Sunday, June 20, 2010

Obama and the Hope-a-Dope Strategy

Pieper discusses the quite natural relationship between hope and youth, noting that the two are "ordered to one another in manifold ways."

This almost requires no explanation, and yet, is quite important -- and now that I think about it, undoubtedly helps to explain certain well known psycho-spiritual political pathologies of youth, which generally occur when their abundant hope is combined with their lack of wisdom and experience to produce... well, you name it. Obama is only their latest gift to the world.

Why anyone would place their hope in politics and politicians is quite beyond me; then again, I have only to think back to my own youth to realize that it's actually quite behind me. After all, my first vote was for Jimmy Carter, and in 1980 he was too conservative for me, so my preferred candidate was Barry Commoner of the illustrious Citizens Party, a socialist front that mainly spread hysteria about nuclear power plants.

Pieper writes that "natural hope blossoms with the strength of youth and withers when youth withers." Again, no doubt true. This is obviously a depressing reality, but again, I think it explains why older people who should know better cling to the callow political enthusiasms of their youth. How could a grown man be taken in by Obama's vacuous hopey-changey rhetoric?

It seems to me that one explanation might be the attempt to revive the kind of exciting hope for the future they once had as adolescents. As they say, when you see an old man with a young woman, it's not her youth he's after.

Likewise, when you see an old fart like Chris Matthews getting all tingly upon hearing his boyfriend speak, the real source of the excitement is obviously not Obama's vague future but Matthews' own specific past. Thus, the recent disillusionment with Obama is just the other side of hisillusionment. He has awakened to his own projection, and yet, has learned nothing, since he now blames Obama for dissing his beautiful illusion!

Being that politics is a substitute religion for the left, it is understandable that they would be prone to creating earthly messiahs. In reality, the entire process obviously took place in Matthews' own fat and spluttering head, that is, the illusion followed by the inevitable disillusion. (And to be clear, I would say the identical thing of a "conservative" who placed this kind of inappropriate hope in a politician.)

Now, the loss of natural hope brings with it the growth of what we might call "natural despair." This only makes sense. In the absence of any transnatural form of hope, it is simply an ironclad law of nature that when we are young the past is essentially irrelevant while the future is virtually unlimited.

But as we age, the past grows long while the future inevitably shrinks to nothing. How could one not be quite literally dis-illusioned? As Pieper describes it, the "not yet" of youth "is turned into the has-been," and we become a kind of bittersweet repository of "memories of what is 'no more.'"

Perhaps you have to be of my generation, but for me, there is nothing quite as pathetic as when cadge-drive time comes around, and PBS digs out some old hippies to sing the same songs they sang 40 or 50 years ago, in the same way, hopefully kindling the same rancid emotions.

Can you imagine having to sing something you wrote at the age of 20, while expressing the same emotions you felt then with conviction? It is no wonder then that these people literally haven't taken a new political imprint since 1967. Ironic too that this desperate flight into the past is called "progressive."

This whole sad spectacle can be avoided with properly ordered hope. Pieper is at pains to emphasize that hope in and of itself is no kind of virtue. Rather, it only becomes a theological virtue when it converges upon its proper transnatural target.

Likewise, hopelessness and cynicism would be quite appropriate in a wholly materialistic worldview, for what is there to hope for aside from maximizing pleasure and delaying death as long as possible?

This very different type of transnatural hope is by no means tied to natural youth. However, consistent with Jesus' statements regarding the importance of holy childlikeness, this hope "bestows on mankind a 'not yet' that is entirely superior to and distinct from the failing strength of man's natural hope."

Looked at in this way, adolescents are more than a little hopeless before they gain real wisdom, and especially hopeless, or pathetic, if the condition persists well into adulthood, as it generally does in the tenured retardentsia.

