Regarding Football, and the Roman Empire…

If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead– Erma Bombeck

Karl Marx, the author of The Communist Manifesto, once wrote that ‘religion is the opiate of the masses’…

Religion’s got nothing on ESPN. If only Karl Marx could have seen that one coming! His cynical statement instead would have read ‘organized sports are the opiate of the masses’.

Now don’t get me wrong; I like watching the occasional game as much as the next guy, especially American football and boxing. I was pretty good at baseball as a kid, too. And I can’t wait to see my college football team (James Madison University) take on the North Dakota State Bison. (The Bison are the ‘New York Yankees’ of college football, with a little bit of the Galactic Empire mixed in. I think Darth Vader is their head coach.)

But sports are meant to be just that: Entertainment. Today’s culture, however, has twisted athletic competitions into something subversive; they’ve gone from being an amusement to being a willful, destructive distraction.

Sadly, this applies across every layer of American life: individual, familial, and societal. What’s amazing to me is not only how obvious this fact is, but how few people see it. When I talk about the concept, your average person looks at me like I’m completely insane. Which is weird, because our culture readily acknowledges the negative consequences of internet and video game addiction.

So let’s break this issue down, and first look at the individual results of being an obsessive sports nut…

At this level, the cultural malaise affects mostly men. As I’m fond of pointing out, men and women possess complimentary-yet-opposite natures. (Yes, sparky, men and women are actually different! Go figure.) Women (painting with a broad brush, of course), are collectively collaborative but individually competitive; that’s how they corral off husbands for themselves, and then coordinate with the neighbors to make sure all the children are looked out for as they play outside. Men, on the other hand, are individually collaborative but collectively competitive; that’s how we form teams and armies, and then try to kick some other army’s rear end.

Because men enjoy competition on a collective level more than an individual one, team sports are extremely seductive to them. (Boxing is the exception to this, but exceptions don’t disprove a general rule.) Men’s interest in team sports is fine in moderation, but it’s incredible how sports – especially in this age of satellite TV and hi-speed internet – often seem to consume men’s lives. I’m in construction, and half of my co-workers do nothing on their days off except watch sports. When they’re at work, the topic of the day is usually everyone’s Fantasy Football League. (I always breathe a sigh of relief once the Super Bowl is over.)

Why is this a problem?

Here’s why: Because such men know little to nothing about politics, sociology, or religion – you know, the fundamental building blocks of a healthy community. The numbers vary based on exactly which statistic you look at, but the statistics all agree in one area: The number of ‘low information voters’ turning out for political elections is alarming. We basically have dimwits running our republic; they simply refuse to put in the time necessary to educate themselves on the issues of the day.

Yes, a lot of these people are just plain stupid by nature. (As Winston Churchill was supposed to have said, the best argument against self-rule is a fifteen-minute conversation with your average voter.) But how many of those know-nothing voters – whose ignorant choices influence government – can tell you what Tom Brady’s stats from last football season were? How many of those voters, I wonder, made their foolish decisions at the polls because they were too busy memorizing Tom Brady’s stats to research the candidates?

Men were meant to lead families and so create a stable world in which women and children can thrive. Being glued to a digital sports feed 24/7 doesn’t serve that end, and the epidemic is worse now than it ever was. In addition to television, newspaper, and radio – the old methods of providing a ‘fix’ to sports addicts – now everybody and his uncle is carrying a ‘smart’ phone with a high-speed data plan.

And it’s very easy to tell the sports addict from the casual sports fan: Just try talking to him about anything else except sports. Not even a deer in the headlights looks that confused!

But let’s look beyond the individual for a moment. What does sports addiction do to families? Obviously, it creates pseudo-absentee fathers. But it has even more devastating effects on children, education, and civic finances.

