Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Euphemising language to sanitize killing

original article: My visit to Auschwitz reminded me why I oppose abortion
June 1, 2014 by Rebecca Frazer

“When I learn about this mass killing process and see the tools and the remains and the pictures…I block the humanity…My heart still is not accepting that each one of them was an individual, intricate, valuable, hand-crafted human being.  But my head knows.  …If I accept the humanity in my heart, what have we done?”

I journaled those words in March of this year, crouched in a bottom bunk in a hostel in Krakow, Poland.  I was not writing about abortion.  I was writing about the Holocaust—writing out of stunned pain and confusion—having spent the day touring the sprawling, well-preserved complex known as Auschwitz concentration camp, a killing machine unlike any other.  Over one million people died at Auschwitz during its five years of operation, the vast majority of them Jewish.  Ninety percent of prisoners who entered Auschwitz died, most by immediate execution in one of the camp’s five gas chambers.

I had walked through an original gas chamber, where 2,000 people could be killed in 30 minutes.  I had gazed at piles of thousands and thousands of shoes—shoes that Jewish men, women, and tiny children had removed just before entering the “showers” to be gassed to death.  I had stood three feet from black ovens with special chutes for shoving in bodies—ovens that created endless heaps of human ash.  The harsh reality—that 1.1 million people had been sanitarily, systematically, efficiently “exterminated” in the very place I had stood was literally beyond my comprehension.    I concentrated on the statistics and blocked the human faces; it was simply too painful.

I visited two other concentration camps the same week: Sachsenhausen and Dachau, both in Germany.   Sachsenhausen (located just outside of Berlin), left me equally reeling with horror.  Perhaps the most horrific part of the camp was the pathology building, where bodies had been stacked high in the basement’s white-plastered holding rooms before being hauled upstairs to be examined by doctors on white-tiled “autopsy” tables.  Each of the thousands of bodies of Sachsenhausen victims was processed through the pathology building before being cremated.  For me, standing in those deathly rooms where everything was bright and shiny white was absolutely surreal.  I was overcome by the stark realization that during the Holocaust, these killings were government-sanctioned; they were overseen by physicians; they were sanitized, euphemized, and standardized.

I gave a speech years ago when I was in middle school that made a comparison between the Holocaust and abortion (not an equivocation, a comparison).  I wrote it after a field trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (in D.C.) that left me terrified of being apathetic to evil.  A woman who heard the speech told me that any such comparison was very disrespectful to Holocaust victims.  Her words always concerned me, and they kept me from presenting abortion as a modern-day Holocaust with the frequency or vigor I otherwise would have employed.  But after visiting three concentration camps in the span of a week, I am convinced that my listener was totally wrong.  The greatest disrespect I could possibly lend to the victims of the Holocaust is the refusal to apply the lessons of that horrific history to the horrors of today, thus repeating the deadly mistakes of the past.

So, if you haven’t already made the connections, let me be perfectly clear: the parallels between the mass murder of the Holocaust and the over fifty million unborn children legally killed in abortion clinics all across our nation should horrify you.  What are those parallels?  The first is the failure of Americans (even the nominally pro-life) to truly, internally, accept and embrace that the unborn are human, with fingers, toes, smiles, and heartbeats.  The second parallel is the presence of an efficient, perfected, now even legal system of mass murder that exists in the backyards of America’s neighborhoods, with the vast majority of Americans living their daily lives as if this system of killing simply did not exist.  As I journaled the night after visiting Sachsenhausen, between the Holocaust and abortion exist “parallels of sanitized killing, standardized body disposal, euphemized language, government sanctioning, and lack of public outcry.”

Think I’m exaggerating?  The efficient standardization of the abortion industry can best be described in the words of the industry workers themselves:

“I refused to reassemble the body parts after a late-term abortion…tissue was the code word for bodies in our clinic.  We stored them in plastic bags, which were kept in a freezer until they were picked up weekly…The Parts Room, as we called it, was narrow, with washbasins on one side and medical supplies on the other.  Against one wall was a white freezer with the lock broken off… At the beginning of each week, a service truck would come by and pick up the body parts, which were taken to a lab.”

–Norma McCorvey (former abortion worker and “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade), from her auto-biography, Won by Love

“they would still have to put it [referring to a 23-week gestation baby] in, like, a jar, a container, with solution… all of our specimen have to go out to the lab.”

–abortion counselor, Dr. Emily’s Woman’s Clinic (abortion clinic), New York

“so the fetus and everything that goes along with it…they’re cremated, and then the ashes we spread out in the desert…”

–Dr. Laura Mercer, Family Planning Associates Medical Group (abortion clinic), Arizona

And yet, perhaps third parallel between the Holocaust and abortion stands most clearly: public apathy.  The final camp I visited was Dachau, near Munich, Germany.  Dachau was the first concentration camp built by the Germans and was the model camp and experimenting grounds for the hundreds of other camps that followed.  When one method of execution proved too slow, too dirty, or too expensive, the leaders at Dachau would devise new, improved methods to exterminate prisoners and would pass their ideas to the other camps.  Of Dachau, I journaled, “Here, death is a science, a process, something to be perfected and honed.”  But another essential piece of Dachau’s history bears repeating.  Dachau was located quite literally in the backyard of local civilians, most of whom ignored its existence completely.  When the allied troops liberated Dachau at the end of the war, they forced the local German civilians to tour the camp—to walk past the piles of bodies waiting to be cremated—to see the tortures and smell the death that they had ignored.  The civilians were shocked, horrified, and traumatized.

Almost 1800 abortion providers exist in our backyards here in the United States.   One day, I am absolutely convinced you and I will be those Dachau civilians.  In one fashion or another, we will come face to face with the horrors we have ignored.  And just as the civilians of Dachau wept, you and I will weep for our apathy.

Unless we take a stand—now and forever–against the greatest horror of our generation…

…that they may have life.

Shoes of Gas Chamber Victims at Auschwitz (Poland)

Shoes of Gas Chamber Victims at Auschwitz (Poland)

Sachsenhausen Pathology Building—“Autopsy” Tables (Germany)

Sachsenhausen Pathology Building—“Autopsy” Tables (Germany)

abortion, culture, ethics, extremism, history, ideology, oppression, propaganda, public policy, relativism, tragedy

Filed under: abortion, culture, ethics, extremism, history, ideology, oppression, propaganda, public policy, relativism, tragedy

Communits Party Directive, 1943

“When certain obstructionists become too irritating, label them, after suitable buildups, as fascist or Nazi or anti-Semitic, and use the prestige of antifascist and tolerance organizations to discredit them.”

communism, history, indoctrination, lies, propaganda

Filed under: communism, history, indoctrination, lies, propaganda

How a committed socialist gave up the faith

original article: The Bolivarian God That Failed
February 1, 2019 by Clifton Ross

The day after Venezuela’s National Assembly voted to declare its president, Juan Guaidó, interim President of the Republic, I received a text from a former friend. “If the U.S. topples Vz [Venezuela],” he wrote, “I will hold you responsible.” I would have been happy to accept this responsibility had I done anything important enough to deserve it. But the idea was absurd and he knew it. If the Venezuelan regime falls—and I hope that it does—it won’t even be possible to credit (or blame) the United States. It is the Venezuelan people who finally are taking their destiny in hand and rejecting an intolerable status quo.

The message was not a serious attempt to apportion responsibility for Venezuela’s current upheaval; it was an attempt to shame me for my treacherous betrayal of the Bolivarian cause. An early supporter of the Revolution, I had traveled to Venezuela in 2013 to cover the April presidential elections. By the time I returned to the US, I was disillusioned and depressed. I decided I needed to start writing and speaking about what I had seen there. In an article I wrote for the radical magazine Counterpunch around that time, I argued that “the so-called ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ is bankrupt: morally, ideologically, and economically,” and I asked what we, as leftist solidarity activists, should do in response. “Should we continue to make excuses for incompetence, corruption, and irresponsibility and thereby make ourselves accomplices?” I asked. “Or should we tell the truth?”

I had resolved to tell the truth. Having been so wrong about something so consequential, I felt it was the least I could do. By then, Venezuela was already in a terrible mess. Many of those I had helped to convince of the possibilities offered by Bolivarian socialism were deeply suspicious of the mainstream media and deserved to hear what was going on from a writer they trusted. But, as it turned out, the people I wanted to reach didn’t want to hear such things. And the people I asked to publish my articles didn’t much want me to write about them either. As a result of my voltafaccia, former comrades and friends contacted my editors and publishers in (occasionally successful) attempts to have my articles spiked. I was denounced and slandered online and in print. Phone calls and emails to people I had thought of as friends now went unanswered. On those occasions when I encountered one of them in public, they looked the other way. Abruptly, I found myself excommunicated, and people I’d known for 30 or 40 years made it clear that they no longer wanted to be part of my life.

*     *     *

I’d originally come to California from the Bible Belt in the mid-’70s in search of enlightened neighbors. I knew what it was to live an isolated life. It had been lonely on my father’s farm in Southern Oklahoma. I had endured farm life for five years but, having grown up in the military, I longed for the company of diverse, worldly-wise people one often found among military brats. Having become a Christian a few years before, I hoped Berkeley would offer a deeper faith than I’d found in fundamentalist churches.

