Saturday, September 27, 2008
Perhaps only Joe Biden could be considered an insider, although he is from a very small state, which is perhaps in need of consideration.
If the only criterion is how a candidate is from an under-represented group, how do you decide which of the four possible kinds of marginality trump the others?
Do you wish to strike a blow against ageism with your vote?
Or whatever you might call the deficit of coming from a teeny tiny state with about as much electoral clout as a gnat?
Friday, September 26, 2008
2000 years pass.
Descartes is asked if there is a soul where is it inside the brain. He said it's in the pineal gland. Secularists still laugh about that. Others tried to determine if upon the moment of death some infinitesimal loss of weight occurred which had to do with the soul leaving the body. This was never determined to be accurate. If there is a soul, then it has no physical attributes. Belief in a soul is already in the realm of the folly of faith. Luther said that only lunatics can believe in God since there is no correct inference that will allow us to gather evidence through reason to posit that a God exists. Even to believe in Christ is lunacy. "I believe because it's absurd," Tertullian put it.
I do think it's possible for gay women to be normal and moral. They are generally monogamous, and they have an ethos of caring and long-term commitment that I can't really locate on the floats at the gay parades when the males drift past.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
People cannot be changed. Down deep, they are what they are: sinners.
At every Lutheran mass we commence with the following, "I confess that I am in bondage to sin and cannot free myself."
Everyone is a sinner. Even Peter, who was the rock for the entire faith, denied Christ thrice before the cock's crow.
If everyone is evil, then the snake is not some kind of objective correlative for an evil that is outside of us, it is our very limbic system. It is our territorialist motivations. It is our reptilian brainstem which we can only remove at the cost of our heartbeat.
Politics is a dance of King Cobras. A debate is not an exchange of high-minded viewpoints. It is two King Cobras going for the other's throat. As such, it is high drama, and lovely, like Hitler attacking Stalin at Stalingrad, and getting Katyuska rockets fired down his throat for months.
We do politics, as we do business, with the old reptilian brain.
Lately I've been reading Steven Shaviro's blog (the link is listed in the above right). He's a full professor at Wayne State University, and a lovely chap. I studied with him in graduate school. I rather like him. He has a brain. A very very good one, too. You can ask him where such and such a passage occurs in Kant, and while he's drinking his coffee and reading the paper he takes out one volume of Kant and opens to the right page without even thinking and hands it to you. He can do the same thing with Derrida, or Deleuze, or Marx or any of a hundred others. But he makes the mistake of the Marxist school that locates evil in some other group. Specifically, he locates evil in the person of John McCain and in anyone who would vote for John McCain.
Once you locate evil in another group, you then believe that it can be defeated, that it can be destroyed. Instead, it is something that we have to live with. Each one of us is territorial, and evil. If we can accept that, we have a chance to live with one another. If we locate evil elsewhere, all possibility of community is doomed.
The communists' worst sin is to believe that they are good, and that some other is bad.
We are not good. We are b-b-b-bad. B-b-b-bad to the bone.
The Pelagian heresy that St. Augustine fought against consisted of the single fact of thinking that we can arrive rationally at goodness, and henceforth the world will be saved.
Lutherans say the following at the beginning of every mass:
"Most merciful God, we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed by what we we done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen. " -prayer of confession, LBW (green worship book), page 56.
The partial answer to this mess is that if we believe in God's mercy we can dissipate evil for about three minutes.
Shaviro writes however that there is a secular parallel to a belief in God's mercy, which is a belief in the Democratic Party. He doesn't say that quite, but I think it's what he meant when he argued that the Enlightenment texts of Kant (ironically, a Lutheran) that have been derailed to mean what they mean for secularists), is to think that we can arrive through reason, at human progress, or what the Obamacrats call, "Change."
We can change!
This is the fundamental heresy of the Obamacrats. That with Obama, we can just simply change, and that anyone who doesn't believe this is evil.
I don't believe it!
This is not to imply that I don't think there is the possibility of DECENCY. Decency would be to follow the ten commandments in all their original meanings. That is, I do think that we can refrain from murder, from lying, from adultery, and from envy, but that in and of itself is a herculean undertaking. Few can actually keep all the commandments. Even Jimmy Carter said that he thought it was ok to sin in the heart. In fact, it's not. It's not ok. That is already a sin, but it's one that Jimmy wanted to wink at in his Playboy Interview. Good Lord.
God gave us three orders that connect earth to heaven. He gave us marriage, the most precious of our orders, and the foundation of all of human society.
He gave us government so that we could establish laws based upon the ten commandments, in order to keep our people safe from the fruits of iniquity.
And he gave us the church, which allows us to understand and worship God.
I'm a conservative in that I want to keep these three orders, and not subvert them with pseudo-intellectualism, or with Pelagian heresies. Government is meant to be there to help keep us in place. It cannot promise us the Garden of Eden, for heaven's sake.
The church is filled with sinners, and it is for sinners, and it is meant to remind us of our sinful condition above which we can never rise.
