Monday, July 23, 2012

Penetrating to the Core of Leftist Rot: Rules for Ridicule

This brief blast (unfortunate choice of terms for a Unabomber victim -- let's say righteous rant) by David Gelernter touches on some of the matters we've been discussing lately. As lucid as it is, it cannot penetrate to the core in the way Voegelin does, for he is still operating in the realms of fact and opinion rather than the Truth beyond which there can be no truther (although the book, America Lite, no doubt takes the argument deeper and higher).

For it is not sufficient to be conservative and therefore "correct" about this or that public (and private!) policy. Rather, this correctness needs to be grounded in something much deeper, otherwise (among other problems) it will have the tendency to merely provoke -- and even feed -- its reactionary opposite among leftists, who may not know much, but at least know who they hate.

There is a kind of conservatism that is in perpetual duality with the left, another kind that flies above -- and below -- it. (In other words, it is both transcendent and immanent, whereas leftism is pure "middle range," which renders it absurd and ungrounded.)

This is why (lower case) reason is powerless to explain how Obama remains politically afloat; and "even more surprising than his political super-buoyancy is the resurrection of big-government, 1930s-style economic thinking in the Democratic party long after it was taken out with the trash along with Jimmy Carter, and once more (for good measure) after Gingrich smashed Clinton in the ’94 midterms. The failure of central planning and state-managed economies is one of the big themes of the 20th century. But Obama’s handlers have yet to tell him" (Gelernter).

Why would they? They don't know it either (the tenured? Of all people!), plus he'd refuse to believe them anyway, just as is true of at least half the citizenry. And anyone with a financial interest in the status quo will be impervious as well -- the millions of state employees, bureaucrats, public school teachers, state college administrators, and other assorted dependents and rent seekers; and more generally that half of the population that is able to tax the other half for what it imagines is a lifetime of free lunches.

Even so, these people are motivated as much by creed as they are by greed. Human beings are not only epistemophilic, but cannot help "loving" the truth. Anyone is susceptible to living a lie, but almost no one willingly does so. Human beings are oriented to the good, true, and beautiful, so even when they aren't, they convince themselves that they are.

As Gelernter observes, "You might think that Obama makes a poor intellectual: he doesn’t seem to read; ideas evidently mean nothing to him. But notice that he governs on the basis of theories and not facts. And he graduated from Columbia and Harvard. Case closed" (emphasis mine).

Here again, these are not theories in the way you or I would understand the term, i.e., disinterested maps of reality, always subject to feedback and revision. Rather, the PORGIs discussed by Gelernter -- POst-Religious Global Intellectualistas (or Gnostic Internationalists) -- by the very nature of this designation, have converted their ideology to a religion rooted in faith and sentiment (which is an insult to the latter; instead, let's call them stupidity and emotion).

It's also an insult to religion more generally, because it implies that leftism is just another religion, like any other. First of all, in not recognizing itself as such, it is intrinsically confused about where it is coming from and to where it is going. For religion has to do with "ultimate reality" as such (O), not dogma per se, which can only be "O once removed," so to speak.

It is bad enough that the left doesn't understand this, but at least it has an excuse (i.e., an anti-intellectual climate of elite opinion that ordains materialism, reductionism, and scientism). There is no excuse for religious conservatives to get this wrong, for doing so is in direct violation of universal commanishad (or upanishalt) #3, which has to do with engaging in the kind of empty and vain pneumababble that makes God look stupid (see p. 235).

For when God and religion look stupid, this legitimately fuels the misgodded epistemophiliacs of the left, because even they know that truth, whatever it is, can't be stupid. The left feeds on this stupidity to build up their illusory intellectual superiority and self-righteous amoralism. But for every Voegelin, there are a thousand or more Joel Osteens who teach the same wish-drenched "prosperity gospel" as the left, minus most of the envy, hate, and scapegoating. Which is a start...

But it nevertheless reduces God to a banal horizontal cause on the same level as any other material or efficient cause. As Voegelin explains, "The modern reader, unless he is an expert in metaphysics, will have difficulty understanding" the principle that divine causation "does not have the meaning of cause which the modern reader associates with it."

