What is Fascism?

“Like all sound political conceptions, Fascism is action and it is thought; action in which doctrine is immanent, and doctrine arising from a given system of historical forces in which it is inserted, and working on them from within.”

-The Doctrine of Fascism

That doesn’t really answer the question.  In my efforts to answer this question for myself, I did a bit of research and found nothing from Mussolini which clearly modeled what is commonly called fascism today.  I did find more modern information which didn’t really define fascism, but gave lists of the tools for fascism which tend to be contradictory in places.  Mostly, fascism is just an insult to be hurled at anyone who insists on something you oppose, but that doesn’t suit political discussion so we need something more.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that fascism is, at its core, a political philosophy which views the state, and its leadership, as more important than the populace it would serve while establishing, as a civic duty, the need for each person to serve the state and its economy to their fullest ability, even when this doesn’t benefit them.

With such a vague definition, I decided I’d make my own list of fascist tools used to influence the populace to serve the state.  Any one of these tools is likely to be used by prominent men and women of all stripes, but I’d argue that if any politician, party, or nation utilizes a majority of these tools, it could be considered fascist.

1. Patriotic Nationalism

The belief that our nation is inherently better than all others in most or all areas regardless of evidence to the contrary, coupled with a disdain for anyone who would show disrespect to our nation, such as refusing to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem.  Flags abound, whether they’re flying above a court yard or pinned to a lapel.

2. Ethnic or Cultural Nationalism

The belief that our people are inherently better than all others, placing people from other ethnicities/cultures beneath us and less deserving of rights.

3. Scapegoating

The belief that some other or conglomeration of others is the cause of our problems, be they a minority group within our nation or some outside group manipulating our nation from afar.

4. Military Adoration

The belief that any man who would wear the uniform of our nation must be beyond reproach.  We ignore crimes committed by our soldiers and their superiors and castigate anyone who calls our attention to them.

5. Toxic Nostalgia

The belief that, not only were things better before, nothing was bad then.  Women were happy in the home, gays didn’t need equal treatment because they didn’t exist and “no one was singing the blues.”

6. Anti-intellectualism

The belief that academics will ultimately undermine our culture, possibly bringing an end to civilization as we accept it.

7. National Security Obsession

The belief that the “wolves are at the gate” and only one party or leader can protect us from this threat, real or imagined.  We must shore up our defenses, be the dominant military force on the planet and attack our enemies before they develop the ability to attack us.

8. Obsession with Law and Order

The belief that criminals are beneath the common populace and not deserving of the same rights or even due process once accused.  If a police officer kills a suspect, there must have been just cause; if a police officer doesn’t kill a suspect, we should lock the suspect up and throw away the key.

9. Human Rights Violations

The belief that the ends always justify the means of human costs.  If there’s a ticking bomb, torture becomes acceptable; if civilians don’t want to be bombed, they shouldn’t live near combatants.

10. Corporatism

Favoring major corporations with low, non-existent or even negative tax rates while ignoring their regulatory violations and worker abuses.  Sometimes allowing them to pay fines that are more profitable than correcting the violation, other times going so far as to strip away the consumer, worker and environmental protections we have in place at their request.

11. Cronyism

Favoring specific individuals or organizations, perhaps those who helped those in power to attain it, with no bid contracts or undeserved, high ranking positions.

12. Media Manipulation

Taking steps to ensure that reporters “tow the party line” whether through direct instruction from the government, media outlet takeover by corporate allies or advertising boycotts by those same allies.

13. Electoral Manipulation

Rigging elections, suppressing the vote, barring political opponents from participating or fraudulently accusing opponents of doing the same.

14. Mass Surveillance

Utilizing surveillance, not only to target criminals who are known be involved in illegal activity, but casting a wider net to find anyone who might be involved in crime or, worse yet, organized disloyalty.

15. Leader Worship

Elevating the leader to a status above the general populace.  Rallies are held in the leader’s honor and photos or portraits are prominently displayed in homes or offices.

Using this list to evaluate the political elite, can you think of anyone who exhibits these traits?  Can you think of many who don’t?

Edited on August 16, 2017 to add Item 15: Leader Worship.
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Important Bills Before the 64th Wyoming Legislature

The 64th Wyoming Legislature has been in session for two weeks now and, understanding that most people have neither the time nor interest to read and evaluate 342 different bills as I’ve done, I’ve decided to give a summary on those bills I consider to be important.  This list is broken down into 4 categories:  those I support, those I oppose, those I consider important but do not feel inclined to give an opinion of and those where my opinion is conflicted.  There is a 5th category or bills which I consider unimportant or serve administrative maintenance purposes which won’t interest people.  That category is not included.  I’ll start with the smallest category, only containing two bills.

CONFLICT

SF0063  Department of family services-statutory amendments.

