YDS: 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 https://clarespark.com/2009/08/09/what-is-a-corporatist-liberal-and-why-should-they-frighten-us/), 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.

benshapirobullies

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April 5, 2014

Standing up to bullying social democrats

 

FatCatArt.ru

FatCatArt.ru

I have been reading Peter Weiler’s biography of Ernest Bevin, a leading social democrat in early 20th century Britain, and it is a lucid guide to what social democrats (i.e., the moderate men) are and how they came to power. Weiler also explains populist antisemitism, which may be intrinsic to the social democratic world view. For labor reformer Bevin, socialism was all about controlling Shylock (p.74). (SD will be my shorthand for social democrats.)

The SD world view is this: they are not militants of the labor movement: their goal is not a worker’s state. Rather, they aimed for better wages, working conditions, and life chances for the once growing industrial working class. For the SDs, this would be accomplished through trade unionism and state power that would regulate capitalism, especially the financial sector. Professor Weiler calls this strategy corporatism or labourism. I call it proto-fascism. Many scholars refer to Italian Fascism as the “corporative state” or the “ethical state,” For the corporative state mediated between employers and workers, imposing harmony through state power. Many scholars compare the New Deal to the Mussolini solution to class warfare.

ENTER THE JEWS. As Weiler tells it, Bevin saw industrialists as natural allies to workers, whereas the money men were managing affairs in their own interests alone, cutting down profits for industrialists. Lowered profits meant that workers would have to take it on the chin, lowering wages so that fat cat financiers could maintain their outrageous life styles, while workers languished, unprotected and unloved. “Money” and heartlessness were ever associated with a fictional un-Christian animal called “the Jews.” Some major social theorists blamed “the Protestant spirit” for capitalism (e.g. Max Weber, C. Wright Mills), Protestantism being tinged with Hebraism and a particular love for the Old Testament. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/10/07/christian-socialism-as-precursor-to-orwell/.)

J. A. Hobson, a journalist, was read by “progressive” Brits and Americans alike (including Bevin), and it was he who was most aggressive in spreading the word that “the international Jew” not only was a cabal of money men, it controlled all newspapers and the media. (The Nation magazine in 1919 cited Hobson’s work: see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. Also https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/.) The widely circulated Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a hot item in the Arab world today) made the further claim that the cabal would urge their readers to rise up and overthrow their nationalist masters, so that “the Jews” could move in, attack religion, and thus control the world, as was their inheritance as the Chosen People. Reform Jews ran away from this stereotype and many are ready to cave into a “binational state” in Israel as a way of pacifying their SD rulers and the Muslim world.

What does this have to do with standing up to bullying social democrats? As long as our intellectuals look to the state or any other bureaucracy or tribal entity to enforce “social justice” we are doomed to an eternity of authoritarian rule. Human rights do not encompass the rights of the corporative state (a.k.a. the welfare state) to substitute for individual choice and individual responsibility. Human rights are about standing up to illegitimate authority, wherever it may be hiding in the nooks and crannies of our consciousness. This task is not as easy as it sounds. (For part two of this essay see https://clarespark.com/2014/04/06/standing-up-to-bullying-social-democrats-2/.) midwest-map

March 9, 2013

Feel no pain: Rand Paul’s secret weapon

scaryangrybearThis blog is about the reasons that Rand Paul’s filibuster regarding “drone attacks” upon American soil garnered approval from individuals and pundits who may not themselves be isolationists. My thesis is that we tend to repress scary events and influences, thus providing receptiveness to anyone who proposes that we are in danger of sudden annihilation out of the sky or from trusted family members and their surrogates in the political world.

Here are some stressors. Some are recent, others are ongoing, but all of them prepare the soil for panic and paranoia: North Korea/Iranian nuclear threat, internal jihadists, 9-11, Obamacare: its cost, rationing, and “death panels,” ongoing nuclear threat leftover from the Cold War, uncertain economic future, growth of the federal government under the Democratic Party that backs off from American superpower status (making us vulnerable to internal subversion), culture war angst, the pervasive rhetoric of family while stigmatizing the “individual” as destroyer of family harmony.

(Note that the pervasive rhetoric of family in all political propaganda and advertising reinstates the parents as controlling the now infantilized “children”—even as we are mature adults. This is one cause of regression, making us ever more dependent on “leaders” or “celebrities” who do our thinking and feeling for us. And we dare not confront these “Good Kings,” for it is their anodyne that protects us from wild animals, the “nanny state”, alien invaders, and any and all sinister forces.)

It is possible that Rand Paul’s filibuster was a relief to those who feel helpless in the face of all these unresolved and perhaps unresolvable stressors (I’m thinking of parents and siblings who may or may not have been bullies). While some dismiss Rand Paul’s “stunt,” here was a surrogate action for our helpless selves, standing up to Eric Holder, and demanding an unequivocal answer regarding the safety of loyal Americans.

