Thursday, August 08, 2013

Leftism: An Autoimmune Disorder of Language

The goal of education should be... reality, right? If not that, then what? Fantasy? Obedience? Wish fulfillment? Power?

In his Autobiographical Reflections, Voegelin remembers his first teaching jobs in America, which were at some elite eastern universities such as Harvard. He found the job impossible, because "the ideological corruption of the East Coast" had already "affected the student mind profoundly."

And this was only in the 1940s! Nevertheless, he was prescient enough to recognize that these students -- proto-Obamas -- were already manifesting "the behavioral characteristics of totalitarian aggressiveness" that has become so commonplace today.

Voegelin goes on to describe how these celebrators of tolerance "simply will not tolerate information that is not in agreement with their ideological prejudices." He adds, however, that even they were not as bad as their European counterparts, whose "picture of reality" was "so badly distorted" that they "simply start shouting and rioting if any serious attempt is made to bring into discussion facts that are incompatible with their preconceptions." So I guess community organizing started in Germany.

Seventy five years ago it was still possible to reach at least some of the leftist students by "swamping them with mountains of information." They apparently retained a kernel of common sense, allowing them to recognize "that their picture of reality is badly distorted." It's never easy to turn one of them around and get them to take a look at the wide world outside Plato's Cave, but "at least they begin to have second thoughts."

The key, of course is to retain an open mind -- not just to information, but to transcendence. No amount of information can compensate for loss of the latter, for the same reason that all the quantity in the world doesn't add up to a single quality (just as an infinite number of genetic copying errors doesn't arrive at a single truth, including the self-refuting "truth" of Darwinian fundamentalism).

Meanwhile, the rejection of reality in favor of ideological "second realities" has hardened into institutional form. Thus, the primary job of the academic-media complex is to assure compliance with the needs of political power. As such, to assimilate the ideology is the exact opposite of a liberal education. To make matters worse, since the 1960s, academia has "become dominated by mediocre people who cannot properly resist radical students in debate."

Nevertheless, pneumopathology is easily confused with freedom, for the simple reason that the contemporary truth-seeker must swim against the tide of our debased culture, so freedom appears as labor. Which it is. No one said liberty is easy! If it were, it wouldn't be so historically rare and recent. In any event, "Recapturing reality in opposition to contemporary deformation requires a considerable amount of work."

Another important consideration in the conflation of freedom and bondage is that the ideologue is freed from the persecution of not knowing. But not knowing is the human condition -- and the prerequisite of any form of knowledge -- so to forget our ignorance is to jettison reality.

All nontroll readers of this blog will understand the fundamental lie of the left that freedom is slavery and slavery is freedom: "Anybody with an informed and reflective mind" will find "himself hemmed in, if not oppressed, from all sides by a flood of ideological language -- meaning thereby language symbols that pretend to be concepts..." They pretend to be concepts, but if one attempts to define them, one quickly discovers that they have no fixed content at all, e.g., "social justice," "peace," "tolerance," "diversity," "income disparity," etc."

Or, the content is the opposite of what the term implies, for what could be less diverse and more drearily monochromatic than leftist diversity? What could be more provocative to our enemies and more conducive to global disorder than military weakness?

To paraphrase Don Colacho, the left in whatever form is first and foremost a lexical strategy. They begin by attacking language, so it is no longer possible to even talk about reality. This makes it exceedingly difficult for the conservative, because when he critiques the left, it will appear to the leftist that he is coming from a place of "unreality."

Perhaps we may take solace in the fact that this is not the first time this has occurred, and that it is a constant struggle to find the words and concepts adequate to illuminate reality: "More than once in history, language has been degraded and corrupted to such a degree that it no longer can be used for expressing the truth of existence."

This occurs when language becomes an idol, a tendency which seems to be a permanent temptation to humans -- far more dangerous and subtle than the old tendency to elevate objects to idols.

This has frankly been going on ever since man learned how to speak and write. For example, Socratic philosophy specifically emerged in a climate of sophistry, whereby the clever and cynical Sophist engaged "in misconstructions of reality for the purpose of gaining social ascendence and material profits" (not to mention young boys).