I hitchhiked west and in Berkeley I joined the “radical Christian” community of the House Church of Berkeley that had grown out of Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF). From the margins of that community I gradually found my way, through liberation theology, into the secular Left. For nearly a decade I did solidarity work with the Sandinista Revolution until that process came to a halt when its “vanguard” Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was removed from power in the elections of 1990.

Following the collapse of communism, I ended up with the other “dead-enders” in Berkeley, scratching around in the depleted soil of radical politics for any worm of hope that might emerge. Those were desperate years. I soon hitched a ride on the Redwood Summer bandwagon, the joint IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, “Wobblies”) and Earth First! project to protect the last stands of old growth redwoods in Northern California from logging companies. I played a very minor role in that campaign, printing the flyers announcing the actions, but I was quickly drawn into working in the IWW. I was briefly an editor for the Bay Area Branch Bulletin and a co-editor of the Industrial Worker, and then I spent ten years in an IWW union job shop (New Earth Press) where my partner and I did a lot of ecological printing for local community organizations.

After we sold the business, I went to graduate school at San Francisco State University for a couple of very dismal years in academia. Then, after graduation, I spent the summer of 2004 in Nicaragua interviewing ex-Sandinistas who were now in opposition to the FSLN, the “glorious revolutionary vanguard,” which had been reduced over time to the status of a populist party serving the caudillo (strongman) Daniel Ortega. During the years of the Nicaraguan Revolution (1979-1990), I had translated and published the revolutionary poetry and writings of Sandinista militants—mostly farmers, low-ranking militia members, and even young children. As I was a poet, it seemed appropriate work to help spread the word about a process I found hopeful, and endangered by the hostile policies of the Reagan administration. I knew very little at the time of the Sandinistas’ responsibility for generating the war that would eventually tear their country apart. Most of us on the radical Left distrusted the media, and it was only recently that I returned to that period (in Chapter 11 of my 2016 memoir) to uncover details I had ignored during the years of that brutal civil conflict.

Foremost among the poets I’d translated during the years of the Sandinista Revolution was Ernesto Cardenal, a revolutionary priest and the Sandinista Minister of Culture. Cardenal and other “liberation theologians” were preaching a synthesis of Marxist revolutionary ideology and Christian theology, and they were my inspiration back then. By 2004, I no longer identified with Christianity, and my faith in Marxism was also in doubt. Nevertheless, I still considered myself some kind of socialist, and I thought Cardenal might be able to reassure me that there were embers of socialism still burning somewhere in Latin America. He duly obliged. Towards the end of our interview, when I asked him to name the projects in Latin America today which gave him hope, he didn’t mention (as I thought he would) the Zapatistas. “The Bolivarian Revolution,” he announced. President Hugo Chávez was doing some very interesting things down in Venezuela, he thought, and he encouraged me to visit and see for myself.

So, that December, eager to learn more, I flew down to Venezuela on Christmas break from Berkeley City College where I had been working as an adjunct English instructor. I immediately fell in with like-minded leftists in the small Andrean city of Mérida, who introduced me to a good part of the Bolivarian community there. I was so inspired by what I found that I decided to take a year off from teaching so I could follow the Bolivarian process first-hand.

It is as difficult as it is uncomfortable to enter into a previous state of mind from a later, more “evolved” or developed state. I don’t like to admit that I once believed Jesus rose from the dead, but I did. I also believed that socialism would make everyone brothers and sisters and end what my comrades and I called “capitalist oppression.”1 The available scientific and statistical evidence (not to mention common sense) weighs strongly against belief in bodily resurrection from the dead. History has delivered a verdict of comparable finality about socialism. This verdict is routinely dismissed on the grounds that only corrupted iterations of socialism have been tried; if socialism is designed to unite mankind, but all previous versions of socialism have failed to do so, then it follows that true socialism has yet to be successfully attempted.

Rarely do true believers stop to consider that there may be something wrong with the logic of socialism itself. In his 1993 book Post-Liberalism: Studies in Political Thought, the English philosopher John Gray wrote that Soviet socialism forced its subjects into a “vast Prisoner’s Dilemma, with each being constrained to act against his own interest and, thereby, directly or indirectly, to reproduce the order (or chaos) in which he is imprisoned. Thus Soviet subjects are compelled to compete with each other in climbing the rungs of the nomenklatura, pursuing the ordinary goods of life by party activism or, in extremis, by informing or denouncing one another, and so renewing daily the system that keeps them all captive.” These are not exactly optimal conditions for building community.

By 2004, I was already well aware of what Marxist-Leninist socialism had done to the twentieth century. So why did I fall for the socialism that Hugo Chávez proposed in Venezuela? The reasons were part push, part pull. The push came from the American invasion of Iraq less than two years earlier. After a rapid battlefield victory, the news from the Middle East seemed to be growing more dire by the day. A little over a month before I left for Venezuela, allegations began to emerge that the US military were committing war crimes in Fallujah. Surely a better way than this remained possible? As I wandered around Venezuela that December I was desperate for an alternative I could believe in, no matter how fragile.

The pull was what Hugo Chávez was proposing. He acknowledged the problems of  twentieth century socialism, and claimed to be offering something different—the Bolivarian version of “twenty-first century socialism.” This would be the “socialism with a human face” and quite unlike the repressive, totalitarian bureaucratic behemoth of Marxist-Leninism. As Chavista Gregory Wilpert insisted in his 2007 book Changing Venezuela by Taking Power, under Bolivarian socialism “ownership and control of the means of production must be collective and democratic.” Cooperatives were to play a large part in this and, after 2006, so would the local communal councils.

The money from the 2004 oil boom had saved Chávez from a recall referendum as he distributed the revenue flooding into the country among his followers. In this way, Chávez was able to fund his “revolution” from 2005 onwards. He ensured that the oil wealth would bypass the government, which he characterized as “corrupt” and (naturally) “counter-revolutionary.” Instead, money would be funnelled directly into a non-state-controlled corporate entity known as Fonden, the National Development Fund, over which, of course, Chávez personally presided. Fonden then parceled money out to cooperatives and the so-called “Missions” to the poor. During the oil boom, petroleum prices went from $10 a barrel to $100 and peaked at around $150 over the course of a decade. Given the astonishing amount of wealth generated, Chávez had a lot of money to throw at his pet projects. And, predictably, as the wealth trickled down, corruption increased since everyone had to get his or her piece of the patronage.

The cooperatives and community councils were among the many promising and inspiring initiatives dreamed up by Chávez in the early years of the boom. I witnessed these developments and documented them in my feature film, Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out. There really did appear to be great enthusiasm for these initiatives at the grassroots, especially as Hugo Chávez pushed them forward with massive funding. I quickly joined the chorus of supporters, first as invited poet to the Second World Poetry Festival of Venezuela in July 2005, then as a freelance (that is, unpaid) journalist for various left-leaning websites. When Chávez appeared on the scene, there were under 2000 cooperatives in the country. Once he came to power, that number skyrocketed to nearly 200,000, and I was there to document their ups and downs. I attended a few community council meetings and “political formation” training sessions, as well as a number of oil-funded projects like community kitchens, cultural events, and community development programs. It felt like something was really happening and that a fairer society was being built.

After the year I spent living in Venezuela (2005-2006), I returned as frequently as my schedule would allow, sometimes twice a year. Between 2008 and 2011, however, I became preoccupied with traveling across Latin America and conducting interviews with social movement activists for a book entitled Until the Rulers Obey that would be published in 2014. During that time, I was forced to become a “generalist” and didn’t have much time available to keep a close eye on what was happening in Venezuela. Nevertheless, from people who were watching, and from what I saw on my two visits there in 2011, I gathered that the situation was taking a bad turn. As even supporters were pointing out a few years later, by 2007 only about 15 percent of the 184,000 remaining cooperatives were active. If the distinction between earlier socialism and the Bolivarian version was that in the latter the “ownership and control of the means of production must be collective and democratic,” the new version wasn’t faring well at all.

Big questions began to arise about the financing of the community councils. Critics charged that these organizations were simply instruments that Chávez (and then Maduro) used to fund their supporters while denying access to the opposition. It was classic populism in the style of the Mexican PRI, which Mario Vargas Llosa once called “the perfect dictatorship.” By 2008, Chávez had suffered his first electoral defeat in a referendum that he had hoped would drive his socialist agenda forward. In response, he adopted a new approach to building twenty-first century socialism, and it looked very much like the twentieth century variety: nationalization of industries followed by the expropriation and redistribution of wealth and property. The “Bolivarian Revolution” was starting to look like any other rentier or petro-state—burgeoning corruption, a politics of clientelism, and a growing gap between the elite in control of the state (and, of course, the oil revenues) and the increasingly desperate mass of people at the bottom.

When the Arab Spring swept Gaddafi from power, I argued with my Venezuelan friends and felt the beginnings of a great divide opening up between us. I didn’t like the company Chávez was keeping—Gaddafi, Putin, Hezbollah, etc.—but neither was I ready to denounce him and his project as a fraud. Meanwhile, as my wife and I compiled the interviews with the social movement activists in Latin America, we began to notice themes and threads that confirmed what Raul Zibechi had told us when we visited him in Montevideo, Uruguay in the spring of 2012.

Zibechi was an astute analyst of Latin American politics with a focus on social movements. He explained that the so-called “Pink Tide” of leftwing governments that had risen to power on the wave of the commodities boom were in fact following the prescription of Robert McNamara, the former president of the World Bank and architect of the Vietnam War under Lyndon Johnson. In this scenario, moderately progressive governments were far more useful than their rightwing homologues to the world elite, because they provided a buffer between the transnational corporations and the social movements protesting the impact of resource extraction on communities and the environment. The testimony of our interviewees seemed to bear out Zibechi’s thesis. But surely this couldn’t be true of the more “radical” processes, like the one unfolding in Venezuela?

