Emperor Barry’s Special License

This past week, I wrote loquaciously about a mindset I’ve seen and heard, either with greater frequency in recent years, or with a constant frequency that I notice more acutely during that time. It is difficult to tell which, and this is often the confusion to be tolerated when one’s awareness increases. The mindset could be concisely summarized as “Since I know what I’m doing, everyone else should be doing it my way, and if they do anything differently then they must not know anything about what they’re doing.” With some soul-searching about this I’ve discovered much of my revulsion has to do with Omar Khayyam’s much more artistically-worded warning

He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool. Shun him.
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a child. Teach him.
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep. Wake him.
He who knows, and knows that he knows, is a leader. Follow him.

I do not know that these are “fools.” But on a case by case basis, I tend to believe it likely. I’ve learned how to do a few things in my time. Not very many, by some measures, or maybe a whole lot by others — it’s relative. But in the case of each one, as I learned more and more about how to do something, I’ve learned there are many ways to do it. This is true much more often than a casual observer might suspect, at first. It’s true of tying your shoes, for example.

I can imagine learning how to do something. I can imagine such education coming after, and only after, the admission “I don’t know it yet” — I’ve been through this many a time. But I cannot imagine learning it, seeing someone exercise a different technique, and saying in private or in public “that guy doesn’t know what he’s doing, because he’s doing it a different way from the way I learned it.” Can’t relate. Maybe that’s why I don’t like Strunk & White. Although I applaud the concept of going beyond proper spelling & grammar, and learning how to write so that the reader has an easier time going through it; the Little White Book goes beyond even that, to commit the sin of saying “Anyone who does it any way different from mine, should cap their pens and cease on the spot, for they are proliferating a poison upon the reading public.” Oh, maybe that’s not the intent. But that’s how people read it, and that’s a mistake.

We’re actually looking at two problems here. One, there is a very real possibility…and I’d consider going even further than that actually, calling it a likelihood…that this practitioner who’s figured out one way of getting a job done, and is ready to heckle and righteously assault all other ways of getting it done, has achieved his threshold of knowledge without ever taking that first step, without ever admitting “I don’t know.” Two, in a group environment, with this institutional wisdom being gained under the leadership of Khayyam’s fools who’ve never had to admit “I don’t know,” creativity is effectively destroyed, or at least, prohibited. Nobody may color outside the lines. You’re tying down a load? But that isn’t how you tie a taut-line. You’re going to Elvas Street? But that’s not the exit we take. You call that an engine? But it has no pistons. Technology, therefore, must become static. Nobody can ever have a new idea.

Which brings me to Emperor Barry.

He has, once again, come up with some new ideas. And, once again, Republicans are divided on how to respond although they should not be. I found it somewhat exasperating when Dennis Miller, repeating the litany of many others, intoned that he found some of these changes sensible and thought they should have been implemented awhile back. Alright, I can see where he’s coming from, so let’s say for the sake of argument I agree with that. The beef I have is, that is the beginning of the disagreement, and not the end. Alright, let’s say for sake of argument these are things that should be done; now, there is this thing called Separation of Powers… That, to say nothing of: “Shall not be infringed” seems, to me, pretty airtight as legal jargon goes. Not a lot of wiggle-room there, given how much it’s been debated and distorted over the last two centuries.

Now that we’re on the eve of the second inauguration of America’s First Holy Emperor, it is worth contemplating this new culture He has introduced. We haven’t been doing that much. Barry does this-or-that, and before the ink is dry we’re all caught up in debating the pros and the cons, we don’t notice what else has been taking place.

Without taking the time or trouble to customarily cite actual examples, describing only the culture and not the specific reforms put in place, the pattern I’ve seen over the last four years has been —

1. The statists, for the time being, have won that fight about money: Does it belong to you or does it belong to Washington? It belongs to Washington. When you earn it, you’re borrowing it; when you pay your taxes, you’re returning it; when you keep what’s left over, it’s because Washington allows you to.
2. The statists, for the time being, have won that fight about risk: There should not be any. Not that Washington is going to take any actual responsibility for getting rid of it all. More like, every bump in the road, encountered by anybody, is an excuse for them to legislate anew.
3. The statists, for the time being, have won that fight about debt: You operate under a limit. Washington doesn’t.
4. The statists, for the time being, have won that fight about opportunity: You don’t need any. You’re getting your oxygen, your food, your clothing and shelter, just like a prisoner getting his three-hots-and-a-cot. Opportunity is not for you because that would be “greedy.” Opportunity is for politicians.
5. Nobody needs to be inventing or discovering a damn thing, anywhere. NASA’s new role is Muslim outreach. Everyone should just do what is expected of them.
6. …except for Barack and Michelle Obama, and their very close friends. They, and they alone, can come up with creative, surprising, cool new ideas. Oh, some of the other three hundred million brains will have to be properly “educated,” even in some very advanced engineering disciplines and sciences — but that is just for implementation. Even those very bright, very disciplined, very enlightened minds will be expected to move along a certain path, toward certain goals, in certain ways. They “invent” what they are told to invent. Doing the unexpected is Emperor Barry’s special license.
7. If it’s wrong, and Barry does it, it stops being wrong on the spot. Every leftist dictator in world history has enjoyed this privilege. Ours is no exception. And so, Barry can wage war, Barry can bomb civilians overseas, Barry can do Extraordinary Rendition, Barry can waterboard, Barry can run up the nation’s debt. Wrong if the other fellow does it, okay if Barry does it.
8. Most importantly, it is entirely a thing of the past, to consider the possibility that bad people might have good ideas or that good people can have bad ones. It is therefore an impossibility for any two “good” people to ever have a disagreement about what to do. Emperor Barry, who is our compass point, showing us what a good person is and what a good person thinks, cannot ever be opposed except by bad people who have bad motives. It is evidently the next stage of our evolution, to stop deliberating complex issues like grown-ups, and start arguing with a lot of name-calling and nothing else, like second- or third-graders.

Bearing these rules in mind, it is to be expected that our President should infringe upon those rights which were not supposed to have been infringed. He is the state, just like Louis XIV; He is our “Sun King.” And there can be no reason for anyone to oppose Him, other than their desire to oppose the state, and all the people within it. They are enemies of the state.

Barry came up with something innovative and new, such that He changed the trajectory of some moving thing. He steered. Only He is allowed to do so.

Yes, America’s best days are still ahead of her. I’m sure of it. But that happens only after this current era comes to an end. We can’t prosper with this in place, because prosperity requires building new things, with entirely new ideas, and we’re not doing that.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Rotten Chestnuts.

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