He Isn’t the Plucky Hero, the Alliance Isn’t Some Evil Empire

Joss Whedon is a Leftist.  Despite his recent fall from grace on account of saying and doing mean things to actors on set, he believes in the cause.  All of his cinematic and television creations to some extent, are shaped by progressive concepts.  So, it always seemed a very strange thing that he created Firefly.  Based, he said, on a book about the battle of Gettysburg he imagined a universe where the elites defeated the freedom loving proles in an interplanetary civil war and these defeated forces maintained an outlaw existence at the edge of a distant new solar system among pirates and barbarians.

In the cinematic finale of this universe, the elites in the “Alliance” send out an agent to eliminate the renegades that have some dangerous secrets about the government’s experiments with controlling the behavior of the ordinary people.

During one encounter the agent recites the title of this essay.

He is portrayed as a true believer.  He is making a better world, a world free of sin.  And he’ll do this, no matter how many people he has to kill to get there.  The agent is polite, intellectual, cultured and completely ruthless.  Because he thoroughly believes in what he is doing.  In this portrayal I think Whedon was being completely honest in how he evaluated the Left and the Right.  The Left is polite, intellectual, cultured and completely ruthless.  The Right is crude, naïve, boorish and principled.  And for some reason Whedon sympathized with the Right, at least somewhat.  Possibly he recognizes the inherent lack of intellectual freedom that the Left always creates.  As a creative type himself, maybe he could see how restrictive life under this regime would be.

Well, all of the above is just a long digression because the line from the movie seems to encapsulate our reality.  Our rebellion isn’t like Star Wars.  It’s more like Firefly.  We don’t have any plucky heroes who will save the day by blowing up the Death Star.  We’re outnumbered, outgunned, outmatched in money and buried by the media and Corporate America.  The elites have a firm hand on the levers of power and we are just outlaws living on the margins trying to avoid being rounded up and chloroformed like some troublesome stray cats.

And if we look back through history all free societies seem eventually to collapse into oligarchies like ours.  But I haven’t been able to figure out what is the “smart” way to think and act in this environment.  If I had a strong enough stomach I probably should suck up to the elites and try to find a spot among their toadies.  But I’ve always had trouble convincing them I believed in their bilge.  Something about my sense of humor always gets me in trouble.

But what is the right answer?  Is there a way to live in such a society and still have any self-respect?  It doesn’t appear to be the case.  And what about children?  What do you tell them?  Look at the mess we have with Gen Y and Gen Z.  They’re living in a fantasy world and life will completely pass them by without leaving a trace.

So, there’s my thought.  The elites don’t appear to be vulnerable to anything we can do.  And waiting for their decadence to finish them off might take centuries.  I guess eventually Caesar or Theodoric will appear on the scene and we’ll get a different group of oligarchs and different bread and circuses.

But is it impossible to get a Brutus instead of a Caesar?  And not the Brutus who slew Caesar, not Marcus Junius Brutus, but rather his ancestor Lucius Junius Brutus, the one who overthrow the last Etruscan king Tarquinius Superbus and ushered in the Roman Republic.  Is it impossible that a member of the elites would side with freedom over power?  I think the answer is that it is impossible.  And the reason is that no one man, no matter how smart and strong can rearrange an empire once it’s built up.  All that can be done is bend its path slightly for a few years.

So I’ll finish by saying that there are plucky heroes and it is the evil empire and that in their prime, evil empires outlast plucky heroes every time.  It’s in their nature.  Better to look to the fringes of empire for where the successor to that empire will appear.

Something Will Have to Give

The New York Times, a former newspaper, published the results of a series of polls that they held in the six most hotly contested “swing” states, between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.  Trump won five out of six.  The only one Biden picked up was Wisconsin which was within the 4% margin of error for the poll.  Of the five Trump won, all but one (Pennsylvania) was outside of the margin of error.

State   Trump   Biden
    %   %
Nevada   52   41
Georgia   49   43
Arizona   49   44
Michigan   48   43
Pennsylvania   48   44
Wisconsin   44   47

 

So, what does this mean?  Well, if I were to guess, I think it means that independents in these states think Biden is doing a lousy job running the country.  And since the independents are the least ideological voters, their opinion is probably the most objective.  Two thirds of independents are saying they’d rather vote for the guy who is being indicted in four different criminal proceedings in four different jurisdictions around the country.  They’d prefer a man who has been demonized by every news outlet, the FBI and the Justice Department.  And impeached twice by the House of Representatives.  Essentially what they’re saying is, they want to vote for this guy precisely because all of these people say they shouldn’t.

Now imagine if these poll numbers remain where they are or increase right up to Election Day 2024.  And then suppose that we have a rerun of 2020 where the people go to bed on election night with Donald Trump up by insurmountable leads in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan but the polls get shut down without a completed tally and then after a few days or weeks of “finding” absentee ballots Joe Biden miraculously pulls ahead by a few thousand votes.

Well, I think that would be the end of people believing in the electoral system in this country.  After all, the label “banana republic” has already gotten fairly wide currency after the partisan prosecutions that the Justice Department has been indulging in for the last four years.  I’m guessing that comparisons of our electoral system to Sadaam Hussein’s will become quite common after that.

