Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Praise Marx and Pass the Ammo

It seems that Isaiah Berlin, whose first book was a biography of Marx, never got over the experience.

In a good way. He tips his hand in the introduction, with a remark from Bishop Butler that was apparently never far from Berlin's mind: "Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be: why then should we desire to be deceived?"

That one's for you, Karl.

Well, you can always ignore the question by -- to paraphrase the man himself -- dazzling the useful idiots with a little dialectic, or by simply rejecting the premise. In which case, you are probably a Man of the Left -- assuming you have done so consciously and willingly, as opposed to doing so because of mental illness, coercion, material gain, the lust for tenure, intoxication, or brain damage.

Many people are coerced to see things as they aren't, especially in childhood. However, if you are sensitive, you will be aware of a ubiquitous social pressure to see things in a certain way, to line up like metal filings in a magnetic field. You might say that this is what makes us a "social (or political) animal." We couldn't be a social animal if not for "forces" that are at a right angle, so to speak, to a competing -- or complementary -- force of individuation.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the social force, because without it we wouldn't be human. It's the invisible glue that makes a people indivisible, i.e., "one." But obviously, just as there are pathological individuals, there are pathological groups; it's not so much the force but the content that is problematic.

Again, unless you are a Man of the Left, in which case you reject the premise of a norm or standard for human individuals and groups (or pretend to reject it; more on which below).

It sounds preposterous -- or polemical or exaggerated -- to people hearing this for the first time (especially liberals), which I suppose is why Chagnon was so blindsided when he found himself pulled into the gears of the academic leftwing hate machine. For the wheels of Social Justice may grind precipitously, but they grind mercilessly. Nobody expects the Spurious Inquisition.

"Somewhere along the way," writes Chagnon, "the anthropology profession was hijacked by radicals who constituted the 'Academic Left,'" as discussed in the 1994 book Higher Superstition. In 1994, I myself probably still had one foot in the barackish pond of higher superstition, the other foot cautiously dipping into the mountain spring of Things As They Are.

Was it religion or God or O that finally saved (or ruined) me? In this realm we can only discuss correlations, not mechanistic or linear causation. I can say that in 1995 I made the conscious determination to devote the remainder of my life to the search for God. I suppose that may sound courageous or romantic, but seriously, what else is there for an adult? In any event, afterwards the Changes accelerated.

I suppose the Marxist would say that 1995 is when I plunged into a pernicious addiction to the opium of the masses -- the opium that prevents us from seeing actions and consequences as they are and will be. For what they are is material, and what they will be is determined by class conflict. Thus, I am not seeing things as they are, but how the ruling class wants me to see them. I am a tool.

Chagnon gives no evidence of being a religious tool. Rather, just empirical. Common sense. Plain speaking. Nevertheless, he was treated as a religious heretic. For according to the academic left, the proper role of anthropology is to "focus on the 'crimes' committed by previous anthropologists and what they must now do to provide restitution to the victims of their 'scientific' research."

Which brings to mind our President's crack about "white man's greed running a world in need." I mean, one doesn't pick up such insanity in church!

Oh, wait...

It's such a cliché, but it nevertheless applies: the anthropologist regards all cultures as uniquely beautiful except his own. Again, to ask the question posed at the top: why this desire to be deceived? We are seeing a version of this in the reaction of many prominent leftists to Putin's invasion of the Ukraine: "who are we to lecture him, when we are guilty of the same kind of aggression in invading Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Panama, or Grenada?" Or, to paraphrase a commenter at American Digest, who were we to invade the South and free the slaves?

The first thing one wants to say is: if only you opposed Putin's aggression as vociferously as you did Bush's! At the same time, using their formulation, I should be as enthusiastic about Putin's aggression as I was about America toppling Saddam, because I am simply animated by violence and imperialism. Therefore, I am the hypocrite. (Sounds crazy, but I heard Dennis Kucinich make this argument just yesterday.)

"Moral retardation" is too mild a term for this kind of perversion.

According to Chagnon, the "new anthropology" came down to a forensic search for the Bad Guys. True, but it's not much of a search, since the bad guys are always us. It's a foregone conclusion. One wants to say that this seems a bit intellectually lazy, but laziness alone can't account for an inversion of reality. It takes real work to be that crazy.

