Saturday, January 30, 2010

Writing as a means of communication

I’ve been doing technical writing in one form or another for 30-odd years. Some of it has been fairly informal, like instruction on Civil War drill and tactics. Some of it has been in electronics or other manufacturing themes, and some in firearms instruction, history, or philosophy. Based on comments from people who have read it and used it on their jobs, I’m pretty good at it. I am, however, pretty old-fashioned in my approach to writing. I thought I’d take a break from the political crap and write a little bit about writing. Not saying I’m a geek, but it will be fun to write about my pet peeves in modern technical writing. I’d be interested in seeing your examples of new plots to sodomize a perfectly useable and innocent language.

Peeve number 1: Making up words when there are perfectly serviceable words available. Many of these made up words end in “-ness,” such as “sameness,” or “perfectness.” See there? My spell checker didn’t even pick up “sameness” as a phony word! We used to use “similarity,” or even “congruence.” The very worst places I’ve ever seen for made up words were the publications of politically correct, over-educated HR professionals. A lot of this stuff serves utterly no purpose, though, not even political correctness. For example, when I worked at Intel, I saw a notice posted in a hallway saying that one of the large machines was going to be removed from the factory, and that part of that hallway would be closed. However, the machine wasn’t going to be removed. It wasn’t even going to be “uninstalled.” (Thank you, Microsoft, for that one.) It was going to be “out positioned.” A memo at Digital urged us not to commit totally to our jobs, but to perform “…one-hundred percently.”

Peeve number 2: The use of certain words that are considered “professional.” The prime, number one example of such a word is “utilize.” Somewhere, I read a gag that said, “Never use use if you can utilize utilize.” When I worked at Digital Equipment Corp., one of my main jobs was editing our manuals and technical processes so our workforce could understand them. The training department had called in a contractor to do some literacy testing on the employees, and found the average reading level to be 3rd grade – and this included the engineers and managers! I would take these impossibly technical, jargon-filled monstrosities, and cut them down to a tenth their original size, add some illustrations, simplify or remove the jargon, delete the redundancy, and give them back to the engineers or managers for approval. In most cases, my work was approved and applauded. There was one engineer, though, who was utterly manic for using utilize. I had substituted use for utilize about 100 times in this one document. He red-penciled every stinkin’ one of ‘em and kicked it back to me. I changed ‘em again and sent it back. He complained to my manager, who wrote me up for being a racist. It seems I was forcing my white male chauvinist pig grammar down the throats the downtrodden masses. Another example of this is the phrase, “at this time.” What the hell’s wrong with saying, “now?”

Peeve number 3: Jargon. Actually, there are days when jargon takes over the top three spots on this list, all by itself! I work in the cell phone business, which is essentially an offshoot of the computer business, and jargon is omnipresent. I have counted up to 10 different terms for the same thing. In fact, I’ve seen three or four different terms used for the same thing in the same paragraph! Jargon is unavoidable is a highly dynamic, rapidly-changing field like technology, but, for cryin’ out loud, let’s not do our best to breed it! This is one point where professional writers have really let us down. The engineers who are inventing this stuff have to make up words because they are so often dealing with new things for which there is no established word. But when they send their work to the technical writing or training departments, there needs to be some sanity. This is not just a pet peeve of an old, anal-retentive wrench-bender. On my job, I would wager we waste tens of thousands of dollars every year due to jargon. For example, if I’m looking up how to do something on a phone, the first thing I have to do is figure out what it’s called. We do have a glossary, but it is time-consuming to look in it, and it only contains a small percentage of the terms, anyway. So I search for every similar term I can think of. Eventually, I might find it, but oftentimes I have to call for help. There have been times when I had found the answer, but continued to look for 20 or 30 more minutes because the terminology was different, and I didn’t know I’d found it!

As an aside, I would dearly love to have the time and money to spend a year or so researching and writing about the cultural implications of keyword-based information systems. (Keyword. Shouldn’t that be key word? Again, my spell checker thinks it’s okay. Humpf.) One person’s key word is not necessarily another person’s key word!

