From my humble, small ‘c’ conservative position, Trump was better than many alternatives, although the Federal deficit is now frightening. His anti-China tendencies have been nationalistic; coming from a more pro-union, working man perspective dating to his experiences in 1980’s New York City. Whatever you think of such ideas, Trump’s pushed, and reacted against, a lot of where future political action will be, namely with the citizens who work hard, save, and play by the rules. Mostly isolationist on foreign policy and liberationist on the economy, Trump’s had his influence.
He’s also challenged much Liberal Idealism directly (humanists and universalists, progressives and global internationalists and MUCH of the mainstream-media these days). For this, Trump will not be forgiven.
I would also include in this telling many Left-Of-Center ‘Ism-ologists’ (environmentalist bureaucrats and lawyers, feminists, race-industrialists) and ‘Wokists’ beneath them (SJW’s, identitarian and New New Left ‘woke’ activists). Such folks not only disliked Trump, but have openly HATED him. Trump was the uncouth, fascistic authoritarian trashing the traditions of our fair Republic [addition: don’t worry, they’ll take great care of it]. He simultaneously played the role of old and new heel quite successfully,
Trump’s also, from a position of character, in my personal opinion, kind of a piece-of-shit (as in a Jake-The-Snake Roberts old-school WWF heel). You could maybe trust him if you went in on the USFL together as stakeholders, but, then again, maybe not. He’s taken slights personally, often sinking to the level of most opponents. He’s been a womanizer for many, many years. He seems to claim credit for successes in a narcissistic, self-aggrandizing way and often shifts the blame of failures onto others. He’s used ‘lawfare’ in the past to achieve his aims..
Nevertheless, here we are, at the perpetual glorious dawn of the (S)elf, Dear Reader.
I expect a lot of what I see as overbuilt Federal institutions to continue having, at least partial, if not complete, capture by second and third-raters willing to endorse new moral orthodoxies.
From my position, I see new moral orthodoxies as insufficiently grounded in the tragedies and comedies of human nature to produce much mid and long-term institutional success. I may trust individuals I know (love your family, trust but verify with colleagues), but I don’t, in aggregate, trust even [principled] progressives to stand-up for the pursuit of truth as explained and understood by the sciences against mobs of ignorance. The production-line of ideas from the radical activist, to high ‘-Ismologist’, to Liberal Human Universalist continues.
Imagine yourself in a waiting room with an assortment of strangers. There’s some small-talk, some smiling, and some awkward tension (depending upon the reasons for which you might be waiting). A lot of the new ‘woke’ ideology takes as fuel the awkward tension of such strangers thrust together; these motley crews of friendly and not-so-friendly strangers in need of unifying ideas.
After liberation usually comes a new set of emergent rules and orthodoxies.
It still seems vast swathes of moral sentiment and public opinion have trouble aligning with positions of leadership and institutional authority these days, all across the board.
Some new links and a past quote:
British Historian Tom Holland sees the moral roots of the Christian faith as producing most of the new radical offshoots. For the Left, The Nazis are the devil (having rejected salvation and forgiveness). It’s always 1939 or so. For the Right, the current moral crisis is a rejection of belief, tradition and faith for atheism, liberal idealism and various dangerous ideologies coming out of the postmodern soup.
As for my thinking, the Platonic model found in the Republic (one of many models I’m using), keeps me up at night: Benjamin Jowett’s translation of Plato’s Republic can be found here.
‘Perhaps the core of rational behavior is the idea of flexibility or resilience. The rational man, seeing his world collapse, will never turn his face to the wall (like a tragic hero) if there is the slightest possibility of accommodation with the force which has overwhelmed him. Hobbes, the uncompromising rationalist, deals with this possibility without attempting to disguise it. Overwhelming force determines the will of the rational man whose primary aim is to stay alive; there is no place for honor or heroism. The importance of flexibility also comes out in the hostility of rational thinkers to the social institution of the oath. One cannot rationally make a promise binding beyond the point where one gains from it, a point which Spinoza, for example, brings out  clearly. The oath, in fact, is a feudal institution which seemed to liberal thinkers an attempt to impose more on the human flux than it could bear.’
