Society such as it is and in fact, shall ever be remains relatively consistent in its essential expression. Despite the cocksure modern era’s electronically accentuated diversions, our civilization cannot easily ignore nor forget its family roots. Mankind’s worldly fate is built upon the bit-by-bit piecework of the family. There is nothing “virtual” about it. Despite government’s nannying propensities, it ultimately fails when attempting to masquerade in a familial role. Romania’s Ceausescu-era orphanages were a particularly acute demonstration of this. Sparta’s nation-state as paterfamilias may have reared generations of order, rectitude and consistently superlative warriors but it could never match the wider glories of Athens nor their archenemy Persia. The bedrock family model is an unassailably apodictic truth because it is biological as well as mental. However, some families work while others don’t and upon this vastly shaded accounting, the fate of our civilization rests.
The Western mind is an impetuous imp though, thinking itself free from the constraints of reality because it deigns to create it out of whole cloth. Our modern mind may try to outwit the physio-intellectual terrain confronting it but this road trip has its limits. Money might prolong the attempted ruse but it will never be around to pay the final bill. Blood as they say, is thicker than water and this blood of the family is the sturdiest currency we clamoring mortals have known. A healthy and dynamic family life will always be the greatest contributor to the Gross National Product and Happiness of any nation. Confuse the family of any nation and you can count the days to dissolution without taking off both socks.
The recalcitrant and impatient human mind works best when not in conflict with the host’s biology. This biology is inseparable from the ineffable effects of one’s immediate neighborhood simply because our neighborhood is an inseparable part of our individual human biology. In many ways, we prideful humans are little more than ants with a sense of humor. Funny enough, no neighborhood worth its salt would exist without the flotsam known as “the family”. In the end, when we order our built environment around proven intellectual and biological history, we reach the professional levels of craftsmanship required by that elevation of spirit known as “culture”. When we fail in this effort, we arrive at, among other things that group-grope commonly referred to as “sprawl” and its half-baked antecedent, the so-called “service economy”. After several decades of debt-inspired consumer hullabaloo, the United States of America is in the late night dream fit of a nightmare called sprawl. It aint, to be precise, “familial”. The word “Fiat” seems to define the modus admirably. A widespread and unsustainably confused mess is the most picturesque evidence. The cult of Globalism is its vanguard and the resulting Potemkin Edifice is now leaking while the band plays on.S
Professor Shin Deqi’s book in the Cultural China Series, published by the China Intercontinental Press, entitled “Chinese Vernacular Dwellings” provides a sturdy case in point. There, on page four, early in this enlightening little monograph is a photograph of the “quadrangle group of the Wang Family in Shanxi Province”. The image, barely aerial is a lovely one of multiple re-curving tile rooflines, alleyways, courtyards, log-formed tiles, reverently carved trim work and the burnt blue brick redolent of the Shanxi countryside. One cannot live in this place indifferent to the fate of one’s neighbors or the environment. The fact that this august composition of warm hearths is several hundred years old underscores the rightness of the word “family”. Both the elements and the families inhabiting the compound have burnished it with a patina that seems to improve the place with each passing century. The loving caress of a human hand is amply displayed. It is obvious that the Wang Family possessed a village. More importantly, while they were it, they were not alone. A Town is born of such things. Unfortunately, “modernized” China is tearing down its built patrimony with a gleeful abandon as children of the countryside flock to the cities now bristling with deracinated high rises. Marxism has uniquely prepared them for the totalitarian expressions of global modernism. One can only hope the formidable oriental staying power will weather their current fascination with “catching up” to a West traveling in reverse.
Somehow, here in this family-obsessed American lapsed Republic, we have leap-frogged from a family compound of pride in place to a disingenuously named global village where pride is sublimated to the rather sordid terrain of consumer products and debt-financed hazard urged on by unceasing want. A caricature of a home and “neighborhood” built with debt-financed planned obsolescence is considered satisfactory because our home ground is now extended to a twenty-four hour globe of credit card trumpet blasts. Our “place”, a briar patch of spectacle never sleeps. No wonder we are a little lost, not to mention impatient and of course, like a junkie, irritably insatiable. Max Weber, among others, shrewdly noted the abandonment of the home as a prudent center of human industry. Having abandoned the home for the glorious possibilities of the commute, the modernomaniacs of America now think it logical to wave bye-bye to industry altogether. Cheap Goods are the purported recompense. A cheapening life is the result. Chronic unemployment shall be the Greek Chorus of lament.
The so-called “Progressives’” like to draw the kind of distinctions enjoyed by the impatient; theirs is a life of checked boxes, fatuous PowerPoint summaries and quarterly reports. They profess that the family is insufficient unless graced by the fulsome face of our Global Technocracy. The child they desire is a gullible one, raised by a commune who follows a playbook of denatured collectivization. The cheerful barkers of Progressivism like to turn the full amperage of the klieg lights upon their exhaustively polled and smiling visage while they proclaim that it “takes a village to raise a child”. Well no, it takes a family to raise a child and a village to refine them, to challenge them and create the conditions where we singular beings become a greater whole. What the Progressives are telling us is that they truly think some kind of global “community” is as good a basis of culture as are the checks and balances of a family within their immediate community. They would seem to be satisfied by simulation and a very public definition of privacy.
More likely than not, in these days of prideful advance, it is the village that ruins a child, rather than raising it. If the child the village receives is an unformed waif, there is nothing permanent the larger community can do to help them. Conversely, if a well-formed child is confronted with a village of waifs inhabiting an un-formed spectacle, the work of the family is virtually all for naught. If the village is transparently ephemeral and the family discounted, the child has no chance at reaching the kind of transcendence we humans are clearly capable of. Majestically crowing about categorical family values will not create them if the fundament of modern technology has hijacked them. Testing for intelligence in this era of choreographed “family values” is like asking the steer if he’d rather be a T- Bone Steak or a Pot Roast. Either way, a brisk transit through the slaughterhouse is in the offing.
To be sure though, the current challenges are less a failure of government than they are a failure of technological stewardship at the hands of an abandonment of duty because distraction feels better. Bust the rank of the family by constructing an elaborate obstacle course of technological distractions and one relegates any concept of individual duty to non-commissioned status as well. While we may not possess the organized child-rearing regimentation of Sparta, our passively violent culture is creating soldiers of a sort, dutiful soldiers of consumer commerce. We moderns look aghast at the idea of a Spartan exposing their weak offspring to the elements if they were deemed unsuitable. Yet, with our vicarious agora of popular culture, we have an Apothetae of our own into which we increasingly pitch our young.
One would think that it is not so hard to man the peculiarities of the channel-locks. Apparently it is. Tools distinguished us and our tools will now take us down. We have fallen for the blandishments of our vicarious agora, this electronic forum of competing media carnivals and acceded to the idea that the global locomotive really is a village. It isn’t and never shall be. The Frog has kissed the Toad of unlimited progress on the course of empire. We have come to think that the buzzing emanations of an appliance dispense anything like the real vibrations of an authentic village. We think we can watch our own surroundings rot into the ground as long as the cheerful productions of the vicarious agora maintain a charade of bountiful novelty and unremitting progress elsewhere. Tethered to the show, we really think we are part of it. Bored at home? Just move along pilgrim, better yet, keep moving. The remote has buttons for over 200 channels after all.
We think we can never starve if we buy our food from several time zones distant. We think our easy mobility makes the obligations of one’s home- ground somehow superfluous. We think our technological prowess is a form of limitless energy and power. We actually think we are communicating with those artfully assembled bits of data assembled upon the screens we think are our world. If they laugh, all must be cheerful. If some appliance crackles to life, we must really be alive. Well, these various disconnected bits of electronic umbilical have utterly failed us. Our aspirations have exceeded our grasp. Just like the Chinese, we need to catch up with the powerful possibilities of our era. However, rather than surrendering to the thin veneer of totalitarian commercial modernism, we need to instead, master the tool, rather than being mastered by it.
The Wiki leaks drama unfolding now is just one illustrative case in point. The Internet and our breezy electronic communication was a fine thing until it became an avenue for pulling back the curtain on our Nation State machinations. We prefer to think that the Global “community” of Nations is carrying on a magnificent march of civilization intent upon nobility and the furtherance of humanity. But it is not for we are human. We continually aspire to a higher plain in our politics but increasingly, it is our politics that lay bare the failings of our modern surrender to human passions. High-tech in our abilities, we remain mired in the essentially hostile realpolitik of the preceding centuries. Divorced from the grounded realities of the family compound, the Nation State Global Actor has adopted a stylized ritual of spectacle. Worse yet, this spectacle is all-too frequently a wee bit seedy and it worships a beast called “pragmatism”…. a two-faced Janus. It undeniably wishes to abrade all into a single category commonly referred to as “choice”. How gullible and naïve we are to expect our governments to act with honesty and integrity when we have lied to ourselves about the real victim of modernity: the family and their village unremittingly sacrificed on the altar of global prosperity. “We are the World”? Perhaps schizophrenically, we now are.
Though immersed within it, there exists a broad gulf between the individual and his so-called “popular culture”. The effortless Internet and its au-courant trio of parents known as radio, telephone and television mask it. We like to think this electronic forum is actually an element of “culture” but it is not. It is a hive of mythology, a cafeteria of idle conceits, an invitation back into the kinds of servitude we once thought were firmly behind us. What is most interesting is the idea that this so-called “popular culture” is no less a packaged conceit than is the container of “Comet” you might use to swab the toilet. Unfortunately, it would seem to be more abrasive. Modern technological spectator culture is an abrasive force. It scours. That cloying scent you detect is your history being wiped clean in preparation for a faceless future.
“Rock and Roll” is a perfect example of the abrasions of popular culture. Springing forth out of Boogie-Woogie Jazz and the Delta Blues, the punchy rhythms and everyday yearnings of Rock and Roll were a clear punch-in-the-nose to the pretensions of “polite society”. Our rock and rollers were the heirs to medieval troubadours and itinerate actors who like the missing-in-action Fourth Estate of our own time took it as their job to voice the things that were not supposed to be voiced. Sadly, fifty years of modern scouring have morphed Rock and Roll into something like a palliative, an emollient, and a salve to our still unresolved disquiet. Rock and Roll is now little more than a State-sanctioned impolite society, manifesting a culture of ecstatic common surrender. We fan the flames of satiation with a downbeat. Not that this is entirely a bad thing, it just misapprehends the original intent, one borne of the shotgun shack and so little prepared for the disingenuousness of the modern age.
Joy however, possesses its durable charms. There is a force of purely collective happy abandon that forces a ribald backbeat to challenge the sleep-inducing blandishments of popular culture. To boil it down, I’ll simply utter a fitting example by its name.
This big fish-faced palooka of a lippy trumpeter is precisely why we should not be so quick to throw the bath water out because it scalded the baby. Together with Keeley Smith and the incomparable Sam Butera with his Night Trainers of Metairie Louisiana, Prima blared a joyful tumult into the face of nineteen fifty’s propriety. Louis Prima, truth be told was a Framer. So too, if a bit more sublime was Nina Simone. Ditto Frank Sinatra, likewise Woody Guthrie, Springsteen, Coltrane, Hemingway, Falkner, Abbey, Flannery O’Connor, Twain, Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau, Mencken and we could all add our own names to the unfolding list of those multifaceted citizens who produce American Delight. An American Framer is nothing more, nor no less than a conduit of the beauty of human life, in its peculiarly American forms.
Fortunately America still gives birth to her Framers and they come with every generation. We can find them today although the productions of our various politicians, pundits and popular entertainers seem altogether more tamed and pre-packaged by the abrading forces of modern globalism. To find the kinds of unsettling provocateurs that a living America Revolution depends upon, we must usually resort to history.
