31 July 2008

Yesterday's vision of hollow politics

The events of the past century come at us, today, seeking new home and new place in our society and world. As a society we have given eager space for things that are vicious and cruel to the human spirit and to that very society that made it welcome. Growing up as a nation the common man was given uncommon validation as the creator of society, and it is society that is good while government the punisher to keep excesses from going past the bounds of civilization. That view comes not from our modern era, but the one that allowed for humanity to consider that individuals are equal at birth, no one different before the eyes of God, each soul equal, and each one gaining a future of self-made possibilities. From that each individual must deal with their circumstances given to them by society, by culture, by genetics and by the age they are born into. The good works of an individual is the measure of their esteem and the ability to turn from harming society the measure of their virtue. None that seek to force others to do good can be esteemed, and those that seek to control society to their ends have no virtue in them. Our duty to society is to protect it so that individuals can demonstrate their abilities to the esteem of their fellow citizens and demonstrate virtue by their acts of charity and leading a good life of change by example.

When looking at those who seek to enforce the good from above, the description of how they act and how they come to seize power is aptly described to those who sought to make government law over to their own ends which are thought noble, save that they restrict liberty by pretense of virtue. One of the most haunting paragraphs of the mind set behind this view of the world comes to us from a time much like our own, where politics would seek to rule society [bolding is mine]:

We are still in the Age of Rationalism, which began in the eighteenth century and is now rapidly nearing its close. [2] We are all its creatures whether we know and wish it or not. The word is familiar enough, but who knows how much it implies? It is the arrogance of the urban intellect, which, detached from its roots and no longer guided by strong instinct, looks down with contempt on the full-blooded thinking of the past and the wisdom of ancient peasant stock. It is the period in which everyone can read and write and therefore must have his say and always "knows better." This type of mind is obsessed by concepts - the new gods of the Age - and it exercises its wits on the world as it sees it. "It is no good," it says; "we could make it better; here goes, let us set up a program for a better world!" Nothing could be easier for persons of intelligence, and no doubt seems to be felt that this world will then materialize of itself. It is given a label, "Human Progress," and now that it has a name, it is. Those who doubt it are narrow reactionaries, heretics, and, what is worse, persons devoid of democratic virtue: away with them! In this wise the fear of reality was overcome by intellectual arrogance, the darkness that comes from ignorance of all things of life, spiritual poverty, lack of reverence, and, finally, world-alien stupidity - for there is nothing stupider than the rootless urban intelligence. In English offices and clubs it used to be called common sense; in French salons, esprit; in German philosophers' studies, Pure Reason. The shallow optimism of the cultural philistine is ceasing to fear the elemental historical facts and beginning to despise them. Every "know-better" seeks to absorb them in his scheme (in which experience has no part), to make them conceptually more complete than actually they are, and to subordinate them to himself in his mind because he has not livingly experienced them, but only perceived them. This doctrinaire clinging to theory for lack of experience, or rather this lack of ability to make experience, finds literary expression in a flood of schemes for political, social, and economic systems and Utopias, and practical expression in that craze for organization which, becoming an aim in itself, produces bureaucracies that either collapse through their own hollowness or destroy the living order. Rationalism is at bottom nothing but criticism, and the critic is the reverse of a creator: he dissects and he reassembles; conception and birth are alien to him. Accordingly his work is artificial and lifeless, and when brought into contact with real life, it kills. All these systems and organizations are paper productions; they are methodical and absurd and live only on the paper they are written on. The process began at the time of Rousseau and Kant with philosophical ideologies that lost themselves in generalities; passed in the nineteenth century to scientific constructions with scientific, physical, Darwinian methods - sociology, economics, materialistic history-writing - and lost itself in the twentieth in the literary output of problem novels and party programs.

That from Oswald Spengler, Readings from: The Decline of the West and The Hour of Decision (Source: Radical Nationalism in Australia) and is a chilling, very chilling, look at the idea beyond any Rationalist 'hope & change' movement seeking to overturn the order of things and place its new order down. An urban intellect, bereft of actually living through the evils it decries and, indeed, being above them by birth, stature and income, seeks to put in place some new and fairer order without examining what the old order is and why it is having problems. A remedy or two may be good, but societal upheaval for wholesale change is lethal, as Spengler points out: it kills.

