I am a bookish person and my family has always excelled in philosophy which is a required course in Portuguese High School. In a point system that theoretically went from 1 to 20 but in which, practically, 14 was an A and you rarely saw anything higher, Father, brother and I averaged between 18 and 20 in philosophy. (And history. And for me in English, but that might be personal.)
Philosophy is a neat thing, because most of it is the study of closed systems. I.e. people build entire worlds in their heads and the philosophy survives or not depending on how well it describes the real world (and therefore how useful it is to the people to whom it is communicated.)
If you study the history of philosophy, you find that the theories get more and more fanciful as they go, and less and less applicable to anything that means much of anything in day to day life.
I haven’t graphed it — though if I tell husband he probably will. Lately he’s been spending a lot of time with things like workforce statistics and graphs. I suspect there will be a post or a series of posts — but I suspect the “the theory is very pretty, but day to day it makes no difference” becoming popular travels along the same curve as human prosperity.
Someone who lives and dies by planting and harvesting doesn’t even have a philosophy. He has the proverbs that come from experience. Early to bed and early to rise, you know, and if it’s red in the west the hens get to rest or whatever. Look, I have no clue. Grandma, who, though not living from it, got a substantial portion of our food from her vegetable garden was full of these sayings. “It will be a hard year. Easter is in March” is the one I remember. Mom says it differently “Years with Easter in march are years of famine or of great dying.”
Now correlation is not causation. If Easter is on March 31st as opposed to April 1st, is that cause to be worried? And is this tied to agricultural cycles in Portugal? Or is there some grand cycle we can’t explain and whose mechanisms we can’t penetrate that has that as a side effect? I don’t know. I know I get vaguely uneasy when Easter falls in March. And I’ll note it did in 2001. Which means the crazy hamster at the back of my head got a little crazier.
But when you live close to the bone, in the potential of famine and death, you hold on to these bits of wisdom and don’t try to think of underlying causes. When you have more time on your hands, and finding a crust of bread for the table is not the primary thing on your mind, you have the opportunity to scrute the inscrutable and unscrew the primary cause of the universe. That great solipsistic cry of “I think, therefore I am” is not the cry of someone who needs to find his next meal, where the imperative becomes “I must find something to eat, or I’ll stop being.”
Even our images of the struggling philosopher — or artist — are not connected to true famine or true conditions of exigency. The “starving artist” might catch some illness from not eating enough (though in real life he was more likely to catch a disease due to screwing too much, or at least two indiscriminately, but let it stand. Sure, the philosopher or artist is sacrificing for his art, but that is not something people do in a society subject to famines and mass dyings. There you do what you have to do to stay alive.
The problem — okay, one of the many — of the 20th century is that it was the first century (the end of the nineteenth perhaps also, haven’t looked at figures) — where a majority of humanity (at least in the west) was beyond that absolute need to root, hog or die. You could live better or worse, but you no longer spent your entire life in immediate need.
Thus the great wars of the twentieth century were caused mostly by high flown philosophical theories, often — but not always — slating to a national identity.
The problem with the Nazis was not that they loved Germany. If a human doesn’t love his homeland (or her chosen homeland. Shut up or I’ll throw a fish at you) and his tribe, he’s already more than a little mad. We’re creatures of band and territory. To try to suppress nationalism is to go against human nature, and it can’t be done anyway. You can suppress nationalism, but then you get tribalism. And since overcoming tribalism (loyalty to family or those who look like us only) was a great part of what enabled civilization to flourish and get us beyond the need for looking for the next meal, that’s a massive step backwards. What you can’t do is eliminate the need for the band or the tribe. Ain’t gonna happen.
The big problem with Nazism was the whole mess of the racial theories. Not that the Nazis were unique in this respect. Read any science fiction from the 30s and what you find is a hot mess of “racial hygiene” and other pseudo scientific nonsense. But the Nazis wrapped it all in German RACIAL superiority (if Germans are a race, I’m a pseudopodous mouse) etc, etc ad nauseum. They marched under the shiny philosophy that if they won the world would be perfect because they were the master race, after all. Also they could do whatever they wanted to to people of different origins, because those people were not so far distant from animals.
