Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Bad News: You're Out of Touch with Reality. The Good News: Reality Doesn't Exist

When last we spoke, we were discussing Paul Hollander's Extravagant Expectations: New Ways To Find Romantic Love In America, which is a seeming departure from his usual preoccupation with left wing lunacy. He wouldn't put it that way, of course, but in focusing on the distinction between reality and appearances, he demonstrates that the further leftward one travels, the less reflective of reality.

For example, in Anti-Americanism, he emphasizes that he has no issue with honest and accurate critiques of America, but rather, with ones "that are less than fully rational and not necessarily well founded." Purveyors of such beliefs betray a "perceptual distortion such that a caricature of some aspect of behavior or attitude is raised to the level of general belief."

In this regard, I think we need to pay attention to the form before the content; in other words, the vulnerability to this kind of cognitive distortion is prior to what is distorted. To put it more bluntly, in order to have crazy thoughts, one must first be crazy -- at least in some sense of the word, for what else is craziness but a distortion of reality?

So, how do we distinguish between crazy and realistic critiques? Well, I'm not very far into the book, but Hollander provides an example of a type of liberal with whom we are all familiar, who sarcastically asks what is so great about America:

"Is it the genocide of native peoples and the theft of their land? Or is it slavery and the slaughter of millions of Africans and the continued mutilation and attempted destruction of Black people?... Or how we stole part of Mexico; our bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki..., refusal to launch a meaningful campaign against AIDS, the denial of reproductive rights for women and the destruction of world's environment." Oh, and support for Israel. Don't get him started.

Okay, so basically the United States wants to destroy the world and everyone in it. Anything else? "The U.S. flag is the symbol of the evil empire. Progressive people should reject it."

Since the craziness is prior to the crazy, the former must be a kind of free-footing attitude that can fluidly attach to other phenomena. Thus, Anti-Americanism can easily move between anti-conservatism, anti-Christianity, anti-Western civilization, anti-white male, anti-Jew, and now anti-Trumpism. Here again, are suggesting that no critique of Trump is valid? Of course not! But as always, we need to distinguish between the valid and the lunatic.

As Scott Adams has so ably described, Democratic operatives turned Trump into Hitler for political purposes, but now cannot turn off the hallucination. Not that they want to. Whether or not the manipulators at the top believe the lies, they certainly want their lo-fo supporters to believe them -- thus the absurd smearing of JEFFERSON BEAUREGARD SESSIONS and Steve Bannon as racist and anti-Semite. All without so much as a nod to reality -- except in defiance of it.

The point is, the same free-floating hatred of America easily attaches to conservatives, to Christians, to Trump, and elsewhere. Thus, the most contempt would be reserved for conservative Christian Trump supporters -- especially female -- which indeed we have seen.

For example, here is how brother Deepak describes us:

"To expand his base, Trump went beyond the seamy collection of Southern racists, religious fundamentalists, ill-informed and uneducated whites, gun fanatics, and reactionaries who are the base of the right wing, to embrace the deeply committed haters in the alt-right. It’s fully justifiable to be repelled by all of it." Yes, it's those even more hateful haters of the alt-right numbering in the triple digits that put us over the top.

So, we are the ones who are out of touch with reality. The good news? Reality is just a human construct anyway. That being the case, there is no way to arbitrate between one vision and another, because there is no reality to begin with. Rather, it's appearances all the way down. And since there is no reality, there can be no deviation from it. No one is crazy because no one is sane. How convenient for the left!

Which leads back to the book in question about modern relationships. Let's put it this way: in the modern world, people have certain expectations of their politics. But they also have certain expectations of romantic relationships. Is there some connection between the two?

Well, there was a time, not too long ago, that people didn't have grandiose expectations of either. Indeed, perhaps the central purpose of the founders was to create a political system in which government would have less power and influence. It is certainly not something we would put our hope in, except insofar as we hope it leaves us the hell alone.

As they say, the less things politicians control, the less it matters who controls the politicians. But the hundreds of millions raked in by the Clinton Foundation is simply a measure of just how much it matters who controls the politicians. The value of a 20 minute talk by Hillary Clinton has plummeted from $200-300,000 to negative territory, in that you'd have to pay people to listen to her now. What happened? What is the nature of the thing that has gone from being so valuable to being less than valueless?

Hollander begins with a socio-historical survey of how human beings have changed in the last couple hundred years, and the effect on intimate relationships. Much of it has to do with what I would call a process of "separation-individuation," only as applied to culture instead of the mother.

Separation-individuation describes a process that begins in psychic fusion with the mother, and ends in an adult autonomy simultaneously capable of mature dependency; note that the separation is for the purposes of a higher fusion later in life, e.g., with one's own family. As the Bible says, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."

But that was nevertheless in a traditional world in which one wasn't radically separated from the group, much less from God. In short, the invention of the individual -- the abstract and atomistic unit of Enlightenment humanity -- had yet to take place.

To be continued...

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