The problem with America today, concisely stated.

January 13, 2013 at 12:14 am (Icepick)

Too few Harlequins, too many Ticktockmen.

Related: I first broached the topic on Althouse, which led to this. Althouse quotes from Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, which quote starts the Ellison story that inspired my statement. Here’s the Thoreau:

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailors, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purposes as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the Devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it.


  1. lehg said,

    Harlan Ellison, eh?

    What got you thinking about that story, I wonder?

  2. Icepick said,

    This story and the fact that not enough people tell over-officious jerks to get stuffed these days.

    I also read the chapter “The Scouring of the Shire” from The Return of the King last week. It was somewhat startling how the Shire the hobbits return to is being run like America now.

  3. mockturtle said,

    Maybe it’s time to revisit Tolkien.

  4. kngfish said,

    Oh yeah? Where’s my pipeweed for my glaucoma?

  5. Icepick said,

    Okay, is anyone else seeing an ad embedded in the body of the post?

  6. mockturtle said,

    Oh yeah? Where’s my pipeweed for my glaucoma?

    Here in WA now, glaucoma is no longer necessary. ;-)

  7. karen said,

    I found that reference in ~Due Date~ to be hilarious.
    I found most of ~Due Date~ t o be hilarious.
    Except the dog’s habit for a restful sleep. Yuck.

  8. karen said,

    Reminds me, also- speaking of stones– that Harry Reid views others w/out empathy. That’s probably the case w/all of the career politicians, IMhumbleO.

    Esteemed Bernie Sanders– giving himself a raise every yr- trying to schmooze w/the farmers and rednecks(& Chittenden County supporters up for the day)@ the local pig roast at the designated ~poor, needy~ farm in the Kingdom.

    Works like a charm.

    Cue spud- lol.

  9. TT Burnett said,

    For my part, I am content enough to serve the state in an humble capacity, provided, of course, it is on the same terms, as, say, the Good Soldier Schweik.

  10. TT Burnett said,

    And if Schweik’s lumbago finds a cure, a better rôle than hero, patriot, martyr, reformer, or even Harlequin, might be Pierrot. At least he’s got a better tune to hum.

  11. karen said,

    All i can say is: thank God for google!!
    I use it every day on Ambiance:0)
    The Schweik drawing looks like Schultz- from Hogan’s Heroes.

  12. Icepick said,

    TT. so you want to be arrested for saying bad things about the emperor and spend time in an insane asylum? And I get how someone (not me) might enjoy a nice walk in the countryside, but following it up with a stint in Gitmo makes it sound less fun.

  13. TT Burnett said,

    The problem for Schweik was that, future strolls in the countryside might entail encounters with 75mm shells and mustard gas. Schweik was looney enough to try his luck with all the State could serve him, short of its turning him into one of Thoreau’s wooden men, with the chance of being splintered by Serb-inspired cordite—a worse fate, Schweik seems to have thought (if he thought at all), than a stint in a Bohemian Bedlam.

    Thoreau’s relationship to wooden splinters came from his family’s manufacture of them for other uses. But that is a separate story, fundamental as it may have been to Thoreau’s personal avoidance of quiet desperation, and his embrace, in his own mind at least, of reform in the great sense.

  14. kngfish said,

    Gitmo! Not a location….but a state of mind.

  15. kngfish said,

    Indirectly related I suppose, I sent our bloggeress part of this Heine poem, which I include (in whole) for your enjoyment

    Which Way Now?

    Which way now? My stupid foot
    Steers me toward Germany;
    But my reason shakes its head,
    Wisely seems to say to me:

    True, the war has ended now,
    But the war tribunals stay,
    And you wrote some lines for which
    You could be lined up, they say.

    It would be discomforting,
    To be sure, if I were shot.
    I have no dramatic skill,
    And a hero I am not.

    I might go to England, but
    Coal fumes make the air too thick;
    And the English–just their smell
    Gives me cramps and makes me sick.

    There are times I’d like to think
    That America’s for me
    (Freedom’s stable filled with herds
    Seeking mob equality),

    But I’m fearful of a land
    Where tobacco leaves they chew,
    Where they bowl without a king,
    Where without spittoon they spew.