Yesterday we spoke of one of the main tactics of the left, which is to close off certain avenues of thought, i.e., the tyranny of political correctness. This is how the ideologue makes "his state of alienation compulsory for everyone." You know -- everybody's a racist, or we are persecuted by "the rich," or there is a war on women. People have to believe these fantasies in order for the ideologue to wield political power.

As Voegelin has said, ideology is always rooted in a rejection of the first and tenth commandments, or in the promotion of idolatry and envy. The left would be out of business if it couldn't transform words to idols and promote envy as a virtue instead of a sin and a punishment (since, unlike most sins, envy gives the envier no real pleasure).

Out of time. The remodelers are messing with my office again.


Van Harvey said...

"The goal of education should be... reality, right? If not that, then what? Fantasy? Obedience? Wish fulfillment? Power?"

Oops, you forgot the most popular answer: "Skills!"

What you are able to do with skills which don't seat well with reality... isn't often addressed of course.... bother.

Gagdad Bob said...

Chicks dig guys with skilz.

julie said...

Nunchuk skilz are pretty awesome.

Gagdad Bob said...

Or cage fighting. Come down here and see what happens if you try and hit me.

mushroom said...

This is good. They beat us over head with "consensus", too.

Perception is not reality, but language has a lot to do with perception. This is the third or fourth reference to confirmation bias I've hit in the last couple days. Must be a warning.

julie said...


I'm going to have to give that movie another chance some time. I wasn't a fan the first time around, because I was almost that awkward when I was that age. Too close to home...

Magister said...

The goal of education should be... reality, right? If not that, then what? Fantasy? Obedience? Wish fulfillment? Power?


It's never easy to turn one of them around and get them to take a look at the wide world outside Plato's Cave

Because power and riches are for those who manage the puppet show.

There are other "immanentists" as well. I recently found a book called Soil and Sacrament that sounded congenial, but the author (now a prof somewhere) made some pointed crack about our collective need to move beyond transcendence [ha!] to "immanence." His use of these terms is sloppy, so the charitable interpretation of this reckless thought is that he just wishes more of us would practice what we preach, to be in the zone of O more often.

Of course, I could be wrong: he could be just another "immanentize the eschaton" liberal horizontal drum-beater. Time and pages will tell.

the primary job of the academic-media complex is to assure compliance with the needs of political power

Or its kissing cousin, non-profit power.

it is a constant struggle to find the words and concepts adequate to illuminate reality

Fascinating track of though. This would turn anti-totalitarian discourse into poetry.

Which it is!

Gagdad Bob said...

Poetry, the cure for knowitallotry.

ted said...

To make matters worse, since the 1960s, academia has "become dominated by mediocre people who cannot properly resist radical students in debate."

Reminds me of this funny video where Lacan, who was a radical himself, gets disrupted by a real radical brat.

julie said...

Heh - speaking of the war on women (emphasis mine),

"Kuae’s mother — like all the black mothers Kuae knew as a child — had worked. She was a high-school drama teacher and speech therapist and was home late afternoons and had vacations off with her children. But after her death, Kuae learned from her father that her mother had always wished she could have spent more time with her children. She didn’t want to die with similar regrets....

Friends and family were surprised: as an upper-middle-class African-American woman, didn’t she have an obligation to climb the career ladder?"

It's actually kind of an interesting article; it seems like most of these women gave up their careers for motherhood, only to spend all of their time doing everything they can to avoid just being normal mothers. Of course they lament their fate, they have no idea how to just be glad to be mothers. Or to go back to a Bobservation from earlier this week, they spend all their time doing because they can't stand being. Then they wonder why that hasn't worked out....

julie said...

Case in point, a little further on the husband of the above-mentioned woman laments:

' seemed natural to him that Kuae, as a self-proclaimed stay-at-home mother, might want to try putting some more time into their home. Into things like “the shuttling of kids, the picking up the house, the laundry, the shopping.” Even, he ventured further, “balancing checkbooks, cleaning, setting up the home Wi-Fi, fixing an appliance or whatever.” A hoot of laughter from Kuae greeted the end of this task list.'