‘Long before the Revolution, then, the disposition of mind of the American colonists, the prevailing intellectual character and habit of politics, were rationalistic. And this is clearly reflected in the constitutional documents and history of the individual colonies. And when these colonies came ‘to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,’ and to declare their independence, the only fresh inspiration that this habit of politics received from the outside was one which confirmed its native character in every particular. For the inspiration of Jefferson and the other founders of American independence was the ideology which Locke had distilled from the English political tradition.’
Oakeshott, Michael. Rationalism In Politics And Other Essays. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1991. Print. Pg 31.
I have trouble imagining Oakeshott having much sympathy with our founders’ direct experience and developing practice alongside and against King George III and the Redcoats; the slow-rolling revolution these men found themselves within.
‘I’ve noticed that Darwinism seems to support one of the fundamental claims of classical liberalism: natural rights emerge in human history as those conditions for human life that cannot be denied without eventually provoking a natural human tendency to violent resistance against exploitation.’
A deep and interesting argument. Both Thomas Hobbes and John Locke had to deal with a constantly warring, reformation England.
Using quite a bit of German idealism (Hegelian) to get at the problem:
‘While I am complaining, I will also note that Scruton has nothing to say about how several of these figures—especially Žižek and Alain Badiou, along with Jacques Derrida, who is barely mentioned here—have played a role in the so-called “religious turn” of humanistic studies, in which various movements generally called “postmodern” find a significant place for religion in their reflections, if not in their beliefs or practices. This marks a significant departure from the relentless secularism of most earlier forms of European leftism, and that deserves note. Nor does Scruton account fully for Jürgen Habermas’s reputation as a centrist figure in the German and more generally the European context. (Habermas too has spoken more warmly of religion in recent years.’
So, what is all this Nothing-ness about? ‘My view’, says Scruton, ‘is that what’s underlying all of this is a kind of nihilistic vision that masks itself as a moving toward the enlightened future, but never pauses to describe what that society will be like. It simply loses itself in negatives about the existing things – institutional relations like marriage, for instance – but never asks itself if those existing things are actually part of what human beings are. Always in Zizek there’s an assumption of the right to dismiss them as standing in the way of something else, but that something else turns out to be Nothing.’
‘Oddly enough, it is the intellectual snobbery and elitism of many of the literati that politically correct egalitarianism appeals to; their partiality to literary Marxism is based not on its economic theory but on its hostility to business and the middle class. The character of this anti-bourgeois sentiment therefore has more in common with its origin in aristocratic disdain for the lower orders than with egalitarianism.’
The more one starts digging around at foundations, the trickier it gets. It’s good to seek-out different opinions, and often knowlegeable opinions, to augment our vital pop-music discussions. The future of the Nation may be at stake!
NY Times/Vox contributing USC musicologist, Nate Sloan, instructs a meaning-starved nation, turning its lonely eyes to him, that the Jonas Brothers have opened a ‘musical wormhole’ back to a funkier time.
Ah, the NY Times.
A piney backwoods, black-preaching, soul-screeching musical legend ran his band hard and got results. A real innovator.
Rick Beato, musician, music producer and potential Youtube purist, says no, the Jonas Brothers use quantized drum machines, so while syncopated and seemingly funky, like so much recorded music for the past twenty or twenty-five years, the feel is lost. It’s all digitized.
Real music is real people in real time, speeding up and slowing down, often intuitively, in response to other real people in the band and out in the audience. There are better standards.
You have to be there, man, or at least listen to Clyde Stubblefield recorded as he played.
Actually, Jonathan ‘Sugarfoot’ Moffet, who worked as a drummer for Michael Jackson, among others, is having a moment. He’s very precise with his time, and he plays to the song. Good art looks easy:
What’s going on with all the attempts at meaning and all this ‘explanation,’ almost if saying something ‘performatively’ will make it true?: Have you noticed how so many of the writers are talking about writing, and the comedians about comedy, and the cartoonists about cartoons?
Part of this can be explained by explosive growth in technology and a relatively open marketplace of ideas. There’s just a lot of stuff out there.
Some good advice I’ve received in dealing with all this potential knowledge; to help protect your valuable time: Learn something and keep learning. Go pretty far in at least one field or area. If you aren’t learning new things you aren’t doing it right. Even if you are a bit of a loner, or relatively deep, keep your family, friends, and professional and personal development active. Have many irons in many fires so no single loss becomes catastrophic.
Other problems possibly afoot: There sure is a lot of talk about the person and not the person’s achievements. There sure is a lot of focus on celebrities and so many of them famous just for being famous. There are all these media outlets are presuming to tell you how to understand the world, even though they can’t even pay reporters to get basic facts.
Everyone gets a trophy!
Some of these problems, I think, are related to what I’ll call the ‘postmodern’ problem, and I’ve been digging around at it for a while. This blog is still trying to work towards a definition of modernism:
‘Like many scholars of modernism, I’m often asked two questions: What is modernism? And why is modernist studies, it seems, all the rage right now? I don’t have a good, succinct answer to either question — and I’ve no doubt frustrated plenty of friends because of that — but the reasons why I don’t are pretty telling.’
From the comments:
‘The most useful definition of modernist fiction I’ve encountered comes from Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction. He says modernist fiction tends to “foreground epistemological questions” such as “How can I interpret the world I’m part of? What is there to be known?Who knows it? What are the limits of that knowledge?” In contrast, postmodernist fiction tends to “foreground ontological questions” such as “What is a world? What kinds of worlds are there and how are they constituted? What happens when…boundaries between worlds are violated?’
Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism. Romanticism–>Modernism–>Postmodernism–>Wherever We’re Heading Now
Maybe it all started with Beethoven: Everyone’s a (S)elf.
I’d argue that this ‘postmodern’ problem also likely bleeds out into other causes, and abstract ideas, like the Climate.
Media issues: Aside from the knowledge problems faced by all of us (oh, how little we know), but especially the knowledge and truth problems faced by people peddling information and influence or writing for money, there are other challenges. There are problems of looking to political and ideological beliefs to define one’s (S)elf. The showcasing of activist concerns and the consultation of ‘experts’ has become the glue of much academic, media and bureaucratic life.
To my eyes, the below is not necessarily the sign of a healthy movement, nor a movement properly grounded in the pursuits of knowledge and truth. Some people are desperate to be a part of something, to have a righteous cause in common (one more protest), and to hate enemies if they must.
There’s actual binary logic, and systems of computation, models of the world, using data input channels to re-create and hopefully predict the world. Sometimes when you think you know something, as you close-in on a higher level of resolution, the model can simply give way. Christopher Essex discusses ‘Believing In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, And Climate Models.’
This stuff is complicated, but it’s a lot like the music discussion above.
It seems obvious that some climate radicalism has hardened into an idealism guiding much establishment conventional wisdom, producing an enormous gravy-train of special interests, regulations and questionable incentives. At present, it would seem a vast majority of people busy scribbling for media outlets believe in climate change as much as they believe in anything.
But merely believing in something, having a guiding ideal and becoming politically active around that ideal, may not actually enough to actually be grounded in knowledge and truth.
Beneath the political idealists, in fact, are still many radicals, utopians and crazies (though, admittedly, some pretty damned good gospel improv):
As previously posted: Bathe in the bathos of a warming world:
‘In “Sea Change,” Graham becomes Prospero, casting spells by spelling out her thoughts to merge with ours, and with the voices of the elements. The result is a mingling of perceptions rather than a broadcasting of opinions. Instead of analysis, the poems encourage emotional involvement with the drastic changes overwhelming us, overwhelm- ing the planet.’
‘Strengths and weaknesses, flows and ebbs, yet every poem in “Sea Change” bears memorable lines, with almost haunting (if we truly have but 10 years to “fix” global warming) images of flora and fauna under siege. Jorie Graham has composed a swan song for Earth.’
Dear Reader, now’s your chance to learn more about Peace Pavilion West, and the collective search for Self-Humanhood as a member of Gaia’s first tribe. If you are an ecologically aware, economically suspicious global citizen seeking meaning, transcendence, and collective purpose, come worship at the Human Pagoda.
(A)rt, (S)cience, and all of Nature await. There is but one shining path of historical progress, and it is narrow.
As posted, someone called me a Postmodern Conservative a while back, and I’d just like to say that there are many identities juxtaposed at the intersectionality of bodies in space. Dominant narratives, meta-narratives, and counter-narratives serve to liber…
I originally linked years ago, but it’s worth a look. Philosophers are often looking for something to do…so are many people abusing each other on the internet.
“In this context, it is time to stop thinking about the Internet as a kind of liberation theology (expressed at its most ethically naive through Wikileaks’ belief that the path to a just society is absolute transparency); the key issue facing everyone in the next decade is figuring out how to use the Internet and how to discern its societal benefits from its over-hyped Utopian promises. This is a critical discussion that demands the engagement of philosophers. If they could only hurry up.”
‘Outrage supposedly felt on behalf of others is extremely gratifying for more than one reason. It has the appearance of selflessness, and everyone likes to feel that he is selfless. It confers moral respectability on the desire to hate or despise something or somebody, a desire never far from the human heart. It provides him who feels it the possibility of transcendent purpose, if he decides to work toward the elimination of the supposed cause of his outrage. And it may even give him a reasonably lucrative career, if he becomes a professional campaigner or politician: For there is nothing like stirring up resentment for the creation of a political clientele.’
English writers Ian McEwan and Martin Amis have a discussion; a bit about writing, a bit about personal habits and audience attention spans, but also about this past century’s ideological fever dreams.
You might just recognize some of these living and dead horses:
AC This idea of belief systems comes out in both of your books, doesn’t it – what people will do in the name of the beliefs that they’ve constructed or developed.
MA Yes: it’s a world in itself that – belief systems. Ian’s been talking about religion, but also ideology. Although what I discovered when I’d gone on reading about the Holocaust over the last 25 years is that in the Russian case, very pedantically following various Marxist tributaries and deviations, the ideology remained very strong.
I was shocked to learn that Gorbachev, just as the whole empire was crumbling, was up all night reading Lenin, saying, “The answer must be here.” But in Hitler’s case, in the German case, there was no ideology. There were two or three ideas: Lebensraum – extra land empire; hallucinatory anti-Semitism; and just wanting to stay in power – and that was it. People weren’t attracted to Nazism because of its ideology; it was a sort of rallying cry for sadists and that was all it was meant to be.
IM Yes, those black flags of Northern Iraq are another case – it acts as a great attractor for every available would-be torturer. Psychopathia is thinly spread through all populations and they just need their historical chance, don’t they?
AC And why are novelists drawn to it?
IM We love things going wrong.
McEwan mentions the death of the inductive novel, or novel as puzzle to reason through, perhaps requiring greater and deeper attention which is occupied elsewhere.
Are you willing to go on this type of journey with a good artist? From this Playboy interview with Vladimir Nabokov:
Nabokov: ‘On the contrary, I shudder retrospectively when I recall that there was a moment, in 1950, and again in 1951, when I was on the point of burning Humbert Humbert’s little black diary. No, I shall never regret Lolita. She was like the composition of a beautiful puzzle—its composition and its solution at the same time, since one is a mirror view of the other, depending on the way you look.’
Is the artist supposed to solve a puzzle or ask you to help solve his puzzle?
On that note, serial, narrative fiction and reasoned problem-solving meet with you-know-who: