Friday, September 04, 2015

Ye Shall Be As Frauds

Ideas have consequences. But for the left, fanciful consequences -- what they want -- give birth to ideas.

Which wouldn't be an issue if the consequences were possible, or if we had sufficient information to bring them about, or if life didn't involve tradeoffs.

No worries! The left's fatal conceit knocks down all three in a single stroke.

In short, liberals don't like the idea that the dispersed, local, and tacit knowledge in a spontaneous order far exceeds what is available to any centralized regulocracy. They don't know that in principle, what we can never know dwarfs what little we can know at any given time.

So there's that.

Ever notice that inequality exists? I have. So what? Since liberty and equality vary inversely, absence of equality shouldn't be surprising in, of all places, the freest nation in history.

But since liberty is an "absence," they don't notice, much less value, it. Rather, they simply fill that space with envy, or resentment, or auto-victimization, or some other malevolent psychic presence.

"How," asks Conquest, "is equality to be attained?"

How else? By robbery, only legalized and entrusted to third parties. But doesn't this create a permanent class of unequal robbers? Yes, but four bureaucratic legs good, two free market legs bad.

Here's a whole book devoted to this sorry subject, American Contempt for Liberty. A note to myself says "prosperity foregone is invisible" -- as invisible as freedom forgone, the one following from the other.

As we've been saying, what animates the left is the truism that "capitalism fails miserably when compared to heaven or utopia." But give the left credit: their vision is idealistic. It's only the outcome that's tragic. Conversely, the classical liberal conservative has a tragic vision. It's only the outcomes that are ideal.

"Prior to capitalism" -- and after, as it so happens -- "the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering, and enslaving their fellow man." But with the rise of capitalism, "it became possible to amass great wealth by serving and pleasing one's fellow man" (Williams).

Harry Reid and Barack Obama have become wealthy men in the process of displeasing me and millions of others. In turn, they are at war with those corporations that bring me nothing but pleasure, prosperity, and a long life, e.g., oil companies. "There are literally thousands of examples, such as wonder drugs, vacuum cleaners, and refrigerators, of how the common man's life has been made better by those in pursuit of profits" (ibid.).

And what has been given to us by those in pursuit of equality? Again, a permanent bureaucratic class of unequals that promised to end poverty in a generation. Two or three generations later, the poverty level is identical, but the bureaucrats are happy, and the left is pleased to have this permanent class of venal Democrat supporters.

To paraphrase Williams, unlike capitalism, government is a way to pursue self-interest without causing a good outcome. Call it the invisible hand of inefficiency.

We're getting far afield. Back to Conquest. For the revolutionary, it is "in the nature of things that dictatorship and terror are needed if the good of humanity is to be served." Conquest cites the analogy of Aztec priests, who were needed to rip the hearts out of living persons in order to prevent the sun from going out.

Remember this next time the Democrat priesthood howls about what will occur of there is a Government Shutdown! For that matter, think of the billions of dollars funneled to the climate priesthood on pain of being incinerated by the sun god.

I remember in the 1980s, how the world-class assoul Tip O'Neill called Reagan a cold and evil man with "ice water in his blood," and who had no concern for working Americans. Yes, only 20 million jobs created during his tenure in office. In contrast, Obama, who loves the working man, has the lowest workforce participation in history.

O'Neill was a hateful man, but like all leftists, cloaked the hatred behind an idealistic Luv for the Little Guy. "Like all paranoiacs, revolutionists legitimized hatred, which they practiced effectively. They claimed to legitimize it in the interests of humanity..."

A Karl Marx was a thinker and a writer, but only on the surface. Like Hitler, he was primarily a hater, and everything else follows from that.

Conquest cites Dostoyevsky, who wrote of how "'causes' are attractive... because they provide an excuse for behaving badly." As in war, the restraints of the superego are lifted, such that the most primitive impulses are unleashed and legitimized.

Here is a quote from Norman Cohn, written some 35 years before the rise of the Obama cult:

"There exists a subterranean world, where pathological fantasies disguised as ideas are churned out by crooks and half-educated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when that underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures, and dominates multitudes..."

But exactly what "is the mental material into which they insert their ideas, like certain wasps into certain grubs?"

Those of us who were immune to Obama's charm can't answer that question. Rather, only a recovered ideolater could explain what the hell happened to his grubby psyche. But in any event, "intelligence alone is... far from being a defense against the plague," for where would Obama be without the state-academic complex and the MSMistry of Truth?

Let's try to end this post on an optimistic gnote by shifting over to Barron. Surely there must be some good news.

In chapter two, he explains how much we can learn from atheists and other crackpots. For example, they precisely "clarify what the true God is not," and therefore "expose and implicitly undermine new forms of idolatry."

By extension, the left never stops teaching us what is not real, what is not true, and what is not worthy of our respect and reverence.

In reality, we cannot "know" God per se; rather, we can only know a relationship, for "The human being is a relationship to the God who is continually making and shaping him; essential to the good life is an acceptance of this state of affairs," because your life cannot possibly be good if it is not conformed to the true.

"At the heart of original sin, therefore, is the tendency toward self-creation and self-deification and the concomitant refusal to be shaped." Again, that fraudulent serpent in Genesis is the first leftist.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

The Will to Paradise

Continuing with yesterday's theme of how to resolve and overcome our pathological and destructive solutions, Conquest reminds us that "the huge catastrophes of our era have been inflicted by human beings driven by certain thoughts."

Therefore, we need to expose these thoughts, but also inquire into why they are so darn appealing. For clearly, the appeal doesn't lie in their being true or effective, but in some deeper wish.

Conquest asks "How did these mental aberrations gain a purchase?" And "Who were the Typhoid Marys who spread the infection." Marx? No, he caught it from Hegel. Hegel? Nah, he had influences that go all the way back to Plato. Plato?

Well, Popper certainly thought so, but he didn't get Plato's esoterism or irony. Still, we could say that Plato misinterpreted is a consistent disease vector, as described in The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization.

But the real problem, as always, is man. There is something in human nature that is prone to detach itself from the Real, which is what Genesis 3 has been trying to warn us about for 3000 years. Any and all destructive ideologies will repeat the archetypal pattern laid out therein.

What are some of the characteristics of this archetypal booboo? I would say that it results in a vertically closed system, or a system closed to the transcendent Other; that it absolutizes the relative, or elevates the finite to the infinite; that it displaces relationship with division; and that it severs complementarities and elevates one side to the ultimate (examples of irreducible complementarities include part-whole, man-God, time-eternity, subject-object, substance-form, etc.).

Most of the particular ideological pathologies flow from these initial errors. For example, everyone believes in paradise, but the sane among us understand that it cannot be attained in this world.

The leftist refuses to believe this, and uses the inevitable flaws of the world -- the world not being heaven -- to justify the drive to utopia. Thus, the world as-it-is becomes one unending excuse to for the revolutionary to destroy -- to "fundamentally transform" -- the world.

This results in countless broken eggs but still no omelet. Therefore, more eggs must be broken. No, it is not a sustainable exercise, because you eventually run out of other peoples eggs.

In France we see the first revolutionary non-omelet and anti-paradise, "in the sense of the complete destruction of the existing order, and its replacement by abstract concepts -- these latter formulated by, and dictatorially enforced by, theorists with no experience of real politics." This then "spread over half the world."

Plus ça change... And the more the left hopes, the more conditions remain hopeless...

"[T]here is something infantile or childish in the whole revolutionary-despotic approach, which is, in effect, based on the simpleminded attitude 'If I were King...,' that it only needs well-intentioned people in power to solve everything by mere decree."

It seems that lies and violence go together like... truth and freedom. For if we cannot appeal to truth-in-freedom -- or the freedom to independently arrive at truth -- then the only alternative is enforcement of the Lie...

No time this morning. School started, lots of traffic, blah blah...

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

We Can Deal With the Problems of the World -- It's the Solutions that are So Devastating

Ah: one of our problems is affluence, which leaves grumblers and malcontents with too much free time: "Where there are minds with time to spare, there seems no way of avoiding it." Today this noxious tradition persists, with academic "sub-Marxism" and its perverse relatives "still thumping away."

