I would question this, if it weren't for the source. Might it be more accurate to say a person cannot be half committed to being a saint; you must be wholly committed or not committed at all? That seems a bit more accurate, but I'm not comfortable questioning the greatest saint of modern times.
In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion. ~Albert Camus #quote
Amen to this. This observation has ties to my post yesterday about bullying.
I've heard that Camus was quickly riding the intellectual wave to Catholicism when his life was cut short in that car accident. I don't know any details, but he clearly had some Catholic sensibilities.
Homer is new this morning, and perhaps nothing is as old as today's newspaper. - Charles Peguy
Right on. Although American wasn't as free as it once was, it's still a place of great tolerance, which makes it a good place for people who hold views outside the mainstream (such as orthodox Catholics).
"A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."
That easily ranks in my top ten of GKC quotes. It's from Part Two of The Everlasting Man (yet another GKC book that I want to read again). I apply it routinely to inveigh against pop trends.
And I apply it today against one of the most aggressive and inane pop trends I've seen over the past twenty years: The campaign against bullying.
This campaign is so big and vapid, I don't even know where to begin. So I'll begin with a true story that happened in my home town last week (as filtered through the rumor mill; the reader will forgive any inaccuracies).
There's an app called "Yik Yak." It allows users to enter a forum based on their geographic location and start posting comments anonymously. Unless you identify yourself in your posts, the other users have no way of knowing who you are. It has become a favorite among high school students and last week, these students started arguing, anonymously, about whether cheerleading is a real sport. That devolved into a bunch of cruel comments, ranging from gravity-challenged cheerleaders to other people's lack of athletic prowress. One user finally had enough and wrote something like, "If I see one more cheerleader post, I'm gonna come to school with a gun tomorrow and shoot everyone."
That apparently went too far. A user showed it to school officials, who put the high school into lock-down mode: kids weren't allowed to leave their classrooms. The school contacted Yik Yak, who, in the interest of public safety, revealed the user's identity. It turns out that the post was from a good kid that everyone likes. A harmless kid, but a kid who used bad judgment. The lock down was lifted and it seemed that, other than school discipline for the young man, the affair would pass.
But no. A group of concerned parents set up Yik Yak accounts so they could monitor it, "inform themselves," and help squelch bullying at the high school. Some also set up a Facebook page to stomp out "cyber" bullying at the high school.
Abuse of Language
I'm sorry, but a Columbinian-like death threat is not bullying. It is either (i) serious as hell with the possibility of escalating into an act of mass terror, or (ii) a harmless joke. It turned out to be the latter and, though I congratulate the school officials for their measured response (can't exactly ignore something like that), the affair ended just fine with no need for adult intervention.
Now, maybe the concerned adults think the acidulous banter leading up to the mock Columbine was the bullying? That's a little more credible, but if you think about it, it's not really bullying. It was mean talk. It was unkind talk. You can even call it abusive talk. But it wasn't bullying, especially since, I'm told, the recipients were giving as good as they got and insults were flying on all sides of the cyber-argument.
When I got bullied occasionally in grades K-8, I always knew who my tormentor was. Such identification might be the sine qua non of bullying: Biff asserting himself over Nerd so Biff looks/feels tough. No show, no bullying. Although I guess I could concoct an arrangement where anonymous comments might rise to the level of bullying, for the most part, anonymous comments don't feature the bullier (and, indeed, are intended to conceal the bullier) and, therefore, are not bullying in any traditional use of the term.
Anonymous comments on a forum like Yik Yak also don't have another hallmark of bullying: a sign of superiority. The bully feels superior because he's picking on someone deemed inferior, but in a forum like Yik Yak, everyone is evenly matched: you're all anonymous. The playing ground is level.
I would also point out: If you ask someone who has been genuinely bullied, he'll tell you, "I'll take the anonymous comments about my acne over eating a piece of excrement like that one kid almost had to do in My Bodyguard any day."
And this brings me to my real reason for disliking the bullying trend: it's a trend for the less intellectually-rigorous. Or, as GKC might put it, a trend for the intellectually dead that can only swim with the stream.
The term "bullying" has reached the point where it deadens thought. "Bullying" has become a mental shortcut for everything that goes wrong in social interaction. Just as the redneck says, "That's fucked" and think he has articulated something, the concerned adult says "That's bullying" and thinks he's contributing to the social discourse. And just as the redneck has articulated nothing coherent, the concerned adult has contributed nothing at all and, in fact, may have subtracted from the sum total knowledge of society by mis-identifying something.
The campaign against bullying has, I think, finally brought the house down on itself. Anyone standing with a measure of detachment can see the implosion. The people who don't see it are those in the basement. Based on current rhetoric, the term "bullying" could refer to both ISIS atrocities and person-specific graffiti on a bathroom stall. Such rhetoric is wholly bereft of whatever coherency it may have once had, if any, thereby destroying the anti-bullying campaign in the eyes of anyone who thinks for himself.
A Few Final Matters
This post had gone on long enough already, but I have many other objections to the anti-bullying campaign. In the interest of brevity, I'll just bullet-point them:
1. It's a fabrication of the cultural Left (by "fabrication," I mean "exaggeration of the scope of the problem"; I don't mean to imply that there is no bullying).
