Saturday, 31 May 2014

"Congratulations. Now prove that you've earned it."

This past Memorial Day weekend was an occasion for both sombre reflection and great joy for many families across the country- including my own. It was a time to reflect upon those who paid the ultimate price for the rights and freedoms that the rest of us enjoy without a second thought, to be sure.

It was also Commencement Day for several large and small universities across the country.

One of those was the college where my sister has finally graduated. Naturally, the entire family was there to celebrate her achievements.

The ceremony took place on a truly beautiful day- hot, sunny, virtually cloudless, underneath brilliant blue skies. Of the ceremony itself, I suppose there's not much that can be said about what took place- there was a lot of speechifying, almost all of it quite boring, there was a lot of cheering and shouting, and there was quite a lot of sound and colour from the graduates themselves. There were a few trite speeches; the keynote speaker in particular made a lot of fluffy, feel-good sentimental points that I'm sure puffed up the already overblown heads of the recent graduates even more.

In my opinion, the ceremony was actually notable for what it didn't have.

Not once in the entire commencement address by the President of the college was the name of the Lord mentioned. In fact, the proceedings opened with a "prayer" that started with something like, "to all people present here, both theists and non-theists, we ask for a moment of reflection and thanks in honour of our graduates today".

Look, I get it, atheists and Muslims would have been offended. However, given that these are the same people who end up doing the most harm to the rest of us in the name of their beliefs (or in the case of atheists, un-beliefs), who cares what they think?

Hardly a moment was spent talking about the sacrifices that were made by free men to preserve and protect this nation, given that it was Memorial Day, other than a couple of perfunctory lines from the President and a few more from the keynote speaker- a Secretary of something-or-other within the Department of Labour within the current government (which has to be some kind of massive in-joke, given the current POTUS's lackadaisical attitude toward "work"). To me, this was particularly galling, given that the college itself has an actual war memorial right there in the main square commemorating those alumni from the college who made the ultimate sacrifices for their people and way of life.

Yeah, I know, liberals hate being reminded of the fact that freedom isn't free, that it costs blood and sacrifice and agony and sweat and devotion. But is it really too much to ask that we thank those who make such sacrifices even so?

