Monday, 31 May 2010

The 7 Romantic Virtues: The Video

Friday, 28 May 2010

My First Educational Slideshow

I think that this will be the first of many.  This will be old hat for my regular readers.  It's all about spreading the gospel.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Anachronist

I have, this very moment, just finished watching a television program called, “Time Warp Wives”.  The half-hour program focused on four women who have chosen to recreate the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s in every aspect of their lives from clothes, to décor, to transport, to manners, to values.  The three married women had husbands in the same mould and only the 40’s girl was still single.

In my last article, I wrote about the difference between costumes and clothes.  The primary points being first that clothes are lived in whereas costumes are temporary and for occasions considered appropriate by the norms established by social conditioning; second, that if you believe in your worldview, and your clothes as an extension of that, then others will believe you too.  This is called frame control.  The women portrayed in the program so demonstrated my points that I wish I could post it in its entirety here.  And here it is

Of course the narrator took a more cynical view and was quick to point out whenever the women slipped into the Twenty-first century in mode or technology.  It was as if some grand hypocrisy had been exposed and shown to the viewer with glee.  The hidden microwave.  The concealed the laptop.  The horror of the anachronism.  But I love anachronism.

The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.  Why?  Because they have a different culture.  That means a different general world view, different social mechanisms, different styles of speech and fashion, different tastes, vales, mores, and customs.  But we do not call these denizens of history foreign.  We consider them to be us.  The fact is that they are part of a different zeitgeist, or Spirit of the Age.  This thing called zeitgeist is the temporal version of what we call, in the geographic sense, culture.

During the first age of globalisation it was considered desirable to be cosmopolitan, that is, a person well versed in not only his own culture but also those of foreign lands.  A person may pick and choose from a variety of cultural expressions and yet never loose sight of his own.  He may travel the world and, like Rudyard Kipling’s Cat who walked by himself, “All places were alike to him.”  He was equally suited to the city as to the country, be it the city of Paris or the country of India or the wilds of the American West.

The opposite of being a cosmopolitan is to be insular, defined as being concerned with local matters with no interest in new ideas or different cultures, also being emotionally detached from others.  For these people, the world of their perceptual cognition is very small and in some cases so small as to be considered juvenile or even retarded. 

In common parlance we might call these people ignorant.  Anything outwith their world is a threat.  It is weird and something to be feared or mocked.  The most obvious manifestation for my British readers is the Scottish ned, the English chav or yob.  But it can also be more sophisticated as seen in the “freak shows” on television purporting to be human interest documentaries.

Just as the cosmopolitan may look to the cultures of the world for insights and inspiration, so too may the anachronist looks to the cultures of the past and find value.  Again, to be an anachronist is fundamentally no different from being cosmopolitan.  The Romantic imagines cultures both of space and time.  Not unlike Dr. Who, he may travel the modern markets of Marrakesh or the fogs of Victorian London with equal aptitude. 

Anachronism is strangely both an understated aspect of the Romantic, and yet still deeply associated with it.  When a person envisions or depicts the past in an idealistic manner we say that they are Romanticising the period by overstating the positives and ignoring the negatives and thus has a delusional perspective.  The Romantic itself is oft seen as nothing more than a Victorian pastiche of the Medieval.  In the same manner the Romantic also creates a personal pastiche of other cultures.  Not out of mockery but through love, respect, and a desire to incorporate what they find there into their world.

In his book, “What is Goth?” the musician Voltaire makes the point that although Goth is often associated with the Victorian, there are also Egyptian and Asian elements present in the idiom.  I disagree.  Yes, those components are present in Goth, but they were also present in Victoriana.  During the Nineteenth Century this was referred to as the Orientalist Movement.  Just as the Medieval manifested physically as seen through the Romantic lens of the Victorians, so too did the cultures of the Empire and the world.  It was seen as part of being cultured.

When people think of philosophy, they generally think of the ideas that people have written down and others either follow or disregard.  True, but I see it a bit differently.  I also see social conditioning as a sort of unwritten philosophy transmitted silently through the generations and from person to person and through time and space.  Zeitgeist and culture are both forms of philosophy.  Perhaps these are not rational, logical, or even conscious, but they are philosophical worldviews nonetheless.

One of my favourite films is “Kate and Leopold”.  The story can be read as a clash of cultures, or more precisely zeitgeists, as a Victorian duke finds himself transported through time to 2001.  One of my favourite aspects of the film was the way that Leopold embraces the modern without fear or ignorance, but with a sense of wonder.  In fact the film makers elevate the Victorians as being our social and moral superiors rather than foolish people from the past to be mocked.  Through Leopold, the Victorians judge us and despite our protestations, we know that it is a fair cop.

The great advantage we have over the Victorians is our technology, but Leopold whisks it away.  The television is no more than an advanced version of the magic lantern and the Mutoscope.  Leopold recognises the modern telephone as Bell’s device from the World’s Fair.  The car is also a logical next step.  He even criticises the lack of functionality of the toaster rather than marvel at it like some savage before a Zippo lighter.
Well, insertion of bread into that so-called toaster produces no toast at all, merely warm bread! Inserting the bread twice produces charcoal. So, clearly, to make proper toast it requires one and a half insertions, which is something for which the apparatus doesn't begin to allow! One assumes that when the General of Electric built it, he might have tried using it. One assumes the General might take pride in his creations instead of just foisting them on an unsuspecting public.

And Leopold shares his view of modern society in general when he tells Kate, “What has happened to the world? You have every convenience and comfort, yet no time for integrity.”

Victorians loved technology.  Millions of people visited the Crystal Palace in 1851 to see the marvels of the age and be amazed.  This set the precedent for the once popular World’s Fairs where our ancestors revelled in our achievements as a civilization.  Is there any reason to suspect that a Victorian time traveller would not embrace the technological achievements of our age?  But as Leopold observed, I suspect that they would have the capacity to use the technology for convenience and comfort rather than being used by the technology and loose their integrity. 

Many people today use technology to escape reality rather than to engage it more effectively thus inhibiting conscious living through the separation between the Subjective and the Objective Realities.  In other words, we get so caught-up in our thoughts and feelings that we do not truly experience the world outside our heads – outside our presumptive cognition.

The Victorian vision for the future is not much different from our own.  The early Science-Fiction stories imagined a world where technology freed mankind to improve himself and cultivate virtues.  This same vision is seen in the Star Trek universe.  Work time is for achieving personal goals and free time is for physical recreation, socialising with friends, and reading.  Neither vision included couch potatoes and mindless media consumption.

One of the recurring themes in the program “Time Warp Wives” was this idea of escaping from a corrupt modern age and retreating into this little universe of their own creation.  I appreciate the sentiment and I’ll admit to doing the same; however it is not something that I would condone.

This notion of escapism applies to the idea of perceptual cognition, how you think about the world as you imagine it to be.  For most of my young life I was in love with my idea of Scotland.  I was not completely ignorant of life in Scotland or Britain in general. I had lived in South Kensington in London for several months during my time in university.  Now that I write this I remember feeling a connection with Britain as our bus moved through the snowy streets to the building that would be my London home.  But not to be distracted, it was Scotland that I loved, or at least my idea of it.

Whenever I felt lost, confused, or misunderstood, I believed that there was a place where “my own kind” lived.  There was a place where I would fit-in and belong.  Americans found me too proper and a bit too straightforward.  I filled my life with traditional Scottish, stories, music, and even modern bands such as Runrig and Big Country.  Even my religion as a Celtic Christian focused on Scotland.  Scottish culture was my obsession and I loved it.  It made me feel whole, complete, and alive.  Eventually I met a Scottish girl and after a two year long distance relationship and annual visits we were married and I emigrated.  My dreams came true.

I remember once when I was still living in Portland, Oregon I complained to my then fiancé on the telephone of a man I saw spit on the bus without a care.  I was no ignorant, idealistic, Scottish-American, but I certainly did not believe people in Scotland would be so crass.  Since moving here over twelve years ago, I have seen people spit on buses, vomit on buses, smoke pot on buses, drink on buses, pass out on buses, physically attack me on buses, verbally abuse me on buses, and throw stones at the buses.  Far from being my salvation, Scotland has, at times, been a nightmare. 

