talking. Sometimes she cried and begged to be saved from that place, and all along I still had the feeling that she knew what was going on.
She had given birth to seven children, and had provided for the six of them that lived into adulthood. Her husband died several decades before she did, so she spent a good portion of her life without a spouse. She had been married as a teenager, because that was the common practice in the rural area where she grew up. She did what she was told; she raised her family, worshipped her God, and ultimately she believed the lies of a culture that didn’t care one whit about her except for what service she would perform for the benefit of the Great Society.
At one time my grandmother could have been called an Agrarian. She raised a garden, cooked on a woodburning stove, shelled peas and snapped beans in the summertime, and knitted and sewed in the winter. She was a country girl who had been dragged into the Great Society by the overwhelming flood and bonds of modernism and necessity. She was a product of her time. The world believed that people should leave the farms and the land (so that the land could be turned over to the industrial farmers who would raise all of the food by the miracles of modern chemistry and machinery) and go to the city, or, at the very least, that rural Agrarian people should adopt all of the new industrial methods and gadgets that the city would be producing. You must be a customer or a consumer – there is no third way. Trying to live in both worlds was a hope that soon became an implausible dream. The Great Society was littered with hidden traps and costs; and, soon enough, country people found out that “making it” in the country was very nearly impossible, especially when there were all these new bills to pay, and when it took two working parents to make ends meet. Most farm folk embraced this new reality. They stopped growing food and started buying it at the store where it was cheaper, easier, and more abundant. The more the people embraced the Great Society, the more reality conspired to make a fuller embrace inevitable. So her husband left the farm and got a job at an industrial dairy in West Texas. There seemed to be no other choice, and the world taught them that this was the right thing to do. She eventually went to nursing school and helped bring thousands of babies into the new industrial world.
They have a plaque honoring her on the wall of the “birthing center” in the hospital where she gave her time and her heart for a couple of dozen years. She was a fixture there for several decades, but no one there now remembers her. She’s just a name on a plaque.
They Taught Her That She Used To Be Poor
They taught her that used to be poor, so she bought a car, even though she went to church and to the grocery store right down the street from her urban house. She had no more real need for a car than a poodle has need of a parachute, but she went and got herself a car because only the poor didn’t have cars. I bought that car from her almost 20 years later, and she had only put 25,000 original miles on it.
They taught her she used to be poor; so she got electricity, even though she had lived most of her life up until that time happily without it.
They taught her that she used to be poor, so the candles and oil lamps on her shelves and tables became antique ornamentation, while electric light (all sold cheaply by the watt) flooded her rooms.
They taught her that she used to be poor, so she moved on up in the world. She got air-conditioning and an electric iron, and a refrigerator, and all the other gadgets the world told her she should have just to prove she wasn’t poor anymore.
She raised her children, saw them educated and married off, and played with her grandchildren.
My grandmother’s children are all nice folks, and those that are living are the salt of the earth. They are not criminals, they try to do right, and they work hard. They played by the rules, and they reaped the temporal rewards. Now they all feed the same machine, and they can’t see their way out of it, nor would they want to because, after all, their momma used to be poor, and who would want to go back to that? All of their lives they have been taught that the worst thing in the world is to be poor, so they each sell their lives as cheap fuel for the industrial machine, because “momma used to be poor.” Some of them will get plaques on the wall where they used to work, but most won’t; and as their families continue to fragment and scatter, most of their stories will be forgotten as well. It’s the nature of a fragmented society. People aren’t stories: they are cogs in a machine. They are Dixie Cups: when their usefulness is done, they get thrown away. Some of them have played the game well enough and they have made enough money to die at home with a home health care nurse to care for them. It is a strange marker for success, but you’d hate to inconvenience the next generation of consumers; and besides, who wants to watch their parents die?
