The Challenge of Affluence

 

If we intend to remain a self-governing republic, we are in a tough spot; the toughest of our lifetime. It got this way in just a matter of months, but it has been building for at least the last four generations. On a trip through centuries past, we can see other republics fall into what has been referred to as the “dustbin of history.” If we join them, it will be of our own making.

That trip through history will pass by every nation, culture or civilization that has risen and fallen. We are special among them for several reasons; we are superior to them in almost any measure that can be thought. But simple false pride and laziness may be what will put us among their ranks as the fallen.

Affluence can be a challenge for most, along with it comes increased comfort and easy. It is all too human to focus less on the sources of that affluence, to drift more toward the rewards than the reasons.

For those of you who grow tired of sports examples, I ask your forgiveness one more time. Simple minds have simple ways.

But I have been reminded of the second book written by the best offensive guard of his generation, Jerry Kramer. His first one was a huge bestseller as it gave a week-by-week account of the drive of Vince Lombardi’s Packers toward their third straight NFL championship, something never done before or since. It would become their fifth championship in a seven-year span. Instant Replay was an instant hit.

But following the next season, as injuries and fading fortunes for the Parkers weighted him down, Kramer added reflections on that next season in Distant Replay. Lombardi was no longer coaching and had moved exclusively to the front office and Hornung and Taylor were gone. Starr was injured most of the year and the rest of the Packer stars were aging, the season was not going well.

Kramer remembered sitting in front of his locker after another loss when Lombardi came through looking around with a cold stare. The coach in him overrode the general manager as he stiffly said loud enough for all to hear, “There are too many damn colored shirts and sideburns in here!” before striding out.

Kramer knew what he meant. It was not that few were wearing the white shirt with tie with jacket that was standard on Lombardi’s team. It wasn’t hair length or style. It was a matter of focus. It was that those things were becoming more and more important as winning and excellence became just a little less important. The eyes and the mind had moved more toward the rewards and farther from the source.

I can tell you that championships are damn hard to win and they are harder to defend. The focus so necessary in the first place has to be even more intense because you are now the standard. You are the one they are coming for.

Those in today’s America who are just below the poverty line live a lifestyle that the royalty of most ages would envy. They live better than most people who inhabit the rest of the earth. Most of the things we have at our fingertips have only been around for less than two generations.

I have speculated before that Mark Levin’s American Marxism does us a service in several ways, but central to its theme is that Marxism had adapt in America. It had to become a hybrid form of that social poison. The early attempts to win over “the working class” proved to be limited at best and failures the rest of the time. The conditions and lifestyle of the American worker were constantly changing for the better as our economy grew with a market that answered to consumers. The free market disproved too much of Marx.

As such, the division required for revolution had come in other forms, and those forms have been active and eating away for a century now.

We prospered under a culture of Liberty. But the rewards of that prosperity made it too easy to distract from what built it in the first place. The taste of Liberty’s rewards are sweet enough to let far too many forget about the bite of tyranny.

In the midst of all those rewards of Liberty, too many have forgotten that Liberty had to be won. It still does; it is never free. It is not supposed to be easy. We have allowed those lessons to be lost to far too many.

There is a basic understanding that any generation who will hold Liberty must have. Our political Liberty hangs on two hooks and without them, we lose it. Those two hooks are religious Liberty and economic Liberty. Without those two, you will never hold political Liberty.

Those who love politics and political parties too much are bean counters. Some might mean well but they are far too sensitive to the wind. They can certainly play a needed role. But Liberty is not about groups. It is about the lives of people. It is about their fulfillment as individuals.

Without the ability to prosper or fail by your own hand, you become a pawn. That economic Liberty guided by a common moral order is what grew all that prosperity. That cannot be planned from above (secularly).

But it can certainly be lost through politics.

The Bolsheviks never had a majority during the chaos that was the Russian revolution. But they prevailed.

Mao’s communists were not a majority but they took over China.

Castro’s band were not even close to a majority. But they have ruled Cuba ruthlessly for over 60 years.

I do not want to take the time to research how many murders have resulted from just those three failures of will by the majority. Certainly, it has been millions upon millions.

