Friday, March 29, 2013

Remember, The Left's God is Liberation

Conservatives are the People of the Responsible Self.  We believe in the dogged and responsible life, working and relating in the real world of growing up, working, reproducing, and leaving an inheritance, material and spiritual, for the next generation.  We do not expect perfection or completion in this life.

But the Left is different.  They are the People of Liberation.  The continuance of struggle is, for them, a scandal.  For instance, Herbert Marcuse in One-Dimensional Man writes that "new modes of realization are needed" in today's society.
Economic freedom would mean freedom from the economy -- from being controlled by economic forces and relationships, freedom from the daily struggle for existence, from earning a living.
You can see that this attitude is at the basis of all the liberal programs to regulate society, from wage-and-hour laws to social welfare programs, to minimum wage laws.  Liberals want to liberate people from the necessities of life.  But for conservatives economic freedom is not liberation but merely the right to conduct the struggle for existence on your own terms.

Meanwhile the true artist, for Marcuse, is transcending brute society in his artistic alienation.
Fiction calls the facts by their name and their reign collapses; fiction subverts everyday experience and shows it to be mutilated and false.  But art has this magic power only as the power of negation.  It can speak its own language only as long as the images are alive which refuse and refute the established order.
This is, of course, the conceit at the heart of the leftist religion: that the left is a movement of protest and refusal against the monstrosities of exploitation and inequality.  What the left wants is a humanity utterly plucked out real life and dropped into a fantasy life, a permanent evening consciousness-raising meeting.

But the human condition is irreversibly one of birth, struggle and rebirth.  We have seen what happens when people get relieved of the struggle for material necessaries:  they invent new struggles to challenge themselves.  Half a millennium ago the rich prided themselves on their leisure and the poor suffered in their work.  Today the rich are incredibly hard-working and the poor repose on their welfare benefices.  What does the successful businessman do after he has made his pile?  He creates a philanthropic foundation and goes to work to give his money away to help other people.  Something is happening in the modern world that is not comprehended in the lefty theology.

We cannot know when the liberal movement of liberation will exhaust itself.  Anyway, the yearning for salvation, according to Eric Voegelin is always in danger of the "immanentizing of the eschaton," the attempt to achieve salvation in this life rather than the next one.  So the current secular religion of liberation will, in time, be replaced by another.

But the current culture war between conservatives and liberals does expose the important issues.  How far should we go to soften the struggle for existence with our mechanical gadgets and our force-multiplying technology?  At what point do we cease to be living humans in time and become something else.  And if we did become something else, what would that mean?

The bottom line for conservatives is that we would rather face these challenges on our own terms, and not be bullied by liberals into their vision of the future.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Forget Woe Is Me, Conservatives!

Conservatives still seem to be in the post-election cringe.  Now comes the RNC autopsy, courtesy of Reince Priebus, about how Republicans should do outreach to women and minorities.

Oh and by the way, lose the idea that the Republican Party is the party of big business.  Really.  How could Republicans have ever allowed Democrats to get away with this?

The Democratic Party is the party of Bigs: Big Government, Big Labor, Big Business, Big Philanthropy, Big Education, Big Media.  Where in the world does anyone get the idea that the Republican Party or the conservative movement have anything to do with the modern Bigs?

Then there is Michael Walsh, who wants to fight on in the trenches and never surrender.

Look.  Let's lose the small-ball emphasis on tactics.  In the Franco-Prussian War the Prussians often got into trouble because their over-eager formation leaders got into tactical trouble--and the French chassepot rifles were better than the Prussian needle guns.  But the Prussians won because they got their strategy right.  Their armies were in the right place at the right time and the French armies were not.

But let us get ever further back, above strategy, above grand strategy.  How about the Grand Vision of what modern conservatism is all about?

Modern conservatism is merely the modern version of the Great Transition from agricultural life to city life that has convulsed the human world in the last three thousand years.  Let us stipulate that the transition was driven by a slow but progressive improvement in agricultural techniques so that fewer and fewer people were needed to grow food on the land.  Instead people could move to the city and make things.

As this Great Transition got started it shared the stage with a revolution in religion, what Karl Jaspers called the Axial Age when all the modern religions got started: Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam.  These religions, according to Robert Bellah, all embraced in some way the idea of the Responsible Self.  Humans were not just the playthings of the gods like they were in the Iliad.  All of a sudden individuals were responsible to God for their individual conduct, and to fail God was a damning sin.

It started with the rich bitches at the top of society, your Confucian sages, your Prince Gautamas, your fancy-pants Brahmins, and then gradually worked its way down to the rising bourgeoisie of the Reformation and the mechanics of Methodism.  Now it is engaging the latest wave of people arriving in the city: the former African slaves and the former peons of Latin America.  Not to mention the hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants, moving into the city at the rate of about ten million per year.

There is a profound difference between life in the country and life in the city.  In the country, you are planted, like a tree.  You must make the most of what the weather, the landed warriors, and the vagaries of food production hand out: What you see is what you get.  But in the city you are forever moving, like a fish that must keep oxygen filtering through its gills.  In the city you can never stop.  You must always adjust your life to the command of the market and the price system.

You can see that our life as social human beings in the city is profoundly different than our life as social human beings in the countryside.

Out in the country, you keep the market at arm's length.  Sure, you buy and sell, but only occasionally.  The real business of life is growing the food and passing on the land to an heir.  In the city, every moment of life is engaged with the market.  You cannot repose on your land, because there is no land.  You cannot work at the same livelihood all your life because the market will change the terms of trade.  You cannot retire on your savings, because a war might come along and reduce the value of money.  You cannot check out, as you could do when planted on the land.  You must always be "on," always interacting with the market, always acting like a Responsible Self.

It is the frightful change from planted life to swimming life that so traumatizes the migrants from country to city.  But the migrants always found ways of dealing with it: with churches to learn the ways of the Responsible Self, with labor unions to try to stave off the worst swings of the market for labor, with fraternal associations to create an artificial community of brothers in a world where blood brothers could be scattered to the four corners of the earth.

Enter liberals.  Liberals don't like the culture of the Responsible Self; they are above all that.  They are people of the creative self, the Romantic self, the repressed self, the transgressive self, the liberated self, and they bridled at the dominance of the people of the Responsible Self.  Pretty soon they discovered a way to make war on the people of the Responsible Self and become the ruling class of the modern era.  They would form a coalition with the people struggling to figure out how to thrive in the city.  They would cater to their fears, and confirm them in their pre-responsible culture.  They would protect them from the nasty employers and the higgling of the market; they would give them pensions, health care, education, and other wonderful free stuff.  And these people of the Marginalized Self would be spared the rigors of the Great Transition from country to city.

Notice also how liberals have waged war on the churches, turned labor unions into organized political pressure groups, and most significantly, utterly demolished the fraternal associations without even noticing what they had done.  Here is what they have done.  They have demolished the authentic social institutions of the People of the Responsible Self to make way for their monuments to the administrative welfare state.

Only something went wrong with the liberal project.  Liberals scorned to build self-regulating systems for pensions, health care, and education, institutions that could run themselves, adapt to changing conditions and learn from their inevitable human mistakes.  They built massive monopoly bureaucracies  to fund their grand ideas out of the revenue of government, and liberals would be needed forever to run them.  Unfortunately--and the science is settled on this--governments are incapable of doing what the price system is doing every moment: fixing mistakes and figuring out new and better ways of doing things.  So the liberal administrative welfare state has been slowly running down.  And in addition the liberals visited a horrible cultural collapse on their political clients, so that now marriage is disappearing among lower-class women and work is disappearing among lower class men.  Today we are facing the reality that governments everywhere that have implemented the administrative welfare state model are approaching bankruptcy.  The administrative welfare state will renege on its promises to its clients, the people of the marginalized self, the people still learning how to thrive in the city.  And how.

While we argue over the deck chairs on the Titanic the iceberg is already slicing through the hull of the unsinkable administrative welfare state.  We, the People of the Responsible Self, must stop all this silly argument over tactics, because there is serious work to be done.  We must redouble our efforts to explain and proselytize our culture, which is the proven way to thrive in the city.  We should not truckle to minorities and women.  We should proselytize our glorious culture of the Responsible Self instead.

And we must now start to draw up the Bill of Indictment against the crimes of progressivism-liberalism, which has visited such mayhem on the lives of the migrants to the city, filling their heads with lies and hate, confirming them in their pre-urban culture when what they needed more than anything was a primer in how to make it in the city.  As we conservatives draft and redraft our Bill of Indictment against the liberal ruling class it will slowly begin to seep into the consciousness of people everywhere that we are dealing not with a minor peccadillo--mistakes were made--but with the Crime of the Ages.  Liberals, in their snobbish disdain for the people of the Responsible Self and in their Satanic appetite for political and cultural power, have visited a murrain of hardship and injustice on those least able to bear it: the latest arrivals in the city.

