All of this is written in the third person. I am talking to myself. I take this style from Aurelius’ “Meditations” for three reasons (very Presbyterian of me to keep it to three main points). One because that was the inspiration, two because I put this in practice as a thought exercise before putting it to paper and three, because the endless use of “I” started to feel self-centered and it is more important that the ideas be the focus of this project.Continue reading Personal Meditations
All posts by Branden Kummer
1,000 Words: On the activist.
I hate the expression “deep down”. Generally speaking, it sounds like the place where some asshat can project what they want for your life onto your subconscious. It’s acceptable if they’re well-meaning, but it feels like something that will stop a conversation dead, whether its political in nature, or if a friend is trying to tell you to do something that “you know deep down” is the right decision.
But, as I am learning, there is a defense mechanism there, in that some behaviors are so irrational, that you must wonder if they know it to be such when they’re not behaving this way. My best example for this is usually the terminally online (or perpetually marching, when it’s warm out) political activist. Their language never changes; if it doesn’t fit in a tweet (or on a sign, when it’s warm out), they don’t say it. it’s where we get the NPC meme from. Further, they begin from a position of fiery, self-righteous anger and only seem capable of getting angrier, but incapable of thinking with depth and complexity. A writer for Vox managed to distill this kind of activist in a long screed against how online discourse has become extremely tiresome, with emotion that stands vastly out of proportion with its actual impact on the world. And so, after 2 election cycles that were vitriolic, divisive, full of sound and fury and changed nothing, one has to wonder if the activist is getting tired and simply doesn’t know how to stop, or if they’re having fun being horrible as the Lockdown Cult did in 2020 and most of 2021?
In other words, can they be made to stop being cruel, or is that just who they are now?
I have learned, what they are probably learning. That cynics, which is what reddit’s self-described nihilists actually are, create rods for their own backs with their endlessly acerbic thoughts when light starts to shine through. For me, it was a more personal matter as I, a once somewhat misanthropic, politically obsessed hermit, started to see a circle of friends form around me that I grew to love (inasmuch as I know what that means and how to carry it out) and I doubt the terminally online or perpetually marching have the same community. But now with the uselessness of their scorched earth tactics being apparent to most with the last 6 years, it is clear that destruction doesn’t build anything. Therefore, progressives have become a people ideologically committed to something they know commits moral evil and is therefore incapable of bringing about a better world, and one assumes (hopes) they have the functional moral compass needed to wrestle with that paradox. I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to ascribe what, “deep down” is driving the online activist and what can be done about it. Knowing that I am now projecting my thoughts onto their troubled conscious.
The least charitable interpretation states the activist is not serious, but is instead crazy. They don’t care about the issue, but the emotion surrounding the issue, and the existence of an out-group has allowed themselves to give themselves license to treat anyone and anything that stands against them with contempt and cruelty. There is nothing in their morality saying they can’t march into a restaurant where people are selfishly enjoying a peaceful meal and start chanting and berating them. There’s nothing saying they can’t dox a person, harass their friends and family, try to get them fired and, if you’re in Portland or Seattle, shot, they can also burn down or firebomb anything because, as we’ve learned in Atlanta, “property destruction is not violence”.
And yet, not a single salient point is made, not one deep conversation is even allowed to take place, and the activist has the air of a petty, stupid, totalitarian psychopath.
A more charitable interpretation is the activist is severely depressed and alone. Driven to politics because politics is the secular god and is considered by the activist to be the only avenue for, as the phrase goes, “meaningful change”. Somewhere within politics is the issue around which the activist has made a core part of his identity. Thus he is merely a petty, stupid, totalitarian psychopath not because he is a true believer that has been MADE a nutcase, but that this toxic environment is the area through which he has found community and purpose. This community, however, is based on the superficial life on Twitter and Reddit, hunting down heretics and being excruciatingly careful NEVER saying the wrong thing yourself, as defined by vague but ever-changing and militantly enforced, rules that, if you fall afoul of them, God may not be able to help you. It is a shallow community, based on fear and never being allowed to rest, but it is a community. And it is a purpose that never goes away. “we will not rest until the problem we decry is gone forever” is the activist creed. Being that human nature bends towards evil, the problem will never go away. As we’ve learned with the rioters in Atlanta and the Critical Race Theorists, the activist is also keen to change the definition of words to make the problem seem even larger than it is, securing his purpose until the day he dies.
The most charitable interpretation is that they are well-meaning, “deep down”, underneath their pettiness, stupidity and totalitarian psychopathic tendencies. In other words, “they are evil because they are noble and just don’t know how to apply their nobility”. The lockdown cult tried to adopt this view near the end of last year, saying bad things were said “by both sides” and that “pandemic amnesty” was advisable. As if there’s a moral equivalent to saying “you’re not allowed to see family, friends, in-person (as is physiologically necessary) or work for a living. And nobody is coming to save you. I know it’s painful, but you must do it to save lives” and the natural response to such a seemingly interminable and thus deliberately cruel imposition from people who either did not impose the same restrictions on themselves, or live such lonely, yet comfortable lives that the impositions didn’t severely affect them. Because of what I saw and experienced from the lockdown cult, and having read more than enough of Critical Race Theory (from the likes of Kendi and Crenshaw), I do not believe that people adopting these ideologies are well-meaning because I cannot imagine anyone looking at even 6 months of their destructive work and assuming a good world will one day come out of their chaos.