This bill starts off as administrative maintenance, addressing background checks for caregivers of vulnerable people.  From there it goes on to adjusting the Low Income Home Energy Assistance and Weatherization Program (LIEAP) income threshold from 60% of “median income” to 60% of “median household income,” which I support, and cutting the time limit to appeal a case review from 30 business days to 10 business days, which I oppose.

HB0153  Parental rights.

This bill references protecting a parent’s right to control their child’s “upbringing, education and care.”  Having seen instances of a family’s religious and cultural beliefs being detrimental, or even deadly, to a child, I’m reluctant to support this despite agreeing with the premise in general.

SUPPORT

HB0008  Student data privacy, security and transparency.

This bill prohibits the sale or sharing of any K-12 student data with commercial interests outside of vendors to the schools who are limited to only using it for the intended purposes.  Something I think everyone can get behind.

HB0009  Student ownership and privacy rights.

This bill protects ownership and privacy of college student writings and communications regardless of their being stored on school systems, allowing for access only as needed to solve technical problems and prohibiting the sharing of any knowledge received through accidental or administrative access unless Federal law requires the sharing of such information.

HB0013  Investment of public funds.

This bill requires that anyone investing money on behalf of a state agency must act as a fiduciary, placing the state’s financial interest above their own.

HB0029  Deposits by political subdivisions.

This bill is really a matter of administrative maintenance, allowing for political subdivisions to place money into a credit union when no bank is available with 10 miles, but provisions that allow government funds to enter member owned financial institutions are preferred over prohibiting it.  It would be preferable to exclude the requirement that no bank be available within 10 miles, but we’ll take what we can get.

HB0046  Permanent absentee voter status.

This bill allows people to apply for absentee voter status electronically and on a permanent basis, making democracy more accessible to those who may not have sufficient means of transportation.

HB0053  Vehicle registration-rebuttable presumption.

This bill is intended to address the issue of tax evaders who live in Wyoming, where there is no income tax, and set up shell corporations to purchase and own vehicles in Montana, where there is no sales tax.  In cases where a vehicle was determined to be owned by a shell corporation from outside Wyoming, but maintained, driven or stored by a Wyoming resident, the holder of the vehicle would be judged to be the owner and be required to pay Wyoming sales tax and registration.

HB0060  State investment policy.

This is an administrative maintenance bill which gives the Treasurer’s office more flexibility in diversifying investment funds.

HB0062  Immunity for drug overdose reporting.

This bill provides immunity for drug charges for people who have reported an overdose by themselves or a companion and remained at the scene or traveled to the hospital while complying with law enforcement orders thereafter.

HB0068  Election ballots.

This bill would allow all absentee ballots postmarked on or before election day and received before the final count of such ballots to be counted whereas current law requires that absentee ballots be received before 7:00 pm on election day, making democracy more accessible as HB0046 does.

HB0075  Automatic restoration of the right to vote.

This bill reinstates the right to vote of a nonviolent felon automatically upon completion of sentence, including probation and parole.  More accessible democracy.

HB0079  State funds equity investments pool.

Like HB0060, this bill provides greater diversity of investment.

HB0080  Transportation network companies.

This bill lays the groundwork for companies like Uber and Lyft to enter the state.

HB0081  Hemp extract amendments.

This bill allows a legal guardian to administer medicinal hemp extract to an adult dependent.

HB0089  Judges of first class cities-retention elections.

This bill creates retention elections for municipal judges, giving the people the opportunity to voice their opposition to a judge whose performance has been unsatisfactory.

HB0122  Death with dignity.

This bill allows a patient to be prescribed life ending medication provided a list of conditions have been met in advance.

HB0140  Minimum wage.

This bill mandates a state minimum wage of $9.50 with a minimum ‘tip credit’ wage of $5.50.

HB0144  New trial based on actual innocence.

This bill allows a person convicted of a crime to move for a new trial based on new evidence of their innocence.

HB0145  Possession of controlled substances-subsequent offenses.

This bill makes our state’s drug laws marginally less draconian.

HB0151  Cigarette tax.

While, as a smoker, I certainly don’t want to pay more for cigarettes, I do want to discourage nonsmokers from picking up the habit.  This bill would increase cigarette taxes by 50% and alter the distribution.  Look to HB0168 for a more aggressive version.

HB0157  Marihuana possession of less than three ounces.

While showing why there’s such a need for administrative maintenance in the law, this “marihuana” bill does some good work in making the maximum punishment for less than 3 ounces of marijuana or 500 milligrams of tetrahydrocannibinol “a civil penalty  of not more than” $200.

HB0159  Homeless minors.

This bill allows for homeless minor of age 16 or higher to enter into contracts of their own will.

HB0168  Tobacco tax.

This is a far more aggressive tobacco tax than HB0151, bringing more benefits for society and more downsides for smokers.

HB0194  School safety and security.