But the important question is, what practical difference will people’s perception of voter fraud make?  I mean, the fraud will still allow Democrats to control the White House and maybe the Congress.  And that will eventually allow the Supreme Court to be packed with progressives.  Will it matter if no one believes in the elections?

I think it will.  It won’t immediately topple the government.  The United States still possess formidable resources and many of its institutions are somewhat functional.  But history has shown that a republic that loses the trust of its citizens in the fairness of its institutions eventually radicalizes the common people and leads to recourse to a revolutionary alternative.

Rome succumbed to revolt once the republican government became corrupt and tyrannical.  And it’s not necessary to go back two thousand years ago to see what happens to a tyrannical government, even a powerful one once the people have lost faith in its legitimacy.  We only have to look at the Soviet Union.  When people discover that elections are fake their relationship to the state is no longer one of ownership.  It becomes purely transactional.  And so, if the government that presides over these fake elections also fails to provide prosperity, then the only thing that can keep it in power is brute force.  Slaves don’t work any harder than they have to.  In the Soviet Union there was a saying, “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.”  Well, we’re headed there.  Inflation means that people are working two jobs and still aren’t able to save up to buy a house.  But they see illegal aliens given free housing and welfare.  I don’t think Americans are ready to live that way.

Something will have to give.

I’ll Wait for the Movie Version

“Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the war of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians as they warred against each other, beginning to write as soon as the war was on foot, with expectation it should prove a great one and most worthy the relation of all that had been before it; conjecturing so much both from this, that they flourished on both sides in all manner of provision, and also because he saw the rest of Greece siding with the one or the other faction, some then presently and some intending so to do. For this was certainly the greatest commotion that ever happened among the Grecians, reaching also to part of the barbarians and, as a man may say, to most nations. For the actions that preceded this and those again that are yet more ancient, though the truth of them through length of time cannot by any means clearly be discovered, yet for any argument that, looking into times far past, I have yet light on to persuade me, I do not think they have been very great, either for matter of war or otherwise.”

In 1629 Thomas Hobbes the philosopher (or we should say the social scientist) translated into English, Thucydides “Peloponnesian War.”  Above is Thucydides’ introduction.  He believed that this was the greatest war that had ever been fought among the Greeks.  And in this belief, he was probably right.  And in a sense every major war that was fought afterward in which European peoples fought amongst themselves became the greatest war.  After the Peloponnesian war, Sparta fought with the other Hellenic city states such as Thebes until they wore each other down.  That allowed the related Macedonian nation to conquer the Greeks and that led to Alexander’s conquest of the Persian empire.  And the squabbling of the successor kingdoms of Alexander’s generals was the incubator for the Roman empire.

But when the rotted corpse of the Caesars’ world disintegrated sometime during the 5th century A.D. it formed the fertile soil that nurtured our Western civilization.  And now the United States of America is approaching the point where it will need a new name.  Calling it a democratic republic is sort of a bad joke.  The form of the government is some kind of self-perpetuating bureaucracy.  And its extent is no longer defined by the outline of the fifty states.  Much like Rome it has many vassal states that while technically not American territory nevertheless are almost completely controlled by America.

And like Rome the American Empire has an enormous amount of momentum.  Even in the midst of precipitous decline in many aspects of its existence the shear mass of this human organization is staggering to behold.  And because of this scope it will take a long time for the creature to die.  Unfortunately, we will be the witnesses to the early stages of this downfall.  And it is already on display.  Just as the Roman republic died with the destruction of the small Roman farmers so our society will degenerate into a feudal existence with the dominance of the corporate oligarchs over small independent businesses.  And in fact, the last few years has greatly accelerated this process.

And our age’s equivalent to the Roman “bread and circuses” is the vision of welfare and the metaverse where everyone commits slow suicide to make room for the depopulated Gaia model.  It almost makes 5th century Rome sound humanistic.

I was recently skimming through Macchiavelli’s “History of Florence.”  It begins with the Fall of Rome and after the Carolingian period quickly devolves into endless petty wars between a long series of German Holy Roman Emperors named Frederic, French Kings named Louis and Neapolitan Dukes named Rodrigo battling the Popes for control of Tuscany and Lombardy.  And it occurred to me that someday that will be North America.  Idiotic descendants of the Pilgrims will be warring endlessly with some Asiatic warlords and Neo-Aztecs for possession of Lake Winnipesaukee.  And if that’s the case then my ancestors might as well have remained in Southern Italy and at least have had the comfort of snow free March weather.

If I were a Stoic, I’d look at the whole thing as the way of the world and just make the best of it without whining about it.  But my ancestors made a tradition of bitterly complaining about just about everything that was outside of their control and just about everything was outside of their control.  At the same time, it meant trying to make the most of the things we could control; family, food and friends.

But just as Thucydides did with Athens and Tacitus did with Republican Rome, we will get a chance to see up close and personal how a once free people get turned into serfs.  It won’t be pretty but it will be momentous.  I hope the movie version has good CGI effects.

