YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

June 15, 2015

Hillary Clinton and second wave feminism: Looking Backwards

Suffragettes, NYT, 1921

Suffragettes, NYT, 1921

Mrs. Clinton’s most recent rollout relied on two elements of sentimentality*: the log cabin rags-to-riches theme made famous by the Jacksonians, and the tribute to her mother and grandmother in the closing moments of her speech, thus linking her to the white-garbed, very pure tail end of first wave feminists who struggled for Votes for Women.

This is what the second wave of feminism hath wrought: a woman riding on the coattails of a former president, and a woman demanding to be the first person of her gender to hold the highest office of the land.

Forget her silence about trade deals and foreign policy, even though, were she elected, she would be commander-in-chief of the military, whose connection to foreign relations needs no mention here.. Because any famous woman will do, especially if she mouths aging communist platitudes such as income inequality. After all, the second wave feminists came out of the antiwar movement that has never lost its glamour for Hollywood producers and writers—just look at the highly touted series Aquarius, alleging darkly that unspeakable atrocities were visited on the peasants of Viet Nam, and developing the theme that Charlie Manson was in league with murderous, crypto-gay, impure Republicans.

“Rags to Riches” late 19th C.

The Clinton speech took its own swipe at (reactionary) Republicans as the enemies of the Progress that she associates with “the workers” who are now magically absorbed into the “middle class” that she so aggressively defends, as if we remained mired in the Middle Ages when small producers were the objects of elite defenders of the status quo.

It is the role of ideology to create consensus, but at what price?

* Sentiment reformism bases its appeal on a purified, transformed heart, evading the appeal to a change of mind, by contrast, rational appeals based on increased understanding of policy. Sentimental reformism is hence irrational.

Movie poster, 1941

Movie poster, 1941

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January 21, 2013

Citizen Obama, political pluralism and the elusive search for Unity

Raft of the Medusa

Raft of the Medusa

Although POTUS nodded in the direction of “the enduring strength of our Constitution” and quoted lines from the God-given Declaration of Independence, and with a cynical reference to “American exceptionalism,” the statism of Citizen Obama’s second inaugural brought us closer to the French Revolution, with its Jacobin emphasis on equality of condition, than to the American Revolution that promised a meritocracy grounded in equality of opportunity. (Recall that France, unlike England, always had a strong central state; recently France voted in a Socialist government that has levied a 75% income tax on the rich.)

What struck me about today’s awesome inauguration speech was its frank partisanship, indeed, its appeal to class warfare, but not only did Citizen Obama appeal solely to his Democratic constituency, he defined “the Nation” in terms that can only be described as anti-pluralist and either socialist or proto-fascist (see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/20/an-awesome-inauguration/, also https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/).  If Citizen Obama has his way, political pluralism will give way to one party dictatorship, perhaps to rule by executive decree. (See the juridical thought of Carl Schmitt, who made the transition from social democracy theorist to Nazi without difficulty.)

Many “rightist” pundits have noticed the offensive against the Republican Party, that reiterated accusations made by the hard Left during the waning New Deal years that Republicans were, by temperament and policy, Nazis. The line continues that all Republicans are Southern racists, while the Democratic Party, as led by Obama and his multiculturalist followers, are the true inheritors of the civil rights movement, making corrections and reparations to overcome the white male supremacy that was supposedly the basis for American nationality pre-Obama. In this, he has the support of the New Left and the American Studies academics—and all of the cultural studies crowd, who take pride in their freedom from “economic determinism.” In other words, they cannot explain the difference between the economic policies of Lord Maynard Keynes versus Friedrich Hayek versus Milton and Rose Friedman.

guilt and anxiety

But we must not push the analogy to the French Revolution too far. For the French Revolution came to signify war and Napoleon’s bourgeoisification of Europe.  Echoing (?) the infamous appeaser Neville Chamberlain, Obama stands for “peace in our time.” In other words, he is boiler plate anti-imperialist and antiwar, except for the class war necessarily waged on behalf of “the rising middle class,” his new name for what used to be called “the working class”.  Even progressives used to know a petit-bourgeois radical (Obama) when they saw one, but today’s progressives have abandoned accurate nomenclature for populist, triumphalist politics. “Off with their [Federalist] heads.”

