Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Tales From the Old New Land - Just War - Act II

(Sound of reaching for chips in a plastic bag, a match being lit, and a smoker taking puffs. Barasaus opens door, home from a vacation, the Dad doesn't get up to greet him.)

Barasaus: I'm home! Mom and Da... (Dad coughs on the weed from startlement) Dad are you OK?

Juliana: (recovered but out of breath) He's fine, we just didn't think you'd be home so early.

Barasaus: Wait, are you?... You're just eating falafel balls out of a bag!

Elagabulus: (about finished his cough) Anything wrong with that?

Barasaus: No... But can you open a window at least? The house wreaks of pot!

Juliana: This is the fourth century son, there are no windows.

Barasaus: Oh...

Juliana: I know we talked about not smoking weed in the house.

Elegabalus: We thought you wouldn't be home until prima noctis hora.

Juliana: We figured there was time to air out the house.

Elegabalus: And don't you Christians preach all that forgiveness stuff?

Barasaus: Father Theodosius says I need to work on forgiving you more.

Juliana: Oh wow!

Elagabalus: Y'know, until now he always seemed to me like an idiot.

Barasaus: You should listen to what he has to say sometime. You might find it helpful.

Elagabalus: What would be really helpful is if you got some more falafel from the cabinet.

Barasaus: Which cabinet?

Juliana: (annoyed) It's next to the hayat (balcony) underneath the chamber pot.

Barasaus: You really shouldn't keep it there.

Elagabalus: It's all going to the same place eventually.

Barasaus: Shammai says that if the place were more hygenic you'd be alot healthi...

Elagabalus: Shammai can suck it!

Barasaus: He's just trying to help.

Elagabalus: That sheeny can help by getting the hell out of my business.

Juliana: Shammai's the reason we still have a business!

Elagabalus: It's his business, not mine.

Barasaus: He's just trying to help you get on your feet again!

Elagabalus: With interest...

Juliana: I don't know why you're always so down on a guy who helped you stay open during seventeen different drought seasons.

Elagabalus: He didn't help us out of kindness.

Barasaus: What'd he do it for then?

Juliana: Don't say it.

Elagabalus: He wants to know.

Juliana: Alright Barasaus, get your father's shit falafels. (Barasaus goes into the other room)

(Elagabalus takes opportunity to smoke more pot)

Barasaus: (returning to the room) Do you want to hear about Antioch?!

Elagabalus: You'd tell us all about it anyway.

Juliana: We should hear about it.

Barasaus: It was so amazing!

Juliana: (indulgently) Of course it was...

Barasaus: So our youth group leader took us to the oldest cathedral in the Byzantine Empire! It was, like, fifty years old!

Juliana: That really is amazing.

Barasaus: It had a painting of Jesus healing the paralytic at Capaernum.

Juliana: Healing the what?

Barasaus: I told you about that! Jesus made a crippled man walk!

Juliana: Oh! That's right...

Elagabalus: And I suppose this guy turns water into wine too...

Barasaus: (interrupting) And a painting of the Three Marys at the Tomb of Jesus!

Elagabalus: Three what?

Barasaus: Three Mary's!

Juliana: Three Mary's?

Barasaus: Yeah...

Juliana: Three women? All named Mary?

Barasaus: Yeah.

Juliana: (interrupting, confused) You told us about two Mary's...

Elagabalus: The one who's the mother and the one who's the whore.

Barasaus: She's not a whore!

Elagabalus: Yeah but in a thousand year's they're gonna think so...

Barasaus: What?!?!?!

Elagabalus: Never mind.

Juliana: Of course we remember the conversation! You told us there are two Marys. We just wondered how the two most important women in your book can both be named Mary. So all your father did was ask if people ever got to thinking that maybe there was only one Mary, and people got confused because the story got told so many times.

Barasaus: It's not a story! If God says that Mary mother of God is not the same person as Mary Magdalene, then they're not the same person.

Juliana: Alright, if you say it's true it's true.

Elagabalus: And now you're telling us there's three!

Barasaus: Well,... actually...

Juliana: (low enough that only Elagabalus can hear it) Oh no...

Barasaus: There's five.

Elagabalus: FIVE?!?

Barasaus: The Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus...

Elagabalus: (quasi-interrupting) Yeah, that's not weird....

Juliana: There's Mary Magdalene, who you both think is a whore, Mary of Jacob, mother of James the Less...

Elagabalus: And that's not a distinction you wanna have!....

Juliana: What is?

Elagabalus: Who wants to be known as the less of something?

Barasaus: Well, the other James was the brother of Jesus.

Elagabalus: So the virgin had another child?

Barasaus: She had at least four more: James, Joses, Jude, and Simon.

Elagabalus: So she didn't stay a virgin...

Barasaus: DAD!

Juliana: He's just saying that mothering the son of God seems like it would be a full time job.

Elagabalus: And he wasn't even the son of God until pretty recently.

Juliana: That's true. Your avus (grandfather) remembered when it happened! For three hundred years, people said he might be the son of God, he might just be the Messiah, isn't it enough to be the Messiah? Then, the Nicean Council happens.

Elagabalus: Two months and BAM! Christ the Messiah!

Barasaus: Is it too much to ask for you to be a little respectful of my beliefs?

Juliana: I'm just telling you how things used to be!

Elagabalus: Anyway, come on, I wanna hear more about these Marys.

Barasaus: OK. There's the Virgin Mary, there's Mary Magdalene... who you think is a whore, there's Mary of Jacob, mother of James the Less, then there's Mary of Cleopas.

Elagabalus: ...That's a stupid name.

Barasaus: Dad! Respect!

Juliana: Is Cleopas the town she's from?

Barasaus: No. Cleophas was either her husband or her father.

Elagabalus: Probably both. Those fucking Jews, they're all goddamn hicks.

Barasaus:  Don't swear Dad!

Elagabalus: Whatever.

Juliana: So what's Mary of Cleopas's claim to fame?

Barasaus: She doesn't really have one. She might just be Mary of Jacob.

Elagabalus: Oh, what a surprise.

Barasaus: What do you mean?

Juliana: Don't mind him. I'd like to know who the fifth Mary is.

Barasaus: Mary of Bethany.

Elagabalus: Was she married to Bethany?

Barasaus: Please stop this Dad.

Juliana: That can happen! You remember those two wives who left to live in Lesbos!

Barasaus: (suddenly angry) Women shouldn't marry other women!

Elagabalus: And I suppose my Christian son doesn't think men should lie with other men either. Typical liberal bullshit.

Barasaus: I can't deal with this!

Juliana: Son, your father has a reason for being mad. Remember when you told us that monogamy is what human beings are biologically programmed for?

Barasaus: Look, I just think you both should respect my choices.

Elagabalus: (really angry) We didn't throw you out when you told me you practice that thing, what did he call it? Ethical monogamy?

Juliana: It's alright. So our son only wants to marry one woman and thinks that sexuality and gender isn't fluid, it's not the end of the world. It's just that the world's changing and we're too old to understand it. Anyway, I want you to tell us about this Mary of Bethany.

Barasaus: I told you about Mary of Bethany!

Juliana: You didn't tell me what she did!

Barasaus: She's the sister of Lazarus.

Juliana: That's it?

Barasaus: No, that's not it.

Juliana: Good, I was beginning to worry that this religion of yours doesn't le women do anything at all....

Barasaus: Why is it so hard for you to be respectful!?

Juliana: I'm sorry son, you told me about Lazarus, he's the guy who rises from the dead.

Barasaus: He's the one which Jesus... (annoyedly sighs) Alright, yeah that's the one....

Elagabalus: (a little insistently) So what did she do?

Barasaus: She washed Jesus's feet with nard.

Elagabalus: The perfume???

Barasaus: Yeah.

Elagabalus: That's the most expensive perfume there is! She could have lived on that for a year!

Barasaus: (Angry) Alright that's it, I'm leaving.

Juliana: Son, don't leave.

Barasaus: (furious) Taat's exactly what Judas said!

Elagabalus: Judas must have had a good head for business.

Barasaus: (enraged) This is what I'm talking about! You always do this!

Juliana: What's he doing?

Barasaus: You always ask me questions about my religion just so you can make fun of the answers!

Juliana: What's wrong with fun?!?

Barasaus: I don't want to say any more about it because I'm really trying to respect you now.

Elagabalus: What's the point of showing respect?! All we're trying to do is have a good time and all you're tryin'a do is ruin it!

Barasaus: I don't want to have a good time!

Elagabalus: Well what the fuck do you want then?

Barasaus: I want your respect!

Juliana: But son, you have our respect!

Barasaus: Then why can't you show it?

Juliana: Barasaus Brutus Iovivus! You know perfectly well that your father wouldn't try to have fun with anybody he doesn't respect.

Barasaus: Mom, please forgive me for what I'm about to say.

Juliana: When have we ever stopped you from saying whatever you like?

Barasaus: (takes a beat to formulate his thought) What has having fun ever done for you? What did it ever do for avus or pro-avus (great-grandfather) or generations of the Iovivuses? For as long as anyone can remember, all you've done is gone around smoking hash, never farming enough to sell anything to anybody else, always cutting the work day short so you can take me down to the caupona (tavern) to listen whatever new Bouzouki jam band you love. You and Mom always picked up a different woman and had a threesome in the middle of your magic mushroom crops.

Elagabalus: Yeah, but that was a lot of fun?

Barasaus: I shouldn't have seen that!

Elagabalus: You should try that sometime! You might see what you're missing!

Barasaus: Alright, I'm going over to Shammai's.

Juliana: Come on Barasaus, stop this.... (tries to figure out what to say) What happened to you?! You were such a fun loving kid!

Barasaus: I'm sorry Mom! There's gotta be more than this! I want to believe that my life has a purpose. Well we can't all get satisfaction out of going a million pedes (Latin for footsteps) out of our way to Antioch for every music festival! Didn't you go to one last year where they burned some guy alive?

Elagabalus: (to Juliana) Well, we had to go to Burning Man at least once. (Juliana chuckles)

Barasaus: That's hardly the only time you've been at something like that. Think about how that guy felt! He was a living being, and now he's not one, some part of his spirit is divine too.

Juliana: Come on, son, you remember your solstice school teachings. Our sensations are how we know we're partly divine.

Barasaus: If the senses are how we're divine, then why do they feel pain?

Elagabalus: That's why we always give the sacrifices opium before we do them in!

Barasaus: Can't you hear the screaming? They're in agony!

Juliana: Sometimes, but a lot of people think that's part of the fun!

Barasaus: Dad, you remember that public mass execution you took me to when I was eleven and how I was crying the whole time? How could you sit there and enjoy that?

(long pause) 

Elagabalus: (sigh) Yeah, he never did like sports.

(Barasaus gasps)

Juliana: Come on, prisoners aren't like us. That would never be you.

Barasaus: They have souls just like we do!

Juliana: Alright, you were probably too young for that. I told your father that at the time. He's sorry about that. Really. Aren't you Elagabalus?... Aren't you? (hits his elbow)

Elagabalus: Alright, I'm sorry.

Juliana: He is, and I was sorry at the time, but is that enough reason to turn your back on everything your family believes in?

Barasaus: What do you believe in?!?

Juliana: ...Y'know, I know you never met your avia (grandmother), but she was a great lady. And she had this great saying that I don't think I ever told you about. It was so poetic. She would say: "And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine, let us eat...:

Barasaus: ..."let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." Isaiah 22:13

Elagabaus: Oh my god he knows that!?

