Monday, November 21, 2005

The Logopathology of the Left

It is corrupting to hear or read the words of men who do not believe in truth. It is yet more corrupting to receive, in place of truth, mere learning and scholarship which, if they are presented as ends in themselves, are no more than parodies of the truth they were meant to serve, no more than a facade behind which there is no substance. --Father Seraphim Rose

The moral and intellectual pathology of the left revolves around its misuse of language. It is not so much that leftist thought consists of lies, as that it is based on a primordial Lie that causes it to enter a parallel universe where, even if they say something that is technically true, they aren’t saying it because it’s true, which makes all the difference.

The primordial lie is the nullification of the covenant between language and reality, so that language is used for its effect rather than as a tool to convey truth. For the left, good language is effective language, whether it means ridiculously exaggerating the danger of heterosexual AIDS in order to increase funding, brazenly lying about George Bush supposedly lying about WMD, or blaming hurricaine Katrina on Bush's environmental policies.

Of late, the left has come under the influence of a new guru, Berkeley professor George Lakoff, who argues that the reason the left’s ideas are so unpopular among Americans is that they simply fail to frame them properly. Conversely, the right is successful simply because they trick people into endorsing things that are against their own self interest by framing ideas in a deceptive way.

If you listen, you can hear Lakoff’s influence in action all the time. For example, you now hear the left trying to frame issues in terms of “values,” since that is something that people seem to care about. Therefore, Howard Dean’s new mantra is that Democrats care about morality more than the Republicans do, because, unlike Republicans, their values do not include making children go to bed hungry at night or forcing people go without health insurance.

In fact, George Lakoff’s analysis of the problems of the left is exactly backwards, because the left is actually incapable of simply presenting their ideas without framing them in a deceptive way. Nor are they able to discuss conservative ideas without mischaracterizing them in a deeply misleading, condescending, and generally insulting way.

The argument about conservatives actually wanting children to go to bed hungry is a case in point. There is not even the pretense of engaging with the merits of the conservative argument on how best to combat poverty. Rather, before the argument can even begin, conservatives are tarred as inherently evil people who enjoy making children suffer. Why even argue with such a sadistic person?

We saw the same phenomenon last Friday evening, in the debate over the Murtha proposal to immediately withdraw our troops from Iraq. Interestingly, on Friday morning liberals were ecstatic about Murtha’s proposal, which was headlined in all of the large liberal papers (not to mention al Jazeera) in its completely naked, “unframed” manner. For example, in the Los Angeles Times, the headline read “War Hawk Calls for Immediate Withdrawal of Troops From Iraq.”

Naively believing that language refers to reality and means what it means, Republicans decided to call the Democrats bluff, and arranged for a vote on the matter. Sensing a trap -- the trap being having their stupid and dangerous idea actually taken seriously -- the Democrats immediately called upon their shape-shifting relationship to language, and magically reframed the debate. This wasn’t about Murtha’s proposal. This was simply about an attack on the patriotism of an American hero! The "swift-boating" of another brave veteran! (The presumption being that the Swifties had engaged in the first degree Murthing of Kerry.)

And of course, the press played along. This is because, as I have argued before, the Democratic party has been reduced to the political action wing of the MSM, which actually speaks for the Democratic party, sets its agenda, and covers its backside in situations such as this. The MSM, which is supposed to be comprised of people called “journalists” who have a more secure relationship to language, turns out to be a research and development lab for leftist experiments against reality.

On Friday morning, for example, my local paper carried the headline “House Combat Vet Urges Pullout,” accurately stating in the first paragraph that Murtha had “called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.” But Saturday’s headline was “House Divided Against itself Over Iraq War,” despite the fact that Murtha’s proposal was defeated nearly unanimously. And the paper characterized the resolution as a stunt by Republicans that mischaracterized Murtha’s call for withdrawal, saying that it wasn’t really a call for immediate withdrawal.

In short, immediate meant immediate when it suited the agenda of the MSM, but no longer meant immediate when it appeared that immediate withdrawal might not go over too well with the public, the vast majority of whom are not leftists.

Conservatives will just have to learn to live with being framed by the MSM and their Democratic operatives. If you are for low taxes on principle, you really just favor tax cuts for the rich. If you want to have control over your own retirement, you really just want to enrich large mutual fund companies. If you are for the liberation of Iraq, you are really just a colonialist who wants to steal their oil. If you want judges to interpret and not make law, you really want to destroy civil rights and return to the days of Jim Crow. If you are against affirmative action, it can’t be because you think it’s harmful and insulting to blacks, but because you are a racist. If you are uncomfortable with redefining marriage, it can’t be because you actually think that a child does best with a mother and father, but because you hate homosexuals.

You will also note that, when these sorts of accusations come from the left, the media will never make any effort to determine whether or not they are true. Rather, they will preface their story with “Democrats say,” as in “Democrats say George Bush lied about pre-war intelligence.” It wasn’t too long ago that the job of the press was to actually determine whether such statements were true before irresponsibly transmitting them to millions of citizens. In this case, it wouldn’t be difficult for a motivated press to establish the charge as a baseless slur, or, for that matter, to establish the fact that Joe Wilson is an inveterate liar with no claim to credibility.

And of course, this is why controlling the courts is of such vital importance to advancing the leftist agenda, because they need people “on the inside” who don’t believe that words mean what they mean. In the film Devil’s Advocate, there is a scene in which the Keanu Reeves character asks Al Pacino why satan would incarnate as a lawyer. I can only paraphrase Pacino, but he thunders something to the effect of, “because lawyers have a hand in everything!”

In the case of activist Supreme Court justices, it is like having linguistic termites at the constitutional foundation of the country, eating away at its meaning. By reframing the words of the Framers, they can unmoor the language of the constitution from its plain meaning, and thereby create a country based upon the rules of power and expedience. For when language cannot make an appeal to truth, it simply becomes a mask for power.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Luxury of Narcissism

The esteemed Shrinkwrapped is conducting an ongoing analysis and discussion of the history of Narcissism, which will touch on "the ways in which the personal and the societal have interacted and continue to interact to worsen the problems that stem from the Narcissistic aggrandizement of the self," and "some ideas on ways to lessen the impact of the societal illness so engendered."

