On April 10 I published the next step in my developing self-improvement program, an application of Charlie Martin’s 13 Weeks method to my problem of better organizing my research. I looked forward to diving back into a deep reading routine filled with novels and culture while blogging my results here at PJ Lifestyle so all the wiser, more enlightened souls who make it their business to fill the comments section with their manifestos could tell me what an idiot I was for not seeing the world exactly the way they did.
But then on April 15 — Patriot’s Day — bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, resulting in 3 deaths and 264 injuries. The real world had intruded on the Wonderland of Books I’d constructed for myself. As Charlie has pointed out from time to time in his 13 Weeks series, life has a way of throwing off our plans.
For days the country sat in nervous panic as police searched for the killers. Partisans of every persuasion speculated about the motives of the evil monsters who would load pressure cooker bombs with shrapnel to mutilate the bodies of innocent human beings they had never met. David Sirota of Salon longed for the murderous act to serve as fodder for his goal of demonizing his political opponents. I liked the way PJ columnist Roger Kimball put it on on the morning of April 18:
One of the curious, but also most predictable, responses to the Boston Marathon bombings from the Left has been the fervent expression — amounting nearly to a prayer — that the perpetrator or perpetrators of this act of mass murder be “homegrown,” preferably white, male, Christian, and conservative.
Why? Why does the Left prefer to have its terrorism served up by Timothy McVeigh rather than Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad? It’s an interesting question. That the Left exhibits this prejudice is, like Falstaff’s dishonesty, “gross as a mountain, open, palpable.”
David Sirota, writing at Salon, gives almost comic expression to the genre in an essay with the really special title “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.” Why does Mr. Sirota wish that the Boston murderer of 8-year-old boys be a white American? Because a spectral quality called “white male privilege” operates insidiously behind the scenes. If Timmy McVeigh blows up a government building, says Mr. Sirota, only he is blamed. If Mohammed does it, Muslims are likely to be “collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse).”
What do you think of that argument? I think it’s hooey.
But how can intellectual and cultural warriors do battle with hooey level arguments? PJ Media Legal Editor J. Christian Adams offered advice to the Benghazi whistleblowers that is just as applicable to every American striving to fight for these issues in their own way:
I know a thing or two about being a whistleblower. I appeared on the Huckabee show this weekend (see video below) and explained how simply telling the truth is the way to shield yourself from the sinister deceptions from places like the Huffington Post and the George Soros-funded Media Matters. They can try to smear you, but the truth of your testimony will rise above their smears.
All we can do is present the truth about the nature of the enemy. If that doesn’t work, then what else is left?
It was not until April 19 that we received confirmation that a horrific new phase of the Jihad against America had begun. The two murderers were identified as young Muslim immigrants from Chechnya. Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, two MEN — not boys — born in 1993 and 1986. They proclaimed their ideology loud and clear in the manner of most men of my generation, via their social networking pages: ISLAM. They hate America. So do their revolting parents who indoctrinated them with vile conspiracy theories. I spent the day cataloguing some of the most troubling reactions to this declaration of war against our country. Moral equivalence, radical skepticism, and romantic bloodlust were the emotions on order that day.
For those still in doubt that this is indeed a war on America, on May 2 NBC reported that Dzhokar has confessed that their original plan for their bombs was July 4. They only bumped it up to Patriot’s Day in Boston because they finished early.
Islam’s long Jihad against Judeo-Christian societies has entered a new cycle as members of my generation marry the ideology of Osama bin laden with the internet ethos of Mark Zuckerberg. The pressure cooker bomb plans the Tsarnaev brothers utilized were published in Al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine. This easy availability to information for building lethal weapons is something Millennial men have known for most of their lives. I remember the subversive thrill as a seventh grader in the early days of dial-up internet — instructions for creating weapons of mass destructions are at the fingertips of anyone with access to a search engine.
Thus, I have chosen to adjust my course of study. It’s time to put the other subjects in context toward a shared objective. Three new books have been added to my routine and one of the new rules is as follows: Until the war is won and no state exists where Sharia is the law of the land, you must read books to understand Islam.
Among the revisions I have decided to make to my Radical Reading Regimen in addition to adding the 3 titles notated above:
1. Always read multiple books at once, across a variety of disciplines, from nonfiction history and science to novels and strange satire. Do not get hung up on exclusively fiction or non-fiction. Also read poetry and scripts.