Portugal managed to be national socialist without building vast camps or considering anyone subhuman (or notably hating Jews. Though frankly, given how emulsified Jewish populations were in the general Portuguese population, Jew-hatred would have depopulated the country.) and “just” making everyone poor and freezing life at around the 1940s. Because in Portugal the philosophy was not that strong. It was mostly crap-stuff from Rome. (I learned most Roman “people building” stories in elementary school.) and much chest puffing about how great the Portuguese were because we had the greatest history in the world. It wasn’t great. It was authoritarian, but its death rate was probably no more than is from international socialism: opportunity costs, inventions that weren’t made, the sclerotic national health. That sort of thing. Not the digging of mass graves and the piling of bodies like cord-wood. (Yes, the colonial wars, and Americans tend to be sympathetic to colonies, and I get that. But if you understand most colonial wars for “independence” or against Portugal were instigated (and often staffed by Cubans) by the Soviets, I don’t think a free country could have avoided fighting, anyway. Of course when the international socialists were in charge the territories in Africa were handed over to the soviets and their Cuban mercenaries. What happened then is the type of thing I don’t even like to think about. I was only 11 and couldn’t have done much about it, even if I understood it, but I still feel I should have. May G-d have mercy on our souls.)
In the same way the problem with the crazy version of socialism that international socialists try to impose was not that it was a form of Russian nationalism, which it really was, if you looked at it at all closely, nor that the Russians were trying to take over Europe. It was that they tried to take over Europe under the banner of Marx’s just-so stories. Marx was really a later-day Don Quixote, living without working and expounding ideas already disproved in his time to people as detached from reality and real economics as he was. Which is actually a good metaphor, because those infected with Marx’s internally coherent (before Gramsci got hold of it) theories are incapable of seeing the world as it really is, and go forth fighting dragons that are really windmills for romanticized minorities that are really just people.
Jorge Luis Borges once called Don Quixote the least necessary of books. Nothing would change if it had not been written. I think he was wrong. Don Quixote is a metaphor for the “age of ideologies.” At the dawn of mechanization, which made abundance and freedom from toil possible, Cervants foresaw how possible it was to get completely detached from reality and beguiled by pretty tales.
The problem with knowing a lot of things that just aren’t so, is that they rarely (if ever) cohere with life-as-it-actually-works. The day to day world isn’t glamorous, particularly coherent, nor does it inspire one to marsh on, shoulders back and head tilted up in the way of the art of every totalitarian regime ever.
But the made up theories and made up world — particularly in a society consumed by the certainty that everything can be known and proven or disproved by “science” — can be manipulated by people perhaps also beguiled by other philosophies (Marxism is an almost universal culprit these days.)
I never understood why the left in the US consistently identified the right with Nazis, when the “right” in the US isn’t even blood-and-soil, but just “Oh, for the love of bob, leave me alone already” or why or how the left could decide we, mostly small l libertarians (what is known as constitutional conservatives) are “authoritarian.” And not just me but any number of you have been puzzled at the idea that they think we are sexually repressed, or that we hate sexual minorities, or that we want women to be chained to house and kitchen, or that we are incredibly, fervently religious, or a number of other things.
But the left believes this with such absolute fervor they continuously “attack” us on that front. Take the rather vomitous naked pictures of lefties saying that they’d “grab us by the vote.”
Look, I was born with no body modesty. I suspect it’s something in the brain that was just left out of my head. Yes, it was a Latin country and I’m fairly sure I was sujected to a never end of lectures about how showing my body was immoral, but it was such an alien concept that I don’t remember any but one: a priest who stopped me at 11 or so, when I was climbing a wall in short skirts and gave me a lecture on how all the boys were looking at me. I remember that one, because if the boys were looking at me… well, I don’t remember it that way and I think we were all too young, and also because at the time it puzzled me so profoundly. I remember asking mom why anyone would be looking at my legs (at the time tanned and scratched pipe-cleaners) and I remember she didn’t tell me.
Eventually, at 13 or so (and fully developed) I was persuaded not to go out naked in public, that I should wear a bikini top at the beach or I’d be arrested, and that other people put some sort of construction on people going around in the altogether, so I should no longer get up from bed and rush downstairs naked because we had visitors. (I had hair you could sit on, so I suspect no one ever saw much. Brother called me Lady Godiva.)
Later, nudist or topless beaches didn’t even make an impression on me.
HOWEVER I’m 56, overweight and my body is shaped by two difficult pregnancies. I don’t have body modesty, but I have body-shame, because frankly, it ain’t pretty.
Most of the people taking the Grab them by the vote pictures had bodies worse than mine. They should have had the basic understanding that no one, possibly including themselves, wanted to see them naked. So what was the point of those icky pictures?