Indeed, looking back at the event, I am reminded of a rather good article published a while back in the Chronicle of Higher Education that exhibited a speech that the author wished had been given to new entrants into Stanford University at the freshman convocation. Since I'm rather more interested in fixing things and proposing solutions than complaining about problems, here is the speech that I wish someone had given at that commencement:
Mr. President, esteemed faculty members, parents, family members, and of course, the Class of 2014 of XYZ College, and with deepest gratitude to and reverence for the Almighty and His Son, the King of Kings, the Saviour Christ, thank you and welcome.
On this beautiful Memorial Day, we are gathered here to celebrate the achievements of our latest graduating class. Before we do, however, let us take time to remember and honour those who fought and died to preserve our freedoms, our way of life; let us give thanks to those who paid the ultimate price for the things in life that we enjoy so much.
Let us pray. 
{A full minute passes as the speaker bows his head and closes his eyes in reverence, silently reciting the Lord's Prayer. He makes the sign of the Holy Cross, looks back up and smiles.}
We are gathered here, by the grace of Almighty God, to congratulate those who have worked hard and studied hard for the past four, or five, or more, years to achieve something of value and importance to them and those that they love. And for that, congratulations are indeed rightly in order.
However, I am here to convey a message that will, at least today, sound harsh and discordant to your ears. You came here expecting praise and platitudes. I am here to deliver neither of these things. 
I am here to tell you that, as much as you have achieved thus far in your lives, none of it matters. Not yet.
You've proven that you have what it takes to succeed in an academic environment. You've proven that you know how to solve specific problems, how to understand certain phenomena, how to write (I hope), and how to argue and debate. You have stayed up late into the night, discussing the world's problems and coming up with answers to them. You have, in your own minds, figured out how everything works. You have all of the answers. You have great ideas and great hopes. 
These are all valuable things, no question about that. But it's not enough.
All of you have dreams and ambitions. All of you are young; most of you are probably highly idealistic. (Don't worry, the world will cure you of that soon enough.) Some of you- I would wager the majority of you- want to change the world for the better, based on whatever moral standards your parents raised you with. 
You have been told for the last 4 years- and if you went through the American school system, for far longer than that- that you are special, wonderful, and accomplished beyond measure. I'm sure your self-esteem today is at sky-high levels.
That is all well and good. But the real world does not care about your self-esteem. It cares only about what you can deliver. There is no sympathy out there in the real world for your starry-eyed idealism. All that matters is what you can do for other people- and, eventually, what other people can do for you. Learning how to deal with, and eventually master, these demands will be the greatest challenge for you in the next few years.
It is a challenge that many of you will fail
Or at least, you would fail if it were not for someone like me, or your parents, or your siblings, or perhaps even your pastors and teachers and friends, telling you that you're not good enough, that you need to improve in certain areas, and that you need to become the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.
Never stop seeking to improve yourself. Never stop trying to better your life, to beautify your life. Never stop trying to see through the lies that others tell you. Never stop seeking the truth. This world is deeply unfair, very tough, quite unforgiving. It rewards only persistence and hard work. There are no shortcuts to getting what you want. You have to be willing to endure great pain and suffering in order to reap great rewards and joys.
For the reality is that you have been lied to. You have been told that the world works in certain ways that make sense when viewed through the narrow, focused lens of the academic bubble, but which completely fall apart when you actually enter working life. 
You have undoubtedly been told that the greatest thing you can do is to enter public service, or volunteer for an NGO, or teach English in some faraway country to build bridges between worlds, or pursue an academic career; indeed, you have probably heard the very concept of profit sneered at and derided throughout your time here. You have certainly heard your teachers and professors and fellow students expressing disdain for wealth and money.
I am here to tell you that the single greatest thing you could do in this world, short of truly earning your right to the sovereign franchise through difficult and painful, but voluntary and honourable, military service, is to build a business that fundamentally transforms people's lives through delivering better products and services at lower costs and higher quality than any competitor- and makes you very wealthy in the process. In doing so, you will have accomplished far more than any government bureaucrat or aid worker, because unlike them, you are not a parasite. And make no mistake- such people are parasites. They could not survive if it were not for the hard work, the ingenuity, the ideas of those who build and create. Without such people, civilisation collapses and all of the good things and creature comforts of our world cease to exist. 
If you start your own business, and succeed in building it into a real enterprise, you'll provide jobs and opportunities for other people. You'll have a real, quantifiable impact on entire communities. You'll make people's lives better simply by virtue of producing something of real value. Indeed you'll become the kind of person that your alma mater wants to seek donations from. One little secret that no one at this place likely ever told you is that it could not survive without those donations, from wealthy and productive people.
No doubt you have been told, repeatedly, that the government is your friend and ally, and that it is right and just that the government do for the people what the people supposedly cannot do for themselves.
I am here to tell you that this is nonsense. The government is your enemy, and will always be so. It has no power over you except that which you give it, and you have already given it far too much. And you certainly have no right to wield power and authority over the lives of others simply by virtue of being born, since you have done nothing whatsoever to earn that power, that authority. You must prove to all of us that you are a worthy and responsible adult, capable of both wielding great power and shouldering great responsibility. If you cannot prove these things, you are not worthy of the praise you have received today and in the past.
No doubt you have been told many lies about how to eat, how to exercise, how to be successful with the opposite sex. No doubt the men here, in particular, have had to sit through many dreary lectures about how their masculinity is the enemy of civilisation and how your strengths and masculine desires are things to be ashamed of, things to be mocked and despised.
I am here to tell you that masculinity is what builds civilisation. I am here to tell you that feminism is EVIL, an edifice of falsehoods that will someday be shattered and destroyed by the eternal truths of this world. I am here to tell you that without the vitality of masculinity and the temperance of femininity, civilisation dies, and barbarism lives.
I am here to tell you that you will not amount to anything in this world until you confront these lies- and at that moment, your choice of whether to follow the lies you have been told, or to follow the path of Truth, will forever define your true worth. 
I am here to tell you that if you are a man, the greatest thing you can do for yourself and your fellows is to be a real man- by being strong, virtuous, honourable, courageous, trustworthy, and above all, masculine. If you find a good woman, honour her, love her, respect her, but never be subservient to her. Be the leader that your masculinity is telling you to be, and the rest will take care of itself.
I am here to tell you that if you are a woman, the single greatest achievement in your life will NOT be your career or your material possessions; it will be your husband and especially your children. Do not waste your femininity chasing impossible and costly dreams of money and career; conserve it, treat it with the respect and dignity that true femininity deserves, and save it for a worthy man. Be gentle, be kind, be loving, be modest and chaste. In other words, be everything that more than twenty years of pop culture has taught you not to be.
I am here to tell you that each and every one of you has a God-given right to life, earned through the agonising pain of childbirth. Each of you has the absolute right to protect that life, by any means necessary, in the face of aggression and evil. That means, by definition, that each and every one of you has the right to keep and bear arms for the express purpose of protecting yourself and your loved ones- no matter what your professors and your government have to say on the subject.
And because you have that right, it is your responsibility to avoid inflicting harm upon others- especially those least able to defend themselves. I speak, of course, of the unborn, and of the sanctity of life that we should all hold in reverence. The unborn are being murdered in their millions around the world today, yet we sit and do nothing. Do you truly wish to change the world? Then do whatever you can to protect the weak, the helpless, and the innocent- and there are none who are more deserving of such protection than the unborn.
I am here to tell you that you are not alone in this world. Your families are here today to express their love and support. Never forget them, for without family, life has no real meaning, no true joy. Your friends will stay with you for life- but only if you make the effort to build upon those friendships. 
And never, ever forget that there is a higher Power to whom we owe all- a Power of infinite love, mercy, wisdom, compassion, and astonishing good humour, a Power that has limitless strength to conquer all evil. The power of the Lord is not easily understood by merely human minds, but it is real nonetheless, if only you are humble enough to accept it. I myself have been blessed by God in more ways than I can count, and in my darkest times, when I have had nowhere else to turn, the Lord has saved me from myself more times than I care to recall.
As Senator and former Republican candidate for President Barry Goldwater once said to his son, "There is nothing like the rock of honesty and fairness, and when you begin to build your life on that rock, with the cement of the faith in God that you have, then, you have a real start." And as Abraham Lincoln, who started a war that killed more than 600,000 men in an act of brazen disregard for states' rights and self-determination in order to consolidate power to the Federal government, once said, "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go."
If a tyrant like that could be humble enough to pray to God for salvation of his soul, are you too good to do the same? 
These are hard things to hear. But you must hear them nonetheless. You will encounter unpleasant truths throughout your lives. You will see severe and jarring incongruities between what you have been taught is true and what is actually true. The way you respond to those situations will define your worth as a person. And it will prove whether or not you truly deserve all of the wonderful things that other people- who love you and cherish you and want only the best for you- have said about you.
So to all of you here today- congratulations and well done. Now prove that you've earned it.
Thank you, may God bless you, and may God forever bless these United States of America. Amen.
A speech like this would, in today's environment, have resulted in the stoning of the speaker rather than the applause of the audience. Yet these are the words that I wish my sister and her friends had heard that day. At least they would have remembered the speech, if nothing else.

