“Tis the season of reminiscence and prognostication. Let’s get the future out of the way first.
I”ve made the same three predictions every January for the last thirty years:
1. Margaret Atwood will win the Nobel Prize in Literature;
2. Plastic surgeons will perfect “hand lifts” to accommodate aging boomers” boundless vanity;
3. Some iteration of the Sex Pistols will sign a multi-million-dollar contract with a Las Vegas casino.
Alas, Atwood’s fellow (“sister”?) Canadian, Alice Munro, took the Nobel this year, which likely puts any other Canuck out of the running during my lifetime, let alone Atwood’s.
Speaking of old hippies: Despite advances in cosmetic procedures to rejuvenate every other body part (including this year’s trendy bit“the wilting vagina), les soixante-huitards are stuck with their veiny “Madonna mitts,” as Brits call those (you’re almost) dead giveaways.
Now, I’m morbidly obsessed with growing older myself. However, my fixations range beyond my mirror and my closet, although not much farther. Like astrologers of nostalgia, my Gen X friends and I obsessively monitor the pop-culture constellations under which we were born and which influence our moods to this day:
Did you just see that TV commercial using “Sonic Reducer,” or am I having a waking nightmare?
A musical version of Heathers? How can we stop this?
And”Gavin McInnes may back me up“the hands-down worst such supernova of 2013 has to be the Urban Outfitters $375 “punk” jacket that brain-raped untold forty-somethings last September like some sartorial Richard Speck.
So yes, one of my biggest existential fears is that “Pretty Vacant” might start blasting out of the Bellagio. “First World problems,” the kids call them. I don’t live in the Philippines, for one thing, where a typhoon wiped out thousands of rich white people’s future servants.
I know I’m supposed to care about the goings-on in foreign lands, but I don’t even know who else lives on my condo floor. (“That scary Russian” and “the chick with two cats” is as far as I’ve gotten after seven years.)
The only such news that really grabbed me is that China and Iran both have space programs now. Contrary to popular belief, that’s good news: It probably means these two widely feared bogeymen are in fact disintegrating. After all, the case could be made that America reached its apogee on July 20, 1969. We rightly blame hippies and commies for gutting America during the 1960s, but decadence, hubris, and perversion can take many forms. Like, for instance, wasting billions of dollars to spend a few days visiting a giant vacant rock in the sky just to show off.
Speaking of American decline, Obamacare (sort of) launched this year, and its only success to date has been making Canada’s “free” “health” “care” system look good.
In many ways, 2013 was a year like any other. More white spindly middle class (and possibly medicated) beta males shot up a few public places. Other white spindly middle class (and possibly medicated) beta males quickly blamed butch, right-wing, beer-drinking alphas while ignoring the much higher body counts in poor black neighborhoods (and black-on-white crime everywhere else).
As someone who’s offended by nothing but annoyed by everyone, I found no shortage of people this past year to stoke the angry embers of my irascible soul. Try as I may to shield my eyes from the countless blinding petty indignities and massive vexations of everyday existence, each sunrise seemed to drop a new human being on my doorstep to annoy me.
I tend to focus on the negative at the expense of everything else, so when I looked back over the past year, I immediately began thinking of people who annoyed me. It was hard to winnow down my list to only 13 selections. They are ranked in ascending levels of annoyance. Although I bear no personal ill will toward any of these people, nor do I engage in any violent fantasies about them, it would not be untrue to say that I would not cry if, say, any of them were to be struck dead by a train in the coming New Year.
If you understand the basic principles behind the butterfly effect, you would be forced to agree with me that these are all people who, each in their own way, have made life a little harder for all of us this year. Through their very existence, they force you and I to suffer. Damn them. Damn them all to hell!
13. UNNAMED 64-YEAR-OLD SOUTH CAROLINIAN STABBING VICTIM AND FAN OF EAGLES MUSIC
In September a rough, beaten-up-looking South Carolina woman named Vernett Bader was arrested after allegedly slashing her housemate with a 14-inch serrated bread knife. Her victim, an unnamed 64-year-old man, had allegedly told her to “shut up” after she complained that he’d been playing too much music by the classic rock band Eagles. (It can never be repeated enough, if only to ratchet up the annoyance factor, that the band is not called The Eagles”they are simply random, unspecified Eagles.) And refusing to quit blasting your stupid, overplayed Eagles music when your torn-and-frayed female housemate requests that you do so qualifies as annoying enough to warrant being stabbed. He should be grateful she didn’t kill him.
