Monday, September 17, 2012

Playing Faust & Loose with the Facts of Existence

Although I still believe Romney will win easily in November -- mainly because polsters cannot capture just how eager we are to oust the Incompetent One -- the polls continue to suggest a tight race, and most have Obama with a slight lead. How can this be? How can a president who has failed in every measurable and unmeasurable way be contending for reelection?

John Hinderaker asks this question over at PowerLine, and highlights the obvious fact that "so many Americans are now cashing federal checks that self-interest drives many millions to vote Democrat, regardless of the public interest." How many souls have we lost due to the intrinsic corruption of a government big enough to buy the votes it needs in order to maintain and expand its power?

There is also the fact that the electorate is "polarized" in an unprecedented way. I put the word in scare quotes because polarization doesn't mean what it used to. Democrats and Republicans have always been polarized, but prior to 1980 it was more over who gets what than who believes what.

Indeed, today we might even say that the polarization is about what's what, i.e., reality. Liberals and conservatives don't just have different theories of governance, economics, psychology, and constitutional law, but really, two irreconcilable metaphysics.

But there is another important factor at work, one which liberals are ill-disposed to understand because of an absurdly flattering self-characterization that blinds them to their irrationality: "more than ever, party affiliation reflects not so much empirical judgments about public policy issues, but deep-seated cultural affinity...."

Hinderaker writes -- and I'm sure he speaks for all of us -- that "it is difficult to imagine circumstances that would cause me to vote for a Democrat for any office. For better or worse, and for good reasons or bad, an enormous number of Americans feel that way."

As a result, "it seems that fewer and fewer votes are up for grabs," and "there are many millions who would rather vote for four more years of failure than vote for a Republican."

I have members of my extended family who would never vote for a conservative fascist (for them a pleonasm). Indeed, I used to be one of those members, so I well understand the sentiment.

Even leaving aside specific policy preferences, I couldn't support a liberal for the simple reason that I question the judgment and wisdom of any adult who could actually call himself liberal and know what the word means (importantly, there are many clueless "liberals" who just vote that way but don't share the left's values). I wouldn't vote for a liberal for the same reason I wouldn't vote for a child. The only difference is that a child eventually grows up.

Now, that last crack wasn't just insultainment, for there is something pathologically childish in the philosophy of liberalism. Importantly, any integral philosophy must account for man's perpetual neoteny, i.e., his permanent immaturity and capacity for growth. The healthy way involves tolerating the intrinsic complementarity of child <--> adult. The unhealthy way involves abolishing any objective notion of mature adulthood, which leaves a child with no developmental telos, no proper end.

To take one obvious example, how many adolescents are taught that the proper end of human sexuality is marriage? Liberals are free to deny this reality, at the cost of understanding why one of their core constituencies is single women. But in order for liberals to carry out their war on married women with plausible deniability, it probably helps that the left hand doesn't know what the far left hand is doing.

Voegelin writes of the "diseased mind engaged in the sorcery of self-divinization," and of how "the devil who takes possession of man is man himself when he indulges his imagination to the extreme of self-divinization." He references Baudelaire, who penned the bluism that "A man who does not accept the conditions of life, sells his soul."

Now, truth is one; it is whole, integral, universal. But what happens to the man who denies this? "If for one reason or another [this] understanding is disturbed," writes Voegelin, "the truth of reality will fall apart into a vast field of rival symbolisms, each [absurdly] claiming for itself 'absolute' truth..."

Thus, for any normal person, such deformities as multiculturalism, moral relativism, and deconstruction are recognized as dangerous pneumapathologies to be avoided at all costs, for they are the equivalent of a fatal cancer of the spirit.

In a certain sense, every moment of life is a "revelation." The other day I was reading a book by Ratzinger, in which he touches on this important idea. That is to say, even what we know of as traditional revelation requires the human medium for its transmission, comprehension, and memorialization:

"Scripture is the essential witness of revelation, but revelation is something alive, something greater and more: proper to it is the fact that it arrives and is perceived -- otherwise it could not have become revelation." It "has instruments," but "is not separable from the living God, and it always requires a living person to whom it is communicated." Thus, like God, it is simultaneously beyond and within man.

Voegelin generalizes this approach, writing of "the historical process as a flux of divine presence" in which "every phase of the flux has the structure of a divine-human encounter." Being that we are free, each phase -- let's just say the present -- is also "an event of man's responding, or refusing to respond, to the presence of the divine ordering appeal."

Therefore, what we call the "present" is always in relation to the eternal, without which it could not be. To say "man-God" is a way of talking about this relation, but it is so saturated with meaning that it doesn't necessarily do the job anymore -- certainly not for the unbeliever.

But because of the time <--> eternity, or body <--> spirit complementarity, man is uniquely aware of being the "mortal-immortal," the being who knows of eternity and yet dies. The word "tension" hardly does justice to our perilous situation.

Which is why it is somewhat understandable that many people just want to make the tension go away. But there it is, simply transposed to another plane and thereby becoming the irresolvable tension of class warfare, or gender politics, or "social justice," or any other morbid hobbyhearse of the left.

In fact, the deformation of truth results in "various combat zones" and multiple battlefields which can distract us from the central struggle -- similar to how the multiple fronts against "terror" blind the politically correct to what unites the terrorists.

What is especially striking about this is that the Islamists commit the exact opposite fallacy of the left, in that they "deform reality by contracting it into the divine One and reduce all other reality to the status of nonbeing," i.e., dar al-Islam and dar al-Harb.

There are different terms one could use, but the most usefully loaded ones to encapsulate our political polarization might be the dar al-Marx and the dar al-freedom. Or just say Obama and Romney.


Gagdad Bob said...

Adult <--> child.

Cond0011 said...

"There are different terms one could use, but the most usefully loaded ones might be the dar al-Marx and the dar al-freedom. "

Nice Translation and showing the common link between the two (Tyranny <--> freedom).

Cond0011 said...

"Voegelin writes of the "diseased mind engaged in the sorcery of self-divinization,"

Nice word, Self Divnization. Hmmmm... Hubris.

Different levels up (or should I say, down) that ladder to Self Divinization. Perhaps this is what happens within the minds of the leftist 'Intellectual elite'.

Van Harvey said...

"He references Baudelaire, who penned the bluism that "A man who does not accept the conditions of life, sells his soul."

Now, truth is one; it is whole, integral, universal. But what happens to the man who denies this? "If for one reason or another [this] understanding is disturbed," writes Voegelin, "the truth of reality will fall apart into a vast field of rival symbolisms, each [absurdly] claiming for itself 'absolute' truth..."

Wo... if that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does. Know thyself, or you will truly know nihil. Biblically speaking.

Rick said...


One of my closest friends -- a thick-and-thin-level friend -- is a lib. We go way back. We have so much in common, temperament and likes,etc. Pick a category. It's uncanny. We vacation together. Yet on politics (which I would rather do or think almost anything else other than) we are 180. She hates teabaggers (she used that term in my house [with me in it]) hates Republicans, HATES!!1!! Romney -- already?! Already?
How can this be.
Politics almost never comes up in our conversations. In the rare occasion that it does, and rarer still when I'm at my best (sober) I'm able to get pieces of agreement on this or that. Pieces. Then we lose interest or the subject changes naturally. Which is fine. I don't want to win the argument, rather, conversation, not for the winning sake, anyway. I just want things to make sense.
Anyway, I don't think I could ever get all the dots connected as she would have too much history and attachment to the royal "D" to denounce.

And yet, because of this, in a way, I would not have had the inclination to think about this problem to such a depth without this cherished if not most peculiar relationship. I'm grateful for it anyway. Otherwise, I'd probably be a shallow, knee-jerk lib h8r.

Still...I don't get it. We both loved John Adams! (the book)

I think much of it has to do with perception of the other. And this perception is beat into them. She thinks repubs are greedy. Period. And evil. Probably. Unless you asked her this "piece" of the puzzle on its own. Yet, she loves me. And would I join such a party if that were one of its principles? I don't think she's greedy. In fact, as Christian charity goes, she practices it to rarely seen levels.