Domain Query: Good call

RJ made the right bet about good old George Clooney:
Rumor is that Clooney wants to run for office and needs a wife to look the part.
George Clooney is planning a move in to politics, sources claim. 
The actor, a noted political activist, is said to be planning the move after he weds Briton Amal Alamuddin in September. 
The [D]emocrat is said to be looking to take on an official role in the party and is believed to have aspirations to run for office, one source claims.

Clooney, 53, is known to have numerous political contacts - and even counts president Barack Obama as a close friend. 
A friend told The Mirror: 'He has big ambitions and aims to get into politics imminently. [Didact: Lord, have mercy...]

'He wants to do more humanitarian work and hopes to join the Democrats’ 2016 election campaign.'

Amal Alamuddin is one of the best-regarded [h]uman right[s] lawyers in the world. [Didact: Read: she defends the indefensible, the morally ambiguous, and on occasion the actually hard-done-by.]
The source claims that Clooney believes his credibility will be boosted following the pair's engagement.

'George is thinking of how he can get more involved.

'Now he has Amal by his side it will give him more credibility to run for office.'
The depressing thing about this is that there is a precedent here. Conservatives never stop going on about how Ronald Reagan was an actor once- and at one time, he was actually one of Hollywood's most popular stars. The big difference is that Reagan never had even a third of the kind of pull and attention that Clooney does. I suspect that is precisely how liberals will look at this, actually- "the Left's Reagan", complete with beautiful and glamourous (and quite possibly moon-batty) wife.

The other big difference, of course, is that Reagan's politics actually made sense, since he came to office riding on a platform of old-fashioned moral and political sensibilities that made him a hero to conservatives. (I am well aware that what he actually delivered in office was often quite contrary to his political views.) He also had a very real ability to charm his political enemies and opponents, which is something for which Clooney has never shown the slightest aptitude. The man's politics really are of the rainbows-and-unicorns stripe; he's the sort of irritatingly smug liberal who thinks that Darfur is a millstone to be hung around humanity's neck, instead of a very obvious case of Islamists doing what Islamists do to non-Islamists, and who believes that the rich are evil and should be heavily taxed in order to equalise outcomes, even though he is very rich himself and got there through thoroughly unequal distribution of exceptional talents.

It also now makes sense that Clooney would marry a woman in her mid-forties who also happens to be a lawyer. The combination of the words "woman", "mid-forties", and "lawyer" should be enough to make any sane, wealthy, good-looking, successful man run screaming from the prospect of marriage. However, there is no denying that marrying a high-powered woman like that makes sense from a political perspective, even as it smacks of pure insanity from a personal or "red-pill" one.

