YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

July 4, 2017

Ambivalence on Independence Day

Monday evening July3, 2017, Charles Krauthammer held forth on American history and its transformation since the 1960s when New Leftists began their long march through the institutions, now dominating US history, emphasizing America’s “sins.” His remedy: conservatives should copy the New Left project by entering academe, but with a different emphasis (I doubt that he was serious in suggesting a higher conservative birth rate.)

Krauthammer didn’t specify how US history should be taught, and here is my recommendation for a more mature approach.

When I was in history graduate school at UCLA, we were taught that there was a mighty debate on “present-mindedness.” [“Present-mindedness” signifies reading our current values into the past, which the better historians resist. It is even scandalous that New Leftists were sent up the ladders by (guilty liberal?) senior faculty at the Ivy League schools.]

Ironically, it was the demonstrably racist Woodrow Wilson who might have most inspired the progressivism of Charles and Mary Ritter Beard to write a massive popular history in 2 volumes, The Rise of American Civilization, publ. 1927, coming off the First World War. The Beards were not ambivalent, condemning even the Constitution as an elite plot against the people.

Not so Herman Melville, who lauded the sublime, vanguard project of the new American nation. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/.) He even wrote in a letter that “The Declaration of Independence makes a difference.” And yet, Melville struggled with ambivalence most of his adult life, an internal fight that has escaped most of his revivers including Charles and Mary Beard.

I view ambivalence as a normal human emotion, and most appropriate to modernity on America’s birthday. The Founders celebrated liberty at the same time as many feared the too-excitable, too eager to govern, electorate. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/08/24/the-people-is-an-ass-or-a-herd/, most obvious in Madison’s Federalist #10.)

What Charles Krauthammer, a psychiatrist, might have stated on Tucker Carlson’s show is that ambivalence is a widespread and normal human emotion—That we need not succumb to excessive super-patriotism, nor should we bow down to America-hating and flight.

Here’s to mixed-emotions on July 4, 2017. Happy Birthday, America, always becoming and never entirely fixed.

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October 9, 2016

The Man of the Crowd must be a rapist

1934 image, Wikipedia

1934 image, Wikipedia

Donald J Trump now stands convicted of sexual assault and, almost as horrid, bad taste. https://clarespark.com/2014/12/18/rape-culture/.

Ask any “moderate” Republicans (i.e., closet social democrats), and they will tell you that they knew it all along. For many pundits (even on “fair and balanced” Fox), one “quasi-apology” is not enough, for the man’s essence must be rotten to the core, just like the “white working class” that he ostensibly represents in all its embarrassing  “misogyny.” (Even Charles Krauthammer, Chris Wallace, and Hillary Clinton share this liberal opinion, though they don’t mention class perspective, as I have. See https://clarespark.com/2009/08/24/the-people-is-an-ass-or-a-herd/.)

Who knew that Fox’s female anchors and featured players were such prudes, given their come-hither long eyelashes, heavy make-up, above-the-knee dresses/exposed thighs, high heels, (where possible) cleavage, and (usually) long, princess hair?

Why, one would suspect that these strong women are ardent defenders of the female sex, hence feminists, more interested in “character” and “judgment” than in policy (especially national security). If so, this would line up the Fox ladies with the most bigoted patriarchal types, accepting the stereotype that the “lower orders” (i.e., Trump supporters) are criminal by nature. https://clarespark.com/2009/08/24/the-people-is-an-ass-or-a-herd/.

trump supporters, Meme.com

trump supporters, Meme.com

August 6, 2016

Krauthammer diagnoses Trump, long distance

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:01 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
New Theater Hitler as narcissist, 1936

New Theater Hitler as narcissist, 1936

Read these short entries first. http://www.mediaite.com/online/krauthammer-diagnoses-trump-beyond-narcissism-has-infantile-hunger-for-approval/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trump-and-the-fitness-threshold/2016/08/04/b06bae34-5a69-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html

I used to revere Charles Krauhammer as Fox’s resident genius, until I saw the homage documentary designed (?) to debut CK’s collected essays (Things That Matter); that “documentary” produced a blog that focused on CK’s search for unity https://clarespark.com/2013/10/26/krauthammer-fox-news-channel-and-the-search-for-unity/. This search for coherence in a polarized polity would suggest that he is an organic conservative, despite his claims to be a moderate, which would align him with other “moderates” on Fox News Channel. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Krauthammer), In other words, CK is a mystic, not a scientific materialist, as his medical training would suggest.

