Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Strangling the Last Nazi with the Entrails of the Last Hippie

Let's talk about the millennial movement I know best: the 1960s!

One way of resolving the complementarity discussed in yesterday's post -- between Is and Ought -- is to collapse one into the other.

For example, one can transform Is to Ought, and be all superego (the conventional conscience) all the time: sanctimonious, judgmental, rigid, priggish; such individuals are easy to identify, because they are narrow-minded, conventional, fearful of experience (or of being), and dominated by the defense mechanism of projection (i.e., they see their own split-off and denied sexual and aggressive impulses in everyone else).

The other way -- which appears "cooler" but is every bit as pathetic -- is to collapse Ought into Is, which comes down to elevating appetite, instinct, and desire to a kind of moral imperative: if it feels good do it, free love, free hate, give peace a chance, give war a chance, etc.

Individuals who engage in this can radiate a kind of infectiousness or allure, as they seem to have solved the problem of limits, and appear to live in a world of instinctual plenty. They can also provoke envy, as if they have the secret of life, and we are somehow missing out on it.

As a brief and possibly banal aside, I spent twelve years working in a supermarket -- often the graveyard shift with no adult supervision -- so I would spend a lot of time idly flipping through magazines such as People or Us. (I was a frivolous fellow and it was a union job, so the man-hours always exceeded the amount of work that needed to be done; in other words, lots of slack.)

One lesson I internalized early on is that things aren't always as they appear to be with these quasi-animal, instinct-driven celebrities living in their infrahuman paradises. Especially over the long run -- we're talking twelve years -- I came upon example after example of bliss transforming to catastrophe. One issue he "has it all" -- money, fame, women, the respect of his peers, a golden future, the perfect relationship -- but a few years later, another issue is devoted to the same person's trainwreck of a life. This confirmed in me a kind of sacred hunch that there was nothing intrinsically enviable about these people. If there was a secret to life, they didn't have it. Or, if they did, it had nothing to do with all the outward trappings.

In Violence and Vision, Mendel has two chapters devoted to the second style of millennial fever, i.e., reducing Ought to Is. Typically we think of millennial thought in conjunction with religion or ideology, but in this case, we are dealing with nature.

Now, it is axiomatic that for man, being in a state of nature is unnatural. In other words, there is no mythical man prior to the cultural matrix that nurtures, preserves, contains, and allows expression of his humanness.

For one thing, man is uniquely trinitarian and intersubjective, and cannot be who or what he is in the absence of others, which automatically introduces a kind of constraint on any notion of "pure being" detached from concern for other persons. Indeed, man can only be himself in openness and intimacy with others (both vertically and horizontally).

Another way of saying it is that for man, the supernatural is natural. Man cannot be man in the absence of the good, true, and beautiful -- without courage, justice, freedom, nobility, reverence, love, and creativity, each of which is a luminous facet of the gemlike One.

Nazism, on the one hand, and the Sixties, on the other, resolved the problem of Is and Ought by creating a magical world of isness, of the celebration of instinct.

Let's begin with National Socialism. What was it, really? Historians have been debating this for decades, but it seems to me that, underneath it all, the key principle is the complete legitimization and institutionalization of violence toward the Other.

Think of war: in war, we are temporarily liberated from the dictates of our superego, and are free to engage in violence toward the other. We are permitted to do things we normally wouldn't dream of, like putting a bullet through someone's head. This is normal and necessary. It is a calling and a profession, i.e., the Warrior.

The same principle is sublimated through violent sports such as football and boxing. But even in non-violent sports such as baseball and basketball, there is still a sublimation of the primitive desire to conquer, dominate, and triumph. It is why boys need sports, whereas for girls it's totally optional. Girls don't generally need an outlet to sublimate their violent tendencies. Rather, girls need to sublimate their inborn ability to hypnotize and seduce, i.e., to dominate and triumph in a different way over the weak. Men and women have different "intrinsic struggles" with their lower selves.

Nazism essentially took the unusual psychological circumstance of war, and normalized it. Of course, the first step is to create a kind of all-powerful enemy, which then paves the way for a severely polarized mentality of "annihilate or be annihilated." In this view, the Holocaust was quite literally a simple case of self-defense. If one isn't the hammer then one is the anvil. There is nothing in between.

"In fascism, the Apocalypse found a philosophy that let it act forthrightly and stop pretending that violence and hatred were really peace and love." It "boldly glorified violence as a noble end in itself. As fascists, those who wanted to hurt and kill could do so openly. Might was Right, not because it served the cause of love... but simply because that was the way nature worked and the way Providence wanted it to work" (Mendel).

Someone else characterized fascism as the violent resistance to transcendence, and this too is a good definition. However, when transcendence is immanentized, the immanent -- nature -- becomes transcendent, as necessarily occurs in metaphysical Darwinism. Thus, it is no surprise that the Nazis rooted their ideas in a kind of twisted and yet literal interpretation of Darwinism, which necessarily regards any Ought as nothing but an Is in disguise, just a pretext for purely selfish genes.