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My own views are contained here, and are supplemented by fine, well-researched guest blogs by Tom Nichols (an authority on international relations, nuclear threats, and war) and Phillip Smyth (a researcher specializing in Mid-East conflicts and neo-isolationism on the American Right). See https://clarespark.com/2013/03/07/blogs-on-neo-isolationism/. My blogs note the ongoing influence of such isolationists as Charles Lindbergh, and the presence of American First members or sympathizers in the sociology that followed the trauma of World War 2, and that have affected the programming of “alternative media.” It should be noted also that two of Joseph McCarthy’s most prominent enemies were active in establishing community radio: I refer to Paul G. Hoffman and William Benton. See https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/.

March 7, 2013

Blogs on neo-isolationism

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

https://clarespark.com/2011/06/03/neo-isolationists-and-the-jewish-problem/ (Clare Spark)

https://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/pacifica-radio-and-the-progressive-movement/ (Clare Spark)

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/09/living-in-the-nuclear-age/ (Tom Nichols)

https://clarespark.com/2012/04/26/responding-to-neo-isolationists/ (Phillip Smyth)

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/14/ron-paul-anarchist-in-chief/ (Phillip Smyth)

https://clarespark.com/2013/03/09/feel-no-pain-rand-pauls-secret/ (Clare Spark)

Some of these blogs were guest blogs written by Tom Nichols or Phillip Smyth. My own view: no one who is not a masochist (or otherwise infantilized, as in the discourse of “family”)  likes to be bossed around, and most of us are bullied at some point, maybe a lot. But to throw over self- and national defense in favor of a calculated stunt is madness and could spell the end of the Republican Party. The notion of an unexpected drone attack dropping upon our heads is a potent symbol that taps repressed fears of nuclear annihilation or a repetition of 9-11. Recall that North Korea threatened a nuclear strike before Rand Paul hit on the filibuster idea: one that suggested a fatal blow and annihilation out of nowhere. Who wouldn’t be riled up? Will the Democratic Party win by default the entire issue of national security?

January 12, 2013

Hate, “hard liberty,” quick fixes

mammon_11-0x550LOVE VERSUS HATE. First, take a look at this blog on Bullies: https://clarespark.com/2012/09/19/bullies/ . Although the Harvard education school was mostly fixated upon the controversial switching of gender identities and the promotion of Love as against Hate, Harvard hasn’t noticed that the “binary opposition” of love and hate is one of the staples of Western Civilization. One of the great fears of the “paleo-conservatives” is that the Religion of Love will lose its authority, hence unleashing sinister forces (the “neocon” haters) upon the land. Paleos dig Chuck Hagel.

Here is how “Ishmael” described the most striking feature of Ahab’s personality: “He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it” (p. 184)

That word “hate” is omnipresent in our political and social discourse: we condemn “hate speech” as if changing the language with which we describe the poor, minorities, women, and gays will remove “prejudice” against them and summon that lost “unity” we believe once characterized “the nation.”

And before Herman Melville wrote Moby-Dick, the British essayist William Hazlitt declared his hatred of tyrants:

[William Hazlitt on love and hate, 1819:] “To be a true Jacobin, a man must be a good hater;…The love of liberty consists in the hatred of tyrants…I am no politician and still less can I be said to be a partyman: but I have a hatred of tyranny, and a contempt for its tools…I deny that liberty and slavery are convertible terms, that right and wrong, truth and falsehood, plenty and famine, the comforts or wretchedness of a people, are matters of perfect indifference. That is all I know of the matter; but on these points I am likely to remain incorrigible.”

Both authors, Hazlitt and Melville had read John Milton’s Paradise Lost, written under censorship. Surely each of these close readers noticed this speech from Book II, possibly Milton’s own (semi-silenced) voice speaking through “Mammon,” who counsels the other fallen angels to avoid war with the heavenly Deity:

…how wearisome

Eternity so spent in worship paid

To whom we hate. Let us not then pursue

By force impossible, by leave obtain’d

Unacceptable, though in Heav’n our state

Of splendid vassalage, but rather seek

Our own good from ourselves, and from our own

Live to our selves, though in this vast recess,

Free, and to none accountable, preferring

Hard liberty before the easy yoke

 Of servile pomp. Our greatness will appear

 Then most conspicuous, when great things of small,

 Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse

 We can create, and in what place so e’er

 Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain

 Through labour and endurance. This deep world

Of darkness do we dread? How oft amidst

Thick clouds and dark doth heaven’s all-ruling sire

Choose to reside, His glory unobscured,

And with the majesty of darkness round

Covers his throne; from whence deep thunders roar

Mustering thir rage, and Heav’n resembles hell?

