Thursday, June 14, 2018

DEPRESSION SURVIVAL KIT: Frugality

"Cable, who would be dumb enough to pay extra to watch TV shows??"

Its almost an alien concept today, but it used to be very common in the United States where a family would have one earner and have many kids.  They'd have a middle class life, with dad working at the factory or rail yard or grocery or whatever, mom staying home, and 4+ kids.  

Today people look at that and are baffled, uncomprehending.  How is this even possible??  When they ponder it, they decide that the dollar doesn't buy as much as it used to, people just aren't making enough money so they can't afford kids and both have to work.

Now, inflation has taken a bite out of our money and for the last ten years or more, earning has been pretty flat, without really keeping up with inflation.  Because the economy hasn't been solid and inflation worse than the official, carefully massaged numbers we get from the US federal government our dollar doesn't go as far as it once did.

But even in economic downturns and bad times families still made it.  How was this possible, have things changed so its impossible today?  Well I'm not going to argue this is the way things must be done, nor will I argue that it is necessarily possible.  What I'm going to do here is show the differences in spending habits and lifestyle that we have now compared to back then and its up to you to come to your own conclusions.

THE NEW EXPENSES
The first big issue is that people have expenses today they never had in the past.  Just 20 years ago, a cell phone was more or less a luxury, something the rich had. Now its almost considered a necessity, not a luxury, but a minimum quality of life requirement.  Each cell phone costs hundreds of dollars individually (less as a big package) and each month, those phones all cost money to charge and pay for their "data" and phone packages.

That's a couple hundred dollars extra a month that Ma and Pa Barker didn't have even in the 1990s.  Add to that the cost of TV and internet, and the price goes up even more.  Even if you don't have cable TV (as increasingly, families do not these days) that is being replaced by Hulu and Amazon Prime and Netflix and a score of other alternatives.  And none of them are free.

And on top of that are additional subscriptions.  Paying for that World of Warcraft account is just 15 a month but that's an expense that nobody had in the 90s either.  Those console games are a pretty major cost just to buy the consoles, then each game, and any Downloadable content, and with them any subscriptions and you're looking at thousands of dollars a year.  And that's just games, it doesn't include services like Spottify and other expenses for entertainment.  None of this stuff existed in the past.  They were costs that Ma and Pa Barker never even considered, let alone had the option of.

HARD CHOICES
And even things like snacks have gone up.  That "coffee" milkshake you get every morning and at lunch is ten bucks or more a day.  Even just a coffee is almost $2 at one of these places.  Dad the steel worker would get a 25 cent coffee at the diner and head to work.  Free refills.  Instead of a lunch pail with a thermos of soup and a sandwich for $1.50, he gets takeout or picks up something at the drive thru, for $10.

In this sense, the dollar doesn't reach as far.  But that's not because of inflation or cheap bosses, its because we're choosing the more expensive option for our dollar.  Shopping carefully for the best deal on the best materials can make a cumulative difference that might surprise you.

When Joey and Jilly get ready for school, its time for a whole new outfit.  New backpack.  New supplies.  That's hundreds of dollars a year for each kid to hook them up for the new school year.  But back in the day, Joey got his older brother Jack's hand-me-downs and wore the same sneakers to school he had the year before.  Styles changed a bit slower back then, so the transition was less of an issue, plus people were less concerned about wearing hand-me-downs as well.

When it came time to eat, Ma Barker would make a meal from flour, eggs, meat, veggies out of the garden (or canned the fall before), and basic supplies -- baked "from scratch."  Now cooking at home is about buying a special blue ribbon box deal that is delivered to your door for $25+ a meal.  You assemble it like a Lego kit and put it on the counter to be eaten in front of the computer/TV/console game.  Or get takeout for even more.

All of this is small enough in and of its self, but adds up to thousands a year.  Combine that with things like vacations to Disneyland, two cars (and the insurance, gas, and maintenance for them), redecorating the house to match what Martha Stewart or that Instagram picture showed, and it really piles up.  Now you really do have to have two earners, and there's no way to get by with so many kids.

A CHANGE OF LIFESTYLE
And it goes beyond purchases.  When something goes wrong with your house or your car, when your clothes begin to wear out or tear, in the past, they'd be patched up or repaired at home.  Calling an expert is very expensive, so people learned to be experts to fix what they could.  Obviously not everything was possible to handle alone, but a surprising amount of stuff was.  And yeah, while you can fix a lot on your car, a lot more now needs special equipment and a computer.  But its still feasible to some degree.

Dad could fix pretty much anything, mom could sew up pretty much anything.  Mom and dad has first aid skills and could fix a bump or a scratch, a cut or a bruise with a kiss, some bandages, and zinc oxide or rubbing alcohol, not a trip to the doctor.  Its the can-do, self-fixing attitude that helped keep costs down.  Just keeping the house clean and kept up can save a lot of money in doctor bills.

Yes I know that popular culture and entertainment strongly discourages trying to do anything yourself and mocks any attempt by dad to fix something.  But it honestly is possible to learn and to do.  It used to be passed down generation to generation by parents and grandparents.  And family was always nearby to help with tips, too.

Family is a big part of this that's largely missing today.  Even if we're close in a relationship, we're often miles away.  I have family living in Kansas, California, Louisiana, all over the nation, even in Denmark.  We can get along great, but its not like they can drop by to watch the kids in an emergency.  Having close by family and friends, a support network like church, lodge, etc makes a big difference as well.

There's a book out called The Millionaire Next Door that examines the lifestyle of modest millionaires.  They have the cash, but don't spend it conspicuously.  They live a middle class lifestyle and have lots for emergencies or special things.  Living frugally gives them all the things they need, and leaves them the money for the extras they might want, on occasion.  Its a lifestyle choice, its a conscious decision to life lower than your means that can teach us quite a bit.

Does all this add up to being able to do what they used to?  Can you have a one-earner household and several kids today without slouching into poverty and loss?  You decide, I can't run the numbers for your house or your plans or your life.  What kind of house you can get for a certain amount of money varies pretty widely based on where you buy it, for example.

DOING WITHOUT TO HAVE MORE
But does this mean a poorer, emptier lifestyle?  Not necessarily.  Your kids can get by without playing Fortnite and you can make it without the latest Assassin's Creed.  You can take a vacation somewhere closer and less expensive.  You don't need that new dress, shoes, handbag, tie, set of kicks.  You can enjoy playing with toys that are repeatable and more creative such as Tinker Toys, clay, and Spirograph.  There's no "I beat that game" with these, they're open ended as your creativity.  Books are cheap used and can be passed around.  Its surprising how much entertainment is available for not very much cost at all.  Its like the old joke of getting the cat a toy and he loves the box it came in.

Its decisions like that which made it possible for parents to have one at home and more kids in the past; the choice to do with less in order to have more family.  Almost none of what we take for granted -- such as the laptop I'm typing on or whatever device you're reading this on -- we don't really need, its just really nice to have them.

And I'm not trying to argue we ought not have this stuff or that its wasteful.  I'm just presenting the case that we can do without if we need to, depending on what our priorities are.   And that's how they did it back then; they were frugal.  They did with less in order to gain a different more.

