Friday, November 18, 2016

Strange Bedfellows: Romance & Politics

I recently finished a book called Extravagant Expectations: New Ways to Find Romantic Love in America, after reading of it in another book by Theodore Dalrymple. The premise sounded fascinating: what do personal ads tell us about who we are and who we have become? Professor Backflap relieves me of the burden of explaining the whole idea:

"Hollander investigates how Americans today pursue romantic relationships, with special reference to the advantages and drawbacks of Internet dating compared to connections made in school, college, and the workplace. By analyzing printed personals, dating websites, and advice offered by pop psychology books, he examines the qualities that people seek in a partner and also assesses the influence of the remaining conventional ideas of romantic love.

"Hollander suggests that notions of romantic love have changed due to conflicting values and expectations and the impact of pragmatic considerations. Individualism, high expectations, social and geographic mobility, changing sex roles, and the American national character all play a part in this fascinating and finally sobering exploration of men and women to find love and meaning in life."

Now, this is not normally Hollander's beat. Or is it? He is a sociologist and intellectual historian who has published over a dozen books on communism, socialism, and the left in general; perhaps his most famous is Anti-Americanism. The theme of the latter is as follows:

"Why is it that while millions of people all over the world dream about living in the United States, many American intellectuals believe that this is a uniquely deformed and unjust society? How did the radical beliefs of the '60s survive and become, for many Americans, the new conventional wisdom? How is it possible that while communist systems are collapsing and seek a market economy, critics in the United States remain convinced of the evils of capitalism? Why are there more Marxists on any handful of American campuses than all over Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union? How can we explain that for important opinion makers at home and abroad, the United States has become a symbol of waste, greed, corruption, social injustice, and arrogance?"

So, what is the connection between the two? Not to get ahead of ourselves, but both attitudes -- the personal and political -- seem to involve "extravagant expectations."

Leaving personal relationships to the side for a moment, what is leftism but an extravagant expectation of how the world should be? Leftism expects something of the world that the world can never provide -- in a word... or two, transcendent meaning. Ever since Rousseau penned his malignant flapdoodle, the left has had an inappropriately romantic vision of politics. You might say that when the left falls in love, other people's hearts -- and bodies -- are broken.

Yes, like the wrong woman, the left's ideas are beautiful and seductive, their consequences ruinous. Both Hillary and Obama are Dem fatales.

Hollander reflects only briefly on the connection, noting that throughout his life he has "been interested in -- and indeed morbidly fascinated by -- the conflict between illusion and reality, the apparent and the real."

Let's stop right there, because this is precisely why we have a mind: to discern between reality and appearances. What is truth but the reality behind appearances? And what are phenomena but an appearance of the true?

At least in principle. For it is possible for appearances to become detached from the true -- both personally and politically -- which is when we *fall* into trouble. Indeed, you could say that the whole point of Genesis 3 is to warn us about the hazards of detaching knowledge from reality, AKA God. Do so and you are at once exiled from the Land of the Real. (That's my idea; Hollander has no religious angle at all.)

Schuon explains it perfectly; or at least I agree 100%: "To 'discern' is to 'separate': to separate the Real and the illusory, the Absolute and the contingent, the Necessary and the possible, Atma and Maya." But discernment is complemented by a concentration that (re)unites the two, such that we may affirm the following formula in some variant: "Real became illusory in order that the illusory might become real..." That's the circle of spiritual progress and Arc of Salvation.

Back to Hollander; his interest in reality and appearances is also "linked to the phenomenon of deception and self-deception, both at the individual and collective (or institutional) levels."

Let's pause again. Here we can see that appearances are not necessarily deception; or that deception is something added to appearances that turns them against us. Think of the difference between, say, myth and propaganda. Myth is an appearance that clothes a deep truth, while propaganda is an embodiment of the lie.

Before escaping to the West, Hollander had prolonged immersion in "experiences of political propaganda as the major institutional source and conveyor of illusions; later in the United States I found commercial advertising playing a similar role. Both phenomena were highly intrusive and impossible to ignore."

Here again we see the wrenching of phenomena from reality, such that the former becomes illusion instead of a mode of the Real. Then it is as if Kant is indeed correct: that we are confined to the closed circle of our own representations, no longer capable of contact with the noumenal.

This redounds to everything from multiculturalism to deconstruction to new-age perception-is-reality. But underneath it all it has a single name: relativism. Relativism in any form ensures that we are exiled to the barren land of appearances -- which are no longer of the real, rather, just appearances of other appearances, AKA turtles all the way down.

You might say that leftism is a kind of deceptive personal ad from Ms. World, making impossible promises. Hollander speaks of "the political illusions and self-deception of many Western intellectuals who persuaded themselves of the admirable qualities of Communist systems."

And "Both political propaganda and commercial advertising misrepresent, distort, or at best stretch reality. Both attempt to conceal or obfuscate the difference between the way things are as opposed to the way they ought to be..." (emphasis mine).

Not surprisingly, Hollander parts company with "postmodernist academic colleagues who question the existence of objective reality altogether. Without a belief in objective reality, one could not propose that propaganda and advertising misrepresent and distort reality..."

I know. Controversial.

Now, what is the rationale of the so-called news, of a "free press" -- its reason for being? At the very least it should try to convey something of the reality beneath or behind appearances. Certainly it should not be a transmitter of propaganda, but that is precisely what it has become, and people know this. Except for the sorry 7% or whatever it is who actually trust the media. Everyone else knows MSM journalism comes down to cheesy personal ads that try to tart up the left and make it more appealing -- while denigrating the competition.


Okay. Here is an embarrassingly personal ad explaining the appeal of Hillary:

"I love Hillary Clinton. I am in awe of her. I am set free by her. She will be the finest world leader our galaxy has ever seen."

