Haunting, beautiful song, courtesy (by turns) of Sippican Cottage.
The following post was written several years ago. It seems apropos to revisit it, in light of the recent horror in Aurora.
I am not easily shocked anymore.
Perhaps it is my profession, where the constant exposure to human suffering and pain harden the spirit and keep emotions at a safe distance. Perhaps it is the almost imperceptible but relentless inoculation brought about by the constant stream of violence and vice which pour forth from the dazzling screen faced daily from the comfort of cottage and couch. Perhaps it is the cynicism and callousness from one too many movies showing gratuitous sex; one too many art exhibits with fecal creativity or blasphemous pretension; one too many headlines of school shootings or child rape. It all seems to blend together, like some Clockwork Orange deprogramming script shimmering on screen as we sit with eyes held open against our will, the beauty of Beethoven lulling us into the normalization of depravity.
Each scene, more horrid than the last, flashes by, horrifying in the moment but soon forgotten, our calloused souls no longer responding, our eyes transfixed in cold determination on money and the material, routine and ritual. We have swum in the cesspool so long we no longer notice the smell.
This week, some things broke through the indifferent haze. Like some unheralded emetic, the cynical disdain for a culture gone corrupt turned instead to nausea — physical, to be sure, yet far more: a nausea of the soul, a dyspepsia so deep in the spirit that no hardened defense could mask its rolling waves of disgust and dismay.
There was, at the first, the video: a teenage girl, lured into a trap, then brutally beaten by six other girls her age for thirty minutes continually, carefully recorded on video for upload to YouTube.
Then came the Yale “artist” who repeatedly impregnated herself by artificial insemination, then aborted the fetus with drugs, carefully saving the results for display wrapped in plastic and Vaseline for her senior art exhibit.
Then this morning, in the local paper: a man — a school bus driver — convicted for sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl left alone on his bus.
One could multiply such incidents, ad nauseum, on almost any given day, in any part of the world — beheadings and genocide, ghoulish scenes of body parts and bloodied walls from yet another heroic martyr seeking virgins through hyperviolence. Yet these events, small on such a savage scale, in some way troubled me more than most.
One wants to rail at a society gone mad, at a civilization which has lost its bearings and moral compass, at a decadence fed by materialism and secularism, force-fed with the rotgut wine of postmodern relativism, drunk with the notion that ideas have no consequence and idols worshiped bring no destruction.
Yet the time for such anguished mourning seems long past, its passing but a point in a pitiful past history. We have, it seems, entered the post-human age.
Our secular prophets have heralded the Good News: there is no God; we are but accidental apes. We have been liberated from the bondage of religion and morals; we are, at last, in this twenty-first century, at the pinnacle of human achievement and potential. The shackles of superstition are broken, the potential of man unbounded, his glory unlimited but by the constraints of his imagination.
Yet as we celebrate our exalted humanity, the technology we worship brings glimpses of a darker reality, flashed in some subliminal message quickly dismissed as aberration or sideshow.
We may reflexly think of those who partake in such ghastly exhibitionism to be but beasts — but to think thus insults the animals, whose nobility far exceeds our own. For the animal kingdom is violent, brutish, and predatory — but it is so with purpose, its violence constrained by the drive to survive, or mate, or protect its territory. It is only the human animal who ventures into the subhuman, in glorification and gleeful pursuit of perversion for pleasure, of violence as theater. It is this theatrics of barbarism so prevalent in our age which bespeaks something far darker, more sinister, more terrifying. For to be human is to share the beautiful and the good with the hideous and evil; it has been so since the dawn of history. But to celebrate perdition, to promulgate a pornography of barbarism, to cast it abroad over media and message seems the unique and chilling characteristic of our current reckless age.
Civilization has always withstood the barbarians with low walls lightly guarded. It has depended far less on strength of force than strength of character, a consensus among the civilized that certain behavior and unrestrained license threaten its very existence. Laws and the power of enforcement cannot long resist the dark demons of depravity unleashed from within; the power of Rome proved feeble when there became no difference between the citizens within and the barbarians without. The Dark Ages which thus ensued seem now long forgotten, even as we arrogate the privileges of freedom while destroying the self-control and restraint on which it depends.