This is part of the Depression Era Survival Kit series.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Friday, June 08, 2018

THE BLACK DOG

"I had a black dog, his name was depression"
-Matthew Johnstone

Anthony Bourdain killed himself today.  His death has left many people shocked and hurt, and certainly has left his 11-year-old daughter without a father, and his girlfriend Asia Argento without a lover.
As a man who has walked with the black dog before, and come very, very close to ending it all several times, I can assure you I understand where the urge comes from.  There comes times when nothing at all matters and you cannot see a way out or a way forward.  Where you look at your life and see only the wrong, the bad, the mistaken, the stupid, the hurtful, the failure, the misery, and any look forward sees only more of the same.  I know that dark place very well.

I know that there are people out there feeling that right now.  Maybe its you.  You read things like this blog not because of any hunger for information or knowledge, not out of a thought that maybe it will be useful some day, but out of some dull grinding pattern of habit or the tiny glimmering distant hope that perhaps it will give you a reason to even look at yourself in the mirror.

I'm not going to tell you any empty platitudes about how you have so much to live for, or what you bring to the world.  I'm not going to tell you everything will be better some day or good news is just around the corner.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.  I'm realistic enough to know that sometimes things are just hard and it doesn't let up.

No, I'll just say this: suicide is the most cowardly, selfish thing anyone on earth can do.  Nobody understands this better than someone who had someone close to them kill themselves.  I got a suicide note from a friend online.  She'd killed herself, and apparently I was the only person she thought had been decent to her.  It hit me like a shovel in the chest.

Suicide is about yourself, and it is an attempt to ignore everyone else and what it will do. You tell yourself lies about how they won't care or are better off without you.  But its hateful lies whispered in your ear.

Don't retreat.  Don't back down.  You are a hero every day you stay in the fight.  You are a conquerer every day you fight the black dog down.  You are triumphant every night you finished the fight and go to sleep.  You're that warrior on the bridge, holding off an army.  All your doubts and fears and sorrows and miseries and regrets, all the terrors of the future and anxieties are allied against you, and every day you fight them off you win, and win, and win.

Never, ever give up that fight.  Keep on being the hero.  Keep on battling them back.  Keep that sword in your hand and step out there every day for that battle.  Because as long as you keep fighting you have a reason to keep going.  The battle its self is your purpose, when there is nothing else.

Its wrong to kill unjustly, and make no mistake you kill a human being when you suicide.  You wouldn't kill someone else that way.  Don't do it to yourself.  Don't back down.  Don't give up.  Don't ever stop fighting.

And while you fight... there are things out there you can do.  Weapons you can arm yourself with.  New pieces of armor.  A shield.  Find those around you who are there to help.  Reach out to those who can make a difference: a loved one, a pastor, a counselor.  Sometimes its chemical, its something that broke inside you like breaking an arm, something that can be helped with proper care.

But you can't reach that armor if you give up.  You cannot arm yourself with that new sword if you give in.  Never
Ever
Stop 
Fighting.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A NEW WORD

After over 12 years of blogging, I finally changed the look of WATN.  I liked the old format and it seemed useful for off-PC users, fitting tablets and phones better, but the main picture at the top of the earth lights failed to load finally.

So, I took the opportunity to make some changes.  I still have some work to do on the site and it changed the way the text formats, so old posts are not quite as clean and easy to read, but I think it looks nice enough. 

You'll notice on the sidebar that it has a favorites section.  I am trying that out to see how it works; these aren't actually the most-shared and most-read blog entries I've written.  As far as I can tell its just "most clicks" which includes spiders and bots spamming my site with ad comments and crawling across the webpage looking for stuff.

Also I have a twitter feed widget up, not sure if I'll keep that or not, but its something to help people connect with me on other platforms.  Eventually I want to get more stuff put into place and I'm still fiddling with how the layout looks, but at least its a change.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

THE NEW LOYALTY ECONOMY

"Melts in your mouth, not in your hands."

Marketing and advertising experts like to analyze how ads have changed over time, how various movements and epochs in advertising took place.   It is my opinion that we're entered a new era of advertising but most companies and ad businesses haven't caught up yet.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ADS
Originally, the first ads were very crude and direct.  An image, a sample.  They relied on basic senses such as smell (wow that food smells good) and other local influences.  Word of mouth would let this spread a bit further over an area, but it was very local.

In time, advertising began to reach out further, through posted notes on public areas, mailings, and such.  In 1704, the first newspaper ad was published, reaching everyone who bought that paper, even if they weren't in the same city.  Newspapers would travel with migrants, and were passed between people on the frontier just to have something to read, and if necessary insulate walls with, light fires with, or use for toilet paper.  A New York ad could reach a cowboy in Texas and a miner in California.

By 1835, billboards showed up in big cities, allowing an ad to stay in sight and be visible for long distances as people passed it.  Advertising was still passive at this point; they were relying on people coming across their product or ad, reaching people as they would come within range.
In 1920, advertising became more aggressive.  Instead of waiting for people to come to an ad, they began sending advertising out over the air on radio shows, primarily soap operas (which got their name by the soap ads).  Companies began to sponsor a radio show: you'd have one business paying for advertising on that show, and that's the only ads you'd get.  Fatima Cigarettes on Dragnet.  Canada Dry on Jack Benny's show.

This allowed companies to directly target potential customers rather than hoping they'd contact someone by putting their advertising out for all to see.  Shows had advertisers based on their audience, trying to reach an audience based on the content of the show.  When television advertising appeared in 1940, this was even more directed -- but now instead of a single advertiser, there would be multiple companies competing to reach viewers.
By 1960, advertising was becoming scientific.  Focus group studies and market research began, trying to find the ideal way to reach and target their audience.  Who was buying these products?  What kinds of things did they like?  What sort of ads were most effective?  By studying this kind of thing, companies found out how to best spend their money and hone in on their buyers.

THE CHANGING APPROACH
Yet there's more to this than a simple history of techniques.  Advertising first started out primarily informative: you can get this here.  Then it became descriptive: this is what my product is like.  In the descriptions, "pitches" developed, explaining why this product is superior and desirable -- even if they had to lie to get there.  That snake oil salesman was just telling you how great his bottle of goo is, at the risk of a few lies and exaggerations.

Ads shifted from merely information about a product to being more about enjoyment.  It wasn't enough to simply tell people Coca Cola was refreshing and tasty, they had to show wonderful people being happy drinking coke.  Products promoted a happier existence simply by using this product.

From there, lifestyle ads began to be produced.  In these ads, a business tried not to sell their product by its merits so much as to sell their product by associating it with something people wanted to be part of.  Instead of Coca Cola being tasty and making you happy, now Coke was something young and hip people liked: you were cool by association.  The Marlboro Man was not about great tobacco and flavor, they stopped even mentioning any of that.  Now the product was an image, a symbol of being cool, independent, rugged, and masculine.  Advertisers tried to associate the product in peoples' minds with a certain lifestyle or image in addition to or rather than sell the product its self.