"Since nature's primary, if not exclusive, concern was survival and growth, it was entirely appropriate that those strong enough to prevail in the endless struggle for the scarce prerequisites of life should dominate and guide the species into the future. Only unrestrained and unabated conflict could assure the dominance of the healthiest, the strongest, and, therefore, the best among the species, humans included" (Mendel).

Furthermore, "it was right that the weak die before they harmed the species as a whole by multiplying and thereby perpetuating and spreading their weakness. What could be more 'logical,' 'rational,' or 'scientific?'" (ibid).

Don't wait for a Darwinian rejoinder, because there isn't one. Indeed, the Nazis found abundant confirmation for their values in nature.

That being the case, who would be public enemy number one? That is correct: those bastards who made us all slaves to those fraudulent transcendent values, the Jews. Mendel quotes Himmler, who said that "we had the moral right, we had the obligation toward our people, to kill [the Jews].... you may call it cruel, but nature is cruel..."

And before him, Nietzsche wrote of how "the Jew, with frightening consistency, dared to invert" the aristocratic values reflecting the natural hierarchy of strong and weak, master and slave. Indeed, Jews "gave the world the God of thou-shalt-not," not to mention the value of free will, the preciousness of the individual, and concern for the weak.

That noted bio-ethicist, Hitler, wrote of how "the idea of struggle is as old as life itself, for life is only preserved because other things perish through struggle.... In this struggle, the stronger, the more able win, while the less able, the weak lose." And of all the animals, man alone imagines he can ignore and transgress this law written in nature and in our genes." Thus, "our motto should be -- If you will not be a German, I will bash your skull in." And you don't blame a German for doing this any more than you would blame a tiger for eating a gazelle.

In this upside-down cosmos, life -- raw life itself -- becomes a "Law unto itself." It is divorced from any real value that would imbue it with truth or meaning, and becomes a self-enclosed tautology: "Live intensely, never mind whether the aim or stimulation came came from the 'highest' or 'lowest.'" One might say that Nazism involved a masculine fascism, while in the case of the sixties, it was a feminized fascism.

But just as the vertical doesn't go away just because we collapse it into the horizontal, the masculine doesn't disappear just because it is conflated with the feminine.

Rather, we merely end up with perverse, unnatural, stunted, and inappropriate forms of masculinity and femininity. In the case of men, we end up with wimps or barbarians, while in the case of women we end up with something analogous, for which I haven't yet devised a snappy shorthand.

Note how so many intellectuals were seduced by fascism in the 1930s, just as they were -- and are - seduced by the fascism of the 1960s, right down to our current Dear Leader. Which we will discuss tomorrow.

23 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Rather, girls need to sublimate their inborn ability to hypnotize and seduce, i.e., to triumph in a different way.

A side point, I know, but I don't think I've ever seen it put that way before. Worthy of a future post all by itself, imho...

9/13/2011 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Women who do this generally have a secret contempt for the men they so easily manipulate. They actually long for the "strong man" whom they cannot control in this way, but will run from him. This explains a lot about feminism.

9/13/2011 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, I've known a few women like that. They wreak havoc wherever they go.

In the case of men, we end up with wimps or barbarians, while in the case of women we end up with something analogous, for which I haven't yet devised a snappy shorthand.

"Harpies" always works for me...

9/13/2011 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Madonna and Gloria Allred.

9/13/2011 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

*shudder*

9/13/2011 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Bob says:

"Think of war: in war, we are temporarily liberated from the dictates of our superego, and are free to engage in violence toward the other. We are permitted to do things we normally wouldn't dream of, like putting a bullet through someone's head. This is normal and necessary. It is a calling and a profession, i.e., the Warrior."

I always thought that one of the key points of religion and morality, in general, was that violence = evil.

But that's just me.

9/13/2011 10:15:00 AM  
OpenID nightflyblog said...

The feminine equivalents of wimps and barbarians are Waifs and Harpies. The Waif's plaintative cry is "If you really loved me, you'd..." They are forever fragile, retiring, and swooning, and require rescue from any everyday common unpleasantness. The Harpy is self-explanatory.

In practice, of course, both classes of each tend to meet around the far end of bedlam: a true Wimp is a little tyrant who plots through connivance to destroy anything that opposes his whim. A Barbarian tries this more actively, but is often secretly a terrified soul, stymied by unexpected resistance, and any organized and determined rebuttal (i.e., civilization) sends him scurrying.

Likewise, the Waif is passive-aggressive par excellance. She prefers to use everything around her as tools, rather than launch the attack herself. (She could never stand it if someone thought of her as unpleasant, she'd just DIE, and she can't believe YOU could just sit there and LET IT HAPPEN - what is she doing wrong????) And in the same way, the Harpy doesn't see other people - only objects to smash. But she does so for quite the same reason - actually dealing with people on their own terms, rather than exclusively her own, is too much. She is brittle rather than fragile.

(Julie beat me to "harpy," I see now. The price I pay for being long-winded!)

w/v - "mambrete" - as good a word as any for the androgynous spawn that boys of my generation were told to aspire to become.

