Reality and its Alternatives, Philosophy and its Apes
There's no getting around this conclusion, but it doesn't make one a Gnostic in the bad sense of the word, any more than noticing physical illness marks one out as a quack.
Think of an extreme case, say, Solzhenitsyn in the USSR. He was able to diagnose the sickness there because of his extreme sobriety, because of his refusal to be seduced by illusions, and because of an overriding and courageous love of truth for its own sake.
In short, he simply practiced philosophy against ideology, or light against darkness, or truth against force.
Voegelin writes of how a good deal of contemporary politics -- because it is dominated by ideology -- "belongs to the class of surrealist phenomena," completely bypassing the "great philosophical initiatives" of the 20th century (he mentions Whitehead and Bergson, to which I would add Gödel and Polanyi, since those two alone obliterate any reductionistic fantasies of scientistic control). Instead, public modes of cognition are "dominated by thought forms widely differing from philosophy" as defined above.
For ideology in general and the left in particular, violence -- or power, which is simply implicit force, i.e., threat -- takes on a central importance. Voegelin suspects that this is because, in the radically secularized mind of the ideologue, "violence has become an instrument of magic, meant to achieve the alchemistic opus of the perfect society."
It's not that one must break a few eggs in order to make an omelet. Rather, for the ideologue, the egg-breaking is a magical operation that results in the manifestation of an omelet. And the fact that no omelet appears just makes them try harder. Maybe they just didn't break enough eggs -- which basically describes Keynesian economics, doesn't it?
Again, think of an extreme case such as Nazis, who believed that if they only murdered enough Jews, this would result in the magical transformation of Germany. Recall that many more Jews were killed after the war became clearly unwinnable -- as if killing a sufficient number of Jews and other "contaminants" would please Wotan enough to turn the tide.
This principle is echoed in George Gilder's wonderful Knowledge and Power, about which we will no doubt be blogging at great length. The key error of the left is concise enough to be printed on a bumper snicker: the attempt to replace knowledge with power, or truth with coercion.
It would be difficult to imagine a more perfect example than Obamacare, which starts with the insane conceit that it is possible to understand a system as complex as the healthcare industry, and to impose a top-down replacement for the infinite amount of information -- of personal knowledge -- dispersed throughout the individuals and institutions involved.
It cannot be done. It is impossible in principle -- but only if one thinks philosophically. If one thinks ideologically, it is a different story, for "ideological faith makes all things possible." With one caveat: In. Your. Dreams. (Or maybe the dreams from your Marxist father.)
There is so much good stuff in this book. I'll just cite one example. Gilder points out that public employee unions actually learn more slowly than tapeworms, because at least tapeworms are intelligent enough to usually not devour the host.
Living as I do in California, I know this statement to be not just fine insultainment, but a truism beyond refudiation. I'm sure Detroiters feel the same way, as will all Americans when the fiscal deal finally goes down -- which it must, on pain of revoking the law of gravity.
In fact, for people living in Realville, it is a source of solace to know that what cannot go on will not go on.
Oh, this is good: Gilder uses the term "deteriorating paradigm" to describe one that becomes more complex to account for its lack of explanatory power.
Think of global warming, which adds epicycles to inepticycles within klepticycles to account for the simple fact that the globe ain't warming.
Back to the surrealism of ideology. I'm not sure that is the best word, since sur-real implies above reality, when the problem is its failure to ascend to reality. Therefore, "subreal" would be a more accurate term. "Homosexual marriage," for example, cannot be surreal, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.
Rather, it is subreal, a failure to ascend to the disturbing knowledge of sexual differences -- which the left must deny a priori, since the last thing they want is essence trumping existence; if it does, then people cannot be shoved around like bags of wet cement in order to impose their perfect society.
When philosophy and ideology are conflated, "and man tries to overcome the condition humaine by imagining alternatives to it, then we get into the real trouble of the revolutionary activities" (Voegelin). Nevertheless, "people succumb, again and again, to the magic of ideological intoxication" and the consequent revolt against human nature.
For which reason it is a crime against humanity to intoxicate children with ideology, as is done in our public schools and looniversity bins. For the assouls
"who abet this baleful activity, whatever role they play, and at whatever level, should be reminded of Plato's dictum: 'To corrupt the spirit of young people is to commit a crime that ranks just behind that of murder itself.'"