While I may lose some of my progressive friends over my views on the matter, I’ve long held that the people responsible for the security of an establishment should be allowed to carry weapons regardless of the nature of that establishment.  This bill would allow school faculty (who are responsible for the safety and security of the children in their care) to carry handguns.  I would argue to amend the law to require any member of a school faculty who does carry a firearm to take part in extensive and continued training for such.

HB0206  Asset forfeiture.

This bill requires that all proceeds from civil asset forfeiture go into the state’s general fund, thereby removing the incentive for the abuse that has been a significant problem in other states.

HB0209  Disparity in wages and benefits between men and women.

This bill expands a 2003 study on wage disparity in the state, getting into the weeds on specific disparity within locales, professions, etc.  I believe it could put an end to the argument of how much disparity exists when you consider differences in industry.

HJ0005  Mineral excise tax deposits-constitutional amendment.

This resolution calls for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution to redirect funds from the Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund to the General Fund from 2019 to 2025.  This could do a great deal to help our current budget concerns.

SF0020  Student digital information privacy.

Similar to HB0009.  Postponed indefinitely.

SF0030  Jail placement coordination.

This is administrative maintenance, but of a variety that is very important when dealing with holding detainees from other states.  There is some sloppy language in (b)(iv) that should be cleaned up.

SF0031  Genetic information privacy.

This bill makes genetic information strictly confidential except as used in criminal investigations and determination of paternity.

SF0033  Computer extortion.

This bill sets forth policy for prosecuting the use of “ransomware” when both the perpetrator and victim are located within the state.

SF0034  Student Personal Digital Information Protection Act.

Similar to HB0008.

SF0042  Opiate overdose emergency treatment.

This bill allows first responders other than EMTs to administer Naloxone and similar drugs to save victims of opiate overdose and pharmacists to dispense it to anyone who makes a request.

SF0057  Motor vehicle franchises-exception.

This bill allows a vehicle manufacturer with no franchisees in the state to perform direct sales, a problem Tesla has faced.

SF0068  Net metering-generation capacity.

This bill increases the peak capacity for net metering systems (where household wind or solar generation is sold to the utility company) from 25 kilowatts to 50 kilowatts.

SF0115  Malicious cruelty to animals.

This law makes it a felony to intentionally kill you neighbors dog for no reason.  Kind of a no brainer.

SF0116  Medicaid expansion-authorization.

Medicaid Expansion.  I don’t think I need to say any more.

SF0118  Food freedom act-sales locations.

This bill allows for the say of food that was not commercially prepared so long as the buyer is informed that it has not undergone standard inspection for food safety.

SF0119  Grand Teton National Park-transfer of state lands.

Amidst all the talk of transferring federal land to the state, this bill authorizes the sale of state land within Grand Teton National Park to the federal government, bringing in some money and possibly saving more.

SJ0001  Right of privacy and right to know.

This resolution calls for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution enshrining the right to privacy.

SJ0007  Depositories for state funds-constitutional amendment.

Similar to HB0029, this resolution for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution would allow state funds to be deposited into credit unions if they offered a superior interest rate.

OPPOSE

HB0020  Honor and remember flag.

This is meant to allow state offices to raise the “Honor and Remember Flag” in conjunction with the American Flag, but section 1 subsection (e) reads, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the acquisition, erection and maintenance of a flagpole or the display of the honor and remember flag where a pole or display of the national flag does not already exist.”  Through strict legal interpretations, it could be argued that this bill requires the “Honor and Remember Flag” to be flown any place where the national flag is flown, which would be very good for whoever holds the copyright, but bad for the rest of us.

HB0070  Occupational safety and health administration actions.

This bill adds an attempt to neuter OSHA onto law that already attempts to do that to the EPA.  Since OSHA exists for the purpose of protecting workers, I can only assuming that the intent of this bill is to harm workers.

HB0104  Severance tax on coal.

This bill lowers the severance tax on coal.  Since the coal business is driven by demand, rather than price, this will only reduce our already strained revenue in Wyoming.

HB0116  Abortion amendments.

This prohibits aborting a viable fetus giving the fuzzy definition for viable of when the fetus is able to feel pain and prohibits using fetal tissue for scientific research, which I would argue is the one good thing to come from abortion.

HB0127  Wind energy production tax-2.

This bill raises our wind energy tax (the only one in the nation as I understand) 400%.  This is not intended to raise revenue, it’s intended to prevent the development of wind energy in our state, which is among the highest potential in the nation.

HB0132  Reporting of abortions.

This is intended to create a little more hassle for our states abortion providers and get the people to accept a little more restriction.

HB0135  Government Nondiscrimination Act.

In masterful Orwellian fashion, this bill actually makes it illegal for the state to take any action, including choosing not to do business with, companies which are known for discrimination.

HB0136  Campus carry.

