Friday, November 14, 2014

You Can Learn A Lot From a Political Sociopath

About the authoritarian liberal bullshit machine (which is as close to perpetulant emotion as we'll ever get): Green writes that "when language becomes dislocated from truth, some power or set of powers other than truth is at work."

And among other things, it is always a narcissistic power -- or must partake of pathological narcissism -- since it sets the self over and above the truth it is designed to serve. It renders one superior to truth, something that is actually impossible in principle, since there can be nothing higher than truth. Therefore it is an absurdity.

It turns out that Milton was on the case four centuries ago, observing that when language "becomes irregular and depraved," it is followed by the "ruin and degradation" of the people, who become "listless, supine, and ripe for servitude." Low-information, servile, dependent -- when the left talks about its "ground game," these are the medullards it needs to rouse from the couch in order to support their masters on election day. Then they can go back go sleep.

But we can of course go back even further, since Christianity revolves around this question of Word and embodied truth. Words ultimately matter because the Word is en-mattered.

Two forms of corruption may enter language, one in the space between words and reality, another in the space between speaker and listener.

Note that modernism put the kibosh on the first, while postmodernism eradicates the second. In other words, Kant says we cannot know the world, only our own ideas about it, while Derrida and the rest of the postmodern rabble say we can't even do that -- rather, only issue words about words about words, in the absurcular conspiring fraud known as tenure.

Green references our good friend Josef Pieper, who says that "sophisticated language, disconnected from the roots of truth.... invariably turns into an instrument of power."

I've mentioned before that working with severely mentally ill patients can offer insight into the workings of the relatively sane, because they have the same mechanisms we do, only hypertrophied and distorted, e.g., splitting and projection. No doubt Pieper gained insight into the everyday pathologies of language by observing the Nazis up close.

If one is not guided by truth, then to what is one oriented? This question implies a telos to thought, but here again modernity has cut us off from this path. To insist that such a path exists is to exile oneself from the powerworld of the left.

Recall the two spaces, between person and world, and person and person. If there isn't truth between person and person, then what? Whoever "is guided by something other than the truth," writes Pieper, "no longer considers the other as partner, as equal. In fact, he no longer respects the other as a human person."

Which brings us right back to Jonathan Gruber and ObamaCare: he acknowledges that the Obama administration lies to us because we are stupid. But it's really the other way around: they first contemptuously deprive us of our personhood ("bitter clingers," and all the rest), then exert power over us, being that the lie is in the service of the greater end of power. "Such speech," adds Pieper, is "in contradiction to the nature of language," since it "intends not to communicate but to manipulate."

Remember, in our nation, ultimate power resides in the citizenry. Therefore, every time the state lies to us, it is for the purpose of transferring some of that power to itself.

Or in other words, the Obama administration cannot speak the truth, for it would empower the citizenry over and against the state. Gruber is absolutely correct that ObamaCare could never have passed under such circumstances of transparency and allegiance to truth (and reality).

And of course, the left destroys the human person at its very conception -- both literally and figuratively. The rest, you might say, is commentary. Which is to say, words about words, no longer grounded in the reality of the logos-infused person.

Politics also takes place in a space -- the space between citizens and state. Yes, there is power in this space, but the powers are enumerated, limited, and, most importantly, derived from the consent of the governed.

What if this space is filled with lies instead of truth? Then there is a total inversion, as the state then functions to exert its power to enforce a false and deviant version of reality. Instead of illumination and liberation, language is deployed for the purposes of "manipulation and domination."

The bottom line, since I'm short on time:

[T]he abuse of political power is fundamentally connected with the sophistic abuse of the word, indeed, finds in it the fertile soil in which to hide and grow... so that the latent potential of the totalitarian poison can be ascertained, as it were, by observing the symptom of the public abuse of language. --Josef Pieper

The credo of the left: come for the lies, stay for the power.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Two Roads Diverged in a Wood, and I Chose Authoritarian Liberal Bullshit Forever

Liberal compassion lends itself to bullshit by subordinating the putative concern with efficacy to the dominant but unannounced imperative of moral validation and exhibitionism. --William Voegeli

Probably the most serious domestic problem we face is the existence of this pervasive liberal bullshit, which is really just Christian bullshit in disguise; or a hollowed out Christianity that leaves only empty gestures of "peace on earth and good will toward all mankind." If this had been a Buddhist, or Muslim, or pagan country, no doubt the bullshit would have a different flavor.

Liberals and conservatives generally have similar notions of what it means to "be a good person," and these notions are rooted in our Judeo-Christian heritage. There is no politician, for example, who advertises a disinterest in, or lack of compassion for, "the poor."

This may have nothing to do with the actual poor, but rather, with upholding the Christian image: liberal bullshitters "are more concerned with conveying their ideals, of which idealized understandings of their true selves are a central component, than with making statements that correspond scrupulously to empirical or causal reality."

Thus, the typical liberal program "might actually work to some degree, but any such efficacy is inadvertent and tangential to the central purpose: demonstrating the depths of the prescriber’s concern for the problem and those who suffer from it, concerns impelling the determination to 'do something' about it."

One of Obama's problems is that he confuses the politician's tactical but empty gestures of compassion with coercive prescriptions that are supposed to actually be effective in the real world. In other words, he seems to believe everything he learned in college, whether it is about central planning, or "white privilege," or America's destructive role in the world. He is cynical about everything but his own bullshit.

There are only three ways to gain real knowledge: authority, reason, and experience. Experience and reason -- or sad history and sober common sense -- prove the inefficacy of liberalism, so it must ultimately root its appeal in authority (which is enforced via shame-inducing social mechanisms such as political correctness).

Yesterday I watched a bit of Hardball while exercising, and there was an outlandishly arrogant roundtable segment devoted to ridiculing conservatives over global warming. All four individuals are utterly convinced that a thing called "science" is in unanimous agreement about the issue, when this is not only demonstrably false, but slowly moving in the other direction, as more and more informed people reject the theory.

The Christian too believes in authority, but not to the exclusion of reason and experience. Rather, the opposite: just as we do not believe in a God who created a deceptive world, we do not believe in authoritative climate models that have not only failed to predict the future, but can't even retrodict the past.

As mentioned yesterday, science cannot function outside a wider context; it cannot be its own context without generating intellectual absurdities and human cruelties. In other words, it cannot be only human without becoming subhuman.

No, we don't mean this in a polemical way. For example, a strict Darwinian by definition reduces the human to the animal, and the animal to something less. That is, his first principle is not "life," let alone "person," but rather, copying error + environmental selection.

Green agrees that "science can live and prosper and develop only when it is related to a larger understanding of reality -- that is, only within a certain vision of the nature of things." But modernity essentially is a science "severed from its origin" and divorced from its foundation in a more comprehensive and integrated worldview.

Or, one could say that the separation occurred with modernity, the divorce with postmodernity. This means that the accumulated wealth of community property had to be divided and assigned to each side. Science was granted custody of truth, while the humanities were given beauty, and compassion handed off to the "social sciences."

But unfortunately, the latter two cannot flourish in a single-parent household, for beauty without truth redounds to hedonism, deception, or banality, while benevolence without truth leads to the idiot compassion of liberal bullshit.

"When you remove beauty from the human equation, it is going to come back in some other form, even as anti-beauty. A good deal of modern art can be understood in this light. In modernity, beauty has been seen as an appearance -- ornamentation, sugar coating. Secularists and believers alike have either rejected beauty altogether or argued that beauty should make the pills of truth and goodness go down easier" (Wolfe).

And what is truth violently wrenched from its sister transcendentals? I don't know. Maybe like an endless Hardball roundtable, or authoritarian liberal bullshit forever.

A Christian understanding of the intellectual life must take into account -- contrary to the typical modern understanding -- the inherently moral nature of knowledge, the way knowledge is linked to the heart and will of the knower... --Bradley Green

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Principle Wonks and Policy Wankers

One irritating term that needs to be retired is "policy wonk." Have you noticed that everyone who is described as one just happens to be a liberal idiot?

I think this is because it is analogous to being a tree wonk and thereby systematically missing the forest. What we need is more righteous principle wonks. Ronald Reagan is an obvious example of a principle wonk: freedom, low taxes, strong defense, limited government, etc.

Obama is often described as a policy wonk, but, like Reagan, he is and always has been a principle wonk. It's just that his brand of ideological wonkery champions false and deviant principles: income redistribution, expansion of the state, weakness abroad, racial grievance, feminist penis envy, climate change, illegal immigration, etc.

I'm guessing that so-called wonks on both sides start with principles (either explicit or implicit) and then find the data they need to support them. Which is unnecessary if you simply begin with the correct principles, and let reality take care of the rest.

For example, we don't need a study to prove whether, say, equality before the law is a good idea. Even if someone were to come up with data showing it to be a harmful idea (for example, because it provokes envy of people who accomplish more with their freedom and equality), we still wouldn't reject it.

But for several decades now, the wonkers of the left have been busy eroding the very principles that uphold our civilization, under the guise of "policy." They then elevate policies to principles, which renders them incapable of thought (because they are excluded from the ground of reality).

To cite an obvious example, marriage is perhaps the most important pre-political principle of civilization. Until just a couple of decades ago, no one considered it to be in the realm of political policy. Even if someone showed us data suggesting that it isn't harmful to deprive a child of a mother and father, we would reject the whole idea on principle, because it is self-evidently loony (not to mention in defiance of biological reality).

The minimum wage is another example. If one understands the principle of supply and demand, then it is impossible to be fooled into believing that an increase in the cost of labor will have no effect on its demand.

Likewise socialized medicine: it does not work because it cannot work. Why? Among other reasons, because it destroys the information necessary to rationally calculate prices and thereby allocate scarce resources. No amount of government benevolence can replace the information it destroys through socialism, because, for all practical purposes, the amount is infinite (and certainly unknowable by any human being or group of human beings).

An economy is an infinitely complex, self-organizing, information processing organism. The ham-handed, truth-destroying, visibly grubby hand of the state sees to it that prices cannot reflect costs, which creates further distortions from which the state then proposes to rescue us. Same deal with the college bubble. Subsidization by the state increases demand, which increases cost, which calls for more subsidization.

In The Gospel and the Mind, the author demonstrates how the abandonment of Christian principles leads directly to intellectual insanity. This no doubt sounds polemical, but the insanity is here, and it has a rational explanation. It didn't "just happen." Rather, it happened because certain principles were abandoned and others adopted.

Beginning at the beginning, we must ask ourselves if the human mind is capable of knowing truth. If it isn't, then there can be no rational principles at all -- or no rational reason to put our faith in them.

To put it another way, we must inquire into whether it is possible for our minds to be "saved." As Green writes, if we are redeemed by Christ, then this must include the whole man, including the intellect. I would go further and say that, since the intellect is what truly defines man and sets him apart from the animals, then salvation bloody well better include it!

What is the alternative -- that Christ redeems our bodies but not our minds? No, that is the way of the left: the so-called "sexual revolution," for example, liberated the body (as if it can be isolated from the person). How did that work out? Any time a leftist uses the word "liberation," it's time to reach for your revolver, because your intellect is being liberated from your soul, in preparation for your power being liberated from your person and your money from your wallet.

The state not only has a vital interest in our being unable to think things through, but in denying access to the very principles that make this thinking-through possible. Or just say public education. If you don't believe me, then believe the refreshingly candid Jonathan Gruber. An honest liberal could never do all these wonderful things for to us.

A public, secularized education deprives us of the overall vision whereby knowledge finds its proper place. Absent this hierarchical vision, knowledge can just as easily become demonic, or even just sterile, and certainly dis-organizing.

As Green writes, the Christian vision of God, man, and cosmos "provides the necessary substructure, or precondition, for meaningful and enduring intellectus (understanding)." This doesn't necessarily mean our principles are correct, but it does mean that they are explicit and consistent.

These principles touch on ontology (the nature of being), on anthropology (the nature of man), and on epistemology (the nature of knowledge). Is a liberal politician ever explicit about his principles? If he is, then he cannot be consistent -- and certainly not electable -- which is why he doesn't go there.

"Without certain key theological realities and commitments," writes Green, "the cultivation of an enduring intellectual and cultural life becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible." Of note, this does not imply that the left is beholden to no "theological realities and commitments." Rather, we just have to find out what they are, because these strange gods will explain the falseness -- and resultant dysfunction -- of everything else about them.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

You Shall Not Turn Theft Into Compassion

So, we're out in the bewilderness with the unholy trinity of tempter, temptee, and temptation. It's a true mirror image of reality, because, as in the Trinity, nothing here is forced. Just as God only "offers" his love, so too does the Tempter only offer the temptation. He always respects our free will, otherwise, where's the sport? So in this sense, Satan is not as destructive to our dignity as is the state.

The first temptation is, of course, to turn stones into bread. There is an excellent analysis of this in Meditations on the Tarot, which I'm sure we have discussed in the past. Let's see if I can track it down...

Well, there is this:

"'Lead us not into temptation' has obvious resonance with Jesus' forty days in the desert, just after his baptism. If baptism is the 'purification,' then temptation is the test of purity.

"And as we have discussed before, the adversary never forces the issue; he does not operate through coercion, like some mid-level government functionary, but through temptation.

"Temptation is the test of purity, and purity is the victory over temptation. The purifying 'fire' that occurs in the space between these two poles is our phoenishing school, allowing us to make ashes of our former selves.

"Temptation is etymologically related to stretch, so that it implies a kind of centrifugal pulling of ourselves outward, from the center to the periphery, from coon-centration ("coon central") to dissipation. The world itself is a giant test, an opportunity to challenge our ability to resist its seductions."

Then there is this:

"Appropriately, the temptations all ultimately flow from the violation of the first Commandment, in which God is pushed aside 'as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying' (Benedict).

"With this primordial (vertical) act, man inverts the cosmos and places himself at the top.... Doing so redounds to countless errors of every kind, e.g., cognitive, spiritual, philosophical, political, scientific, moral, etc.

"This cosmic inversion cannot fail to result in epic falls, for no house can be built upon sand. In replacing God with man, we necessarily replace truth with opinion, virtue with convention, and wisdom with tenure."

Now, the promise to turn stones to bread is the central promise of the left. It even has a technical name: the Keynesian Multiplier, whereby one can simultaneously feed the masses by stealing from them; it may be visualized as a vast circle of human beings, each with his hand in the next guy's pocket. Or perhaps using a bucket to remove water from one end of the pool and pour it into the other end.

As we expressed this infallible truth back then,

"One popular way to try to turn stones to bread is through the apparatus of the welfare state. In its case, it attempts to transform money obtained through coercion into compassion. But the state has only enumerated powers, not innumerable feelings." Or in other words, it mainly has a feeling for power. To paraphrase someone, when a liberal politician asks us for power to do good, it's usually wise to subtract those last three words.

Bottom lyin': The liberal fuses magical faith and raw power with an irony so thick that his own mind cannot penetrate it, so the self-deception -- the auto-pullwoolery -- is complete, and the totalitarian temptation is able clothe itself in mercy. (See, for example, Jonathan Gruber's candid acknowledgement that it was necessary for the state to lie to its stupid citizens in order gain the power to control their healthcare.)

Yes, for the statist, taxes are his eucharist and entitlements his benediction. His appeal to "progress" is likewise an empty gesture in a world deprived of hierarchy. For how does the materialist measure progress except in the form of more and bigger stones?

Which generations to come will carry on their backs, trundling around in fiscal circles. Americans will still be paying for Obama's stone soup long after we're all gone.

Obama's temptation in the political desert went like this: "if you are truly the One, then transform this stolen pork into prosperity!" Might as well try to turn the bacon back into the pig.

(Sign yoinked from American Digest)

Any materialist has failed the first test of spirituality -- or "temptation in the wilderness" -- which is to not attempt to turn stones into bread, or quantity into quality. For in so doing, the materialist inevitably reduces bread to stones, or life to death, spirit to matter. We are left with only stones, so there is "nothing left to eat," speaking metaphysically. And with nothing to eat, there is no way to grow into spiritual manhood. --That Would Be Me Again

Monday, November 10, 2014

Miracles Under the Reign of Quantity

It seems that Jesus' first temptation is food, being that he fasts for forty days and nights while undergoing the other Big Three. This number, according to Benedict, is not arbitrary, but has symbolic resonance with Israel's forty years of wandering in the bewilderness and Moses' forty days on Mount Sinai, and perhaps even Abraham's forty days on the way to Mount Horeb, where the sacrifice of Isaac was to take place.

It can admittedly be difficult for we moderns, who live under the Reign of Quantity -- not to mention Obama's IRS -- to appreciate a more playful approach to numbers. Think of all the numbers that convey a qualitative meaning; in fact, now that I think about it, numbers one through nine all have highly symbolic resonance, and now that I think about it a little bit more, quantities must stand for concrete qualities or else they are just airy and abstract platonic nothings. Math is just a highly symbolic language, but it's still a language.