So now, instead of an ad on how dependable, safe, fuel efficient, or fast a car is, there are beautifully shot scenes of cars sliding over wet pavement, driving along roads, parked by partying college students, etc.  How good is the car?  Who cares, you'll be like this if you drive it!

The internet had a huge impact on advertising, though.  With search engines and later social media sites feeding advertisers data on who looks for or talks about what, and demographics on those people, advertisers could more specifically target their ads.  Now instead of looking at general groups they could pick 20-something hispanic college graduates who like pizza and computer games.  Ads could be shown only to those groups and people, with multiple different types of ads for different folks.  When you log onto your site, you get a suite of ads targeting you based on what you do when and why.

Yet there was a problem here: people were finding it easier and easier to avoid ads.  With ad blocking software, ad-less streaming services, digital video recording, and other tools, people were able to consume content without even seeing ads.  And what's worse, when they saw ads, they were not likely to even pay attention to them.  If an ad runs, they're usually fast forwarded, or muted while someone looks at their phone instead.

So advertisers responded by trying to make advertising interesting and memorable.  Instead of being informative or associating with a lifestyle, ads started to become little skits, little stories.  They were surprising, ironic, visually stunning, bizarre, shocking, and even confusing.  The idea was that if you could get people to pay attention and talk about the ads, then they'd be noticed, and take effect.  So Burger King runs a series of odd and slightly creepy ads about a guy wearing a plastic mask showing up in the morning in uncomfortable places.  You get ads with punchlines that people remember "she sounds hideous!"  You get ads with little goofy skits and memorably strange characters like a gecko or reenactments of odd insurance events.  In many ads it isn't even clear what they are advertising, and the product sometimes never even appears.

How well these work is a matter of some doubt.  The "Breakfast with the King" campaign won tons of awards and lots of people talking about it... but BK dropped the campaign because it not only cost a lot but was not increasing sales.  It was "viral" in the internet sense, but not effective.  It was great for the ad company, winning awards and making lots of money... but not so much for Burger King.

And to complicate matters, several traditional and valuable platforms for reaching customers are dying out or no longer in use.  Radio advertising is not nearly as valuable as it was in the golden age of the wireless.  Television advertising is not useful as it once was when people don't watch TV as much -- and when they do, often are watching content without ads (Netflix, etc).  Newspaper circulation numbers have plummeted from their zenith in the early 2000s, and classified sections are virtually worthless with the rise of alternatives such as Craigslist.  And as I said above, its trivial to block out and ignore computer advertising.

And to make matters worse, viral ads get people talking and enjoying the entertainment (or at least puzzling over it) but how well do they work to sell products?  Here's a quiz to help consider this.  What product or business are these familiar ads promoting?  (answers at bottom)
  1. The Most Interesting Man in the World
  2. Wife thinks husband is talking to another woman, he's wearing khakis
  3. Sketches convince women they are more beautiful than they think
  4. Handsome black man rides a unicorn and surfs waterfalls
  5. Blendtec Will It Blend?
  6. Pop Starlets in the arena as gladiators
  7. You turn into someone else when you're hungry
  8. Where's the beef??

Monday, May 14, 2018

DESENSITIZING

"We are literally turning umbrage into an industry."
--Lionel Shriver

One of the hazards of modern writing is a sector of the public who is ready to find fault and discomfort in nearly anything they encounter.  This oversensitivity and zeal to run to social media and decry what one finds objectionable.  An author can run into this movement to their discomfort, particularly in certain genres.

There is such a thing as the "Sensitivity Reader" being used at big publishing houses, and you can hire one or more personally as an independent writer. What they do is go through your book to see if there are any of a certain sort of stereotypes, biases, or what they consider to be "problematic language."

This has the advantage of giving your work a seal of approval that is likely to avoid most of the social media outrage machine, and prevent people from complaining to your publisher (or you) about certain elements of your book.  However, there are many disadvantages.

I would warn authors to be cautious having a "Sensitivity Reader" edit their book for the basic reason that conflict and uncomfortable characters and situations are what make for drama and engaging storytelling. If you sanitize everything out of the book that certain groups may find objectionable, you're likely to defang your story and may even ruin your plot.

Its important to remember that an author has a story to tell and uses characters, situations, language, and events to move that story along, entertain, inform, and interest readers.  Having someone pore though your manuscript to remove all the objectionable bits is very likely to ruin the story.

Mark Twain's books include racist terms and peoples.  Should that be removed for being objectionable to minorities?  JK Rowling's Harry Potter stories have very unpleasant people doing mean things, should those be removed for triggering those who have experienced similar events?

There’s a thin line between combing through manuscripts for anything potentially objectionable to particular subgroups and overt political censorship. Is it any longer acceptable for characters to be bigoted? Can a character in your novel vote for Brexit? And if all the characters speak with the same courtesy, and voice the same standard left-of-centre views, contemporary fiction can’t hope to contribute to the understanding of a world that elects Donald Trump.

Fiction won’t help younger readers to make sense of their real lives, if in books Muslim men never groom white girls or become radicalised through the internet, transsexuals never regret transitioning or conclude they’re actually gay, women are always confident and empowered, and the terminally ill are always brave (or whatever they’re supposed to be; ask the experts). These days, with all hell breaking loose in Europe and the US, the left’s sensitivity run amok seems to be coexisting in a bubbled‑off alternative universe.
Sensitivity Readers are expensive, one quoted in the Guardian piece about them quit while making $100 an hour to go through books.  Another reference states that it cost $250 for a single book examination.  
Further, based on the article, they can be difficult to work with.  The retired reader complains:
“I quit doing them because they were exhausting and sometimes authors wanted to argue with me,” she says. “They weren’t open to the feedback. They weren’t trying to understand the feedback. They were insisting on the rightness of what they were writing.”
Now, that's not the voice of a skilled, engaging editor, that's the voice of a tyrant.  And to be honest, anyone who reads other people's writings in order to find things the consider objectionable is not very likely to be flexible and understanding.  They aren't typically the sort of person who is there to engage in a discussion or consider what other people think, only to impose their viewpoint.

And it is important to understand that these readers only come from a specific and particular viewpoint.  They are not going to worry about how poorly white men are portrayed or what insults are directed at Christians.  They won't care if a conservative nationalist is treated in a story.  They will not object to the depiction of southerners as ignorant incestuous bigots.

So the end result is that an expensive Sensitivity Reader is likely to just slant your book in a manner that is objectionable to another group of people, rather than clear up any objections.  And that's not a big win for authors at all.

Friday, April 13, 2018

WRITE GIRLS

"We need more children’s books with female main characters"
--Chelsea Clinton

Recently a piece of news reached me through the Ace of Spades HQ blog and it made me chuckle.  It seems a Cleveland Ohio book store decided to highlight all the books by female authors (that they were aware of) by turning the books by men backward.  See, that way you can't see their titles or author, just pages.