I’m generally okay with campus carry, but I am not okay with carrying into sporting events (which this bill specifically includes) or carrying into any place where the person in charge of that place chooses to prohibit carry.

HB0137  Wyoming Repeal Gun Free Zones Act.

All of the places where we prohibit the general public from carrying guns are places where rational people tend to enter and become irrational for one reason or another.  To think that this doesn’t apply to government meetings is insane.

HB0146  State funds-prohibit investment in Iran and Cuba.

In addition to the fact that this provides no benefit, only serving to maintain enemies where it’s not necessary to have them, it will become impossible to invest in major index funds (or the majority of the companies represented therein) once American businesses start moving into Cuba if this bill is passed.

HB0167  Photo ID voting requirement.

Textbook voter disenfranchisement which is completely useless against the concern it claims to address.

HB0169  Prohibited firearms-business and commercial establishments.

Making business owners liable for harm that may come to people if they forbid firearms on their property.  I can’t.  If nothing else, look at the bill so you can see the 8 names everyone needs to vote against in the future.

HB0172  Severance tax-exemption.

Like HB0104, this will have no effect on production, it will simply give the money that is otherwise slated for our state and give it to the fossil fuel industry.

HB0181  Government contracts-labor organizations.

Standard anti-union bill, because being right to work isn’t enough.

HB0182  Abortion–ultrasound information.

Another chip at abortion law.

HB0197  Marihuana and THC products policy reform act.

Similar to HB0157, which I support, but it goes in the other direction.  In a show of their complete lack of understanding on the subject, they raised the threshold for THC product possession to be a felony up to 8 ounces, 453 times what the threshold is in the pro-marijuana bill that I support, or about $3,400 worth.

HB0207  Restrictions on public benefits.

A bill prohibiting undocumented immigrants from receiving non-emergency assistance.  In addition to the fact that this is almost certainly not a noteworthy concern, most undocumented immigrants actually paying for benefits they can never receive, the only barrier to getting a visa in this country should be a previous deportation for far more serious crimes.

HJ0002  Balanced budget amendment-resolution.

This Article V Resolution calls for a balanced budget in the federal government.  While that may be nice in theory, and the resolution does include a provision for declared emergencies, deficit spending is necessary in hard economic times and the laws governing the Social Security Administration would cause a complete shut down if the SS Trust Fund couldn’t purchase US government debt.

HJ0004  Anti boycott, divestment and sanction resolution.

While this resolution aims to fight antisemitism, which is an admirable goal, it assumes that all opposition to the nation of Israel is a function of antisemitism rather than opposition to the current governments extreme right wing ideology.  Until there’s a lasting peace in Israel with Palestinians being granted equal representation or a separate state, we have to make room for the possibility that some organizations will oppose Israel on legitimate humanitarian concerns.

SF0032  Peace officer recordings.

This bill would make police recordings strictly confidential without a court order.  In my arguments concerning the right to privacy, I often hear the words “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”  Police officers, in the course of their official interactions with the public are acting as agents of the government and therefore have no right to hide the things they fear.

SF0070  Manufacturing machinery exemption sunset date.

This bill pushes an exemption on sales tax for manufacturing equipment from 2017 to 2027.  I might support this in good times, but these are not good times.  Sales tax is a minor part of a manufacturers overhead.  The state has a greater need.

SF0071  Electricity production standard.

This bill pretends to be administrative maintenance to clarify the buying and selling of electricity, but it conveniently excludes commercial wind and solar energy production from the “eligible generating resource” list, making it illegal for Wyoming utility companies to sell energy from those sources to their customers.

SF0075  Firearm possession and purchases.

This bill prohibits people on the “terrorist watchlist” from purchasing firearms which I would support, except that the terrorist watchlist is a list of people who have never been convicted of a crime or adjudicated to be mentally unstable.  We have actual, serious threats we should focus on prohibiting from purchasing firearms.  Then we can look into the boogeyman.

SF0094  Franchise business relationships.

This bill clarifies that franchisees and their employees are in no way to be considered employees of their respective franchisors.  When considering that franchisors tend to dictate every aspect of a franchisees business, this doesn’t pass muster.

SF0101  Unemployment compensation exemption-seasonal employment.

This bill exempts seasonal employment from unemployment compensation.  This is despite the fact that the receipt of unemployment income during layoffs is a part of the compensation structure for seasonal workers.  If someone wants to raise the minimum wage for seasonal workers to $30 an hour, I might reconsider this.

SJ0103  Public lands-constitutional amendment.

This is the federal land transfer amendment.  The only people who want this are paid by the mineral industry.

SJ0005  Countermand amendment.

This is an Article V resolution calling for the ability for the states to overturn federal law, essentially bringing us back to a confederacy.

NO OPINION

HB0049  Mountain daylight saving time.

