By Lex, on Sat – July 30, 2005
Yes, yes – I know it’s Saturday. But there is a precedent * for such things…
This may be an even more than usually stray, random and disconnected post. Not every dot will be connected, not every thought finished.
In the near future, you may see more links than essays – I’ll try to keep the Rhythms machine grinding towards its inevitable conclusion, whatever that is. I can tell you that it won’t be, “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
Just in case you were worried about that.
A friend has added her voice to the bitstream, and even named me in the paternity papers. Don’t know if that comes with any child support requirements if she in turn spawns new bloggers, but she’s a wonderful person with a great deal to say, even if she is almost young enough to be my daughter. Give her a look, and be nice, You’d better be, she can bite back.
Speaking of the young (no, not yet), there was an interesting post over at Harry’s * the other day. It’s interesting, I find myself more an more checking in over there because, even though the site is identified as a “left/liberal” site (in Britain!), those over there seem to have a pretty clear-eyed view of the world situation, especially with respect to the war on terror. I probably wouldn’t agree with much else of what is said for domestic use there, not that my approval has been solicited. For example, there is a lamentable tendency to talk in terms of “class consciousness.” That’s the kind of jargon that I would have expected to find mouldering on the history’s little ash heaps all around the world, redolent as it is of the tired and discredited faith of Marx, Engels, et al. But now I’m getting a little OT.
Ah – the young, just so: I found this bit * pretty insightful (talking about a popular political TV show over there, “Question Time”)
I spent the first 10 minutes of last night’s Question Time Special believing I had been transported back to the post-9/11 edition of the same program, a program so utterly beyond the pale that it made me feel ashamed to be British.
The way we started, one could have been forgiven for thinking that everybody, but everybody was responsible for the 7/7 atrocity, apart from the fanatics who actually carried bombs onto trains. “We need to understand why these young men felt so detached, blah, blah…” Self-hating Brits, I’d call them. Well, I’m sorry, but I’m just your ordinary Joe: wife and kids, mortgaged up to the hilt, unfulfilling job, not enough money, etc., etc.. It’s a hard enough slog as it is without some one-step-removed apologist insisting that I take partial responsibility for the irrational actions of people I’ve never met, never hurt, but who would, given half the chance, slaughter me and everyone else I love. Its not my fault, see, and I resent being asked to contemplate the possibility it might be. In fact, it makes me quite angry.
Very sensible, I thought. If more of the most outspoken people on the American left (and some on the right) thought this way, we could have quite a nice dialogue about how to win the war, rather than screech at one another about whether or not we ought to be in it, and Valerie Plame. I suppose part of the reason why the British left can be so open-minded about this is because, well – after all, it’s their guy in Tony Blair who is running the show. To get to his left you have to start playing in the Socialist Worker’s Party’s sandbox, and those kids tend to have leaky diapers, so no. But again, I digress – we were talking about youth:
Forget Shy Tory Syndrome, what we’ve got here is Reticent Pro-War Disorder. Voicing unqualified support for a course of action that will, inevitably, result in the deaths of many innocents, as well as the guilty, can be difficult for some. Certainly, it’s a damn-site more difficult than uttering mealy-mouthed platitudes in support of a policy of inaction which has theoretical consequences only: on the one hand, there’s a pile of bodies; on the other, a gaping space where the bodies would be. All things being equal, who will choose to pontificate atop a mound of corpses?
And it’s no surprise that it’s the activist student and early-20-something demographic that gets disproportionate airtime. They are the ones with arms arrow-straight in the air for the full 60 minutes, desperately seeking an outlet for the moral certitude that will otherwise consume them. A rectitude inversely proportional to their knowledge. You know, it’s nothing to be remotely proud of, but I’ve yet to hear an argument from this clique that I couldn’t destroy in a thrice in a forum that allowed for cross-examination of their unintelligent and unintelligible positions. I’ve spent the last couple of years confronting our future leaders of industry and tomorrow’s political elite as they parade through Cambridge market square in orange boiler suits, whilst fellow-students Cassandra and Abigail blow whistles and the token ethnic hands out leaflets so banal, so lame and just so utterly, utterly wrong, that the world famous alumni, with more Nobel Prizes between them than any other institution, are likely so embarrassed by the association that they must wish they’d gone to Trent Polytechnic.
Lovely, is what I call that.
