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?:

—————–

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.

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.’

 

 

Slight Update And Repost-From The New Criterion: Theodore Dalrymple Reviews Ta-Nehisi Coates ‘Between The World And Me’

Jason Hill’s open letter to Coates here.

Dalrymple’s review of Coates:

‘Coates fails to notice that his blanket exoneration of the perpetrators actually dehumanizes them. On his view, when the young perpetrators pull the trigger or thrust the knife in they are only vectors of forces, not agents with purposes, desires, plans, or motives. Therefore they are not really men at all, so that, ironically enough, they become for him Invisible Man writ large.’

Many black writers in America should be recognized as having crossed bridges over chasms in communicating their experiences, experiences which have often made even the best radicalize to some degree in the face of such injustice.

Regardless, I’m guessing we’re all best off if the same high standards are universally applied when it comes to quality of prose, depth of thought, scope of imagination and moral courage.  Good writing deserves as much: Genuine, even if grudging or even if unfettered, respect.

Works of art are going to do what they’re going to do, polemics what they do, and I tend to believe that respect for the freedom, responsibility, agency and complexity of the individual ought to be central.  Realizing the interior lives of others, especially if they’re just characters in a novel, even when they fail miserably and do horrible things, is what I’ve taken to be a core feature of writing which has moved me. This, much more than ideological solidarity and what may be the shared popular sentiment of the moment.

To my mind, there’s something comic about a man (and I can’t be alone) espousing rather radical political views (theories of victim-hood, a lack of individual agency and anti-white racism, postmodern ‘body’ talk etc.) while being feted, possibly with the intent of appeasement and assimilation, by mostly less radical (and often very white) audiences.

That’s got to create some tension.

As to politics and social institutions, sent in by a reader, here’s a talk given by John McWhorter about his views in ‘Losing The Race‘, a man who strikes me as politically amorphous, unsatisfyingly moderate for some, and often very sensible.  As has been the case for a while, there [are] a whole range of views out there:

==============

From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

James Baldwin’s works are there to be read and thought about, his words and ideas echoing in your mind; your words formed in response.

Take or leave those words and ideas.  You can write a paper, and forget them.  They may deeply move and stir your moral imagination, or not.

Such is freedom.

A lack of freedom is demonstrated by uttering James Baldwin’s words as incantations seeking solidarity; chanted mindlessly by a mob of moral/ideological purists, shouting down anyone who might disagree.

Most of these low-rent, post-Enlightenment ideological re-enactors are happy to become stars; each of their own scripted passion-plays and soapy little dramas; tacitly cradled by the academics and administrators off-camera.


In this blog’s opinion, John Derbyshire has extended his own experiences into broader truth claims about race and empirical reality.  He uses statistics and evidence to bolster his arguments.  There are, frankly, quite a few people who agree with him.

Should one disagree, it must be demonstrated to him, and to others, why he might be wrong.  Derbyshire’s intellectually honest enough to present his arguments clearly and cogently, as presumably he believes what he’s saying is true.

Become part of a much nobler process, dear reader.  Most decent people already know better than to claim all the truth, moral goodness and virtue for themselves.

Related On This Site:   What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

Repost-Eugene Volokh At The National Review: ‘Multiculturalism: For or Against?

From The City Journal: Theodore Dalrymple’s ‘Freedom & Art’ & The Revolutionary Spirit Of Bill De Blasio

Theodore Dalrymple at The City Journal compares money, the individual, and the social in Depression-era Soviet and American art:

‘I was struck by the parallels between the furious debates among artists in the early years of the revolution and those that raged during the Depression about the “correct” way to paint and the role of art in society—the assumption being that an indubitably correct answer was there to be found, as if there could not be many mansions in art, as if appreciation of one style automatically precluded admiration for another. The debates were highly ideological: in the Russian case, about what activity truly served the revolution and the proletariat (itself an abstraction, very different from workers’ actual lives); and in the American case, about what activity was truly American.’

To be flippant, as previously posted on this site: A little piece I like to call ‘Stalin’s Fingers’ in Seattle.  Comic and graphic art may be taking up some of the muscularity of socialist realism and public-works solidarity.

getattachmentthumbnail
Fun fact: During times of stress, Josef Stalin is said to have marched his fingers just so across his desk, transgressing his own boundaries!

You might have noticed those tiles already look a little drab and dated, even though construction only finished a few years ago.

The above mural is part of the new Capitol Hill light-rail station on Broadway.

More here on the piece (apologies to all comic/graphic artists ahead of time, for not portraying your craft with as much fidelity as it probably deserves).

Our muraliste is a comic/graphic artist tapped to make signs and symbols for all the Community:

‘Forney, originally from Philadelphia…landed the light rail station gig back in 2008 after submitting a series of paintings of hands in provocative positions to Sound Transit — paintings which had originally been featured in the 2007 Seattle Erotic Art Festival. The series was called Big Fuckin’ Hands.’

Get it?  They’re hands, and they’re…well…you know.

Oh boy…

As for People’s Republic of The Northwest Territories, there’s that Diego Rivera-esque mural in Kane Hall at the University Of Washington…multi-ethnic laborers of the world uniting for the common good.


Moving along, also from The City Journal:  Mayor De Bolshevik:

‘In a wide-ranging and candid interview with New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio casually noted that the “way our legal system is structured to favor private property” provokes his “anger, which is visceral.”

De Blasio likely places certain ideals (‘community,’ equality, and cooled revolutionary spirit) above private property, free enterprise, and individual liberty, even as he’s collecting the wealth from the successes of NYC finance, trade, property taxes, and tourism.