Some of my grandmother’s children got educated, and all of them said that they wanted their children to “have more than we had” (one of the greatest and most effective of the industrial mantras). Such a phrase is a powerful anesthetic. It makes one feel better when he says he did all of this for the next generation, especially if he doesn’t actually have to study and see what is happening to each subsequent generation. Each generation is taught that the earlier generation was poor and miserable, and each generation watches the next generation grow more selfish, more miserable, and more arrogant, with ever increasing moral weakness. Each generation seeks its own success and comfort, and each claims to be doing it for the children and the grandchildren. The grandchildren have more stuff all right: and more debt, more stress, more diseases, more pharmaceuticals, more divorces (it becomes impossible to even count them all), more step-relatives, more modernism, and, well… just more. They have less of God and true religion, less freedom, less practical intelligence, less survivability, less integrity, less moral uprightness, and less of a probability of surviving even the slightest of disasters; but they think they have more.
And they told her she used to be poor…
Today, our most ancient and successful ways of living have become by-words and pithy catchwords for poverty and backwardness (remember Rome). If someone wants to exalt their now lofty position, they contrast it with humble and sorrowful beginnings. They say, “When I was a boy, we didn’t have running water or electricity.” Or if they want to emphasize how far they have come, they say, “When I was young, we didn’t have a television, and we had to walk to school.” None of this is new. Rome is being revisited, and we are too stupid and historically ignorant to know it.
“If there were no wind we might, we think, hear the earth grind on its axis, or history drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.” (Robert Penn Warren – “Evening Hawk”)
One of the sad truths about moral and cultural blindness is that the morally and culturally blind do not have the eyes, or the ability, to see their blindness. As each generation slips farther and farther away from the ideal (whether we are considering true religion, morality, or the ability to provide the basics of survival), they move farther away from the old historical landmarks. They are more prone to lose their way and less likely to even accidentally end up where they ought to be. Each generation becomes the default leaders and teachers of the next generation, and the blind lead the blind ever deeper into the ditch.
When an aircraft suffers a mechanical failure, there remains hope so long as the structure survives intact and so long as the instruments remain trustworthy. If, however, the structure and the instruments are destroyed, it ought to be assumed that a crash is imminent. Miracles can always happen, but by definition they usually do not. When we say, “Something Must Be Done,” it is in this context. Catastrophes and disasters do not usually strike without any warning whatsoever. There is generally some period of time between the moment when we are made aware that something is terribly wrong, and the moment when the catastrophe finally hits, or when the full impact is registered. This period of time, however short or long, is when decisions are made. Now, it is during this interim when our true character and the things that we have truly believed become known. It ought to be a time of action, because it is the time when something must be done.
Survival (like true revival) requires an unbending and inflexible demand for the truth. We must require facts; and we must see those facts as they are, and not as we might want them to be. Deception is the enemy to true survival. Self-deception is the most heinous enemy, because it is the equivalent of smashing our own instruments when they are needed the most. When our internal compass is inoperative, survival becomes a wish and a dream, but not a real likelihood.
The modern world, with its society and culture, is an aircraft that (at a very high altitude) has proven to have inoperative instruments while it has simultaneously suffered massive systemic and structural failure. Things do not look good. But there are a couple of options:
One option is to do nothing. We are perfectly free to continue to live on in delusion and denial. One thing about most modern aircraft is that they have comfy blankets and a nice pillow for your head. Humans are perfectly equipped to deny all of the available intelligence, and to remain blind and deaf to reality; but we must say here that the end will not change merely because someone wishes it to. Now, if you become determined to do nothing and to remain in denial, you are going to be extremely irritated with anyone around you who doesn’t choose to share in your deceptions. Those who will deny reality and who will deny facts cannot suffer someone who has decided to receive and act on the truth. It is extremely uncomfortable to have your conscience seared with a hot iron as your plane is crashing. So if someone is determined to deceive themselves, then they have to do something about the guy who is trying to ruin their perfectly good delusion. Towards this end, they usually have a handy trick left in their bag. If they can dismiss you as a pessimist, then they can alleviate the stress and the pressure; they can salve their own conscience, and they can feel better about themselves and their lives so they can remain in relative comfort as they rocket towards the ground.
