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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Lessons From History

I believe in democracy; I believe democracies are more functional than tyrannies; I believe that democracies make great errors but are capable of correcting those errors themselves.

I do not believe that ahistorical democracies survive. A society that lives in the moment can die in just a few.

My current concerns are based upon my perception that we have tried to turn ourselves into ahistorical societies out of a misplaced sense of compassion. This is what leaves us vulnerable now to the very real threats that we face. Others are writing on the same theme far better than I can. See Callimachus on the lessons of Tripoli. See Dr. Sanity's discussion of the epistemological attack on meaning itself posed by fashionable academic theologies of consciousness:
The philosophical conundrum that puzzled philosophers is trying to understand how such universal and abstract aspects of real things exist, when our experience in the real world is only of specific, individual objects?
Hah! I know what you are thinking--who cares about such an esoteric concept?

Well, let me tell you that this particular philosophical problem is not abstract at all, but one which pops up all the time in current discussions--even on this blog. How you deal with the concept of universals turns out to be extremely important, particularly in rational discourse, where objective reality and truth are necessary.

Consider this: if there is no way to account for generalizations or universals through empirical experience, then all such attributions may be considered subjective and hence, invalid.
It follows also that no argument can be settled by recourse to reason or law, which leaves all arguments to be settled only by force. Seriously. Think about it. All law depends upon the ability to create abstract definitional categories, and then to assign individual behaviors or actions as being within the category or outside of it. A law as simple as the laws mandating that establishments that sell food require shirts and shoes on their customers cannot be enforced if the definition of "shirt" or "shoe" is considered infinitely malleable.

I believe this is the reason for the extreme left's love affair with dictators; unconsciously they know that in their epistemological view of the world, only a dictator can bring peace, because only a dictator can enforce law.

If truth is indeed malleable, then science, reason and history are all meaningless pursuits. It can only be conviction and passion that win the field, which is why passionate belief in a cause is considered among extreme leftists to be either a self-validating characteristic (if it is a cause which the leftist supports), or ipso facto proof of criminality (if it is a cause which the leftist does not support). Leftists take their beliefs very, very seriously, and so the concentration camps based on ideology and intellectual nonconformity are necessary, whereas imprisoning people for actual crimes of violence is considered proof of cultural inferiority. To murder a human being is considered a pinprick on the body politic, whereas to attack a favored idea is considered a brutal wound upon the non-existent utopia. Leftists of this intellectual cadre must, at a minimum, be either intellectual dilettantes or intellectual terrorists.

This, of course, is the reason why so many of these leftists have fallen in love with Islamacist terrorism, even while they excoriate the evils of Judeo-Christian religion. To a person who does believe in universals, it is puzzling beyond belief that the same person can excoriate one religion and exalt a sect of another. But leftists recognize their counterparts quite accurately; it is the universality of the concepts and laws in the Judeo-Christian tradition that they resent (because they perceive them as a direct impairment on their individual lives), whereas the credo of the Islamicist terrorists is very simple. Quite literally, those who are taught in this tradition are told that anyone who does not believe what they (the terrorist) believes is an enemy of God and should be killed. Children raised in this belief system make admirable footsoldiers, and are the world's quintessential "useful idiots".

Dr. Sanity makes another important observation in her post, which is that the inevitable result of such an egotistical intellectual world is rage:
How is it surprising that rhetoric in today's world has decended into vicious ad hominem attacks--such attacks are inevitable when you can only talk about individual trees and not the forest in which they dwell. Why do you suppose that effective policies can never seem to be formulated or implemented to deal with pressing problems (no matter who is in charge) --when problems can only be conceptualized as inescapably subjective, and therefore limited in scope?
To restate this, if your entire world is defined by yourself, disagreement is an attack upon your entire world. Disagreement is experienced as a literal attack, equivalent in psychic shock to someone busting down your door in the middle of the night and beating you within your own home.

The deep insecurity engendered by questioning the worldview of those who don't believe in universality and objectivity generates a strong defensive response beginning as fear, which is expressed as anger and then restated to the self as contempt. But the contempt does not adequately reddress the fear, and inevitably mutates into a fixed rage against the opponent. Human beings filled with rage inevitably hate.

