YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

August 17, 2018

H.G. Wells as moderate man

H.G. Wells Getty Images I had not read any of H. G. Wells’ fiction; but I did slog through his massive compendium of earth’s history (The Outline of History) but without the footnotes prominent in prior editions), though he was never a trained historian. He was not strictly a member of the counter-culture, for he was all in for science and technology (industrial progress), which would ostensibly culminate in the only slaves being machines, and liberating the (enslaved) masses from the rule of money (i.e., Jewish power). Here is Wikipedia’s sympathetic partial summary of his 1200 page much corrected work, initially completed in one year, in reaction to the horrifying mass death inflicted, Wells wrote, by (aristocratic) Great Powers. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Outline_of_History.

Wells started his synoptic book in 1919 (during a year of upheaval), but this edition was completed after WW2. However, Wells shockingly omitted the Nazi murder of European Jewry, a disaster not in Wells’s comprehensive chronology nor was it mentioned in Wikipedia, perhaps because such events did not jibe with the Wells assault on cultural and racial superiority, lauded by Wiki and affirming the moderate men. (His preference for male heroes and anti-heroes such as Alexander the Great, Napoleon (predecessors to “insane” Hitler?) was mentioned by Wiki.

Since I have focused many blogs on multiculturalism, antisemitism and the waywardness of 18th Century Protestant theologian J.G. von Herder’s influence, which culminated in “cultural anthropology,” race, “roots” environmentalism national character: result, antisemitism and Christian Socialism (one 19th Century precedent of Fabian Socialism, also omitted by Wikipedia).
Nor did Wiki see that American greatness contradicted by a Wellsian emphasis on globalism and its constantly reiterated wish for “peace.” Toward the end of peace was his obvious preference for the Muslim and Buddhist religions. His Christian Socialism was also hinted as he regarded Jesus as a revolutionary who opposed the rich.

Surprisingly, and unlike the popular books by the anti-imperialist, somewhat Wilsonian Charles and Mary Beard (1927), Wells expressed positive views of American promise (like Marx who lauded the American Civil War as a bourgeois revolution), but Wells did attack Stalinism, omitting however, antisemitism in Marx (who also railed against the rule of money as “the universal pimp.”)

So what are left with? Wells was a precursor of the counter-culture, notwithstanding his enthusiasm for machines who would presumably release the masses from toil. But first, the masses would take charge of the machines. And, being a Fabian Socialist, Wells was apparently the father of the Peace Studies movement, the father of other moderate men (the “socially responsible capitalists” of the Democratic Party) and of left-leaning Pacifica radio.

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September 3, 2014

Solidarity on “the Left” vs. disunity on “the Right”

conflictmanagementPOTUS delivered his usual mixed message today, first vowing to smash ISIS, then softening his stance to one of “managing conflict.” This blog is about why the Right can’t unify to defeat such typical ‘switcheroos.’

All graduate students in today’s better doctoral programs are marinated in the ideology of “progressivism.” How did this come about? I have traced the origins of managerial attempts to deal with the frightening rise of the “laissez-faire” bourgeoisie that threatened to spread Jacobin-type revolution in the early years of the Industrial Revolution–not because the conservatives were Jacobins, but because the early years of the Industrial Revolution, spawned by an alliance of bourgeoisie and aristocracy, suggested a revolution of the new industrial working class. Class relations in Britain were never the same again.

To review: aristocrats in England bonded with the new industrial working class (drawn from deskilled artisans and peasants) against the bourgeoisie. (See https://clarespark.com/2011/07/16/disraelis-contribution-to-social-democracy/.) Disraeli’s Young England and its Christian Socialist allies provided a model for forward thinking politicians and journalists in the United States after the Civil War (the take-off period for rapid industrialization now that the agrarian South was vanquished). Enter the Progressive movement that skillfully co-opted the anti-elitist populist movement, a movement composed of small producers on the land, and directed against railroads for instance. But the progressives never stood with working class organizations or the dread specter of “proletarian internationalism”—rather, they installed “ethnicity” or “race” as the socio-economic division that mattered, erasing “class” as a category for sorting people’s interests out.

