Tuesday, February 26, 2008

In War, Surrender. In Defeat, Apology. In Peace, Dhimmitude. In Victory... What's That?

In a recent Hillsdale Imprimus, Paul Johnson published a useful little primer on "What Great Statesmen Have to Teach Us." He writes that the foremost lesson is "the ability to see the world clearly, and to draw the right conclusions from what is seen," and then breaks this down into several areas.

Ideas and Beliefs: "The best kind of democratic leader has just a few -- perhaps three or four -- central principles to which he is passionately attached and will not sacrifice under any circumstances." One immediately sees the problem with Obama and the Clintons, for what do they actually believe in aside from socialized medicine, global warming, and appeasing our enemies? Bill Clinton may have been the most unprincipled president in history, and it is impossible to say what his wife actually believes.

And as for Obama, he doesn't seem to have any discernible philosophy except for the usual ad hoc leftism. I say ad hoc because American style leftism operates in a kind of helter skelter way, from the periphery toward the center. It is always concealing first principles that it never articulates, unlike conservatism, whose principles can be stated quite plainly: limited government, local control, low taxes, free markets, strong military, sovereignty, and judges who don't invent laws.

I suppose the problem is, no viable leftist, even if he privately believes it (Dennis Kucinich notwithstanding), can come out and say that his political philosophy revolves around a large and intrusive federal government, burdensome taxes, a state controlled economy, a weak military, appeasement of our enemies, open borders, and elites in black robes dictating constitutional law.

Johnson writes that he is not impressed "by leaders who have definite views on everything. History teaches it is a mistake to have too many convictions, held with equal certitude and tenacity. They crowd each other out. A great leader is someone who can distinguish between the essential and the peripheral -- between what must be done and what is merely desirable." He cites the example of Margaret Thatcher, who, similar to Ronald Reagan, had only three core "musts": "uphold the rule of law at home and abroad; keep government activities to a minimum, and so taxes low; encourage individuals to do as much as they can, as well as they can."

Willpower: The decisive quality of willpower has to do with the ability to make one's principles a reality. Thus, "a politician can have immense intelligence and all the other virtues, but if will is lacking he is nothing." It is fair to say that most politicians have abundant willpower, but I suppose the question is whether this power derives from mere narcissism -- the will to power -- or from a higher source -- the will to serve. I can't even imagine the stamina, drive, and discipline it must take to campaign for president day after day, month after dreary month. Personally, I'd die of boredom, mustering all that fake emotion and making the same stupid speech to the same slack-jawed crowds. It would be like having to be an actor in a bad play for two years, except that the play lasts 16 hours a day.

This is what is so off-putting about the Clintons. Yes, their will to power is impressive, but what's behind it? What actually drives them? Likewise, what actually motivates Obama? He pretends that it has to do with "unity" and "ending divisiveness," but these are bizarre sentiments coming from one of the most far-left politicians in American life. To the extent that he actually believes his own speeches, it only goes to show how out of touch with reality he is.

Obviously, willpower cuts both ways. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Castro all seized and maintained power entirely through the force of their personal will. "Mao's overwhelming will, we now know, led to the deaths of 70 million fellow Chinese. The cost of a misdirected will is almost unimaginably high." Thus, "those three or four simple central beliefs behind the will" had better be "right and morally sound."

Once in power, Bill Clinton proved to have willpower, but it was again a kind of scattered and "flighty" will that was easily derailed and distracted, typical of the American left. As such, he required constant polling of the mood of the country in order to sense where to direct his will. His principles -- to the extent that he had any -- were insufficient to motivate his will. This is reminiscent of the narcissistic but charismatic actor who feeds off the applause of the crowd, which gives him a faux sense of being, but who shrivels to nothing when the curtain is drawn.