They did it for a few weeks for "Women's History Month" according to the article at the Cleveland Scene, as a way of "silencing the male voice."  One publishing house raved:
This articulates the display’s effect admirably in terms of speaking and silence, but the visual effect—a clear picture of the gender disparity in the canon—is what’s stunning.
But are there so few female authors out there?  Are women in  disparity in publishing and literature?
As a published author with 8 books under my keyboard, I've got some experience in the publishing and literature business.  I have self-published them all, for a variety of reasons I've gone into elsewhere.  There was a time when I tried very hard to pitch my book to agents.  My theory was, self publish the first one and establish that I have readers and the ability to do it, and use that as a springboard into what at the time I thought was the "mainstream."

I noticed something while pouring through the lists of thousands of literary agents.  There was a consistent theme, a repeated fact that stood out very noticeably after a short time.

Literary agents are mostly women.  By a fairly large margin.  In fact, it became surprising to find a man who was an agent.  After a while it was kind of an amusing game, picking through the list like looking for a four leaf clover.  This is a pretty well established and known fact, one examined in this Quora article.
I was going to question whether there really are, since in general people tend to seriously overestimate the percentage of women in any mixed group, but then I checked the AAR membership list and saw that 37 of the first 50 names are indeed female.
The author claims this is some cruel trick by the publishing business to keep women down because of the "glass ceiling" of course. But if you examine publishing, you find the same phenomenon in place.  Most editors and people who work at publishing houses are also women.  That article about the bookstore above?  No men work at the shop.  In fact, women's voices are very well represented in publishing overall.

Publisher's Weekly ran an article about this phenomenon entitled Where The Boys Are Not.  They said comfortably that everybody knows that women dominate publishing:
It’s no secret that lots of women work in publishing. But just how many more women work in publishing than men? In PW’s recent Salary Survey (Aug. 2) one statistic stuck out: 85% of publishing employees with less than three years of experience are women.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

THE DEAL THAT WAS ART

"What we can't establish is that she acted with the necessary criminal intent"
--Former FBI Director Comey

Right now, special prosecutor Meuller wants to interview President Trump about Russian collusion and whatever else he can come up with, as part of an investigation.  So I have some suggestions (courtesy Sheryl Atkisson on Twitter) for how he should set up this interview.  Here are the rules:
  1. Prior to the interview, lead official meets privately on a plane at the airport with Trump's wife.
  2. An exoneration letter is drafted in advance.
  3. Immunity is given to top Trump aides (and they’re allowed to sit in on interview)
  4. The interview isn’t recorded.
  5. Lead official (Mueller) doesn’t attend.
  6. Interviewer's family and boss has received large donations from Trump political friends.
  7. Main interviewer has expressed disdain for Trump’s opponents, such as discussing an “insurance plan” with higher-ups to undermine them.
  8. As long as they believe Trump didn't intend any harm, he's let off the hook for any violations.
These are the terms Trump should do the interview under.  What's that you say, that sounds unjust, rigged, even ridiculous?  There's no possibility of justice under these conditions?  That reads to you like some kind of ridiculous piece of fiction, that no prosecutor or law enforcement official would ever agree to?
That's what Comey set up for the Hillary Clinton email server and espionage law violations interview.  That's how the investigation was handled for her.  These exact, precise conditions are how her "interrogation" was agreed upon and carried out.
All that Sheryl did is say Trump should get the same deal as Hillary Clinton.
As long as there have been rich and powerful, the rich and powerful have gotten away with more than you or I could possibly consider.  The difference here is that the American system and philosophy of equality under law should be the last place on earth it should take place.
Yet what McCabe, for instance did in lying three separate times to federal officers and leaking materials to the press, we'd be in federal prison for doing.  He's still free with his pension.
And the more people come to see this happen and realize its taking place, the less likely people are to continue following and obeying the law.  If people can get away with rigging the system and breaking the law without consequence, that simply undermines any trust and faith in the law across the entire society.
You probably stopped at a stop sign or light today.  What makes people keep doing that, even when nobody is watching?  Honoring the law, trusting that its good for us, and obeying a system we agreed upon.  What happens when that honor, that obedience, and that trust is undermined far enough?
There cannot be anyone "too big" or "too important" to prosecute and punish. In fact, there's a good argument for the idea that the more powerful, public, and wealthy you are, the more the law should come down upon them for violating it. Doing so publicly and severely proves to the nation that there is no one above the law, and hence we all are treated fairly and equally. Failing to do so proves the opposite, and leads to chaos.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

THE MORAL CONFUSION OF MONICA LEWINSKY

"I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky"
--President Bill Clinton

For those of you too young to remember, Monica Lewinsky was one of a long line of women which president Clinton had affairs with, sexually harassed, and allegedly even raped over the course of his life and career.  She was a young woman working as an intern, and a big star-struck fan of the president, and infamously she wore a special blue dress to a session with the president in the oval office which ended up being front page news involving oral sex and DNA.
Monica Lewinsky became kind of a cultural touchpoint involving the presidency and that blue dress emblematic of Clinton's time in office.  She sort of disappeared from the public after a while, and some despised her for her part in harming Clinton's legacy and leading to his impeachment for perjory.
Indeed, the events surrounding Lewinsky killed a growing movement at the time trying to define sexual harassment as "anything a woman at any point decides she didn't care for" in the broadest possible terms.  Even a consensual relationship initiated by the woman was being argued as being sexual harassment if the man was in any position of authority.
Then the news came out that the darling of the left, the icon of progressivism, President Clinton, was having an affair with an unpaid White House intern, and suddenly the talk about all that disappeared.
Until recently.  A few months ago, Monica Lewinsky admitted that she was having second thoughts about the events, events which she previously was completely comfortable with.  Why?
Lewinsky wrote in Vanity Fair magazine about how she had "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" following the affair, and went on to write:
"I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)"