    For a pleasant land to live,
    Russian may be the way out.
    But I know in wintertime
    I could not endure the knout.

    Gloomily I lift my eyes–
    Stars galore are greeting me,
    Many thousands fill the skies
    But my own star I can’t see.

    In that golden labyrinth
    It perhaps has gone astray,
    Just as in the turmoil here
    On this earth I’ve lost my way.

  16. lehg said,

    Didn’t Thoreau’s mom, or someone, do his laundry, or something, during his self-reliant sojourn in the woods? A faint clang in my brain brought that to mind as something, somewhere, somehow that got pointed out. Not interested enough anymore to go look it up, much less verify it. Do remember it, now, making somewhat of an impression, then, and thus increasing my skepticism on various fronts.

  17. lehg said,

    Icepick: Glad you “updated” via your “related.”

  18. Icepick said,

    Gitmo! Not a location….but a state of mind.

    “My Own Private Gitmo” – a new major motion picture from Warner Brothers Studios!

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, disillusioned with the utility of mass violence to create societal change and social justice, and Josef Švejk, deeply confused by time travel, wander the mountains, steppes and deserts of Central Asia on motorbikes on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual healing. Eating local cuisine, discussing the meaning of foreign movies (mainly the Transformers series and various other American effects-laden movies) and maybe even falling in love with some local lovelies, the duo eventually run afoul of a rouge CIA agent, who ransoms them to the US government in an effort to clear the agent’s name. Hilarity ensues when the deal goes bad. Forced into an alliance of convenience, and avoiding drones, Chinese tongs and Kim Jong-un’s rap posse, all three finally find themselves in a beach-side resort in Cuba – a lovely place over-looking the American camp at Guantanamo Bay, built with Hugo Chavez oil money so wealthy leftist tourists can feel morally superior to Americans while still enjoying all the benefits of a luxury resort.

  19. Icepick said,

    Icepick: Glad you “updated” via your “related.”

    Which one?

  20. Icepick said,

    There are at least three good money-making ideas in #18, if someone already had money to invest or good connections. I’ll let the readers decide what the money-makers are!

    (And yes, I’ve edited that comment a couple of times now.)

  21. Icepick said,

    Okay, #18 should be as finished as I care to make it for now.

  22. Icepick said,

    Didn’t Thoreau’s mom, or someone, do his laundry, or something, during his self-reliant sojourn in the woods?

    I don’t remember the particulars (and don’t care to look them up), but yes, Thoreau didn’t get by on self-reliance, but instead by the indulgence of friends and family. I still think he got a few things right, though I think he was wrong about stealing the half of Mexico with all the paved roads. That was a good deal for the USA!

  23. mockturtle said,

    Whom would you cast in this film, Ice? Is DeNiro too old to play Khalid, do you think?

  24. karen said,

    “Others as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the Devil, without intending it, as God.”

    “…Leftists have put together a new video game where you get to shoot your favorite NRA officials in the head. You can download it online.
    Pete M. at Free Republic reported.”

    …so, let me get this straight.
    NRA = bad
    Gun control = good.
    NRA creates a target shooting game = bad& reported as dancing on the graves of the Newtown dead, but…
    this ~punchout~ game, not reported on(other than Gateway and other conservative blogs)is met w/no criticism. Crickets.

    “A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it.”

    Life sucks.

  25. Icepick said,

    Ron Jeremy as Khalid Mohammed. Ron’s only 11 years older than Khalid, but he actually looks better because of, uh, clean living?

    Ben Affleck as the rouge CIA agent.

    And I’m stuck on Švejk, I have no idea who to cast.

  26. mockturtle said,

    Rogue, not rouge. At least, I assume you mean rogue. :-D

  27. mockturtle said,

    Ron Jeremy already looks a lot like Khalid. Great choice!

  28. Icepick said,

    I did mean rogue, but rouge might be more fun. I’d still cast Ben Affleck, let him stretch his acting chops a bit.

  29. mockturtle said,

    I’m trying to picture him with rouge…

  30. karen said,

    Posted: 01/18/2013
    Last Updated: 13 minutes ago

    SAN DIEGO – A bullied teenager remains missing after video of a fight at Carlsbad High School surfaced online.

