Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Pro-Life Whig Manifesto

       The Republican Party, as represented as such characters such as Sci-Fi Bruce Rauner, seems to be becoming transmogrified into a group of amoral Ayn Randians.  Unwilling to address any social issue as being the road to ruin, the only thing the Randians care about is "smaller government."  Not honest government, not parlimentary democracy, not a civil society, just "smaller" government.  The only thing this new brand of libertarian Republicans care about is money.  This is mine.  Don't touch it.  Get a job.
         One sign that the Randians are taking over is the obsession with disability (SSI) recipients.  While there has been a swelling of SSI recipients in the last few years, it has become an article of faith with the Randians that nobody legitimately receives disability.  Even if you are a quadraplegic, you are a leach on society if you recieve SSI.  To use Paul Ryan's unlovely phrase, such people are takers who steal from makers.  This Manichean duality of people who are unworthy and people who are worthy is a staple of talk radio, which is really odd, because when George W. Bush was president, recieving SSI was not the mark of a parasite.  Maybe this is one reason why talk radio is dying, the recreational activity of choice for people who think they are excellent human beings because they make a lot of money.
           Don't get me wrong.  I'm not endorsing the nihilistic left.  I'm just pointing out how nihilistic the Randians are.  Pro-aborts who think everyone who recieves social benefits are scum have as little moral compass as modern liberals.  Unfortunately, the Primrose League, or establishment Republicans, are just this sort of person.
           It would be Estase's position that being pro-life goes hand in hand with a realization that some persons will need social benefits.  When a family has the integrity and honor to bring a child with Down's Syndrome into the world, this human person should not anticipate a life of homelessness and squalor.  A Down's patient is a valuable person, not just a taker.  Does the Republican party want a T-4 program to eliminate everyone who might not make a lot of money?  Is the highest value of Republicanism stinginess?  The Irishman these people need to keep in mind is Edmund Burke, not Ronald Reagan.  The talk radio community pretends to exemplify conservative thought, but they actually are ignoring one of Burke's most important principles:  stinginess has longer-range costs that are not forseeable in the present.  Another Burkean principle ignored by the Randians is that for men to love their country, their country should be lovely.  A lovely country does not kill its weak and poor.  A lovely country does not call the poor "takers."

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Spanish Civil War and the Illinois Governor's Race

       Sweet child in time/You'll see the light/Lines drawn between/Good and bad
       The Spanish Civil War was a battle between two evil ideologies--Soviet Communism as represented by the Republicans, and Fascism, as represented by the Nationalists under Franco.  The Republicans were nun-raping, priest-murdering savages.  The Nationalists were Jew-murdering thugs.  Neither side were worth a damn, and if Estase had been alive, he would have hoped each side would kill off the other.  It reminds me of what Reagan said of the Iran-Iraq war:  "It's a real shame both sides can't lose this war."

       Fast forward to 2012.  Real conservatives Bill Brady and Kurt Dillard are trounched by upstart Rahm Emmanuel confidant and Disturbin' Dick Durbin supporter Bruce Rauner.  (See my previous post, "Sci-Fi Bruce Rauner.")  Not only is Rauner pro-abortion, he promises to remake the Illinois GOP in his own image.  The Illinois GOP was always heavy in Primrose Leaguers, but Rauner intends to make values voters unwelcome in Illinois Republican politics.  So, while voting for Pat Quinn means voting for more financial ruin for the state, voting for Bruce Rauner means pro-lifers will have no place in state GOP politics.  So, in other words, it is the Spanish Civil War all over again.  It is one set of evil men against another set of evil men.  Enjoy, Illinoisans.

You better close your eyes, bow your head/Wait for the ricochet

Saturday, September 06, 2014

John Dewey and the Cult of Superficiality

         Estase has read his share of philosophy.  John Dewey is a particular bĂȘte noire of his, for the simple reason that Dewey proposed solutions that have no depth of thinking to them.  Following John Stuart Mill, the idea that rule by experts was desirable was the theory of Dewey.  Unlike Mill, Dewey had little idea of how complex this might actually be.  Mill was at least man enough to realize that there would be a debate on who the experts were.  Dewey seemed to think that being progressive was evidence that one was entitled to be an "expert."  Dewey provides no insight on how to balance popular government with rule by experts.  Dewey provides no insight on how to balance religious or minority rights with rule by experts.  Dewey's acolytes in the Roosevelt administration had zero respect for kosher butchering, as can be seen in the Schechter poultry case.  The only value was economic manipulation--religious freedom did not register, nor did the right to do business as one chose.
          Rule by experts is a concept that will not die, no matter how ridiculous it may be when applied to reality.

Well the Line Forms, On the Right, Babe

   "Less known to our intelligentsia is an aphorism in Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, a book well known to {Bertholt} Brecht, entitled "On the Pale Criminal," which tells the story of a neurotic murderer, eerily resembling Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, who does not know, cannot know, that he committed murder out of a motive as legitimate as any other and useful in many important situations, but delegitimized in our pacific times:  he lusted after "the joy of the knife."  This scenario for "Mack the Knife" is the beginning of the supra-moral attitude of expectancy, waiting to see what the volcano of the id will spew forth, which appealed to Weimar and its American admirers.  Everything is all right as long as it is not fascism!  With Armstrong taking Lenya's place, as Mai Britt took Dietrich's, it is all mass-marketed and the message becomes less dangerous, although no less corrupt.  All awareness of foreignness disappears.  It is thought to be folk culture, all-American, part of the American century, just as "stay loose" (as opposed to uptight) is supposed to have been an insight of rock music and not a translation of Heidegger's Gelassenheit.  The historical sense and the distance on our times, the only advantages of Weimar nostalgia, are gone, and American self-satisfaction--the sense that the scene is ours, that we have nothing important to learn about life from the past--is served.
       This image can be seen in our intellectual history, if only one substitutes Mary McCarthy for Louis Armstrong and Hannah Arendt for Lotte Lenya, or David Riesman for Armstrong and Erich Fromm for Lenya, and so on through the honor roll of American intellectuals.  Our stars are singing a song they do not understand, translated from a German original and having a huge popular success with unknown but wide-ranging consequences, as something of the original message touches something in American souls.  But behind it all, the master lyricists are Nietzsche and Heidegger."  The Closing of the American Mind by Allen Bloom, pgs. 151-52.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Bloom on New Left