Shrinkwrapped notes that "The obvious first question to address is what is the connection between increased narcissism and the fall of civilization. After all, some of our most overt narcissists reside at the pinnacle of our society. We celebrate celebrity, fill our Senate with preening peacocks, pay six figure incomes to "star" university professors, and have no difficulty cheering for our favorite football players as they do their end zone dance; so, again, what is the connection?"

My first thought, was that unless psychological development has an end point, or "telos," then there is no way to distinguish normal from abnormal development. But the Left actively undermines all hierarchies, including the developmental hierarchy that distinguishes immaturity from maturity. However, through a misunderstanding of Freud, they slipped in a reverse hierarchy back in the 1960's, to the effect that, the more uncivilized you are, the more "authentic" and noble you are. Conversely, if you are a normal, decent person, then you are likely a hypocrite, and there is nothing lower to a leftist. Better an authentic sociopath like Che Guevara, Yasser Arafat, or Mumia Abu-Jamal, than a wretched hypocrite.

One of Marx's predictions was that in capitalistic societies people would naturally become alienated and join the glorious revolution. When this didn't happen, Marxists had to come up with an explanation for why the bourgeoisie seemed so contemptibly content. Major leftist intellectuals like Herbert Marcuse and N.O. Brown developed a bastardized version of Freudianism to argue that people only imagined they were happy, but that they were actually living "inauthentic," repressed lives. In order to be "real," they had to express themselves in an uninhibited and unrepressed manner. Thus followed the idealization of the primitive in all its many forms.

This is why entertainers, leftist intellectuals, and the upper classes always play at "downward mobility"--anti-establishment attitudes, veneration of the instincts, body mutilation, profanity as a sign of authenticity and passion, etc. For them the results aren't so devastating, but for people on the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum--urban blacks, for example--the results are catastrophic. For example, with the dearth mature and stable fathers, boys are given no model of mature manhood to strive for. In fact, by spontaneously expressing sexual or violent impulses, they are already at the apex of the leftist developmental model, which is what the old model started with: a narcissistic baby with unlimited desires on one end and no responsibility on the other end.

I sometimes wonder how much the increase in narcissism may be attributable to the fantastic increase in wealth and prosperity in the West over the past 100 years, leading to previously undreamt of levels of affluence, leisure and comfort for the average person. In other words, before 100 years ago (and even 40 or 50 years ago), people were too busy working, subsisting, and dealing with pain, illness and early death to be particularly self-absorbed. Perhaps there was so much more awareness of the frailty of life that it didn’t occur to most people to exalt something as ephemeral as the individual self.

In a way, the transcendence of religion came more naturally in the past, as there was no reason to elevate our brief sojourn in this vale of tears to the ultimate experience. Until the early 20th century, the average person could expect to be in intense and excruciating pain at some point in his life, and perhaps often in life, because there were no powerful analgesics that were widely available. Very few diseases could actually be cured well into the 20th century.

In his book The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order, Francis Fukuyama attempted to analyze the reasons for the dramatic breakdown of social order that began in the 1960’s, not just in the U.S., but in every industrialized Western nation: skyrocketing crime and illegitimacy, erosion of traditional family structures, excessive individualism (in the negative sense of the word, meaning heightened narcissistic preoccupation and self-indulgence, abetted by the weakening of any structures that would restrain or channel the self within traditional bounds or toward some transcendent goal).

Clearly, the extraordinary increases in crime, illegitimacy, and antisocial behavior had nothing to do with poverty, as they began their exponential rise in 1963, during a period of full employment and general prosperity, and when poverty rates began falling dramatically. Consider how much less affluent the United States was in 1945, compared to just twenty years later. Many things people already took for granted by 1965 scarcely existed in 1945: residential air-conditioning, supermarkets, fast food, freezers, dishwashers, ranch style homes, tape recorders and long playing records, let alone the mass mediocrity of television. Only 46% of homes had telephones, and more than 25 million farm dwellers had no electricity. Only a third of adults had cars. Very few traveled by air. Obviously there was no birth control which, by itself, prevented sexuality from becoming too far removed from traditional channels.

Fukuyama considers several explanations for the “great disruption” of the second half of the twentieth century, and one of them has always intrigued me. He begins with the question of why, since culture usually evolves quite slowly, would it undergo a sudden mutation in the 1960’s? He concludes by noting that the change was not as sudden as it appeared, but that it merely took that long for ideas that had been percolating at the upper reaches of society to trickle down to the masses.

It was actually in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that ideas that would come to full fruition in the 1960’s were first discussed among elites, artists and academics, for example, the notion that there were no rational grounds supporting norms of behavior, and that all such restrictions were arbitrary. “Nietzsche’s aphorism, ‘There are no facts, only interpretations,’ became the watchword for later generations of relativists under the banner of deconstruction and postmodernism.” Likewise, behaviorists argued that there was no such thing as human nature (much less "fallen" mankind), that the mind is an infinitely malleable “tabula rasa,” and that human beings could therefore be endlessly shaped by social policy, creating the perfect society. At the same time, antisocial behavior was excused, since people were simply a result of their conditioning.

By the “roaring twenties,” all of the important countercultural ideas and values that would later dominate the post 1960’s world were in play among the well-to-do. However, their inevitable spread through the rest of the population was delayed, first by the Great Depression of the 1930’s, then by World War II and the Korean War. Therefore, until the mid 1950’s, people of necessity had to “concentrate more on economic survival and domesticity than on self-expression and self-gratification, which most, in any event, could not afford.” Of course, mental illness has always existed; it's just that we have so many more ways to express it. I think of someone like Madonna, who, in Freud's day, would have been just a typical hysteric. She's just as sick today, but has the “freedom” to express her sickness by making titillating videos and selling books with naked photos of herself.