This bill would eliminate the state of Wyoming’s observance of Daylight Savings Time making our time always Greenwich Mean Time minus 6.  I’ve always considered DST to be rather pointless, and there is evidence that car accidents and health problems are more common when the time changes, but this is also how we’ve always done it, at least for a couple generations.  There is a question of how we’d adapt to a new system.

HB0050  Limitations on delegates-constitution amendment conventions.

This bill deals with the way delegates to an Article V convention can conduct themselves, requiring that they only vote for amendments that have been approved by the legislature.  It’s a reasonable requirement, but due to the process of holding an Article V convention, I don’t think it’s relevant.

HB0141  Daylight saving time-exemption.

This is a simplified version of HB0049.  Apparently there are a number of people who feel strongly about it.

HB0160  Handgun purchases.

This bill would create a 3 day waiting period for the purchase of handguns.  I’ve made my views on the Second Amendment clear, but I don’t consider a 3 day wait to be an infringement.

HB0201  Presidential primary elections.

This bill would change our presidential selection from a caucus to a primary.  While I see the benefits of both systems, I just can’t bring myself to decide which I would prefer.

HB0208  Attorney general-elected official.

This bill would make the Attorney General of Wyoming an elected position.  While I generally prefer more elections for major positions, I’m not sure it’s always the right way to go.

HJ0001  Convention for proposing constitutional amendments.

This Article V resolution would again work toward a balanced budget, without setting specific restrictions, and work to institute term limits for Congress.

HJ0003  Single subject amendment resolution.

This Article V resolution works to constitutionally require federal laws to be limited to a single subject.

HJ0006  Budget shortfall reserve accounts.

This resolution calls for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution to set out rules on how the LSRA and similar accounts are handled.

SF0087  Countermand amendment provisions.

This is SJ0005 all over again, but done in a way that I don’t believe is valid.  I’m unsure of this.

SJ0004  Wyoming civil rights amendment.

This resolution, masquerading as a move for civil rights, is actually an effort to end affirmative action policies.  While I’m tempted to oppose it for that reason, I can’t confirm that affirmative action practices are necessary or used by any public institution in Wyoming.

SJ0006  Public instruction constitutional amendment.

This resolution is to amend the Wyoming Constitution to state that any school financing adopted by the legislature is automatically assumed to be valid.  I don’t understand the purpose of this and that gives me cause for concern but, as cited with SJ0004, I won’t oppose something on the grounds that I don’t fully understand the impact.

Now that I’ve gotten through that list, I’d like to mention two resolutions I’ve been fighting to see included here that are not present.  The first is Wolf PAC‘s Article V resolution to Restore Free and Fair Elections and the other is a resolution I wrote Specifying Electoral Finance Limits.

If you have a strong opinion on any of these issues, call your legislators today.  Call them tomorrow.  Keep calling until they listen.


Why I’ll Hold My Nose and Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils

I’ve never been inclined to endorse voting for the lesser of two evils. In the four presidential elections of my adult life, I’ve voted for a Republican once (as a foolish child of 18 when my conservative upbringing led me to believe that Bush was a better option than Gore) and for a Democrat once (when I realized the error I had made with Bush and voted for Kerry). Since then, I’ve voted Libertarian, despite my irreconcilable differences with that party on economic issues, because they’re the third party with the greatest chance in Wyoming and I want to draw attention with the problems found in our electoral process.

 
This year changes that. I was a very hopeful supporter of Bernie Sanders over the last year. His candidacy not only led me to decide that the Democratic Party was the right place for me, but it inspired me, a delivery driver with one semester of college education, to run for office and do my part to take political power away from the establishment forces I’ve opposed since 2004. Sadly, the majority of voters in Democratic primaries and caucuses in our nation chose to vote for Hillary Clinton, bringing us politics as usual, and another choice for the lesser of two evils.
 
The thing keeping me from voting for a third party in protest this year is the greater evil, another anti-establishment candidate, but one who can not be allowed to win. We all know, from long years of experience in this political system, that politics as usual is safe. Despite the promises, there is a mix of slight improvement and slight deterioration with little real change. Hillary Clinton may not usher in a golden age of progressivism, but she’s also not going to jeopardize our national and global security.
 
Conversely, the Republican nominee is an unthinkable monster. Not only has he vowed to build an impossible wall to keep Mexicans out of our country and instate an unconscionable ban to keep Muslims out all while reducing revenue to a point where we could not have a functioning government, but he’s indicated that he would violate NATO (which has kept the western world at peace since 1949) and has suggested that preemptive nuclear strikes would be a useful tool against our enemies who he’s doing everything he can to increase in numbers. We can not allow this madman to take the presidency.
 
The time for third party candidates is coming. In the next two decades, we may have a President who has neither a D nor an R behind their name. For this election, though, we need to ensure that we have a president who will allow our government to continue to function through those future elections. If you’re planning on voting for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson in this election, I commend you on your commitment to voting your conscience, but take a moment to consider what may happen to our nation and our world if Trump wins. Successive generations are counting on us.

