I do like the neat little binary model â€“ either/or â€“ but there is third possibility here, and Chrisâ€™s question on the perceived damage of the Clinton presidency raises it. That is the possibility that both Platoâ€™s cave dwellers (his analogy) and Aristotleâ€™s natural slaves (non-aspiring) have become our ruling class.
Certainly, one could argue this is the case in academia, where there is no distinction between higher thought and popular opinion, or between fine art and popular culture, etc. And, one could use the Clintons as an example that this is true in our political culture as well: leadership today requires no great character, no higher integrity, not even honesty â€“ just popularity. The Clintons are politicians and not leaders.
I think this third scenario is the most frightening of all to true cultural conservatives, but it may be the most liberating scenario for liberals.
Yes, interesting point. I think there are far too many politicians who are there for the sake of being there and not to lead. That is a great shame and is reflected in the lack of rhetorical skills of many.
FRANCISZ raises some interesting questions, mostly too complicated for me to handle in toto. The conflict between what might be vaguely termed the Aristotelian perspective vs. the Platonic. Aristotle worked from an exhaustive examination of human esperience. Plato worked from visions of the "ideal types" quite apart from any historical model.
The 19th century utopian socialists (Fourier, Owens, St. Simon), the Marxists and Social Democrats (Platonists all) assumed a progression to a perfected society---after which history shuts up shop and closes down. The liberals, who are now indistinguishable from Democratic Socialists, appear to assume that we should be working toward a perfected welfare state, with such vast claims on the national income and such a detailed set of regulaitons, rules and restrictions that no real social change would ever become possible. Progress, for them, is an exclusively governmental process. I don't believe that they have much confidence left in social perfections. It's just that the end result of their efforts would be a government so unwieldy and overgrown that it would produce a kind of social paralysis.
Thanks, Flammenwerfer - for adding your perspective. And I fully agree with your suggestion that the end result is a social paralysis - a paralysis that stifles not only political progression, but creative and moral progression as well - and the results are readily apparent just across the Atlantic - the tragedy of Russia, certainly, but most of Western Europe following suit.
So, my next question is have we also gone too far down this path? And how do we correct it? (And this is an issue that transcends political parties, but certainly the liberal mindset is characteristic of our collective national identity).
Late joiner. Seems like self-fulfilling prophecy at work.
Our system is systematically eliminating individual will from the populace, other than the will to have government keep on doing more.
The will to defend ourselves along with the will to return to a smaller government and greater self-reliance and self-determination is shrinking well below critical mass.
Hell....I'm losing my will to fight the bastards.
FRANCISZ, MELVIN: I fear it is incorrigible and irreversible, although Americans have never been, and never will learn to be, reverential towards politicians and bureaucrats, i.e. Government. We have here a conflict between the willingness to milk government for goodies on the one hand, and an instinct to evade, hornswoggle, and despise it on the other.
All the same, the history of the twentieth century warns us about the pitfalls of prophecy.
The fact remains that liberalism is now an intellectual nullity. They have no idea any longer of where we are supposed to be "progressing"
Its energy comes from hatred, e.g., the demented fury directed against Bush & Co;
From resentment towards conservativism, which they seem to blame for the collapse of their grand schemes of yesteryear;
From the self-interest of those dependent on government for material and psychic satisfactions.
[quote="FLAMMENWERFER"]We have here a conflict between the willingness to milk government for goodies on the one hand, and an instinct to evade, hornswoggle, and despise it on the other.[/quote]True, but it does not stop there.
We are at once gloatingly gratified by our accomplishments as humans in the realm of technological, scientific and medical advancements - proudly wearing our Me-Pods around our necks and shooting our Blackberries from our hip-holsters. Then we flagellate our consumptive selves for destroying the earth and all living things, crafting elaborate ponzi scheme-style carbon offset extortions to punish ourselves for enjoying the fruits of our collective genius.
We loathe ourselves after the self-gratification passes. Good old-fashoined guilty pleasure.
DIST. No, it doesn't stop there. There is a good deal more to it, including the weird self-indulgence you mention. Part of liberalism seems to have evolved into a constellations of vapid social attitudes, e.g., the belief that belittling one's own country shows sophistication. A cheap, effortless sort of "sophistication" that appeals to the half-educated.
Well that bashing your country is part of their attempt to keep up their younger anti-establishmentarianism despite the fact they are firmly part of the establishment.
A.I.D. Indeed, there are multiple layers of hypocrisy involved here. There is a market for the venom spewed by the Howard Zinns and Ward Churchills---for many of our fellow citizens the space between charge and guilty verdict is no wider than a cat's whisker. Conservatives defend their country's history, liberals remain silent. They don't originate the more extravagant slurs against their country and they don't defend it.
F.WARFER, FranZ, et al.
This thread has been fascinating. I have to admit that my (negative) view neo-Liberalism, from my un-learn-ed perspective has been formed more from applying common sense and basic Constitutional liberties and noting how Liberalism is always the polar opposite.