So part of the answer to the question, Why are people so much more narcissistic today?, may simply be, because they can be. One of the profound changes that accompanied modernity was that every man became "his own priest." Perhaps the the hallmark of postmodernity will be every man his own god.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Petey Files

This blogging business is finally allowing me to get organized. For years, I've been scribbling thoughts, fragments of thoughts, ideas, and ideas for ideas, in book margins, post its, pads, binders, hotel stationery, napkins, matchbooks, and body parts (mostly my own, which makes them easier to track down).

In rummaging through all this flotsam and jetsam, I also realized how often Petey has been communicating to me in his cryptic way. He'll just just throw stuff out, and it's generally up to me to follow up on it. Today I'm too busy to blog anything of substance, so I will simply give Petey the floor, and leave you with a few examples:

--Petey's immutable meta-law: "bad everything drives out good everything."

--"Job one" of leftists is to attack language. After that, they can reach any conclusion they desire.

--Along these lines, he once said "When language becomes unmoored from reality, evolution becomes as static as a dog's bark." (I think this was in reference to Howard Dean; in fact, Petey refers to Democratc ideas as their "barking points.")

--The culture of victimization doesn't surprise him, since being a victim allows you to share in the perverse but considerable pleasure of your imagined subjugation.

--Petey detests multiculturalism. He's says that "most cultures are just personal error on a catastrophic scale."

--Petey has no respect for leftist professors. He says "they just sow their bullshit ideas. The poor and the stupid have to reap them."

--Back when we were arguing about whether time had qualities, he said, "Don't be an idiot. Clocks measure space, not time."

--Sometimes he can almost be compassionate. One time he said to me, "Don't worry. Eccentricity is just freedom lived."

--When I first began writing about spiritual matters, he thought I was rather presumptuous. He sharply asked, "Why would you, of all people, have fixed opinions about the unknowable?"

--Once when Hillary Clinton popped onto the TV screen, he muttered, "intelligence without light is just cunning."

--He doesn't have a high opinion of the MSM. He calls it "the crazy glue that holds the liberal fantasy together."

--He says "The topology of the body politic is a hyperdimensional phase space containing valleys with no bottom. This is proven by the existence of Al Sharpton."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Joke 'em Out of Their Holes

Do you hate the MSM as much as I do? I remember when journalism used to be the first draft of history. Now it's the first draft of rewritten history.

Ever wonder how the New York Times always gets it so wrong? Believe me, it's not easy. They can only do it because they've got a highly trained team of dedicated fact chuckers. No matter what happens, the media never report anything positive coming out of Iraq. There's a term for this: Reuter's block.

That was some election in Iran, a show of real democracy. Iranian elections? That's what you call a farce only a mullah could love. Speaking of farces, they even had elections in Saudi Arabia. In fact, the winners were serenaded with a chorus of Wahhabi Days are Here Again.

And did you hear the new president of Iran was one of the American hostage takers? That's no surprise. Obviously they wanted to elect a man who was there at the time of their founding fatwas.

And the Iranians are still pushing ahead with their Manhattan Project. Personally, I think they should come up with a different name, since there's already been an Islamic Manhattan Project. It was called 9-11.

Of course, they say they're only developing nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes. Personally I'd feel better about it if Muslims had figured out peaceful applications for rocks and belts. For them, it's a wardrobe malfunction when some boob doesn't explode out of his vest.

I guess we shouldn't worry, because the countries of Western Europe are unified in their opposition to Iran obtaining nukes. In fact, they're calling it the Eunuch Pact.

But the Euros have Muslim problems of their own, like in Holland, where they murdered that film maker and their politicians have to have 24 hour security. Now if someone mentions Dutch Masters, I'm not sure if they're talking about painters, cigars, or Muslims.

And the loony left? Forget about it. Why do they always want to burn the flag at their demonstrations? I'm all for flag-burning, so long as the protester first wraps himself in it.

Their big champion is Ted Kennedy. The move-on crowd is probably too young to remember that Kennedy has always had an unwavering commitment to a woman's right to snooze. Under water.

Then you've got the ACLU fighting to put up a blatantly anti-American monument to the victims of 9-11. I guess they have a point, in that the monument will be a real time-saver. I mean, imagine the inconvenience of having to track down 3,000 individual grave sites in order to piss on them.

Then again, since the monument will be on sacred ground, perhaps the ACLU can sue themselves to get themselves removed. If not, maybe we can all file a classless action suit against the ACLU.

And the ACLU is always protecting Muslims, trying to ensure that they are never, ever offended or inconvenienced in any way, even if doing so would stop terror attacks on our soil. I can see their point. It's racist to discriminate against Muslims just because their skin is thinner than ours.

And it's these crazy ACLU types who try to compare Gitmo to the Gulag. I guess in certain respects the Gulag was better than Gitmo. At least in the Gulag, nobody had to read the Koran.

Are you following the Saddam trial? Pretty weird that a guy who has a taste for putting people through plastic shredders also enjoys eating children's cereal. I guess it's no surprise that he likes Froot Loops, since we know his favorite journalist is Dan Rather.

And the Palestinians are still causing problems, as usual. Did you know that none of the maps in the Palestinian territories show Israel? That's what they mean when they refer to the Arab "roadmap to peace."

Did you know that part of the Palestinian's strategy involves having so many children that they can eventually overwhelm Israel with their population? However, demographers are worried that if the Palestinian baby boom continues, there won't be any babies left to boom.

They say the martyrs are just like every other kid, obsessed with sex. But their parents tell them "Be patient. There'll be plenty of time for girls when you're all blown up."

Hey, at least you don't hear about the Palestinians flushing Bibles down the toilet. That will have to wait until they develop indoor plumbing.

The latest is that Abbas wants to enlist the terror groups for security operations. That makes sense, since the Palestinian police can't be expected to prevent law and order all on their own. And making them police does solve the terrorist problem. Next week Abbas plan to conquer disease by renaming hospitals "health clubs."

And why do they hate us so much? True, if it weren't for US interference, the Arab world wouldn't be is stuck in the fourteenth century. Instead, they'd be mired in the twelfth.

And they're always boasting about how great Islamic culture is -- you know, that they had mathematical geniuses who discovered zero over a thousand years ago. That's fine, but the problem is, they've discovered zero ever since.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Weekend Sermon: Inward Mobility

A few years ago I had a moment of lucidity while at a video store, watching a couple of bereft humanoids milling around looking for something to download into their brain -- to furnish the dreary habitat of their soul, so to speak. They were having great difficulty determining what to rent, as they had already seen almost everything in the store. To my horror, it occurred to me that the average person has no proper imaginative life of their own, but must download programs from other people's imaginations in order to simulate having one. Perhaps this wouldn't be so bad if they were downloading Shakespeare, Dante, or Wodehouse, but most people download infrahuman tripe that enters the psyche and acts like a virus, commandeering the host, reproducing itself, and demanding more of the same kind of nourishment. You are what you eat, both physically and spiritually.

Ensnared in the dream machine that is ordinary life, human beings pass their days absorbed in the relentless spectacle of images, messages, and command hallucinations from the media that tell us what to be, want, and know. Unless you attempt to step off the carousel, you don't realize that it is actually dragging you along by the collar toward the abyss. Life passes away as if it never happened, its purpose perhaps dimly intuited but never realized.

For just as the human baby is born neurologically incomplete, the human adult is born spiritually incomplete. "Birth" for the infant is not actually signified by exit from the womb. Rather, what distinguishes human beings from the beasts is that we are born many months premature, so that psychological birth is a process extending over many months and even years of post-uterine existence.

Likewise, the birth of the adult personality in no way coincides with the birth of the higher self. Just as a baby will fail to thrive and ultimately die if not properly nurtured during its earliest years, our latent spiritual faculties will go undeveloped in the absence of the proper matrix to bring them into being.

This is what it means to be spiritually "born again" from above. There is the horizontal birth of the exterior man, and the vertical birth of the interior man. We are all carrying within us an astral fetus that may or may not come to term before the window closes and the light disappears.

In order to avoid the disaster of an astral abortion, we must detach from the false and illusory Matrix by any means necessary and plug back into the Real. Our commitment to the illusions of the Matrix is called Death, Forgetting, or Sleeping. Detaching from it is called Birth, Awakening, or Remembering.

Both the ego and the higher Self exist as "centers of gravity," like a star or large planet that draws things toward it. The ego draws people, experiences, and thoughts that validate it, just as the higher Self will draw what it requires to experience and articulate itSelf. While the lower self is very well adapted to the the exterior world, it is not necessarily equipped to perceive what touches the eternal. Moreover, as we move through life, its roots grow deeper and deeper, requiring a more complicated context to justify and nourish it.

The unregenerate exterior man will overlook all of the abundant hints, clues, and meaningful coincidences that point the way in, up, and out. For example, he may notice the beauty of the universe, but regard it as mere information rather than a secret influence manifesting from another sphere. The exterior man may even be hypnotized by this tempting beauty, which is a perfectly acceptable response as far as the Prince of this World is concerned, so long as the beauty does not stir him from his metaphysical slumber.

Therefore, before we can truly even think about what lies beyond this world, we must forge a link between our lower and higher selves, so that "vibrations" and messages from the other side can get through. These vertical influences originate from the dark side of our being, so we must begin by discerning between the two kinds of influences and building a line of transmission between the celestial and terrestrial. As you begin assimilating these influences, you will actually strengthen the center within yourself that is able to perceive them.

Again, think of your higher self as a sort of attractor in subjective phase space, pulling ideas and experiences toward it. At the very center of this attractor is an "I" that can only "am" with your help. It exists at no particular place and has a probability to be found anywhere, but only when found there. So long as it is not found, it ex-ists nowhere.

This is why God is encountered in the means available to know him. By our dwelling in God, God dwells in the cosmos, and by knowing God, we are known by him. While we are the image of the Creator, without a clean mirror, the reflected object is either obscure or seems to disappear entirely.

Your true Self is nothing less than the Whologram of your private particle that has already realized its destiny and patiently waits for the rest of you to catch up. Among other things, when you meditate or pray, you are actually making a formal appeal to your "future self" to manifest: thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

Since Birth, Awakening, and Remembering are variations on the same underlying theme, any one of these facilitates the others. You can be born again by flexing your vertical memory, or awaken by remembering your second birth. In either case, your mysterious being is paradoxically beckoning you to become more of what you already are, what you have always been, and what you are to realize in your becoming. Who you are in the fleeting now is but a fragment of an outwardly expanding ripple originating from an atemporal center where the eternal questions perpetually arise: Do you realize that I am? Do you realize who is I am? Do you realize I am that?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Looking for Comedy in the Islamist World

In Albert Brooks' film, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, he imagines himself given a special assignment by the U.S. government: "Maybe the only way to really understand somebody is to see what makes them laugh," he is told. "Go to India and Pakistan, write a 500-page report, and tell us what makes the Muslims laugh."

As a matter of fact, Petey has been looking for comedy in the Islamist World since 9-12-01, but in a different way. That is, he thinks that the best way to really understand somebody is to see what makes them laughable. He makes no bones about his belief that the terrorists are completely insane, and that they are much more worthy of mockery and ridicule than fear or respect. The "war on terror" would end tomorrow if these jihadis would just wake up, have a big laugh, and realize what perfect asses they've been.

