The Herd of Independent Minds and Life at the Periphery of Nothing
I guess the coffee hadn't yet flipped the on switch of the frontal lobes, because my first thought was, "hmm, typo. They must mean dependent minds," given the dreary uniformity of liberal thought.
But then the penny dropped and I came to my cents. "Oh, I get it. Duh." What an arresting phrase for an alert copper: The herd of independent minds. Who is responsible for this coining this pneumismatic little gem? After all, conservatism can't usually be reduced in the manner of the simplistic sentiments of Mamet's "brain-dead liberal," e.g. "War is Not the Answer," "One Nation, Under Surveillance," "Save A Planet -- Take A Bus," etc.
So I followed the link to Commentary Magazine, where I learned that Harold Rosenberg had published an article by that name in 1948. The abstract is pretty abstract, but it states that,
"THE basis of mass culture in all its forms is an experience recognized as common to many people. It is because millions are known to react in the same way to scenes of love or battle -- because certain colors or certain kinds of music will call up certain moods -- because assent or antagonism will inevitably be evoked by certain moral or political opinions -- that popular novels, movies, radio programs, magazines, advertisements, ideologies can be contrived. The more exactly he grasps, whether by instinct or through study, the existing element of sameness in people, the more successful is the mass-culture maker. Indeed, so deeply is he committed to the concept that men are alike that he may even fancy that there exists a kind of human dead center in which everyone is identical with everyone else, and that if he can hit that psychic bull's eye he can make all of mankind twitch at once. (The proposition, All men are alike replaces the proposition, All men are equal....)"
So, as early as 1948 -- way before I was born or even unborn -- Rosenberg had uncovered the mechanism of political correctness, the cognitive pressure system that makes leftists such intellectual lemmings and bullies. However, only by leaving the herd and undergoing gender reassignment, as did Mamet, can one clearly see all of the cultural pressures that were operating on one's mind, keeping it in crockstep with the others. Only when you go against the liberal groin are you aware of the constant friction and its attendant conformance anxiety. Being that I work in a very liberal profession and live in a very liberal area, I am never unaware of these annoying pressures in my dealings with the Conspiracy and the collectivist Pinks who would steal our precious Slack. You must indeed internalize their tribal ways, their cues, their sentiments, in order to "pass" as a Normal.
Rosenberg makes another critical point, that the so-called "alienation" of the neurotic artist -- who is generally just a complicated and self-deluded Normie posing as one of us true oddballs -- is one of the critical transmitters of mass-culture thinking. After all, who is shocked when a Sean Penn or Bruce Springsteen or some other entertainment yahoo expresses their hatred of President Bush and their support for Dennis Kucinich? We shouldn't be surprised at the soilidarity of such dirtbags.
But as Rosenberg notes, "the concept that the artist is 'alienated from reality' has little to support it either in the psychology of artists or in any metaphysics of art. As Thomas Mann said, it depends on who gets sick; the sickness of a Nietszche may bring him much closer to the truth of the situation, and in that sense be much more 'normal,' than the health of a thousand editorial writers."
Exactly. If art doesn't bring us closer to reality, what is it good for? Desecrating your prison walls, basically.
Which reminds me. I've been meaning to pimp this new Van Morrison collection, the reason being that it is a limited edition, plus it's the only thing close to a comprehensive, career-spanning collection of his work. The word "artist" has become so debased that it no longer conveys any useful meaning. It's like other words, such as "professor" or "judge" that used to inspire an automatic sense of respect, whereas now your first thought is likely to be that you are dealing with a moral idiot.
But Morrison is a true artist, and in fact, his soph-evidently transnatural music was instrumental... for once, no pun intended... in turning me around and putting me back on the right path when I rediscovered him in the mid-1980s. But that's a story for another post.