I learned from the Wiki entry that CK had indeed never been in independent clinical practice as a psychiatrist (he is board-certified), but had gone on from being chief resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (three whole years as a resident!), directly into politics, working for the Carter administration in “psychiatric planning.” (Wiki also states that CK contributed to DSM III, though they are not detailed.)

In other words, CK had little experience in clinical practice, yet he is a respected diagnostician of persons he seems not to have ever closely examined. (I have written extensively about another Harvard graduate, a Jungian: Dr. Henry A. Murray, who, like CK, made long-distances inferences about major figures; for instance, Murray testified at the trial of Whittaker Chambers, opining that Chambers had a “psychopathic personality” (based on reading! and linking him to CK’s highly respected opinions. (On Murray’s methods see https://clarespark.com/2012/03/26/henry-a-murray-and-the-tat/.)

Just as CK has labeled Barack Obama a “narcissist,” Dr. Krauthammer judges Donald J. Trump to be unstable, and more than a bit mad. Oddly, Adolf Hitler was judged to be a nutty criminal/psychopath by Dr. Henry A. Murray and assorted Stalinists, though none of these had any professional (psychiatric) relationship with the object of their scorn. Dr. Murray went so far as to infer that Hitler must have had Jewish blood, setting the stage for later Harvard social psychologists (https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/).

Dr. Krauthammer famously switched political allegiances mid-career. But his haughty opinions on the Republican nominee’s mental states, bear comparison with those of other “moderate men” seeking to be “fair and balanced.”

June 4, 2016

Multiculturalism: the missing term in the Trump ‘fiasco’

Branco cartoon in Conservative Daily News

Branco cartoon in Conservative Daily News

Time will tell if Donald J. Trump has damaged his campaign by referring to the American judge presiding over his Trump University fraud case as “Mexican.” Such prestigious Fox commentators as Charles Krauthammer have clucked over this [allegedly horrendous gaffe] without mentioning that the hyphenated Americans are primarily identified through their “ethnicity” or “race.” (“I thought I married an Italian!” says Ancestry.com, not even bothering to hyphenate Italian-American.)

Such are the wages of the phony version of assimilation known as “multiculturalism,” now hegemonic in the world thanks to the triumph of Wilsonian internationalism—the enemy of nationalism, but thanks to the Left and even “moderate conservatives”, now de rigueur in all the hip universities as a weapon against “white supremacy.” See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/.

(Only a few internet folk nail “multiculturalism”: such as Robert Spencer and various writers for Gatestone Institute, but alas, even these learnèd writers fail to mark the contrast between the “rootless cosmopolitan” [see Stalin on Jews] and the [preferred] “rooted cosmopolitan” celebrated by German Romantics reacting to the dreaded [materialist] Enlightenment.)

Krauthammer and others on Fox might have looked into the associations of Judge Gonzalo Curiel with Hillary Clinton and her supporters in the Democratic Party, but then CK originally worked for the Carter administration (but is said to have experienced disillusion with the LBJ’s war on poverty during the 1980s). He has made his reputation as a “board certified psychiatrist”… “open to empirical evidence” but not as a footnoting, archive-sleuthing historian or political scientist.

See this apparently researched article for contrast with CK’s rejection of Trump’s alleged bigotry. http://spectator.org/rigged-the-trial-of-trump-university/. I don’t agree entirely with this article, for the so-called Left will say that it is understandable that Latino and Latina lawyers should band together on the grounds that they are “oppressed” and “marginalized.” Forget that many aspire to be hired guns on behalf of Big Government.

Such are wages of multiculturalism, which emphasizes race/ethnicity and gender, but not “class.”

Many a conservative, along with much of the Left, don’t want any workers in their clubs. So much for national unity and/or Milton Friedman.

were-different-were-the-same

October 26, 2013

Krauthammer, Fox News Channel, and the search for Unity

Charles2I looked forward to Bret Baier’s documentary (Charles Krauthammer: A Life That Matters, 10-25-13) in honor of Charles Krauthammer’s just published book of collected essays, partly because I look up to Krauthammer as the wise man of FNC, but partly because I knew little of his family background, other than that he had suffered a terrible disabling accident when still a young man, yet had gone on to become a psychiatrist and a political pundit who famously switched from liberal to neoconservative (i.e., the very liberal anticommunist became a moderate man leaning toward the Right).