But who has ever seen a jihadi laugh, except for one of those hollow, bitter, mocking ones, like Dr. Evil? That's the problem. Something is terribly out of balance if comedians feel free to ridicule conservative Christians or President Bush or Catholic priests, but never conservative Muslims, crazy imams, or corrupt Palestinian leaders. It's like a symptom of the disease we are trying to eradicate. Can't we all just make fun of each other? It's a much healthier way to express aggression.

For example, if I were to run into bin Laden, I might let him know that I actually understand why he needs so many wives. After all, if you're going to play by Taliban tules, you never know what sort of beast lurks beneath that burka. Who wants to make a lifetime commitment to the child bride behind cave door number two, sight unseen? There's safety in numbers.

I read somewhere that Mohammed "is regularly cited as the most common name in the world, though there is no concrete evidence." Oh really? What about all the flying concrete? Not to mention glass and steel?

And the Palestinians? Forget about it. They finally have their own state in Gaza, but I don't know if they're going to be able to do much with it. It can't be easy spending your whole life trying to blow up something constructive, only to see it rebuilt before your eyes.

And state or no state, Palestinian women won't have a prayer. Literally. They don't allow them to even pray with the men in the Mosque. I can't say I blame them. Who wants to go to the mosque expecting a perfectly sublime Day of Rage, only to have these women turn it into a sleazy Day of Lust?

The men are naturally confused and conflicted by standing behind a woman while she’s bowing and kneeling. Rather, women are supposed to face their husbands while bowing and kneeling. When it comes to prayer, the imam is quite adamant about it: "You can't join 'em, so beat 'em!"

But I guess the battle between the sexes runs pretty deep over there. In the Palestinian territories, women don't have the right to bare arms, only the right to bear armed children. And when the children "play doctor," the boys perform mock clitoridectomies on the girls.

And how about the wild anti-Semitism they teach in their schools? Somebody called Abbas on it, and he said he was shocked that they were teaching hatred of Jews in their schools. In an interview in Throwing Stone magazine, he said that in the future, students will be taught to murder Jews and to just leave their feelings out of it.

But what's really depressing is their class reunions. They're so sparsely attended. I don't know why they should be surprised, when their best schools boast of a 90% detonation rate.

Anyway, the Palestinians can always rely on our good friends, the Saudis. Did you know that Saudi banks fund a lot of their terror operations? Of course, they don't just hand out the money to anyone. Rather, you've got to be able to provide a lot of collateral damage.

But it doesn't matter. There's always some Jew-hating American like Rachel Corrie who will take the terrorist's side. Her parents should be quite proud. There aren't many parents who can honestly say that their child was just as useful an idiot in death as they were in life. But still, that doesn't make up for the loss. They sued Caterpillar because one of their bulldozers accidentally turned toward her and flattened her. In fact, this was the first known case of a Caterpillar turning into a bitterflake.

How about Iran? They may be the first culture to skip the toenail clipper stage of technological development and go straight to nuclear power. I understand it's taking some time because they're trying desperately to develop a weapon that will destroy New York but leave the Times unharmed.

Anyway, we've got our own problems in America, what with these Wahhabi-lobbies like CAIR, that supposedly represent decent Muslims. Actually, they don't represent good Muslims, only the rank-and-foul. In fact, those Muslim doctors in the UK botched the terror operation so badly, CAIR is going to sue them for malpractice.

Me, I don't get it with these doctors. If they wanted to destroy western civilization, why did they spend all that time in medical school? Why not just go to journalism school, like everyone else?

And the U.N. is no bargain. They sent those Jordanian troops on a peace keeping mission in Timor, and they ended up abusing the children. Apparently it was a big misunderstanding -- the Jordanians thought it was supposed to be a piece-copping mission. D'oh! From what I understand, the men offered the children candy in exchange for sexual services, in what is already being called the "oral for food" scandal. Personally, I say "U.S. out of the U.N., U.N. out of Timorese boys!"

This was actually going to be a big story in the New York Times until further investigation revealed that the Jordanian peacekeepers weren't even Catholic, much less priests.

But once again Kofi Annan is pulling the wool over our eyes. If only it were wool panties, this story would would be huge in the MSM.



Monday, November 07, 2005

The French Revolution, cont.

World history took one of its momentous farks in the road with the American and French Revolutions. While the American Revolution was founded on the principles of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," the French version was inspired by a trinity more diabolical in its implications, "equality, fraternity and liberty." In short, while the American revolution emphasized liberty first and foremost, the French revolution gave it third billing behind the all-important "equality."

As the contradictory ideals of liberty vs. equality began to ramify through history, it resulted in the very different nations we see today, for the more liberty a nation has, the less her people will be equal, while the more equality is pursued by state policy, the more freedom will necessarily be attenuated.

The nations of the European Union are, of course, the embodiment of the perennial leftist dream of a cradle-to-grave welfare system. But in order to achieve the goal of radical equality, the Europeans must maintain a confiscatory tax system that radically undermines liberty, since they begin with the assumption that your money does not belong to you, but to the state.

In fact, this flawed understanding of equality is an atavistic and deeply pernicious holdover from our most primitive social arrangements. While it might have made sense in the "archaic environment" of psychobiological evolution in small face-to-face groups, in order for human beings to evolve psychohistorically, it was necessary for them to overcome their "envy barrier," and to tolerate the painful idea that some might possess more than others.

In his classic work, Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour, Helmut Schoeck notes that our most economically misguided ideas stem from the futile attempt to eliminate envy. In order to placate the envious individual, government must intervene with policies that do achieve the desired end of of creating more equality, but at the cost of inefficiency, lack of economic growth, and ultimately far less wealth for everyone. Only by tolerating envy is economic development possible: "the more both private individuals and the custodians of political power in a given society are able to act as though there were no such thing as envy, the greater will be the rate of economic growth and the number of innovations in general." A society is best able to achieve its creative potential if it functions "as if the envious person could be ignored." Likewise, well-meaning leftists who seek the completely "just society" are doomed to failure because they are based on the idea that it is possible to eliminate envy, when human beings inevitably find something new to envy.