My dreams collapsed and died.  The marriage failed after eighteen months.  I was abandoned and alone thousands of miles from home feeling like a pilgrim in an unholy land struggling to survive physically and emotionally.  The place I had loved only existed in my imagination.  I’ll add that I am generally quite happy now and I cannot imagine returning to America, but it was a long, hard process of disillusionment.

It was easy for me to love Scotland and imagine its nature when I lived 6,000 miles from it.  Likewise, we may love some historical niche when we live fifty, seventy, or over hundred years from it.  In the realm of our perceptual cognition we can create whatever pastiche we desire and like Pygmalion we fall in love with our creation only to find the love is unrequited should it ever come to life.

Today, I am considered quite intelligent by many; however, I believe that should I find myself in the Victorian era, I would be considered a moron.  First, there is the practicality of day-to-day machines I may not be able to operate.  Second, Victorians were highly literate and skilled in the arts of conversation, attune to the subtleties of language, more so than we are today.  Then there are the judgements of social norms that I have not been properly conditioned towards.  Finally, I believe that people today are generally weaker, less hardy, than the Victorians, especially those in rural areas, such as the American West.  I would struggle to be a good Victorian.

As Jesus said, “Be in the world but not of the world”.  Anachronism allows for this.  Life becomes an incorporation rather than an exclusion. We can bring our ideas of other times into this point in time and change today rather than waste time longing for a past that we can never truly know.  This is the whole point of Neo-Victorianism: the Nineteenth Century zeitgeist in a post-modern world.

This is also where Steampunk comes into the picture.  Victorian values, virtues, zeitgeist, and aesthetics but with modern technology.  What would a Victorian mobile phone, laptop, or microwave look like? I have seen pictures of such clever creations, but I want them for daily use.  Another aspect of this is hiding the technology.  Imagine how to incorporate or conceal a flat screen HD television in the Victorian parlour.  Imagine a gentleman’s walking stick that doubles as a high voltage cattle-prod.  I have.  We have the power to create a Steampunk world and live in it.

I will add that living in Glasgow gives me advantages in this regard.  I live in a building erected by Victorians; I also work in their buildings, walk their streets, drink in their pubs, see their statuary, and ride in their underground system.  Perhaps that is why I stay in Glasgow.  I often joke that it is because I do not clash with the buildings.  It suits my anachronistic, Steampunk, Neo-Victorian sensibilities more than my homeland of strip malls.

I do not see anachronism as a sin anymore than the many multicultural experiences I have everyday.  Anachronism, like cosmopolitanism, is a quality worth cultivating.  It broadens the mind, the soul, and opens possibilities and I enjoy that richness, variety, and the sensations.  After all, that is what being a post-modern Victorian is all about.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Of Clothes and Costumes

I like to think of myself as iconic, in the vein of Mark Twain or Tom Wolf in their white suits.  On any given day you will see me wearing my black frock coat, c. 1870’s trousers with necessary braces beneath my either black or fancy waistcoat of the same period (complete with watch chain), and a black Stetson.  I am told that the homeless people of Glasgow City centre refer to me as “The Duke”.

Ninety percent of my wardrobe would be suitable for a time machine excursion to the Victorian Era without so much as a peculiar look from the natives.  I do not own jeans, T-shirts, or trainers.  The last time I have worn such things is probable when I was about twelve years old and I have worn a tie nearly everyday for over twenty-five years.  Though lately I tend to wear a black, purple, or red ruche (a type of tie usually seen at weddings) or a Victorian cravat tied in the American knot.

Over the past ten years of working in Glasgow City centre I have become moderately famous as “that guy”.  As you may imagine I have received plenty of comments.  The most popular being a mocking “yeeha”.  Some people may asked what I am dressed-up for or compliment my "outfit".  Once a horrible woman asked point blank, “what are you?” without so much as a hello.  That conversation devolved into an argument.  When I am asked where I get my clothes I tell them that they are made for me.

This is true.  I order my clothes online from a company that makes period costumes for historical re-enactors and television shows and all my things are made to measure.  So what to me are clothes is to someone else a costume.

I am iconic because I always wear the same basic thing.  Winter or summer it is always the same, though for summer I wear Victorian sunglasses tinted in my trademark purple. I even get dressed proper when I must go across the street in the early morning for needed milk for my coffee only to disrobe when I return.  Whether I am going to the supermarket, to work, to a club, or a fancy dinner, it is always the same.  “I am the cat who walks by himself and all places are alike to me.”

Of course if I had the money I would expand my wardrobe.  More waistcoats and a grey frock coat are on my wish list.  Perhaps even black cotton trousers as black wool can get uncomfortable in the summer.  And yet even with these additions I would not be moving too far from my current position.

I have appeared alongside others in the “street style” section of three Scottish papers.  On one occasion I sat looking at the article to see a string of pictures including myself and nine others and I realised that of all these men and women, I was the only one not wearing jeans and a casual top.  And this is style?  

When these reporters have asked me about my style I think I surprised them with a conscious answer.  I described Dandyism, Neo-Victorianism and Steampunk and even instructed one reporter to look these concepts up in Wiki.  I concluded that she didn’t when I saw the final piece.  And as with most British reporters she got me wrong and I was almost embarrassed by the misrepresentation.

You may be wondering, my dear reader, why I have been carrying-on about my wardrobe.  My point is this.  When does something stop being clothes and start being a costume and what is the difference anyway?

The place to start is with a concept called social conditioning.  As a child matures and figures out what this place is that we call reality they are being socially conditioned through their parents, siblings, peers, authority figures, people of status, experiences, and the media to view social reality in a particular way.  Once this conditioning is embedded it becomes a state usually termed “normal” and anything outwith this experience is called “weird”.  Wearing jeans, trainers, and a casual top or t-shirt is normal and dressing like Wyatt Earp in the film Tombstone is weird.

But normal and weird are contextual.   Wearing flippers, snorkel, and a mask is weird, but normal when snorkelling.  Likewise you would not wear the ubiquitous jeans and casual top when snorkelling.   There was a time when wearing sports gear, such as a track suit and trainers, was considered weird unless you were doing sports or at least going to or from such an activity, however today it is normal.  Funny thing is, wearing a suit outwith work or a special occasion or a night-out to some place fancy is considered maybe not weird, but certainly not exactly common.  People will keep asking what you are dressed-up for.  And certainly dressing like Wyatt Earp is weird, unless of course you are in a show or going to some event requiring it, like a re-enactment or Halloween party.  Turn back the clock to 1870, and it’s the jeans and t-shirt brigade looking a bit weird.

Thanks to social conditioning every person has a unique and yet still generally agreed upon concept of what constitutes normal in terms of both fashion and behaviour.  There is that magical centre point and the further you radiate from that point the closer you get to the fringes.  The fringes are oft considered to be the cool and hip place to be.  What people forget is that they may be on the frontier, but they are still in the country.  They have not actually crossed the border.

Every frontier needs its trailblazer.  If you in your cozy little world think you are going to bring back powdered wigs then think again.  However if someone with enough social standing pulls it off, the next Marilyn Manson perhaps, then I guarantee that there will be imitators.  The fad my not last, but for a moment in time it will be on the fringes of normal.  So close to the fringes that those near the centre find it weird enough to be interesting but not so weird as to be stupid.  The more popular the powdered wig becomes, the more socially acceptable and “normal” it becomes and voila, the costume has magically become clothes.  At least for a little while.

There is another bit of magic.  Back in the day, when John Taylor of Duran Duran held a bit more status than he does now, he gave a magazine his theory on style.  He said that if a man feels uncomfortable in a nice suit he will look bad, likewise if he feels great in jeans and a white t-shirt he’ll look great.  It’s all about confidence and self belief.
We all have our social conditioning buried deep within our programming.  Humans being social animals, the mind tries to keep you line with your social conditioning.  Should you deviate from whatever your social conditioning has deemed normal, then your mind, in an effort to protect you from social failure, will give you a little shock, like a dog crossing the invisible fence.  This shock is commonly experienced as nervousness, shame, anxiety, worry, or fear.  If your mind tells you some girl is out of your league then it will make you choke on the approach, thus keeping you safe from social failure.

Take one beautiful sexy girl and dress her up fine.  The girl’s a knock-out.  But guess what.  If her mind says no.  If her mind says, "I’m not that hot".  If her mind says that she is fat and ugly.  If her mind says that she does not deserve this.  Then she will appear uncomfortable.  These are not her clothes.  She is wearing a costume, even if it is a socially acceptable and normal outfit.  Context applies here too.  She might feel comfortable wearing this in the club, but not on the street in the middle of the day.  It all has to do with social conditioning.

From self-confidence comes frame control.  If you believe in your clothes, your image, then others will too.  If you feel uncomfortable; if part of you says, “This is not normal”; if you feel the impressions of another’s frame upon your consciousness, then you’ve lost.  You are a costumed fool playing dress-up –- pretending.  I’ll be honest.  It’s not easy and you’re outnumbered.  Their frame represents the social conditioning of millions of people, and sometimes even those in the deepest recesses of your mind.  Your own little fifth column.

I found a group on Facebook about some sort of “Steampunk Day” where members were encouraged to go to places like the supermarket and send in pictures of themselves.  I did not know what to make of it.  To me, that is like having a jeans and t-shirt day.  It seemed silly and unnecessary to someone who has dressed in this manner for well over a decade.  For me and my social conditioning how I dress is normal everyday wear and not contextual for clubs or special events as an excuse.  I can only speculate that these people needed permission to veer to the fringes and cross the border.  But still it’s just a costume.

A few months ago I went to a concert of someone known for her distinctive style.  Online, I have seen many pictures of girls in imitation of her.  The day of her show I spotted her walking the streets of Glasgow.  She could have been any alternative chick.  In fact, I was not even sure that it was her at first.  Her stage name and image is really nothing but a show.  It’s a great show, but a show nonetheless.  She wears a costume fit for a particular time and place where it is socially permissible to cross the border, but she doesn’t live there.  She lives on the hip and cool fringes on the right side of normal.

“But I am the cat who walks by himself and all places are alike to me.”

The Decadent Romantics believed that life should imitate art and not the other way around.  We see that in the Romantic Goths and Steampunks who have taken an idiom and brought it to life.  Real life.  Life in the supermarkets, on the buses, at work, at home, in shopping malls, and not just clubbing on a Saturday night.  Life in every context. They have become the living, breathing, all singing and dancing embodiment of the fiction.  They make the fiction fact in heart, soul, body, mind, and clothes.  The difference between clothes and costumes is that clothes are lived in.

The default mode for normal in our society is the uniform trainers, jeans, and casual top.  Women have a lot more leeway in this department then men have as long as they remain within the spheres of acceptable fashion.  But for men, we are pretty much stuck with the uniform.  But that’s okay because that is what most men have been conditioned to be comfortable wearing.  That formulaic mode applies to men who are mainstream as well as those who are considered alternative.  Look at the men’s section in some gothic clothing sites.  I’d wager the jeans and casual top equation dominates.  You’ll see it beneath the colour black and the chains and straps to nowhere.  It’s the acceptable fringe.

I do not judge or disparage the jeans and t-shirt crowd.  This is the year 2010 and that is the way things are.  I do not advocate breaking away from society or retreating into some clique or commune.  My purpose here is to give permission and guidance to those who want to turn life into art and still be part of life.

But how far is too far?  Beau Brummell invented the men’s suit in 1800, and men’s fashion has not changed that much since.  My iconic image is little more than a tie, waistcoat, trousers, three-quarter length jacket, and a hat.  It doesn’t seem so extreme when written like that, does it?  In fact it is fairly traditional.  And yet for some reason it causes a stir.

My guiding light is anachronism.  I go for clothes that still can work in the modern day, but also fit in with the past.  I put a modern spin on some old styles and it works.  It is not about rote copying from a history book.  It is about creating a viable pastiche that still works today.  In other words, powdered wigs are out, but spats are still cool.

Young dandies are renowned for going over the top.  They have yet to truly define a style that works and there are many stages of stupid along the way.  I know of no mature dandy who has not regretted past sartorial choices during their experimental phase.  Eventually they find their place and the means to buy it.  Until that time they are wearing costumes.  It is not until they are emotional secure, confident, and yes even a bit blasé, do they begin wearing clothes.  When they do, they have succeeded in transcending their social conditioning and redefining the borders of normal to something a little more Romantic.

Saturday, 22 May 2010


I love the word abomination.  It’s like sin to the Nth degree.  Technically the word means something horrible or shameful usually with religious undertones.  An abomination is not merely a sin against God, it is the product of a violation of the very laws of Nature.  See here our dear monster created by Dr. Frankenstein as an example.

This concept of Natural Law is held by all the Abrahamic religions, though the credit goes to St Thomas Aquinas in the Thirteenth Century.  The theory is that God created a world of order, nature, and any action that is in keeping with nature is good and any that goes against it are evil.

However Aquinas is not the originator of the theory but merely the one who Christianized it.  The origin lies with Aristotle and the Stoics, who in turn influenced Roman Law.  We can trace the theory of Natural Law from Aristotle and the Stoics to Aquinas to Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson.

Although Natural Law is imbedded within Christian thought, its origins are non-Christian.  The order of the Natural world, whether created by God or mere trial and error causality, does exist – it is a rational reality.  Therefore when Thomas Jefferson declared “that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights” he is making an appeal to Nature, whether this Nature is created by God or not is largely irrelevant, though it certainly adds weight to the argument if there is an all-powerful divine being behind it.

Many of my regular readers will be aware that my token deity is Athena, the goddess of Truth, Justice, and Reason.  Of course I do not believe in a literal Athena.  She is more of a symbolic belief, along the lines of Santa Claus.  I might just have easily chosen El, aka “God”, as my deity, for he too is a God of Reason.

The first verse of the Gospel of St. John reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.  The original Greek text uses the word Logos for Word, meaning:  speech, oration, discourse, quote, story, study, ratio, word, calculation, reason.  In Stoicism, logos referred to the active, material, rational principle of the cosmos.  These meanings would not have been lost on John’s Greek speaking readers.  What St. John was declaring here is that Jesus was the physical manifestation of divine Reason, the source of Natural Law.

For centuries Christianity held Western Europe together, and in many ways it still holds Western Civilization together.  It may surprise some that the Vatican has always supported the sciences.  This was derived from the notion that God gave man a rational mind to understand a rational God and the rational universe that He created.  Galileo was not locked away for his theories.  He was locked up because he wouldn’t shut-up.  The Church did not believe that people were ready for the idea that the Earth revolved around the sun.

The problems came when the understanding of Nature through the sciences contradicted Christianity itself.  Today the Church largely subscribes to the theory of Deistic Evolution.  This states that the creation story of the Bible is not to be taken literally and that evolution is the means of God’s creations.   Fundamentalist Christians however still subscribe to the literal creation and see evolution as an error because it goes against the word of God as outlined in the Bible.

This is the first of two contrary sets of laws opposed to Natural Law and is called Divine Law.  Until the Nineteenth Century both Natural Law and Divine Law were seen as complimentary, and for the most part they were and still are; however as our understanding of reality expanded through scientific discovery, the Divine Law of God as declared through religious institutions became increasingly irrelevant to the equation.

When was the last time you heard someone make an appeal to Natural Law?  I certainly don’t hear it outwith arguments against homosexuality, even though appeals to Natural Law were once common.  In Western Culture the Natural Law is kind of like a cop.  The police officer is just a man in a uniform carrying a badge.  So what.  But his uniform and badge are symbols of state authority.  This makes the cop more than just some guy.  He is a representative of state power and force.

Likewise Divine Law backed Natural Law.  Once the two parted company the Natural Law became viewed as a matter of opinion.  It required an understanding most people lacked.  It was easier to say, “Don’t steal because God says so” rather than, “Theft is wrong because it destroys social relations, and man is by nature a social animal (i.e. theft does not support the subsidiary precept of living in society).”

