What the Lockdown Leviathans Don’t Get: We want to live, yes, but we also want to live lives of meaning, purpose, connection, and contentment

After all, here’s just a starter list of things that were either banned or restricted this holiday season: Christmas family gatheringsChristmas concertsChristmas tree lighting ceremoniesChristmas partiesChristmas worship servicesChristmas sing-alongsChristmas season sporting eventsChristmas shopping trips; and even Christmas visits with Santa. 

More broadly, nearly every conceivable social activity, aside from popping out to a grocery store to stave off starvation (or, possibly, suicide) for another week, was either banned or severely restricted this year for millions of us.about:blank

Don’t like it? Don’t worry, said the experts: If you’re feeling a mite lonely after nine months of house arrest in Papillon-like solitary confinement, just throw a rollicking Christmas “social” event in which you stare, all alone, at a computer screen on a Zoom call, as the most ruthless, repressive, imperialist regime on earth monitors everything you say, and then instantly disables your account if you dare to criticize it. (Soon, no doubt, it won’t only be the Chinese government doing the monitoring and disabling, but our own—supposing it hasn’t merged with the CCP by then).

House arrest for nine months, careers and dreams imploding all around you, relieved only by the odd Zoom call, isn’t exactly my idea of fun—or anyone else’s. Yet you’d never guess that listening to anyone with political power this year (aside from the few remaining non-useless Republicans). 

For months, these strange, power-mad robots have evinced zero indication they have any clue what it might feel like to be an actual human (with mouths to feed) suddenly placed under house arrest, forbidden from earning a living, stopped from pursuing activities which support his sense of identity, cut off from most (or all) social contact, fed reams of misinformation he knows is misinformation, and severed from a huge source of meaning in human life—namely, culture.

I’m not here arguing against the measures themselves (I will some other time). I am pointing out the inhuman indifference shown by the Lockdown Leviathans to the psychological, emotional, spiritual, and familial costs those measures have imposed, and continue to impose, upon their suffering subjects. 

There is simply no sign they care.

Above, I used the word “subjects.” I used it because although these thugs were all elected, they rule like ancient Asian potentates. No force checks or balances them. Certainly, no one’s heard a single word from any federal law enforcement official about the Incorporation Doctrine, or any federal plan to bring these thugs to heel.

I find that odd. 

Back in the 1950s, when the segregationist governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, tried to block black students from schools, President Dwight D. Eisenhower invoked the Insurrection Act and sent in the 101st Airborne. Just like that, Faubus came to heel. Eisenhower secured those students’ fundamental rights.

But now, when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo kills off thousands of American citizens, and California Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti deprive millions of American citizens of their most basic liberties, nothing happens. A space alien visiting America for a few weeks this holiday season would never imagine that America had something called a “Constitution,” and that it sets limits on how governments, state or federal, may treat citizens. He’d be shocked to learn otherwise.

But let me get back to culture. It is a vital source of meaning in human life. Cut humans off from culture—including important social/connecting rituals, like all those I mentioned above—and you inevitably begin draining their lives of meaning. Drain enough of that meaning away, and you wind up with despondent, purposeless human beings struggling to feel any sense of context for, or meaning or worth in, their lives. Their bone-deep existential anguish leads them to try to numb it through drugs, alcohol, or suicide.

A child could understand that. But there’s no sign the Lockdown Leviathans understand it, or care—not even when this sensible assumption passes into the realm of rock solid empirical evidence, which it now has done (see herehere, and here). about:blank

And so, you wonder just how many tears, say, Cuomo and his comrades in gubernatorial malfeasance have shed over the souls devastated—or the lives killed off—by their incompetence and control freakery this year. And then, you conclude it’s probably zero—with “probably” being generous. 

Presuming the talk of secession and national divorce subsides; presuming political calm emerges soon; there will be a lot to restore in the coming years. Between the riots and the lockdowns, the hard costs must be in the hundreds of millions. Buildings, businesses, inventories, houses, public monuments, educational careers, savings accounts . . . it’s a lot

But just as important—in some ways, even more important—will be the task of restoring culture, which is to say, restoring all the important sources of meaning for human life arrested or erased this year. Restoring our Christmas rituals will be one important part, but all the other communal rituals must return, too: the shared civic ceremonies and sporting events, the shared sacrifices, the shared stories and songs, the concerts and theatrical performances, the social clubs and worship services and funerals, the big family dinners, the weekly visits to the grandparents, the book club, the group prayers, the symphonies and parades and weekly date night for husbands and wives—all the natural rhythms of life, and all their infusions of transcendent purpose, worth, and meaning into human life. It all must come back. 

And it all must come back, because trying to save lives by demolishing all the things which make our lives feel worth living in the first place, doesn’t really get us ahead. We want to live, yes, but we also want to live lives of meaning, purpose, connection, and contentment. 

