When to Pay Respect
In comments to my article as it was published here at The Dark Wraith Forums, the long-time and much appreciated commenter who goes by the handle "ballgame" in part had this to say:
"DW: I was worried when I saw the title of your post that you had written a favorable obituary. (Somewhat relieved when I actually read it.) I guess I was remembering your mildly laudatory (IIRC) post mortem of Louis Ruykeyser. ["Financial Journalist Louis Rukeyser Dies"]Herewith, I offer my response in particular to ballgame and more generally to others who might wonder why I occasionally speak favorably of some whose beliefs are considerably at odds with those I purport as my own.
"I tend to think of both Rukeyser and Friedman as two 'let them eat cake' peas in a pod. What is the salient difference between them that you saw that would prompt you to be favorably disposed towards Rukeyser but view Friedman negatively?"
Good evening, ballgame.
Louis Rukeyser was a creature of the business world, curiously able to communicate prevailing sentiment therein through the medium of television. He had a masterful stage presence infused of an inborn sense of humor that glibly hid a great deal of knowledge. I don't have to like a person's politics to admire his execution of craft. It is for that same reason I have admired the preaching of Jimmy Swaggart, the writings of Niccolò Machiavelli, and even the proselytizing of Paul.
Many times in my life, I have watched with great awe as warbirds flew over me. I know very well that these airplanes, be they of a by-gone era or of the latest technology, are soaring engines of almost incomprehensible butchery. They are roaring, flying, careening, monstrous weapons of indiscriminate death and destruction. Were there ever a time when the lives of innocents near me were threatened by one of them, I would do what little I could to bring it, its pilot, and its weapons officer to earth in flames; and I would celebrate for the rest of my days were I to actually accomplish such a feat before the weapon and its flyers sent me to Hell.
Yet, still, I have and shall continue to watch with great awe as warbirds fly over me.
It is the same sense of wonderwhat little remains of it in these later years of my lifethat grants me such awe at great and small religions of the world in the same breath that I may revile them for inspiring untold landscapes of misery, savagery, and despair.
I am what I am in that regard. For me to apologize, or even for me to find and then offer excuse, would be so contrary to my nature that I could not muster words to the disingenuous task.
But as I honor the person, contrary as his or her beliefs might be to my own, earnest in his work and genuine in his desire to be of good will, I give no quarter to the intellectual charlatan, that pale howler who cannot but lie to himself as he lies to the world about the consequences of what he desires. Dr. Friedman suffered the flaw so common to fascists and their brethren: these are people who imagine themselves strong even though they are, at their hearts, cowards convincing themselves of their great independence by crawling only to the most brutish while they revile those who, by nature of temperament or circumstance, lie under the jackboot of such brutes.
The world is just overflowing with strong people. I have seen so many of them; but virtually all of those whom I consider strong are only such when and if their strength is nurtured carefully and parsimoniously by a civil and civilized society, be it rather conservative in its leanings or far more liberal.
Strength does not come from merely saying, "I am strong, and almost all of the rest of you are weak compared to me."
Neither does strength come from saying, "I am my own man, and that's what I've always been." I learned long ago that most self-made men are self-made fabrications.
No doubt, there comes a time for someand I truly do not wish this upon mostwhen an inner wellspring of strength must be dredged to the surface for hope to become action. Its consequence is often failure; but absent failure resulting in death, it is the touchstone upon which individuationreal, permanent, and quiet individuationis born.
It is not a cry to the public, it is not a first clenching of some fist to be set upon one's fellow creatures of the Earth, it is not the opus of a life of accolades and material riches, it is not the gateway to a land where monsters draw near in kinship. Those who fancy the greatest power of the human spirit arising from a wasteland of every man for himself are not merely fools, they are dangerous fools, for they give inspiration to beasts, offer validation to tyrants, and provide justification to the unmerciful.
I leave to barbarians the desecration of the dead; yet I have within myself no cause to honor the departed who have earned no such moment of my silence.
And so I ride on my own journey past the grave of Milton Friedman without so much as a hush.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.