On the Need for Self Improvement

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility is being superior to you former self.”

In trying to find the source of this quote, I’ve come to the conclusion that, apparently, everyone said it. To me, this is simply further evidence of what I already suspected: it is absolutely true.

Many people seem to find a comfortable level of success and competency and settle into complacency immediately afterward. This is, perhaps, the greatest sin a man can commit against himself. If you are not making a concerted effort to improve, you are likely diminishing. At best, you’re stagnating while the rest of the world improves, leaving you behind.

None of us will ever be perfect. We can always be smarter, faster, stronger, more virtuous, etc. I encourage everyone to seek out their failings, just one at a time if necessary (I have far too many to tackle all at once), and make yourself better in that regard. Whether your pursuit of a superior self means being able to deadlift 500 lbs., speak another language, or live more morally, the effort will not only bring you toward that particular goal. It will bring the core of your being toward greater ease with any accomplishment.

The one thing that causes life to thrive in every fashion is a surmountable struggle. It’s what took primitive hominids, only capable of surviving on the plains of Africa, to every patch of land this planet has to offer, with brief stints on the waters in between, and one day, land that our planet isn’t even offering. Just as this almost magical force can drive a species to better itself, it can drive an individual to better himself. While you may think to yourself, “I’m the crocodile in this scenario: the apex predator with no further need to evolve,” you’ll likely find that you’re actually the Tasmanian tiger. Once you stop bettering yourself, the chances of a new factor entering the habitat powerful enough to remove you skyrocket.

The other great advantage of pursuing those surmountable struggles at every opportunity is that the more and more you improve, the fewer insurmountable struggles exist for you. A slow man can’t outrun a threat, but if he continuously takes part in challenges which just exceed his capacity, he becomes faster and his ability to avoid danger increases. Granted, the primary purpose of this is not simply to be able to survive life threatening situations, though this is obviously important, but that’s an easy example to illustrate the issue.

In our modern society, complete with cars, emergency services, and supermarkets, the struggles aren’t ever present, as they were for our ancestors who had a daily fight to ensure they had the food and shelter required to survive long enough to do it again tomorrow. While I don’t argue that scaling back to the point where daily survival is a concern is the way to go (in fact, it would be a hindrance as we couldn’t then take advantage of our intellect to guide our improvement), we need a replacement for that. You must find a daily struggle for something. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same thing every day, or it could be multiple things each day, but you have to test your limits in some way. The more you do so, the further those limits will extend from your starting point.

Run, lift weights, do math drills, try to come up with compelling topics for your blog (and I hope I’m not stretching too much this early in my own endeavor). Figure out a way to better yourself and commit to it every day. When the day is over, evaluate your performance and set a specific goal for the next day. Just keep improving until it seems pointless to take the pursuit any further, then maintain your new found level of excellence while also looking for the next thing to improve.

Nobody ever made history by putting in forty hours a week and spending the rest of their time sitting on the couch watching TV. Comfort will kill you if you embrace it entirely. You have to go out, find things you can’t do, and keep trying until you can. Stagnation is death.

God Doesn’t Need Your Help

The almighty. Alpha and Omega. Creator of all things on earth and beyond. Somehow the all-powerful, if you believe conservative religious leaders, is going to get His feelings hurt by humans not showing the proper level of respect. Why do so many seem to think they need to right the presumed wrongs against God? In our country, in the president day, it’s pretty tame.

We (and I’ll stress that I’m not actually included in that ‘we’) argue against gay marriage and shun those who don’t believe or violate religious law (at least the laws on which we choose to focus). But we don’t kill people. That’s something the Muslims do. The uneducated barbarians fighting one another in the desert. No Christian would ever do that. Unless they’re from some nation whose education level is equivalent to that in ISIS controlled territory. Then it’s no holds barred and the movements behind those killings (and even laws attempting to assign the death penalty for violation of religious law) are largely funded by American Christians.

So, we’re not that far removed from the savagery we saw recently in Paris. You might point to that particular event and say, “You see? They were Muslims living in a first world nation. Christians aren’t like that.” In return, I’d simply point you in the direction of Anders Breivik.

As I look over all the teachings of Jesus, I see a lot of things about peace, and forgiveness, and rendering unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. I would say that the domain of civil and criminal law is definitely something which belongs to Caesar (or the latest stand in, our respective governments, though this is primarily directed at the religious right movement in the US). I don’t see anything about enforcing the laws of the Old Testament on those who should not be considered to be bound to them. That seems to be a later creation, specifically brought up to allow religious authority (which is after all, the dominant authority a man will generally be willing submit himself to) to hold sway over all the land. In essence, it is a more efficient way for the successors of Caesar to have more.