The family is a sanctuary but it is not a place of perfect peace. Partners fight, and children squabble, and if you get three minutes of peace a day you're doing pretty damned well.
So when I look at the sea of young misty-eyed people with their signs saying "Change," I have a rather jaundiced viewpoint. Obama is not a man of God. He is a man of Marx. He believes in the Enlightenment, and he is a pseudo-intellectual to the point that he thinks he can change people, and he even has to some extent a messianic belief in himself as leading us to some new higher government. He is at best a false messiah, who hasn't got a clue. At worst he's a fraud, a huckster.
He may really believe he is a good man. So much the worse. If he's just a huckster, then he's a pretty good one, and we may stand a chance, because hucksters must at least be realistic in order to stand a chance of not getting caught.
McCain on the other hand is a boneheaded realist. I grant it. But he is a traditionalist bonehead who won't mess around with the foundations of American thought, or think he knows better than James Madison. He's a tough and dogged guardian of American values. He's not a pseudo-intellectual, or a flake, or a huckster.
Obama is a Pelagian, or a pseudo-Pelagian.
The Obamacrats believe that change is possible, that fundamentally human beings can change. Not to believe this is not to believe in the Democratic Party, Shaviro more or less claims in his last few posts (you just have to read them to believe them), and therefore, if you are not with them, you are against them, and are thus evil.
I think that McCain will win the contest, and the tide of the Pelagian heresy will turn. McCain is a good egg. He will flatten the Obamacratic ideals but the strain of it will kill him and about three years in we will have Sarah Palin. She grew up in the Assembly of God -- a church full of snake biters in the deep south. They seem to believe too that we can rise above sin (this has something to do with something in the Book of Numbers -- in which Moses and his crew were set upon by serpents after they dissed manna as being in bad taste, and wanting something else to eat for a change after forty years of whatever it was -- Matzoh bread tossed from on high --? but I haven't had time to figure it all out).
Moses set a snake on the altar and through it somehow the people were healed.
Sounds crazy to me, but nothing is as crazy as to believe that humanity will change, and that Obama will lead us to higher ground, and that not to believe in him is Evil.
Obama is a joke, and is simply the latest Pelagian flake to come down the Democratic turnpike talking about change.
I'm going for the old bonehead, instead. Call me evil! I accept it.
Nothing can change our basic nature. Nothing can keep us from being what we are, which is evil. But McCain can at least keep those who think, "Yes we can [change]!" from getting into government and screwing everything up with their sentimental and primitive notions of good and evil (me good, you bad), and perhaps keep Obama's namesake Osama from achieving his similar ambitions of forcing us all to be good in the name of Allah.
Goodness Gracious, great balls of fire!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Perhaps the most radically evil person in the world is the one who thinks solely about their own good, in the manner of a child molester, but such people are rare, and rarely make it through the electoral process.
The electoral process is a matter of making promises to large enough groups that something will be done for them so that they in turn will vote for you.
You could promise to withdraw all troops from Iraq.
You could promise to allow individual citizens to keep their guns, or you could imply that the guns that they cling to, should be taken away in order to lower violent crime.
Or you could just promise something so big and abstract that it would appeal to everyone. You could say for instance that you are in favor of CHANGE, to take a random example.
Change could be better for the people of the third world.
Change could be better for the people of the second world.
Change could be better for the people of the first world.
Change could be better for cats.
For goldfish, even.
Or it could be catastrophic.
Hurricane Katrina changed things for a lot of people in New Orleans.
I like to think of positive change in terms of tiny improvements.
For instance, you could change a pair of diapers for a baby. The baby's life would be substantially improved.
Or you could stop eating fried food, and instead eat fresh vegetables. Your life and your chances of longevity would be substantially improved.
I think Sarah Palin will maybe do something along the lines of change: especially for moms with disabled tots. Exactly what she's going to do she hasn't said, or I haven't heard. What exactly can she do?
One small issue whose time has still seemingly never come is Lyme's Disease. It's a terrible disease that now afflicts over 1% of the population. Rarely fatal, it slows a person down, and gives them a bad sweat at night, sometimes for ten years before the immune system gets it under control. For some reason neither candidate has mentioned Lyme's Disease as a major issue. Perhaps it's the fact that only 1% of the country is afflicted. 1% at this point is now enough, however, to make or break the election. Let's hear about Lyme's, candidates. It's an issue whose time has come. This single issue could be enough to win Connecticut where the disease is very prevalent. At present there is little awareness of Lyme's, and the terrible effect it has had. The Center for Disease Control now gives most of its money to sexually transmitted diseases. There is almost no funding for Lyme's.
Bush’s idea of changing the whole Middle East into a Democracy is probably a little silly since very few American voters live in the Middle East.
Noble, but too big (costly), and it directly benefits very few American voters.
I’d rather he threw the billions at getting bigger and better dance centers for the middle classes who really can't dance. Health, and perhaps (dare I hope?) aesthetics, would be improved.
We do need ideas of change, and these changes should be for the good of all.All politicians have notions of change, but few changes that are proposed are for the good of all.
