Saturday, April 3, 2010
The Mole Series (Underground Missives)
Again, from the now vanished TrueWester blog, the Mole series. A new mole post will be forthcoming from the post-Obama NSRUS (National Socialist Republic of the US).
UNDERGROUND MISSIVE #1
Note: The following sad piece of cultural detritus washed up on my leaf-strewn lawn in the mouldy, mouldy month of October. Soaked through with tears and small rice beer, it was encircled by Chinese rubber bands, and apparently tossed onto my premises by unseasonably heavy rains occasioned, no doubt, by global seething.
UNDERGROUND MISSIVE #1 FROM SUB-MENSCH DIRT-TOSSER MOULDYWARP
By which title you are to understand, dear happenstance reader, that I am a mole of the burrowing, semi-blind kind, a group of which is called by common tradition a labor, which is an apt description of what we do: we labor blindly. Our particular clan, the Mouldywarps of Yorkshire, once migrated to White County, Tennessee, and there let that matter rest.
Here, fallen upon hard times, I labor in a bureaucracy of the State, for vole crumbs and roots. My great great something Grimm-Molus, Viscount, said it all: "We are obsessed by the idea of regulation, and our Masters of Requests refuse to understand that there is an infinity of things in a great state with which a government should not concern itself."
Not any more. As my cousin the philologist, Warpus Root-Searcher, informed me, a bureau is a French desk covered with baize (yum!), and a –cracy means power. A bureaucracy is a power desk that seeks to dominate everything through rules, and a bureaucrat, no matter how mild in appearance, is nothing put a power addict seeking to devour. Satan, my grandfather Luminous Mouldywarp declared, is the supreme bureaucrat (cf. C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters).
These missives from a mole are meant to deepen and understand exactly what it means to live in a State dominated and constituted by bureaucracy. Max Weber, the supposedly great (but very important) founder of sociology, said several prophetic things about a society under bureaucracy. One, he lauded a supremely efficient system based on hierarchy and rules that would supplant the traditional hierarchies composed of highly individualized (and therefore unpliable) human beings; two, he realized that bureaucracies could become inefficient when they tried to deal with individual persons and cases, which tend to become troublesome, have elbows and other odd characteristics, and often rebel against those who are only trying to serve their greater good.
Though only a semi-blind mole, I was once able to stay behind after closing hours in the Smithsonian and view an extraordinary exhibit of 19th century photographs of West African chiefs. I was, simply, stunned, and at first I did not know why. Then it came to me as I stood staring at photo after photo of chieftains staring directly at the camera: these men know exactly who they are, without self-doubt or irony or insecurity. Take any lineup from modern times, prisoners or welfare seekers or employees or students, and one can immediately see the contrast. Right away there is the fear that “I don’t really stand in my own shoes, I am waiting for definition from the system which I inhabit or clues from the passing scene of opinion; in fact I am a walking hunger for identity and what I am about, what so many of us are all about, is that desperate hunger, that erasure of the fear that my entire life—if I dare to think of all that in one moment—might amount to nothing after all.”
I am sure that there are other lineups that would yield the same impression as those African chiefs: saints, for instance; and occasional persons in our world who do in fact have complete affirmation down to their toes. One sees them occasionally, even from down here in the grass and roots where true moles dwell. Even a mole can be secure in moleness, as can that wretched cat that comes hunting me. But even being hunted can be wholly authentic because the fear is real, not neurotic.
But now, dear reader of this desperate missive, I am, as the poet said, losing myself, piece by piece, or so I fear. What I try to hold onto just now is my very moleness, which I have brought from the garden and am trying to reprise in the bureaucratic office to which I am confined many hours a week.
More to come.
UNDERGROUND MISSIVE #2 FROM SUB-MENSCH DIRT-TOSSER MOULDYWARP
. . . take time to marvel at his adaptations. Most transfixing are his front paws -- large, powerful things with claws perfectly designed for digging. That's one shown at the left. After the mole's paws, the most interesting adaptations are those you don't see. For example, underground animals wouldn't want dirt clogging their ears, so mole ears, while present, aren't to be seen. And in the tunnels' perpetual darkness, of what use are eyes? Moles do have eyes, but they're tiny slits covered with thin skin. Moles also have nostrils, but they open sideways, not forward, so dirt doesn't plug them as the mole tunnels forward.
So reads some website or other. And I am sure by now you have done your own googling or yahooing and found that my name, i.e., Mouldywarp, is the ancient English name for the common mole. Also called a “dirt-tosser,” which is an apt description of what we burrowers do. We dig tunnels underground and are not particularly particular about what we do with the soil. We are perfectly suited to the task of burrowing into the bureaucracy. From our appearance, we look like useful drudges that can serve the purposes of a being that depends upon endless systems of tunnels, and that cannot see or hear much of what is going on inside the bowels of the bureaucrat beast.
