Thursday, July 24, 2008
Post-Modernism And Obama
Shrinkwrapped (you really have to read the whole thing):
The Anchoress, who pulls no punches:
The world has changed but Barack Obama, emerging as he does from the hallways of academic excellence, sees the world through the eyes of an intellectual and apparently has ingested an unhealthy mix of intellectual arrogance and the over-valuation of language that is part of the academic culture. This may well sabotage his campaign; in the event he is elected President, it bodes poorly for his administration.
When Barack Obama expressly contradicts himself within minutes of making a comment, there are several possible explanations for his facility with the language:
1) It is possible, perhaps likely, that Obama simply does not believe it is wise or necessary for him to admit an error. This is an accusation that has been made about President Bush on a regular basis, and has contributed to the tribulations of the Bush Presidency.
2) Obama may well be able to convince himself, probably post facto, that his words mean just what he wants them to mean, a la Humpty Dumpty, and therefore doesn't consider the contradictions to be significant.
3) He may believe that he still lives in a world dominated by the MSM, that they will continue to cover for him as they have done since the beginning of his campaign, and that there is no need for him to maintain any consistency or explain any contradictions.
4) In the worst case scenario, he may well be an opportunistic sociopath who lies because he thinks he can get away with it.
In most colleges, Communications 101 teaches that in order to give a really memorable and meaningful speech, a speaker should have a genuine issue to speak about, and some relevance to the occasion.I think I disagree with the Shrink. I think Obama believes not that the actual meaning of what he says is important, but rather that the effect his words have on the hearer is important. This is the key to why he could tolerate Wright's church for so long, because it would have sent most traditionally well-educated people out, screaming in frustration. Post-modernists truly do not believe in objective meaning.
Senator Barack Obama went to Berlin today, a place to which he had no real connection, to make a speech for no actual reason, on no special occasion, and the speech reflected it. It was a brief speech of many words and a lot of filler.
I've listened to his speech in Berlin a number of times today and I am struck how empty it really is. It is a frightening thought to think that he and his new resolutions and solutions will bring meaning again in peoples lives.
It's mana for the soul of the left. Here is a man who BELIEVES! Yes, all those socialist, fascist experiments didn't work because they didn't have the right leader. He is the ONE they have been waiting for.
I just sent the little Yoda (Yeah, that's what I've taken to calling McCain. Think about it.) a few more bucks today. It seems like the only thing I can do that might make a difference. That and pray.
Obama speaking to 200,000+ cheerful, hopeful and engaged people.
McCain: Tired, angry and unsmiling in front of the Fudge Haus.
Maybe you're right. Maybe Obama is just a bad man, wrong, etc.
But McCain either puts me to sleep or depresses me.
Ok, let's take the issue of the Iraq War. How did/does Obama display a post-modern stance? How did he display no belief in objective meaning?
Look at his 2002 speech denouncing the coming Iraq War:
Show me how he is post-modern. Show me where he does not believe in objective meaning.
Take the first lines:
"Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.
The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil."
Maybe I'm all wet, but he seems to believe that the Civil War had objective meaning.
Later, to me reading of the text, he seems to argue the war will bring with it objective costs:
"I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences."
It seems to me that a post-modernist would say that we can't judge the Saudi or Egyptian cultures -- that we can't apply objective standards to them. Instead, I read this:
"Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells."
Seeing post-modernism in Obama reveals nothing about Obama. It reveals what you want to see in Obama, whether he fits the stereotype or not.
(Theme from Jesus Christ Superstar playing throughout)
Obama spoke to a crowd in Berlin yesterday -- running not for President, but for Savior!
(Jesus Christ! Superstar! Just are You Who what you say You are?)
After which, He walked on water across a lake of beer --
(interrupt) Did he bring Brats?
Yes! He took two Bratwursts and five steins of beer and fed the entire crowd!
(Forgettable sound bite from Obama speech -- "Hope! Change! HopeChange! Whatever!" -- then Jesus Christ, Superstar rises to a crescendo, drowning out the rest...)
This is getting to be their standard way of reporting on Obama. (I would have gone on a little longer, about the crowd rushing Obama to get his Mark on their foreheads and right hands, but nobody would have gotten the reference.)
Their report on McCain was a sound bite followed by the commentary "SOMEBODY! ANYBODY! LISTEN TO ME!"