Personally I have a strong suspicion that Clooney is going to severely regret marrying a lawyer- actually I think he's going to severely regret getting married again, full stop. A man who has been that successful at pulling spectacularly beautiful women in the past is not suddenly going to stop doing so when he's married to a woman who is observably an 8 when he's used to dating 10s. Just ask Clint Eastwood. And when you have a wife who is a lawyer- a damned aggressive one at that- then you have a potentially extremely toxic mix for the health and well-being of any such man.

Oh well, he's a grown man and can make his own mistakes. Should be entertaining as hell for the rest of us to watch, though.

Monday, 26 May 2014

The shadow soldiers

"... The best things in life are beyond money; their price is agony and sweat and devotion... and the price demanded for the most precious of all things in life is life itself- ultimate cost for perfect value."
-- Lt. Colonel Jean V. Dubois, excerpted from Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

One of the many things that sets this country apart from any other that I've visited or lived in is the way in which Americans regard soldiers. Most European countries, with the very notable exception of Great Britain, have generally forgotten what it means to fight wars. They believe that they have become too sophisticated, too evolved, too progressive, to contemplate something so barbarous and primitive as warfare. Then, too, they do not have the kind of love of liberty that Americans seem to be born with- though I would argue that this instinct is nominal at best these days.

As a result, soldiers in those nations are regarded as at best a distraction, at worst a dangerous burden.

Not so here.

Here, soldiers are treated with respect and honour, revered for their sacrifices and their courage. Here, despite the miserable salaries and even more miserable treatment that they endure at the hands of their own government, the military is strictly a volunteer force. Here, men can still earn the right to be American citizens by serving a term in the nation's military. And here, Americans still know what it is to fight, to bleed, to suffer, and to die for what they believe in.

For Americans, rightly or wrongly, still believe in their freedoms, and they still believe that some things are beyond price. Perhaps uniquely among all the peoples of this world, they still believe that some things are worth dying for.

For many people in this country, today is not really a day for reverence and contemplation. It's a day of joy and happiness as we watch those we love graduate from university. (That is true in my case, anyway.) In spite of this, I ask that you spare a few moments of this beautiful day to honour the fallen... and to pray that no more may fall fighting in wars that are increasingly long, increasingly pointless, and have little or nothing to do with preserving American freedoms and everything to do with interfering in the politics and policies of other nations.

As I have made clear before, I categorically disagree with the wars that this country now fights. Sending young men to fight and die on foreign shores, while hobbled with absurdly restrictive rules of engagement and burdened with utterly idiotic peacekeeping missions, is NOT the way to preserve a nation's blood and treasure. Overstretching the military by fighting 5 wars simultaneously is beyond absurd. Turning the military into a "kinder, gentler" peacekeeping force, instead of using it for what it should be used- that is, killing people and breaking things- saps the morale and strength of this most precious and most vital of institutions.

For all that, though, today of all days, let us give respect and honour to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, in all of the bloody and terrible battlefields throughout all of the long history of this nation's wars. Let us remember, quietly and reverently, those who fought, so that we do not have to.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Barbarians at the gates

It's required taking a beating with a clue-bat, but even the EU's strongest defenders are now belatedly beginning to realise just what a colossally stupid idea unlimited immigration is turning out to be:
Nicolas Sarkozy entered the political fray ahead of European elections today, describing current EU immigration policies as “an abject failure” and calling for the bloc’s visa-free Schengen area to be rewritten. 
Angling for re-election in 2017,[Didact: Dear Lord, not again... the only good thing about the Sarkozy regime was his current wife, and she's showing her age now] the former centre-Right French president called for the creation of a Franco-German economic bloc at the heart of the eurozone, in an opinion piece in Le Point magazine . 
With the far-Right Front National polled to pip Mr Sarkozy’s crisis-wracked UMP to the post in Sunday’s EU elections in France, the ex-president said: "Schengen I must be immediately suspended and be replaced by a Schengen II of which member countries can only be a part if they previously agree to the same immigration policy.” 
Europe migration policy has failed and the need to replace Schengen I has become obvious, he added, as the current system allows immigrants who enter it to “choose the (European) country with the most generous welfare system”. 
"Europe is not meant to organise social and migratory dumping, almost systematically at the expense of France," he warned.
Designed to foster the free movement of people and goods, the Schengen area comprises 26 European countries that have abolished passport or any other type of border control in-between their common borders. 
Non-EU countries like Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are part of the area, but EU members Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania are not. 
Without mentioning by name his Socialist French presidential successor, Fran├žois Hollande, Mr Sarkozy nevertheless decried an “absence of leadership (that) is placing Europe in danger, as it is without vision, direction or priorities”. 
He also called for half of the competences of Brussels to be returned to national governments. The European Commission, meanwhile, should be stripped of all legislative powers – the sole preserve of the EU parliament. 
However, he warned against the rise of populist anti-EU sentiment, saying the bloc protects its citizens from the "ideological veering off course of governments and majority parties. 
"If the European Union broke up centuries-old hatred and conflicts of interest would resurface more violently." [Didact: Ironically, the EU is making the resurgence of such conflicts more likely, not less so.]
"We must correct its excesses but as a project it must be preserved." 
A "large, coherent and stable" Franco-German economic bloc at the heart of the eurozone would allow France "to better defend (its) interests in the face of German competition by doing away with fiscal and social disadvantages", he added. [Didact: To translate this accurately from the original Froggish, this simply means that the Germans should continue voluntarily subsidising their economically moribund Western neighbours and crippling themselves.]
It's ironic, isn't it, that the son of Hungarian immigrants to France, who presided over one of the most immigration-friendly administrations in the history of Western government, is now turning against the very monster that he helped sustain. In reality, though, Sarkozy's about-face (which I believe the Frogs say as "volte-face", or something similarly pretentious) is merely a reflection of the pressures imposed by an unpleasant reality.

As Vox, and I, and many others like us, have repeatedly pointed out, unlimited immigration is absolutely incompatible with a generous welfare state. The European dream of a generous, cradle-to-grave welfare state is collapsing because the economic engines needed to sustain that dream have died out or are dying now. The Europeans were able to get away with creating a massive entitlement state simply because America subsidised their national defence to the point that they didn't need to spend anything like 3-5% of GDP on defending themselves; instead, they could spend that money on free education, jobless benefits, subsidised or free health care, and all of the other trappings of a welfare state. This was supported by a regime of very high income, and in some cases corporate, taxes; however, economic activity overall was left relatively unmolested, at least in the case of the Nordic nations. (Yes, I know, the Frogs are a different story entirely.)

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with such a setup- provided that there exists a social contract between the state and its citizens. In exchange for such benefits, citizens of the state are willing to pay those taxes, support the government, and be part of the culture that created those benefits in the first place.

Which brings us to the great problem with importing immigrants: they don't think, act, or move like the locals.

Is it any great surprise, then, that the welfare state is simply not going to be compatible with immigrants who don't share the values of the culture that created that state?

In the case of Islamic immigrants in particular, state-granted welfare is simply seen, under the warped and twisted ideology that is Islam, as jizyah- rightful tribute from the inferior dhimmi to the superior Muslim. Why on Earth would any rational government want to bring in tens of thousands of immigrants from such nations to live in their countries?

And in the case of the Eastern European nations that are causing the Schengen visa system to fall apart so dramatically, well, it's even simpler. If you have a choice between living in Country A, where job prospects are bleak, incomes are low, corruption is rife, and you're basically left to fend for yourself, or living in Country B, where incomes are high, law and order exists, and a generous web of benefits and grants allows you to live in relative comfort without doing very much to earn it, which one are you going to choose? Especially if there is no penalty or hassle whatsoever involved in moving from one to the other?

Evidently, such simple, logical thought patterns are impossible for government bureaucrats to follow, up until the point where the strains on the system simply become too obvious to ignore any longer.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Scraping at the leftovers