The Nation magazine moved sharply to the left in 1919, to avert bloody class warfare, but they supported populism, not communism. Their stance could not have been more elitist or counter-revolutionary. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/.) Oswald Garrison Villard’s crypto-organic conservatism or a gentleman’s version of the route to social cohesion is obvious, and no anarchists or communists were taken in by his anti-capitalist fulminations.

You could say, with accuracy, that progressives and leftists hated each others’ guts until the brilliant stroke of solidarity against “fascism” in the mid-1930s that was called “the Popular Front.” Such solidarity between social democrats and hard leftists continues to exist, scandalously in my view, with social democrats controlling the discourse. For no radical of either Left or Right should abandon empiricism and materialism (i.e., Enlightenment) to be absorbed by the alleged management of structural conflicts offered by social democrats (i.e., progressives who don’t like Progress as delivered by relatively unregulated market economies).

Hence, the confusion today over Obama’s “true” loyalties: is he a Leninist or a managerial centrist? Opinion on the Right is sharply divided, perhaps because selected pieces of New Deal reformism still exist in the upper reaches of the Republican Party, for instance in the impetus toward Medicare accomplished during the Eisenhower administration, a statist remedy that would serve as models for other reforms in Big Government, such as Obamacare marching toward “Medicare for all.”

“community”

I cannot blame the Tea Party for its animus against what appears to be the passivity of Congress in resisting the Obama administration’s apparent big lurch to the Left, but I do fault them for unnecessary sectarianism, particularly among the social conservatives who appear to have abandoned the separation of Church and State, and look to a religious revival to repair structural problems in American society, all the  while denying that there is any racism on the Right.

Contra many conservatives, “liberalism” is not a religion, but an ideology that will triumph as long as the pseudo-leftist social democratic managerial discourse dominates popular culture/public and private speech.

“Progressive rock, Italian style

Until the hopelessly corrupt Chicago machine is dislodged, there is no stopping Big Government. Whatever the flaws of the “Republican establishment” it would serve classical liberalism well to take a lesson from the leftist playbook and practice “solidarity forever.” [Update 9-4-14: There cannot be solidarity on the Right as long as mutual hostility exists between small and big business. See http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/07/08/the-u-s-government-isnt-friendly-enough-to-big-business/. This argues that [New Deal reformism] favored small business over big business. This will shock many in The Tea Party.]

April 14, 2011

Darwin and the climate change debate: the Greens have it

Paul Bettany as Darwin

It is obvious that Charles Darwin (the mid-Victorian fellow with the monkey tail) remains at the center of the warfare between science and religion, but less so clear that he has been recruited (as negative example) to the blazing controversy over man-made “climate change” by at least one or possibly two would-be biographers.

First, I saw Jon Amiel’s Creation (2009, written by John Collee), that purported to show Darwin’s illnesses and other crises that preceded the publication of his world-shattering book, The Origin of Species (1859). The main drama of the film centered around the agonized relationship between the materialist Charles and his religious, disapproving wife Emma. In the film, he can’t make up his mind whether or not to make so drastic a leap into darkness, so gives the ms. to Emma to either repress or to send off to his publisher. Emma, the tolerant [moderate], sends the ms. to the publisher, yet Charles will be buried with full honors in Westminster Abbey, for the filmmaker, obviously a sign of some reconciliation with religion. This is what “moderates” do. And the title (Creation) hardly suggests affinity with Darwin’s beliefs, which were entirely materialistic and did not require multiple creations to account for the fossil record, etc.