As such, Johnson says that mere willpower is insufficient. Rather, it "must be organically linked to resolution, a determination to so see the cause through at all costs." Washington during our eight year war for independence, Lincoln in the struggle to preserve the nation, Churchill during the dark days of World War II -- each displayed patience, doggedness, pertinacity, resolution and even obstinacy. President Bush has shown all of these traits with regard to Iraq, and it remains to be seen whether they will pay off. But to openly flaunt their opposites as if they are virtues, as do the Democrat candidates -- impatience, weakness, and irresolution -- will most certainly yield immediate results, in that they will reward the patience, doggedness, pertinacity, resolution and obstinacy of our enemies.

Next is the ability to communicate. "The value of possessing a few simple ideas which are true and workable is enormously enhanced if the leader can put them across with equal simplicity." Interestingly, unlike Lincoln, whose words conveyed remarkable power, Washington was said to have been a rather unskilled speaker. Nevertheless, his physical bearing was such that he was able to communicate more with his personality, demeanor, and physical presence. This reminds me of something Schuon wrote about souls of great spiritual attainment, who are able to embody and reflect the "unmoved mover" within.

If there is one thing that does impress me about Obama, it is this. At least superficially, he seems to be rather unflappable, and I think people respond to this. He is quite natural and at ease. If he's faking it, he's doing an awfully good job of it. In this regard, he is the polar opposite of a Richard Nixon, who never seemed comfortable in his own skin.

But again, the question is, what is at the center of that unmoved mover? I'm not in any way comparing them to Obama, but Stalin and Mao were also preternaturally unflappable as they sent millions to their death. It's almost as of there is a spiritual peace that flows from the divine center, but a counterfeit version that emanates from a center that is "dead," so to speak. You often see this in great athletes. You wonder how they can maintain their poise under incredibly stressful circumstances, until you hear them interviewed after the game and say to yourself, "ahh, that's how. Just be so stupid that you don't have any thoughts that get in the way."

The final virtue that Johnson discusses is magnanimity, or "greatness of soul." This one is difficult to define, but it is what "makes one warm to its possessor." For example, "we not only respect and like, we love Lincoln because he had it to an unusual degree. It was part of his inner being." I again can't help thinking that Obama radiates a counterfeit version of this virtue. Obviously, his supporters respond to him just as if he is a great soul.

But this would be difficult to maintain in light a quote by Churchill, that he felt embodied the great statesman: "In war, resolution. In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity. In peace, good will." Because for Obama, it would read, "In war, surrender. In defeat, apology. In peace, dhimmitude. In victory... what's that?"


julie said...

And speaking of Billary, apparently he really does see himself as being in the running again...

will said...

>>what is at the center of that unmoved mover? . . Stalin and Mao were also preternaturally unflappable as they sent millions to their death. It's almost as of there is a spiritual peace that flows from the divine center, but a counterfeit version that emanates from a center that is "dead," . . <<

The late writer/philosopher Malachi Martin explained this as being "perfect possession", which is actually a term used by the cognoscenti of the Catholic Church. No pea soup spitting, head-revolving, thrashing, cursing dramatics involved - perfect possession is a 100% voluntary yielding of soul to the dark side. This is a manifestation of evil that ordinarily doesn't draw attention to itself, although a spiritually attuned person would sense it in short order. No matter how well evil camouflages itself, it can't help but leave a signature in some way.

When the perfectly possessed achieve leadership status, they do manifest a certain cool, business-like unflappability. However, what appears to be willpower, cool canniness, sangfroid, etc., is really just puppetry. The PPs are indeed guided from below. In any event, when they are severely challenged, the sangfroid of the PPs breaks and the hatred comes screaming forth.

maineman said...

"when they are severely challenged, the sangfroid of the PPs breaks and the hatred comes screaming forth."

So what you're saying is that Hillary should make fun of his ears tonight. It's her last chance.

hoarhey said...


While he was alive and a guest of the Art Bell Show, Fr. Martin was about the only guest who came across as an authority and not a fraud. He was also the only one who could get Art to shut up and listen.
My attention was riveted listening to those interviews and I would lay up into the wee hours of the morning until they were finished.
His books are interesting also.

will said...

