Yesterday, I posted some sites of interest that focus on religion, while today’s post features sites that I read that focus more on politics, ethics, metaphysics, human society and culture generally, and the rest of the handmaiden’s areas.
Lawrence Auster’s View from the Right
Cassandra Goldman’s A Letter to the Times
Moshea bat Abraham’s American Monarchist
National Review Online
The New Criterion
Spengler on the Asia Times
The Volokh Conspiracy
What’s Wrong with the World
Yesterday, Drudge linked to a fascinating little story about a speech that the new Attorney General Eric Holder delivered to his unfortunate employees in the Justice Department, “Holder: US is nation of cowards on racial matters”:
In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.
“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” said Holder, nation’s first black attorney general.
Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, Holder said, but “we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”
He urged people of all races to use Black History Month as a chance for frank talk about racial matters.
“It is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation’s history, this is in some ways understandable,” Holder said. “If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.”
I enjoy it when public officials speak candidly, and Holder knows that of which he speaks. After Holder’s time under his old boss Janet Reno, which involved such irresponsible actions as the pardoning of traitors and terrorists Mark Rich, the Weather Underground, and Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional, only a morally bankrupted society of cowards and their similarly craven leaders would accept such a man as the head of the Department of Justice. The irony is too rich!
Though one may wonder how liberal our regime remains when the federal government’s top lawyer concerns himself with people’s heretofore legal private associations on the weekend, Holder is correct that cowardice is at work in America’s race relations. This should not surprise Holder or any other intelligent person. Commercial regimes that aim at profit and comfort poorly inculcate the virtue of courage in their citizens. Even in our rules of politesse, where one should not speak of the most interesting and important matters, religion and politics, you can see the priorities of our society. Truth and principles are not welcome when they disrupt comfortable social cohesion. In a more honorable culture, such as Sparta, feudal Japan, or the vast tribes enrapt by Mohammedanism, the people would have risen up and slain the vermicular fiends of cultural revolution that suckled Mr. Holder and his various bosses over the years. Anglo-American liberals, however, have never been timocrats, and fifth column weasels in the United States can live out their pampered existences on the generosity of the system that they are trying to undermine.
Lawrence Auster interprets Holder’s rainbow call as malicious in his post “Black attorney general pulls white America’s chains”:
Of course, what everyone involved in the proceedings knew but would not say (hmm, there’s that “silence” again) was that if whites said what they believed about race, e.g., if they pointed out that their black co-workers were not up to par and had been admitted, hired, and retained due to an all-encompassing system of racial preferences, and that no criticism of black poor performance or troublesome behavior could ever be made in the work place, they’d lose their jobs and their careers. So Holder’s call for people (meaning whites) to stop being “cowards” on race and engage in “candid” discussion is a call for a hundred (white) flowers to bloom, so he can cut their heads off. Of course, Holder doesn’t expect whites to expose themselves to his tender ministrations. What’s really happening here, as Gintas puts it, is that “he’s just mocking us.”
I do not agree with Auster. The Left openly mocks; it needs not do so esoterically. I suspect that Holder truly believes that white Americans refuse to own up to their own racist baggage, which thus delays the advent of the “dream.” The Leftists with whom circumstances force me to share time do not appear to think through what they demand when they ask for folks to discuss racial matters. As Auster mentions, such honestly would be called hate speech, deserving of social exile and whatever damning consequences the swamp monsters at the S.P.L.C. can invoke upon the guilty. Myopia, not triumphant derision, seems to lie behind Holder’s call for an honest discussion on race. If it were possible for him to listen, I do not think that he would like what the other side, frank and unfettered, has to say.
I am happy to oblige the attorney general, though, being one of those unpleasant folks who despise social taboos and who value truth above good manners. Here are some discussion points that ought to come up:
(1) As I have written elsewhere (for instance, here, here, and here), “politically correct” opinion tolerates and encourages an extreme disparity between the acceptance of black race consciousness / tribalism / nationalism and the condemnation of white race consciousness / tribalism / nationalism. We have to admit this asymmetry and explore why it is tolerated.
For a harmless example, consider this passage from an essay that a black friend of mine sent to me last week—“Love and Mistakes” by Melissa Harris-Lacewell on The Kitchen Table blog:
I appreciate your post about the Obama girls. I have thought about them a lot in the past two years. You and I are both parenting daughters around the same age and I have spent many of my bedtime prayers asking for the well being of our girls, the Obama girls, and the little black girls whose names we don’t know and whose faces aren’t famous. Yours is a call to do the work of loving children who are not as perfectly packaged as the First Daughters. After reading your post I have been thinking about how unforgiving black communities can be of juvenile failures.
Can you imagine any white Americans that you know writing or saying something equivalent? I am no stranger to whites with a robust sense of racial identity, and I have never heard anyone make such exclusive statements. It is inconceivable that anyone short of membership in the Klan would pray for all the little white girls out there. The only approximate experience that I have involves a joke at a Protestant summer camp when I was in high school, when a cabinmate started singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and changed the century old (white-made) lyrics, “Red and yellow, black and white, All are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world,” to “White and white, white and white . . .” However, it was a joke, and it was funny precisely in its naughty breaking of taboo. By contrast, Jeremiah Wright’s public tirades may have shocked an extraordinarily naive nation, but black racialism is standard and normal in the American black community. If the pot can be black, why not the kettle?