    In the cellphone video posted on Facebook, 14-year-old Baileigh Karam is seen being struck repeatedly by a classmate as a crowd of students watched, cheered and recorded the incident on their cellphones. Karam is also heard several times begging her attacker to stop.

    Karam has been missing since last Friday, when the video first appeared online.

    WTF is the matter w/America?
    Why does this seem the norm and not a bizarre exception?
    Where is the… moral compass.

  31. Icepick said,

    Morals are for suckers, Karen.

    And for imaginary girlfriends, of course.

  32. karen said,

    Then the world needs more morals, ice.
    And less Ticktock men- too.

    Think about the world we have created- void of any open prayer, but plenty of disappearing, bullied kids. While elite throw more $$$$ @ problems and do less w/it. Please don’t think i exclude my own back yard, either. It is full of incompetence at the expense of our younger generations- trying to compensate/legislate the lack of allowance of any faith- more education, more meals, more birth control…

    We are a bankrupt error of commodities- of which i fail to see the humor… and that sucking sound you hear ain’t got shit to do w/Mexico. It’s the sound of our own culture circling the drain because we live in a world where we have to dope to win(hell, compete- are rewarded for this w/endorsements from powerful entities, until made a mockery of) and feed our children propaganda from ~diapers to cap-n-gown~ because parents are too poor and unable to do so properly w/out help.

    Mixed metaphors- hell yeah.
    Mixed emotions- not one.

    But- please- take my guns, take my religion, take my ability to make decisions, make an honest living—— awwww, c’mon- you know you want to, America.

  33. Icepick said,

    Karen, are you trying to cheer me up? If so, you’re failing miserably! ;)

    Take two doses of Fred & Ginger and call me in the morning….

  34. karen said,

    I’m sorry, ice.
    You just cheered me up w/that.
    – 2day, i went to Adoration(a Catholic thing)- and i heard that a friend’s(cousin’s, actually, but we don’t really associate- just never have)son was attacked in the boy’s bathroom at his school- i think HS, but it could be jr high.

    Concussion, possible fractures- all he remembers was closing the stall door and having it opened- then fingers gouging his eyes, etc. It’s things that happen like that- vulnerability of the weaker, the smaller and the more trusting attacked for the fun of it… that makes me go berserk. i cry- not even w/sound, just a fear of evil that makes me nauseous. Can’t stop. Could cry now.

    And this happens more and more frequently… why? It’s gotta be something- there’s got to be an answer. There’s something missing.

    ok– Fred and Ginger- here i come:0).

  35. karen said,

    Gotta share this.
    Fred Astaire has eyes just like the little girl calf born the other day.
    Her name is Lumpy.

  36. mockturtle said,

    As a nation, we are becoming bereft of moral conscience. But even a cursory reading of Romans 1 will remind us that it’s not the first time this has happened.

    Reading Matthew Henry last night, I came across the Latin phrase jusque datum sceleri which means [roughly] wickedness receives the stamp of the law, or wickedness is legalized. And, in Isaiah we read ‘Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for darkness…’. Man is hell-bent [literally] on denying and defying God.

  37. karen said,


    ” . . .In New York City today, 40% of all pregnancies, nearly half, end in abortion.

    Among minorities, it’s as high as 60%. In some neighborhoods, it’s 67%. And that’s just the beginning. To some, it seems, that’s not enough.

    In Albany two weeks ago, the governor of this state proposed an abortion bill that threatens to make New York the bloodiest state in the union.

    It would permit unlimited late term abortion on demand – right up to the ninth month.

    It would allow people who are not doctors to perform abortions.

    It would declare that the “state shall not discriminate” against the right to abortion, a declaration that could threaten the very existence of Catholic hospitals. Long Island alone is home to six hospitals that could be crippled by having Medicare funds withheld if they refuse to comply.

    If enacted into law, this bill would declare that abortion is a fundamental right that cannot be denied. No parental notification for minors, no limits on taxpayer funding of abortion, no limits on late-term abortions.”

    Take our future– c’mon, you know you want to…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: