Just when we need serious people, serious policies, and are facing serious times, our dialog have reached the unserious stage. Learn more about unserious acts in history.
Are you Serious?
Seriousness, or the Lack Thereof in History
Take your work seriously, but never take yourself seriously, and do not take what happens either to yourself or your work seriously.
(I like this quote, but thinking Tarkington never was on Twitter, that platform could have taken Mohandes Gandhi turned him into a rage monster)
If the gentleman is not serious, he will not be respected, and his learning will not be on a firm foundation and when he has made mistakes, he is not afraid of correcting them.
Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.
I had a bit of a disappointing week as my son, who resides out east, was to come to visit and obtain invaluable knowledge from the oracle of truth and learning that I am. Actually, he would have come and tolerated my cringe Dad jokes and pretended to take my bombastic pontifications for wisdom. He is a good son. It was not to be because American Airlines canceled not one but two of his flights. Weather? Mechanical issues? Flight Attendant Strike? Flash mobs on the tarmac? No, it was none of those things. According to American Airlines, they do not have enough pilots because so many of them are retiring.
Wait what? Just to get this straight, they canceled two flights, and hundreds more, within hours of opening the gate, because of a staffing issue that a 12-year-old could project? This is like me running a pizza place with a single oven, getting a contract with the city of Cleveland to feed the police force of 1,600 officers for lunch, then telling them around 11:30 that whoops, I only got this one oven so that I can feed about 50 people and six dogs from the K9 unit. And they better be small dogs.
American was not serious with that statement. As a nation, we seem to have two divergent concepts of seriousness. Corporations, medical leaders, and government officials seem to be less serious than those who should be serious. On the other hand, comedians, especially those on late-night TV, are deadly serious. Just the other night, I watched “comedian” Steven Colbert produce a ten-minute rant on January 6. There was no humor, just serious harangue.
Now the word serious has more than one meaning. The first is demanding careful consideration or application. The second is acting or speaking sincerely and in earnest. Or what they used to call not lying. And the third is a person of stature who takes the necessary time to learn about something or someone.
A few podcasts ago, we talked about fakery in history. The point of that podcast was to describe something as real but portrayed as fakery.
One example used was James II of England’s son being portrayed as a changeling, as opposed to what he was, a possible heir to the British throne. The modern-day example is climate change. This could very well be a real phenomenon with dire results but the eco warriors, not content with incremental changes, created alarmist dogma of Armageddon in ten years OR ELSE! The fakery is revealed in their lack of support for nuclear power. This podcast is in a similar vein.
I usually like to change up the subjects and provide listeners not just with a different history but different positions. My challenge is that our politics today are so devoid of any seriousness that I cannot help myself.
Rodrigo Borgia was one of my favorite non-serious / deadly serious historical figures.
Borgia was born in Valencia, Spain, on New Year’s Day in 1431. His uncle, Alfonso Borgia, was a cardinal, and his parents decided early in his life that Rodrigo was destined to join his uncle in the Catholic Church. Through the support of his uncle, Rodrigo obtained several increasingly high-ranking positions in the church. In 1455, his uncle was elected Pope and named Pope Callixtus III. Young Rodrigo Borgia moved to Rome and was adopted into the household of Callixtus. In 1457, the Pope elevated his beloved nephew to the position of Vice-Chancellor of the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia maintained a lavish lifestyle from this position, entertaining the wealthy and powerful in his villa.
Cardinal Borgia was, on all accounts, an excellent administrator, but he was not necessarily well suited for the celibacy required of Catholic clergymen. Borgia had several long-term relationships with Roman noblewomen. His longest relationship was with a beautiful woman named Vannozza dei Cattani. Although Vannozza was married to several men during their relationship, Rodrigo Borgia acknowledged four of her children as his own.
In that fateful year of 1492, Borgia, at the age of 61 and after a tumultuous Cardinal conclave, was elected to be Pope and took the name Alexander, the sixth pope so named. It is almost sure that Borgia bribed the other cardinals to vote for him, not that this was such a rarity in this period. On the one hand, Borgia was not serious about the traditions of the papacy, especially the early church, of celibacy or the rejection of wealth. But, on the other hand, he was deadly serious about collecting and wielding power. I would find it interesting if we were to learn that our current Pope Francis secretly fathered a brace of children, lived like a libertine, and achieved the papacy by heavily bribing his fellow Cardinals.