(2) Tribalism is the natural state of mankind, and it would be wise to recognize this general tendency. Mr. Holder’s disappointment notwithstanding, people prefer their own kind—however they perceive that kind to be. Of course, we group and self-identify based on many factors—religion, region, trade, age, hobbies, ethnicity, politics, and so on. Yet, some of these categories tend to influence one another. I do not doubt the existence of monarchist Catholic American blacks from New England with interests in medieval philosophy and computer programming, but there cannot be many around. The old American project to forge a new ethnicity made up of colonial Europeans and a smattering of indigenous tribes recognized the need for a unity of blood. We have lost that opportunity as a society, and I do not have high hopes for our future. The attorney general will wait until the lion lies down with the lamb to see his request fulfilled. Until then, free people will self-segregate. Perhaps, such facts explain why Leftists are not that keen on free peoples.
(3) Despite this natural state of mankind, we have experienced the attempted social reprogramming campaign of the last two generations wherein whites have been force fed a diet of false images and distorted history that glorifies minorities as heroic victims and condemns old or dead white men as the bane of all goodness. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons are simply the unpolished versions of the daily servings from the media and the educational establishment. Scholarship be damned if we can fabricate one more way to pretend that sub-Saharan Africa is the source of world enlightenment, that all ethnic groups contributed equally to our national culture, and that Western civilization is the source of all of the earth’s ills.
Furthermore, let us not forget the society-wide inculcation of the groundless mantra that ethnic diversity is the normal and healthy state of mankind and that homogeneous communities are retrograde and dangerous hovels of conformity. If we compare the social stability and self-perceived contentedness of life in homogeneous communities with diverse communities, we see a great discrepancy in favor of homogeneity. Even Leftist Robert Putnam admits the “challenges” of diverse communities wherein people of all backgrounds feel less connected to their community. See, for instance, the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey and John Leo’s “Bowling with Our Own.” Kosovo or Japan—which is a better model for a peaceful, productive community? It is not surprising, then, that folks retreat back into their self-segregated sub-communities of family and close friends when they can. There, they can relax and breathe. The cost of this retreat to civil society should not be underestimated.
(4) We must note how Gramcian Marxists have poisoned race relations in America by hoodwinking blacks into having a self-destructive hatred of bourgeois values. They have managed to convince millions of blacks that holding liberal, capitalist values are tantamount to race betrayal. We see how well such advice has worked for blacks beyond the elites in “African Diaspora Studies” chairs, race-hustling diversity training organizations, and the corrupt racket of Democratic Party politics. For every self-absorbed Alice Walker, there are thousands of folks who languish in the ghetto hellholes that Leftist ideology fosters and maintains.
(5) We should ask Mr. Holder to consider how racialist socialism has crippled the independent spirit of black adults, who have become permanent grown up children living off the dole—entitled, irresponsible, without shame, and without dignity. Socialism sucks life; bleeding hearts kill souls.
(6) We need to face the facts of black criminality, especially black on white crime. Any white on black crime—even the many hoaxes touted by the media—makes national news for weeks and sometimes months. Yet, the statistics of the reverse are staggering. Fearless Patrick Buchanan (rather undeserving of Holder’s accusation) points out the oddly ignored racial dimension in American crime in “The Color of Crime”:
In the Aug. 10 Washington Post story that covered the Carranza arrest, the same page had two related articles. One was headlined, “Study: Almost Half of Murder Victims Black,” the other, “Slaying of Popular Editor Stuns Blacks in Oakland.”
The second headline reveals an ideological slant. One would assume that everyone in Oakland was stunned by the daylight execution of African-American editor Chauncey Bailey, allegedly by a teenage foot soldier at Your Black Muslim Bakery, which Bailey was investigating.
At Bailey’s funeral, a mourner held up a sign reading, “Stop Black on Black Violence.” That was the subject of the second Post story.
“Nearly half the people murdered in the United States are black,” declared the opening paragraph, “part of a persistent pattern in which African-Americans are disproportionately victimized by violent crime, according to a new Justice Department study.”
Among other conclusions reported by the Post:
* Blacks are more likely than whites or Hispanics to be victims of crime.
* Blacks are more likely than any other group to be victims of “serious violent crime,” such as rape, assault and robbery.
* Blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to be confronted with a firearm during a crime.
“Overall, the new Justice findings jibe with previous studies,” said the Post. “For example, a review of FBI data from 2004 by the Violence Policy Center, a liberal-leaning group that campaigns for stricter gun control laws, found that blacks accounted for about half of the nation’s murder victims that year.”
“Black victimization is a real problem, and it’s often black on black,” said David Harris, a law professor at the University of Toledo who studies crime statistics.
“Often”? Correction, Harris. As the Post reports and Justice concedes, in more than nine out of 10 cases, black victims are murdered by fellow blacks.
Utterly absent from the Post story and Justice Department stats is anything about white victims of crime. Not a word. Do white folks not count, though they are two-thirds of the population?
Yet, in “The Color of Crime: Race, Crime and Justice in America,” produced by the “right-leaning” New Century Foundation in 2005, using the same FBI and Justice surveys, startling facts emerge:
* “Blacks commit more violent crime against whites than against other blacks.” Forty-five percent of the victims of violent crime by blacks are white folks, 43 percent are black, 10 percent are Hispanic.
* Blacks are seven times as likely as people of other races to commit murder, eight times more likely to commit robbery and three times more likely to use a gun in a crime.
* “Blacks are an estimated 39 times more likely to commit violent crime against a white person than vice versa, and 136 times more likely to commit robbery.” (If decent black folks have trouble hailing a cab, and they do, these numbers may help explain it.)