Barasaus: It's from the Christian Bible! And the verse before that is - 'And in that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth!' You were supposed to do the opposite!

Elagabalus: So your God wants us to be miserable? What kind of miserable God would allow that!

Barasaus: The real one!

Elagabalus: If this God is such an asshole, why don't you just worship a different God?

Barasaus: Well, if you must know, it's because of something Shammai said to me.

Juliana: (sighs, under her breath) Oh can that Heeb keep his big nose out of anything at all?!?


Tales from the Old New Land - Just War - New Act 1

(Eastern Orthodox plainchant sung in the background, or possibly Greek pipes - the ambience must have echo. Shammai and Barasaus are sitting in the pews of a church)

Shammai: (whispering to Barasaus): I just can't wait to hear John Crysostom, I hear he has a mouth of gold. (Barasaus doesn't respond) ...that's a joke... (Barasaus still doesn't respond) ...did you get it?... (no response from Barasaus) ...you didn't get it... (Barasaus is unresponsive) ...see, Chrysostomos means 'golden mouth' in Greek!... (Barasaus is silent) ...did you get it?... (without response) ...alright, be like that... (unresponsive) ...I can see you don't want to talk... (without response) ...it's OK... (still unresponsive) ...I understand this is an important day for you... (still no response from Barasaus) ...I felt this way too the first time I was in an enormous cathedral... (still Barasaus is silent) ...they're so enormous they inspire respect in you... ...it's amazing how they build temples forty feet high?... ...still, eventually you see so many that they all look the same... ...You should see the one in Palmyra... ...They have these arches that somehow go all the way around the door like a circle without falling down... ...Do you know where Palmyra is?... It's a week's walk from Damascus... ...It wasn't an easy walk but the Bedouin we hired knew what he was doing... ...unfortunately we all got diarrhea on the way there because the meat wasn't buried one night... ...(to himself) Where's the beef?... ...(to Barasaus) But the cathedral in Damascus was so inspiring that I almost had a Damascus Conversion... ...that's another joke... ...see, when Paul saw Je...

Barasaus: Shammai, hush. Chrysostom's about to speak!

(St. John Chrysostom is heard mounting the pulpit in the distance, and then speaks in a clarion voice that can carry through a huge space)

Chrysostom: It's all theater! It's all theater for them! Synagogue is no different than theater or brothel.

Shammai: (still whispering) I'll say....

Chrysostom:  They LIVE for their bellies.

Shammai: ...well I don't know about that... I'm not that fa....

Chrysostom: ....They only know how to fill their bellies and be drunk!

Shammai: Wait I've never been drunk in my life!... at least I don't think I have...

Chrysostom: When have you ever been frightened in a synagogue?

Shammai: He's never had to deal with Mrs. Schorr...

Chrysostom: That's because God's presence makes a place filled with fear. He has power over life and death. You go into a church and you remember the rivers of fire, the venomous worm, the bonds that cannot be burst. There is no room for welcoming in God's sanctuary!

Shammai: Gee, thanks a fuckton.

Chrysostom: Their synagogues are ridiculous, they're the churches of people who've been dishonored and condemned!

Shammai: Wait A MINUTE THIS IS ANTISEMITIC!

(twenty people around Shammai shush him)

Chrysostom: Look at the way they dress, look at how they look. Doesn't it frighten you?

Shammai: Didn't he just say that there's nothing frightening about us?

Chrysostom: Lack of fear is how the devils and hobgoblins find you, at the moments when you lack fear!

Shammai: This asshole just said that he's never afraid of us!

Chrysostom: Are you a friend to Jews then? Maybe you should do as they do, take off your shoes in this marketplace, and let people laugh at your indecency.

Shammai: Your loss assclown, walking barefoot is orthotic support for your feet!

Chrysostom: But you don't choose to do this because you're ashamed to share their outward appearance but not in their impiety. You who are only half a Christian.

Shammai: But I'm half a Christian! What the hell is wrong with that?

Barasaus: (whisper yelling) Shammai! Don't curse in a Church!

Chrysostom: The Jews sacrifice their children to Satan!

Shammai: Well that's just not true.

Chrysostom: The synagogue is a brothel, a den of scoundrels, the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults, a criminal assembly of Jews, a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ, a house of ill fame, a dwelling of iniquity, a gulf and abyss of perdition....

Shammai: There we go, another half-truth!

Chrysostom: The Jews have fallen into a condition lower than the vilest animals. Debauchery and drunkenness have brought them to the level of the lusty goat and the pig. They only know one thing: to satisfy their stomachs, to get drunk, to kill and beat each other up like stage villains and coachmen... I hate the Jews, because they violate the Law. I hate the Synagogue because it hates the Law and the Prophets. It is the duty of all Christians to hate the Jews.

Shammai: Alright I've had enough. When you're done here I'll be at the kebob stand across the street. (gets up to leave sounds of shifting around) Excuse me,... pardon me... I'm very sorry... Just trying to get to the chamber pot... terribly sorry... FUCKING ANTISEMITE! (slams side door)

Barasaus (to neighbor): I'm sure he didn't mean that.

When Facebook Becomes Blogging


Inside baseball post ahead:

In immediate retrospect, it seemed as inevitable as it was unexpected at first glance. But there's something about this that feels wrong. Not just that they barely know each other, but that Salonen is going to be expected to top what he did in LA, and there's no way he can. He was thirty when he took over in LA, he'll be sixty-three. We know exactly what Salonen can do, and as much as he's injected new life into music, he's as much the establishment as Michael Tilson Thomas. This is a 'continuity' pick. It'll be a good time for SF, better than we get elsewhere, but we're going to have to look elsewhere for the real innovations. There were lots of OK tenures recently: Gilbert in NY, Alsop here in Baltimore, Robertson in St. Louis, Spano in Atlanta. But ultimately it was all little league stuff, and even Alsop now looks to be winding down here in Baltimore. Nobody, not even Gilbert in NYC, found the money to really shake things up. Except for the now slightly diminished returns of left coast, the best place now for new innovations in America may soon be, of all places... Gianandrea Noseda in DC, Osmo Vanska in Minnesota, and (oy) Franz Welser-Most and Jaap van Zweden and Riccardo Muti in Cleveland and New York and Chicago, and clearly none of them are setting the bar high at all...

There are American orchestras who play trad rep better, but America's West Coast Orchestras are the places you go for revelations - completely unexpected concert experiences, new and forgotten music. In terms of who provides real and new revelations, nobody even comes close to LA and San Francisco. But things are already getting a little stale. For all the talk about how innovative the LA centennary season was, Dudamel is still doing mostly trad rep and Susanna Malkki is the conductor doing the heavy lifting as Principal Guest. From the little I've heard, she is well thought of in San Francisco too. She, not Salonen, was clearly the best candidate to take the next step in innovation. We need someone here who can make an entirely new mark. We have young 'trad' conductors like Dudamel and Nelsons and Nezet-Seguin. Nezet-Seguin is in his early 40's and already a dinosaur, clearly never interested in challenging anybody with anything he programs. At least the other two stars are doing some serious new music, but in terms of actual ideas, the organizations around them are clearly coming up with the ideas, and for them, contemporary music is purely a matter of career climbing.

And if not Malkki, there were tons of others who could make a real and entirely original mark if anybody gave them a chance. Did they even consider other modernists whose careers have been stymied by insisting on playing plenty of new music? They all can clearly make enough time in their schedules for this appointment should they be asked? Pablo Heras-Casado, Daniel Harding, Francois-Xavier Roth, Markus Stenz, Marc Albrecht, Ingo Metzmacher, Xian Zhang, Joanne Faletta, John Storgards, Hannu Lintu, Mikko Franck, Lodivic Morlot, Andrey Boreyko, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Michael Francis, Thierry Fischer, and so many others more interested in music than a celebrity career. If you're looking for them, the list is practically endless. And even now-veteran Americans like Gilbert and Robertson and Alsop and Spano. None of them ever got the chances or the budget they should have, and might be able to run rings with them. Every one of these names would have been an unprecedented opportunity to do something that's never been done before. Every one has different composers they champion, every one has different ideas. Insofar as anybody's paying attention, Europe is snapping up 90% of the most forward thinkers and we're getting stuck with the leavings. It's a feather in our cap to get Salonen back here, but it's nowhere near enough.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

ET: Almanac

When General Charles de Gaulle made his first trip to Russia, in the winter of 1944-45, he went to Stalingrad, site of the farthest advance and greatest defeat of the German army. In the First World War, de Gaulle had been wounded fighting against the Germans at Verdun and had been imprisoned by them for more than two years, and in the Second he was leader of the free French fighting them. Legend, with a proper touch of verisimilitude, has it that amid the ruins of Stalingrad he muttered to an aide, "Quel peuple!" The translator inquired, "You mean the Russians?" "No," said de Gaulle, "the Germans."

The general's lapidary judgement at that place of devastation says much about the German drama of the past century, which he grasped clearly. He was speaking of a "people" who between 1870 and 1939 had thrice attacked his country, whose power had corrupted and nearly destroyed historic Europe, and who were guilty of a genocidal crime unique in Europe's history. But he also knew that the German people had been prodigiously creative and that they would be indispensable for the postwar recovery of Europe. He grasped the deep ambiguity that hovers around German greatness.

This book records my experiences with the five Germanys that my generation has witnessed. I ws born into the German predicament that de Gaulle understood so well; I remember my parents' dismay at the slow death of the Weimar Republic during my early childhood and the swift establishment of National Socialist tyranny thereafter, a tyranny accepted by so many and opposed by so few. I remember their friends who were defiant defenders of democracy and who were defeated, some of them murdered, incarcerated, or exiled. Though I lived in National Socialist Germany for only five years, that brief period saddled me with the burning question that I have spent my professional life trying to answer: why and how did the universal potential for evil become an actuality in Germany?

Decades of study and experience have pursuaded me that the German roads to perdition, including National Socialism, were neither accidental nor inevitable. National Socialism had deep roots, and yet its growht could have been arrested. I was born into a world on the cusp of avoidable disaster. And I came to realize that no country is immune to the temptations of pseudo-religious movements of repression such as those to which Germany succumbed. The fragility of freedom is the simplest and deepest lesson of my life and work. And when an unvarnished picture of the past, always indispensable, seemed difficult, I recalled Ernst Reuter's great credo of 1913: "The faith of democracy rests on faith in history."

In my work as a historian in the postwar years, I was only intermittently aware of the ties between my life and my studies; fully committing myself to the historian's craft, I knew that while Clio allowed for many ways of serving her, all of them demanded a measure of detachment--enlivened, one hoped, by empathy and a disciplined imagination. I studied and taught the German past with American eyes and for American students and readers. But my full American life eventually came to ahve a vital German component, because as an American historian of Germany, I was drawn into German controversies about the past, which were roiling a defeated and divided nation, itself the principle battleground of the cold war. Perhaps I didn't quite anticipate that when one fully lives with the upheavals of one's own time--by turns destructive and uniquely constructive--one comes to see the past in new, more complex ways. Also, I realized more and more that the lessons I had learned about German history had a frightening relevance to the United States today. And gradually I acquired another German life, parallel and subordinate to my American life. I came to live in two worlds simultaneously, learning from both. Remnants of black-and-white thinking receded, and the past became a fabric of shifting colors.