No top-down political movement has ever brought positive change, nor economic movement or religious movement. At the points along history where mankind has achieved any progress towards individual rights, it is through the restriction of the top-down paradigms and allowing freedom of thought and action amongst mankind to flourish. In conception the movement of 'hope & change' is little different from the other branches of intellectual, rationalist thought: socialism, communism, fascism. Worse is that the inability to recognize that the creation of Nations is a good, so that societies may differentiate themselves and yet still interact with each other constructively, the modern transnational paradigms aimed to create a non-National identity suffer from the ill of being top-down in view and outlook.

The enemy of high-born reasoning of academia is that thing called common sense, which Spengler picks as a pre-existing system based on experience, prudence and having a strong affinity to culture. It is that title by Thomas Paine, published in 1776 (Source: Project Gutenberg) just before the Declaration of Independence, that describes what the differences between government and society are, and it is Common Sense from its opening to its closing:

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. WHEREFORE, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows, that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

Coming from the common man, yet one who is well learned and taking part of the suffering of his fellow man, Thomas Paine states most clearly that the best government is that which is the least expense giving the greatest benefits. Whenever there is talk of the actual cost of government and we turn to mere money, we forget that government doing things that society and individuals are given to do are robbing those same of liberty and freedom. Government to protect those things is necessary, yet when the tools of the punisher are put to exhorting and backing good by enforcing virtue, only true evil can result. If we decry such things as the Saudi ministry for 'The punishment of vice and promotion of virtue' then how are we to say that our own government taking over the charity of helping the poor by removing the need of the poor to better themselves to help each other is to any good end? Poverty and destitution wrack the heart and soul, yet when the idle rich decree that the poor should be made idle by hand-outs, what is the good end of that? Does it teach thrift, value, and how to commit oneself to betterment for themselves and those around them? That is the role of charity and those institutions that back it: to reach out to the members of society that need the most help via the giving and time of the common man.

When a rich man or high born one takes to an afternoon to help build a house for poor people, it is not charity but spectacle. When we have institutions that produce scholars, clergy and politicians that move from the teachings of fellowship to 'thou wilst do this' or suffer pains of ridicule, guilt, or re-education for being 'out of step', those with no understanding are claiming to speak for those who must speak for themselves and enforce that 'enlightened' view upon those of us closest to it who should know better than them based on experience. Worse still is that government, by taking over this role then attempts to remove this understanding from the public at large: in institutionalizing virtue via coercion, the actual good of the virtuous deeds springing from the fellowship of society are being targeted. That is why a 'community organizer' is a problematical figure: in attempting to do good they remove the organic creation of that community to address their own ills. 'Community organizer' is a title of an individual in a top-down organization trying to organize a community to the outlook of a restricted viewpoint of that organization. And if the community doesn't fit... force it to do so. The step from 'community organizer' to jackbooted neighborhood ward heelers seen by fascists and communists in pre-1932 Germany is that of going the step to forcing the will of the group upon the community.

That is an artificial construct coming into contact with vibrant society created from the needs of man, and it can and does kill.

When the Rationalists lose contact with reality, they morph and change into another shape, and yet the rhetoric falls along the same lines. Taken a bit further from The Readings is this:

But Romanticism too, with its lack of a sense for reality, is just as much an expression of rationalist arrogance as are Idealism and Materialism. They are all in fact closely related, and it would be difficult to discover the boundary between these two trends of thought in any political or social Romantic. In every outstanding Materialist a Romantic lies hidden. [3] Though he may scorn the cold, shallow, methodical mind of others, he has himself enough of that sort of mind to do so in the same way and with the same arrogance. Romanticism is no sign of powerful instincts, but, on the contrary, of a weak, self-detesting intellect. They are all infantile, these Romantics; men who remain children too long (or for ever), without the strength to criticize themselves, but with perpetual inhibitions arising from the obscure awareness of their own personal weakness; who are impelled by the morbid idea of reforming society, which is to them too masculine, too healthy, too sober. And to reform it, not with knives and revolvers in the Russian fashion - heaven forbid! - but by noble talk and poetic theories. Hapless indeed they are if, lacking creative power, they lack also the artistic talent to persuade at least themselves that they possess it. Yet even in their art they are feminine and weak, incapable of setting a great novel or a great tragedy on its legs, still less a pure philosophy of any force. All that appears is spineless lyric, bloodless scenarios, and fragmentary ideas, all of them displaying an innocence of and antagonism to the world which amounts to absurdity. But it was the same with the unfading "Youths" (Jünglinge), with their "old German" coats and pipes - Jahn and Arndt, even, included. Stein himself was unable to control his romantic taste for ancient constitutions sufficiently to allow him to turn his extensive practical experience to successful account in diplomacy. Oh, they were heroes, and noble, and ready to be martyrs at any moment; but they talked too much about German nature and too little about railways and customs unions, and thus became only an obstacle in the way of Germany's real future. Did they ever so much as hear the name of the great Friedrich List, who committed suicide in 1846 because no one understood and supported his far-sighted and modern political aim, the building of an economic Germany? But they all knew the names of Arminius and Thusnelda.