Anyway, always trying to think of new ways to get through - even a little. Humor makes things worse. And we're running out of do-overs.

julie said...

Rick, I have similar issues with certain family members. People who taught me my values, and even agree with a lot of points when discussions veer slightly political, but who still hang onto the idea that Republicans=evil, Democrats=good. We don't delve deeply into politics; instead, they post political propaganda on Facebook with no discussion because of course no minds have been/ will be changed.

Their posts reached a crescendo during the DNC, but I've noticed they've been remarkably quiet this past week... It's probably too much to hope that anyone has been mugged by reality by this year's 9/11, though.

Gagdad Bob said...

Give them the are you a liberal test. Few Americans can actually pass it.

julie said...

Oh, that's depressing - I can think of at least one, if not several, who would probably score as a true liberal on that test. Mostly over the racial issues.

Rick said...

Thanks, Julie.

Why don't they ever think a Dem could be greedy and manipulative? I think Republicans can.
If they do, I've never seen it. Not that I recall anyway. It's usually love, love, love me some Ds.
But then again, I don't read lefty blogs.

I'm going to have to ask that one. But I ain't bringing it up. Maybe.

Rick said...

Thanks, Bob.

Short piece by Prager. Wish it had more questions in it.

chris m said...

I've become a shallow, knee-jerk lib h8r. That's what eleven years of non-stop hate coming from the left did to me.

It's interesting to note how quiet a lot of vocal dems I know got after the DNC ended.

Rick said...

My friend, I might safely say, is pro-life in general, except when she's pro-choice.

Rick said...

Eleven years. Psssh. Newbee.

Magister said...

The only "public sphere" left in this country is the weed-infested parking lot in front of Lowe's, which is going to close in a few weeks for lack of business.

Our culture has been chopped up into xenophobic tribal subcultures. Maybe it was always like this, but new technologies have reinforced the walls and made it easier not only for people not to talk to each other but not even to see each other, much less agree on such public things as "facts."

As H. G. Wells predicted, our civilization is breaking apart primarily along moral lines. Wells thought the world would be organized eventually into moral enclaves. Collectivists over here, individualists over there, etc.

People keep to themselves more. Because of that, you get fiercer opinions (lots of feedback loops to amp them up) and a siege mentality.

Dissatisfaction with this situation is part of what fueled Obama's election -- some people thought he was actually a "uniter" and "postpartisan," when in reality he was just a Chicago huckster with a pass-along degree and a long history of hanging out with the radical communist anti-colonial grievance cult. Now their buzz has been harshed and they'll break for Romney in landslide numbers. They just want to save some face when they do it.

My feeling is that we have to get outside and meet the neighbors more, before we all turn into hardened trench warfare survivors who want nothing more than to obliterate our enemies, by force if necessary.

Something is going to give.

Gagdad Bob said...

That was much easier before the left politicized everything, in effect imposing their religion on all of us.

Magister said...

Gagdad Bob said...

Along those lines, an apt observation by Burckhardt:

"Weary of its own discontinuous vision of the world, the materialist mind lets itself slide toward a false continuity or unity, toward a pseudo-spiritual intoxication..."

That would be the intoxicating oneness promised by the Obama cult, and by the left more generally.

Jack said...

"My feeling is that we have to get outside and meet the neighbors more, before we all turn into hardened trench warfare survivors who want nothing more than to obliterate our enemies, by force if necessary."

Well put. I have often thought the same thing. In fact, I started investigating conservatism, in part anyway, because I wanted to try and bridge the gap. I had no idea I end up agreeing!

The trap seems to be that when one does reach out the political/social/ethical/etc differences become apparent and that is when conflict ensues. That is when the ad hominem attacks occur and communication breaks down. I think we've all pretty much experienced this in one way or another.

Sadly, the reality of the situation with the vast number of leftists is that the only way to "get along" with them is to remain silent. The basic motto of leftism is "you are free believe anything you want as long as you agree with us". There are exceptions of course, but sadly, they are few and far between.