Sports addicts tend to aggressively push their kids into athletic programs. This is a terrible thing in a world where – with two working parents, day care, after-school programs, etc. – children have very, very little ‘down time’. Sports just add an extra layer of stress and commitment to modern life, and this is a serious problem. It’s a problem because in order for a child to grow into a smart, well-rounded, intelligent adult, he or she must have a certain amount of un-allocated time in which to explore his or her own interests. What good does it do Junior to score fifty goals in the hockey championship if he grows up to be a boring dunce?

It was also very frustrating to me, as a minister, to see how many families often skipped church because ‘Junior had a baseball tournament’. What exactly are we teaching our children about priorities, here? Jesus is only important if there doesn’t happen to be a ball game?

Our school system is part of the problem, not the solution. Sports do not qualify as ‘education’! A traditional western education, historically, was deeply rooted in the arts. But this became a hindrance in America and Europe, where our governments have become increasingly socialistic; it’s easier to foist socialism onto a dumbed-down society than a well-educated one. Sports teach group-think and mindless conformity; the arts teach individual creativity and innovation.  Intellect is the enemy of socialism, and thus arts programs are scuttled and under-funded in favor of sports programs.

Over-funding school sports is also an incredible waste of taxpayer money. At my local university, the college built a new research building for its science program. The building was small, with a modest construction budget. The building’s purpose? Oh, you know… just doing agricultural research so we can do a better job of feeding the world. No big deal.

That selfsame school built a new athletic complex shortly thereafter. It’s the second largest building in the city, and it came with a price tag that was nearly nine figures.

How do I know this? I helped build both the research building and the athletic complex! I was on and off the research project in a matter of months…

But the athletic complex took two and a half YEARS!

About the same time that the athletic complex was being built, our city passed a ninety million dollar school-bond referendum. Property taxes and ‘special assessments’ (a predatory, capricious tax unique to the American Midwest) went through the roof. This money was all supposed to be used for ‘educational purposes’.

Guess what? Half the money went for sports-related expenditures, the most notable being a huge hockey arena. Think about that: Homeowners were jacked tens of millions to fund Junior chasing around a hockey puck.

To make matters worse, school sports programs are damaging the career prospects of students, particularly boys. I had an apprentice recently who was a promising worker, but he had to quit his trade because his shoulder was too severely injured from playing high-school football. How many talented tradesmen, I wonder, have we whittled out of the workforce by crippling them before they even got started? Only one percent of college athletes become professionals, and I’m betting we injure way more than one percent badly enough to impact their career choices. Over the years I’ve gotten apprentices with bad shoulders, knees, and backs due to sports injuries; many of them were forced to change careers because of their handicaps.

All of these factors combine to create a less stable society rather than a more stable society. Sports-addled dads don’t pay attention to their kids, and kids don’t have the down time they need to develop versatile intellects. Churches – which, as Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out, are the backbone of American greatness – are suffering ever-decreasing attendance. Citizens are over-taxed to pay for programs that have nothing to do with education, and our government is populated with second-rate incompetents – elected, in part, by men who understand nothing about politics except the propaganda commercials they saw during ‘the game’.

An empire loves nothing more than citizens who are too dumb to notice their own government’s malfeasance; as Rome and Greece were, so is America. History always repeats itself, and this is not the first time that sports have been used to ‘dumb down’ a society, or to amuse it into complacence; Rome and Greece did the same thing, so much so that their respective social fabrics tore completely apart.

When Greece fell, its collapse ushered in the rise of Rome – the most brutal empire in human history.

When Rome fell, it caused a power vacuum that led to a thousand years of savage feudalism.

Wanna avoid the next Dark Age?

Read a book sometime. Listen to music once in a while, instead of some yahoo re-hashing how awesome so-and-so’s ‘home run’ was yesterday. Give your kids some free time, and tell ‘em that a sport is off-limits if it would cause them to miss three Sundays out of four.

I’m honestly not saying that sports aren’t fun once in a while; I’m just pointing out the need for balance. It’s not about the activity; it’s about indulging in it to the point of excess.