Hatred is the ultimate doctrine of the Islamicist terrorists. See MEMRI. See SC&A's post regarding the west's failure to come to grips with reality:
When you take children and indoctrinate them in hatred, the resulting foundation is inevitable. In the same way that Germans invested in Nazi ideologies as part of their school curriculum, so too has radical Islam ideologies become part of religious instruction. By the time the child is 15, he is motivated and capable of doing harm. By the time he is 20, in addition to the motivation, he has access to the money and means to commit acts of terror.

Many are surprised that some of the terrorists come from middle class backgrounds. That surprise is indicative of how little they understand about the terrorist ideologies.

Terror has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with ideologies.
The psychological cruelty of their training is immense. They are literally taught that the only safety is in killing themselves for Allah. The doctrines they are taught are so stringent that they cannot live within them without intense guilt, but they are also taught that the redress for all personal failures is martyrdom for Allah. These children are indoctrinated with an all-encompassing sense of grievance coupled with an all-encompassing sense of hopelessness.

SC&A moves on to contemplate the seeming contradiction of the alliance between the left in the west and the Islamacists:
The Left believes it can separate the political ideology from the religious ideology, extracting what it needs as fodder, to be used for political advantage.

What they do not understand is that the Hitler Youth of today, make no such distinctions. They have been taught well. The much ‘oppressed minorities’ of gays and lesbians, for example, or ‘liberated’ women, are hated by the Islamists with the same fervor as they hate the Jews. It is an irony of history, perhaps, that Jews will never again allow themselves to be such easy victims. Today, we are looking at groups that are willing to march into the ovens, knowing full well what the Islamist stated intentions are, and yet believing that somehow, they will be exempt.
Here is where I disagree with SC&A. The leftists feel a genuine sense of admiration, relief and companionship with the terrorists. By identifying themselves with the terrorists, they validate the depth of their convictions without having to run the practical risks of taking actions themselves. Ann Althouse remarked on Roseanne Barr's attitudes, and the comments on her post are quite perceptive. Roseanne Barr is a classic example of self-destructiveness externalized; she has made a career of joking about anger and hate. Here are several of her memorable lines:
I hate every human being on earth. I feel that everyone is beneath me, and I feel they should all worship me. That's what I told my kids. I think I must have been Adolf Hitler in a past life.
The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.
And then there's her classic:
"I'm not upset about my divorce. I'm only upset I'm not a widow."
Is this really funny? Only if you find the spectacle of someone else's pain and rage comforting, and apparently many do. According to Roseanne Barr's own statements, she was molested, has been a hooker and has suffered from mental illness. She may have a genuine moral claim on our compassion, but does she deserve our applause?

Those who do applaud do so out of their own needs, which are not healthy and are not constructive. The collusion between western post-modernist thinking and radical feminism and Islamic terrorism in the mideast is real and will endure. We should all remember this because the cognitive confusion of the NY Times and Roseanne Barr's screeching arises somehow from the same source. We don't know how to fix Roseanne Barr, and we should take it for granted that the NY Times is not going to straighten itself out either. See Kobayashi Maru on the subject.

Every time someone starts talking about "divisiveness", remember that real conflicts exist. A false peace is our worst possible option. The Roseanne Barrs and the teenage jihadists are literally unable to compromise, and so we must not. We are locked into a long course of opposing Islamic terrorism, and we are also locked into an internal cultural war. Both of these are going to get worse and worse for quite a while, and we might as well resign ourselves to it.

Hi Mama; Greetings from London: It's been about two years since my last visit. While waiting to pull up to the gate, I counted the entry visas in my passport to the U.K.. This visit makes 58. I wondered how different things were going to look at the airport. Walking thru the terminal (with The Boss on the iPod) all seemed about the same. All good. Heathrow Express to Padington, Taxi to the Hotel. Same old, same old. Lunch with my dear old friend, a muslim who helped me keep my life together during all the trips here. He paid for lunch. When he took out his wallet, I saw a picture of his wife, wearing a burka. Now something had changed. This is a Blond haired, Catholic woman, who was a flight attendant. Having met her several times, this was a change. I didn't ask why. Maybe there's more going on here than meets the eye. Headed down to the City tomorrow. I'll let you know.
Regarding universals, I think the problem is more that we have people who see only forests, and never individual trees--indeed, people for whom "forest" is a word that has emotional meaning but no tangible references.