Ironically, the pursuit of equality achieves its goal in a perverse sort of way, by dragging everyone down to a lower level of prosperity. The Fall 2005 Claremont Review of Books contains a revelatory article by Gerard Alexander, spelling out some of the dire results of the pursuit of equality. For example, on average, U.S. per capita income is 55% higher than the average of the 15 core countries of the European Union. In fact, the largest E.U. countries "have per capita incomes comparable to America's poorest states." Alexander points out that if France, Italy or the U.K. were somehow admitted to the American union, "any one of them would rank as the 5th poorest of the 50 states, ahead only of West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Montana." Ireland, which is currently the richest E.U. country, "would be the 13th poorest state, Sweden the 6th poorest.... 40% of all Swedish households would classify as low-income by American standards."

In addition to impeding a nation's wealth-producing capacity, the mindless pursuit of equality results in chronically high unemployment. France has lived with unemployment between 8-12% for some 25 years, and if anything, this underestimates the true figure because of forced early retirement and extensive but futile job-training programs. And there is a disproportionately negative impact on the poorest sectors of society, since a high unemployment rate pushes aside the least skilled workers first.

But "ironically," the sense of entitlement that is nurtured in the entitlement society means that its victims will feel entitled to more entitlements, thus resulting in even worse conditions. This is just part of the underlying dynamic of what we are seeing with the Muslim riots in France. "Buying them off' with yet more social programs will only result in a greater sense of entitlement and more unrest, since, once the spigot of a person's sense of entitlement is opened, it is very hard to shut off. This is partly because our sense of entitlement is rooted in the earliest infantile experience, when we are, for the only time in our lives, actually "entitled" to mother's magical ministering of our every need and whim. The universe revolves around the moment-to-moment needs of the baby, which is as it should be. For a baby.

But for a variety of psychological and cultural reasons, it is possible for human beings to become arrested at the stage of narcissistic entitlement. In 2002, shortly after the attacks of 9-11, I wrote an article on the psychopathology of the Islamic world, entitled, "The Land that Developmental Time Forgot." In it I discussed the psycho-social implications of the pervasive sense of male superiority over women that pervades the Islamic world: "For example, when boys grow up thinking they are superior simply by virtue of 'being' rather than 'doing,' by actually accomplishing anything, it undermines the drive to achieve." I quoted the economist David Landes, who wrote that one "cannot rear young people in such wise that half of them think themselves superior by biology, without dulling ambition and devaluing accomplishment. One cannot [tell boys] they have a golden penis, without reducing their need to learn and do."

And the resultant fragile sense of manhood in the Muslim world feeds directly into the violence of the region, because "violence is the quintessential, testosteronic expression of male entitlement." What we have to imagine is the incredible disorientation these "chosen" men feel, growing up with unrealistically high self-esteem, and believing they are heirs to a superior civilization, but all around being confronted by the social and political disaster that is Islam. Something has gone wrong . . . and someone must pay. Thus the search for scapegoats begins.

I do not know if the young Muslim men of France suffer from the same collective pathology of the peers they left behind, but it would appear so. When you place such an individual in the context of a welfare state that mirrors their grandiose sense of entitlement, then a sort of alchemical explosion takes place: the giant sucking sound you hear in France is unlimited desire meeting unlimited attempts to placate it, with predictable results.

Have you ever seen a baby when it is not getting what it wants? Oh my. It happened just yesterday, when Daddy was ultimately powerless to stop the unseemly emotional outburst that ensued. The same thing will happen in a nation of babies accustomed to an omni-nurturant Mommy who shields them from life's pain and disappointment. If I were to foolishly attempt to inculcate manly virtues such as self-reliance and delayed gratification in the Gagdad boy and tell him to "suck it up," he would take it quite literally and immediately request Mommy. For him it is obviously way too early to "be a man." For France it may be too late.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jimmy Carter, Failed Human Being

America's worst president and even worse ex-president, Jimmy Carter, was on Larry King last night, hawking his new book in which he aggressively slams the conservative movement in general and the Bush administration in particular. Carter was an awful president but is perhaps an even worse human being. Amazingly, his book attacks the very ideas that rescued us from his disastrous mismanagement of the country, a mismanagement that we will likely pay for with blood and treasure for the rest of our lives. And yet, the liberal media treat Carter with a sort of respect and veneration usually reserved for a pope or Dalai Lama (unless it is a conservative pope).

Consider what Carter’s policies did to the economy. At the time he left office, annual growth rates were roughly half of what they had been in the 1960’s. Inflation was at a staggering 13.3% in 1979, while mortgage rates had climbed to 20%. Unemployment had reached almost 8% in 1980, and the crime rate had increased 50% during the 1970’s. And yet, Carter famously blamed the nation's ills on our own selfishness, on a “moral problem” afflicting Americans, adding that we would just have to get used to the idea of a permanently lowered standard of living in the future. By the time he left office his approval rating was at 25%, lower than Nixon on the eve of his resignation. One can only wonder what, in the small reptilian brain of Larry King, disqualifies one from offering economic advice on national TV, and harshly criticizing a president presiding over an economy with better than average growth and historically low levels of inflation, interest rates and unemployment.

Carter’s abetting of the fall of the Shah of Iran represented the singular achievement of the Islamic terrorists we are fighting today. Carter didn’t lift a finger to assist the Shah, whom he considered a violator of human rights. And yet, the Khomeini regime murdered more people in its first year than the Shah’s secret service allegedly had in the previous twenty five (and don’t forget, the Shah was dealing with people like Khomeini; how we could benefit from his likes today).

Carter was openly ashamed of American history, even recently arguing that the Revolutionary War was unnecessary. To this day he proudly insists that he was the first American president in 50 years to avoid sending troops into combat, which is why he calls the failed effort to rescue the Iranian hostages a “humanitarian mission.” He said that our ownership of the Panama Canal “exemplified morally questionable aspects of past American foreign policy” for which we must humbly apologize, and named an ambassador to the U.N., Andrew Young, who deserves his own ignominious post.