I would argue that what MoM, Shrinkwrapped and The Anchoress are doing is describing Obama as “x” (e.g., an arrogant intellectual or a post-modernist). Their audience is those that already agree with their descriptions. They are not trying to persuade a neutral reader much less prove their positions.
Here’s a crude counter-example of what they’re doing:
“John McCain is a fascist. Fascists truly believe in nationalism and militarism.”
Some people might agree with me (yes, yes, McCain IS a fascist). Have I persuaded a neutral observer? Of course not. Now I could try to persuade my neutral audience. I could demonstrate his support for military action, etc., but someone arguing against me could easily show my arguments to be hollow. For example, let’s stipulate that a fascist says and does X, Y and Z, while a believer in representative democracy says and does A, B and C. Which does John McCain most resemble?
So, MoM implicitly states that Obama is a post-modernist who does not believe in objective meaning. OK. Persuade me. What’s your evidence?
“This is the key to why he could tolerate Wright's church for so long, because it would have sent most traditionally well-educated people out, screaming in frustration.”
That’s what you’ve got? A pronouncement? Did you listen to or read his Philadelphia race speech? Can you define the objective meaning of “traditionally well-educated people?” That sounds like a pretty SUBJECTIVE judgment to me.
You talk about “objective meaning”, and yet you disregard what the man has said and instead substitute what YOU KNOW ABOUT HIS THOUGHTS AND MOTIVES.
When you stated that Obama does not believe in objective meaning, did you examine evidence pro and con? If so, could you describe the evidence you found? For example, have you looked at what some of his conservative University of Chicago colleagues have said about him? Would they agree with you that Obama does not believe in objective meaning?
Lastly, what exactly do you mean by “objective meaning.” Are you coming at it from an Ayn Rand bent?
The last time I “seriously” discussed “objective meaning” was over beers in the undergrad dorm. Since then, most people I know have moved beyond the objective vs. subjective truth debate toward views that are comfortable with complexity and nuance.
Oh, and one more thing, how do you reconcile your views regarding objective meaning with Godel’s incompleteness theorems? (And if your response – which I’m not expecting – contains insults about effete intellectuals, then I gladly concede your victory.)
OK, putting aside whether Obama is a post-modernist (gasp!) or whether he does or does not believe in objective meaning (Oh My!), I’m gathering that you believe in objective meaning.
What does that mean?
What is objective meaning? Do you mean that in a scientific sense? In a cultural sense?
Put another way, it seems that you are saying that there is objective truth. How does one determine objective truth? Through the scientific method? Through reference of religious text? Through appeal to social norms?
Unless you define what you mean by objective meaning, how can we judge the validity of your claim that Obama does not believe in objective meaning?
My bet: Silence. You won’t respond. You don’t want to look foolish, so you’ll just slink away.
I'm sorry for being absent from the comments here today, but I have been very busy working on the Reg Z amendment.
I am going to post again regarding what I thought were some interesting and in one case, hopefully sarcastic, comments and questions.
I simply cannot generate any enthusiasm about either of these candidates, and I have spent a lot of time trying to explain what worries me about McCain.
If I were more content with McCain I wouldn't be spending so much time trying to figure out what really makes Obama tick.
But I will post further, and in the meantime, let me point out that a candidate with as little of a record as Obama has is bound to get tremendous scrutiny of his character. Without a record to show what he's about, the only thing we have to go in is what he truly believes.
Whatever will get him tenure, er, get him elected.
Or at least, that's all the plebes deserve to find out until after the inaugural.
When you post something like this, it draws the vermin, doesn't it.
The person talking about the Germans -- that's very likely not sarcastic, it's probably straight from the heart.
And this gem above. How different is his name-calling from yours.
When you write about finance and economic policy, you're pretty sharp.
When you write about Obama, not so much.
I'll be interested to hear your responses to the questions and challenges posed to you above.
McCain's more consistent, but that isn't necessarily an asset: sometimes he's stubbornly wrong, like on McCain-Feingold (aka the Incumbent Protection Act of 2002). (You plebes out there are supposed to shut up about your politicians when it gets close to the election, and listen to what you're told to believe.)
Still, you pretty much know what you're going to get from McCain. Obama doesn't have enough of a track record to allow one to reliably parse the pol-speak from the core beliefs. His unguarded bloopers (like the SF dinner remarks about 'bitter rural folk') are suggestive but not conclusive (how much of it was selling himself to the SF donors?).
He is, though, a great deal more fun to mock.
So your insight is that Obama is a politician? That's deep.
