Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Left-Wing Muscle Part 3: All Surface, All The Time

     When I first sat down to Cyclops to compose my tirade for the day, I had a number of topics jostling one another for head space. Any one of them would have sufficed for a decent essay, if not a standout that would echo down the centuries. But at every stop on my cerebral trolley a tremor beneath the surface suggested that I should keep going, that there’s a larger theme that deserves to be addressed for more than any of the quotidian displacements in our shared American reality.

     And at 5:22 AM EST on this tenth day of January in the year of Our Lord 2018, I found it.

     First, have a memorable characterization of one of the most significant (if long-forgotten) figures of the early Twentieth Century: Czar Nicholas II of the Russian Empire:

     “This insane regime,” its ablest defender, Count Witte, the premier of 1903-06, called it, “this tangle of cowardice, blindness, craftiness, and stupidity.” The regime was ruled from the top by a sovereign who had but one idea of government—to preserve intact the absolute monarchy bequeathed to him by his father—and who, lacking the intellect, energy, or training for his job, fell back on personal favorites, whim, simple mulishness, and other devices of the empty-headed autocrat. His father, Alexander III, who deliberately intended to keep his son uneducated in statecraft until the age of thirty, miscalculated his own life expectancy and died with Nicholas was twenty-six. The new Czar, [in 1914] now forty-six, had learned nothing in the interval, and the impression of imperturbability he conveyed was in reality apathy—the indifference of a mind so shallow as to be all surface. When a telegram was brought to him announcing the annihilation of the Russian fleet at Tsushima, he read it, stuffed it in his pocket, and continued playing tennis. When the premier, Kokovtsov, returning from Berlin in November 1913, gave the Czar a personal report on German preparations for war, Nicholas listened to him with his usual unwavering gaze, “looking straight into my eyes.” After a long pause, when the premier had finished, “as if waking from a reverie,” he said gravely, “God’s will be done.” In fact, Kokotsov concluded, he was simply bored. [Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August]

     Devastating, eh? Now, there are alternate characterizations of Nicholas II as not having been quite that vacuous, but let’s imagine for the moment that Tuchman was correct. What does it mean for a man in a position of authority to have a mind “so shallow as to be all surface” when applied to specifics?

     Would he strive to foresee the consequences of decisions?
     Would he be attentive to the implications of observed facts?
     Would he be alert to the use of rhetoric in place of evidence and reason?
     Would he permit himself to be swayed by personal affections, loyalties, and debts?
     In weighing competing arguments, would he strive to include the full range of factors that had led to their espousers’ adoption?

     I get five “Hell, no!” answers to those questions. I hope you do as well.

     I’d like to believe that I think deeply about the issues I confront. (Note the phrasing: I’d like to believe it. It might not be so, but it’s “pretty to think so.”) But I find it difficult to believe that various public figures ever think about anything beyond their personal ambitions and – possibly – their carnal appetites. That makes it difficult if not impossible to respect them.

     Mind you, a man with a single, all-encompassing priority can nevertheless be interesting. Some of history’s great conquerors, who cared for nothing but the glory of battlefield victory, are interesting in that way. But the eagle’s-eye perspective cannot help but assess them as without depth, monochromatic of aspect, obsessives incapable of non-trivial adjustments of their sails: in a word, shallow.

     A man with many seeming interests can nevertheless lack depth. Like several of the caesars of the Roman Empire, Czar Nicholas II is recorded as having indulged a relatively wide spectrum of personal interests and tastes. But all of those interests and tastes pertained to momentary diversions and gratifications. He seemed to possess not merely a lack of interest in serious thought but an actual aversion to it. He held sober ponderings at bay by whatever means were to hand. It’s easy to see how a Grigori Rasputin could become the de facto power behind such a throne.

     Depth of mind, the antithesis of shallowness, depends upon thought. It doesn’t need to be broad. It can explore subjects one by one. But it must eschew the various displacers of thought so often used to prevent thought.

     Think “Four legs good, two legs bad,” and you’ll see where I’m headed with this.

     One of the most striking passages in Atlas Shrugged arrived when Floyd Ferris stated baldly to Hank Rearden that “There’s no way to rule innocent men.” This is incontestable. But there’s a layer beneath the surface of that observation: The innocent man must know himself to be innocent. That requires comprehension of the requirements of innocents: in other words, hard thought.

     A man who keeps his word, meets his obligations, and treats others as he himself wants to be treated qualifies as an innocent man. But to grasp that, he must understand rights and responsibilities, whence they arise, and how they must be respected. The implications are staggering, this one above all others:

If you wish to subjugate a man mentally, you must occlude his understanding of rights and responsibilities.

     I’ve come to see that goal as the focus of left-wing activism in our time. The Left’s deliberate distortion and destruction of fundamental concepts such as rights is aimed directly at that end. Leftists’ tactics are replete with illustrations:

  • Emotive rhetoric to becloud the issues;
  • The inculcation of hatred as a unifying force;
  • Group pressures, intimidation, and threats of exclusion;
  • Ferocity toward any figure that attempts to reintroduce thought.

     Those tactics have succeeded in discouraging a great many Americans from actually thinking about politics and public policy. Yet they are surface tactics. They act upon the target’s unthinking fears: first, of others’ opinion of him; second, of what they might do about him. As virtually everyone prizes the good opinions of others and fears that he’ll suffer should he lose it, we’re all at least potentially vulnerable.

     The great mass of left-wing activists have never seriously pondered these tactics and found them good on rational grounds. They’ve adopted them because figures placed high in their esteem have used them, and have encouraged their use.

     It’s a good bet that those highly-placed figures know exactly what they’re about.

     During a recent appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show, Mark Steyn delivered the assessment that the Left has made normal politics impossible. He had in mind the Left’s relentless demonizations of political opponents: e.g., Hitler comparisons. He noted that those demonizations characterized the Left’s treatment of all three Republican presidents since Reagan. Yet a sober mind would find far more differences than similarities between the Bushes and Donald J. Trump. If Bush the Elder, so plainly a mild-mannered, Big Government-friendly chief executive, is as bad as Hitler, how could the comparison have significance when applied to anyone else? Surely if Bush the Elder is / was Hitler, we all are.

     (Let’s pause here for a brief, hollow laugh over how many of Hitler’s policies the Left actually seeks to impose on us. By my assessment that’s virtually all of them except for the Holocaust and Festung Europa — and they might yet get to those.)

     But the great mass of left-wing activists don’t think about such tactics; they merely employ them. Their leaders approve. More, their emotional content makes them feel righteous, warriors for “social justice.” And of course they provide a rationale for any vile-but-effective measure they might think of for silencing or intimidating the opposition. Punching a Nazi is always chic.

     It’s all surface. It all floats upon the uppermost layer of human emotions. Not one particle of it is ever pondered in the light of evidence or reason...except among the pinnacle layer, the strategists and tacticians who formulate “talking points” and disseminate approved rhetorical tools.

     These thoughts coalesced after I’d read this brief post from Ace:

     As Sexton says, neatly, the Democrats' claims of vague concern about Bill Clinton are merely a "social justice accounting gimmick" to balance the books for their big Ad Buys against Trump and other Republicans.

     The backdrop for this is, of course, the torrent of accusations of sexual misconduct that have been aimed at prominent leftists in recent days, especially those in journalism and the entertainment industry. The accusations have been so powerfully one-sided that the Left’s strategists have had to confront their duplicity about one of their best-loved: notorious philanderer and former President Bill Clinton. Some mea culpa gesture was required of them if they were to keep up their drumbeat about the Right’s “war on women.” There were other factors involved as well – the need to force Hillary Clinton out of the public eye comes to mind – but their principal concern was the surface power of the flood of accusations of sexual abuse. That’s a hot button for nearly everyone; we react to it without thinking. If they were to get past the issue, they had to show at least a token contrition and regret for having shielded someone. Bill Clinton is now far enough in the past to be safely used in that fashion.

     All surface, all the time. Don’t encourage thought; evoke emotion, the more violent the better. Get them to envy and hate; they’re the gateways to all other evils. No need to worry that it might be turned back on us. Our adversaries are too rational, and too gentlemanly, ever to think of doing so. And if it works, we can cash it in for absolute power. A populace deeply conditioned to respond to surface-power appeals will be unable to reason out why we shouldn’t be allowed to do whatever we please...including to them.

     Yes, you may well shudder.

     Orthodoxy is unconsciousness – George Orwell, 1984

1 comment:

Linda Fox said...

These are the tactics of women, the enforcers of conformity. Funnily, at one time, women's push to force that straightjacket on other women was useful - they would talk about women who:
- were seen to be too attentive to men other then their own husband
- failed to seem to be chaste (some were not, but pretended to be - these were not as great a threat as a women who appeared to ignore the traditional proprieties)
- bucked the social traditions of their group
- failed in their household duties - whether cleaning or children

Today, women ostracize women who:
- have more children than other women feel is fit, or sooner than they feel is correct
- care for a disabled child, particularly if the diagnosis preceded birth
- refuse to work outside of the home
- work to maintain their bodies and looks
- disagree with standard feminist thought
- maintain personal modesty
- are competent chatelaines
- put their family first

In either case - then or now - women are personally vicious towards dissenters/rebels. It isn't good enough to allow a woman the right to be different. They have to DESTROY her.