They thought they were shocking us. Because of course we are sexually repressed. This is, btw the same kind of lunacy that caused them to think at the height of Sad Puppies that Kate Paulk — Kate fricking Paulk who is Aussie by birth and generates triple entendres like she breathes — was too delicate to write the word vagina.
Anyway, we know the left has this image of us in their heads, what most of us never understood is WHY.
I confess I’ve never done a deep dive on the crazy pseudo-scientific bullshit of the twentieth century. I’m a depressive, okay? I try not to read things that make me want to slit my wrists.
But yesterday I strayed into a link to an essay that called the 2016 election the “Flight 93” election, i.e. “Storm the cockpit or die”. You might still die anyway, but it’s your only chance. I followed it, because the left is STILL foaming at the mouth mad at it. But you know, the essay isn’t wrong. It isn’t even slightly wrong.
Anyway, this morning I woke up to write this post (well, A post, I actually didn’t have any ideas) and I’d left that essay up, so I was tempted by one of the links at the bottom.
The post is about Donald Trump and how he isn’t a real authoritarian and books claiming he is. I don’t need to go into that here, but in the middle of it I found this:
The mid-20th-century creators of the concept of “authoritarianism” appear to have cooked their books. In the pathbreaking work The Authoritarian Personality (1950), the authors—including German sociologist Theodor Adorno, one of the leading lights of the Frankfurt School—created four “scales” measuring anti-Semitism, ethnocentrism, political and economic conservatism, and fascism. All of these indicators, they alleged, do not merely correlate highly, they are inherently connected. If you score high on the scale for one trait, you almost certainly score high on them all. Thus were the hitherto respectable—even fundamentally American—tenets of conservatism, and also the inborn and inexpungable passion of love of one’s own, now “scientifically” linked to anti-Semitism and fascism. Which is to say, to Auschwitz.
Coming in 1950, this was explosive stuff. The Left naturally intuited that here was the perfect moment to forever tar the Right with Nazism.
Nor was that all. The traits that place one on the “F-scale” (for fascist) include conventionalism, aggression, submission (hard to see how these go together, but let’s forge on), superstition, predilection for stereotypes, worship of power and “toughness,” destructiveness, cynicism, a propensity for projection, and—channeling Freud while anticipating the ’60s—sexual hang-ups. All of which the authors identified as mental disorders. Conservatives were not only proto-fascists, but also borderline insane.
The whole apparatus is a high-toned ancestor of those clickbait articles on pop-left-wing websites with headlines like “Study Shows: Conservatives Meaner than Liberals” or “Red State Average IQs 10 Points Lower than Blue.” Which is exactly what it is: “science” twisted to serve and popularize leftist political ends.
What Harvard’s Nathan Glazer said of the original study—“the authors of The Authoritarian Personality seem quite oblivious to authoritarianism on the political left, and so set a precedent for studying authoritarianism without need for unpleasant self-examination”—may not be true to the letter of these present-day updates……
I doubt most of the left knows of this book. Or perhaps they do, at least the college educated ones. But that book, digested by the chattering classes and fitting into the wholly made up universe of Marx and the extremely flawed (because mostly based on self-analysis, and that man wasn’t WELL) of Freudianism to regurgitate the certainties the left has about us. And also the certain that they’re simon-pure and absolutely nice because well… because they think that everyone should fuck wildly (except, of course, if it offends feminists. They might want to look in the mirror now) and they don’t hate Jews (but they hate Israel with anti-Semitic fervor and now have convinced themselves Jews control everything, but never mind) and they’re not nationalists and in fact despise their own country, and oh, yeah, they don’t want to control the press, except for that icky “right wing” press.
Actually, even in Adorno’s very flawed vision, the left scores high as authoritarian, particularly when you view nationalism as “loyalty to the tribe” which they have in spades, both to the leftist tribe and to whatever subdivision of victimhood they can claim. The only thing that doesn’t fit, at first blush, is the sexual inhibition one. But then you get into “all penetration is violation” and “you’re raping me with your eyes” and you’ve arrived.
But the fact is that all this is a bloody pack of nonsense. Jew-hatred correlates ONLY with authoritarianism BECAUSE a totalitarian state hates all divergent minorities. In the end they try to beat down every nail that sticks up, including the exceptionally smart, the exceptionally dumb, homosexuals, assexuals, creatives and introverts. Jews are just a rather visible non-conforming group and therefore the canary in the coal mine. Portugal, for instance, managed to be quite authoritarian without EVER descending into Jew-hatred. And in America today anti-Semitism is far more prevalent on the left than the right, something most American Jews don’t seem to notice possibly because they’re beguiled by the philosophy.