In "That Hideous Strength," C S Lewis described his progagonist, a young sociologist:

"..his education had had the curious effect of making things that he read and wrote more real to him than the things he saw. Statistics about agricultural laboureres were the substance: any real ditcher, ploughman, or farmer's boy, was the shadow...he had a great reluctance, in his work, to ever use such words as "man" or "woman." He preferred to write about "vocational groups," "elements," "classes," and "populations": for, in his own way, he believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of the things that are not seen."

We have too many people who think in terms of abstractions, but aren't very *good* at thinking abstractly, and hence deal with abstractions as if they were concretes.

And when people live in an entirely verbal universe, then they lose the distinction between words and action, and are very threatened by words that challenge their worldview.
CF, for some reason that story hit me hard. Let me know what the City looks like.
David, I think you are making an important point clear. The ability to move from the particular to the category and back (the ability to make that link) is a very important human cognitive ability.

Dr. Sanity phrased the problem as "how such universal and abstract aspects of real things exist, when our experience in the real world is only of specific, individual objects?" She also pointed out that our minds just work this way. It follows that the failure to maintain the link between the specific and the abstraction of the specific leaves us flailing in a world of fantasy. Words are inherently abstractions and are only tethered to reality by our willingness to root them in experience.
PS: There's an odd synchronicity here; CF's anecdote serves to demonstrate David's (and C.S. Lewis') point: A hundred articles discussing the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the UK do not convey or suggest as much as David's friend's wife in a burka.

I do believe this is your best post yet. You have revealed why the Left is so dangerous.

Rock on!
Morning, Mama. Took the tube to the City this morning, London's equivalent of Wall Street. It all looked very normal. New Escalators in the tube. No change in Demographic from what I remember. Security at our office is unchanged. What is stunning are the prices. Had drinks with a fellow trader last night, and he reports that it seems cost of living is rising at about 10% per year. I'll bet he's right. I had dinner alone last night at the hotel bar. One beer, bottle of water, small steak and tip, $80.00. I wish I could tell you it was good. Real Estate is going thru the roof. Over $2,000 sq ft. And It's not going down soon. Huge bonus year for the City. Something like 18 Billion Pounds in Bonuses being paid. And A lot of that is going into Real Estate. Off tonight for a little recon work in Soho , home tomorrow. Good luck with the Elections. I liked voting by mail. No lines!
Pleased to hear that about the City, but $80.00 for a steak? Aggh. I have been reading about the great creativity of UK mortgage bankers, and I agree it's not going down soon. How can it? With that type of inflation, that's their only chance to get ahead!

Enjoy the recon!
If CF is still here I wonder if he observed something that Mark Steyn remarked on recently. Steyn claimed (and I have no reason not to believe him) that they Brits have quietly stopped flying the Union Jack at Heathrow because it represents the Cross of St. George. They didn't want to offend muslim sensibilities. I hear something like that and connect it with your friend's wife's burka and realize that the battle may already be lost. Bonuses in the City may indeed be rich this year but if money is the only thing they can agree to worship then they are going to lose a battle they don't even know they're in. Sigh...

Thanks for the link, MOM. Tremendously thoughtful post you have here. The deconstructionists set this all in motion decades ago. We are only now reaping the harvest... no shirt, no shoes... what are those??
To K.M.; I took the train in from Heathrow ( about $40 less than a taxi) so I didn't notice the flag situation. I the name of research ( And my expense account) will Black Cab it and keep my eyes open. I'll try and post tomorrow night if the jet lag isn't too bad.

P.S., The Wrath of Kahn was the best Movie in the series
Kobayashi Maru: CF reports that a Union Jack was still flying at Heathrow.

Some bright news, at least.
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