Monday, January 29, 2007

Reaching for my semi-automatic

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. --Ecclesiastes 1:9

Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver. --Hermann Goering (attributed without citation) (1893-1946)

For a long time I avoided dealing with postmodernism. It is an aesthetic issue. The jargon sets my teeth on edge. When I hear the word "meta-narrative," I want to start shooting (only metaphorically, I assure you).

It is not a recent affliction. In the 70s one often heard of shifting paradigms. My indwelling sin had to be restrained from the urge to shift proboscides. I prefer my abstractions concrete; my ideals tactile. My intuition suggests that big empty words suggest big empty heads.

Of course, short and loaded words may say something about my own head.

But postmodernism cannot be avoided. Everyone who has anything to say about our culture is talking about it. I admit I am a brute Philistine on the subtleties, but it seems that postmodernism is what happens when existentialism quits trying.

Very broadly, as I understand it, existentialism focuses on freedom, action, and self-definition as being the foundation of human meaning. Postmodernism questions the idea of meaning itself. Like the dog that gave the original cynics their name, postmodernism tracks vulnerable prey and devours. Its specialty is deconstruction.

This deconstruction may be a virtue. It thoroughly and effectively demolishes modernism. But it is also a fatal flaw because it demolishes itself. When we give up meaning, we give up words. Without words, there is no truth. We end up in a sort of pre-Stoic nihilism.

. . . there is no new thing under the sun.

Even if there is no new thing, it is our thing. We do not live in the age of the Puritans, or even in the golden post-war age of prosperity and promise. We live in an age of despair and doubt. The postmodern dialog expresses it in the most appropriate way possible: it denies man the ability to comprehend his problems, let alone solve them.

Maybe, then, postmodernism portends some good. It focuses on narratives, which I would rather call stories. Everyone loves to hear a story. But, mostly, everyone wants to tell their own story. At some point, everybody will exhaust their repertoire. This is because everyone will find that meaning is meaningless. After a due season of wandering in Mesech and tent-dwelling in Kedar, perhaps we will be driven back to the Word of John 1--the Word that tells us that words are real things with real meaning.

Reducing scripture to a narrative diminishes its force. Of course there are narratives within the Bible. But the real story is plain: we are lost and without hope or power. The sooner our culture realizes this, the sooner it has a reason to turn to Truth. Christ is King right now. No one can come to God but by Him.

So, for now I sheath my pistol. I've learned new languages before, I'll try to learn postmodernism too. I doubt I will ever understand it, but I aim to chronicle its undoing.

The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:11-14.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Will the 500th visitor here please leave?

A friend sent me this article from World Net Daily. At first I was skeptical because I think Joseph Farah tends to hype things. But I looked up the bill and he's right. Congress is proposing to further regulate what we once called "freedom of expression".

The proposed legislation is included in Senate Bill 1. I looked it up on the Thomas website this morning. It seeks to add some forms of "grassroots lobbying" to the list of entities required to register as lobbyists. It is a convoluted bill, but in essence it states that an activity called "paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying" will be a regulated activity requiring registration (a license from the government to practice free speech).

This "paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying" includes by negative implication any attempt to influence the general public if directed at more than 500 people. The "paid" element seems to include any payment whatsoever. If a group of people pooled their resources to print a brochure, or if a blogger received payment, perhaps just to cover expenses, it probably would apply.(Note, there is a $25,000 per quarter provision for "Grassroots Lobbying Firms", but this seems to be independent of "paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying").

There are a flurry of amendments that have been proposed seeking to remove this language, but the legislation as drafted now is appalling. Political free speech used to be the most protected right under the Constitution. Now it looks to be on its way to becoming the most regulated.

Here is the quoted segment of section 220 of S1. You can look it up for yourselves at (type in S.1 in the bill number search, there is no permanent link).

(A) IN GENERAL- The term `paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying' means
any paid attempt in support of lobbying contacts on behalf of a client to
influence the general public or segments thereof to contact one or more covered
legislative or executive branch officials (or Congress as a whole) to urge such
officials (or Congress) to take specific action with respect to a matter
described in section 3(8)(A), except that such term does not include any
communications by an entity directed to its members, employees, officers, or
THEREOF- The term `paid attempt to influence the general public or segments
thereof' does not include an attempt to influence directed at less than 500
members of the general public.

So, if this bill passes, please do not send me any money. And if you are the 500th person to see this post, please leave immediately. Or at least don't tell anybody.

I have no intention of registering.