Obama: Postmodern, Post-Literate, Post-Reality
Similarly, communism and fascism were and are anti-ideas bearing no (truth) relationship to reality. But this hardly renders them any less destructive. Rather, most of our really serious problems are a consequence of the rigorous application of anti-ideas by anti-intellectuals.
The anti-idea is not the same as a mere bad idea, just as the anti-intellectual can be quite intelligent, brilliant even. Everyone has bad ideas, and life consists in either honing one's ideas or establishing more effective ones.
The anti-idea, however, is purely reactionary, in that it is always rooted in a hostile rejection of, and attack upon, reality. In short, instead of being a tool to understand reality, the purpose of the anti-idea is to omnisciently vanquish reality and replace it with an ideology.
The anti-idea is usually held unconsciously and for unconscious reasons, which makes it all the more difficult to detect and eradicate. Right now tenurmites could very well be eating away at the foundation of your intellectual edifice, but you won't know unless you check.
Bad ideas are subject to testing and rejection, whereas anti-ideas are like conspiracy theories, in that no amount of evidence can refudiate them.
Rather, the mind of the conspiracy theorist operates exactly like that of the paranoid, in that contradictory evidence is converted to evidence of the conspiracy. If you disagree with a paranoid, he finds a way to either include you in the conspiracy, or else will roll his eyes and dismiss you as hopelessly naive, as in Don't you know that anyone who disagrees with AGW is bought and paid for by the oil companies?
On to the editorial, after which we'll try to weave it all into Foucault, Sartre, Derrida, Nietzsche, and ultimately back to Voegelin. This will be like making grand rounds in a vast mental hospital, so I don't know how far we'll get today.
"President Obama spent his formative years in academia, so he's no doubt familiar with postmodernism, the literary theory that rejects objective reality and insists instead that everything is a matter of interpretation and relative 'truth.' At any rate he's running the first postmodern Presidential campaign, now organized almost exclusively around allegations about his opponent that bear no relation to the observable universe."
Thus, in the anti-world of the Obama campaign, "Mr. Romney is to blame because of decisions he didn't make at a business he didn't run that may or may not have set in train a series of random unconnected events many years apart that included Ilyona Soptic's illness. Even more culpable is the butterfly in Peking that flapped its wings and forever altered the course of history."
Likewise, for Nancy Pelosi it is a fact that Romney didn't pay taxes for ten years. Why? Because the well-known pedophile Harry Reid "made a statement that is true. Somebody told him. It is a fact." Pelosi gives tautology a bad name.
In other words, Reid asserted "with zero proof that Mr. Romney got away with paying no taxes for a decade, which is 'true' because he says an anonymous investor called to say so. If the food inspectors ever went by Reid-Pelosi evidentiary standards, we'd all be dead." (That last line is a gag, but note again that the rigorous application of such an anti-idea does lead to death and destruction.)
The bottom lyin' is that instead of tryin' to persuade anyone to vote for him based upon his own record, Obama is simply inventing an alternate reality. But this is what postmodernism "does." If you are, say, a greedy feminist who wants more money and power to which you are not entitled, you invent the myth that women are paid sixty cents to the dollar in comparison to men. It never seems to occur to them that if this were true, it would be insane for a greedy corporation to ever hire a man.
We need to waste a little more time discussing the theories of postmodernism, lest you be tempted to think I'm merely exaggerating or being uncharitable. For one thing, I know I'm not being uncharitable because I once believed these sorts of things.
"Believed," however, is probably too strong a word. Rather, I simply assumilated them in the course of four -- okay, eight -- years of college and seven years of graduate school. In Kimball's phrase, they were simply part of the "ambient pollution" of academia.
Once you accept this context, then the most outlandish pile of steaming academic braindroppings becomes plausible.
In his discussion of Derrida, Kimball reminds us that his ur-idea is that "there is nothing outside the text." This is a fine example of a LIE, which, if assimilated, ends in the destruction of reality: psychic, spiritual, and physical. For the phrase is "shorthand for denying that words can refer to a reality beyond words, for denying that truth has its measure in something beyond the web of our language games." In this defective way of looking at the world, there is no objective reality, just the endless play of signifiers.