For the moment, I’ll focus upon a bit of an aberrantly ironic choice, a child of the Lakota named Curly. He grew up fair skinned and haired within a duskier tribe who saw his difference and christened him their “Strange Man of the Oglala”. Curly watched the ongoing abuses his tribe endured, enjoyed an important vision as a consequence of his seeking and then he was awarded the name of his father, Crazy Horse. He was a warrior who took a wife late but was always solicitous of his Oglala tribe. Both murderous and tender, this American always chose family interests and traditions over those offered by men who came bearing gifts. He limited talk in favor of action. His every breath was an exhalation of his culture’s perceptions of human honor. Unfortunately, he stood athwart American modernity when it was in the vigor of its youth. He was killed for his stubborn and principled defiance. The Crackers and Molasses of “change” proffered by a larger majority ran roughshod over him and his people and as a consequence, a unique form of liberty on the land was extinguished, likely forever.
Fighting the technological advances and global interconnectedness we now possess would likely result in a fate not unlike that of Crazy Horse. Instead, we must restore the Local and place the aggressive leviathan of Globalism in a secondary position reflecting a better order of existence. In issues ranging from the environment to the economy and our social order, a re-invigoration of the family and their locale would be a profoundly beneficial adjustment, not a vaunted “change” but an adjustment, a rekindling of the life we all potentially live as American Framers. In our pampered state, we should build well or not at all. The obligations of liberty demand more professionalism than we weekend-warrioring Americans consistently provide.
The opportunity that is laid bare before us now is one few people if any, have had the rich ability to exploit. The American innovator, a master at re-invention can revolutionize their existence by re-ordering priorities to suit their physio-intellectual heritage. The Individual bears the weight of their family, which in turn supports the obligations of their community that in its turn enjoys the opportunities of their nation. This is how liberty is supposed to work; it springs from immediacy and obligation. It takes root like a humble weed and springs upward. Without this sense of craftsmanship, we get only libertinism, a deteriorating prison of unceasing want that masquerades as freedom. Needless to say, Globalism and its zero-sum financialism tend toward libertinism because it targets the distracted consumer.
The Human Being is a vehicle of love and work. When both are in balance, our covalent fallen trait of hate is kept in check. If we cannot return industry to the home hearth, something I am still not convinced is impossible within the modern era, we must at least attempt to return it to the vicinity of the home. The Global simulacrum is not a community and will become less of a community over time. Inexorably, the void left by community’s erosion will be filled by authoritarian power. The beneficial trait of skepticism that once made America what it was is quickly eroding because the individual feels no power without an embrace that is actually surrender to the forces of globalism. All the tidy aspirational Pablum of the globalist cheering section; “It takes a village to raise a child “ and “think globally, act locally” have their ideas exactly backwards, it is time to upend them. We will only upend them when we come to the conclusion that a healthy planet is not possible without a healthy town of artfully engaged families.
Needless to say, protecting a gutted Detroit by firing missiles from drones aloft over the Hindu Kush is precisely the kind of cockeyed reasoning that will finally have met its match when we decide to re-build our own neighborhoods because it is the most productive avenue for the life of our national family. Abandonment of the family on the altar of National Greatness and Security is as sure a pyrrhic victory as can be found. We are reaping this consumptive reward with a suicidal energy.
The powerful venues of electronic communication are remarkable forces that are eminently useful in the development of a vigorous polity. They will only work however, when we possess a fundamental pride of place and confidence in our surroundings that can only come from the kind of familial permanence expressed by the family quadrangle of the Wang Family. A Potemkin global village of staged- managed charms masking a widespread moribund America will raise devil-may-care freebooters but not citizens. They say that you can never go home again but if you have never really been at home, you never will find it, however far you travel. The point is not to abjure cosmopolitism but to make our own homes so craftsman-like that the cheap thrills of the global carnival are found to be as ephemeral as their electronic avenues make them. Better yet, let us conspire to build well both locally and globally. In fact, if we build well at home, the globe shall follow this American Dream just as it has already followed the nightmare.
American technology has opened a remarkable door but we have surrendered too fully towards it. The tool has become a master of atomization. Whither goes the master when he knows he has been mastered? The head of the household is gone missing, he joins his children who are running amok. Juvenile dependency is the new maturation. We are all now, like the Loafers at the White Man’s Fort, surrendering our fate to the intentions of others because we like the trade goods.