And McCain's more consistent? OK. And you feel you're in a position to mock? Knock yourself out, Socrates.
I'm not that familiar with the rule book here.
Is it permissible for anonymous cowards to respectfully request answers to red herrings, or is that verboten as well?
For example, would you please, yt, cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with . . . a herring?
Sir, you seem to have misunderstood. It's not about saying please. The problem is that you have not registered a screen name.
You see, when you post something to a blog as "anonymous", you are, ipso facto, a coward.
On the other hand, it takes courage to write something under a screen name, such at "yt" or "who struck john".
Do you seen the difference? You, you're Mr. Anonymous -- well, I guess to be precise, you're just plain "anonymous". You could be anybody. I don't know who you are, so you can say anything and get away with it.
Whereas, with "yt", I know exactly who he is. He's "yt". It takes guts to say something when everyone knows it's "yt" saying it.
Do you understand now?
As to the excerpts, they're rationalizing a choice they've made already. Lacking either content or clarity, they'd be savaged by any editor worthy of the title.
The July 21 New Yorker contains, in addition to the celebrated cover, a sane history of Obama as political animal. Not the sort of adulatory cherry-picking some might anticipate from that bastion of urban liberalism.
I did, by way of contrast, find that modestly useful.
As to whether Obama is a post-modernist, that would be a charitable view. He is slipperier than most politicians, sometimes seeming to change his position in mid-paragraph.
This might be called post-modernism, but it is definitely characteristic of Marxism, that whole "We must all unite to bring about the inevitable revolution," thing. If it is inevitable, why do we need to unite to bring it about? Answer, it may not be true now, but, if enough people believe, they will make it true.
No, I don't really believe that the O-Man is a full out Marxist, trying to bring about the Revolution. Rather, he seems to advocate that sort of soft shell Euro-Marxist krep, that I believed in college, and heard everywhere I went in Western Europe. He did not go into greedy corporate America, but became a "community organizer," for the Industrial Areas Foundation, seems to think that government agencies have hearts but corporations are heartless, that unequal distribution of wealth is inherently unjust, that taxing the country's capital to get funds to distribute as largess will make everyone better off, although, it ought to be noted, some might be a little better off than others, living in million-dollar mansions in Chicago.
I oppose Obama for the reasons cited, and most of all because I believe that he would take a weaker line in international affairs than McCain, and would try to nationalize health care. We could build back our defense posture, although it would take some years, lives and treasure. However,every time the National Health Service or whatever they call it was about to go bust, and anyone sought to reform it, there'd be one political party that would scream "They're trying to take away your free health care!" just as they now scream every time anyone tries to let people have control of their own retirement. John McCain was my thirteenth choice out of thirteen, but I still believe that the country would be better off with him than with another Jimmy Carter. We've gone down that road, and some of us remember where the bumps were.
I believe Obama is not so much a Marxist as he is a combination of a neo-Trotskyite and an anti-Bakuninist. That is to say, Obama has taken Trotsky’s concept of permanent revolution and jazzed it up with the inverse of Bakunin’s fear of a Marxist party dictatorship, which results in state of continuous revolution (hence Obama’s emphasis on “change”) dominated, paradoxically, by the static reign of a single party – The Peoples Party of Obamama and Marx (although they typically leave that last part out so as not to scare the high value donors).
That said, I can’t get me enough O-man. Sure, he’ll raise my taxes, and yes, he’ll appoint activist sharia law judges, and of course he’ll turn our military over to fabulous San Francisco values transgender pacifists, but I dig his Euro Chic look.
But then again, I like the way McCain picks his teeth while contemplating a journalist’s question.
It’s a tough choice.
I believe Obama is a socialist with Marxist ambitions. If you have read his web site all this is plain to see. He bel;ieves in redistribution of wealth, command and control of the economy, and raising social consciousness through state run propaganda.
If elected I predict that he and the Democrat Congress will:
1. Raise taxes on all who make over $75,000.
2. Raise taxes on capital gains and dividends.
3. Raise taxes on businesses.
4. Re-instate the inheritance tax.
5. Bug out of Iraq as quickly as possible.
6. Badger NATO to carry more of the load in Afghanistan. When they do not he will pull out of Afghanistan.
7. He will subordinate our foreign policy to the UN and the cornerstone of policy will be "Walk Stickly and Carry a Big Soft."
8. He will try to abrogate or renegotiate our trade agreements, resulting in less trade.
I could go on but I think the picture is pretty clear. All those who agree with the list I've made -Obama's your man.
