Archive for October 10, 2005

The Power of Nightmares

The Power of Nightmares

A BBC Documentary that’s thesis is a juxtaposition of the American Neo-Conservative movement and the simulatenous rise of the Egyptian Islamist movement. The two movements, ironically, began from similar critiques of American’s fifties lifestyles. The American being embodied in U of C professor Leo Strauss to quote his student Robert Locke:

As a crude measure of his importance for those readers who continue to believe that philosophical matters are of no practical importance, consider the following list of his students or students of his students: Justice Clarence Thomas; Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; former Assistant Secretary of State Alan Keyes; former Secretary of Education William Bennett; Weekly Standard editor and former Quayle Chief of Staff William Kristol; Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind; former New York Post editorials editor John Podhoretz; former National Endowment for the Humanities Deputy Chairman John T. Agresto; and, not meaning to class myself with this august company but in the interests of full disclosure, myself.

More Importantly:

Strauss believed that liberalism, as practiced in the advanced nations of the West in the 20th century, contains within it an intrinsic tendency towards relativism, which leads to nihilism. He first experienced this crisis in his native Germany’s Weimar Republic of the 1920s, in which the liberal state was so ultra-tolerant that it tolerated the Communists and Nazis who eventually destroyed it and tolerated the moral disorder that turned ordinary Germans against it.

Locke’s summary of Strauss’ philosophy is at times disturbing. Take for instance the Straussian concept (somewhat similar to Marxism) of text, “The key Straussian concept is the Straussian text, which is a piece of philosophical writing that is deliberately written so that the average reader will understand it as saying one (“exoteric”) thing but the special few for whom it is intended will grasp its real (“esoteric”) meaning.” Essentiall a kinda cabbalistic way of writing or even perhaps the initial stirrings of a post-structural interpretative free-for-all (which of course similarly is dis-barred as nihilism by many). He also commits a pseudo-marxism by assuming that the lawman can’t understand the esoteric notions behind his texts. The problem here really being, why don’t you just educate the populos to begin with and let them make the more intelligent decessions? It’s never made much sense to me this idea that the public can’t handle or is better off in the hands of another more benevolent leader. What we need I think is people who can use their intelligence to analyze the world, not to bottle neck governance and logic in a few.

Strauss is best summarrized in The Power of Nightmares by the consistent idea that he loved American TV shows like Perry Mason and Gunsmoke and wanted a clear cut moral world and a country with a specific purpose and moral regiment that would keep nihilism away. Of course Strauss here is basically laying hands on something similar to the existential states of folks like Gide, Sartre, and others who were professed nihilists at times. And Strauss is correct that our society is certianly more nihilistic now than perhaps 200 years ago, after all if Jesus or Buddha, or what not is the basis of your life, then fuck man I mean like everyday most be like an amusement park of spiritual glee and meaning, toil for the purpose of sin and communion etc. But the post-religious ideology neccessitate by American Democracy and it’s seperation of Church and State does have a tendency to drive down the magical angelic worlds of abandon that perhaps people inhabitated before. But were we really that selfless? That Angelic? That filled with purpose before religion got chucked down a notch by governance and mankind’s self-improvement through technology? No, probably not. But let’s say that Jesus did provide society as a whole with a special feeling that was lost as “modernity” took hold and people began to see religion as belonging to a series of different valid belief structures and in the end we Americans were left with the myth of buddhist-catholic etc.

Has anything really filled “the void” of modernity? Well not really, but what we kinda learned eventually was that the void was more like a swinging gap that when utilized could bring different systems together rather than drive us appart into despair. If anything, the “a-moral” “post-christian” America showed all the signs of a genuine break through in culture: it was heading towards a point where everything runs together and at several points at once. Far from nihilism, removing the validity and rigidity of belief might very well be the one major cultural force that can actually bring us together… that and better Asian immigration laws =)

The real problem with Strauss is that he’s not incorrect. Trust me, I live in a highly nationalist society with a clear cut enemy (Japan), and a heavily coded series of intellectual pundits that put out race based eugenics research in the form of golf brochures, and seems to have a strong moral sense combined with a sense of family and conncetion to each other with a nice big dash of respect your elders throw in for good measure. And obviously this country’s relative economic success, their recent upwards movement in the face of the asian economic crisis, is all a product of such national and cultural unity. But it was also cultural and societal unity that drove facism, that yokes communism, etc. My point being a system is only as good as it’s leaders. It’s amazing that when your in Shanghai people will ORGANIZE your recylcing if you mis-categorize a bottle in the wrong bin, I mean it’s really amazing when you see people on the streets picking up garbage just becuase they care but any system that concentrates power, builds in the concept of obfuscating information and by implication failing to educate people properly, that invents enemies to with hold it’s own myths, and, if The Power of Nightmares has anything to do with, when met with it’s doppelganger builds only then can justify itself is bound ultimately to be abused. Let’s not say Strauss’ critique was wrong, let’s just say the solution needs work.

October 10, 2005 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

Neil Michael Hagerty’s words and occasional wisdoms

what history

Seneca writes:

Cum ad cenandum discubuimus, alius sputa deterget, alius reliquias temulentorum [toro] subditus colligit.

{When we recline at a banquet, one [slave] wipes up the spittle; another, situated beneath [the table], collects the leavings of the drunks.}

Richard Viguerie adds:

{Only 6 percent of the $1,508,256 raised actually went to charity.}

Collection of blasts from every quarter of the compass. It is in the dual interests of fairness and pragmatism that a law enforcement agency should reflect the community it serves.

I can think of few people that have somehow connected with me more than this asshole. Hagerty is, of course, still running circles in the linguistics department. Managing tyrants and kings that have a tendency to add up to one of the most cyclical corpuses of shit managed mythology I’ve ever seen. This is a man who’s come a long way to somewhere. Anyway, the Trux have always complained that people see them as some by product of trailer trash meth infused life styles, but Hagerty’s work always contains that little hint of the working thinking man. Recommended.

October 10, 2005 at 7:21 am Leave a comment


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