Monday, April 10, 2006

Progressive Thought and the Reversal of History

We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive. --C. S. Lewis

In one respect, history represents constant change and novelty. But in another respect, it involves constant repetition of the same themes. In this regard, it is somewhat analogous to music, where you have a certain rhythm, bass line, and chordal structure, on top of which is the melody. But the melody is constrained by the structure. Often we notice the historical melody to the exclusion of the droning and repetitive bass line.

Primitive societies abhor change, and do everything within their power to prevent, deny, or undo it. Often, when change happens suddenly, these cultures will simply assimilate the novelty into their old system of belief.

However, one far-sighted observation of the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion is that many modern human groups are every bit as primitive. While they might have a veneer of civilization, their more basic function is to structure existence and to allay anxiety. You see this, for example, in very obvious cases such as the NAACP or the ACLU.

Clearly, these groups once had an instrumental purpose, but now their only purpose is to provide a cognitive structure for the world of the people who belong to these groups, and to reinforce the structure through contact with like-minded people. It's not even a pleasant world. Rather, it is a dark, paranoid, and conspiratorial world.

And yet, the paranoid world of the far left is preferable to the ambiguity of the the real world. In fact, I shouldn't even say "ambiguity," for does anyone acquainted with reality think for a moment that Representative Cynthia McKinney is a victim of white racism? Or that President Bush is imposing a fascist theocracy?

Human beings have an amazing capacity to deny change and to live in the past. Then again, if viewed through the lens of Darwinian evolution, this should not be surprising. After all, evolution did not design us to be happy, or well adjusted, or even to know reality. Rather, in our horizontal aspect, we were specifically selected to survive and adapt to a certain environment.

All successful species are stuck in a rut of adaptation. Humans are no different. The majority of cultural beliefs are not adaptations to external reality but adaptations to internal reality--they help to alleviate anxiety and uncertainty, and to structure existence.

After World War II, anthropologists discovered primitive groups that had been entirely static and had never "entered" history. Their belief systems were entirely structured around various benevolent and malevolent tribal spirits. Upon noticing American soldiers and their boats loaded down with riches that were distributed to the population, they did not alter their basic conception of reality. Rather, they simply incorporated the American G.I.s into a "cargo cult," and gave their old gods a new identity. Time and change were successfully warded off.

On the bottom floor of the primitve group psyche, there is a deep sense that time is not progressive. Rather, time is the enemy. It does not advance, but wears away and corrodes. Things that unexpectedly develop in time, like, say, President Bush, the conservative movement, or the threat of Islamic terrorism, are not exactly denied. Rather, they are regarded as bizarre aberrations--they are not really real. For the progressive, their reality has been stolen--I mean this literally, for example, the perpetual obsession with the 2000 election and now with "Diebold"-- and a false one has been inserted.

In order to deny the corrosive effect of time and change, primitive groups enact rituals to reassert the original divine order. This is why you can see that the left is so astonishingly ritualistic in their thinking. For their philosophy, like any religious philosophy, revolves around certain iconographic symbols that abide outside time. They are "forever." They need only be uttered, like magical incantations, and we are back in the comfortable tribal delusions of the 1960's: "War is not the answer," "America is a racist, sexist, homophobic country," "culture of corruption," "tax cuts for the rich," "Be Very Afraid, the world is cooling/warming."

Like the Islamists, the "progressive" is animated by a beautiful ideal located in the distant past. In truth, it never really existed. Rather, it is purely archetypal and precedes any particular "thoughts" about it. Once it is embraced, it then produces its own thoughts. The formality of a thinker is not required. If you peruse, say, huffingtonpost or dailykos, you will see that the memes that are reflexively channelled there are overwhelmingly angry, paranoid, and alarmist. In reality, this represents alarm over the fact that time really does exist, and rage at the fact that the wider world does not mirror their tribal ideal.

The progressive party is the nostalgic party that actually wishes to deny history and escape from time. Perhaps I should again emphasize how common this is, both in individuals and in groups. Freud, for example, said that the neurotic "suffers from reminisences." For what is a neurosis than a perpetual replaying of events of the past that are superimposed on the present, the constant structuring of reality in terms of the timeless unconscious?

Similarly, the progressive navigates through life while keeping his eyes riveted on the rear view mirror. Therefore, the same things keep happening. It's positively eery: Bush is Nixon. Iraq is Vietnam. The terrorist intercept program is Watergate. Clearly, these progressive cargo-cultists think that all the economic gifts brought to us by those two tax-cutting bwanas, Reagan and Bush, really arrived courtesy of the old big government gods.

The archaic community lives in a tribal memory that is impervious to the ravages of time. But as reality increasingly deviates from the sacred memory, it is the duty of every tribal member to renew, reassert and rejuvenate the ideal through rituals of various kinds. You can see these primitive magicians at dailykos, going through their various rituals and Ghost Dances, raging against reality, desperately trying to cleanse and "renew" it.