Peeve number 4: Acronyms. This is pretty much a corollary of number 3. The very best technical writing nowadays will have a glossary appended, or, if it’s an online document, a link to a glossary. How much time is wasted in looking up crap that should have been explained in the text? Instead of saying something like, “Change the ESN on the account,” and then basically putting the training on pause while the reader goes to the glossary to find ESN, the writer should say, “Change the Electronic Serial Number, or ESN….” From this point on, the acronym can be used because it has been defined in the context of the instruction. When I started at Intel, in 1993, they had an acronym dictionary. It was about 100 pages. The last version of it that I saw had almost 500 pages, and I think they finally gave up trying to document it, at all. I have seen sentences that were literally nothing more than a string of acronyms. Insane.

Peeve number 5: Noun pileup. Rather than using adjectives or adverbs, or modifying sentence structure to facilitate clarity, most tech writers will string together as many nouns as they possibly can to describe something. We might see something like, “cell phone pricing guide feature change order update analysis.” I have seen as many as 11 nouns used in a row, with no other grammatical elements. The problem with this is epistemological. The human mind can only keep track of about five or six concepts at one time. Leonard Piekoff called this the “crow epistemology.” I’ll write an essay on this, but for now, it just means that the human mind has to hold each noun as a separate entity until it is connected to other entities by modifiers, conjunctions, prepositions, pronouns, etc.. By the time you get to the end of a string of nouns, you have lost track of the first ones. In this example, we’re actually talking about an “analysis of the update to the way we order changes in pricing on our cell phone features.” When you take a common, straightforward phrase, jargonize it with non-existent words, string a bunch of them together, and then convert the resultant nonsense to an acronym, you have pretty much destroyed any hope of meaningful communication.

Peeve number 6: Himherheshe, also known as him/her, he/she. This is truly a masterstroke of the Progressive/political correctness movement. For centuries, it was accepted that, unless the gender of the subject were specified, the masculine form was to be used. This served us quite well until some educators managed to corrupt the conceptual ability of enough of their students that they were no longer able to comprehend the generalization. A huge number of women today are utterly incapable of seeing themselves as part of a species called “Man.” This has trivialized the very real discrimination against women, and wasted uncounted hours of time, and gallons of ink in re-writing otherwise legitimate and intelligible documents. Instead of focusing on real stereotypes, such as one I grew up with in which men were engineers and women were secretaries, we have been forced to focus on not giving imaginary offense to people who are committed to being offended by our very existence, anyway! I have seen otherwise good writing reduced to jibberish by gender/slashing. (Hey! I just invented that term! Maybe I’ll acronymize it, too!) It clutters the epistemological landscape like speed bumps. The mind must stop, read the gender/slash, and then go on. Personally, I will rewrite an entire passage, even using passive voice if I have to, in order to avoid a gender reference. Another popular solution is to mix references. Use masculine in one sentence, and feminine in the next. In his state of the union address, Barack Obama used an example of “… a student who…. her education.” I don’t remember him using a masculine reference, so maybe we should all be offended. To me, it seemed patronizing and petty, as if he found it necessary to remind us that a student could, feasibly, be a female. If he’d said, “…a young woman who… her education,” it would have been perfect.

Peeve number 7: Non-parallel construction. In one paragraph, a writer might list things in order from A through D, and in the next, list them C, B, D, A. This isn’t critical until the subject is a sequence, as in a progressive assembly line, or a programming sequence. Many instances of this are related to jargon, where the writer will change terminology in the middle of a piece. Parallel construction is another epistemological device that helps the human mind organize and retain information. Let’s say we have a process that involves five standards of five elements, each. If the information can be organized so it presents all the first elements as similar, or related, and all the second elements as similar or related, the whole is vastly easier to learn and retain than if it is presented as 25 conceptually unrelated elements.