So why do we have this need to insure that others are paying our God the proper level of respect? Sure, if I happen to be walking past an Asatruar and he randomly says to me, “You’re God is a bitch.” I might take issue with that. He doesn’t know my God, so he should shut his mouth. Conversely, if I’m walking past an Asatruar and he’s eating pork or working on the Sabbath (those rules we don’t actually pay attention to) it’s none of my business. That’s his life. If, when it’s over, he stands before the God of Abraham and is judged to be lacking, I’m not affected. Similarly, if he is judged a good and noble warrior by Odin, I’m still not affected. The details of appropriate religious life for others are not our concern.

What I’m getting at is that if your interpretation (or your preacher’s if you feel a need to have an intermediary between you and God) of the bible includes rules against abortion, or homosexuality, or eating shellfish, don’t do those things. I certainly have no intention of doing them, though the shellfish part I’ve tried and simply didn’t like. The laws of government should be limited to those things which carry a measurable harm. You’ll notice that we have no laws concerning six of the Ten Commandments and two out of the four we observe in a legal capacity are pretty much gray areas. That’s the big ten and we only really care about two. Homosexuality didn’t even make that list. And abortion? Well I’ll leave you to your own bible study to figure out how that should be dealt with, but I’ll remind you that it applies to those who adhere to your religion, not society at large.

Just as we should not be assigning the punishment prescribed in Leviticus (I would not be willing to remain in any society that did) we shouldn’t be writing laws that mirror those of Leviticus. You live your life in accordance with the way you believe God wants you to, and let others do the same. God can make the judgments on who’s lived righteously or wickedly.

Man Up

There seems to be a movement lately, specifically opposed to phrases such as “man up”. The assumption behind this is apparently that saying a man should be strong, confident, responsible, ambitious, etc. somehow implies that women are the opposite of these things. While I’m all for gender equality and believe women are capable of matching men in most of these categories (with physical strength being the only exception), this seems to be leading to young men being taught that these values are bad. Due to this, the vast majority of young men either fit into the category of “nice guys” (read emotionally weak) and “bad boys” (emotionally abusive) with a growing segment in between of pick up artists (nice guys pretending to be bad boys for the purposes of getting women to sleep with them and corollaries in the workplace and among non-romantic relationships).

The concept of traditional masculinity as somehow harmful seems to be based entirely on the brutish outliers who may beat their wives or commit rape. I find this equation of anyone displaying masculine traits to such depraved examples deeply offensive. Honorable, manly men have always been the ones to stand up to defend women from the threats they face as a result of their inherent physical and economic disadvantage. To say those men are no better than the ones who would do the same women harm is unconscionable. Men come in all types, of course, and there will always be some who use their advantages to cause harm, but there will doubtlessly be more who condemn the brutes and even a few noble men who actively fight against them. That is, of course, assuming those noble men aren’t trapped in the mentality of the nice guy.

Thankfully, there’s a small, but growing, population of men trying to man up. Some came by this naturally but I imagine the majority, myself included, are reformed nice guys who’ve found a better approach to getting respect (from others and themselves) than those who are just playing at being bad boys.

These men are working to improve themselves rather than follow the same old routine while blaming the world around them for their shortcomings. Those who aren’t happy with their physical strength commit to a dedicated weight lifting routine. Those who are shy around women make it a point to talk to women who intimidate them without following a formula handed to them by some morally bankrupt pick up guru. Those who are unhappy with their knowledge or mental acuity read thought provoking books and engage in mental games. Those who are completely happy with every aspect of their being recognize that happiness as a sickness and work to identify their flaws so they can then work to improve on them. This is what it takes to be a respectable man.

While I’m reluctant to blame feminism for the degradation of respectable masculinity, the new wave movement is at least a suitable marker for the time things started changing. When my father, born in 1952, fell off a building he was painting, temporarily losing the use of one arm (I actually forget which as this was about 25 years ago) no one had to tell him to man up. He stood up, lit a cigarette, and waited for the boss to check in later on in the day so he could get a ride to the hospital (cell phones being few and far between in those days). If I were in the same position, I likely would have cried for a bit before breaking the customer’s window so I could go in and use their phone to deal with the emergency situation, causing a horrible blow to the company image (though that wouldn’t actually happen as I would have quit my job rather than put myself in a position where falling that far was a possibility in the first place; just the idea of falling terrifies me).

Like myself, men today (at least the under forty crowd) don’t seem to be out in the world being men. Instead, we find a job with a decent pay level (or the best we can get) and reasonable job security and spend our forty hours a week there so we can then spend the remaining 128 sitting at home, watching TV and maybe eating, drinking, and smoking too much. I’m endeavoring to change that myself, though I’ve struggled with the difficulty in altering one’s mindset, and I encourage others to do the same.