Fritz Stern - The Five Germanys I Have Known

Monday, November 19, 2018

My Ninth Post at The Times of Israel

The Grand Illusion of the 21st Century

Either the best or the worst thing I've written in a while. It's much more complex to write about what you love than what you hate.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Tales from the Old New Land - Just War - Act I - Revised

(Sound of reaching for chips in a plastic bag, a match being lit, and a smoker taking puffs. Son opens door, home from a vacation, the Dad doesn't getting up to greet him.)

Son: Hey Dad! (Dad coughs on the weed from startlement) Are you OK?

Dad: (recovered but out of breath) I'm fine, I just didn't think you'd be home so early.

Son: Wait, are you?... You're just eating falafel balls out of a bag!

Dad: Anything wrong with that?

Son: No... But can you open a window at least? The house wreaks of pot!

Dad: This is the fourth century, there are no windows.

Son: Oh...

Dad: I know we talked about my not smoking weed in the house, but I thought you wouldn't be home until prima noctis hora, so I figured there was time to air out the house. Besides, don't you Christians preach all that forgiveness stuff?

Son: Father Theodosius says I need to work on forgiving you more.

Dad: Y'know, until this moment he always seemed to me like an idiot.

Son: You should listen to what he has to say sometime. You might find it helpful.

Dad: What would be really helpful is if you got some more falafel from the cabinet.

Son: Which cabinet?

Dad: It's in the hayat (balcony) underneath the chamber pot.

Son: You really shouldn't keep it there.

Dad: It's all going to the same place eventually.

Son: Shammai says that if the place were more hygenic you'd be alot healthi...

Dad: Shammai can suck it!

Son: He's just trying to help.

Dad: That sheeny can help by getting the hell out of my business.

Son: Come on Dad, sheeny won't be a slur for another fifteen hundred years, and Shammai's the reason you still have a business!

Dad: It's his business, not mine.

Son: He's just trying to help you get on your feet!

Dad: With interest...

Son: I don't know why you're always so down on a guy who helped you stay open during seventeen different drought seasons.

Dad: He's didn't help me out of kindness.

Son: What'd he do it for then?

Dad: Mo...

Son: Don't say it!

Dad: You were the one who asked.

Son: Alright, let me get your shit falafels. (goes into the other room)

Dad: (takes opportunity to smoke)

Son: (returning to the room) Don't you want to hear about my vacation?!

Dad: You'd tell me all about it anyway.

Son: It was so amazing!

Dad: (interrupting) Of course it was!

Son: So our youth group leader took us to the oldest cathedral in the Byzantine Empire! It was, like, fifty years old!

Dad: (bored) That really is amazing.

Son: It had a painting of Jesus healing the paralytic at Capaernum.

Dad: Healing the what?

Son: I told you about that! Jesus made a crippled man walk!

Dad: Oh! That's right... And I suppose this guy turns water into wine too...

Son: (interrupting) And a painting of the Three Marys at the Tomb of Jesus!

Dad: Three what?

Son: Three Mary's!

Dad: Three Mary's?

Son: Yeah?

Dad: Three women? All named Mary?

Son: Yeah.

Dad: (interrupting) You told me about two Mary's, the one who's the mother and the one who's the whore.

Son: She's not a whore!

Dad: Yeah but in a thousand year's they're gonna think so...

Son: What?!?!?!

Dad: Never mind. Anyway, of course I remember the conversation. You told me there are two Marys. And I wondered how the two most important women in your book can both be named Mary. So I asked if people ever got to thinking that maybe there was only one Mary, and people got confused because the story got told so many times?

Son: If God says that Mary mother of God is not the same person as Mary Magdalene, then they're not the same person.

Dad: And now you're telling me there's three?

Son: Well,... actually there's five.

Dad: FIVE?!?

Son: The Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus...

Dad: (quasi-interrupting) Yeah, that's not weird....

Son: Mary Magdalene, who you think is a whore, Mary of Jacob, mother of James the Less...

Dad: That's not a distinction you wanna have....

Son: What is?

Dad: Who wants to be known as the less of something?

Son: Well, the other James was the brother of Jesus.

Dad: Wait, so the virgin had another child?

Son: She had at least four more: James, Joses, Jude, and Simon.

Dad: So she didn't stay a virgin...

Son: DAD!

Dad: I'm just saying, you'd think that mothering the son of God would be a full time job. And he wasn't even the son of God until pretty recently. Your avus (grandfather) remembered when it happened! Three hundred years, he might be the son of God, he might just be the Messiah, isn't it enough to be the Messiah? Then, the Nicean Council happens, two months, BAM! Christ the Messiah!

Son: Is it too much to ask for you to ever be a little respectful?

Dad: I'm just telling you how good things used to be! Anyway, I want to hear more about these Marys.

Son: OK. There's the Virgin Mary, there's Mary Magdalene who you think is a whore, there's Mary of Jacob, mother of James the Less, then there's Mary of Cleopas.

Dad: ...That's a stupid name.

Son: Dad! Respect!

Dad: Is Cleopas the town she's from?

Son: No. Cleophas was either her husband or her father.

Dad: Probably both. Those fucking Jews, they're all goddamn hicks.

Son:  Don't swear Dad!

Dad: Whatever. And what's the venerable Mary of Cleopas's claim to fame?

Son: She doesn't really have one. She might just be Mary of Jacob.

Dad: Oh, what a surprise.

Son: What do you mean?

Dad: Go on, I want to know who the fifth Mary is.

Son: Mary of Bethany.

Dad: Was she married to Bethany?

Son: Please stop this Dad.

Dad: It can happen! You heard about those two wives who went to Lesbos!

Son: Women shouldn't be marrying other women!

Dad: And I suppose my Christian son doesn't think men should lie with other men either. Typical liberal bullshit. Next thing you know, revolutionaries like you are telling us that monogamy is what human beings are biologically programmed for.

Son: Look, Dad, I just think you should respect my choices.

Dad: I didn't throw you out when you told me you practice that thing, what did you call it? Ethical monogamy? ...Alright, so my son only wants to marry one woman and thinks that sexuality and gender is not fluid, it's not the end of the world, it's just that the world's changing and I'm too old to understand it. Anyway, back to this Mary of Bethany thing.

Son: I told you about Mary of Bethany!

Dad: You didn't tell me what she did! That is, if this religion of yours lets women do anything at all.

Son: She's the sister of Lazarus.

Dad: That guy who rises from the dead.

Son: The one which Jesus... (annoyed) Yeah that's the one....

Dad: (a little insistently) And what did she do?

Son: She washed Jesus's feet with nard.

Dad: The perfume???

Son: Yeah.

Dad: That's the most expensive perfume there is! She could have lived on that for a year!

Son: (Angry) Alright that's enough Dad, that's exactly what Judas said!

Dad: Judas must have had a good head for business.

Son: This is what I'm talking about! You always do this!

Dad: Do what?

Son: You always ask me questions just so you can make fun of the answers!

Dad: What's wrong with fun?!?

Son: I don't want to say any more about it because I'm really trying to respect you now.

Dad: What's the point of showing respect?! All I'm trying to do is have a good time with you and all you want to do is ruin it!

Son: I don't want to have a good time!

Dad: Well what do you want then?

Son: I want your respect!

Dad: You have my respect!

Son: Then why can't you show it?

Dad: I wouldn't try to have fun with anybody I don't respect.

Son: Dad, please forgive me for what I'm about to say.

Dad: A blessing on your house, my son. Say whatever you like?

Son: What has having fun ever done for you? What did it ever do for avus or pro-avus (great-grandfather) or generations of the Iovivuses before us? For as long as anyone can remember, all we've done is gone around smoking hash, never farming enough to sell anything to anybody else, always cutting the work day short so you can take me down to the tavern to listen whatever new Bouzouki jam band you love. You and Mom always picked up a different woman and had a threesome in the middle of your magic mushroom crops.

Dad: Yeah, but wasn't it a lot of fun?  You should try all that sometime! You might see what you're missing.

Son: Alright, I'm going over to Shammai's.

Dad: Come on son, stop this.... (tries to figure out what to say) What happened to you?! You were such a fun loving kid!

Son: I'm sorry Dad! I want more! I want to believe that my life has a purpose. Well we can't all get satisfaction out of going a million pedes (Latin for footsteps) out of our way from us to every music festival! Didn't you go to one last year where they burned some guy alive?

Dad: Come on. I had to go to Burning Man at least once.

Son: That's hardly the only time you've been at something like that. But think about how that guy felt! He was a living being, and now he's not one, some part of him might have been a divine too, and getting rid of that divine part of him probably caused him enormous pain.

Dad: That's why we always give the sacrifices opium before we do them in!

Son: Can't you hear the screaming?

Dad: Sometimes, but that's part of the fun!

Son: Well if you really want to know, it was that public mass execution you took me to when I was eleven. Once I saw that, I never wanted to be part of that again.

Dad: (sigh) Yeah, you were never as into sports as your brothers. And you were probably too young to see that. I'm sorry about that, really I am, but is that enough reason to turn your back on everything your family believes in?

Son: What do you believe in?!?

Dad: ...Y'know, I know you never met your avia (grandmother), but she was a great lady. And she had this great saying that I don't think I ever told you about. It was so poetic. She would say: "And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine, let us eat...:

Son: ..."let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." Isaiah 22:13

Dad: Oh my god you know that!?

Son: That's from the Christian Bible! And the verse before that is - 'And in that daay did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth!' You were supposed to do the opposite.

Dad: So your Lord God wants you to be miserable? What kind of miserable God would allow that!

Son: The real one!

Dad: If this God is such an asshole, why don't you just worship a different God?

Son: Well, if you must know, it's because of something Shammai said to me.

Dad: Oh can that fucking Heeb keep his huge nose out of anything at all?!?

--------------------------------------


My Seventh Post in the Times of Israel

The Cleese Test

Monday, November 12, 2018

Tales from the Old New Land - Just War - Act I

(Sound of reaching for chips in a plastic bag, a match being lit, and a smoker taking puffs. Son opens door, home from a vacation, the Dad doesn't getting up to greet him.)

Son: Hey Dad! (Dad coughs on the weed from startlement) Are you OK?

Dad: (recovered but out of breath) I'm fine, I just didn't think you'd be home so early.

Son: Wait, are you?... You're just eating falafel balls out of a bag!

Dad: Anything wrong with that?

Son: No... But can you open a window at least? The house wreaks of pot!

Dad: This is the fourth century, there are no windows.

Son: Oh...

Dad: I know we talked about my not smoking weed in the house, but I thought you wouldn't be home until prima noctis hora, so I figured there was time to air out the house. Besides, don't you Christians preach all that forgiveness shit?

Son: Father Theodosius says I need to work on forgiving you more.

Dad: That idiot is absolutely right!

Son: Don't you want to hear about my vacation?!

Dad: You'd tell me all about it anyway.

Son: It was so amazing!

Dad: Of course it was!

Son: Our youth group leader took us to the oldest cathedral in the Byzantine Empire! It was, like, fifty years old!

Dad: (bored) Sounds amazing.

Son: It had a painting of Jesus healing the paralytic at Capaernum.

Dad: Healing the what?

Son: I told you about that! Jesus made a crippled man walk!

Dad: Oh! That's right...

Son: And a painting of the Three Marys at the Tomb of Jesus!

Dad: Three what?

Son: Three Mary's!

Dad: Three Mary's?

Son: Yeah?

Dad: Three women? All named Mary?

Son: Yeah.

Dad: (interrupting) You told me about two Mary's, the one who's the mother and the one who's the whore.

Son: She's not a whore!