This discussion has elevated that perspective by magnitudes.
Looking forward to more of this discussion (Pencil and Notepad in hand.....)
Thank you for the historical perspective.
PUNKFREUD: The application of common sense and respect for the Constitution are adequate to reveal the current problems. The underlying causes for the continual repetition of the same errors and disasters are complicated. That investigation involved history, philosophy and, perhaps, temperament. That last is a hard one, because it involves assumptions about motive---and motive is a very tricky subject.
It has been suggested that sometimes a man finds his ideology; but sometimes the ideology finds him. In other words, some minds are predisposed to certain beliefs even before they are aware that they exist. For example, I'm not sure I wasn't a conservative from conception.
This question is complicated by the steady trickle from left to right. Neoconservatives are, by definition, reformed liberals. A few were once Marxists. I've accumulated a small collection of books by these defectors, trying to figure out why they skewed left in the first place.
The defections from right to left among the intellectuals has been extremely rare. Karl Hess, Michael Lind, David Brock. Those are the only names that I can think of on the fly.
[quote]why they skewed left in the first place.
Might I suggest, youth and optimism? Not altogether bad qualities, but at some point it seems that they give up on inquiry - they do not follow through on the intellectual path that they themselves chose - they freeze in midpoint - without enough perspective, without enough heft to generate original thought.
I'm not sure why this is - it seems the very antithesis of our true human nature. We've grown soft - I think.
I fail to see how anyone should be given an out because they were young & optimistic. This excuse is used by boomers for supporting people like Stalin, Pol Pot and Castro. Young and moronic more like and in the case of some of them its a question of young & traiterous. Youth is not an excuse for being a neo-Nazi so why it an excuse for being a Marxist, a communist or a terrorist supporter?
No, young and optimistic can be a reasonable, er, reason. Remember the old Churchill-ism re: (paraphrasing) "Show me a young man who is not a liberal and I'll show you a man with no heart; show me an older man who is not a conservative and I'll show you a man with no brain."
Granted, by the time it is appropriate to label one's ideological bent, due to their age or position of responsibility in the marketplace of ideas, they should have already progressed to the 2nd stage in Churchill's maxim.
I actually find myself somewhat concerned about some young people I meet who are already in advanced stages of conservative thought. Eventually their liberal oats will need be sown, and they may suddenly begin exhibiting behavior much more suited to an underaged liberal. Unfortunately, what we see today, especially in Maine, is a preponderance of people who have no hope of maturing beyond their teen angst/idealism.
Would it be pedantic of me to point out that the liberal he might have been refering to was a totally different type of liberal than one that is refered to on this austere pages?
I was never a leftie nitwit as I found their politics ranged from the crushingly naive through the ignorant to the downright vile (ie supporting the Sandinistas/Castro et al).
In fact I moved from being a Republican to Conservatism (in the UK sense/Thatcher variety) to libertarianism. I have always been a fiscal conservative, but I have lost my statist beliefs.
I disagree that being a leftie/socialist is a good thing when young. I think it is [i]never[/i] a good thing.
I'm glad to say that I was born heartless, a Tory [i]ab ovo[/i]. Pondering my own imperfections at age three, it became clear to me that my species was imperfect and imperfectable. This is the founational belief that differentiates the natural conservative from scarlet zealots.
Despite AID's ruthless condemnation I find the evolution from left to right interesting.
I remember a colleague who admitted to being a McGovern volunteer. Now she listens to Rush Limbaugh daily. Her explanation? She had children.
The case of Prof. Phoebe Spinrad of the English Dept. at Ohio University is more complicated. She was a classic Red Diaper baby. Born to a couple of radical labor organizers, she knew all the IWW and communists party songs as a little girl. Her earliest policital memory is attendance at a Henry Wallace rally. She grew up to join the Bronx Democratic Reform Club and used to own a tee-shirt with the slogan "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."
BUT. The Vietnam War produced such mouth-frothing hatred for the United States among the Bronx reformers, that she joined the Air Force from a sense of duty. Became a captain at Clark AFB in the Philippines, had to deal with body bags in transit. Discovered she liked military people better than reformers. Took grad courses in Texas while still in the air force and became a professor. Eventually she converted to Catholicism.
She invited me over to Columbus in order to help her aggravate and antagonize her colleagues. What a crew of of precious, pretentious kooks! The postings on their doors told the tale.
To decorate her door I obtained a photo from Machine Gun Thomas, a brutal, psychotic Foreign Legion vet who looked like a brutal psycho. He scribbled a promise to provide any services she required across it. I don't remember his exact words but they were suitably sinisiter.
She was delighted with it.
Michael Medved offers his version of conversion: "I'm still the same guy, with the same obsessions, as the kid who was voted "Most Radical" in his high school class poll. My story doesn't involve some melodramatic conversion---from lefty to neocon...My affiliations and philosophy clearly evolved...I've applied the same passions that always animated my enthusiasms but with drastically different results."