And really, the situation is so serious that there is not a question of punishment or retribution on liberals for what they have done.  There is no way of making restitution for what liberals have done.  The disaster is already too vast, too unimaginable.  The lives are already wasted; the finances of the nation already ruined; the culture already corroded.

All we ask of liberals, after the collapse and the ruin of their administrative welfare state, is that they join us, the People of the Responsible Self, in the work of rebuilding America with a  good will.

And let us all take a sacred vow right now that we will do what we can to ease the lives of the people that have suffered most at the hands of the administrative welfare state, and help them out of the cultural and economic maelstrom that liberalism has visited upon them.

For the reality of the modern city is quite simple.  You must learn to swim like a fish, always keeping moving, always pointing upstream and always conscious of the tides and currents of the market and the price system.  The way to thrive in the city is simple.  Step One: Think about a way in which you can serve your fellow humans.  Step Two: Do it.  Step Three: Repeat for the rest of your life.

Anyone that tells you different is a liberal.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rush Limbaugh Gets It

Right now the Republican Party is in one of its quadrennial cringes over its relevance and its outreach to minorities and women.  Republicans need to be more understanding about women's issues, about immigration, and about gay marriage.  But Rush Limbaugh pointed out yesterday that this outreach is a losing proposition. Because liberals will always come up with another issue to make conservatives and Republicans look like unfeeling monsters. Take gay marriage, he suggests.
What is it that's going on?  Well, same-sex marriage, homosexual marriage is just the latest way to portray Republicans as oppressors.  After they get same-sex marriage, it will be on to something else.  They always have to have a cause that is liberation related and it's the Republicans who are the oppressors.
Exactly.  Liberation from oppression is what leftist politics is all about.  It needs two things.  It needs a minority population suffering from oppression and it needs an unfeeling or hostile Republican Party or conservative movement to serve as the oppressors.

And if Republicans and conservatives think they will escape their troubles by conceding on the oppression causes du jour they are mistaken.  Democrats will always come up with a new one.

We need to understand the game.  There are two responses to the existential sorrows of the modern age.  One of them is the idea of freedom to break the chains of ruling class oppression.  It is the idea that responsible individuals, acting in the world, are the antidote to the injustice of government domination.

The other response is the idea of liberation from ruling class oppression.  It is the idea that an avant garde movement can liberate people from their chains and lead them to the Promised Land.  But have you noticed, says Rush, what leftist liberation leads to?
But have you ever noticed all of the left's solutions for more freedom always involve us giving to government more control over our lives.  We always end up expanding government.  We always end up giving up a little freedom in order to be liberated by the left. 
 I like to present the modern predicament as the battle between the People of the Responsible Self and the People of the Marginalized Self.  The Responsible Self is a chap who wants to live in responsible freedom, living free of government compulsion, but doing the right thing for himself and his family, his neighborhood, his city, his country.  The Marginalized Self is someone who is "owed" and oppressed.

You can see that the beauty of the Responsible Self is that it assumes that people can be trusted to do the right thing.  It doesn't require extraordinary government powers to right the wrongs of the world.

But the problems of the Marginalized Self can only be solved by big government.

When Republicans are playing defense on gay marriage, on immigration, on the "war on women" they are in retreat.  To turn things around Republicans need to be playing offense, on guns, on government corruption, on deficits, on taxes, on the war on the unborn, on government bullying from fatty foods to global warming to financial regulation.  In other words, Republicans need to be playing the game of the Responsible Self, not the game of the Marginalized Self.

The great injustice of the modern age is its ruthless discipline.  Your medieval serf, oppressed though he might be, could order his life as he chose.  But today we are all the abject subjects of industrial discipline, bureaucratic discipline, regulatory discipline, and subject to a thousand criminal laws of which we know next to nothing.

If freedom or liberation means anything, it surely must mean freedom and liberation from the whip of the disciplinary overseer, that lashes us to work in our subordinate jobs, that channels and directs us on the street and in the airport, and that taxes and regulates us to a fare thee well.

Maybe the People of the Responsible Self can get together with the People of the Marginalized Self to do something about the ruthless and oppressive discipline to which every person in this modern age is cruelly yoked.