Ought World, Political Religions, and the Bridge to Nowhere
It reminds me of how bands back in the 1960s had to produce three or four albums every year, plus a new single every couple of months, plus maybe a Christmas album. Now it's not unusual for an artist to go five years without an album, but they're not nearly as good. Although it doesn't seem conducive to "art," there's something about the daily grind that causes one to rise to the occasion, to reach down for something you otherwise wouldn't have known existed (assuming there's something there to begin with). Under these "adverse" conditions, someone like Paul McCartney produced more great music in a given year -- say, 1965 or 1966 -- than he did in the 37 from 1970 to today. The same goes for the Rolling Stones, who cranked out one masterpiece after another from 1964-1972, then essentially zilch, artistically speaking.
Off hand, I can only think of a couple of folks from that era who escaped the artistic decline that resulted from independence of the pressure to produce so much new material, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. Dylan very consciously and publicly extricated himself from the "star maker machinery" in 1966, while Morrison did so in about 1974. Each went into a semi-retirement that lasted several years before they returned with a very different attitude about their music and their audience. They reconciled themselves to producing music for the marketplace, but entirely on their own terms.
Anyway, ever since I took a day off from posting last week, I feel as if the spell has been broken. I suppose it's like sinnin'. The first time is hard, but after that, it's easy. This morning I just wanted to stay in bed. I didn't want to face The Puppy. As I said, it's not her fault. It's just that I'd gotten so accustomed to that absolutely silent space in the morning, and now it's gone. Only now do I realize how important it had become to me.
It probably sounds petulant or something (no pun intended there), but it's not. I either have to wait until she matures a bit and sleeps longer -- which won't be too much longer -- or work out some kind of a new routine.
I came across a great quote that summarizes how the leftist body snatchers have, like a cancer, insinuated themselves into virtually every aspect of society. It's very much like guerilla warfare, where you can't just drop a bomb on the enemy without causing a lot of collateral damage. It's the same with the left. You can't just bulldoze our major universities, media outlets, and other institutions. If you metaphorically blow up the Princeton Middle East Studies Department, you might hurt Bernard Lewis.
Here's the quote. It's from a book entitled The Third Reich: A New History, which analyzes fascism as a modern political religion. It has to do with the gradual moral transformation that fascists attempted to bring about, which he compares to rebuilding a railway bridge:
"Engineers could not simply demolish an existing structure, because of the impact on rail traffic. Instead, they slowly renewed each bolt, girder and rail, work which hardly caused passengers to glance up from their newspapers. However, one day, they would realize that the old bridge had gone and a gleaming new structure stood in its stead."
In America, this construction project has advanced so far, that the Orwellian engineers responsible for bringing it about accuse those of us who notice the new bridge of being "radicals" or extremists. For example, if you simply want to preserve the Judeo-Christian heritage of the country -- the old bridge, which worked so well for so long -- you're an extremist. If you don't want unelected judges to impose their bizarre definition of marriage, you're an extremist. If you believe that government should not be able to discriminate on the basis of race, you're an extremist. If you think there's nothing in the constitution that grants the right to kill the unborn, you're an extremist. Etc.
It is not that the irreligious have replaced the religious. Hardly. Rather, we are dealing with a new secular religion, or religious fervor in the absence of its appropriate object. Which is why you will have noticed that the left is in a perpetual state of emotional fervor. It's not so much that they suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome. That we all know. Rather, they suffer from a religious neurosis that requires an easily recognizable "devil" for its iconography. If it weren't Bush, it would be someone else. For most of the international left, it is Israel.
Here's how it happened in Germany, and -- at risk of evoking Godwin's Law -- it sounds very much like the evolution of our own fascist left over the past couple of decades:
"Reality was violently adjusted to suit a theoretical ought-world." "A dreadful mass sentimentality, compounded of anger, fear, resentment and self-pity, replaced the customary politics of decency, pragmatism, property and reason.... Belief, faith, feeling and obedience to instinct routed debate, scepticism and compromise. People voluntarily surrendered to group or herd emotions, some of a notoriously nasty kind. Among committed believers, a mythic world of eternal spring, heroes, demons, fire and sword -- in a word, a fantasy world of the nursery -- displaced reality." Or invaded it, with crude images of Jews, capitalists, and others "populating the imagination."
"This was children's politics for grown-ups, bored and frustrated with the prosaic tenor of post-war liberal democracy, and hence receptive to heroic gestures and politics as a form of theatrical stunt, even at the expense of their personal freedom." The "thinkers" of this movement "treated ideas seriously, rather than something secondary to 'facts'," and "on closer scrutiny explained rather little." He quotes Bertrand Russell, who observed that to understand this new leftist mentality, "it is not sufficient to know the facts; it is also necessary to enter with sympathy or imagination into a new spirit."
The new political religions are a "by-product of the absence of religion," in which "ideologies akin to Christian heresies of redemption in the here and now" fuse "with post-Enlightenment doctrines of social transformation" and create a "church-state" or a state "counter-church with its own intolerant dogma, preachers, sacred rites and lofty idioms that [offer] total explanations of the past, present and future, while demanding unwavering dedication from its adherents."
When I hear Al Gore, I am reminded of another quote from this book: "The people dream, and a soothsayer tells them what they are dreaming."