As I was writing the introductions to the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan chapters of our book, I investigated further, and what I discovered in the academic literature and reports by investigative journalists on both countries confirmed my doubts. By the mid-1990s, I’d already given up on the FSLN reforming itself. When I met Ernesto Cardenal again in 2004, he argued that there was no hope of any positive change from the “Ortega dictatorship.” My introduction to the Nicaragua chapter of our book was therefore fairly easy to write, since the direction the country was going under the Ortega mafia seemed clear. I quoted Dennis Rogers’s description of the Somoza dictatorship the FSLN had overthrown and remarked that it also described the present Ortega regime quite well: “A venal oligarchy run by a small elite satisfied to promote a form of what might be termed ‘hacienda feudalism.’” But Venezuela? Chávez? I had grown more critical, but I still believed in Chávez. As so many Chavistas in Venezuela had reassured me, “Chávez is clean, but all those surrounding him are corrupt.” This was a cult of personality—a One Man faith.

*     *     *

On the afternoon of March 5, 2013, I’d just finished another draft of my introduction to the Venezuela chapter when the phone rang and a friend told me that Hugo Chávez had died. I wrote a eulogy for Counterpunch that now, nearly six years later, I find embarrassing. I then decided to go back down to Venezuela for the elections. On the flight I caught up on my reading, including a fascinating biography of Hugo Chávez written by two well-known Venezuelan journalists, and some analyses of the massive problems in the Venezuelan economy, including the missing $29 billion dollars from the Fonden budget over which Chávez had presided.

Chávez, in the style of Latin American autocrats from time immemorial, had hand-picked his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Maduro was a fairly hard-core Leninist with a soft spot in his heart for Sai Baba, the Hindu guru-huckster accused of child molestation before he died in 2011. Compared to Chávez, Maduro is wooden and utterly lacking in the warmth and charm of his political “father.” But he had close relations with Cuba and was part of Chávez’s trusted inner circle and, most importantly, he was Chávez’s choice. Y punto, end of discussion.

Of the difficulties I faced over the next few days attempting to enter the country and cover the April 2013 presidential election between Maduro and Henrique Capriles, I have written elsewhere. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t granted entry until the day after the elections. Even then, due to the massive nationwide protests, I only managed to get to Mérida thanks to the generosity of oppositionists who gave me a ride. Over the course of the trip, they filled me in on the details of why Maduro had only won the elections by only slightly more than a single percentage point. This was despite using all the state resources at his disposal to (illegally) pay for and promote his campaign, including the state oil company PDVSA’s buses which drove state employees to the polls to vote for him. Chavistas simply hadn’t come out in large numbers to vote for him, and clearly many of the faithful had already gone over to the opposition.

Over the next few days and weeks, as I traveled through Venezuela, I began talking to the “counter-revolutionaries” and they offered evidence of their country’s deep problems to which my Chavista friends could only respond with rhetoric. In the industrial region of Guayana in the state of Bolívar, I interviewed union workers in the nationalized industries about the collapse of those industries. I was able to confirm their claims with secret footage shot for me by a worker using my own video camera, which showed the ruined interior of an enormous state factory where not a soul was to be seen on this particular work day.

In Caracas, I met with opposition human rights activists, union leaders, and leftwing academics for interviews. As the missing pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place, the reality of the Bolivarian catastrophe overwhelmed my resistance. Emilio Campos, then Secretary General of Carbonorca, the nationalized industrial coke plant, described the Bolivarian Revolution as nothing more than “a media show.” He called himself “a revolutionary for a plurality of ideas where a country seeks balance, not just for a party, or one sector of society. I believe in freedom of thought, in a diversity of ideas. But the hegemony of power makes you narrow-minded.”

The real turning point for me, however, was the interview I conducted with labor journalist Damian Prat, whose extraordinary book Guayana: El milagro al revés (Guayana: The Reversed Miracle) I had read over the two or three days it took me to get to Guayana from Merida by bus. The interview took place within a day or two of the shocking beatings of several prominent opposition National Assembly deputies by Chavista deputies during an official session. The state television cameras were turned off during the violence and afterwards, as the wounded were taken to the hospital. I was still shaken by the footage some brave parliamentarians had captured on their cell phones and leaked to the press.

I met Prat at his office at the Correo del Caroní, the Guayanesa daily paper. As I turned on my video camera, Prat smiled wryly. “Some of you in the critical, intellectual circles of Europe and the United States seem to think it’s fine that in the countries of our Latin America there are arbitrary governments and processes full of abuses that in your countries you wouldn’t consider allowing for a minute. No, in your own country you’d militantly reject the same things you seem to feel are perfectly fine to take place down here, so far away, where it’s exotic and interesting…” I felt my face redden with shame, and I suddenly felt my whole world capsize.

It would be months before I was able to return to Guayana to interview Rubén González, the former Chavista and Secretary General of Iron Mine Workers Union of the Orinoco (Sintra Ferrominera del Orinoco) about his own experience of imprisonment without trial “just for doing my job in the union and defending the rights of workers.” Referring to the claims of “sabotage” as the reason the industries were failing in the country, González told me that those in government “never thought of governing, but rather of enriching their little group in power. They never invested in these businesses, but totally bled them dry. They themselves are the saboteurs.” At the time of this writing, González is back in jail for organizing on behalf of workers in the state ironworks.

*     *     *

All of a sudden, I found myself in a strange world. I had drifted—at first gradually, but then definitively—into the camp of my former “enemies,” persuaded by their narrative and by the evidence before my own eyes. And, as I did so, I discovered that the editors of the news sites where I’d published my passionate defenses of the Bolivarian project for the past few years no longer responded to my pitches or my queries or my emails. As Venezuela disintegrated, I was lost and confused and alone.

And then, while I was grieving the loss of my innocent old life and its many friendships, something curious and unexpected began to happen. I discovered a great sense of excitement as I investigated “new” ideas for which I’d previously had nothing but contempt. I found myself reminded of Herbert Spencer’s quote at the end of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

For the next two years, I delved into the literature on Venezuela with renewed interest. Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold’s book, A Dragon in the Tropics, it turned out, was particularly well-researched and compelling. Since I could no longer get my writing published in any of the outlets for which I’d previously written, I redirected my energies into making a new film entitled In the Shadow of the Revolution with the help of a Venezuelan filmmaker and friend, Arturo Albarrán, and I wrote my political memoir for an adventurous anarchist publisher. But what preoccupied me more and more were the larger questions of socialism versus capitalism, and the meaning of liberalism.

I’d visited Cuba twice—in 1994 and again in 2010—and now, with my experience of Venezuela, I felt I’d seen the best socialism could offer. Not only was that offering pathetically meagre, but it had been disastrously destructive. It became increasingly clear to me that nothing that went under that rubric functioned nearly as well on any level as the system under which I had been fortunate enough to live in the US. Why then, did so many decent people, whose ethics and intelligence and good intentions I greatly respected, continue to insist that the capitalist system needed to be eliminated and replaced with what had historically proven to be the inferior system of socialism?

The strongest argument against state control of the means of production and distribution is that it simply didn’t—and doesn’t—work. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding—and in this case, there was no pudding at all. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen socialism fail in China, fail in the Soviet Union, fail in Eastern Europe, fail on the island of Cuba, and fail in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. And now the world is watching it fail in Venezuela, where it burned through billions of petro-dollars of financing, only to leave the nation worse off than it was before. And still people like me had insisted on this supposed alternative to capitalism, stubbornly refusing to recognize that it is based on a faulty premise and a false epistemology.

As long ago as the early 1940s, F.A. Hayek had identified the impossibility of centralized social planning and its catastrophic consequences in his classic The Road to Serfdom. Hayek’s writings convinced the Hungarian economist, János Kornai, to dedicate an entire volume entitled The Socialist System to demonstrating the validity of his claims. The “synoptic delusion”—the belief that any small group of people could hold and manage all the information spread out over millions of actors in a market economy—Kornai argued, leads the nomenklatura to make disastrous decisions that disrupt production and distribution. Attempts to “correct” these errors only exacerbate the problems for the same reasons, leading to a whole series of disasters that result, at last, in a completely dysfunctional economy, and then gulags, torture chambers, and mass executions as the nomenklatura hunt for “saboteurs” and scapegoats.

The synoptic delusion—compounded by immense waste, runaway corruption, and populist authoritarianism—is what led to the mayhem engulfing Venezuela today, just as it explains why socialism is no longer a viable ideology to anyone but the kind of true believer I used to be. For such people, utopian ideologies might bring happiness into their own lives, and even into the lives of those around them who also delight in their dreams and fantasies. But when they gain control over nations and peoples, their harmless dreams become the nightmares of multitudes.

Capitalism, meanwhile, has dramatically raised the standard of living wherever it has been allowed to arise over the past two centuries. It is not, however, anything like a perfect or flawless system. Globalization has left many behind, even if their lives are far better than those of their ancestors just two hundred years ago, and vast wealth creation has produced vast inequalities which have, in turn, bred resentment. Here in California, the city of Los Angeles, “with a population of four million, has 53,000 homeless.” Foreign policy misadventures and the economic crash of 2008 opened the door to demagogues of the Left and the Right eager to exploit people’s hopes and fears so that they could offer themselves as the solution their troubled nations sought to the dystopian woe into which liberal societies had fallen. In his fascinating recent jeremiad Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen itemizes liberal democracy’s many shortcomings and, whether or not one accepts his stark prognosis, his criticisms merit careful thought and attention.

Nevertheless, markets do work for the majority, and so does liberal democracy, as dysfunctional as it often is. That is because capitalism provides the space for ingenuity and innovation, while liberal democracy provides room for free inquiry and self-correction. Progress and reform can seem maddeningly sluggish under such circumstances, particularly when attempting to redress grave injustice or to meet slow-moving existential threats like climate change. But I have learned to be wary of those who insist that the perfect must be the enemy of the good, and who appeal to our impatience with extravagant promises of utopia. If, as Deneen contends, liberalism has become a victim of its own success, it should be noted that socialism has no successes to which it can fall victim. Liberalism’s foundations may be capable of being shored up, but socialism is built on sand, and from sand. Failures, most sensible people realize, should be abandoned.

That is probably why Karl Popper advocated cautious, piecemeal reform of markets and societies because, like any other experiment, one can only accurately isolate problems and make corrections by changing one variable at a time. As Popper observed in his essay “Utopia and Violence”:

The appeal of Utopianism arises from the failure to realize that we cannot make heaven on earth. What I believe we can do instead is to make life a little less terrible and a little less unjust in each generation. A good deal can be achieved in this way. Much has been achieved in the last hundred years. More could be achieved by our own generation. There are many pressing problems which we might solve, at least partially, such as helping the weak and the sick, and those who suffer under oppression and injustice; stamping out unemployment; equalizing opportunities; and preventing international crime, such as blackmail and war instigated by men like gods, by omnipotent and omniscient leaders. All this we might achieve if only we could give up dreaming about distant ideals and fighting over our Utopian blueprints for a new world and a new man.

Losing faith in a belief system that once gave my life meaning was extremely painful. But the experience also reawakened my dormant intellectual curiosity and allowed me to think about the world anew, unencumbered by the circumscriptions of doctrine. I have met new people, read new writers and thinkers, and explored new ideas I had previously taken care to avoid. After reading an interview I had given to one of my publishers a year ago, I was forwarded an email by the poet David Chorlton. What I’d said in that interview, he wrote, “goes beyond our current disease of taking sides and inflexible non-thinking. I’m reading Havel speeches again, all in the light of the collective failure to live up to the post-communist opportunities. We’re suffering from a lack of objectivity—is that because everyone wants an identity more than a solution to problems?”

 

economics, foreign affairs, government, history, ideology, liberalism, poverty, public policy, reform, socialism

Filed under: economics, foreign affairs, government, history, ideology, liberalism, poverty, public policy, reform, socialism

Antifa are more than ‘anti-fascists.’

original article: Antifa Is Not Fighting For Freedom, But For Communist Revolution
November 1, 2017 by Joseph D’Hippolito

In the immediate aftermath of the Charlottesville violence, several prominent figures—including CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic—equated left-wing “Antifa” activists with the thousands of Allied soldiers who stormed Normandy’s beaches to invade Adolph Hitler’s “Fortress Europe” on D-Day.

A more appropriate equation would be with the thousands of soldiers in the Red Army, who brutally marched toward Berlin, where they would establish Soviet hegemony in the so-called German Democratic Republic after defeating Hitler.

Antifa returns to the news this week. On Tuesday night, former Breitbart.com editor Milo Yiannopoulos spoke at California State University, Fullerton in a program sponsored by that university’s College Republicans. Seven were arrested amid reports of head-punching and pepper-spraying. Protesters of the event chanted “Cops and the Klan go hand in hand!” and held signs reading “Only socialist revolution can defeat capitalist reaction.” In February, Antifa militants committed such mayhem while protesting Yiannopoulos’ appearance at the University of California at Berkeley that university officials cancelled his speech at the last minute.

On Saturday, Antifa will join other leftist groups in massive nationwide protests designed to force President Donald Trump’s administration out of office. Organizing those protests is “Refuse Fascism,” which declares that “in the name of humanity, we REFUSE to accept a Fascist America!”

Despite antiseptic portrayals throughout American media, Antifa are more than “anti-fascists.” Antifa represent the chaos of Germany’s Weimar Republic and provide the violent complement to academic neo-Marxism. Like their philosophical comrades, Antifa seek to destroy the American emphasis on liberty under law and to impose a revival of one of history’s most repressive ideologies.

Antifa Is Anti-West and Anti-Capitalist

Bernd Langer, whose “80 Years of Anti-Fascist Action” was published by Germany’s Association for the Promotion of Anti-Fascist Literature, succinctly defined the rhetorical subterfuge. “Anti-fascism is a strategy rather than an ideology,” wrote Langer, a former Antifa member, for “an anti-capitalist form of struggle.”

Short for the German phrase, “Antifaschistische Aktion,” Antifa served as the paramilitary arm of the German Communist Party (KPD), which the Soviet Union funded. In other words, Antifa became the German Communists’ version of the Nazis’ brown-shirted SA.

The KPD made no secret of Antifa’s affiliation. A 1932 photo of KPD headquarters in Berlin prominently displayed the double-flagged Antifa emblem among other Communist symbols and slogans. In a photo from the 1932 Unity Congress of Antifa in Berlin, the double-flagged banner shared space with the hammer and sickle and with two large cartoons. One supported the KPD, the other mocked the SPD, Germany’s Social Democratic Party.

Today’s Antifa embrace those roots. During February’s protest in Berkeley, masked Antifa agitators caused nearly $100,000 in damage by starting fires, breaking windows, assaulting bystanders with pepper spray and flagpoles, painting graffiti on nearby businesses, and destroying automatic teller machines. “Refuse Fascism,” the group organizing Saturday’s protests, is controlled by the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, which seeks to create a Marxist United States through violent revolution.

Law and Order Are Among Antifa’s Enemies

Antifa’s goal to suppress “fascism” reflects the views of neo-Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse. “A policy of unequal treatment would protect radicalism on the Left against that on the Right,” Marcuse wrote in “Repressive Tolerance,” his 1965 essay. “Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left” extending “to the stage of action as well as of discussion and propaganda, of deed as well as of word.”

Marcuse dismissed the idea of individual liberty protected by law in favor of a Marxist society favoring ostensibly oppressed groups at the expense of everybody else. Such a society, Marcuse wrote, would demand “the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements” that not only “promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion” but also “oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc.” and “may necessitate new and rigid restrictions on teachings and practices in the educational institutions.”

Marcuse even justified violence: “there is a ‘natural right’ of resistance for oppressed and overpowered minorities to use extralegal means if the legal ones have proved to be inadequate,” Marcuse wrote. “Law and order are always and everywhere the law and order which protect the established hierarchy; it is nonsensical to invoke the absolute authority of this law and this order against those who suffer from it and struggle against it … for their share of humanity. If they use violence, they do not start a new chain of violence but try to break an established one.”

In expressing his contempt for “the sacred liberalistic principle of equality for ‘the other side,’” Marcuse maintained in 1968 ”that there are issues where either there is no ‘other side’ in any more than a formalistic sense, or where ‘the other side’ is demonstrably ‘regressive’ and impedes possible improvement of the human condition.”

Elements of Today’s Left Embrace Marcuse’s Ideas

K-Su Park, a University of California at Los Angeles law fellow, reflected Marcuse’s thought when in an op-ed in The New York Times she challenged the American Civil Liberties Union to reconsider its approach to the First Amendment. The ACLU represented Jason Kessler, who organized the “Unite The Right” rally and sued the City of Charlottesville for revoking his permit for the protest.

The ACLU’s approach “implies that the country is on a level playing field, that at some point it overcame its history of racial discrimination to achieve a real democracy, the cornerstone of which is freedom of expression,” Park wrote. “Other forms of structural discrimination and violence also restrict the exercise of speech, such as police intimidation of African-Americans and Latinos. The danger that communities face because of their speech isn’t equal.”

Park’s fellowship is with UCLA’s critical race studies program. Critical race studies comes from critical theory, a sociological approach developed by Germany’s neo-Marxist Frankfurt School, where Marcuse was a leading thinker. Johns Hopkins professor N.D.B. Connolly blended Marcuse’s philosophy with Antifa’s militancy in a Washington Post op-ed, where he compared the United States’ racial history to a game of rock-paper-scissors.

“For a long while, we’ve been throwing a lot of ‘paper,’” Connolly wrote. “Liberalism — our paper — preserves our country’s long commitment to contracts. Under liberalism, citizens stand in contract with their government. The government’s job, in turn, has been to enforce contracts between individuals and groups. Truly, when people ask for rights, be they women’s rights, gay and transgender rights, or rights as people of color, they are asking for contract rights.”

‘Rock Breaks Scissors’

But racism, Connolly argued, serves as scissors: “Right at the country’s founding, racists cut black and indigenous people out of liberalism’s contract. Black bodies and Native American land did not deserve the protection of contract. They deserved bondage and expropriation.”

The solution? “No matter its form, rock breaks scissors,” Connolly wrote. “A half-century ago, nothing less than radical anti-racism could reduce white supremacy to an outlaw religion. … In April 1968, amid a flurry of other ‘rocks,’ riots shook American cities following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. It took that rolling unrest … to spur President Lyndon Johnson and Congress to action. Within a week they had passed the Fair Housing Act.”

