One More Revolution-Venezuela, New Yorkers, And Visions Of Ideal Societies

Alas, the New Yorker is having to come to terms with the mess in Venezuela…:

Sometimes I find myself wondering how the mission of supporting the arts and experimental literature got mixed-up with such political ideas over at the New Yorker (well-educated readers, aesthetes, writers, cultural critics etc) who seem to be viewing the failures of Venezuela from a very foggy Overton window indeed.

Part of this is due to the institutionalization and white-washing of the activities of many radicals and would-be radicals, revolutionaries and would-be revolutionaries from the late 60’s onwards here in the U.S.  Organizations like the Weathermen talked something of a game:  Appealing to the injustice of the draft while protesting the Vietnam War and aiming for ‘pure’ majoritarian democracy, but such appeals couldn’t mask the necessity of making criminal political bedfellows, spouting violent rhetoric and even devolving into terrorism and murder in the name of their ideas.

Okay, maybe it’s pretty simple…:

Here’s one senior New Yorker editor, Hendrik Hertzberg, discussing years ago how to abolish the Electoral College, arrive at a National Vote (to better serve the People, of course) and enact ‘democratic change.’

This strikes me as in-line with much Left and Left-liberal majoritarian populism. activism and softly (ultimately hard) radical change.

More on Venezuela:

Thanks to the New Criterion, they’ve recycled an Anthony Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple) review of two books on the subject:

Man is born rich, but almost everywhere is poor:’

A response to one of my comments found on Alexandria, where I used to blog, on Hugo Chavez:

‘Chavez is actually not an orthodox Marxist in the sense that Marx would have recognized (which was why I linked to the sort of Marxist ‘prophecy’ of people like Chavez from the ‘Eighteenth Brumaire’). Chavez is more along the lines of what traditional Marxists referred to as ‘Bonapartist’ (borrowing from the figure of Napoleon Bonaparte). The whole theory on which Chavez based his political life was that the working class (or what passed for it, in a country like Venezuela) *could not* make a revolution on its own, and that someone else (the military and the Socialist Party, led by him) needed to make the revolution for them. For the very reasons that Bourdieu and Marx hint at in the quotations above. A ‘revolution from above’, in other words.

Where Chavez (and a number of other left-wing Latin American strongmen over the last century) departed radically from orthodox Marxist theory, is that Marx saw Bonapartism as essentially a conservative (thought not a bourgeois) strategy, by which military cliques delude the poor into supporting them, by promising to protect them against the bourgeoisie, and using paternalistic rhetoric. Chavez is, of course, a man of the left, as was his political inspiration, the mid-20th century Peruvian leader General Velasco. Marx seems to have been wrong about ‘revolutions from above’: sometimes they can be genuinely left-wing, and in a lot of cases (including Venezuela) they’re the only serious left-wing option on offer.’

Christopher Hitchens at Slate-Hugo Boss:

‘The boss loves to talk and has clocked up speeches of Castro-like length. Bolívar is the theme of which he never tires. His early uniformed movement of mutineers—which failed to bring off a military coup in 1992—was named for Bolívar.’

If we’re going to have a chattering class of middlebrow know-nothings, can we at least ask they know the right somethings?:

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It’s a long way out of socialist and revolutionary solidarity, which continually occupies the South American mind. One more revolution: Adam Kirsch takes a look at Mario Vargas Llosa. The Dream Of The Peruvian.

Where Did You Put Your Imagination Again? Will Wilkinson, Title IX & Roger Scruton

Writers must be familiar in being seized by the uselessness and self-pitying solipsism which can accompany the practice (prose-stylist and/or serious artist I’m not).

Sound and fury, indeed.

Familiar passions stir, animated by some new issue of the day, hardening into place within the grooves of thought.

Frankly, it’d be more useful to address many current political, legal and cultural disputes within the tradition of Western arts & letters.  There are reasons why certain works of art have lasted so long and described, with such rich detail, our condition.

Getting all the weeping out over a good book doesn’t sound like a bad place to seek solace.