Now interestingly, properly ordered (supernatural) hope has the effect of re-infusing, so to speak, natural hope, hence, the cheerful optimism of the Raccoon. We have discussed in the past how (↓) has a kind of "rejuvenating" effect, and how, for example, people literally feel "lighter" after attending a religious service. Indeed, if I wake up feeling "heavy," I always feel lighter after a post, which is one of the reasons I persist in these verticalisthenics -- to keep the existential pounds off, so to speak. I would no more give up the habit than I would stop exercising.

Pieper writes of "the enchanting youthfulness of our great saints," for "nothing more eminently preserves and founds 'eternal youth' than the theological virtue of hope. It alone can bestow on man the certain possession of that aspiration that is at once relaxed and disciplined, that adaptability and readiness, that strong-hearted freshness, that resilient joy, that steady perseverance in trust that so distinguish the young and make them so lovable."

Which is why we may say with Pieper: God is younger than all else.

And why we may say with Petey: Too old, older than Abraham, too young, young as a babe's I AM. The circle unbroken by and by, a Divine child, a godsend, a touch of infanity, a bloomin' yes.

For in the end, hope is nothing more or less than a trusting and childlike Yes! to the Creator, and the faithful certainty that his creation is indeed good.


Van said...

"After all, my first vote was for Jimmy Carter"

'fraid I cancelled you out on that one.

Just finished my breakfast in bed... my first Father's Day short one child (at Lackland AFB), I hope he'll be able to Skype me later.

An interesting world we've got.

Happy Father's Day Gagdad, fellow Raccoon Sire's and especially you new Raccoon Dad's out there!

walt said...

Demosthenes' Rule: "Do not speak unless you can improve the silence."

Pieper improves it. So does One Cosmos.

"...the certain possession of that aspiration that is at once relaxed and disciplined..."

Of great interest to me is that part of myself, which I also see in others, that so often rejects life and experience in a kind of knee jerk reaction. This seems like a pervasive Filter, that quite literally pushes Life away.

No Hope there.

But Pieper gets it right when he says hope becomes a virtue when it refers to the proper Target. In that aiming, and connecting, I can find assent and affirmation -- or as you once said, Ys!

Thanks for the Sunday's post!

Lynn said...

G-Bob wrote: "helps to explain certain well known psycho-spiritual political pathologies of youth, which generally occur when their abundant hope is combined with their lack of wisdom and experience to produce... well, you name it. Obama is only their latest gift to the world. .."

Dennis Prager also spoke of the need for wisdom this past week:

"...Most evil is not committed as a result of unbridled lust or greed. And the sadistic monster who revels in inflicting excruciating pain on other people is relatively rare. Good intentions cause most of the world’s great evils.


"Without wisdom you can be nice and you can be kind, but you will not do nearly as much good as your good heart would like you to do. And you may even do harm."

When Good People Do Bad Things (If you want good to prevail, the key is wisdom, not the heart)

And in 1989:

“Whenever I meet someone who claims to find faith in God impossible, but who persists in believing in the essential goodness of humanity, I know that I have met a person for whom evidence is irrelevant.” ~ Dennis Prager ( Ultimate Issues , July- September, 1989)

And of course, C.S. Lewis had a lot to say about professing Christians that lack wisdom:

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under live robber barons than under omnipotent moral busibodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good, will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." ~ C. S. Lewis

"...And remember who the barbarians are. The barbarians come, Lewis told us, not over the parapet, not carrying their clubs and wielding their weapons, but they come with polished fingernails and blue pin-striped suits, gathering in well-lighted conference rooms. They are the good people who say that they know how to make life better for all of us. ~ C. S. Lewis

Northern Bandit said...

My first Father's Day as a father. Also found out today that our church is converting to the order founded by St. Francis of Assisi.

Somewhere I read that St. Francis is the most widely referenced personage in global literature.

Gagdad Bob said...


I am happy to acknowledge Dennis Prager as one of my most important fathers. More than anyone else, he is responsible for my political conversion.

Lynn said...

G-Bob wrote: "Lynn: I am happy to acknowledge Dennis Prager as one of my most important fathers. More than anyone else, he is responsible for my political conversion."

I know that, as you have stated it many times before. I consider you and he to be among the most important voices for "wisdom" that are out there today.

The Jewish philosopher Philo was a contemporary of Jesus and the author of several philosophical and historical works. Philo calls Wisdom (which he also refers to as the logos) the "image (eikon) of God," refers to the Wisdom of God as the one through whom the universe came into being, and describes Wisdom as God's "firstborn son," as neither unbegotten like God or begotten like men, as Light and as "the very shadow of God." He regarded the logos as one of several attributes of God which he referred to collectively as "powers," with the logos as the chief power in the hierarchy.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, in many ways Philo was a confluence of Greek and Jewish thought, just as the early fathers were vis-a-vis Christianity.

Gagdad Bob said...

In fact, the metaphysical similarities are so striking, that Louth includes a chapter on Philo in his excellent book on The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition.

Gagdad Bob said...

More on the spluttering dope Matthews.

Lynn said...

G-Bob wrote: "In fact, the metaphysical similarities are so striking, that Louth includes a chapter on Philo in his excellent book on The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition."

Thanks for the link - I'll definitely check it out.

Susannah said...

"Pieper improves it. So does One Cosmos."

Amen. This one was beautiful.

Happy Father's Day, Bob and all our dads!

ge said...

I'll have to explore more Prager...Talk geniuses Bob Grant then Maharushie* turned me around---didn't hurt living in liberal bastion where they broadcast from and seeing-feeling its transformation by Giuliani

*whom i started listening to after being informed he had mentioned/played old collaborator K Nomi [his gay news update theme]

Susannah said...

Thanks for the link on Matthews, Bob. I think we found the source of our trolls' talking points! LOL!

Gagdad Bob said...

I think you mean spluttering points. I have to clean the back of my screen every time he spews.

Gagdad Bob said...

Meanwhile, Obama is spending big money to get the young and stupid to hope for him again.

Leslie said...

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads here, especially the new ones!

I hope Bob doesn't mind, but I want to share this about him. Bob is not only a wonderful father to Tristan...a very challenging job but one I'm sure Bob wouldn't trade for anything...but he gave me a do-over with my experience of a father. Just watching them together gave me the blessing of seeing what it would be like to have a loving and kind but strong man in my life, and I've been able to release my awful reaction to my own birth father.

Not to mention, he helped me relate to God the Father in a healthy and positive way. (Sri Aurobindo and Prager also helped me with this.)

Have a wonderful day :)
Mrs. G

black hole said...

Politicains aren't so bad. They are part of the command and control structure of the civilian sector and can be seen as rear-echelon assets.

One needn't pin inordinate hopes on politicians, but then again they are doing a useful and necessary task so are valuable in that sense.

Some politicians could be making more money elsewhere and stick with it out of duty. Schwarzengger and Whitman come to mind. They do not need money or prestige.

julie said...

I can only echo (almost) everyone else today.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Northern Bandit said...

black hole:

That was a reasonable post you made. Not all politicians are blackguards as you say. However I don't think that was Bob's point. What I took to be his point is that it is a mistake to direct our natural capacity for hope on politicians (a great many of whom *are* blackguards in any case) instead of directing it to the proper l-O-cation.

ge said...

ah innocenter times!
"...On your way down to the Gulf of Mexico...."

Susannah said...

Leslie, that's a wonderful testimony. :)

Susannah said...

"That was a reasonable post you made. Not all politicians are blackguards as you say."

Yes, NB. I'll never forget our rep and his family doing our laundry for us while our daddy lay in a hospital in a coma in his final days. Never.

I had a daddy much like Tristan's. :)

Retriever said...

Thanks for this post. I had to laugh at the mention of Commoner (I also went thru a phase in youth of liking what he had to say).

