When Thomas Paine appealed to "common sense" to make the case for American independence, it probably never crossed his mind that there would ever be a need to make the case for common sense itself, at least not in America.
This is no different from the other senses, in that no eye witness has to first make the case for the existence of vision, just as no one who enjoys music has to first argue for the existence of ears. This doesn't mean there cannot be optical illusions or deafness, but these are disorders and privations. An optical illusion is parasitic on an optical reality.
But now we inhabit, as the cliche goes, a post-truth world, which immediately entails a post-knowledge world, or in other words, an ineradicably stupid world -- a world populated by incurably stupid people.
But then, Genesis 3 has been making this point for 3,000 years -- that the soul of man is wounded.
Yes, ignorance and grandiosity have always existed (Mr. Dunning meet Mr. Kruger), except they were presumed to be curable, or at least treatable. But now, thanks to the left, the treatment has literally become the disease it purports to cure. In short, both primary and higher education (in the humanities and increasingly in real subjects), the purpose -- or at least outcome -- is the eradication of common sense. Once that is accomplished, you can make a man believe anything.
All of this is not only predictable, but it has been understood for over a century. There have always been crazy and/or diabolical people, but again, the modern and postmodern left represent the institutionalization and veneration of these now privileged pathologies. Let's roll out some aphorisms as I gather my thoughts:
--The fool, to be perfect, needs to be somewhat educated.
--Instruction does not cure foolishness; it equips it.
--Until we come across instructed fools, instruction seems important.
--The State imposes obligatory and free instruction, for making a stupid man still stupider at the public expense.
--Man is an animal that can be educated, provided that he does not fall into the hands of progressive pedagogues.
--The learned fool has a wider field to practice his folly.
--Great stupidities do not come from the people. They have seduced intelligent men first
Douglas Murray's latest, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity, elucidates some of the great stupidities that have swept through our progressive intelligentsia like a plague:
We are going through a great crowd derangement. In public and in private, both online and off, people are behaving in ways that are increasingly irrational, feverish, herd-like and simply unpleasant.... Yet while we see the symptoms everywhere, we do not see the causes.
Now, magnanimous soul that I am, I am even willing to stipulate that the derangement may reside in me. If this is the case -- if I am irrational, feverish, herd-like, and unpleasant -- I want to know about it, and I want to know why. As with any pathology, I want a diagnosis, I want to know the etiology, and I want a treatment plan. So let's keep an open mind about my own contact with reality, as I may simply be projecting my issues into this innocuous (or even helpful) entity I call "the left."
In short, if I am convinced they are crazy, but they are not at all crazy, then there's a good chance that I am actually crazy. That's how it works. In other works, the "crazy" is real; it's just a matter of locating where it is -- in whom it resides.
Murray -- who is conservative but irreligious -- adverts to one cause of our derangement, that
we have been living through a period... in which all our grand narratives have collapsed. One by one the narratives we had were refuted, became unpopular to defend or impossible to sustain. The explanations for our existence, that used to be provided by religion went first, falling away from the nineteenth century onwards.
Well, first of all, what do you mean "we," paleface? It is certainly true that in Europe religion has been successfully eradicated, but not in America. However, even here, it is accurate to say that a central tenet of postmodernity is that there are, and can be, no Grand Narratives -- no coherent explanation of existence -- and that all such attempts are just convenient myths for the cynical exertion of social control. They all reduce to power.
Now, I don't believe that at all. In fact, I think it's crazy, so here is an example of what was said above. I even wrote a book that attempts to outline the grandest of grand narratives. If these postmodern progressives are correct, then the real purpose of my narrative is to seize power. Maybe. I'll have to think about it, but I can say that so far it's not working. I already have my hands full just controlling myself, nor do I want the responsibility of controlling anyone else.
At any rate, "In the latter part of the twentieth century we entered the postmodern era. An era which defined itself, and was defined, by its suspicion towards all grand narratives."
Never mind the irony that that's a pretty grand narrative for a tenured primate to toss out of his Darwinian cage, but we'll let it pass. But not before pointing out that meta-nature abhors a vacuum, such that the anti-narrative itself becomes a narrative "through which new ideas begin to creep, with the intention of providing explanations and meanings of their own" (Murray).
Another principle I believe is that human beings are essentially religious and cannot not be religious. To the extent that they deny it, the religious instinct will simply attach itself to a non-religious object and elevate it to an absolute. In my grand narrative we call it "idolatry," and we see it everywhere.
Murray makes the same point from a different angle, writing that "People in wealthy Western democracies today could not simply remain the first people in recorded history to have absolutely no explanation for what we are doing here, and no story to give life purpose."
Right? Here again, one of us is crazy. I acknowledge my religiosity, and see the same deep structure in others, even if they deny it. In turn, they deny their own religiosity and conceive mine as a destructive delusion or cynical power grab. That's a pretty stark difference that cannot be reconciled by any dialectic. One of us is out of touch with reality.
Sorry to stop so abruptly, but I have to get some work done. We'll pick up the thread soon...