For primitive groups, time is terror. Therefore, it is no surprise that we routinely hear from the left that "George Bush is the world's biggest terrorist." That he is, in the sense that he has no respect for the tribal ways of the progressive mind and its sacred, eternal myths. Similarly, last week Muslims were outraged at the new edition of Indonesian Playboy, describing it as "terrorism." Again, entirely true for people terrified of time.

In the long run, in almost every measurable way, things are getting better--the economy is "humming along," as they say--low unemployment and interest rates, people living longer than ever, an environment that has never been cleaner in my lifetime, reduced crime rates and illegitimacy. These are all the things progressives supposedly care about, but the better things get, the worse they feel.

And where things are getting better for the resurgence of their world view, they don't seem to have much gratitude: materialism and spiritual exhaustion, neopaganism, barbarous entertainment, the cult of the body, sexual license, self-worship, moral relativism, multi-culturalism... What's their problem? Still not primitive enough?


Michael Andreyakovich said...

Bob: Leftist 'denial' never struck me as denial of history, except insofar as they refuse to admit that this is no longer 1968. More importantly, the Boomers were the Hedonist generation, as exemplified by Woodstock; theirs was a denial of pain and unpleasantness - said worldview, of course, being incongruent with reality.

Gerard Vanderleun has touched on the same idea recently. And as I have said in my own writings - the entire worldview of the left is based on the mistaken idea that we have the innate right to BE happy, not the right to be free to PURSUE our happiness. War is not enjoyable, therefore war is wrong. Guns are scary and we're afraid of being shot, therefore guns are wrong. Taxes are a financial burden, therefore taxes are wrong.

Lisa said...

A better name would be Regressives!

will said...

Good morning, Bob/Bobbleheads -

>>Primitive societies abhor change, and do everything within their power to prevent, deny, or undo it. Often, when change happens suddenly, these cultures will simply assimilate the novelty into their old system of belief.<<

Can't remember where I read this - might have been Ken Wilber or Lewis Mumford, somebody - but given certain circumstances, there can come point in an encounter between modern and primitive civilizations in which the primitive is so overwhelmed by the modern that it simply dies. By "overwhelmed" I don't mean simply militarily vanquished. I mean dispirited and left without paradigmatic structure. Their hitherto eternally reliable gods fail them, and there results a kind of collective depression, tantamount to collective suicide. There is not even a marginal "regrouping" or attempt to keep the old fires burning. The fate of the Aztecs might be an example, and, sadly, Native Americans might also be an example, at least to a degree.

Obviously, the Left is far from abandoning its shibboleths. However, I have to wonder if those recent reports of the general unhappiness of the Left (as opposed to the roll-with-the-punches sense of well-being of conservatives)aren't, in part, some indication that the Left *is* aware on some level that its gods have failed.

I think too of the Western Christian/Islamic clash of civilizations. At what point, if ever, does the Islamic world openly admit to itself that its operating paradigm is not viable? Would this have to come by way of complete military defeat? If so, we've got a long way to go, considering that as Westerners, we have developed an admirable reluctance to apply the full-out military solution.

Some congressperson from CO recently suggested something that had occured to me shortly after 9/11 - it's possible that the viable threat of destruction of certain iconic structures/artifacts - the Ka'ba at Mecca, certain mosques, eg. - would go quite a distance in proving the now-sustaining "magic" of Islamism to be false. Sounds pretty harsh, but considering the alternative of total war in which millions (mostly Muslims) would be killed, I have to wonder if at some point such a threat shouldn't be actualized.

And I do think this could work because, as you pointed out, Bob, the Islamic perspective is largely materialistic, eg., the 72 virgins in paradise. Thus a great deal of Islamic faith is invested in the literally material existence of such things as the Ka'ba, Dome of the Rock, etc.

ben usn (ret) said...

This certainly explains the love affair that the left has with modern hollywood (or, hollygenda as I like to call it, since they are trying awful hard to push leftist agenda's).
They both live in an illusion, where reality has no influence on their thoughts of fantasy and amazingly stupid plans.
They hate conservatives or classic liberals, because we can be defeated. Reality, their true enemy, cannot.
I believe that the "progressives" also hate conservatives because we challenge their imposition on individual freedom and liberty.
For a narcissist, many of which are increasingly malignant, that's a threat to their carefully crafted play, on a foundation of sand.
Improvising is
simply not allowed, because it's not in the script, even if the tsunami of reality is crashing down on them.

Mike A. said...

And yes, I know the Democrats want to RAISE taxes... But the wackos who keep running on the Libertarian ticket want to abolish them, which isn't feasible.

I'd vote Libertarian, if their representatives on the stump weren't such outright morons.

jwm said...

I ran across this post at Captain's Quarters.