If you don't agree, there's always the Maverick.
I believe Obama is a turnip with Cheeseburger ambitions. If you have read his web site all this is plain to see. He believes in well drained soil, regular watering times and a timely harvest.
Seriously, dude, when you describe a mainstream American politician as a socialist and Marxist, do you expect anyone with a functioning mind to take you seriously?
Obama is a politician, McCain is a politician. They're both well within the traditional liberal-conservative spectrum. They're not Marxists or socialists or fascists. They have different views, policies and backgrounds -- so what? Can you discuss their differences as adults, or do you have to resort to crude and mindless name-calling.
Obama is a post-modernist, a socialist, a traitor, a muslim robot terrorist?
How 'bout you start from the obvious: he's just a moderately liberal Democrat trying to win an election.
McCain is a moderately conservative Republican trying to do the same.
Get some perspective.
See McCain's self-serving editorial on this subject, versus this coverage and this coverage of the same event.
Of course, McCain might have taken a day or 2 to flip on this where as Obama seems to be able to express contradictory positions virtually simultaneosuly (his support of the 2nd amendment, combined with is support of every conceivbale for gun control comes to mind).
A real couple of winners we have here.
I guess I'd rather be that than a mind numbed robot who sees a simple politician who wants to deliver a command and control economy to a bunch of sheeple who don't know what's good for them as a moderate liberal.
It pains me to have an opinion when it's so obviously inferior to that of Anymouse. Opinions that don't jibe with Anymouse's superior grasp of all the facts should, of course, be suppressed or, at the very least, made savage fun of.
Tell us Anymouse, is this just an election between two politicians that have very similar views? Between one who is just more glib and hip than the other? We're waiting with bated breath for your proclamations about the candidates. Give us more, more. Your brilliance dazzles.
No, no, thank you, but no, jimmy j., I can't accept your kind compliment.
You did all the heavy lifting. I mean look at this:
"It's mana for the soul of the left."
"Yes, all those socialist, fascist experiments didn't work because they didn't have the right leader."
"I believe Obama is a socialist with Marxist ambitions."
It really was no effort at all to highlight the thought behind those statements.
By the way, my name is anonymous, not Any Mouse, and I think the word you were looking for is "manna" in the first quote, not "mana", unless you meant that as a reference to the pop band out of Guadalajara.
But keep up the good fight, my friend.
This shows where your mind set and assumptions are. Since it is your opinion then we must accept that it is superior to any we might put forth I guess no debate is possible. He, of course, provides no specific data points to show what a liberal is or how to tell a moderate liberal from a full blown liberal or an extreme liberal. He can pontificate and we must accept that his pontifications are superior because, well you know, he just knows so much more than anyone else.
"I think the word you were looking for is "manna" in the first quote, not "mana"," Yes, it was the word that I meant. Thank you for looking it up for me. You know what was meant. I'm surprised you don't argue that Obama's rhetoric and plans are not "food" for the soul of his netroots supporters. Certainly a "moderately liberal politician" could not garner support from that segment of the electorate.
"Yes, all those socialist, fascist experiments didn't work because they didn't have the right leader."
Knowledge of ideas and attitudes on the Left confirm to me that they keep longing for a socialist/communist form of government where equalities of outcomes are assured. They just keep ignoring the fact that North Korea, Cuba, the USSR, Zimbabwe, and other governments failed because socialism/communism does not work and guarantees only equality of misery. They seem to have a mystical belief that somehow there is a leader that will get it right. IMHO they see such a leader in Senator Obama. Obviously there is something wrong with that line of thought because you disagree.
"I believe Obama is a socialist with Marxist ambitions." You don't say whether you have read his web site or not. Now to my fevered, incompetent brain most of his proposals call for more government control and regulation. He does not call for government takeover of one of our largest industries, but his healthcare plan pushes it in that direction.
If you consider our two cousins from the Anglosphere, Canda and Great Britain, as moderately liberal then I can see why you view Obama in the light you do.
Senator Obama's mother was an avowed socialist, one of his mentors was an avowed communist, he has hung out with various individuals who have extreme left leanings, and he has the most liberal voting record of any Senator. In my mind Joe Liberman is moderately liberal. Senator Obama is no Joe Lieberman. But there I go again making those rash judgement calls. Just can't help myself.
I dig your sense of humor, man.
Hey, one quick question about this one:
"They just keep ignoring the fact that North Korea, Cuba, the USSR, Zimbabwe, and other governments failed because socialism/communism does not work and guarantees only equality of misery."
Who are they?
I mean, off the top of my head, I can't think of any prominent American who thinks any of those countries are examples of anything except failure.
It would take some sort of nut to praise any nation on that list.
Could you, uh, let us know who "they" are?
All those people will acknowledge that those governments failed, but they continue to advocate that we go down the same path. They feel that free markets are too unfair, too competitive, and just too messy. That, given the right leaders, government can successfully create an economy with equal outcomes and perfect justice.
I understand why they feel that way, but the fact is that Adam Smith was right. They don't see it because the invisible hand is.......well, invisible.
These are the words of Peter Saunders who wrote an essay on why capitalism is good for the soul. He points out that capitalism doesn't excite those who see injustice and unequal outcomes:
"Boring capitalism cannot hope to compete with all this moral certainty, self-righteous anger, and sheer bloody excitement. Where is the adrenalin in getting up every day, earning a living, raising a family, creating a home, and saving for the future? Where is the moral crusade in buying and selling, borrowing and lending, producing and consuming?"
And the "they" I pointed out above do not seem to get this:
"Nobody planned the global capitalist system, nobody runs it, and nobody really comprehends it. This particularly offends intellectuals, for capitalism renders them redundant. It gets on perfectly well without them. It does not need them to make it run, to coordinate it, or to redesign it. The intellectual critics of capitalism believe they know what is good for us, but millions of people interacting in the marketplace keep rebuffing them. This, ultimately, is why they believe capitalism is ‘bad for the soul’: it fullfils human needs without first seeking their moral approval."
I doubt this definition of "they" will meet your Olympian standards, but, hey, my perspective is faulty. I know that because I got it from an authority.
George Soros is an admirer of the Soviet Union.
This would be the man whose father was held as a POW in Russia during WWI and eventually escaped?
This would be the George Soros who escaped from Soviet occupied Hungary in 1946?
This would be the George Soros who distributed $3 million per year to eastern European dissidents, including Poland's Solidarity movement, in the early 80's?
Now, where do we go from here, jimmy?
Would you like me to praise you for you answer?
Would you like to blame me for writing those three sentences a few lines up?
I'm just curious: Does this exchange cause you to examine yourself and your abilities, or does it just elicit anger towards me?
George Soros is an interesting case because he is from behind the Iron Curtain. You would certainly believe that he would have nothing but hatred for a system that created such misery. I engaged in a short personal debate with Mr. Soros on his blog a few years back. It became clear to me that, brilliant as he is in the financial markets, he is, like so many others, no believer in Adam Smith's invisible hand. He has been spending a large part of his considerable fortune on trying to get politicians elected who will increase government size and control. It mystifies me as to why he, of all people, takes the position he does.
So, I've not convinced you that Obama is not a moderate liberal politician. And you have not convinced me that I'm a mind numbed robot who cannot possibly have an opinion worth stating anywhere on the blogosphere.
But I've enjoyed it immensely. Really, we should do this more often.
Gawd, you are the funniest human I've virtually encountered in some time.
And this one:
". . . he is, like so many others, no believer in Adam Smith's invisible hand."
Tell me about it, my pure market brother! Thank god we have George Bush and Henry Paulson to fight back against these enemies of the free market. Without them . . . well, let us banish those dark thoughts and speak no more of it.
You've got some incredible psychological defense mechanisms going for you, jimmy. Remarkable. I would remark on it.
I'm still laughing. That's the . . . I mean . . . how can you . . . it's genius.
jimmy j.: Lincoln was absolutely correct to order the helium balm dropped on Hirosushi.
anonymous: That was Truman. Lincoln, was, you know, dead and stuff. Bullet. Head. 1865. And I think it might have been . . .
jimmy j.: There you go again, finding every small nuance.
Like the one in Washington DC? The one that is funnelling billions, and ready to funnel trillions of borrowed public money to swine like the GSEs, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, etc?
If you are going denounce the taking of money from the rich to give to the poor, you cannot then favor taking money from the poor and middle-class to give to the rich. And that is what Bush has done from the day 1.
The Republican "free market" people in office today are pure swine. Paulson is the most loathsome thing to ever exist - he has potentially put the taxpayer on the hook for Trillions. Obama could only be an improvement on them. Whether he is better than McCain is still uncertain, but it certainly isn't proven yet that he isn't.
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