"Now, at 44, I'm beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern. I'm beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot. (Although power imbalances—and the ability to abuse them—do exist even when the sex has been consensual.)"
This is all, of course, in the context of the "Me Too" movement, about sexual harassment, molestation, and rape by figures in government, entertainment, sports, and media.  This has largely died down, probably because it did not have the desired effect of toppling the president, but still it has had the impact of making many on the left admit that yes, President Clinton was a scumbag who abused his power and probably left a long line of abused women in his wake.
The Confusion
But Look at what Ms Lewinsky says here.  Why was this a bad act, why was it wrong for President Clinton to do this?  Because of the "power differentials" rendering consent "moot."  Her entire moral calculus is based on relative power, the oppressor/oppressed template of the modern left.  At no point does she even begin to mention any culpability on her own part.  At no point does she talk about how it was adultery and damaging to the relationship of marriage. At no point does she mention this being bad for the country in terms of moral corrosion.
Her whole argument is not that this was sinful, wrong, adulterous, or improper behavior, only that President Clinton was a bad guy for being so powerful and she so minor in the grand scheme of things.  Even though she was a willing and eager partner, she still suggests it was abusive, non consensual behavior.
So she's blameless in this, and its not wrong to commit adultery, there's nothing innately immoral in what they did.  Its just a power differential problem.  Why this bizarre approach?
The Reason
Well partly because to admit otherwise admits an overarching absolute standard for moral behavior.  If you admit that its sinful and wrong to commit adultery, that's an admission that marriage is a special state that should be protected and further that there is a moral code that we are supposed to follow, one that is outside our personal whims and ever-changing cultural ideas.  And that's a bag of responsibility and moral significance that the left really does not want to even consider possible, let alone admit to.
But there's another reason for this strange approach.  It is the desire of the left to portray men as predatory monsters, dangerous, awful creatures who need to emasculate themselves in order to function in their utopian cultural dreams.  Its men who do all bad stuff, or lead people to do bad stuff, and hence men need to change, being the nexus and source of all terrible things.  A man being in power is by its self an abuse, no matter how willing a woman is to go along.
And this scheme extends its self further, condemning any man in any position who sleeps with any woman at any time.  He's the oppressor, even if she was willing and happy.  Consider President Donald Trump who is accused of over a decade ago of having an affair with a woman subordinate to him.  She came to him seeking work on a show, they claim.  He's one of the #MeToo types that abuses women!  He's another Harvey Weinstein!  He's a monster!
She was certainly willing (being a prostitute, nude model, and porn star), but because of the "power differential" well, it was wrong, it was as bad as Bill Clinton and we all know what happened to him, right?  Right?  They impeached him for having sex!  Those prudish Republicans!  And now they elected another Bill!  Hypocrites!  Impeach this one, too!
Never mind that it was consensual.  Never mind that it was twelve years ago.  Never mind that he wasn't the president of the United States with an intern.  Never mind that there is no evidence or hint of anything since then.  Never mind that Bill Clinton did it in the oval office while on the job.  Never mind that he was impeached for the federal felony of perjuring himself in testimony before a grand jury and lying to a federal officer.
Its all about leverage to try to get rid of President Trump.  And that's the end of it all.  Monica Lewinsky continues to be a used tool of the left, manipulated into this ridiculous article which admits that the entire Democratic Party, leftist America, entertainment community, and news media were all completely, in full knowledge, deliberately wrong about Clinton for decades.  She had to word it in a way that ignores every sense of morality and justice so that they can lever this into yet another wearying attack on the president.
And its not working, so far at least.  The story interests people but they largely are indifferent to yet more news that President Trump used to be a philandering scumbag.  Everyone already knew he was a serial adulterer in the past.  This isn't news.
But sadly, Monica's confusion about morality isn't restricted to her or this article.  Its just an example of the sad, bizarre pretzels people can spin themselves into while trying to avoid the obvious truth and build their ideology on sand.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

CRAFTING THE MYTH

For your assistance, a generic mythical woke child event so you can craft your own myth on social media:


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE: President Trump

"Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people."
-Proverbs 14:34

President Donald Trump is the 45th president that the US has had in its 242 year history.  He was elected last year by a broad margin of electoral votes and by the official count lost by a few million popular votes, largely from California.
Trump has always been a controversial figure, even from back when he was just the son of a New York real estate mogul.  Over the years he was publicly prominent, seen with beautiful women, at trendy and stylish establishments, associating with celebrities, and even becoming one himself.  Donald Trump was involved with the failed football league USFL, and has successfully produced and run several television shows in addition to his real estate efforts.
It is difficult to mention his name these days without controversy erupting. Some are incredibly insulting and offended by the very name of Trump, others gleeful and celebratory.  Few are undecided or neutral on the man.
PROBLEMS
Most of the worst criticisms brought up by the president's enemies are simply political viciousness brought to the forefront by loud, influential voices: racist, Nazi, Russian puppet, etc.  Those aren't worth addressing.  But he has his flaws which are important to consider.
From a Christian perspective, there are many problems with President Trump as a person.  He is crude, using foul language and questionable turns of speech.  He has a history of serial adultery and sleeping with various women.  He lies almost continually, contradicting himself sometimes in the same paragraph.  He's bombastic, extreme, and boastful.  He's viciously vindictive against his enemies or those that annoy him, and can be very rash in his statements that sometimes he has to roll back or try to explain away.
For Christians, these are not very positive personality traits.  Coarse, profane, and libertine are not traits that Christians would prefer their president hold.  We want a moral, upright, responsible leader that shows dignity, honor, and expresses Christian virtues of peace, humility, love, and reverence toward God.
President Bush, for example, at his best exemplified this kind of leader.  President Clinton at his worst did not.  So we have a president now that is distasteful in his personal behavior and not the sort we'd ideally wish to see in office.
The primary reason for this is that while we get a president that is downstream from culture -- that is, we elect men that reflect our culture, rather than create it -- presidents are cultural leaders when in office and they shape the way our culture perceives things and responds.
President Clinton's attitude and behavior concerning sex had a huge impact on how sex is perceived in the USA.  Before him, sexual scandals would instantly end a presidential candidacy.  After him, its a minor speedbump and oral sex is often treated as not really sex.
So a lying crude speaking former philanderer will have he effect of coarsening culture and damaging especially younger people.  If the president does it how can you say its wrong for me to do so?
POSITIVES
On the other hand, there is much to be glad about with President Trump.  He has taken direct and strict action to limit abortion -- one of his first acts was (like President Bush before him) to end the "Mexico City" policy of public funding used to pay for foreign abortions overseas at military bases.  The nomination of Supreme Court Justice Niel Gorsuch was a big positive for Christians as he is an advocate of the protections for religion and opposes most hard-left extremist social ideas.
Although blocked by an activist judge in Hawaii, President Trump's immigration policy was one of preferential treatment to Christian refugees fleeing persecution in the middle east.  President Trump has ended the Obama White House's virtual war on organizations who had religious objections to ACA ("Obamacare") pro-abortion requirements.
Most importantly, his wife's religious nature and change from her earlier modeling days to a stronger Christian seems to have influenced him significantly.  More broadly, President Trump is the first president that the US has had who seems to understand and be very willing to fight the culture war, personally and strongly.  For example, he reimposed the military "transgender" ban, seeking to prevent normalization of this behavior.  He was once pro-abortion but has at least publicly reversed that position very strongly, and has acted on this position.
THE CYRUS EFFECT
I don't know if President Trump is a Christian or not.  If he is, he's not a very active one - he rarely goes to church and seems largely unfamiliar with the Bible.  That doesn't mean he is not saved, it just means he's not being very diligent in his walk with God, if he is saved.  I cannot know the man's heart, but his testimony, his statements of faith, do not contradict the Bible or Christianity as, say, President Obama's did.
The first principle of Christianity is that we are all sinners saved by the doing and dying of Jesus Christ put to our account through the Holy Spirit by God the Father.  I am no less a sinner than President Trump; indeed I shudder to think what my life might have looked like in his place, with all that wealth, power, and access to willing beautiful women.  I cannot condemn his sins because of the "log in my own eye" and thanks be to God, we are saved not by our perfect lives and piety but Christ alone.
President Trump has changed.  He's still bombastic and crude and vindictive and profane, but he has stepped away from his former life of sexual promiscuity, from all accounts and information we have.  All accusations, statements, and claims end about a decade ago or longer.  And if there's one thing we should celebrate and encourage, its for people who were once deep in sin to step away and live apart from that sin, not condemn and attack someone for it.
President Clinton was smoother and slicker than President Trump, but he was actively engaging in sexual misconduct, adultery, and even sexual harassment while in the Oval office as president.  This is a key difference: the distaste and rejection of President Clinton's behavior in office was because he was still at it, without shame or any sign of repentance or even inclination to change.
That said, President Trump is still a fairly regretful person in his speech.  He says things and speaks in a way that we ought not, and he should repent of and turn away from, just as we all should the sins we commit in our lives each day.
However, a president is largely important based on what he does in office, not what he says.  Speech, particularly in today's culture, is very ephemeral and fading.  But actions count.  And where it counts, President Trump is on target doing what he ought to in his job.
As Stephen Mansfield puts it in his book Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope, and Why Christian Conservatives Supported Him:
Americans should want someone who can distill their faith into a political philosophy. I don’t need the President to pray like I pray… I do want to know that this person is committed to religious liberty.
It is the president's job to execute policy and defend the US Constitution, not be a religious leader.  I have long been tired of endless presidential candidates who claim to be Christian just to get elected, when most of them probably were not.  Every single US president has claimed to be a Christian, even ones who were definitely not such as Thomas Jefferson and Barack Hussein Obama.  
As a president, Donald J Trump is actually doing what needs to be done, and carrying out policy that protects and defends Christians in America and around the world.  In his job, he is doing what needs to be done, not doing what ought not be done, and working on policy that is ethically and materially beneficial for the nation.
One cannot help but think of the emperor Cyrus, king of kings in Persia, who was objectively a terrible human being and a reprobate.  But in his job as emperor, he did very well for the Persian people, and more importantly was directly and materially beneficial to the people of God, helping them rebuild their home and the temple of Jehovah in Jerusalem.
Cyrus was a man used by God for His people, and I believe that President Trump is a man being used by God to help His people as well.  He was not a good man, by Biblical standards, but Cyrus was a man who did good for God's people, who brought change and benefit to them despite his flaws.
I utterly and specifically reject the ridiculous, unBiblical, and even blasphemous notion that President Trump is specially chosen by God as an agent of His will or some figure of holiness. Donald Trump is not some special righteous figure who will save us all.  I believe the nation is beyond saving, at least by a political figure.  God may have mercy on us some day, despite our national sins.
That said, all presidents are chosen by God generally, and placed over us as part of His will.  Even the ones we don't like.  Jesus Christ made that very clear when he stated that even Pontius Pilate was put into power by God. And God has chosen President Trump for His purposes, and so far the man has been carrying out a policy and government platform which is very consistent with Christian wishes and needs.
As with all presidents in the past, we should be praying for Donald Trump.  He needs our prayers not just to do the right thing and carry out God's will, but that he repent of his sins, turn away from the wrong in his life, live a better, more Godly public existence, and cease his crudeness and antics.  He needs our prayers just as President Obama before him and whomever God puts into office after him.  And what he does right, we should support and applaud, while what he does wrong we should be willing to condemn and call for him to do better, as always.
*This is part of the Christian Response series.