Peeve number 8: Inverted sequence. Ever go through a complex set of steps, and then find an admonition at the end that says, “Before starting the above procedure…” or “The above procedure should be used only if….”? Makes me nuts. Put the conditions at the front, and keep the steps in numerical order. I have seen, recently, an instructional article that had about 15 steps. Step 6 said, “Before performing step 5…” What kind of an idiot writes things like that?

Well, this seems to have done wonders for my insomnia, so I’ll let it ride for now.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Lunatic-in-chief

28 Jan, 2010

Last night, we listened to President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address. At the time, I was stunned and, apart from the odd expletive, speechless.

Today, after thinking about it for a few hours, I have found my voice. We heard a full hour of the prating of a madman, and I will not flinch from calling him that. The man is crazy as a pet coon, but not nearly as endearing.

Over and over, he mentioned bipartisanship, and condemned it as being unproductive. He called those who have criticized him “petty.” He implied repeatedly that the only reason anyone disagreed with him was because they were a Republican. He criticized conservative talk radio and TV. He openly criticized the Supreme Court, and pretty much declared war on it. He accused the justices of undoing 100 years of progress, presumably referring to the establishment of the mongrel, bastard, statist model that has gotten us where we are today. We witnessed one of the justices of the Supreme Court, Sam Alito, shaking his head and telling the President of the United States, on live TV, in the chamber of the Congress, that he was wrong! How out of control is that?

Near the end of his speech, he called on Congress to join him in doing what was right for the children of America, whether or not it is what the parents of those children want. In other words, the president of the United States, on live, world-wide television, declared war on the opinions and desires of the American people. The government will do what’s best for your children. You sit down and shut up. The Congress gave him a standing ovation.

Very early in his speech, he said that a lot of Americans were mad at Washington for not being able to fix their problems. That’s probably true, because we have a hell of a lot of welfare looters and parasites and blood suckers in this country, and most of them just love the lunatic-in-chief who promises them the blood of their betters. However, Obama seemed totally unaware of the premise upon which this statement was based. That premise is the fundamental fallacy that we are all sitting out here waiting for Washington to take care of us. Nothing could be further from the truth!

A majority of Americans understand that Washington is the cause of most of our problems! We don’t want Washington to fix our problems; we want Washington to get the bloody hell out of the way, leave us the hell alone, and let us fix the problems, ourselves! The man can’t grasp that. He is intellectually and emotionally unable to grasp the fact that neither his race, party affiliation, ethnic/cultural background, nor any other superficial feature is what makes me despise him. I despise him because he is a statist tyrant, and the only things keeping him from being a mass murderer of his own countrymen are (1) the Constitution, in tatters though it might be, (2) time, and (3) about umpteen million of us sitting out here on a very large mountain of rifles and ammunition.

Barack Obama truly believes the crap he’s been advocating. He really, truly believes that he knows best what we need. He truly believes that no reasonable man could ever disagree with him. He truly believes that he has a mission to drive this republic in a direction that almost none of its citizens approves.

The man is mad. Stark, raving mad. He is as delusional as was Adolf Hitler, and, if you look at his theories, he’s every bit as savage and dangerous. He wants to make his mark on the world. So did Hitler, and he did. It wasn’t a very happy mark, but, by golly, he made it!

This man is very, very dangerous, but he’s not the most dangerous force in America. Even in collusion with Pelosi, Reid, and that set of execrable vermin, he’s not the most dangerous force in America. Even in collusion with the drooling, tyrant-worshipping news media, he’s not the most dangerous force in America. No, that honor goes to a very large segment of the American population.

We have, on the streets of this great nation, people who actually approve of Barack Obama! They still, after all that’s happened, think that moron is doing a good job! Those people, with their votes and their financial contributions, are far more dangerous than Obama. If Obama were taken from us tonight, the danger would not be gone because those people would still be out there.

Every time I see an Obama bumper sticker, I involuntarily wonder if the driver is a racist, a fascist, or an idiot. Those are the three categories of people to whom Obama appealed during the campaign, and those are the people who put him in power. Those people are still out there, doing all they can for him, whatever their motives.