* Black-on-white rape is 115 times more common than the reverse.
Even the two most famous sexual assaults by white men on black women in the last two decades—the Tawana Brawley and Duke rape cases—turned out to be hoaxes.
What do these statistics tell us? A message the Post will not report. The real repository of racism in America—manifest in violent interracial assault, rape and murder—is to be found not in the white community, but the African-American community. In almost all interracial attacks, whites are the victims, not the victimizers.
Why does the Post not report such statistics? My guess: Because the stats would shatter the Post’s cultivated image of America as a land where white racism is the great lurking malevolent monster. Stories that conform to the image get play. Stories that contradict it are buried.
But, if the Bush Justice Department is doing in-depth studies on black victims of crime and who is responsible, why not one on the victimization of Americans of all colors and who is responsible?
Or is that information we ought not know, and news not fit to print?
Somehow, I think that Holder doesn’t have Buchanan’s points in mind when he asks for a honest discussion about race. I wonder why.
It is clear to me that everyone recognizes these facts and behaves accordingly. The most stridently Leftist folks avoid “urban” areas . . . though they rationalize that they do so because of the poverty. Everyone sees the truth, but the effective neutering of white America has resulted in “decent” white people’s inability to give voice to the glaringly obvious facts all around them. I wonder if eunuchs tend to be cowards?
(7) We must be able to address the issue of ethnic differences honestly. Everyone who is not a fool recognizes those differences and the consequences that follow from them. From white supremacists to patronizing socialists who think that the uneducated “urban poor” need their wisdom and organization, all Americans openly or secretly confirm good old Jeremiah Wright’s angry claim that Americans believe in the inferiority of blacks more than they believe in God. Disagreement comes, however, in the question of causation. For the hyphenated-studies crowd, white racism and the legacy of slavery account for this state of affairs. Their socialist peers on the Left consider the relative poverty of black Americans and conclude that such poverty, itself caused by historical circumstances, has debilitated black Americans. The so-called “racial realists” have other explanations, such as the eugenic demands of natural selection upon those early humans who left Africa to populate the rest of the world. I have mentioned Steve Sailer before. Even if you are inclined to disagree with his research on race and I.Q., as a society of rational human beings, we should be able to explore these matters openly and honestly. As it stands, our society strangely cannot stomach the proposition that humans from different reproductive populations could have significant differences.
(8) We need to acknowledge that our hate speech regime has retarded ethnic relations. The intolerance of the ironically named agents of tolerance has made people not wish to speak to one another about “sensitive” matters that might upset “protected groups.” In many Western countries, such discussion is criminal and might land you in prison. In the United States, it might result in the loss of employment and professional ostracism. Environments of distrust and fear are never suitable for frank discussions of anything. Free peoples live not under tyranny. If Mr. Holder wants free discussion, then he is well placed to roll back the advance of tyranny. Of course, I do not expect any such thing from him.
(9) We need to step out from our habitual parochial considerations and see our problems in the bigger picture of human history. Americans in particular seem unable to do this. For example, Americans’ bizarre, almost Freudian obsession with slavery is somewhat laughable when you consider that slavery, in some form, has always been an element in civilization. Indeed, Anglo-American Protestants were the first people in history to oppose and to remove it from a considerable part of the globe. Nonetheless, white Brits and Americans continually beat their breasts about their awful legacy of slavery—one might even think slavery to be the veritable original sin of English speaking people. Some attention to history would bring such sporters of sackcloth and ashes back to earth.
There are no culturally dominant, psychologically useful ways to purge the past or the unsavory present in our society. We do not build towering bonfires on Samhain or have witchcraft-excising fetish casting festivals as they do in Africa. Our typically Christian manner of turning a new page through confession has been lost to most Protestants on principle and to most Romans and Orthodox in practice. Suicide is the lot of cowards, perhaps, but a suicide of the soul possibly remains necessary. Liebestod of all sorts allures us mortals.
In place of ritualistic rebirth, we seek other narcotics. Substance abuse, pornography both of the published and experiential kinds, the meaningless menagerie of popular culture, and the idolatries of politics, art, and even charitable do-gooding become methods of escapism. As Pascal knew, dark thoughts come upon idle minds; we find some solace in busying our souls lest reflection come unwelcomed.
I, myself, take a more nihilistic approach to my disenchantment with reality. If, as some Greek thinkers believed, sleep is a form of temporary death, then my common escape plays itself out in not waking. When I find minor sedation inadequate, I destroy my writings, give away possessions, burn significant documents, erase contact lists, and throw out remnants of the past. If I refuse to pull a trigger, at least I can kill metaphorically. Perverse and irrational as it is, I find it quite satisfying—though, perhaps, demonically. The body is a harder thing of which to rid oneself—you know, with the human and divine laws, virtue and morality, commitments and responsibilities, and all those unpleasant claims upon the will. Moreover, the corpse would remain for the profane to touch and to mock with their primitive pieties and tangible second-guessing. An active volcano would be a better way. The nihilistic drive behind cremation would find its full actualization in volcanic suicide. There would be no trace left . . . how liberating!
If you have seen the film Gattaca, I think that this impulse informs the final scene. The character Jerome chooses his departure for spiritual as well as practical and charitable reasons. He and the character Vincent simultaneously find their freedom, though through very different escapes.
I read recently, though I cannot remember where, how poorly informed we are in a culture that finds happiness, peace, and prosperity to be the norms of human life. The writer, instead, emphasizes that misery and pain are what constitute earthly existence. We set ourselves up for disappointment and resentment when we delude ourselves that paradise is our right and privilege. Historical reasoning surely agrees with the writer; you might also think that personal experience would wake folks from their foolish reveries. Yet, error persists when the will would rather accept fantasy rather than reality.
Such an error serves as a poor basis for personal life. Needless to say, it also begs disaster when taken collectively as a political vision. As conservative thinkers endlessly but wisely repeat, utopianism, social engineering, and the revolutionary Left have their roots in this mistake about the human condition. If human life is supposed to be jolly and just, then our world is only shy of utopia because of established disorder that mucks up the natural paradise. We must therefore experiment in ever novel ways until we find the golden path. For Zion lies just beyond the next mountain pass. Traditionalists and their naysaying become obstacles to human happiness. They become counter-revolutionaries who hold the human race back from fulfillment. As such, they become evil—not just mistaken, but wicked enemies of the human race whose obstructionism must be removed. Widespread murder is not a significant price to pay when the glorious land of political perfection will bring countless generations the fruits of the good life.
We haven’t reached that goal so far? Attempts to do so have resulted in horrors undreamt before the modern age? Well, we shall do better. We know better. We must. Progress dictates that it must be so . . .
Yesterday, Lawrence Auster showcased a marvellous quotation from Voegelin’s The World of the Polis in his post, “If God is good, why is there so much evil?” Though I would not phrase Voegelin’s argument exactly as Auster does, for reasons of theological precision, the general argument is true, timely, and very applicable to us. Here is the passage that Auster supplies, from page 255 of Voegelin’s work:
The movement of philosophical speculation from the Milesians to Heraclitus, we may say, is a movement away from the experience of actual disorder in the direction of a principle of meaningful order. The discovery of the Solonic unseen measure, or the Parmenidean Being, or the orientation of the soul through love, hope, and faith toward the sophon, are truly great discoveries; in fact, they are the foundation of philosophical speculation as a critical exploration of the constitution of being. Nevertheless, this movement and its discoveries are beset by a grave danger. The occupation with transcendental being and with the orientation of the soul toward the unseen measure may become a preoccupation that lets man forget that he lives in a world of unoriented souls. The movement of a soul toward the truth of being does not abolish the demonic reality from which it moves away. The order of the soul is nothing on which one can sit down and be happy ever after. The discovery of truth by the mystic-philosophers, and still more the Christian revelation, can become a source of serious disorder if it is misunderstood as an ordering force that effectively governs society and history. From such misunderstandings result the psychologically understandable, but intellectual deplorable, “great” problems of theodicy, such as the reconciliation of the all-too-present evil in the world with the omnipotence and goodness of God. In problems of this kind there is implied the speculative fallacy that the transcendental order, which is sensed in the orienting movements of the soul, is a world-immanent order, realizing itself in society independent of the life of the soul. In brief: The discovery may produce an intoxication that lets man forget that the world is what it is.
It was the greatness of Aeschylus that he understood the order of Dike [justice or order] in society as a precarious incarnation of divine order, as a passing realization wrung from the forces of disorder through tragic action by sacrifices and risks, and—even if momentarily successful—under the shadow that ultimately will envelop it.
The philosopher finds such salvation in the contemplation of the divine, while the Christian hopes in God’s lifeboat through Christ. Decadent heirs of Platonism and Christianity’s mutant offspring hunger, like the Jews of old, for Eden restored here and now. I confess to share their desire, but I realize that God and I have irreconcilable differences. Part of me rationally notes that I must defer to higher wisdom. However, as a man, not all of me is rational. Hence, time is allotted for darker meanderings of the mind . . .
Last week, the National Right to Life Committee sent out a mailing concerning Florida abortionist Pierre Renelique, which is now online—“Further Reflections on Abortionist Pierre Renelique.” Renelique recently lost his medical license because of Sycloria Williams’ disturbing story. Williams went to Renelique’s abortion clinic to “terminate her pregnancy,” but her termination came in the form of delivery rather than abortion. Nonetheless, after delivery, one of the clinic’s owners, Belkis Gonzales, took the newborn and placed her in a plastic biohazard bag. Then, the child was thrown out in the garbage. The police found the baby’s corpse in a cardboard box the following week.
What surprises me about the case is the supposed media shock and outrage. Had the “termination” occurred with scissors and forceps an hour before birth, then these ever so concerned citizens would only have argued about supporting a woman’s reproductive rights. Various press reports even quote N.O.W. chapter leaders who feign concern. Abortion rights supporters somehow muster up the gall to state that our society cannot treat babies like trash. Yet, tossing bodily remains in the garbage is the standard procedure for disposing each murdered fetus. Dead babies are mere medical waste for the abortion industry.
I wonder if the abortion establishment finds such cases upsetting simply because they draw attention to the horrible truth that society attempts to ignore. Botched abortion procedures are p.r. headaches; the story of Williams’ daughter is bad for business.
However, we cannot attribute such motivations to Williams herself. In the N.R.L.C. story, we read this bizarre passage:
Yesterday’s story dealt with the Florida Board of Medicine decision last Friday to revoke the license of abortionist Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique. The board upheld the Department of Health allegations that he falsified medical records, inappropriately delegated tasks to unlicensed personnel and committed malpractice. Ms. Williams had “planned to have an abortion but instead gave birth to a baby,” according to CNN.
Williams has sued Renelique, the clinic and its staff , seeking damages. She alleges in her suit that “she witnessed the murder of her daughter” and said she “sustained severe emotional distress, shock and psychic trauma which have resulted in discernible bodily injury.”
