We left off yesterday with an incomprehensible crack about left wing speech recapitulating the Incident in the Garden, i.e., man's fall. I ask you: does that make any sense at all, or is it just another gratuitous insult? Does it advance the debate, or are we just conveniently dismissing a priori
anyone with whom we disagree?
Could be. But I recently read a book that makes the identical argument, The Devil's Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West, by Michael Walsh. I don't recommend it -- too much pompous and unfocussed gasbaggery for my taste -- but one finds back-up where one can. The whole book could have been reduced to a chapter, or maybe just this post.
When will writers learn that we don't have all the time in the world? As it stands, there are more required books on the cosmic syllaBus than we can ever drive to in one lifetime. If you're going to add another to the pile, you'd better have a damn good excuse. And make it brief. We don't have all day. Well, sometimes we do, but we don't want to waste that on an elective.
We've heard this argument before -- that the Frankfurt School of Marxist-inspired critical theorists ruined everybody's lives and ate all our steak. I see that the wiki article has a section that dates this conspiracy theory to 1992:
"Although it became more widespread in the late 1990s and 2000s, the theory originated with Michael Minnicino's 1992 essay New Dark Age: Frankfurt School and 'Political Correctness', published by the Schiller Institute. The Schiller Institute, a branch of the LaRouche movement, further promoted the idea in 1994. The Minnicino article charges that the Frankfurt School promoted Modernism in the arts as a form of Cultural pessimism, and played a role in shaping the 1960s counterculture."
Later it says that "The message is numbingly simplistic: all the ills of modern American culture, from feminism, affirmative action, sexual liberation and gay rights to the decay of traditional education and even environmentalism are ultimately attributable to the insidious influence of the members of the Institute for Social Research who came to America in the 1930's."
When you put it that way, it does sound kind of stupid, doesn't it?
I do not place the blame on any movement, or system, or ideology, or even Uncle Rico. Rather, each of these rides piggyback on something much deeper. First, when ideology is in the saddle, it rides on man. But what is it in man that permits him to be so easily saddled?
This is something we're always thinkin' about. The other day my site meter alerted me to an old series of posts from 2009 on the subject (in the context of a review of Bradley Watson's Living Constitution, Dying Faith: Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence ). Let's linger over some of our greatest hits from six years ago (and I apologize for the length; it's just that I kept finding interesting little nuggets. You'll have to extend a little slack my way, because when I read an old post, it's like reading it for the first time.)
--What if the "truth" of natural selection were known at the time of America's founding? Suppose that instead of being sophisticated Christian thinkers and biblical exegetes, the founders believed the simplistic notion that man is nothing more than an accident of the genes, just an animal with no conceivable claim on truth, justice, or liberty.
--Obviously, our founding creed would have been equally inconceivable, i.e., that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.... Clearly, unless you are very stupid, you must realize that Darwinism does not permit the existence of permanent truths or natural law accessible to man's reason. The very idea is absurd, and the Darwinist should come right out and admit it.
--Make no mistake: in order for progressivism to even be "legal" -- that is, constitutional -- it must first carry out an attack on the existing Constitution. Most of what progressives have done and wish to do cannot be done unless they first reframe the Constitution in Darwinian terms as an evolving document.
--[I]t never occurred to America's founders that they were simply affirming convenient or time-bound principles subject to later revocation by pettifogging mediocrities with law degrees, who are more "evolved" than they. Rather, their "understanding of law was structured around the idea of a knowable, unchanging moral order, to which human law and the Constitution -- and therefore constitutional interpretation -- were subservient." They would have fully endorsed the Socratic/Platonic principle that "law aims to be a discovery of what is," and that human law "cannot contradict the natural law that reflects the divine reason" (Watson).
Note that the founders were implicitly aware of the contradictory metaphysic, such that the weenies of the Frankfurt School couldn't have been the foist to foist it upon us. Again, they just exploited a timeless mytho-logical reality, or tendency, in man. Note that the myth of Genesis takes place outside time; or, time is structured by it, rather than vice versa. The divine clueprint of "Genesis time" becomes human time, as a building to blueprint.
--In other words, the metaphysics of the Founders is precisely the opposite of the contemporary Darwinist, in that the former starts at the top of the cosmos, with the One, the Absolute, the Divine Reason, not the bottom, i.e., matter and the random accidents of nature. A political philosophy derived from the latter is going to look quite different, and will be irreconcilable with America's.