Friday, February 23, 2018

REAL MEN COOK XXXI: Bistro Spaghetti

I also considered "Pan Spaghetti" as a name for this dish, because I'm not sure what it should be termed.  I came up with this dish one night because I noticed that my delicate innards couldn't handle marinara like they used to, and I wanted to find an alternative.
Here's what you'll need:
  • Spaghetti
  • Meat
  • Veggies
  • Spices and herbs
  • A large skillet with high walls.
Its pretty simple as most good Italian themed cooking is.
GETTING STARTED
Cook up your usual batch of spaghetti in a pot while you prep and cook the other ingredients.  This should serve 3-5 people comfortably as a main dish.  While the water heats to boiling and you cook the spaghetti, chop up some veggies.  What kind?
Honestly it doesn't really matter much.  You can stay really authentic and focus on typical Italian vegetables such as peppers, onions, garlic, eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, etc.  I even chop up some tomatoes or use stewed tomatoes, just not very many.  But really any kind work, even stuff like tomatillos, non-veggies such as turnips, and things like celery and carrots.  I know that sounds crazy but work with me here.
Chop up the vegetables fairly small, you don't want big chunks in the dish, but mixed all through. Chop em up half inch or so at the largest, so its well distributed in the final dish rather than standing out on their own.
GET COOKING
Fry up the veggies in butter, margarine or oil.  You want them cooked, but not reduced, just enough to be cooked through.  Remember when frying vegetables that they have different cooking rates: celery and turnips take longer, for instance.  Eggplant and onions take less time.  You want them all roughly the same level of cookage and texture.
Set the vegetables aside, and get the meat out.  Any meat you'd put in spaghetti normally works, I use hamburger.  Cook that almost all the way, but not quite done; chopped up so it blends well with the other ingredients.  You want the meat partly raw, so there's a little cooking to go.
As for proportions, I try to have about the same mass of vegetables and meat, so its half and half.
Mix the meat and veggies together.  Now here's a critical point: you want some kind of broth in the dish, so leaving at least some of the oil from the meat helps.  You might want to add in some butter or margarine to help with the liquid.  Stock would help as well, just not very much.  You're not making soup here, just a bit of sauce to help the final product not be dry.  Plus that helps get anything stuck to the bottom to lift off.
Spice the mixed meat and veggies, including some boullion or stock for flavor.  I use salt, garlic, and typical italian seasonings such as oregano, basil, marjoram, rosemary, parsley, etc.  If possible, use fresh herbs.  How much?  That's largely up to you, but for this first batch, use about half of your normal amount.  I've found that it takes more than you would think to get a good flavor, so don't skimp on the spices.
ASSEMBLY
Now drain the prepared spaghetti (don't be meticulous about draining it, some of the water left on it is fine) and dump it into the pan with the skillet you have the meat and veggies in.  Now add the rest of the spices you normally put in, the half you have reserved.  Remember to salt it pretty well; pasta absorbs salt like rice.
Now chop the spaghetti up with a spatula so its not huge long strands.  That works fine for some dishes, but this one serves and mixes better if not so stringy and dangly.  Mix the entire thing up, scooping the goodies from below up in to the spaghetti, blending it up as best you can.
Grate or sprinkle some stinky cheese like romano and/or parmesan on top.  You can add some paprika to the top for a bit more color if you want.  Green, Red, White: an Italian Flag!
Serve in bowls, with more cheese available.  A green salad and some garlic bread goes well with this dish.  Give it a shot some time instead of the old standard alfredo or marinara tomato sauce.  Its a bit lighter and I think more flavorful.
*This is a part of the Real Men Cook series.