Before being named ambassador, Young defended the Black Panthers, arguing that it may take the destruction of Western Civilization to achieve racial harmony in the world, and that perhaps God had ordained the Panthers to “destroy the whole thing.” As he disembarked the plane on his first official trip to Africa he raised a clenched fist in the air and gave the “black power” salute, and maintained that Cuban troops in Africa was a good idea because Cuba opposed racism because of its “shared sense of colonial oppression and domination.” Britain, on the other hand, “almost invented racism.” He defended the Soviet Union’s trial of dissident Anatoly Scharansky by suggesting that in America there were hundreds, if not thousands of political prisoners. And yet, Carter defended Young as “the best man I have ever known in public life.” But John Bolton is a controversial ambassador to the U.N.

Carter not only stood by idly as Islamic terrorists gained their first nation state in Iran, but openly rooted for the communist takeover of Nicaragua. Later, in the run-up to the first Gulf War, he wrote to members of the UN Security Council and even spoke privately to Arab leaders to encourage them to pull out of the coalition and block what President Bush was trying to do. He denied that Korea was an “outlaw nation,” and after one visit there said he admired the “reverence with which [North Koreans] look upon their leader.” He praised Syrian dictator Hafez Assad, and was personally responsible for elevating the status of Yasser Arafat from a genocidal terrorist thug to a respected world leader. How fitting that they are both Nobel laureates, while the man who replaced Carter and began the slow process of rescuing us from his follies is held in utter contempt by liberal elites both here and abroad.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Democratic Hall of Shamelessness

If I weren’t too busy to blog today, I’d probably want to say something about the grim figure of Charles Schumer, whose crass politicization of the death of Rosa Parks is not just an insult to her memory, but offensive to blacks in particular and Americans in general. Amazingly, liberal elites who are outraged by the banal observations of a William Bennett not only let Schumer’s comments slide, but report them without irony as promoting the cause of blacks and civil rights.

I'm too busy at the moment to track down the exact quote, but Schumer used the occasion of Rosa Parks' funeral yesterday to argue that Justice Alito will use his position on the bench to roll back the achievements of Rosa Parks. Unlike Rosa Parks, he will use his "seat" do do evil.

Those words can only be interpreted in one of two ways. Either Joseph Alito and all of the conservatives who support him are vicious racists who wish to turn back the clock and reinstate government-enforced racism, or else Rosa Parks is personally responsible for a plethora of ill-conceived liberal legislation that has had disastrous consequences for generations of black Americans.

If the first is true, then Joseph Alito needs to be run out of Washington on a rail. If the second is true, then Rosa Parks doesn’t deserve a state funeral so much as consignment to an ignominious grave, along with all of the dysfunctional leftist ideas and policies that she supposedly inspired.

Of course, neither of these are true. Democrats don’t really have ideas, but a sort of post-literate iconography, and Parks is one of those icons that substitute for thought. Schumer is simply stealing the quiet symbolism of this dignified woman’s actions in order to cynically exploit them for political gain. More importantly, he is actually undoing Ms. Park's legacy and shoving her again to the back of the bus, declaring to the world that blacks are like helpless children who can get nowhere in life without white liberals like Schumer driving the bus for them.

In the bizarro world of the left, those who believe that blacks are no different than any other race and are fully capable of rising to the level of their merits, are the racists. This makes no sense, for in the Republican party, blacks such as Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas actually get to drive the bus. Liberals despise them for that, for it is a reminder that it is possible to learn how to drive without their help. But who in their right mind would get onto a bus with Al Sharpton, Cynthia McKinney or Maxine Waters behind the wheel, anyway? If Rosa Parks is responsible for Al Sharpton, she has a lot to atone for.

Ironically, Ms. Parks’ right to sit anywhere she pleased on that bus was not granted or invented by a liberal judge, but was self-evidently present in any strict constructionist view of the constitution. And of course, it was overwhelmingly activist Democrats who presided over Jim Crow, and found abundant justification of their racist views in the constitution. The illiberal interpreters of the constitution had to be defeated then, just as they must be defeated now.

The Schumers of the world also forget that Ms. Parks simple action of saying “no,” of staying put, was an implicit tribute to America, just as Mahatma Gandhi’s success in liberating India was a tribute to the British. For if Rosa Parks had tried the same thing in the Soviet Union or Castro’s Cuba (revered by Al Sharpton and so many others on the left), she would have simply disappeared, both literally and figuratively. That is, she would have vanished from the earth before she could have ever entered the pages of history, just as Gandhi would have been an anonymous statistic had he attempted the tactic of passive resistance against nazi Germany or fascist Japan (not to mention the Islamists who terrorize India today). Gandhi mistakenly thought that he had discovered a universal spiritual principle called “ahimsa,” when what he had actually discovered was the decency of the British. Specifically, he had discovered their capacity for shame. Against a people without such a capacity, this type of spiritual resistance is impotent.

Which brings us back to the shameless figure of Charles Schumer, who obviously does not possess a better side to which we may appeal. Ironically, the tactics of a Rosa Parks, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, presume that the adversary can be shamed. Not so Charles Schumer, whose shamelessness doesn’t even stand out in a party leadership containing the likes of Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, Jesse Jackson, Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin, Barbara Boxer, et al. Truly, an all-star hall of shamelessness.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Nocturnal Metahistory, Part One

History has two broadly different meanings. Capital "H" History is first and foremost the past actions and reactions of human beings -- History in itself, so to speak. In light of this, small "h" history is the attempt to give an account of these actions and reactions -- history as remembered and recorded, which is only a tiny subset of History in itself.