Indeed, think of Obama, who spent his life nurturing dysfunctional thoughts in the liberal kindergorgon, and who, for the past 6.5 years, has merely been putting the fruitiest of these monsters into practice.

History teaches that when intellectuals seek political power, it's time to reach for the second amendment. This is not to imply that Obama is particularly bright, much less informed, only that he is a man who values ideas more than human beings. And to paraphrase Socrates, the unexamined community organizer is not worth letting near the presidency. (If his community gets any more organized, it will rival the Mafia.)

But Obama is representative of a tenured class that is "simply not aware of any general attitudes but its own" (ibid.). Which makes disagreement with them a matter of class conflict, and we're back to sub-Marxism: we are wrong because we are not members of the proper class. (I believe we are seeing a similar class conflict play out in the Republican primaries, i.e., the Establishment that is a priori correct vs. actual conservatives and other outsiders.)

The state produces a class of unproductive people it then employs via the state; but they are not actually unproductive, in the sense that they produce the very statism that employs more of these unproductive and unemployable idlers. This is Vacuous Jerk Circle of the state-academia complex.

Conquest reminds us of Orwell's comment to the effect that "the man on the street is at once too sane and too stupid to fall for the fads of the intelligentsia."

Given our affluence and the slack it brings, one shouldn't be surprised at the combination of intelligence and un-sanity we see in our tenured class. However, "insanity is itself a denial of intelligence" -- assuming, of course, that the mind has a function and a telos, AKA to know truth. Many if not most tenured fölkers would deny this connection between mind and reality.

Jesus has a lot of bright ideas, but he clearly values people more than intellectual abstractions. And when the Hostile Scatterer (Satanas-diabolos) offers him vast political power, he declines.

Nor does Jesus tempt God or try to turn matter (stones) into spirit (bread) -- which is to reduce spirit to matter, a la Marxism. This latter is in turn related to our primordial catastrophe, the persistent Error that doesn't just occur Once Upon a Time, but rather, Happens Every Time. (Note that Genesis doesn't just touch on the genesis of the good, but also explains the genesis of the bad.)

If this post seems a bit scattered, don't worry. We're always up against the anti-cosmic forces of diabolos, aren't we?

So, "The crux is less intelligence than a failure to confront that intelligence with reality -- and even a drive to use that intelligence to deny or pervert reality" (Conquest). Or in other words, intellectuals using their fallen minds to twist reality is our crux to bear. Omniscience for them comes cheap, but we pay the price.

As we said yesterday, assuming we have a right to think, then we have a prior obligation not to bear false witness. Seems obvious, but if it were, then we wouldn't need to have it etched in stone by the finger of God.

Clearly, if man were naturally oriented toward truth, lies wouldn't be so prevalent. We wouldn't propagate them, nor would we be so easily seduced by them. When man falls into a lie, it is generally because a part of him wants to believe it. In short, the intellect is infected by the will -- the will to not know or to know what is not. This again goes to our primordial c., for it is always the same shitty utopia, only the vocabulary changes.

I'm going to be shifting if not grinding gears back and forth between Conquest and Barron, just to show some reader(s) that one cannot separate Christianity from its political consequences. Indeed, Barron explicitly asks the same question we were asking yesterday, "What would political philosophy look like" given "the Trinitarian assumption that relationship is ontologically basic...?"

Again, Jesus is not an intellectual but a... how to put it? For he is not just person, but even prior to that, relationship: there is no person prior to his relating, for a person is the very possibility of relationship. Thus, the cosmos is infused with personhood, as we shall see.

Conquest doesn't come at things from a religious perspective -- which scarcely matters, because to speak truth is to touch God. At any rate, in this other book, Reflections on a Ravaged Century, he writes that the Disaster Area known as the 20th century was disastrous precisely because of the Bright Ideas of intellectuals. In short, we could deal with the problems of the 20th century. It was the solutions that were so destructive and resistant:

"Ideas that claimed to transcend all problems, but were defective or delusional, devastated minds, and movements, and whole countries...." These are abstractions "whose imposition on reality reveals an incompatibility, as engineers say of parts that do not fit, and that can only be made to fit by force, and even then ineffectively and ruinously" (ibid.).

Liberalism: that moment you realize there is no problem that can't be solved by good intentions backed by the coercive power of the state.

But the point is this: to discover what a society worships is to discover what it values most highly, seeks to imitate, and considers ontologically basic. Rome's worship of violent and antagonistic gods thus gives away the game....

Rome is a [read: any] social order based upon the libido dominandi, the lust to dominate, which is so characteristic of the gods Rome honors.... Precisely because God is who he is, the social practices of Communism are dehumanizing. --Robert Barron

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Getting to the Bottom of Left v. Right

"How," asks Robert Conquest, "did the mental distortions arise? How did the aversion to and alienation from reality come about? How did the destructive intellectual epidemic strike?"

These are relevant questions, irrespective of whether one is liberal or conservative, because I'm sure you'll agree that one of us is crazy. This is beyond mere disagreement; rather, one of us is distorting the world beyond recognition. One of us has an aversion to reality, and one of us has contracted a psychopneumatic illness that undermines the very purpose of the mind, which is to know truth. To "believe untruth" is intrinsically pathological, like loving evil, doing bad, or creating ugliness.

So, let's keep an open mind about this, for if we are crazy, we want to know about it -- just as we'd want to know if we had a serious illness.

Or would we? Here we need to appreciate the role of denial in human affairs. You could say it is the master defense mechanism, in that each of the others partakes of it. Every defense mechanism begins with denial of a painful truth that is split off, or projected, or compartmentalized, or sublimated, etc.

Or in other words, a defense mechanism is simply a particular way to deny an unwanted truth. There are any number of things to do with truth aside from knowing and bowing to it. (And bear in mind that defending against a truth implies the existence of truth; therefore, to deny truth -- AKA relativism -- must be the most massive defense mechanism of all.)

But the term "defense mechanism" can be misleading, because just what -- or who -- is being defended? And more to the point, it's really more of an attack; defense mechanisms always involve displaced aggression. And ultimately the aggression is directed at reality.

So when Conquest asks "How did the destructive intellectual epidemic strike?", he's on the right track, because he implicitly understands that we're dealing with an aggressive attack.

But why? In another context, Robert Barron writes of the prime characteristics of the being known as the Devil, Satanas and diabolos, which is to say accuser and scatterer respectively.

Accuser. That doesn't sound very nice. Aggressive, rather. "[T]he primary form of reality, on the Catholic reading, is coinherence, the coming together of the many in love. The [aggressive] power that is opposed to this is therefore a dividing, scattering force."

Barron uses the word "coinherence" where we deploy "intersubjective." But the point is the same, and either term goes to the ultimate reality of the Trinity: the Trinity is irreducibly intersubjective, such that each of the persons coinheres in one another; each is a member of the other.

This is where our political opponents are liable to say that we are crazy. You see, in those three paragraphs immediately above, we've stepped into the world of religion, and therefore out of the world of reality.

Which I am trying not to do per se; rather, I'm trying to keep this on a more metaphysical level, such that we can either affirm or deny that the world has a trinitarian structure. I'm treating it here as a principle, not a datum of revelation. If it is true, then it has certain implications and logical entailments. It explains a lot. Likewise, if untrue, then a great many important features of the world will go unexplained.

So instead of dismissing my first principle as crazy, why don't you just show me yours? I don't want to put words into your mouth, but if you are like other self-styled modern folks, then your metaphysic is ultimately rooted in a logical atomism in which everything is intrinsically separate and autonomous: a world of leibnizian monads. This is the implicit order of radical libertarianism. You will notice that it is the last word in being divided and scattered.

Barron reminds us of the majority opinion in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which rooted the decision in what can only be called a secular revelation: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Excuse me, but what were you saying about religion?

I believe we've hit bottom here in two senses. Let's begin with the charitable sense, in that we've reached a fork in the ontological road that proceeds left and right.

If you ask us -- or the founders, for that matter -- what is at the "heart of liberty".... Well, first of all, there is no abstract thing called liberty. Rather, there is no right without a corresponding duty, and of the two, the duty must be prior, for why would you ever grant freedom to irresponsible beings?

Oh, right. To get votes.

To say that liberty is the right to define existence in any way that pleases oneself is to embrace a doctrine of the most radical relativism imaginable. In short, liberty means being free of everything, beginning with reality.

But again, in the real world, there is no right without a corresponding duty. Thus, for example, we have the right to free speech. What is the implicit obligation? To be honest. Likewise, we have the right to private property. The obligation? Not to steal it.

Okay, so you have a right to murder your child. What is the corresponding responsibility?

Monday, August 31, 2015

How Did I Become Myself? And Who Was I Before?

I apologize in advance for what will probably be in the short 'n lame category. Feeling the effects of a trifle too much celebrating. Without a doubt the most I've eaten since July of 2004. That would be when the Gagdad pancreas decided to go on strike. With diabetes, it's always an experiment: eat this and drink that, and see what happens. At least now I know.

So, er... delusional thinking in history. Pretty crazy, huh? What's up with that? It's like... wo.

Which reminds me. Back when I was an undergraduate, that's probably how I wrote. I would have no doubt been qualified to contribute to Shit My Students Write.

The other day my son, who will be starting the fifth grade, was asking me when I started to enjoy writing. When I was in the fifth grade -- and sixth, and seventh... and twelfth, etc. -- I was just like him: I had no use for school, and I literally couldn't imagine someone actually enjoying it. I didn't socialize with those people.

That attitude stayed with me through my first stab at college, which ended when I simply quit going in the middle of my junior year. I was already on academic probation and would have been tossed out anyway, so I took matters into my own hands and gave up like a man.

Being that I've related this boring story before, I won't go into the details. But something began changing in me in my mid-twenties, and I still haven't figured out exactly what and certainly why. How can someone completely change like that, especially when not trying to? Rather, it just happened, as "organically" as, say, going from childhood to puberty. It's as if a switch were flipped. Or, it's like type 1 diabetes: one day you make insulin, next day you don't. Decision-wise, you personally are out of the loop.

But how could one be out of the loop of such a consequential life change?

Unless we have much less control than we realize, or that we only pretend to be the master of forces that are not only beyond our control, but unknown to us.

I don't know. Does "late bloomer" cover it?

Then again, there is the Call and there is answering the Call. I won't deny that there was a great deal of work on my end. I suppose the main difference is that what was once work suddenly became play.

That's what I was trying to explain to my son. It actually occurred when I was writing a senior thesis for my BA degree. This would have been in December 1981, to be exact. It was very much a sudden reversal of perspective, or like when you see the duck instead of the rabbit in the drawing. I remember scanning the thesaurus in search of the best word to express what I was attempting to convey, when I had a kind of aha! moment of realization that I was actually enjoying this. It was literally dis-orienting, because now I was the opposite of myself.

No, seriously. Imagine my dilemma. I'm working in a supermarket. I'm lucky to make a good wage, but I am an unskilled laborer -- with the exception of nunchuck and bowhunting skills -- with no delusions that I am anything but. I am not conflicted about this. There is no part of me that thinks the world has misjudged me, or that I actually have some great skill or purpose that has eluded mankind. At best, I'm thinking that someday maybe I'll hate responsibility less than I enjoy drinking beer with my friends, but until that day...

But now it's as if I'm suddenly introduced to another side of me. Even so, for the sake of argument, let's say it's an "intelligent side." Now what? I've systematically ignored this side for 25 years, so it's a little like finding out at age 38 that you can throw a 95 mph fastball. That's nice, but it's a tad late for a career in the big leagues. Sorry, but that boat has left the harbor.

Thus began my cognitive rehabilitation. Fortunately I had no idea how much I didn't know, so I began reading far and wide in a completely haphazard manner, with no recognizable pattern. You know, like today. I knew I had a lot of catching up to do, but I had no practical reason for doing it. There was no plan and no goal. It was completely and utterly Impractical, and still is to this day.

Perhaps we should widen out the perspective and make this more general, especially because I just ran out of time. But what is change, what changes, and how does it change?