And even if we were rid of Obama, they’d still be there, festering in our midst. So what do we do about them? Nothing. That’s right, not a flippin’ thing. Why? Because this is still a free country! We aren’t them! We don’t threaten or intimidate those who disagree with us – unless of course, they come after us, then that’s a whole ‘nother deal! Those people have a right to think what they want and vote for whomever they want to vote for, and we must never do anything to interfere with that, tempting as it may be. If the rights of any citizen are threatened, the rights of all citizens are threatened. The principles that disenfranchise one man may be used to disenfranchise any man.

What we must do is beat them at their own game. We must find candidates who have some moral fiber and a grasp of the nature of a free republic, and we must vote for them. We outnumber the idiots, so we can vote this current pack of scum out of office, and the idiots who put them there can’t do a thing about it. If they try…. well, that’s another story too.

But make no mistake: Barack Obama is a madman, and in combination with the Congress and the media, is a very dangerous madman. Let’s get him and his spawn out of power and see if we can salvage this nation.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Testimony

Time for station identification. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, generally called the Mormon Church. I believe in God The Father, in Jesus Christ, His Son, and in the Holy Ghost. If you were wondering where I stand on all this, here you go. I have to say, though, that Article 12 is a real challenge for me these days. And please note, none of the articles say we believe everybody but us Mormons is going to Hell. Here are


(History of the Church, Vol. 4, pp. 535—541)

1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ,
and in the Holy Ghost.

2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for
Adam’s transgression.

3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be
saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

4. We believe that the first principles and ordinance of the Gospel are:
first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third,
Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying
on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by
the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach
the Gospel and administer the ordinances thereof.

6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive
Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists,
and so forth.

7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions,
healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated
correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,
and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important
things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration
of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built
upon the American Continent; that Christ will reign personally upon
the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its
paradisiacal glory.

11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the
dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same priv-
ilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and
magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous,and
in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the
admonition of Paul - We believe all things, we hope all things,
we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all
things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report
or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

----Joseph Smith

It is my testimony to anyone who reads this that the Book of Mormon is precisely what it claims to be: the word of Almighty God, transcribed from original records by His Prophet, Joseph Smith. No sane person can read that book and honestly say it is the work of a barely literate 14-year farm boy. It is not of this world. It is either of Heaven or of Hell, and there is no way Hell would ever offer up such a powerful, consuming testimony of The Lord Jesus Christ, of His mission, His gospel, and His atonement.

If the Book of Mormon cannot be of Hell, nor of a charlatan, then it must be of Heaven, and that is my personal testimony. If you would like to know for yourself, I’ll get you a copy. Pray about it, then read it, but don’t read it the way I did the first time back in ’76 or ’77. I was determined to find holes and absurdities in it, and like anyone who looks at something with a prejudice, I saw what I was prepared to see. However, what I saw had no relation to what I was actually looking at!

I caution you to not be like the Pharisees, who stood eyeball-to-eyeball with the Son of God and wanted to pick nits about the clothes, or his grammar, or whatever. Read the book with an open mind, to see if it has anything to offer you. If it does not, it can’t hurt you, and you will be the better for having experienced a wonderful story.

The Savior told Peter that the testimony, or witness of the Holy Ghost was the rock upon which He’d build His church. Do not apply the wisdom of Man to the Wisdom of God; you’ll come up ‘way short. Yes, you might think you’ve found holes in the book, but you will be shortchanging yourself. Build your testimony on the rock, not on what you think you know.

There are some who will remember my atheist/Objectivist period. For about 15 years, I was a fire-breathing atheist. No one could stand against me because of the polemic skill provided by Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, and other Objectivist philosophers. I talked several people away from religion, and that is something I deeply regret. I’ve found a few of them and told them I was wrong. The problem was that my life wasn’t working the way I wanted it to. Ironically, it was Rand’s principle of questioning your premises that allowed me to get outside my box and look at religion. At the time, I was associating in a business venture with several Mormons, and listened to what they had to say. Their lives were producing what I wanted – not just materially, but in all regards.