They know a lot of things that just ain’t so. And they’re fat and sassy enough they’ll never notice they don’t fit with reality until and unless their nonsense (like say the “No America at all” they were chanting again yesterday) comes to fruition and they realize that they are creatures of abundance, and that without abundance they can’t hold these just-so stories in their heads. (A reason that Europe seems to be edging closer to Jackboots and former liberals are leading.)
And we, Lord bless us, are trying to prevent them from getting their reckoning. Not that we love them that much, every unwashed dreadlock and flabby fat exposed fold, but because our fate and theirs are tied by living in the same area and being subjected to the same laws, and working in the same economy.
However, for the record, here is what real authoritanism is: when you feel you must control everyone else, including people wholly unrelated to you. When you want to control what they read, what they think, what they say in every minor detail. When youu want to make sure they have no options but the ones you approve of.
It’s particularly bad if you do all this under some sort of “unified philosophy.”
And if people and groups with those characteristics get the power to do it, the result is always mass graves.
And no, it makes absolutely no difference if you’ve convinced yourself that it’s your opponents who “really” want to do this, or if you engage in psychic projection to figure out what’s driving the opposition. (Which is how “we want fun stories, we don’t give a damn about politics” became, to the left “they want stories with no women or gay people or minorities. And they don’t want those people write either.” Something that, looking at the principals, or at the stories they write would have exploded in a New York minute. But they’re Don Quixote beguiled by the story in their heads and unable to see reality.)
That you’ve convinced yourself that people voted for Donald Trump — Donald EFFING Trump, people — because they think he is a paragon of Christian virtue and modesty just doesn’t make it so.
Look instead at who does what they can to ensure books and movies and series with opposing viewpoints (or even slightly divergent. Or even you know the creator didn’t buy into the latest politically correct “truth”) don’t see the light of day. Look at who is willing to destroy careers and lives to ensure their narrative isn’t challenged, even slightly. Look at who tries to shut down websites, leaves bad reviews to books never read, and calls those who agree with them “the good people.”
Those are the real authoritarians. Whether people want to sleep with everything that waves in the wind or with no one has nothing to do with it. Freud was wrong and studies on this are tainted. The Victorians have been long-dead, and they weren’t nearly as prudish as the left likes to believe (in fact, if you read their books you find young people accusing them of having a “mind like a sink” in which everything was sexual.) And we on the right? Bah. We actually do embrace a wide diversity. Yes, even in political thought. My friends range from Libertarians for whom any rule is an imposition to Socons who think that children not always obeying their parents is a sign of the apocalypse.
We debate things hotly and sometimes incandescently, but we don’t require other people fit every spot of our mental map to be friends, or indeed to be PEOPLE. Which is what the real authoritarians do. The left, OTOH will excommunicate you for having ONE thought out of line with their mental map.
Perhaps they know their mental map doesn’t fit anything? Surely after the fall of the Soviet Union, they must have an inkling it doesn’t fit REALITY?
Perhaps this is why they’ve decided, instead, to put their hands over their ears and lalalalala very loudly in the face of disproving facts?
It seems to be the case. They seem to have decided that if they just believe hard enough and push hard enough reality will conform to their dream-world.
So, you know, for conservatives and libertarians — most of whom, frankly would rather be concerned with their private lives, doing their work and raising fat babies — it’s not just that 2016 was the Flight 93 election. It’s that we live in Flight 93 times. The left, after 100 years of dominance of the culture, has made it clear we must keep charging the cockpit or die. We have no other choice.
Most of us completely understand the words of
Based Lindsey Graham: You want power so bad, and I hope to God you never get it.
Because we can’t let them get it, not in the amount they want. Because their programming is to destroy western civilization in the firm belief they’re bringing about paradises of freedom when in fact, they’ll take the world into an authoritarian age of misery, famine and tribalism.
Meanwhile, they’re living in Ruby Slippers times. If they click their feet hard enough and wish hard enough….
And that is where we are, and why it doesn’t look good.
The only thing I can tell you is that in the end we win, they lose. But it’s going to be a hard, hard road to a place where they realize they’re wrong. Dreams are so hard to kill.
Be not afraid. Let’s roll.