Whether your failings as a man are due to the influences of feminism, overly cautious parenting, or just too much time spent in the emotional escapism of watching TV, it’s up to you to fix it. Read daily, join a gym and commit to a dedicated training program, learn new skills, pick up a hobby that involves being productive (and maybe even profitable) and take a moment to say hi to that pretty girl (or that pretty boy, your position as a man is in no way predicated on your sexual preference) that would probably never give you the time of day. Take steps to make yourself uncomfortable so you can become better. Coddling is for children.

Be a modern, enlightened man, concerned with gender equality and ensuring that women have the same opportunities as men, but also look back at men of the past to see their strengths and emulate them. Standing up for yourself and others is not a personality flaw. It’s what makes us men.

Basically, man up.

Love is a Verb

I’ve had these thoughts in my head for a long time without sharing them with anyone beyond touting the catchphrase found in this title. With Valentine’s Day coming this Saturday (as little as I’m concerned with the holiday itself) it seems like an appropriate time to share my thoughts with the world.

Modern society seems to think of love as a noun. Some sort of external thing which we can fall into or out of as the fates decide. As a result, modern couples rarely stick together. The divorce rate, slightly better in recent years than it was ten years ago is still unbelievably high and I suspect that the only reason it’s been dropping lately is because so few of my generation have bothered to get married. Some may argue that the higher divorce rate now is due to the fact that in the past, people in unhappy relationships were trapped by archaic societal rules which identified any person who ended their marriage as inherently bad. While this argument may hold some merit, if you look at those couples of the past, trapped by their anachronistic marriages, I think you’ll find that they were generally happier than the modern divorcee. The question is: what made them happier and their marriages more successful?

I believe it’s a function of having a different attitude toward love. I (and I suspect the generation of my great grandparents as well) think of love as an action. Something you have to choose to do, and continue doing day in and day out. Historians, looking into the personal effects of prominent men and women of a few generations ago, can tell you it’s common to find love letters written twenty or even fifty years into arranged marriages that show the same enthusiasm and far more dedication than you’ll find six months into a new marriage where the couple chose one another. While I’m certainly not inclined to argue in favor of arranged marriages, I will argue in favor of what I think made those marriages work so well despite the people involved having no concern for one another in the beginning. That thing which did so much for marriages of the past was, in my estimation, the action of love.

Bear in mind, love doesn’t require grand gestures. Flowers and jewelry, while certainly nice, do a poor job of defining a relationship. What it really takes is a conscious decision and desire to make your partner happy, combined with their reciprocation. If both parties contribute to the intention of a happy relationship and home, that is what they’ll have. After all, if you genuinely live to make another happy, and you’re successful in that, you can’t be unhappy.

As I learned from a recent series on the Art of Manliness, Winston Churchill, who may very well have been the most powerful man of his time (certainly in the top five), famously never strayed from his marital bonds despite all the opportunities such position and fame afforded him. While his was not the arranged marriage common to a generation before him and he certainly experienced enough of life to know what he wanted out of it before marrying at age thirty four, to think that such a man, with so many opportunities and an infamous reputation as a drinker could have maintained a happy marriage until his death at ninety shows that the average man or woman should have no trouble maintaining that level of dedication which held the Churchill’s together without fail for fifty six years despite the hardships of the office, during the worst war Europe has faced.

The Churchill’s are just one family to look at for this dedication which kept love alive. If you look back at others, even the letters and diaries of generations past in your own family if you have access to them, you’ll find something similar. A youthful love, conscientiously maintained over decades, which kept a family happy despite the hardships they faced.

The formula I gave above, desire and decision to make the other happy, isn’t magic. It also isn’t something that only people who are now all dead or dying were capable of. You can do it, too. All it takes is changing your attitude toward love. Don’t look toward Romeo and Juliet (a teenage double suicide being a poor model for romance for other, more obvious reasons) for you example. Look at the elderly couples who, after years upon years of boring existence, are still staying by one another, overwhelmed with happiness every time they meet for those who aren’t able to physically stay together in the home. This should be your goal. Real life isn’t exciting. It’s filled with boring people having boring relationships. The good ones, the epic romances, only differ from the rest in that the people involved have made this choice.

If you have a special someone in your life, sit down today and write that person a letter (the value of a handwritten letter being another thing I’ve recently learned from AoM) telling them what you love about them and how you plan to keep them happy in the coming years. If you don’t think that someone special deserves such a letter, figure out why. You may find that it has more to do with you than them.

I have loved four women in my life. Had any one of them made the decision to love me as I had with them rather than simply abiding the whims of their temporary emotions (the thing that people think love is now) I would probably still be in a happy relationship with that person. The only difference in success and failure in this regard is the effort made. In the interest of not playing the victim in the game of love, I’ll point out that there is at least one woman who’s loved me while I contributed far less to the relationship’s continuance. So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, to the women I’ve loved and those who’ve loved me: I’m sorry, I don’t hold it against you, and remember these words in your current or next relationship.

Love is a verb.