CK’s Wikipedia page has nothing about his family background (or his intellectual influences such as favorite reading), but we learned from the Baier doc that his father and mother were Jewish immigrants from Europe, that his father spoke 9 languages, and that his older brother (who died at 59 of cancer) was worshipped by his sibling, and that big brother had shown him the ropes, initiating him into manhood as something of an athlete. One could conclude that CK’s private life would remain very private. No mention of  the accomplishments or character of CK’s mother; only a brief appreciation of his artist wife; and an allusion to a baby son.  His private life remains private, and was perhaps the condition of his being interviewed. Given his career aspirations and chosen universities, I guessed that his family was haute bourgeois in Europe (it was briefly mentioned that father was a real estate developer).

Upon being questioned about  his education, I was surprised to learn that CK started out in “political theory” but finding it “too abstract” he switched to medicine (following his brother?), which he said was more reality oriented and more philosophically challenging. CK further insisted that he remained “in denial” regarding both his accident and his “interior life,” which seemed to amuse him and Baier alike, though I found it bizarre for a self-described “psychiatrist.”

Political science, like its materialist fellow-disciplines (sociology, history, economics, anthropology) is anything but boring to one who seeks to understand contemporary political affairs. It occurred to me that CK might be highly invested in personal power and influence, even if it costs him something in self-understanding. The rest of this blog is about what I gathered from the CK show.

Fox News Channel, like the Wall Street Journal, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a businessman who profits from maximum eyeballs and circulation, not unlike the rest of mass media. Hence the “moderate” direction of both enterprises. The search for truth takes back seat to the “fair and balanced” mantra. To CK (at least in the Baier show), the Tea Party is not like other social movements, an object of contemplation and analysis as to social base, tactics, objectives, organizational structure, numbers, etc., but rather fanatical and extreme (I am using my words, not quoting CK’s). And yet a few days ago, while promoting this show, the same CK assessed the GOP-Tea Party split as over, celebrating its “fusion.” (CK did the same on Greta’s show 10-31-13.)

This is what I mean by the search for unity at all costs; besides denying the family dynamics that may create lifelong ambivalence and other distortions, the search for unity implies an underlying belief in the neutral state and in the organic nation. Bret Baier’s panels of experts, like Chris Wallace’s, sometimes break out in vociferous disagreement, but we are reassured that beneath the high dudgeon, they and we are all friends.  (The same goes for the hit show The Five.)

Bret Baier panel_640

And yet, the Democratic Party loathes the GOP, ignoring the progressive origins of both modern capitalist parties. It was no big deal for the wise elder statesman of Fox News Channel to switch. (For material on the populist origins of the moderate men/progressives see https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/. For some thoughts on how fast switches between topics can cause the loss of focus in the viewer, see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/10/losing-focus-and-mass-media/. Not just tabloids, but all news media suffer from this structural problem. For two recent blogs that address the illusion of national or group unity see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/21/citizen-obama-political-pluralism-and-the-elusive-search-for-unity/, and https://clarespark.com/2013/09/17/the-illusion-of-national-unity/.)

[Added 10-27-13: It seems that CK deferred to three men in his life: his father (to whom he gave his Pulitzer medal on his death bed) , the older brother Marcel, and the nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi, who predicted that any civilization advanced enough to figure out [atomic fission] would end up destroying itself. This strain of cultural pessimism is disturbing to me, and perhaps owes more than a little to CK’s life-transforming disastrous accident while still a very young man. In any case, having renounced “psychiatry” and the inner world of feelings,  he should not trot out his credentials as a psychiatrist while making political judgments. For more on his attachment to his older brother Marcel see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/26/AR2006012601471.html.]

July 27, 2013

O’Reilly’s riff on ‘race’ relations

MLKJrReacting in part to the uproar over the George Zimmerman verdict, Bill O’Reilly (“number one in cable news”) started the week of July 22, 2013 with an outraged “talking point memo” on the subject of the black family and its disintegration, blaming the current polarization over the jury’s decision to aquit CZ on “’73% illegitimacy” in the ‘African-American’ population. O’Reilly’s causation is typical of culture wars argumentation. Bring the strong father back, and “African-American” culture will right itself again.

