Monday, August 05, 2013

TV and College: Shielding the Soul from Reality for 60 Years

What went wrong with America, whereby we could end up with such an anti-American president -- by which I mean someone who clearly doesn't accept the principles upon which the nation was founded, but who uses the legitimate institutions of power for illegitimate ends?

A president as far left as Obama would have been impossible fifty years ago (by today's standards JFK would be called conservative), so we have to ask ourselves what has changed in that period of time in order to make an Obama possible -- or worse, inevitable.

Dennis Prager has cited television and college (i.e., unprecedented numbers being indoctrinated in leftist seminaries) as the main factors, and it is interesting that Voegelin noticed the same trend -- only 60 years ago. For example, nailing Obama's type in 1954, Voegelin describes the students

"who are too dopey ever to find out, by their own powers, that something is wrong. Once they have gone through the process of college and graduate school, they are sufficiently brainwashed and morally debased to hold their positions with sincerity, and for the rest of their lives will never have a critical doubt."

In short, Obama is our first president who wasn't only immersed in the nutty ideologies of the left, but who actually believed and assimilated them -- hack, loon, & sphincter. Somewhere in his development an irony curtain descended on his mind, and the resultant absence of critical distance becomes the gateway to authoritarianism. For the leftist, the closure to reality always provokes the totalitarian temptation. In other words, they know the truth. It's just a matter of forcing others to accept it.

Of the mass media that made -- and makes -- Obama possible, Voegelin wrote in 1956 of "communication as intoxicant": "The spread of media mass communication... can be used as an essential indicator of the destruction of the personality. For only people whose personality is already deeply corroded will use these media as regular intoxicants....

"For me, the worst damage of mass media is not the impairment of 'morality' but the destruction of personality through intellectual confusion and vulgarization. The solution would seem to lie, not in the improvement of mass media, but in the development of alternative occupation for people who nowadays have so much time on their hands."

That's a good point, because the average American fritters away, what, 34 hours per week plugged into the matrix? This means 1) that Americans have an astonishing amount of slack, but 2) that they have no earthly idea of what to do with it. Hooked as they are to the ideological matrix, they simply become the LoFo rabble, the Mass Man who ratifies his own spiritual death via politics.

As a member of the most (over)educated generation in history, I am astonished at the utter absence of skepticism about college exhibited by my fellow boomer parents. If anyone should be cynical about the benefits of college, it should be someone who was warped by it, but again, it seems that the vast majority of these dopes have never stopped to even wonder about it.

But not only is it possible to obtain a liberal education outside the walls of academia, it has pretty much become the only way. As Voegelin wrote in 1956, "Obviously Plato and Shakespeare are clearer and more comprehensive in the understanding of man than is Dr. Jones of Cow College." And certainly Dr. Krugman of an ivy league college and a bull newspaper.

"Hence, the study of the classics is the principal instrument of self-education; and if one studies them with loving care..., one all of a sudden discovers that one's understanding of a great work increases... for the good reason that the student has increased through the process of study -- and that after all is the purpose of the enterprise. (At least it is my purpose in spending the time of my life in the study of prophets, philosophers, and saints.)" Amen to that!

In other words, the purpose of a liberal education is liberation, not in the modern sense of being liberated from human nature, from standards of decency, and from reality more generally, but in the sense that the truth sets us free, i.e., expands our subjective horizons instead of contracting them via ideology. And all ideologies contract this space, from feminism to scientism to Darwinism.

We cannot know reality exhaustively. Rather, we can only participate in it, within the luminous space of the subjective horizon. "And participation is impossible without growth in stature toward the rank of the best; and that growth is impossible unless one recognizes authority and surrenders to it."

Or in other words, if you are not constantly seeking out and surrendering to someone better than you, what are you doing here?

Well, you're probably some tenured hack who believes that all knowledge is historically conditioned. For who profits by such shameful idiolatry?

"The answer is obvious: the spiteful mediocrity which hates excellence. The argument of historical relativism is the defense of the little man against recognition of greatness."

Obama, for example, can criticize the founders for not being Marxists, so "the discomfort of discovering and admitting one's own smallness before the great is averted; and above all, the obligations arising through confrontation with greatness have disappeared."

And behind this dynamic of "personal viciousness that puts social strength" -- or political power -- "into historical relativism, there lies the much larger issue of the revolt against God and the escape into gnosticism."

