A few months ago, I read a short quotation by Ayn Rand in a comments thread that I found insightful. It is from a speech that she gave in A.D. 1960:
The truth about the intellectual state of the modern world . . . which distinguishes it from other periods of cultural crises, is the fact that what people are seeking is not the answers to problems, but the reassurance that no answers are possible.
According to the comment, you may find this in Rand’s Philosophy: Who Needs It. I sent the quote to my friend Andrew, who replied so:
I think she’s right about the post-modern world. But it seems to me that the modernism, of which I assume she is a proponent, has the opposite flaw. It treats the perennial unpleasantries of the human condition as though they were problems to be answered, when, in fact, no answers are possible. So it’s almost like the Hegelian dialectic in reverse. First there was a reasonable synthesis, then with the Enlightenment, an overly simplistic thesis, and now with post-modernity, an oversimplified antithesis. And I’m sure that when we return to the reasonable synthesis of past ages, we’ll call it progress.
May such progress come quickly!
Sometimes, Lady Ann surprises even me. She posted on her site a few months ago:
Why Italians Are Our Best Americans! - Italian-Americans Accepted the Challenge Of Americanism—Why Can’t Hispanics?
“A frightened public believed that Bolshevism could come to America, and it would be transmitted by foreigners.”
It did, but they weren’t Italians.
What a gal!
A couple of years ago while I was dining with a fellow from New York who happened to be a family friend of the mayor, I asked the young man what New Yorkers thought of the mayor’s attempts to regulate the diet of his city’s denizens by banning or taxing items and portions that he found objectionable. The fellow replied that there was widespread support of the mayor’s noble efforts. This chap was part of the mayor’s circle, and he was of the same stock—wealthy, Jewish, left-leaning, and well connected. So, perhaps it was not surprising that he enthusiastically agreed with the mayor’s aims, but he offered me a window to see how such folks think. I asked him what business it was of the city government to tell people what size soft drinks they could sell or purchase. He said that the government has a responsibility to look after the health of its people. Given our social welfare and medical safety net, he argued that it was necessary to encourage or even to coerce (nicely) healthy choices, as someone’s poor decisions can easily become a burden to his neighbors.
Of course, the fellow had a point. Socialists acknowledge that we are all in this together, which is quite true. I wanted to know, though, how this young man and his friend the mayor could so quickly see the rationality of compelling “healthy” food vending practices while never considering the regulation of the populace’s sexual practices, which have important and far reaching consequences. Before the Stonewall riots, New York City took an interest in sexual deviancy due to community moral and public health concerns. For the bathhouse culture and the many social and venereal afflictions that inhere and result from that way of life arguably affect its practitioners more than drinking eight more ounces of Coca-Cola during meals. Why is the left-liberal mind incapable of recognizing the need for the city to “legislate” morality in certain areas of human life but seems so ready and willing to tell other people what to do in other areas?
When I suggested that the mayor was contradicting himself by supporting a homosexualist agenda and by pushing soft public health tyranny in other ways, the fellow replied that it was sheer bigotry to suggest that homosexual behavior was a health risk. I responded by mentioning some of the public health facts that the public health establishment no longer cares to mention. See, for example, “The Negative Health Effects of Homosexuality” by Timothy Dailey of the Family Research Council. Regardless of one’s views of homosexuality, the public health aspect—the one on which Mayor Bloomberg and his allies stake their powers to dictate what New Yorkers should eat and drink—seems pretty settled. If a city wishes to promote public health, it should discourage many tendencies that seem to go along with homosexuality as it is currently practiced in contemporary America. Facts be damned, though, if a liberal commits himself to the notion that (almost) all sexual practices should be treated equally. Dailey’s findings are, as Steve Sailer might say, hate facts.
As much as I try to investigate the leftist mind, and as often as I interview our sinister friends or read critical theories that attempt to explain them, I just do not understand them. Perhaps, Bloomberg and my dinner partner find the sexual matters of human life too “sacred” or whatever the equivalent is for materialistic atheists for state intrusion, whereas they do not think that regulating food or cigarettes steps on anyone’s toes. After all, fat people can get skinny, again, and smokers can stop smoking; so it’s not a true hardship for them. Suggesting that homosexuals can cease from homosexual activity just as gluttons can stop pigging out does not appear to be acceptable. Is it because homosexuality is a permanent condition for them, like ethnicity or origin, and the liberal cannot bear to treat different people as if they were different when they cannot help their differences? I do not know.
My friend Andrew, who with Kristor appears to supply all the material for this site, told me of fascinating research involving schizophrenia. Evidently, a “normal” human mind interprets a concave mask as if it were convex. We are so constituted to see a face as a face that our brains overwhelm our knowledge even when we know better. However, this natural illusion does not affect schizophrenics. You may read about this at Wired: “Schizophrenic Brains Not Fooled by Optical Illusion.” The article features the following video that illustrates the illusion to you (if you do not have schizophrenia):
I must confess that I was slightly relieved that I was tricked. I lucked out in avoiding that snare!
مسیح برخاسته است
Several weeks ago, Kristor posted two essays on the Orthosphere about politics that I highly recommend: “The Metastasy of Wickedness” and “A Modest Proposal: Enclose the Commons.” In them, Kristor diagnoses a disease and proposes a treatment. His diagnosis is obviously correct, but I am not fond of the suggested health regimen. Read it and ponder.
I do think that Kristor’s corporatization of politics, if ever possible, would be better than the dysfunctional and insane commontheft that we have now. However, there is no substitute for an outright principled rejection of modernity’s many idols, including and especially the liberal, egalitarian, democratic republic. Kristor’s idea is fascinating—just like fascism, Falangism, distributism, syndicalism, neo-corporatism, salafism, and other “reactionary” models for modern society. They are pretty good on noting the problems of the liberal commonwealth, the socialist state’s corrosive, enfeebling effects on its people as well as its tendency toward hard or soft tyranny, and the soul killing and flattening natures of capitalism and democracy, but they all carry a somewhat unpleasant odor. When they are not guilty of pendulum swinging overreaction or subtle or cowardly submission to leftist folly, they appear as politics’ version of a snake oil peddling crank. I think that is because they are revolutionary movements that have begun in the imaginations and mental abstractions of intellectuals rather than having slowly emerged from the trials of life through the centuries. A sane and stable political system must organically develop among civilized people with generally wise and virtuous leadership. Tragically, the last three centuries have turned every traditional society upside down and destroyed every virgin forest of the pre-revolutionary soul. Any way forward (or shall we say back to the good path) will necessarily be reactive, intellectual, and crankish—but it is a frightfully dangerous business for men to presume themselves equal to the accumulated wisdom of generations. How rare a wise lawgiver and founder of a new regime is!