Winter Fundraiser 2015, Day Six
Ah, here we are closing in on the home stretch for this Winter Quarterly Fundraiser. At this point, if we’re still standing I count it as the kindness of the Cosmos. This year in particular am I grateful for being in good enough shape to take on my share of the posting for a change. Last October I was still recovering from having my pacemaker surgically implanted. For months my heart had been slowly failing and I didn’t know it. Or rather, part of it had been in need of help that almost didn’t come in time.
Fortunately, “almost” doesn’t count. Despite what I think may have been some medical oversight, I am grateful things got sorted out, repaired, and I began to recover.
But at the time of our Autumn Fundraiser I was still in that post-surgical nightmare state that goes with having developmental PTSD. As the Baron can confirm, the condition makes me all but mute. And that includes the ability to write, so he was left to do most of the bleg posts — I think I managed one out of the seven — getting on here every day to rattle the tip cup in front of our readers. I’m grateful for that, too.
Speaking of gratitude, I remember vividly my experience on the table in the operating room. I don’t know if you’re supposed to fully “come to” during one of those procedures, but I sure did: I woke to find a white drape on my face and sensed someone standing to the side, digging into my left shoulder. The big dig part was okay — uncomfortable perhaps, as different nerve endings in my left arm were calling home to say “enough already” — but that drape across my face was NOT okay. No one had prepared me for that, or for the parched mouth that made it difficult to ask for help. Thank heavens for circulating nurses who peek in on you!
That’s the thing about being a patient: unless you know what questions to ask, most surgeons I’ve met so far have been parsimonious about sharing information; I don’t know why. Sure, they give you the technical explanations, but no one ever says OH, AND BY THE WAY, DON’T BE ALARMED IF YOU WAKE UP MIDWAY THROUGH THE PROCEDURE AND FEEL LIKE YOU’RE SUFFOCATING AS EACH BREATH PULLS THAT WHITE BURQA INTO YOUR MOUTH. AND IF I PUSH YOUR HEAD TO THE RIGHT AND GROWL AT YOU TO KEEP IT OUT OF MY WORK AREA, DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY.
Have you ever noticed we circumlocute the rudeness of some docs by minimizing their behavior into “doesn’t have a good bedside manner”. As if that were an adequate excuse for trauma-inducing boorishness. Patients start out butt-naked and one down; an excellent doctor takes that vulnerability into account. Or as one of my favorite doctors said, “Watch out for the mechanics and fixers. Technique isn’t enough.”
It wasn’t all that bad, though (she says now, long after the trauma) because even during that gruesome Limbo period, there was the magic moment when I felt those electric leads slide into place in my heart, followed by an overwhelming experience of gratitude. That is what has stayed with me, even as I continue the ups and downs of recovery from the slings and arrows American hospital systems seem to supply in abundance.
Since the Baron does the most work during these fundraisers, he’s the most spent of the two of us by the end of it. When he took over the job of acknowledging your gifts, he decided to task himself with answering each gift, if possible, on the day it came in…except for the ones I’d ask to take for one whimsical reason or another.
But that was then. He’d never met a week like this one: so many new folks came in The Gate, donation in hand, that keeping his promise to himself was…well, let’s just say that his strength is also his flaw: HE KEEPS HIS WORD, NO MATTER WHAT. So while he stretched himself out like an old rubber band, I started cooking things — what do YOU do when you see your beloved with his arm stuck in a tar baby ? A tar baby crafted by a man who KEEPS HIS WORD…
(Psst — I’m going to wiferly suggest in future that he limit his responses to X number a day rather than push it to the limit. We’ll see if I get through — I’ll keep you informed if I succeed in saving him from himself. That is, if I remember. Heh. Well, who could have known the Donor’s Door would be so crowded this time?).
As I write this, on the sixth day of the WQF, our observant Jewish readers will have long since begun their Sabbath. It’s about an hour since the candles would have first been lit here, if indeed there were any Jews to light them in the backwoods of Virginia. You’d have to travel — oops, no traveling shoes on the Sabbath — about fifty miles from where we are to the nearest synagogue. Come to think of it the building may be a former church. Whatever, it makes a fine synagogue and due to its venerable age it’s now considered “historic” — a point which amuses our European friends who are used to ancient history — like the parts of the Roman roads one can still see here and there. Not to mention the medieval piles of cathedrals — places to visit with a camera, but no one wants to worship there anymore. Or worship much of anywhere else, either.
If I believed in reincarnation — which I don’t but it’s fun to entertain ideas — I’d swear I was Jewish in one of my former lives. Every year I can hear Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur calling my name. Having our own intensely festive New Year celebrations — more akin to the bacchanals Christendom had to replace as the Roman Empire fizzled out — in the cold dark of winter seems out of whack somehow. Late December is more logically the time to pile high the duvets and crawl under them, taking a book with you. Maybe some oboe music just within the limits of hearing to warm the heart while a fat mug of mocha brought along warms the rest of you.