For it is not the horizontal cause-and-effect of the natural sciences, but rather, the type of vertical causation that obtains in any hierarchical structure in which the lower is derived from the higher.

Religion "takes place" in this vertical space between...

I need to pause here for a moment, in order to introduce some symbols into the mix. We all know about O, which is simultaneously the "top" and "ground" of the vertical hierarchy. This form is definitional; it cannot be surpassed, but it can, of course (and must be) filled with the content of religious experience.

One might say that this vertical space is everything, for it is where existence becomes "self-luminous," irrespective of creed. The instrument of this luminosity is symbolized (¶). I think this is fair, because we can all agree that (¶) exists, even if our metaphysic cannot account for it. But whether one is religious or secular, this Light -- this illuminated space we call consciousness -- is again everything. It is why science illuminates so much, even if it can never illuminate itself on its own terms.

"Illumination" is in many ways indistinguishable from transcendence, because there is Light, but also someone who needs to witness it. These two -- witness and Light -- are of the same substance, which is to say, Truth. This is why something like, say, doctrinaire Darwinism, cannot possibly be true, since it has no rational basis whatsoever to affirm the truth of anything, let alone everything.

In short, if man is pure contingency (instead of partaking of the substance of Light and Truth), he has no access whatsoever to the necessary -- to the absolute, the universal, the eternal.

The point is that man both "spans" and "inhabits" this vertical space that runs from O to what we symbolize Ø. Critically, Ø is not to be understood as "falsehood," or as a kind of "opposite" of O. Rather, it only becomes falsehood -- even the essence of falsehood -- when conflated with, or elevated to, O.

To cite the most obvious example, the Darwinian referenced above begins (without admitting it to himself) by reducing O to Ø, and then concludes that Ø is all there is. But if this statement is true, it is obviously no longer Ø. Rather, it is coming from the mysterious vertical space -- the vast realm of potential enslackenment -- between O and Ø.

Thus one of Petey's Rules for Ridicule of the left: To deny slack is to steal it.

Sorry we didn't get too far, but I'm running late. We'll continue tomorrow.

11 Comments:

Blogger Skorpion said...

Joel Osteen, you say?

7/23/2012 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

So true. Jesus was obviously unaware of the prosperity gospel, or he wouldn't have been a poor carpenter, which was the least of his troubles.

7/23/2012 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The first Joel Osteen.

7/23/2012 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

For when God and religion look stupid, this legitimately fuels the misgodded epistemophiliacs of the left, because even they know that truth, whatever it is, can't be stupid.

This is such an important point. Whenever atheists pull out their objections to "sky fairies" or compare god to a flying spaghetti monster, they are both reducing the non-understood truth to stupidity, then objecting to the stupidity. It strikes me as very similar to the tactic of dehumanizing an enemy (for instance, in the way that that Palestinians mischaracterize the Jews) in order to make it not only acceptable, but ultimately necessary to destroy them.

7/23/2012 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, then you render a legitimate impulse illegitimate. It's one of the keys to the left, e.g., "looking out for the little guy," or women, or blacks, or whatever. If that's what one truly believes they do, why wouldn't one be a leftist?

7/23/2012 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I guess the state does help the little guy. Become littler.

7/23/2012 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The state helps those who help themselves. To other people's money.

7/23/2012 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Funny and painfully true...

7/23/2012 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

But it nevertheless reduces God to a banal horizontal cause on the same level as any other material or efficient cause

What a giant step forward it would be if people understood this. At the most banal level, it would mean that Americans would never elect another demagogue -- other than once in a while for entertainment value.

If Deepak had a Christian son, he would look like Joel Osteen.

7/23/2012 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said...
I guess the state does help the little guy. Become littler.

"But it's shrinkage!"

7/23/2012 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Rather, the PORGIs discussed by Gelernter -- POst-Religious Global Intellectualistas (or Gnostic Internationalists) -- by the very nature of this designation, have converted their ideology to a religion rooted in faith and sentiment (which is an insult to the latter; instead, let's call them stupidity and emotion)."

Aye. The left has more faith in sentiment than they do in truth or even faith itself.

Quite an insult to put that much faith into the (b)anal!

7/23/2012 10:15:00 PM  

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