Connolly concluded by advocating similar measures. “Segregationists have again assumed their pedestals in the Justice Department, the White House and many other American temples,” he wrote. ”Paper alone won’t drive them out. Start throwing rocks.” In slandering those who hold opposing views, and in essentially calling Martin Luther King Jr. a failure, Connolly reflected the true “Antifa” spirit: Neo-Marxism über alles.

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Filed under: culture, Democrats, extremism, government, history, ideology, left wing, liberalism, marxism, political correctness, politics, progressive

Many of America’s seemingly benevolent programs succeed only in making people dependent

original article: Searching for Self-Reliance
May 30, 2017 by Edwin J. Feulner

When conservatives call for Congress to cut federal spending and shrink the size of government, they’re often portrayed as heartless.

On the contrary: We remember our heritage. We know there’s actually nothing “progressive” at all about the nanny state. Indeed, it’s regressive. It’s a betrayal of our history as a nation built on self-reliance.

We owe our republic, after all, to the energy and exertions of rugged individuals — pilgrims who crossed the perilous sea in frail ships to brave a wilderness, pioneers who slogged thousands of miles through hostile territory and prevailed against all odds.

They had no subsidies, no guarantees, no government help save for raw public land they painfully developed by hard labor. They shared what they had, helped one another, and took turns standing guard to protect against danger. They wanted to be free, and they build the freest country in history.

Self-reliance, Alexis de Tocqueville observed in his landmark work “Democracy in America,” was the organizing principle of American life, culture, and politics in the 19th century. Today, however, our nation seems to have reversed Tocqueville’s admiring formulation and become a nanny state in which more and more individuals depend on government to do not only what they can’t do for themselves, but far too much else.

Sure, there are plenty of hard-working Americans still around. But unlike our predecessors, many other present-day Americans show little or no interest in relying on their own mind and muscle to surmount obstacles. Since the 1930s, generations have grown up accustomed to depending on government as their first line of defense against not only serious trouble, but also the common vicissitudes of ordinary life.

Think of the chores we expect our public servants to perform with all the panache of brave first responders tackling a terrorist attack. If you lock your keys inside your car, can’t coax your cat down from a tree, or feel insulted by a surly cabdriver, what do you do? Many milquetoasts in 21st century America call 911 and demand action by some hapless fire company or overworked police department.

The nanny state has conditioned vast numbers of us to view nearly any setback as a federal case. If you can’t pay your debts, taxes or tuition; if you can’t afford health insurance, rebuild your beach house after a hurricane, or save your business from your own follies, never fear — some federal program will surely bail you out.

And you don’t have to be poor, friendless, handicapped or underprivileged to get that help. The bigger your business and the more egregious your errors, the more you can expect the feds to save you.

Americans have been sliding into dependency ever since the New Deal began federalizing everyone’s problems, and particularly since Lyndon Johnson launched his so-called “Great Society.” What fell by the wayside was the previous American way of dealing with adversity, the era when people in need turned to the civil society around them — the safety net of families, friends, churches, local doctors, and politicians.

All that changed with the proliferation of federal programs doling out benefits on an industrial scale. Federal involvement in everything from retirement (Social Security), health care (Medicare and Medicaid) and education grew by leaps and bounds, making more and more Americans dependent on faceless bureaucrats they never meet.

It all adds up to a profound loss of the self-reliance that built this country and made it great. Many of our seemingly benevolent programs succeed only in weakening people and condemning them to endless dependency.

This is why conservatives want to cut government down to size. As President Reagan said in his first Inaugural Address, “It is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work — work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride our back.”

Critics call that heartless. But to allow our present trajectory to continue unchecked is senseless. It’s time to change course — before it’s too late.

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Yes, Democrats are still responsible for slavery, Jim Crow, and the KKK

I was listening to a guy talk about the unsavory history of American Democrats. An academic in the audience, also a Democrat, spoke up during the Q&A and castigated the speaker for suggesting modern Democrats are responsible for their party’s past. Elsewhere, on a forum unrelated to politics I saw a post asking (while actually suggesting) if Republicans were the party of racism.

On many occasions I’ve heard people argue in no uncertain terms that today’s Democrat party is not the same as it used to be. Democrats are a very different group of people today, the argument goes, so the modern party cannot honestly be held accountable for the evils of their predecessors.

And yet Republicans today are frequently blamed for slavery, Jim Crow, and the KKK – all of which were either defended or (in the case of Jim Crow and the KKK) invented by Democrats. If Democrats cannot be honestly held accountable for the sins of the past because the modern party is composed of different people, how can modern Republicans honestly be held accountable for the Democrats’ sins of the past?

The myth that the parties “switched sides” is constantly losing credibility, as it should. Certain arguments keep cropping up which rightly challenge that myth. As one example, consider the fact the “not a person” argument was one of the chief defenses of slavery Democrats used in the past, and it is one of the chief defenses Democrats use today to defend abortion. Democrats never stopped playing semantic games with other people’s personhood. That game switched to a different target, but the victimizing continues. Deciding who is and who is not a person, and therefore who does and who does not have rights, is one of the fundamental tools of oppression Democrats have always used.

Contrast this with the conservative position on who does and who does not have rights. If you move to the United States legally and follow our rules, and join in the social compact we all have amongst ourselves as citizens, you can enjoy the rights and benefits of citizenship. If you move to our country and choose to break our laws and intentionally avoid becoming a citizen you don’t get to enjoy the rights and benefits of citizenship. Voting is not a human right, it is a citizen right. No one is denying an immigrant their status as a person by arguing they have no right to vote (despite Democrat protestations).

Another important detail is the fact Democrats are not responsible for the vast majority of civil rights legislation passed by the U.S. government. From the war between the states through the 1950s civil rights legislation was soundly the result of Republican efforts. Remember that incident in the early 20th century when the American military was racially segregated? Yeah, that was Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, working against civil rights that had already been achieved up to that point in American history. And even for those pieces of legislation which Democrats do claim credit, we are justified in asking why should they? After all it was not Republicans who filibustered the 1964 civil rights act; that was Democrats. So why should Democrats get credit for it today?

Besides, if Democrats of today ought not be held accountable for the sins of Democrats of the past, even if you wanted to argue Democrats deserve credit for the 1964 civil rights act, why should today’s Democrats get credit for it? On the other hand, if today’s Democrats do deserve credit for the virtues of Democrats half a century ago, they likewise deserve blame for those past sins.

Another reason Democrats can still be blamed for their past sins is the myth that those slavery-defending Democrats were conservative. This is why liberals/progressives have no choice but to define conservatism as wanting to maintain the status quo and opposing change. All power seeks to preserve itself. Communists, socialists, fascists, Democrats, Republicans, and all political groups who have power want to keep it. To admit this plain fact would endanger the modern narrative. Liberals/progressives have no problem blaming modern Republicans for the sins of the past but they lose their minds if someone suggests Democrats should be held responsible for the sins of their own political party.

“Change” has always been a battle cry of tyrants, so conservatives are naturally skeptical of politicians promising change, or making promises of any kind. The liberal/progressive description of conservatism sees the political right as a group of people who want to maintain the status quo, to keep power structures as they are. But the conservative description of conservatism is quite different. In the American experiment, conservatism has always been leery of the abuse of power. That’s why, in order to “preserve” liberty, conservatives prefer to “conserve” power, to limit its concentration and avoid its over use. Conservatives are glad to test new ideas, but not to blindly jump on board just because enthusiastic (or even violent and hateful) protesters demand change. Environmental activists work in a similar fashion: seeking to preserve the environment by conserving energy, avoiding its overuse or waste (but resorting to liberal/progressive tactics in seeking to control other people in the process).

It was not conservatives of the past who defended slavery. The abolitionists were the conservatives of the day. They viewed the abuse of power in legally robbing one group of people of their humanity as a threat to everyone, naturally putting us all in danger of the same abuse. Looking at the long term effects of the situation, conservatives realized if our government can dehumanize one group, it can dehumanize another. They viewed this type of power, in a free society claiming to be founded on the notion of liberty, as abuse. And the abolitionists were right. Today, prenatal people are denied all rights because they are explicitly robbed of their very humanity. (And don’t forget that other incident when progressive Germans decided to play semantic games with personhood.)

In our modern era all manner of common ideas are construed as discrimination and oppression to help reinforce the idea of blaming Republicans for the past sins of slavery. It is said foreigners who are not citizens are denied their humanity because they are not allowed to vote (which could become their right if only they would become citizens). It is said gays are denied their humanity because they are not allowed to live together, to love who they want to love, or to have a ceremony. Actually, even before government usurped the religious institution of marriage (a violation of the separation between church and state, by the way) gays were already doing all these things in the United States. No one was stopping them. There are some people who want to deny the right of gays to do any of those things, or even to live, but if I told you who they were I’d probably be accused of Islamophobia.

When conservatives want reasonable justification for redefining the right to vote or the institution of marriage we are accused of all sorts of evil things, and a lot of people believe those accusations because somehow conservatives are supposed to be responsible for slavery, so why wouldn’t Republicans do these other evil things, too? When conservatives ask why, after telling us liberals wanted government out of the bedroom, do they now demand government enter the bedroom we are supposed to simply cower and remain silent at the allegation of bigotry.