Apparently Western feminists, not satisfied with lying to themselves about their rapidly declining sexual market value, are now insisting on lying to Chinese women about their declining sexual market value:
The notion of a ‘leftover woman’ - a highly educated, urban, professional woman over the age of 27 who is still single - has been peddled aggressively in columns, news reports and cartoons in Chinese state media over the past few years, urging women to be a little less ambitious, lower their standards and hurry up and find a husband, lest they become ‘unwanted’. Chinese women have routinely been portrayed as greedy and materialistic. [Didact: As it happens, this is common in most developing Asian countries, not just China.]
But this isn’t just a brazen and insulting media campaign. Hong Fincher argues cogently that the trend has severe economic consequences, given that marriage and home buying are so closely connected in China. She writes that women have largely been shut out of China’s immense accumulation of residential real estate wealth, which is in excesses of $27 trillion (£16 trillion), according to 2012 estimates. How? By allowing their husband’s name to be the sole name on the deed of the marital home (she cites 2012 research on home buyers in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen which found that men’s names were on the property deeds of 80 per cent of marital homes). 
Compounding this are revisions made in 2011 to China’s Marriage Law which state that, upon divorce, each side can keep whatever property is registered in his or her own name. [Didact: And if the West had even a shred of self-preservation left, it would adopt the exact same law forthwith.] With the majority of property deeds being in the man’s name, the odds are clearly stacked against women. State media has exacerbated this gender discrimination, Hong Fincher finds, with the result often being that highly educated women quit their jobs before they marry out of fear they would become too old to find a husband. 
Hong Fincher’s work paints a broad and pervasive picture of women’s rights in post-socialist China gradually eroding. She delves into China’s patriarchal culture, the growth of its real estate wealth and the impact of the Communist Party’s central aim of maintaining social stability. She charts the course of women’s economic gains over China’s dynastic history and also highlights the lack of clear legislation to combat domestic violence. 
She explains the pressure on women to marry for the benefit of a harmonious society stems from a 2007 announcement issued by China’s state council, which claimed the country faced a severe problem of low population quality that would impede its ability to compete on the world stage. As a result, the government made ‘upgrading population quality’ a priority, citing China’s severe sex ratio imbalance as a threat to social stability: China’s National Bureau of Statistics estimates that there are around 20 million more men under 30 than women under 30 in the country (interestingly, Hong Fincher notes that ‘bare branches’, a nineteenth-century term for childless, unmarried men, is still used in China today). [Didact: Basically, the Chinese created a national epidemic of severe blue balls. Dontcha just loooooove that central planning?!]
In theory, Hong Fincher says, the women being targeted by this campaign should be empowered, given China’s rapid economic growth and the educational gains of women in recent years. In her view, the ‘leftover women’ campaign is part of a broader backlash against women’s educational gains over recent years, with their educational and professional successes “kind of evaporating” when they marry and buy a home. 
A large part of this is because urban home ownership has become a “defining feature of masculinity” in China. Parents will routinely help their sons or even nephews buy a home, but not their daughters, and so the enormous value of residential property in China ends up largely being concentrated in the hands of men. Women are in effect “forfeiting ownership of the most valuable asset in the family”. 
“Because homes are so unaffordable, you have to have the pooling of family assets. That means it’s the parents who put up [a lot of] money towards the house - and it tends to be the man’s parents who put up more money. That gives them more power over who gets their name on the deed and contributes to the tremendous pressure on the woman to leave her name off it,” she says. 
This pressure is not confined to heterosexual, single women. To combat familial pressure to marry, a trend known as ‘functional marriage’ has emerged: “A gay man will arrange a marriage with a lesbian to basically fool their parents and relatives,” Hong Fincher explains. [Didact: Just when you thought homogamy couldn't get any weirder...] “They are legally married but it is a marriage to stave off pressure from parents.” While some have argued this is empowering for those involved, critics say that lesbians opting into these arrangements will often “enter into the same kinds of unequal financial home buying arrangements that heterosexual women fall prey to.”
The article goes on (and on, and on, AND ON) in this vein for quite some time, so we'll leave it at that and simply look at the logical fallacies inherent in Whatsername's arguments. All I can say in the author's favour is that at least her nose is proportionate to the rest of her face. Unlike, say, this bird. Who literally has a beak.

First, as Vox has pointed out repeatedly, the single best way to destroy the purchasing power of men, and therefore the stability of the family unit, is to encourage women to join the workforce instead of staying at home and raising children. It should not be particularly difficult to understand that if the government makes it less costly to hire women for positions that men once occupied, by making it very expensive to hire men in the first place, then women will by definition be hired more often. It also logically follows, by definition, that more women in the workforce means fewer women available to raise children. None of this should be hard to comprehend, yet government central planners seem to insist that they can have the best of both worlds- a fecund, highly educated female workforce that is highly productive and highly adaptable to population pressures. This, despite about 50 years' worth of evidence telling us that such a setup is utterly impossible.

Second, as Vox and I and so many others have pointed out so many times before, a woman's value is not defined by her education. Strong, dominant, powerful men do not respect women for their brains. They respect women for their femininity.

Since so much has been written from an analytical perspective on this subject, let me provide a more personal narrative to illustrate the point. In my entire professional career, I have met precisely one woman who I thought was genuinely better at doing difficult, technical projects than I am. She is the only woman I have ever met who is actually willing to work all hours of the day to get the job done. She is very smart, very capable, and has zero tolerance for nonsense. As a result, she and I get along very well indeed. She has a flat in one of London's most desirable suburbs, she has a great job that she thoroughly enjoys, and she has the freedom to travel the world to do and see the things that she wants. And I would be remiss if I did not add that she is actually rather good-looking; if she simply paid a bit more attention to her posture and grew her hair out a bit, she'd be genuinely cute.

She is also in her mid-thirties, single, and very likely to remain so given her working hours and lifestyle.

Unsurprisingly, she doesn't exactly seem thrilled about the fact that she's still single and therefore spends her weekends working when the rest of us are doing more productive things. (My definition of "productive", by the way, is time spent in Terra Oblivious, i.e. sound asleep on my couch on a lazy Saturday afternoon. It's all relative, I suppose.)

In very stark terms, her brains and skills mean absolutely nothing in the sexual market place. I know a couple of women like this- I'm good friends with one, in fact. They constantly ask why it is that men don't seem to desire them. This shouldn't be very hard to figure out: straight men do NOT want to come home from work and then go out on dates with, effectively, another man. We want to spend time around women, which means that we simply don't give a damn about a woman's qualifications, her work background, how much money she makes, or how fancy her apartment is (beyond a certain point, anyway).