Our own Dark Age seems soon upon us. The knowledge and technology which have brought us to such great heights will document in living color and HD the breaching of the walls and the slaughter of the children.
Don’t touch that remote — you will not want to miss the next episode. And be sure to post it on Facebook.
Be careful watching this if you are prone to vertigo….
A lovely Guild D-55…
What brilliant darkness now descends
To slay the weight which life doth rob
To bear the anguish undeserved
On frigid stone no glorious end.
The blazing lanterns light the night
As noble leaders drain the cup
To toast the end of ghost not known
And praise the triumph of blind sight.
What brilliant darkness now hangs deep
In hopeless end of fruitless dreams
In upper room no brightness cast
In lowered light a restless sleep.
The blazing lanterns light the night
As slumbered warriors wrap their cloaks
And starlight bathes the tethered beam
Where blood poured out in sacred rite.
What brilliant darkness now breaks bright
With light a sun can scarce reflect
To roll the stone which triumphs death
The lamps of countless souls to light.
Have a blessed and fruitful Easter. God bless.
Amazing — and in no small way, terrifying at the same time.
Of course this technology will only be used for the good of mankind…
And the hits just keep on comin’ from our enlightened masters in government-run health care:
During the health care debate, the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Health System and Intermountain Healthcare were repeatedly touted as models for a new health care delivery system.
Now, they have something else in common: All four have declined to apply for the “Pioneer” program tailor-made by the Obama administration to reward such organizations.
“When the poster boys ask that the posters be taken down, you have a problem,” says Michael Millenson, president of Health Quality Advisors LLC…
The four health systems are considered the most promising models for “accountable care organizations,” a new approach to delivering health care services that rewards doctors and hospitals for providing high-quality care to Medicare beneficiaries while keeping costs down. The ACO provision became one of the most highly anticipated elements of the health care overhaul, and providers embarked on a frenzied race to join in as quickly as possible.
But when the proposed regulation for the program was announced in March, excitement fizzled.
Hospital and doctor groups complained that the program created more financial risks than rewards and imposed onerous reporting requirements. The American Medical Group Association, which represents nearly 400 large provider organizations, responded with a letter to CMS warning that more than 90 percent of its members would not participate because of the reporting requirements and financial disincentives. In particular, the proposed rule would impose penalties for ACOs that do not achieve savings.
In response, HHS announced the Pioneer program in May, promising it would “provide a faster path for mature ACOs” like the Mayo Clinic that would allow the high-performing health systems to pocket more of the expected savings in exchange for taking on greater financial risk. HHS estimated that the Pioneer program could save Medicare as much as $430 million over three years.
The big boys in health care were so impressed by the latest-and-greatest rendition of Obamacare’s hot new ACO “reform” (which is little different than the disastrous capitated HMO model which went down in flames not so very long ago) that they responded, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
No doubt a new rendition of ACOs will be forthcoming soon, complete with a host of new regulations, onerous reporting requirements, and penalties for care which does not meet “quality” (AKA, low-cost) standards set by the government. After all, who knows more about “quality” than our sharp-witted wizards in Washington? Be afraid — be very afraid…
Centralized funding and control of health care is beyond disastrous. It is paving the road to national bankruptcy. The answer to this monstrous failure is, as always, more control, more regulations, more centralization. Sadly, like a runaway train, it hurtles down the tracks toward an inevitable trainwreck.
Let’s just hope and pray that there will be some salvageable pieces left when it all jumps the tracks. Physicians who have wedded themselves to hospital-based and other large ACO-aligned medical groups for security will find themselves among the wreckage.
The only hope for physicians in the long run is to move outside the current system of third-party payers and decentralizing toward a cash-based practice. The inevitable outcome of the coming disaster in health care (and no, our politicians won’t prevent it) is severe rationing of care, long waits for doctors visits, diagnostic studies, and surgery. For patients, catastrophic coverage (if you can get it) with HSAs will ultimately prove the safest and most reliable way to get access to health care.
Welcome to health care in the millennium.