2. Bullying is a rite of passage. Like many rites, it's unpleasant, but it gives you a common bond with others.
3. It builds character in the bullied. There are better ways to build character, but most of them entail some measure of pain or unpleasantness.
4. There are far more serious problems in our schools. We shouldn't dedicate resources to stomp out something that has been around since the days of Socrates (who was "bullied" fiercely) when half our students can't meet math and reading competency standards.
5. It's futile.
6. It's a type of helicoptering. Kids are kids. Let 'em be and they'll work it out themselves. You, parent, don't need to insert yourself every time your little Janie is unhappy. Adults should get involved when it's serious, not when a kid's emotional machinery might creak a little.
7. It's part of the therapeutic culture that demands counseling or therapy for every hangnail emotional malady.
8. The anti-bullying campaign has turned bullying into a joke among the kids. I have two sons in public high school and a daughter at a parochial middle school. They mock the entire notion of bullying for the simple reason that they're sick and tired of hearing about it and tired of over-zealous adults looking for bullying hobgoblins under ever rock. The target group of the anti-bullying campaign no longer cares about bullying at all and finds it derisible.
9. The whole rush "to do something" evidenced in the Yik Yak episode smacks of a knee-jerk reaction, an instinct. Not measured and rational action. In that, it's more animal-like than human.
10. The rush "to do something" ignores--seems wholly oblivious to--a fundamental tenet of human action: sometimes it's better to do nothing at all (see Nock's semi-famous essay, "Snoring as a Fine Art").
11. I'm reminded of the anti-racists out there. I've made the point many times that, in my experience, the people who are most likely to accuse someone of racism are people who have severe moral shortfallings in their personal lives. I've speculated that, by accusing others of racism, they feel better about themselves. I suspect the same holds for bullying. It might just be a way for people to feel better about themselves. (I'm not saying the anti-bullying campaigners are reprobates, incidentally; I know some of them and they're fine individuals, even if, I think, a bit misguided on this issue.)
12. Number 11 leads to, perhaps, my biggest objection to the anti-bullying campaign: It ignores the fundamental moral principal that, at core, your only social obligation is to present society with one improved unit. By targeting your efforts to "side shows" like bullying instead of working on the real project, you detract your moral criticism and attention away from where it belongs: yourself. The result is a society of busybodies who don't recognize what the Jewish philosopher Max Picard might have called the "bully in our selves."
Ten books for fallen-away Catholics. I was expecting Surprised by Truth and the like. Instead, I got Dostoyevsky and Graham Greene. I'm not sure I agree with the author's view that these books will bring a person back to the Church, but it's a pretty good list.
When I was a young attorney, I went out to lunch with my mentor at the large law firm where I was employed right after graduation. My mentor was a hardened litigator, of the old-school Jewish kind, but he was nice and fond of me. He asked me a question. I replied with a long, rambling response. He, as nicely as possible, said, "When you prepare to speak, try to organize your idea quickly then convey it as concisely as possible" (not an exact quote). I was embarrassed, of course, but the lesson stuck with me. It's a difficult thing to do and takes practice. To this day, I often fail to pull it off, but the continued pursuit of this ideal helps keep the mind sharp (senile people ramble for a reason).
When I fail to convey my thoughts concisely, it's normally because I'm being lazy and just indulging my desire to hear myself talk, much to the detriment of my interlocutor.
Brevity, I've come to conclude, is a form of politeness.
And in a world where time is money, it might be the paramount form of consideration you can show another person.
Brews You Can Use
Okay, this is frustrating: Only A Fraction Of The Population Has The Genotype That Makes Moderate Alcohol Consumption Heart Healthy. According to the story, a new study has shown that moderate alcohol consumption improves the health of only 15% of the population.
Well, crud. That conflicts with a lot of other articles that have been flying around for many years. The articles first started with wine: wine, we were told, is good for the heart. Then we started seeing articles about the health benefits of beer. And then health-benefit articles about hard liquor and alcohol in general started flying around.
And now it looks like we're starting to backpeddle. Neither the story or the study, as near as I can tells, takes aim at the benefits of wine (except for the picture of the wine bottle at the top of the story), but if this study represents the pendulum swinging back, I assume beer is going to be attacked next and then wine.
Why do I say it's frustrating? Simply because it's yet another example of why we can't trust science. If a particular religion flip-flopped as often as science, it would have as many adherents today as the Canaanite religion. I realize such an analogy is seriously flawed, but it also has serious merit: both claim a measure of authority within their sphere (matter/spirit) and both have acknowledged leaders (scientists/clergy). But one changes its mind more often than the wind.
So, does science suck? Not at all. It has obviously done us a lot of good (starting with the Internet). It just ought not be latently worshipped like it is in our culture. Truth never changes. And neither does science's obvious inability to grasp it. If it can't even come to a consensus on something as miniscule as whether a couple shots of vodka every week help a person's heart, I sure as heck am not going to trust it on something like the origins of the universe.
The article also shows why you can't trust the media and why, as Nassim Taleb points out, the more read, the less you know . . . unless you're careful to read only the right stuff and you read it (very) thoughtfully.
Catholic Men's Quarterly, a one-of-a-kind general interest men's magazine written by Catholic men for Catholic men. Makes a great Father's Day gift.
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In the writing and in the reading, it's exactly the sort
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you like your blogs pithy, nimble, pointed, high-spirited,
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Honestly they do." John
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