Hoars, right, Fr Martin's erudition was amazing - along with Hostage To the Devil, his book on possession and exorcism, he wrote quite a few books on various aspects of Church history. He really was a cut above the ufo/Bigfoot devotees who frequented Bell's show

gumshoe said...

just recently finished reading
Martin's "The Jesuits"(pub. 1987,I think).

informative background on the Society and the machinery of "Liberation Theology",especially re: Central America/Sandinistas.
and the SoJ power battles with the Pope and Vatican hierarchy were also news to me...broad overview of the SoJ founding and some history of their doings in Post Reformation Europe.

a worthwhile read.

Anonymous said...

Bob writes of unflappable athletes:

""ahh, that's how. Just be so stupid that you don't have any thoughts that get in the way."

Actually, this is not a bad method of comporting oneself. Thoughts are a problem. So few of them are actually needed at any given time.

I was making my untenured way around a major campus today and happened upon some tracts by a Lyndon laRouche. Anyone know anything about this guy? He talks gloom and doom and postures as if he had some influence. A real character. There are some problematic thoughts for you.

gumshoe said...

"Lyndon laRouche. Anyone know anything about this guy?"

I'd try a look at his Wiki page.
he's associated with fringe/nutter ranting in my brainpan.

some suggestion of neo-nazi ties as well,but i could be mistaken.

allegations of same,

coonified said...

I just finished watching a documentary about the birth and constant struggle of the Chinese Communist Party. ( here it is ) One thing that struck me is how that the CCP operates like an evil overmental structure, existing below and beyond even the highest party members. For example, the survival of the party is prioritized above the lives of its members. Some of the highest members of the party were, evil as they may have been, still persecuted as soon as the limits of their own evil were reached. That is, as soon as the good showed it's face, however dim, there was a darkness that rushed in to extinguish it.

I really didn't realize how corrupt they were. Where Hitler sought to dispose of flesh bodies, the CCP specialized in the murder of souls. The effects of the latter are much worse in method and cultural duration, I think.

It reminds me of something that I wrote in the past. That the "devil dwells in the rift between the signifier and the signified." I don't know if it's right, or even how it might relate to the phenomenon of this type CCP super-structure. Anyway, just wanted to drop some lines. :)

"Deception, then, is the misuse of the symbol (signifier), the perversion of the meaning (signified), and the divorce from the objective reality (referent). For a subject to be “intrapsychically divorced” from objective reality necessitates the use of an intropunitive “negative psychic space,” and as such, the devil could be said to ‘dwell in the rift between the signified (symbol) and the signifier (meaning)’ (which is by the way, the exact mistake of the poststructuralist (Lacan, Derrida, etc.), well known for their failure to grasp the indeterminacy of meaning, and the consequential sliding relativity within the communicative medium.) Cut off from reality, power is lost (or misdirected), momentum wanes, the will twists and corrupts, consciousness withdraws, morality withers, and there is an overall “progressive strangulation of intelligence.”"


will said...

anons >>Bob writes of unflappable athletes:

""ahh, that's how. Just be so stupid that you don't have any thoughts that get in the way."<<

I actually don't think the unflappable jocks are stupid per se, most of 'em anyway. There's all types of intelligence and the jock's intelligence is in the body, not in abilities of articulation. When the best ones are "unflappable", they're locked inside a zen-like zone.

Also it seems to me that when jocks do have some ability for articulation, they usually turn out to be conservative, eg., JC Watts, Lynne Swann, Jack Kemp . . Michael Jordon, tho no Churchill himself, was of fairly conservatove bent as I recall, ditto Charles Barkley.

River Cocytus said...

This is an egregore. In Liberal Fascism (which I've got open next to me) Goldberg quotes Wells (who coined the term 'Liberal Fascism'): "I have never been able to escape altogether from its relentless logic,"

Or, as Kalimaros put it: "Already the mystery of the Antichrist is working in them, and they are distressed until it be accomplished."

Anonymous said...