That quote fits me to a T... thanks for sharing, Flam.
Very interesting thread here.
The other night my husband and I were discussing the issue of the seemingly growing number of liberals in today's society and the detriment they are to the economic and individual strength of this nation. My loving husband told me my anger at these freedom grabbers was futile. He said that Liberalism was a disease and it was spreading rampantly through our government school system. He said Liberals don't have the ability to reason and are easily indoctrinated. Considering our public school system is the greatest example of totalitarianism in the country today and was based on the Prussian system of education, I would have to say my husband is correct. Liberalism is a disease. :roll:
HEATHER MacDONALD, a first-class journalist, had a different experience: "When I returned to Yale in 1980 to begin a PhD in Comparative Literature, I soon realized that the professors whom I had so worshipped had been for years mechanically repeating a fiction...a gratuitously perverse one. Deconstruction was a weird made-up story about language that had almost nothing to do with the real thing. A crisis of faith was looming...I took a leave of absence and never went back."
Deconstruction litcritology comes closest to BETH's description. It is plague that spread rapidly through the literary departments. There was some opposition from traditional liberal literary scholars, but most just hunkered down while the new generations of grad students guzzled its poison. Heather MacDonald's rebellion led her to a wider interest in conservative thought.
There seems to be a common pattern here. When liberals and leftists rebel against one tenet, the whole structure of liberal thought comes crashing down around them.
I've noted a distinct inability for self-examination of constructive intospection among "liberals", as well as a general trend to refuse any examination of their belief system. I suspect the reason why is this:
"There seems to be a common pattern here. When liberals and leftists rebel against one tenet, the whole structure of liberal thought comes crashing down around them."
To actually subject their belief system to rational analysis would lead to "the whole structure crashing down" on them. So, they practice denial, and when some of us get too close to where our own AMG liberals live, they resort to the behavior we've come to expect from them.
I keep coming back to what seems to me a key point: "liberalism" as practiced today, and leftism, are both utterly destructive to the individual, and to individual rights. What matters is the "group" or "class", not how a given individual may be affected by granting or witholding rights to the group you want to protect or punish. This explains the leftist's disdain for the Constitution; it was written to give rights to and defend the individual, not a faceless mass. It is completely contrary to the leftist's vision of a socialist utopia in which we are of worth not as the persons we are, but what group or class we belong to (or not--white Christian men need not apply for protection, since we are the sole source of evil in some people's eyes). Therefore, it must be made irrelevant ("It's a Living Document") or done away with entirely.
VIKINGSTAR: The left-lurchers seem always receptive to theories that human beings are mere soul-less "meat-puppets" shaped by society and environment. There is no place for any conception of "human nature" in their world-view. The vogue for "culture studies" which is displacing post-modernist theorizing in academia is the latest manifestation of this. You and I and everyone else (except the theorists) are trapped the deaf culture, or gay culture, or albino-bisexual-dwarf culture or whatever culture bred us.
It seems to me that a fascination with power, the dream of re-making society according to some master-plan is the underlying motive.
For me the most vivid illustration of the leftish fascination with power was the vogue that Maoist China was enjoyed. It appeared that most liberals (not loco-leftists) actually believed that the Mao Crowd ahd really transformed the Chinese people into a vast egalitarian, cooperative, face-less collective.
Then, it appears, a fleet of UFOs abducted this vast population of socialist confromists and replaced them with the energetic materialist go-getters (leavened with a growing number of Christian converts) that now populates that country.
I once edited a long article by an English sinologist who described meetings of sinologists who mocked the delusions which once deceived the profession. His central points was that the speakers all criticized their profession, but no one criticized himself for propagating the delusions.
Eugene Genovese, an historian specializing in the history of American slavery, provides an interesting example of defectors. When I arrived at Rutgers he had just caused a national sensation by declaring at a "teach-in" that he welcomed a Viet Cong victory.
He was a Commuist party member at the time. I once heard him mention at a conference that he specialized in infiltrating liberal groups in those days. He made it conteptuously clear that manipulating pious liberals was a piece of cake. In fact, contermpt for liberals seems to be a consistent feature of his thinking. One of my fellow graduate students, a right-winger, related that Genovese expressed a preference for the company of intelligent conservatives to that of the liberals who viewed him as an ally.
Genovese seems to have had his first falling-out with the left because he opposed an American Historical Society resolution against the Vietnam War because it undermined its professional integrity. So even then he was something of a traditionalist in professional matters.
Next time he came to my notice he was telling the world that the Left, despite its hypocritical denials, was devastated by the collapse of the Soveit Union.
Sometime later I read that he had become a Catholic convert. His recently deceased wife, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, was the founder of the Women's Studies department at Emory University. She subsequently became a severe critic of feminoid excesses and embraced a conservative Lutheranism.
Genovese is not all that fond of Republicans or libertarians or capitalists. As I read him, he is closer to the traditionalist continental European conervatism. Always the odd-man out.