Alas, in the meantime…

-I was treating the below trend as part of a generalized decline of organized religion in America; some eventual taming of the frontier into more shopworn, European ideological disputes:

Will Wilkinson at the Niskanen Center: ‘How Libertarian Democracy Skepticism Infected the American Right’

Do people in a cohort identified by name really listen to writers giving advice to their cohort?:

Wilkinson:

‘How classical liberalism became weaponized anti-socialism      

The history of 20th century libertarian thought comes into focus when you view it as an attempt to preserve the humanitarian blessings of the liberal, capitalist market order against the illiberal depredations of encroaching socialism.

F.A. Hayek saw the Nazis and Soviets up close. In the early 1940s, when Hayek began writing The Road to Serfdom, the Nazis (who ruled his native Austria) were locked in a death-match for control of Europe with Stalin’s totalitarian communism and the scattered remnants of the old liberal order. Capitalist liberal democracy looked like it really might be doomed. Hayek believed that 18th and 19th century arguments for “the liberal creed” had grown stale, no longer inspiring allegiance. So he took it upon himself to restate and defend the argument for liberalism in contemporary terms against the specific threats to freedom in the age of the Soviets and Nazis.’

Speaking of weaponized libertarian anti-socialism-More on Title IX consequences, and the presumption of guilt and subjection to extra-legal authority some individuals have undergone within our universities…caught within a dragnet harming the environment of free-thought: ‘Pursuit of Injustice: Further Adventures Under Title IX:’

‘The tribulations resulting from trumped-up Title IX cases have been well documented by Laura Kipnis, among others. Some of them have spun off into legal proceedings. My experience at the University of Utah shows that Title IX can beget other kinds of administrative tribunals in higher education.

I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.’

It’s important to point-out that Laura Kipnis is a former Marxist-materialist, but nevertheless takes a principled stand against the overreach and authoritarian consequences of Title IX rules applied across the land. All Is Clear On Title IX And The State Of The Humanities?

A little behind the times might not be bad place to rest for a bit:

Roger Scruton gives J.K. Rowling her due, but spells aren’t prayers?

 

Can’t You Just Make The Trains Run On Time?

Theodore Dalrymple: ‘The Soviet Way

‘Increasingly in our daily lives we find ourselves in analogous situations, especially if we have the misfortune to work for bureaucracies, whether governmental, quasi-governmental, supposedly independent, or commercial. We must not only keep silent about propositions that we find not only false but ridiculous, but assent to them, to show willingness and demonstrate that we are (to use a vile modern locution, redolent of a tyranny exercised over us) on message. The message must never be of our own devising, or indeed attributable to anyone in particular. It must be absurd and unassailable at the same time.’

Wit, irony, satire, skepticism and independence of mind can be problematic: Many activists have doctrinal interests, motivating and organizing political ideals within which solidarity, identity, friendship and life’s purpose can be found.  Like all forms of belief (gathered around the doctrines), most people aren’t satisfied most of the time, so seeking influence within political institutions, universities, and various other cultural pulpits is required to bring about the ideal world to come.

‘Conversations’ must be had to spread the gospels of social justice, equality, and ideal, harmonious societies.  Protests must express the will of ‘the People’. The poorest, most wretched, most unjustly treated victims (genuine and less genuine) must be held up as proof of systemic injustice and championed as allies in the fight against oppression.

If you, dear reader, can’t be made to properly understand the truth and knowledge the activist offers; the profound suffering and injustice of the world of which you are a part (and which can be made whole through activism), you will continue as the heathen you are: Unjust, falsely conscious, selfish, polluting, and privileged (racist, sexist, classist etc.)

From Rolling Stone a while back, on Mayor Bill de Blasio of NYC, who was recently re-elected:

‘After attending graduate school at Columbia University, where he studied Latin American politics, de Blasio took a job as a political organizer at the Quixote Center, a social-justice organization rooted in radical Catholic liberation theology, and later engaged in protests designed to raise awareness about U.S. foreign policy. “I’m a big believer in street theater,” he says.’