Happy Father's Day, GB, and especially to Julie and her husband and the newest baby Raccoon.

That's cool, NB, about your church's turning to St. Francis. I used to lead retreats for kids in care and you would not believe how those hardened street kids, pregnant teens, delinquents, juvenile druggies, and sad abused little boys and girls were fascinated by Francis. They often were ambivalent about God the Father because so many of them had been pulverized by the absence of a father, or an incestuous one, or an abusive stepfather or mother's paramour, and God had not apparently heard their cries for help and rescue BUT I think this made them respond dramatically to the story of Francis' life. I showed them that lovely sappy Brother Sun, Sister Moon w the Donovan songs (quarter century ago now) and they could relate to the raging father making his kid miserable, and to the traumatized sick Francis wandering lonely as a cloud until he had his vision. That film and the mini series of Jesus of Nazareth did more to awaken faith and devotion in those brutalized and outwardly cynical and sometimes hopeless kids than any sermon, or any church.

GB, I don't understand the hopey dopey appeal of the Zero to young people today. Perhaps it is that so many of their parents have been emotionally absent, or so busy finding themself or amusing themself or whatever that they are desperate for somebody NOT their parents to idealize.

What I remember of my youth was NOT hope in politicians. Having grown up an expat brat, in Latin America, and ENgland, I saw vile fascist governments in Argentina and Brazil that treated their citizens terribly (I kept repeating to myself "Americans are different, we are a city on a hill.") and living and travelling in Europe in the 60s and 70s one saw evidence of wars, religious wars, oppressive elites, a shell of democracy everywhere. The IRA were bombing London and we were all initially frightened of but had learned to despise and ignore terrorists. My sister lived in the Arab world, and I cringed at the way women were treated even in Sin City (Bahrain) and how appallingly the Bahrainis treated their guest workers (Tamils and others in virtual indentured servitude. The Shiites were raising hell and scared the dickens out of me. The rise of radical Muslim groups that hated and fought American ideals of democracy, women's education, religious freedom, etc. made me gloomy about the future.

I idealized America so that was what I hoped in, but it was the Puritan New England of my ancestors and rather different from multicultural America. My English schoolmates had just hammered on me how Americans were racist, stupid, uneducated, and other vile calumnies. When I returned to America for college, I loved the country, the people, but was shocked by the politicians. I can't remember being enthusiastic as a college student about any of them.

My own kids were utterly unimpressed by Obama but they voted for him because they felt that Mcain was too old and they snarkily dismissed Palin as a Barbie and trailer trash. I cringed, but conservatives haven't done a good job of reaching out to young people.

The idea of and the struggle for freedom ought to draw young people. The ideas of adventure, commitment to causes higher than the self, of work and standing on one's own two feet, not being a moocher, etc. which most conservatives hold dear ought to draw kids far more than the politics of victimhood and grievance. It does seem odd that the latter got packaged as hope.

Sorry to blather on so. Forgive such a lengthy comment. I keep swearing off politics because I can't discuss them with the kids without tempers flaring...

Fat Man said...

Put not your trust in princes,
in mortal men who cannot help you.

They will die and be buried, and their plans will be buried with them.

Happy is the man who trust is in Jacob's God, whose hope is in the Eternal One,

Ps 146:3-5

Robert Schwartz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Magnus Itland said...

I had the good fortune to utterly avoid the political left in my youth, however I did not avoid the "spiritual left" of relying on my own IQ to figure out the Truth and my own strength to live it. Needless to say this was not a resounding success.

Spiritual practice without being open to Divine grace is like growing a garden in your cellar.

Retriever said...

Great line, Magnus! And all that thrives in a cellars is dope...back to hopey dopey youth again, especially relevant given our chief Dope.

WWWebb said...


We are of the same vintage.

Where you voted for Commoner,
I voted for John Anderson.

O, the mistakes of our youth!

There are no do-overs in politics.

Best regards,