On the subject of unflappable athletes being dumb. Maybe in some cases but I think many of the people who reach a high level in competitive fields have that super-cool characteristic. I work in a big money office building and I have noticed that the higher up the ladder someone sits the more even-temperd and relaxed they tend to be. Like the CEO of my company...I'm freaking out about something and pulling out what is left of my hair and this guy just stays cool, susses out the situation and comes up with a strategy to deal with it. Nothing throws him. Some people just have very non-reactive nervous systems and they can tolerate high-stress situations much better than most people. I would say the even need that. But this becomes bad when someone lacks a conscience. That combo is very destructive. -Peter

Anonymous said...

I can't think of any good use for anxiety except to notify you when something subtle needs to be addressed, usaully in the interpersonal field.

The thinking intellect isn't actually savvy enough to know what to worry about in the very confusing environment of interpersonal relationships.

An example would be a really suave guy who's wife is giving off very, very subtle signs of distress because he hasn't connected with her for awhile; the problem just doesn't get on his radar screen, because his intellect can't discern it as a real problem (until he catches her with another man). Happens all the time.

If he was more anxious he would have caught the problem sooner and corrected it; his "gut" would have made him anxious and signaled to his head to pay closer attention to the wife.
So, as in all things in life, a middle road is best. Not too much anxiety, but not a paucity of it either which could lead to disaster.

I believe our specie's anxiety is an evolved characteristic selected for because successful mating occurred more often in individuals who had some disposition to vigilance and worry.

Gagdad Bob said...

The point about athletes is well taken, especially in certain cases.

Back when I played baseball, I could ascend no higher than Colt League, partly because I couldn't control my thoughts. As soon as it was ball one, I was thinking to myself, "jeez, I better get the next one over the plate, or I'm f*cked." Then it would be ball two, and I'd be panicking. And then, if I walked the guy and had to hold him on first, forget about it. Trying to think about two things at the same time, while trying not thinking about either of them, was just too much.

I'm guessing that, in the Darwinian sense, athletics does select for extremely non-reactive nervous systems, as Peter suggests. But at the same time, you have to have a laser-like passion, discipline, focus, and ambition. I had plenty of passion, but no focus, discipline or ambition. The more things change....

maineman said...

I think, Anon 5:05, that our anxiety is part of our less, rather than more evolved selves. There's a parasympathetic nervous system shift that involves the whole organism, "fight or flight" and all that, and is mostly run by the emotional centers. It bypasses the higher order processing, which is good when you're being chased by a saber toothed tiger or when there's a fastball sailing toward your head.

There's also supposed to be an upside down "U" shaped curve for anxiety, i.e. functioning improves as anxiety increases, but at a certain level it begins to interfere. It's reasonable to see anxiety as a form of motivation, actually, but a pretty primitive one.

walt said...

Good article by Paul Johnson - I had heard it advertised, and enjoyed reading your excerpts.

A good re-minder of principles!

will said...

Natural born writers such as Bob *have* to think, of course. I'd say that for Bob to post a thoughtful, profound essay nearly every day of the week means that he gets into "the zone" via thoughts, words. And this zoning would involve passion, discipline, etc., just the same as the athlete's.

However, this type of zoning - borne on thought - wouldn't translate well at all re athletic endeavors. Would only be a hinderance.

I would think everyone has some area of zoning, some endeavor (aside from sex)in which they can achieve the effortless effort. Not everybody has the will/dedication enough to find it, though.

QP said...

Mansion 'mistake' piles the pressure on Barack Obama ->

Times Online.

[Tony Resko is Syrian.]

River Cocytus said...

Anxiety is a signal. You have a problem when the signal takes control of the system, instead of the system interpreting the signal. I know I project to deal with anxiety. As for the upper level guys, mostly it is a result of having to deal with pushing forward despite human error. They know its coming before it hits so they aren't surprised. When the project failed they probably figured it might anyway so they weren't caught as unawares as some are. Others are just narcissists who don't care much for other people - so as long as the project doesn't have to reflect poorly on them they don't much care. Depending on how skilled the person, the narcissist I think can develop a kind of unflappability that is more of less mostly equal to that of the actual veteran/hardened person. But like Bob pointed out there's a cracking point that isn't present for the other. I guess its like the difference between a gilded clay statue and one that's solid gold.

River Cocytus said...