The passion, even anger, of his talking points made news all week on Fox News Channel. On Thursday, in the interests of fairness and balance, he invited an assistant professor of sociology and Black Studies from CCNY,  R. L’heureux Lewis-McCoy.  The youthful professor contradicted the notion that fatherlessness caused poverty and crime, but insisted that poverty and lack of access to jobs was the cause of the disintegration of the black family. In other words, O’Reilly had a cultural explanation for the [unruly] black population, while the sociologist offered an economic explanation to explain black problems, (The segment can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYFS_qon3zs. It starts out concerned with a hip-hop artist and Al Sharpton, but at about two and a half minutes in, pivots to a discussion of the disintegrating, tattoo-loving black family. O’Reilly gave the professor a “D” for not answering a question to his liking.)

The notion of the father-directed nuclear family as the fundamental unit of society providing for stability is a throwback to the medieval order, when peasant fathers remained at home, directing the distribution of resources. “Exit the [family] king” under an advanced industrial society, and women have too much power over young males who are thereby feminized and may go homo, another fear of culture warriors. Enter the now fashionable argot that identifies all public health initiatives as vile offshoots of “the nanny state.” (For details on Ionesco’s play Exit The King see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exit_the_King.)

On the Tuesday (July 23, 2013) edition of The Factor, trained psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer straight out told O’Reilly that not all problems could be solved, Surely he was thinking about the family and its proposed O’Reilly remedy: no illegitimacy and marriage. As I have suggested on this website, intact families are no panacea, but rather are the site of lifelong ambivalence or worse, owing to sibling rivalry, prolonged attachment to the parent of the opposite sex, and hard-to-control instinctive aggression identified by the now stigmatized Freud and his followers.  Indeed, social psychologists attached to the New Deal (such as Henry A. Murray) fretted about mother-son attachments as leading to an overactive social conscience that could go all the way to communism. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/11/07/he-loves-his-mommy-too-much/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/02/16/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-two/, plus others in this series: https://clarespark.com/2010/04/18/links-to-nazi-sykewar-american-style/.)

I will say this for the efficacy of having a father in the home. Single mothers, no matter how many children, face an exhausting challenge. A modern male who is willing to take part in family life, including child care and housework, is a blessing.

But the presence of both parents in the family constellation is no guarantee that children will achieve upward mobility or avoid a life of crime. Bill O’Reilly, like other Fox anchors, has replicated the terms advocated by multiculturalists (“African-American Community”), avoiding the thorny questions concerning welfare policies, education reform, and the teaching of parenting skills and other useful mental health concepts. [I added welfare policies to this blog in light of Joe Nicolosi’s comments below.]

Such attention to factors other than father-headed families may be a bridge too far for the employees of Rupert Murdoch.

race

May 15, 2013

Who is Barack Obama?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:41 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Moderation taught here

Moderation taught here

My most popular blogs have dealt with the enigma of POTUS, with a consensus among many of my readers that he is a narcissist, possibly of the most malignant and incurable variety. This blog makes the claim that Obama’s personality is the wrong focus of attention. We do better to look at the incoherence of the base that elected him, and what is the bond that links him to such disparate sectors of the electorate, ranging from Wall Street liberals, Hollywood moguls and celebrities, teachers unions, the AFL-CIO, youth culture, environmentalists, and “racial” minorities, including liberal Jews still tied to the New Deal embraced by their parents. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/04/06/diagnosing-potus/ and https://clarespark.com/2010/04/05/is-potus-crazy/.)

Moreover, there is wide difference among both supporters and critics as to his “real” politics: Is he a stealth Leninist, a crypto-Muslim with jihadist sympathies, a liberal internationalist in the Wilsonian tradition, or a traditional Democratic Party centrist (the latter a diagnosis by disgusted Leftists and populists who hoped for a more radical, anti-imperialist agenda)?

Mental health professionals and cultural historians have (perhaps) unwittingly aided the current focus on personality disorders, especially with the proposed revision of DSM-IV in the news during the last year. (On the theoretical foundations of the DSM manuals see https://clarespark.com/2012/12/09/neurotic-vs-objective-anxiety-dsm-iv-and-beyond/. Also “identity politics” as promoted by social democrats.) That and the popularity of mental health and relationship advice on radio and television have taken the voting public into private space at the expense of a broader and more appropriate education in political and economic theory, about which the general public is ignorant, thanks to decades of indoctrination in schools and universities regarding remaking ourselves so that we are wiped clean of “prejudice” toward “the Other.” Such a purification ritual has served some social movements and their upwardly mobile adherents, but destroyed our critical faculties.