She's too busy talking about being a stay-at-home mom to other stay-at-home moms to actually just be a stay-at-home mom. But hey, at least she's finding personal fulfillment through all of the acclaim she receives from people who don't live with her or rely on her for anything important....

Christina M said...

A lot of people assume that if you are a stay-at-home mom, you should be the one picking up all the volunteer slack, because, after all you have all that free time, and the other moms and dads are working, and if you don't do it, no one will. I finally stepped off that guilt train last August. It took me until October to extricate myself from all those tar babies: Scouts, Soccer, Band Boosters, Parish Counsel. My first answer to any request now is "NO. I have two more years to raise my boys; and they, and my husband, are my only priority."

I love Napoleon Dynamite (and Nacho Libre). Deb is me, except that rolling suitcase would have been filled with all my school books and notebooks.

julie said...

That's a great point, and I know a lot of moms do fall into that trap. I think *some* volunteering can be good, but I know from experience that once you get started people jump at the chance to take up as much of your time as possible.

I've been thinking about this in general lately, partly because as my kids get older and more social I meet more parents and see a wider variety of parenting styles. It strikes me that part of the problem, especially among mothers such as those in the article, is that culturally there are a lot of people, perhaps even especially women, who don't consider any of the ordinary work of being a SAHM as being intrinsically valuable and dignified, much less being able to find it potentially fulfilling to just do the laundry, make a meal, and balance the checkbook. So when their husbands ask it of them (and probably not unreasonably), they actually feel demeaned and even humiliated. I can't blame them; even though they obviously know that being at home is important, deep down they don't believe it.

I've never seen Nacho Libre; maybe I'll have to give that one a chance sometime, too.

Gagdad Bob said...

Language: Inability To Call Terrorism What It Is Dooms U.S. Policy To Incoherence.

'Thus continues the administration's penchant for wordplay, the bending of language to fit a political need.

In Janet Napolitano's famous formulation, terror attacks are now "man-caused disasters." And the "global war on terror" is no more. It's now an "overseas contingency operation."

Nidal Hasan proudly tells a military court that he, a soldier of Allah, killed 13 American soldiers in the name of jihad. But the massacre remains officially classified as an act not of terrorism but of "workplace violence."

The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others are killed in an al-Qaida-affiliated terror attack — and for days it is waved off as nothing more than a spontaneous demonstration gone bad....

This is a president who to this day cannot bring himself to identify the enemy as radical Islam.
Just Tuesday night, explaining the U.S. embassy closures across the Muslim world, he cited the threat from "violent extremism."

The word "extremism" is meaningless. People don't devote themselves to being extreme. Extremism has no content. The extreme of what?

.... But for President Obama, the word "Islamist" may not be uttered. Language must be devised to disguise the unpleasantness.

Result? The world's first lexicological war.'


He got it all right except that the left's war on language didn't just start in 2008!

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, what is the left but "The plaintive cry of a man hoping that saying so makes it so"?

ge said...

Conservative Talk pioneer Bob Grant used to rave about Stuart Chase's “Tyranny of Words”...

Open Trench said...

Marital team work load should be split so the two spouses have about equal demands placed on their time and energy.

A primary wage earner gets credited with the effort-hours spent on the job.

A stay at home spouse should expend time and trouble about commensurate with the shift of work done by the wage earner. That should be sufficent to keep the house clean and kids tended to.

A primary wage earner should not be charged with additional work load of things to do at home unless the home spouse has expended 8 or more hours on the home work load (minus breaks and meals)but the load was yet larger than that.

For spouses which both work, hours need to be calculated and home load divided accordingly.

Shirking is detrimental to marital stability.

Both spouses are responsible for making sure intimate time occurs (whether desired or not) for the health of the marraige.

So sayeth the Open Trench, even though the advice was unsolicited. Forgive me.

Magister said...

Open Trench, that's wisdom.

