Thursday, August 27, 2015

Liberal Utopia, or Obama's Word Made Flesh

This book by Robert Conquest on Reality and Delusion in the Course of History is one of the most insultaining works I've ever read. Among other things, it shows that historians are, get this, as deluded as their subjects -- call it left-on-left delusion, or tenure². It would be funnier if it weren't so deadly.

Consider yesterday's murder of the reporter and cameraman. The proximate cause of their deaths is political correctness, for the station was no doubt under pressure to hire a black person, no matter how unqualified or insane.

And more generally, it is precisely the liberal media that ramps up racial tension. The Obama-era race war rhetoric would be deprived of oxygen at once if the liberal media would just STFU about it. But they won't, so they of all people shouldn't be surprised that some deranged blacks will take the rhetoric seriously. They're the ones pouring the gas and giving away matches.

In reading Conquest's chronicle of delusion, the thought keeps occurring to me: by virtue of what principle is all this madness possible? What is the fatal flaw in man decreeing that insanity is always in the saddle? Yes, we can say man is "fallen" and leave it at that. But that's like saying we are prone to illness and death. True, but it leaves out a lot of details.

It occurs to me that one could answer this question with another question, which is simply What is the lesson of history? Since the same patterns keep repeating themselves, it apparently means we aren't learning the lesson.

For example: is it true that Munich = Iran and Obama = Chamberlain?

Conquest makes the point that what was unique about Nazism and communism was that we were dealing with definitionally unappeasable enemies. From our side, -- the side of sanity -- we wanted to believe there was something we could do to make their madness and hatred stop. But there was nothing we could do, for communism was a worldwide conflict between two antithetical systems, just as National Socialism was intrinsically expansionistic.

Islamists cannot be appeased, or they wouldn't be Islamists.

Another point before we get into the details. We all recognize the value of learning history, but to what end? And how much is enough? How do you know when you've learned enough to *get* the point?

I was thinking about this in the context of the founders. They were all learned men who knew their history. But think about how partial, incomplete, and fragmentary it was compared to what is known today! Truly, they knew a tiny fraction of what the google machine places at our fingertips, and yet, it was sufficient to get the Point. To put it another way, let us suppose President Obama knows much more history than did James Madison or Alexander Hamilton or Abraham Lincoln. So. What. For he has certainly missed the point.

Come to think of it, Lincoln famously immersed himself in the pretend histories of Shakespeare. I would suggest that in so doing he knew more about "history" than does Obama. This is because Shakespeare drills down to the invariant human nature that animates history. History is intrinsically complex, but perhaps like physics or the weather, controlled by a limited number of variables.

The most important of these variables is human nature, itself an amalgam of variables.

From the Publisher's Weekly reviewer, with my emphases:

This book "is a frontal assault on the pieties of the left. At its heart is Conquest's critique of a deluded idealization of the Soviet Union and the underestimation of the danger it posed to the West....

"But his targets here are far broader: if dreamy-eyed socialism has died, its ghost lives on, he says, in a mishmash of icons and fetishes..., held together by uncritical utopianism and reducing our intellectual culture to cerebral jelly.... today, these beasts dwell in academic corridors, where professors speak in jargon and channel the repressive spirit of the medieval Inquisition....

"Responding to the war against Islamist barbarians, Conquest assails veneration of the U.N., the EU, the International Criminal Court, a knee-jerk intellectual anti-Westernism and the presumption that benevolent colonial intervention is necessarily bad. This pithy book... will infuriate as many readers as it gladdens."

Who exactly will it infuriate? Oh, just childish and uncritically anti-Western utopians with dream-riddled brains of Jello prone to fetishistic idealization of their simultaneously post- and pre-religious icons, and willing to barbarically repress anyone who fails to bow before them. In short, the Tenured.

Ah, now we're getting somewhere! For that describes one of the invariants of human nature we're after.

Some of the amazon reviewers fit the description, such that it is as if they leapt from the pages of the book. For example, this two word review:

"Fascist garbage."

Or, "When will conservatives start trying to use facts, reason, and common sense? Instead we get vitrol (sic) once more, sometimes disguised as reasonableness."

I would agree that the book isn't perfect, but I'm getting my $2 worth.