Another aspect that devalues the concept of Natural Law is our Artificial Reality.  This is the reality of the man-made, either material or social, and requires human time, energy, and skill to maintain.  The wealthier a society is the better it is able to shield itself from the effects of Nature and therefore the consequences of violating Natural Law.  But this state only exists as long as there is enough human time, energy, and skill to sustain it.

This brings us to the second contrary set of laws known as Positive Laws.  No, this does not mean positive as in optimistic.  Positive Laws are man-made laws as opposed to the laws of Nature or the Divine.  Where this distinction is most apparent is in the field of human rights.

The proponents of both Natural and Divine Law would argue that the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness are innate and inalienable because they are given by either Nature or God respectively.  The theory of Positive Law would argue that rights are man-made and therefore granted via the man-made laws of the State.

The most extreme examples of this come from Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China, and Castro’s Cuba where the State decided whether you lived or died.  A less extreme picture comes from our modern mixed economies where the State decides that you have a right to an education, a place to live, healthcare, and in some places even a job.  All of these “rights” are paid for through the forced redistribution of wealth thus violating the individual’s Natural Right to the results of his time, energy, and skill – his property.

In the traditional model, Natural Law was superior to Positive Law and Divine Law trumped them both, however today the Positive Law is the law of the land.  First off Divine Law only applies to Christians or other religious folk, so that’s out.  Unless of course the religion in question is Islam and we are afraid that they might blow us up if we depict Mohammed or appear racist.  As for Natural Law, well that can be cruel.  We do not want people being poor, uneducated, or without healthcare and we certainly cannot trust people with freedom of speech because they might hurt someone’s feelings or someone might say something socially deemed “hateful”.   Also Natural Law favours the strong and adaptable, and sometimes those people are not very nice (in my opinion), so we need Positive Laws to make sure we have social, as opposed to natural, justice.

The problem with that view is that Reality is a harsh mistress.  You may feel that you can violate Natural Law because you have the human time, energy, and skill at your disposal to fend off Reality, but like a man hiding in a tree from a patient tiger every civilization must one day answer to Nature and pay the piper.

I find it amusing that Nature sells.  People talk of “getting back to nature” or eating “all natural foods”.  And yet generally speaking these same people are against the concepts of Natural Law.  The Natural world is one of cause and effect, action and consequence, and sometimes it’s not very pretty.  Nature favours the strong, the adaptive, and among humans the rational.  There is no special dispensation for the cute, nice, weak, foolish or the well-intentioned.

Likewise, as anyone who has ever played a “god game” such as Civilization or Age of Empires can tell you, the size of the population is dependent upon the level of production.  If the production falls below a certain level, then people die.  The population contracts to match the level of production.

And yet the deniers of Natural Law believe that they can decrease production because of some moral or environmental concern without consequence.  From my limited experience, the people who want to save the trees and stop logging live in cities hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from the small towns dependent on forestry.  Likewise California is still in the midst of a two year self-imposed drought cause by diverting the water supply from farmlands to protect the “endangered” bay smelt – a two inch long fish.  The once number one agriculture producing area in America now boasts a 40% unemployment rate.  According to Natural Law this is an abomination.

I am fond of saying “Neither God nor Man” in reference to the Romantic.  We stand defiant of both.  We deny the power of any religious institution over us and we deny the authority of the State.  We reject both the laws of the God and the laws of the Man, the Divine and the Positive.  This is why Romantics are historically seen as being “evil” – a label that this “Evil Dandy” embraces with ironic relish.

But the Romantic is not godless or lawless or evil.  The laws of God and Man may be accepted and obeyed, provided that they do not violate the Natural Law as the supreme law.  For the Romantic, “In the beginning was Reason and Reason was with God and Reason is God”.

The Romantic philosopher Rousseau believed that nature was pure and civilization evil.  It is from this that Romantics came to so embrace the notion of the noble savage living in harmony with nature as being pure.  There is even the theory that Columbus did not dub the American natives Indians because he thought he was in India, rather it was from the Spanish “In Dios” or “with God”.

I would argue that a civilization cannot exist, rise and prosper without being attuned to Natural Law.  The fall comes from the arrogant belief that Artificial Reality is a permanent state independent of the human time, energy, and skill required to maintain it.  I think of the foolish King Xerxes who ordered the sea to be whipped with 300 lashes as punishment for preventing his invasion of Greece, and the wise King Cnut who demonstrated the foolishness of his flatterers by “commanding” the tides not to advance.  One king thought his power supreme over Nature and the other knew better.

Human arrogance is not found in building a great civilization.  It is not in the glorious monuments or in the feats of engineering.  It is not in the great cities or in the mass of industry.  It is not found in its people, their production, or their achievements.

Human arrogance is found in halls of kings, princess, presidents, legislators, bureaucrats, and their flattering courtiers in the ivory towers and the newsrooms who believe that they can legislate and regulate the hearts and minds of men.  Positive Laws can govern the Artificial Reality of man, but those laws cannot alter Nature any more than King Cnut could order the tides to cease.

It is this inalterability of Natural Law which makes it supreme.  It can be flexible, but it cannot be broken without consequence, unintended or otherwise.  This poses a problem for ideologues that prefer the subjectivity of Positive Law to the obstacles to their ideology posed by the objectivity of Natural Law.

The Constitution of the United States is based on Natural Law.  This posed a problem for those Americans who advocated the supremacy of Positive Law.  So the academic apologists created the idea of the “living Constitution”.  According to this theory, the Constitution is not so much a code as a guideline to be uniquely interpreted by each generation.

How can a legal system based on Natural Law be taken as a guideline?  An aeroplane must be designed and built within the parameters dictated by the laws of nature as determined through science.  These are laws and not guidelines.  Break the laws and the plane either does not fly or it crashes.    The same holds true of the US Constitution.

When a society or civilization comes to the belief that thoughts, feelings, laws, legislation, and regulation can change the natural forces inherent in the physical world, the human mind, or even the market derived from them both, then that society is on the road to collapse.

Of course it is easy for me to write this in the isolation of my secluded little world, but what about practice?  You my reader might agree whole-heartedly with the principles of Natural Law and Natural Rights, but what about in the practical day to day when these principles go against your social conditioning or morals?

This past week, candidate for the Kentucky US Senate seat, Rand Paul, a libertarian-wing Republican, just got caught in a special little trap designed especially for a libertarian.  Libertarians hold the Natural Rights of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness to be innate, inalienable, and paramount.  Sounds great in theory, but what about practice?  If you have the right to use and dispose of your property as you choose, then what if you choose to use your property in a manner that is deemed immoral by society?

On Rachel Maddow's program Rand Paul was asked his views on the portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prevents the owners of businesses from refusing to serve customers solely because of their race.  According to the idea that Natural Rights are paramount, the government is in the wrong to force business owners to serve anyone that they do not wish to serve for any reason, including race.

Rand Paul held to his libertarian philosophical principles and walked right into the trap.  The next day the media declared that Paul is against the Civil Rights Act, which is often seen as a landmark piece of legislation.  Furthermore, by being against the act, then he must be a racist and in favour of segregation, not to mention the usual name-calling of crazy, out-of-touch, and extremist.

Paul can argue his points philosophically, as I am doing here on his behalf, but the mass media does not allow for the level of education required to bring the masses to where they can understand his point.

In a society that is taught that Positive Law is supreme, the Natural Law seems cruel and unpleasant on a gut level.  For them, it is morally superior to pass a law to forbid segregation than to honour the rights of a bigot.  The counter to this is the famous summary of Voltaire’s work, “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will die for your right to say it.”  In other words, people have the right to be assholes, racists, bigots, and jerks, provided they do not violate the rights of another person.

If you go into a place of business open to the public and cause a disturbance, the owner of the property, through his agents, may have you removed from the premises on the grounds of trespassing.  You the customer are only allowed to be on the premises because the owner permits you to be on his property.  Likewise, he has the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.  Many pubs in the United Kingdom have a sign posted outside forbidding football colours.  Many businesses in the United States have a policy of “no shirt, no shoes, no service”.  Some places in the UK forbid “hoodies”. The customer does not have the right to be served and the owner does have the right to refuse service.  We accept this on every level except when it comes to discrimination.