Dad: Yeah but in a thousand year's they're gonna think so...

Son: What?!?!?!

Dad: Never mind. Anyway, of course I remember the conversation.   you told me there are two Marys. And I wondered how the two most important women in your book can both be named Mary. So I asked if people ever got to thinking that maybe there was only one Mary, and people got confused because the story got told so many times?

Son: If God says that Mary mother of God is not the same person as Mary Magdalene, then they're not the same person.

Dad: And now you're telling me there's three?

Son: Well,... actually there's five.

Dad: FIVE?!?

Son: The Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus...

Dad: (quasi-interrupting) Yeah, that's not weird....

Son: Mary Magdalene, who you think is a whore, Mary of Jacob, mother of James the Less...

Dad: That's not a distinction you wanna have....

Son: What is?

Dad: Who wants to be known as the less of something?

Son: Well, the other James was the brother of Jesus.

Dad: Wait, so the virgin had another child?

Son: She had at least four more: James, Joses, Jude, and Simon.

Dad: So she didn't stay a virgin...

Son: DAD!

Dad: I'm just saying, you'd think that mothering the son of God would be a full time job. And he wasn't even the son of God until pretty recently. Your avus (grandfather) remembered when it happened! Three hundred years, he might be the son of God, he might just be the Messiah, isn't it enough to be the Messiah? Then, the Nicean Council happens, two months, boom! Christ the Messiah!

Son: Is it too much to ask to be a little respectful?

Dad: I'm just telling you how good things used to be! Anyway, I want to hear more about these Marys.

Son: OK. There's the Virgin Mary, there's Mary Magdalene who you think is a whore, there's Mary of Jacob, mother of James the Less, then there's Mary of Cleopas.

Dad: ...That's a stupid name.

Son: Dad! Respect!

Dad: Is Cleopas the town she's from?

Son: No. Cleophas was either her husband or her father.

Dad: Probably both. Those fucking Jews, they're all goddamn hicks.

Son:  Don't swear Dad!

Dad: Whatever. And what's the venerable Mary of Cleopas's claim to fame?

Son: She doesn't really have one. She might just be Mary of Jacob.

Dad: Oh, what a surprise.

Son: What do you mean?

Dad: Go on, I want to know who the fifth Mary is.

Son: Mary of Bethany.

Dad: Was she married to Bethany?

Son: Please stop this Dad.

Dad: It can happen! You heard about those two wives who went to Lesbos!

Son: Women shouldn't be marrying other women!

Dad: And I suppose my Christian son doesn't think men should lie with other men either. Typical progressive nonsense. Next thing you know, revolutionaries like you are telling us that monogamy is what human beings are biologically programmed for.

Son: Look, Dad, I just think you should respect my choices.

Dad: I didn't throw you out when you told me you practice ethical monogamy. So my son only wants to marry one woman and thinks that sexuality and gender is not fluid, it's not the end of the world, it's just that the world is changing and I'm too old to understand it. So now back to this Mary of Bethany thing.

Son: I told you about Mary of Bethany!

Dad: You didn't tell me what she did! That is, if this religion of yours lets women do anything at all.

Son: She's the sister of Lazerus.

Dad: That guy who rises from the dead.

Son: The one which Jesus... (annoyed) Yeah that's the one....

Dad: (a little insistently) And what did she do?

Son: She washed Jesus's feet with nard.

Dad: The perfume???

Son: Yeah.

Dad: That's the most expensive perfume there is! She could have lived on that for a year!

Son: (Angry) Alright that's enough Dad, that's exactly what Judas said!

Dad: Judas must have had a good head for business.

Son: This is what I'm talking about! You always do this!

Dad: Do what?

Son: You always ask me questions just so you can make fun of the answers!

Dad: What's wrong with fun?!?

Son: I don't want to say any more about it because I'm really trying to respect you now.

Dad: What's the point of showing respect?! All I'm trying to do is have a good time with you and all you want to do is ruin it!

Son: I don't want to have a good time!

Dad: Well what do you want then?

Son: I want your respect!

Dad: You have my respect!

Son: Then why can't you show it?

Dad: I wouldn't try to have fun with anybody I don't respect.

Son: Dad, please forgive me for what I'm about to say.

Dad: Of course. A blessing on your house, my son.

Son: What has having fun ever done for you? What did it ever do for avus or pro-avus (great-grandfather) or generations of the Iovivus clan before us? For as long as anyone can remember, all we've done is gone around smoking hash, never farming enough to sell anything to anybody else, always cutting the work day short so you can take me down to the tavern to listen whatever new Bouzouki jam band you love, always picking up a different woman and feeding her your so you can screw her in the middle of your magic mushroom crops. Well we can't all get satisfaction out of going a million pedes (footsteps) out of our way to every music festival from us! Didn't you go to one last year where they burned some guy alive?

Dad: Yeah, but wasn't it a lot of fun? What happened?! You were such a fun loving kid!

Son: I'm sorry Dad! I want more! I want to believe that my life has a purpose. Well we can't all get satisfaction out of going a million pedes (Latin for footsteps) out of our way from us to every music festival! Didn't you go to one last year where they burned some guy alive?

Dad: Come on. I had to go to Burning Man at least once.

Son: That's hardly the only time you've been at something like that. But think about how that guy felt! He was a living being, and now he's not one, some part of him might have been a godly part too, and you probably killed that god part of him with enormous pain.

Dad: That's why we always give the sacrifices opium before we do them in!

Son: Can't you hear the screaming?

Dad: Sometimes, but that's part of the fun!

Son: Well if you really want to know, it was that public mass execution you took me to when I was eleven. Once I saw that, I never wanted to be part of that again.

Dad: (sigh) Yeah, you were never as into sports as your brothers. And you were probably too young to see that. I'm sorry about that, really I am, but is that enough reason to turn your back on everything your family believes in?

Son: What do you believe in?!?

Dad: ...Y'know, I know you never met your avia (grandmother), but she was a great lady. And she had this great saying that I don't think I ever told you about. It was so poetic. She would say: "And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine, let us eat...:

Son: ..."let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." Isaiah 22:13

Dad: What?

Son: That's from the Christian Bible! And the verse before that is - 'And in that daay did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth!' You were supposed to do the opposite.

Dad: So your Lord God wants you to be miserable? What kind of miserable God would allow that!

Son: The real one!

Dad: If this God is such an asshole, why don't you just worship a different God?

Son: Well, if you must know, it's because of something Shammai said to me.

Dad: Oh can that fucking Jew keep his nose out of anything at all?!?

--------------------------------------



Saturday, November 10, 2018

Tales from the Old New Land: Episode 1 - Just War - More of the Beginning

(Sound of reaching for chips in a plastic bag, a match being lit, and a smoker taking puffs. Son opens door, home from a vacation, the Dad doesn't getting up to greet him.)

Son: Hey Dad! (Dad coughs on the weed from startlement) Are you OK?

Dad: (recovered but out of breath) I'm fine, I just didn't think you'd be home so early.

Son: Wait, are you?... You're just eating falafel balls out of a bag!

Dad: Anything wrong with that?

Son: No... But can you open a window at least? The house wreaks of pot!

Dad: This is the fourth century, there are no windows.

Son: Oh...

Dad: I know we talked about my not smoking weed in the house, but I thought you wouldn't be home until prima noctis hora, so I figured there was time to air out the house. Besides, don't you Christians preach all that forgiveness shit?

Son: Father Theodosius says I need to work on forgiving you more.

Dad: That idiot is absolutely right!

Son: Don't you want to hear about my vacation?!

Dad: You'd tell me all about it anyway.

Son: It was so amazing!

Dad: Of course it was!

Son: Our youth group leader took us to the oldest baptistry chapel in the Byzantine Empire! It was, like, fifty years old!

Dad: (bored) Sounds amazing.

Son: It had a painting of Jesus healing the paralytic at Capaernum.

Dad: Healing the what?

Son: I told you about that! Jesus made a crippled man walk!

Dad: Oh! That's right...

Son: And a painting of the Three Marys at the Tomb of Jesus!

Dad: Three what?

Son: Three Mary's!

Dad: Three Mary's?

Son: Yeah?

Dad: Three women? All named Mary?

Son: Yeah.

Dad: (interrupting) You told me about two Mary's, the one who's the mother and the one who's the whore.

Son: She's not a whore!

Dad: Yeah but in a thousand year's they're gonna think so...

Son: What?!?!?!

Dad: Never mind. Anyway, you told me there are two Marys, and now you're telling me there's three?

Son: Well,... actually there's five.

Dad: FIVE?!?

Son: The Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus...

Dad: (quasi-interrupting) Yeah, that's not weird....

Son: Mary Magdalene, who you think is a whore, Mary of Jacob, mother of James the Less...

Dad: That's not a distinction you wanna have....

Son: What is?

Dad: Who wants to be known as the less of something.

Son: Well, the other James was the brother of Jesus.

Dad: Wait, so the virgin had another child?

Son: She had at least four more: James, Joses, Jude, and Simon.

Dad: So she didn't stay a virgin...

Son: DAD!

Dad: I'm just saying, you'd think that mothering the son of God would be a full time job. And he wasn't even the son of God until pretty recently. Your avus (grandfather) remembered when it happened! Three hundred years, he might be the son of God, he might just be the Messiah, isn't it enough to be the Messiah? Then, the Nicean Council happens, two months, boom! Christ the Messiah!

Son: Is it too much to ask to be a little respectful?

Dad: I'm just telling you how good things used to be! Anyway, I want to hear more about these Marys.

Son: OK. There's the Virgin Mary, there's Mary Magdalene who you think is a whore, there's Mary of Jacob, mother of James the Less, there's Mary of Cleopas.

Dad: ...That's a stupid name.

Son: Dad!

Dad: Is Cleopas the town she's from?

Son: No. Cleophas was either her husband or her father.

Dad: Probably both. Those fucking Jews, they're all goddamn hicks.

Son: Dad! Don't swear!

Dad: Whatever. And what's the venerable Mary of Cleopas's claim to fame?

Son: She doesn't really have one. She might just be Mary of Jacob.

Dad: Oh, what a surprise.

Son: What do you mean?

Dad: Go on, I want to know who the fifth Mary is.

Son: Mary of Bethany.

Dad: Was she married to Bethany?

Son: Dad! Stop!

Dad: It can happen! You heard about those two wives who went to Lesbos!

Son: Women shouldn't be marrying other women!

Dad: And I suppose my Christian son doesn't think men should lie with other men either. Typical progressive nonsense. Next thing you know, revolutionaries like you are telling us that monogamy is what human beings are biologically programmed for.

Son: Look, Dad, I just think you should respect my choices.

Dad: I didn't throw you out. So my son only wants to marry one woman and thinks that sexuality and gender is not fluid, it's not the end of the world, it's just that the world is changing and I'm too old to understand it. So back to this Mary of Bethany thing.

Son: I told you about Mary of Bethany!

Dad: You didn't tell me what she did! That is, if this religion of yours lets women do anything at all.

Son: She's the sister of Lazerus.

Dad: That guy who rises from the dead.

Son: The one which Jesus... (annoyed) Yeah that's the one....

Dad: (a little insistently) And what did she do?

Son: She washed Jesus's feet with nard.

Dad: The perfume???

Son: Yeah.

Dad: That's the most expensive perfume there is! She could have lived on that for a year!

Son: (Angry) Alright that's enough Dad, that's exactly what Judas said!

Dad: He must have had a good head for business.