You asked for it, New York:

As posted, from the NY Times on the mayor:

‘Bill de Blasio, then 26, went to Nicaragua to help distribute food and medicine in the middle of a war between left and right. But he returned with something else entirely: a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.

and:

‘His activism did not stop. In the cramped Lower Manhattan headquarters of the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, where he volunteered, Mr. de Blasio learned to cause a stir. He and a ragtag team of peace activists, Democrats, Marxists and anarchists attempted to bring attention to a Central American cause that, after the Sandinistas lost power in a 1990 election, was fading from public view. “The Nicaraguan struggle is our struggle,” said a poster designed by the group’

Some, of course, will benefit, but at what cost?

The De Blasio FilesFrom The Observer on that free WiFi for ‘The People‘…From The de Blasio Files: Red, Green and Rosenberg

What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’...The Irish were a mess:  William Stern At The City Journal: ‘How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish’

A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

Politicians and politics likely won’t deliver you from human nature, nor fulfill your dreams in the way you want: anarchy probably won’t either: Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Josh Barro At Business Insider: ‘Dear New Yorkers: Here’s Why Your Rent Is So Ridiculously High’

R.I.P. Jerry Pournelle

Via Instapundit.  A pretty sad day for this blog.

How do you balance interests in liberty, libertarianism, war and military technology, government, the sciences, sci-fi, artistic creativity, along with much insight and wisdom into human nature?  And pretty good writing?

His original blog is a good place to start looking around.

As previously posted:

Libertarianism can be accompanied by attendant utopianism and grand visions of the future (as strong as the progressive and collectivist love of technocracy). Yet, as for predictions about the future, here’s Pournelle describing his own home computer and how publishing might look in a few decades time.

Keep in mind he was saying this in 1979:

How I came across his writing:

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

‘Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.’

Rest in peace.

Some Labor Day Links 2017

Alas, when the whole faculty/staff/students are in this deep, expect slow, if any, change.

John Gray from the New Statesman back in May:

‘The gaggles of bien pensant writers and journalists, liberal teachers and academics, radical aristocrats and businessmen who flocked to the Soviet Union and later Mao’s China went to these countries convinced that their own societies were stuck in the past. They believed that only a thinking minority – themselves – could see the outlines of a better future. Plainly, it was these advanced minds that could direct the new society that was coming into being.’

The last few centuries have been full of fits and starts of post-Enlightenment utopianism and downside repressive authoritarianism and horrendous totalitarianism.

Via Marginal Revolution: ‘Big Data Surveillance: The Case Of Policing

The police are going to keep exercising their authority, but increasingly by utilizing new methods of data collection and analysis in order to predict, target and prevent the worst outcomes.  They won’t always get things right.

‘This article examines the intersection of two structural developments: the growth of surveillance and the rise of “big data.” Drawing on observations and interviews conducted within the Los Angeles Police Department, I offer an empirical account of how the adoption of big data analytics does—and does not—transform police surveillance practices. I argue that the adoption of big data analytics facilitates amplifications of prior surveillance practices and fundamental transformations in surveillance activities.’

You know, maybe stable marriages do primarily form the bedrock of Western Civilization, or at least, such ideas should be discussed in universities and in public:

Jonathan Haidt defends Amy Wax (who has contributed to his Heterodox Academy)

***Many of the functions that charities, churches, and religious organizations perform will likely try and be co-opted by the government (many coalitions no doubt see many things this way…replacing religious idealism with their own secular and ideological lights and political interests).  Interestingly, old-school Democrat, poor Brooklyn kid, and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan made some interesting arguments about the dangers of such Statism.

A Few Crime Links, Easy To Post

A Quillette Review Of Mark Lilla And A Default Liberal Political Idealism Common To the Academy

Oliver Traldi at Quillete reviews Mark Lilla- ‘The Once And Future Liberal: After Identity Politics

‘Lilla’s own explanation of his liberalism, given by the book’s structure, is that politics is liberal by definition.

and:

‘Lilla clearly thinks he is making a pragmatic case, but he does not engage with any empirical political science; no numbers of any kind—polls, turnout, what have you—appear in the book.’

Despite the narrowness of understanding and lack of empirical rigor on display (liberal political idealism is the lingua franca of many a humanities department), I don’t mind Lilla’s plea for more national unity and moderate party politics in American life.

Do I really think Democrat donor parties claiming national greatness, neo-liberal economics and an evening of Beatles songs at the Kennedy Center are enough to placate the activists and radicals?

No.

Do I think the old conservative guard and National Review cruises are going to unite the populist, angry and economically left-behind members of the Right, including some actual race-mongers and dangerous ideologues?

No, probably not.

I actually forgive a lot of arts and humanities folks a lack of empirical rigor as long as the pronouncements don’t come too grandiose and self-righteous (I happen to think the great books and Western Civ 101 still hold a vital place in our Republic, despite the recent bad stewardship…I could even tolerate a return to William James and John Dewey).

My immediate take after hearing Lilla discuss the book with current editor of the New Yorker David Remnick was pretty basic: What hand-wringing! These guys deserve to have to re-think their own positions and assumptions.

I’m glad they don’t have much political power over my life:

A quote from Ken Minogue I still find compelling:

-Minogue, Kenneth.  Politics.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).

On the many dangers of political idealism, and using political theory as the limits of your field of vision:

‘We may sum this up by saying that the more the style of what used to be called politics becomes theorized, the more political problems come to be reintrepreted as managerial.  Working out the least oppressive laws under which different and sometimes conflicting groups may live peaceably together is being replaced by manipulation and management of the attitudes different groups take towards each other, with the hope that this will ultimately bring harmony.  In other words, in the new form of society, human beings are becoming the matter which is to be shaped according to the latest moral ideas.’

If you leave your speech up to these folks…:

iStock_000001236034XSmall