When Octavian vanquished Mark Antony in the Roman Civil War, he claimed that he had restored the Roman Republic. Determined not to make the same mistake as his adoptive father, Julius Caesar, murdered as a tyrant, Octavian opted to consolidate his position, gradually over the years accepting honors and powers. The immense wealth of Egypt further bolstered his power and influence, now under Octavian’s personal control. Then in 27 BCE, Octavian played the last part of his “long game.” The cunning young man suddenly relinquished his powers, announcing his retirement from public life and Roman politics. It was just for a show, but it worked spectacularly. Terrified of a new civil war, the Senate begged Octavian to stay. In addition, they bestowed upon Octavian the title “Revered One,” or as we know it — Augustus. Another title that Octavian preserved for himself was Princeps; in 23 BCE, with his stalwart leiutenenant Marcus Agrippa’s help, Augustus was given Imperium Maius (supreme power) over every province in the Roman state and, more importantly, the legions in the area. As Imperator (commander-in-chief), Augustus now controlled the government and the army. And while he prudently continued to avoid the trappings of monarchy, again calling himself simply Princeps, or “First Citizen,” Augustus was emperor in all but name. Thus, the Empire was born from the chaos that toppled the Roman Republic. He was not serious about restoring the Republic but deadly serious about giving up power.
Now, everyone knew he was not serious. If some Senator was thinking, hooray, the Republic is back. No more dictators like Octavian’s great uncle. Said Senator then stands up and says, “Octavian, you can like, totally retire, maybe take a vacay in Gaul or on Capris, the weather is gorgeous babe, you gonna love it.” At which point, said Senator experiences a terrible tragedy in which he stumbles and falls on a gladius (a roman sword) seventeen times, backward.
One of the strange trends in history is the serious / not serious concept we are seeing with increasing, and alarming, regularity in the American polity and even in American commerce as witnessed with our American Airlines debacle. Octavian was very serious about retaining power but had to take the not serious tack of resigning, or claiming he was merely first of equals as opposed to first, full stop.
American Airlines is facing a serious issue. The Air Force and Navy-trained baby boomer pilots who make up a portion of their fleet are retiring in droves. According to ATP Flight School, “80,000 Airline Pilots are retiring. Retirements averaging 4,100 new pilots per year will outpace the current capabilities of the flight training industry. The return to normal growth will require twice as many new pilots as our currently in training today.” The claim that this is why they cancel flights within hours of their ETD is not serious, but this long-term trend does not just affect the airlines but all airline passengers (there are nearly 4,000 commercial flights per day in the United States) and commerce itself. FedEx has over 650 aircraft in its fleet, none of which are drones.
And, as noted, this serious / not serious thing has infected our politics to a greater degree than since the progressive age 100 years ago. We have gone from Truman’s honest, the buck stops here, to Stop the Steal. Despite the rulings of 61 judges throwing out his claims, Donald Trump’s declarations of stolen elections, many appointed by Trump himself, were not serious. But the reaction of many on the right is very serious. It is not just the capital riot which was a dark day in the Republic, but the mere concept that a citizen’s vote does not count because of corruption endemic in the system will shake the very foundations of this Republic. Voting is the premier right of a citizen, and if the perception is that vote does not count, the people will try other means to make their voices heard, as we have witnessed.
But this narrative did not begin with Trump. The left claimed illegitimacy in 2000, 2004, and 2016 presidential elections. And in 2018, we had Stacy Abrams make that claim regarding the Georgia Governor’s election. The fact that she lost by 50,000 votes was a clear sign that Abrams herself should not be taken as a serious person. But that is not what happened; significant institutions ranging from the Washington Post to the Democratic Party feted her as if she had cured cancer or brought peace to the Middle East. In addition, she was the speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. Besides that, her sole claim to national prominence was an unserious claim taken seriously, with serious ramifications for our democracy.
