My past predictions regarding NPR (dear reader, these are hardly groundbreaking): I expect further Leftward political partisanship and general moral suspicion of the laws, civic nationalism and patriotism. There will be ebbs and flows surrounding ‘-Ism’ righteousness and the latest political (C)ause. There will be tactical advances in politics and ‘culture’, followed by retreats into a kind of existential despair of the (S)elf, usually cured by the balm of collectivist and identity-driven movements, fortified by hatred of anything traditional and religious. Sometimes Democrat, sometimes activist, NPR readers will continue to be dully predictable, but now dully predictable, mostly from the Left.
The rapid curve of current technological change will continue apace.
I think it’s pretty obvious what’s happened in universities is happening on a delay throughout many American media institutions.
Just as the ‘Hitler-year-zero-fight-fascism-now’ Left has been co-opting language and many positions within existing institutions and hierarchies, the ‘New Right’ will no longer accept the civility, ‘work-within-the-system’ tactics of the old establishment. I see Donald Trump merely as a vote against that system and those rules, and a signpost on the way into the postmodern landscape.
I’m not counting on the way stations of liberal idealism to necessarily contain points further Left, either. My problem with many elements of the Left are well-established problems. There is justification and rationalization of violence in pursuit of the (C)ause. There is incomplete and utopian conceptualization of human nature, political and economic realities, along with a ‘change-first’ worldview. There is a well-documented focus on collectivist and class-identity politics which squash the individual, backing us into new forms of Statist authority and control.
There will be a liberal stiffening of spines, at times, of course. But, many on the Left harbor a particular hatred for liberal idealists.
Behold my mighty tweet, which mocks and mocks the weakness of many liberal hopes. Of course, this is all the more reason to dig deep in the Humanities! You’ve got to get at the weaknesses, the hatreds, and the foibles of your own heart to realize what is lovable, noble, and possible with your own life.
It’s tough to have much sympathy for those who dig shallow, make the personal political, and help our politics become a jumbled mess, riding the current university model into many an over-leveraged loan mill.
What if their duty was not merely to collect a salary and keep the cruise-members happy, but to try and look from the crow’s nest and keep the ship afloat?
I get it, the Beatles were an excellent band. Dance Hall boys from Liverpool made globally successful and good, with remarkable depth for the popular appeal. ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Yesterday,’ for me, strike deep and stay there (I prefer McCartney as songwriter).
But please stop being such losers!
I couldn’t even type ‘suckling’ correctly, or else it auto-corrected. Further proof that maybe I’m the loser.
Here’s how Wendell Berry put it in his essay “The Joy of Sales Resistance”:
‘Quit talking bad about women, homosexuals, and preferred social minorities, and you can say anything you want about people who haven’t been to college, manual workers, country people, peasants, religious people, unmodern people, old people, and so on.’
Here are some of the pressures to which NPR is subject:
1. Market pressures-It’s easy to go for the lowest common denominator in the marketplace (sex sells). Resisting such tactics requires sticking to principles. NPR does a pretty good job at this, though my problem is with the judgment and principles they’re using; subject to the capture of liberatory radicalism (free your ‘Self’ politically, morally and sexually, replacing beliefs with overwhelmingly Democrat political allegiance, New-Age/Political idealism and State-funded Sex Education). There’s a combination of stiff moralism and weird license at NPR.
2. Technological pressures-I have many bookish and well-read friends who are terrified of technology. They have some good reasons and some ridiculously bad ones for this. NPR is not exactly cutting-edge though they are pretty mainstream. Success requires manipulating the latest technology.
3. The Problems Of Ideological Capture-What you think tends to become who you become regarding habit and character. Where your thoughts go, so go your moral sentiments, beliefs and actions. Liberal idealists argue for some pretty scalable post-Enlightenment ideals (universal humanism, open markets, free speech).
Problems tend to start, however, regarding a deeper base of Selves living in relative isolation; flirting with nihilism, existentialism, anarchy, and Communism/Socialism. Liberal idealists can easily become caught between a tradition or law they personally uphold, while simultaneously supporting the activist who may have no regard whatsoever for any particulary existing tradition or law.
Clive James revisits many quite original, quite accomplished works of Joseph Conrad.
This quote has 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.’
Personally, I am persuaded such pressures orginate in insufficiently deep maps of human nature, Nature, and how hard it can be to maintain legitimate authority.
(S)cience, Social (S)cience and Free Speech & Assembly: As we can see with true radicals and revolutionaries, the ideological capture within our institutions comes from a presumed moral authority; a moral authority drafting off of the truth and knowledge claims made by the Sciences, the Social Sciences, and ‘The Expert.’
Listening to the Beatles, watching episodes of Nature with David Attenborough, and supporting the latest moral cause may placate radicals for a while, but only for a while. Often such habits make liberals easier targets.
This is, I believe, how we’ve arrived at many conservatives, libertarians, some broader disaffected moderates and a Newer Left (the Weinsteins, much of the ‘Dark Web’) suddenly having to defend the truth and knowledge claims of the Sciences, the Social Sciences, free assembly and free speech.