Hitler had ideas of change. Slaughter the Jews, so there would be more money for his homies. He was at the very least quite specific. He was also effective in terms of implementing his notions of change. The least we could say in Hitler's favor is that the logistics of the change he had proposed were very effectively implemented.
Mugabe had similar ideas about change when it came to the whites in Zimbabwe.
Obama's dad had ideas similar to Mugabe's in Kenya, but he never got in to office, so we don't know whether he would have been able to handle the logistics of the change. It's one thing to dream, it's another thing to be able to implement change.
In the twentieth century politicians often campaigned to change things for one race, or one gender, or one class. This can connect with an enormous percentage of the electorate, and sweep a politician into office.
Change can come in smaller packages that have an effect on relatively few. My mom is a reading teacher and she said that when the educational caliphs decided to teach kids to read using whole word rather than a phonetic system it suddenly became a lot harder to teach kids how to read. She thought this was idiotic and refused to go along with it, and so she retired early.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I kind of fell in with the anti-war crowd in high school and college. I never spit on a soldier coming back from Vietnam, but I did think badly of them.
I didn't know how badly this hurt their feelings. When I went to the Vietnam War Memorial in DC a few years back I saw amputees weeping before the names of their fallen comrades. I felt terrible and wanted to help them.
Some big part of my vote for McCain is a kind of reparations to those good men who were unfairly demonized and it's a vote in solidarity with Cuban Americans and Vietnamese Americans and Eastern European Americans who lost their countries to communism.
The average person in Vietnam today has an income of 324 dollars.
That sucks, and it was good and right of McCain and other soldiers to fight for freedom there. I salute him and although it's a belated thanks -- he's got my vote.
Leaving college and living in the Seattle Bohemian circles I liked the artistic side of the left but was never fond of communism because they were so hard on artists whenever they got into power. I liked Jack Kerouac and James Brown. I've never liked communists, though. Hungary in 1956. Czechoslovakia in 1968. Cambodia in 1978.
It turns out that Jack Kerouac was a Republican, as was James Brown, and one of my favorite poets, Marianne Moore. They all see something in the party that connects it back to that weird Bohemian guy Lincoln & his love of freedom and stove-pipe hats. I think it's the Bohemian side of me that leans Republican.
But my leaning Republican is also a belated apology to the Vietnam Vets for not having respected their fight against the communists in the 1970s. Having lived in Finland for 5 years in the late 1990s I missed America horribly and came to love it, and perhaps even to idealize it. I see the Democrats as emphasizing America as a bad place. Go live in Zimbabwe, or in Cambodia, or in some European country for five years. You will miss America and want to go home.
I see the Republicans as more balanced, as seeing America's goodness. I see America as the Republicans do -- as McCain does, as Kerouac did, as James Brown did. I can't understand Michelle Obama's remark that she'd never been proud of America. Or the Ayers who liked going around killing other Americans. Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
To the Democrats and their flag burning communist historians like Howard Zinn, I prefer Marianne Moore in her poem, "Keeping Their World Large," which is a tribute to our soldiers and opens with a quote:
"All too literally, their flesh and their spirit are our shield."
-- New York Times, June 7, 1944
And this couplet, that I must have had flash through my mind a thousand times:
"That forest of white crosses!
My eyes won't close to it."
The poem ends:
"They fought the enemy,
we fight fat living and self-pity.
Shine, o shine,
unfalsifying sun, on this sick scene."
(Complete Poems, pp. 145-146)
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I'm just as mystified as others that I used to be an anarchist-leaning postmodernist, and am now a center-right Republican-leaning Christian.
Yesterday I was reading a link that communist poet Ron Silliman had provided on his blog, entitled, "The Pathology of the Republican Party."
Written by a Professor Haidt, the article is about why we should take seriously the reasons why so many will vote Republican this fall. I was amazed by the article, because there are almost no social scientists who are willing to think about Republicans as anything but a bunch of clods and storm-troopers.
This guy said that the key was perhaps in the notion of UNITY.
Whereas Marxists focus on what divides us (class, gender, race), Republicans focus on what unites us.
If you turn on a Democratic channel like PBS you get a show about how minorities or women were wronged in some city, at some time, and why we should still be angry.
In academia you get this sense in many Women's Studies departments, or in any of the Ethnic Studies departments, that the subjects have been wronged, and should be angry. It's divisive.
I was listening to Ken Burns' documentary about American baseball and he was talking about how Hank Aaron had it real bad in MLB because many didn't want a black ball player. But white youth did. They wrote copious letters saying he was ok. And when people badmouthed him or yelled at him, or booed him in games, finally some of Aaron's white comrades on the team (Atlanta Braves, I think) started yelling into the stands to shut up or come down and face a fist.
This is America, it seems to me.
Out of the many, ONE.
"ONE nation, UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, with liberty and justice for ALL," as the pledge of allegiance puts it in its last phrases.
I was at the Seattle Mariners baseball stadium twenty years ago and a man next to me was yelling racial epithets at a black outfielder barely twenty feet away. I was shocked. I should have punched the guy, but instead got up and never went back. Such words are "fighting words," and there should have been someone there to protect the rest of us from such violent wording. This comes close to saying that political correctness is ok. I think it has a good idea behind it, but the principles are not clear or deep enough. If the tables were turned and a woman was screaming mindlessly at a man, or especially at a white man who appeared wealthy, and who was otherwise just doing his job, I think many Democrats would think that was hunky dory.
Republicans want a sense of the ten commandments to restrain us, and to give us a common set of laws and ethics. The murderous rage in that particular baseball fan toward a fellow citizen was just an outrage to me, but I would have been just as appalled if the colors and genders were reversed. A true Christian thinks of the moral maxim of "do unto others," and wouldn't demonize another individual who had otherwise done nothing wrong.
Democrats are against certain speech acts, but they nevertheless seem to want whims, or our feelings, to run riot.
It's not just Governor Spitzer and Bill Clinton's sexcapades. It's the gay parades where S & M nutcases float past with whips and sociopathic fantasies, and the rest of us are supposed to not only accept this, but support the STD's that now take up the great bulk of the Center for Disease Control's budget. There ARE caring and loving gay couples, but when we see gays in the media, even in the left-wing media, we see the profligate individuals, never those who are probably more numerous (?) -- the gay people that I know who are generally in long-term quiet couples, and are good honest citizens, and have ethics. Why aren't these ever put on national television? Even on the left leaning stations? It would help integrate their image into the national consciousness.
The so-called "sex-positive" gays just look irresponsible to me.
Republicans may not be able to live the "sanctified and noble way" any better than Democrats. But it's to some extent an idea that counts in the UNITED states: the notion of responsibility for the other, and that adults will behave themselves in public.
Unity is a very important idea, as it is this idea that gives us norms.
It seems that the Democrats are now completely against any kind of norm, or any kind of principles. They don't want them. They feel that they are a nuisance.
In graduate school I read a lot of the Marquis de Sade, who was seemingly a hero to the French postmodernists. But he was nothing but a true sociopath.
How can we live together without common laws, which means, common norms, and a sense that we mean something to one another? Sadism is not something that we should tolerate.
From Lincoln forward -- the notion that we are an INDIVISIBLE nation -- devoted to an idea, has been the Republican message.
Democrats said even then that the South has a right to its own beliefs. They can have slaves if they want. Let them secede. Democrats wanted North Vietnam to win since that was their belief. How can we allow some people to live as slaves? How can we allow one-party states such as North Korea and North Vietnam where the party lives at the expense of others?
Republicans have a kind of Lockean universalism based on the four fundamental human rights of life, liberty, health and property.
Haidt's article is so good because he gets at why people are still excited about these ideas, and why the Democratic notion of multiculturalism is so basically threatening to the unity of the country and the unity of the world. Democrats do not want integration based on human rights. They don't seem to want English to remain the integrating language in this country. They are proposing that people who have nothing in common can still be Americans together. They propose that other cultures should be allowed to have clitorectomy and that it's ok to let some countries not allow women to have any rights.
Where is their notion of human unity?
Republicans still take seriously the idea that Christianity can be a binding force.
Democrats think it's just plain oppressive.
Democrats gave us the wild side of the 60s: illegal drug use, the guitar solo, and sociopathic sex (sex in which you love the one you're with as long as it lasts). They want abortions to be on demand to deal with any troubling aftermath. I can't understand how these values can be the basis of anything except callous calculation where people don't count.
Republicans gave us the sober side of the 60s: flag and country, family values, and they want to outlaw abortion. The Battle Hymn of the Republicans is a marching song: My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. I love it. It's much more stirring to me than Jimi Hendrix, or Jimmy Paige.
Neither side is perfect and both have their talking points. Endless diversity does allow the anomalous, the marginal, the crazy, to be included. It opens up the notion of LIBERTY.
But the Republicans are talking about unity, which makes more sense to me than endless licentiousness.
I learned a lot from Haidt's article. He said in India, however, that he had learned to not say thanks to his servant. I thought this was rotten. India's caste system is presently being exploded by Christianity in the ranks of the untouchables. Hooray for Christianity, and hurray for the untouchables. I'm touched by them, and I do think we should at least have the decency to say thankyou to someone who serves us in any way.
I can't even stand going to a restaurant in which someone waits on me in America. It's just wrong to have one human being serve another. I'd rather go to a buffet or to an automat. I miss automats, like in that Doris Day movie whose name I forget. I can't stand to get my shoes shined and have someone beneath me, polishing my shoes. But if someone does such a thing, the least I can do is say thanks, buddy.
That should be the norm.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Recently I wondered what Lutheran Surrealism should be remembered for, if it is to be remembered at all, and WW said that she remembers most the phrase that Lutherans are against enthusiasm.
Perhaps this is after all the crux of our difference with the surrealists.
Instead of their phrase, Be Realistic: Demand the Impossible!
We say, Be Surrealistic: Demand Nothing.
Against change, we look for stasis and continuity. The idea that American baseball has been around for a century and a half and is likely to be around for another century and a half is the sort of thing that gives LS hope. Hope is not so much a question of change. Hope is like the slow growth of a cucumber plant. I can't stand it when things happen too fast. It confuses me. We think that rebellion should consist in doing exactly what is required, exactly as it is required, no more and no less.
I remember the old Petticoat Junction song,
"There's Uncle Joe
He's moving kinda slow
At the Junction --
I loved Uncle Joe and his sloth.
What exactly is our bumpersticker, then? Should we open it up to a kind of competition?
I'll toss these few into the hat for now:
Down with enthusiasm!!!!!!!!!!
Ask not what your country can't do for you, ask what you can't do for your country.
If I were to write an ad for John McCain that would get Lutheran surrealists to vote for him, it would go like this:
Boredom is love.
Boredom is beautiful.
Long live John McCain.Lutheran surrealists like to spend the afternoon watching an ant explore the inside of a macaroni noodle. But perhaps even that is way too frenetic.
We often catch ourselves looking at the wall for six hours. We aren't thinking: we are VEGETATING.
In fact, the slow growth of cucumbers mirrors our mental activity.
Or is a cucumber a fruit? Some day we will get around to ascertaining the difference, probably at just about the time when we slip into Alzheimer's. Not that anybody could tell the difference. A true Lutheran Surrealist is indistinguishable from a vegetable.
Lutheran Surrealism: a rebellion of acceptance.
Rebels Against Change!
We insist that the best president is the one who does least. I want a president who will sleep fourteen hours a day, and then wake for a few hours to watch static on TV, before returning to sleep for another fourteen hours.
And then our battle-cry: FOUR MORE YEARS!
But I'm beginning to show enthusiasm. I'd better stop.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Camille Paglia is perhaps the Orwell to the Stalinism that feminism has become.
Now that the Obama campaign has thrown in a pig with lipstick, and there are wolves coming from the McCain campaign, in addition to elephants and donkeys, we have the kind of menagerie that one could find in Orwell's Animal Farm.
I first found this article through Ann Althouse's blog (listed to the right side), where I go for a lot of the latest in the political scuttlebutt (she's a law professor at UW - Madison):
I rarely agree with Paglia's opinions in their entirety. But she's certainly got ones that I've never quite seen before. As for abortion: I, personally, am against it. Not because it's the body of the woman, but it's the LIFE of the BABY. I would never be able to be an abortion doctor. I can't imagine such a lifestyle! However, I do think it should remain legal. It's awful to kill a baby. It's probably even worse to force a mother to bring a baby into the world when she doesn't want the child. What we don't need are millions of unloved children turning into adults and spewing their hatred via acts of rage. It seems the lesser of two evils to just let the moms kill their kids in the first place before the kids grow up and kill the rest of us.
But that's only a part of what Paglia has to say. Is she the Orwell to Stalinism in skirts? What Orwell was to Big Brother -- is she the same thing to Big Sister?
Monday, September 08, 2008
Finished Hitchens on Orwell this morning. (Why Orwell Matters, MJF Books, 2002.)
Hitchens has a couple more crucial points to make. British empiricism yielded a tough notion of verifiability that is better than French postmodernism with all its gobbledygook sentence-making, laughed out of court finally by Alan Sokal with his famous hoax.
And we can speak about reality in plain terms. He yucks it up about Lacan and Foucault and Derrida and their Carrollian versions of double-speak.
"But for Orwell, a common language with accepted and mutually understood rules was an indispensable condition for an open democracy. (I cannot prove this from textual evidence, but there are enough admiring references in his prose to the Protestant Reformation to make me sure he connected this to the old struggle to have the Bible translated into the vernacular... 'Prose literature as know it,' he wrote, 'is the product of rationalism, of the Protestant centuries, of the autonomous individual'" (196).
Luther is implicitly praised in the above paragraph as laying down the conditions for an open democracy.
Empiricism and clarity and democracy: I'm not sure that this isn't what led England and then America to triumph over the rest of the world in terms of material progress, as well as in terms of the functional creation of two of the best democracies around (the two things are related). The elitism that is not so secretly hidden within postmodernism may be found in its prose style. A thicket of nonsense comprehensible only to the few, and constituting a mode of governing that ostracizes those unable to afford extremely expensive educations, and tending to look down the nose at those who cannot grasp what is being said.
Perhaps what is being said in the work of Lacan and Derrida and others is exactly that: we constitute a new hierarchy, and you will never join it.
I'm liking the English more and more: Midgley and Orwell and Hitchens have a lot to do with that.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
I bought Christopher Hitchen's book on George Orwell, and have read 155 pages out of 211. The book lists at $15.95 but I got one for $6.98.
The reason I bought it is that while perusing it I realized that Hitchens BATTERS Raymond Williams. Hitchens likes to batter crummy communists. He also batters people I think he should leave alone (Mother Theresa, for instance). But when he's battering communists, I'm completely on his side.
Hitchens points out that Raymond Williams (for those of you who aren't familiar with this communist) was a Stalinist whose first book was an apology for the Soviet Invasion of Finland. Almost everyone at Oxford dropped out of sympathy with the USSR after the communist juggernaut had done this in 1939. Not Raymond Williams! His first book was "a Cambridge student pamphlet defending the Soviet Union's invasion of Finland in the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact" (47).
