The Clare Spark Blog

May 26, 2014

Triumphalism, dogma, and the Left or Right

benshapirodestroy.jpgI was distressed to see a new booklet distributed David Horowitz’s Freedom Center, penned by Ben Shapiro. Its title is “How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them.”

Much as I have condemned the moderate men on this website with their ruling idea that all conflict can be conciliated without war (see, I balk at any variety of triumphalism on either Left or Right, unless we are already living under a fascist (one party) dictatorship. If we want to find the truth, while mired in the many controversies that beset us, the absence of countervailing argument is lethal to fixing that which ails us, in private or public life alike.

Moreover, it is un-Jewish to be dogmatic. Despite efforts of antisemites to describe Jews as bent on conquest of the world’s economies and the elimination of all belief systems except for their own, the hard fact remains that to be Jewish is to live in a constant state of questioning, of intellectual combat, not destruction of the enemy or of competing arguments. Without pluralism and civility, that task is impossible, for the irrational parts of our makeup will overtake good sense. “Tory” (i.e., reactionary) artists and writers understand this very well, and seek to terrorize us with images of the inquiring mind and modernity as lethal and disgusting. They offer us countless variations of the Frankenstein myth, lately visible in the new Penny Dreadful series on Showtime. This is right-wing Romanticism with a vengeance directed against “the mob” supposedly empowered by literacy, numeracy, and practice in critical thought, though you would never know that from the reviews.

In order to sniff out liars and ideologues, institutions must be pluralistic, or, as the US Constitution demands, institutions must provide for checks and balances, so that no element of government or of the electorate can impose its will on others without a cautious, careful weighing of facts, many of which remain in dispute or indeterminable. To say that it is too soon to draw conclusions, is considered to be a sign of weakness or feminization. Yet this task of weighing and measuring in a humble state of mind is the very essence of modernity and of the most radical elements of the Enlightenment.

Some “traditionalists” find this imperative dangerous and unsettling, so they pin derogatory labels on their “secular progressive” opponents, projecting their own theocratic and bullying propensities upon persons who are innocent of the same dogmatism. Enter the culture wars.

To practice this demanding habit of mind and heart is very difficult for most persons, who seek group identity/“social cohesion” and “political stability” above the search for the best form of social organization to protect individuality, and one most conducive to well-being for the majority of its citizens. One could look at this “Talmudic” approach to life as either tormenting or stimulating. Obviously, I prefer the latter, which reflects my restless, buzzing brain that finds a home everywhere and nowhere.



  1. Tell me more about this covenant thing, and Abraham, and being dogmatic.

    Comment by Patrick Carroll — May 27, 2014 @ 2:20 am | Reply

    • It is a hygiene thing, and doctors in public health approved it for all male children, not just Jewish males. There has been much public debate about it recently, and some of the talk is anti-Semitic.

      Comment by clarelspark — May 27, 2014 @ 2:28 am | Reply

    • Circumcision is a public health measure approved for all male children, not just Jews. There has been debate about the practice recently, some of it blatantly anti-Semitic.

      Comment by clarelspark — May 27, 2014 @ 2:29 am | Reply

  2. I see Ben Shapiro as a Conservative who is taking the fight – I think that we, as a Constitutional Republic, are in the fight of our lives – to the Progressives ,using their tactics . About time .
    Many years ago before cable and the internet, all we had to watch was channels 2 thru 13.
    I can still see that stupid sneer on the face of Alan Dershowitz as he would sit next to a clueless Republican on a left leaning talk show .
    Alan would start out by saying ‘ Mr Republican (insert name) here and I are good friends but I would like him to explain why the the Republican Party is bigoted , racist and antisimetic’ . The Republican then would spent his allotted 5 minutes sputtering, trying to defend himself while Alan sat, with that smug sneer on his face . Repeat , repeat ,repeat .. Show after show.
    The demonetization of the Republicans by the Democrats has a long history . Much real history has been replaced by popular history .
    We have a president who told us that he was going to radically transform this country , and people clapped .
    He has a ‘pen and a phone’ . He will do what ‘HE’ knows is right . The silence is deafening . He has all the government agencies and they now all have swat teams . What the hell for ?? . Remember when Obama said that he wanted a domestic police/ military force equal to the US military ? What do you think that he is going to use it for , here in the land of the free, home of the brave ? They are equipped with hollow point bullets which are only used agains ‘soft targets’. Un-armored humans are ‘soft targets’. They are useless for anything else .
    He has decimated the US military . Few are talking about it .
    He has told us that the ‘debate is over’ and he is going to act without Congress.
    In my estimation he is very close to being an Imperial President .
    When he was running for president and his supporters were saying things like ‘Obama is going to pay my mortgage ‘ and ‘ Obama is going to give me money from his stash ‘, did any Democrat go on national TV and tell these people that it wasn’t going to happen ? No . He wanted their votes and he got them . Did 97% of black voters who voted for him really know the issues ? Oh, of course .
    More citizens are starting to see the choice in this country is between Obama and his vision of the future and freedom as put forth in the Constitution . To me they are diametrically opposed .
    When my freedom is in the balance, there is NO compromise . NONE . You may see checks and balances , I see few , if any .

    Comment by Sleeper — May 26, 2014 @ 9:17 pm | Reply

    • This comment reflects the kind of dogmatic, irrational, overwrought attitude that I criticized in the blog. I was not advocating compromise for the sake of quietism, but deploring the emotional polarization that makes it difficult to determine those facts that are in dispute.

      Comment by clarelspark — May 26, 2014 @ 9:25 pm | Reply

      • Irrational? Hardly.

        If there’s irrationality on display here, it’s to be found in comments defending Obama and AGW and increased governmental power and intolerance of competing views. It’s found in the reasoning of voters who feel entitled to “share” what they didn’t create with those who did create it. It resides in the voices of those who still believe that Obama has sufficient qualifications to be a national-scene politician, and in those who continue to trust Obama’s words after so many blatant, in-your-face lies.

        And, most of the controversies between parties do NOT involve factual disputes. They involve positions, and likes and dislikes, and varying concepts of Good and Bad, and Desirable and Unwanted, and Fair and Unfair. The argument over how much power a government ought to have over its citizenry involves no real factual dispute – instead, it involves personal preference, and likes and dislikes.

        Comment by bobby b — May 27, 2014 @ 4:10 am

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