Because Positive Law trumps Natural Law in our society, a business owner does not have the right to refuse service to someone based on race, religion, or sexual preference.  He does not have the right to permit smoking on his premises or the consumption of other legal products in some cases.  At this point the State becomes the moral arbiter using the force of law to dictate behaviour and the extent of your rights.

Should the State be the supreme moral arbiter?  Do you agree with the aspect of the Civil Rights Act pertaining to business?  You cannot in principle answer yes to both.  Rand Paul recognises this and is branded a racist.  The general public does not recognise this, so the mass media driven mob goes on the rampage.

Is discrimination wrong?  Yes.  However the libertarian argument is that the means of change is not the force of government and the violation of individual rights but  through force of persuasion.  According to Natural Law you must fight for what you want.  It may be easier to fight for government legislation, but the moral course of action is to persuade each business owner individually that such discriminatory practices are bad for business and if need be organise a boycott to press the point.  This approach forces each individual to act rather than passively expecting the government or some special interest group to sort things out for you.

Another key component of Natural Law is personal responsibility.   The Natural Rights are innate and inalienable.  If you believe that these rights are from God, then any violation of these rights makes you answerable to Him and you might go to Hell for the trespass.  If you believe that these are from Nature and simply part of the human condition, then what is necessary to claim, defend, and sustain these rights?  You may have a right to your property, but what are you going to do if I take it from you?  The answer is force.  It is your responsibility to claim, defend, and sustain your rights and if necessary be prepared to use force as a last resort.

In a civilized society we out-source the use of force to groups such as the police who act on our behalf.  In wilder times, one might hire a strong man or gunslinger as an agent.  This is all natural and normal.  The problem comes when we become so complacent in the arrangement that we forget that we are ultimately solely responsible for our rights and that the company we out-source to works for us.

Every Saturday the socialists, communist, and alleged anarchists gather in Glasgow City Centre with their tables all set-up, flags and banners waving, and selling copies of “The Socialist Worker”.  Every time I walk past them I feel my righteous anger and calculate all sorts of arguments that I never speak.  They have a right to be there and advocate slavery.

One day a few years ago two members of the British National Party stood a safe and respectable distance away holding up copies of their newspaper, about 50 yards/meters off.  The BNP is basically a NAZI party, socialists with a racist policy.  It did not take long for the other socialists/communists to respond.  Soon a mob of about twenty people gathered around these two men chanting, “Nazi scum get-off our streets”.  To their credit, the BNP men did not engage but simply stood stoically.

When the police arrived they rightly defended these men who had a right to be there no matter what they were advertising.  Eventually the police did not believe that they could protect these men any longer and helped them leave.  The crowd cheered.

The two BNP men were outnumbered and in no position to defend their right to free speech against an angry mob.  Fortunately, the police were there with the force of government behind them to protect and defend their rights when they could not.

What would have happened if the socialists were in charge?  We see an example in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 10 – Freedom of expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

This is an example of Positive Law.  Your rights come not from God or Nature but from the State.  According to Article 10 you have the freedom of speech, except in certain circumstances.  And who defines these circumstances?  Who determines what kind of speech is a threat to health or morals?  Why, the State of course.

Compare this to the First Amendment of the US Constitution based on Natural Law:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Under Natural Law the government is an agent of the individual out-sourced for the protection of his Natural Rights.  Under Positive Law the government is the source of the rights and therefore its enforcer.  Rights are subject to the dictates of the ruling establishment or the whim of the majority in the case of a social democracy.   If the State determines that the BNP is immoral, then they forfeit their freedom of speech.  If the State determines that the shop owner is a racist, then he forfeits his property rights.  This works great if you agree with the State, but if not then you are screwed.

Another important document based on Natural Law is the US Declaration of Independence.  It is basically a very polite and reasoned declaration of war.  It accuses the British government of violating the Natural Rights of the people of the thirteen colonies and as all rights are secured and defended by force and all peaceful attempts at reconciliation have failed, the only alternative is for the colonists to reclaim their rights through force.  This is sometimes called the right to revolution.

At present the people of the West have come to tolerate abomination because we have been socially conditioned to do so.  I would venture that the Romantics of the Nineteenth Century were they alive today would not.  The intrusion of government through laws and regulation would no doubt be seen as over-extending their brief.  The arrogance of claiming the superiority of Positive Law, and by extension the law-makers, over the laws of God or Nature would be abhorrent to them.

When Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, can use language like, “Our job basically is to keep the boot on the neck of British Petroleum” in regards to the recent explosion on the BP oil rig and not be seen as fascist is beyond me.  It is not enough for there to be an accident which BP is cleaning up.  No, the government has to come out against the “evil” oil company and play the tough guy to the morally outraged public.

Sir Francis Bacon observed that nature to be commanded must first be obeyed.  We live in a man-made world and a man-made society governed by man-made laws.  This is natural.  We are creatures of reason and through that reason emerges civilization.  However the parameters of human creation is defined, dictated, and limited by the Laws of Nature.  We may debate and argue the essence and tenacity of these laws, but we ignore, violate and deny them at our peril.  To do so will result in an abomination.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

You Got Trouble, My Friend

Yes indeed.  You read me right, you got trouble.  The planet’s is getting hotter, kids are getting fatter, and the politicians are getting corrupter. The savings are gone, the terrorists are coming, kids are having sex, crime is on the rise, and smokers are still smoking.  But have no fear.  I have the solution.

No.  Not really.  I don’t have the solution.  But sure as hell someone does and all he wants from you is your support – and your money.
In the musical "The Music Man", Professor Harold Hill is a travelling salesman/con artist who goes from town to town convincing the people of the town to start a boy’s band, but alas after they pay for the instruments he skips town with the cash and they are left with instruments no one can play.
In the town of River City, he decides to use the moral angle.  Through the song, “You Got Trouble” he demonstrates the declining morals in the community brought on by the new pool hall in town.  With cries of protecting the children he makes his sale.
The key to persuasion in any form, be it selling products, theories, ideas, or ideologies, is to convince the potential buyer that there is trouble.  You’re too fat.  You have wrinkles.  Kids are starving in Africa.  Greenhouse gases are warming the Earth.  Morals are in decline.  You can’t find a girlfriend and the Jewish bankers are destroying Germany.
Once you have identified the problem, then its time to “push the bruise”.  Demonstrate how the problem is hurting them or may hurt them in the future.  Obesity is a serious health epidemic.  It’s important to have a youthful appearance.  Look at these films of starving Africans.  Ocean levels will rise twenty feet.  Declining morals destroy society.  You are lonely.
Now you offer a solution.  Only your miracle cure, public policy, election to office, self-help manual or training course will solve the problem and improve the life of not only yourself but the world.  This is finished with the close.  Act now or be damned.
When I took a speech course in university we had an assignment to do a persuasive speech.  I found this method outlined above to be too heavy handed.  It was so obvious a ploy that any fool could see through it and therefore not be persuaded.  I decided to take my own approach.
I chose to lead my audience step by step to where I wanted them.  I convinced them of a chain of facts which led like bread crumbs to the conclusion I wanted them to make.  The instructor was not impressed and gave me a low mark for not following the format.  Years later, an attorney friend told me that I had, in fact, done the kind of persuasion speech he had learned in law school.  I felt vindicated and proud of my own righteousness.  Now I see that I was wrong.
When I look around I see this pattern everywhere.  It’s called SHINE. 
Situation – What is the current situation?
Hurt – What is the issue or pain involved?
Impact – Pushing that bruise.  What will happen if you do not act?
Next Step – What do you need to do next?
Encourage – So let’s fix this thing together.
We are all salesmen in the marketplace of values but we are also customers.  When outlining the situation, the salesman uses frame control.  He frames reality to show it to you as he wants you to see it.  In frame control, generally the person with the most confidence in their version of reality will create the dominant frame.
What he is framing here is the problem.  Therefore it is up to you, as the customer, to determine whether or this frame is valid or not.  The problem is in the salesman’s interest.  He needs there to be a problem.  Without a problem or need, then he cannot sell the solution.
Let’s look at the politician as salesman.  Politicians need problems so that they can convince the public to support their political agenda and of course keep them in power.  But what happens when the problem is solved?  Then the politician becomes unnecessary.  So it is in his interest to create the appearance of working towards solving the problem but not actually solving anything.  He says that he failed because he needs more power, so the people give him more power in hopes that he will solve the problem.  The result is more power for him and unsolved problems for everyone else.
A snake-oil salesmen is selling a tonic that will grant long-life and perfect health.  Unfortunately, he can never have repeat customers unless the tonic needs to be consumed on a regular basis.  That is how governments work.  Politicians need regular and on-going support from their customers in order to solve problems that will never be solved.  They offer treatments instead of cures.
Some problems are real.  Some problems are illusions.  Some problems can be solved.  Some problems must be accepted and endured. Some problems you choose and others not.  Some problems you create and others not.  Some problems are born of need and others want.   The wise customer can discern which is which.  All of them are born of perception.  The trick is aligning your perception of reality to the facts of reality.
Imagine that tomorrow the theory of man-made global warming is proven beyond any doubt to be false.  Can you imagine the affects of that?  Billions of dollars world-wide will be lost, not to mention all the jobs, from politicians and bureaucrats to scientists and environmental reporters.  We have invested ourselves in a problem that may or may not even exist and this perceived problem has become integral to the global economy and power structure.
The proponents of the theory of man-made global warming adhere to the Precautionary Principle.  This basically states, “better safe than sorry”.  It is better to act now on the possibility of it being true than wait for the evidence, because by then it might be too late if it is true.  So you act on a problem without conclusive evidence that there is a problem.  The Precautionary Principle seems reasonable, but it can be used to perpetuate a nonexistent problem to empower those salesmen with a vested interest in the problem.
We live in a marketplace of values and the marketplace is driven by real or imagined problems both great and small.  We need our problems. As Agent Smith observed in "The Matrix":

Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization.
I think that most adults are savvy enough to recognise a false problem in media advertising, but not so much when it comes from the news, special interest groups, or politicians, perhaps because that requires a far more critical and sceptical approach.

All organizations, like businesses, require monetary power derived from their customers to survive.  Churches need their tithes.  Community organizers need their funding.  Unions need their dues. Politicians need their donations. All these resources come from people “buying” the problem that the organization is selling.  Without the problem the organizations lose their raison d’être.

So it is important for the consumer to decide the validity of the problem.  For example, there is a group in America called Focus on the Family which can be classed as a fundamentalist Christian organization.  They recent came out against the problem in America of gambling and they want laws passed to prohibit it.  According to their spokesman, 15 million Americans are gambling addicts.  Assuming that is correct, that is 5% of the US population.  Is this problem a national concern warranting laws against the other 95% of the population who do not have a problem or is it important to focus on the 15 million people who actual have a problem?

Mass legislation is like trying to kill a mosquito with a shotgun.  You might hit the mosquito, but you will certainly hit everyone else in the room.  And yet this is the approach that these problem solvers have consistently taken since at least Prohibition in the 1920’s.

Of course if you deny the problem the true believers will see you as part of the problem.  This can be solved by silencing you.  You deny man-made climate change because you are in with the big corporations.  You are against welfare because you are a racist.  You are an idiot if you do not accept our solution to the problem.  You see, true believers have deep feelings for their problem and they tend to get angry when you deny them their problem.

Remember the E in SHINE?  Encourage – we can fix this.  The salesman is providing the course of action and by including the customer so that he feels part of the solution.  The ploy here is that perhaps the customer is convinced that there is a problem but not convinced to buy from that salesman.  Maybe he can reach a better solution at the shop across the street. So convince the customer that we, together, will solve this and not you the customer.

So the true believers have to sell both the problem and their solution to the problem.  If anyone disagrees with the proposed solution, then they are lumped in with the deniers and silenced in the same manner.

I am not a very good salesman.  Like in my failed persuasive speech in university, I present facts and expect my listener or reader to take the next logical step.  Instead they come away with, “that was interesting”, and then move on.  I may write of issues and moral outrages, but they are not felt by my readers as problems, therefore there is no cause to act and there are very few customers at my stall.

I engage in what is called passive selling.  I pile up the product and people will buy it if they like it.  There is no problem here for the customer so there is no persuasion at work.  If you already agree with me, then you will support me.  My competition on the other hand is far more aggressive in their sales.

Not only do they engage in pushing the bruise, they also do publicity stunts designed to draw attention to their product.  These are more commonly known as protests.  No matter what you are selling, the goal is to increase your customer base.  This is true if you are selling toothpaste, Christianity, a senator, or global warming.  More customers translate into more social influence and more money to be used to further increase your customers and your power to accomplish your goals.  Do you think we would care about global warming if was still represented by a handful of hippies on a street corner?

As a preacher of the gospel of the Romantic, I now find myself asking myself “What problem am I selling and how can I better sell it?”  Of course I am actually selling the solution to the problem, but first I need to convince others of the problem.
The problem is the false problems and the Nanny State that they spawn.  The problem is the loss of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love as meaningful and socially relevant concepts.  The problem is the decline of Reason.  The problem is the rise of mediocrity. The problem is the developing slave mentality in people.  The problem is the de-valuing of values.  The problem is the potential fall of Western Civilization to the barbarians.  The problem is you and the problem is me.  We are also the solution.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The Enemies of the Romantic

If I ever win the lottery, which I never play, but if I did I would hire pollsters to hit the streets and discover the public’s answer to this question. If I were to describe someone as being Romantic, what five qualities would you ascribe to them? Take a moment and answer that question for yourself.

I suspect most of the answers would involve love, emotion, being out of touch with reality, and pertaining to the feminine. I am confident that I can demonstrate this very common perception to be utterly and completely false, and have done so on many occasions.  What I am more interested in what people actually perceive to Romantic.

In a previous article I introduced a concept of mine that I call the scarecrow. Basically it is when you take a person, group, or ideology and create a false image of them constructed of strawman “facts” and ad hominem arguments for the purpose of scaring people away from the belief. In the article I used Glenn Beck and the Tea Party Movement as examples.

This video is an example of how it is done today...

Many of these clips featured I have seen in full. In each one the Tea Party is presumed to be racist as a given and obvious fact and therefore there is no need for evidence to support the accusation. Doing so would be like taking the time to prove the Ku Klux Klan is racist. The uncritical viewer then takes this on-board as fact and incorporates it into their worldview. They may even spread it as a meme to others despite the fact that it is not true.

By painting the Tea Party as racists, radicals, dangerous, violent, and anti-American, people who might otherwise support their core principles and objectives are scared away by the scarecrow. Others might leave the group because they fear being associated with such things. This reduces the people power of group and in essence defeats them. It’s a coward’s battle tactic well used in American political propaganda.
Every person will act rationally given their worldview. Therefore you can control behaviour by controlling how a person perceives reality. I call this presumptive cognition. It is how you think about the reality that you presume exists. Controlling this is the key to manipulation.

I once presented this idea to a PhD student working on the subject of cults. She told me of an interview she had with a former cult leader who told her the same thing. He said, “What if I said that I could make you jump on that chair and scream?” She was doubtful. “Okay, what if I convinced you that there was a mouse at your feet?” Altering a person’s perception of reality affects how they act in reality.

This concept that I am sharing with you now has been existent for nearly a hundred years. It is used by marketers, public relations, political parties, activist groups, cults, churches, and advertisers; and they are masters of the art. This concept is central to life in the post-modern world and should be taught to every schoolchild as an important survival lesson. But alas it is not.

Your perception of reality is not reality. How you feel about your perception of reality, no matter how strongly, is not reality. The ideas you have about public figures, groups, products, ideologies, and even history is just your idea. As they say in the field of Neural Linguistic Programming, “The map is not the terrain”. In other words, your mental representation of reality is not reality. It is only your idea of it. We live in the real world and exist within the realm of our perceptions.

A belief is an idea with an emotional attachment. The stronger you believe something, the stronger you feel about it. The stronger you feel, the more identity you have invested in the belief. You in a sense become your beliefs. More so in that your beliefs drive your actions. Everything that you do or say is ultimately derived from your worldview, the culmination of your beliefs regarding reality and everything in it.