I wish Hitchens would have battered on, but there isn't really that much about Raymond Williams to even care. You squash him like a bug, and move on. Hitchens does praise Williams' book Keywords (which is a very useful little volume for understanding the idiotic phraseology of communists).
Orwell is a little dry for my taste, which is why I prefer Eastern European dissident writing, as it is often linked with the legacy of French surrealism. Orwell on the other hand is linked to the Dickens tradition, and other British traditions of empiricism. I can't read Conrad. I can't read Pritchett, or even V.S. Naipaul. It's just not funny enough (imaginative enough).
One of the few British writers of the 20th century that I really like is P.G. Wodehouse. Most of the British intelligentsia hated Wodehouse, and Orwell was one of the few to defend him. Hitchens writes,
"Mr. Wodehouse was being pelted with calumny by every red-faced bully and roast-beef demagogue in the sceptr'd isle, a campaign of witless defamation that enjoyed official encouragement and which required the passage of many decades before it was redressed" (116).
The Bertie and Jeeves stories are tremendous fun at the expense of communists, and Wodehouse's little squirts of the water-pistol at the left had incensed them beyond measure. His showing that a butler and an upper class individual could form a happy bond practically destroyed the notion of class antagonism that the communists had sought so hard to promulgate.
Orwell thought that Wodehouse was apolitical, and defends him on those grounds. That isn't true, but at least he defended Wodehouse at a time that it was unpopular to do so.
Orwell was a leftie, who hated all abusers equally. The sick Brit who went to Burma to shoot elephants, kick coolies, and molest the local women, made him wretch.
But would Orwell think Myanmar today an improvement on Burma then?
Orwell appeared to think that there could be a socialism that worked. Hitchens cites Trotsky throughout the volume as Orwell's alternative. But in the few instances that Trotsky had absolute power he used it in an absolutely atrocious manner, as when he slaughtered the sailors on the Potemkin battleship, after an uprising. Let's not romanticize Trotsky. He was just as bad as Stalin, he just didn't have an army at his disposal.
Hitchens does argue that the American revolution is the one great blind spot in Orwell:
"Because of its long dalliance with France, and because of its ancestry in the English revolution of the 1640s, the American revolution fully deserves its place in the pedigree of radical upheavals... as the third millenium gets under way, and as the Russia and Chinese and Cuban revolutions drop below the horizon, it is possible to argue that the American revolution, with its promise of cosmopolitan democracy, is the only 'model' revolution that humanity has left to it" (104).
Orwell is not Kafkaesque. Orwellian is about a political society in which various pricks get political power and proceed to lord it over the rest. Orwell is a kind of muckraker, and the term Orwellian has a bitter protest at the heart of it.
"Orwell was an admirer and student of [Thomas] Paine, himself an early pattern of the modest self-employed self-publishing truth-teller" (104).
Orwell realizes that America is not Orwellian.
Hitchens quotes a comment from Orwell written in May 1945:
"The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States..." (12).
In the United State, this has now become an enormous chorus of cicadas. Hitchens appears to share my bewilderment, and this is the main reason why I liked the book. Many of our intelligentsia admire the anti-Christian and anti-Democratic French idiots of postmodernism or even Sartre (at least Orwell never took to Sartre), and some can't distinguish between systems of government and seem to think they're all the same.
Some madman waving his arms from the top of a political pyramid was always the norm before the American Revolution. It continues to be the norm for three-fourths of the world's population. James Madison saw that. So he built a system of checks and balances, (since then we've added term limits). This is why everybody wants to come here, even though most of them are too dumb to figure this out. Collectives need correctives, and when you don't have freedom of speech, as in totalitarian societies, or in many American universities, and someone like Orwell can't surface, you instead have a blind and mute country that is the slave of the whims of its tyrants. Tyrants don't last long in America, and that's why the country is worth living in.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Yesterday I was going through the WSJ article, "Palin Showed Flexibility to Push Conservative Agenda," while waiting for McCain to tell us about his time in the Vietnamese box where he was forbidden to communicate with anyone for five years. Forbidden to communicate! This is the worst possible human fate.
As I was humming and tapping my foot, I was struck on column 1, p. a14 by the following, "Among those Ms. Palin tried to dismiss was library director Mary Ellen Emmons. Within days of her election, Ms. Palin approached Ms. Emmons to ask whether she would resist efforts to censor books in the library's collection. It was general inquiry; Ms. Palin didn't ask Ms. Emmons to remove any particular books."
The Alaskan librarian of Wasilla (the town of which Palin was mayor) said no way would she allow censorship, and the matter apparently ended. A few months later, the librarian received a notice that she would be fired. The community stood with the librarian, and Palin backed out of firing Emmons. Since then this librarian has moved on to a bigger library. To me, she should be a hero. It's not clear if Palin wanted to sack the librarian because she wouldn't allow censorship. There was also the indication that Palin had ended the jobs of all her political opponents, which is exactly what the other side would have done. This, too, is wrong, but since either side would have done it, I suppose it is at least business as usual. Regrettable, nevertheless. We have to learn to live with difference.
