Monday, October 3, 2011

I think I'll be Checking this Book Out

But if you go back to the original source, Edmund Burke, the things people accuse the Tea Party of being — ideological fanatics, unrealistic, Utopian, fundamentalist — are built into the DNA of the conservative movement.  -Corey Robin, author of "The Reactionary Mind."

There are several self-styled Conservatives, most notably Andrew Sullivan, who argue that the Eisenhower sensibility, supporting limited government and tradition because of a general wariness of zealotry and human nature, is the 'True Conservatism' that the American Right has only recently strayed from.  Robin however seems to argue that modern conservatism has always had an endemic streak of the fantastic, totalist, dominionist, and triumphalist. And  in as much as this argument is true it is not because of anything inherently wrong with conservatism per se (though there are several things)  but because of a nagging insistance within the bulk of Western thought that there is no such thing as an honest opinion which grows independently in response to one's environment,  but rather that all beliefs must be connected to a bloc of ultimate Truth uniting the physical and moral in order to be legitimate. 

  This tendency towards all-consuming granduer can be found among both the Christian and athiest, radical and traditionalist, and probably has more than a little to do with the historically rarefied, elite status of higher education.  Hayak and Marx were united in the conceit that philosophy based on the realities of day-to-day living was beneath the dignity of Great Men having Great Thoughts.  Though of course it's not surprising that common people can be just as prone to such vanity, enough to slaughter each other en masse once a generation or so in the name of ism. 

Every bathroom air freshener is a reminder that no person is able to accept being just a person.  There are many who have wondered out loud how someone could brag to a reporter that 'When we act, we create our own reality.'   It is easy to wonder how anyone could embrace a worldview that is not just anti-realist but conciously and willfully so.  Well it's much easier to understand once you realize that this disregard of reality is at root a rebellion against mundanity.  It is rage at the knowledge that we creatures who are able to imagine God have nothing to look forward to except eating, sleeping, fucking and dying.  There is no mystery then to why  ideologies are prone towards violence.  It is because they are premised upon not hope and goodwill but pique and wrath. 

There was talk after the last presidential election, almost foggy now just three years later, about a 'post racial' society.  And of course the influence of racism as a motivating factor in the American Right has long been a point of debate, (only talk-radio hucksters say it isn't there at all.)  I think though that modern conservatism here is best understood as post-racial chavanism.  To be a conservative (And Christian, if it can be at all helped) has replaced Whiteness as the go-to claim to privelege and social paternalship in America.  It appeals to a nation that has always been idealistic, prideful, militantly insistant that life is by nature fair, and home to a burgher class that has had an aristocratic sense of self instilled deep into its bones through centuries of direct appeal to superior skin color and god.  The modern members of this class have been taught that racism, (Whatever that is) is wrong just as much as the rest of us have, but the exceptional sense of self is still endemic.  It has always been held by their parents, their authority figures, and all their peers about them.  It is a basic force of nature, so far as they are concerned;  and they are unable to view the loss of it as anything but the most brutal humiliation, unable to hear any suggestion that they should give it up as anything but a demand to surrender or be annihilated.  Still this exceptional sense needs something to justify itself, now that racism is bad, and so they have embraced this ideology which offers them the right to rule with perogatives of Sky Fathers; punish the deviant, protect the innocent from evil in heroic struggle, extravagant pride in self as the ultimate good in itself.

And what can modern, post New-Deal liberalism offer in contrast?  It can offer to make life better, but only mere life.  It is, perhaps, the first philosophy of govenment to emerge in a native democratic environment,  and as such is naturally an anti-philosophy, able to solve problems, when done well.  Yet at the same time often unable to stand for it's principals specifically because it is able to recognize the audacity and aggresion behind principals and so is leery of them.  And at the same time it offers no gilded mask of self to put over the real one.  We can premise the state upon paving the roads, making the poor less so, educate more children in more advanced concepts earlier.  All well and good.  All so bloodless and void of devils and drama and so damned goody-two shoes good All so damned mortal,  so filthily human.

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