What are the Best Political and Spiritual Operating Systems for Earthlings?
At its foundation, politics is not "Republicans versus Democrats, or liberals against conservatives, or the looming scramble among Presidential contenders for their parties' 2008 nominations." Rather, as always, politics "is the relationship between the individual and the State. And for as long as human beings have walked the Earth, we have been struggling to get this right. We've tried everything. We've had kingdoms and empires of all sizes and flavors. We've had military dictatorships, and civilian dictatorships. We've had totalitarian states like fascism on the right, and communism on the left. We've had constitutional monarchies, republics and democracies."
In short, humans have developed countless operating systems to deal with the dynamic relationship between the individual and the collective. Part of the problem undoubtedly arises from the fact that any system we devise is going to be "unnatural," in the sense that it will be dissimilar to the way our upright furbears evolved in the archaic environment -- which is to say, in small groups of 20 or 30. Although evolutionary psychologists exaggerate the centrality of this, nevertheless, we always bear the stamp of our evolutionary past, and it would be foolish to try to deny its existence, as it does hold certain keys to our behavior.
Meyers notes what amounts to a common sense observation -- which in our time is sadly uncommon. That is, "when you look at history through the prism of operating systems, you find that one operating system has triumphed above all the others: Western Civilization. Its key features are the separation of church and state, the primacy of the individual over the State, the encouragement of artistic expression and intellectual curiosity, free enterprise, and a never-ending struggle to reach equality among the races and sexes. Like all operating systems, Western Civilization has its flaws, its shortcomings and its imperfections -- as will any operating system designed and run by human beings. But by any imaginable measure, Western Civilization is history's greatest achievement."
Exactly. It is amazing to me that this isn't something with which we can all agree. Yesterday we spoke of how "intelligent, virtuous, and mentally sound men" should be able to understand each other on this point. Which they do. It's the stupid, bad, and/or mentally unsound men who disagree. For example, there is the operating system of Radical Islam. Unlike our operating system, "Its key features are the combination of church and State, the submission of individuals to this combination, the discouragement of artistic expression and intellectual curiosity, the crushing of its people's entrepreneurial talents, and the treatment of women as though they were property rather than people."
Perhaps the Islamist operating system wouldn't be so bad if they merely wanted to impose it on themselves. The problem is, they are determined to impose it on us.
Worse yet, many if not most of our own elites in academia and the liberal media do not think there is anything so special about our operating system. Rather, they see only its flaws, largely because they have abandoned one of its key programs, the Judeo-Christian tradition, which causes them to politicize the psychological, spiritual and existential -- in a word, to "horizontalize" the vertical. And when reality is horizontalized, one not only misses its most vital aspect, but the system will begin to breed citizens who don't even know of its existence. They will be human freaks -- only "crippled inside," as John Lennon put it in song.
When reality is drained of its transcendent dimension, the world will be reduced from a field of spiritual liberty in which to actualize oneself, to a mere struggle for economic or political power. Out of its emptiness, the flight from verticality evokes envy. Thus, we constantly hear the horizontal folk complain about "gaps in income," as if this is all there is to our impossibly rich lives. I personally have never understood this complaint. Perhaps it's just my nature -- I'm pretty sure it is -- but from the earliest age, I have always been more concerned about gaps in slack. My car is six years old. I don't care. It never crosses my mind. But the horror of having insufficient time to commune with Dobbs!
Put it this way: I am a clinical psychologist. After some 23 years of education and a couple more for my post-doc internship, I was fortunate enough to be given a license to steal. At least hypothetically, I could easily earn more than I do, but it wouldn't be easy for me. FrankIy, I would have to be someone else. It would mean having to be more ambitious than I am and working more than I do, thus cutting into the reason for my existence. It comes naturally to me to live a simple, uncluttered life, but I hardly feel deprived. Rather, I would feel deprived if evicted from the vertical. Yes, the dopey CEO of Home Depot makes some outrageous amount of money. But would I want to be him? Would I trade my life for his? Is he having more fun than me? Please. No one has more vertical fun than a Raccoon. If so, show me this person. I want to meet him and appoint him the new Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler (sorry Petey).
No, all the money in the world could not be consolation for what I would have to give up to be King of Home Depot. I am enjoying my vertical liberty in my own sweet way, and I am acutely aware of how this is only possible because of our precious operating system called Western Civilization.
But our horizontal elites focus so much "on the flaws, shortcomings and imperfections of Western Civilization that they are blind to its achievements." This is another key point, for I am sure all Raccoons have had the experience of conversing with a moonbat -- the moonbat can be of superior or subnormal intellect, it matters not -- and being met with incredulousness, contempt, or sarcasm when the obvious superiority of Western Civilization is mentioned. "What about the Indians?!" "What about slavery!?" "What about the transgendered?!"
