Friday, April 4, 2014

Who are the American People?

In the third night of Wagner's monumental Der Ring des Nibelungen the broken Wotan, king of the gods, is reduced in Siegfried to "Der Wanderer," wandering the earth, his dreams of power shattered.

But Mime the dwarf still has a power project.  He wants to reforge Nothung, Siegmund's shattered sword so he can kill Fafner the dragon and recover the Nibelungs' golden hoard.

Ask me three questions, says the Wanderer, but Mime is too stupid to ask the right ones. Instead he asks who lives on the earth, below the earth and above the earth.

But here in America as the Obama years dissolve into disappointment and rage, we need to know who lives where.  We need to understand the different kinds of Americans and "where they live" so that, we may hope, we can pick up the pieces after Obamadämmerung, heal our divisions, and get back on our American journey.

Who lives below the earth?  The Nibelungs, said the Wanderer, and Nibelheim is their land.  But in our world the Nibelungs are the folks camping out in our dysfunctional cities, living a stunted life on welfare and disability and single-parenthood, reduced to sending their kids to dreadful schools.  I call them the "people of the victim self."  They are people that do not believe in agency, in the ability of the individual to make a difference in her life.  They look to a powerful leader to support them with the crumbs from his table.  Their faith is the faith of the rank and file in the charismatic leader.

Who lives on the earth?  The giants, die Riesen, said the Wanderer, and Riesenheim is their land.  But in our world the plodding construction firm of  Fasolt and Fafner, builders of Valhalla, are the broad middle class, the people that follow the rules, go to work, obey the law, and pay their taxes.  I call them the "people of the responsible self."  These are people that believe it is up to each one to get an education, get a job, and find a way of contributing to society.  Their faith is the faith that each individual can make a difference.

Who lives above the earth? The gods, of course, the "Lichtalben" or lightbringers, said the Wanderer, and Valhalla is their estate.  With his spear, Wotan rules the world.  In our world, of course, the gods are the liberals, and they rule the world with their education, their large-mindedness, and their control of the culture.  I call them the "people of the creative self."  These are people that believe the simple life of responsibility is shameful, because creative people are called to something higher, to make or enact some new creation of the mind.  But liberals have warped this noble idea.  They do not say: here's a good idea; they say pass this bill so we can see what's in it.  Liberals can never leave anything alone.  Everything must be a creation of liberal minds and liberal power, and no others need apply.  Health care cannot be allowed to develop on its own; liberals must positively shape and order it.  The normal life of growth, marriage and children is a kind of serfdom, a subjection to a culture of patriarchy.  Thus to differentiate oneself, liberals must "challenge the system" in activism, in gender-bending, in a life as a creative artist.

You can see that each of these peoples is social in the full human sense of the word.  The people of the victim self belong by subordinating themselves to a leader as a way to get along by going along.  The people of the responsible self belong by surrendering their ego to the will of the market, and law, and work, and family in the faith that the market and the law will reciprocate their surrender.  The people of the creative self belong by contributing their intelligence, their education, their creativity, in the faith that the world can only progress through the power of an enlightened elite.

So now we know who the America People are.  Let us now ask what went wrong.

Something has gone wrong, and we know what it is.  The people of the creative self have not used their power for good.  They have used it to worship themselves instead of serve society.  They have used force where they should have used persuasion; they have divided where they ought to have unified.  So the progressives, the lightbringers, have not brought sweetness and light, but injustice and darkness.  Like all ruling classes, they have not ruled for the benefit for the least among us, but to continue their own power.

What matters in this world is not the cunning of the underclass, not the rule-following of the middle class, not the power of the over class.  What matters in the end is the power of women's love.  And before that the cunning of the Nibelungs, the rules written on Wotan's spear, and the power of the ruling class will melt away in yet another Götterdämmerung.

Every ruling class gets seduced by earthly power, and ends up in a maelstrom of cruel injustice as it seeks to hang on to power by grasping at straws, and so our liberal creative class will rattle in the tumbrils to the guillotine asking plaintively: what did we do wrong?

And the answer always is: we told you, but you refused to listen.

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