Will, I've found that writing usually involves a lot of pre-thinking followed by a 'stream of consciousness effort' much like athletic action.

I suppose it -is- a matter of where you find your 'zone'.

julie said...

(That choking sound you may have just heard was a snort of disbelief, which I emitted upon reading this)

"A Humbler Bill Clinton"

Key phrases:

"What he lacks in passion he makes up for in sheer volume of words."

"He is as humble as he is as capable of being about his own role."

coonified said...

I'm currently in the middle of Grotstein's "A Beam of Intense Darkness," a sort of purview at Bion through the mind of Grotstein, so let me see if I can’t try to throw athletics under the scope Bion.

A couple of things stuck out this week while exercising: first off, sanskaras are a drag. Using the metaphor of an object being dragged though water, sanskaras (deformations of the internal physical, vital, and mental physic) lack the aerodynamic that allows something like a thin piece of metal to just slice through the water. The water is O, while the deformations could be said to be B-elements (Crude sensations that issue forth from O. Or Proto-emotions freshly born out of the voidgin), or a buildup of O's impulse to transformation, which could also be said to be a-elements--those primarily being metabolized, and therefore, personalized, B-elements--resisted by the personality and forced into a sort of negative space, what Bion called Beta-space, where unthunk constellations of a-elements await their real-ization as mature a-elements. Anyway, the buildup of "past-due-transformation" slows me down, so infer the same thing about everyone else.

The second thing that comes to mind is that a real athlete—the Olympics comes to mind—has to be operating at an abnormally high relationship of a-elementO, or binary (cooperative) transaction between O and the personal world of form; they have to be operating from an evolved form, in other words. I can’t help but think that most people with high altitudes have in them the potential to be reasonable athletes. But, it’s more profitable as we know to develop the cerebrum instead of the athletic physic. Anyway, that’s my take. I hope I didn’t butcher Bion’s analogues too much. And I just made up the transaction between a-element and O. Makes sense in a way…me thinks.


coonified said...

Oh, the ?? marks are suppose to be bi-directional arrows. You know, like <-->. So it should be a-element<-->O.

will said...

This is a bit reductionist, but it occurs to me that the "athlete zone" is predominately a right brain activity - purely instinctual, perhaps "body intuitional". I suppose one could call this the "aboriginal zone", even the "pagan zone". It's largely unconscious. As befits many athletic endeavors, it involves a "herd", a group of people who must act as one and who can only do so unconsciously.

The writing zone is both right and left brained, as would be all forms of self-aware intellectual activity. It is just that, self-aware, individualistic. By itself, it can't act in unconscious concert with others - but it can do so consciously, after the fact of its own personal expression.

maineman said...

Will, I think your breakdown is more or less accurate from a neuropsychological standpoint. What I notice is the current emphasis on visuospatial activities -- mostly videogame and other techno-proccupations -- among modern American youth. Largely at the expense of verbal skill development. When you listen to a group of young people talk these days, it often conveys a very regressed, self-conscious yet unaware, mentality.

And we may have come full circle, to the ability of BHO to attract swarms of swooning youth with vapid platitudes and empty promises.

Has this Spengler on Obama been posted here yet? Interesting info on his family's history.

julie said...

Maineman, that was an eye-opener; perhaps even more so because the author clearly doesn't like America all that much either.

Thanks for the link.

maineman said...


There's a lot of discussion of who it is that uses the pseudonym Spengler, most recently focusing on the likelihood that he is a Brit who was once in the foreign service in Africa. Some of that speculation comes from this article, which demonstrates an inside perspective on diplomatic goings on on the dark continent. You can find some fascinating discussion on that and this Obama article on the Belmont Club a couple of days ago.

Not sure I would see him as anti-American in the traditional sense, though. He's pretty sensible but harsh, in my limited experience with him. Here, he seems to be saying we're on the verge of going over a cliff for reasons having to do with naivety and denial of the reality that what goes up must come down. You can get a little more on his incisive perspective if you click on the other Obama article at the bottom of the one I linked to.

Magnus Itland said...

Being able to not think is very, very different from not being able to think.