I found an interesting picture essay from early August on Looking at the Left, “Nancy and the Astroturfers.” In it, the photojournalist writes about Nancy Pelosi’s visit to a Denver clinic. He shows how “Obamacare” protesters showed up with their own signs to make their brownshirt presence known to America’s most powerful political woman. He then covers the arrival of organized Democratic operatives, who take back those streets from the mean, racist white folk who are sick of giving the government’s money to the government.
Of course, the Leftist thugs have not paid taxes—remember, they are tax eaters, not tax payers—so I am not sure why they think that they are entitled to horde America’s public turf and discourse for themselves. Yet, after fifty years of entitlement habituation, we can begin to understand their mentality.
The writer’s point is that the Left projects upon its opponents the thuggish behavior in which they engage and excel. If only there were a right wing conspiracy of traditional white nationalists who truly opposed the managerial state of soft totalitarianism! If only American conservatives would aggressively promote their interests to counter the parasitic socialist legions that draw their nourishment from their enemies! If only Sean Penn had reason to be afraid that the government would arrest him for treason! I sincerely wish that the Left’s paranoid fantasies were true. Then, we would have a fighting chance of preserving the republic. Alas, we only have aggrieved and worried bourgeois folks who are increasingly becoming aware that they have been screwed for a few generations and that it is only going to get worse. Maybe, just maybe, Nancy, Barry, and friends are sowing the seeds of the right wing conspiracy of the future. Perhaps, such is their worry. I am too much of a pessimist to harbor expectations, but there is always hope.
Anyway, I had the opportunity to see the Left’s revolting organized manpower this summer when my cousin visited Washington for a health care rally. She is ironically a union representative, and labor sent her to D.C. to stand in a rally in the Senate parks. As I was waiting for her, I was horrified by the swarm of cattle being whipped by their masters. I understand that crowd control is necessary in any rally or demonstration. However, I have been in dozens of marches for life in Ohio and in Washington, which were much larger than the small crowd in the Senate parks. Yet, we prolifers are never treated like idiots by the march organizers. The marches are pretty civil affairs with little trouble or bossiness. The extent of such inordinate control comes from Capitol Police officers who either hate our cause or are annoyed at having to be outside all day in January. I suspect the latter. With the small health care rally, the “handlers” acted more like slave plantation overseers. Granted, the crowd was overwhelmingly low class and black, but I would have expected much more respect by the Left for these favored victims of the Left. It confirmed once again my opinion that Leftists simply view poor blacks as useful idiots. Like the slave masters of old, the Left uses their bodies as instruments to do their bidding. At least, the poor folks received a free lunch from the Corner Bakery. They probably got some cash on the side, as well. My cousin had a lot of complaints about the rampant incompetence and corruption that she constantly witnesses in her union and in union cooperatives. Instead of doing what they are supposed to do—advocate fairly for workers—they are simply political muscle for the Democratic Party, as well as serving as cash cows for crooked operatives.
Not all of the rally cattle were poor blacks. There were some aging white hippies there, too. Yet, the rally was overwhelmingly female. There were few men there, and the ones who did show up did not look very masculine. Perhaps, that is why such strong arming was tolerated. Are women comfortable in being treated like slaves? For all their empowerment whining, they are willing tools for collectivist overlords.
It is remarkable how the media portray the Left as trendy and attractive. The propaganda machine presents the Left as the coastal elites’ fashionable club, and I suspect that such manipulation has an effect on the university crowd. For most college students, or at least most students who are concerned about the world, are Leftists. This may be due to their indoctrination or immaturity, but it also may be in part due to the media’s portrayal of the Left as chic. I wish that such duped folks would look at actual Leftist politics. From the Democratic National Convention to protests to union tactics, the Left appears like thugs and swamp monsters, with dirty, uneducated, fat people screaming about things of which they are totally ignorant. If you compare such with conservative activities, the difference in style is shocking. I suppose that such is the truth behind the Left’s accusations about “Brooks Brothers” protesters. If Nancy imagines the great unwashed to look like the folks who usually show up (for money) for the Left’s political activities, then she must assume that protests of normal, middle class Americans who shower must be furnished by greedy, corporate America.
That is not to say that there are not overweight, frumpy, and confused folks at the so called tea parties. There certainly are, as Americans are on the whole fat, tasteless, and ignorant. Such is to be expected. Yet, they are overall quite respectable, bourgeois folks. Yet, if you compare Leftist activities to conservative ones, such as prolife marches, the contrast is vivid. The D.C. March for Life is composed mainly of teenagers and grandmothers, and except for the exuberance of youth, they are very polite, self controlled, and decent. The average marcher is someone that you would feel fine in inviting to your house for dinner. Leftist activities, on the other hand, are full of low lives and subversive types—people that you would refer to the free clinic for hep. C meds. They are loud, rude, and obnoxious; in short, they are thugs. So, the party of fashionable people turns out really to be the party of the underclass, as the Democrats proudly say—very low class people, indeed. Like the Gracchi of old, the socialist elitists are posers of magnanimity who are generous with the other wealthy competition’s money. They thereby manipulate the masses in order to get ahead of other well born folks like themselves. The filthy masses are merely their stepping stones. Verily, demagogues are the most despicable kind of tyrants.
Anne Applebaum has stirred angry wasps in writing “The Outrageous Arrest of Roman Polanski” in the Washington Post.
I am certain there are many who will harrumph that, following this arrest, justice was done at last. But Polanski is 76. To put him on trial or keep him in jail does not serve society in general or his victim in particular. Nor does it prove the doggedness and earnestness of the American legal system.
I agree with Applebaum, though some of her arguments strike me as foolish. She argues that Polanski has suffered enough, given his experience in the Holocaust and his wife’s murder by the Manson sect. I fail to see how suffering excuses causing others to suffer, but I suppose that I do not have a nuanced enough morality.
Applebaum’s critics argue that she is excusing a paedophile, that Polanski is a fugitive from the law, and that the filmmaker has lived a life of ease in chosen exile. They want justice to be done, even if it means punishing the old sodomizing Jew in his twilight years.
I certainly do not defend any of Polanksi’s actions, but I find the “justice at any length and cost” crowd rather revolting. I have always thought ill of the Israeli Nazi hunters and all the people who live for such vengeance. Ugly caricatures of endless Semitic vindictiveness come to mind, confirmed by and manifested in each extradition of an old pensioner. Give it a rest, and move on with life.
Several conservative web sites are outraged that Polanski’s Hollywood friends are supporting him. For aren’t the Left Coast radicals the very ones to whine incessantly ad nauseam about “taking back the night”? The Right smells hypocrisy.
Yet, I do not detect such hypocrisy. First, we should expect the film industry to care about one of its own, especially when it venerates him as a great artist. Following in very old ancestral footsteps, Hollywood’s legions excuse Polanski’s wrongdoing as they acknowledge his greatness. It seems to me that every community and interest group does this to some extent for their own while condemning with vitriol the lack of principle by other groups when they do the same. Consider any great man—or woman—and you usually can detect this phenomenon somewhere. No one is perfect, and partisans defend their own while enemies despise their other.
Is this morally scandalous? Perhaps, but it is ubiquitous in human affairs, and I tend to grant human unreason its hidden rationality. When we welcome a god among men in terms of his brilliance or creativity or beauty or great deeds, we calculate that we receive far more than we “pay” by tolerating his little misdeeds. I certainly would prefer the existence of a man such as Oscar Wilde to the existence of a mediocre fellow who contributes nothing to society except the favor of not becoming a bother. Such an unassuming fellow makes for a pleasant stock of low maintenance citizenry, but he does not inspire much. In addition to the requisite stability of bourgeois norm, a society needs spice—not sociopaths or vicious men, but interesting people whose imperfections we merrily accept so that we can share in their radiant splendor in other domains. Give us David, along with his sins, so that we might have a king worth obeying.
Second, the “Hollywood Left” may be fashionably feminist, but it has never been especially keen on law and order. “Take back the night” rallies rail against phantom men—the stock characters of Lifetime movies who have no story of their own. Once the Left grants such villains their own faces, then the Left sees the “human side” of crime; the Left goes to extraordinary lengths to excuse the bad actions of wicked men. Why should we expect anything else with Roman Polanski?