Friday, February 09, 2018

THE HISTORIC FIRST BLOG POST

"One born every minute"

Remember Wonder Woman?  It was just last year.  It was the most life-affirming, important movie ever put out, a girl who beats up all the guys!  Wonder Woman proved girls can be heroes too!  Never before in the history of cinema had there been such an important film for girls to see.  Story after story of women leaving the theater glowing with joy over having finally seen someone like them being a hero!
Now its Black Panther.  This is such an important event in black history in America, the first ever film with a black hero and black cast, saving lives and being heroic.  Its making black children rejoice, changing lives, and affirming self value everywhere.  For once, finally, a black character is the star, and the big hero.
Except, as likely everyone reading this knows and is saying at least in their heads... that's all ridiculous.  There already have been many films made with strong female leads being heroic such as Supergirl, Aliens, Terminator, Ultraviolet, Foxy Brown, etc.  And there have been a host of black leading characters, even just from Marvel Comics, such as Blade.  Not to mention Hancock, Independence Day, Bad Boys, and a host of blaxploitation films from the 70s like Shaft.
What's going on here?  Why are we getting this hype, where are these stories of changed lives coming from?
Well, partly its Millennialitis, with people suffering from the ignorance of lack of memory of what came before.  Many people seem to think history started when they were around 13 years old, so what came before just never happened.  So those previous movies?  They don't count, I mean so ollld, who's even ever heard of Supergirl?
And partly its this effect.
Why go to a movie these days?  We have a screen the size of a kitchen table in our living room, with surround sound speakers that can rumble the floor.  I can grab any one of ten thousand films from online or our collection and watch them when I want, how I want, paused when I want, in the comfort of my own home without people talking, kicking my chair, throwing things, walking in front of the screen, and so on.  And it doesn't cost me $10+ a viewing.
Going to the movies is pretty unpopular these days, because there's really not much of a draw beyond "ooh, movie theater" nostalgia. So how do you get people to go see a movie?  
You turn it into a cultural event.  You make it seem like its more than a movie, its a movement, it matters.  This is something addressing some great social injustice, some imbalance, some cultural lack.  This movie is something important your children should see.  This movie will make you feel better about yourself.
By turning these films into something more than just entertainment, movie studios are trying to get people to go see them in the theater rather than at home.  And how do you get them to go to the theater?  By making it a virtue signalling event.  Look at me, I'm seeing Black Panther.  Watch me stand in line, here's my selfie for Pinterest and Facebook.  Here's my Tweet from the seats.  I'm a good person.
And people who are swayed by press hype and entertainment -- a lot of America, and the world, really -- are easily pulled into this.  You can be convinced that this is important and meaningful to you, a historic first that you can feel special being a part of, making the world a better place being the change you want to see.
So it turns into an event.  People genuinely can feel as if its been profound and meaningful, life changing.  This is a real effect, I've seen it and felt it in person at events like a special camp or seminar.  Wow, this really made me better/happier/more self-actuated or what have you.  And for a time, it does.  But it doesn't last, because that sense is not based on truth, its based on emotion and thrill.
So you get the stories of women crying and watching Wonder Woman twice in a row, an talking about how important it was for their self esteem and understanding of life.  Because that's what they're sold and generally speaking, advertising still works.
Then after a while, they don't even remember Wonder Woman was a movie and they're back to exactly how they were before.  Lasting change doesn't come from a movie, it comes from change within you, not without.
How much longer they'll be able to pull this off, we'll see.  There are only a few more niche identity groups that can be pandered to before they start being so obscure and miniscule that it loses its cultural power.  The first wheelchair bound transgendered bisexual left hander doesn't quite have that cachet.
But ultimately, its cynical manipulation, to make money.  This isn't some important event.  Tearing down the berlin wall and freeing hundreds of millions from Communist tyranny: major event.  Movie about girl who CGI beats up bad guys: entertaining, but meaningless.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