Read both great works supporting ideas you agree with and the propaganda manuals of your political and ideological opponents.
2. Group these various interests together into 7 categories and then assign each to a day of the week.
For me these are: Good vs Evil, Media & Technology, Art & Counterculture, 20th Century Conservative Political Philosophy, Biographies and Memoirs of Extraordinary Individuals, the Alchemical Marriage of Science and Spirituality, and the history of Judeo-Christian Civilization.
3. Make these into 7 literal piles of books, one for each day, and then use them to guide the day’s reading.
4. Find at least 2 excerpts every day that are worth sharing to get other people’s opinions; feature both of these as photographs on Instagram and then transform them into blog posts.
For me these will be the fodder for PJ Lifestyle Daily Question, but others could use excerpts for different purposes at their own blogs. If you find more than 2 great excerpts for the day then select the 2 that are most interesting for blog posts, scheduling at least one in advance.
5. Since you are aiming for at least 2 excerpts per day, focus on only 2 books per day.
I have to make sure that I actually finish the books I start. So I’m going to limit myself to assigning only 2 books from each pile for daily reading and excerpting.
6. Instead of using a calendar on the iPad for daily recording of progress as originally planned, notate progress once a week using an image in Adobe Photoshop. At the end of 13 weeks see how much progress you made and analyze the record of your progress.
This is the equivalent of only weighing myself weekly instead of daily. As a corollary I will do as Charlie Martin does — one blog post per week to notate my progress, in the more informal, bloggy diary style that he does and that I’m sort of doing my own variation of with these pieces. In the future I’ll aim for Tuesdays for these posts. Perhaps if I create drafts of the posts in advance of when they’re to be published I will be more likely to stick to the schedule of publishing them then…
7. Schedule reading time every day and then stick to it. For me it’s going to be in the mornings and the evenings. I’ll take a half hour in the mornings before I start my PJ editing routine and strive to find the minimum two excerpts for the day. (So that’ll usually be reading at 5:30 AM in the mornings, hoping to catch a nice sunrise, which I like to feature on Instagram too.) Then my evening reading can have more freedom across subjects since I will have already found my two excerpts for the day.
8. Switch from reading the Bible just on Sundays to every day. When? I have decided that the first and last book I will read each day will be the Bible. With the free Bible app on my iPad this should be simple enough to remember.
I don’t mean to argue for this to try and sound pious, holier-than-thou, or like some Bible-thumping social conservative anachronism. I just want to understand the ideas of the Bible — the book that has most shaped Western Civilization — and consider them in juxtaposition with my daily readings.
Now that I’ll read the Bible daily this opens up my Sunday history readings for a second book. I’m going to strive to read more books about war, starting with Logan Beirne’s Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency, which I started recently and am enjoying. This should fit well alongside my study of all of Paul Johnson’s histories, starting with A History of the American People and then A History of the Jews.
9. Study the ideas of those who reject the Bible as Western Civilization’s cornerstone and seek to replace its values with another book’s. Know Your Enemy. Right now the most dangerous, lethal enemy is orthodox Islam, the traditional religion believed by Muslims who reject Enlightenment philosophy and insist on Koranic literalism. Norman Podhoretz’s description of this evil ideology as World War IV is correct.
As long as there are human beings suffering under Marxist and Muslim slave states from Cuba to North Korea to Saudi Arabia and Iran we as Americans must do what we can in our own lives and professions to fight for their liberation. It is not an immodest goal for those of my generation to state that by the end of the 21st century every state on planet earth (and all of them on the moon and Mars) will be based on classical liberalism.
Two authors have influenced my views on the threat of militant Islam the most. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to get to know and work with them both and now I will again return to their books, focusing on their newest ones before exploring those I have not read and rereading those I have:
- Robert Spencer’s Not Peace But a Sword: The Great Chasm Between Christianity and Islam. I’ll read Robert’s new book on Mondays and then doubleback and read some of his previous ones that I haven’t gotten to yet. (In the mean time, I can enthusiastically recommend those new to Robert’s work start with Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam Is Subverting America Without Guns or Bombs and The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran.) On Mondays you can also read Robert’s weekly PJ Lifestyle article. In addition to studying Islam on Mondays I’m also going to study Marxism. To keep with my rule of just one book at a time I’ve decided to again procrastinate on pursuing the 1200 page Everest of Leszek Kolakowski’s Main Currents of Marxism. PJ Columnist Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa’s memoir Red Horizons has grabbed me. I’ll focus on it first before returning to the heavy duty philosophy of Kolakowski. I hope a juxtaposition of the 20th century viciousness of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescus with the 7th century tyrannical brutality of Mohammed will yield some useful parallels.