Surely in my last life (if there was one), in September I ran across bare fields with their patchy remainders of the now-mowed-and-piled rows of drying Timothy grass. Surely in my last life I climbed the fence and dropped into the shaded orchard to look for windfalls the hornets hadn’t gotten to first. Even the looming prospect of school couldn’t have interfered too much with the happiness brought on by the suddenly humane dry warmth of Indian Summer.
But perhaps September’s other-worldly memories have more to do with the long custom of starting the new school year then. Big kids would’ve finished the harvests and little kids were freed from tedious eternal weeding and digging potatoes. A fresh academic start could be carefully maneuvered to avoided looking at last year’s potholes of delayed papers and lost homework. This year would be different from all the others, we’d promise ourselves.
We promised ourselves this quarterly fundraiser would be different, too. We’d each get our respective posts done on time — even done early, said I! — but life sure does interfere with the promises we make, doesn’t it? One good thing happened for me: I SEEM to have begun being able to write again. I’ve been silent for so long and yet now, even in January, the silence is melting. It may be the subject matter: I don’t have to deal with the depredations of our governing classes or the murderous intents of our evil enemies. Remember when George Bush got into such trouble for saying the truth out loud? The words “Axis of Evil” haven’t been heard in the halls of Washington for a long time. Come to think of it, not much truth is uttered there. Lots of promises, no delivery. Or as they enjoy intoning in Texas, “all hat, no cattle”. Inside the Beltway, there’s not even a hat. Oh wait, there’s Obama’s golfing cap; does that count?
The “friends” I’ve chosen for this turn around the course is a site I’ve mentioned frequently in our comments. On occasion I’ve even left news feed clips for the Baron from this place: Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.
I’m sure most of our British readers have a passing familiarity with Acton’s name at least. Even over there I doubt he gets much play anymore but many people probably know some version of his famous quote about the ability of power to corrupt those who have it, and of course the more absolutely one holds power, the more likely is one be corrupted by it. Thus our would-be King and his mighty pen, signing directives and making them de facto law.
But Lord Acton said a whole lot more than that. He’s known for his aphorisms rather than for a rigorous body of work. If I recall, he stayed too busy in politics to get it all down on paper. I’ll bet you haven’t seen many of these, though. Even some of those quotes we’ve seen have been credited to others; I doubt he cares anymore. After the quote about corruption (because we like the familiar) the one most likely to make us think is his idea about property (he and Frederic Bastiat, both, focused on property laws, though the latter may have been more overtly Christian in the milieu of anti-clerical France. Acton didn’t need to be).
Lord Acton said this:
“Property, not conscience, is the basis of liberty. For the defence of conscience need not arise. Property is always exposed to interference. It is the constant object of policy.” (I’ll return to this idea later)
And he said this mind-bender for those of us who thought it was something else:
“There could never be a revolution less provoked by oppression than America. Thenceforth the right of a nation to judge for itself could not be denied.”
Our readers know how I loathe bureaucracies. Thus, if my eyes still focused correctly, I’d embroider this one:
“Bureaucracy is undoubtedly the weapon and sign of a despotic government, inasmuch as it gives whatever government it serves, despotic power.”
And so we watch the cancerous bloat of modern institutions at all levels of government. Even small hamlets are quite overcome by greed at the thought of all that tax money they see go out and would dearly love to get some of it back. Only now, there’s no more carrot — you take this money, see, or that nice little town you have… well, ask some of the victims of the European Union about austerity demands. Or how much choice they had in that “Constitution” as it was rammed down their throats. The EU has the perfect bureaucracy in Brussels. No one has to account for his spending or his time. No wonder the bureaucrats were fighting to get in the door.
So while bureaucracies multiply like…umm like Catholics? We used to say that; it’s not true anymore. In some areas Catholics are as barren as, oh, Episcopalians.
So Muslims will have to do, though they’d be mortally offended if they knew of the comparison. Oh wait, we can offend Mormons; they don’t care and they won’t come after you and my heavens, do they have large families! What is more outré than a Mormon?? They’ll eventually have the last laugh, though: those children will be assets when the time comes for the fecal matter to hit the wind turbines but we probably won’t be around by then. This is a slo-mo erosion, no matter the number of no-go zones in Sweden.
John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, was born in the mid-19th century, just about the time Frederic Bastiat, far too young to leave this wicked world he’d described so well, died in 1849. If the Catholic Church were still a robust institution they’d both have been canonized by now. But that’s one the evils of bureaucracy: the good guys get smothered. It’s truly is a crying shame FB died so young. Had he lived to a ripe old age, Bastiat could have been an intellectual mentor to his Lordship and together their intellectual ferment would have knocked over any number of sacred cows.
One last aphorism to chew on:
”For it is a most striking thing that the views of pure democracy…were almost entirely unrepresented in [the American] convention.”
I could go on…and on…and on. Each aphorism is akin to an ever-spreading vine of choices…
Have you ever been sent a link to a YouTube video a friend wants you to see and being a dutiful, you click on to watch that few minutes? And then…uh oh. You notice the sidebar. You promise yourself “just one more” but with each click onto a new video, the lures on that sidebar are calling like sirens. An hour later you’re kicking yourself for all that “wasted” time but — in my case — I now know how to spatchcock a duck and I ended up digging in the freezer to see if the whole fowl I’d bought some time back was still extant. Thus can YouTube turn into a black hole for the curious among us. Of course, the Baron likes that video for other reasons, but never mind.
My point is that the Acton Institute website can function the same way as those aphorisms, but in far more depth. If there are a lot of things about economics, or liberty, or complicated current events you want to know but were afraid to find out because trying to slog through the information would suck out your brain, this site will reassure you. And while it’s about economics in the ways it pertains to liberty, the information is much more entertaining than “the dismal science” ever thought to be. Like his Lordship, it persuades rather than pulverizes.
To end the year just passed, they put up a page of their most popular essays for 2014.
Going back further, an essay on Ayn Rand articulates for me why I couldn’t ever finish her books:
It is true, of course, that self-interest is the engine that drives capitalism. But self-interest is not the same as selfishness, at least not in the way that Rand would use the term. In her novel The Fountainhead, Rand’s protagonists are portrayed as the epitome of the capitalist intellectual hero. In fact, they rarely act less like capitalists, choosing instead to behave like spoiled, egotistical artistes.
I found her characters dull; they were less-than-whole people, cut-outs who were propped up on the page to tell you Rand’s ideas. And those ideas were depressing. I often wondered if having spent her formative years in the Soviet Union had left her missing some crucial human building blocks. I know some people think her work is genius, but I’m not among them.
The Institute is well-known in South America for its workshops on liberty, the crucial rule of law, and particularly laws about property. It is these last lectures, on property, that will fundamentally change South America. The summer courses give many South Americans the tools to go home and begin to create a middle class. Unlike Liberation Theology, this not about setting people against one another. Acton Institute operates on the theories of abundance, in contradistinction to the scarcities built into the foundation of socialism.
It has been my genuine pleasure to watch The Action Institute grow and expand over the years I’ve been going there. It began as a few webpages selling books and gradually attracted both essayists and academic attention.
In its eighth annual survey, the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania put the Acton Institute among the top organizations in social policy, advocacy, conferences and overall excellence. The 2014 Global Go-To Think Tank Index published by the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program, which has a database of more than 6,500 organizations, ranks the world’s leading think tanks in a variety of categories and across a wide political spectrum. The rankings are compiled with the help of a panel of over 1,900 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world.
Scroll down that page to read an essay about Monks and Markets. It features a dialogue between one of the first monks (the Desert Fathers) whose lives preceded Benedict’s monastic ‘rule’ by many centuries:
Far from a gnostic allergy to any involvement with the material world, Abba Pistamon acknowledges the good of production and exchange, appealing to past precedent of other revered monks before him (“Abba Sisois and others”). Commerce, he says, was common. In fact, according to the size and expansive enterprise of ancient monastic communities, we can say that his assessment is more than anecdotal. In ancient Christian sources, contempt for the merchant and trader is common, but the reality is more complicated. Sometimes traders and merchants went by a more respectable name: monks. We should not be surprised, then, that Abba Pistamon displays a certain natural business sense. But he does not stop at the merely economic aspects of production and exchange…
Enough. I haven’t even scratched the surface. Not everyone will find this place to their taste. But I hope wandering the halls of Acton Institute gives you an idea of the work being done in South America to allow its native citizens to flourish where they are. The stink of corruption surrounds our President’s push for illegal immigration. And make no mistake, just because he says “come on in” doesn’t mean he has the moral authority for that kind of overreach. Poverty-stricken unemployed blacks who turned out in droves to vote for Obama have been betrayed by him, big time. Most of them know it.
As y’all know, we divide our donors into geographical areas. First, American states…
Stateside: California, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
Near Abroad: Canada (I’m waiting for Mexico)
Far Abroad: Australia, Belgium, Spain, and the UK
I’ve always thought Oz ought to be the “Down Under Abroad”, but that’s me.
I am invariably astounded and gratified by not just the number of donors, but also the fact that y’all arrive here from so many places. That’s something I never take for granted.
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