TV and college: shielding the soul from reality for 60 years.

22 Comments:

Blogger ted said...

Coming out swinging for a Monday! I like it. But 34 hours a week is a lot of wasteland. I know I am getting caught up by the second Golden Age of TV these days: Breaking Bad, Homeland, House of Cards, etc. but balancing it out with the great thinkers to contemplate. Having the "purpose in spending the time of my life in the study of prophets, philosophers, and saints" resonates deeply with me too.

8/05/2013 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger katzxy said...

TV, at least a lot of it, kills neurons faster than booze.

8/05/2013 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

If One Cosmos was a TV show it would be called Breaking Good. :^)

8/05/2013 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Looks like an interesting new book about global warming hysteria, The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse.

8/05/2013 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Strange science that can predict the future but not the past or present.

8/05/2013 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Leslie said...

I didn't push my two eldest homeschooled children to go to universities. They were academically ready, but, had other interests. They are both well employed, conservative and have retained their faith. I would say they are both better educated, and certainly have more common sense than their college friends. I took some grief not insisting that they go to a university, but, know now, we did the right thing. I saw a facebook "poster" the other day, that said, "Damn, everything I learned in college is now on the internet for free!"

8/05/2013 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

Charles Murray has some interesting data to consider in his book, Coming Apart. He sees the separation of America into enclaves. Didn't Bill Whittle say something similar in his long essay on "Tribes"? It didn't happen by accident, that's for sure.

8/05/2013 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

There are many traditionalists out there ( for example, Chestertonian distributists) who are just as critical of contemporary conservatism as they are of leftism. These folks seem to take the position that "the problem" is rooted in classical Liberalism itself- that modernism contained the seeds of secularism and nihilism right out of the gate. Seraphim Rose argues this perspective in his book "Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age" which is a pretty interesting read.

8/05/2013 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

Bruckner locates the predecessors of today’s ecological catastrophism in Catholicism’s admonishment to give up joy in the present for the sake of eternal life...

I see some Catholics jumping on the alarmist bandwagon, but it sure isn't because they're pining in hairshirts for the courts of the Lord in the great hereafter. What could Bruckner be talking about?

8/05/2013 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Probably a French thing.

8/05/2013 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Funny, I saw that line yesterday and said to myself, "eh, maybe this book's not for me."

8/05/2013 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It seems that French intellectuals nearly always disappoint....

8/05/2013 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

There are many traditionalists out there ( for example, Chestertonian distributists) who are just as critical of contemporary conservatism as they are of leftism.

I'm almost as critical of contemporary conservatism as I am leftism. I'm a big Chesterton fan but remain cool toward distributism. How about some left-alone-ism? I'd prefer it to be voluntary lest we have to resort to home-alone-ism.

"Bigness" and consolidation is failing. Like a drowning Chris Christie, it may take a lot of us down with it, but I don't think it last much longer than a decade or so.

8/05/2013 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

French intellectual that might not disappoint!:

"Inner Experience" is a kind of self-martyrdom, a 'written performance of the text', as Irwin calls it, but it is essential to understand that it aims at results - at a kind of conversion of the reader that can happen only insofar as the reader in turns lives the experience the book incarnates.

How extraordinary that this book, Bataille's first full length publication by a major publisher, comes out in the early years of the war! 'The date on which I begin to write (September 5, 1939) is not a coincidence. I am beginning because of the events, but not in order to talk about them': the first line of Bataille's Guilty, which followed Inner Experience into print. What, then, does he talk about? Mystical experience, apparently - a kind of inner war (even if the notion of interiority is called into question), wherein Bataille writes 'with my life', keeping open what Irwin calls 'a laceration of consciousness' - a 'wound' Bataille offers others 'as the basis of an obscence and "intoxicating" communication'. And it is this wound that he offers as an alternative to the civilisation that has revealed itself in the real war around him. A wound - a style of living, of writing, a 'mystico-literary self-stylisation', as Irwin calls it, whose writing has taught him, 'I am not a philosopher, but a saint, maybe a madman'.

A saint, a madman - it would take such a non-philosopher to show how the war was also a response to this wound (not Bataille's, of course, but one that constitutes human existence); that what appears to be politics has, in fact, a religious and aesthetic dimension.