9/13/2011 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Nightfly - well said, and good point about the waifs. I knew I was missing something.

JP - violence does not equal evil, anymore than niceness equals goodness. See Nightfly's comment for examples.

9/13/2011 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't think I would regard the waif as a mixture of feminine and masculine. Rather, I would see her as a typical hysteric, who, one might say, is just like a woman, only worse. She is all female, so to speak, with no male input.

I'm not sure what the male equivalent would be of "like a man, only worse." Homer Simpson comes to mind...

9/13/2011 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Oh, right - the unholy mix being the key; I find waifs viscerally annoying, so it's easy to pile on :)

Perhaps a modern version of the Amazon? Female body builders come to mind - not harpies, but more manly than most men...

I was going to disagree about Homer, since he's such an overgrown child, but in some ways I suppose that's exactly the point.

9/13/2011 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, he's as simple as a man, only simpler. I heard one writer say that he's actually modeled after a dog. Which I suppose makes the same point.

9/13/2011 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Hah - that explains so much about his character. Funny.

9/13/2011 10:44:00 AM  
OpenID nightflyblog said...

I don't think I would regard the waif as a mixture of feminine and masculine. Rather, I would see her as a typical hysteric, who, one might say, is just like a woman, only worse. She is all female, so to speak, with no male input.

Yes, and thanks for the clarification. That's exactly the parallel I was after... the waif and the wimp both on the hyper-feminine end of their respective scales, the similarity in behavior and psyche.

Interesting thought about the hyper-masculine male. I wasn't inclined to agree at first (I hate it when typical and innocent masculine behavior is stigmatized as beastly, especially in boys)... but there's something to it, which is why I suppose that such a spiteful charge is made in the first place - it has a small nugget of fact at the heart of it to make it really sting. I'm suddenly reminded of Endiku in the Gilgamesh story.

And I suppose that's one of the further hints about our society having run off the rails specifically in this manner... think of fou-fou handbag dogs, a creature descended from fierce predators now reduced to a sanitized accessory. No freedom to be itself. No basic boring doggy happiness. No wonder so many of them are ill-tempered.

9/13/2011 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, men and women civilize one another in different but perfectly complementary ways.

9/13/2011 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"...the key principle is the complete legitimization and institutionalization of violence toward the Other."

I've seen it as the pardoxical use of hyper-pragmatism as a principle for governance under the direction of a supreme leader. But taking that as a violent assault upon reality, and a desire to reform it to agree with your desires... that may not be far off.

9/13/2011 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said ""Harpies" always works for me..."

Gagdad said "Madonna and Gloria Allred."

Blink. I thought you were talking about women?

[ba-da-bump rimshot]

And what Julie said at the top. Definitely.

9/13/2011 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

JP said "I always thought that one of the key points of religion and morality, in general, was that violence = evil.

But that's just me."

Unfortunately, that's not just you. It isn't a key point of religion, but it isn't just you that thinks it.

Violence is an effect that can follow many causes, it's the causes than might be evil.

If not, then God's got a lot of scrotum collections to explain.

9/13/2011 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

If you will not be a German, I will bash your skull in.

That is incredibly poetic. I had no idea that Hitler was a Union man.

9/13/2011 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Good comments Nightflyblog.

"...The price I pay for being long-winded!"

Ha! (If you don't already, you'll get the full joke soon enough.)

"I'm suddenly reminded of Endiku in the Gilgamesh story"

Yep. Nice to have company.

9/13/2011 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Yeah, that is a seductive philosophy. Reflects the world you see around you, no mystical mumbo-jumbo. Nice and tidy, that survival of the fittest thing. Compassionate emotions are simply weakness you need to overcome.

Anyhow, what was their end game? You conquer the world, wipe out or enslave the weak, you got a bunch of tow-headed ubermenches marching about. Then what? You are definitely surviving. Is it just a matter of maintenece of your superior position at that point?

9/13/2011 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I really don't think they took the analysis that far! There was no, "okay, now what?" That's the nature of millennial thought: you're not in normal linear time.

9/13/2011 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Lee Harris' excellent Civilization and its Enemies goes into this vis-a-vis the Islamists. The purpose of what he calls a "fantasy ideology" is to pretend it could come true, not to actually get there. This also explains the perpetual revolutionary fervor of the left, and why they will never abandon their dysfunctional ideas. The point is to dream, not to actually confront reality.

9/13/2011 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Regarding violence, Romans 12:21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Sometimes the good is a good straight right. Violence does solve problems. Sometimes it is the only solution. If everyone were nice like I am and stayed out of other peoples' business, violence would be unnecessary. But look what the Apostle says in Romans 12:18, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."

As far as it depends on you -- that's all God expects of any of us. What does God require? To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

We eschew violence when we can. When we can't, we try to temper it with mercy. We remind ourselves that we, too, are flawed and apt to err. But, to quote John Wayne as the Ringo Kid, "Well, there are some things a man just can't run away from."

I also like the quote from "The Shootist": I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I expect the same from them.

9/13/2011 12:34:00 PM  

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