The Clare Spark Blog

May 5, 2012

Unity and utopia: the case of David Horowitz

Akiva Gottlieb

( See a review of DH’s latest book Radicals here: https://clarespark.com/2012/09/22/materialist-history-and-the-idea-of-progress/.)

Tablet magazine, an online periodical dedicated vaguely to “a new read on Jewish life,” hired a liberal  journalist  Akiva Gottlieb, to “profile” David Horowitz, who famously switched his politics in the early 1990s, after a decade of relative silence and depression. You can find Tablet’s heartfelt hatchet job here, with a cartoon that declares its willingness to deploy Satanic, possibly antisemitic,* images against its opponents: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/98401/david-horowitz.  I am beginning this blog with a reference to David H. because 1. it is my view that no young writer (such as Gottlieb) can comprehend the lives of those in my age group, who have lived through the second world war, the Cold War, the civil rights movement, the counter-culture revolt, and the rise of the New Right; not to speak of chronic illness, the loss of energy as we age, the loss of our parents and possibly other family members (or family members with different politics); and 2. I suspect that most people spent their lives in a fruitless search for “unity”.

The premise of the blog is that the search for unity is a fool’s errand, though it is understandable as a [regressive] longing to be reunited with protective, ever nurturing and inexhaustible parents, even to live our lives over again, without errors in judgment or crimes against the truth that divided us from our better angels.

In thousands of Catholic paintings, baby Jesus is lovingly watched over by benevolent protectors, and the Child has no siblings with which to contend. Nor will he ever have to contend with a “blended” family as the child of divorce or other forms of estrangement from the idyll of perfect familial unity. But if the soothing-seething emotions of “the perfectly happy family” color many of our political preferences across the political spectrum, then why do we appear to be nonplussed in the face of factionalized politics and party platforms that are fraught with internal contradictions, here or elsewhere?

Raphael, The Holy Family

Akiva Gottlieb wants to paint David Horowitz as friendless and hopelessly alienated from politics, alienated even from his own magazine. But DH has suffered multiple losses in his life (some but not all noted by Gottlieb), has looked death in the face, and neither political party offers a coherent political vision of past and present, or what social policies would best serve both individuals and the public at large. Indeed, hoping for such an outcome of American history is on the face of it, absurd, as I pointed out in my last blog (https://clarespark.com/2012/05/04/3957/, “Charles Murray Dreaming.”  (Murray’s overall project in his latest book was to reinstate his imagined unified civic culture among white people.)

Moreover, we are in the predictably violent throes of modernization in a globe noted for its uneven development and hostility to the American experiment; America itself is unevenly developed, and the phrase “E pluribus Unum” is a wish, not a fact. To imagine an “international community” is equally delusional. Still, artists make sculptures and paintings that reflect this longing for something more in what they depict as a coldly heartless, handless age of the machine. Like baby Jesus, this sculptor has outstretched hands reaching for succor.

*See Joshua Trachtenberg’s 1943 volume The Devil and the Jews. Even friends of “the Jews” may associate them with modernity and its anomie, predilection for demagogues, narcissism, Jacobin bloodthirstiness, etc. For a comprehensive survey see https://clarespark.com/2010/11/14/the-abcs-of-antisemitism/. For a blog that treats disunity within ourselves, see https://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/. For a valuable talk on attachments and how parental stress affects the development of children’s brains see http://tvoparents.tvo.org/video/177892/dr-gabor-mat-parental-stress-and-its-impact-kids.

shoebox sculpture

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