Wrong, wrong, wrong! In fact, when we are not suspected of seeing and hearing and sniffing about, regarded merely as a dumb species, that is when we know the most of what is happening around us. How think thee we have survived nearly everywhere on the planet, friend, when gardeners and farmers spin out endless methods and theories for gassing us, trapping us, grinding us, choking us to death?
So let this be a warning, bureaucracies. There will always be moles. There will always be Solzhenitsyns and Sakharovs and outraged citizens using their wise claws and snouts to see what you really are and what you are really about in your GULAGS. Respect us, dear reader, remember that we are not the species killing our own young or undermining our own existence with debt and taxes.
Take, for instance, a minor moment in the office where I burrow about. I appear bored and stupid during a conference call of excruciating mindlessness when suddenly I hear this from a county supervisor of something or other: “It has come down from Obama [always here spoken with a tone of hushed reverence] that there will not be a single corner in the nation that is not served by free or cheap public transportation.” This stunning piece of news was followed by an announcement of opening new routes of public busses that will network across the state and even connect with Amtrak. Drivers are to be hired. Routes are to be GPS-ed. Computer programs will be “enhanced.”
Now I ask you, have you learned of this from any other source? A major policy slipping down through the bureaucratic system, unnoticed even by the Foxes of the earth. A fait accompli, no less. A tentacled extension of the fabled Stimulus monster. Ah, you see, there is much going on underground that only moles can detect. A shiver in the earth’s crust, a seismic quake, a tectonic shift. Something is going on: realities are coming into existence of which the country is not aware until it sees them already operating.
When no one is looking at work, I read and ponder the new edition of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s In the First Circle, now uncensored and published in a new translation. If you want to know how bureaucracy worked in Soviet Russia, read this book. If you want to know how the same kind of bureaucracy is coming to this country, become a mole in the system Obama is creating. What you will learn is that what most people take as reality is being redefined daily. The Soviets did that so successfully for seventy years that the unwary simply no longer knew anything.
You object, and rightly so. The mole writing this works in a pleasant office with (mostly) pleasant people, mostly women. Like all bureaucrats they process endless stacks of paper, write down information, and file it in folders or computer programs. What could be sinister here? The secret is that in a bureaucratic universe nothing looks sinister: the maidens who filed index cards on the concentration camps looked sweet and talked of their weekends. On the surface it seems benign enough. But moles know that “on the surface” is a very incomplete picture of the garden. What is distinctive about bureaucracies—from ancient Sumeria on—is that they are non-teleological. The one question one never asks in here is “why?” If one (foolish as this writer) does, he meets with shrugged shoulders, sighs, uncomprehending stares, or censorious looks.
We will come back to this in Missive # 3. But permit me a digression. In my humble view, the two greatest writers of the twentieth century were Sigrid Undset and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. They are now mostly unknown and dismissed in the American university, passed over for third-world and minority-culture scribblers no mole would allow in the garden. In 2005, I talked about Solzhenitsyn for an hour in my Utopia/Dystopia class and then asked if any of the 35 students had ever heard of him. No. I returned to my office which I shared with other part-timers and expressed my astonishment, only to have four teachers, ranging in age from 25 to 55, say “who?”
Undset, a Catholic who opposed the Nazis with her life, and Solzhenitsyn, who opposed the Communists with his life, are both great writers whose works . . . well, no need for panegyrics. Read them yourself. In 1985 Solzhenitsyn was one of the most well-known people in the world. His works were read and taught from high school to graduate school and his life was well known. What happened? He was invited to give the commencement address at Harvard. In it he said, in a nutshell, that though the Communist world was intolerable, the West was no model to follow—corruption, moral decadence, homosexuality, pornography, hatred of religion. The next morning the New York Times and the Washington Post flushed Solzhenitsyn into the lowest sewers of history, and he became an unperson. No one taught him any longer—what are you, a fascist reactionary? One still finds his works at the Good Will, but not in the university.
Here, read his speech for yourself: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/solzhenitsyn/harvard1978.html
I’ll be back.
UNDERGROUND MISSIVE # 3 FROM SUB-MENSCH DIRT-TOSSER MOULDYWARP
The roots get all tangled down here. I’m used to that in unweeded gardens; fie upon them, as my friend Hamletish Mouldywarp mought say. What I mean is, things get crowded and it’s hard to see what’s what. The whole point of gardening and making good lawns is to keep things separate like, and not all muddled up so they can fruit and flower as they might serve the needs of moles and men. Here at the Department of Human Resurfacing, the point is, if I can find a point in it, is to take the radicals and either strangle them or distort them beyond recognition.
As I said in # 2, my first job here was to learn how to be an un-mole by not asking any questions that start with why? Whenever I see an A that looks as if it might connect with a B, scotch that, strangle that, stuff it down a deadend hole right now before it leads somewhere. If a mole could scream so human ears could hear, my existence down here would sound like one long Dostoevskyan howl. Now, you may say, if it’s all that godawful, why do people want it? Why do they feed and fertilize it with unnatural chemicals to keep it going?
Take this, for instance: my co-worker Candace Mouldywarp, a cousin, slams down the phone the other day and says, “people get so nasty when they’re getting everything for free.” See, a good root system is meant to nourish things, not choke them to death. Here, in the Department of Human Refamishing, things appear to be what they aren’t, and when that happens, all is lost. Consider: in this and a thousand places like it, lies festoon the walls. Love that word, festoon, a string of flowers (yummy!), but these are all fake flowers, pictures of flowers and natural scenes with messages attached about DESTINY and SUCCESS and MOTIVATION and THE ESSENCE OF TODAY and such. Like the poison literary candies artificed by the Soviet Writers Union in Stalin’s (and Obama’s?) times, they are meant to lie, lie, lie.
The overwhelming message is that we are here to help you! Why if Great Grandfather Benedictus T (T for terrafirm) Mouldywarp could see these verbal atrocities tacked onto sentimental scenes, he would erupt above the surface and cry out plagues! Dig deeper and hide from the surface lies! We can smell lies, you know, we moles, they smell like strychnine laced with cyanide and sweetened with almondine syrup. Gophers go for them every time, but moles know better, and that is why I am here with these missives, dear readers, to sniff out the lies.
The fact is that the Human Refashioning workers are not here to help people but to process them. And the processors are eaten up by the process. End and means are muddled to the point that one worker exclaimed just the other day, “I don’t know what I’m doing!” Caution, love, we’re not supposed to know that. Verge on vertiginous truths such as that and you will be in danger of becoming human again.
Wait, wait, you cry. How can you confuse evil bureaucratic systems such as the GULAG and the Nazi concentration camps with the benign, beneficent human servicing agencies of our beloved system, which feed and clothe and employ people? The answer is that there is no confusion here, the confusion is structured into the system itself through two means: distancing and expansion. The law of love left by the Divine Yeshua is the opposite of a bureaucratic system which is designed to distance the deed from the doer. When I respond to a needy or beggar mole, I give to that fellow mole and I join him in a recognition of our total and mutual dependence on . . . well, you know Who I mean. Bureaucracy distances the hand and the gift more and more until I and love and gift and giver become root-jumbled. A lie: that the State is God and on him do the poor depend exclusively.
And expansion: the lesson of Communism and Hitler’s National Socialism is that the secret to mass murder is expanding the bureaucracy to include more and more people as murderers. The Hitler jugend and the Communist Young Pioneers both enlarged the state machine to include youth and children who were taught the lies and committed to telling them. When everyone is part of the bureaucracy, everyone is a slave and everyone becomes a liar. When denouncing your parents becomes a patriotic duty, then the State has become God. And from what I hear from the mole network, denouncing ones parents for racism, sexism, and non-political correctness has become daily fare (not tasty) for the educational bureaucracy.
You see, the rootlet of the great bureaucracy I work in is only a tiny offshoot of the main tree. Even the Congress itself is an offshoot. The main tree is the educational system, and to find out about that, I listen at night to the tales of fellow mole Woody Mouldywarp, named for a president who brought in the federal income tax and the concept that the people is a dumb mob to be led—sort of like landless peasants—which they were rapidly becoming. Woody works underground in the school system
Woody says that all you need to do to know the secret lies that power the culture is listen to the students and the teachers in the schools. Nearly every standard phrase they use is a betrayal of something good. Of course the chief nutrient fed to the roots is relativism, which appears in nearly everything they say. The ritual of relativism that teaches the students is conducted as follows: a controversial topic—say abortion—is introduced for discussion. All the students are invited to express their feelings and opinions. Arguments based on reason are immediately dismissed as “ideological” (Bill O’Reilly, former high school teacher, you learned your lesson so well!) The teacher carefully guides the class to the overwhelming conclusion: no-one has the answer, all opinions are equal in value, there is no truth, and school is a place where you are turned into a slave. “Don’t go there” is the new motto of anti-reason.
So as I shuffle the papers and do the intake forms, I ask clients (as they are called) to sign sway their rights, their views, their human inheritance, the last shreds of their southern culture, pretty much the way they sign away their right to farm rationally at the Department of Agriculture Office a block away. “What is to constitute good behavior? For that question obviously carries its own answer on its head. Steady, hearty allegiance to the policy of the government they serve will constitute good behavior.”—Woodrow Wilson
As a mole, I watch and wonder. In the 1930’s it was a matter of taking over farms. Now, in the Department of Human Re-organ-izing, it’s a matter of taking over souls.