Son: This is what I'm talking about! You always do this!

Dad: Do what?











--------------------------------------



Dad: You ever get to thinking that there's a slight chance that there was only one Mary, and people got confused because the story got told so many times?






Dad: This whole Jesus thing of yours is really obnoxious.

Son: Well we can't all get satisfaction out of going a million pedes (Latin for footsteps) out of our way to every music festival from us! Didn't you go to one last year where they burned some guy alive?

Dad: Come on. I had to go to Burning Man at least once.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Tales from the Old New Land Reboot - Tale 1 - Just War - A Very Little More

(Sound of reaching for chips in a plastic bag, a match being lit, and a smoker taking puffs. Son opens door, home from a vacation, the Dad doesn't getting up to greet him.)

Son: Hey Dad! (Dad coughs on the weed from startlement) Are you OK?

Dad: (recovered but out of breath) I'm fine, I just didn't think you'd be home so early.

Son: Wait, are you?... You're just eating falafel balls out of a bag!

Dad: Anything wrong with that?

Son: No... But can you open a window at least? The house wreaks of pot!

Dad: This is the fourth century, there are no windows.

Son: Oh...

Dad: I know we talked about my not smoking weed in the house, but I thought you wouldn't be home until prima noctis hora, so I figured there was time to air out the house. Besides, don't you Christians preach all that forgiveness shit?

Son: It's OK. Father Theodosius says I need to work on forgiving you more.

Dad: That idiot is absolutely right!

Son: Don't you want to hear about my vacation?!

Dad: You'll tell me all about it anyway.

Son: Oh it was so amazing! Our youth group leader took us to the oldest baptistry chapel in the Byzantine Empire! It was fifty years old!

Dad: (bored) Sounds amazing.

Son: It had a painting of Jesus healing the paralytic at Capaernum.

Dad: Healing the what?

Son: I told you about that! Jesus made a crippled man walk!

Dad: Oh, that's right!

Son: And a painting of the three Marys at the tomb of Jesus!

Dad: Three what?

Son: Three Mary's!

Dad: Three women? All named Mary?

Son: Yeah.

Dad: I mean... don't you think it's a little weird?

Son: What?

Dad: ...That they all had the same name?

Son: No... (considering) Not really... (faith comes back to him) No!

Dad: You ever get to thinking that there's a slight chance that there was only one Mary, and people got confused because the story got told so many times?

Son: I have no idea what you're talking about.

Dad: Who were these Mary's?

Son: Mary, mother of Jesus.

Dad: OK, so far, so good.

Son: Mary Magdalene, the


--------------------------------------



Dad: This whole Jesus thing of yours is really obnoxious.

Son: Well we can't all get satisfaction out of going a million pedes (Latin for footsteps) out of our way to every music festival from us! Didn't you go to one last year where they burned some guy alive?

Dad: Come on. I had to go to Burning Man at least once.

Tales from the Old New Land (Reboot) - Episode 1 - Just War - Very Beginning

(Son opens door, home from a vacation, the Dad doesn't getting up to greet him.)

Son: Hey Dad! (no response) Aren't you going to give me a hug?

Dad: You're not going anywhere...

Son: Wait, are you?... You're just eating falafel balls out of a bag!

Dad: Anything wrong with that?

Son: No... But can you open a window at least? The house wreaks of pot!

Dad: This is the fourth century, there are no windows.

Son: Oh... Aren't you going to ask me about my vacation?

Dad: You'll tell me all about it anyway.

Son: Oh it was amazing! We went to





--------------------------------------



Dad: This whole Jesus thing of yours is really obnoxious.

Son: Well we can't all get satisfaction out of going a million pedes (Latin for footsteps) out of our way to every music festival from us! Didn't you go to one last year where they burned some guy alive?

Dad: Come on. I had to go to Burning Man at least once.


My Third Post for the Times of Israel

Daniel Barenboim's Orchestra

My Second Post at Times of Israel

The Imminent Decline of Pikesville

Friday, November 2, 2018

When Facebook Becomes Blogging


I may be the only person in the world personally affected by this who is not involved in it (and I suppose that's the reason it's happening), but this labor dispute at the BSO is a tragedy. The management is saying that there isn't enough money to keep the Baltimore Symphony a full-time orchestra. At the end of this, the BSO may be demoted from a 'major American orchestra', a term used to mean a full-time one, to a 'minor', part time one. The best musicians will start applying elsewhere where they can make more money and work more, and that will push off more potential donors.

In a few years, anybody else who cares will have died. If you explained to anybody under the age of 70 that classical music was literally the soundtrack of daily life for everybody who is now over seventy, hardly anyone would believe you. It seems so completely distant from today's life that it must have disappeared overnight. But how have all these symphony orchestras kept going for so long? When I was a kid, it was three orchestral concerts in Baltimore every week, nearly all of them sold out. 50% of the people who went back then are clearly dead now, and a good half of the ones left seem barely able to walk. Twenty years before I was born, the Philadelphia Orchestra would come to Baltimore and do an entire mini-season of concerts at the Lyric Opera House.

If the musicmaking weren't so great, the BSO would be the most depressing place in Baltimore. But the BSO is not the most depressing place in Baltimore, it is the best thing about living in Baltimore. I'm single and eccentric, so I go out of my way to go to a lot of orchestral concerts far afield. And I often wonder why I do, because on any given week, the BSO may outplay every orchestra until you get as far afield as Pittsburgh. But i's the BSO who gave me the passion for this music. Perhaps its a paradox, but the very fact of the precariousness of the arts in second-tier cities like Baltimore and Pittsburgh and Cleveland means that the practitioners have to bring their A-game every week or else there will be no audience at all. And, of course, there may be no audience even so.

I may be alone in my generation in believing that high culture is at all important. It is obviously far from what's most important in the world; and there are hundreds of issues at stake right now which are far more important than events like this. And long before the crises of the last few years emerged, there were millions of Americans who believed that high culture is just a more pompous form of what popular culture gives us much more directly. Even a lot of classical musicians believe that today, and I suppose there was a time when even I believed that myself, or at least tried to convince myself that it was true. But whatever you believe about it, classical music is an unbroken tradition which has existed for hundreds of years and it is dying out. Dying is the most inevitable part of nature, and eventually comes for everybody and everything, but the greatest reason to immerse yourself in the arts is that it's the only proof we have that anything at all defies the cycle of nature. It takes you to places and eras and worlds which you never would be able to imagine yourself without them. The loss of something like this is like a fire at the BMA or the Walters - hundreds of paintings and architectural artifacts that are completely unique and reach to us across centuries and let us commune with the ambitions and yearnings of people and places long dead. It only takes an instant to destroy all that uniqueness which has lived for centuries, and once erased, you can never get it back.

All artists have ever wanted to do is make your lives more joyful, more meaningful, more beautiful. It's almost a cliche that Americans don't like the high arts, which we perceive as something elitist, and that Americans don't like history, the lessons of which we perceive as not applying to us. But it would seem of late that we're drawing closer and closer to learning that the lessons of history still very much apply here. If America lets things this beautiful die, how much else can it allow to die?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

INEP #26: Bildung Part 2 - Final Draft First Two-Thirds - Very Different from Rough Draft

We have so much quantitative knowledge that no one person can possess even a percentage point of it, but the more comparative study there is between all of these fields, the more each field can become better understood, and the more each field can yield pragmatic use. We are a society so dynamic, which grew so quickly, so noisily, so effectively, that our American dynamism may destroy the planet. Our quantitative progress, not our moral progress but our progress in technological breakthroughs, desperately needs to slow down so we can understand what we've created and implement it more wisely. 

Some thinkers literally, and mistakenly, call this dynamism 'Faustian.' When Oswald Spengler used the term 'Faustian society,' he meant European/American society, which was a relatively polite way of saying 'white society,' which he perceived as being in terminal decline. By 'Faustian' he meant that we live in a society that believes in the constant accumulation of progress. This is such a horribly warped interpretation of both dynamism and Faust. Unceasing dynamism doesn't slow down, it incinerates itself. But more importantly for this podcast series, it would roll Goethe over in his grave to hear this interpretation of Faust for reasons both literary and moral. There is no linear progress to Faust's attainment of greater experience. The character Faust circumambulates organically as we all do, abruptly ending one segment of his experience to begin another, resuming a thread later that he had not picked up for long before - an endless process of abandonment and return that is how we all have to live our lives even if we try to will it differently.

But even if our society is steadily accumulating technological progress, the process of abandonment and return is already implicit in how we ourselves relate to the technological improvements of our lives - in our houses, workplaces, how we keep in touch with family and friends. Today, science and technology evolves so quickly that we seem to be unable to know what's true from year to year. 
Just when the luddites among us have figured a gadget out after eighteen months of living with it, the gadget is rendered obsolete and replaced with a new gadget that will take another eighteen months to learn. A food that was always good for us is declared bad for us, and a year later it's already been declared good again and bad again.  

You can all make your own long list of these uncertainties, a much more personal and useful list than anything I can curate for you. We all know that everything about our lives exists in a state of technological flux. The point is that in the many, many uncertainties we face in every facet of our lives, we cling to anything which gives our lives order. And since everything about the world is constantly changing, the easiest way to give order to the world is to define ourselves in the most immovable ways. It was always like this in human history, but today, when there are so much more knowledge about the world and so much less certainty about what it contains, there's much less reason for us to be so set in our ways.  

It's much easier for ourselves to think of ourselves as men or women, white or black, straight or gay, upper or middle or lower class, than it is to think of all the various ways, both beneficial and detrimental, which we have been influenced by men and women, whiteness and blackness, straightness and gayness, and all manners of class. Our commonality with each other is that we've all been influenced by all these various ideas of sex and race and class and so much else besides. But each of us is influenced by them in a completely different way. That is our uniqueness, and it's much more comfortable to think of ourselves as part of a larger whole than it is to realize all those ways in which we're different. 

Because when we really take account of the balance sheet, wherever we lie on the political spectrum, we will discover all manner of things about ourselves that we will find deeply unpleasant, and strike at the heart of our deepest beliefs of who we are. When it comes to the interrelation between people, many of us think we want to break down barriers. But within each person is a chorus of different selves, each of whom dominates 'ourself' at various points of every day. When it comes to the hundreds of thousands of ideas with which we're acquainted over the course of a lifetime, many of which we all find severely disturbing, we're as fixed in our ways as the earth in a geocentric universe - suppressing that which we find disturbing with denial when it comes from our own minds, and rage when it comes from the minds of others. It's a thin band-aid of secularism put on top of a gaping wound that is the religious psyche.

 I have no doubt that with the ability to be openly of an alternate sexual identity, a person can feel an enormous sense of liberation by being able to proudly express one's identity. There are no words for how necessary this development is in the spread and pursuit of human satisfaction. But the idea that a person's racial identity, or for that matter, their income identity, defined them for their entire lives, is an idea that was on the fringes of Western discourse, both left and right, just twenty years ago! The speed at which the internet passes overly simplistic ideas and solutions is breathtaking, it's like authoritarian state propaganda of the 1930's, but in the age of social media, it's almost entirely self-generated by the followers rather than the leaders. In another ten years, even Fox News could be obsolete - completely unable to compete in the passionate intensity it stirs in America's ideological bases with the wikified talking points Twitter followers create on its own. When I was growing up, the intelligent would bemoan that politics was something the masses had no use for, but we got our wish and how many people who made that complaint in 1995 could possibly continue that wish today? People whom, twenty years ago, would never give politics a second moment's thought, are now convinced that every political difficulty is an emergency too important to ever ignore, and to ignore them or to have anything but the most extreme opinion is contributing to the perpetration of humanity's worst crimes. 