       "But the activists had no special quarrel with the classic texts, and they were even a bit infected by their Frankfurt School masters' habit of parading their intimacy with high culture.  Radicals had at an earlier stage of egalitarianism already dealt with the monarchic, aristocratic and antidemocratic character of most literary classics by no longer paying attention to their manifest political content.  Literary criticism concentrated on the private, the intimate, the feelings, thoughts and relations of individuals, while reducing to the status of a literary convention of the past the fact that the heroes of many classic works were soldiers and statesmen engaged in ruling and faced with political problems(p65).
       Herbert Marcuse appealed to university students in the sixties with a combination of Marx and Freud.  In Eros and Civilization and One Dimensional Man he promised that the overcoming of capitalism and its false consciousness will result in a society where the greatest satisfactions are sexual, of a sort that the bourgeois moralist Freud called polymorphous and infantile.  Rock music touches the same chord in the young.  Free sexual expression, anarchism, mining of the irrational unconscious and giving it free rein are what they have in common.  The high intellectual life I shall describe in Part Two and the low rock world are partners in the same entertainment enterprise.  They must both be interpreted as parts of the cultural fabric of late capitalism.  Their success comes from the bourgeois' need to feel that he is not bourgeois, to have undangerous experiments with the unlimited.  He is willing to pay dearly for them.  The Left is better interpreted by Nietzsche than by Marx.  The critical theory of late capitalism is at once late capitalism's subtlest and crudest expression.  Anti-bourgeois ire is the opiate of the Last Man(p.78).
       Woody Allen's comedy is nothing but a set of variations on the theme of the man who does not have a real "self" or "identity," and feels superior to the inauthentically self-satisfied people because he is conscious of his situation and at the same time inferior to them because they are "adjusted."  This borrowed psychology turns into a textbook in Zelig, which is the story of an "other-directed" man, as opposed to an "inner-directed" man, terms popularized in the 1950s by David Riesman's The Lonely Crowd, borrowed by him from his analyst, Erich Fromm, who himself absorbed them (e.g. innige Mensch) from a really serious thinker, Nietzsche's heir, Martin Heidegger.  I was astounded to see how doctrinaire Woody Allen is, and how normal his way of looking at things--which has immediate roots in the most profound German philosophy--has become in the American entertainment market.  One of the links between Germany and the United States, the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, actually plays a cameo role in Zelig(p. 144-45).
        Get rid of capitalist alienation and Puritan repression, and all will be well as each man chooses for himself.  But Woody Allen really has nothing to tell us about inner-directedness.  Nor does Riesman nor, going further back, does Fromm.  One has to get to Heidegger to learn something of all the grim facts of what inner-directedness might really mean.  Allen is never nearly as funny as Kafka, who really took the problem seriously, without the propagandistic reassurance that Left progressivism would solve it.  Zelig has a flirtation with Hitler--whose appeal, it almost goes without saying, is to "other-directed persons,"  or to use an equivalent expression popularized by another German psychoanalyst, Theodore Adorno, to "authoritarian personalities"--but is rescued by his psychiatricus ex machine.  (Flirtation with Stalin never needs explanation in this intellectual universe.)  Woody Allen helps to make us feel comfortable with nihilism, to Americanize it.  I'm O.K., thou art O.K. too, if we agree to be a bit haunted together(p. 146).
       Herbert Marcuse's accent has been turned into a Middle Western twang; the echt Deutsche label has been replaced by a Made In America label;  and the new American life-style has become a Disneyland version of the Weimar Republic for the whole family(p. 147).
       I shall not comment on the Nazi period of the now de-Nazified Heidegger, other than to remark that the ever more open recognition that he was the most interesting thinker of our century, formerly chastely displaced in admiration for his various proxies, gives evidence that we are playing with fire.  His interest in new gods led him, as it did Nietzsche, in his teaching to honor immoderation over moderation and to ridicule morality.  Both helped to constitute that ambiguous Weimar atmosphere in which liberals looked like simpletons and anything was possible for people who sang of the joy of the knife {ed.--Mack the Knife} in cabarets(p. 154).
       Vulgar Marxism is, of course, Marxism.  Nonvulgar Marxism is Nietzsche, Weber, Freud, Heidegger, as well as the host of later Leftists who drank at their trough--such as Lukacs, Kojeve, Benjamin, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre--and hoped to enroll them in the class struggle(p. 220).
       This is what we find in Marcuse and many others, who simply do not talk about the difficulty posed by the contradiction between Marx's fundamental principles and those of Freud.  Two powerful systems are served up in a single package.  Freud is the really meaty part of the concoction.  Marx provides a generalized assurance that capitalism is indeed at fault and that the problems can be solved by more equality and more freedom, that the liberated people will possess all the virtues(p. 223).
       Weber at least provided some examples, even though his definition may have been problematic.  One wonders whether Weber's contention that the value giver is an aristocrat of the spirit is less plausible than that of those who say that just anyone is, if he has the right therapist, or if a socialist society is constructed for him.  This egalitarian transformation of Weber permitted anyone who is not to the left to be diagnosed as mentally ill.  Left critics of psychoanalysis called it a tool of bourgeois conformism;  one wonders, however, whether the critics are not manipulators of psychological therapy in the service of Left conformism.  Adorno's meretricious fabrication of the authoritarian and democratic personality types has exactly the same sources as the inner-directed-other-directed typology, and the same sinister implications(p. 225).
       Marcuse began in Germany in the twenties by being something of a serious Hegel scholar.  He ended up here writing trashy-culture criticism with a heavy sex interest  in One Dimensional Man and other well-known books.  In the Soviet Union, instead of the philosopher-king they got the ideological tyrant;  in the United States the culture critic became the voice of Woodstock (p. 226).
       The New Left in America was a Nietzschanized-Heideggerianized Left.  The unthinking hatred of "bourgeois society"  was exactly the same in both places.  A distinguished professor of political science proved this when he read to his radical students some speeches about what was to be done.  They were enthusiastic until he informed them that the speeches were by Mussolini.  Heidegger himself, late in his life, made overtures to the New Left.  The most sinister formula in his Rectoral Address of 1933 was, with only the slightest of alterations, the slogan of the American professors who collaborated with the student movements of the sixties:  "The time for decision is past.  The decision has already been made by the youngest part of the German nation (p. 314-15). "