SERFING TO THE FEUD

"The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire."
--Robert Heinlein

There are a lot of labels and names being thrown around, and they've been around a long time.  People call the left socialists, communists, collectivists and so on and have for about a century now.  And there was probably a time when the left's goal in America and Europe was to establish some sort of communist ideal, or at least a socialist one.
But I don't think there really are many around any longer who are remotely interested in that today.  I think that they use a lot of the same language, the same tactics, and the same arguments, but they really are not that interested in the old political and social goals.
And in some sense, probably they never were, really.  Even the old school Commies while driven by party zealotry and Marxist or Maoist ideology deep down had another goal.  No, I think all that's gone now, and its been replaced by another goal, a much older one.
ABANDONMENT
Once, the left would stand for ideas such as equality, tolerance, free speech, liberty, and justice.  You could reliably hear the left call for toleration of ideas that were not popular, for free speech to hear things you didn't want to hear, and for equality between all peoples.  Peace was the byword, peace and brotherhood and love.
These days, free speech is called hate and violence.  Equality is called oppression, tolerance is mocked and derided, if its brought up at all.  And justice has nothing to do with right and wrong or fairness, and everything to do with enforcing codes and controlling behavior.  Liberty is viewed with suspicion or condemned as a source of problems, because free people might do the wrong thing, you see.  Someone might get offended, or face something they are not comfortable with, it might frighten or upset them.
And as for peace?  Violence is called speech, and the left openly calls for it against any political enemy.  Leftist gatherings too often are accompanied by violence, and always by destruction whether heaps of litter or broken windows and burning cars.  Peace isn't even mentioned any more.
What happened?  Why are these ideas all being rejected and reversed?  Well part of the reason is that the left never truly stood for any of them.  What they wanted was to be heard and to be allowed to do what they wanted, when not in power.  When they took control of society, culture, politics, law, academia, entertainment and so on they didn't need or want any of that any longer.
Freedom of speech was only so that they could be heard, not so anyone else could be.  Peace was only to stop them from being hurt, not to stop others from being hurt.  Tolerance was to get people to put up with their antics, not for them to put up with other peoples'.
And in the end, all they stood for and called to happen was lost in the rush for power and control, and ultimately, the real goal became more apparent.
FEUDALISM
There was an old system in place, long ago, called "Feudalism" in which the dangerous wilderness of a nation was stabilized and controlled by powerful warlords who in turn were served by the populace.  This system became highly sophisticated and structured in places such as England, Japan, and Russia.
The powerful few had weapons and money which was in theory used to protect the powerless many in exchange for food and service.  Taxes or tribute were paid in the form of goods and services, as well as servile obedience, for protection from bandits, other warlords, wild animals, and so on.  These lords had tremendous, almost unlimited power over the serfs, who rarely could add, much less read, and worked miserably for tiny scraps of what they produced.
The Lords lived like... well, kings.  They had the best of everything, they enjoyed the finest and were served by all.  Merely disobeying or even annoying one could easily lead to death, while killing a serf carried virtually no penalty for a lord.  Serfs had no rights, no earnings, no power.  They existed as a sort of life support system for the lords, for whom the very idea of lifting a finger to produce anything was insulting and beneath their lofty status.
And the system was locked in.  There was virtually no chance for advancement for a serf.  One might, perhaps, gain minor status through exceptional service in war, but it was rare and very limited.  Almost all serfs were born and died in that class and stayed that way by design.  Unarmed, uneducated, unable to band together, revolts were rare and ended very badly for the serfs.
This system worked very well for the lords, who had everything they might have wanted, and only had to do very little - and it was usually what they liked doing anyway.  For the serfs, it was protection from outside aggression, but without any liberty, any redress for harm, and any ability to get any better.  The system was so ingrained that most serfs rebelled against the idea of getting better, being "above their station."
NEW FEUDALIST
What do you call it when someone wants all the benefits of capitalism and modern civilization, but none of the means and structures to create and sustain it?  I don't blame the Occupy crowd from wanting cell phones as they decry capitalism.  I don't blame them for wanting all the trappings and benefits of the system they call evil.  But their very solutions and systems which would obliterate all that would also obliterate its benefits.
Going back to the productivity, population, and "emissions" of the 18th century would result in no more I phone, no more internet, no more cars, no more shoes, no more clubs, no more take out.  Everything they take for granted and demand, assume as their birthright, they would destroy.
Unless... you create a system by which everyone except them is forced into this regressive, low-tech lifestyle.  Where they are the lords, where they have all the benefits, for which they pay by being enlightened keepers of the truth and warriors against the evils of capitalism and the right wing.
They don't want children educated, they want children to be trained.  They don't want people to have freedom, they want people to obey.  They don't want a society of equality, they want a society of supremacy.
And this New Feudalism isn't just on the left.  There are those on the right who'd love the same system, with them in charge, and everyone shut up and doing what they're told beneath them.  They would control everything and make everyone Do The Right Thing or take a helicopter ride without a return ticket.
Always this is structured in the framework of doing good for people, in terms of service, of helping those in need, of protecting.  That's what the lords said in 1100 too, it was God's will that they be in power protecting the serfs from the bad stuff.  Why, they deserve the best of the farm and exclusive rights to hunting and fishing.
Ordinary people cannot be trusted to handle things themselves, they're stupid, or sinful, or unelightened, or just sister-marrying knuckeldraggers living in trailers.  Its for their own good that we control them, and look, they like it!
As the United Nations recently argued, its better that people not be educated, they're bad for the environment:
"Generally, more highly educated people, who have higher incomes, consume more resources than poorly educated people, who tend to have lower incomes"
Besides, they're easier to control.  Just educate them enough that they can do the jobs required to give the lords what they want, and no more.
SOCIAL JUSTICE
And this system only works with a rigid, absolute code.  You have to have a structure by which everyone knows their place and dares not step outside of it, or they cannot be controlled and the serfs might start to question their situation.  
"Social Justice," the left's code for "controlling society by claiming a system of fairness and oppression" is that code.  There is no way to have equality of outcome for anyone without absolute tyranny.  Justice, true justice, only allows for and provides equality of access and treatment, not equality of life and experience.  Social Justice tries to change that by imposing absolute rules of who wins and who loses, so that a "balance" is reached.  Whites have had it too good for too long, so they must be repressed to bring about equality.  Men have been too strong for too much of history, so they must be repressed so that women can find equality.  When does this end?  Some day, just trust the lords, they will handle everything.  Like the ancient story of the emperor cutting the tops off all the wheat to make it equal: none may grow too tall, all the same height, this is how the equality will be reached.
But you cannot have equality for all, because otherwise who'd have the power to enforce this system?  Someone has to be on top, someone has to arbitrate and create all the rules, someone has to oversee all this.  Someone has to cut those tops off that grow too big.  Leave it to the lords.  They will handle it, just pay your tribute.  They're enlightened, they're better, they understand, they're woke.
Want an example?  Try Spacial Injustice.
The University of California-Los Angeles is offering a technology class this summer examining how “car culture” contributes to “spatial injustice.”
The course, “LA Tech City: Digital Technologies and Spatial Injustice,” will be offered through the UCLA Digital Humanities department and will be taught by Professor Todd Presner and Professor Dana Cuff.
“Students will investigate spatial justice and injustice in the multi-ethnic city through the lens of three thematic technologies,” the syllabus states, listing cars and highways, the Internet, and film and media as factors that contribute to spatial injustice.
While Professor Presner declined to comment, he referred Campus Reform to the definition of “spatial injustice” by Edward Soja, who laments the “production of unjust geographies and spatial structures of privilege” within cities, which he argues can be “aggravated further by racism, patriarchy, heterosexual bias.”
Rojas argues that while the inner-city working poor “depend on a more flexible bus network given their multiple and multi-locational job households,” as compared to “the relatively wealthy suburban population” in Los Angeles, “the accumulation of locational decisions in a capitalist economy tends to lead to the redistribution of real income in favor of the rich over the poor.”
Some have cars, and others do not.  This is unjust, because it lets them do things others cannot.  Cut the top of that wheat off.
KING'S FOREST
In feudal systems there's a basic hierarchy of power and ownership: you know exactly the structure.  This guy is on top, this guy ranks slightly below him, and so on.  We still see this in the military, with an absolute command structure.  Everything belongs to the army, it just lets you use some of it sometimes.  Including you.
The King owns all the land, but will parcel it out to others as rewards for service and for that lesser lord to control and bring him proper tribute.
Similarly, the attitude of the modern feudalist is that the government owns everything, and it lets us have some of it.  Don't believe me?  Look at the recent tax cut and the responses to it.  It was repeatedly called a "heist," it was called theft for you to keep more of your earnings.  Theft from whom?  The government of course, who properly owns this.  Government owns it all and lets you have some of it.  If it likes you.
You can petition the government for some of it, through grants and loans and subsidies.  But you best be the kind of person who properly understands their place and social justice to get it.  Green energy startup?  You're the good sort of person.  You can have some of the government's money.  Create an electric car?  You can have subsidies to help build it, to cut your taxes with the state, and for people to buy the car from you with.
And this connects to another theme: the worthless leader.  Sure, they could fight, and they were great with courtly duties.  They knew poems and languages, and how to dress, what every knight's shield design was, and how to ride a horse.  But they knew almost nothing of any practical value, eventually.  Left alone in a forest, they'd just wander around complaining and die eventually.
And that's what the modern feudalist is like.  They never learn anything of significant value.  They learn how to rule.  If you have noticed, they never do what they call for, they simply teach others to do it, they "organize" they rabble rouse.  They get marches together and are activists, but don't actually go out and do anything to help or construct or benefit anyone but themselves.  That college degree in wymyn's intersectional lesbian studies doesn't actually teach you anything that you can use or help people with. It just fills your head with "woke" ideas and proper jargon.  You are good at being that feudal leader, and the actual doing is up to other people.  And you're considered great for being that way, by the fellow feudalists.
KNOW YOUR PLACE
In the end, none of it is truly about the causes that are trumpeted.  Social Justice isn't really about justice or society at all, its about controlling you and I, and keeping you in your "proper" place.  Kneel to the philosopher kings, tug your forelock and look down when they pass.  Never question them or doubt.  Don't try to be better than you are.  Obey.  Submit.  All those rules you must live by, of course they don't have to; they're your betters.  They make the rules, they don't have to follow them.  They're put into that place because they are enlightened, woke, politically correct.
So there's no equality, tolerance, justice, peace, or any of that.  Just control.