The Transformative Fantasy of Leftism
For example, if Marx and Engels had simply behaved as good Jews or Christians and "defended the interests of the industrial workers without having let themselves be carried away by their intoxicated imagination" (ibid.), then their ideas wouldn't have been so apocalyptically destructive. After all, every normal person wants to help the poor and needy, but it is axiomatic that helping the human animal while killing the human soul is not the best way to go about it.
Further, as Schuon commented, "Progressivism is the wish to eliminate effects without wishing to eliminate their causes..." To paraphrase him, the leftist wishes to make himself as useful as possible to a collectivity which renders the individual as useless as possible. Thus, measured in terms of the number of useless people he has enabled (i.e., wards of the state), Obama has been our most indispensable president ever.
What is worse, the left always couches its so-called empathy for the downtrodden in fantastically broad and sweeping generalizations of historical "and even cosmic significance, such as the statement that God does not exist, that all religion is only the 'opium of the people,' [and] that all ideology is only a superstructure on the basis of material interests" (MOTT). UF wrote that in the early '60s, but it is no different today, with the intoxication that fuels and pervades the Obama campaign:
"What we hear from Obama is the eternal mantra of the socialists; America is broken, millions have no health care, families cannot afford necessities, the rich are evil, we are selfish, we are unhappy, unfulfilled, without hope, desperate, poverty stricken, morally desolate, corrupt and racist. This nihilism is the lifeblood of all the democrat candidates.... When Michelle Obama claims she is only newly proud of her country, she does not exaggerate. In her world as in Obama's, they believe we are a mess, a land filled with the ignorant and unenlightened, filled with despair" (Fairchok).
As UF writes, it is always a "matter of excess -- a going beyond the limits of competence and sober and honest knowledge" -- and no leftist doubts his superior competence, knowledge, and intentions -- "having been carried away by the intoxicating impulse of radicalism, i.e. by a fever of the will and imagination to change everything utterly at a single stroke."
It is this fever dream of sweeping existential change that animates the left no less than the Islamists. As Lee Harris has written, a fantasy ideology such as Islamism is obviously not a rational response to the world, arrived at in a logical, sober manner. Rather, it is a transformative belief, meaning that its primary purpose is to psychologically transform the person who believes the fantasy.
In other words, belief in the fantasy is an end in itself -- it has no purpose other than to make the fantasy seem like reality, as if it might actually be true. Looked at this way, the real reason for 9-11 wasn't actually to bring down western civilization, which is not going to happen (unless we do it to ourselves as a result of our own fantasy ideology). Rather, it was for the Islamists to deepen their trance and make the fantasy seem more real.
It's the same with leftist economic policies, which don't just fail, but backfire. They cause all sorts of unintended consequences that the leftist never connects to the original policy -- e.g., how the welfare state eroded the structure of the black family, how racial quotas inevitably harm blacks, how rent control causes housing shortages, how subsidizing higher education simply drives up the cost, how nationalized health reduces quality and leads to rationing, how forcing banks to make bad loans to unqualified people was at the epicenter of the meltdown of 2008, etc.
The irony is that socialists aren't even good socialists. In this piece at American Spectator, Kaminsky notes that if Obama is really interested in helping the poor and disadvantaged, he's going about it in an entirely counter-productive manner. But if socialism is just a transformative belief for leftist, then actual success is entirely irrelevant. Rather, the only relevant factor is whether the leftist feels more secure in his delusions of magnanimity, compassion, and generosity.
As Kaminsky suggests, let's give Obama the benefit of the doubt and not go all conspiratorial, imagining that his destructiveness is intentional. It's tempting to think it is, but "sometimes incompetence is just incompetence." However, I would add that incompetence is not just incompetence if it is impervious to feedback from reality:
"After all," writes Kamnisky, "the people Obama most claimed to want to help, namely the lower rungs of the American income ladder, are stuck in a swamp of the president’s creation with only more punishment in sight. Median household income has plunged under this president, with a devastating 11 percent drop among black Americans. Obama has indeed redistributed our money: to unions, bankers, and political donors. He’s not even a good socialist."
Except that he's a great socialist, if we regard socialism as a transformative fantasy, not an actual theory of reality. Looked at this way, success for socialism is measured by the intensity of belief in it, and Obama's faith shows no signs of wavering. Rather, he is more pompous, smug, and condescending than ever.
Now, UF explains that the virtue of temperance protects us from the intoxicating counter-inspiration of radical fantasies -- including religious fantasies, which are not actually religious but manmade. As such, it is foolish to blame God or religion for things that emanate from the lower vertical in man.
UF makes the subtle point that one cannot engender a positive collective mind parasite. This is related to the principle that the mind parasite is an effect of "congealed" or "coagulated" psychic energy. As a result, it always "enfolds," whereas the good radiates. The former is an inward, contracting movement, whereas the latter is an expansive, radiant movement.
This may sound overly abstract, but we are all familiar with the intellectually and spiritually closed world of the left, whether it is their elite university campuses or the op-ed page of the New York Times. If you pay close attention, you may be aware of this "inverse radiation," which feels like an attack on the intellect. There is no resonance at all, only a kind of psychic vampirism.
Now, why did people respond to, say, Ronald Reagan? For the opposite reason -- the radiant positive energy which citizens were able to perceive directly. This only became more apparent when placed side by side with Jimmy Carter's withered and constipated presence.
I suppose the only novel thing about Obama is that he is selling the same constipation, but with a shallow "celebrity radiation" that one must be intoxicated (or just stupid) to appreciate. Indeed, as Fairchok writes,
"That is his appeal; he is [ironically] an actor, a performer, a cinematic presence that stirs simple emotions, emotions that have little grounding in truth. His speeches are the inane lyrics to a popular song that endures only because it has a great beat. One must not think too deeply on what Obama says, for it turns to smoke and disappears in the light of day. Ezra Klein is correct [see the bottom of yesterday's post], Obama's speeches do not inform, they pander, they propagandize, they harmonize with the mythology of despair and the chimera of entitlement. As his hagiographies proclaim, he represents a new Camelot, but one that does not hold America quite so precious, a Camelot of globalists, moral relativists and communitarians."
Now, how to drive out a demon? Easy. But hard. The easy part is that "Light drives out darkness. This simple truth is the practical key to the problem of how to combat demons. A demon perceived, i.e. on whom the light of consciousness is thrown, is already a demon rendered impotent.... A demon rendered impotent is a deflated balloon" (UF).
The hard part is that the institutions that are supposed to throw a little light -- i.e., the media-academic complex -- instead cast an intense beam of darkness. I suppose our best hope is that the left will be so successful in implementing their fantasies, that their destructiveness will finally be undeniable to a critical mass before it's too late.
Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes, not divine, but demonic. --Pope Benedict XVI