The questions we should be addressing are these: why are so many American voters glued to celebrity culture, including pundits of either major political party? Why are the public schools so awful in urban ghettoes, and who made them that way? Why has public speech deteriorated to the point where the English language has been ground down to such exclamations as “awesome”! “amazing”! “cool”! No tribe of grunting savages in the prehistoric ages of our species could have survived with such a limited vocabulary. If we taught Shakespeare today, would students even be able to read him with comprehension? Or a plot summary, even? Meanwhile, my blogs, deliberately written to a non-academic audience, are often deemed to be “over the heads” of many readers.

To answer the question posed in the title of this blog: we cannot look into the heart of Barack Obama. We are not psychoanalysts who have treated him for many years, with accurate information about his childhood and the many traumas he may or may not have endured. But we can look into his social policies, and evaluate their content and efficacy. These fail on the grounds of intelligibility and effectiveness. Both our economy and our safety as Americans are on the table.  Yet “moderates” in both parties urge us not to get over excited or too “extreme;” rather, find your “community” and cuddle up with it, no matter how incoherent or internally divided on major issues the “members” may be. (I am thinking specifically of Charles Krauthammer and Bill O’Reilly, who yesterday advised their viewers on Fox  to lay off POTUS and Hillary Clinton until “facts” on such matters as the AP scandal are uncovered.)

I would be happier with “the moderate men” if they refrained from cooling us out, and departed from the safety of their cliques inside the Washington DC Beltway. They won’t of course, for they are paid handsomely for their services to the status quo, specifically to the ideal of the neutral state, and of the notions of “healing” and “closure.” (See https://clarespark.com/2010/11/06/moderate-men-falling-down/.)

We are in terrible trouble, and have no one but ourselves to rely upon. We still have the internet and social media. These must be protected above all else, whatever our politics. The republic will stand or fall depending on our defense of free and inquisitive communication, let the chips fall…. (For a follow-up blog see https://clarespark.com/2013/05/16/divide-et-impera/.)

February 17, 2013

[Aristo-democrats?] want pre-school for four-year-olds?

Evelyn Waugh aristocratsThis is more of an autobiographical blog than a scholarly one. There is no more agreement over how to raise children than there is over what constitutes mental illness or mental health, or how to fix our public schools. (For related blogs, see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/16/gun-control-laws-quick-fixes-undoing/, and https://clarespark.com/2011/08/31/review-steven-brills-class-warfare/.)

Nevertheless, as one of his magic bullets, POTUS proposed in his State of the Union speech that “pre-school” for all middle class and poor kids would go far in lifting them out of poverty and on to employability in the [brave new world] created by social media and other math-science-heavy fields.  Charles Krauthammer had a good time making fun of this proposal, suggesting that four year olds would no longer be allowed to dawdle and play without being pushed in a direction that did not even pay off with results past the third grade, as some studies of Head Start have shown.

This blog attempts to inject a bit of realism into the endless debate over child-rearing, with most of the Right lamenting the lack of father-headed households, and the decline of religion; presumably both repairs, bypassing overindulgent (yet pistol-packin’) mammas, would inject the sort of paternal superego that reduces crime and postpones gratification in favor of distant goals: family harmony, success in life, and fitness for family re-unification in Heaven. (Take three minutes to hear http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b39ALX4neIk.)

Almost no one utters the curse word “Puritan” any longer, for they, in all their variety, have been discredited as axe-wielding killjoys (Carrie Nation!), or worse:  Harvard’s Talcott Parsons identified “romantic puritans” in America as resembling Hitler in his world-destroying rage, as if the temperance “crusade” and its related Protestant reform movements had been disastrously feminized. (There is an entire academic bibliography on whether or not Victorian women were good or bad for today’s feminists.)

Carry Nation

Carry Nation

I do not pretend to be any kind of expert on child-development, and in my own case, relied upon maternal instinct and my own favorite activities, shared with my three children.  After I found a housekeeper, I amused myself and them by reading good children’s literature aloud (A.A. Milne, E. B. White, Roald Dahl), playing both classical music and folk songs on the piano or guitar, and with frequent trips to the local hardware store that sold art supplies. And then there were museums and concerts, with a few family trips to exotic locales such as Yosemite and New Mexico.

Had I not been a grandchild of immigrants, but rather a European aristocrat (or the child of a “political” family), I would have discussed world affairs at the dinner table as my children grew older (and returned from elite “public” schools), for it would have been assumed that my children would someday be running the world  as men of affairs, probably with their wives as powers behind the thrones and competent, stylish hostesses for an elite,  with both parents as experts in hiring multi-lingual governesses and/or tutors,  and in selecting clothing, interior décor, and gardens as proof of class position and legitimacy.

What the President is proposing is typical for an inexperienced elite, who wave their magic wands to lift up the poor through government-imagined programs, without sufficient consideration of the dire material conditions in which inner-city ghetto kids live, and the likely confusion of their single mothers, whose education would  have been inadequate to begin with, owing to outdated and/or partisan curricula (assuming that they were not high school dropouts owing to teen-age pregnancy).

My most popular blogs have been given to speculating on Barack Obama’s “narcissistic” personality and ambiguous politics. This I can say with rare certainty. No leftist would propose such a pathetic Band-Aid for the poor and badly educated as an enlargement (?) of Head Start (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_Start_Program.). This hit and miss proposal should be pinned on welfare statists, formerly known as “aristo-democrats” by the more sophisticated observers.

FDR, Lucy Mercer, Eleanor R.

FDR, Lucy Mercer, Eleanor R.

December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook, Candide, Melville, and the problem of Evil

Obama tears Candide, chapter 20, transl. Robert M. Adams (Norton, 1966):

[Candide:] “You must be possessed of the devil.

[Martin, the disillusioned scholar and Manichean:] He’s mixed up with so many things of this world that he may be in me as well as elsewhere; but I assure you, as I survey this globe, or globule, I think that God has abandoned it to some evil spirit—all of it except Eldorado. I have scarcely seen one town which did not want to destroy its neighboring town, no family which did not want to exterminate some other family. Everywhere the weak loathe the powerful, before whom they cringe, and the powerful treat them like brute cattle, to be sold for their meat and fleece. A million regimented assassins roam Europe from one end to the other, plying the trades of murder and robbery in an organized way for a living, because there is no more honest form of work for them; and in the cities which seem to enjoy peace and where the arts are flourishing, men are devoured by more envy, cares, and anxieties than a whole town experiences when it’s under siege. Private griefs are worse even than public trials. In a word, I have seen so much and suffered so much, that I am a Manichee.

[Candide:] Still there is some good.

[Martin:] That may be but I don’t know it.

(The late Robert M. Adams, who taught me expository writing at Cornell long ago, is the editor of this edition of Candide, and in his concluding essay, questions Puritan attitudes toward “work.” And yet, Voltaire was a great favorite in the Soviet Union.) Adams is devastating on the subject of Candide’s choice of the garden: “He has never really been with us, and now he is going back where he came from, to some place outside Europe, outside history, outside people, to a cold and lonely garden where the vegetable he cultivates most assiduously will be his own indifference, his own self-sufficiency. He was, is, and always will be, an outsider….” (p.173, 1966 edition. But see Georg Brandes’s two vol. biography of Voltaire, II, p. 145: To cultivate one’s garden signifies “…work [that] keeps them free of three great evils: ennui, sin, and poverty”…it is the consolation he holds out to the human race”. Nobody read Brandes any more (though Peter Gay, Ben Hecht, and I did), but Peter Gay sees Candide’s garden as all of Europe, and Voltaire as a radical activist.)

Adams's  Candide

It is instructive to see how each of us responds to this mass trauma in Newtown, Connecticut, so far away for most of us. We know almost nothing about Adam Lanza and his family dynamics, or even the details of the massacre, but we do know (or don’t know) about our own psyches. How we defend ourselves against such a horrible event is a way to get out of the inner darkness how each of us is put together. I will be watching myself, and hope others will try be self-reflective too.

In the comments that follow, I see each type of response as a defense against grief, seeking some soothing explanation or tactic that will explain what no one yet knows. I would suggest that all the comments, whether they come from Left or Right, tell us more about how we defend ourselves against our own often repressed rage and fears of loss of control than they tell us about Adam Lanza and the so-called ‘tragedy’ at Newtown, Connecticut.

I started with Voltaire’s controversial comment (speaking through Martin) on the problem of evil, a preoccupation that runs through the fiction of Herman Melville, who was well aware of Voltaire as a great infidel. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/. Melville invokes Voltaire in his annotations to Book 9 of Paradise Lost  comparing Milton with Voltaire as an “Infidel”.*  These annotations were read aloud by me on Pacifica Radio in 1990, but not published by scholars until years later, and then later detoxified by moderate men and women. It is notable that Lillian Hellman’s orignal play of Candide was watered down in later productions of the Bernstein musical.