I started reading the Book of Mormon and took the standard six introductory lessons from the missionaries. I fooled around with it for two years. My wife at the time was fanatically anti-Mormon because she was once abused by a punk of a husband whose family may have been Mormon. Never mind that if the church had known what he was doing, he’d have been excommunicated – assuming he really was a member of the church.

Anyway, I wore out about a dozen missionaries, asking a million questions. Finally, one of them told me straight out that they had other people to work with, and I was going to have to fish or cut bait. Someone had given me a few copies of a church magazine called, “The Ensign.” One day, when my wife was out of town, I was sitting in the floor, reading one of them. Suddenly, without warning or preamble, I had the most overwhelming sense of being inundated – literally flooded – with warm, soft love. At the same moment, I had an impression of something in my head saying, “This is right, Wess. What you are doing is right. Go to the next step.” The feeling and the message lasted about three or four minutes, then faded, leaving me filled with a drowsy peacefulness.

Now anyone who knew me in that era will tell you that such emotional responses to what I called ghost stories were very, very far from my character. I’m capable of crying at John Wayne movies, or about episodes from history. Emotional response has always been one of my best things, but never anything like that. And never without some warning, or some external cause. Afterward, I went back and read that page again, and there was nothing there that could have elicited such a response.

The next week, I made an appointment to be baptized, and have never questioned or regretted the decision for an instant. Since becoming a member of the church, I’ve sinned pretty significantly a few times, but on other occasions, when I’d done my part, I’ve had revelations that were absolutely, unquestionably NOT things I’d ever come up with – and they were always right.

Again, I testify to all who read this that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is just exactly that: Christ’s church in this, the final dispensation of Earth’s history. I also promise you that if you do not agree with that, nor believe the things I’ve said here, you will not go to Hell. Well, you might finagle a ticket there on your own, but it won’t be because you aren’t a Mormon. Jesus is the Christ. He lives. He loves us all, and He died on the cross to atone for our sins. He will return to claim the Earth that is rightfully His.

I lay this, most humbly, at your feet, and call you my brothers and sisters, in the Name of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Nature of Man with a gun

If it’s proper for Man to be free, what about those among us who would destroy our freedom? How should we respond to them? Should we resist? I believe that tyranny should be resisted with heart and soul. I include the governmental type of tyranny, and also the local, individual type. The thug who sticks a gun in your ribs in the parking lot is the soul mate of Nancy Pelosi. Both deprive you of your right to learn, to think, and to act – ie, of your very humanity. If it is right that Man should be free, it must also be right that he have the means of defending his freedom. Otherwise, we’d have to say, “It is right that Man should be free, unless someone disagrees.”

Should there be a limit to the level of tyranny we might morally resist? For example, should we be allowed to resist that tyranny which can be resisted with spears, only, or should we be allowed to resist that which can be resisted with rifles? Any attempt to delimit Man’s means of defending his freedom also delimits his freedom and makes it conditional upon the whims of other men. Should we be allowed to posses the means of resisting the tyranny of a single thug, but not of a gang? Again, that is the equivalent of saying, “Man ought to be free, unless several people think otherwise.”

No one who has ever come face to face with a gang in a dark parking lot will ever ask why a citizen needs a battle rifle! You’re damn right they are meant for killing large numbers of people! Sometimes, you run into large numbers of people that need killin’!

Just as freedom must include the entire rational process as well as physical action, so must the right to defend that freedom include all circumstances. It must also include, not only the means (a firearm) but the freedom to use it in self-defense. For example, some Brits claim they have the right to own guns, but the limits placed on their carrying, or even handling of their own guns makes such a claim preposterous. Their government has said, “You can have title to these things, but we will maintain possession of and control over them, and if you ever touch one without our permission, we’ll crucify you.” That is NOT the right to self-defense with deadly force.

The right to self-defense with deadly force is part and parcel of the right to live as human beings. To infringe on it is the same as censoring the news or literature, or forbidding certain inventions (as the kerosene lamp was once banned to protect the candle makers). To force Man to live at the pleasure or whim of his neighbors or his government is nothing short of slavery, which is nothing short of the murder of his humanity. It is one thing to publish an article of faith that says we sustain the law, and to invite or even beg folks to subscribe to that article. It is quite another to deprive them of the very means of disagreement. To limit Man’s choices is Satan’s plan, or, if you prefer, it is anti-evolutionary because it stands in the way of natural selection. Either way, it is tyranny and it is despicable.

The idea of licensing firearms, or requiring permits for their purchase or carrying is just as much an infringement on freedom as the outright banning of arms. “Oh, no,” you say. “There’s nothing wrong with reasonable controls and restrictions.” Bullcrap. Who’s reason? Yours? What if my reason says I need to be packing right now, and I don’t have time to fool around for three months getting a permit? License and permit laws say, quite literally, “You have a right to defend your life ONLY if you fill out this form in triplicate and take this course from some guy who may or may not be worth shooting, himself. If you encounter a deadly threat in the meantime, your right to life is hereby revoked.”

“But felons shouldn’t be allowed to have guns!” Bullcrap. If someone is loose on the street, there is no way of keeping them from getting or making a gun. As far as that goes, a club or a chain is bloody effective, too, especially if there are a dozen or so guys swinging them at you. My dear cousin, Kathy, was murdered by a convicted felon who used a brick from her garden to crush her skull. Kathy didn’t believe in packing a gun, and now the world must go on without her. I miss her something awful.

Since we can’t keep people from arming themselves and hurting others, why do we posture and pretend that we can? If they can’t be trusted with weapons, why are they loose, in the first place? If they can’t be trusted with weapons, keep ‘em in jail or euthanize ‘em. If we’re going to turn ‘em loose, then we should have the nerve to let ‘em be fully human, and if they screw up again, it’s the noose, for sure. The problem isn’t with the availability of guns to criminals. The problem is the presence among us of violent criminals, running amok and without fear.

I have no problem with a pacifist. I have no use for the silly dip, either. But I really, REALLY have a problem with the pacifist who wants to force is lunacy down my throat, and leave my daughters bare before the ravisher. A man who won’t fight for what’s right is, in the words of John Paul Jones, “…a thief of the food he eats and a trespasser in the bunk in which he sleeps.” We’re back to differences and opposites, again. The pacifist says there is no difference between good and evil, and that good has a right to exist only so long as evil will allow it. That, in my opinion, equals a win for evil. Anyone who does not hate evil and fight against it is an ally of evil. There is one exception: anyone who has covenanted with God that he will not take up arms against his fellow man is excluded from this condemnation, but only so long as that man humbly acknowledges that his mortal life is owed to those who defend it for him.

I’ve heard this quote attributed to everyone from Thomas Jefferson to George Orwell, but I love it: “We sleep peacefully in our beds because rough men stand ready to visit violence upon those who mean us harm.” Heinlein had it right in “Beyond This Horizon.” A person has every right to wear a peace brassard, but he must consider himself a second-class citizen, taking his place behind those whose being armed ensure his right to survive the consequences of his decision.

The nature of Man

This is my first entry here in a few months. It’s been pretty crazy. On 2 Jan., my eldest daughter – that is, my wife’s eldest daughter – Sara, was married. The 6 weeks preceding that were not exactly life in the fast lane. They were more like playing on the freeway. Sara did well, though; I think Brennan will be a good and loving husband.

Tonight, though, I’m in a foul, black mood. Just right for a little philosophy.

Philosophy is the most crucial subject to Mankind. It answers the question, “How should I live.” Not much is more elemental or crucial than that. That’s why the intellectuals have worked so hard at making philosophy sound stupid, abstract, inaccessible, and utterly irrelevant. It has been the goal of the academic class for more than 100 years to drive the rest of us under the dirt.

Philosophy is not stupid, abstract, inaccessible, or utterly irrelevant. It’s pretty simple, really. How should we live? Well, what kind of creatures are we? I’m going to answer that from two perspectives, and one or both of them will piss off just about everybody. Tough.

First perspective: Man was created by a just and loving God. He was created with a rational mind, capable of sensing his surroundings, analyzing the information from his senses, and making decisions based on that information. God allowed evil to exist in Man’s world so that Man would have something to choose. There must be opposition in all things, else how should we know one thing from another? Without sickness, how would we know health? Or happiness without sadness? Or love without hate? Or good without evil? Or liberty without Pelosi?

The existence of evil does not repudiate the existence of God; it validates His genius and His love for us, his children. He didn’t have to allow evil to exist. His own life would be cleaner and simpler without it, but without it, His children could never know the difference between good and evil, and could therefore never rise to the heights of exaltation by choosing the right. We could never become more than mindless puppets, which is precisely what Satan would have made us. His plan for us was that we would not have choice; he’d give us the answers and we’d take ‘em.

The purest essence of Man is his rational faculty. It is this that makes him different from other animals. Rationality must be free and unfettered in order to work. That is, we must have free access to our surroundings in order to know what our choices are. We must have the freedom to decide the best course of action – or what seems to us the best course of action – and learn from our mistakes. (There’s that opposition, again; we can’t learn from our mistakes unless there exist both failure and success.) The intellectual freedom to see, think, and decide is all fine and dandy, but without the freedom to actually act on our decisions, it’s not worth boiled piss. (Or as my cousin, Cactus Jack Garner, said of the vice presidency of the US: “This job isn’t worth a cup of warm spit.”)

If you interfere with Man’s rationality at any point, from sensory perception to concept formation to value judgment to decision to action, you have interfered with his essential humanity. You have forced him to live as some creature other than Man. If you made a horse live in a tree, you’d be forcing him to live as a squirrel. He wouldn’t be too happy or successful that way.

Traditionally, we have been given a choice of two forms of dehumanization – a false dichotomy. One side, commonly but erroneously identified as conservatives, wants to control us intellectually. Good ol’ Pat Robertson is an example of this kind of idiot. He once said on his television show that the spate of bad weather and geological disasters we were suffering at the time was the Earth trying to vomit the evil of Mankind off its surface, and the only way we could save ourselves was to destroy all atheists, homosexuals, and communists. And when he said “destroy,” he wasn’t talking about character assassination. This is intellectual despotism. Destroy anyone who doesn’t think like we do.

The other side of that false dichotomy is commonly but erroneously identified as liberals. These idiots want physical controls, often manifested primarily as economic controls. Pelosi and Reid don’t give a rip what we think, they just want our money. They want to control every aspect of our lives – where we live, what we eat, what we wear, who we marry, how many kids we have…. You name it, they have a program for it.

Ayn Rand called this the dichotomy of Attila and the Witch Doctor. Yes, a Mormon can quote Rand without his computer being struck by lightning. Rand said – and I’ll have to paraphrase here – that one is concerned with man’s belly, the other with his soul, but they are united in hatred of his mind. Man needs both the rational use of his mind and the physical use of his body to carry out the decisions of that mind. Rand said, “A mind without a body is a ghost, and a body without a mind is a corpse. Both are symbols of death.” Death, indeed, is what we serve when we fall for the premise that we must choose between two forms of slavery.

The Witch Doctor was her term for all religious people because, in spite of her overwhelming genius, she had fallen prey to this false dichotomy, herself. She looked at the ideas of people like Robertson and mistook them for the Gospel. However, in most respects, she was right, because there are a heck of a lot of Bible-thumping tyrants out there, just a’foamin’ at the mouth to get inside our heads and control us from within. I believe the proper phrase is, “…inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

Attila the Hun was her term for the Progressives and Liberals, who don’t give a rip about what we’re thinking or about right and wrong. They want control. They want to have a monopoly on force, which is why they are so rabid in their hatred of our being armed. There are people of this stripe in both major parties today, and on both ends of the political spectrum. There are even people called Muslims, who have come up with some preposterous mixture of Attila and the Witch Doctor. They want to control us intellectually by blowing us to hell.