I had mentioned that medical practitioners are now hotly promoting COVID vaccine shots for under-five children. But unfortunately, the stated death count of COVID is over 1.1 million. Of these, the cohort of 65 and older, about 45 million people, accounts for 75% of all fatalities. The under 18 cohort, with about 72 million, accounts for around 1,200 deaths. And many of these involved co-morbidities and the telling “with” COVID designation as opposed to the “by” COVID, meaning there was something else.
The promotion of under-age five shots is not serious medicine nor science. It combines a cover your ass concept and the teacher’s unions dictating medical policy through their ruthless control of our public education system. The claim that under five need vaccines are not a serious claim. But the fact that it is happening and why is very serious.
And then there is Biden. One of the tragedies of Trump is that despite many mistakes in his management of COVID and his 2020 presidential election, if he had just shut up after November 6, he would be not only the presumptive GOP candidate for 2024 but probably could win with a healthy margin. People would have forgotten the personal vendettas, the narcissism, and petty feuds. They would have remembered pre-inflation, pre-open borders, less crime, and tough actions against our enemies. They would have asked whether Putin would have invaded with Trump in office. For all of the odd Trump sycophancy he exhibited towards Putin, the latter had four years to invade Ukraine but only did so when Biden was President. But unfortunately, Trump was not quiet, and we had January 6 and lost the Senate because of his actions.
So now we have a president who first claimed that sky-high inflation was caused by Putin’s war with Ukraine, even though it takes about a 15-second google search to look up inflation from January 2021 to February 2022, the month that Putin invaded. In January 2022, as measured by the CPI-U, inflation posted its biggest 12-month increase since February 1982. The 12-month increase was 7.5%, up from 7.0% in the period through December 2021. Price hikes for food, electricity, and shelter significantly contributed to inflation.
Now Biden is blaming the oil companies for making profits in this economy. Writing for the dispatch, Jonah Goldberg noted on this subject, “Indeed, it’s worth noting that despite all of the politicians who shriek that big corporations don’t pay their “fair share” in taxes, corporations are doing what politicians effectively told them to do. Tax “loopholes” to encourage investment on certain things and corporate responsibility on others primarily exist to incentivize companies to do what Washington deems essential or valuable. So, by all means, please get rid of most of them, but don’t denounce the greed of corporations doing what the tax code writers said they should do.
I bring this up to make a very simple point. The Democrats proposing a windfall profit tax on oil companies are trying to force corporations to make bad decisions. But, obviously, Democrats don’t see it that way. They always think the government can spend money better than you or any greedy corporation. Indeed, they also believe that oil company profits are the product of greed, and outsized profits result from excessive greed.”
It should also be noted that ExxonMobil lost 22 billion in 2020 as the use of petroleum products plummeted in the pandemic economy. Democrats only go one way. Company loses money. Too bad. Company makes money, tax it? Well, only, of course, when they get a windfall. What exactly is the difference between a normal profit and a windfall exactly? Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who could not properly operate a lemonade stand, knows because he keeps proposing this. Is Biden serious about this? Hard to say.
Wyden probably is, but the President must point to anything that will absolve him of the blame for inflation. Biden claimed that the Afghanistan withdrawal was a success, and his VP thought controlling the border was about giving speeches in Guatemala, yet she initially refused to go to the Texas or Arizona borders. Biden is not a serious person, and neither is his vice president.
Mitch McConnell is a serious man. Marjorie Taylor Greene is not a serious woman. Yet one routinely gets on Fox, and the other does not have the time nor really the inclination. Janet Yellen is a serious woman; Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, nor any of her squad mates, is not. Yet it is the latter who is consistently featured on all news platforms and, in a very real sense, drives the Democratic agenda in a way that Greene does not. Elizabeth Warren, who proposed a wealth tax, is not serious. And if Nancy Pelosi ever were, her appointment of Adam Schiff, one of the least serious figures in Washington, and that says a lot, to the January 6 committee was a sign that she is no longer a serious person. The list goes on and on.
When making upcoming decisions regarding our leaders, we must distinguish between the serious and the unserious. We are not a Democracy in which we, the people, make all of the decisions. We are Republic in which we select the leaders that do. It is a serious responsibility.