The great 'social movements' of the late 19th and through to this day could not exist without this Romantic undertone. If the objective is to create 'justice' then the simplistic thing to do is to theorize about it and convince others that some 'justice' in some realm will bring overall justice to everyone. Marxism, Socialism, Progressivism, Communism and Fascism would not *exist* without such Romantic thoughts. Even better they can criticize Romantics as they take up the organizational tactics to enforce their will upon others and show how they are closer to 'reality' than the Romantics are. If the goal of social welfare programs is to give a chance to the common man who has had ill luck in his life to make a better road for himself, then how come we wind up with people who cannot get off of the dole or join criminal organizations as they see no virtue being performed on their behalf? Some people do benefit from these things, but the cost to society, both in terms of moral outlook and engendering a spirit of helping the poor in individuals and in promoting same, far outweigh the mere burdened cost of giving such services from inefficient and uncaring government that sees half or more of the funds going to get such services disappear into bureaucracy.

Spengler goes on from there to look at the 'youth movement' of his era which describes as not having any real experiences in life, and yet claiming to be of a real world that consists of theories and mass-meetings to give them some feeling of purpose, while actually attempting to drown their personality in such mass meetings. That is not a triumph over individualism, but a loss of self and a determination not to be an individual for oneself, and is weakness multiplied. If those 'youths' had badges and uniforms, those of today can only be bothered to put up a Myspace page with a few downloaded graphics to idolize their purpose. As more and more people can grow up without having to take part in life, experience life or understand the tragedies of living, then any single, minor tragedy is blown out of proportion. Without the ability to put life's problems into any perspective, those of the individual grow larger and more overwhelming, to the point where being an individual ceases to be of value. The criticism of 'youth culture' then is carried to today, with Spengler pointing out that the 'youths' don't even want to interact with culture and society, but want others to do so for them. When that develops into a mass movement, it no longer looks at history as something that one is a part of and moved by, but that only happens to other people. With that, one does not see history from above, in its broad sweep, nor on the street-scale where it is lived day by day, but "from the cellar window, the street, the writers' café, the national assembly". That is the political mass movement type of today: from the parent's basement of Internet fame to the secluded store or shop where only the right people or real world people show up to the shifting of the political venue of political parties.

In those inter-War years, Spengler saw that drawing to a close, but he could in no way predict that the post-WWII era would elevate these exact, same types to office after the memory of war died again in Europe and now in America. His conceptualization of Scepticism, that ability to put theory against history and see what the outcomes of similar views in the past were, is one that held for only a brief period of time. In America this is Practicalism, or doing only that which is practical and affordable, while ensuring that society is not put in danger for the longer term. These are both drawn from the common sense view of the world, of how everyman perceives it and only accords honor to education if it is actually put to some use for oneself, one's family or to support society via doing good deeds amongst your fellow man. In this the use of the word 'tragic' is that greater sense that 'youths' do not have: understanding that the things that befall you as an individual happen within that wider scope of history and that history is not singling you out for special treatment. From that personal tragedy is not especial to you, but part of the more generalized condition of life that can befall anyone and you just happen to be an instance of it. If you think that life is singling you out, the tendency is to rail against it and seek to put a stop to that thing that befell you. While as a part of the larger history an individual accepts that this instance is just an instance and must rise from it to continue on, gaining wisdom and insight from that which came to them and then seek to impart that to their fellow man so that they can cope better with such instances.

From the excerpts presented, I can say that those on the political Left of today will not like Spengler: his views of the typified Left from his era strikes far too close to home for today's Left and its criticisms are cutting. His trenchant view of how World War I was caused by those seeking to have their Utopian paradise between 1870 and 1914 and willfully pushed off any need to examine society and culture onto following generations is highly pointed. It is also part of the same sociological phenomena:

If few can stand a long war without deterioration of soul, none can stand a long peace. This peace period from 1870 to 1914, and the memory of it, rendered all White men self-satisfied, covetous, void of understanding, and incapable of bearing misfortune. We see the result in the Utopian conceptions and challenges which today form part of every demagogue's program; challenges to the age, to the State, to parties, and in fact to "everyone else," in complete disregard of the limits of possibility or of duty, doing, and forgoing.

This all too long peace over a period of growing excitement is a fearful inheritance. Not a statesman, not a party, hardly even a political thinker is today in a safe enough position to speak the truth. They all lie, they all join in the chorus of the pampered, ignorant crowd who want their tomorrow to be like the good old days, only more so - although statesmen and economic leaders at least ought to be alive to the frightful reality. Only look at our leaders of today! Once a month their cowardly and dishonest optimism announces the "up-branch of the cycle" and "prosperity," on the strength of a mere flutter on the stock exchange caused by building-speculations: the end of unemployment, from the moment that a hundred men or so are given jobs, and as the climax the achievement of "mutual understanding between the nations," as soon as the League - that swarm of parasitic holiday-makers on the Lake of Geneva - has formulated any sort of a resolution. And in every conference and every paper the word "crisis" is bandied about in connexion with any passing disturbance of the peace. And thus we deceive ourselves, blind to the fact that we have here one of those incalculable great catastrophes that are the normal form in which history takes its major turns.

This was the manifestation of our modern politics, save that the economic numbers are only cited when going down and turned into a 'crisis' and then the 'crises' mount as only the bad numbers are reported until 'something must be done'. Pay no attention that the economy took a $1 trillion dollar loss on a single day with a terrorist attack and that was not even enough to put it into the negative territory for the year, and the economy rebounded on its previous course the very next year. Yet a 0.1% increase in inflation, unemployment or decrease in the housing market? Crisis!!

When voting for a politician who promises to 'understand our Allies and talk with our Enemies', wouldn't it be nice to have one that actually had some inkling of the true and vast scale of their own Nation, its people and economy? Remember, now, that Spengler was criticizing the society of the 1930's, and yet that exact, same criticism with very little change continues to fit the society of Western Civilization, with a very short hiccup for the war years of the 1940's and immediate post-war 1950's. Even then the 'Bohemian' views returned quickly and not only in Europe but in the US. Their discontents, as seen from Spengler' time, was absolutely predictable:

Man is a beast of prey. [5] I shall say it again and again. All the would-be moralists and social-ethics people who claim or hope to be "beyond all that" are only beasts of prey with their teeth broken, who hate others on account of the attacks which they themselves are wise enough to avoid. Only look at them. They are too weak to read a book on war, but they herd together in the street to see an accident, letting the blood and the screams play on their nerves. And if even that is too much for them, they enjoy it on the film and in the illustrated papers. If I call man a beast of prey, which do I insult: man or beast? For remember, the larger beasts of prey are noble creatures, perfect of their kind, and without the hypocrisy of human moral due to weakness.

They shout: "No more war" - but they desire class war. They are indignant when a murderer is executed for a crime of passion, but they feel a secret pleasure in hearing of the murder of a political opponent. What objection have they ever raised to the Bolshevist slaughters? There is no getting away from it: conflict is the original fact of life, is life itself, and not the most pitiful pacifist is able entirely to uproot the pleasure it gives his inmost soul. Theoretically, at least, he would like to fight and destroy all opponents of pacifism.

The further we advance into the Caesarism of the Faustian world, the more clearly will it emerge who is destined ethically to be the subject and who the object of historical events. The dreary train of world-improvers has now come to an end of its amble through these centuries, leaving behind it, as sole monument of its existence, mountains of printed paper. The Caesars will now take its place. High policy, the art of the possible, will again enter upon its eternal heritage, free from all systems and theories, itself the judge of the facts by which it rules, and gripping the world between its knees like a good horseman.

This being so, I have only to show here the historical position in which Germany and the world now stand and how this position is the inevitable outcome of the history of past centuries, and will just as inevitably pass on to certain forms and solutions. That is Destiny. We may deny it, but in so doing we deny ourselves.