So there is political gain to be had in blaming Republicans for the past sins of Democrats. Democrats have a long track record, continuing even today, of dehumanizing others. But it is only Republicans who bear the blame for dehumanization. Misconstruing today’s issues as hate is the new norm. Anything progressives disagree with is labeled “fascism”. Then progressives act like fascists to “protest”. Silencing others, resorting to violence to do so, dehumanizing detractors, and bullying anyone fails to tote the line is fascism. It is also the history and contemporary practice of Democrats.

Yes, both political parties are quite different today as compared to what they were 150, 100, or even 50 years ago. No, the parties didn’t “switch sides”. Since Democrats continue to play the same political games they have played all along, they deserve the blame for their own sins, especially since they fraudulently claim credit for any virtues of the past.

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Filed under: abuse, american, bigotry, civil rights, corruption, culture, Democrats, fraud, government, history, hypocrisy, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, oppression, pandering, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, public policy, relativism, victimization

How Intellectuals Cover for Evil

original article: How Intellectuals Cover for Evil: Deconstruction
March 18, 2017 by Thomas McArdle

Alongside its unprecedented mass violence, the 20th century saw the rise and reign of the secular intellectual as false prophet and would-be führer. For such men, as historian Paul Johnson wrote:

The collective wisdom of the past, the legacy of tradition, the prescriptive codes of ancestral experience existed to be selectively followed or wholly rejected entirely as his own good sense might decide.

Enter the villain of Stream columnist Jonathan Leaf’s powerful new play, Deconstruction, running through March 25 at the Theatre at Grand Hall (St. Mary’s Parish), 440 Grand Street, New York, N.Y., produced by Storm Theatre.

The Antwerp-born Paul de Man came to America after the Second World War and Blitzkrieged the study of literature by pioneering the postmodern theory of deconstruction — which, among other things, put morally-relativistic modern man in the place of a murdered God.

Pretending to be a Hero of the Anti-Nazi Resistance

De Man ultimately reached the zenith of academic prestige at Yale, becoming the single most influential literary critic in America — whose theories still deeply influence English classes at colleges today. But at the outset of Deconstruction, it’s summer 1949. He holds a menial job at a Grand Central bookshop, and finds himself the pitied guest of Catholic-turned-Marxist novelist and critic Mary McCarthy in her Rhode Island beach cottage.

Leaf’s drama speculates about the two married academics’ rumored affair.  McCarthy would secure de Man his first academic post at New York’s Bard College, an hour’s drive north of Vassar, where she was teaching. De Man doesn’t quite seduce McCarthy; it’s mutual. As she later admits, “anyone who strokes my ego after a few drinks too often can stroke other places.” He compliments her literary talent. She praises his conversational cleverness, and his brave service in the Belgian Resistance – except that, as we discover, the latter was a lie. Quite the contrary.

Deconstruction 2

Jed Peterson as de Man is a fascinating near-reincarnation of Paul Henreid playing the sly, covert Nazi in Carol Reed’s 1940 thriller Night Train To Munich. De Man apes sincerity quite effectively, as he professes shame for seducing other women, then dwells on his tragic youth. At 17, he found his mother hanged on the anniversary of his brother being struck dead by a train. Yet soon after telling the tale, he does indeed lead McCarthy to bed.

In Leaf’s telling, McCarthy would eventually find herself expecting de Man’s child, leaving her third and current husband to think the child is his. After her miscarriage it would be her husband, not de Man, at her side. De Man would by this time be busy with a 21-year-old Bard student whom he had also impregnated.

No, de Man had not fought in the Resistance. In fact, he had served the Nazis.

Inventing New Forms of Relativism to Explain Away His Crimes

But this is the tip of the iceberg. No, de Man had not fought in the Resistance. In fact, he had served the Nazis. Some four years after de Man’s 1983 death, a Belgian scholar would discover more than 100 pro-Nazi articles de Man had published under his own byline in occupied Belgium during the war in the country’s leading newspaper, Le Soir. In one, he recommended a forced exodus of the Jews, remarking that Europe “would lose, in all, a few personalities of mediocre value” then continue in greatness.

Le_SoirDe Man’s legion of deconstruction disciples would proclaim the revelations overblown. Literary scholar James Atlas noted in the New York Times in 1988, while the truth about de Man was still hitting the fan, that de Man’s Yale colleague Geoffrey Hartman minimized de Man’s offenses because they “didn’t begin to compare with the ‘vulgar anti-Semitic writing’ in other newspapers of the day.”

De Man would quit the pro-Nazi paper, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Two months after de Man’s departure Le Soir’s other literary critic was assassinated by the Resistance for being a Nazi collaborator.

Interrogated by Hannah Arendt

The play twists the knife when Leaf’s last character arrives — McCarthy’s friend, political theorist Hannah Arendt. A German Jew who grew up in Koenigsberg, she’d escaped death in the Holocaust thanks to falsified papers from a U.S. diplomat. To an audience, Karoline Fischer’s stern, straight-talking Arendt may be the least enchanting of the three characters, but that suits her harsh message of truth.

“That I managed to get out of Germany, then out of a detention camp — it’s because I’m not cowed. By anyone.” So she informs de Man in an unwelcome visit to his Bard office. “I want to know: who are you?”

But this far-and-away more honest intellectual already knows, having “made some inquiries in Belgium.”

“Tell me, did you deliver bombs for the Resistance? Is that true or a lie?” Arendt demands of de Man.

“If we cannot prove God’s existence or the moral laws taken from antiquity, then what place is there for traditional morality?”

His blood-curdling response: “As a student of Heidegger, you of all people should know that the notion of objective truth is a philosophical concept. An abstraction. Neither more, nor less.”

“What Is Truth?”

De Man was taunting Arendt, aware that she’d once been both Heidegger’s student and his lover. (Heidegger’s blatant, public support for the Nazis even after the war has since dimmed his intellectual star a little.)

If there is no real truth, then why be good? Or, as de Man earlier asked McCarthy, “If we cannot prove God’s existence or the moral laws taken from antiquity, then what place is there for traditional morality? You do see the logic at least?”

The logic she sees – indeed keenly feels – is the soul-destroying vacuum of love and beauty that de Man leaves in his wake. As Mary McCarthy, Fleur Alys Dobbins, in the performance of the night, shifts jarringly from a feathery hedonism to ravaged victimhood.

“You know, Paul, I spent hours thinking of baby names, painting the child’s room different colors in my mind. Wondering: a girl or a boy, which would you like?” she cries in her pain. When de Man claims, “I’m ashamed,” Arendt counters, “You have no shame,” then reveals, “one of the inquiries I made told me something that didn’t entirely surprise me: you wrote for a Nazi newspaper.”

The real difference between de Man and McCarthy?  She admits, “I know I’m a fraud,” but “I want to be good.”

The year he died, de Man would write, “’I am not given to retrospective self-examination, and mercifully forget what I have written with the same alacrity I forget bad movies … although, as with bad movies, certain scenes or phrases return at times to embarrass and haunt me like a guilty conscience.” Atlas noted that, writing on Rousseau, de Man had even claimed we can never distinguish between “fictional discourse and empirical event,” which “makes it possible to excuse the bleakest of crimes.”

Leaf’s deconstruction of the de Man myth ends with McCarthy (“some Marxist, I am!”) repeating aloud a prayer to the Virgin Mary. In the words of Whittaker Chambers, the Communist spy who turned Christian, Deconstruction’s audience discovers that “man without mysticism is a monster.”

abuse, anti-religion, atheism, culture, education, elitism, ethics, history, ideology, left wing, liberalism, marxism, philosophy, progressive, relativism

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White guilt gave us a mock politics based on the pretense of moral authority

original article: The Exhaustion of American Liberalism
March 5, 2017 by SHELBY STEELE

The recent flurry of marches, demonstrations and even riots, along with the Democratic Party’s spiteful reaction to the Trump presidency, exposes what modern liberalism has become: a politics shrouded in pathos. Unlike the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, when protesters wore their Sunday best and carried themselves with heroic dignity, today’s liberal marches are marked by incoherence and downright lunacy—hats designed to evoke sexual organs, poems that scream in anger yet have no point to make, and an hysterical anti-Americanism.

All this suggests lostness, the end of something rather than the beginning. What is ending?

America, since the ’60s, has lived through what might be called an age of white guilt. We may still be in this age, but the Trump election suggests an exhaustion with the idea of white guilt, and with the drama of culpability, innocence and correctness in which it mires us.

White guilt is not actual guilt. Surely most whites are not assailed in the night by feelings of responsibility for America’s historical mistreatment of minorities. Moreover, all the actual guilt in the world would never be enough to support the hegemonic power that the mere pretense of guilt has exercised in American life for the last half-century.

White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The terror of this, of having “no name in the street” as the Bible puts it, pressures whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt. White guilt is a mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret.

It is also the heart and soul of contemporary liberalism. This liberalism is the politics given to us by white guilt, and it shares white guilt’s central corruption. It is not real liberalism, in the classic sense. It is a mock liberalism. Freedom is not its raison d’être; moral authority is.

When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy. (Conservatism, focused on freedom and wealth, had little moral clout.) From that followed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics, environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult and so on.

This was the circumstance in which innocence of America’s bigotries and dissociation from the American past became a currency of hardcore political power. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, good liberals both, pursued power by offering their candidacies as opportunities for Americans to document their innocence of the nation’s past. “I had to vote for Obama,” a rock-ribbed Republican said to me. “I couldn’t tell my grandson that I didn’t vote for the first black president.”