I have made the mistake of trying to engage leftists on their own terms i.e. to show how their views, in and of themselves, are incoherent and illogical. In most cases this has proven to be of little use. One friend hotly replying when I seemingly had him logically cornered, "you're never going to change anyone's mind!!"

So logic and evidence is out.

Maybe it is time to just to let go of trying to convince anyone, but to simply, calmly and generously state one's own views. To do so regardless of the waves of irrationality and invective that will inevitably be directed towards us.

(Though it's probably best to do this one on one. If done in large groups of leftists i.e. one is vastly outnumbered, they will likely try to sacrifice you to their god.)

With individuals there are still dangers, but not so dramatic: they will tell you to shut up (in one form or another); end the friendship; or maybe...just maybe, they will start to listen.

Or not.

Gagdad Bob said...

As soon as people find out you're conservative, it gets very awkward because of the success the left has had in vilifying and dehumanizing conservatives. It's the one thing they do really well.

Gagdad Bob said...

Interesting how Orwell just nailed that aspect of the left, I believe because it is an intrinsic and not accidental feature, i.e., hatred and projection.

julie said...

Maybe it is time to just to let go of trying to convince anyone...

Yes, I have long accepted that fact. Especially in light of what Bob just said, which reminds me of another saying that hasn't been said here in a while but bears repeating: You can't talk somebody out of what they were never talked into.

For several years now, I have preferred simply trying my best to live as I ought. I doubt I will convince anyone with argument, especially not in person. Perhaps I may convince someone with my life, instead. Ultimately, it is the truest argument I can make.

Jack said...


Yes, I very much agree. Happiness is the best revenge, as it were.

Nonetheless, I am currently reading this.

I have in my possession a few other books on rhetoric and argumentation etc. I am trying to recreate a little bit of the trivium for myself. I thought it could only help matters.

Jack said...

and it should read above at 2:54pm:

"So logic and evidence ARE out."

julie said...

Re. The book, yes, I wholeheartedly agree it's an important skill. It just isn't my strong suit, especially face to face; goes too much against the grain, though I realize that's not always a good thing.

Van Harvey said...

""So logic and evidence ARE out."
What's most startling is that even the possibility of logic and evidence are out, with the far lefties - the extent to which Hierarchy is not only ignored, but beyond comprehension, is stunning.

Well beyond comprehension right side up anyway, its inverse has become a soph-evident 'truths', where particulars are clearly! more important than higher, more fundamental considerations, principles, etc.

I don't try to argue with the uber lefties anymore, at least not with any thought of winning them over, but I will and do engage them on the off chance that the 'moderates' looking on might let the seed germinate.

commoncents said...

Video showing U.S. Ambassador Stevens being dragged out of Consulate in Benghazi, Libya:

EbonyRaptor said...

In one respect, it's a miracle our country hasn't fractured to this level sooner than this. The seeds of our destruction were the building blocks our country's foundation was laid upon - the belief in a Creator and our natural rights derived from that Creator.

Once the popular culture rejected that fundamental belief, it would seem this outcome was inevitable.

When I was a boy in Sunday School, one of the Bible Stories I found most interesting was Abraham praying for Sodom and Gomorrah. He kept bargaining with God by lowering the number of righteous people needed to spare the cities. And God kept agreeing! In my child's mind I thought that Abraham was being too pushy, that he was taking advantage of God, and it kind of bothered me. Eventually I understood the great lesson of that Bible story - that God's patience is nearly inexhaustible and that He wants us to come to Him.

I hope God's patience for our country has not run out.

Van Harvey said...

If he follows the laws, it doesn't matter.

If he doesn't, it doesn't matter what his religion is, or isn't, either - see Obama for reference.

Van Harvey said...

I shoulda known that Cuz would take the pliers to the comment my last comment replied to. Fear the blow torch!

Gagdad Bob said...

If he's around he just shoots comments that exceed the stupidity/banality limit down the memory hole. Kind of an itchy trigger finger IMO, but that's Dupree.