It is as if the anti-Western moonbat, because he has abondoned the concept of personal sin, transfers it to the collective. "Original sin? That's a primitive idea. People are good -- especially me. And transgendered Indian feminists. But you've got to be kidding. The United States is bad and unredeemably sinful."
This only demonstrates how the operating system of Western Civilization goes completely haywire in the absence of the religious program that made it possible. An interesting thought occurred to me while lurking at a new age website yesterday, and which answers the question of why "new age" almost always means "left," and even "America-bashing." I won't go into details, as they don't really matter. You are no doubt familiar with the type of person who rejects tradition in favor of assembling a melange of half-baked spiritual notions for the sake of egoic comfort rather than personal transformation.
To be honest, I more or less started out this way, as I am sure you probably did too. After all, in a certain way, it's the American thing to do. We're not Europe. No one's going to tell us who God is and how to worship Him. That's our business.
Which reminds me. When I was a kid, there used to be newspaper cartoon called "Rick O'Shay," which took place in the American West. My favorite character was the lone gunslinger, whose name was Hipshot Percussion. Not infrequently, the Sunday cartoon would feature a series of panels depicting Hipshot on his horse, high up in the mountains, worshipping God in his own wordless way. There would be no captions, but it might show Hipshot reverently standing by a mountain stream with head bowed. I think it conveyed a not-so-subtle message about the inevitable hypocrisy of organized religion, and about the new American experiment in radical spiritual liberty. But there was something very devout about these cartoon images. They weren't "in your face," and they certainly didn't imply atheism or radical secularism, much less "environmentalism" (in its narrow leftist connotation). They conveyed an important aspect of American spirituality.
I remember once in film school, the professor spoke of two quintessentially American archetypes that reappear in film -- call them the "drifter" and the "settler." One of America's ideals was of a place where one didn't have to settle down -- where one could continue roaming and exploring indefinitely, never putting down roots. The other ideal was of the person who owned his little portion of America -- a little piece of paradise -- living his freedom in the opposite way. But in either case, the emphasis was on different kinds of liberty, with deep spiritual implications.
It is said that reality consists of objects that object. In other words, we do not control them or produce them out of our own substance. They exist in their own right. They are real.
Being more of the Hipshot pursuasion, one of the most surprising and completely unexpected developments in my own life has been the discovery of the very real realities embodied in religious tradition. It is as if these are spiritual operating systems "authorized by heaven," so to speak, and something that humans could never have devised on their own. I have found that thinking about vertical reality from "within" these systems is profoundly generative, much more so than trying to do so outside them -- to try to invent our own operating systems.
Referring back to those new-agers with heads full of mush, such as our own recent persistent visitor. There is a reason why no deep spiritual thought emerges out of the "new age movement" -- why it is almost all bunk. It is because the operating system is wrong. These people can reject orthodoxy and tradition all they want, but there is a reason why the latter has produced hundreds and thousands of profound spiritual thinkers, from Origen, to Dionysius, to John Scotus Eriugena, to Eckhart, to St. John of the Cross, to Theophan the Recluse, to Teilhard de Chardin, to Valentin Tomberg. Imagine placing such individuals on the same plane as Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra, who have their own manmade operating systems which they will sell to you for just $1,500 at a dynamic weekend seminar!
Like the Left, it's just another case of horizontalizing the vertical. Or is it verticalizing the horizontal? Either way, it reflects another perennial American archetype: the salesman. For once you have abandoned the vertical, I can sell it back to you, like ice to Eskimos.
Or as Siggy put it today in his Religious Progressives, The Judenrat And Another Generation In Denial:
"[T]o be a radical ‘religious progressive’ that adopts the radical leftist agenda, faith has to be dispensed with. A believer who wants to espouse progressive ideology must accept that his religious beliefs and values are worth less than progressive beliefs and values. Believers must find a way to rewrite faith to accommodate progressive ideology, even if that means upending the very beliefs, values and principles of the faith they profess to be a part of.
"In the end, all radical ‘religious progressives’ are the Judenrat and kapos of their respective faiths and of our time. By accepting and ascribing to beliefs and ideologies of Leftism, ‘religious progressives’ have made a deal with the very devil that would destroy them. Disagree with a ‘religious progressive,’ and like their progressive masters, tolerance goes out the window because dissent cannot be tolerated -- because the ‘emperor has no clothes.’"
Hmm, where have I heard that line before?