Not convinced?

"Millions of Clinton's supporters... expressed it among themselves, all the time, in raptures or happy tears with each new display of our heroine's ferocious intelligence, depth, and courage."

The author even gets into what we discussed above about reality and appearances, stating that beneath the deceptive appearances Hillary is really "an idea, a world-historical heroine, light itself.... She belongs to a much more elite class of Americans, the more-than-presidents." Her "name belongs on ships, and airports, and [even] tattoos. She deserves straight-up hagiographies and a sold-out Broadway show called RODHAM." Well, she would put the hag in hagiography.

Hmm. This reminds me of one of the unrealistic -- but typical -- personal ads cited by Hollander. These women are so perfect, one wonders why they have to resort to advertising their qualities. There are dozens to choose from -- they're everywhere! -- so I'll just pick one at random:

"Blonde, slender, tall, willowy DWF. Very attractive with graceful lightness of heart, refined intelligence, smiling eyes. PhD/academic. Optimistic, elegant, physically sensual, aesthetically attuned. Lovely profile, long legs. Considered great package: head, heart, spirit. Puts people at ease." Etc.

I'll bite. What's the catch?


"Progressive worldview, passionate about social justice." And no doubt believes Hillary is an idea, a world-historical heroine, light itself....


ted said...

I dated her. She's in hiding now.

julie said...

As glad as I am that Trump is PEOTUS, I can't imagine being so enthralled with him - nor with any human being - to such an extent that I would worship him. He is not a lightbringer, he's a man with a little experience at getting things done. No doubt, some of the things he will do will be #problematic.

Re. the personal ad, that's just cringeworthy. If she really is all that, it would be obvious and thus unnecessary to talk herself up that much.

Also, she'd probably already be taken.

julie said...

Ted, lol.

julie said...

In other news, Santa sent to "counseling" for thoughtcrime. He said Hillary Clinton is on the naughty list this year.

debass said...

"These women are so perfect, one wonders why they have to resort to advertising their qualities." It's like the same reason they advertise psychic fairs. Why would you need too?

mushroom said...

My favorite discerning verse: They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. - Ezekiel 44:23

Joan of Argghh! said...

DWF is the disqualifier already. Her name is Legion.

Van Harvey said...

Nice post! Say, I found this ad in the personals of our dept of ed:

'Single Philosophe, seeking passionate followers who're eager to remake Reality in their own extravagant images. Hobbies include telling people how to educate their children, while sending his own infants off to certain death, one after another. Enjoys nighttime strolls through alleyways, flashing himself at young girls through their windows. Prefers music without harmony, and the savage breast soothed with whisperings of sweet nothings from tenured tools.
For a good time being forced to be free, ask for J.J. Rousseau.'

Oddly enough, it seems to get a lot of hits.

Anonymous said...

The essential question people have is, how will I gain dominance and control over another person, and thereby meet my personal needs? Romance ads are designed to rope in an individual over whom one can exert control, by either passive or active means.

So, the honey trap is set. The personal advert extolls virtues which seem harmless; loving, kind, giving, easy-going, intelligent, etc. But once someone enters the scene to enjoy these virtues....then the process of extracting the needed tribute begins. Adulation, sexual favors, money, and escort duties to all manner of horrid events.

Leftists, alt-right persons, and those in the middle all share this magical process. It is apolitical and is not, blessedly, tied down by any nods to truth or reality.

The caveat: One does not want to rope in a wild hare with the same agenda, because then the struggle for dominance starts immediately. But this is how it often unfolds.

Its all well and good, because this kind of chaos and drama is exactly what polishes and nourishes the human soul.

The above message is intended as satire***********

julie said...

If you make it about dominance and personal control, you are wrong from the outset and doomed to a life of misery and failure.

Come to think of it, that's pretty much how the left views interpersonal relationships; no wonder they are always so miserable and butthurt in their failure...

Anonymous said...

To respond to Julie: Relationships serve as workshops of soul growth and development, and therefore must be be vexing to be effective in that role. A very smooth relationship is not going to teach you much; but you can get teaching elsewhere.

Everyone has a plan; an agenda; a modus operandi towards pre-selected soul growth goals. It is mostly unconscious but the agenda is always operating and potent.

The theory: Relationships are agreed upon in advance between souls (pre-birth). Meeting the mate in life is no accident (although seeming like happenstance). Some mates impart short lessons and leave; others stick around for decades or life.

But you're right-it is not about dominance and control. I was being a wag.

The theory, which pre-supposes reincarnation, does not jibe with Christian doctrine so you and all Christians must dismiss it as hooey off-hand. You have no choice, actually.

ge said...

above = blog w/ unsent letter of VT I'd not seen b4....

Gagdad Bob said...

Good article on the liberal war on science.

Looks like no post this morning. I have time enough to start one but not to finish...

Tony said...

Hey Bob, I checked out Allan Schore's book on affective regulation and the origin of the self. Really good reading, thanks, but he focuses on infant years. I'm wondering whether you have recommendations for reading about the tweens and teenage years. What are your top books there?

Gagdad Bob said...

Good question. I've also read his Affect Regulation and Disorders of the Self, and Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self, which are similar to the book you cite -- basically collections of articles that flesh out and extend the ideas. I just searched him on amazon and I see there's a book called Neurobiology Essentials for Clinicians that has a chapter called "The Adolescent Brain." Haven't read it.

Aha. Here is one by one of Schore's colleagues, called Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. You might check that one out. Siegel has my seal of approval.

Gagdad Bob said...

Then again, it's endorsed by Deepak Chopra, so beware!

Tony said...

Ha Chopra, well, you know the saying about the blind pig finding an acorn once in a while. Many thanks, and happy Thanksgiving!