Carl Benjamin of the Lotus Eaters however, noted years ago the exodus of many from that activist space because it is so toxic. He observed that in this community, “nothing is casual or experimental”, every utterance could be a political death sentence, noting the body language of Lindsey Ellis in an interview, looking “absolutely terrified” of her audience, an audience whose outrage eventually forced her off the platform. Sooner or later, some do realize that politics today is an arduous grind and they do not have nearly the power to affect change they thought they did, even if they are one part of a screaming, vacant horde.
In the physical realm, their views are not expressed in the slightly embarrassing way of the street evangelical with the sandwich board, but the shallow, empty groupthink of a protest already mentioned, or more individually in the destruction of property. Whether it’s painting on a Christian display, burning down a business, or assaulting someone with a MAGA hat, the secular evangelical, by himself, tends to be harder to ignore than their Christian sandwich board brethren by managing the neat trick of being considerably worse by saying considerably less.
I am regularly reminded of the promises made by the New Atheists who shaped my early thinking. When one ceases to be religious, the story goes, they will naturally lean towards rationalism, being able to deal with opposing viewpoints calmly and making a strong case for their side (2 Timothy 2:25 and 1 Peter 3:15 respectively serve to make what are dreams into obligations but remember we’re talking about secularism here). It’s the new formulation of John Stuart Mill’s belief that, when faced with intellectual and carnal pursuits, the individual will naturally lean toward the former. Neither belief, due to human nature, has proven true, but that doesn’t stop people from being optimistic for reasons known but to God. One can only hope, for their sake, that “deep down”, they know they’re wrong and that God may send someone to find them, freeing them from this toxic mindset and this road that leads only to destruction of the world around a person as well as their soul, and that they’re intelligent enough to take the invitation. The primary concern being that intelligence is the first thing the terminally online activist sacrifices to be accepted into the perpetual march in the first place.
Political Reflections: Lessons of Team Lockdown
The political lessons of 2021 are a series of warnings that stem from the problems of 2020. This is entirely due to the ideology of Team Lockdown dominating the zeitgeist. Because that ideology can be seen, and I don’t mean this lightly, by every decent person as fundamentally evil, the lessons from life in its grasp are as follows
Continue reading Political Reflections: Lessons of Team Lockdown
Wandering Mind 3
A bunch of random, sedimentary (except point 3) thoughts have come across my head in the last several days and I thought they’d either be interesting or show you that, while to other people’s random may be something trivial or something else about bacon or toast (nothing wrong with that, it’s probably preferable to have your random be more focused on levity), my random, incomplete thoughts look like this.
I don’t really care how well this reads, I just need to get back into writing and get my head on straight. I’ve felt “not myself” for the last few months and this feels like part of the way back. I’m sticking with what’s easier; political stuff first, then moving into a bit of religion and not even trying to write happy after that. I’ve been mentally stuck for the past several months.
“Evil Is Universal”
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, let me take the speck out of your eye” when all the time, there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” – Matthew 7:3-5
I find myself in a position that is generally antithetical to my being as a politico; I am feeling a calmness and a bit of disappointed resignation to where we are headed as a country. I am not happy about what’s coming, but I don’t see an alternative. We have a toxic, angry, partisan bubble completely devoid of complex thought or good faith conversation and nothing good can come from that. We’re seeing that cycle play itself out particularly in the field of racial injustice. Black Lives Matter, the organization, seems to be so-named as a semantic sleight of hand. Those who are against the organization can be said to be against Black people generally. In the same way, those against “the Affordable Care Act” were against “Affordable Care” or the “Patriot Act” dissenters were unpatriotic and so forth. The tactic of usurping the moral high-ground through the use of language is a simple, dirty trick.
There is a trend in politics today where the people who were ultimately wrong are only proven wrong after most people stopped paying attention and subsequently fall silent, one assumes this is because they are hoping the other people didn’t notice. This is true in most cases except one. First, it is obviously true in terms of the COVID lockdown where the people who were ranting about anything short of a full lockdown was killing grandma and everything else up to and including domestic abuse was effectively collateral compared to the viral wave that was fast approaching and yet always two weeks away before cresting on the shore with an anti-climactic shudder.
A Sign of threes
Two of the most contemptible arguments right now, easily in the top 3, are the arguments in favor of the lockdown and the arguments in favor of gun control. On one hand, anyone in favor of the lockdown restrictions as they are in the Northeast is still looking at the damage being done to small businesses, domestic/child abuse victims, cancer patients and the like, to say nothing of drug abuse, suicide and how many people were sent into poverty over this and insisting that it will all be worth it in the end, once we get that magic vaccine…and once the vaccine is universally available, and then once the new vaccine is proven more than 90% effective, then, one imagines, when the vaccine is taken by 95% of the population. Only then will the lockdowns be able to end.
If you think I’m joking, the goalposts have jet engines on them that were just installed in April. Those things tend to last a while. Put nothing past the people under the sway of this “heroic” argument.
When I was at Point Park, our final English Comp 2 project was to craft an argument for or against some proposition. The same professor had given us the simple instruction to write a story about a friend of ours the year before. The objective was simple: write well, present well. No arbitrary page requirement, word count, nothing. Just make your case. Because it was a theater school primarily and a cinema school a close second, there weren’t many conservatives in the room save for me and a running theme of the presentations was always a conclusion of “what the government should do” to correct this or that societal malady. It’s a pattern that continues on the left, even in matters of the Constitution. The government needs to pass hate speech laws, the government needs to take away guns, the government needs to protect people and so on.
And I noticed a theme here in the discourse, everyone who disagrees any of the above is declared to be one who hates the poor, likes the status quo of people dying senselessly or some other emotional ploy. But what I realized was that, like most things on the left, good intentions are used to hide intellectual cowardice or some other insidious agenda. Continue reading Abdication