Going against the Grain

· Essay

Perhaps you have heard the expression, “May you live in interesting times”.  It was a curse!  It still is.  How interesting are the times when suddenly, free speech is no longer what we thought it was, when we have to make micro after micro adjustments, if not major ones, to what we would naturally say or write.


I would not follow this route, but in part, I must.  It is not that I wish to devalue my beliefs, or merely suppress my musings, which might profitably be corrected by someone else, if these need not be censored in the first place – indeed – censure is one thing, censorship is another, and the former could reap more profit for the wise.


I have been forced to go against the grain, insofar as going against the grain means having less fun, and being more serious.  Truth be told, I find being serious more fun than having a good time.  Those who live to party do not contribute much to culture, unless they are rich enough to patronize the arts – and do so.  These latter receive my thanks, insofar as they promote a worthy culture.


How do we know what culture is? How do we recognize it?  It’s easy.  Anyone who has admired the works of the Egyptians, the Greeks, or the Romans, can see in their art, their pottery, their sculpture, and their monuments, how much could be achieved hundreds of years ago.  The same holds true for Aztecs and Incas of the Americas, and civilizations in China, India, Cambodia (Kampuchea) and elsewhere in Asia.  In Europe, the Renaissance revived the old traditions of the Mediterranean World; other neo-classicists were to follow, such as Lord Alma-Tadema.  Compared with these, pop art and whatever came next, could only have an ephemeral interest – but, caution! – Salvador Dali still had his precursor, Hieronymus Bosch.  What I mean by that, is that insofar one builds upon some type of past master, even if defectively, such an artist still exceeds the contemporary who really does nothing more than offer work similar to what a grade-school pupil could do.


It is amazing to note how the Romans who could do so would have books of parchment or paper, and how deep the thought of their writers, such as Seneca or Cicero was.  Where, now, is this depth of thought?  Has it been crowded out by sages of the past?  But it has no copyright, so why not repeat it, at least, even if the need is felt to dishonestly refuse to give attribution of the ideas to past-masters. It is not that I approve of this dishonesty, but much of what we consider original thought is not – so, for those who would be dishonest, at least let them perpetuate serious thinking, even if they would pretend it is their own, and not someone else’s thought.


Truly, those ancient Romans astound me.  They had no cameras, but they had their portraits made in one form or another, and the point was, to look educated.  Now we have portraits snapshots, perhaps selfies, with clothing which pretends to make us look impoverished.  We laugh at the Middle Ages, considering them stifling, but our ideas of clothing reflect the edicts that prevented non-aristocrats from dressing outside of their social level.  Of course, who would have punished any of these for “dressing down”?  Did not some royalty go among their peoples in clothing of the poor?


So, I go against the grain, at least a little, because I find it more pleasurable than other people’s “having fun”.  But there is more to this.  Under no circumstances do I wish to exaggerate, but I do really want to know, and have so desired in the past, “Do I, (or, Did I) live in a free society, where freedom of thought is allowed?”  I therefore challenged my conservative professor, at the risk of getting a bad grade. I did the same with the liberal professors.  I only struck out, when the professor was such a loser, that he knew his contract would not be renewed.  He either did not show up for his classes, or showed up late.  The last class was to be, as he announced, at the university pub.  I did not bother going there.  I had had enough of the education he could offer.  I can’t even remember the name of the course he taught.  In the last class he gave, he mentioned that he was excommunicated.  It was an irrelevant comment.


That having been said, it should be added, that in spite of the nature of his course, he did not (as far as I remember) try to indoctrinate us.  That privilege went to young professor who taught the political theory of Hobbes, Locke and company – perhaps not very well, because, what could the connection be to the aforesaid philosophers, when his shtick was “rethinking”, such as our being told that we should rethink the idea of the family.  However, I will not say that he was bad, I once engaged him in conversation (or was the reverse true?) in the largest cafeteria of my university, and nothing was said that could have upset me.


Were I to go totally against the grain, I would be a rebel.  By rebels, I mean (even if this does not agree with the dictionaries), those who would live a lifestyle not in conformity with the majority.  I should add to that, “… as defined in America, in the 1950s”.  If the majority has gone over to the dark side, they are the rebels, and no matter how much my standing pat is considered foolish, this is what is must do – stick to the thinking of a previous age – even if it gains me few or no friends. In other words, I am making a distinction between my merely occasional going-against-the-grain, and rebel-like behavior.


I have had some original ideas, even if not great ones, but they cannot compete with infotainment. None of those ideas are meant to be historically revisionist (since I studied history, and claim that there is a touch if history in all of my web pages – not necessarily true), nor are they intended to reflect political partisanship (I have an article both on Obama and on Trump – and whatever my own leanings might be, I believe those articles do not show what they are.  Even in that sense, I suppose I have gone against the grain.  After my note on Obama, someone stopped communicating with me.  The note on Trump, on the other hand, was not indexed for a long time, although other articles of mine were indexed quite rapidly.  That said, my conclusions could be too hasty.  Consider that just today; I tried a search for “Hannibal”.  It took me 8 pages of search to get to something other than the movie character, but as my results were in Spanish, and my experience with the History.com site is that it redirects me into irrelevant content in Spanish – and I have not found the workaround yet – page 9 finally gave me a brief account by National Geographic – but shorter than what I had desired.  Should it be concluded that the search engine was prejudiced against a Carthaginian warlord, and less against someone incarcerated for thinking which would make Alex Jones seem tame by comparison.


In spite of what I have said above, my own research shows that the claims of those individuals who say that there is Internet censorship because of reasons x, y, and z, are usually false.  It is not for me, at this time, because of the Alex Jones affair, to defend the service providers beyond saying that it appears that they have a hypothetical right (something which I can justify after reading both pros and cons of this matter on a website which, on the whole, favours more freedom, rather than less).  Nevertheless, too many times have I read that x-number of results are given for a search about subject y, and when I repeat the same search, this does not happen.  I will not blame AOL, Bing, Google, or Yahoo – but as one of my articles has already noted – should they miscategorize me, they will no longer be able to collect data on me, should that be what they do.  Could it be though, that only people who use forms of telecommunications, and the print media, are of any danger?  The soap box orator and other small fry demonstrators not urged on through messages on their personal digital assistants are easily quieted by authority.


The rush to follow apparent revolutionary thinkers is the knee-jerk reaction of the herd. A student sharing the same building as I once told me that people want recreation.  This I subtly and politely said to a permanent graduate student of Marxist persuasion.  He told me that I should have said that it is not recreation that people want, but revolution.


Here is my reaction to that: let’s be sincere.  What percentage of university students uses drugs?  Which is more important to these young people – the drugs and rock and roll, or their imagined Kulturkampf?  Where it was once said that religion is the opiate of the people, I would reply no, it is not – the opiates have become readily accessible – and if not, their substitutes are. The only opiates of the people are drugs, and whatever else gives drug-like reactions in the brain – and with great difficulty would that be religion.


How much are we to be enamoured of the positions of men like Galileo, Voltaire, Darwin, and Gramsci, to name a few, only to find, upon deeper study, that their position was not quite as we were told, or that their science, (at least just possibly) was defective.  Galileo did not follow the scientific method, but his house arrest was in a palace.  A descendant of Darwin converted to Christianity.  Voltaire and Gramsci shared, allegedly, their own conversions, the same one as John Wayne did.  Who, though, amongst us, cares about those biographical details?  We read their works, or watch the movies.  Combining the two makes for infotainment.


That brings us back to a site like Infowars.  I have expressed my views on such sites in one of the first articles I wrote on the Internet – read for entertainment.  My last look at the Alex Jones website was disappointing – it did not entertain me.  Well, I am sure that those platforms which decided that here was a site for Davy Jones’ Locker, were individually saying, “We are not amused,” but for somewhat different reasons than mine.  Whatever will this even augur for the continued use of the expression, “Keeping up with the Joneses”?


There are reasons to believe that there exist web sites for the sole purpose of having unsuspecting commentators make posts which will get them into trouble.  I do not believe (unless silliness counts), that any such comments have been made to any of my articles.  In fact, objectionable posts I would have to refuse.  So sorry!  Be that as it may, I neither write to get people into trouble, nor to have myself condemned.  I would never consider myself to be part of the underground, but if I were to be downgraded on the Web, I would have been pushed into some sort of virtual underground – but only because I would see no more benefit from using it, beginning with a sour grapes attitude towards the Terms of Service of any web provider.  I would be satisfied with the limited success which I have already had.


August 9, 2018


© 2018, Paul Karl Moeller

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