If you have any doubts about the liberal "Ghost Dance" I invite you to check the posts of one aptly named "Monkey Boy" starting about four comments down. This guy is Fred Astair, Mikhail Barishnikov and Bob Fosse all twisted up into one.

Worship of the primitive- Perhaps this is my old-fartedness beginning to show, but am I the only one out there who is utterly disgusted by the current craze for tattooing, piercing, scarrification, etc.?

When the psychedelic colors, beads and flowers of the seventies gave way to mowhawks, black leather, and green hair in the eighties I got a kick out of it. Goofy hair and weird get-ups are the prerogatives of youth. Have at it, I say! You can cut off the mohawk, hang up the leather, and join the real world when the fad has run its course.

What's going on now, I find disturbing. There is a kid, 20 something, who works at the local big box warehouse store nearby. He's a good looking young man. Or he would be if it weren't for the nickel diameter plugs in either earlobe. I'm not exaggerating for dramatic effect here. Nickel diameter is a conservative estimate. I could go on- I'm sure you've all seen this kind of stuff. And tattooing on women? Who- please tell me WHO thinks this somehow makes a woman more attractive? I mean- how long before someone rediscovers the lovely Ubangi lip discs? And all this stuff is permanent.

Sorry, hon- that skull with bloody eyeballs on your left breast will be there-you know- forever. Hope the baby likes it...

These are the kinds of practices that you find in the primitive worlds Bob was describing in his post. Again, maybe I lack the requisite levels of cultural relativity, but I don't find much worthy of emulation in neolithic tribal cultures. Somehow, I doubt they have anything to teach us.


jwm said...

I'm sorry-There seems to be a problem with pasting complete urls in a post. You can find the Captains Quarter's entry from the post entitled "Case Closed" over at LGF.


RobM said...

Excellent post GBob and excellent comments... so far!

Anonymous said...

Hi Gagdad,
Love that you are hitting on a word that has been popping up among my most darling and ignorant, good intentioned moonbat buddies - it's a progressive city, they will say, so the way you are aproaching this is extremely timely and helpful. Great post - glad you're feeling better.

Bobblehead - I'm new, and I can dig it!

larwyn said...

Loved it!

Have you noticed the beat is getting faster and the dancers more frenzied by the day.

I particularly expect Chris Matthews head to literally explode sometime this summer when all the good stuff begins to come out.

And wow, skimming from NGO'S to the tune of 11 million by W.Va Dem cochair of US Congressional Ethics committee. NGO's? Aren't they the good guys? The ones that run all those helpful "progressive" programs that teach victims how to keep that status for life.

Poor Nancy, there goes another meme.

It lasted longer than the one that a breathless Ed Henry announced to Wooooof,at an afternoon CNN "Day Room". Ed just got the word that this was the new slogan:

6 - it was supposed to be 6 new policies, but Nancy and Harry couldn't decide on the same 6 - so the new 6 was to stand for

6 Policies (which are really about 9 policies, we think)

60 for 60 Senators
06 the midterms

6 & 60 in 06!

No Bible thumpers in that comittee meeting.

Wonder what they did with the T shirts?

They unveiled:

"Bush, the Jack Bauer President" on Hardball via
Feinman of Newsweak and Craig Crawford.

Two days later "E!" selected
"24" as the no 1 program on TV.

Chris Matthews stopped laughing.

I would love one of those T-shirts.

"Smart and Strong" is now
hidden away on the DNC website.

Maybe Petey will help them out.

Dan Spomer said...

"...As for the keyboard, it is where O'Connor finished her evolution from lost soul to angry soul, beginning with that very first rant, which concluded with a wish that Bush, "after contracting incurable cancer and suffering for protracted periods of time without benefit of medication," go to hell."

"...Beale shouts at one point. "I want you to get mad!" she shouts along, startling Terry. "What?" he says, backing away with his balloon."

Are you kidding me? This has got to be one of the saddest stories I've read in some time, and not just about one person, but the way she spreads the hate and anguish to everyone around her. I've seen these qualities in other moonbats, as well, but not to this degree.

And her son and husband? I wonder what thoughts and feelings they need to process on a daily basis. What a sad waste for this family.

snowonpine said...


My favorite was an 18-20 year old girl at a local book/record chain store. In addition to the obligatory red and purple hair, she had a dog collar with large spikes around her neck, multiple earrings in each ear, her eyebrows and lips were pierced, she had a chain going from an ear piercing to one of the rings piercing her nose, a pierced tongue and belly button and probably more piercings I can't remember: who knows what else was pierced. From my experience as a military medic I'm pretty sure that these holes in her face will leave permanent scars and pits that plastic surgery will not be able to completely erase but, I would guess she is not thinking too far out into the future.

I have often wondered why these kids adopt scarification, which meant something in the context of the primitive societies this ritual came from but which has no deep, genuine context here and now.