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.

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-From Edge: ‘Dennett On Wieseltier V. Pinker In The New Republic’

About Leon Wieseltier’s reported behavior…

There were some rumors about John Searle a while back…

It’s almost as if men in positions of authority and influence have broader scope for their appetites, and some of these men blur the line, over time, between these appetites and their positions of authority and influence.

Additionally, the vices of an individual can either be independent of, or even the downside risks to, their virtues.

‘yeah, Ralph’s a horrible drunk and cad…but he’s still the top regional salesman three years running.  Let’s just hope he doesn’t do something really terrible.’

Of course, to a lot of people (sensible, decent, men and women), the above is self-evidently true, and it never really goes away.  In a free and open society, there can be no guarantees against encountering it (although there clearly must be some protections against it and means to gain justice once it happens).

One hopes not to be exposed to the tough moral decisions required once it’s pretty clear you or someone you know is the (genuine) victim of such abuse.  Moral courage and mental toughness are clearly called for.

In fact, many people simply fold or look away when confronted with such possible truths, especially people with reasons to stay quiet.

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***I’d argue we’ve had serious erosion of the more traditional cultural constraints upon such behavior (men more likely to regulate their own and other men’s behavior, with some amount of honor, and arguably more women enforcing this honor system within the old guard).

We also have the rise of new moral constraints, driven primarily by many counter-cultural and anti-establishment movements now pretty firmly established (yes, this is what happens after all the talk of freedom and oppression dies down and the real business of running things occurs…the logic unfolds as it must).

Institutional authority and social trust still seem to be in serious decline, for many, many reasons.  Here are a few more.

As posted:

Daniel Dennet On Wieseltier v Pinker in the New Republic.

There’s a bit of an intellectual turf war going on in the Western world. I suppose it’s been going on for a while. Here are some dated public skirmishes:

-Steven Pinker, Harvard experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist wrote a piece in the New Republic, entitled: ‘Science Is Not Your Enemy

-Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic since the 60’s, responded at The New Republic: ‘No, Science Doesn’t Have All The Answers.

-Ross Douthat, conservative Catholic columnist at the Times jumped in the fray: ‘The Scientism Of Steve Pinker’

-Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist, responded to Douthat.

-Wieseltier jumped back in with: ‘Crimes Against Humanities: Now science wants to invade the humanities. Don’t let it happen.

-Now Daniel Dennett, philosopher, cognitive scientist, one of the New Atheists and Boston-based secularist responds to Wieseltier:

‘Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems—or “problematics” to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds.’

Got all that?

Why does Wieseltier have his dukes up?

Is the intelligent design debate the right one to have? Whence the humanities?

Terry Eagleton, British Marxist and professor in the humanities, is debating Roger Scruton in the video below, a conservative British philosopher focusing on aesthetics and the humanities, with a lot of German idealist influence:

Will Marxism & continental philosophy, become further guiding lights for the humanities here in America, as we find much more so in Britain?

Aren’t we already thick in the postmodern weeds?

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Related On This Site: Maybe if you’re defending the current conservative position, you don’t want to bring up the ‘aristocratic radical’ : Repost-Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy..

Art, iconography, art education, culture, feminism as well as 60’s cultural revolution radicalism and deeply Catholic impulses?:Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was SuccessfulUpdate And Repost-

A return to Straussian neo-classicism?: From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’Harvey Mansfield At Defining Ideas: ‘Democracy Without Politics?’

Neo-neo conservatism, new atheism and post socialism for the ’68ers? Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’,,

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Steven Pinker somewhat focused on the idea of freedom from violence, which tends to be libertarian. Yet, he’s also skeptical of the more liberal human rights and also religious natural rights. What about a World Leviathan?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas HobbesFrom Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

Morality in the emotions? Jesse Prinz argues that neuroscience and the cognitive sciences should move back toward British empiricism and David Hume…yet…with a defense of multiculturalism and Nietzsche thrown in: Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”From Bloggingheads: Tamar Szabo Gendler On Philosophy and Cognitive Science

From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry On Eliminative Materialism

Repost-Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Given the economic failures of the current newspaper model combined with the embedded logic within Left-liberalism and political activism, this blog is still expecting the NY Times to more closely resemble Britain’s Guardian over time:

Here’s a Guardian headline tumblr page to help clarify: So.Much.Guardian.