Guest Contributor – Jason M – 10JAN2023 – Ancient Roman Concrete – Continued

Ancient Roman Concrete’s Durability Finally Explained

 

I actually work for a cement and concrete manufacturer. I was thinking more along the lines of roads and large buildings in my comments above.

For individuals, I completely agree with you that stronger foundations and floors in homes would be a good thing. The problems of energy to generate heat and cost of transporting the materials are still there. But because it is on a much smaller scale it MIGHT be easier to overcome.

Availability of quick lime might be an issue, as well. At least in some locations.

For pouring a driveway or a garage floor though…I’m still not sold on it.

“Strength” for concrete is a measure of compressive force. It’s measured in PSI. Unfortunately, even a very high PSI concrete can break if its support is somehow undermined. The biggest thing for homeowners is making sure that the foundation is done properly with the correct support around the concrete and diverting water away so that it is not washing or damaging the support in some way.

That being said, there are several methods to avoid the kind of cracks you’re talking about. For anyone reading this… make sure your builders include rebar in your foundations. This goes for driveways, too, although it doesn’t have to be rebar in this case… a simple wire mesh or wire fence laid in the concrete (especially if you’re DYIing it) is probably enough. There is also a fiber that can be added to decrease the likelihood of cracks in driveways, etc. but that’s more for if you’re paying someone to do it. I don’t know that you can buy that kind of concrete unless you’re dealing directly with a seller with the mixer trucks and stuff.

You can also increase the thickness of the concrete. This adds significant cost, but a 9 inch thick driveway would be better than a 6 inch thick driveway. There is a diminishing return here though. Once you get to a certain point, the additional cost is not worth the additional “protection.”

For a foundation, especially, make sure they dig deeply enough to get good ground underneath the concrete. This is one thing I had to be careful of when we built our home. We have horrible dirt. I know it sounds funny, but the kind of dirt we have in this area is really bad for settling. It simply compresses too easily so the weight of a house is going to cause it to settle quickly. I had to make sure that the contractor building my foundation dug deeply enough to get past more of the bad stuff before putting in gravel and pouring concrete. I was fortunate in that the contractor was already doing this which made me feel good about using him for some other projects I had associated with the house.

Finally, do anything you can to ensure proper drainage. Water will erode soil even under your home or driveway or cause the soil to settle.

One thing I learned when I joined my current company is that there are hundreds of “recipes” for cement and that many more “recipes” for concrete. (Cement is essentially the “binder” that holds everything together in concrete.) I don’t know that anyone realized exactly how the Romans did it, but I do know that the manufacturers have MANY “levers” they can pull in order to achieve varying strengths and curing times. They are also constantly testing and experimenting with different additives and other cementitious (It’s a real word… honestly) materials in an effort to lower costs without sacrificing strength, etc.

It was more interesting than I thought it would be, honestly.

Ancient Roman Concrete’s Durability Finally Explained

If you’ve ever seen the concrete in your house’s foundation or on your sidewalks start to crack and crumble after a few years then you might be interested to know that the answer to this sad situation exists in the 2,000 year old Roman Pantheon.  Apparently the Romans were better engineers than we are, at least as far as concrete goes.

Researchers at MIT have been studying the phenomenal longevity of Roman concrete edifices and they’ve discovered that using quick lime instead of slaked lime provides for the more reactive inclusions in the material to actually “self-heal” incipient cracks.

“The benefits of hot mixing are twofold,” Masic says. “First, when the overall concrete is heated to high temperatures, it allows chemistries that are not possible if you only used slaked lime, producing high-temperature-associated compounds that would not otherwise form. Second, this increased temperature significantly reduces curing and setting times since all the reactions are accelerated, allowing for much faster construction.”

Near the end of the article it’s stated that the researchers plan to commercialize the ancient technique.  Well, as a descendant of the Romans, I declare this cultural (or technical) appropriation.  And I demand reparations.  I’ve estimated my cut as approximately one billion denarii (silver of course).  If enough denarii can’t be found I will settle for gold doubloons.

16MAY2019 – American Greatness Post of the Day – Our Modern Satyricon – VDH

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist by training so it is perhaps unsurprising that he finds the analogies between Petronius’s Satyricon and the cultural rot of our own age.

https://amgreatness.com/2019/05/15/our-modern-satyricon/

But I still praise him for the accuracy of his point by point comparison.  Comparing the present age to post-republican Rome has become a common trope but Hanson points out just how accurate it is.  Nothing new here, just the scholarly expertise of the author pointing out the exactness of the analogy.

25AUG2018 – Quote of the Day

“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”

Marcus Aurelius

 

Reading the Stoic quotes you could be tempted to think it all sounds too inhuman, too sterile.  But what I remember then is that Aurelius lived his creed and selflessly struggled to hold back the forces of entropy that were inexorably waiting for his death to pummel the seemingly invulnerable Roman Empire with the first of an endless series of blows that would eventually grind it dust.  A lesser man, like his son Commodus would abandon the grinding drudgery of defending the imperial frontier and devote himself to decadent pleasure while the world dissolved.