Thursday, August 08, 2013

Leftism: An Autoimmune Disorder of Language

The goal of education should be... reality, right? If not that, then what? Fantasy? Obedience? Wish fulfillment? Power?

In his Autobiographical Reflections, Voegelin remembers his first teaching jobs in America, which were at some elite eastern universities such as Harvard. He found the job impossible, because "the ideological corruption of the East Coast" had already "affected the student mind profoundly."

And this was only in the 1940s! Nevertheless, he was prescient enough to recognize that these students -- proto-Obamas -- were already manifesting "the behavioral characteristics of totalitarian aggressiveness" that has become so commonplace today.

Voegelin goes on to describe how these celebrators of tolerance "simply will not tolerate information that is not in agreement with their ideological prejudices." He adds, however, that even they were not as bad as their European counterparts, whose "picture of reality" was "so badly distorted" that they "simply start shouting and rioting if any serious attempt is made to bring into discussion facts that are incompatible with their preconceptions." So I guess community organizing started in Germany.

Seventy five years ago it was still possible to reach at least some of the leftist students by "swamping them with mountains of information." They apparently retained a kernel of common sense, allowing them to recognize "that their picture of reality is badly distorted." It's never easy to turn one of them around and get them to take a look at the wide world outside Plato's Cave, but "at least they begin to have second thoughts."

The key, of course is to retain an open mind -- not just to information, but to transcendence. No amount of information can compensate for loss of the latter, for the same reason that all the quantity in the world doesn't add up to a single quality (just as an infinite number of genetic copying errors doesn't arrive at a single truth, including the self-refuting "truth" of Darwinian fundamentalism).

Meanwhile, the rejection of reality in favor of ideological "second realities" has hardened into institutional form. Thus, the primary job of the academic-media complex is to assure compliance with the needs of political power. As such, to assimilate the ideology is the exact opposite of a liberal education. To make matters worse, since the 1960s, academia has "become dominated by mediocre people who cannot properly resist radical students in debate."

Nevertheless, pneumopathology is easily confused with freedom, for the simple reason that the contemporary truth-seeker must swim against the tide of our debased culture, so freedom appears as labor. Which it is. No one said liberty is easy! If it were, it wouldn't be so historically rare and recent. In any event, "Recapturing reality in opposition to contemporary deformation requires a considerable amount of work."

Another important consideration in the conflation of freedom and bondage is that the ideologue is freed from the persecution of not knowing. But not knowing is the human condition -- and the prerequisite of any form of knowledge -- so to forget our ignorance is to jettison reality.

All nontroll readers of this blog will understand the fundamental lie of the left that freedom is slavery and slavery is freedom: "Anybody with an informed and reflective mind" will find "himself hemmed in, if not oppressed, from all sides by a flood of ideological language -- meaning thereby language symbols that pretend to be concepts..." They pretend to be concepts, but if one attempts to define them, one quickly discovers that they have no fixed content at all, e.g., "social justice," "peace," "tolerance," "diversity," "income disparity," etc."

Or, the content is the opposite of what the term implies, for what could be less diverse and more drearily monochromatic than leftist diversity? What could be more provocative to our enemies and more conducive to global disorder than military weakness?

To paraphrase Don Colacho, the left in whatever form is first and foremost a lexical strategy. They begin by attacking language, so it is no longer possible to even talk about reality. This makes it exceedingly difficult for the conservative, because when he critiques the left, it will appear to the leftist that he is coming from a place of "unreality."

Perhaps we may take solace in the fact that this is not the first time this has occurred, and that it is a constant struggle to find the words and concepts adequate to illuminate reality: "More than once in history, language has been degraded and corrupted to such a degree that it no longer can be used for expressing the truth of existence."

This occurs when language becomes an idol, a tendency which seems to be a permanent temptation to humans -- far more dangerous and subtle than the old tendency to elevate objects to idols.

This has frankly been going on ever since man learned how to speak and write. For example, Socratic philosophy specifically emerged in a climate of sophistry, whereby the clever and cynical Sophist engaged "in misconstructions of reality for the purpose of gaining social ascendence and material profits" (not to mention young boys).

Yesterday we spoke of one of the main tactics of the left, which is to close off certain avenues of thought, i.e., the tyranny of political correctness. This is how the ideologue makes "his state of alienation compulsory for everyone." You know -- everybody's a racist, or we are persecuted by "the rich," or there is a war on women. People have to believe these fantasies in order for the ideologue to wield political power.

As Voegelin has said, ideology is always rooted in a rejection of the first and tenth commandments, or in the promotion of idolatry and envy. The left would be out of business if it couldn't transform words to idols and promote envy as a virtue instead of a sin and a punishment (since, unlike most sins, envy gives the envier no real pleasure).

Out of time. The remodelers are messing with my office again.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

What has Two Legs and Slithers on its Ideology?

Better yet, what do you call a tenured hack chained to the bottom of the sea?

A good start.

That dark yoke is in reference to yesterday's aphorism, that "No one should dare, without trembling, to influence anyone’s destiny."

Which prompted commenter Rick to wonder if this might be "carved into a millstone somewhere" -- recalling Jesus's suggestion that people who spend their lives twisting the minds of children ought to have millstones hung around their necks and be cast into the sea. Which he didn't mean literally, but rather, to emphasize the seriousness of the crime of soul murder, which is analogous to postnatal abortion.

It is ironic that the left conceals the impulse to commit soul murder behind the principle of "academic freedom," when denial of freedom -- which is either spiritual, or it is nothing -- is their explicit goal. For example, my child attends a Catholic school, where he learned by the age of five or so that he always has a choice between alternatives, between good and bad actions.

But for decades, liberals have been seducing children into the opposite view, that behavior is a consequence of circumstances, and that evil (which is relative anyway) choices are simply a reflection of the environment. Conversely, good consists in embracing the correct ideology, irrespective of personal faults.

This is simply Marxism writ small -- the idea that man is a function of his class and nothing more. Again, it is just an attack on the vertical -- on man's intrinsic transcendence -- via ideology.

And it is difficult to defend ourselves from the attacks, for the same reason it can be difficult to defend ourselves from infection by airborne virus: the whole drama is taking place on a scale that is invisible to us.

To take one example, last year conservatives were systematically accused by the media and its political arm, the DNC, of waging a "war on women." Never mind that there is no such war, and that we have no earthly idea what they're even talking about. We still must rouse our defense mechanism -- our immune system, as it were -- and fend off the ridiculous attack.

But defending oneself against a risible attack -- "when did you stop beating Sandra Fluke?" -- risks making oneself appear ridiculous. As Don Colacho says, "The inferior man is always right in an argument, because the superior man has condescended to argue." Thus, in a perverse way, "Defeating a fool humiliates us." On a more subtle level, "Even in opposition to the intellectual language of a time, one cannot help but write in it" (ibid.).

So conservatives are always playing defense, often reduced to using the terms and even the narrative of the left. And since leftism may be expressed with a vocabulary of a dozen words or so -- so long as it is expressed with the appropriate sanctimony, outrage, and hysteria -- it's like trying to be a parent in a world in which children are on the identical level as the grown-ups. This is a world in which reasoned opinion is forced to operate on the same plane as the collective tantrum (e.g., the George Zimmerman show trial).

In other words, the world is drained of legitimate authority, leaving only a vacuum for power to fill. The final common pathway is government by the ungovernable, i.e., people who cannot master themselves presuming to master others (i.e., takers ruling makers). That's pretty much the tipping point, the very eventuality our founders worked so hard to avoid by shielding us from direct democracy, AKA mob rule.

Leftists may be childish, but they are not childlike, the latter connoting openness to the broad spectrum of reality, genuine curiosity, and innocence. It is this that Jesus warns us about messing with. But leftism cannot operate in an open system, which is the real motive behind the attack on religion (i.e., the vertical).

Voegelin has analyzed the "prohibition of questions" that forms the walls around any ideology. Certain conclusions are forbidden, so entire lines of questioning are cut off. We all know how children are forever asking why?, and if we are honest with ourselves, we soon realize that we really don't know -- in other words, children remind us of the mystery that adults can only pretend to have solved.

But after four or five such questions, we soon enough reach the alphOmega point aphorized by Don Colacho: "Everything in the world ultimately rests on its own final just because.” Or in other words, "Metaphysical problems do not haunt man so that he will solve them, but so that he will live them." Indeed, even God adopted this strategy to show us how it's done: in-carnation, not in-doctrination.

Some people predict it will all be over by 2041, when atheism replaces religion. If so, Don Colacho will have been right again, for "There are times approaching in which only one who crawls will be able to survive."

Sounds grim, doesn't it? Not to worry: "The fun consists in gaining a pseudo-identity through asserting one's power, optimally by killing somebody -- a pseudo-identity that serves as a substitute for the human self that has been lost" (Voegelin).

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Trained Beasts and the Modern Multiversity

When I think of the tenured, I think of pomposity and vacuity; or pretentiousness and absurdity. Nor am I alone in so thinking. For example, Nicolás Gómez Dávila -- AKA Don Colacho -- aphirms that "There is an illiteracy of the soul which no diploma cures."

Worse yet, -- think of our Dear Leader, or of the left more generally -- "Formal instruction does not cure foolishness; it arms it."

Yesterday we spoke of the precipitous dumbing down of academia in order to achieve the dubious goal of mass college education (dubious because there can be no such thing as mass excellence). Before World War II, relatively few Americans attended college, and most of those didn't do so in order to secure a job, but simply to obtain a liberal education, or because they were wealthy twits with nothing better to do.

Afterwards a confluence of factors fueled the expansion and influence of the college racket, including the discovery, extension, and exploitation of adolescence, the banning of IQ tests as a condition of employment, and the need to siphon off a flood of workers into the labor pool after WWII (via the GI bill).

Nowadays college is practically a civil right; and like most newly discovered rights, it is really an obligation (of taxpayers) in disguise, nor is it necessarily healthy for the right-bearer. There are obviously forms of education that are healthy, but it is just as likely that one will be harmed by college; at the very least, "for some, college is the beginning of problems with drugs, or drinking, or sex that will cloud their adulthood for years, or even a lifetime."

And the damage to the soul might be worse for the person who doesn't spend four years partying, and who actually assimilates what he has been taught: "if you are a parent who does not hold [leftist] positions, you are not merely wasting an enormous sum of money; you are paying an enormous sum of money to have a college inculcate views and values that are counter to your most precious values and ideals."

In this ponderous book I'm plowing through, there is a section devoted to education. In it, Niemeyer describes five different forms of education, only one of which is truly liberal, i.e., liberating, humanistic, and spiritually expansive.

I don't have time to detail each of them, but the only one that doesn't end up contracting and damaging the soul is the "Socratic," which opens the youth to a sense of wonder, and induces him "to 'turn around,' away from his self-seeking passions, toward the quest for truth and love of the good."

This approach -- without any indoctrination whatsoever, mind you -- "brings the young man to rational examination of the movements that he can experience in the depth of his soul, and thereby to an awareness of a public order congruous with the order of being itself," i.e., of a political order that mirrors the order of the soul, instead of being at war with it.

This is the only order that can be worthy of man (although it can take diverse forms), so to deny it is to not only oppress man, but in a way, to render man impossible. All ideologies, in one way or another, make manhood impermissible. The reign of political correctness is just the latest version, and the "education" responsible for it is at antipodes to the Socratic one just outlined.

Most people who attend college will -- either explicitly or implicitly -- assimilate a political education (or perhaps politicized would be a better word), which is no education at all, because it is rooted in the needs of the state, not in the nature of man.

Elsewhere Niemeyer describes how the western university was an extension of the universality of Catholicism (which of course means "universal"). Thus, the western university "was from the beginning embedded in a universal pursuit of truth, in knowledge as a universal whole." Nothing can be further from this pattern than the contemporary "multiversity" that indoctrinates students into the tyranny of relativism and the formal stupidity of multiculturalism.

Tolerance? Please "The man who says he is respectful of all ideas is admitting that he is ready to surrender." And "Tolerating should not consist of forgetting that the tolerated only deserve tolerance."

Liberation? "To educate man is to impede the 'free expression of his personality,'” not unleash it on an unsuspecting world.

Logic? "The theses of the left are rationalizations that are carefully suspended before reaching the argument that dissolves them."

Science? "Nothing makes clearer the limits of science than the scientist’s opinions about any topic that is not strictly related to his profession."

Proof? "If we could demonstrate the existence of God, everything would eventually be subjected to the sovereignty of man."

Secular materialism? "Only the souls that are made fertile by a divine pollen bloom."

Funny? "It is enough to state a truth in order to make the fool laugh."

Conservative? "Everything of value in the world is out of step with it."

Metaphysics? "Those who reject all metaphysics secretly harbor the coarsest."

Activism? "To one who anxiously asks what is to be done today, let us honestly answer that today all that is possible is an impotent lucidity."

Social justice? "'Social justice' is the term used to claim anything to which we do not have a right."

Faith? "There are arguments of increasing validity, but, in short, no argument in any field spares us the final leap."

Absurd? "Man calls 'absurd' what escapes his secret pretensions to omnipotence."

What about The Children? "No one should dare, without trembling, to influence anyone’s destiny."

Your god, the state? "The modern state is a teacher who never grants his students a degree." And "The liberal always discovers too late that the price of equality is the omnipotent state."

(All of those pungent aphorisms courtesy Nicolás Gómez Dávila.)

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.