Ah, well.

 

From a Thomas Sowell piece, the Legacy Of Eric Hoffer:

‘Hoffer said: “The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”

People who are fulfilled in their own lives and careers are not the ones attracted to mass movements: “A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding,” Hoffer said. “When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.”

What Hoffer was describing was the political busybody, the zealot for a cause — the “true believer,” who filled the ranks of ideological movements that created the totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century.’

 

 

Repost-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’

Thanks: Includes anecdotes involving Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein and logical positivism, John Maynard Keynes, and a funny one with Winston Churchill; talk about being near the center of 20th-century intellectual life…

On this site, see: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Berlin puts forth a liberal political philosophy and value pluralism which hones in on one of the greatest dangers to liberty:  Thinking that there is, in fact, one rational plan and end to human affairs, of which some men have knowledge and towards which all men should be directed:

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Somewhere from the old aristocratic Russia softly speaks a keen mind in beautiful, strange English: Michael Dirda At The Washington Post Reviews ‘Nabokov in America’

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’

Troubling Signs And Leaving The Revolutionary Fold

Via Mick Hartley via Forward:  ‘Take It From A British Jew: Anti-Zionism Leads To Anti-Semitism.

A sensitive subject, and much deeper than party, ideology, or political ideal.  All may not be well in Europe due to demographics, immigration, rapid technological change challenging a rather poorly designed centralized bureaucracy.  The less there is, or is perceived to be, the uglier it tends to get.

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There are folks who break with the Left on many issues, and Bernard Henri-Levy has lately advocated not mere broad human-rights activism in Libya and Syria, but the use of military force in so doing.  Perhaps ‘neo-conservatism’ is a path not merely confined to the halls of U.S. power (still with a competent, but likely bloated and bureaucratized, military).

Still, I wonder if many men and women serving in the U.S. military, and their reasons why, would align with the reasons put forth by Henri-Levy…

‘Do it For U.N. Security Council…Do It For Bernard’ aren’t great recruiting slogans, I’m guessing.

Henri-Levy in a past interview:

“I hate competition of victimhood. But I also hate the idea of a big, huge, and empty concept of suffering…”

Perhaps we simply aren’t ready for Henri-Levy’s more libertine, radical, French liberalism, which he displayed by coming over in the spirit of Tocqueville and pissing on the sides of our highways.   Why, he even helped Obama and Hillary Clinton pursue a course of action in Libya.

On that note, ‘neo-conservatism’ is a label of particular heretical significance on the Left, for neo-conservatives are often believers who’ve left the fold.

Perhaps the deep antipathy for religion, and its courageous equal application to Islam separated Hitchens from many peers (especially after Rushdie).  Perhaps a slow acculturation to life in the U.S. helped lead to support for the Iraq invasion:

 

Some Brits Have Much To Teach Us About The Weight Of European History, Radical Ideology, And Speaking Their Minds

Roger Scruton on creating museums to the failures of Marxism, much as we do other forms of fascism:

‘One thing we should surely learn from the Russian revolution is that resentment is always on the lookout for the theories that will justify it. And the lesson that bore in on me in vivid and unforgettable ways during my own journeys behind the Iron Curtain, is that resentment, when it finally takes power, spells the death of politics. The real purpose of politics is not to express resentment but to contain and conciliate it.’

A lot of people in positions of authority outside the West (Russia, China, Venezuela, North Korea, Vietnam etc.) are wedded to institutional structures forged out of the very same ideology.  Their interests don’t necessarily align with ours, and these institutions and are often used to undermine U.S. interests and do harm (for a lot of other reasons as well).

It’s often very idealistic and utopian Westerners (some deeply resentful, indeed) who insist on bending Western interests ONLY towards global institutions.  Presumably, they have access to universal ideals which will benevolently guide their behavior and the institutions they design towards some promised future, which has yet to materialize (there certainly are design, incentive, and capture problems at the U.N.).