Many of the pundits on Fox News recognized the speech for what it was (a socialist screed), while a few seemed to expect a call for a middle ground, that no man’s land where erstwhile progressives feel comfortable in making compromises for the sake of ‘social cohesion’ and ‘political stability’. These are the buzz words of ‘moderate’ conservatism, the “Democratic” inheritors of the New Deal  and Wilsonian “internationalism.”

With the country divided and anxious, this day of bogus unity and bogus reverence for the American Constitution can only be a caesura in an ongoing civil war that was present from the beginning of the United States. (For a recent installment see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/24/culture-wars-and-the-secular-progressives/.)

barack-obama-family-supreme-court-john-roberts-michelle-sasha-malia-inauguration

March 10, 2012

Dan Loeb Speech 3-7-12

 

Daniel S. Loeb

Daniel S. Loeb Speech: On Receiving the 2012 Columbia John Jay Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement

“When I was in College I liked this Elvis Costello song, “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?”

I think today we need a new song, “What’s So Funny About Individual Freedom, Free Enterprise and Accountability?”

In fact, I might add what’s so funny about celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country great? This entrepreneurial spirit is applicable not only to business but also to the arts and to humanitarian efforts, as is evident by my fellow awardees tonight like Filmmaker Dede Gardner, Venture Philanthropist Ellen Gustafson, Venture Capitalist Ben Horowitz, and Tiananmen Square dissident turned fund manager the great venture capitalist Li Lu.

I think this is still an aspirational country, but there are some people who think it is fashionable to denigrate success, while others try to stir up class warfare. I was surprised last fall to see an Economics Professor ensconced in an Occupy Wall Street mob decrying the 1%, attributing all the country’s problems to an issue of poor distribution of wealth and accusing the so-called 1% of being lazy

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UxtJTWahWM&feature=related, watch at 6:30 mark). Certainly he [Jeffrey Sachs, C.S.] did not speak for the University where he is tenured but for but an economics Professor to carry on like this – really? We have a problem when young people are taught that our country is fundamentally unfair and encouraged to see themselves as victims. It is even more upsetting when our leaders tell us that it is their role to make amends for these wrongs via increased and capricious regulation, excessive entitlements, ill-conceived subsidies and punitive prosecutions.

So, I am delighted to stand here tonight to celebrate not my own success but to cheer the idea of professional accomplishment and the role Columbia has had in so many people’s lives in achieving their dreams through the John Jay scholarships and the College generally.

Columbia’s ability to attract and cultivate some of the nation’s greatest leaders goes back a few years. My fellow classmate President Barack Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I congratulate him on his phenomenal political career. And I’ll go back a few years further…

The namesake of this evening, John Jay, attended the College in 1760, was our first Chief Justice, and will always be remembered for his commitment to justice and successful efforts to emancipate the slaves in New York State. After two failed efforts in 1777 and 1785, he finally succeeded in 1799. It took almost another 30 years for all the slaves in New York State to be freed. Imagine that! What an inspiration John Jay’s grit and tenacity is for those of us who have been fighting for civil rights of marriage equality and education reform today. A worthy hero of Columbia College indeed

Alexander Hamilton began his studies at Kings College in 1773. From a shady Caribbean slave-trading Island, a bastard child orphaned at age 11, Hamilton studied military strategy with his fellow Kings College students, became one of the greatest leaders our nation has ever known, and created many of the institutions which define who we are today. An underprivileged student from a broken family who managed to go to Columbia and make good thanks to the generous support of others…sounds familiar.