If so, expect more of the following:

Ideological purity/belief to be as influential as genuine diversity of thought and deeper fidelity to facts in the newsroom (which costs time and money).  Even dog-bites-man stories can’t stray too far from narratives of victim-hood and overcoming oppression on the way to eventual liberation at The Guardian.  Of course, there will be the usual tensions between establishment liberal political idealism and fidelity to deeper liberal legal, political movements and philosophical traditions against the currents of the radical activist base, the campus and street-protests.

Revenue coming as much from a few wealthy benefactors as it does a more diverse subscription and consumer base of local New Yorkers. This has always been somewhat true of publications.  Only a few people, however, can afford to be purely ideological while hiring similarly minded people able to stay on-message; a stable of self-selecting writers already predisposed to further Left ideas.

Perhaps a general climate of national idealism, American patriotism, and more religiously inspired civic nationalism to which previous generations of Times’ writers adapted…may not be coming back:

Predictions are hard, especially about the future.

David Thompson keeps an eye on the Guardianistas, particularly, George Monbiot, so you don’t have to:

‘Yes, dear readers. The odds are stacked against us and the situation is grim. Happily, however, “we” – that’s thee and me – now “find the glimmerings of an answer” in, among other things, “the sharing… of cars and appliances.” While yearning, as we are, for an “empathy revolution.” What, you didn’t know?’

Red Impulses Gone Green-Tim Worstall At The Adam Smith Institute On George MonbiotFrom George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

So, economics is a science?: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…I’m much more inclined to believe it is if there’s a defense of Jeffersonian liberty and Adam Smith’s invisible hand: Repost-’Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’

Can you see life, liberty, and property from here?: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge…Kant chopped the head off from German deism and the German State has been reeling every since…is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Using J.S. Mill, moving away from religion? Rationalism and Utilitarianism On The Rise?: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’…Liberalism should move towards the Austrians, or at least away from rationalist structures?:  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’

 

Via The Future Of Capitalism: ‘The Politics Of The New Yorker’

You know, it just might be possible to nurture experimental literature, poetry and the ‘avant-garde’ without explicit political bias:

Via The Future Of Capitalism, a new editor at The New Yorker opines:

‘Is it necessary for us to have a conservative voice or something like that? We’ve discussed it, but I’m not sure exactly what it would look like. I think The New Yorker’s niche is pretty comfortably in this progressive space and it’s much less of an issue to us than it is to The New York Times.’

I actually might agree on two fronts:  The New Yorker definitely caters to progressive political ideals (a long-term winning strategy?) AND that there’s something loathsome about hiring just to fill quotas.  The idea of letting other people live their own lives and make their own decisions is so crazy it just might work.

The latter is lost on many true-believing progressives, as the presupposed rigged ‘system’ of the oppressor justifies all manner of intrusion into existing institutions through protest, radical unrest and forced quota-systems.

Beware those who would make you care:

Under A Green Moon-Ira Stoll At The New York Sun: ‘Comma in the New Yorker Opens Up Quite a Vista Of Liberal Parochialism’

From The New Yorker: ‘Writing Powered By Amtrak’

 

Repost-Christopher Hitchens & William F Buckley On Anglo-American Relations

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Subject: ‘Is England Still Influencing America?’ on Hitchens’ book ‘Blood, Class, & Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies‘ when Hitchens’ was pushing the idea that ’empire’ was the primary transmission, apparently due to his ideological commitments at the time. America must have seemed a classless paradise with institutions well-functioning and ripe to achieve justice and equality for the whole world…for some folks in the Generation of ’68.

*Includes the Firing Line opening theme of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (those damned Germans influencing us) followed by a Michael Kinsley introduction (founding editor of Slate, which has since gone more progressive under recent management).

Here Is Hard To See-A Discussion Of Foreign Policy And Some Possibilities For Trump: Eliot Cohen On ‘The Big Stick’

Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

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…:

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