Of all the stories that have surfaced on Sarah Palin, this is the only one that concerns me. In fact, I am a first amendment voter. I don't care what else the jerks of the far right and left do, but I can't stand censorship because I want to hear what everyone is thinking.
The first amendment reads in part:
"Congress shall make NO law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..."
And yet the left has abridged this speech on almost all campuses (go to fire.org for a partial list). At the University of Washington the sense that almost any word you said could land you in very hot water (you'd be boiled alive for thousands of different infractions). A friend of mine in the Psychology Department had his teaching assistantship cut. When he asked why, he was told that he wore a cowboy belt, which signified macho masculinity, and therefore he wasn't welcome to teach there any longer.
Even the hint of a sexual harassment complaint from a student would land a teacher in all kinds of hot water. Meanwhile, a major Marxist professor was actually caught raping a student, and very little was done. He was permitted to go to another college, and this was fine. After all, he was a major Marxist, and thus part of the ruling comintern!
As a writer, I want freedom of speech. As a citizen, I want fairness of principles. You can't allow one faction to speak, and not another. you can't allow one faction to break actual laws, while allowing another faction to not even speak.
I'm used to the left being for censorship of opposing viewpoints. Marxist feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon actually tried to get laws passed which would curtail speech. They failed, although they did succeed in intellectually inferior Canada. And conservatives for the most part are all about retaining our freedoms. So when I saw that the conservatives might be moving in the direction of censorship (aside from a few nuts in small towns who never won, and were considered nuts), I was flabbergasted. I googled the story to learn more. A story in Library Journal said that "facts are hard to come by," in this supposed case. In today's Alaska Daily News, a story indicates that this whole scenario with Palin is "muddy," at best. The director of public libraries in Alaska is quoted as saying not a single book has ever been censored at Wasilla.
The librarian Emmons did keep her post. I looked in the Wasilla Public Library online catalog, and I looked up Simone de Beauvoir. "The Second Sex," is on the shelves. "Selected Writings of Sade," is also on the shelves. Jean Genet's "The Blacks," is on the shelf. These three classics of French literature show the human mind at its most squirrelly. What could be more vile and putrid than these three books (at least to extreme Christians)? And yet the books are still there, free and available to all comers.
Palin grew up in a church called the Assembly of God. I don't know a lot about them. Our local congregation lets its pastor decide whether the congregants can attend certain movies. If you want to hand your brain over to your pastor, go ahead, Bozos! But you can't turn the town's brain over to the mayor. Sorry. The first amendment's establishment clause prevents that. But the little case with Palin is a very minor case, and it came to nothing. Hopefully she learned something from it!
Compare the left's atrocities in Cambodia, in which an attempt to wipe out literacy itself was made. Or compare Mao's China, where the destruction of the intellectuals as a class was a primary mandate.
In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega is apparently hounding the poet Ernesto Cardenal for some pieces he's written against Ortega.
Think of the USSR, or the East Bloc, where censorship was the main government activity. And the destruction of writers and writing in places like Romania was a major occupation and preoccupation. Writers could disappear for handing out blank pieces of paper, as it seemed critical of the government.
Now it's true that Barack Obama and Joe Biden have not been lusting for censorship at least insofar as I know. Neither one would exactly want to fist bump Pol Pot for what he did to Cambodia. Neither one was exactly friends with Joe Stalin. But the universities are Democratic bastions, and they are fraught with censorship of any and every kind. There have been no book burnings. But try to get Harold Bloom's book out of a major university library. The copy at the University of Washington had been defaced and parts of it had even been ripped out by feminists who were proud of what they had done.
Will Obama move in this direction? In Jerome Corsi's book, Obama appears to have been friends with a communist poet named Frank something (I always forget this guy's name). His pastor is a Marxist. Obama has been known to like Saul Alinsky (who suggested that we silence opponents through extensive ridicule and hostility or by any other means necessary). Obama's friend Bill Ayers and his wife actually think it's ok to murder their intellectual opponents.
Against the far left, I have always been on the side of Bohemia: the surrealists in France were against Stalin from the beginning, and against Mao as early as the fifties because of their retrograde aesthetics of social realism. Today, I am almost certain that Breton would be against the likes of dirtbag Huge Chavez, or communist sociopath Daniel Ortega. In college I was enamored of the Beats, drawn to them largely because of the attempt to silence them through obscenity trials.
Freedom of inquiry is the most important freedom of a free society. This is why the first amendment is first.
Neither the communists nor the Calvinists quite understand this.
Lutherans, do. Surrealists do. (I object to the surrealists when they did things like spit on priests. This is disgraceful, and it's why I am a LUTHERAN surrealist. People should treat each other respectfully, and try to understand one another -- especially when their viewpoints are far apart.)