I can (and have at times) recount all the times that the American Revolution seemed to be within seconds of being lost. But I will remind you of a later crisis in our nation’s journey. Think of all the times during the Civil War that the northern Democrats would have settled and let the Confederacy go. How many battles? One single victory … or even a draw standing between dissolving the Union. A split-second decision on the side of Little Round Top, a chance shot in the dark at Chancellorsville, an ill-advised but successful change to cut off Stuart’s cavalry and thousand other small moments that could have gone the other way and we would become two nations. Certainly, the election of 1864 would have seen a split nation except for the close outcome. How many dark, seemingly hopeless days and nights during that struggle?

Liberty is not supposed to be easy. Yes, it has to be won. And then it has to be kept because most of the world will be stacked against it. That is why almost no one in human history has experienced it. But our fathers did. And we have. And we hold it in our hands.

Liberty well-practiced brings a prosperity beyond what the world has seen otherwise. But because we live in an imperfect world with flawed humans, corruption is always staring us in the face. Every other successful society has eventually given way to that corruption. It was that corruption that the Bolsheviks, Maoists, and Castroistas took advantage of. That and weakness of will.

There will always be evil, determined enemies who will want our destruction. That is the way of the secular world. And, as bad as it is now, it will get worse. But my view of history, and my faith, tell me that there will be turning points offered to us. What is required is will. We cannot be “out-willed” and pass that rare Liberty on.

There has to be a will to push through the times until that turning point presents itself, then a will to seize it and fight an uphill struggle to make the turn, and then a will to press on knowing that the final victory is still a long way off. We can be allowed an honest anger or desperate passion or both as long as they are backed by an unbreakable will.

We each have our own corner to fight in with our own set of weapons. And we have a chance if we simply remember that it is not the comfort or affluence we strive for. It is the Liberty that gives us the opportunity for them. When those possible rewards become as important to us as the Liberty, we certainly will lose them both.

If all this sounds dire, that is because it is. If it sounds hopeless, you have misread me badly. The Founders/Framers, the soldiers of the Revolution, those who donned both the Blue and the Gray, the dough-boys facing new weapons not seen before and the millions who answered the call in WWII were all mortal, flawed people who had a moment in the midst of terrible odds. This week we will receive back the remains of 13 brave individuals who are their descendants. Instead of soaking up the benefits of national affluence, they left home behind to protect the Liberty that supplies it. They should serve as our models as well as our reminder that even we mortal, flawed people can have a moment worthy of the trust we have been given.

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  1. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    There is absolutely no way that our society will have members capable of focus if what has become normal is continued.

    We have a new generation of young people who were not necessarily taught math, as the calculator app on their phone could do it for them. Likewise, they have read few books, as the cell and device technology have made it more fun to be on social media swapping emojis.

    Learning necessary reading skills, writing skills and arithmetic ends up hard wiring the brains of a nation’s school children. Unfortunately our educators have thought it more valuable to have the young focus on CRT, and also the new supposedly all American  doctrine of “Kind people do not step outside the norm, as that might distress others. So be sure and follow the herd!”

    Sports, music and art programs help with hard wiring young brains as well. But for the last 18 months, those items were lost while our bought and paid for “elected public servants” decided the kids’ would be healthier if sitting in front of screens supposedly engaged in “remote learning” rather going to school. (This happened even though kids had only the most marginal chances of contracting COVID and even more remote chances of infecting others.)

    Yesterday I was out driving around and more people pulled off bewildering feats of stupidity in one 3 hour period than I have witnessed since being a commuter early morning of Nine Eleven, when people were either going 20 miles over the speed limit or suddenly stopping their car on a dime in the middle of the freeway.

    Perhaps I am jumping to a conclusion, but I couldn’t help but thinking how getting vaxxed could bring each individual’s IQ down by a remarkable amount. In addition to other matters, such as putting an individual’s attention on either how to avoid the job mandates requiring vaccinations, and on those relatives and friends in their inner circle who have been injured or died from the vaccine programs.

     

    • #1
  2. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    It seems to me that the sports example in the OP runs directly contrary to the thesis of the OP.

    The thesis is that people prosper under Liberty.  The example demonstrates that when a culture of Liberty took over, and players stopped subordinating their individual desires to the goals of the team and the authority of their leader, their extraordinary winning streak ended.

    It doesn’t seem likely that the problem was affluence, as in the sports example, “affluence” means winning the championship.  If the problem were affluence, I would expect the decline to begin after a single championship.  But the Green Bay team cited in the OP had won three championships in a row, and five championships in the preceding seven years.

    I find the OP to present an instructive example, but to draw an illogical conclusion.  In fact, the conclusion drawn by the OP is precisely the opposite of the rational conclusion suggested by the example.