When that belief is proven wrong your reality literally comes crashing down. No where is this more apparent than when you are on the received end of an ending relationship. Therapist Paul McKenna postulated that the degree of heartbreak felt in the end of a relationship corresponds to the level of an imagined future together. So if your partner is your “soul mate” and one day leaves you after years of routine living together, then you will be more wounded than if your partner was perceived as a casual relationship. This all has to do with the level of belief you have invested in your conceptual reality.

I am becoming increasing of the belief that over the past 100 years Western civilization has been in the midst of a counter-revolution against the Romantic Revolution that created the modern world. This has been accomplished by altering the common perception of the Romantic to render the concept weak, irrelevant, fantasy, entertaining, or evil.  A scarecrow of Romanticism and Victoriana has been created in the minds of the general public, a false representation of reality.

My tagline, “When virtue becomes evil, then only the evil are virtuous” was inspired by this paragraph taken from the book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff:
“In our culture, every moral requirement of intelligence is relentlessly attacked. Rationality is castigated as heartless, intellectuality as arid, egoism as exploitative, independence as antisocial, integrity as rigid, honesty as impractical, justice as cruel, productiveness as materialistic. The sum of this approach – the crown of the creed of death worship – is the tenet that pride is evil.”
Following the same pattern with the 7 Romantic Virtues, I might say wisdom is seen as relative, pride is arrogance, magnanimity is manipulative, passion is a sin or mindless indulgence, enterprise is exploitation, self-reliance is rebellion, and chivalry and gallantry are wishful fantasy while grace and charm are duplicitous.

When making a persuasive speech the pattern is to first show the problem and the extent of it, then show why something must be done about the problem, and finally offer solutions and a course of action.

So for example, the problem is man-made global warming...oops; I mean “climate change”. If we don’t do something about it then all our coastal cities will be under twenty feet of water, there will be drought and pestilence, millions of people will die. The only solution is a concerted effort from global governments to reduce carbon emissions through higher taxation and possibly a global government body if necessary. So to save the planet you must sacrifice to the government. If you don’t, then you are foolish, selfish, and generally a bad person.

If we hold to the belief that the purpose of government is to promote the general welfare, then it can be considered within its brief to take necessary action in preventing the catastrophes predicted by the theory of man-made climate change. However, the government would not have that mandate from the people unless the people perceived the threat to be a real and present danger. So those in favour of giving the necessary powers to government must alter public perception in order to elicit the desired action. Remember that belief drives action, whether that belief is true or not.

So by creating a negative idea of the Romantic you essentially are making the first stage of the persuasive speech.  The Romantic is a problem, an ideology that is nonsense, fantasy, or a Valentine's Day indulgence.  It is not real life.  Once you believe that, then you are lost to Romanticism. 

Belief is not only important in how you perceive the world today but also how you perceive your past experiences. “I won’t touch a stove. I did that once and it hurt, so I won’t be doing that again.” Yes, but you are forgetting that it was the hob that was hot, not the stove itself. And the hob was turned on. So it is okay to touch the stove. Just do not touch the hob when it is on. This simple example illustrates how our perception and interpretation of past events influences future action, whether or not our interpretation is correct.

The same applies to out interpretation of our cultural history. The first American colony was Jamestown, Virginia. However after the American Civil War the North wanted to shore up its cultural dominance so the holiday of Thanksgiving was established to commemorate the “first” colony in Boston, Massachusetts. It’s all about common perception and not necessarily truth.

Take something like British and American imperialism. Once they were perceived as bringing the light of civilization to the world but today these people are “evil” imperialists who exploited and murdered the natives. When one actually studies these empires, it looks very much like the scene from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, “All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

The modern equivalent to the British Empire and the building of the United States is commonly called globalisation. In Asia, particularly Viet Nam, people are eager to move from the subsistence living of the farms and into the factories. It means better wages and a better lifestyle. However, people in the West look upon the menial factory work, just as Friedrich Engels looked upon British factory workers in the Nineteenth Century, and arrogantly project their values onto the workers. They protest to close the very same factories that people are queuing to be employed at and if they succeed, then for the people it is back to the farm or in some cases prostitution. But this reality is not important, only the feelings of self-important pity for the sweatshop workers and the righteousness of their own political ideologies.

Here’s a word for you, diminutivisation. I just made that one up. In the old Celtic folktales, the faerie folk were big, fierce, and frightening. According to the Bible so are angels. In Arabic mythology the djinn were terrifying. The devil is not someone to mess with either. However, in each of these cases as belief in these beings decreased so did their ferocity. Faeries became Tinkerbell, angels became chubby winged babies, the djinn became “I Dream of Jennie” and the devil that red-horned baby with the pitchfork. These are all examples of diminutivisation. Something powerful becomes some juvenile when we no longer take it seriously.

The enemies of Romanticism have succeeded in altering the public perception of the Romantic, its foundational principles, and its history to either create a diminutive version of itself or the relic of a by-gone age thankfully forgotten.

A child who dreams big is told to “give-up his Romantic notions”. A man who panders to a woman’s whims is called a Romantic. Anyone advocating a return to Victorian values (ie Romantic) is perceived as either a prude or a conservative. The hippie engaging in free love and drugs with flowers in his hair is oft associated with the Romantic. These perceptions of the Romantic are entirely false.

As for those who do follow the true path of the Romantic we have these pejorative qualities: selfish, arrogant, elitist, out-of-touch, eccentric, materialistic, misogynous, sociopathic, weird, insane, and even interesting, which I have always found to be condescending. A common one for Dark Romantics, aka Goths, is melancholy. For those women who choose sexy clothes, they are considered sluts. Then you have a sort of reverse negative. There are people who do possess a number of these negative qualities, or want to, and so they are drawn to one of the Romantic subcultures to fit-in and thus perpetuate the negative stereotypes through their involvement.

Probably one of my greatest frustrations to do with the diminutivisation of the Romantic pertains to the notion of fun. One tenant of the Romantic is living life to the full, enjoy yourself, and looking for new sensations. However, there are those, apparently in the majority, who are drawn to the Romantic not as a lifestyle but as a bit of fun in itself.

I am reminded of Elijah Price in the film “Unbreakable”. He is an art dealer who specializes in comic book art. In this particular scene a customers is preparing to purchase a very expensive piece and then says that it would look great in the room of his newborn son, Jeb. Elijah refuses to sell the item saying...
Do you see any Teletubbies in here? Do you see a slender plastic tag clipped to my shirt with my name printed on it? Do you see a little Asian child with a blank expression on his face sitting outside on a mechanical helicopter that shakes when you put quarters in it? No? Well, that's what you see at a toy store. And you must think you're in a toy store, because you're here shopping for an infant named Jeb. This is an art gallery, my friend, and this is a piece of art.
That is how I feel about the Romantic. It is all about enriching your life, like art. It is all about pleasure, sensation, and yes, fun, but it is not a joke, a game, a fad, or a phase. I am reminded of a Scottish-American I knew once who put on a kilt for the first time and then pranced about joking about wearing a skirt. I found it insulting as a Scottish-American. It is possible that he felt uncomfortable wearing a kilt and we laugh at things we find uncomfortable. Likewise many people find true Romanticism uncomfortable because it goes against all our post-modern social programming.

The central tenant of the Romantic is I. I am. I am an individual. I think. I feel. I act. You are also an individual. You think. You feel. You act. We are all individuals. We make our individual choices that either propel our lives to greatness or send us tumbling into the gutter. These are the consequences of our freely chosen actions. I am responsible for my own thoughts, my own feelings, and my own actions. I have no claim on the life, liberty, or property of another nor do they have any claim on mine. The enemies of the Romantic say otherwise.

There are those who believe that the purpose of government is to govern. The rulers make the rules and you must follow those rules whether you agree with them or not. If you do not obey, then the government will use force to make you obey. First the state will take your property, then your freedom, and perhaps even your life as an example to others. Your life is only yours own within the guidelines dictated to you by the government and you may only act according to those rights given to you by the government. Anything else is off limits. You may not do anything with this permission.

