Saturday, October 25, 2008
The Reason I Think The Way I Do About Things, Part Three
[BEGIN PART THREE]
Before we get started let me make one thing perfectly clear.
I am blessed! Blessed beyond my wildest fantasies! Blessed to know the untrammeled joys of recoiling from the status quo as if from a poised cobra! Blessed that I have been spared the ignominy of having to view the world through the dusty prism of mere convention!
Indeed, I have always taken umbrage at the cliche, “ignorance is bliss” for it fails in any way to adequately explain the sense of near-ecstasy in which I madly revel when apprehending my own awareness! Who can say besides the ignorant if the ignorant truly are blissful? Certainly I shall never know, for the only arena in which I have been guilty of ignorance is ignorance itself! Nay, I can only speak to the immense satisfaction I receive at knowing that I am not to be counted among their ranks.
You may say that this is snobbery, or worse, elitism--the very barb I so often fling at others who presume to impose their outlook on the world and their standards of behavior upon unsuspecting parties.
If so, the charge is valid. For, indeed, I am an elitist.
Yet would any true champion of progressive thought deny that elitism based on intellect and reason is vastly superior to elitism based on media presence and money? In fact, were it possible in this country, by some extraordinary overhaul of our declining culture, to replace the current stratification of monetary and fame-based elitism with logic and reason-based elitism, the future of this once-great nation would most likely (if history is to be believed) move again in the direction of objective good--assuring educational, moral, and spiritual prosperity for all freethinking sons and daughters of liberty.
Please note that I say liberty and not equality when referring to America’s future metaphorical progeny. This is no fickle choice of words, no stylistic predisposition, no simple linguistic window dressing. The inclusion of one term and the exclusion of the other is rooted in the logic of linear history and is central to the argument which follows.
It has become the apathetic fashion throughout the aimless decades following the 1960s to render the term equality not merely interchangeable with the term liberty, but in many instances, for the former to replace the latter entirely.
Yet the story of American progress and, by extension, the story of Western progress, is precisely one of liberty and not equality. Only the pridefully obtuse could give anything less than a cursory glance at the annals of Western Civilization and assert that equality has been the predominant theme. This is one of the few areas in which the intellectual find themselves in agreement with the ignorant. Yes, there has been slavery. Yes, there has been genocide. Yes, there has been segregation.
Where the ignorant diverge from the intellectual, however, is in assuming that they are the only ones who care--or, indeed, are even aware--of any historical inequities. That is, unlike the intellectual, who acknowledges a fundamental agreement, the ignorant erroneously insist on the presence of a fundamental disagreement.
Here let us pause for a moment to ask what is meant, in the context of this essay, by the term "ignorant". Bumpkin rubes brimming with glee at never having obtained “book-learnin’”? Whitebread purveyors of free-market middle-classness? Alzheimer's patients? Mongoloids?
No. The ignorance spoken of here is that which is collectively embedded within the thought processes of that portion of society otherwise empirically presenting itself as intellectual--i.e., the pseudo-intellectual.
And all those who unquestioningly follow them.
Despite their degrees, financial acumen, media presence, political and/or academic clout within a community, pseudo-intellectuals stand apart from legitimate intellectuals insofar as they hold either one or both of the following propositions to be the end goal of learning:
a) That nothing is knowable beyond the nihilistic tenets of moral equivalence and cultural relativism, both of which conspire to establish the nexus of an ideological disavowal of objective truth.
b) That the essence of freedom lies in undermining a free society whose very structure makes their dissent possible.
Though the two propositions are equally ignorant, they are not always congruous. For example, one can be an equal opportunity nihilist, adhering to the pillars of equivalence and relativism, without necessarily devoting time exclusively to the dismantling of a free society.
Therefore, it is the second proposition that merits focus in this current discussion.
In order to wage war (or revolution) against a free society from within a free society (a society, it should be noted, that has grown freer with each passing decade) it often becomes necessary to concoct “shadow causes” in order to elevate the dissenting contagion of pseudo-intellectualism into a limelight of its own making. Therefore, especially in post-1960 rhetoric, arguments for the imposition of a present equality in the context of past inequalities consist of the ignorant pervasively lobbing the fictions that they are the sole dispensers of freedom and justice--combating what is, in their skewed world view, a demonic and ever-expanding citizenry that is either in abject denial of historical inequities or, worse, heralding a hypothetical re-emergence of those inequities.
