Thursday, May 10, 2018

"Never Underestimate the Power of a Question"

"Never Underestimate the Power of a Question"

"Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, has a phrase - mental prisons - for looking and thinking at problems in the same old way. He’s hailed President Trump and Kanye West as escapees. That’s fine as far as it goes, but key to any kind of general escape is recognizing that governments are the wardens.

Hospital administrators and doctors within Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) were little Alfie Evans’ wardens. They determined the 17-month old’s brain condition was terminal and he was in an irreversible vegetative state, and ordered his life support withdrawn. Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, contested the prognosis and the order. That they had to go to a court for permission to seek alternative medical arrangements tells you all you need to know about state-provided medical care. That permission was denied offers a sneak peek into Britain’s impending totalitarianism. Alfie died April 28.

Never underestimate the power of questions, they are the most powerful positive force in the universe. Questions embody curiosity, courage, and a quest for the truth. They initiate investigation, hypotheses, experimentation, new knowledge, and progress. The first questions humanity’s forebears asked began the long, arduous journey to civilization.

MAGA was the Trump acronym; his symbol should have been the question mark. The two are related. The acronym implies America is no longer great, which prompts the obvious question: Why? The source of most of the vitriol directed toward Trump is not so much his answers, which have often been contradicted by his actions. Trump’s transgression is that he dared to question in the first place: immigration policy, foreign military intervention, trade agreements, costs of alliances, corruption, and so on.

Government creates a comfortable status quo for government, string pullers, and beneficiaries. Its prime imperative is to preserve itself. Any change perceived as a threat will be resisted, stifled, and squelched. Questions are inherently threatening, so Trump must be stopped at all costs. Tom Evans and Kate James must not be allowed to challenge their son’s death sentence. Kanye West must be shamed and ostracized.

A deadly deception sells government with terms like “progressive” and “liberal.” Governments are coercion, which is always regressive and illiberal. They are captured by a society’s wealthiest and most powerful and used to cement that group’s status. Crumbs are tossed to the lower rungs, not to improve their station but to make them dependent on the government and ensure their support. Criticism of this arrangement is tolerated only to the extent it can’t be suppressed, but suppression always looms, sometimes blatantly, sometimes in barely perceptible ways.

Scott Adams* and other commentators see Kanye West as the start of something dramatically new among blacks. Doing electoral math, some foresee an appreciable downshift in blacks’ usual 90 percent plus support for Democrats, which will, they claim, doom the donkeys. Such triumphalism is misplaced. It’s not like Kanye West is the first black to question black fealty to Democrats. Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have been skewering shibboleths on race for decades.

Indian-American Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary Hillary’s America examined the Democrats’ long history of overt racism. It’s support of slavery, the Klu Klux Klan, Jim Crow, poll taxes, and segregation, and its opposition to anti-lynching and civil and voting rights legislation made the racist south a solidly Democratic bastion for almost a century. Blacks voted overwhelmingly Republican for seventy years after the Civil War.

Franklin D. Roosevelt switched them to the Democratic column. The impetus was primarily economic and political, not civil rights. The New Deal helped those most devastated by the Depression, many of whom were black. Politically, Roosevelt offered them a place in the Democratic coalition, although it put them in uneasy alliance with the southern racists. The switch offers insight into blacks unwavering support for Democrats since Roosevelt.

Years ago, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board started referring to the Democratic “plantation” for blacks, and the phrase is still in use, usually by conservative commentators who regard it as a bold badge of political incorrectness. Blacks ignore it and the implicit question: when will they “wake up,” realize their slavery, and flee the plantation? If they’re receiving economic and political benefits from Democrats and governments, paid for in part by taxes coerced from The Wall Street Journal’s editors and conservative commentators, who’s the slaves?

While racism may never be excised entirely, blacks’ legal status and their position vis-a-vis America’s governments have never been better. Many receive substantial economic largesse from the government, including cash, in-kind benefits, and preferences in hiring and contracting. Blacks, almost always Democrats, have been elected to just about every political office in the land, including the presidency. Multi-millionaire West doesn’t need government, but millions of blacks do, and they vote for the party that identifies itself as the party of government.

One can argue that black dependence on the Democrats and government is bad for them; dependence of any kind usually is. Everyone knows overeating can kill you, but we still have an obesity epidemic. Black dependence is a shackle, but it’s durable and won’t be unlocked just because a rich rap star questions it.

Presidents have found shackles easier to break when they don’t involve domestic constituencies. Nixon went to China and Trump is going to the Korean peninsula to negotiate with Kim Jong-Un. While the outcome is uncertain, if Trump eventually gets an agreement by which North Korea denuclearizes, perhaps in exchange for the US withdrawing troops from South Korea - or at least stopping war exercises - and security guarantees from the US and China, it will be a triumph. Moon Jae-in, Kim Jong-Un, and Trump will deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

Trump asked what if the stalemated status quo that had held sway on the Korean peninsula since the cessation of hostilities in 1953 could be broken. The usual establishment and media suspects said their nays (see “Media Pundits Horrified by Prospect Between North and South Korea”) but had only the usual palaver when Trump asked why not. It’s a measure of how bizarrely ossified their thinking has become that a peace and nuclear disarmament initiative is mocked, lambasted, and rejected out of hand before negotiations have even begun.

Trump is also questioning the status quo on Iran, pulling the US out of the Iranian Nuclear Agreement. Evidently he wants to negotiate a better deal. The move is thoroughly questionable: his strategy has a lot of moving parts and he’s taking significant risks. Time will tell if things work out, but once again Trump is indisputably disrupting the consensus.

The welfare and warfare state consensus should be questioned and disrupted at every turn. The empire and its bread and circuses have corrupted and bankrupted the nation. Government is an intellectual tar pit that slows, traps, and submerges curiosity and inquiry. Questions are the hallmark of free minds. The state is the natural enemy of free thought. A fight for the latter is a fight against the former. Questions will spark the coming battle. They are weapons of independence and revolution which governments can never wholly suppress. Were they ever to do so, we’d all share Alfie Evans’ fate: hitched to their life support until they decided to kill us.”

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