Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Aside from that quotation and a silly-looking hat he wore, he is also known for his determination to continue the struggle against the Germans in WWI, which many French were willing to quit: "La guerre jusqu'au bout." [War until the end.] He had some German sympathisers in the French government tossed into prison, and after the war, he was a significant force behind the Paris Peace Talks, which economically crippled Germany for some years afterward. His quotation above is perhaps in anger over the American general Pershing's refusal to send American troops into battle as Clemenceau saw fit. I read a biography of him when I was a young man, and I heard family stories about him as a boy. Like most British families, mine suffered losses, and they remembered. For me now, those who died would mostly be my childrens' age. Today, those would be pot-smoking metro-sexual skateboarders.
I don't have any kids, and if I did, I don't think I'd be keen on them going to war with our military as is. I'd prefer they stay home and raise children of their own while I fight instead. War is too serious to be left to the military, and it's too important to be fought by youths. It's better left to men of age and experience, men who have a settled understanding of its importance, men who understand that victory is essential in war, and who will fight to win. War becomes a man's task, not a task for boys.
For the Modernist, war often means applying technology against remote figures rather than actual face to face combat with a remorseless personal enemy. People who push buttons and kill with remote controlled missiles would probably panic if they had instead to stick a pencil into a man's eye or cut off his thumbs with a pair of rose cutters. The saving grace of the military is that if one is part of it, the killing is abstract, for the most part, the responsibility for death being on the shoulders of the organisation rather than on those of the individual. War becomes a sacred activity, in the sense that one is distant from it. But one is also alienated from it. One isn't personally involved in it the way one is personally involved in a bar fight. It's not personal, so one is not personally responsible for the greater effort, only for following through with ones private duty to the greater whole, the nation and the state. There's a place for that, and a good one. Patriots are good. Killing some guy because one has a personal hatred of him is not good.
However, I do think war is too serious a business for the military and too important to leave to governments. I like to think it is the right occupation of citizens, free and thinking men who fight for their nations and people. Governments can organise it well in times of need, if there is another government doing the same against them. But in our time, for the most part, such is not the case. Our Modernist governments can organise so well that few need to go to war, and when they do, the government must do all in its power to restrain its ability to destroy the enemy. We could, for example, annihilate the entire Muslim world in a matter of weeks if we chose to. They are totally defenceless against us. Their only salvation is our refusal to destroy our own self-worth by letting ourselves indulge in such a hideous murder. Unfortunately, we allow the enemy in small numbers slip into our open lands to do their evil and we, being so strong, do nothing from fear of over-acting. We are mis-matched in this struggle, too powerful to fight back. So, our military is not the appropriate vehicle to wage war on our enemies. Instead, old men are the right men to do so. Our old men against theirs. Single combat, more or less, rather than the slaughter of the masses, which we remember this day, Remembrance Day, 2010
I find that life is definitely still unfair, and that any girl who would agree to my first choice is a girl I'd flee from pretty damned fast: Dexter.
Still, it's metro enough for the day.
From Rall's new book:
Christian fundamentalists, the millennial end-of-the-worlders obsessed with the Left Behind series about the End Times, neo-Nazi racists, rural black-helicopter Michigan Militia types cut from the same inbred cloth as Timothy McVeigh, allied with "mainstream" gun nuts and right-wing Republicans, have been planning, preparing, and praying for the destruction of the "Godless," "secular" United States for decades. In the past, they formed groups like the John Birch Society and the Aryan Nations. Now the hard Right has a postmodern, decentralized non-organization organization called the Tea Party.Yes, I'm joking. The author is insane, in a clinical sense, says Dr. Dag. But don't take my word for it if'n you don't want to. Read the 30 some odd pages, very short, and decide for yourself just what the Left is all about too often.
Right-wing organizational names change, but they amount to the same thing: the reactionary socio-political force-the sole force-poised to fill the vacuum when collapse occurs. The scenario outlined by Margaret Atwood's prescient novel The Handmaid's Tale-rednecks in the trenches, hard military men running things, minorities and liberals taken away and massacred, setting the stage for an even more extreme form of laissez-faire corporate capitalism than we're suffering under today-is a fair guess of how a post-U.S. scenario will play out unless we prepare to turn it in another direction...