Vain and delusional, the ignorant are prone to hyperbole and distorted metaphors. Backpack searches in subway stations evoke images of Japanese interment camps, Israel becomes apartheid-era South Africa, Hurricanes in Louisiana pitch in to help reinvigorated white supremacy groups.
Their ears seem to literally burn with slogans that only the paranoid can hear. The South shall rise again! Deutschland Uber Alles! Let’s go git us another Matthew Shepard!
They render evil good in the name of tolerance: Suicide bombers are freedom fighters! They suspend logic in favor of conspiracy: 9-11 was an inside job! And they foam at the mouth at phantasms: America is a racist police state!
They do all this with absolute impunity for one reason only:
They are not alone.
Taken individually, with their beliefs intact, psychotropic drugs might be administered to calm their fevered brains, responsible family members might intervene to inject rationality into their discourse, and ongoing group therapy sessions might be scheduled to make sure they remain on the "straight and narrow"--for fear of a relapse back into self-righteousness.
Luckily for them, they are numerous. They dwell within the reassuring sanctuary of numbers, where too often their shared insanity goes unchecked. It is with a depressing sense of irony, for example, that one observes the frequency by which the ignorant get laid. Whereas isolated from the support of the larger community, their sexual menu would consist of masturbation in a padded cell.
Perhaps the loudest misnomer to emerge intact from their confusing din of contradictory slogans and dogmatic agendas is their unified admonition to “speak truth to power”. In fact, they engage in quite the opposite. Given their blatant disregard for the advancements of post-1960s American society and the free milieu in which they currently operate, a more apt slogan would read: “Shout power to truth!”
On the campus or in front of cameras, the postmodern pseudo-intellectual vomits incessant platitudes about the community, yet remains curiously silent on the role of the individual. Not surprisingly, therefore, their ideology speaks volumes on the topic of equality, but offers nary a word on liberty. For liberty is to the individual as equality is to the community. Hence, the illogical perversion of modern-day activism: The imposition of equality upon communities of people that have yet to be individually liberated.
For it is precisely because of individual liberation that communal equality is made possible. Liberation is the cause, with equality being the desired effect. More pointedly (hearkening back to the first two essays in this series) one may say that liberation is an action, whereas equality is a re-action. Being effects, re-actions are the province of the natural world, qualitatively good or bad depending on the environment in which they take place. That is to say, equality under Soviet-era Russia or the current Islamic sharia laws of Iran are, qualitatively, quite different than the equality between blacks and whites in America following the repeal of Jim Crow.
Conversely, actions are the province of the Divine. Actions may be expressed either through God or through the human individual, inasmuch as God reveals Himself to the human individual via the modality of Divine Inspiration. The most telling proof of God’s inspiration, contrary to the faulty premises upon which pseudo-intellectual activism bases its incredulous claims, are those that are most endemic to our national history: acts of individual liberation leading to continuously improving gradations of communal equality.
Could there have been an end to British control of the colonies without an individually liberated Adams, Franklin, or Jefferson? Could there have been an end to slavery without an individually liberated Frederick Douglass or Ralph Waldo Emerson? Could there have been an end to Jim Crow without an individually liberated Martin Luther King? Or, in a more contemporary vein, how many homosexuals might be still lingering in the closet without an individually liberated Harvey Milk? American history is a continuous linear movement toward a providential good, a progressive journey that began with the spark of individual liberty, not the forced imposition of communal equality.
Here the skeptics might raise a metaphysical point of contention: if the human individual is capable of a Divine Inspiration such as intellectual liberation, then why not humanity as a whole? That is, if both God and the human individual are capable of action, and humanity is composed of human individuals, then why is the larger entity of humanity limited to re-action alone?
The Bible (that fashionably-derided primary source) states that man was created in God’s image. Not mankind. Therefore, God has much more in common with the human individual than it does with humanity--for in its totality and uniqueness, God, like the human individual, is paradoxically singular. Moreover, being singular, both God and its individual human subject are impossible to duplicate (notwithstanding cloning, an ethical subject beyond the scope of this current essay).
Consequently, when the larger human community attempts to assume the mantle of Divinity for itself (the unspoken social impetus behind secular activism) it invariably comes to loggerheads with a Deity that Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century Jewish philosopher, defined as a universal, unchanging, infinite, yet singular substance--the last of these cosmic attributes leading him to conclude:
“. . .there can be only one substance. Proof: If there were two infinite substances, they would limit each other. But this would act as a restraint, and they would be dependent on each other. . .therefore there cannot be two substances” (Ethica, 1677)
The renowned conservative thinker, William F. Buckley, couched the same sentiment in a more political framework when he observed:
“It is the temptation of many educated Christians to doubt that the God who gave us the latitude to behave as we behave is a God we can worship as wholeheartedly as we do those human divinities who labor to abolish Jim Crow, or dissipate the mushroom cloud, or comfort the unwed mother” (“The Duty of the Educated Catholic”, 1967)
All of which brings us to the ultimate question: what ethical value is there in a communal equality devoid of of individual liberation? Answer: None. It is a house of good intentions lacking an individualistic and intellectual foundation. The ignorant, in desiring to impose communal equality without first addressing the necessity for individual liberation, commit the mortal sin of ascribing quality to quantity. And if equality is envisioned not as the effect of liberty, but as a cause unto itself, what frightening results might lay at the end of such a perverse, anti-intellectual and--dare one say--ungodly equation?
To what social ends does equality as entitlement lead? A simple empirical observation of contemporary American culture might yield a few troubling answers: College is now so easy to attend it has systematically been transformed into little more than a glorified grade school; "progressive" instructors at all levels of education have cheapened the classics by likening modern urban poetry to Shakespeare--or hip-hop to Beethoven; minority scholars have been saddled with the nagging worry that they might not have advanced through their own merit, but through the cynical quotas of affirmative action; meanwhile, a Vice-Chancellorship of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of California could net a lucky prospect a staggering $250,000 per annum!
To be sure, the damage is severe--that is, for those who still esteem the antiquated tropes of culture and history, the beauteous by-products of the individually liberated mind.
Even more disconcerting, however, is reflecting on what might have been gained simply by following the tried-and-true protocol of individual liberation first and communal equality second. If a liberated mind achieves equality with other liberated minds, the character of the equality will be of a greater value because, together, the liberated minds will have achieved equality on a higher plateau--resulting, paradoxically, in a beautiful inequality: a strata of liberated minds equal in intellect at the top of the hierarchy and a strata of enslaved minds equal in ignorance at the bottom of the hierarchy--a catalyst, if ever there was one, for the continuity of Western Civilization. In sum, an elitism based on logic and reason.
Western Civilization and America in particular, now more than ever, face a choice between two sociological outcomes.
1) Communal equality void of individual liberation, ultimately resulting in a failed culture driven by platitudes of fairness.
2) Individual liberty preceding communal equality, ultimately resulting in a revivified culture driven by acts of merit.
The first equation is secular, being constructed from emotion and instinct. The second is providential, being inspired by logic and reason.
It is interesting to note that when attacked individually with logic and reason, many fervent activists will often freely and unashamedly admit to their intellectual deficiencies in untold areas of objective knowledge, not the least of these being Western history. Unwilling to accept defeat on what they consider an "inferior" plane of learning, however, they will incredulously demand their interrogators to join in the madness by conceding that, however erroneous they may be, their voices still need to be heard.
This is because the ignorant are not ignorant when it comes to this central tenet of Western sociology: If there is no truth to be found in numbers--there is, undoubtedly, power. And much of it.
In this section, I have highlighted the difference between the terms liberty and equality, advancing the argument that individual liberation, being an action, must precede communal equality, a re-action, so that a qualitatively valuable meritocracy might be put into place and the negative effects wrought by the imposition of communal equality upon Western society-- sans individual liberation--might be reversed. Though I have demonstrated agreement with the premise that numbers contain power, I have disagreed with the premise that numbers contain truth, by arguing against the contemporary practice of ascribing quality to quantity. In the next section, I will delve further into an explanation of the metaphysical composition of historical providence emerging from the triad of God, Individualism, and Freewill, specifically drawing upon Gottfried Leibniz's conception of a "City of God" for inspiration.
[END PART THREE]
Posted by Will Franken at 8:00 PM