For this man liberalism was a moral vaccine that immunized him against stigmatization. For Mr. Obama it was raw political power in the real world, enough to lift him—unknown and untested—into the presidency. But for Mrs. Clinton, liberalism was not enough. The white guilt that lifted Mr. Obama did not carry her into office—even though her opponent was soundly stigmatized as an iconic racist and sexist.

Perhaps the Obama presidency was the culmination of the age of white guilt, so that this guiltiness has entered its denouement. There are so many public moments now in which liberalism’s old weapon of stigmatization shoots blanks—Elizabeth Warren in the Senate reading a 30-year-old letter by Coretta Scott King, hoping to stop Jeff Sessions’s appointment as attorney general. There it was with deadly predictability: a white liberal stealing moral authority from a black heroine in order to stigmatize a white male as racist. When Ms. Warren was finally told to sit, there was real mortification behind her glaring eyes.

This liberalism evolved within a society shamed by its past. But that shame has weakened now. Our new conservative president rolls his eyes when he is called a racist, and we all—liberal and conservative alike—know that he isn’t one. The jig is up. Bigotry exists, but it is far down on the list of problems that minorities now face. I grew up black in segregated America, where it was hard to find an open door. It’s harder now for young blacks to find a closed one.

This is the reality that made Ms. Warren’s attack on Mr. Sessions so tiresome. And it is what caused so many Democrats at President Trump’s address to Congress to look a little mortified, defiantly proud but dark with doubt. The sight of them was a profound moment in American political history.

Today’s liberalism is an anachronism. It has no understanding, really, of what poverty is and how it has to be overcome. It has no grip whatever on what American exceptionalism is and what it means at home and especially abroad. Instead it remains defined by an America of 1965—an America newly opening itself to its sins, an America of genuine goodwill, yet lacking in self-knowledge.

This liberalism came into being not as an ideology but as an identity. It offered Americans moral esteem against the specter of American shame. This made for a liberalism devoted to the idea of American shamefulness. Without an ugly America to loathe, there is no automatic esteem to receive. Thus liberalism’s unrelenting current of anti-Americanism.

Let’s stipulate that, given our history, this liberalism is understandable. But American liberalism never acknowledged that it was about white esteem rather than minority accomplishment. Four thousand shootings in Chicago last year, and the mayor announces that his will be a sanctuary city. This is moral esteem over reality; the self-congratulation of idealism. Liberalism is exhausted because it has become a corruption.

american, bias, bigotry, corruption, culture, Democrats, discrimination, diversity, extremism, government, history, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, oppression, pandering, philosophy, political correctness, politics, progressive, propaganda, racism, relativism, unintended consequences

Filed under: american, bias, bigotry, corruption, culture, Democrats, discrimination, diversity, extremism, government, history, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, oppression, pandering, philosophy, political correctness, politics, progressive, propaganda, racism, relativism, unintended consequences

If Black Genocide were shown on BET, Black Lives Matter would be attacking abortion clinics

original article: One of Margaret Sanger’s Pals Ran a Concentration Camp That Killed Black People
October 14, 2016 by JASON JONES & JOHN ZMIRAK

It’s a pro-life commonplace that The American Birth Control League, founded by Margaret Sanger 100 years ago and later rechristened Planned Parenthood, had ties to eugenicists and racists. This is not quite right. It’s like saying that the NBA has ties to professional sports. The birth control movement and the eugenics movement were the same movement — to the point where Margaret Sanger twice tried to merge her organization with major eugenics groups.

One eugenics expert, Eugen Fischer, whom Sanger featured as a speaker at a population conference she organized, had already run a concentration camp — in German-ruled Southwest Africa, before World War I, where he murdered, starved and experimented on helpless native Africans. It was Fischer’s book on eugenics, which Hitler had read in prison, that convinced Hitler of its central importance. Another longtime official of Planned Parenthood, Garrett Hardin, had a decades-long track record of serving in eugenics organizations, and as late as the 1980s was calling for mass forced sterilization of Americans as a necessary solution to the “population problem.”

The same people served on the boards of the American Eugenics Society and Sanger’s organizations for decades, and they worked closely together on countless projects — ranging from researching the birth control pill as a means of diminishing the African-American birth rate (they tested the early, hazardous versions of the Pill on impoverished rural women in Puerto Rico), to passing forced sterilization or castration laws in more than a dozen states that targeted blacks and other poor people accused of “feeble mindedness” or “shiftlessness” and diagnosed as “unfit” parents. Today, Planned Parenthood sets up its centers in America’s poorest neighborhoods, and continues to target the same populations via abortion.

Maafa 21: Black Genocide

That’s the appalling truth uncovered in a neglected 2014 documentary which we feature here at The Stream as part of our #100forLife campaign. Maafa 21: Black Genocide gets its odd title from the Swahili word for slavery, and it is this film’s contention that the eugenics movement in America began in the panic which white racists felt at the end of slavery over what should be done to solve what some called the “Negro problem.” It’s a long, harrowing film, which you should watch in small doses — treating it as a miniseries. And keep a box of Kleenex handy, because you will weep.

Produced by the pro-life apostolate Life Dynamics with a mostly black cast of narrators and commentators, this film claims that Planned Parenthood and other organizations and government programs that target the poor and try to block their reproduction are the 21st century’s answer to the Ku Klux Klan — which was founded by white Southern elites to keep down the “unruly” ranks of freed black slaves.

It’s a shocking assertion, but one that the filmmakers prove beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt, citing name after name, giving racist quote after racist quote, showing that Sanger personally approved the publication of outrageous and cruel claims of the genetic inferiority of millions of Americans, especially blacks, and calling for their forced sterilization, and the cut-off of welfare benefits and even private charity, to stop the “unfit” from reproducing themselves. Then she took part in promoting policies that turned this evil, utopian program of social engineering into binding American laws. One of the leading advocates for the legalization of abortion in the 1960s and 70s was Planned Parenthood, run by her appointees and later by her grandson, Alexander Sanger.

Margaret Sanger Worked with White Supremacists for Decades

The board of Margaret Sanger’s organization and others where she served as an officer, the authors she published in The Birth Control Review, the conferences she sponsored, and the people to whom Planned Parenthood gave awards well into the 1960s and 70s, are a Who’s Who of the ugliest, most paranoid misanthropic elitists and white racists of the 20th century — apart from those who were thankfully hanged at Nuremburg. After those trials, when “eugenics” had acquired a well-deserved taint, these same American elitists used the exaggerated threat of “overpopulation” to peddle the desperate need to control other people’s fertility, if need be by forced sterilization — a policy which Sanger had advocated since 1934.

The eugenicists, self-appointed experts on human quality of life, had peddled their theories not just in Britain and America but in Germany, where they helped to directly inspire Nazi sterilization and extermination programs aimed at the handicapped, Jews, and the small population of black or mixed race Germans — children of French colonial troops whom Hitler considered a grave menace to “Aryan” racial “hygiene.” One of Sanger’s regular authors in The Birth Control Review wrote in a U.S. newspaper in the 1930s defending the forced sterilization of such mixed-race children, for the sake of Germany’s “health.”

Hitler’s Bible, by Sanger’s Friend

Friends and associates of Sanger (such as Harry Laughlin) accepted awards from Nazi-controlled universities, visited with Hitler and Himmler, and boasted that the forced sterilization programs which they had instituted in America were used as models by the Germans. One author who served on Sanger’s board and published regularly in The Birth Control Review was Lothrop Stoddard, a high official of the Massachusetts Ku Klux Klan, whose book The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy, Adolf Hitler cited in Mein Kampf as “my bible.”

Ota_Benga_at_Bronx_Zoo

Nor were the eugenicists isolated cranks. Their ranks include Harvard professors, mainline Protestant clergymen, prominent conservationists for whom entire animal species are named, and Gilded Age plutocrats. Much of the funding for eugenics organizations came from the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing his opinion that the forced sterilization of a supposedly “feeble-minded” woman in Virginia was constitutional, infamously said that “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” His views were echoed by President Teddy Roosevelt, as the film proves with quotations. It also recounts how a Sanger ally Madison Grant, a prominent Darwin apostle and eugenicist, helped to exhibit Ota Benga, an African pygmy, in a cage with an orangutan for ten days at New York City’s Bronx Zoo, to “illustrate evolution.” Mr. Benga took his own life ten years later.

The eugenicists’ arrogant certainty that, because they had inherited money and power, they were genetically superior to the rest of the human race, found in Charles Darwin’s theories an ideal pretext and a program: to take the survival of the fittest and make it happen faster, by stopping the “unfit” from breeding. The goal, in Margaret Sanger’s own words, was “More Children from the Fit, Fewer from the Unfit.” Instead of seeing the poor as victims of injustice or targets for Christian charity, the materialism these elitists took from Darwin assured them that the poor were themselves the problem — that they were inferior, deficient and dangerous down to the marrow of their bones.

“Feeble-Minded” and “Shiftless” Blacks

The targets of this campaign in America were poor people, the unemployed, non-English-speaking immigrants, but most of all African-Americans. This vulnerable population, composed largely of ex-slaves and their children, was identified in the 1880s as a “threat” to the “racial health” and progress of the United States, by followers of Francis Galton — first cousin of Charles Darwin, heir to a slave-trading fortune, and inventor of the “science” of eugenics. These people had been exploited for centuries as free labor, denied education for fear of fomenting rebellion, and excluded from most of the economy. Now the eugenicists blamed the victims, black Americans, for their desperate social conditions, claiming that they were the natural result of blacks’ “defective germ plasm,” which posed a threat to America akin to a deadly virus.

