Monday, October 31, 2011

Habits of the Heart/ Parts 6 and 7

By Brian George

The Enigma of the Sign

Though the champion of the common man, the Left can be contemptuous of the superstitions that now hold sway in the Corn Belt. Social science will create a better Average Joe. Red state patriots are happy to return the contempt. The Clear Channel markets propaganda as consensus through the behaviorist technology of talk radio. The Big Lie also spreads like a virus. We must take heart, as even icons of disinformation are not always wrong.

Marxism has been discredited, and has vanished from all but a few strongholds, such as North Korea and Cuba. At the same time, as pure doctrine, its mystique grows ever stronger at the humanities departments of our major universities. The center Left carefully keeps its distance from the edge, but also sacrifices a good part of its passion in the process. Unionized dock workers will not again engage in pitched battles with the police force of San Francisco, as they did in 1934, or impose their alternate order on the streets. Social justice as an immanent aspect of the real has now fallen into disrepute. Unions dissolve; their creators take with them the last living records of that year, of the death of greed, of the flash of mutual self-interest that turned chaos into care.

Their descendants believe that it benefits the economy when a millionaire does not pay taxes. Warfare keeps us safe. Civil liberties are a threat to freedom. It is not cars but trees that pollute the atmosphere. The happy warrior takes a step back in order to leap forward.

A vision of archaic solidarity haunts the progressive imagination. "It takes a village to raise a child," wrote Hillary Clinton, quoting an old African proverb. This proverb was repeated to me by a friend from the Ebo region of Nigeria who, as it turned out, picked it up from reading Clinton's book. One may safely wonder if the anthropologist was told only what she wanted to hear—even if this required the invention of a proverb.

The concept of social justice works better as a description: Deconstructed lifestyle enclaves leap from the pages of a National Geographic. It is important that one not issue ultimatums to the living. One should not pursue an object just because it is good; one should pick, if one so chooses, the least bad or the most attractive object from the great variety that free trade with the Third World makes available. Reluctant to take the moral initiative, to employ the word "should" or to reclaim the language of individual responsibility from the Right, the Left now advances a philosophy of incremental causes. Bold futurist experiments give way to the shoring up of relics from the Great Society.

Damned If You Do; Damned If You Don't

The spiked goddess Liberty has a surfeit of defenders. Free traders scream for the growth of corporate welfare. All risk will be public; all benefits will accrue to the one percent, as is only fair. Radical feminists join forces with Christian reconstructionists to eradicate the scourge of pornography. Mind/ body orgasms rape the 144,000. Such violence is an initiation; it does not have much to do with sex. Alien wisdom will enforce the return of a solar cult, to be fed by a species die-off. We are heading nowhere fast.

(Illustration: Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1931)

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