One of the seductive things about this mental pathology is that it is half-true even though all false. As we have been discussing vis-a-vis Voegelin, man indeed lives in the "in between" space where meaning is constantly being discovered and sometimes tossed aside. Within this space we are oriented to truth, which provides both its ground and telos. The deconstructionist simply tosses aside the ground but preserves the search.
But what is a passionate search with no possible object or destination? Yes, you could call it insanity.
Like any other insanity, deconstruction "is an evasion of reality." For the same reason, it is "a reactionary force," because "it hides from rather than engages with reality" (Kimball). But again, the evasion is never benign, because there is always an implicit attack "on the cogency of language and the moral and intellectual claims that language has codified in tradition" (ibid).
Once one is freed from language, one is also emancipated from the rigors and demands of truth, reality, and virtue. It's more than a little like being Adam in the Garden, but imagining that the outcome will be different, because this time Adam is prepared to smite God with the Molotov crocktale of deconstruction.
At the time, I was still in the clutches of the tenured, still breathing the polluted air of academia. Being that Foucault was so famous and so acclaimed, I just assumed that he was important and that I needed to understand this brilliant man. Indeed, Miller describes him as "perhaps the single most famous intellectual in the world." As such, it would be an anti-intellectual faux pas to ignore him.
I don't know if I still have the book. I may have inflicted it upon the library. Let me nose around the Closet of Forbidden Works, where the ghosts of oldbob are hiding.
Nah, can't find it. Which is too bad, because I wanted to see what sorts of things he highlighted, which would have been a kind of snarchaeological dig into the ruins of my former belief system. It would have also answered the riddle, when is a highlight a lowlight?
Remember what we were saying the other day about the need to find one's "idiom" in order to articulate and elaborate the self? Well, Foucault believed just the opposite: he kept the idiom but threw out the self (again, there is only the free-floating text that refers to nothing outside itself): "I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same..." (Foucault, in Kimball).
Okay. But why should I read you if you are nobody writing about nothing?
You know the left-wing cliche that everything is about power? Foucault seems to be the one who put it into heavy circulation, for "He came bearing the bad news in bad prose that every institution, no matter how benign it seems, is 'really' a scene of unspeakable domination and subjugation..." (Kimball).
This is how feminists came up with the idea that being married or being a housewife is "oppressive," or how the Jesse Jacksons of the world came up with their conspiracy theory of "institutional racism," or how California should really be a part of Mexico, or how AGW skeptics are tools of the oil companies, etc.
For someone who saw malevolent powers under every bed, Foucault sure seems to have been a sucker for malevolent power, so long as it was on the left: "He championed various extreme forms of Marxism, including Maoism; he supported the Ayatollah Khomeini," and wondered "What could politics mean when it is a question of choosing between Stalin's USSR and Truman's America?" (ibid).
What indeed. Just flip a coin, I guess, since oppression is oppression.
A key principle here is the difference between (n) and what we will call (-n). (n) is an empty symbol I use as a placemarker for experiential spiritual knowledge. But there is also invalid spiritual experience, or pseudo-spiritual experience that is sought by people who have rejected the reality of the spiritual.
As it so happens, Foucault was all about this specific form of experiential knowledge. Kimball suspects that this was a big part of his appeal as an "academic guru," and I believe this is quite correct. Certainly this is the sort of thing that appealed to me back in the daze of oldbob. I went in for all that counter-cultural stuff: Leary, Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), Watts, McKenna, anyone who seemed way out there but also seemed clever and witty about it.
For Foucault, man's future was being revealed to us via "the recent experiences with drugs, sex, communes, other forms of consciousness and other forms of individuality. If scientific socialism emerged from the utopias of the nineteenth century, it is possible that real socialization will emerge in the 20th century from experiences" (in Kimball).
Which only proves that no amount of (-n) leads to O, and the attempt merely leaves one jaded, burned out, cynical, and bereft of any saving innocence; for such a person has simultaneously seen nothing and too much.