Here is something for you to write down and remember: facing reality is never pessimistic. Believing the truth, no matter how difficult that may be, is the ultimate act of optimism because it opens up the panorama of options that will free us from further deception. Taking off a blindfold is never an act of pessimism. However, getting angry at the truth (or at the messenger who delivers the truth) is merely a self-deceptive act of narcissistic theater; and it is a colossal waste of time.
All of the data is out there for anyone who cares to spend the time to study it and analyze it. Modern society is peopled with folks who are suffering from group dementia and a paralyzing allergy to the truth and to facts. The Industrial system has succeeded in providing cooked books, powerful and deceptive narcotics, smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand by way of billions of dollars in marketing and advertising, in order to sustain the illusion of safety and security. Those who wish to stay on the plane, believing it will arrive safely at its destination despite all the available facts to the contrary, are free to do so. I was asked if it would be possible to just write this book without mentioning the condition of the world, or “scaring people” with tales of doom and gloom. Yes, it would be possible. It just wouldn’t be honest. I am not predicting some worldwide calamity, although many calamities are very, very likely. The devastation I warn you of is cultural, and social, and spiritual. It is already here. Our society, like Rome and like Sodom before us, is already wicked and evil to the core. The actual and physical destruction is inevitable, but that is not the point of this book. The destruction of Rome by the Alaric and the Gothic Barbarians was just the period at the end of a very long sentence. Western Society is crumbling, but it is being destroyed on the inside first.
I don’t think that anyone ought to be motivated primarily by fear. Some fear is good, and it is given to us by God for our preservation and for our safety. If you are standing in the middle of a highway with cars coming at you, the fear that you feel is a good thing; and it ought to motivate you to right action. I think, however, that people ought to be primarily motivated by intelligence, duty, obedience, and courage. Maybe you shouldn’t have been on that highway to begin with? One of the ingredients that will eradicate fear is faith, and another is a love of the truth.
Before anyone gets too angry at me, let me say that no one is going to rob you of your freedom to destroy yourself. You are free to choose to do nothing. You are free to dismiss me as a kook and an alarmist. That is your right. If you are honestly convinced that nothing is wrong with our society, and that there are no real dangers, and that the realities I mention to you are not systemic or not that important, then by all means go in peace. You may still gain something from the things taught in this book, so I will encourage you to read on; but if you do believe that even some of the problems I mention are serious, if you do see danger signs, or if you question the stability or morality of the system, then it would be wrong to submit to the inevitability of it without considering that there might be another option. It would be wrong to squander the gift of sight by doing nothing. Most people, when they are confronted with the true facts, will not have the eyes to see their condition. They will deny the truth at all costs. Most are already blinded by their own lusts and their own corruption, and they are not able to see. If, however, it is given unto you to see your peril, I believe it would be wrong to yield to some pessimistic view of “fate” without intelligently and carefully considering your duty to survive. Remember, true survivalists are the real optimists.
The second option is to admit that “something must be done.” If there is to be any true survival, let us start by admitting that we have to do something. We cannot just wish our errors and troubles away.
Let’s quickly list a couple of options under the category of proactive action (remember our plane is going down):
We can attempt to fix the plane in flight, to repair the instruments, and to cobble together some repairs to the structure in order to attempt to maintain airworthiness.
Or maybe it would be wiser to make use of parachutes if some are available – which means to agree in ourselves to abandon the doomed aircraft altogether. This, to me, is the ultimate act of optimism, because it is a declaration that I am not a part of this broken craft, and that there is still hope. Once we have accepted the true facts as they are, and once we have determined based on those facts that the plane is going to crash, we can choose to jump out of it. The thought might seem frightening, but it also ought to seem exhilarating. Now, there is no guarantee that our plans are going to succeed. Maybe the chute will not open. Maybe we land on a power line (oh, how ironic would that be?) But there is an absolute guarantee that if we do not do something, we are going to go down with the plane – and we can know that that option is positively not survivable.
We have options, and this book is about making those options known. It is about hope and optimism. It is a parachute. Something must be done, and that is a fact in my life. I have accepted it. I hope you will too.
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