"A whole generation of students and teachers became convinced that everything, including scientific inquiry, is inextricably political because knowledge itself was inextricably a social -- i.e., a political -- phenomenon" (Gross, quoted in Chagnon).

And for the left, politics is just war by other means, which means that anything is permitted in order to secure victory. That is, in wartime, one is permitted to commit acts that would be considered crimes during peacetime.

No, not actual murder (at least in the US; for the most part), but certainly murder of the enemy's reputation: "Because your cause [is] moral and theirs [is] not, you [may] use false claims against competitors based on your presumed authority" (Chagnon).

Note the ironic recourse to moral authority, when objective morality is precisely what the new anthropologists deny. Another irony is that this is precisely how Chagnon describes the Yanomamö -- they have no compunction whatsoever about lying, stealing, and deception, not to mention rape, kidnap, infanticide, murder, you name it.

In reading the book, it occurred to me that the Yanomamö happily live in total contravention to every Commandment -- which is fine, since we shouldn't be imposing our own tyrannical and repressive morality on them.

Nor should we expect "humane" or "enlightened" behavior on the part of the left. Rather, we should respect the ways of their tribe, and not pretend to judge them in the light of a higher standard that doesn't exist.


Christina M said...

I read this again last night provoked by your recent posts. It could be describing the whole Michael Mann/Global Warming thing all over again.

The Galileo Affair

Van Harvey said...

"Again, to ask the question posed at the top: why this desire to be deceived?"

Because of our own desire to deceive. Can't have one without the other, and if you can deny the first, you're home free.

Van Harvey said...

(See Adam & Eve's discussion of how to consume tasty snacks, for reference)

Magister said...

Yes, well, would that the Left were as remote from us as the Yanomamö.

julie said...

Nor should we expect "humane" or "enlightened" behavior on the part of the left. Rather, we should respect the ways of their tribe, and not pretend to judge them in the light of a higher standard that doesn't exist.

And there you go. They have no reason to believe one should live and let live, but they certainly do respect force. Hence, people with fatwas against them can expect to forego public speaking in certain venues, provided that officials are notified of the fatwa. That should make the next election cycle even more interesting...

Christina M said...

Joan of Argghh! said...

Just read Michael Crichton's fictional-but-accurate "State of Fear" where the neo-antropologist film maker gets eaten by the very tribe of cannibals that he refused to believe were capable of it.

I ell-oh-elled!

Rick said...

Joan, that story reminds of another. Goes something like this: Some league of volunteers hurry to Valdez, Alaska to swab and de-oil this cute baby otter or some cuter creature back to perfect health. Who wouldn't. And after much scrubbing and great expense is clean finally, enough at least to be set free once again onto Mother Nature's Bosom.


Two minutes later, some league's lunch is eaten whole by Killer Whale*.

I tell you, The Sea was angry that day my friends..

*no offense, whales who are not killers and people allergic to oily otter stories.

mushroom said...

I can say that in 1995 I made the conscious determination to devote the remainder of my life to the search for God.

Not only do we have nothing better to do for eternity or infinity, whichever comes first, we really enjoy following along.

mushroom said...

A whale's gotta eat. Sympathy and mercy in the wild are the luxuries of a full belly.

julie said...

In the wild, and even in the "civilized" world. A sinking tide lowers all boats...

Christina M said...

You're born with this innate ability to read your environment and the people you encounter and then your whole life you are told that what you see is not true and that you are the evil one for seeing it and judging it, and god forbid, you're just not supposed to judge.

Two years ago, I went to visit my family for the first time in a long time, and observed the relationship between my parents and a so-called "friend" of theirs named Gina. It was no friendship and it was clear to me. As I was driving home, I resolved that I was going to list and remove all the "Gena Scenarios" out of my life. That's the moment I discovered how much I lie to myself about just about everything. Teasing out the lies has been one of the hardest things I have ever done.

It's not so much that I desired to deceive, it's that I had been told for so long that it was wrong to say out loud what I saw.