For me, Columbia was transformative. I don’t remember much about the specifics of the Economics courses that I majored in – I apparently internalized the key concepts – but I still remember vividly the thrill of reading Don Quixote, Epictetus, The Aeneid, King Lear and Candide, and how contemporary the stories and ideas in these old and ancient texts struck me. To this day, I still chuckle when I consider the bawdy tales of Rabelais, who seems now to have anticipated and channeled my own 6 year-old son’s talent for potty talk. I fantasize that our politicians have been moved by the dialogues of Plato, and thus contemplate the ancient conflict of the sophists versus the lovers of truth. (I guess they determined that the former was the more expeditious course)

But Columbia was not just professors and books, it was the friendships and the conversations, often at Tom’s or the College Inn, sometimes about girls or dreams

or aspirations but often about those very great books or art, which we all internalized and helped form the fabric of who we are today. Two of those dear friends, Maurice Rasgon, who convinced me to transfer to Columbia and my friend Robert Brown, who let me sleep on his dorm room floor when I was briefly homeless, have travelled here all the way from California. So has my mother Clare, a historian who recently read Chernow’s Hamilton Biography with me in anticipation of this occasion.

Perhaps I was always intensely curious, but my Columbia education gave me a framework and a perspective to investigate new things – things that could be put into a historical and philosophical lineage. As I have grown older, the statues on Columbia’s campus of Rodin’s Thinker, Founding Fathers like Hamilton and Jefferson, and the values they represent have come to life and resonate within me.

Lastly, whatever measure of success I have attained in my professional career would not have been possible without the love and support of my wife Margaret and pales in comparison to the happiness she and my children give me every day. Thank you very much for this award.”

July 16, 2011

Disraeli’s contribution to social democracy

One of the chief tactics of populists and progressives is to depict themselves as persons of the “grass roots”; as spokesmen for the common man and woman against “the money power.”

And [hook-nosed] moneybags are held by the populist-progressives to control all information in the society, with the exception of underground messaging and alternative media. The internet has only facilitated such carelessness and populists can be found on both the right and the left of the political spectrum. I have found them to be haters and uninterested in the histories they claim to depict with accuracy, deluded into the belief that they are correcting the “propaganda” generated by serious students of the past. There is money in it, as the book sales figures or viewers of some “traditionalist” conservative stars can attest. This blog seeks to correct a common misconception I have found in the ranks of some who deem themselves conservatives: that Rousseau* generated the Jacobins, and that a straight line can be drawn between the furious mob behavior in the Reign of Terror and the Democratic or even moderate Republican (“RINO”) opposition.  And the enemy is “secularism, ” redefined to signify atheism, a.k.a., worship of the Goddess of Reason, rather than religious pluralism and the separation of church and state.

As everything on this website will attest, populism and progressivism did not spring, fully-formed, from the industrial working class, or small farmers, or any other sector of the population de-skilled or otherwise harmed by the industrial revolution and the concentration of ownership in corporations. Rather, its ideology was largely cooked up by those European intellectuals who identified with a threatened aristocracy, and who wrote copiously in order to persuade a frivolous and conspicuously consuming class of lords and ladies, princes and kings, that they had better unite with The People against the “laissez-faire” industrial bourgeoisie that was the chief cause of lower-class suffering with the advent of science, the machine age, utilitarianism, railroads, the Higher Criticism of the Bible, and of course, Darwinism.

With a renewed devotion to “religion” (now seen as instrument of social control for all classes) the aristocracy would mend its ways, reverting to the gentle paternalism that was believed to have existed in the Middle Ages, and the new education-hungry working-class would settle for those reforms that did not threaten the social order as it had existed before mad scientists and engineers made the scene. The lower orders would be treated to lots and lots of spectacles and costume parties.

