Strange Bedfellows: Romance & Politics
"Hollander investigates how Americans today pursue romantic relationships, with special reference to the advantages and drawbacks of Internet dating compared to connections made in school, college, and the workplace. By analyzing printed personals, dating websites, and advice offered by pop psychology books, he examines the qualities that people seek in a partner and also assesses the influence of the remaining conventional ideas of romantic love.
"Hollander suggests that notions of romantic love have changed due to conflicting values and expectations and the impact of pragmatic considerations. Individualism, high expectations, social and geographic mobility, changing sex roles, and the American national character all play a part in this fascinating and finally sobering exploration of men and women to find love and meaning in life."
Now, this is not normally Hollander's beat. Or is it? He is a sociologist and intellectual historian who has published over a dozen books on communism, socialism, and the left in general; perhaps his most famous is Anti-Americanism. The theme of the latter is as follows:
"Why is it that while millions of people all over the world dream about living in the United States, many American intellectuals believe that this is a uniquely deformed and unjust society? How did the radical beliefs of the '60s survive and become, for many Americans, the new conventional wisdom? How is it possible that while communist systems are collapsing and seek a market economy, critics in the United States remain convinced of the evils of capitalism? Why are there more Marxists on any handful of American campuses than all over Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union? How can we explain that for important opinion makers at home and abroad, the United States has become a symbol of waste, greed, corruption, social injustice, and arrogance?"
So, what is the connection between the two? Not to get ahead of ourselves, but both attitudes -- the personal and political -- seem to involve "extravagant expectations."
Leaving personal relationships to the side for a moment, what is leftism but an extravagant expectation of how the world should be? Leftism expects something of the world that the world can never provide -- in a word... or two, transcendent meaning. Ever since Rousseau penned his malignant flapdoodle, the left has had an inappropriately romantic vision of politics. You might say that when the left falls in love, other people's hearts -- and bodies -- are broken.
Yes, like the wrong woman, the left's ideas are beautiful and seductive, their consequences ruinous. Both Hillary and Obama are Dem fatales.
Hollander reflects only briefly on the connection, noting that throughout his life he has "been interested in -- and indeed morbidly fascinated by -- the conflict between illusion and reality, the apparent and the real."
Let's stop right there, because this is precisely why we have a mind: to discern between reality and appearances. What is truth but the reality behind appearances? And what are phenomena but an appearance of the true?
At least in principle. For it is possible for appearances to become detached from the true -- both personally and politically -- which is when we *fall* into trouble. Indeed, you could say that the whole point of Genesis 3 is to warn us about the hazards of detaching knowledge from reality, AKA God. Do so and you are at once exiled from the Land of the Real. (That's my idea; Hollander has no religious angle at all.)
Schuon explains it perfectly; or at least I agree 100%: "To 'discern' is to 'separate': to separate the Real and the illusory, the Absolute and the contingent, the Necessary and the possible, Atma and Maya." But discernment is complemented by a concentration that (re)unites the two, such that we may affirm the following formula in some variant: "Real became illusory in order that the illusory might become real..." That's the circle of spiritual progress and Arc of Salvation.
Back to Hollander; his interest in reality and appearances is also "linked to the phenomenon of deception and self-deception, both at the individual and collective (or institutional) levels."
Let's pause again. Here we can see that appearances are not necessarily deception; or that deception is something added to appearances that turns them against us. Think of the difference between, say, myth and propaganda. Myth is an appearance that clothes a deep truth, while propaganda is an embodiment of the lie.
Before escaping to the West, Hollander had prolonged immersion in "experiences of political propaganda as the major institutional source and conveyor of illusions; later in the United States I found commercial advertising playing a similar role. Both phenomena were highly intrusive and impossible to ignore."
Here again we see the wrenching of phenomena from reality, such that the former becomes illusion instead of a mode of the Real. Then it is as if Kant is indeed correct: that we are confined to the closed circle of our own representations, no longer capable of contact with the noumenal.
This redounds to everything from multiculturalism to deconstruction to new-age perception-is-reality. But underneath it all it has a single name: relativism. Relativism in any form ensures that we are exiled to the barren land of appearances -- which are no longer of the real, rather, just appearances of other appearances, AKA turtles all the way down.
You might say that leftism is a kind of deceptive personal ad from Ms. World, making impossible promises. Hollander speaks of "the political illusions and self-deception of many Western intellectuals who persuaded themselves of the admirable qualities of Communist systems."
And "Both political propaganda and commercial advertising misrepresent, distort, or at best stretch reality. Both attempt to conceal or obfuscate the difference between the way things are as opposed to the way they ought to be..." (emphasis mine).
Not surprisingly, Hollander parts company with "postmodernist academic colleagues who question the existence of objective reality altogether. Without a belief in objective reality, one could not propose that propaganda and advertising misrepresent and distort reality..."
I know. Controversial.
Now, what is the rationale of the so-called news, of a "free press" -- its reason for being? At the very least it should try to convey something of the reality beneath or behind appearances. Certainly it should not be a transmitter of propaganda, but that is precisely what it has become, and people know this. Except for the sorry 7% or whatever it is who actually trust the media. Everyone else knows MSM journalism comes down to cheesy personal ads that try to tart up the left and make it more appealing -- while denigrating the competition.
Okay. Here is an embarrassingly personal ad explaining the appeal of Hillary:
"I love Hillary Clinton. I am in awe of her. I am set free by her. She will be the finest world leader our galaxy has ever seen."
"Millions of Clinton's supporters... expressed it among themselves, all the time, in raptures or happy tears with each new display of our heroine's ferocious intelligence, depth, and courage."
The author even gets into what we discussed above about reality and appearances, stating that beneath the deceptive appearances Hillary is really "an idea, a world-historical heroine, light itself.... She belongs to a much more elite class of Americans, the more-than-presidents." Her "name belongs on ships, and airports, and [even] tattoos. She deserves straight-up hagiographies and a sold-out Broadway show called RODHAM." Well, she would put the hag in hagiography.
Hmm. This reminds me of one of the unrealistic -- but typical -- personal ads cited by Hollander. These women are so perfect, one wonders why they have to resort to advertising their qualities. There are dozens to choose from -- they're everywhere! -- so I'll just pick one at random:
"Blonde, slender, tall, willowy DWF. Very attractive with graceful lightness of heart, refined intelligence, smiling eyes. PhD/academic. Optimistic, elegant, physically sensual, aesthetically attuned. Lovely profile, long legs. Considered great package: head, heart, spirit. Puts people at ease." Etc.
I'll bite. What's the catch?
"Progressive worldview, passionate about social justice." And no doubt believes Hillary is an idea, a world-historical heroine, light itself....