A lot of people in the West are wedded to the doctrines of revolutionary praxis, too.  There are real radicals out there and religious institutions, deeper legal and cultural traditions, universities, the family, the military etc. are looked on from this point of view as antiquated and cloying at best, oppressive and evil at worst.

All of the above deserve to be battered, destroyed, or co-opted according to followers of radical doctrines, and many liberal idealists are quite unwilling to challenge such radicals beneath them.

It may be a bumpy ride yet.

As posted:

Via ‘A Dose Of Theodore Dalrymple: ‘The Socialist Wasteland

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.

Karl Popper on why you never go full socialist:

…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”

The below links are to whom I’m indebted in cobbling such posts together on alas…a blog:

-Thomas Sowell discusses his constrained/unconstrained formulation from a Conflict Of Visions.

William F. Buckley And Kenneth Minogue Discuss Ideology…as thorough an exploration of ideology and doctrines of radical liberation as I’ve come across.

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

New liberty away from Hobbes…toward Hayek…but can you see Locke from there?: Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism  more broadly: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

A Few Links On Human Rights Idealism

There are many people pursuing secular human rights ideals within many a Western governmental agency, international institution, and activist quarter these days.  They claim the person who seeks to be virtuous, pursuing an ideal vision of the good society, simply by sharing in this ideal, has immediate access to a global human community and as such, moral duties to this community.

Many ambitious and reasonably well-intentioned young people are hearing its call.

On some level, most of us seek some kind of greater life purpose (guiding ideals and principles) and we seek for our inborn talents and natural abilities to merge hopefully, with our responsibility to feed ourselves and serve others in making a living.

These ideals allow some people, some of the time, to transcend many personal responsibilities along with many of the duties of family, neighbor, friend, the local, the state, the national.

Yet, at what cost? How are they working out in the world, our institutions, and in our lives?

During the recent migration crisis, Sweden took in more refugees per capita than any other country in Europe. However, the exact link between sex crimes and immigration is not known, since the Swedish government will not update its statistics, and the data, which are still being collected, have not been made available to the public.

If there’s anything universal in human affairs (math, the sciences, music, self-interest?), how is the universal to be codified into laws (rules), rights and responsibilities, and who makes the laws and who enforces them?

What is right, exactly, and where do ‘rights’ come from?

How does one person do lasting good for another while pursuing his/her own self-interest within the institutions and organizations that have developed and are often controlled by those adhering to such ideals?

As posted (may you find the thread running through the post, dear reader.  I know it’s a lot to ask…especially with all the unanswered, open-ended questions):

What is humanism?

“‘…a morally concerned style of intellectual atheism openly avowed by only a small minority of individuals (for example, those who are members of the British Humanist Association) but tacitly accepted by a wide spectrum of educated people in all parts of the Western world.”

A Roger Scruton quote that stands out in the video below, while discussing moral relativism to an audience in a country once behind the Iron Curtain:

‘There’s an attempt to produce a universal, objective morality, but without any conception of where it comes from.’

Where does the moral legitimacy come from to decide what a ‘human right’ is? A majority of ‘right-thinking’ people? A political majority? Some transcendent source? German Idealism?

As sent in by a reader: Louise Arbour displays this thinking in spades below (you are bad, and maybe even wrong for disagreeing):

Full paper here.

Perhaps modern American liberalism can claim other roots for itself.  Here’s a quote on Leo Strauss, who has influenced American conservative thought heavily:

“As Strauss understood it, the principle of liberal democracy in the natural freedom and equality of all human beings, and the bond of liberal society is a universal morality that links human beings regardless of religion. Liberalism understands religion to be a primary source of divisiveness in society, but it also regards liberty of religious worship to be a fundamental expression of the autonomy of the individual. To safeguard religion and to safeguard society from conflicts over religion, liberalism pushes religion to the private sphere where it is protected by law. The liberal state also strictly prohibits public laws that discriminate on the basis of religion. What the liberal state cannot do without ceasing to be liberal is to use the law to root out and entirely eliminate discrimination, religious and otherwise, on the part of private individuals and groups.”