These two senses of history tend to generate a pair of antinomies with regard to how it is viewed. Looked at in one way, we can say for all intents and purposes that History consists of an infinite number of particular events, more than any mind could ever begin to retrieve, much less know. After all, History is not just the great wars, inventions and political movements, but what Napoleon had for breakfast before the battle of Waterloo, what sort of carpenter Jesus was, and what an anonymous slave was thinking about as he dragged giant stones across the desert to construct the Great Pyramid. Judged by this criteria, the overwhelming majority of History is not even remotely recoverable.

But although historians write as if they are dealing with historical facts, this isn’t so. No historian worth the name would operate in such a fashion, trying to additively assemble a thing called “History” by piling fact upon fact, and then calling the pile “History.” Rather, the historian is guided first of all by an intuitive sense that there is a thing called “History.” No one actually makes observations of the world and leaps to the conclusion, “ah ha, History exists!” Nor does the historian regard all historical facts as being of equal importance. Rather, historians again simply apply a sort of heightened common sense to pull out facts that appear meaningful or significant for any number of reasons, some explicit, others implicit. But if written history is nothing more than that, what good is it?

The nub of the problem is whether there is a spiritually real History anterior to history, whether History is on the same plane as history, or whether there is no History at all, and history is only something imaginatively derived in a posterior way by means of abstraction. In the modern world, there are many scientific rationalists and logical positivists who would maintain that History is simply history -- just a material process, a journey of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing. Likewise, academia is dominated by deconstructionist types who not only do not believe that real History exists, but that history is whatever they make it out to be. Nothing in History exists as an objective reality; rather, there are only subjectively biased historical texts concealing some ulterior motive, generally the drive to dominate and oppress others.

In the neo-Platonic view, History, the Aeon, is thought of as a sort of rotating, hyper-dimensional object that throws an illusory shadow we experience as history. When eternity breaks into time, it bifurcates into a left side and a right side, or more exactly a day side (the horizontal) and a nocturnal side (the vertical). In reality, History cannot be understood without reference to these horizontal and vertical streams.

The horizontal aspect of History is well known to us, consisting of the “stream of time” that historians dip into to retrieve facts, documents and events. Contemporary historian who focus exclusively on the horizontal have forgotten all about the vertical -- about the womb of History where things inwardly incubate before becoming events in time, and where events in time go to be “worked over” in the dream logic of the night. But all historians at least unconsciously operate vertically, in the sense referred to above. That is, they approach the historical enterprise with a “topdown” view which organizes their search and allows them to “see” what is significant in History (at least to them).

What does it mean to say that something has historical significance, that it is important? Only that the fact in question is a particular that illuminates, or is illuminated by, the values of the historian. But if that is true, then History has only the value given to it by the historian, and is only valuable as long as the illusion lasts.

Is it possible to look at this problem in another way? History had a beginning, of that we may be certain. Regardless of where you situate the point in time, there was a moment when a particular species on a particular planet violated all that had happened before, broke with nature, and “lifted” itself out the stream of mere duration, so that the stream could be observed. Up to that time there was only the stream, then suddenly humans discovered that they were “floating” on the stream that carried them along. By virtue of this fact alone, we see that we are not equivalent to the material stream. But at the same time, our lives are lived in and on the stream, and the stream appears to be antecedent to our having been there.

Since the selection of historical facts is guided by what the historian regards as important or meaningful, I would like to suggest that the most important historical fact is the presence of both history and historians, and what makes them possible, specifically, another dimension of History operating perpendicular to the horizontal flow of time: vertical history. This type of history is not a product of history, but is the origin of history, the basis of history, and the ultimate point of History. What this approach attempts to do is look at horizontal, exterior history for evidence of vertical, interior history.

The analogy with an individual person's history is exact. For example, patients come to therapy with a narrative of their past life, chronicling their experiences with parents, their education, their friendships, loves, passions, conflicts, etc. But as a psychologist, I am not so much interested in this horizontal narrative as I am of evidence of influences coming from a vertical dimension called the unconscious. All along, their lives have been shadowed by this unconscious, which has continuously created, shaped, sabotaged, or prevented events in the horizontal, even (or especially) if they have been completely unaware of it. Similarly, a historian is like a dreamer trying to interpret the dream, without knowing it is a dream and that he is one of its dreamers. Is it possible to be in but not of the dream called history?

The great discovery common to all religions is the existence of a vertical influence operating both personally and collectively, this one coming from a “higher” dimension rather than from the unconscious below. It is what the Book of Genesis refers to in mythological terms when it says that man was created in God’s image (in that we are “mirrors” of the One who exists outside horizontal time), or in the Gospels, where John the Baptist bears witness to the (vertical) light, when the spirit “descended like a dove” on Jesus. In fact, the figure of Jesus is regarded as the essence of the vertical energies deposited into horizontal time, or the “word made flesh.” What is salvation history but the attempt to look for the meaning of History in light of its ultimate vertical perspective, the “exclamation point” or (eschclamation point) at the end (or top)?

Time for human beings is not the mere abstract duration of physics, but the very substance of our being, the “form of inner sense," as Kant put it. The soul is a mysterious point of potential freedom in space, while the human species is engaged in a sprint toward the realization of this freedom in historical time. History is really only one great event: the attempt to become conscious and return to God, opposed at every step by deterministic forces on the horizontal plane and by lower ones on the vertical.

The time allotted to us is analogous to the shutter of a camera; it opens with our birth, allowing in the small amount of light we must work with before it closes and the universe vanishes. With that light we must enter our “dark room” and develop our conception of existence--what we are, why we are here, and what is our relationship to the whole. There are photographs laying around that others have left behind--scripture, books, images and institutions. Some of them were successful in capturing the Light, others only darkness.

There is so little time, but time is literally all we have: we must work while it is day, for the night cometh, when no man can work. Saying you have no time is logically equivalent to saying that you have no life, light or freedom. If you are not free, then your time really is nothing more than duration. And if you have no light, you are free in the illusory way that an animal is--free to be led horizontally by your instincts and learned behaviors.

Time. Freedom. Light. If you don’t have one, you really don’t have the others either. Your life is history.