Third, it is necessary to state this as starkly and as bluntly as possible: a woman who is not interested in settling down and having children during her prime years of fertility is an evolutionary dead end. I just cannot state it any more plainly than this. Modern women simply do not seem to understand that their years of peak fertility are very limited indeed- they have roughly 15 years in which to conceive and raise children, and then their fertility rapidly declines, as does their energy level and ability to chase after little kids. A woman who insists on waiting for Mr. Right, or pursuing a career over a family, is choosing to ignore evolutionary reality.

That is certainly her choice and she has every right to make it. Doesn't mean that it's any less idiotic, though.

Fourth, on the subject of who gets what assets in a divorce- be it noted that I believe that the person who earned the asset, deserves the asset. In most cases, that will inevitably be the man. There are certainly instances where a man might be signed as the owner of an asset even though it was purchased by the woman, and it would be wantonly unfair to give him the asset when her money went toward buying it. However, I fail to see how this is any more unfair than the current state of divorce law in the West, in which up to 90 percent of a man's assets can be confiscated, perfectly legally and at gunpoint, by the government and then handed over wholesale to a woman who has done nothing whatsoever to earn them.

The article ends on what the author probably supposed was an upbeat note by pointing out that young women in China don't have to follow the script that is set out for them. That is certainly true. They have every right to pursue the lives that they want. However- and this is the important bit- they must also be held responsible for the consequences. If they refuse to marry and settle down when young and fertile, and then find to their shock that no sane man in his mid-thirties wants to marry a female professional his age, then that's their problem. There should be absolutely no recourse to the State to correct this supposed evil; if women want to live it up during their years of peak fertility by having casual sex and working all hours, then that's their choice and they alone should pay the price for making it.

Conversely, if a woman decides to settle down and raise a family with a man, and is loyal and devoted to him and to their children, then she must accept the consequences of that decision too. The difference between this latter path and the former is that the latter path seems to lead to happier, healthier, more feminine women, at least based on what I've seen. I don't think I've ever met anyone unhappier than a smart, upwardly mobile, professionally successful, independent woman. You can see it in her eyes- at some level, she knows (probably unconsciously) that she's made a horrible mistake, and something in her mind is constantly screaming at her to correct it.

The reality of being a professional, successful urban woman is that you pay a fearsome price for that coveted lifestyle. If you're willing to pay that price, well, fine, it's on you. If you're not, though, don't expect the rest of us to eagerly foot the bill for your stupidity.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Album Review: "The Theory of Everything" by AYREON

(I am way, WAY behind in terms of reviews of various books and music records, so don't be surprised if that comprises the bulk of the new content for the next few days)

If you enjoy complex, technically proficient, multi-layered rock operas with intricate storylines, multiple vocalists, outstanding musicianship, and phenomenal production values, then you will almost certainly have come across AYREON at some point. This "band", if it can even be called that, is the musical brainchild of Dutch multi-instrumentalist genius (and really ridiculously tall guy*) Arjen Anthony Lucassen.

He is, quite simply, an artistic prodigy. He writes everything for every album- all of the music, all of the lyrics, all of the concepts. He arranges all of the compositions and tries very hard never to use the same vocalist on more than one AYREON record. His records have featured some of the greatest vocal and musical talents to be found anywhere in the world, in any genre of music. And somehow, he manages to make it all stick every time he crafts a record.

He is, without question, one of the most phenomenally talented musicians in the world today.

Every AYREON album, ever, has been a concept album revolving around some kind of story or theme. And every single AYREON album up until this one, with the sole exception of 1996's "Actual Fantasy", has involved some form of reference to the story of the Universal Migrator**. Every single record he has ever made with AYREON, from first to last, has been unique and mesmerising; they have been of varying quality, to be sure, but you can always find signs of his peculiar genius on every single one.

He reached the absolute peak of his powers with 2004's "The Human Equation", which at one point in my life came thisclose to knocking several IRON MAIDEN albums off the perch of "Greatest Album of All Time". (The fact that I would even consider typing what would otherwise be utter blasphemy, should tell you just how good he is.) The follow-up to that record, the absurdly-named "01011001" (which is binary for the letter "Y"), was not nearly as good, yet still boasted some truly amazing moments as he finally closed out the Universal Migrator storyline, which he had been working on for some 15 years.