All from The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Francis Fukuyama and Zombie Movies

      The events of the last week are making me remember the famous t-shirt slogan of the 80s:  Choose Life.
        Right now Christians are being purged from Iraq by ISIS, a bloodthirsty terrorist group.  Nigerian Catholics have been burned alive by their Muslim neighbors.  An unarmed young African-American in Ferguson, MO is shot for no apparent reason.  To top it off, comedian Robin Williams hangs himself.
          I have started to wonder if one of the reasons for the popularity of zombie movies is that, in a perverse way, the total breakdown of society isn't unthinkable any more.  One reason we got into this situation with Iraq was that the Bush administration's bible was Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man .  It was the Condaleeza Rice view of things that all human beings desired to live in western democracies.  One only needs to look at what happened to Iran after the Shah to see that, no, not all human beings wish to live in western democracies.  Indeed, the first thing that some people will do with their votes will be to install religious extremists as their government.  The Bushies made this mistake in its most extreme form when they encouraged the creation of the Palestinian Authority under the mistaken belief that Palestinians would create a moderate, democratic government.  When they actually installed Hamas as the ruling party, Israel was now faced with the necessity of treating people who will not accept their existance as the Palestinian government.
               The zombie movie resounds with people because it refutes the neoconservative idea that people have an intrinsic love of democracy and order.  Humans everywhere do not love freedom, at least the western idea of freedom as being liberal democracy.  This relentless crusade for making the world democratic has only put the most barbaric and retrograde elements in positions of strength in Iraq and Gaza/West Bank.  Indeed, how other than the existance of revived corpses could there be more chaos in the world right now?
          The movement in the world, and especially the middle east, is towards governments that utilize mass murder as a tool for uniformity.  In that sense, the Yugoslav civil wars in the 1940s and 1990s are the template for groups such as ISIS.  Why persuade people to support a government when you can just kill off your opposition?  Why worry about drawing national borders to account for ethnic groups when you can just destroy minority ethnicities?
            Choose Life isn't just a t-shirt slogan anymore.  It is the most basic and anachronistic aspiration for today's blood-soaked world. 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Aims of Government

       The following is from Cato's Letters, #63:
       While the people have common-sense left, they will easily see whether they are justly governed, and well or ill used;  whether they are protected or plundered:  They will know that no man ought to be the director of the affairs of all, without their consent;  that no consent can give him unlimited power over their bodies and minds;  and that the laws of nature can never be entirely abrogated by positive laws;  but that, on the contrary, the entering into society, and becoming subject to government, is only the parting with natural liberty, in some instances, to be protected in the enjoyment of it in others.