Benjamin Disraeli, a prolific author before he entered the British parliament, later to become Prime Minister and the Earl of Beaconsfield, wrote novels all his life, but the group of novels relevant to this posting was published in the mid-1840s, and meant to introduce “The New Generation” that would represent “Young England.”  Coningsby, Sybil, or the Two Nations, and Tancred, or the New Crusade,** were a trilogy intended to instruct Europe as to the chaos that was to be generated by the new industrial poor, whether they be slaves to the machine or miners–unless they were rescued by an enlightened and progressive aristocracy. Sybil, in particular, sounded the tocsin, and appeared the same year, 1845, as did Engels’ famous book on the condition of the working class in Manchester. Disraeli’s father, Isaac D’Israeli, never renounced Judaism, but did baptize all his children into the Church of England, home of the Elizabethan Compromise.

What Disraeli accomplished was to provide the moderate conservative alternative to the red specter that was haunting Europe. The Good King would represent the People against all forces of dissolution, and all would be self-sacrificing as their model, Jesus Christ, had been. Without faith, there could be no sense of duty, and everyone was bound by duty and those rights that kept the peasantry prosperous, and the male working class not exhausted or forced to compete with female and child labor.

Sybil with book

Disraeli was hardly alone in his prescriptions for a measured progress, with his religious model apostolic Christianity and the “reverence” it embodied. He was writing in the tradition of Hume and Burke, of the German Romantics (including Herder and Goethe). His contemporaries, such as hero-worshipping Carlyle and the Christian Socialists, and later Bismarck, would echo the same tradition of conservative reform, staving off excess of every kind, whether it be upper-class selfishness (“individualism” or “puritanism”) or lower-class licentiousness and excessive interest in the heroism of some Old Testament figures (see Kingsley’s Alton Locke, a founding document of Christian Socialism, puported to be the confession of an ex-Chartist, now dying of consumption).

Populism is inconceivable without hero-worship and the obeisance to opinion leaders, stand-ins today for the Good King imagined by Disraeli. In the populist appeal to emotions (“compassion”) and false utopias, rather than to careful analysis of policy, the notion of a democratic republic is subverted beyond recognition, wherever it may be found, on the left or right. Class warfare, wielded cynically by some Democrats, works, for populists hate capitalism/the money power. That is “the way we live now.”

*See image from Columbia Today (Alumni Magazine responding to 1968 student strike): https://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/rousseau-amidst-primitive-columbia-student-strikers/.

** See cartoon and description of Tancred in Arab News: http://www.arabnewsblog.net/2011/05/11/tabsir-redux-tancred-or-the-new-crusade/. The blurb author misses the point of Disraeli’s trilogy: to relocate the fount of Christianity in Jerusalem rather than Rome. Disraeli seems to have reconciled his Judaic ancestors with Christianity by finding heroism, honor, and direct communication with the Deity in the Middle East. What this may hint about relations with his father is speculation on my part. He does mention “theocratic equality” in Tancred, which suggests that equality is defined in religious terms, not material ones (those of the working poor who rise in the class system are tamed through deference and self-control), and that an established religion is the major source of social solidarity.

With respect to his relations with Judaism, his move was simply to stress the Judaic origins of Christianity, thus knocking out the antithesis between Good Christian and Evil Jew and making Jerusalem and environs the cradle of civilization. I don’t know if he was the first to do this, but it was certainly an obsessive theme. In Tancred, he complains bitterly about antisemitism, and lets none of his characters off the hook. It is unfortunate that in the process, he cleaved to contemporary notions of race and national character.

It is also interesting that his orientalist hero, Tancred, Lord Montecute, is prevented at the last minute from marrying the gorgeous Jewess Eva. In the last sentence we discover that his parents have come to Jerusalem to get him away from all those too rich, brilliant, and irresistible  Jews. There is also a hint that momma’s puritanism may have driven Tancred to excessive religiosity and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem/Syria, where any sensitive, shy fellow would have gone off the deep end, faced with all that glamor. As for Sidonia, a character sometimes identified with a Rothschild or even with Disraeli himself, Sidonia is wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice, and the model man of the world, brilliant and a linguist, but he lacks a heart: Sidonia is incapable of emotional attachments–he is a rootless cosmopolitan, the very embodiment of THE MONEY POWER, as drawn by the would-be aristocratic anticapitalist, Benjamin Disraeli.

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