As he our darkness, cannot we his light

Imitate when we please? This desert soil

Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold;

Nor want we skill or art, from whence to raise

Magnificence; and what can heaven show more?

Our torments also may in length of time

Become our elements, these piercing fires

As soft as now severe, our temper changed

Into their temper; which must needs remove

The sensible of pain. All things invite

To peaceful counsels, and the settled state

Of order, how in safety best we may

Compose our present evils, with regard

Of what we are and were, dismissing quite

All thoughts of war: ye have what I advise. (II, 247-283)

HARD LIBERTY. (Milton’s seventeenth century puritan readers would have understood that mining was a symbol for discovery and the search for knowledge.)

As I write this, the media are obsessed with the gun control debate, as if further restricting access to certain weapons and ammunition, in tandem with greater attention to “mental health” and the “culture of violence” will prevent future massacres by deranged young men. These would be amusing quick fixes were not the cultural issues so deeply conflicted and elusive. Why are they so hard to explicate and pin down?

  1. There is no agreed upon definition of what constitutes mental health, nor has there ever been. Freud is still an offbeat interest and thought to be crazily sex-obsessed himself (thus fulfilling the image of the carnal, divisive, lucre-obsessed Jew).
  2. No one can measure the effects of “media violence” or pictorial violence; for centuries images of violence were thought to provide a salutary catharsis for the pent-up rage that all civilized societies inflict upon children. And since Freudian ideas are off the table, for instance that siblings consciously and unconsciously harbor murderous impulses toward each other and toward one or both parents, we have no critical tools to evaluate “violence” by psychopaths. True, the better “profiler” shows on television do point to parental abuse as the long term cause of serial killing. But they do not mount any substantial critique of masculinity, even when favorite sports figures sacrifice their lives, like gladiators of old, to entertain the masses.
  3. As for the femmes fatales (the woman with gun), the general subject of motherhood is evaded, even as film noir is celebrated by film critics. (See https://clarespark.com/2011/04/27/james-m-cains-gorgon-gals-2/.)
  4. Who doesn’t hate anything smacking of “the Puritan” today? We throw around the words “freedom” and “liberty” as if these had the same meaning to everyone, or worse, we invert freedom and slavery, so that we do not see our lust for “servile pomp.” Nor would we imagine that such a dark passion only binds us closer to Leviathan.
Femme Fatale

Femme Fatale

September 19, 2012

Bullies

Harvard Gr.School of Ed. magazine

[A note to the reader: Bullying is indeed a social problem, but the most prestigious education school in the land has nothing to recommend but nostrums that have been in place since the 1960s, and that have never worked. Nowhere does this article stress the search for truth as the highest value. There are only “points of view.” I don’t remember such a line being taught when I attended this school, holding the only Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship for projected leadership in science teaching. They offered me another full fellowship in Guidance, but I got married instead. It took me many years to begin to vindicate my fellowship, even as it brings me into conflict with Harvard as it currently exists. OTOH, the school may always have been progressive, and I didn’t recognize the regnant ideology as a science major.]

The Harvard Graduate School of Education devotes six pages in its Fall 2012 issue of Ed to what it sees as the all-consuming problem of bullying in the schools. Their solutions exactly mirror the prescriptions of “socially responsible capitalists” and multiculturalists, all of whom have focused on the affective side of public education: We are too focused on intellectual achievement (measured in standardized tests) to the neglect of “empathy, perspective-taking, and mindfulness”.  They have nothing more to offer other than the names of Lady Gaga and her friend Oprah Winfrey, who agree with them that we are Born This Way.

And yet their first example of the bullied student was not Born This Way. I quote their opening paragraph: “High school student Zachary Kerr didn’t know what to do. As a sophomore transitioning from female to male, he was met with comments in the classroom from whom one might least expect it: a teacher who voiced his disapproval of Kerr’s gender change. ‘It was hard to figure out what to do because it was a teacher,’ Kerr, now 18, says about his experience. ‘Do I complain about it? This teacher was responsible for grading me, and [his] was one of my favorite classes. Do I let it go and be uncomfortable? My decision was to let it go.’ He spent the rest of the year not speaking in the class about his transition.” [No mention in the article of any rebuttal by the teacher. I am pro-gay rights, but wonder why this particular example of unconfirmed bullying was the LEAD item in a six-page article.]

Skip a few paragraphs (one mentions a suicide, with no explanation as to the cause) to the meat of the article: Lecturer Richard Weissbourd, Ed.D.’87 explains his remedy for this apparently intractable problem: “’It’s a window into our failure to develop empathy in kids, or caring and responsibility in kids,’ he says. ‘It’s an opportunity to talk about social-emotional learning, moral development, responsibility for others, standing up and having courage, and also an opportunity to talk about the ways schools function and what we are doing and not doing to prepare adults to connect to students and to be helpful to them around peer troubles. You can’t prevent bullying without doing most of these things.’”

Next, Harvard tries to find the right balance: Headline: SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE. “In the era of standardized testing, incorporating these aforementioned lessons in the classroom isn’t easy. Across the board, experts and educators agree that with an increased focus on academic achievement comes an inadvertent decreased focus on social-emotional learning—the process for recognizing and managing emotion and how to develop concern for others.”

The author gives an example: a five-year old grabs a toy from another child. The [badass] kid is asked, how would you feel if someone took your toy by force?  Dear reader, this article I am quoting from was not written by Republicans but by the Democratic Party education establishment, or as I like to call them, the moderate men.

Note that Harvard educators of educators are not worried that our young adults cannot read or comprehend Shakespeare or Milton (say Hamlet, King Lear, The Tempest, or Paradise Lost), let alone such American classics as Moby-Dick). It is not bullying to throw out the masterpieces of civilization as written by dead white males, but it is bullying for a teacher to express disapproval of a sex-change operation, assuming that the interaction even took place as reported by “Zachary Kerr.” (The teacher was not given a platform to respond.) Victims never lie or exaggerate. (For more on the smashup of the old literary canon see https://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/.)

When I was briefly a student at P.S. 13 in Elmhurst Queens, right after the war, a gang of boys and maybe girls chased me home, as they brandished a knife. (I was the only Jewish kid in the class, and was perhaps resented as a teacher’s pet.) My mother went to the school and complained, only to be told by the principal, one Lillian Eschenbecker (of German descent?), that “Clare is like an apple: beautiful on the outside, but rotten at the core.” She really said that, and my mother told me about it. Perhaps she even believed this authoritative principal. I don’t know. Maybe I was Born This Way.

September 7, 2012

Charisma and Symbolic Politics

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:21 pm
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This blog analyzes the tricks of populist demagoguery as revealed in the Democrat Party National Convention, 2012 (for part one of this series, see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/.)

The Leader flatters the audience and holds them close to him with “family” rhetoric. Both Biden and Obama began their addresses with professions of uxoriousness and adoration of their children and struggling, benighted ancestors. Such first steps in their speeches develops an intimate relation with the audience, who are now “included” in the dedicated happy family. Charisma now emanates from the Leader, for solid family ties are manifestations of the erotic in our natures (while ignoring such obvious items as sibling rivalry or generational conflict).

With such tactics, the deified Leader as either Good Father or Good Mother,  has resorted to powerful symbols, generally symbols that infantilize the audience with promises of unity—a unity that cannot be obtained through rational arguments, for the Leader has jammed together persons and groups with conflicting interests (see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/).   Republican opponents, meanwhile, are demonized as “splitters” who, in their devotion to cerebration (rationality and empiricism) heartlessly look after their own interests while “hating” and abandoning the target audience, now represented as “the middle class”—notwithstanding its working class elements. And workers are incorporated into “the middle class” through promises of home ownership, better public education, and preferential treatment for minorities and illegal immigrants through such transparent tactics as affirmative action and Dream Acts.

We have seen these tactics before. In the 2004 address to the DNC that catapulted young Senator Obama to celebrity, his main appeal was the vision of unity: there would be no more red states or blue states, only the United States. (Thundering applause.) But that was a childish wish, and not even Charles Krauthammer, the redoubtable critic of Obama’s narcissism (and whom I revere above all other pundits), nails him for this utopian, regressive fantasy.

For real material issues divide our polity: crony capitalism versus capitalism based solely upon merit—the merit of a superior performance or product; government as Big Daddy or Mommy versus local control, self-reliance and personal responsibility; Keynesian demand-stimulus to conquer economic downturns versus unleashing the power of business/free markets through lower taxes, the removal of excessive red tape, and free trade; overweening executive power versus the traditional separation of powers in government.

Above all, the charismatic leader wields magical powers: in describing the President’s role in the killing of Osama bin Laden, Biden declared that the President said DO IT, and justice was done. Bible readers will recognize the Creation of the world and the love of neighbors above oneself.

A man of the People

I have been thinking about pundits and television hosts, even those on Fox News Channel. Why do they not identify populist tactics as I have done? It is not only that they prefer clocking a horse race to significant analysis of the conflicts that really do divide us. It is not only that they profess to be “fair and balanced” as all moderates are supposed to be. Perhaps they too have reached the pinnacles of the media business through manipulating the audience through physical attractiveness and stylishness, but more, through an acceptance of “politics” as they are. Their tactics may be a more subtle form of bullying than partisan Democrats who regularly assault “the money power,” but they are bullies none the less, pleasing the boss and short-changing the audiences that keep coming back for more.

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