‘Marxism, Dalrymple explains, answers several needs:
‘It has its arcana, which persuade believers that they have penetrated to secrets veiled from others, who are possessed of false consciousness.
It appeals to the strongest of all political passions, hatred, and justifies it.
It provides a highly intellectualised rationalisation of a discreditable but almost universal and ineradicable emotion: envy.
It forever puts the blame elsewhere, making self-examination unnecessary and self-knowledge impossible.
It explains everything.
It persuades believers that they have a special destiny in the world. For disgruntled intellectuals, nothing could be more gratifying.’
Aside from the radical doctrines, it’s apparent that many in the West have placed their hopes and aspirations into various flavors of political idealism. Man’s nature is assumed to be fundamentally good, for the most part, merely in need of liberation from previous traditions, injustices and illegitimate claims to authority.
It’s often taken for granted that such post-Enlightenment ideals have room for ever more individuals (or collectives/categories of individuals). All that’s required is working towards particular ends, usually against common enemies (salvation through individual Romantic conceptions of Nature, shared communally, for example, or the oft confused relation between Scientific truth/method and social/political goods).
For many political idealists in the modern world, the moral goods are good enough, the universal truths sufficiently universal, in justifying their own actions at any given time (the properly balanced ideal State has room for competing factions of political idealists, mind you, as many idealists believe the knowledge is available to design such systems from the top-down).
The below links are to whom I’m indebted in cobbling such posts together on alas…a blog:
‘The events of the long struggle in the Soviet Union between the despots and the “dissidents,” in which Andrei Sakharov played such a great role,were well described in hisMemoirs,which appeared in English in 1990, andin the accounts of his valiant wife, Elena Bonner. But here we have the other side of the story: the long secret records kept by the KGB and submitted to the state and party leadership. And these documents are skillfully put into the larger context by an extensive and useful introduction by Joshua Rubenstein.’
‘Another large misapprehension about the nature of the Soviet and similar regimes was that the “planned economy” meant something real. There was also, among progressives in the West, the idea that the “bourgeoisie” were a natural enemy of the forward-looking, adolescent intelligentsia, and that the “capitalists” were the natural enemies. There is a historical context for these sinister myths. British ambassadors to Russia in the late eighteenth century had noted that entrepreneurs had to seek the quick ruble because at any moment the state might confiscate their investments. And at the opposite pole of Russian society, the peasantry was fixed on the need todeceive the authorities to whom they were subservient—up to, and provoking,violent rural risings.’
As previously posted:
“Those teach who can’t do” runs the dictum,
But for some even that’s out of reach:
They can’t even teach—so they’ve picked ’em
To teach other people to teach.
Then alas for the next generation,
For the pots fairly crackle with thorn.
Where psychology meets education
A terrible bullshit is born.’
Many people still can’t handle how bad Communism was on the ground, and fewer these days are looking to keep the ideology up in the air, partly thanks to Conquest and his labors:
I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable, Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier; Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce; Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges. The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable. Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting. His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom, In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard, In the smell of grapes on the autumn table, And the evening circle in the winter gaslight.
Via Soundcloud, throwing some ideas out there: Stefan Molyneux talks with Erik Prince about strategy in Afghanistan (~25:00 min). Prince has self-interest in highlighting the bloat and waste once the Pentagon gets involved, but you know, once any organization get as big as the Pentagon (inviting policies of inclusiveness and equality and diversity, potentially above mission), then there’s bound to be a lot of waste.
My basic takeaway: Underlying American strategic objectives can and should be met with sleeker design: This would include targeted training of Afghan Army batallions and more counter-insurgency targeting of the kinds of people flowing back and forth over the Pakistani border.
Privatization, basically, means paying people with skills to do the dirty work.
As Prince points out, if coalition forces withdraw entirely, the Taliban could likely take control within a year, and remnants of IS, Al Qaeda and militant terrorist and nuke-seeking types could easily find safe-haven, battling for power amongst themselves in a mostly lawless region, posing serious risk to American and Western security once again.