"The psychosphere and the logosphere are permeated by concepts, ideas, verbalizations -- a whole apparatus designed in theory to form some sort of contact with reality, but often resulting in reality's being blocked off."

At risk of auto-fellattery, doesn't that sound a bit like your old Gagdad? He often tosses in neologisms like that.

For example, he talks about how we need "general words and concepts" in order to think, but how these can escape "empirical control" and grow into "obstacles against understanding," which he calls brain blindfolds. Good term, but I would shorten it to brainfold, or perhaps I-patch.

In any event, these crocular infirmities and ideological myopias have always been with us: "Ideas insufficiently connected to realities have always been part of the human effort to understand."

Except there is a big part of man that doesn't want to understand, precisely. Indeed, this is their whole reason for being: not even to misunderstand, but rather, to dis-understand. This is what makes them so pernicious and malignant: that they are rooted in a real and enduring hatred of reality.

He touches on this later in the book, writing of how this drive comes "not so much from a devotion to the proclaimed social transformation as from a hatred for the actual" (emphasis mine).

The following opinion will infuriate as many as it gladdens, but I see Obama as a Hater of the Actual -- which is one of the secrets of his "success." An editorial the other day in the WSJ spoke to this (although I do not share the optimistic conclusion):

"No factor" in Obama's successful failure has been "more decisive than his unshakable determination not to let Congress, the courts, the Constitution or a failed presidency -- as America has traditionally defined it -- stand in his way." In short, we have a president who absolutely will not allow reality to interfere with ideology:

"American democracy has historically relied on three basic constraints: a shared commitment to the primacy of the constitutional process over any political agenda, the general necessity to achieve bipartisan support to make significant policy changes, and the natural desire of leaders to be popular by delivering peace and prosperity. Mr. Obama has transformed America by refusing to accept these constraints."

This is how Obama was able to fast-track the liberal utopia we now find ourselves in.

"There are minds that, having risen beyond primitive, unthinking orthodoxies, often merely turn to a rejection of the traditional.... But we often find those who have achieved a critical attitude to the traditional have also adapted a largely, or wholly, uncritical attitude to untried, or even failed, alternatives whose attraction is verbal rather than real."

Thus, Obama hasn't brought about a real utopia, but at least we're living in his verbal utopia, so we got that going for us. It is his -- and the left's -- word made all too flesh.


wild said...

ted said...

Someone just posted this quote on my facebook feed: "The most powerful thing we can do as humans is imagine a better future and then go build it."

Oh lord. I wanted to respond, but I won't. Even facebook friends have feelings. Utopian crap all abound!

mushroom said...

I was thinking the same thing about the media's role in this latest shooting. I would guess that a good 50% of shooters have in their heads that they will finally get the attention they deserve when they start pulling the trigger. Couple that with the race war narrative the media parks the van on, and it is not surprising some poor fool decides to get some revenge.

julie said...

Mushroom, yep - I saw the point made elsewhere yesterday that the same media who leap to the defense of All Muslims Everywhere every time there's a terrorist incident, for fear of inciting backlash, do the exact opposite whenever a black person is killed by a white person, regardless of circumstances. Notably, there have been extremely few incidences of actual backlash by anyone against Muslims in the West - quite possibly, I will allow, because the media takes such steps to call for cool heads in the aftermath. But let an event happens that fits The Narrative (white people are racists 111!!1!!), and they will yap about it nonstop for as long as it takes for the riots to break out.

julie said...

This is what makes them so pernicious and malignant: that they are rooted in a real and enduring hatred of reality.

Yes, because reality - and by extension, of course, God - is so mean and unfair. If only they could have their way, the world would be Nice for Everyone.

mushroom said...

Reality: Why we can't have nice things.

Van Harvey said...

" The following opinion will infuriate as many as it gladdens, but I see Obama as a Hater of the Actual -- which is one of the secrets of his "success."..."

Yes, exactly so, as it has been for the last 500 years of modernity... and the millennia of years before that as well. The ProRegressive Leftist is all about pretending the world is, what they wish that their improvements on it would be. Isn't that exactly what EveAdam did as well? They both knew, from direct knowledge of He who made it, that the fruit would not be good for them, but they wanted it to be otherwise, so they listened to a smart deconstruction of appearances, rather than the reality of what was wise.

And without reality to stand on, you fall.