The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing -- Edmund Burke

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Mind Games

Michael R. Bowen, MD

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Michael R. Bowen, MD

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"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
-- Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), English novelist and essayist

February 4, 2003


Every time I hear John Lennon I feel sad.  His voice was the background music of my youth, and now he's gone.  But my sadness doesn't only come from memories of lost youth, or even from grief over an untimely death.  It's also that he was so talented, so innovative, so clever, so thoughtful, and so very wrong.

"Mind Games" was playing in the background as I worked yesterday, and I couldn't help reflecting on what John was urging on the world:  "breaking the barriers" of conventional thought, refusing to view the world through the framework of our culture, breaking free into a sunny upland where we could start all over, renaming and repositioning all of creation like Adam assigning names and places to all the creatures.  It all sounds so nice, and so right:  what could possibly be wrong with it?

For this is a pillar of liberal thought:  that we are stuck in the rut of tradition, and if we wish to make the world a better place, we must break free of our old ways of looking at things.  This is classic Al Gore saving the planet by reorganizing society, or Hillary Clinton saving society by redefining the family.  The liberal thinks that conventional thought is the reason the world doesn't get any better.

The conservative thinks that it is the reason the world isn't even worse than it is.

To the liberal, the old traditions of Western society are the things which keep people oppressed, stifle innovation, provide barriers to equality, and perpetuate the 'cycle of violence'.  The conservative thinks that stable rules which apply to everyone are the reason that people can make contracts with confidence, marry and raise families, put their savings in the bank, and drive through an intersection on a green light with reasonable confidence that they won't be rammed.  For us to maneuver safely in traffic, it is absolutely necessary that we all agree on what red, yellow, and green mean.  For us to have any ability at all to interact fairly and honestly with our fellow men, we must have conventions about what things are, and that means we must have stable and reasonably universal understandings of what marriage is, what men and women are, what we may and may not do to our fellow citizens, and what's yours, mine, and ours.

Dear old Mr. Lennon was telling us that we must abandon all that.  I (and many of my generation, for that matter) swallowed his ideas whole, and the feeling of regret I get from listening to him is because it was all such a pipe dream, such a delusion, such a willful ignoring of reality, and so full of juvenile arrogance to boot.  And hearing him today brings on another shade of sadness as well:  for there is an entire political party in my country which hasn't gotten over Mr. Lennon's ideas.

These people hold that it's somehow cowardly to follow established ways, that the sheepish accept the definitions of the world which are handed to them, while the brave ones refuse to be told how things are.  But it's no kind of courage to insist that red is really blue, however much you may want it to be that way.  It takes far more backbone to recognize unpleasant realities for what they are and to call a thing by its real name.  It's no more than childish to refuse to acknowledge a fact just because you didn't invent it.  That steadfast refusal to accept reality has produced the social chaos we live with today, while the habit of realism is fertile ground for the growth of its sublime cousin.

The "Mind Games" mentality traps itself in a focus on the external and superficial, forever fussing about what we call a thing instead of what it really is, what color a person is instead of who he really is, and what the rest of the world thinks of America instead of what we really stand for.  The renaming of creation is the opening gambit of the liberal campaign, and it cannot move on until it wins the first skirmish.  But reality is a stubborn thing, and women still want to be mothers however much they are told otherwise; men still have the desire to provide for and protect, however much that desire is denigrated; boys will still be boys, and girls will be girls.  So the John Lennons never get beyond first base, and the rest of the busy world moves beyond them.  Their cries grow shriller even as they grow fainter, and, like the baby crying for the moon, they continue to demand the future while ignoring today.  It's very fitting that the typical scion of today's Democrats is the Hollywood Liberal, attending his glittering parties where he strikes his avant-garde poses.  "Their parties grow later and later at night", said Chesterton, "for they are trying to live tomorrow."

 

Copyright Copyright 2020 by Michael R. Bowen, MD & America's Voices, Inc.  All rights reserved.
Dr. Michael Bowen, a former Naval officer, has a private medical practice in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.  He writes the weekly column
"The Basics" and the occasional guest column "Mixed Reviews" for America's Voices, a conservative political opinion and educational web site.  His columns also appear in other popular Internet sites, including Opinionet.com and Enterstageright.com.  E-mail Dr. Bowen at mbowen@americasvoices.org.

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