The forced sterilization laws which Sanger and her allies passed were used to sterilize at least 60,000 Americans, but perhaps as many as 200,000, on the pretext that young women who became pregnant out of wedlock were “feeble-minded,” “immoral” or “socially useless” parasites — all rhetoric that Sanger personally used in her books, articles, and at least one speech before a Ku Klux Klan rally, as she recounts in her memoir.

tony-riddick-150x150

Maafa 21 interviews Elaine Riddick, who was raped at age 13 and became pregnant. As she lay in the hospital waiting to deliver the baby, welfare officials from the state of North Carolina warned her illiterate grandparents that if they didn’t sign the consent form to have her irreversibly sterilized, the state would cut off their welfare benefits. They scrawled an “X” on the government form, and Elaine was sterilized without her knowledge. She only learned what had been done to her five years later, when welfare officials explained that she was too “feeble-minded” to care for a child “or even tie my own shoes,” as she recounts. Elaine was sterilized in 1968. The last such “eugenic” forced sterilization in the U.S. took place in 1983.

While Elaine never went to high school, she went on and finished college, and the one child which the United States government had permitted her to have — Tony Riddick, a child of rape — now runs his own successful company. Harry Laughlin, the eugenicist who helped pass the law that sterilized Elaine, died without any children.

abortion, abuse, bullies, elitism, ethics, eugenics, extremism, feminism, government, hate crime, history, ideology, left wing, nanny state, oppression, progressive, public policy, racism, racist, scandal, tragedy, victimization, video

Filed under: abortion, abuse, bullies, elitism, ethics, eugenics, extremism, feminism, government, hate crime, history, ideology, left wing, nanny state, oppression, progressive, public policy, racism, racist, scandal, tragedy, victimization, video

Where culture, politics, and religion meet in America

original article: Tocqueville and Democracy’s Fall in America
January 19, 2017 by Samuel Gregg

For Alexis de Tocqueville, American democracy’s passion for equality was a potentially fatal flaw—one that religion could help address. But what happens when religion also becomes preoccupied with equality?

Over the past year, lots of people, I suspect, have been reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835/1840) as they ask themselves how the United States could have found itself having to choose in 2016 between two of the most unpopular candidates ever to face off for the office of president.

Historical factors contributed to America reaching this political point. These range from profound inner divisions characterizing American conservatism to deep frustration with the political class, as well as preexisting philosophical, cultural, and economic problems that have become more acute.

Tocqueville, however, recognized that such problems are often symptoms of subterranean currents that, once in place, are hard to reverse. A champion of liberty, Tocqueville was no determinist. He nevertheless understood that once particular habits become widespread in elite and popular culture, the consequences are difficult to avoid. In the case of democracy—perhaps especially American democracy—Tocqueville wondered whether its emphasis on equality might not eventually make the whole thing come undone.

The Passion for Equality

When Democracy in America’s second volume appeared in 1840, many reviewers noted that it was more critical of democracy than the first volume. In more recent times, Tocqueville’s warnings about democracy’s capacity to generate its own forms of despotism have been portrayed as prefiguring a political dynamic associated with the welfare state: i.e., people voting for politicians who promise to give them more things in return for which voters voluntarily surrender more and more of their freedom.

This very real problem, however, has distracted attention from Tocqueville’s interest in the deeper dynamic at work. This concerns how democracy encourages a focus on an equality of conditions. For Tocqueville, democratic societies’ dominant feature is the craving for equality—not liberty. Throughout Democracy in America, equality of conditions is described as “generative.” By this, Tocqueville meant that a concern for equalization becomes the driving force shaping everything: politics, economics, family life . . . even religion.

Democracy’s emphasis on equality helps to break down many unjust forms of discrimination and inequality. Women gradually cease, for instance, to be regarded as inherently inferior. Likewise, the fundamental injustice of slavery becomes harder and harder to rationalize.

At the same time, as Tocqueville scholar Pierre Manent has observed, democracies gravitate toward a fascination with producing total equality. Democracy requires everyone to relate to each other through the medium of democratic equality. We consequently start seeing and disliking any disparity contradicting this equality of conditions. Equality turns out to be very antagonistic to difference per se, even when differences are genetic (such as between men and women) or merited (some are wealthier because they freely assume more risks). But it’s also ambivalent about something that any society needs to inculcate among its members: virtue.

The idea of virtue implies that there are choices whose object is always good and others that are wrong in themselves. Courage is always better than recklessness and cowardice. But language such as “better than,” or “superior to” is intolerable to egalitarianism of the leveling kind. That’s one reason why many people in democratic societies prefer to speak of “values.” Such language implies that (1) all values are basically equal, and (2) there’s something impolite if not downright wrong with suggesting that some purportedly ethical commitments are irrational and wrong.

But in such a world, who am I to judge that some of the values espoused by, say, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, or any other political figure for that matter, might reflect seriously defective evaluations of right and wrong? All that would matter is that “they have values.” The truth, however, is that democracies don’t need “people with values.” They require virtuous people: individuals and communities whose habits of the heart shape what Tocqueville called the “whole mental and intellectual state” of a people as they associate together, pursue their economic self-interest, make laws, and vote.

The Religion of Egalitarian Sentimentalism

At the best of times, living a virtuous life is difficult. This is especially true when a fixation with equality makes many people reluctant to distinguish between baseness and honor, beauty and ugliness, rationality and feelings-talk, truth and falsehood. Much of Democracy in America consequently seeks to show how democratic societies could contain their equalizing inclinations.

Some of Tocqueville’s recommendations focus on constitutional restraints on government power. He understood that the political regime’s nature matters. But Tocqueville also believed that the main forces that promoted virtue, and that limited the leveling egalitarianism that relativizes moral choices, lay beyond politics. In America’s case, he observed, religion played an important role in moderating fixations with equality-as-sameness.

Tocqueville didn’t have just any religion in mind. He was specifically concerned with Christianity. For all the important doctrinal differences marking the Christian confessions scattered across America in Tocqueville’s time, few held to relativistic accounts of morality. Words like “virtue,” “vice,” “good,” and “evil” were used consistently and had concrete meaning.

Christianity did underscore a commitment to equality insofar as everyone was made as imago Dei and was thus owed equality before the law. This conviction helped to secure slavery’s eventual abolition. Nevertheless Christianity in America also emphasized another quintessentially Christian theme: freedom—political, economic, and religious. In the United States, the word “liberty” wasn’t associated with the anti-Christian violence instinctively linked by European Christians with the French Revolution.

Religions, however, aren’t immune to the cultures in which they exist. So what happens if a religion starts succumbing to the hunger for equalization that Tocqueville associated with democratic ways? Most often, such religions begin abandoning their distinctiveness, as self-evidently false propositions such as “all religions are the same” take hold. Truth claims and reasoned debate about religious and moral truth are relegated to the periphery. Why? Because trying to resolve them would mean affirming that certain religious and moral claims are false and thus unequal to those that are true.

When Christians go down this path, the inevitable theological void is filled by a sentimentalism that arises naturally from egalitarianism. God is condensed to the Great Non-Judge in the Sky: a nice, harmless deity who’s just like us. Likewise, such Christians increasingly take their moral cues from democratic culture. The consequent emphasis on equality-as-sameness doesn’t just mean that liturgy and doctrine are reduced to inoffensive banalities. The horizons of Christian conceptions of justice also shrink to the abolition of difference. The truth that many forms of inequality are just, including in the economic realm, is thus rendered incomprehensible. In the end, Christian confessions that embrace such positions collapse into pale facsimiles of secular egalitarianism and social justice activism.

A Fatal Combination?

These religions are incapable of performing the role that Tocqueville thought was played by many religious communities in the America he surveyed in the early 1830s. Of course, the object of religion isn’t to provide social lubrication. Religion is concerned with the truth about the divine, and living our lives in accordance with the truth about such matters. However, if religion ceases to be about truth, its capacity to resist (let alone correct) errors and half-truths such as “values-talk,” or justice’s reduction to equality-as-sameness, is diminished.

There’s no shortage of evidence of just how far large segments of American religious opinion have drifted in this direction. We have political operatives demanding, for example, “a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church”—as if the dogmatic and doctrinal truths proclaimed by a 2000-year-old universal church should be subordinated to a twentieth-first-century progressive American conception of equality. Plenty of older Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox clergy offer political commentaries that owe more to John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice than to C.S. Lewis, Aquinas, the Church Fathers, or Christ. For many American Jews, Jewish faith and identity is the pursuit of progressive politics. Such religions cannot speak seriously about virtue (or much else) in the face of the relentless drive for equalization in democracy that so worried Tocqueville.

Politics is clearly shaped by culture. Yet at any culture’s heart is the dominant cultus. America’s ability to resist democratic equalization’s deadening effects on freedom requires religions that are not consumed by the obsession with equality that Tocqueville thought might be democracy’s fatal flaw. For Tocqueville, part of America’s genius was that religion and liberty went hand in hand. In the next few years, America is going to discover whether that’s still true.

culture, freedom, government, history, politics, religion, unintended consequences

Filed under: culture, freedom, government, history, politics, religion, unintended consequences

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