Third, for all of battle cries of justice, the Left does not believe in justice, and it certainly does not consider the penal system just. If anything, Leftists conceive of the penal system as a method of rehabilitation. They are not interested in punishment; they see no good in human suffering.
I suppose that my own thoughts on the thirty-two year hunt for Polanski betray a similar disinterest in the penal system as just retribution for wrongs committed, though my distaste for what Auster calls Javert justice has a different origin than that of Leftists.
Unlike the Left, I do not believe in the rehabilitation of criminals. I think that profound character defects cannot be healed by any criminal justice system. That is not to say that some criminals do not repent. Indeed, there are some wicked men who transform into good men, but such is rare and, in my opinion, rather miraculous. As a society, we cannot bank on criminals’ experiencing what the saints call “the gift of tears.” We must work with probabilities. Moreover, I do not consider it just that a society should coddle those who have wronged it. “Rehabilitation” often seems like an excuse to expend money on those who have renounced the mutual protection of men in community. We should leave repentance to the religious sphere and not count it among political policy goals.
However, I do not personally think that a criminal justice system offers much justice through punishment. I believe that I get it when God claims vengeance for himself. For how does punishment undo an evil already done? If we delight in suffering and pain, we risk perverting ourselves. We punish children to correct them—to teach them what is right and to make them better. Such is possible for grown men at some level, with minor crimes and misdemeanors, but the rehabilitation of broken souls is beyond the abilities of the state. So, what is the point of punishment?
I grant the penal system only one legitimate purpose—the protection of society. If punishment protects society from predation, then it is useful. The penal system protects society by teaching people what is acceptable behavior, wherein punishment provides a vivid instruction of the society’s values. The penal system also protects by striking fear in the hearts of potential criminals. If such men cannot be constrained by their own character, they might be held in check by fear. This is the “deterrent” factor in punishment. Lastly, the penal system protects society by removing harmful agents from society, through incarceration, exile, or death. In each of these roles, we need not concern ourselves with transforming a maimed soul or with exacting an eye for an eye. We simply utilize punishment to protect society. The criminal justice system, then, is the internal, domestic equivalent of the armed forces, which employ violence or the threat of violence to achieve a state of peace among hostile external powers.
Given these thoughts about punishment, I see no purpose in the hunt for Polanski. With the passage of time and with the circumstances of his exile, I do not see how imprisoning Polanski would serve the good of our republic. I think the same about senile “war criminals” on death’s door. If thirty years pass and Osama bin Laden still lives, uncaptured and in hiding, and if the threat of Mohammedan terrorism has long passed (obviously, this is an unrealistic hypothetical), then what would be the point of capturing him? We pursue him because he remains dangerous. Old Nazis are only dangerous in the fevered imaginations of Hollywood producers. Rabbinical Jews and “righteous gentiles” merely have bloodlust for them.
So, let Polanski live out his days in Europe. If he is to face just retribution, I doubt that it will take long. He is seventy-six years old.
Update: I continue to work with these ideas in “Polanski Reloaded” and in “Flogging a Dead Polanski.”
Political science jocks have long noted the marriage gap among women voters. Married women tend to vote far more for the conservative political option than single women. There are various theories to account for this discrepancy. It might be a case of self selection. A woman who identifies as a conservative might be more likely to marry than one who rejects traditional life choices. It might also be that married women tend to have children, and having a child usually makes one more concerned about the social order. Children make one “vested” in society in a more emphatic way. There is less room in the heart to glorify in unbridled freedom and individualistic fulfillment when you worry about the future of society that your child will inherit. It might also be that married women no longer stand apart from the “patriarchal structure” that modern feminists despise. They have become part of that structure, and they may be less likely to see it as something that needs to be destroyed. A wife and mother of sons might not hate men as a competing demographic group in a war of power interests, as Marxist Leftists tend to conceive of society.
This last week at the liturgy, I considered another possibility, similar to the children theory above. Watching the little ones be obstinately childish, it occurred to me that child rearing may be an antidote to stupid ideas about human nature. Raising a child makes one aware, in a very intimate and concrete way, that human beings are not the abstractions upon which one pontificates in a po.mo. lit. class. Raising kids demolishes simplistic models of nature versus nurture, naive musings about Rousseauian noble savagery, and all delusions about the effectiveness of appeasement. Child rearing ought to inculcate into one an appreciation of discipline, dedication, consistency, and perseverance. Every mother is a sort of lawgiver, and lawgivers in training tend to realize that bad laws reap bad consequences.