A war is coming. At stake: our lives, the planet, freedom, living. The government, the corporations, and the extreme right are prepared to coalesce into an Axis of Evil. Are you going to fight back? Will you do whatever it takes, including taking up arms?...
Excerpt lifted from American Thinker.
NB. I've read some of Robert Paxton's work on fascism, referred to in the body of the linked text. Paxton seems to be an average scholar and not insane. Maybe he's different in person, or maybe he's changed over the years, or maybe the author above is just insane and Paxton is a normal person after all. Regardless, this quotation above is just about what we should expect from a leftist of any true degree.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
In this day, Obama is seen by many to be a genius, in part due to his careers in quango money-grubbing, getting money from corporations to do good for the poor; and his genius is further demonstrated in that his father is a Black African. Obama has a Harvard law degree, and he can talk and talk and talk, if only with a tele-prompter, saying leftist clichés with some flair. Obviously, that impressed too many people. Obama is our president, on the strength of public gullibility and a willingness to conform to the demands of their peers in the pursuit of coolness, i.e. electing a "Black" president, regardless of who he might be, so long as he is a Leftist, i.e. an "authentic" Black.
Obama is Black, but he's also see-through thin. America elected to the presidency a talking store mannequin. Democracy produced for us a dictatorship of conformity and servility. We elected a figure because he looks good in a suit, and many of those who doubted his abilities fell into line with the time's fad and voted for him too. Who wants to show up at the dance in last year's fashions? Hard to get laid doing that. As is, we're all getting screwed now, though not as pleasantly as so many had hoped.
Below is some of an excerpted essay from a book that looks promising. We might see Obama voters in it. We might see ourselves, and find clarity about ourselves, and clarity too about the transparencies of Obama and his groupies.
Morals & the servile mind
On the diminishing moral life of our democratic age.
Life is a better teacher of virtue than politicians, and most sensible governments in the past left moral faults to the churches. But democratic citizenship in the twenty-first century means receiving a stream of improving “messages” from politicians. Some may forgive these intrusions because they are so well intentioned. Who would defend prejudice, debt, or excessive drinking? The point, however, is that our rulers have no business telling us how to live. They are tiresome enough in their exercise of authority—they are intolerable when they mount the pulpit. Nor should we be in any doubt that nationalizing the moral life is the first step towards totalitarianism.
We might perhaps be more tolerant of rulers turning preachers if they were moral giants. But what citizen looks at the government today thinking how wise and virtuous it is? Public respect for politicians has long been declining, even as the population at large has been seduced into demanding political solutions to social problems. To demand help from officials we rather despise argues for a notable lack of logic in the demos. The statesmen of eras past have been replaced by a set of barely competent social workers eager to take over the risks of our everyday life. The electorates of earlier times would have responded to politicians seeking to bribe us with such promises with derision. Today, the demos votes for them.
Our rulers, then, increasingly deliberate on our behalf, and decide for us what is the right thing to do. The philosopher Socrates argued that the most important activity of a human being was reflecting on how one ought to live. Most people are not philosophers, but they cannot avoid encountering moral issues. The evident problem with democracy today is that the state is pre-empting—or “crowding out,” as the economists say—our moral judgments. Nor does the state limit itself to mere principle. It instructs us on highly specific activities, ranging from health provision to sexual practices. Yet decisions about how we live are what we mean by “freedom,” and freedom is incompatible with a moralizing state. That is why I am provoked to ask the question: can the moral life survive democracy?
It is this element of dehumanization that has produced what I am calling “the servile mind.” The charge of servility or slavishness is a serious one. It emerges from the Classical view that slaves lacked the capacity for self-movement and had to be animated by the superior class of masters. They were creatures of impulse and passion rather than of reason. Aristotle thought that some people were “natural slaves.” In our democratic world, by contrast, we recognize at least some element of the “master” (which means, of course, self-managing autonomy) in everyone. Indeed, in our entirely justified hatred of slavery, we sometimes think that the passion for freedom is a constitutive drive of all human beings. Such a judgment can hardly survive the most elementary inspection of history. The experience of both traditional societies and totalitarian states in the twentieth century suggests that many people are, in most circumstances, happy to sink themselves in some collective enterprise that guides their lives and guarantees them security. It is the emergence of freedom rather than the extent of servility that needs explanation.
Servility is not an easy idea with which to operate, and it should be clear that the world we live in, being human, cannot be fully captured in ideal structures. But in understanding Western life, it is difficult to avoid contrasting courage and freedom on the one hand with servility and submission on the other. We think of freedom as being able to do what we merely want to do, but this is a condition cherished no less by the slave than by the master. When the cat’s away, the mice will play! Here is the illusion that freedom is merely having a lot of options available. What freedom actually means is the capacity not only to choose but also to face the consequences of one’s choice. To accept employment, to marry, to join a cause, to sustain a family, and so on, all involve responsibilities, and it is in the capacity to sustain self-chosen responsibilities, the steadiness to face up to the risks and inevitable ennui inseparable from a settled life, that we exhibit our freedom. And its essence is that each individual life is determined by this set of chosen commitments and virtues (whatever they may be) rather than by some set of external determinants or regulations. Independence of mind requires thinking one’s own thoughts: poor things many of them may be, but they are our own, and we have found some reasons for thinking them.
The problem about identifying servility in our modern Western societies results from the assumption that freedom and independence are admirable, and their opposites not. Hence the strong human tendency to trade off freedom for some other condition of things—money, security, approval—must take on the appearance of a virtue. A further problem with servility is that its opposite might seem to be a swaggering parade of one’s own independence, but this is just as likely to be a cover for a servile spirit. Since the essence of servility is dependence of mind, independence is compatible with situational caution....
The real opposite of servility is individualism, as it has long been understood in European thought. But the very word “individuality” itself is often confused with egoistic self-interest and the pursuit of mere impulse. [...]
[S]ervility is also evident in the state’s concern to protect any set of people from prejudice, offense, or danger to self-esteem. Immigrants in earlier times did not need, and many would have regarded as demeaning, the current apparatus designed to protect supposedly vulnerable people. Courage and resilience did for these people what the state now does for their successors. Such legislation, in protecting people from victimhood is, paradoxically, simultaneously an education in how to be a victim.
To legislate opinion is itself to create a servile relationship. Codification of this kind destroys the freedom to respond to each other (within the law) as we choose.
The European societies that became democracies in the course of the last two centuries understood themselves as associations of self-moving individuals. Rich and poor alike made their own arrangements within a civil society containing a large and increasing range of associations: social, charitable, religious, mutually supportive, unionized. These associations expressed that capacity for spontaneous institutional creativity which so impressed visitors to Europe, and especially to Anglophone countries. The crucial mark of independence was the ability to generate the resources needed for life without dependence on governmental subsidy, and it constituted “respectability.” No doubt it was sometimes easier for the rich to sustain such independence, but moral character was the crucial point. The respectable poor in the nineteenth century recognized themselves, and were recognized by others, as having a proud sense of their independence.
The major change from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century is thus one in our very conception of society itself. In Europe, and even to some extent in the United States, it has become less an association of independent self-moving individuals than an association of vulnerable people whose needs must be met and sufferings mitigated by the power of the state. The idea of “vulnerability” has become such a cannibal of meanings that it has now acquired a remarkable range. The victims of crime were evidently vulnerable; in modern usage, however, the perpetrators of crime have also become vulnerable. The reason underlying this remarkable semantic development is that “society itself” has failed in its duty to instill decency and integrity in those who have turned to violence and crime. Here we have the most direct possible challenge to the basic idea of moral agency.
It is considerations of this sort that lead me to assimilate the moral order of Western societies in some degree to that of the slaves of the ancient world. We must today as citizens accommodate ourselves to increasing regulation and dependence on authority even to the point of falling in with the correct opinions. The moral world of the classical individualist emerged from the coherence of self-chosen commitments. His basic duty was to his own conception of himself. Contemporary moral life by contrast is marked by a greater involvement of external elements. It is not only that states regulate ever wider areas of life so that even family life becomes subject to demands for compliance. It is also that we have learned to pick up signals about respectable opinion from the responses of others—a feature of modern life that the sociologist David Riesman (in The Lonely Crowd) called “other directed.”