At any rate, for those of you who want to change my mind and make me vote Democratic -- show me that the Democrats across the board care more about their enemies' viewpoints' ability to be heard than the Republicans do. That's my central issue. I can't stand the assassins of the left like Tony Negri who has said that it's ok to murder opponents. I can't stand the assassins at Duke who were willing to lynch students without trial and who have never apologized and just don't care what happened. I can't stand the many procedural disorders on campuses in which students are not permitted to have certain viewpoints (again, see fire.org if you want to barf a bit). All left-leaning blogs, or almost all, practice "comment moderation," which is another term for censorship. All the right-leaning blogs on the other hand have open discussion (at least the ones that I know about).
Literacy is the center of my life. I teach it. Without free discussion, it all goes wrong. The left, and the right, clash together, like the cliffs that clashed before Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece. If one side doesn't show up in the debate, it is as if the cliff smashes against the face of the center, slowly slamming it further and further into coercion with the ruling ideology.
"In the wine tax, the peasant tests the bouquet of the government, its tendency" Karl Marx, Class Struggles in France (International Publishers) p. 117.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
The Bush burned in the deserts of Iraq
The laughter of the left left him in the lurch
Jesus came to save us all from sin
& from sin there was a bad stench
The stench of burning rubber
An indigo mood, a popular tune
Surrender to my alimentary tube
"It's alimentary, Watson,"
The business procedures are faulty
What we need is less of Dionysus
& more of Jesus
Jesus is the name of a Hispanic home-run king
The power of the hour is important
Things protrude like a flim-flam artist's nose
Dionysus versus Jesus?
If everyone chose D. there'd be chaos
If everyone chose J. there'd be the Nude
Jerusalem, in fact
Out with the old, in with the zoo (Zeno)
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
"As the wind blew through the deserted streets, a group of bored police officers sat on rolling office chairs outside on Tchoupitoulas Street, watching a few of their colleagues “wind-surfing” down the long thoroughfare, one of them explained. Two officers would hold up opposite ends of a sheet and wait for the gusts to blow them down the traffic-less street on their rolling chairs."
I think that because it had a good Lutheran name, it was, as hurricanes go, a neighborly hurricane.
Monday, September 01, 2008
School started today, which meant that I needed to finish Mary Midgley's autobiography, The Owl of Minerva (Routledge 2005). I read the last few pages last night impressed by how modest and yet fascinating the book is on almost every page. I'll just give a few samples.
On p. 42 she writes, "everything in this book is meant to be true and so far as I can I shall make it so."
Midgley's family was somewhat of a second-tier upper middle class one. Her father was an Episcopalian minister. She had an uncle who was an important judge who argued that obscenity does not consist in subject matter but in the spirit with which the authors proceed. This judge also felt that we ought to be able to refer to past actions in a criminal as "evidence of system" (49).
Midgley liked to work alone, and got IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) if she had to work too closely with other people.
She says that at the beginning of the 1940s most of those at Oxford were communist sympathizers. After the Soviet Union overran Finland, however, that sympathy vaporized. Almost everyone was on Finland's side, and many went up there to volunteer. Finland fought an army hundreds of times its size, and won. It's the most uneven war possibly in world history which was won by the undersized combatant. Stalin brought in tanks, and the Finns used Molotov cocktails to knock them out. Stalin sent in two million soldiers (equal to the entire population of Finland) and within three months three-quarters of those soldiers went home in boxes. Midgley was always against communism, and seems glad that the Second World War brought most of her friends out of the communist sphere of influence, but it's hard to determine where she stands on socialism itself. She remarks at one point that she wrote her feminist book for a group called The Social Democrats, who proved to be very unpopular shortly after the book was published, and implies that her interest in this group dispersed along with the group. What does she stand for now? She's mainly interested in the Gaia principle, and is friends with people like Jane Goodall.
Midgley writes that "All thoughts are thoughts that somebody thinks" (120). Thoughts don't just emerge from an atmosphere or from history, they emerge from individuals.
Individuals have strengths and weaknesses. She identifies a certain Lady Murray as "humor-challenged" (146). This is a matron that Midgley had to work for and she always wanted everything to be in deadly earnest because Lady Murray didn't understand wit or humor, and felt afraid of it. She cites Iris Murdoch as having said that philosophers, like people, are most strongly oriented by what they are most afraid of. Lady Murray was most afraid of humor. I never imagined that humor could be the thing that someone was afraid of since I'm most afraid of its opposite. Agelasts (technical term for those who never laugh) are generally zealots on their way to becoming full-blown fanatics in my experience.
Midgley worked on the neo-Platonic philosopher Plotinus who apparently argued that the soul has no boundaries in either time or space. It is infinite. What a curious idea. I had the idea that the soul is personal, but she argues that Plotinus argues that it is both personal and universal.
The book ends on a very modest note after talking about her husband, and her children, and her books (she situates each book in a sentence or two, or a paragraph, and says that only her book on feminism has gone out of print). Her life is now actually writing, and her books are taking on a life of their own and have become increasingly popular since the decline of postmodernism which she always thought was a waste of time.
"But in the life of the actual Mary Midgley there hasn't actually been anything very startling to report. So I think it is probably best to end this memoir here" (212).