And by the way, the point of that is not to say that young people shouldn’t have ideas, God forbid, nor that they shouldn’t even express them passionately. They should, and they should. They should also stop shouting every now and again to see what the other person is trying to say, and whether there is any merit in it. And the real point is that people shouldn’t think that passion is, by itself, a style of argument which convincingly trumps logic, nor that the volume at which a point is brayed should somehow excuse it from the need for a reasonable foundation in fact, nor that saying the same sand-poundingly stupid thing over and over again gives the thing itself any additional gravitas through mere repetition. It duddn’t. There are many passionate, loud-mouthed, repetitive people in the world – some can profit from prescription medication and function well in society, while others must be institutionalized.
Now you probably all wish I’d stayed away until I was feeling a little less dyspeptic. Gomen.
Was at a change-of-command aboard the USS Midway museum last Wednesday, just before the storm broke. A friend of mine (senior cryptologist-type) relinquished command of the local Naval Security Group Activity Detachment. If you’re not a cryppie (and the odds are, you’re not) you have no idea what NSGAs do, which is just the way they like it. Still it’s fun to watch these guys talk about their work in open forums, in front of the lumpen proles milling around the museum flight deck just outside the ropes. And, I was treated to the not-to-be-missed spectacle of Sailors marching. Had to wear my uniform of course, summer whites. First time in uniform in over three weeks. Hell, first time in underwear.
What, was that an over-share? Sorry.
Took a stroll around the old girl after – I’d never served on Midway (although it was a near-run thing) but grew up hearing a lot of stories about her. Told one * , too. Small, good Lord, she was a small ship. Only three decks up from the flight deck to the bridge, which if you were a young lieutenant getting your britches chewed by the Captain for some sort of buffoonery was probably an advantage on a hot day, still wearing your scooby rig (survival harness/life preserver) and speed jeans (g-suit) while trudging up the ladders to place where bad lieutenants go to get re-organized and appropriately motivated.
The bridge was tiny compared to a modern carrier (and even some not-so-modern carriers recently retired * from service, *snuffle*) and it was hard to see how anyone ever got any work done. The ship had an old-fashioned citadel arrangement inside the pilot house, so the helm and lee helm were behind a kind of inner fortification away from the CO’s chair and away from the direct supervision of the deck watches. The Navy loves to throw people at problems, so our deck watch teams tend to get pretty manpower intensive, especially during special evolutions like refueling at sea and leaving or entering port. The very idea of standing a night watch during flight operations or refueling under such an arrangement made me feel just a little bit older inside.
But not as old as this did: There were two aircraft on the ship, an FA-18A on the flight deck and a T-2C Buckeye trainer in the hangar bay. The T-2 came from the same squadron in Meridian, Mississippi I instructed at, lo these many years ago, right after I got my wings. It would have been almost impossible to discover that I hadn’t flown it. A search of my logbook against the aircraft’s bureau number proved that this was so. That stings a bit, the fact that the two of you, man and machine, were once wedded in flight and one of you is now in a museum. But the T-2s were older jets even back when I was young, so the sting was bearable.
Less so the fact that I’d also flown the FA-18 up there on the flight deck in my first fleet squadron. Those jets were new when I was young.
Which, combined with the octogenarian docents tripping over all themselves to say “sir,” and offer special privileges and head of the line passes to an active duty captain in his whites, can make one feel a little absurd and old fashioned.
Ah, well. Two competing thoughts in play here: The service is a young man’s game, and this growing old thing isn’t for sissies.
Young and old.
You marry, and because there’s too much love just for the two of you, it spills over and you end up having children. And because they are of you, you love them although they’re none of them alike, and none of them come with an instruction manual. But you love them all you can just for being who they are, and do the best for them you’re able, and you try to teach them well. And you pray a bit and hope a lot that everything is going to work out, but you never really know, because that is not given to us, the knowing.
And they start to grow up, these children because that is the nature of things. And while they do so, and while you still can, you try to teach them to be in the world without being of the world. In this you are in a kind of competition with vast, inchoate forces dedicated to pulling your child into the world, into a kind of place where virtue is disparaged and vice is used to push product, attitude, ease. So you hope that the moral foundation you attempted to impart when they were young and innocent and believed in everything you’d say would be sufficient.
It is a kind of battlefield in which you never know a final victory, but in which there can be many small and starkly defined defeats.
At some point as they grow up it becomes apparent that the wisdom you would try to impart is not as important to the intended audience as it is to you, the speaker. It is tempting at this point to stop speaking, believing it to be fruitless. But it is at just this point, I have discovered, that you must instead redouble your efforts and instead raise the volume.
And when you reach a place you’d hoped never to find yourself, you have to dig down deep and start again and try to rebuild the foundation, and rebuild the bridge of trust, using love as your only tool, because you know that if love cannot do it, then nothing can and all is well and truly lost.
But there is no quitting, no giving up, no surrender.
* 07-10-18 Links gone; no replacements found – Ed.