“Democracy” is central to this change in our condition not because it “causes” the change, but because most changes in our moral and political sentiments will sooner or later be recommended and justified as some form of democracy. What causes what in social life is so complicated that we can hardly be sure of any particular connection; we only ever grasp parts of it. Technology and economic enterprise, the secularization of life, changing opinions, new moral tastes—many such things are implicated in these changes. But the drive to equalize the conditions of a population, to institute something called “social justice,” to make society a model of “inclusion”—all such things will eventually be advanced as an element of “democracy.” Household democracy is men and women equally sharing the burdens of running the household. It may also involve granting children a vote on family matters. Educational democracy consists in switching resources to the pupils currently less capable of getting good results. No remnants of hereditary constitutions are safe from this homogenizing steamroller: Democratization is the most dramatic of all the corruptions of constitutionality in which separation and balance are to be replaced by a single ideal believed to solve all problems. The moral life can no more be isolated from this drive than anything else. It too must be democratized. And the result is to destroy individual agency.
This article has been excerpted from The Servile Mind, by Kenneth Minogue (Encounter Books, August 2010).
Monday, November 08, 2010
One advantage the blogging format has over traditional news is the ability of the commenters to argue back. Paul Krugman closed comments because it was alleged he was being worsted by his commenters. To be worsted by your commenters is probably a good thing. Nobody’s blog is worth anything unless he can attract commenters who are at least occasionally smarter than himself.
I'm lucky often.
In other news, earlier this evening two crows fought in the alley over a dead rat. The larger crow, bearing down on the rat with great ferocity, managed to pin the thing to the ground and then twist, yanking the dead rat out to the smaller crow's beak. But, not to be left without, the smaller crow lunged and grabbed the rat again and jerked hard. I lost interest at that point.
Georges Sorel, Reflections on Violence. (1908)
When Destutt, comte de Tracy (1754 – 1836) formalised and "intellectualised" Ideology , he meant it as a form of thinking akin to bureaucratic systematising for clerks. If one has the process outlined and then rigidified, all anyone need do thereafter is follow the process to the inevitable conclusion, like basic arithmetic, one plus one equals two, no matter what, so long as one follows that process properly. For the clerk, such as below, following the process makes them think they are, (and maybe by this definition it's true that they are,) "intellectuals."
[O]ur nation needs a good dose of liberalism, and all the informed and progressive ideas associated with this great political tradition which has been responsible for most all of our nation's success. Newspapers fell into decline because of an increasingly ignorant population incapable or disinclined to read and now too consumed by entertainment, playing video games and texting to have any desire to be informed or be a part of any civic enterprise. The attack on the idea of government service from the political right has contributed to this decline in our society. The Republicans only use government as a revolving door for their special corporate interests, which ironically to the legions of their working class supporters, has nothing to do with supporting or sustaining them.
It seems more and more that people are fed up with the bureaucratic form of thinking that passes for intellectual, and that more and more, people are seeking intelligence in their political and cultural representatives. Clerks, as is so often the case, are flustered and angry at the encounter with a public causing trouble with the process. The process is perfect; the clerks are intellectuals; therefore the public must be stupid, evil, and so on. Smart people are finding the courage to fight back at long last. I hope for more of that. Intelligent people should trump intellectuals every time. I won't begin to hope for that, but at least for some push-back.
EDMONTON - Controversy is brewing over a city-sponsored anti-racism campaign that calls on Caucasians to recognize their "white privilege".http://blazingcatfur.blogspot.
Here's a sample of their racist claptrap; "Racial "whiteness" is many things, but one of its consistent qualities is power. As people granted unearned privileges by our own whiteness, and as people who have likely harmed non-white people with our own whiteness, it's our moral and ethical duty to find ways to combat racism."
Sunday, November 07, 2010
It is very difficult to believe much else. We stand below, wondering. Listening. Hearing the wind, "les sourdes cogitations de pierres."
The beetle clicks and ticks like a clock as it lies in the woodwork burrowing. It's called the Death-Watch beetle, heard in the quiet of the night. Reset the clock. Turn it back.
Song of the Death-Watch Beetle
Here come I, the death-watch beetle
Chewing away at the great cathedral;
Gnawing the mediaeval beams
And the magnificent carved rood screen
Gorging on gospels and epistles
From the illuminated missals;
As once I ate the odes of Sappho
And the histories of Manetho,
The lost plays of Euripides
And all the thought of Parmenides.
The Sibyl's leaves which the wind scattered,
And great aunt Delia's love letters.
Turn down the lamp in the cooling room:
There stand I with my little drum.
Death. Watch. You are watching death.
Blow out the lamp with your last breath.
John Heath-Stubbs, (1918 - 2006)