Kasab Taburu (Butcher Brigade), Part Nineteen

       "By the fall of 1920 the Kemalist army was acting on its committment to destroy Armenia, now a precarious, isolated country of genocide refugees ravaged by disease and famine.  Once again Armenia found itself in a situation beyond its control.  In the summer of 1920, the Soviets were pressing Armenia to join the Soviet Union, and war actually broke out between Armenia and the Soviet Union in July.  From the other side of the world--so it seemed--the West was urging Armenia not to join the Soviets, which in the end would cost Armenia even more territory.
       In this tense period a draft of a treaty between Soviet Russia and Kemalist Turkey remained unratified in Ankara because the Soviets now asked that some of Turkish Armenia be awarded to the present Armenian Republic.  The Soviets also asked that the peoples of Turkish Armenia (the term used by the Soviets) and Batum, eastern Thrace, and the regions inhabited jointly by Turks and Arabs should be given the right to decide their own fate.  Refugees living in Soviet Russia, and those who had been made homeless by war and massacre, were to be allowed to return to their homes and participate in a referendum.
       The Turkish response to the Soviet requests is revealing.  Kiazim Karabekir's answer is an early and quintessential statement of Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide.  He retorted:' In Turkey there has been neither an Armenia nor territory inhabited by Armenians. . . . Those [Armenians] living in Turkey committed murder and massacres, and have escaped to Iran, America, Europe, and some of them to Armenia.  How is it possible to call back these murderers and give them the right to vote?'  When Soviet foreign commissar Grigori Chicherin put the same proposal to the Turkish delegation in Moscow, he was told the same thing:  'No Armenian provinces have ever existed in Turkey.'  In this way, the Kemalists were continuing the work of the Young Turks in their effort to erase Armenia in fact and idea from the map it had inhabited."  The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian, pgs.325-28.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Impending Doom of Nation-States (As We Know Them)

      The following is a guest commentary by Tom Usher.

       Those lamps were the lamps of independence.  In Europe, independence meant conflict, just like it did here in the states.  We succumbed to central control first and then it was forced on Europe by America as a result of the war.
      I think that America was designed originally as it was because the founders looked at European history and realized that independent states would always be at war.  They designed a system that was supposed to allow for a common governmental framework in which these conflicts could be defused without the loss of independence.
       It took less than one hundred years to find out that peace among independent states is not possible and that a little control with only the power of man as its basis won't maintain it.  Peace, or at least the fiction of it, can only be maintained through force of a more eternal kind.
        And that's the real story of history.  Who has the power to enforce peace and whether or not they do it with justice or terror.  After the fall of Rome Europe became a place where subsidiarity was the rule.  City states and small kingdoms all competed for power.  Because there were many different actors and power was diffused a chaotic system kept any one group from holding too much power for too long.
       During the Middle Ages the system the American founders wanted actually existed, though to read modern historians one would never know it.  The Catholic Church became the great arbiter, a clearing house for grievances large and small which kept most of Europe independent and from each other's throat.  Most rulers had an allegiance to the Church and the Pope which gave the Church the power to step in when needed and decide the issue at hand before war broke out.
       A perfect system?  No.  But a better one than the one that came into place after WW I.  The American system of top down central control, developed after the Civil War, came into its own during the Roosevelt and Wilson administrations, and at the same time as the rise of the other centrally controlled system, Communism.  And Europe became the testing and battle ground for global central government. 
       In the Middle Ages, Europe stayed relatively peaceful (at least for Europe) due to the fear of God.  The limits imposed by the Church were shattered by the Reformation and the Age of Reason, culminating in the French Revolution and finally the force of government enforced through the fear of man and his arms after WW I.  Nations no longer feared God.  {Estase's note:  "God is dead"--Nietsche's statement was more sociology than philosophy.  Old Friedrich was only describing what had long been the case}  They looked to themselves for authority and the guys with the biggest guns had the most.  So, with the governors off, with nothing apart from national force as the benchmark of truth, we entered into a century of global conflict, a tug of war on a global scale;  an unnatural state of never-ending warfare on a global and all-consuming scale.
       That is the legacy of WW I and all that led to it.  A war that has never been decided, a peace that can only be maintained through massive force, which requires an expenditure of resources that cannot be maintained over time on a global scale never before attempted.  Entropy writ large.
       We're out of energy to apply to the false system of peace that was put in place at Versailles.  The system is collapsing and a new one will rise in its place.  We're about to see why, on the biggest human scale ever, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is not just a suggestion--it's a law.
       Personally, I think that we'll use the last of our rapidly dwindling energy reserves fighting to damn near global exhaustion this time and then we'll see the injection of God into history.  The power to rebuild had to come from the outside to keep the human system going or it will completely collapse and disappear.  God uses nature and He pretty much follows the laws he designed.  So buckle up.  Those that make it to the other side of this will have stories that will need to be passed down through the generations as a warning to those that come after.