The early Fathers, according to Benedict, "regarded forty as a cosmic number, as the numerical sign for this world. The four 'corners' encompass the whole world, and ten is the number of the commandments." Multiply them and we have "a symbolic statement about the history of the world as a whole," which "Jesus takes into himself and bears all the way through to the end."

Even before the specific temptations comes the trash talking if you are the Son of God... This is like Bill Maher-level trolling: if your God is so great, why doesn't he prove it to me? It also previews the later mockery of "If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!"

Well? Is there any truth to the charge? On the one hand, one might well ask: is this any way for a God to appear in history? No, it is not. It is probably accurate to say that no human being would have anticipated or even fantasized about it occurring in such a seemingly feeble manner.

However, this obviously cuts two ways, because it emphasizes that no human being would have concocted such a counter-intuitive script. Why? What would be the point? It seems to be the very opposite of what anyone would have wanted or thought they needed.

This "demand for proof is a constantly recurring theme in the history of Jesus' life; again and again he is reproached for having failed to prove himself sufficiently," and clearing up any and all ambiguity about his identity and mission -- in short, for having failed the Bill Maher test.

The other day, the Happy Acres Guy made a passing comment to the effect that (I'm paraphrasing) a "miracle" is not a cause, but a consequence, of faith. Seen with the eyes of faith, all sorts of things suddenly appear as miraculous. Conversely, seen through the eyes of a corrosive cynicism, nothing is miraculous. Everything just is what it is, and couldn't be otherwise. For such a person, a miracle is a priori impossible, so even if one were to occur, it would be explained away.

Indeed we know this is true, because contrary to the sacred dogma of the Reign of Quantity, existence is a non-stop miracle. Once one starts believing this, then the knowledge follows -- you know, give me faith that I may believe. It's just we are so conditioned by the modern world to not think in this way. But imagine the ancient mind, which had no such difficulty.

Now admittedly, it is entirely possible that they overshot too far in the opposite direction, regarding as miraculous things that have banal scientific explanations. But this doesn't undermine the principle that miracles not only can occur, but must occur, given the fabric of reality.

Fabric of reality? You mean physics? There you go again, trying to reduce quality to quantity! You really must stop doing that. Abstractions are fine, but don't start with them, rather, start with the real world.

I would also say that the miraculous is at the edge of articulation. The typical infertile egghead conflates the linguistically mappable world with the world itself, and therefore excludes himself from the miraculous. Much of Christian dogma is designed, so to speak, to prevent this constriction from occurring, because it can in no way be "contained" by the mind or by language. The "unexpectedness" of Jesus is just one example of this.

As usual, Schuon has some very helpful things to say on this subject. The miraculous, he writes, is "an interference of the marvelous in the sensory realm." And I say, if this weren't happening all the time, the world would be a rather boring place indeed. Even the fact that it is not boring is evidence of the miraculous. In other words, from where does all this novelty, creativity, and upside surprise come?

How did life appear out of matter? Consciousness from biology? Truth and beauty from monkeys? "This phenomenon has in itself nothing mysterious or problematical about it: the so-called natural laws of a lower degree of Existence can always be suspended through the intervention of a higher degree, whence the perfectly logical term 'supernatural'" (Schuon). "Scientists," he adds, "confuse the miraculous with the irrational and the arbitrary."

In other words, what is natural on one level might be supernatural on another. Looked at this way, from the standpoint of mere physics, biology is supernatural. It is trans-physics, just as the human person is trans-biology.

Thus, each "degree also has its laws, which means that the miracle is 'natural' on the universal scale, while being 'supernatural' on the earthly scale." Assuming there is a scale above the human, then from its perspective, the miraculous vertical ingressions herebelow are quite "natural," as natural as when an artist decides to create something beautiful. Which is to say, supernatural.

In Eric Metaxes' new book on the subject, he points out that the Greek word for what we translate as "miracle" is sign. Thus, in the words of Schuon, "The purpose of the miraculous phenomenon is the same as that of the Revelation which it accompanies or as a result of which, or in the shadow of which, it is produced: to elicit or to confirm faith."