Now at last we come to a totally new story, a totally new concept, and totally new singers. The story behind this record is of a young Prodigy, severely introverted and crippled by paranoid delusions, who also happens to be a mathematical savant. His Father is a brilliant, relentlessly driven mathematician striving desperately to solve the mysteries of creation by completing "the theory of everything"- a term that laymen use for a concept in physics known as a "grand unified theory" that unites all of the four fundamental forces into a single field. His Mother is a loving, kindly soul who wants only the best for her son and is alienated by her husband's relentless, obsessive search for the solution to the theory of everything. And the Prodigy himself is forced to deal with the pressures of a world that does not understand him, dealing with a Rival at school and the affections of a beautiful Girl who falls in love with him.

The story progresses through the usual grandiose- some would say overblown- musical stylings of any great rock opera. The Prodigy is discovered by a Teacher who wants to train his prodigious mathematical talent; eventually the Teacher persuades the Father to take an active interest in the Prodigy's development. The parents agree to see a Psychiatrist, who prescribes an experimental drug with potentially dangerous side effects. The Mother flatly refuses, but the Father, seeing his son's talent for what it is, secretly agrees to administer the drug to see what will happen.

The Prodigy's mathematical talents soon take off as the drug allows him to re-enter the world around him, making his Rival look pathetic in the process and winning over the heart of the Girl. Yet, soon, the side-effects of the drug start to kick in, and events spiral out of control. The Father, devastated, confesses his perfidy to the Mother and the Prodigy; both reject him utterly. The Prodigy, desperate for the drug that allows him to control his reality, turns to his Rival for help and agrees to hack a bank and steal money as payment for his services. The Girl, appalled by his lapse of judgement, rejects him in turn. The Teacher, sympathetic to the Prodigy's plight, takes him to an isolated lighthouse, where he can work in solitude on the theory of everything.

At some point during his time alone, he hallucinates and is visited by his Father, who repents his sins and asks his son to forgive him. Forgiveness granted, the two proceed to work through the night to solve the theory of everything. As day breaks, his mind spent and shattered, his body exhausted, the Prodigy writes a note to the Teacher and then collapses, surrounded by blackboards cluttered with dense, impenetrable mathematics.

Upon visiting, the Teacher is startled to find two sets of handwriting on the boards. Thinking that the Father must have visited at some point in the night, he is astounded to learn from the Mother that her husband hanged himself the previous night out of guilt and shame. Turning to the blackboards, the Teacher ponders the meaning of the writing and wonders just how long it will be before anyone can truly understand what has transpired...

This album is a significant step up from its predecessor. The six years spent on other projects in between have clearly been of significant benefit. Arjen has come back from that hiatus re-energised, happier, and ready to write great music again. The number of vocalists is much more manageable on this record than the last one. The instrumental work is simply astonishing. Ed Warby's drumming is, as always, phenomenal- the perfect combination of metronomic precision and mad bombast. The production is as crisp and clean and powerful as ever. And the rock opera style, which in lesser hands would just sound ridiculous, works brilliantly; somehow Arjen manages to chaperone the singers such that they never get boring.

Of particular note here is Tommy Karevik's incredible performance as The Prodigy. I've seen him sing live with KAMELOT, twice, and I'll say this for him- no matter how silly and over-the-top KAMELOT's music might be, the man can sing. He proves it, time and again, with this record, and if this album is any indication, he has a truly stellar career ahead of him as one of heavy metal's greatest voices.

This is not, however, a perfect record. There are a couple of major flaws with it that stop it from being the tour de force that "The Human Equation" was. First, there is the Rival's story. There just isn't any point to it; Marco Hietala's singing is amazing, which is to be expected from the man, but the character of the Rival just doesn't seem to have any use beyond providing a strained and artificial source of conflict. Second, the love story between the Prodigy and the Girl makes literally zero sense to me. It seems so... forced, so contrived somehow. And it also sort of just peters out at some point in the later stages of the album.

That said, there is still a lot to like on this album- and there is a lot to this album. At 90 minutes long, split into 4 parts that are further split up into a total of 42 individual songs, this is NOT an album that you can just jump into. You'll be grabbed immediately by its haunting melodies, its powerful riffs, its outstanding vocal performances- but you cannot just pick a point at random and start listening. You have to be patient with this record. You have to listen to it, several times, all the way through, before realising just what a phenomenal achievement it really is. It grows on you over time, gets inside your head, and makes you wonder at the sheer genius of its composer's mind.

In summary, if you like progressive music, power metal, or just great heavy music in general, this album is for you.

Didact's Verdict: 4.7/5, a couple of silly and annoying flaws here and there still cannot stop this from being perhaps the best record released in 2013.

* Floor Jansen is roughly my height, just shy of 6 feet tall, which makes her very tall for a woman. (Did I also mention that she's an amazing live performer?) Arjen Lucassen is damn near 6'6". What IS it about Dutch people being absurdly tall?

** It's too complicated to explain here, just go listen to "Into the Electric Castle" and both parts of the Universal Migrator record, "The Dream Sequencer" and "Flight of the Migrator".