I hesitate to say this in mixed company, but I would bet money that a wife's affection is directly and positively correlated to the husband's level of housework. As you say, it has everything to do with her energy and feeling that the husband cares about her by pitching in.

Not rocket science, but a lot of people, both men and women, get locked into power struggles by pride. Even the working husband should help his houseworking wife. And, going the other way, the houseworking wife should give the husband a beer for bringing home the bacon.

I've seen happy and unhappy couples. The unhappy ones feel, without exception, alone.

mushroom said...

Public scrutiny of their warmaking, or awareness of any success by enemies they do not want, hence the language spin.

Any competent government will behave this way; it is actually a good sign. They are guarded and self-interested just the way they should be.

You know, OT, that I don't mean this as a personal attack on you, but your think tank sounds like it needs to have the crap sucked out.

A republican government has no "self-interest". When a government begins operating, as this one currently is, on the basis of what it best for the government, it naturally creates a consolidation of power. This is not a good thing, no matter how efficient it looks.

And, by the way, in case the folks in the tank haven't noticed, while perhaps efficient, the current policy approach is less than efficacious.

Operating on an actual war footing is necessarily a different situation. This is why the Founders expected us to enact formal declarations of war where the enemy must be named.

julie said...

Magister, you are certainly right about the power struggle and about pride.

As to the share of the work, if memory serves there have been recent studies showing that women are actually happier when their men do less of the housework, regardless of what they profess. Frankly, I think it more sensibly boils down to a reasonable division of work, with each spouse doing what they are good at and otherwise staying out of the other's way unless asked to help. If you're working together as a functional team instead of as a couple opponents, you'll be happier.

There's a pretty good rebuttal of the original article today over at Ace's, from the male perspective. He has some valid points, but overall, I think this sums it up nicely:

"Marriage and family, to most men, is the reward for work, not a distraction from it. Work makes family life possible; family life makes work bearable. That's the Great Compact, the cosmic deal that has kept civilization on a paying basis for the last several thousand years."

Many women, or at least the sorts of women who complain about their families on the Internet anyway, seem never to have learned this bit of truth. Or if they learned it, they just don't care.

ge said...

Heartening news from unlikeliest source
=the cynical Comments of NYTimes readers to BO's 'reassuring' NSA speech today...sounds like they have 'broken up' w/ the POTUS much like M Damon, and side overwhelmingly with Snowed-in

Rick said...

Julie, your topic reminds of this new movie Enough said

julie said...

Looks interesting; plus, it would be nice to see both of them playing different characters from the ones they played on TV.

Rick said...

It would be nice.
I was surprised to find it interesting too (so far).
If we treat the trailer like a parable (as if complete and nothing left out) it reminds of when "Adam knew Eve".
There is something appealing to this trailer/parable. In contrast to, say, Sex in the City where each woman's "new man" is subject to scrutiny by the committee of friends. What man would want to subject himself to this secret committee? And vice versa, what woman would, since men do the same thing. I use the term men loosely. This is the way things are done now. And the committee is envious of something, I think, as someone brought up earlier.

Gerard V. posted this on his Tumblr the other day but Sowell was referring to our government. But it is true for the same reason:

"It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong."

Thomas Sowell

Chris said...

Voeglin's erudition is unquestionable. However, I often find myself scratching my head when I encounter his use of the word "Gnosticism". To say that he uses that term elastically is an understatement.

It seems to me that Voeglin often conflates Gnosticism with apocalypticism- or any movement that he perceives as spiritually/culturally deleterious. "Immanentizing the eschaton" is an interesting way of describing a materialist- yet that is at the antipodes of the gnostic of antiquity.

Christina M said...

Hi Julie,

I have come to realize that the feminist practice of the placing a monetary value on what a women does is Marxist and insidious. Am I saying that right? They say value depends on size of paycheck. I say they are wrong. You couldn't pay me enough to do what I do, but because I don't have some paper with a number on it, I am of no value, or so they say.

It's kind of the same as those Officer Evaluation Reports. Everywhere my husband went, he had a paper going along with him, telling others exactly who he was and what they could expect from him; but every time we moved to a new assignment, I had to prove myself again, starting from zero with the other wives and neighbors. No Wife Evaluation Report to carry along to prove who I was or how much I was worth.

The value of a wife and mom is not written down anywhere, except in your children or the book of life, I suppose.

And to Open Trench and Magister. I will disagree with you both here. Maybe if I was a working wife/mom I would feel differently, but I feel like my husband is intruding into my territory when he does the housework and I don't like it.

julie said...

Lol. I've learned to be grateful when that happens, whether it's my husband or anyone else who is trying to be helpful. Then later, when nobody else is around, I fix it ;)

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

ge said...

Others have prob. w/ EV's G-word usage also:

Voegelin’s use of the language of “gnosticism” involves some serious problems and that he was nevertheless trying to use it to address important issues regarding the fundamental order of human existence and the ways it can fall into disorder. To sum up briefly, the problems with Voegelin’s use of that language are:
It begins by claiming to draw out the implications of historical research on the ancient gnostics but does so in ways that conflict confusingly with the meanings given the word by the leading scholars in that field of research
in his own time.
Even if his use of the term had been in line with that of the scholars of his time, the state of scholarship has advanced considerably in the last half
century, in directions that call into question even the most widely accepted scholarship Voegelin drew on.
Even if the ancient Gnosticism he appealed to as the source of what he called modern “gnosticism” had not been so clearly disinclined to seek salvation in worldly fulfillment, the historical links Voegelin asserted between that and the modern immanentizing patterns of thought he talked about do not exist in the evidence available, and his assertions of those links did not meet the usual standards of scholarly carefulness that he
believed in.
When the word “gnosticism” appears in the writings of Voegelin and
Voegelinians, it brings with it a host of associations that are likely to confuse the issues its use is intended to clarify, or at least puts out a bone of contention that is likely to distract many readers from the serious problems Voegelinian research tries to bring to their attention.
Voegelin’s own use of the term, though richly meaningful when one goes into it in depth and sets aside all the side issues it tends to arouse, covers so many distinct problems that its very richness makes it seem overly general and imprecise—a problem Voegelin seems to have recognized himself when he said in 1978, as I mentioned earlier, that besides what
was then usually called by that name, the ideas he was interested in using it to address included many other strands, such as apocalypticism, alchemy, magic, theurgy, and scientism.

Christina M said...

By the way, at 3am in the morning I suddenly realized that I hadn't said very well what I was trying to say. Darn it.

About that woman in the article you linked, Julie: She's trying to get her value from things that will never give her value.

I suddenly could see clearly for the first time in my life, that women inside the Judeo-Christian world are of infinite value as women, but that value is not tangible, transferable, or recognized in the outside world.

In fact, in the world outside of the Judeo-Christian, woman as woman has no value. And every time a woman tries to gain value in that outside world through work, she loses. And not only does she lose. She takes away from the man, and the world in which he works.

There is almost nothing more daring and brave than a woman who is content, in this day and age, with her value in the intangible Christian world.

Probably at 3am tonight I will regret having said this too.

julie said...

Oh, I hope not - you said it perfectly! That's exactly what I was heading toward, only I never quite got there :)

Van Harvey said...

Christina M said "I have come to realize that the feminist practice of the placing a monetary value on what a women does is Marxist and insidious. Am I saying that right?"

Put more broadly, whenever faced with an issue of Quality, the Leftist mind automatically transforms it into an issue of Quantity.

Unfortunately, the Right, caught unawares and outside of church, typically accepts the terms and counters with how to tally up the quantities into hidden benefits.

The left transforms Philosophy into Politics, and the Right responds with that fragment of politics they'd prefer... and are baffled as more and more of the world slips from their grasp.

Ya can't fight Philosophy with Politics.

Christina M said...

Whew! Thanks Julie and Van Harvey. I'm copying what you said, VH. Articulating my realization in the last few days, provoked by these posts and comments, has changed my attitude about just about everything.