He's the ginchiest

8/05/2013 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Magister said "Charles Murray has some interesting data to consider in his book, Coming Apart. He sees the separation of America into enclaves."

We began to come apart when the progressive push in education began, approx 1800 (begun by many well meaning members of the Founders Era, such as Dr. Benjamin Rush & Noah Webster). We began to come apart because the stories which formed and defined and unified and lifted up the Western mind - Homer, Virgil, and the Bible as well, not long after - were pushed out as slightly embarrassing & fanciful stories which 'had no real scientific value', in favor of more factual essays and productive pursuits, which they felt promised to make the process of education more efficient and productive.

But a People without common stories, are merely peoples separated into various enclaves of convenience, geographical or ideological.

What they didn't anticipate, was that a people who have no stories to guide their souls... will have little to interest them, outside their own narrow and flattened urges. For such peoples, that Education, which those who set us on this path had still wanted for them, only quicker, and easier, one that was,

"...In other words, the purpose of a liberal education is liberation..."

, became, as a result of their education, just another thing keeping them from satisfying their urges. Souls too. Bother.

Again, a very strange thing which makes promises for a future that it can't deliver a thing towards realizing in the present.

Luckily for us, those who do want to pursue a real Education, can easily obtain the means of doing so, downloading free of charge, an entire library full of books, onto their phone or tablet, and connect with others around the world with an interest in discussing and debating the ideas within them.

It is a strange new world... 'the best of times... the worst of times'.

8/05/2013 09:03:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

what is the food that when
you eat it you become it
rather than it becoming part of you?

8/06/2013 12:37:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I only watch TV for the articles.

8/06/2013 04:02:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Rick, lol

8/06/2013 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

"We began to come apart when the progressive push in education began.."

Some conservative thinkers would push that back to 1789 or, in some cases, back to the middle ages with the rise of nominalism (Richard Weaver).

As far as "common stories" and a Western national consciousness goes, I suspect that the liberal would say that alterations in our historical/cultural canon is simply the reflection of changes in the racial/ethnic fabric of our "nation".

The "moral imagination" of the left seems to be abstract and ideological- not particular and cultural. But, I think that the liberal would say that these "principles/abstractions" (like "liberty") IS the American culture.

I'm moving more and more to the view that leftism is something of a Christian heresy- an anti-Tradition with universalist pretensions.

8/06/2013 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Chris said "Some conservative thinkers would push that back to 1789"

Well I'm working on my brevity, meaning, I'm trying to refrain from my tendency to include everything involved, up to and including triple functional redundancy for the kitchen sink... but... without trying to pretend that people were ever perfect prior to this issue, I push the actual fault back specifically (and deliberately) to Rousseau, and generally to Descartes.

"As far as "common stories" and a Western national consciousness goes, I suspect that the liberal would say that alterations in our historical/cultural canon is simply the reflection of changes in the racial/ethnic fabric of our "nation""

That's because at root the proRegressive sees ideas not as philosophically true (or false) depictions of reality, but as racial, ethnic, class based, gender based, etc, preferences for how one group prefers to remake reality in their own image.

And anyone who sees a culture's "common stories" as simply stories, with no relation to either its ideas or reality, is living in a fantasy world themselves.

"I think that the liberal would say that these "principles/abstractions" (like "liberty") IS the American culture."

Liberty IS the American Culture, politically and philosophically speaking, which is to say, to see Liberty as being anything other than that, is an anti-American view.

"I'm moving more and more to the view that leftism is something of a Christian heresy- an anti-Tradition with universalist pretensions."

Leftism/ProRegressivism is philosophically wrong, false, an assault upon what is True, because it is true, and therefore it will be found to be false and heretical in any true venue you choose to view it from.

8/06/2013 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Clearly, liberals and conservatives have very different understandings of liberty.

I think the key point is to recognize the difference between the freedom to choose the good versus to choose the good freely.

Digression. There are two groups that I think are fascinating anomalies- secular conservatives and religious liberals. Case in point, I was amused with this comment by a left wing Christian-
"If you don't want tax dollars helping the sick and the poor, then it's time to stop saying that you want a government based on Christian values."

8/06/2013 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Bob, You have written what I believe to be true.

Linked here: http://bobagard.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-truth-sets-us-free.html

8/06/2013 05:50:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home