Adam Lanza (20)

Adam Lanza (20)

What follows are various conservative diagnoses and advice regarding the ‘tragedy’** at Sandy Hook:

Bill O’Reilly: inexplicable “evil” [and he is expressing learned helplessness: nothing can be done (same as “the poor will always be with us”)]. Same with Hannity. Evil is the devil. A forensic psychologist agrees with Bill. Bill puts on camera a third grader Lebinski and her mother: questions her mother in front of the dazed child. Saturday: Monica Crowley: massacres not preventable [can’t imagine preventable measures and psychiatric interventions] Dr. Keith Ablow is an outlier on Fox: believes that the mental health system has broken down. Geraldo hates this kind of talk.

Family therapist/clinical psychologist; the community is gathering to start the process of healing. Various clerics: the children are angels now and are safe.

Second Amendment male, cited on FB: Obama had faked his tears to start the process of disarming the people.

[Added, 12-17-12: Bernie Goldberg criticizes Right wing for explaining massacre as absence of God in the classroom and abortion. O’Reilly brags that his was the best coverage on Cable (Friday) ignoring that he was intrusive in showing victims and a parent. He is also convinced that Lanza wasn’t a loon.]

Moderates, liberals and left-wing radical diagnostics follow:

The allover liberal explanation has three parts: 1.the shooter and his family; 2.poor security/wide availability of guns; 3. a culture of pervasive violence. All reiterated on Fox News Sunday.

Larry Mantle on NPR radio KPPC, Los  Angeles, interviewed a traumatized teacher and pushed her to divulge her feelings. Later some of her distraught words are repeated on NPR, All Things Considered.

Mental health professionals and other liberals: gun control. (i.e., regulate) (12-15) Dr. Alvin Poussaint from Harvard: a rare event, but gun control, conflict-resolution study should be supported.

Charles Krauthammer (12-14): he killed his mother and those attached to her. [He did not know that she was a volunteer teacher and that his brother claimed he might be autistic or suffer from some unstated learning disorder.]

Lefty on FB: Chicago is worse than this, and no one cares. Rich people get more sympathy and coverage. Lefty (cont.) OR Reagan started this by attacking warehousing of crazies (it was actually Carter’s idea, said one of my FB friends).

Dr. Alan Lipman (mental health professional) all signs were there that he could have had psychotic break into paranoid delusions. The aim is prevention and treatment. (Fox guest 8:20 am Saturday) See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Lipman. Founded a Center for the Study of Violence at Georgetown. Followed by Robert Stone, who diagnoses autism and lack of empathy.

Centrist child of divorce: incomprehensible and doesn’t know how he will explain it to his children.

Wall Street Journal editorial: a crushing event: let our emotions run pending further revelations.

*From Hunting Captain Ahab:  [To Mitford’s comment on Milton’s religious wanderings (xcix):] He who thinks for himself never can remain of the same mind.  I doubt not that darker doubts crossed Milton’s soul, than ever disturbed Voltair [sic].  And he was more of what is called an Infidel.

[To Satan’s seduction of Eve, Book IX, Melville double scored: “And life more perfect have attained than fate/ Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot.”(689-690) A partially erased note follows “Why then was this forbid? Why but to keep ye low and ignorant,/ His worshippers?”(also double scored, 703-705):]  This is one of the many profound atheistical hits of Milton. A greater than Lucretius, since he always teaches under a masque, and makes the Devil himself a Teacher & Messiah.  [Leyda marked the word “Fate” with an arrow].

[To Book X (5-11): “…for what can scape the eye/ Of God all-seeing, or deceive his heart/ Omniscient? who, in all things wise and just,/ Hindered not Satan to attempt the mind/ Of man, with strength entire, and free will armed,/ Complete to have discovered and repulsed/ Whatever wiles of foe or seeming friend.”]  The Fall of Adam did not so much prove him weak, as that God had made him so.  From all that is gatherable from Milton’s theology, the Son was created.  Now had the Son been planted in the Garden (instead of Adam) he would have withstood the temptation;–why then he and not Adam?  Because of his created superiority to Adam. [Leyda writes] “M adds, later: Sophomoricus”[1]

[Book X, (41-43): “…man should be seduced/ And flattered out of all, believing lies/ Against his maker…] All Milton’s strength & rhetoric suffice not to satisfy concerning this matter–free will.  Doubtless, he must have felt it himself: & looked upon it as the one great unavoidable flaw in his work.  But, indeed, God’s alleged omnipotence & foreknowledge, are insuperable bars to his being made an actor in any drama, imagined.[2]

NOTES to Melville’s annotations of Paradise Lost.