UNDERGROUND MISSIVE # 4 FROM SUB-MENSCH DIRT-TOSSER MOULDYWARP
In which the Mole turns Distributist and reveals his darker purpose.
The Mole worketh within the bureaucracy, but not always. On Thursdays he flees the maze and hitchhikes to Cookeville, where he joins his fellows in the Chesterton Society of Middle Tennessee, a small but hardy band of fellows currently reading G. K. Chesterton’s An Outline of Sanity and attempting to plumb the meaning of GKC’s “Distributism” or Distributivism,” as it is sometimes called. We have tossed (note the mole tie-in!) the topic about for several years and lately have been trying to understand it in depth and ask the question, is it feasible? Or as some critics suggest, is it merely a romantic fantasy, of no application in the world of Wal-Mart and Obama socialism?
When Chesterton and Belloc first talked of Distributism almost a hundred years ago, England had already been wracked and transformed by the evils of modern industrialism, and The Servile State (as Belloc called it) already seemed to have won. To us moles, hammered by tractors and under siege from new poisons, traps, and incessant attacks by the new industrial farming, so it seemed. Besides, Karl Grundsow Marx, who holed up in the British Museum and wrote cloudy words that plunged millions into a new slavery, had determined that all was determined in history, so what’s the point of chattering about it like nutty squirrels?
At root, Distributism visualizes a society in which individuals possess spiritual and economic freedom through the ownership of private property, preferably land. Its vision is akin to Jeffersonian agrarianism, and that is why Chesterton and Belloc wrote for The American Review in the 1930’s, along with the Southern Agrarians. Down deep, this is a radical vision of what society ought to be, and we moles, relishers of roots and radishes and radicals, understand. We also know that radix malorum est cupiditas, for where real freedom exists for the right thing to be done, the freedom exists for the seven deadlies to flourish like weeds.
Critics of the Distributist vision complain that it is impractical, unrealistic, romantic, etc. In The Outline of Sanity, Chesterton takes those criticism head on. First, he says, there is a vast illusion in society that the freedom talked of by Distributists already exists in society and that it is threatened by Socialism and Capitalism. People really believe, he says, that private enterprise is really in our lives and in the society around us. People who speak this way—“those people are so blind and deaf to all the realities of their own daily existence.” “We have already accepted everything that anybody of intelligence ever disliked in socialism. . . .Capitalism has done all that Socialism threatened to do.”
Here, the Mole applauds his webby paws and chortles like a whistle pig. What did I tell you in the last missive? That bureaucracy works by expansion, that its genetic goal is to include more and more within its power, which is a blinding, controlling power, a bit like chemical fertilizer. Bluntly, the bureaucracy of the society in which you live now has already absorbed and enlisted you as “a servant of the State.” For such as person, “from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep again, his life is run in grooves made for him by other people, and often other people he will never even know. He lives in a house, that he did not make, that he does not want. He moves everywhere in ruts; he always goes up to his work on rails. He has forgotten what his fathers, the hunters and the pilgrims and the wandering minstrels meant, by finding their way to a place. He thinks in terms of wages, he has forgotten the real meaning of wealth. His highest ambition is concerned with getting this or that subordinate post in a business that is already a bureaucracy.”
That world exists, says GKC, and it is this world. Distributism is a philosophy that challenges it by insisting that a person should be more than a function of the State. So our first task is to rid ourselves of the enormous illusion that we are free and independent persons gaily living our lives outside the 9-to-5 grind. The grind is everywhere we are and we are slaves to it now. A mole already in a trap raving about Socialism encroaching on his freedom is a bit of a, well, fool?
So, a frustrated Chestertonian asked in our Cookeville enclave, what are we to do to re-establish the right proportions in the State? A fair question. If we are blind, how shall we see? And what things can we do? I will explore this question more in Missive # 5.
I think GKC is urging us, first, to take off our blinders and peep, at least like us moles, at the light above. We are already slaves of the State, and each day we become more and more unfree. Second, stop talking tommyrot about Socialism. We are already imprisoned by global Capitalism and its offspring, a socialist State created by regulations and governed by a bureaucracy. The question right now is, not IF we shall have a Socialist Healthcare system, but HOW MUCH MORE of one than we already have?
The relentless expansion of bureaucracy I talked about last time has included us in the most radical way: as diminishing persons. Not only unfree, but blind to what is happening to us. Here in the bureaucracy I burrow in at the moment, no one knows quite what I am and what I am for. I am asked to perform tasks that could be given to a sixth-grader. Performing such tasks is not the problem; I am happy to follow in the humble tracks of saints and servants. The problem is that we do not call things by their names and delude ourselves into believing that the purpose of a bureaucratic society is to help persons be free and fully human.
It is not. It is exactly the opposite. Any opossum or concentration camp prisoner could tell you that. Check the tatooed ID on your arm or cellphone..