Obviously, there are many parents who maintain foolish ideas, and perhaps, such provides a devastating counterexample to my theory. However, many Leftists live quite sensibly though harbor foolish ideas about politics. The disconnect is odd but very common. Upper class, educated Jews and W.A.S.P.‘s tend to live according to very traditional codes, yet they do not expect the rest of the population to adhere to the code that they know is good for their family. I cannot explain what underlies such an attitude . . . non-judgmentalism, relativism, elitism, or what else. Nonetheless, it does seem to be a widespread phenomenon. Maybe, the same is true of Leftists who are good mothers.
On the whole, however, it seems that mothering would be a crash course in learning about human nature, both the admirable and the shameful aspects. Someone with a better understanding of that human nature would tend to have better opinions about how men ought to organize and to conduct themselves in community.
In the National Review, Richard Reinsch reviews Bradley Watson’s Living Constitution, Dying Faith: Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence. I encourage you to read the review, if not Watson’s book: “The Undoing of American Constitutionalism.” According to Reinsch’s review, Watson argues that the American pragmatism of William James and the social Darwinist view of the body politic have destroyed the American constitutional order by supplanting the founders’ view of government and natural rights with progressivism. Reinsch writes:
Against these apostles of ceaseless adaptation, progress, and organic growth of the state loom the men who framed America’s constitutional order and its underlying philosophy. Watson synthesizes the varying rationales for liberty held by the Founders under the overarching understanding they held of man’s natural rights in his property and person, and the corollary that government must secure these rights and, in turn, defend citizens from the government itself. However, this conception of government as necessary to the protection of man’s natural rights, but also preternaturally dangerous because of man’s vice-ridden passions and propensity to form factions, is simply incompatible with progressivism. Under the latter’s dispensation, the citizen now joins in an undulating partnership with the government, under the administration of experts whose intervention actualizes the liberty and self-development of persons and groups. From this perspective, natural rights are seen more as the negation rather than the fulfillment of freedom. James Madison has been thrown into the dock.
I find such approaches to politics extraordinarily helpful. So much partisan bickering is simply people with incompatible views of man and of community arguing past one another. To resolve such conflicts through reason, rather than violence—in any of its many modes—one needs to dig deeper and address the foundational issues. Of course, few people wish to spend the time and energy to do so, and few people can. It is much easier to wage war—and, as history shows, much more effective from a practical point of view.
It certainly does. Do you shop at Wal-Mart, Master Smith?
How convenient for us when the servants toil thousands of miles away and allow us to bask in our own moral self-righteousness without noticing their condition. The sweet taste of slave labor . . . sugar in the eighteenth century, cheap socks in the twenty-first century.
On this point, the radical Left is consistent and insightful. Let them have their moment.
On yesterday’s post, “Memorializing Mammy,” commentator Andrzej suggested another blog’s thread, “New World Slavery was not ‘Biblical.’” My reaction follows.
Thank you, Andrzej, for the thread, but I was not much impressed by it. The post’s writer stumbles at the start in his analysis of Southern slavery. It was not “ontological” (an odd use of the term) anymore than any other non-penal slavery was “ontological.” European traders bought black slaves from Africa’s Gold Coast (from other blacks, who had enslaved them . . . often in the old fashioned, respectable way of defeating them in tribal warfare or in the old fashioned, scandalous way of kidnapping) not because they were thought inferior but because they were available and had a remarkable resistance to malaria. Only after time passed did the concept of negro inferiority develop—due to the rationalizing of slavery among American liberals or due to experience with another human population quite different on average in temperament and intelligence. I suspect that both forces were at work.
After that, the story follows the same pattern of all human exploitation . . . those with power exploit the labor of their underlings. Such is true of all slavery and of pretty much all societal organization, from feudalism to socialism, where only the “Who? Whom?” change. They who can, take. I do not suggest such as a moral maxim that we follow. It is, however, a sad truth about fallen human beings. Pure justice in the human soul is rare, as the virtuous man is rare. The Greeks knew this; how have we forgotten it?
The writer and the commentators of the post all appear to be ignorant of the history of slavery beyond the “new world” variety. I suppose that is convenient when you try to explain away Christianity’s tolerance of slavery (it also “tolerates” taxation, prostitution, assault, and theft . . . Jesus asks us to put up with a lot of unpleasant stuff). Yet, it is dishonest. Negro race slavery in the American South differed from helot slavery in Sparta mainly in how the slaves were treated (Alabama negroes fared much better) and in that it was a bit easier to tell the master and slave classes apart in the American case. If anyone harbors doubts about how the living conditions of ancient slaves compared with American slaves, note how rare multigenerational slavery was elsewhere—not because of law, but because of survival. Of course, such could be attributed to Anglo-American commercial acumen rather than compassion, but it does not change the facts.
Another aspect of the thread that annoyed me was how superficial and thoughtless the commentators were when they spoke about the mammy phenomenon. I suppose that they are unable or unwilling to think about the complexities of human relationships. Are they so two dimensional in their own lives? Have they not, at least, read great literature to know how real human beings feel and think? Do most people really simply process ideas at the level of clichés? I know the depressing answer.
If one does not accept egalitarian fictions or the pet obsessions of modern Leftists, then one must criticize Southern slavery from a more universal standpoint—as Aristotle criticized Greek slavery in his Politics. Slavery is unjust when it enslaves people who are not by nature or by choice slavish. Just because one is defeated in battle does not mean that one is less human, less rational, or less good. As Socrates notes in the dialogues, sometimes large political bodies just have more manpower. Victory in war does not equate superiority in virtue or wisdom. Such is obviously as true with the descendants of the conquered. With those who are kidnapped or the descendants of the kidnapped, it is obvious how wicked such slavery is, as it is based on a theft that could not be excused under the “forfeited life” claims of martial victors.
I cannot presently muster up an attack on human exploitation in general, though I think that justice requires us to give to each as each is owed. Just because we can squeeze labor out of men for pennies does not mean that we ought to do so, even if our system provides for it—whether the system be slavery, industrial baron capitalism, or globalization’s exploitation of Third World cheap labor. Yet, I realize that such exploitation will always exist.
As the Athenians long ago remarked, “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”
I found a fascinating site called Southern Spaces, which features an anthropological focus on the American South. The article that I read is a multimedia page about black mammies, called “Southern Memory, Southern Monuments, and the Subversive Black Mammy” by Kimberly Wallace-Sanders. The article betrays tinges of postmodern hues, but such is to be expected from a hyphenatedly named professor of “American and Women’s Studies.” Nonetheless, I found it interesting, especially with its many photographs of black mammies and their little, white wards.
There are also several pictures with the mammy or house slave as part of the family portrait, and such testify to the Southern “myth” (Wallace-Sanders’ word) that the antebellum social order was inclusive and harmonious—in its own way. When white families get their family portraits taken, the inclusion of a black woman says a lot about her relationship to the family.
I am not defending the legacy of Southern race-based slavery, but we should acknowledge how much like medieval feudalism it usually was.
On second thought, given the various options of social organization, feudalism might be one of the better arrangements—though a more just and efficient social arrangement would incorporate the class flexibility of the Republic. Verily, verily, sometimes golden children are born to parents of bronze and iron, and vice versa.
As such, maybe antebellum Dixie really was better than industrial era New York. Both slaves and factory workers were human resources exploited for their labor. Yet, in the former case, there was often a personal and familial connection that would have been absent in the factories of expendable, cheap human labor (stinking fresh from Europe). Was the life of the typical black slave in Georgia really worse than the life of a typical Irish factory worker in Manhattan? The difference is really that a clever and able Irish immigrant could change his lot in life, whereas a similarly clever and able negro slave would be fettered to his master’s interests. He might get himself into a better position on the plantation, but he would not usually get himself freed (though such did happen). Who wants to lose capable help, especially when one doesn’t have to pay him a handsome salary?
Emancipation, like the civil rights legislation in the twentieth century, was very good for the “talented tenth.” For everyone else, the struggle of life continued along. Some things got better, while other things got worse. “Progress” is orchestrated and enjoyed only by the best.
An inherently problematic aspect of the contemporary media is that they exaggerate the importance of everything that happens in the present moment. Thinkers as diverse as Nietzsche and C.S. Lewis noted how when one pays inordinate attention to every little thing that comes along, one’s sense of judgment—one’s faculty of discrimination—becomes dulled. The news business helps to pervert our sense of depth; it whittles away our ability to step back and take in the larger picture. The media exist to give us a snapshot of the novel and current, and such a focus instills an attention deficit disorder in a population. It is difficult enough to understand the causes and connections of any historical moment, even with centuries and generations of distilling. It is near impossible to understand one’s own time accurately, though later generations will not have the same access to the facts on the ground. Such is the paradox of history.
With that qualification, I do wish to ask if we are seeing fissures in the anti-racist edifice of the West. In Europe and in the United States, more and more people refuse to be cowed from speaking truthfully about racial matters. Wouldn’t be ironic if Eric Holder actually saw Americans’ speaking honestly about race? Perhaps having overplayed his hand, Obama’s radical Leftist presidency won’t achieve a post-racial politics, but it just might free public discourse to enter a post-anti-racist realm.
Parroting the Old Left, by my anti-anti-racism, I do not mean support for racism. For I do not even see how the word “racism” serves much use as there seems to be no settled definition for it. Anti-racism would appear to have the same fate. Yet, by anti-racism, I mean the taboo against speaking or thinking about racial realities that the Left has instilled among whites in Western lands. Anti-racism is Leftist doublespeak that demands unilateral ethnic disarmament by whites while it allows, encourages, and celebrates racial identities, racial grievances, racially ideological perversions of academic disciplines, and Marxist racial politics by non-whites. Comfortable oblivion among middle class white Westerners and relentless, ubiquitous propaganda by our Leftist cultural masters have facilitated such subversion. Might I have reason to hope that the day nears when most whites will see past the lies? Then, we may actually be able to speak frankly about racial realities without being a nation of cowards.
I want to wish everyone who follows the old calendar a happy new year!
To celebrate the new year with jollity, I offer a spendid short video that my friend Andrew sent me: “The Scientist at Work.” It is brilliant!
I have never seen the retortion argument demonstrated so entertainingly. John Cleese deserves his fame; he is one of the funniest people around.
Author Andrew Klavan presents a commendable defense of liberalism (right-liberalism, in Auster’s terminology) in his Klavan on Culture segment commemorating the victims of the terror attacks on September 11.
It is clear that Klavan is a writer and a thinker rather than a simple political monkey. I appreciate his reflections on ideas and what they are. No materialist, he, who stops to ponder about ideas.
As a side note, isn’t it fascinating how many of the most impressive thinkers on the Right are Jews? For there are not many politically or culturally conservative Jews, and yet they figure prominently in conservative circles. Furthermore, there are even fewer conservative Jews who have become Christians. Yet, such a small set gives us folks like Klavan and Auster.
A Utah public elementary school recently showed the following video to its students, and now the children’s parents are outraged. I suppose that the Alien-in-Chief’s antics of late have caused the masses to start paying attention. Maybe, there is something to this talk of hope and change. Perhaps, these same parents will start to realize how Leftist indoctrination is not a rare incident but rather the principal impulse in the American educational establishment.
The video is pretty standard; it features celebrities’ supporting their pet causes and righteous lifestyle goals. Some of it is commendable, while most is the usual, harmless exhortations to be less wasteful. One woman, however, pushes for (embryonic, we might assume) stem cell research, which I found nauseating. How is such a wretched practice held up as a noble goal for mankind? Even if one does not believe that human embryos deserve legal protection, one should at least acknowledge that those who oppose such research or its public funding do so for commendable reasons—namely, they believe that embryos are human beings worth defending. Yet, somehow, the Left has managed to turn the unprincipled exploitation of human life into a movement for social justice [sic].
The whole video is just silly. How unserious and ridiculous a society we have, where we endow actors and athletes with moral authority and political wisdom. Again, such a regime does not deserve to last. Unless American society grows up, our country won’t survive. And who will lament its passing?