    This is curious, don’t you think?

    • #2
  3. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    It seems to me that the sports example in the OP runs directly contrary to the thesis of the OP.

    The thesis is that people prosper under Liberty. The example demonstrates that when a culture of Liberty took over, and players stopped subordinating their individual desires to the goals of the team and the authority of their leader, their extraordinary winning streak ended.

    It doesn’t seem likely that the problem was affluence, as in the sports example, “affluence” means winning the championship. If the problem were affluence, I would expect the decline to begin after a single championship. But the Green Bay team cited in the OP had won three championships in a row, and five championships in the preceding seven years.

    I find the OP to present an instructive example, but to draw an illogical conclusion. In fact, the conclusion drawn by the OP is precisely the opposite of the rational conclusion suggested by the example.

    This is curious, don’t you think?

    The meaning of American Liberty has been explained to you many times on these comment sections…yet you return again to the textbook definition that falls well short of what is being discussed here in order to maintain this contrarian persona. It gets old and tiresome.

    • #3
  4. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Ole, you have a deep understanding of human behaviors and a profound message that mirrors the wisdom of our Founders. 

    As a simpler man, I might have just stated that much of America is dumb, fat and happy,  and unwilling, or worse unaware, that their liberties were in jeopardy. 

    • #4
  5. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    philo (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    It seems to me that the sports example in the OP runs directly contrary to the thesis of the OP.

    The thesis is that people prosper under Liberty. The example demonstrates that when a culture of Liberty took over, and players stopped subordinating their individual desires to the goals of the team and the authority of their leader, their extraordinary winning streak ended.

    It doesn’t seem likely that the problem was affluence, as in the sports example, “affluence” means winning the championship. If the problem were affluence, I would expect the decline to begin after a single championship. But the Green Bay team cited in the OP had won three championships in a row, and five championships in the preceding seven years.

    I find the OP to present an instructive example, but to draw an illogical conclusion. In fact, the conclusion drawn by the OP is precisely the opposite of the rational conclusion suggested by the example.

    This is curious, don’t you think?

    The meaning of American Liberty has been explained to you many times on these comment sections…yet you return again to the textbook definition that falls well short of what is being discussed here in order to maintain this contrarian persona. It gets old and tiresome.

    It is getting tiresome.  We’re in agreement about that.

    I just think that your definition of liberty is not in accordance with the English language, at least not in my lifetime.  I understand it.  To me, your definition seems to be “freedom to do whatever I think that you ought to be able to do,” but if we’re talking about your freedom to do something that I don’t think that you should be able to do, your desire for such freedom is not liberty, but “license.”  There’s a good chance that you and I agree about the general contours of what people ought, and ought not, to be allowed to do.

    I think that this narrow definition of liberty is a loser, as a rhetorical matter.  We have seen this in our lifetimes.  We now have easy divorce, family breakdown, illegitimacy, abortion, homosexuality, and now the trans-insanity, all in the name of “liberty.”  Because, apparently, other people don’t understand the nuance of your definition.

    I also think that your definition of liberty tends to evade a difficult issue, because it fails to recognize the need to limit freedom of action for a wide variety of important other values.  The narrow definition of “liberty,” I think, is a way of harmonizing the idea that “liberty” is an inalienable right, with the reality that freedom of individual action must be limited in a great many ways.

    It would be nice if we had a term that unambiguously meant what you think liberty means.  We don’t.  Liberty is an ambiguous term.

    • #5
  6. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment): I understand it.  To me, your definition seems to be “freedom to do whatever I think that you ought to be able to do,”

    You must have me confused with someone else. (Show me where I ever even hinted at this, please.) Worse, the above is exactly the definition you continually go back to in these discussions that leads me and others to explain over and over to you about the special meaning of Liberty in these discussions about America:

    And from it all I emerge an individualist – an unashamed individualist. But let me say also that I am an American individualist. – Page 6

    No doubt, individualism run riot, with no tempering principle, would provide a long category of inequalities, of tyrannies, dominations, and injustices. America, however, has tempered the whole conception of individualism by the injection of a definite principle, and from this principle it follows that attempts at domination, whether in government or in the processes of industry and commerce, are under an insistent curb. If we would have the values of individualism, their stimulation to initiative, to the development of land and intellect, to the high development of thought and spirituality, they must be tempered with that firm and fixed ideal of American individualism – an equality of opportunity. If we would have these values we must soften its hardness and stimulate progress through that sense of service that lies in our people.

    Therefore, it is not the individualism of other countries for which I would speak, but the individualism of America. Our individualism differs from all others because it embraces these great ideals: that while we build our society upon the attainment of the individual, we shall safeguard to every individual an equality of opportunity to take that position in the community to which his intelligence, character, ability, and ambition entitle him; that we keep the social solution free from frozen strata of classes, that we shall stimulate effort of each individual to achievement; that through an enlarging sense of responsibility and understanding we shall assist him to this attainment; while he in turn must stand up to the emery wheel of competition. – Pages 6-8

    I suspect you know this already and are just toying with me as part of your game. Otherwise you are delusional. Either way, I’ve had enough of this persona you have been cultivating since about last December.

    Adios.

    [EXHIBIT A & B & C & D & E]

    • #6
  7. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    If the problem were affluence, I would expect the decline to begin after a single championship.

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    It seems to me that the sports example in the OP runs directly contrary to the thesis of the OP.

    The thesis is that people prosper under Liberty. The example demonstrates that when a culture of Liberty took over, and players stopped subordinating their individual desires to the goals of the team and the authority of their leader, their extraordinary winning streak ended.

    It doesn’t seem likely that the problem was affluence, as in the sports example, “affluence” means winning the championship. If the problem were affluence, I would expect the decline to begin after a single championship. But the Green Bay team cited in the OP had won three championships in a row, and five championships in the preceding seven years.

    I find the OP to present an instructive example, but to draw an illogical conclusion. In fact, the conclusion drawn by the OP is precisely the opposite of the rational conclusion suggested by the example.

    This is curious, don’t you think?

    No, you misunderstand the analogy.  The affluence was wearing the ring, and being known as a winner.  The struggle to win the game was the fight for liberty, which has become less important after receiving liberty’s affluence.  A condition of liberty, once won, soon degrades into a condition of libertinism, masquerading as liberty.

    • #7
  8. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    The Monkey Trap.  You can grab hold of a monkey, kill it, and eat it, all because the monkey won’t open its hand and let go of a fistful of rice.

    Take a coconut, clean it out, drill a hole just big enough for a monkey to squeeze its hand into, fill it with rice, close it up and hang it in a tree.  This’s the principle.  It’s said that that monkey’s full fist won’t fit back out of the hole.  It wants that rice so badly that it never releases its grip.  Even when it sees you coming.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but it is a good metaphor for what’s going on in the West.

    And yes, apparently my many metrics those on the dole here in the US live better than the middle class in Europe.  Their apartments are bigger by square footage.  Nearly everyone has air conditioning.  Everyone eats as well and as much as they want, to the point of fatness.  Most of the poor have cars if they want, or access to getting them.

    And now people are finding that work doesn’t pay, at least not as well not working does.  People, most people, are naturally lazy.  From a godly perspective this comes from rebellion, I suppose, defiance of God’s curse tht by the sweat of man’s brow he ill till the earth to eat.  From a natural viewpoint, it saves precious energy, energy that will needed later to overcome the entropy of a less than ideal, less than sufficiently-stocked environment.  And perhaps it allows one to lay up a protective layer of fat that may be needed in lean times.

    With liberty comes responsibility, and with responsibility, labor.  But the Monkey Trap is the result of laziness taken to a dangerous and deadly extreme.

    • #8
  9. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    P.S.:

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):…but if we’re talking about your freedom to do something that I don’t think that you should be able to do, your desire for such freedom is not liberty, but “license.”

    Fine authoritarian streak you have there. What is it with Arizona lawyers these days?

    • #9
  10. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Good article.  Life is complex but pretty fundamental.  We can’t know much, but as individuals we can eventually sort out our own interests, some never do for a variety of reasons, and they remain failures even if rich and powerful to begin with.  Top down in a giant country of vast complexity in both culture and population can’t work for long even though individuals in the thousands of institutions sort out their interests as well, but those aren’t  national interests and with time they’re headed toward failure.   I don’t think it remains in our national capacity to sort it out and correct over a century of wrong direction.  Some states might be able to dump Washington, and take a new path, but won’t because they do not realize that the Chinese already control the major levers.  Moreover,  both party leaders and all Democrats , either don’t understand or are enriching themselves, and the top down over whelminging large centralized corporations no longer have to compete to be successful and have great political power and no understanding of politics, history, or international affairs.

    • #10