When given the choice between the Romantic and the non-Romantic, most people will choose the Romantic. In dreams actions have no consequence. Likewise in fiction. Our popular narrative fiction for the past several centuries has largely extolled the Romantic. But that is just make-believe and anyone who believes it is living in a fantasy world – or so they say.

They also say that people cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Therefore we need government to control people to keep them in check. Without drug laws people will become addicts, without prostitution laws people will constantly be fornicating, without forced charity the poor will starve and suffer. Without government control society will be turning back the clock to the horrors of the Victorian Era. Progress is about moving forward and we cannot move forward when we are pining for some “Romantic” notion of the past.

So who are the enemies of the Romantic? During the Nineteenth Century the political and social orientation that best typified the Romantic philosophy was called Liberalism. They favoured a small, decentralized government and emphasised the principles of Natural Rights as set forth by John Locke and the American founders. The ultimate goal of the Liberals was freedom for the individual and this meant a gradual process of incorporating as many people as possible into the state of liberty in mind, heart, and action.

The Liberals were eventually eclipsed by a new ideology called Socialism in Europe and Progressivism in America. Where Liberalism offered freedom and the responsibility that goes with it, the Socialists offered freebies. The state was to become the benefactor of the people in exchange for the power to govern.

The Romantic Revolution wrested the power from the state and put it in the hands of the people, by which I mean the mass of individuals. The counter-revolution has succeeded in wresting power from the people, in the name of the people, to re-empower the state. For the Romantic it makes little difference if the state is a monarchy, aristocratic parliament, or a social democracy. Each represents the violation of the right of the individual to govern himself.

I know that this may sound like a conspiracy theory but it makes sense. You have two political ideologies. One wants a strong central government, but they are held in check by the other group that wants a small central government. If you represent a third group that wants a strong central government, then who do you challenge for position?

If you succeed in toppling the traditionalist big government party then you have to still contend with the anti-government group. However if you can infiltrate and become the anti-government group you are free to take on the establishment. That is what happened.

In the minds of the people, remember manipulating perception, the Liberals became the progressives and socialists. Now the people were left with only two options. A big government right and a big government left.

I once learned how to take over a church. Find a church with a dwindling congregation. Start filling the pews with your own people until they outnumber the natives. Once you have the majority, then vote out the existing minister and bring in your own guy. The church building, its name, its furnishings, and even its history is now yours to do with as you please, but the ideology within the church can be whatever you choose. That is what happened with liberalism as the political arm of the Romantic philosophy.

This same pattern of first infiltrating a group and then redefining it according to socialist ideology has been a recurring pattern throughout the Twentieth Century in America.  First the Liberals, then the various ethnic and minority groups, then the anti-war movements, then the environmentalist movement, then charities and today they even lay claim to the Civil Rights Movement.

The image of the leftist radical is of someone fighting for the people against the oppressive governments and corporations.  They believe this about themselves and they project that image to the world.  They claim the banner of the Romantic.

The fact is that they stole that banner, that image, and that spirit.  When you actually examine their philosophy, history, and political goals you find that they are not only the opposite of the Romantic.  They are the enemy promoting dependency and slavery -- not freedom and certainly not the individual.  They support the State, their ideal state.

The consensus is that the Romantic Era ended with World War I, to which I postulate that it did not end in America until The Stock Market Crash of 1929. Both are held as examples of Icarus moments where humans reached to far and paid the price. Both incidents empowered the enemy of the Romantics who assured us that we will progress beyond the failures of the past (Romanticism) and thus ensure that these horrors never happen again. And of course they did happen again, and again, and again.

The goal was to create a scarecrow of the Romantics and what is now called Classical Liberalism, put it safely in box somewhere to feel sentimental about but not take too seriously, to educate children so they did not become Romantics, to exaggerate Romanticism to a point of ludicrousy and call it camp, and more importantly, rewrite the entire Romantic Era into a negative stereotype as either fantasy or a cynical representation of reality. This is then pushed through the education system, academia, mass media, and popular culture all in an effort to distort perception.

When I proposed this theory to a friend he wrote me, “Oh, Logan, where do you get such ideas? I mean it's not as if the early 20th century progressives didn't completely take over publishing and get in bed with government educational systems in the US to produce "social studies" and history books slanted with their biases ongoingly for the last 75 years to this very day. It's not as if they haven't proven themselves time and again to be not only OK with historical revision, but strident believers in the rightness of such practices as a way to condition the 'right kind of citizens' into existence through the educational establishment. It's why they aligned with Marx in the assertion the state should control education and make it compulsory in the first place.” I could not have said it better myself.

What brought me to this epiphany was reading this is a passage from Matthew Sweet’s book, Inventing the Victorians:
We think of the Victorians as racists, yet they had no anti-immigration laws and elected Britain’s first Asian Members of Parliament. We think of them as religiose, yet church attendance figures fell just as dramatically in the nineteenth century as in the twentieth. We think of their society as violent, yet their crime figures were lower than ours. We think of them as misogynists, but the statute books describe a fairly linear narrative of female emancipation. We think of them as royalists, when the period was the zenith of British republicanism. We think of them as puritanical, and when mountains of evidence are produced to the contrary, we insist that they were forced to conduct clandestine sex lives and use it to amplify their reputation for hypocrisy. We can just about bring ourselves to give the Victorians the credit for building the houses in which we live, the railway tunnels through which we commute, the pubs in which we drink, the sewers which funnel away our excrement, the museums and galleries in which we spend our Sunday afternoons. We are less inclined to acknowledge their responsibility for an almost uncountable number of other important innovations: both for concepts which are often believed to be ahistorical – such as the inherent goodness of children, homosexuality and heterosexuality, notion that family members, ideally, should like each other – and for a huge roster of inventions usually assumed to be of more recent origin. Blame them, or thank them, for the suburban housing estate. For the fax machine. For the football league, political spin-doctoring, heated curling tongs, vending machines, the electronic iron, the petrol-driven car, feminism, the London Underground, DIY, investigative journalism, commercially produced hardcore pornography, instantaneous transcontinental communications networks, high-rise public housing, plastic, free universal education, product placement, industrial pollution, environmentalism, fish and chips, X-ray technology, sex contact ads, paper bags, Christmas crackers, junk e-mail (by telegram, but still just as annoying), global capitalism, interior design and Sanatogen – the stuff that surrounds us in the early twenty-first century world, both the good and the bad. Despite such evidence we have chosen to remember the Victorians not as our benefactors, but as sentimentalists, bigots, Jingoists and hypocrites. The Victorians invented us, and we in our turn invented the Victorians.
In reading this passage and the chapter in its entirety that Romanticism through Victoriana was the victim of a massive smear campaign to discredit its ideological validity and relevance.

Philosophy describes the process of establishing a worldview, acting on that worldview, and then projecting that worldview in the form of intellectual and political discourse. Romanticism was the dominant philosophy in the Victorian zeitgeist and it projected itself in the form of Classical Liberalism. Thus it is not merely the surface level political label that is important but the premise that lies beneath.

Therefore when I say that the enemy of Romanticism is Socialism/Progressivism, I am not merely pointing a finger at a political view but to an unspoken and largely clandestine collection of philosophical premises regarding the nature of reality. We might well call this a culture war between the Romantics and the Collectivists – be they socialists, fascists, corporatists, academic elitists, or just bureaucratic bullies, and like all bullies when you bite back they cower even as they pelt you with slander and derision.

The Romantic Era did not end in some grand ideological collapse. It suffered a slow haemorrhaging over generations and we watched as our enemies twisted our ideas, corrupted our virtues, and laid claim to mock representations of our values and all for show. They praise freedom even as they enact legislation to take it away. It’s all about manipulating your perception of reality to force your behaviour for or against.

We have now reached the line in the sand and all that remains is to fight back and reclaim what is ours. I’ll conclude with a quote from Iron Man 2. When appearing before a Senate Committee, Tony Stark is pressured by a state bully to turn his armour over to the government. To which Stark says in the spirit of a true Romantic, “Well, you can forget it. We're safe. America is secure. You want my property - you can't have it! But I did you a big favor. I have successfully privatized world peace”.

You want my life, my liberty, my property – you can’t have it! That is Romanticism.