Imagine a philanderer who calls the cops to arrest a whore with whom he has just conducted business, citing how her activity harms society and family life.
Evil truly is unintelligible.
When I was in grade school, I remember hearing Rush Limbaugh on his radio show refer to environmentalists as “watermelons”—green on the outside and red on the inside. In other words, they were Communists posing as defenders of nature. I have never accepted Limbaugh’s characterization of environmentalism, but the recent global warming fad makes me question some of my fellow conservationists.
Like any movement, folks support a “green agenda” for many reasons. Most self-identifying environmentalists, undoubtedly, concern themselves with environmental organizations because they recognize something of value and they wish to conserve it. To Leftist associates who wonder why I have been a member of several environmental organizations since my teenage years, I respond that conservationism is conservative. A fundamental conservative principle is that fine things—or the preferred conditions in the world—do not happen by chance and must be maintained with care and much effort. Civilization is a fragile luxury, and we must treat it so. I believe that the natural world is much hardier. The incredibly beautiful and diverse lifeforms on this planet have evolved largely irrespective of us. However, with technological advances and the burgeoning of human population, we now can easily destroy biosystems throughout the world. The fragility of the humane world has crept outside the city of man. Therefore, we responsible men must now attend to the environment as well as to our own people.
The most urgent environmental issue involves habitat loss. Even with species protection laws and breeding programs, we cannot ensure the viability of our biodiversity without protected natural habitats. As such, I am completely in favor of international efforts to make more land and water protected areas. We need to establish what scientists call conservation corridors for migrations, and we need more preserves, more parklands, and more joint efforts between conservationists and communities, especially rural ones, that allow for the mutually beneficial use of the land for agriculture, resource development, and conservation. In the West, we have seen incredible improvements in the environment over the last century, even given the increase in population and development sprawl. It is in developing nations that so much is threatened. To speak bluntly, Western medicine has contributed to a human and ecological disaster. Malthus might be out of favor, but he had some important insights. For a given set of conditions, there can be too many people.
American conservatives, usually religious ones, find such an admittance repugnant to their principles. One notices quotations of the nun Teresa at prolife rallies that state phrases like, “How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.” The idiocy of this statement baffles me. Just because one opposes murder does not mean that one should support destructive population policies. Yet, men tend to lose their minds when it comes to assessing their parochial interests.
The environmental movement has its own beam in the eye—the current global warming unconscious parody of Chicken Little’s fable. I find the climate change hysteria deeply disturbing for several reasons. First, it is troubling to witness the apocalyptic and messianic tendencies of mankind. Secularists usually find such behavior repulsive in religious folks, but it is ironic that so many of them have fallen for the primordial madness themselves. If we naturally sense that the world is doomed and that we need a savior, well, we are correct, but one has already been provided. His name is not Albert Gore, Jr. If you need salvation, at least think cosmically. How ridiculous it is to witness secularists vomit piety on the cheap. Get a real religion! Furthermore, you would think that rational people would detect the signs of an agenda driven by madness rather than factual analysis. When impious secular Europeans start sounding like the audience members of wacky rapture-obsessed Protestants, salivating over the prospect of the Four Horsemen, it is time to put down the Kool-Aid.
Second, I find the contemporary debate about global warming quite dangerous to the scientific community. Whenever scientists forego their voluntary servitude to the facts, they compromise their integrity and the status of their disciplines in the society at large. Scientific endeavors, like the striving of all philosophy, should aim at truth, and natural philosophers, like all philosophers, should be mindful of their own ignorance and of their own limitations. When Nobel Prize winners in chemistry begin pontificating on international relations involving war, they have traversed the boundaries of their expertise. Should they make remarks, they should emphasize that they speak as ordinary citizens and not as scientists. Our society sees researchers as our priestly cast, and researchers must act accordingly with responsibility. Yet, when ideological concerns muddy the waters, as in the current climate change debate, the “scientific community” endangers its own reputation and fosters a mistrust of science by the community on which it depends for its survival.
The faithful out there may object and say that the partisanly involved scientists just wish to speak the truth. Were that so, then the debate would continue within the scientific community. It would follow the same procedures of all scientific endeavors, involving many, many tests, peer reviews, and all sorts of cross-examining research. It would not be waged in the media and in political circles, where researchers are welcomed as emissaries of the Most High. I fear that the scientists who have prostituted themselves out for the worshiping masses have incurred modern philosophers’ unflattering charges against priestcraft.
Moreover, even if we have established a warming trend over the last three decades, that does not determine anything else. We do know that throughout prehistoric and recorded history, the earth has had a continuously fluctuating climate. No one knows for sure all the factors that contribute to this movement. We also know that we have been studying temperature change globally in a scientific manner for a very short time. We just do not have the relevant information to make the sweeping judgments made in support of the global warming hysteria. Beyond the issue of the current direction of climate change, it is a quite another issue to trace causation to man. The entire globe is not a Petri dish, at least not for human beings. We cannot observe replicated experiments under controlled conditions. The certainty of knowledge regarding man-made climate change professed by those men who have pimped out their scientific credentials to Leftist johns is not available to man—any man.
Third, as an environmentalist myself, I find the recent fad to be unprincipled opportunism. As a conservationist, I fully support developments toward better energy efficiency, more recycling and less waste, and general improvements in air and water quality. Many of the recommendations to “reduce one’s carbon footprint” are sensible ways to live modestly. Yet, I am fully opposed to false fear-mongering in order to advance positive social changes. As Log Cabin Republicans might object to “Pride Parades” and members of the N.A.A.C.P. might object to lynching hoaxes, I find the environmental movement’s casting its lot with the climate change truthers frightening. After harping on the loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction, and large scale extinctions for so long to little avail, it seems as if some environmentalists lost heart in trying to get folks’ attention. Why not just jump on a bandwagon, tell people that their cities will flood, cry that poor brown people all over the world will starve to death (in contrast to all the poor brown people who currently starve to death), and finally get them to push for decisive measures to protect the environment? However, if we ever find that man-made global warming has all been wrong and maliciously touted in shameless propaganda, good environmental efforts will suffer. To bring up another useful fable, haven’t these people ever read about the boy who cried “Wolf”?
So, as a member of a religion, as a supporter of scientific endeavors, and as an environmentalist, I find the global warming movement revolting. It mocks all three domains in a perverse charade. However, why is it being done? I have explained why environmentalists have taken that opportunistic train, but why is the Left so caught up in the madness? Is it, as certain writers have maintained, the current faddish secular outlet for religious devotion and meaning? Alternatively, is Limbaugh correct in seeing the environmental movement as a cover for Leftist control of the economy and of our personal lives? Are watermelon people really behind “going green”? I have no idea. I just know that it is nauseating to listen to the true believers. I find it vile when such a magnificent creature as man reduces himself so.
As I file my taxes this morning, and while Congress currently advances socialism in America in ways not seen for half of a century, I am definitely in the mood for some truly liberal sense. The late Milton Friedman simply and succinctly provides it in the following interview with Richard Heffner on The Open Mind:
As I have written elsewhere, I am no longer a liberal, but I harbor many liberal notions and I believe the United States of America to be essentially a liberal regime. Lacking healthier alternatives, I find the liberal constitutional republic the least hideous of modernity’s political spawn. As such, I consider myself a practical though not theoretical ally to liberalism, at least in our current world. My argument for liberalism basically consists in noting that societies wherein individuals largely pursue their own flawed conceptions of the human good are preferable to ones that are controlled by an elite with just as flawed convictions. In the former, there is a lot of breathing room for sanity, whereas the latter condemns everyone to the faddish idiocy of a select few.
Friedman reflects this understanding in the interview, and he correctly argues that we must react to the world as it is and not as we wish it to be. Were only folks as easily convinced by a realistic assessment of the world as they are enticed by utopian visions of political perfection—but that is my own fantasy. Heffner is a remarkable host. I did not know about The Open Mind before I followed a link to this interview from Ann Coulter’s site. It has been on the air since A.D. 1956—an extraordinary run. I do not know how popular it ever was or is currently, but if all the shows are as well managed as the interview with Friedman, it deserves to be known. Almost all television shows that concern important issues are venues for sound bites rather than arguments. Heffner allows Friedman to make his argument, but he also follows the argument and even asks relevant questions. The only major interviewing journalist today who allows his guests to speak rather than cough out a few lines is Charlie Rose, but he does not seem to engage people at a high level. Anyway, I recommend this video, and I expect that I shall look into other episodes of The Open Mind.
As a side note, I hate the theme music. I wonder why cacophonous music features so prominently in television programs from the 1960’s and 1970’s. I do not know what to make of the modernist movement in highbrow tunes, but it disturbs me. In architecture, in music, and in ideas, the era truly embodies a culture of ugliness.
I have not commented on Sarah Palin, though the phenomenon of her candidacy on the McCain ticket deserves some study. Yuval Levin’s “The Meaning of Sarah Palin” in Commentary Magazine is the most thoughtful essay on Palin that I have so far seen. I highly recommend it for its analysis of Palin’s place in the election and for its examination of American political attitudes. Here is a section about the role of populism and elitism in the reaction toward Palin:
In American politics, the distinction between populism and elitism is further subdivided into cultural and economic populism and elitism. And for at least the last forty years, the two parties have broken down distinctly along this double axis. The Republican party has been the party of cultural populism and economic elitism, and the Democrats have been the party of cultural elitism and economic populism. Republicans tend to identify with the traditional values, unabashedly patriotic, anti-cosmopolitan, non-nuanced Joe Sixpack, even as they pursue an economic policy that aims at elite investor-driven growth. Democrats identify with the mistreated, underpaid, overworked, crushed-by-the-corporation “people against the powerful,” but tend to look down on those people’s religion, education, and way of life. Republicans tend to believe the dynamism of the market is for the best but that cultural change can be dangerously disruptive; Democrats tend to believe dynamic social change stretches the boundaries of inclusion for the better but that economic dynamism is often ruinous and unjust.
Both economic and cultural populism are politically potent, but in America, unlike in Europe, cultural populism has always been much more powerful. Americans do not resent the success of others, but they do resent arrogance, and especially intellectual arrogance. Even the poor in our country tend to be moved more by cultural than by economic appeals. It was this sense, this feeling, that Sarah Palin channeled so effectively. Her appearance on the scene unleashed populist energies that McCain had not tapped, and she both fed them and fed off them. She spent the bulk of her time at Republican rallies assailing the cultural radicalism of Barack Obama and his latte-sipping followers, who, she occasionally suggested, were not part of the “the real America” she saw in the adoring throngs standing before her. Palin channeled these cultural energies more by what she was than by what she said or did, which contributed mightily to the odd disjunction between her professional resume and her campaign presence and impact.