You addicts KNOW who you are!

And ironically, it’s almost certain that none of you are actually reading this…

Regarding Psychos and Profilers…

Look down at me and you see a fool. Look up at me and you see a god. Look straight at me and you see yourself… – Charles Manson

Serial killers are absolutely fascinating to your average person…

Which, of course, I find rather fascinating.

Think about it for a minute. Most people aren’t enthralled by spiders and snakes, and the only people I know who keep them as pets are incorrigible weirdoes. Spiders and snakes are grotesque, sure, but they are so dissimilar to humans (and mammals in general) that most of us are simply repulsed by them. There’s no ‘fascination’ there whatsoever; we just don’t even wanna think about spiders and snakes!

Serial killers, on the other hand, may repulse us but they nevertheless tend to linger indefinitely in our collective imagination. We make movies, sing songs, and write books about them. We watch their interviews on TV and digital media, and most of us can list at least a few by name… which is ironic, since being killed is at the top of almost everyone’s list of fears. (The more popular phobia, however, is public speaking. So if you happen to croak, don’t sweat it because the guy giving your eulogy will be feeling more anxiety than you are. Plus he doesn’t get to enjoy a long, relaxing ‘dirt nap’ afterwards, the poor fellow…)

But I digress.

I think serial killers fascinate humanity because they’re the predators who come from our own ranks; they often hold jobs, get married, and even raise families. Many of them are very charismatic. But despite the fact that they may appear harmless, they’re MONSTERS, plain and simple!  If their outsides matched their insides, they’d all look like characters from a Wes Craven film… but they don’t, and that’s what makes them so unnerving and thus perversely riveting.

At any given time, it is estimated that there are at least a hundred active ‘recreational killers’ in the United States alone. Now let’s be clear here: You are exponentially more likely to be murdered by someone you know than by some random serial killer, but a hundred of those guys? Statistics aside, it’s insane that there are that many crazies out there stalking people like deer!

I have identified two key principles that I think make serial killers such eerily mesmerizing entities, and the first is this: They are just like us.

The second is this: We have no idea what causes their existence.

I’ll address the second principle first.

First of all, let me be blunt here. I hold a very, very dim view of ‘forensic psychology’. I have read all of the famed FBI ‘profiler’ John Douglas’ published writings, and as far as I’m concerned he’s trying to make a ‘science’ out of what most people would rightly label ‘guesswork’. He’s wrong as often as he is right. He reminds me of the detective from Mark Twain’s iconic story ‘The Stolen White Elephant’, forever searching for a ‘clew’ while his long-sought elephant rampages gleefully through his ‘clew-ridden’ town.  (And yes, I am TOTALLY in the camp that says the FBI’s ‘Behavioral Science’ division was created for no other reason than to pad their bloated budget. I’ve done my research, and it seems that the FBI was an un-salvageable clown show way before James Comey.)

So that being said…

John Douglas thinks that the mind of a violent psychopath can be figured out, that his motives can be understood and his actions anticipated. I call ‘hogwash’ on Douglas! I think violent psychopaths are God’s way of reminding us that the human mind is His creation, not ours. For all we think we ‘know’ about predatory psychopaths, there’s always at least one who blows our theory du jour out of the water. For instance, they’re often reclusive, and isolated… but Charlie Manson wasn’t, and neither was Ted Bundy; both were outgoing and charming. Serial killers are almost always white males… but Wayne Williams wasn’t, and neither was Aileen Wuornos. Serial killers usually love to taunt the police, even seeking public notoriety for their crimes… but Jeffrey Dahmer didn’t. Serial killers often torture their victims, and usually prefer ‘contact’ methods of killing, such as knives or ligatures… but the Son of Sam didn’t; he used a gun.

See my point? John Douglas has spent decades trying to get this ‘serial killer thing’ licked. And yet any one of us can point towards Stage Left saying, ‘yeah, but what about that guy over there? He doesn’t fit your ‘profile’!’

It’s been said that serial killers are the product of abuse. And that’s often true, as in the case of Charlie Manson, whose mother sold him to a sexual predator for a pitcher of beer. It’s also true in the case of Ed Gein, whose mother was completely insane.

But Jeffrey Dahmer had a fairly normal childhood, as did Richard Ramirez. Richard Ramirez’s parents were so appalled by his childhood anti-social tendencies that they sent him to Catholic School, where he promptly became fascinated with Devil worship. I can also think of a handful of people I’ve known over the years whose respective childhoods were the stuff that serial killers are made of, and yet none of them would hurt a fly. Some of ‘em even went to Catholic schools.

You can look at the brutal childhood of Charlie Manson and say, ‘man, how could that guy ever not have ended up as a nut case?’ Yeah, Charlie was a nut but there are millions of functioning people with childhoods similar to Manson’s. Why aren’t they running around waving a meat cleaver? Ted Bundy blamed childhood exposure to pornography for his rapacious nature, but millions of people struggle daily with pornography, even Christians. Why aren’t they snatching up every pretty college girl that walks by?

What MAKES the serial killer? Is it nature? We can, after all, quantify psychopathy. You can wire a serial killer’s brain, and then spend hours showing him pictures of mutilated kittens and tortured puppies; the ‘empathy’ section of his brain will register no response whatsoever! It’s kind of like cutting the wires to your car’s air conditioner. The A/C is still a part of your car, but it doesn’t work because it’s disconnected from the vehicle’s power supply. (Side note: Autopsies have also shown that serial killers are more likely to have brain lesions than a ‘normal’ person, but the causes/effects of this phenomenon are inconclusive. Forget about the shrinks; it doesn’t even look like the doctors can figure this mess out!)

Serial killers just happen, and no one knows why! (Having said that, may I please have some of the ‘Behavioral Science’ division’s payroll money now? I mean, my theory makes more sense than most of John Douglas’ ideas…)

So yeah, we have no idea what causes serial killers. Now on to my second assertion…

They are just like us, and I think this is what fascinates us most of all.

Wait, you say! I ain’t Jeffrey Dahmer! He ATE people!!!

Okay, hopefully most of us wouldn’t stoop to cannibalism. (Would elderly people be like stew beef? Would kids become the new veal? Would people with a healthy diet be more prized for their meat than say, some overweight guy who lived on junk food? Inquiring minds wanna know…)

But yes, Jeffrey Dahmer did eat people. But it’s not what he did, so much as why he did it that’s interesting: He had MAJOR ‘abandonment issues’. Granted, most of us wouldn’t chop people up and store them in the freezer to keep them from leaving us… but how many people suffer from ‘abandonment issues’?

Ted Kaczynski (the ‘Unabomber’) was characterized by his deep distrust of academia and government, as well as his mad lust for power. Now granted, I’d like to think that I’d never mail bombs to people, ‘cuz that just seems kinda mean. But I do have low opinions of both academia AND the ‘gub’ment’, and I’d sure love to be the dictator for a day! Am I a different animal altogether from ol’ Ted, or is it simply a matter of degree?Am I a better person than he is, or was he just pushed a little harder by society than I was?

Charlie Manson – the son of a prostitute, ‘raised’ by the penal system – was characterized by a burning desire for a family of his own, despite the fact that he hadn’t a clue how to fit into a real family. Is anyone out there feeling short-changed by your own childhood? Are you still looking for a replacement family?

Yeah, that’s a lot of us!

Ted Bundy was jilted by his pretty girlfriend, and a disturbing number of his rape/murder victims bore at least a passing resemblance to his ‘ex’…

Is anyone out there still feeling bitter over being dumped?