Sure, there are risks to that. But so what? There’s no point otherwise. That’s what the Lockdown Leviathans don’t get.

Tal Bachman, America Great

Your Christmas Present: Our Political Leaders are Killing off New York City

It’s the week before Christmas, traditionally the best week of the year to be in New York City. This is the week when tourists by the thousands flock to town, hundreds of restaurants are full and festive, the theater does peak business, the symphony and opera and ballet put on their most popular shows, concert venues are fully booked, hotel rooms are impossible to find, stores are packed, and beautiful Christmas lights are everywhere.

Not this year. Don’t even think about coming here right now. Almost all of the best things are closed, by order of our political masters. The term “ghost town” is a fair description. Here’s a small roundup:

  • Restaurants. After a few months of graciously allowing restaurants to have outdoor dining plus indoor at 25% capacity, last week — just as fall was about to turn into full winter — Governor Cuomo ordered all restaurants in New York City completely closed for indoor dining until further notice. That’s right, all indoor dining at restaurants is closed in New York City. Outdoor? This is December! For most of the last week, the temperature has been well below 32F (0C); today it finally got back to a little above 40F (5C). In my neighborhood, normally the best restaurant area of the City, nearly all of the restaurants have given up. A handful have built elaborate “outdoor” structures where a few hardy patrons in parkas huddle beneath highly inadequate heat lamps. The evidence that indoor dining at restaurants is a significant source of spread of the coronavirus is non-existent.
  • Broadway theater. All of it is completely closed. Through May 2021!
  • Symphony, opera, ballet, Lincoln Center. Closed, closed and more closed. Lincoln Center is bravely talking about restarting shows some time in “Spring 2021,” but they don’t give any specific date. Carnegie Hall’s most recent proposed reopening date is April 5, 2021. Watch for that to get pushed back again, and then yet again.
  • Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Yes, it is there. You can even go to see it in person — provided that you are willing to put up with advance registration, a scheduled time, mask-wearing, social distancing, a five-minute time limit for viewing, etc., etc., etc. Or you can just watch their virtual live cam, safely from your home in Peoria — which is what they strongly recommend. After all, you wouldn’t want to get too near an actual live human being this year.
  • Concerts. Everything is canceled as far as I can find, mostly without any announced rescheduling dates at all. Madison Square Garden, which also runs Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theater, says “We are working diligently to reschedule as many of these events as possible for dates in the future.” When in the future? No word.
  • Hotels. I can’t find statistics for the most recent weeks, but according to this report from October, some 200 of New York’s 700 hotels have closed entirely, and the remainder had overall occupancy rates of well under 40%. I’m surprised that it is that high. Typical for this time of year would be 90% or higher. The good news is that prices have plummeted.
  • Streets. The usual festive throngs are nowhere to be seen. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I don’t think so.
  • Subways. Still running! And at close to full schedule, if you can believe that. However, the authorities have done their best to scare away as many riders as possible, leaving the trains almost empty even at peak hours. On my line, trains that used to run irregularly, due to the difficulties of dealing with the crush of customers, now come every four minutes like clockwork. Word is that the MTA is about to get several billion in new “stimulus” funds from the latest Congressional bill, to keep the empty trains going. Thanks, flyover people! Here is a picture of the subway car I came home in this evening — with one other lonely passenger down at the other end. In normal times, this would be standing room only.
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Meanwhile our politicians proceed as if the infinite gusher of money will flow forever to fund the progressive program of perfecting the world. Allison Schrager in the City Journal has a collection of new and onerous labor regulation measures going into effect even as other government orders stemming from the virus are already crippling small businesses. Schrager calls her list “Another Stake in the Heart of New York’s Small Businesses.”

[D]on’t underestimate the capacity [of New York’s politicians] to make a bad situation much worse. The same week that Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to shut down New York City for business [because of the virus], Albany increased the minimum wage across the rest of the state (New York City’s minimum wage is already $15 an hour), City Hall made it harder to fire fast-food workers, and the New York appellate division upheld a decision that Uber drivers could not be hired as contractors—they must get all the benefits of regular employees.

Up in the state legislature, the Democrats have just increased their majority in the state Senate. All the buzz is about a new “millionaire’s tax” of several additional percent for those with annual income exceeding $1 million. And in New York City, Mayor de Blasio on December 18 held a news conference where he blurted out these words:

“I’d like to say very bluntly our mission is to redistribute wealth,” the mayor said. “A lot of people bristle at that phrase. That is, in fact, the phrase we need to use.”

The purpose of the “redistribution of wealth” is supposedly to fix the City’s schools. Those schools currently spend about $28,000 per year per student on K-12 education, which is well more than double the national average. As usual, de Blasio takes no responsibility for the failure of New York City schools to achieve even near-average results for almost triple the cost elsewhere in the country, and just demands more and more and yet more money.

They are doing their very best to kill off our city.

Francis Menton, Manhattan Contrarian