Palin’s cultural populism put her at odds with the foe that did her the most serious damage: the nation’s intellectual elite, whose initial suspicion of her deepened into outright loathing as the campaign progressed. Her inability in interviews to offer coherent answers about the Bush Doctrine, regulatory reform, and the Supreme Court’s case history, together with her unexceptional academic record and the fact that she had spent almost no time abroad, were offered as evidence that Palin represented a dangerous strain of anti-intellectualism on the Right.
She was, the Left-leaning Christopher Hitchens insisted, “a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus.” The Right-leaning David Brooks called Palin “a fatal cancer to the Republican party” because her inclination “is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely.”
Palin never actually boasted of ignorance or explicitly scorned learning or ideas. Rather, the implicit charge was that Palin’s failure to speak the language and to share the common points of reference of the educated upper tier of American society essentially rendered her unfit for high office.
I have much experience in the demographic camps that Levin describes. Having been raised as a West Sider in Cincinnati and then having lived in exile among the Washingtonian policy set for some time, I can personally testify of the wide cultural chasm between middle class, inland, generally religious conservatives and the professional, coastal, generally irreligious Leftists. However, I do not feel particularly at home in either camp. Besides my general misanthropic shortcomings, I have been ill educated for society; for philosophy tends to make its disciples aliens wherever they live. Yet, to use Lewis’ image, I find the Ivy educated men without chests much more harmful to civilization than the provincial ignorant workers of my own background. They both have their vices, but the latter merely carry the perennial afflictions of mankind in their unquestioning slavishness to convention and familiarity. Human society can, and perhaps must, survive in such intellectual twilight. The former group, however, are the more condemned because they, even in their purported conviction in relativism (the ridiculousness of such a thing speaks for itself), hold themselves to be educated and wise. The fool who knows himself to be a fool is less dangerous to himself and to others than he who wrongly thinks himself another Aristotle. Furthermore, traditional stupidity has stood the tests of time, whereas the idiocies of recent world view mutations have not proven their fitness—they may not be able to ensure the survival of a society that adopts them. Such a realization leads one of a Buckley frame of mind to trust the masses more with political power than university professors. Though an unapologetic elitist myself, I find American populism, for all its deficiencies, much less destructive for us than the social engineering Leftist intellectuals who have plagued the West for generations.
Ninety-eight years ago, Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in the small town of Tampico, Illinois. After a career in Hollywood, he would become the governor of California and then the fortieth president of the United States of America. Scholars and partisans will continue to argue about his legacy, but that is not the purpose of this post. I wish to celebrate the man whom I, not having a grandfather myself, identified as the grandfatherly figure in my life. Perhaps it was his photograph on the wall at the front of my elementary school class, or perhaps it was seeing him on television and hearing his comforting voice that resounded with humility and strength that made me think of him so. Having right wing parents probably helped, too. I have noted how objectionable I find the cultic euphoria over Barack Obama, though I somewhat understand the emotional power of a governing figurehead due to my own experience growing up under the steady watch of President Reagan.
I was fortunate to be in Washington when Reagan died. I visited the Capitol to see his body lie in state under the dome; I walked around the casket around six o’clock in the morning when the rotunda was full but silent. Americans might be republicans, but we rather casually exhibit our regal impulses. In the Capitol and in the memorial events throughout the city, it felt as though our beloved and aged king had died. I confess that I teared up; in some childish but nonetheless sincere way, I felt as if the uniformed soldiers standing guard around the casket were honoring our departed paterfamilias rather than a mere politician. He was a very special man.
In honor of the President’s birthday, I am linking various videos. The first set is of President Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech to the National Association of Evangelicals (unfortunately in sound only). It still shocks me that an American president would or could make such arguments.
Here is an excerpt of Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech at the Republican Convention during the Goldwater campaign.
Here is the famous “age issue” moment in the Reagan - Mondale debate.
You may listen to President Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech in Berlin.
Lastly, here is President Reagan’s farewell address.
Ronald Reagan, memory eternal!
One of the things my good and wise friend Andrew taught me was the destructive influence of Kantian critical philosophy on societies where it gains a large following. Let me qualify the following criticism of Kant by noting that he is a fearsome intellectual opponent. While I hold Nietzsche to be the wisest of the modern philosophers because he more honestly and more perspicaciously understood the logical force of modernity’s self-destructive tendencies, I think that Kant is the Enlightenment’s greatest defender. No proponent of modern philosophy gave stronger or more insightful arguments than the professor from Königsberg. I find Kant difficult and at times frustrating, but his work remains, literally, awesome. Kant has immensely contributed to philosophy. Nonetheless, with fear and trembling, I dare to question Kant’s ideas not only as inadequate but also as corrosive.
My chief annoyance with Kant’s system concerns his epistemology. Though Kant excels Hume by far, he still renounces the mind’s ability to transcend what he sees as the limitations of reason. Kant magnificently proves the shortcomings of Hume’s skepticism, but he lays an intellectual trap for Western thought in proposing his limitations on reason. Kant’s antinomies claim to show that human reason cannot resolve certain metaphysical problems, at least without resorting to metaphysical distinctions that render the world unintelligible in itself. Hence, human reason cannot be trusted as an accurate guide once one passes a certain threshold of metaphysical questioning. While Kant’s arguments superficially appear as an admission of intellectual modesty, they are bold claims that state that Kant’s reasoning exhausts the capability of human reason to tackle these conundrums. When I find that my reasoning on a particular issue is inconclusive, my default conclusion is that I do not know enough about the issue or that my reasoning is inadequate. In short, I conclude that I am ignorant and that I have not thought long or well enough. With the antinomies, by contrast, Kant purports to show that all that can be done has been done in his speculative reasoning.