- Howard Bloom’s The Mohammed Code: Why a Desert Prophet Wants You Dead. I first read a mostly finished draft of this amazing book three years ago. My efforts to find a benefactor to publish Howard’s book failed at the time but perhaps for the better. After the 4/15/13 Jihad attack he decided it was time to take matters into his own hands. He finished the manuscript and published it through SmashWords, a platform that makes books available for readers across a wide variety of formats. As I return to the book again it will supersede my rereading of The God Problem on Saturdays alongside Jacob Slavenburg’s The Hermetic Link: From Secret Tradition to Modern Thought. So for the next few weeks (months?) rather than juxtapose the history of science with the development of Hermeticism, I’ll compare my religious practice directly with the life of Mohammed as Howard tells the tale in his unique way.
Why should one read both Robert and Howard together? In getting to know both men I’ve seen their differing approaches. Howard is a big picture guy. His books seek to unlock the deep patterns across science, culture, and history. The Mohammed Code looks to trace the big picture of Islam, telling the whole story in one book in as exciting and vivid a narrative as possible. (For those who don’t know Howard yet, before he reinvented himself as a science and history author in the 1990s he was a rock ‘n’ roll publicist in the 1970s and 1980s working with Prince, Michael Jackson, Talking Heads, Bette Midler, KISS and many other acts.)
Robert is a more detailed-focused writer. In book after book he covers Islam and the Jihad terror war with precision and thoroughness, each focusing on a specific area. The reason why so few Islamist apologist dare debate with Robert is because no matter what they say he can always pull five facts out of his head in response. The evidence he marshals for his arguments about Islam are too substantive for easy dismissal.
10. Celebrate the public library and check out as many books as possible at all times.
I make it a point to have about 20-30 titles checked out at any given time, making liberal use of the hold feature. What can I say? I am the proud son of a librarian. Growing up the library was my sanctuary and second home. And so it shall remain always. Public libraries should be regarded as the churches protecting our civic religion of Americanism.
In most matters I am a fanatical Tea Party Libertarian on economics. The free market can do just about everything better than government and eventually I’ll dedicate a day to reading all of Thomas Sowell’s books. [My economics summed up in a nutshell: It should be the objective of my generation of conservatives to do what previous generations failed to even attempt: Repeal a minimum of 85% of all New Deal and Great Society programs as well as subsequent legislation built on their assumptions. Nobody is going to need Social Security -- or much else from the government -- with the technology we'll have in 40 years' time.]
But public libraries should receive much more money and should be supported at local, state, and federal levels of government. We can do this by disassembling the vast, broken educational apparatus that does not work. We can better educate Americans at all levels of society by destroying the public school system while simultaneously expanding the public library system. The very best teachers and professors in our system should be giving regular lectures at public libraries, open to all. And the library should be the forum through which we promote and encourage good citizenship and engagement with the political world.
I regard this iteration of the Radical Reading Regimen as certainly an incomplete work-in-progress. But I like the idea of trying to nail down 10 rules to guide a regular reading discipline. When I finish this “season” of the first 13 weeks reading challenge I’ll revise these rules, hopefully with some suggestions from readers.
And also piggy-backing on Charlie’s approach from this weekend:
So here’s the plan. I’m asking you-all, all my readers who are inclined to try to improve their health, lose weight, start exercising — or improve yourself in other ways, like with Dave Swindle’s 13 week reading program or Sarah Hoyt’s 13 week novel-writing program— to come out about it and make your own 13 week experiment. I’ll do what I can to help. Tell me what tools you think are useful, and what tools you wish you had. (For example, I’m thinking about a web site where you can track your own 13 week experiment and potentially share it with others — or not.) What do you find easy? What do you find hard?
If you’re going to attempt your own Radical Reading Regimen or novel writing effort or your own 13 Weeks self-improvement program then please let us know. Email me at DaveSwindlePJM [AT SYMBOL] Gmail.Com.