A quick google search of Rosenberg led to an editorial by Ruth Wisse, in which she too discusses the abject conformity of the academic left, a grazing multitude of rebellious sheep if ever there was one, all somehow bleating in unison while fleecing the parents who pay through the nose to have their children indoctrinated with wooly leftist ideas:
"The Federal Election Commission could not have foreseen that when it required employment information on political donations of over $200, it would expose scandalous uniformity in a university community that advertises its diversity. The Sacramento Bee reported that the University of California system gave more to the Kerry campaign than any other single employee group, and that Harvard was second, with only 15,000 employees to UC's 160,000. A blogger computed the percentages of Kerry contributions over Bush: Cornell 93%, Dartmouth 97%, Yale 93%, Brown 89%.
"Personally, I greatly enjoy being in the conservative opposition. My colleagues are cordial, and since I'm not looking for promotions I willingly sustain an occasional snub for the greater advantage of being able to speak my mind. Students making the transition from liberal to conservative are often wounded by their first exposure to the contempt that greets their support for the war in Iraq or opposition to abortion or whatever else separates them from the liberal campus. I suggest to them that, as opposed to living in constant terror of offending some received idea, they relish their freedom of expression. The self-acknowledged conservative never experiences intellectual constraint." Exactly. You can think what you want, outside the narrow dictates of PC.
In a piece called Mass Man and Totalitarianism, Roger Kimball touches on today's topic. He makes reference to the "admonitory parallels between the mass men of the past, who proved such pliable fodder for the totalitarian ambitions of the twentieth century, and the mass men of today, that 'susceptible' creature who 'is fundamentally ignorant, though remarkably 'well informed.'” "Mass man’s inertia accepts the dictates of bureaucracy. He has no 'great idea' or 'faith' to guard him against expedient compromise, or participation in genocide.” He quotes J.R. Nyquist, who writes that
“Once upon a time we had a civilization. We had standards. We had notions of objectivity. We had a culture that wasn’t low-minded. We looked back to great men as we looked forward to our posterity. Art was beautiful and meaningful. Politics was evolving away from tyranny. Economics was about liberty and responsibility. What do we have today? .... Subjectivity has cynically declared that objectivity is impossible. Everything high-minded has fallen to neglect.
"But more important, and even more disastrous, the emergence of 'mass man' has something to do with the emergence of totalitarianism (which claimed roughly 100 million lives in the last century). And it is safe to say that totalitarianism is going to claim even more lives in the future. But people don’t want to wake up. They don’t want to acknowledge that totalitarianism is something real and ongoing. It grows in the soil of mass culture. It leads to destruction and mass murder because every totalitarian construct is based on lies, sustained by crime and driven by the politicization of personal disappointment and envy" (Nyquist). Someone ought to write a book on liberal fascism....
Now, how does this all relate to the whole existentialada? What's the cosmic significance of today's post? In this regard, Schuon had a number of typically acute observations. For example he notes that "progressivism is the wish to eliminate effects without wishing to eliminate their causes; it is the wish to eliminate calamities without realizing that they are nothing other than what man himself is."
Furtherless, progressives wish "to achieve a perfect man outside the truths which give the human phenomenon all its meaning." The leftist tries "to reform the world without having either the will or the power to reform man, and this flagrant contradiction, this attempt to make a better world on the basis of a worsened humanity, can only end in the very abolition of what is human, and consequently in the abolition of happiness too."
No, "the collectivity could not be the aim and reason for being of the individual, but on the contrary... it is the individual in his solitary station before the Absolute and thus by the exercise of his highest function, who is the aim and reason for being of the collectivity."
Or, put it this way: "One of two things must be true: either it is possible to save others, or it is impossible to do so; if it is possible, this implies that we first seek our personal salvation, otherwise saving others is impossible, precisely." But the typical leftist embarks on a mission of "saving" others before he can even govern, much less save, his own soul. The self-hypnotizing obamantra is "change," but never of the one chanting it. No, they're beautiful just as they are. It's the rest of us who will have to change to suit their need for reality to conform to their infantile wishes.
To paraphrase Schuon, such individuals live on the fringes of their own being, and spend their lives giving blood to phantoms. If it were only their blood, I suppose we could live with the phantoms.