Sunday, July 01, 2007

Philosophy for the 21st Century

Sorry for the lack of posts lately -- I've had another go-round with the flu -- but I've been getting a chuckle out of this.
So Jonah Goldberg has announced he has finished his magnum opus book -- and it will NOT be titled "Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton" but instead will be titled "Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods".
This news has provoked some great responses in the blogosphere.
First, here is TBogg with his suggestions for how Goldberg could compare Hegel to America's favorite philosopher today, Homer:
Hegel: "Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion”
Homer: "Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They're about to announce the lottery numbers."
Hegel: “What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it”
Homer: "When are people going to learn? Democracy doesn't work."
Hegel: “God is, as it were, the sewer into which all contradictions flow”
Homer: "Flanders, it's no use praying. I already did the same thing, and we can't both win."
Hegel: “Truth in philosophy means that concept and external reality correspond.”
Homer: "It takes two to lie, Marge. One to lie and one to listen."
Hegel: “Poverty in itself does not make men into a rabble; a rabble is created only when there is joined to poverty a disposition of mind, an inner indignation against the rich, against society, against the government.”
Homer: "Kill my boss? Do I dare live out the American Dream?"
Hegel: “To be free is nothing, to become free is everything.”
Homer: "How come the bear can crap in the woods and I can't?"
Hegel: “Only one man ever understood me, and he didn't understand me.”
Homer: "Television. Teacher, mother, secret lover."
Hegel: "The History of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of Freedom... The destiny of the spiritual world, and... the final cause of the World at large, we claim to be Spirit's consciousness of its own freedom, and ipso facto, the reality of that freedom... This final aim is God's purpose with the world; but God is the absolutely perfect Being, and can, therefore, will nothing but himself."
Homer: "If the Bible has taught us anything—which it hasn't—it's that girls should stick to girl's sports like hot oil wrestling, foxy boxing and such and such."
Hegel: "America is therefore the land of the future, where, in the ages that lie before us, the burden of the World's History shall reveal itself”
Homer: "In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women."

Coming soon: Baruch Spinoza
Spinoza: “Desire is the very essence of man”
Homer: "I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer."
Then there is Jon Swift which his suggestion for Goldberg -- LOLcats!
Like many conservatives I can't wait for Goldberg to publish his book, which he promises will be "a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care." But the publication date keeps getting pushed farther and farther into the future. The first sign of trouble was when Goldberg asked for help from readers of The Corner. "I'm working on a chapter of the book which requires me to read a lot about and by Herbert Spencer," Goldberg said. "There's simply no way I can read all of it, nor do I really need to. But if there are any real experts on Spencer out there -- regardless of ideological affiliation -- I'd love to ask you a few questions in case I'm missing something." The idea that he would try to read any Spenser at all before writing about him already struck me as biting off more than he could chew. But the addition of Hegel to the new subtitle raises more troubling questions. Hegel is even more tedious and difficult to understand than Spenser and I'm afraid that finding someone who can explain Hegel to Goldberg is going to take up yet more precious time. After all, Hegel himself reportedly said, "Only one man ever understood me, and even he didn't understand me."
I don't know how Goldberg can possibly meet his deadline in time for the book to come out on the latest publication date -- December 26 of this year -- so I have an idea that will save Goldberg a lot of time writing and also spare the reader from having to plow through too much prose once it's finished. Most of Goldberg's ideas could be expressed much more economically, not to mention entertainingly, by using LOLcats, an Internet meme where pictures of cats and other cute animals (or "varmints," as Mitt Romney likes to call them) are captioned with grammatically challenged prose.
Here are some of Swift's suggestions:

Finally, however, it is necessary to note just how "tempting" that Totalitarian Temptation can really be -- it has snared poor Jonah himself! Glenn Greenwald reports on a recent appearance by Goldberg on Tucker Carlson where they were both panting over Dick Cheney:
In just two minutes of chatty, giggly Cheney worship, the following tough-guy cliches flew from their mouths:
* Cheney "doesn't bother talking the talk, he just walks the walk";
* he's "a politician who doesn't look at the polls. . . another Harry Truman";
* "love to have a beer with the guy";
* "a smart, serious man in American life";
* "Have you ever seen Dick Cheney give a speech? I mean, the contempt for the audience is palpable" -- "I know, I -- see, I love that. He looks like he should be eating a sandwich while he's doing it, eating lunch over the sink . . I love that";
* "I can just see him yelling, hey you kids, get off my lawn. I love it."
As always, the pulsating need among the strain of individual represented by Tucker Carlson and Johan Goldberg to search endlessly for strong, powerful, masculine figures so that they can feel those attributes and pose as one who exudes them. . .
Greenwald continues on to describe the most disturbing conversation of this interview, then Goldberg praises Cheney's secrecy:
GOLDBERG: And you know, but I do think that what Cheney has learned after a lifetime in Washington as a power player, is that the person who holds the secrets has power. And he is using that for what I would say, or probably what he believes to be certainly good ends. A lot of people disagree on that, but he's trying to do best as he can and he sees holding onto power as a tool to do that.
That, of course, is the defining mentality of the Authoritarian Mind, captured in its purest essence by Jonah. Our Leaders are Good and want to protect us. Therefore, we must accept -- and even be grateful -- when they prevent us from knowing what they are doing. The less we know, the more powerful our Leaders are. And that is something we accept and celebrate, for our Leaders are Good and we trust that the more powerful they are, the better we all shall be.
No inferences or interpretations are required to describe Jonah's mentality this way. That is precisely -- expressly -- what he said. And though it is rarely expressed in such explicit form, this is the mindset which, more than anything else, has enabled the rampant lawbreaking and unprecedented secrecy of the last six years.
Our government leaders know that they can act in complete secrecy -- and can act illegally -- because such a sizable portion of our population, and our press corps, not only accepts, but eagerly desires, such behavior in our Leaders. The authoritarian mind, by its nature, craves powerful government officials, the more powerful the better, because -- as Jonah made clear -- they place blind faith in the Goodness of those Leaders and crave an all-powerful figure whom they can follow and who, in exchange, will protect them.
And anything which diminishes that power -- whether it be the limits of the law, checks from other branches or the media, or even the basic obligation to govern out in the open -- will be opposed by the authoritarian follower, for whom maximizing the strength and power of the Leader is always the overriding goal. Conversely, anything which limits the power of the Leader is to be opposed.
I guess having just written a book about totalitarianism, Goldberg found it pretty seductive -- its always easier, of course, to let someone else make big decisions for you, and then if they turn out to be wrong it isn't your fault either -- so now he is ready to worship totalitarianism too. Maybe his title should be "The Last Temptation of Jonah".

No comments: