Finishing up a long day…
As three pigeons turn their heads away…
Finishing up a long day…
As three pigeons turn their heads away…
If you view the modern project as sailing the gulf between Nature (wonderful spring days, happy babies, Pompei, The Plague), and human nature (love, mercy, humility, hatred, cruelty, egoism), then a certain depressive realism seems reasonable.
Part of my journey has involved being interested in the arts, making my way to Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Leo Strauss and Plato early on. After giving the arts a go, I made an attempt to broaden my scope, trying to better understand a particular set of problems.
While attending Penn State, I sat-in on a lecture by Jacques Derrida. He discussed his work on the work of Romanian Jewish poet Paul Celan. Listening to the arch-deconstructionist spending an hour discussing Ashglory was interesting, if a bit baffling. There was a lot of brilliance, gibberish, insight, ambition, and hubris in that room. Looking back, if I’m honest, I suppose some of it was mine.
I didn’t take notes and kept wondering why so many did.
In bearing witness to the modern quest of wringing every last drop of meaning from the Self (Self-Help books, confessionals, gurus), I get worried. When I look around and see so much energy spent ‘deconstructing’ comedy, cartoons, pop-culture and political ideals, I worry deeper trends are playing out (see the confessional postmodern poets of the 1950’s).
It’s not so much (R)eason, but the attempts to define Man’s (R)ational Ends within political doctrines I worry about. The less people have in their lives about which to feel purpose, the more many will look to political movements.
I worry that trying to synthesize the arts and sciences in popular fashion will not halt the turn towards postmodern anti-reason and irrational modern mysticism.
It’s not so much neuroscience and psychology as expanding fields of knowledge which worry, but the oft smug certainty of many institutionalized folks justifying personal and political interests in the wake of such thinking. It’s all too easy to mistake the edges of one’s thinking for the edges of the world.
It may be meritocrats all the way down, lightly tapping upon the heads of radicals.
It’s not so much progress which bothers me, but progressivism writ large (and so many other ‘-Isms’) uniting in-groups against out-group enemies insisting change ought to be the default position.
Where your thoughts are, your actions and hopes tend to follow.
They still paint some ads on walls the old-fashioned way.
Dear Reader, I think I’m a reasonably normal person. My primary loyalties are to those I love most (and how politics might affect us). Should the terrorist threat become dangerous enough, no sitting President, nor anyone responsible for the security of American citizens at home, will allow organized terrorist organizations a staging area in Afpak. The lower probability, but higher consequences, of a terror attack here, will likely dictate some sort of action there (SpecOps, intel, cyber warfare, drones etc.). This can affect my family/loved ones directly (the attack and the laws and policy coming out of the threat, and the incentives for all of us dealing with the threat).
People on the right, and myself more often, place higher value on defeating external threats. We’re more likely to route decision-making through a few nodes against these external threats (or tens of thousands of nodes in the current, bloated, semi-woke monstrosity of a Pentagon and contractor complex). I hope it’s in as good faith as possible.
The common defense is the primary reason we have a government in the first place.
People on the Left, as I see things, generally will see the primary threat within the West (the oppressor), and/or rally their troops against the threats to health/education and the institutions in which they gather (COVID safetyism and authoritarian impulses through the health/education industrial complex, for example).
My next ring of loyalty is to those few I know who’ve served in Afpak who are friends and fellow citizens. They volunteered and heard the call. They saw, and sometimes did, some shit…to keep us safer here. This is a thankless task. I live in a country of laws and borders. It’s a place. This place is my home. It comes with freedoms and responsibilities.
My next ring of loyalty (concentric rings) are to those standing up for policy and who claim to speak in my name as politicians and lawmakers, and maybe those who stand up for Afghanistan (Afghanis) with the help of our troops. This loyalty is much more negotiable for me personally, and lately, much more negotiable than ever in my lifetime. I simply don’t really trust our politics to handle immigration reasonably at the moment.
This saddens me, because some honorable, decent people are getting chopped up as a result.
The fact which worries me most: Our political leadership is especially sclerotic, failing in many important ways, for many important reasons. The Afghanistan withdrawal disaster was a conscious decision, and a clusterfuck.
Politics, to some extent, corrupts military leadership. The longer ex-generals hang around the political sphere, the less honor and respect they tend to wield. The longer politicians hang around Washington (especially past their sell-by date), the less honor and respect they hopefully wield (there’s probably a point of ideal ripeness/rottenness). At this point, the rank and file has more reasons than ever to question our political and military leadership. And we’re not even at the bottom of woke yet, with many illiberal and righteous actors leveraging bad knowledge in bad faith (as I see things).
The more conflicts that pile up from the bottom of a military hierarchy, and the more reasons anyone on the bottom has to question, bypass, endure or challenge the hierarchy itself, the more brittle the hierarchy.
Dear Reader, this worries me most.
A return to Nature? To origins of faith? To a simple freedom in a wild land, and new understandings, with death in view? To visions of Romantic Primitivism becoming modern?:
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
Read it aloud, for God’s sake, as the meaning lies in the experience of saying.
Below is ‘Eagle’, by Alexander Calder, but it looks more like a quadruped to me, stalking its victims.
Carlo Lancellotti, on the works of Italian political thinker, Augusto Del Noce.
Full piece here, which could have some explanatory insight:
Del Noce’s emphasis on the role of Marxism in what I called the “anti-Platonic turn” in Western culture is original, and opens up an unconventional perspective on recent cultural history. It calls into question the widespread narrative that views bourgeois liberalism, rooted in the empiricist and individualist thought of early modern Europe, as the lone triumphant protagonist of late modernity. While Del Noce fully recognizes the ideological and political defeat of Marxism in the twentieth century, he argues that Marxist thought left a lasting mark on the culture, so much so that we should actually speak of a “simultaneous success and failure” of Marxism. Whereas it failed to overthrow capitalism and put an end to alienation, its critique of human nature carried the day and catalyzed a radical transformation of liberalism itself. In Del Noce’s view, the proclaimed liberalism of the affluent society is radically different from its nineteenth-century antecedent precisely because it fully absorbed the Marxist metaphysical negations and used them to transition from a “Christian bourgeois” (Kantian, typically) worldview to a “pure bourgeois” one. In the process, it tamed the Marxist revolutionary utopia and turned it into a bourgeois narrative of individualistic liberation (primarily sexual).’
From where I stand: Many people can be seen clamoring towards (S)cience these days (or at least claiming some of its authority), but the people doing science are, well, doing science. They might be informed by their political beliefs, but their political beliefs shouldn’t be present in their work. Natural philosophy, mathematics, statistical modeling, empirical research etc. go on in the public and private sector, despite potentially serious supply/demand and other structural issues.
Institutional capture, however, also continues, and incentives within institutions. Many Arts & Humanities departments have been over-run by the ‘studies’ types, especially within administrations.
Activist sexual, moral and political liberationists could be said to be the driving force behind much in American life right now. Such movements tend to attract true believers who punish their enemies, seeking administrative/bureaucratic control of our institutions and political life.
The postmodern roots are pretty deep. Good luck with your prognostications:
When it comes to the arts, do you know what’s coming next?:
It’s not so much that change is occuring, but in pointing out the change agents, and many ideas driving change, and questioning many such ideas opens one up to the mob.
Other critiques and criticisms along the same vein, gathered on this blog over the years:
-The Englightenment/Romantic tension…the horror of rationalist systems which claimed knowledge of man’s ends, but also a defense of both positive and negative liberties-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”
Clive James revisits many quite original, quite accomplished works of Joseph Conrad.
This one’s stuck with me over the last few months:
‘They are, in fact, idealists: and idealism is a cast of mind that Conrad questions even more than he questions radicalism. The logical end of radicalism, in his view, is terrorism; but idealism is the mental aberration that allows terrorism to be brought about. Conrad’s originality was to see that a new tyranny could be generated by people who thought that their rebellion against the old tyranny was rational. Thus his writings seem prescient about what was to happen in the Soviet Union. He didn’t predict the Nazi tyranny because he had underestimated the power of the irrational to organise itself into a state. But then, nobody predicted that except its perpetrators; and anyway, mere prediction was not his business. His business was the psychological analysis made possible by an acute historical awareness. Under Western Eyes is valuable not because it came true but because it rang true even at the time, only now we can better hear the deep, sad note.’
John O’ Sullivan at The New Criterion remembers Robert Conquest:
“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.’
‘Olympianism is the characteristic belief system of today’s secularist, and it has itself many of the features of a religion. For one thing, the fusion of political conviction and moral superiority into a single package resembles the way in which religions (outside liberal states) constitute comprehensive ways of life supplying all that is necessary (in the eyes of believers) for salvation. Again, the religions with which we are familiar are monotheistic and refer everything to a single center. In traditional religions, this is usually God; with Olympianism, it is society, understood ultimately as including the whole of humanity. And Olympianism, like many religions, is keen to proselytize. Its characteristic mode of missionary activity is journalism and the media.’
‘Progress, Communism, and Olympianism: these are three versions of the grand Western project. The first rumbles along in the background of our thought, the second is obviously a complete failure, but Olympianism is not only alive but a positively vibrant force in the way we think now. Above all, it determines the Western moral posture towards the rest of the world. It affirms democracy as an ideal, but carefully manipulates attitudes in a nervous attempt to control opinions hostile to Olympianism, such as beliefs in capital or corporal punishment, racial, and otherforms of prejudice, national self-assertion—and indeed, religion‘
Nietzsche directed his thought against Christian morality, secular morality (Kantian and utilitarian), was quite anti-democratic, and anti-Socratic.
Related On This Site: From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’.
-Are we really progressing…can we be more clear about means and ends? Via Youtube-Samuel Huntington On ‘The Clash Of Civilizations’…Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’
Wasn’t judge Napolitano a Catholic libertarian?: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’
This blog seems to be drifting along deeper currents, leaving many issues unresolved.
When truth and reality fade, from the views within institutions; when the virtue required to maintain a Republic wanes, the rot merely becomes more visible. Legitimate authority becomes much, much harder to maintain.
Oh, there always have been horse-tradin’ types, somewhere between used car-salesman and admirable men sacrificing their liberty for the rest of us. There were always assholes and charlatans, glad-handing lifers, as well as principled men sticking their fingers into the political winds for their turn at the wheel.
Gathering some views on the Afghanistan ‘withdrawal’, and the current clusterfuckery.
About that Haqqani network.
What say you?