--To cite one obvious example, if one realizes that there are permanent truths or moral absolutes that are not strictly time-bound, and that they are accessible to man's intellect, then one cannot possibly believe in reductionistic Darwinism, irrespective of what the science does or doesn't show. It's like when scientists try to tell us that free will doesn't exist. Right. Whatever. They are simply wrong, because they are wrong in principle, a principle that is a priori true and cannot not be true on pain of the very abolition of truth. (In other words, only a free being may know or deny truth.)
Obviously, the lesson of Darwin came before the Frankfurt school. And
--progressivism takes its cue from Darwinism, in that it "is characterized by a set of ideas that have at their core a marked historicism -- which is to say, a belief that truth is always and everywhere relative to its time and place" (Watson). Under Darwinism, the intellect cannot be a faculty that adequates itself to truth and therefore reality, but rather, is merely "a method of dealing with adaptation and change." In such a myopic view, our "minds" are adapted to the environment, not to truth. And "truth" would simply be a good fit between mind and environment. And a good fit means that it promotes survival and reproduction, or babes and power.
So, here is the sort of constitution a Darwinian -- limited to his Darwinism -- might come up with:
We hold these tautologies to be self-evident. That all men are intrinsically unequal; and that they are endowed by nature with very different gifts and abilities; that among these are strength, intelligence, and the will to dominate; that to nurture these gifts, governments are are instituted by the vanguard of evolution, deriving their just powers from nature's iron will and from the New York Times editorial board; that whenever any government, constitution, or religion undermines these powers, it is the right of nature's elites to alter, abolish, or deconstruct it, and to institute a new government rooted in a Living Constitution, as to them shall seem most likely to effect the perpetual rule of the better sort.
But in reality,
--"there are certain fixed principles beyond which progress is impossible." Think about that for a moment, for it says everything you need to know about what man is, and how dramatically he stands out from the rest of creation.
Therefore -- and this again goes to the timelessness of the question --
--the real debate is between absolutism and relativism. And it is a debate that the relativists of the left cannot win unless they first undermine the plain meaning of our founding documents. Instead of embodying the fixed principles toward which our task is to evolve, the founding documents must become an elastic and mutable organism that itself evolves, a la Darwinism, in which all is change and nothing is fixed. Everything is back on the table -- life, liberty, property, slack.
Not only are we back at mythogenetic ground zero, but the left is taking the side of the serpent -- which is precisely what the Gnostics did wayback when, i.e., revere the serpent of salvation. So, maybe that wasn't a snake in the garden. Rather, a Frankfurter.
Now, there is a good and bad -- or appropriate and inappropriate -- omniscience. There is an absolute knowledge to which we are freaking entitled by virtue of being human:
--Lincoln advocated the good kind of omniscience, which provides the rock upon which our nation was built. Like a "secular revelation," these petrine principles were "handed down by the Founding Fathers for later generations to preserve," not to squander like a bunch of irresponsible and good-for-nothing trust fund babies.
--"progressivism" is grounded in a combination of Darwinism and philosophical pragmatism, which render the whole notion of timeless truth null and void. The elimination of timeless truth is both the origin and goal of progressive thought, just as timeless truth is the origin and goal of our liberal Founders (and which again makes genuine evolution possible).
--with a single stroke, these anti-intellectual mediocrities such as John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson were able to elevate themselves above the Founders, and affirm that "there are no fixed or eternal principles that govern, or ought to govern, the politics of a decent regime." Rather, all truth was situated in a strict historicism, meaning that "truth" was simply what was believed to be true at the time, and nothing more. With the passage of time, we'll arrive at better truths, just as natural selection has produced better eyes and more clever apes. But there is no truth that is true for all time -- no annoying natural rights to interfere with the prerogatives of the state. Again, this view begins and ends in change as opposed to permanence.
We have rearrived at the left's bottom lyin':
--From this false premise the left pulled off the ultimate fraud, by identifying the liberating belief in absolutes with authoritarianism, and the acceptance of radical relativism with "liberation." Yes, it is a sort of liberation -- into nihilism on the one hand, and the omnipotent state on the other. For if there is nothing but change -- "permanent change" -- this is just another way of saying "absolute relativism" and pure subjectivity, which is a self-refuting metaphysic that elevates Will over Truth. Truth becomes a function of raw power, and we are reduced to obedient Adams in the void.
Or just say Hell.