I’m not saying that murder is an acceptable response to a terrible childhood, fear of government, or romantic rejection. I’m just saying that those are a few of the stimuli that motivate everyone, not just serial killers. As Winona Ryder’s character said in the film Girl: Interrupted, ‘crazy’ people are just you and me amplified. They have the same motivators that everyone else does; it’s just that their lack of empathy prompts them to take their fear and rage way too far. But the extreme nature of their actions doesn’t nullify the fact that they are driven by the same basic needs as every else walking down the street.

And perhaps that’s the most terrifying reality of all…

That’s why we stay up at night watching movies about serial killers, because we instinctively understand that we will NEVER know who the true lunatics are until it’s too late; turning psychos into entertainment somehow makes them seem less real.  John Douglas can blow all the hot air he wants, but that won’t change reality; he’s just as clueless as everyone else when it comes to his area of ‘expertise’, and I’m sure he stays up late watching twisted movies just like the rest of us.  It’s a sick pursuit, for sure, turning remorseless murderers into the evening movie…

But it’s a heluva lot less scary than lying awake worrying about them! Watching a harmless movie is, perhaps, just enough stimulation to distract us from the truth so prophetically spoken by Richard Ramirez: ‘We’ve all got the power in our hands to kill, but most people are afraid to use it. The ones who aren’t afraid, control life itself.’

I can’t wrap my head around that statement, despite the fact that I know it to be the brutal, devastating, traumatic truth… So rather than thinking about that, I’ma go watch me a movie.

Popcorn?

Anyone…?

Regarding Elections and Social Unrest…

London is burning (or at least it was, as of December 14th, 2019).

Boris Johnson crushed Jeremy Corbyn in the English prime minister election, and apparently quite a few Brits were furious over his landslide win. So Antifa wound up running completely amok (again), protestors started damaging property (again), and people got arrested. (Come to think of it, it kinda looked like America’s 2017 Presidential Inauguration over there…)

I’ve backed off writing about politics a bit, at least in the sense of endorsing a candidate or commenting on the day-to-day workings of government. I prefer to write from a more general, historic perspective (as did Lysander Spooner, John Locke, and Alexis de Tocqueville).

Regardless of where one’s English sympathies lie – with the Conservative Johnson or the Socialist Corbyn – the pseudo-anarchy in London should concern everyone in the Western World. Why? Because the key to societal stability is the peaceful transfer of power. Resorting to violence because one’s preferred candidate lost an election is barbaric; that very behavior is what makes many African countries such terrible places. (The last person I baptized is from South Sudan, and he says some of the tribes go ‘Machetes-R-Us’ every single election. That’s damn near enough to make a guy wish for a dictator, I should think.)

Frankly, I don’t understand the sense of entitlement. I voted in my first presidential election when I was eighteen, and ‘my guy’ lost. I felt no compulsion whatsoever to set something on fire, break into a store, or beat someone up. I played by the rules because that’s what civilized people do. My preferred candidate wasn’t ‘owed’ a win, nor were his constituents ‘entitled’ to anything… and we didn’t act as though we were.

But apparently, a lot of folks today don’t see elections that way. They’re quickly losing their ability to gracefully accept defeat, and that doesn’t bode well in any ‘republic’.

If we follow this trend of post-election violence through to its logical conclusion, we will eventually hit a place in which we have only one option: To accept rule by a despot. Any government is better than no government at all, and if a society is so restless that only a tyrant is strong enough to control it… guess what? And the truth is, in such a case we’d deserve to be ruled with an iron fist. It’d be a terrible irony that America won two world wars only to fall to a bunch of fringe activists.

It’s not all bad, though. I think it’s very interesting that England has finally figured out the same truth about politics that their American cousins have. To wit: It’s not about ‘Liberal versus Conservative’, or ‘Republican versus Democrat’ anymore…

It’s about ‘Nationalism versus Globalism’.

Nationalism is a simple concept: It’s about putting the needs of one’s own people above the needs of other countries.

Globalism is about destroying national borders for the purpose of exploiting cheap labor. This results in crime and unemployment at home (as poorly-vetted, cheap workers are brought in to compete with natives for jobs), and endless wars abroad (as militaries are deployed to seize natural resources held by weaker nations).  Globalism erodes the middle class until no one is left except the dirt poor and a tiny handful of wealthy elites.

For an interesting study on this phenomenon, see also ‘San Francisco’. The uber-wealthy tech moguls have driven up real-estate prices while their cheap, imported workers have taken virtually all of the mid-level tech jobs coveted by American college graduates. (For every four Americans who graduate with a tech degree, one H1-B Visa Worker is imported to compete with them. This statistic doesn’t even begin to address the impact of corporate outsourcing.) The result of all this is a once-thriving city now overrun by one of the developed world’s largest homeless populations. San Francisco is the epitome of Globalism Gone Wild, and the American – as well as the English – people are finally beginning to figure this concept out.

Combine the devastating effects of Globalism with the growing societal tendency to engage in mob violence, and suddenly the Western World has a very big problem on its hands!

So how many Boris Johnsons will it take to actually fix this?

Only time will tell…

Regarding the 'Opioid Crisis'

            So, about this ‘prescription opioid crisis’…

            I started to compile a bunch of statistics like real journalists do, but I decided not to ‘cuz that’s boring. So I’ll take the ‘Andy Rooney’ approach instead, and write from personal observation and experience. (Writing is more personal that way, I think.)

            I’ve NEVER been a drug addict. But I am a career construction worker… which means I’ve been prescribed my fair share of opioids over the years. Broken bones, lacerations, sprains, back pulls, soft-tissue injuries… you name it, I’ve had it. I’m middle-aged, and I’ve been in construction since I was fifteen. You get banged around a lot in my profession.

            I’ve also met my fair share of junkies. Not only because of my line of work, but because of where I grew up; I’m a native of an East Coast port city. Where there’s commerce there’s crime, and where there’s crime there are less-than-legal substances.

So yeah, I’ve run across more than a few drug-addled people in my day.

            Here’s one thing that interests me about this proclaimed ‘opioid crisis’… I detect a subtle element of Class-ism in it. To wit: Where I’m from, you can’t throw a brick without hitting a crack-head. They’re piled up like cord-wood on every street corner. Rail-thin with crusty lips, always begging for money (or offering sex for the same)… they’re inescapable! And no one cares. There is no national ‘crack crisis’ that I can see. Is it because crack-heads come from the segment of society that criminologists call the ‘less dead’? People who don’t work, don’t pay bills or taxes. These people are truly dismissible, no matter how much pain they suffer.

            But the ‘prescription opioid crisis’ hits middle-class, working taxpayers… THIS is a ‘crisis’!

            But here’s the dark side of the ‘prescription opioid’ hysteria: Innocent people are suffering.

            Twice, while building a local athletic complex, I suffered severe back pulls. (Both were repetitive-motion injuries.) My medical reports clearly described a number of muscles as ‘severely inflamed’. In both cases, I was out of work for a week… and the doctors sent me home with Ibuprofen. When I asked my doctors why I wasn’t being given something for the pain, I was told that ‘I might re-injure myself’…

Doing WHAT, lying on my couch?!

            On both occasions, my doctors (paid by North Dakota’s worker safety insurance) sent me home in excruciating pain, when a mere two-day supply of Vicodin would have made me comfortable. I suffered terribly because my doctors were paranoid about handing out opioids.

            According to Becker’s Hospital Review, your average ND doctor makes $225,840 per year. They’re getting skittish about giving opioids to genuinely injured patients, and not because they’re trying to save us all from addiction. They’re protecting their own lavish lifestyles, and in so doing they’re violating their Hippocratic Oath: ‘Do no harm’.

            It’s better to let the Guilty go free than to harm the Innocent… and by withholding opioids from the truly injured, doctors have now inadvertently become sadists.