Friday, October 04, 2019

Responsibilities are Antecedent to Rights: It's Just Common Sense

A very preliminary approach to common sense. I had to end the post just when I was warming up, but we'll pick up the thread in coming days....

Come to think of it, even if we could demonstrate to a progressive that his ideas are bereft of common sense, it wouldn't dissuade him from holding them. I say this because we see how easily the left dismisses even mathematics as racist, i.e., as a tool of the patriarchy to oppress peoples of color (and remember, crazy travels at the speed of the left, such that today's absurdity is tomorrow's orthodoxy).

Now, mathematics must literally be the least racist thing in all of existence, being that it deals only with abstract quantities, not concrete qualities. And even then, the left is selective in its rejection of numbers. For example, they literally believe that if there is a statistical disparity between the population of a victim group and its representation in this or that field, it is a priori proof of racism.

But you will have noticed that they never apply the standard consistently. If they are vastly over-represented in a desirable field -- as, for example, blacks in the NBA -- then that's fine. Obviously it is nonsensical to make an appeal to math based upon personal interest, but this hardly stops them. In his Discrimination and Disparities, Thomas Sowell completely dismantles the idea that abstract statistical disparities are a consequence of real racism, but I doubt that any mainstream outfit would even review the book -- any more than, say, a Jewish publication is going to review the catechism of the Catholic Church.

Which goes to the essential point: the progressive left is a religion, not a belief system grounded in fact, logic, human nature, or common sense. And even then, to say it is a religion can't be correct, as genuine religion is rooted in a transcendent reality that is ruled out by the leftist metaphysics.

But this makes the left not less, but more dangerous, because it is animated by religious passion, energy, and impulse, but without religious tradition, proscription, and constraint. This is precisely what makes them so cluelessly sanctimonious and self-confident in their beliefs: like little Greta Thunberg says, those of us who aren't on board with her hysterical fears of climate armageddon are evil. She and her ilk are very much like premodern religious folk who grew up without knowing about the existence of other religions.

In the foreword to Reclaiming Common Sense, Brian Kennedy points out that "For over a century now, there has been a sustained attack on common sense," which is to say, "the foundation of the American founding." In fact, I think the attack has always been present, because it is rooted in human nature, more on which as we proceed. But it was certainly mainstreamed and institutionalized a little over a century ago, with the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912. He was the first president to openly disparage our founding principles.

After Wilson the disparagement went underground, as Democrat politicians learned to conceal their contempt for the American founding and for the average American. Only in the last decade or so is it once again openly celebrated, such that you can't be a Democrat candidate for the presidency unless you enthusiastically embrace the identity politics that is utterly antithetical to our founding principles, i.e., to common sense. As recently as 2012, an Obama had to pretend to believe in traditional marriage, or in the importance of fathers. No more. That's ancient history, before the Great Awokening.

Is it common sense to say that human beings are intrinsically capable of self-government? Cleary not. Consider just Venezuela, which voted for its own demise. No, the possibility -- and desirability! -- of self-government must be rooted in a deeper principle than mere "democracy." Affirming a belief in democracy is totally nonsensical unless you pay attention to the principles that permit it to function, AKA common sense. No founder ever imagined that self-government was possible in a population of individuals who couldn't govern themselves.

Really, this is just an extension of the principle that duties and responsibilities are prior to rights. Note that we do not merely say they are reciprocal, because if this were the case, conferring the right would create the responsibility.

And this is precisely the problem in the rights-obsessed left. The rights embraced by the founders are rooted in nature and nature's God, i.e., in human nature and its author. These rights are not, and cannot be, created by the state, but are prior to it. And each one is attached to an antecedent responsibility, if only because one would have to be a fool to give unalienable rights to a fundamentally irresponsible being! That would be a recipe for tyranny and chaos, not ordered liberty.

Conversely, consider, say, the "right to abortion." Supposing it is a right, what is the corresponding -- and antecedent -- responsibility? Crickets. Likewise, suppose you have a property right in other human beings. What's the antecedent duty? In other word, if you are free and your slave isn't, what is the principle that renders this arrangement just?

Does common sense have a specific content, or is it more of an attitude or approach to life? Yes and no. It embodies certain principles that cannot not be, but also involves prudence, or a practical wisdom that cannot be reduced to an abstract rule. For example, being honest is fine in principle, but not when the Nazi asks if any Jews are hiding in your house. Clearly there must be an antecedent hierarchy of values, such that protecting human life is the higher principle.

At this very moment, we are living through a prudential values dilemma: what is more important, the principle that we should never enlist the aid of a foreign country to investigate the corruption of a presidential candidate, or the principle that no one is above the law? To believe the former is to say that a man can be exonerated of any crime so long as he runs for president after he commits it. Does that make any sense?

Yes, it does. To the left. Which again highlights what was said above in the second paragraph. If a person arrives at a belief without using common sense, you can't use common sense to talk him out of it.

The End for now. I gotta get some work done...

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

The Passion of the Antichrist

A few years ago we discussed Robert Curry's Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea. Now comes the sequel, Reclaiming Common Sense. The key is in the subtitle: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World.

