Selwyn Duke
The socialist and the stone
By Selwyn Duke
December 11, 2008

When I was still within a stones' throw of ladhood, I had an acquaintance who was essentially a socialist. I can't say for sure he proclaimed himself as such — although I believe he did — but that was certainly where his passions lay.

He was a man of about 60 years, and his exterior matched his ideology. Much of his hair and its melanin had obviously been redistributed, and he certainly was the very model of a modern minor socialist.

I'd say the year was about 1989, the tail end of the booming Reagan era, and the scene was a city park in the Bronx, New York. I was an aspiring tennis player, and it was where I used to hone my skills, although by this time I had moved on to better things and was only an infrequent visitor. The man in question had long been a recreational player at the park, although he never showed signs of enjoying the game very much. But, then, he didn't really show signs of enjoying anything. Bubbling exuberance did not ooze from his pores.

If you want to better visualize this fellow, picture Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont minus the status and power. Like Sanders, he might have worked for the government (forgive the fuzzy details; it was a long time ago. But the relevant part, which is soon to come, I recall as if it were yesterday), but I think he perhaps was some kind of civil servant. And, like Sanders, I don't remember much of a smile ever passing his face. Oh, he wasn't nasty or anything, but he did seem quite tired of life. He would saunter over to the tennis courts after work — and I seem to remember him getting off pretty early — looking much before the game as you would expect him to afterward. You see, this man — and I don't recall his name — was the quintessence of personal entropy, sort of the embodiment of a long, slow, plaintive sigh. Let's call him Bernie.

So one day I got into a discussion with Bernie, and he decided to share some of his personal philosophy with me in his usual plodding, enervated manner. Although I don't know what inspired it, perhaps we had touched on free markets and competition. Anyway, he starts telling me about a wildlife documentary he had watched, and here is what he said (I'm paraphrasing):

"You know, there were these two rams in the documentary fighting for dominance, and one eventually won and the other ran off. But if you looked closely, you could see that it wasn't that the ram really lost; it was just that he slipped on a stone and lost his balance."

You might think I should have an exclamation point after that last sentence, but that wasn't how Bernie said it. It was just matter-of-fact . . . and tired. Quite like the ideas.

Now, someone could point out that even if Bernie's perception was correct, the ram didn't have to abandon the fight simply because he slipped a bit. We all encounter stones in life — and hurdles, stumbling block and walls. But some rams forge on ahead and never say die, while others, well, just complain about the injustice of the stone.

Although I was a very young man, it was obvious to me that there was a psychological reason why Bernie found stone theory so appealing. It was his rationalization, his way of justifying and explaining away what he perceived to be his failures in life, his shortcomings. "Why, it's all just chance anyway; some people get the breaks while others don't. There's no rhyme or reason to it, and it has nothing to do with ability." So his ship never came in, but it was only because it hit the rocks — rocks that should never have been there in the first place. It has nothing to do with the fact that some people put their nose to the grindstone, while others spend their youth just . . . well, stoned.

I tell you this story because it illustrates what lies at the heart of collectivism. Winston Churchill once said, "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy; its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery," and he was absolutely correct. Although leftists rail against greed, if you scratch the surface of such a person, you will find the most avaricious, covetous creature imaginable. They want to redistribute wealth not because they care about the poor and downtrodden, for if that were their concern they would give more to charity than traditionalists, when in reality they give far less. No, what motivates them is that they cannot abide the fact that others have more than they do. And they love — or, I should say, "want," as love is a godly motivation — a government-imposed level playing field because then everyone gets stoned equally. And your failure doesn't seem like failure when everyone is forced to fail.

For any who doubt the ignobility of leftists, know that a study from earlier this year bears my assertion out. It was reported in a Daily Mail piece titled, "Don't listen to the liberals — Right-wingers really are nicer people, latest research shows" and is found here. But do we really need research to reveal the obvious? Anyone with discernment perceives what leftists are, with the cursing, disrespect, lewdness, and nastiness they exhibit. Don't listen to their rhetoric about "social justice," watch how they treat the homeless person in the street, how they tip wait staff, how they treat those of lower economic status. Actions speak louder than words.

Of course, I am generalizing. There is variation among leftists just as with any group, and, moreover, some who call themselves liberals aren't really while many who masquerade as "moderates" are so far left they've left their senses. But just as we come to understand individuals through generalizing about their traits — we might call Bill a mean guy even if there have been times when he showed kindness — we only understand groups by grasping their general characteristics, and this is called generalizing. Without it, wisdom is impossible.

It's also true that leftists will say traditionalists are "immoral," although it's telling that they avoid the word when left to their own devices; they're more likely to just call us fascists. And, of course, when measured by their ever-evolving standard of behavior, we are horrible people. But there is a difference, in that we can make judgments without contradicting ourselves.

Traditionalists tend to recognize Truth, which means that we do believe right and wrong are real and not just social constructs. Leftists, on the other hand, will claim they can identify evil while also claiming that what constitutes "good" is opinion. They call opponents evil when it feels right, but it is against the backdrop of a philosophy stating that all values are equal.

Getting back to old Bernie, it is of course true that worldly success doesn't precisely parallel ability. Just as with leftists, there is variation among successful people; this is why we have rap thugs and vile shock jocks who command millions; it is why a Rod Blagojevich can become governor of a state. But that is the nature of the world; it isn't God determining worth but those flawed creatures called humans who constitute the next best thing: The market.

Nevertheless, there certainly is a strong correlation between ability and application, and success. Besides, what is often overlooked is that most all of us are "rich"; that is, when viewed within the context of the whole of the world and man's history. Why, even Bernie had a nice car, a roof over his head, more luxuries than our ancestors could dream of and access to supermarkets stocked with food.

But, most significantly, we need to remember that man does not live on bread alone. Worldly success is not the true measure of a person, and it shouldn't determine his happiness.

When we realize and live this, we no longer want to cast stones at the rich — or curse the ones under our feet.

© Selwyn Duke


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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