12. UNNAMED SHRIEKING CANADIAN FEMINIST
Back in April, a group of typically sincere and comically misguided men’s-rights activists was trying to peaceably air its views at the University of Toronto when a chanting pack of progressive albino twat-monkeys pulled the fire alarm and disrupted the event. Outside the building, a plump harpy with her hair dyed the color of menstrual blood that had been exposed to nuclear radiation barked and howled and belittled the persistently peaceable and earnest MRAs in a breathtakingly hostile videotaped rant that singlehandedly managed to justify every misogynist stereotype throughout world history. After the video became viral, she was apparently harassed and threatened into hiding, and I can only hope that wherever she’s hiding, there’s no man there for her to yell at.
11. DAVID OLANDER
Would any sane person think that a dry batch of asparagus is evidence of systemic racism? Of course not, but we’re living in racially insane times. The award for the year’s pettiest racial complaint goes to David Olander, a member of the human relations commission in University City, MO. After espying a relatively desiccated bunch of asparagus at a Schnucks grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood, Olander says he remembered that the asparagus at a Schnucks in a mostly white neighborhood was much fresher, moister, and more vibrant. Olander fired off a letter of racial grievance to Scott Schnuck of Schnucks, which I only mention so I can repeat the phrase “Scott Schnuck of Schnucks.”
10. WILLIAM LOWELL PUTNAM III
Despite the absurd and nauseating posthumous canonization of junior thug Trayvon Martin, the most rational conclusion one can reach about the Zimmerman/Martin saga is that they were both douchebags and idiots for various reasons and to different degrees. But despite Trayvon’s transparent cretinism, William Lowell Putnam III of the Lowell Observatory encouraged an astronomer friend to submit a suggestion that an asteroid be named in Martin’s honor. The suggestion was rejected, and I’m glad that it was. It’s a better universe without an asteroid named Trayvon.
9. OPRAH WINFREY
Failing to ever publicly acknowledge that she is astronomically fatter and richer in Evil Racist America than if her ample rump had been reared in Mother Africa, the wealthiest black woman in the history of black womanhood spent most of the year wheezing like a punctured accordion about how tough it is to be black. She possibly fabricated a tale of being snubbed by a Swiss clerk, falsely claimed that “millions” of blacks had been lynched in America (the total was actually somewhere around 4,000), blamed criticism of Obama on white American racism, and suggested that the problem will only get better when white racists start dying en masse. Miz Winfrey, you is one ungrateful Negress. And you pee too much.
The Week’s Most Acrimonious, Parsimonious, and Sanctimonious Headlines
FEDS FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGE “KNOCKOUT” GAME
Although incidents of the “knockout game” have been documented across America for years”with the perpetrators almost always being black and their hapless targets almost always being non-black”the federal government is finally pressing hate-crime charges for a purported “knockout” incident. The main distinguishing factor this time is that the alleged perpetrator is white and his victim is black.
Conrad Alvin Barrett, 27, has been denied bail and is charged with a federal hate crime for an alleged assault against a 79-year-old black man in Texas on November 24. According to the official court complaint, Barrett filmed himself asking the following question:
The plan is to see if I were to hit a black person, would this be nationally televised?
It has become a national story, even in a media climate that often denies the “knockout game” even exists”or at least it always seems to be a “myth” when members of unprotected classes are being knocked out.
In the week’s most confusing hate-crime attack, a Mexican man in Manhattan’s Chinatown slashed the face of a Filipino he mistook for a Puerto Rican. The alleged assailant, Maxsimino Lucero, claims he never would have slashed the man’s face if he’d known he wasn’t Puerto Rican.
TEENS WILL BE TEENS
In what has become an annual urban-youth tradition, boisterous and exuberant teens across America brawled violently in their quest to be the first teen on their block to wear the latest line of Air Jordan 11 Gamma Blue sneakers. Unlike 2012, there were no recorded sneaker-related murders, only lots and lots of teen fights.
On Christmas night in Jacksonville, a throng of teens estimated to be 600 strong went full-blown primate in a parking lot outside a movie theater that was showing Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas. The incident was allegedly sparked when a small and belligerent bevy of teens attempted to break into the venue without paying. Young teen males with names such as Tevyn, Jaquade, and Khalil were arrested after sixty-two police officers showed up and dispersed the rabid horde of hyperactive teens with pepper spray.
A group of at least “400 crazed teens” went bonkers in a Brooklyn mall on Friday, working out their postcolonial angst and sense of betrayal after falling under the mistaken impression that a rapper who calls himself “Fabolous””and also insists on spelling it that way”had been scheduled to perform. In response to the display of unhinged teen energy, Kings Plaza Mall instituted a rule that no one under 18 would be allowed in without an adult chaperone, leading to cries of cultural unfairness and creepy-crawly invisible systemic repression from presumed teens with names such as Moshoou Animashaun and Shaquille Scotland.
POST-HOLIDAY STABBINGS AND DECAPITATIONS
While the holiday season conjures the romantic, the sentimental, and the pacifist in many people, it appears to unleash the inner Jack the Ripper in others.
Early on Christmas morning, Chicago police found a headless body in a basement on the city’s Northwest Side. The head had belonged to 41-year-old Silvestre Diaz-Hernandez and was allegedly severed by 18-year-old Alexis Valdez, the layabout nephew of Hernandez’s girlfriend.
A 44-year-old South Carolina woman has been charged with domestic violence after allegedly beating and stabbing her boyfriend with a ceramic squirrel when he arrived home on Christmas Eve without any beer.
Another woman in South Carolina, this one 34, was arrested on Christmas Day after allegedly stabbing her fiancÃ© in the face during an argument over what color scheme should be used for their wedding.
In Brockton, MA, 18-year-old Alexander Torres was arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on his father, who had failed to buy him an iPhone for Christmas as requested.
In Maryland, Martin Marroquin-Rodriguez, 34, has been charged with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a man in the stomach after arguing with him about music on a restaurant jukebox.
A 17-year-old male in northern New Jersey allegedly stabbed his sister”who was one of 12 siblings””multiple times” with a kitchen knife on Thursday, killing her.
In Connecticut on Thursday, 22-year-old Robert Owen Rankin allegedly stabbed his mother to death “with a fire poker and buck knife” before slicing open her guts because “I wanted to see if there was a baby in her stomach.” Police say Rankin claimed he killed his mother “because she is pretty much responsible for everything that has gone wrong in my life.” Rankin also allegedly credited his mother with being physically strong and putting up a good fight during her murder.
My late friend, the distinguished economist Peter Bauer, used to say that the only true unemployment in the modern world was among satirists, for the world had grown so ridiculous that what was intended as satire was either a description of what already existed or a prophecy of what would soon come to exist. And certainly it is true that I have once or twice in print made satirical suggestions, only to find them taken up and put into effect shortly afterwards. By contrast, no one has ever taken seriously any of my suggestions that were meant seriously.
One of the aspects of modernity that I have long wanted but found impossible to satirize is the bureaucratic language that seems to come naturally to so many people. The problem with this language is that it is auto-satirizing, as it were. The act of reading or hearing it is almost coterminous with that of deriding it. Indeed, for a short time I used to derive a small income from publishing (in a left-wing journal) the circulars that I received daily from my hospital administration. Very little additional commentary was required. When held up to examination, the absurdity”the nullity”of these circulars spoke for itself.
Political correctness is a kind of bureaucracy of the mind: It is likewise difficult to satirize, and for the same reason. In fact, bureaucratic language and political correctness go together like the horse and carriage and love and marriage in the Sammy Cahn song that Sinatra made famous. Incidentally, could there be better proof than this lyric that the past, even recent past (in this case 1955), is a foreign country, and that they do things differently there?
A few days ago I received by email, unsolicited, a message that was a small masterpiece of politically correct bureaucratese. I did not recognize the sender’s name and will not mention it, for I have nothing against him personally and have no desire to humiliate him. Besides, it might not emanate from him at all. Like most people, I imagine, I receive quite a lot of unsolicited and fraudulent email, my favorite genre of such being from the purported brother-in-law of the ex-dictator of an African country who happens to know where the late lamented’s fortune of $28,300,000 is deposited and which requires only my bank account details to be released”whereafter I will receive 40% of the proceeds. I suppose the scam must work now and again or else I would not receive such messages every two weeks or so, usually addressing me in the most florid fashion: Dearly beloved brother or My close friend in Christ.
I am still not sure whether the message I received was intended seriously or satirically, an uncertainty that itself is indicative of how used we have become to the kind of language in which it is couched:
Facebook put forth a special notice for me to pay attention to my social media obligations. My apologies to any offended party who may have felt (however wrongly) the sting of my insult or rejection of their core identity, orientation, social class, racial or religious membership, inclinations in celebratory habits. Just because I neglected my duties under Facebook, my heart was nonetheless with you, never mind the implication of my phobic (a misappropriated term) negativity however wrongly perceived as directed towards some dearly held or mildly favored aspect of your core Facebook identity. I apologize to all your ancestors descendants, and acolytes for the offense they may have endured from my dim-witted psychological and social assault….That does not extend to legal liabilities to offer my financial compensation to recompense harmed souls. Not to make excuses, but I have been otherwise occupied with courtship, marriage, selling previous domiciles and nesting with my lovely and captivating new wife. Such investment was somehow incompatible with my admittedly strong proclivity to post on Facebook material that was of a certain bent, mainly political and social commentary with strongly worded counter opinion declaiming the desperate state of the direction of the country. My wife helped me to see how such negativity was inconsistent with such otherwise loving times we enjoyed. I hit bottom, so I sobered up, so to speak and took the pledge to largely abstain from Facebook. Hence my apology while I attempt a solution to both manage regular stuff of life and meet my obligations to the Facebook. They have set no firm date, but I better get it done soon going by their pace of reminders and prods. Thank you in advance for your understanding, and again, no phobic intent was intended and I apologize to anyone who could be offended in any conceivable way. I wonder if sackcloth and ashes still works in this day and age.
As the British press draw themselves bloated and bloody-faced from their feeding frenzy on the slaughtered marriage of the “domestic goddess” Nigella Lawson to advertising titan Charles Saatchi, I was struck by how this duel in open court between two supposedly dexterous manipulators of the British media proved that in the end, those who live on the savannah plains of celebrity, no matter how dangerous and apex-level a predator they are, still end up as food for the jackals.
Lawson is a daughter of Nigel Lawson, Margaret Thatcher’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a well-known and well-liked journalist, author, and television chef of almost Martha Stewart proportions in the UK. She had begun to move into the US market, cohosting The Taste on ABC. However, this month she found herself summoned to court as prosecution witness in the trial of two of her former assistants for defrauding her ex-husband of almost a million dollars. Saatchi, once half of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi which helped put Lawson’s father’s government”headed by the late Margaret Thatcher”into power in 1979, has been accused of using the trial to disgrace his former spouse and mother of his children by bringing up the seemingly irrelevant allegation that she systematically abused cocaine during their ten-year relationship (a claim she partially denies, i.e. the systematic bit).
I remember as a teenager walking past the house they shared in Eaton Square, London, occasionally catching a glimpse of the apparently happy couple decamping from their grand neoclassical 19th century house, its windows opening onto an incongruous gallery of Damien Hirsts, Tracey Emins, and other products of the Britart movement which Saatchi had so vigorously collected and promoted to the advantage of both his bank balance and his fame. They seemed gilded and distant entities, wrapped in their cocoon of immense wealth and fame, even to their near neighbors such as myself.
What interests me is not the prurient moralizing of the gutter press about the couple’s personal habits and the sadness of what was clearly once a love match, although one reinforced with status, security, and power”the latter seeming to be the tragic flaw which turned so toxic”but the narratives which are being written and rewritten about them, some of it by their own hands, or at one remove by their machinations. Saatchi had been portrayed as the heartbroken husband, making arrogant gestures and errors, granted, but essentially flailing in romantic grief, only to become the demonic slave-owner who cannot deal with the emancipation of what was once his property. Lawson, on the other hand, seems to have transmuted from battered housewife to apogee of modern feminism, facing down her accusers and tormentors in court and slaying the dragon of the patriarchy with integrity, a quick wit, and exceedingly well-applied make-up.
The truth, as ever, surely lies somewhere between these glib and hackneyed character sketches, but it is the story itself and the way newspapermen feel the urge to dress it in tired clichÃ© that is really fascinating. How often can the same story be told?
On the floor above the rather less grand Eaton Square apartment where I grew up lived the son of John “Aspers” Aspinall, a raffish figure in London society who ran private gambling clubs frequented by the nobility and gentry and whose 1958 trial singlehandedly led to the legalization of casinos in the UK via the Betting and Gaming Act 1960, known as Aspinall’s Law.
It was in his most famous casino, the Clermont Club”which counted five dukes, five marquesses, twenty earls, and two government cabinet ministers among its founding members”which was the center of more than a few scandals in the UK and even rumors of an attempted coup d”etat against Harold Wilson’s Labour government of 1974 and the installation of the Queen’s uncle-in-law, Earl Mountbatten, as head of state. (It was not as far-fetched in planning or execution as one might think: Other members of the club included James Bond author Ian Fleming and SAS founder David Stirling.)
However, the most discussed scandal arising from the Clermont set took place that same year around the corner from Eaton Square, in Lower Belgrave Street, where Lord Lucan“a professional gambler and 7th holder of an earldom whose third incarnation had charged with the Light Brigade in the Crimean War”is said to have murdered his nanny by mistake and then attempted the murder of his true target, his wife, who was separated from him and had gained custody of the children in a rather vicious and public scandal.
In the local pub called The Plumber’s Arms hangs a framed newspaper clipping from the time describing how she had run into the bar, bloodied and bedraggled, gabbling about a murder in her house. The police were called. In the meantime her husband had made good his escape and, having telephoned his mother to look after the children and visited his friend the artist Susan Maxwell-Scott telling a story about discovering an intruder in his estranged wife’s house, he then vanished without trace, never to be seen or heard of again.
When I was a schoolboy at Lucan’s alma mater, he came up surprisingly often in conversation, partly because my contemporaries included the offspring of so many cited in the case: the sons of financier Jimmy Goldsmith being the most notable, but also the nephew of Susan Maxwell-Scott, the last person known to have seen Lucan alive. (Among this group was, coincidentally, Lawson’s half-brother.) The standing theory was that he”d made it out to Africa simply because that was somewhere in the world where his friends had the power and connections to conceal him with relative ease and at relatively little expense. How long he survived out there was anyone’s guess. If people knew the definitive answers, they weren”t letting on, and in that environment very few secrets were kept. More than a few boys said they were sure that their fathers knew the answers.
“Without men, civilization would last until the oil needed changing.”
“Federicius Aurelius Superomnem, 345 BC
Oh god, oh god. Death, taxes, migraine, sinus drainage, beriberi, and Maureen Dowd, the resentment columnist at The New York Times. On the Web I find her at some feminist bitch-in called “Are Men Obsolete?“ She has this to say to men:
So now that women don”t need men to reproduce and refinance, the question is, will we keep you around? And the answer is, “You know we need you in the way we need ice cream “ you”ll be more ornamental.”
I was delighted to think that I might be ornamental, no one having suggested the concept until now. I could have used it in high school. Maureen herself is beyond being ornamental, having that injection-molded look that follows the seventh face-lift, probably accomplished by the surgical use of a construction crane.
But I will say this to her:
Listen, Corn Flower. Let’s think over this business of obsolete men. Reflect. You live in New York, in which every building was designed and built by men. You perhaps use the subway”designed, built, and maintained by men. You travel in a car”invented, designed, and built by men”a vehicle that you don”t understand (what is a cam lobe?) and couldn”t maintain (have you ever changed a tire? Could you even find the tires?), and you do this on roads designed, built, and maintained by men. You fly in aircraft designed, built, and maintained by men, which you do not understand. (What, Moon Pie, is a high-bypass turbofan?)
In short, as you run from convention to convention, peeing on hydrants, you depend utterly on men to keep you fed (via tractors designed by men, guided by a GPS invented, designed, and launched by men, on farms run by men), and comfy (air conditioning invented…but need I repeat myself?).
I do not want to be unjust. It is not in my nature. While men may be obsolete”unless you want to eat”I cannot say, Apple Cheeks, that feminists are obsolete. They are not. Obsoleteness implies having passed through a period of usefulness.
I do get tired of your hissing and fizzing about the noble sex to which I belong. Mercy, I cry. It is not my fault that Michael Douglas didn”t marry you. He didn”t marry me either, but I don”t hate men because of it. (In fact I am grateful to him, and doubtless he is to me.)
Don”t misunderstand me. I have nothing against ill-bred viragos”feminism has its place, though I”m not sure where. But let me be clear, Butter Cup. I don”t want to seem rude”nothing could be more alien to my character”but I do think that you and your littermates might assay a civility exceeding that of menopausing catamounts. In fact, Sweet Potato, if it were not for my innate courtesy I might say that being at once useless and insupportable is stretching things.