                [1] The word “sophomoricus” was written with a darker pencil and separated from the rest of the comment.

                [2] The two volumes, heavily annotated, with numerous comments erased or cut away, were offered anonymously at auction; Jay Leyda and Hershel Parker were allowed to copy the marginalia; Leyda reported to Harrison Hayford, 3/6/84 that Parker was “hysterical.”  Leyda’s transcription was sent to Harrison Hayford 2/4/85.  In a letter of August 18, 1987, Parker wrote to me “After seeing M’s Milton marginalia I would be more wary than ever about deriving a coherent ideology from M’s texts.” Hayford, at my request, sent me a photocopy 4/3/90. I have analyzed these annotations (and their implications for Melville scholarship) on Pacifica radio (KPFK) to celebrate Melville’s birthday in 1990 and 1991. Their new owner had refused access to scholars, but later sold the volumes to another anonymous collector who subsequently donated the Milton volumes to Princeton University.

A few of the comments have appeared in Robin Sandra Grey, “Surmising the Infidel: Interpreting Melville’s Annotations on Milton’s Poetry,” Milton Quarterly Vol.26, #4 (December 1992): 103-113.  Grey (a Milton scholar, not a Melvillean) finds herself “confronted with a reading of Milton’s ambitions and agenda so curious, indeed perverse, that perhaps only William Empson in Milton’s God and Harold Bloom in Ruin the Sacred Truths would have regarded Melville’s assessments without significant surprise” (110).  She has read Melville as another Satan: “…Milton’s powerful dramatic depictions of Satan’s character have interest for Melville largely as they reveal the tension in Satan between his former glory and virtue and his present degradations and viciousness” (fn 21, p.112).  Her comment on the Devil as Messiah annotation states her preference for “skeptical” Ishmael over “frenzied” Ahab, linking only Ishmael to the masque because of his remarks in the Whalers Chapel.  Cf. David Hume, HE, Vol.7, 337 (year 1660) on Paradise Lost, which he fervently admired despite its not being wholly purged of (Leveller) cant.

Hershel Parker has been reticent about these matters in the first volume of his authoritative Melville biography, Volume I (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U.P., 1996).  Of the marginalia I have quoted, Parker has heretofore published only the comment about Milton and Voltaire (618).  (One other annotation is quoted, in which Melville ratifies separation of church and state in Mitford’s Introduction.)  Paradise Lost influenced Moby-Dick insofar as “Melville took some of Ahab’s qualities as Satanic opponent…”Ahab is the “tyrannical captain” likened to Cromwell  (699-700).  Parker does not discuss the mysterious prior provenance of these books.  In the Historical Note to the N/N edition of Moby-Dick, Milton is mentioned, but his battles are aesthetic ones alone, as these sentences hint: “ [While writing the book] Melville’s imagination for many months had unrolled at will a panorama of Milton’s dubious battle on the plains of heaven. The dubious battle being waged in his study was…the most intense aesthetic struggle yet waged in the English language on this continent.” (617).

Parker has answered my query regarding his mental states while copying the annotations, also his intentions regarding their publication:  “I will not write an essay on HM and Milton, ever, but I will refer to the marginalia–esp in the 1860 chapters.” “I wasn’t hysterical, except that Jay and I were at the Phillips Gallery in 1983, not 84, with someone else who simply would not shut up his mouth. It was excruciating. I was not hysterical about the annotations. As usual with me, the excitement came long afterwards—when I was drafting the 1860 chapters of volume two, in 1990 or 1991 or so. I sacrificed myself and led him around the corner so Jay could have some time with the books. By the time the volumes came back on the market I had a set of the same edition and carried that up to NYC and got all I could, in the right place on the pages; the day was very overcast, but I got some erased words, nevertheless, by carrying the volumes to the windows.  Princeton tried some very expensive processes, I understand, but failed to recover erased words….I will quote all the recovered annotations in the LOG, I assume, when the time comes.” (e-mail message to me Nov.1, 1997).

** I questioned the current meaning of ‘tragedy,’ inferring that “in the best of all possible worlds” only hubris or a similar character flaw can bring us down.

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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