Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Domination and Dependency

The great theme of the Left is oppression and domination. When it's not exercised about the ordinary domination of traditionally marginalized peoples and groups, it ponders how reason itself creates domination.

Reason, argue Horkheimer and Adorno in The Dialectics of Enlightenment is man's effort to dominate the world. You can see the development already of bourgeois consciousness and rationality in Homer's hero, the cunning Odysseus, as he battles, using instrumental reason, with pre-rational forces from Cyclops to Circe to the Sirens. And notice that Odysseus makes his followers block their ears with wax so they they will keep rowing his ship for him and won't hear and respond to the entreaties of the Sirens. There's domination for you, exploiting the workers to get himself out of a jam!

So Odysseus is just like the bourgeois businessman that tries to dominate nature and less-developed humans with his technological developments and energies.

There are three strong objections to this argument.

First, what makes humans any different than all the other living things? Humans must battle and adapt to carve out a niche in this world just like other living things. If humans have been spectacularly successful in doing this, what's the big deal?

Second, the great question about domination is: what does the dominator do with his domination? Does he dominate the rest of creation and create a desert for all the competing humans and species? Does bourgeois capitalism make a desert out of its economic domination? The answer is that, starting at the latest with the Romantic rebellion and the beginning of the industrial era, mankind has understood with penetrating insight the limits of instrumental reason. Humans cannot live a slash-and-burn life, using and abusing without limit. With great power comes great responsibility, as the comic hero says. The counter-theme of the great power of instrumental reason is the need to curb and to mitigate its power. This is remarkably well developed in the culture of free enterprise which dislikes extreme power, and has developed a legal system to protect the weak from the domination of the powerful.

Thirdly, the real domination threat comes from the dominatory culture of modern governments, which, under the encouragement of left-wing elites, has driven the size and power of government to unprecedented levels. In the United States, the government's credit is under threat from the huge programs that transfer monies from the productive sector to the dependency sector. (In other words, the rich, dominating capitalists are paying swingeing taxes and penalties so that the politicians can pay off their supporters.) Thomas Sowell writes about this in "Dependency and Votes." Whenever we discuss cutting "entitlement" spending, he writes, the politicians rush out and peddle scary stories about the poor going without food and the elderly going without their meds. But the poor are presently fatter than ordinary Americans and the elderly are richer (15 times richer than the under 35 year-olds) than ordinary Americans. So what is going on?

The goal is not to keep the poor from starving but to create dependency — because dependency translates into votes for politicians who play Santa Claus... Independence makes for a healthier society, but dependency is what gets votes for politicians... “Entitlement” is just a fancy word for dependency.

And dependency is just the other side of the coin from domination. If you dominate someone, you hold them in dependency.

So here is a question. Why does the Left, that cries out to the reverberate hills about the evils of domination, support, defend and expand the most dominatory system ever devised by the instrumental rationality of mankind?

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