Post-truth world. Is that where we are? If so, how did we get here? And how do we get out?

The first question is obviously a very complicated one, indeed, as complicated as you wish it to be. Many fine books have been written on the subject, too many to catalogue here. They all look at the matter from a slightly different angle, and yet, I think it can ultimately be boiled down to the unsurpassable wisdom embedded in Genesis 3: you shall be as gods. This constitutes a permanent temptation, and I would say that postmodernity -- the post-truth world -- represents nothing less than the institutionalization of the Fall.

This deference to Genesis will strike modern ears as too mythic sounding, and yet, it is quite literally true. We embrace the truth, no matter how pleasant, whereas postmodernity prefers the imbecilic fairy tale. For

An irreligious society cannot endure the truth of the human condition. It prefers a lie, no matter how imbecilic it may be (Dávila).

And regarding the permanence of the Fall, For man to fall repeatedly into the same trap, just paint it a different color each time. Deconstruction, scientism, feminism, critical theory, et al, are just shiny new colors in the rainbow of lies.

The left likes to call us "reactionary," but as usual, this is a literal inversion. For truth is never a reaction; rather it just is, irrespective of whether or not someone believes it. Conversely, falsehood -- the lie -- is always parasitic upon truth; it is a reaction to truth, sometimes unconscious, other times conscious, willful, cynical, and manipulative.

As we've discussed many times, it is sometimes difficult to determine when this or that leftist's lies are unwitting or sincere. In my view, for the people at the top -- e.g., Pelosi, Obama, the Clintons -- it is purely cynical and instrumental, promulgated only to manipulate the masses in order to attain power. Note how quickly they went from defending traditional marriage to undermining it in the blink of an eye.

Conversely, for the masses, the beliefs are sincerely held. Now, the crisis we are currently witnessing in the Democrat party is that its cynical leaders are losing control to the morons who actually believe the BS the leaders have been peddling for the last generation or more. The morons have grown up in a world steeped in progressive lies, going all the way back to kindergarten and preschool. In short, the left has been too successful in indoctrinating this herd, and now it is taking over the party.

This is the deeper dynamic of the Pelosi vs. AOC struggle: Pelosi will say anything to increase the left's power, whereas AOC actually believes, for example, that the world will end in 11.5 years if we don't take away your straws, cars, and cheeseburgers.

Which goes to one of the deep ironies of our post-truth world: no one is more passionate about truth than the person who has rejected Truth. This sounds like an exaggeration, but once again it is literally true, and even necessarily true, like the banal observation that "no one is more religious than the person who has rejected God." Why is this? Because the atheist (the activist kind) claims a kind of knowledge that only a god could possess. For which reason we say: if atheism is true, only God knows it.

Back to the passion of the relativists. Why are they so passionate about their lies? Well, first all, to the relativist, they aren't lies. Again, I believe AOC is sincere, which makes her not less, but more, dangerous than the cynic. It reminds me of Inglourious Basterds: you can't negotiate with a true-believing Nazi. But you can do business with a cynical one such as the Jew Hunter.

Indeed, this is why the Republican congress could do so much business with Clinton after 1994. This couldn't have happened if he weren't such an insincere cynic. Obama was a transitional figure -- half cynic and half true believer, with both sides dominated by his narcissism. His combination of grandiosity and intellectual laziness was such that he didn't believe things because they were true; rather, they were true because he believed them.

Now, one feature of truth is its dispassion. Or at least the dispassion must be prior to the passion. For example, I can be passionate about math, but math itself is conducted in a dispassionate way; 2 + 2 = 4 does not become more true if I get really emotional about it. Nor is gravity stronger, or can there be more than two biological sexes, depending upon how I feel about it.

I am reminded of something Schuon says to the effect that with the assimilation of a truth, the ego dies a little. In other words, the truth doesn't care about your feelings. Which is why the left's most preposterous lies are always accompanied by such great emotion -- the bigger the lie, the more the emotional incontinence. Imagine people being "triggered" by the truth!

Well, actually, this is a well-documented psychological phenomenon. While it is associated with Freud, he can't have been the first to notice that an unwanted truth pushes the buttons of the person who doesn't want to hear it. He called it "resistance," but I prefer Bion's way of discussing it. I don't know if Catastrophe Theory was a thing back when he was writing, but he talks about the catastrophic impact of truth upon the mental system -- especially an unwanted truth upon an immature system, which to say, one that cannot tolerate the pain of realizing the truth.

Truth can be a joy or a pain. But the pain comes from resisting it.

I gotta get some work done, so, to be continued, and we'll end for now with a few pointy aphorisms. They will either sting or tickle, depending:

Men are divided into two camps: those who believe in original sin and those who are idiots.

The intelligent man quickly reaches conservative conclusions.

To scandalize the leftist, just speak the truth.

After conversing with some “thoroughly modern” people, we see that humanity escaped the “centuries of faith” only to get stuck in those of credulity.

The conservatism of each era is the counterweight to the stupidity of the day.

Let us say frankly to our opponent that we do not share his ideas because we understand them and that he does not share ours because he does not understand them (Dávila).