I had never read a Darwin biography, so did not know about his long bouts with possibly severe psychogenic illness, so picked up a popular biography by Cyril Aydon, also a resident of the U.K. (Charles Darwin, Constable, 2002) There are mammoth deviations between this biography and the film, but both have designs on the reader. In Aydon’s version, Charles, an “obsessive” that reminds me of Captain Ahab characterizations, is an autodidact, a country gentleman living off the largesse of his father, and without inner turmoil regarding the outcry  likely to ensue as he lays out a minutely documented argument that species have gradually evolved over time through natural selection, and were not specially created by God to adapt to particular environments.  Indeed, Aydon emphasizes, Darwin wrote a will before the ms. was publishable, specifying in no uncertain terms that it was to be published after his expected early death.  Emma was not an actor in this drama of supposed ambivalence, except at the very end when, inexplicably,  she does not attend his funeral. (WHAT?!)*

But what caught my eye were two details. One was the supposed approval of the Christian Socialist leader Charles Kingsley, a major figure in the march toward British social democracy (and hence a “moderate” who wisely kept religion and science in separate spheres of experience). The other point comes out near the end of Aydon’s book, where he corrects Darwin’s gradualism, suggesting a compromise between the reigning catastrophism (apocalyptic changes in the earth’s history) and Darwin’s incremental transformations of species through competition for scarce resources. Aydon actually mentions “climate change.” And to emphasize the general Gaia orientation of this book, the author insists that Darwin titled his third installment of the great trilogy that began with Origin, The Descent of Man, in order to undercut humanity’s hubris in putting its own interests above that of the no longer “lower” species.

(For more on Charles Kingsley, see his anonymously published Alton Locke, the story of a dying tailor who repents of his prior associations with working-class radicals. I excerpted juicy portions in chapter five of my book on the Melville Revival, especially as the book was a sensation and was probably read by Melville. For a detailed account of Alton Locke, see https://clarespark.com/2012/10/07/christian-socialism-as-precursor-to-orwell/)

* Darwin is portrayed throughout as not only oblivious to the poor, but as a raving sexist and pre-eugenicist, refusing contraception because the middle class needed to increase its fertility (He was a cousin of Francis Galton too!). But the best part is the lengthy quote from a note he wrote to himself in two columns, one headed “Marry”, the other “Not Marry”:

“Marry: Children–(if it please God)–Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interest in one,–object to be beloved and played with.–better than a dog anyhow.–Home, & someone to take care of house–Charms of music & female chit-chat. These things good for one’s health.–but terrible loss of time.– My God, it is intolerable to think of spending one’s whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all.–No, no  won’t do. Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House.–Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire & books & music perhaps–Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’s St.

“Not Marry: Freedom to go where one liked –choice of Society & little of it.–Conversation of clever men in clubs –Not forced to visit relatives. & to bend in every trifle. –to have the expense and anxiety of children perhaps quarreling —Loss of time. –cannot read in the Evenings –fatness and idleness–Anxiety and responsibility –less money for books & c –if many children forced to gain one’s bread.–(But then it is very bad for one’s health to work too much)  Perhaps my wife wont like London: then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent idle fool. (p. 135. Aydon may have added the italics. The quote is undated but is probably circa 1838)

October 5, 2009

Arne Duncan’s statism, part one

U.S. Secretary of Education
U.S. Secretary of Education

Meet Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, as depicted by Ed. (The Magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Fall 2009, Vol. LIII, No.1). Is it my imagination, or is there a white crucifix shown on the upper-right hand section of the page facing the text of  John McQuaid, “Will Obama’s Choice Change Education in America?” Here is a quote that suggests I am correct: “…Arne Duncan is a bona fide idealist. He talks not just about putting kids first, raising test scores, and the relationship of education to economic opportunity–the standard rhetoric of his predecessors–but also about education as a tool for social justice, not a phrase heard very often in Washington policy circles or even among his fellow technocrats in the Obama administration. He believes that government has an obligation to right the wrongs of poverty–or at least, to do everything possible to mitigate the damage it does to individuals. ‘In so many places we’re  not giving every child a chance, we’re not giving children the chance they need to be successful,’ he says. “And where we don’t, I really believe we are part of the problem. We perpetuate poverty. We perpetuate social failure.’ ”

