Thursday, October 13, 2016

Two Topical Topics

How bizarre can it get?   Because I noted that Richard Condon, the author of the 1959 pulp thriller with an absolutely absurd plot, The Manchurian Candidate, was not a literary genius, you assume I'm saying whatever else he said has no value.  As if only literary geniuses had valuable insights into politics and should be seriously considered.  If that were the case then we would be suffering under the foolishness that Benjamin Franklin said a government of wise men would be.  

Democracy means that you believe the majority of people are, with ACCURATE INFORMATION, able to better determine the course that their government should take than the self-interested and tiny faction that gets to make that decision under non-democratic governments.  It doesn't mean that democracy produces uniformly wise results, it just means that when that decision is spread over the entire population that the chances are that particular and parochial self-interest will be swamped by the general tendency of people pursuing the more general good.   Of course it all assumes something that modern people have been being talked out of believing to be possible or even existing, a general belief that we have a moral obligation to be of good will towards other people.  Democracy doesn't work by people merely considering their own self-interest and the good of their close circles of family and friends, it depends on the moral obligations that are contained in nothing much outside of some religions.  Consider this from what Richard Condon said at the end of a series of prepositional phrases beginning with "when":

.... when organized crime merges with organized commerce and labor, when a feeble, bewildered set of churches cannot counteract any of this and all of it is power-hosed at all of us through the most gigantically complex overcommunications system ever developed we must not be surprised that one of us bombs little girls in a Sunday school or shoots down a President of our republic.


That he noticed that fifty-three years ago and said it, I will point out in The Nation, a lefty magazine which was frequently and notably anti-religious and which pretty well swallowed lots of the pseudo-liberal, libertarian line about free-press absolutism (a self-interested thing for the publishers, editors and writers of lefty magazines which was obviously NOT NECESSARILY in the interest of the common good) has had consequences that have grown steadily worse, resulting in, among other things, the propaganda that has made "liberal" a dirty word,  the election of some of our worst presidents, the billionaire invention of such acceptable forms of white supremacy and bigotry as the Tea Party, and, this year, the Donald Trump campaign for president.   It was the geniuses who ran the American left who took those actions, even in the very magazines where people like Condon pointed that out.  

The facile slogans of pseudo-leftism and pseudo-liberalism were swallowed, it didn't take any specialized form of the "brain washing" techniques in the novel, it took repetition through the mind-deadening media of slogans reminiscent of the words of the deified "founders" and other such vague bromides of naive, 18th century, "enlightenment".  

Walter Brueggemann, in a number of his recent lectures and sermons has pointed out that in our society it is ONLY the churches who promote the very essence of democratic liberalism, the promotion of equal justice, economic justice and the common good.   Religions of the type he and I mean are the only force I know of that promotes that as a complete package AND AS AN EQUALLY HELD AND BINDING MORAL OBLIGATION.   I have pointed out, as have others, that even the Marxist-atheist political scientist, Jurgen Habermas has pointed out that there is nothing else that nourishes democratic modernism.   In the past decade of looking into these questions, I've found, not frequently but in a number of times, that wasn't unknown to some people in the past.


The other day I watched a Youtube of John Oliver from last spring on the subject of the promotion of bad scientific studies in the stupid American media.   Almost all of it was great and funny and accurate and smart - he said a lot of the things I've been saying here for years so you won't be surprised I agreed with a lot of it.  Then he said,  in response to the idiocy of Al Roker on the Today Show,

"No, in science you don't get to just cherry pick the parts that justify what you were going to do anyway, that's religion..." 

to the cheers of his, no doubt, allegedly lefty-leaning studio audience.

Well, that's a complete lie popular among college educated Brits like Oliver and popular among the anti-religious members of the would-be lefty media and disseminated through it to the general and vaguely defined American "left".  The very same people who claim that are the very same people who whine and complain about all of the pleasures available to their class of people which are forbidden by religion. RELIGION IS NOT WHAT TELLS YOU TO CHERRY PICK WHAT YOU WERE GOING TO DO ANYWAY, IT'S WHAT TELLS YOU NOT TO JUST DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WHEN IT VIOLATES THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS.  That is if it follows The Law and the Gospels or that kind of religion.   Religion is also what tells you that it is a sin to lie, to distort reality, especially for self-gain.  There is nothing in secularism that effectively promotes those things, they are far less of a force in even the best of secularism than they are when promoted by religion.

Religion is definitely NOT the thing that tells you that you can believe anything you wish to and that you can do anything you want to without ultimately paying the consequences.  I think John Oliver got religion mixed up with popular atheism.   Like most people in the English speaking world who believe themselves to be liberal, he's got it ass-backward.

It is 18th century "enlightenment" that encourages people to follow their self-interest just assuming that, by some unseen law of nature, things will work themselves out for the right people. And in that, the "enlightenment" was in opposition to the traditional morality of the Mosaic and the Christian tradition.  And things got worse under a more "scientific" regime.   It is 19th century natural selection that gave the biggest boost to the destruction of  that morality through its promotion of the idea that survival of the fittest was the law of nature.   That is something that the earliest promoters of Darwinism both realized and promoted starting within five years of the publication of On The Origin of Species.  Darwin's closest scientific colleague,  his fierce champion and "bull dog", the anti-religious, specifically anti-Jewish-anti-Christian, Thomas Huxley was enthusiastically predicting that the results of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation would be the eventual destruction of black people who, no longer the useful property of white people would now be destroyed by them.  It was Darwinism's foremost continental champion who said, with Darwin's, Huxley's and others approval that Darwinism was not socialist, it was not democratic, that it was, on the contrary, a prop to an aristocratic system of government.*   The general trend of "science" in this area is to tell the privileged that they not only "get to do what they were going to do anyway" their doing so is blessed by nature as the way to make evolutionary progress.   Which is why some of the worst aspects of Darwinism became law and social policy so rapidly after the theory of natural selection was published.

*  Besides, Darwinism, the theory of natural selection—which Virchow aimed at in his denunciation, much more especially than at transformation, the theory of descent—which is often confounded with it—Darwinism, I say, is anything rather than socialist! If this English hypothesis is to be compared to any definite political tendency—as is, no doubt, possible—that tendency can only be aristocratic, certainly not democratic, and least of all socialist. The theory of selection teaches that in human life, as in animal and plant life everywhere, and at all times, only a small and chosen minority can exist and flourish, while the enormous majority starve and perish miserably and more or less prematurely. The germs of every species of animal and plant and the young individuals which spring from them are innumerable, while the number of those fortunate individuals which develop to maturity and actually reach their hardly-won life's goal is out of all proportion trifling. The cruel and merciless struggle for existence which rages throughout all living nature, and in the course of nature must rage, this unceasing and inexorable competition of all living creatures, is an incontestable fact; only the picked minority of the qualified "fittest" is in a position to resist it successfully, while the great majority of the competitors must necessarily perish miserably. We may profoundly lament this tragical state of things, but we can neither controvert it nor alter it. "Many are called but few are chosen." The selection, the picking out of these "chosen ones," is inevitably connected with the arrest and destruction of the remaining majority. Another English naturalist, therefore, designates the kernel of Darwinism very frankly as the "survival of the fittest," as the "victory of the best." At any rate, this principle of selection is nothing less than democratic, on the contrary, it is aristocratic in the strictest sense of the word. If, therefore, Darwinism, logically carried out, has, according to Virchow, "an uncommonly suspicious aspect," this can only be found in the idea that it offers a helping hand to the efforts of the aristocrats. But how the socialism of the day can find any encouragement in these efforts, and how the horrors of the Paris Commune can be traced to them, is to me, I must frankly confess, absolutely incomprehensible.

Ernst Haeckel,  Freedom in Science And Teaching, p 93.

Darwin wrote to Haeckel that he entirely approved of the book, Huxley wrote the preface to its English edition, as I recall it was translated by another member of Darwin's inner circle, Ray Lankester.

And things got worse in later generations of those who took Darwinism as hard science and the basis of life.  Many species of anti-liberal depravity, such as that of Nietzsche, sprang directly from the theory of natural selection.

1 comment:

  1. I always come back to Derrida's statement: "Religion is responsibility, or it is nothing at all." Even Sartre understood there was no morality without some overarching obligation that bound people to each other. His choice was the responsibility of making an ethical choice: once you choose, said Sartre, you choose for all humankind, because you decide what is moral for you, then it is moral for all (otherwise it isn't moral/ethical, is it?).

    Not that God is the great wet blanket that makes us all worry, or the Cosmic Punisher waiting to kick us for getting out of line. But having removed God from the equation since the Enlightenment, we have removed responsibility, too.

    Funny thing is, there are (your cite to Gadamer being another example) lots of people thinking about this, especially in Europe (Derrida deals extensively with the work of a Polish thinker in the book that quote comes from); but it gets little or not attention in Anglo-American circles, where power (math, science, technology, empiricism; all forms of exerting power, in the hands of Anglo-American thinkers) is all that matters. After all, what obligation did the Brits have to the world they conquered under their Empire? What obligations did Americans have, even the "Founding Fathers," to the slaves they kept in chains for centuries? "Britons never, never, never shall be slaves," but Africans? Why ask such a foolish question?

    It is responsibility we fear most, and are most anxious to throw off. Having done so, is it any surprise a Donald Trump would inevitably arise, a man supported by the same people who went to the desert to threaten agents of the BLM and support Cliven Bundy, a man who's only obligation is to himself and what he can get away with taking?

    Kind of like Donald Trump, come to think of it.....