**Strategically, East Asia and Eurasia seem to be gaining greater importance.
Robert Kaplan makes the argument that geography and history are destiny in Pakistan’s case:
‘Pakistan encompasses the frontier of the subcontinent, a region that even the British were unable to incorporate into their bureaucracy, running it instead as a military fiefdom, making deals with the tribes. Thus, Pakistan did not inherit the stabilizing civilian institutions that India did. Winston Churchill’s first book as a young man, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, wonderfully captures the challenges facing colonial border troops in British India. As the young author then concluded, the only way to function in this part of the world is through “a system of gradual advance, of political intrigue among the tribes, of subsidies and small expeditions.’
‘The term AfPak itself, popularized by the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke, indicates two failed states — otherwise, they would share a strong border and would not have to be conjoined in one word. Let me provide the real meaning of AfPak, as defined by geography and history: It is a rump Islamic greater Punjab — the tip of the demographic spear of the Indian subcontinent toward which all trade routes between southern Central Asia and the Indus Valley are drawn — exerting its power over Pashtunistan and Baluchistan, just as Punjab has since time immemorial.’
***About that first quote, someone probably pulled it from a quotation site, and it’s provenance is disputed (thanks to twitter follower Leo Wong). Because I haven’t been able to track its source either, I’ll treat it as either invalid or false unless or until I hear otherwise.
I own this one, so, going forward, I’m only going to pull quotes from what I’m reading and with proper citation.
Thanks for the heads up, and apologies.
‘Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred.’
‘For yet another cause of unhappiness was the encroachment of machine industry and its attendant uglification of town and country. The Romanticists had sung in an agrarian civilization; towns were for handiwork and commerce. Industry brought in not factories only, and railroads, but also the city — slums, crowds, a new type of filth, and shoddy goods, commonly known as “cheap and nasty.” And when free public schools were forced on the nation by the needs of industry, a further curse was added: the daily paper, also cheap.’
Carving the world into ‘-Isms’, doesn’t necessarily require thought beyond the ideological framework in which it often arrives to new adherents, but it does usually require an emotional commitment and solidarity with others who find common cause. This requires common enemies.
Should you make Civil Rights the highest bar in your moral universe, you’re bound to miss other points of view, much other moral reasoning, and eventually, if you’re intellectually honest, the shortcomings and consequences of activist politics. Are you building things in your life (skills, relationships?) or are you drifting down the river of supposed liberation, justified in your anger, blame, political radicalism and idealism?
Why would you defer so much of what is in your power to make better, step by step, day by day, to a politician you’ve probably never even met?
To a bunch of people who have all the incentives to treat you as a means to an end?
‘Next month, on September 25, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil will hold a binding referendum on whether or not to secede from Iraq. It will almost certainly pass.’
We nearly overthrew Saddam the first time, encouraged the Kurds to rise up only to leave them to suffer horribly as he regained power. We went in and removed Saddam, broke the nation of Iraq as drawn, and encouraged them again. Now they’re pretty much left to fend for themselves, except for tactical, some arms, and anti-IS support.
With the recent announcement in Afghanistan, it’s almost enough to make one think there are tactical, practical and deeper reasons to engage with the radical and violent people willing to do us harm at home (aside from the ‘world community concept and with actual allies with skin in the game):
In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.
It can be the right kind of fun, but the steep drop from glittery artifice to gritty despair in Atlantic City is enough to make even the most contented reflect a little.
Across the street lies the baffling gaze of a woman, gripping the edge of her lawn-chair and cigarette at the same time. Her peeled, faded porch displays a ‘For Rent’ sign.
Tourist towns, for me, have an air of the superficial and sad, despite the amenities and excitement they promise. There always seems to be a lack of the local, as the locals must cater to tourists, coming and going. What Atlantic City had going for it was trying to be the East Coast’s premier destination for gambling. It’s since been mostly in decline from that holy peak.
Perhaps, in my early twenties (the last time I was there), I was looking for something like bittersweet confirmation of my oh-so-earnest impressions of how-the-world-really-is. It was done with more than a little melancholic self-regard (apparently I haven’t changed that much).
Yeah, I can handle it. I only lost $200 and we got to see Jon Bon Jovi playing craps as a crowd gathered (leather-jacket, surprisingly big head).
No, dear reader, I haven’t suddenly joined the barely organized, deeply personal hatred of a man who thwarts political activism and idealism in crude, populist fashion.
I can’t really say I support him all that much either (although I think a lot of the right people are pissed-off).
For the sake of our Republic, I hope Trump’s a decent steward, because I suspect the forces driving deep institutional dysfunction and mistrust are probably still growing, and maintaining our freedoms will be difficult. It could get quite a bit worse before anything gets better (maybe pretty bad, I’m afraid).
Sorry to not just focus on serious questions and policy, and to blather and link on a blog, but I’ve got a life and a job. Writing for money seems…compromising, and my writing isn’t all that great, and my insights are nearly always second-hand, anyways.
I’m thankful when a few dozen people read what I’ve bothered to think and write down.
Charles Murray argues that controlling the data for just for whites in America, a gap has opened up between working-class ‘Fishtown’ and professional-class ‘Belmont.’ Fishtowners have increasing rates of out-of-wedlock births and divorce, more isolation from churches, civic organizations and the kinds of voluntary associations that Murray suggests can make a life more fulfilling, regardless of income beyond certain basic needs. Fishtowners have higher incidences of drug and alcohol use and intermittent work.
Belmonters, on the other hand, are mostly college-educated and beyond, still tend to court, marry, engage in family planning and tend to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Folks in Belmont are still living more moderate personal lives and working to stay ahead in the changing economy through academia, the professions, government, tech, business and global business.
Being a social scientist with a more limited government/small ‘c’ conservative/libertarian worldview, Murray likely sees a smaller role for government and limited ways in which some people acting through government can actually solve problems in other people’s lives. As a contrarian social scientist in a small minority, then, he disagrees with many basic assumptions often found amongst a majority of social scientists.
Murray thus advocates for people in ‘Belmont’ to increasingly preach what they practice, to look outside the bubble of their daily lives and wealthier enclaves, and perhaps reconstitute the kinds of family and civic associations, moral virtues and opportunities for independence and success he’d like to see more broadly.
What this would look like in practice, exactly, is unclear.
Robert Putnam, author of ‘Bowling Alone‘, seems to agree with Murray about what much of what the data highlights: Working-class whites are behaving more like working-class non-whites, and college-educated non-whites are behaving more like college-educated whites.
Putnam also focuses more on economic factors, the decline of manufacturing and the disappearance of working-class jobs that has without question affected large parts of America and small-town life. Globalization has opened American firms to global competition, global capital markets and mobile labor. Whatever your thoughts on race, Putnam creates some daylight between the data and strictly race based interpretations (often aligned with ideology, especially in academia nowadays) and focuses more on ‘class’ in a way slightly differently than does Murray.
An interesting discussion, in which the empirical research of social science can highlight important differences in political philosophy and try and transcend the inevitable political and ideological battles of the day.
Guess which type of characteristics were present in the terrorist?
Lawrence Wright discussed his long years reporting on Islamic terrorism (he spent some time in Egypt in his youth) at the Philadelphia Free Library. It might offer some insight.
***There is a point where I become reasonably angry as Wright mentions his creative work (good for him!) has attracted the likes of celebrities and groups of political idealists in high-society. These are types I see as not having the courage to properly confront this issue from anything outside a narrower band of their own beliefs, principles and self-interest, exposing us all to worse options, while lecturing us how to live and what to do.
On that note, others are filling in the gaps at great personal risk with courage and a more clear-eyed realism (there are many pieces to a bigger puzzle):