There are two ways of depriving Man of the use of the engine of his mind: by running sewage through the fuel lines, or by jacking up the body so the drive wheels can’t get traction, no matter how furiously they spin.

So the first answer to the question, “How should I live,” is this: you ought to live free because that’s the way your God intended you to live.

Okay. Now that I’ve infuriated my atheist friends, let’s look at the question from the humanist, or Darwinist side. (Talk about a guy who has taken it in the shorts from history! Poor ol’ Charlie has been twisted into more knots than an Imam’s drawers in a Victoria’s Secret store!)

In the beginning, there wasn’t the word; there was just an animal that became Man. Now I don’t know if he was once a monkey, or whatever, and it doesn’t matter at this point. We are going to assume that Man was not made by God, but by himself, in response to his surroundings, and then he made God in his own image. I think that’s the way the old chestnut goes.

Man was an animal that lived in his own body, not like a sponge or bacterium. He was independent of his fellows, walking around, doing his own thing. His actions were controlled by his nervous system, which included sense organs that told him what he was seeing, smelling, feeling, hearing, and tasting. As he grew and learned, he gradually started to use sounds to stand for the things around him. As his knack for gab developed, so did his ability to deal with the world on a conceptual level. Each man organized his ideas according to what worked for him. One fellow might have put a table into the “flat things” class. His friend, from a posh, east-side cave, might have put a table into class of “things that go at the end of the sofa.”

Man learned to differentiate the differences between things and to integrate the similarities. Everything that exists must exist as something – it must have an identity that makes it distinguishable from everything else. Identity is synonymous to existence. Man’s means of doing these truly astonishing things was by the free exercise of his rational mind. (It is interesting to me that the atheists and humanists who posit that no loving God could allow evil to exist in the world never hesitate to posit with equal fervor the indispensable fact that in nature, there are differences, or opposites, and that Man learned the value of good by experiencing evil. It would seem that what is preposterous to God is perfectly reasonable for Nature.)

I’m sure that before there was a whole lot of theorizing, there was a lot of experimentation, but whatever the exact developmental flow, it happened, and it happened because there were no political parties to mess with Man’s mind or his use of it. If a neighbor tried to interfere with the process, he’d get a fractured skull, and that was the end of that crap.

Man became the animal that was capable of and lived by rationality. He wasn’t as strong or as fast as a saber-toothed cat, but he was a cagey sucker. He could make spears and deadfalls and punji pits that gave ol’ Tom fits and leveled the playing field. It was by his mind, not by his brute strength that Man survived. Note that having an idea for a spear won’t get you squat in this kind of situation. You must also have a stick, and the freedom of movement to go get it, sharpen it, and harden it in the fire. Undoubtedly, your neighbor, Oog Robertson, howled about the idea to make a spear being witchcraft, and your other neighbor, Mog Pelosi, wailed about the rights of the tiger. You said, “Screw you both,” and flaunted your new tiger skin coat that only had 42 spear holes in it.

One thing led to another, and we arrive at a character called Bill Gates. In order to live as a human being, Bill must have the intellectual freedom to think for himself, and the physical freedom to act on his thoughts. He’s no different in this respect than his ancestor with the perforated coat, except his spear would be called a “lawyer,” and his coat wouldn’t have holes in it.

So in the end, both models bring us to the same conclusion: that Man must be free to live as man. Whether he was created by God or shaped by his surroundings, the conclusion is the same: he must be free. Anything that prevents him from living as a man is essentially a form of murder. The man is slain, and his place taken by some grunting beast. By the same token, any man who chooses to pervert his rationality chooses suicide, and any man who denies his neighbors’ right to think and act rationally commits murder. Men are free. If they ain’t free, they ain’t men.