Opponents of “the nanny state” will enjoy the next sentences: “Chicago investment banker and philanthropist John W. Rogers Jr. met Duncan playing on South Side basketball courts as a teenager and later gave him his first job running an educational mentoring program. ‘I think he sees this as the fulfillment of his mom’s legacy and his own,’ Rogers says. ‘It’s the opportunity to take his mom’s values and his values and share them with the entire country.'” [Mom, we learned in the second paragraph, ran “The Sue Duncan Center…attended by kids from elementary to high school, nearly all of them African Americans struggling with the grind of urban poverty–crime, drugs, gangs, absent parents.” Her children worked there from childhood on. “The gulf between their own comfortable circumstances–their father was a professor of psychology at the university–and those of their contemporaries on the South Side bothered the Duncan kids. It became a kind of puzzle, a mental nut they all tried to crack as they grew older. Why did such glaring inequities exist in Chicago, in America? Who or what was to blame?….Arne contained “a huge amount of anger…at the local public schools….”]

The author then proceeds to describe the obstacles to Duncan’s idealistic plans to rescue inner city schools: “The job of secretary is hostage to the basic structure of the U.S. educational system, with its system of  local control and the sway that powerful interest groups hold over national education policy.” What did he just say? How can “powerful interest groups” (unnamed!) hold “sway” if the locals control the “system?” And what is “national education policy”? And would not Duncan know, as he was CEO of Chicago Public Schools from 2001-2008, with an outstanding record of achievement, according to the website of the Department of Education?

It should be noted at once that Sec. Duncan has never been a classroom teacher, nor does he hold any advanced degree. His educational credential consists of a B.A. from Harvard in sociology, where he graduated magna cum laude. Since his father was a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, I thought I should find out what kind of psychology he was teaching. This is from the short biography produced by the U. of Chicago upon his death: ““Starkey was one of the pioneers in the field of nonverbal communication, though he preferred to think of his research as studying face-to-face interaction,” said David McNeill, Professor Emeritus in Psychology at the University of Chicago. “He looked at gesture, gaze and other aspects of interaction as an integrated whole and through time.” Readers of this website should recognize the buzz words of organic conservatism: “Interaction” was the focus of the new cultural history as introduced to the American Historical Association in 1939, abolishing the potentially fragmenting practice of “scientific history” that entailed following the evidence wherever it might lead. There were no more free standing individuals, but rather the “individual-in-society.” As for “integrated whole…through time,” that is a functionalist term. “The whole” (whatever that is) runs like a well-calibrated machine. There are no internal conflicts, and if any exist, they were introduced by the beetle-browed and mustachioed outside agitator. [On the sea change from scientific history to cultural history see my article, http://hnn.us/articles/4533.html. )

Duncan, fils, is no outsider, though he portrayed as one by the author of the article we have been reading together: “Like Obama, he’s an outsider who has never quite wholly belonged to any of the worlds he moved through, nor to any particular interest group or camp, yet who could be comfortable anywhere : basketball courts, the streets, political meetings, and policy salons.” I.e., Duncan, like his basketball pal Obama, is the neutral mediator who will negotiate conflicts between those who want national standards in public education and those who fight for local control. Such public interest progressives inherit the ambitions of (British) Christian Socialists or Fabians and (U.S.) proponents of the Social Gospel. All were anticapitalists with a strong antisemitic subtext: they would substitute a Christianized capitalism for the Jewishly exploitative variety. Would Charles Sumner (see next blog) have agreed with them? I don’t think so. For more on Sumner the modernizer see my blog “Margoth and Robert E. Lee: Rival Visions of National Unity.”

[In the next installment, https://clarespark.com/2009/10/05/arne-duncans-statism-part-two/ I will report on his policy innovations and more on the discourse of Ed.]

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