All partisans of subjectivity after Kant employ similar—though inferior—arguments in touting the (selective) ignorance of man. What strikes me as insupportable about such a position is that it claims a transcendent knowledge of the limitations of human reason while simultaneously holding that such knowledge is an impermissible result of the transcendent temptation. In other words, to consider the limitations of reason is necessarily to transcend such limits. Kant argues that his system achieves the first but denies—for his philosophy and for any other—the second. Kantians presuppose a divine perspective in order to chastise ambitious reasoning, though such a divine perspective is contradictorily audacious.
I suspect that the other problems in Kant’s philosophy result from this epistemological issue. For Kant holds that we cannot know things in themselves. We cannot reason from noumenal knowledge. We are largely stuck inside the boundaries of our phenomenological experience. Thus, we cannot know the nature of things through reason; we can only know reason through reason. As such, Kant’s philosophical approaches to ethics, politics, and aesthetics are ingenious but inadequate attempts to treat justly their intended objects. For they must avoid the natural, and ignoring nature is a disastrous approach to constructing systems that must answer to nature. Denatured political theory, if enacted, necessarily becomes ruinous politics.
Therefore, I accuse Kantian philosophy not only of failing to portray the world accurately but also of having a deleterious effect on society, You may wonder how this applies to the contemporary world. Well, consider my letter to Lawrence Auster in response to his post, “You’ve got to be carefully taught—to commit racial suicide.” If you are not familiar with Auster’s View from the Right web site, he is chiefly interested in the cultural and ethnic survival of the West. He argues that the Leftist drift of modern society has effectively emasculated Western society through multiculturalism, universalism, and the undermining of traditional social values and behavior. I share many of his concerns and views, though I suspect that I have more toleration of and appreciation for the wayward ways against which he rails. Auster’s post shows his reaction to the movie, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Auster believes that the Left, through popular culture, instills in people an unnatural love for and trust of the alien. That popular culture does this is undeniable. I disagree with Auster, though, that the current myth makers do so due to a subversive racial agenda. Instead, I think that they simply reflect post-Kantian cultural values:
I wonder if the tendency in the West to promote unnatural reactions is largely due to Kant’s influence. For Kant, natural inclination and self-interest pollute rational endeavors, from morality to aesthetics. For example, we are unable to know if a woman who saves her baby in a fire has done a moral deed; for she necessarily acts through interest. To know whether her action is moral, she must work against her natural inclination. Hence, to be truly rational, we need to transcend inclination and self-interest. Acting against one’s natural impulses for the sake of some abstract principle is one of the highest, noblest actions available to man, for a Kantian.
I do not wish to insult Kant; he was a brilliant and profound thinker. Yet, I suspect that his followers in the West have adopted this position as a form of “noblesse oblige.” I know that you do not think highly of Sailer’s status theory, but I believe that he is onto something in the Western psyche. When the culture no longer holds up as an ideal the ascetic form of greatness (saintliness) or the heroic form of greatness (classical virtue in the magnanimous gentleman), it must find another model for the best life. The post-Kantian version is the life of enlightened man, where people bask in their own high-minded self-righteousness, defined and determined as that which goes against their natural interests. Multiculturalism, anti-racism, and religious relativism can be seen as species of this so-called enlightenment. It is an evolution, of sorts, of Christian charity, though mixed with a peculiar form of group-self-hatred coupled with individual-self-adulation. I believe that the social aspect of this sort of rejection of natural inclination is what Sailer analyzes in his status theory.
Your Grinch example belongs to this world view. To be enlightened, you must question and reject your natural inclinations. The Who girl who loves the Grinch is just such an enlightened being; she looks past the external and past the standards of the world to see the beauty inside the Grinch. Nietzsche considers Kant a bastardization of Christianity. The American cultural Left, with its insistence on valuing each person and making room at the table for everyone, is an heir, of sorts, to the Gospel. Good intentions, though, will not protect you from the evil for which your inclinations serve as warnings and defense. The Left only got the last part of the message in, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
Auster replied that something much simpler is at work—our contemporarily prized value of non-discrimination. I responded so:
You suggest that a commitment to non-discrimination is at work. That is certainly true, with non-discrimination being an unwillingness to prefer one’s own to the other. Yet, it is not strong enough, I think, to explain the Left or our Kantian culture. Non-discrimination is a state of neutrality, while the enlightened man of the Left celebrates the other as other, pursues the other’s interests to the detriment of himself, and consciously works against his own natural inclination.
I believe that Nietzsche is correct to see modern morality as a decaying remnant of Christianity, as I have written elsewhere on this site and most recently in “Christianity’s Odd Place in the World.” The moral Left—[spasm of coughs and throat clearings]—consists of a Christianity robbed of all understanding of the world. Kant gives such folks intellectual respectability—and he is so much more dangerous for it. Again to invoke Nietzsche, to be dangerous is not the same as to be false. However, I believe several features of Kantian philosophy to be harmful because they are false—that is, they are destructive because they misunderstand the world and therefore misadvise human beings as to their beliefs and conduct.
I read the following deeply disturbing article on Touchtone last week—“Divorced from Reality,” by Stephen Baskerville. It seems that there has been a significant increase in media attention lately on divorce and on its harmful consequences for society. Bill Cosby’s moral crusade in black America, President Obama’s repeated concurrence, and Ann Coulter’s new book Guilty may have something to do with making the topic public conversation. I highly recommend that you read the article, though it boils my blood. I despise the Left with every sinew and bone in my body.