This is what it means to live in a democracy with the safeguards off. When everything is decided by democracy, everything is subject to the whims of the mob. This is exactly what American contemporaries of the French Revolution feared democracy would become. Many people talk very much these days about how the Senate is the center of our problems because of the disproportionality of the Senate's representation, in which California has the same number of votes as Wyoming in spite of having 80 times as many people. They talk about how the Supreme Court is the center of democratic dysfunction, with 9 people appointed create legal rulings that have all the finality of royal decrees. 

To any liberal, there can be is question that we are now heading in the direction of authoritarian tyranny. In the twenty-first century, the Presidency has been in Republican hands for the majority of the time in spite of losing the popular vote in four of the last five elections. The House of Representatives has been in Republican hands for all but six years, in spite of the Republican districts representing 140 million people to Democrats' 180 million in their winning years. 

But how did we get here? Is it possible, however unlikely, that an excess of democracy was what brought us to the edge of resembling the type of an authoritarian state we fought so hard last century to remove from the world? 

Let's listen to what those Nazis Socrates and Plato have to say about democracy and how it leads to tyranny, without poor Glaucon's interjections of "Yes,... Of course,... We can be sure of that,... You're quite right,..." This is going to take a while, but once you hear this argument, you will never get it out of your head until we are through with this potentially pestilential era of human history. I will be stopping intermittently for my own comments and hopefully for your instruction - not to mention my own instruction in doing a relatively deep dive into Plato. For people who want a relatively shorter version of Plato's argument that I'm going to read here, look up Andrew Sullivan's piece in New York Magazine, 'America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny'
Democracy would seem to be our next object of inquiry. How it arises and what it is like when it does arise. Isn't the way a city changes from oligarchy to democracy something like this? Isn't it the result of their greed in pursuing the ideal they have set themselves: the requirement to become as rich as possible? 
I'm just going to take a guess that you need no interjection from me about how this is relevant to American life.
The reason the rulers in it are rulers I take it is because of their great wealth. So, if any of the young turn out to have no self-restraint, the rulers, predictably, are not prepared to restrain them by a law prohibiting them from spending what they own and losing it all. Their aim is to buy up the property of people like this or lend them money with the property and security and in this way become even richer and more highly respected.
And in this paragraph, we have the entire history of the Baby Boomers. The oldest Baby Boomers are now 72. After a youth with no self-restraint, they turned from their revolutionary ways to supposed fiscal conservatism which was really fiscal narcissism. Leading to a country with a combined government and personal debt of 55 trillion dollars. That last line of buying property and lending them money with property and security, how can you not think of The Great Recession and the sub-prime housing bubble?!
And isn't it obvious by now in a city that a higher regard for wealth is incompatible with the posession of self-discipline on the part of the citizens? They will inevitably lose interest in one or the other.  
So, through negligence, and the consistent license they give well-born individuals to behave without restraint, the rulers in oligarchies can sometimes drive them into poverty.  
And these people I take it sit around armed in the city, in debt, or disfranchised, or both. They are the drones with stings, eager for revolution, they hate and plot against those who now possess their property, and the others like them.
The correlation to all things Trump should be obvious here, but I'd like to instead turn back the clock of American History slightly because Plato is talking here about an oligarchy, not a democracy. You'll see more what I mean in a minute. Here's Plato again:
And presumably, the city turns into a democracy when the poor are victorious. When they kill some of their opponents, and send others into exile. Give an equal share in the constitution and public office to those who remain, and when public office in the city is allocated in the most part by lot. 
It's very important to think about this in the context of American history for a moment. On the one hand, again, we shouldn't view any this as having a one-to-one correlation with any period of American history. Obviously Socrates, through Plato, is referring to archetypes, or 'ideal forms' as he would probably put it. But on the other hand, whether or not we are an oligarchy in 2018, we were almost certainly still an oligarchy in 1918. It was only in 1920 that America became anything resembling a true democracy when women achieved the right to vote. African Americans could not be denied the vote by law in 1870. Even free Black men were denied the vote until 1838. And in the first Presidential election in 1788, the only Americans who could vote were those who owned property. Furthermore, it was only in 1933 that there were any number of economic programs that America could regard its economic status as anything other than oligarchical. It can be argued that until Roosevelt, America was a democracy in name only, and the founders did not even intend for America to become a democracy. They intended a republic. Just remember that famous James Madison quote from the Federalist Papers: "In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever character composed, passion never fails to wrest the scepter from reason.... Had every Athenian been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob." Imagine what James Madison would make of twitter. So if we were a democracy before 1920 or 1933, we were a piss poor one. The rich held the pursestrings over the poor, and it was never a fair fight to get them to leave the poor in anything but squalor. 

From the American point of view, at least so far, the American story is a narrative of continual self-improvement. I'll leave it to somebody who can express the narrative better than I  (up to 3:38). I regret that I was not there for that second inaugural address, second inaugural addresses are almost always meant to be more inspiring than the first. But the very idea of American exceptionalism, that we have a unique commitment to liberty, is grounded in the fact that no nation so conceived has ever been so successful in providing liberty to so many for so long, and has constantly wrestled with its ideals to provide ever new births of freedom to long-suffering peoples.  

But a Republic is not indistinguishable from a Democracy. And the Republic which the Founders meant for us to have is very different from Plato's Republic. Plato's Republic is, in many ways, a commune. Perhaps not a Soviet or Maoist commune, but certainly something from which Marx and Thomas More would later take all manner of cues. All things seem  possible to philosophers when they believe they can condition human beings to have different motivations than they alwyas do. Leaders are not allowed money or families except in a communal sense, and they are censored from all manner of ideas which are not commensurate with making an ideal government. But Plato's Republic is also just a thought experiment, there's no instruction or strategy, as there is in Machiavelli, about how to create the government you wish to see in reality. 

That is what makes our republic such an incredibly unique achievement. Our republic is based on the idea of separation of powers, checks and balances, the vices of human ambition powering a system which turns vice into civic virtue, as the worst ambitions of various humans and beliefs cancel each other out so that only ideas which work to the common good remain. It is as great a form of government as can exist in an era when humans may finally control their own destinies. But what happens in an era when humans invent technologies more powerful than themselves? What happens in an era when mathematical algorithms need only one-hundred-fifty search terms from your google history to predict the entirety of your preferences and choices thereafter? Can a Republic function in an era when technology is so powerful that it can be used to manipulate us into thinking whatever the technology's proprietor wishes for us to think?

So now, let's go back to what Plato has to say on democracy. 
What will this regime in its turn be like? How will these people live? Are they free men, for a start? Isn't it a city full of freedom and freedom of speech? Isn't there liberty in it for anyone to do anything he wants?
And where there is liberty, then obviously each person can arrange his own life within the city in whatever way pleases him?
So it's important with these philosophical texts to not take every meaning literally. The power they have over us, perhaps even the dangerous power, is because they work so well as metaphor. There is no way that Plato was clairvoyant enough to see over the span of 2500 years with absolute clarity to predict the fall of American or World Democracy. There is no such thing as a philosopher who has 'solved' human nature or handed down to us truths eternal. That's the realm of math and science, of verifiable fact. Philosophy, even Wittgenstein, does not traffic in facts. Philosophy means 'love of wisdom' and wisdom is very different from knowledge. Wisdom can only be qualified, not quantified. Ascribing quantitative qualities to philosophy is no more how philosophy works than it is how any other humanistic learning does. The point is not to find the truth, but to find meanings within it that might intersect with the truth, that run parallel or perpendicular to it, or that rhyme with it or seem metaphorically comparable to the truth. And since the truth can often be a very, very troubling thing, so can a text as obviously proto-totalitarian as Plato's Republic.

The whole benefit of living in a democratic republic like ours is the pursuit of happiness and to arrange our lives in whatever way pleases us. This is pretty much the most sacred belief in American life, indeed in contemporary Western life. That we should be free artists creating our own lives to give ourselves the most possible inner satisfaction.
The most varied of regimes, I would think, as far as human character goes.
It's probably the most attractive of the regimes, like a coat of many colors with an infinite variety of floral decoration. So, this regime will catch the eye with its infinite variety of moral decoration. Lots of people are likely to judge this regime to be the most attractive, like women or children looking at prettily painted objects. 
For the moment, we're going to forego that line about the 'coat of many colors' with its extremely troubling racial connotation which Andrew Sullivan's piece subtly implies is important to understanding America's predicament. Sullivan has a troubled and slightly toxic history when it comes to racial questions, as the editor of The New Republic who allowed a major American publication to print an excerpt from Charles Murray's book, The Bell Curve, which attempted to draw a correlation between a person's race and their IQ. But there will be an important point to make about it later about it, troubling in its racial connotations in a completely different way.

There's no compulsion to hold office in this city, even if you're well-qualified to hold office, nor to obey those who do hold office if you don't feel like it. Nor to go to war when the city is at war, nor to be at peace when everyone else is, unless peace is what you want. Then again, even if there's a law stopping you holding office or being a member of a jury, there's nothing to stop you holding office and being a member of a jury anyway, if that's how the mood takes you. Isn't this, in the short term, a delightful and heaven-sent way of life? 
So on the other hand, Plato's line about there being no compulsory service in democratic life is something that should sting us all, because it's far from a given that this all-volunteer army we have is entirely to America's benefit. I went into that quite a bit in the Machiavelli podcasts I did. On the other hand, if we had compulsory service, we would probably be a lot more circumspect about going to war, as we eventually became in Vietnam. Many countries have mandatory national civilian service. I certainly don't trust the Trump Administration to implement something like that to anybody's benefit, but imagine, if you can, what it would might do to bond Americans together to send Christian conservatives into the cities and have them develop bond with African-Americans through community service. Imagine what it would mean if teenagers from dangerous neighborhoods were sent into the country and learned profitable trades. We're all required to serve on juries, even if jury duty is relatively easy to get out of for anybody who is not the exact demographic a defense attorney wants on the jury.

But think of two generations ago, military service was something which no man could avoid, and because all the young men were away, all the young women took their jobs in factories. It was the ultimate civic bonding experience, and it created a country that was communally minded enough to tackle civic problems in a manner their children never did, and practical enough to implement solutions in a manner that our generation has no idea how to even begin implementing. Whatever one thinks of mandatory military service and how it endangers the lives of millions without their consent, it did build a country that guaranteed more rights to far more people than any other government in world history.
 Back to Plato.
And what about the relaxed attitude of those sentenced by the courts? Isn't it civilized? Or have you never seen people who have been condemned to death or exiled in a regime of this sort, who nonetheless remain in person, hanging about in the center of things and haunting the place like the spirit of the departed hero without anyone caring or noticing?
Well, on the one hand, this is not exactly an American problem. It is only a problem in the oligarchical sense that when you have lots of money to throw at the courts, you can usually get away with just about anything so long as the press doesn't put any attention on you. We rarely use the death penalty, but we have the largest prison population, at least documented prison population, in the world by a multiple of two. Who knows if China isn't fudging their numbers? But apparently this authoritarian country with three-and-a-half times our population has half our number in prison. On the other hand, look at the hundreds of crimes our President has clearly gotten away with. When people say that we're still an oligarchy, or again an oligarchy, there's a lot of evidence to support their claim.
Then there's the tolerance of this city. No pedantic insistent on detail, but an utter contempt for the things we showed such respect for when we were founding our city. Our claim that only someone with an outstanding nature could ever turn out to be a good man, and only if from earliest childhood he played in the best company in the right surroundings and did all the right kinds of things, how magnificently the city tramples all this underfoot, paying no attention to what kind of life someone led before he entered political life! All anyone has to do to win favor is say he is a friend of the people. 
Well, I think most of the West today would be united in finding this snobbery, if not quite its own form of tyranny. Anyway, let's move on.
These and related qualities will be the ones possessed by democracy. You had expected it to be an enjoyable kind of regime. Anarchic, colorful, and granting equality of a sort to equals and unequals alike. 
This is a very difficult line, because whatever one thinks of equality, the question remains, how do you define inequality? How can anybody with half a brain not look at a Trump rally without thinking for at least a split-second that these people are stupid enough to vote us out of democracy forever?

I love living in America, and the main reason I love America is because life here is a never-ending carnival of attractions, the smartest and the dumbest people on earth live here and rub shoulders every day. The most venal human impulses are on display every day, and yet American life so often renders these potentially evil people ridiculous.

Yet what happens when the most ridiculous man on the planet, the incarnation of every bad American impulse -  the arrogance and bluster, the materialism, the narcissism, and yes, also aesthetic, becomes our President? We in America have enjoyed hating the shit out of Donald Trump for my entire lifetime, and the thought that we now have to take him seriously is lethally terrifying. And that brings us back to Plato:
In that case, that leaves us with the task of describing the most delightful of regimes, and the most delightful of individuals, tyranny and the tyrant. 
Does tyranny arise out of democracy in much the same way as democracy rises out of oligarchy? 
The thing they held up as an ideal, the thing which formed the basis of oligarchy, was wealth, wasn't it?
It was the insatiable longing for wealth and the neglect of everything else and the pursuit of profit which destroyed oligarchy. 
And is it the insatiable longing for what it defines as good which destroys democracy too in its turn?
What is it you define as good? Freedom. This is the thing I imagine which in a democratic state you will hear described as its finest attribute, and what makes it for any free spirit the only place worth living in. 
There is so much to unpack in that last sentence that I won't even try. I only have to remind you of so much that's happened in the last one-hundred years. From Wilson's famous quote when he asked congress to Declare War in World War I that 'the world must be made safe for democracy,' to the famous John Kennedy quote from his inauguralTo George W. Bush's many, many, many quotes about the necessity of pursuing freedom everywhere. (until 1:55) From H. L. Mencken's quote: "I believe in only one thing and that thing is human liberty. If ever a man is to achieve anything like dignity, it can happen only if superior men are given absolute freedom to think what they want to think and say what they want to say. I am against any man and any organization which seeks to limit or deny that freedom ... the superior man can only be sure of freedom only if it is given to all men." to Francis Fukuyama's declaration that the end point of mankind's ideological evolution is the universal of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

Freedom is the ultimate, even the only meaningful, American aspiration. An America that ceased to aspire toward freedom is no longer America. So then what would Plato say to that?
Well then, as I was saying just now, is it the insatiable longing for this good, and the neglect of everything else which brings about a change in this regime too and creates the need for tyranny?
How does that happen? I imagine that when a democracy, in its thirst for the wine of freedom, finds the wine being poured by unscrupulous cupbearers, and when it drinks more deeply when it should of pure, unmixed freedom. Then, if its magistrates are not totally easygoing, and do not offer it that freedom in large quantities, it accuses them of being filthy oligarchs and punishes them. 
How do you even begin to unpack the meanings manifold meanings implicit in this? On the one hand, we do accuse many of our magistrates of being filthy oligarchs, and personally, I think that it's pretty well-warranted. Let's just take the most obvious recent example: whatever one thinks of Brett Kavanaugh's treatment of women, there's a much more quantifiable measure of his bad judgement. For six of his twelve years on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, he's reported credit card debts exceeding 15,000 dollars per year over three credit cards, which total up to 150,000 dollars in total debt. Apparently $60,000 of these debts were in baseball tickets for the Washington Nationals procured for himself and his friends, another source of this debt is country club fees. The Chevy Chase Country Club, which requires 92,000 dollars to join and another $9,000 in yearly fees to retain membership. A house in Bethesda worth 1.2 million dollars.

A lot of ink has been spilled, rightly, on the issue of a probable sexual assaulter ruling on women's issues. Whether or not people should be held responsible for actions when they were seventeen as Kavanaugh seems to be, the fact remains that adults who exhibited horrible judgement when they were teenagers should be extremely circumspect about positions of extreme responsibility where they will be called upon to use their judgement to decide the fate of a few other people. But when a judge like Kavanaugh with a history of assault is called upon to rule about the fate of millions of others, that is a scandal; it ruins the moral authority of the Supreme Court, and it should be punished.

But as important as Kavanaugh's record of violence against women is, his financial dealings are still even shadier for being so very recent. Kavanaugh's debts were all paid off in full last year, nobody has any idea yet how Kavanaugh was suddenly able to pay them off. But Newt Gingrich let slip in public recently that Kavanaugh will be worth the fight because he will be the deciding vote when to compelling Trump to release his tax returns. Michael Kinsley once wrote that 'a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth,' and there are few truths  more painful in recent politics than that. We are living in shady times, and we're living now in a world where it's not out of the realm of possibility that Kavanaugh's vote was 'bought' with an understanding that when it comes time to rule on the finances of the even much shadier financial dealings of a person of loathsome eminence, Kavanaugh will reciprocate.

But let's think of that other sentence, not involving the magistrates: democracy, in its thirst for the wine of freedom, finds the wine being poured by by unscrupulous cupbearers, and when it drinks more deeply when it should of pure, unmixed freedom. It's a great piece of writing that comes down to us 2500 years later with imagery no less vivid than it must have been at the time. I would imagine that, depending on your ideological point of view, the kind of pure, unmixed freedom of which Plato speaks will evoke different images. However literally Plato meant this image, politics is a much more complex field of study than it was in Athenian days, and so we have to read Plato in the realm of metaphor, not in the realm of truth.

If you're a modern American liberal or a modern socialist, the pure unmixed freedom it evokes will most likely be financial. If you're a modern American conservative, the pure unmixed freedom will probably be sexual. If you're a libertarian, you will say that there is nowhere near enough pure unmixed freedom. If you're an intersectionalist, the pure unmixed freedom will be the freedom of white males at the expense of all others.

But what all this adds up to is that the ultimate pure unmixed freedom of democracy is the freedom to perceive everything in America according to your own rubrics, including and most importantly, whom to blame for the fact that America is not freer than it is, and the people we blame are each other. If the freedom of a community is bought at the expense of the community's cohesion, is it only a matter of time before the faction within the community who gains power begins to take essential freedoms away from the rest of us? The most obvious example in today's news is that Trump is floating the possibility of rescinding the fourteenth amendment, that every American born in America is a citizen, by executive order, and while we'll see after the midterm election if he's serious, it's not completely out of the realm of possibility that he could do it. What he needs is five far-right Supreme Court justices, and he has at very least four, and very nearly five. It all comes down to John Roberts, who is about as reactionary-right-wing as you go without being far-right. Plato's next line has a kind of answer to that too:
Those who obey the rulers are heaped with insults. They are regarded as servile non-entities. Praise and respect, whether in private or in public life, go to rulers for behaving like those they rule, and to those they rule for behaving like rulers. Isn't the desire for freedom for a city in this type bound to run to extremes?
I need very little comment there. Ever since Bill Clinton, no one in American life has been more disrespected than whomever our President has been. The 'dignity of office' seems like such an old-fashioned concept that there is no longer any deference to authority unless the authority comes is 'one of our own,' who comes from our own faction, or perhaps our own faction-within-our-faction. At times, progressives hated Bill Clinton nearly as vituperatively as conservatives did. But so long as the President was 'one of us', whether Clinton, or Bush, or Obama, or Trump, no one was more loved within their own faction. George W. Bush was praised by his own party for being 'a President you could have a beer with.' Donald Trump is 'the voice of the forgotten American.' Obama was the President for the marginalized. And the reason for this is that we in America have most certainly run much further to extremes both ideological and cultural. We no longer recognize ourselves in at least a hundred million other people in the same country. This is probably where Plato missed something that perhaps should have been rather obvious even 2500 years ago. Freedom means very different things to very different people, and people of different temperaments and character who have the ability to pursue their freedoms will inevitably see each other as impediments to greater freedom. And the greater their proximity to one another, the more they seem impediments to one another, and in that sense, Plato hit it on the nose.
And isn't the anarchy bound to make its way, my friend, into private households? Can we give an example of that? A father, for example, gets used to being like a child, and being afraid of his sons. A son gets used to being like his father. He feels no respect or fear for his parents. All he wants is to be free. Immigrants are put on a par with citizens, and citizens with immigrants, and the same with visiting foreigners. 
That last sentence would make any left-of-center person extremely uncomfortable. But I will make one observation: so many of the countries of North-West Europe whose welfare programs socialists hold out hope can be enacted here, how is the populace convinced to have such programs? It's because the population of each country is so very stable and homogenous. The moment mass immigration becomes a possibility, each of these countries grows an enormous far-right party which deeply resents paying for newcomers as though they've been long-term citizens of this social democracy. One could interpret Plato in such a way that he means that mass immigration is equally deleterious in how it warps the compassion of the native-born as it warps civic spirit. It's a very charitable interpretation of Plato, but great texts always allow for new meanings. If Plato saw the extreme interconnectedness of the modern world, I'm relatively certain that the idea of foreign aid and nation building would hold some appeal for him, because a stronger nation elsewhere will less tempt people to immigrate elsewhere to places whose laws and customs they don't understand innately.
That, plus a few more trivial examples of the same kind, in a society of this sort; teachers are afraid of their pupils and curry favor with them. Pupils have an equal contempt for their teachers and their attendants. In general, the young are the image of their elders and challenge them in everything they say and do. The old descend to the level of the young. They pepper everything with wit and humor, trying to be like the young, because they don't want to be thought harsh or dictatorial. 
David Brooks would have a field day with this paragraph. For all I know he's based dozens of columns on it. In it we see the academic accountability of student review, which so bothers conservatives. We see his famous concept of the Bobos, Bourgeois Bohemians, Baby Boomers who try to remain perpetually young and plan on being fully individuated rather than community minded all through their dotage. The tendency of Americans, particularly Baby Boomers, to be fully cognizant of their rights rather than their responsibilities, the unwillingness to save for their future, and the belief that questioning authority is a virtue in of itself. But then comes the moment in Plato when things go deeply uncomfortable for a Brooksian conservative (and jeez, David Brooks doesn't merit his own ideological designation), and I daresay, would make anybody uncomfortable who's to the left of Donald Trump:
But the extreme limit of freedom in a city of this kind comes when those who have been bought as slaves, whether male or female, are every bit as free as those who bought them. As for the relationship of women to men and men to women, I all but forgot to mention the extent of the legal equality and liberty between them. To generalize from all these collected observations, have you noticed how sensitive it makes the souls of the citizens, so that if anyone seeks to impose the slightest degree of slavery, they grow angry and cannot tolerate it. In the end, as I imagine you are aware, they take notice even of the laws, written or unwritten, in their determination that no one should be master over them, in any way at all. 
Oh those horrible slaves and women who demand freedom. This is really disgusting from a modern perspective. So why don't I leave this answer to a contemporary celebrity who is now thought of as disgusting even though, just a year ago, he was thought by a number of people the single most important and influential cultural phenomenon of our time (whole thing up to 4:25). This is what I meant by the racial connotation I mentioned earlier. The fact is, this country was, to an enormous extent, built by the labor of slaves and indentured servants. China is, to an enormous extent, built by wage slavery. Rome and Greece and Egypt and the Mughals and Imperial China and Japan were exactly the same. So was every feudal power in the Middle Ages who built itself into a nation-state by peasant labor. In human history, there is no precedent yet for a country which has first built itself up into a place in which existence is anything but tragic without doing so on the backs of a labor horror show. It can almost seem as though any semblance of human dignity is a privilege and not a right. Furthermore, how were people shepherded into adulthood all throughout recorded history so far? The answer is almost obvious, it's because in the vast majority of cultures, we subordinated, and probably intimidated, a gender which on average was weaker in body and tied down by pregnancy into subservient domesticity.

With modern technology comes the possibility that there no longer need be such a hierarchy, but it's naive to think that attempts to change the hierarchy of human socialization will not first come at an horrific cost which we have paid nowhere near in full. In a sense, the World Wars came about because of questions of class. Obviously, class is far from the direct cause of either World War, but the hard-reactionary turn of European governments could not have happened without enormous progressive and socialist unrest. Kaiser Wilhelm and Czar Nicholas would never have become so in thrall to the military were the military not necessary to put down all manner of revolts, just as happened to their various predecessors of a kind in all the 1848 revolutions, and happened to the French in the leadup to the French Revolution. In those days, the great issue was class - extending the benefits of society that aristocrats and bourgeoise enjoy to the common man. Today, the great issue is identity - extending the benefits white males to those who did not win such a genetic lottery. I say what follows as a white male, or at least a Jewish male, and have to ask, as I have from the very first episode of this podcast, yes, we may create a more just society, but for everyone who now strives for it, it will not be for you. It will someone else, and our striving for a better world often comes to us in the form of the ultimate sacrifices, not just our deaths but the deaths of those we love. When we've already come so far as a society, when we've already made better lives for so many hundreds of millions, even billions, is it worth going further if we risk the whole thing disintegrating?

But yes, with enough willpower, we certainly can go further, and in a hundred or two hundred years, the struggle will probably be to extend rights in manners that we have not even begun to conceive of as being rights. So even if that better life is for someone else, someone later, it becomes clear that Plato only told half the story, and withheld the half that makes such struggles worthwhile. Plato had slaves as every Athenian citizen did, and he couldn't help but see the world from the point of view of an Athenian master. But it's naive to think that the majority of humanity's great achievements so far were possible without some form of hierarchy in which somebody got to release their intellectual potential by being master over the bodies of thousands. Let's let Plato continue:
This is the form of government, my friend, so attractive and so headstrong, from which I believe tyranny is born. 
What is the next step? We mentioned the class of idle and extravagant men. The most courageous element leading, the least courageous element following. We compared them to drones. The leaders to drones with stings, the followers to drones without stings. 
Well, I think the comparison to drones is pretty obvious when you look at a Trump rally. Some of us would say the same about Bernie Sanders rallies, but that is another podcast for another day... Back to Plato:
Very well, let's make a theoretical division of the democratic city into three parts. After all, this is how it is, in fact, composed. This class of drones, I imagine, is one part. And because of the absence of restrictions, it grows as freely in a democracy as in an oligarchy. 
But it is much fiercer in a democracy than in an oligarchy. 
In an oligarchy, it is treated as of no value, and excluded from power. So, it gets no exercise and does not develop its strength. In a democracy, by contrast, barring a few individuals, it is the dominant influence in the state. The fiercest element in this class does the talking and acting, the remainder sit around the rostrum, buzzing, and refusing to allow the expression of any other view. The result is that in a regime of this kind, everything, with very few exceptions, is run by the class of drones.  
This seems to be what's happening all over, in America, in Brazil now with the election of Jair Bolsonaro, it happened in Palestine in 2006 when Hamas was elected and there was no election ever since, it's what happened so many places of consequence elsewhere in extremely solid form, when the electorate clearly voted itself out of democracy and knowingly did so. When democracy gets too democratic, it can vote itself out of liberal rule of law, and an ironclad liberal rule of law is, clearly, the only way democracy is possible. Perhaps this means that liberal rule of law is not a consequence of democracy, but, rather, something that paradoxically has to be guaranteed by a more authoritarian system before democracy is possible. This is why democracy happened so seldom in human history, why it took so long to catch on, and why democracies in the classical world were so unstable. Back to Plato:
Then there's a second class which always separates itself off from the majority. 
When everyone is engaged in making money, presumably it is those with the most disciplined temperament who generally become the richest. 
They provide a plentiful supply of honey for the drones, I imagine, and an easy source from which to extract it. 
The Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Robert Mercer, Peter Thiel. Thousands of mere hundred millionaires rather than billionaires whose politics  I'm sure other people work just as hard and disciplined, but this is the moneyed class which works to extract money from the very people to whom they provide the crumbs. Plato again: 
After all, they can't extract much from those who haven't got much. They're called 'the rich', these people we're talking about. The drones feeding ground.
The general populace would be the third class. Manual laborers with little interest in politics and very little property of their own. This is the most numerous and powerful class in a democracy, but only when it is assembled together. 
But isn't it getting some share of the honey, it is reluctant to assemble very often. That's why it always does get a share of it, if it's leaders have anything to do with it. They take it away from those who possess property and distribute it among the people, keeping only the lion's share for themselves. 
Those whose property is taken away are presumably compelled to defend themselves by speaking in the assembly, and taking whatever other action they can. 
Even if they have no desire at all for revolution, they are accused by the others of plotting against the people, and being oligarchs. 
In the end, when they see the people attempting to injure them, not maliciously but out of ignorance, mislead by their opponents; at that point, whether they like it or not, the rich really do become oligarchs, but not from choice. This too is an evil implanted in them by the stings of the drone we were talking about.
Then you get impeachments, litigation and lawsuits between the two classes. 
And isn't there a universal tendency for the people to set up one single individual who is their own particular champion? Don't they feed him up and make him mighty? 
So, when we look at the growth of a tyrant, one thing at least is clear: this position of champion is the sole root from which the tyrant springs. 
In that case, what prompts the change from champion to tyrant?
Isn't it pretty obvious when it happens when the champion of the people starts acting like the character in the story in the temple of Zeus, the wolf-god in Arcadia. 
That there is one piece of human innards chopped up among all the pieces of the other sacrificial offerings, and that anyone who tastes it will inevitably turn into a wolf. Or haven't you heard that story?
Isn't the same with the champion of the people? Once he really wins the mob over, the blood of his kinsmen is no bar to him. He accuses someone falsely as such people do. He brings him to trial and murders him. And as he rubs out a man's life, his unholy mouth and lips taste the blood of a butchered kinsman. He drives people into exile or kills them, hinting at a cancellation of debts and the redistribution of land. What is the inevitable and predestined next step for someone like this? Doesn't he either have to be destroyed by his enemies or else become tyrant? Turning from man into wolf.
He becomes the architect of civil war against those who own property. 
Well then, if he's sent into exile, but returns despite his enemies doesn't he return as an out-and-out tyrant?
And if his enemies are unable to drive him to exile by kill him by attacking him publicly, then they start plotting to kill him secretly, by assassination. 
The tyrant's response to this is the famous request which everyone who has reached this stage discovers. He asks the people for a personal bodyguard to guarantee the safety of their people's champion. 
And they give him one. More worried about his safety than their own, presumably. 
Shall we then describe the happiness of this man and of the city where such a creature comes into being?
To start with, in the early days, doesn't he have a smile and a friendly word for everyone he meets. He says he's no tyrant and is full of promises both to individuals and to the state. Wouldn't he have freed them from their debts and divided up the land among the people and among his supporters?  Doesn't he pretend to be universally kind and gentle?
But I imagine that once he feels safe from his enemies in exile, being reconciled with some and destroying others, his first concern is to be constantly starting wars so that the people will stand in need of a leader. 
And, perhaps, with the further intention that their contributions to the war will impoverish them, compel them to concentrate on their daily occupations, and make them less likely to plot against him. 
And if there are some independent minded people whom he suspects of challenging his rule, doesn't he try to find a good excuse for handing them over to the enemy and destroying them? For all these reasons isn't a tyrant always bound to be stirring up war?
Doesn't this tend to make him increasingly unpopular with the citizens?
Then the boldest of those who hoped to make him tyrant and who are now in positions of power start to speak their minds freely, don't they? Both to him, and to one another, criticizing what is going on.
So the tyrant, if he wants to go on ruling, must be prepared to remove all these people until he is left with no one who is any use, whether friend or enemy. 
He will need a sharp pair of eyes then, he needs to pick out the brave, the noble, the wise, and the rich, since it is his unavoidable good fortune, whether he likes it or not, to be the enemy of all of them. He must plot their downfall until he has got the city clean. 
Yes, the exact opposite of what doctors do to the body. They remove what is worst and leave what is best. With the tyrant, it is the other way round. That's what he has to do apparently if he is to go on ruling, in which case, he is firmly and inevitably impaled on the horns of a delightful dilemma, which requires him either to spend his life with the worthless mob and be hated by them into the bargain, or not to live at all. 
And the more hated by the citizens his behavior makes him, the larger and more reliable a bodyguard he will need, won't he? 
Who are these reliable people then? Where can he send to for them? They'll come winging their way of their own accord, any number of them, as long as he pays the going rate. 
Dogs, teeth, drones again, foreign ones, all kinds of them...
And from the city itself, might he not bring himself... to deprive the citizens of their slaves, set the slaves free, and make them part of his bodyguard? 
They are, after all, the most reliable he can find. What a wonderful thing you make a tyrant out to be, if these are the people he has as his friends, the people he can trust, once he destroys the friends he started with. 
So, while he enjoys the admiration of these friends and the company of these new citizens, do decent people hate him? And avoid him? 
We have strayed form the point, however. Let's return to that army the tyrant has. That fine, large, varied, and ever-changing army, and ask how it is going to be maintained?
Well, obviously if there's money in the city's temples, then as long as it lasts, he will spend that, plus the money of his victims, allowing him to exact smaller contributions from the people. 
But what happens when these run out? He will use his father's money, obviously, to support himself, his drinking companions, and his male and female friends. 
You mean, the people who spawned the tyrant, will support him and his friends. 
It will have no choice. 
What if the people resent this? It is not right, they might say for a start, for a grown up son to be supported by his father, quite the reverse in fact, a father should be supported by his son. What is more, the reason we fathered you and put you in power was not so that we could ourselves become slaves to our own slaves. As soon as you became powerful, and support you and them and the rest of your collection of human flotsam. We order you to leave the city now, you and your friends. What do you think would happen then?
Then the people really will find out what they are and what kind of offspring they have fathered, taken to their hearts and allowed to grow. 
Will the tyrant use force against his parent? Will he beat him if he disobeys?
Yes! Once he has taken away his weapons. A parricide then, this tyrant you are describing. A cruel guardian for man's old age. At this point, it seems, the thing is an acknowledged tyranny. The people have jumped out of the proverbial frying pan into the fire, from their enslavement to free men, to a despotism of slaves. 
Will there be any objection, then, to our saying that we have given an adequate of the way tyranny evolves out of democracy, and of what it is like when it has done so?