And just how many of the anti-war people of *today* have ever read Strategy by B.H. Liddell Hart? AJP Taylor's The Origins of the Second World War? Or even the somewhat Leftist Gwynne Dyer's War with its appropriate transnational conclusions? We aren't talking Sun Tzu or Carl von Clausewitz, nothing *that* hard to read. If you can't even bother to read what war is, how it works, why it arises and how wars end, then how the hell can you be *against it*? And for all those wishing for the political assassination of your opponents, or their disgrace and yet do not a damned thing to clean up your supporters: just why should that be considered 'civilized'?

The Jacksonian tradition on war is much more civilized than fighting for mere statecraft or advantage: it is to counter-attack fully when attacked and give no quarter to those that do not do the same to our soldiers. There is no 'proportional response' in warfare, and agreements made during wartime are actually harder and firmer than any treaty made during peace. If you can't hold to your agreement during tough times, then why in hell should you be trusted when things are peaceful? The mistake of the utopian, over-educated section of America is that this is not a 'divide' between Americans: war is too serious to be left to politicians to fight. That basic agreement held from the Revolution through the Quasi-War through the Barbary reprisals through the War of 1812 through the Civil War through the various native wars on the continental US through the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War and its COIN part through World War I through World War II and only started to fray when a General was President during Korea and he sought to see if North Korea would honor its cease-fire. By Vietnam we had the first war run by politicians... it didn't work out so well. Operation Desert Storm in the First Gulf War was *also* run by politicians and it left a tyrannical genocidal dictator in power when the US quavered that the fighting just might start to get *hard*. And that left an untrustworthy foe in the field who would not keep to his word in power as an enemy. Then for over a decade the politicians couldn't figure out how to make PEACE.

I've got a problem with these lovely Leftists who hate war: they are getting us killed by not letting us END THEM.

And then to help the people of a Nation back up and on their feet so they can do this most worthy of all possible things in the world: defend themselves without our help.

By never letting a war end properly, you never get proper peace. Do you think that the Nation of Kosovo will actually make things *better* in the Balkans? It only *can* if you back freedom and liberty in all ways possible and ensure that they can defend themselves against their neighbors and covetous groups overseas looking to undermine them. Bosnia has had a harder time grabbing onto that ideal and Macedonia looks to be slowly shaking apart due to a poor political peace in the area. We cannot pat ourselves on the back for 'peacekeeping' if the peace is not made nor secured for those who live there. Which means the highly laudatory and extremely difficult goal of self-defense for those who live there so they don't need us. For all those who wanted billions of dollars and two demoralized Army Divisions in the Balkans, realize that this is just a downpayment in money and lives if you don't help *now* to get these societies to a point where they can reconcile with each other and defend themselves. Iraq has had that with the benefit of being a relatively united people, and Afghanistan is trying to work itself through a process left by a few dozen Empires that never could figure out the region and left large ethnic enclaves to feel they were autonomous, save for the fact they were bartered around like poker chips in the great card game of 'winner take a little' that is Central Asia. Hey! If the Pashtuns could outlast the British Imperial 100 year 'lets figure it out demarcation line' edict in which no one ever figured it out, then actually getting something workable in place might just take awhile. 100 years wasn't enough, obviously. Or just a start... hard to tell which is worse, really.

While I have some troubles with the views of Spengler, he at least tries to ground his outlook in history and historical review and history is not nice to anyone. No peoples on this planet have been overly superlative in their activities. At least it is something I can relate to, as are the military sciences... that harsh grounding in what mankind can do to itself and how civilization must arise to curb it. But his views of those on the political Left of his time are deadly chilling as they are continuing on to our modern era. The last World War saw far too many places succumb to the harder views of Communism and Fascism on the Left, but the 'softer' views of the Romantics always tend to shift from the airy ideal to the deadly knife as those that don't agree are forced to agree by coercion. All they want to do is make the world a 'better place'. It is when those Bohemians pick up a gun and say 'or else'... that is when you go from airy, lofty Romanticism to mass murderer at heart, as most of humanity just will not join you in 'your way'.

That is why Jacksonians prefer to counter-attack.

The killers self-identify.

Most civilized compared to what the Left offers up on a regular basis.

Too bad they can't figure it out in the first place.

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