Saturday, May 19, 2018

Re-Privatization

     “Opinions are like assholes: Everybody’s gotta have one.” – Porretto’s Principle of Personal Assertion

     I feel a change coming on. I’ve been ranting and raving and generally bellyaching about politics and government, here and at other sites, for more than twenty years. Yet I’ve accomplished nothing except to alert a few kindred spirits to the existence of a cranky old bastard who sees things approximately as they do. Those two decades of effort have wearied me in several ways. My will to continue is lower than it’s ever been.

     I think I know why my efforts, and the efforts of innumerable other thinkers and writers, have produced so little progress. And if you have the patience for just one more tirade, I’ll attempt to explain.


     “The personal is political.” – Leftist mantra.

     Once in a great while I get my fangs into something with broad explanatory power. It might not unify gravity with the other three fundamental forces, but it seizes my imagination, and my desire to explore it thoroughly, even so. The recent one that strikes me as being of the most value is the one I explored in this piece:

     I’ve long held the belief that any man who’s willing to assert the absolute truth of even one statement must eventually accept that every well-formed statement – i.e., a statement that either posits a fact or a causal mechanism -- is either absolutely true or absolutely false, men’s contrary opinions notwithstanding. The concept behind that assertion is, of course, that there is such a thing as absolute truth – objective reality itself – which makes my notion quasi-tautological. For all that, note how few persons are willing to contradict the anti-objectivity propagandists of our time. That latter sort is permitted to gambol about screaming that “There are no absolutes!” virtually without contradiction – not even a murmur of “Including that one?”

     This is not an utterly new and fresh observation by any means. Bishop George Berkeley and Dr. Samuel Johnson had it out over the existence of absolute truth nearly three centuries ago. As it was Johnson’s foot that recoiled, his position remains the more persuasive.

     Consider in this context the oft-repeated tale of a first-grade class that was asked how to determine the sex of a kitten:

     Years ago I supervised the Indian seminaries. On a visit to a school at Albuquerque, the principal told me of an incident that happened in a first grade class.
     During a lesson, a kitten wandered into the room and distracted the youngsters. It was brought to the front of the room so all could see it.
     One youngster asked: “Is it a boy kitty or a girl kitty?”
     The teacher, unprepared for that discussion, said, “It doesn’t matter; it’s just a kitten.”
     But the children persisted, and one little boy said, “I know how we can tell if it is a boy kitty or a girl kitty.”
     The teacher, cornered, said, “All right, you tell us how we can tell if it is a boy kitty or a girl kitty.”
     The boy answered, “We can vote on it!”

     This episode, if it’s factual, occurred several decades ago. Yet it pertains with a terrible power to the major sociopolitical problem of our time. That problem is summarized in the quote at the head of this segment.


     “Skinwalker is a Native American concept, the gist of which is a person who can turn themselves into an animal by wearing the skin of that animal. The tradition is most developed among the Navajo and is part of the Witchery Way, along with another branch known as the Frenzy Way that was used by a witch to influence the minds and emotions of others.
     “Why?” a girl in the front row asked.
     “Excuse me?” Pitcairn asked.
     “Why would they call it the Frenzy Way when it only influenced an emotion or two?” she clarified.
     “Have you ever seen video footage of a mob or riot?” he asked.
     She nodded.
     “Heard of the Salem Witch trials?” he asked.
     Again she nodded.
     “And you still wonder how much power there is in influencing emotions and thoughts? My dear, the entire marketing and advertising industry is dedicated to influencing emotions and thoughts, not to mention a little branch of human endeavor called politics.

     [John Conroe, Brutal Asset]

     Politics has become the biggest sector of human involvement and maneuvering in American life. Today it affects everything. There is no area of life in which government, and therefore politics, does not intrude.

     The reason is the great skill at manipulating human emotion which those who strive for power have acquired. If you can elevate the emotions of a substantial group over some “issue,” you can politicize that issue: i.e., you can make it seem like a proper subject for governmental action. And of course, in our “democracy” – yes, those are “sneer quotes” – that implies decision-making governed by electoral processes, whether directly or indirectly.

     Do you doubt this? Consider only one example, because it underpins everything else: the cherished right to freedom of expression. No right is more clearly expressed by the Bill of Rights. Yet today that right is under sustained attack by persons who demand that an “exception” be made for “hate speech” – and who demand the sole and absolute authority to decree what constitutes “hate speech.” Could there ever be a clearer linkage of politics to emotional appeals?

     You’d think the Left’s campaign to achieve that end would be laughed aside on the grounds of Constitutional law, three hundred years of Anglo-American tradition, and simple logic. If our power to express our opinions and convictions is politicized, then nothing remains outside the political orbit. A country once nearly wholly free would become a country wholly enslaved, a rightless chattel at the mercy of the whims of the Omnipotent State. Yet that is the abyss at whose edge we stand.


     “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” – John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton
     When Ben Franklin was carried from the constitutional convention in September of 1787, he was stopped in the street by a woman who said, “Mr. Franklin, what have you wrought?” Franklin said, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” – Lawrence Lessig

     Emotional manipulation is the means, but the politicization of everything is the end. Needless to say, the Left’s aim is to become and remain the master. Yet even if the Right were to prevail and to exterminate the Left utterly, the consequences would be just as bad.

     When we in the Right allow a subject to become political, we collaborate in our own destruction. Granted that there are some subjects which are inherently political: our military and how it’s employed, international relations, the defense of acknowledged rights by the courts. But all else is at least potentially private.

     The proper role of the American patriot in this Year of Our Lord 2018 is to preserve and re-expand the private sphere. When we depart from that role – i.e., when we engage in politics over a subject that can be made a matter for private decisions and actions – we fail of our duty.

     The Constitution of the United States was written to define and delimit the public sphere. Most of our state-level charters were made in accordance with the same ideals. Indeed, the word republic, which was once understood to be the quintessentially American term for our polity, derives from the Latin phrase rei publicae: “public matters.” If there are properly public matters, any of the Founders would have told us, there are therefore properly private matters as well – and keeping the two separate is the critical activity of men determined to remain free.


     “And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” – Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

     I’ve come to feel that the “Mishnory road” essays, which are grouped here, plus this older piece that addresses the commonalities and divergences between “orthodox” conservatism and ideological libertarianism, are the most salient of my contributions to American political discourse. Everything else I’ve ever written is a consequence of the thoughts expressed in those pieces.

     That recognition has me pondering whether to continue on with these interminable, often repetitive op-eds. If the appropriate logic for dealing with a specific “issue” can be found in something I’ve already written, why go on to write further about it? Why surrender implicitly to the Left’s endless temptation to treat every subject, great or small, as something to view through a political lens?

     Politics can be fascinating...much in the same way as torture, which it’s coming ever more to resemble. But one does not immerse oneself in a horrifying subject without sustaining personal harm.

     I harbor no illusions about my vulnerability...or my mortality. Advancing age presses those subjects upon one’s mind. So I hope you’ll bear with me as I make a number of adjustments to the sort of material I post here at Liberty’s Torch. While I appreciate the value my regular Gentle Readers place upon these screeds...candidly, often without understanding why...I hope you’ll appreciate the sense of urgency under which I labor.

     The most private of all things is one’s own life and what one chooses to do with it. Let’s resist the temptation to drown our lives in politics.

     “Keep thine eye fixed upon the doughnut, lest thou pass unaware through the hole.” – The Curmudgeon’s Carbohydrate Aphorism

1 comment:

Joe Andruscavage said...

Very well written. I am often frustrated by politicians who say they are not liberals who do little or nothing to refute liberal claims when it comes to policy matters "that need a solution NOW" because it is for the safety of children or to protect some other special group. Politics of division with emotional ploys will be our down fall. I don't even admit to being conservative any more, I say I am a common-sense American. Too many conservative politicians are cowards and turncoats.