A jot”an iota, a tittle, a scintilla”of gratitude might be in order. Should you look around you, you will note that everything that keeps you and the sisterhood from squatting in caves and picking lice from each other’s hair was provided for you by”the horror”men.
Is it not so, Rose Bud? Can you name one thing with a moving part that was invented by a feminist?
A lot of things about Great Britain aren”t so great. Their bathrooms are freezing and if you want a shower, you have to turn on the hot water tank and wait twenty minutes. They have class stuck so far up their ass, they still define a man by his accent. They”ve allowed Islam to bully them so thoroughly, Muhammad is the second most popular name for English and Welsh baby boys. I could list problems with the redcoats all fortnight, “But seas between us broad have roared/Since auld lang syne,” and it’s worth spending some time this holiday season remembering what we love about those pasty-faced poms.
1. THEY STILL MAKE GREAT CHIPS
Not potato chips”those are called “crisps.” I”m talking about a fat, chunky piece of potato that hasn”t been frozen and fried so severely, it tastes like someone left a pencil in the microwave. Britain still has the same chip vans it had 50 years ago and to bite into a moist, blanched potato wedge drenched in vinegar and wrapped in newspaper is to remember a time when drunken snacks were the best part of the night.
2. THEY SWEAR
I was born in England, my parents are Scottish, and I grew up in Canada, so swearing like a drunken sailor is called “speaking English.” The word “cunt” means “friend” as in, “It’s your round, you cheap cunt,” and “fucking” means “very.” In America, talking to people like that makes their faces jump and flinch like you”re lighting off firecrackers at their feet. If you do it in the South, it breaks their heart.
3. THEY”VE KEPT 100% AT 100%
British people don”t say, “I”m going to give 110%.” When they hear that, they say, “That’s mad.” Where we have let percentage inflation drift into the thousands, they”ve remained grounded and have never gone above 100.
4. THEY UNDERSTAND THE ART OF CONVERSATION
The word “like” hasn”t completely taken over Britain yet. They also understand that a conversation is supposed to actually go somewhere. It’s not just a table of people telling stories about themselves. It’s a means to an end. I”ll never forget the time I was in a pub in London and talked to a guy for about half an hour about all the horrible things England has done while conquering the world. It was a fascinating look back at history, and we embarked on the journey after he found out I was Scottish. When we were done he said, “Ah-ha! Every event I just listed was actually perpetrated by Scots.” The guy wasn”t just talking. He was sculpting an entire conversation into a double-edged sword that eloquently chopped off my head.
5. PUB CULTURE
It’s not unusual to walk into a pub and see a punk rocker with a blue Mohawk and a studded jacket sitting with an 80-year-old man in a tweed cap. If you lean in, you”ll hear the teenager say, “It’s not that I don”t love her. I”m just in over me head” and the old guy will reply, “Don”t beat yourself up about it Reg, she”ll come around.” Everyone’s your mate in the pub and they are happy to talk about anything, even pub culture. Ask a Brit about small pubs losing their business to big chains such as Wetherspoon and he will pound the bar with his fists while screaming, “It’s a bloody shame and it will be the death of us! Mark my words!” In Scotland, they”ll do it while drinking at a Wetherspoon pub.
In a recent edition of Radio Derb I mentioned the advantages of moving to Iceland but added: “The downside is, you have to not mind living on a volcano.”
One listener”there’s always one”saw my volcano and raised me a supervolcano, attaching this news clip:
A new study by the University of Utah revealed that the hot molten rock beneath Yellowstone National Park is 2½ times larger than previously estimated, meaning the park’s supervolcano has the potential to erupt with a force about 2,000 times the size of Mount St. Helens.
This hasn’t actually happened since 637,987 BC, but the boffins reckon another eruption is overdue. When that sucker goes “pop,” you can kiss goodbye to the USA. Our land, our parks and monuments and Civil War battlefields, the fruited plain and the alabaster cities, our Constitution, all three branches of the federal government, you and me and our sweethearts and kids and pets and parasites (some overlaps there), will all be buried under ten feet of ash. The rest of the world won’t fare so well, either, with agriculture killed off for a decade or two.
These prognostications of doom generate surprisingly strong emotions. Persons with no faith in an afterlife dwell fondly on them, perhaps feeling that their own personal extinctions don’t seem so bad if humanity at large, or most of it, will be swept away in one big whoosh at approximately the same date. Believers, on the other hand, greet such prophecies with anger or ridicule, confident that YHWH, Allah, Odin, Vishnu, Unkulunkulu, the Great Manitou, or the White Goddess would never allow such a calamity to befall the Chosen Species.
Considering the things that s/he has allowed, I call this cockeyed optimism, but the difference of opinion here is probably just temperamental.
Doom-relishers are no fringe minority. There has hardly been a significant society without some vision of the End Times in its mythology, often lovingly described. Destruction myths have been as common as creation myths, although they generally come with appendices promising a new, better cosmos to the survivors.
(The main exception here is China, whose thinkers have produced neither creation nor destruction myths above the folk-superstition level. “This wholly undynamic conception of time which lacked any and all orientation, even toward the past, excluded the concept of a beginning as naturally as it did one of the end of the world.” “Prof. Bauer.)
So we’ve been contemplating the End Times since, I guess, the Beginning Times.
Well, if you like that kind of thing, I have a doozy for you. I’ve just been reading James Barrat’s book Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era. We may, says Barrat, be living in the twilight of humanity, the MenschheitsdÃ¤mmerung. (There’s a book of German expressionist poetry with this title, for which dÃ¤mmerung is usually translated as “dawn.” The more usual meaning is “twilight,” though.) What happens to Wotan and his pals in Act 3 of Wagner’s opera is about to happen to us.
Is homosexuality a perversion? If not, is it entirely normal? Almost normal?
These days, the very idea of perversion is out of fashion. The Washington Post would probably use the word only to describe an intense desire to balance the budget or enforce immigration laws.
However, a practical, even scientific definition of sexual perversion begins by defining the objects of normal, healthy reproductive desire. Wanting to have sex with anything that falls outside that definition is perversion.
Obviously, reproductive desire should be for another person. This means that sexual desire for trees or goats or ladies’ shoes is perversion. Sexual desire should also be for a live human being, which rules out dead people. And the live human beings should be at least of reproductive age, so wanting sex with children is also perverted.
But what do all these excluded objects of desire have in common? They are a complete dead end. For someone’s reproductive drives to be oriented toward children or rocks or goats or dead people is perverse because a reproductive urge in any of those directions is bound to fail. It’s an evolutionary absurdity.
So we’re not far if we define perversion as acting on a sexual desire for something or someone with whom reproduction is obviously impossible. But that definition would classify homosexuals among the perverts.
To consider homosexuality abnormal is now considered outmoded”maybe even perverted. The American Psychological Association calmly explains that “Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality.” However, people who say that are in the odd position of having to agree that, yes, having a reproductive urge for every other reproductive dead end is abnormal and maybe even perverse, but it’s fine if men want to have sex with men.
I can’t think of any scientific or logical basis on which to make that exception. A dead end is a dead end, whether it’s a sheep or a corpse or someone of the same sex or a toaster.
We must, however, exclude from perversion certain makeshifts to which people resort when they can’t be with a live person of the opposite sex of at least reproductive age. Masturbation is the most common example; the basic orientation is normal but you couldn’t find a date. And it is obviously not perverse for a man to continue to have sexual relations with a woman past menopause.
Perversion or not, homosexuality has become respectable with astonishing speed. Before 1962, it was illegal in every state. As late as 2003, 14 states still had anti-sodomy laws on the books. Now the District of Columbia and 14 states (and eight American Indian tribes) recognize same-sex marriage, and four more states recognize same-sex “civil unions.”
As recently as 1982, the Department of Defense stated bluntly: “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” Nowadays, open homosexuals serve in all branches of the military.
Is this progress or decadence?
To answer that question, it helps to have some basic information on homosexuality and its consequences, but it’s surprisingly hard to come by. Homosexual activists are desperate to persuade us that they are statistically indistinguishable from heteros, while Christian anti-sodomites want us to think homosexuals are as queer as queer can be. Not many people seem just to want the truth.
First, what percentage of Americans are homosexual? The famous Kinsey Report of 1948 reported wildly high figures: that 27% of young, unmarried men had “homosexual activity to the point of orgasm,” and that 10% of 20-year-old married men had homosexual affairs outside of marriage.
There have since been plenty of studies and estimates, but one of the best is a 2012 Gallup survey that asked more than 120,000 adults if they were LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender). Slightly more women (3.6%) than men (3.3%) said they were. According to a Centers for Disease Control survey, only 1.3% of women think of themselves as exclusively lesbian.
The Gallup survey found racial differences, with whites the least likely to say they were LGBT. Blacks were 44% more likely, Asians 34% more likely, and Hispanics 25% more likely. Contrary to what most people think, LGBT are more likely to be poor than are heteros. Gallup also found very little regional variation, with Southerners about as likely to be LGBT as people on the two coasts. Somewhat disquietingly, Gallup found that fully 20% of LBGTs are married to people of the opposite sex.
How promiscuous are homosexuals? Some people argue that except for about 15% who are wildly promiscuous, homosexuals are no different from heteros. The anti-sodomites like to quote a 1997 study from the Journal of Sex Research that polled 2,583 older homosexuals and found that the most common number of lifetime partners fell somewhere between 101 and 500, and that 10% to 16% reported having more than 1,000. A 2009 Australian “Gay Census” that was not restricted to age found that a quarter of homosexuals reported over 100 partners and 10% had so many they had “no idea.” The older the men were, the more likely they were to be in the over 100 or “no idea” categories.
It’s harder to get good data on lesbians, but the figures are lower. The same Australian survey found that 52% of lesbians (as opposed to only 17% of male homosexuals) reported between two and ten partners, and only 1% said they had had more than 100. A British study found that the total number of partners for most lesbians was between five and ten.
Disease rates are one of the few undisputed facts about homosexuals. The Centers for Disease Control says that in 2008 “men who have sex with men” accounted for 63% of new syphilis cases. If men are half the population and 3.3% of them are homosexual, it means that 1.65% of Americans account for 63% of the country’s syphilis cases.
It’s even worse for AIDS. In 2010, homosexuals were about 200 times more likely than everyone else to be diagnosed with HIV. However, the CDC says they are only 15 times more likely than everyone else to get Hepatitis B and about 17 times more likely to have anal cancer.
The CDC says both homosexuals and lesbians are more likely than heterosexuals to take illegal drugs and drink too much”but it gives no figures. The American Lung Association says homosexuals smoke cigarettes at about twice the rate of heteros.
Medical authorities also agree that homosexuals and lesbians are more likely than heteros to have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and to commit suicide. The anti-sodomites say this proves homosexuals are botched. The other side says that they drink and smoke and take drugs and go crazy because of social rejection.
Homosexual men get anorexia and bulimia at 10 to 15 times the rate for heterosexual men. This is no surprise, since they are trying to attract men that care about looks. Lesbians have about twice the rate of eating disorders as heterosexual women.
There is one medical outcome on which homosexuals do better than heteros: They are only half as likely to be obese, which is consistent with trying to look good. Lesbians, who are notorious for not caring how they look, are two and a half times more likely than hetero women to be fat or obese.
People have a lot of hang-ups about marriage.
People tell you how hard marriage is for them and to wait as long as possible before getting married.
People marry many times. Some later in life, some not at all. But people marry.
Almost half of marriages end in divorce. The percentage of children born to single mothers is high.
Yet I believe in marriage. I believe that not all marriages are bad. I also believe two people who know how to make good choices can be happier and better off together than alone.
I cannot remember a time when anyone ever encouraged me to marry. In the 20th and 21st century, marriage and coupledom are often sold to the masses by someone trying to make a buck, or by those who lament the family unit’s breakdown. Except perhaps for my father, unless it was being sold, marriage was always put to me in the form of a question rather than an order.
Over time I have formed my own view on marriage, and it is surprisingly traditional. At first a person should find someone with a similar background they get along with – not such an easy task; then they can get married; then they might have children, if they so choose. Many people nowadays choose to have a child before. I was born before my parents” marriage, as were my brother’s children before his. As you can imagine, I refuse to brush off the marriage-first approach.
Bringing it up in conversation can be a bad idea; many start to twitch and moan. They feel marriage is an obsolete institution. Some people have, for good reasons I am sure, a negative view on the subject. Perhaps unsurprisingly I know a happily married couple who say the simple reason they got married was for the good of their families, and not for them. That’s not news. Like them, I have also witnessed or experienced my fair share of bad relationships. People are not wrong to question the institution, but other people’s hang-ups about marriage are their own, not mine.
The problems people have regarding marriage are mistakenly placed on the institution. Rather it is on those who choose to enter into such marriages without due consideration, knowledge, or understanding that stand the blame. These people are like atheists. I much prefer agnostics to atheists. After death and taxes, certainties in life are few and far between.