Friday, April 30, 2010

Billy Beck: A Man Against the State

"Their power grows with purpose strong/

To claim the home where they belong/
Home to tear the Temples down.../

Home to change!"

-Rush, 2112

A few months ago, in my entry "Captain America 603: Revolution Calling," I quoted a blogger named Billy Beck: "All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war." This was in relation to the Marvel Comics Civil War miniseries, and the recent co-opting of Captain America by the Obamanation. So, imagine my surprise when I hear no less a luminary (snort) than former president Bill Clinton recently mangling this quote in order to smear the tea party protests by tying it into the anniversary of Tim McVeigh's bombing in Oklahoma:

"...there are people who advocate violence and anticipate violence...One of these guys the other day said that all politics is just a prelude to the ultimate and inevitable civil war."
I'd like to see Clinton explain to the public the source of his quote, so others can put the quote into its original context (for all the good it would do...). But since he won't, I will, because I know. Oh, it's possible, I suppose, that Clinton had someone else in mind, given his phrasing "the other day" and the fact that the Beck quote is from 2004. The observation is not undiscoverable to anyone who's been following the abandonment of principles in this country for long enough; but it's Beck's quote in print, and the wording is too specific, mangled or not, to have any other source.

So what of it? Is Beck's observation wrong? I hardly think so; obviously, the fact that it was the theme of a mainstream comic book speaks volumes. I'd expect Clinton to disagree with the side chosen, of course. But Clinton is painting the quote as being a call to bloody civil war from another McVeigh waiting in the wings. And there may very well be someone out there like that. But regarding Beck, is this really the case? Beck is making an observation, and it is not he who is bringing about this civil war, but those politicians and their supplicants hiding in Saul Alinsky's Fascist Trojan Horse of socialism...

Read Beck's blog for yourself. (Or listen to the the man himself at PJTV commenting on the Clinton conspiracy.) I have, even though he's attacked not just by lefties like Clinton, but people "closer" to my own views, like Objectivists...well, despite the portrait by Lindsay Perigo of Beck as a "headbanging caterwauling barbarian," the "scary" fact that he's an anarchist, the "barbaric" rock concerts he works on, I just can't bring myself to fear this would-be McVeigh...
Why not? After all, this is the same Billy Beck who wrote

..should anyone think about it, they'll find that the approach that I have in mind is actually a mind/body synthesis which ought to be right down Objectivist lines, but it's amazing to me to watch 'em roll tits-up at the remotest suggestion of authentic action. (Here's a good illustration: for all he's really worth to Objectivism today, That Woman might as well never have devoted a single line to Ragnar Danneskjold.)
Well compare and contrast. Lindsay Perigo, the Mario Lanza aficionado, is busy making stupid claims like "If he stopped for a moment trying to ingratiate himself with the addled headbanger Billy Beck he might listen to these [musical] gems and learn what real beauty sounds like, and grasp that no one who appreciates it would ever hold a gun to anyone's head." (He says this while rationalizing away the fact that the Nazi party had an approved list of composers, some who appear on his own hit parade...) This is the same Perigo who listens to Lanza while pushing Americans to exercise the "Mussolini option" for the Big O.
In contrast, you have Beck talking about "civil disobedience" of the "Henry David Thoreau" variety. His blog, first of all, is title "Two--Four," which comes from the novel Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, and refers to the "prisoner's quadratic tap code" used by the political prisoners of the Soviet Union. This is important to know when you consider his personal call-to-action in his response to the former Commander-In-Thief:

I, for one, would have far, far greater esteem for anyone ready -- like me -- to present themselves for imprisonment in order to demonstrate to the whole world just what this regime appears to be ready to destroy. No honest person could ever mistake the moral probity of a move like that, and even if it failed, the issue would be unmistakably clear to all -- this battle with a force dedicated to destroying freedom (the word that fell from The Lying Bastard's lips, last Friday) -- and the final and terrible resort to violence would yet be available.
I beg you all to keep cool in this matter.

And anyone who knows who Ragnar Danneskjold is could try to point to his use of force to justify Clinton's reaction. (Not that anyone needs to justify themselves to any politician, for all their betrayals of liberty in this country...but Danneskjold was no McVeigh, either...) But if you read Beck Thoreau-ly, you'll see the full context...
Anyone can kill for their beliefs, it's another to suffer by yourself for them. People who do this are mocked as martyrs or lunatics, and the phrase "starving on one's principles" comes to mind. But as I understand it, all of Rand's major characters did the same. If there are those who bridle at the thought of a revolution, there are those Objectivists who take more offense to the idea of "shrugging" as "unreal" at best and "suicidal" at worst, and would rather labor under an increasingly unjustifiable delusion that change will come from the polls. (Or, as I've said in the past, they're too vested in the current culture to break from it, as Rand suggested.) To paraphrase Beck, Rand might as well never have devoted a single line to the "Saint of the Pyre." It just brings home Beck's answer to those "Objectivist" critics:

I am here to point out the genuine tragedy of just how abjectly useless Objectivism has been in this fight. For a philosophy that espouses mind/body integration that Objectivism has so well, I would not have imagined such a herd of inert brains-in-vats, so content to watch this whole project going to hell while they whistle "Ave Maria".
Now, what is the point of all this? I'm outraged by the "Catch-22" of the situation; you can't fight without being labeled a terrorist, and you can't resist without being branded a irrational martyr. The truth is that the choice on how to deal with "The Endarkenment" is a personal one, and no one can make that choice for you. I know that my choice will not involve my rolling over silently, nor for 30 pieces of silver. Beck has chosen his path, and he will not hold your hand in making yours. But he offers a particular insight, via Chris Sciabarra, that explains all the pressure and how to survive it:
"The most subversive political implication of 'Atlas Shrugged', is that individual freedom is possible only to those who are strong enough, psychologically and morally, to withdraw their sanction from any system that coercively thrives off their productive energies."

Sadly, those systems includes would-be-allies, Objectivists among them. Soberly, this serves as a reminder that, no matter what your allegiance, in a battle of "man against the State," it ultimately is man alone against the State.