Archive for October, 2012
Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
Whoever wins on Nov. 4, few Americans will harbor any illusions about their national unity. No matter which pairing one chooses — red and blue, Right and Left, coastal elites and flyover salt-of-the-earthers — there is no getting around our status as a country divided, a people set apart from one another as much by regional culture as by religion or political ideology.
A perfect time, in other words, to talk about secession — which is what will happen when the Middlebury Institute’s Third North American Secessionist Conference convenes in Manchester, New Hampshire a week and a half after the election.
Good introduction to the issue: America is hopelessly divided between left and right, and subdivisions within those categories.
Looking at history, national secessionist movements are relatively successful. Numerically, most of them failed – but the ones that succeeded now run most of this planet. Considering the magnitude of their demands, the vehemence of opposition, and the bloodshed they usually engender, they seem a successful type of political movement. Yet in the same historical perspective, non-national (non-ethnic) secessionist movements are a total flop.
Now, if anyone can secede at any time, that means the end of the state, the government, on the usual definitions. And not just of tyrannies and gulags, but also of ‘nice’ democratic governments. The explanation might be simply the fear of bloodshed and chaos – anarchy in the most negative sense. This does not explain why national secession has been relatively successful: it is possible to take an ethical position that “all secession is wrong”, but evidently very few people do. Distinctions are made, and conditions are set, but some secessions are accepted.
Democracy relies on a prohibition of secession. A democratic regime assumes a ‘demos’ – a unit of political decision-making which is constant between decisions. If every dissident minority secedes after every opposed decision, then there is no democratic regime. (There would be no political regime at all – at least not for standard political theory).
So democrats have concluded, like President Lincoln in the 1860’s, that secession must be suppressed. Since modern democracies are nation states, secession is now treated as an issue of national unity, and national identity: Lincoln was one of the last politicians who had to address secession as a classic political issue.
This is what they’re up against: democracies, which in theory thrive on internal opposition, instantly disintegrate if they let anyone secede — unless that group is ethnic, in which the nation neatly fragments with the host nation filtering out a single ethnic group.
Some philosophers have distinguished between the question whether and, if so, under what conditions a group has a moral claim-right to secede and the question of whether and, if so, under what conditions a constitution ought to or may include a right to secede. For example, while acknowledging that secession may sometimes be morally justified (where this presumably means the group in question has the claim-right to secede), Cass Sunstein has argued that constitutional recognition of a right to secede is incompatible with the principles of constitutionalism (or at least democratic constitutionalism) (Sunstein, 1991). Sunstein argues that a basic principle of constitutionalism is that political institutions, including the constitution itself, must be designed so as to encourage citizens to engage in the hard work of democratic politics, where this means competing in the public forum on grounds of principle, with a minimum of strategic bargaining. Following Albert O. Hirschman, (Hirschman, 1970) he then contends that if the constitution acknowledges a right to secede then discontent minorities will be tempted to shirk the hard work of principled, democratic politics either by actually seceding when the majoritarian decisions go against their preferences or by using the threat of secession as a strategic bargaining tool as a de facto veto over majority rule. In either case, democracy will be undermined.
Neat thinking, but if a group is a minority with needs contrary to the majority, it’s never going to get what it wants in a democracy, anyway. Hence the reason that groups of a non-mainstream political alignment, or those who believe politics has become misinterpreted, want to secede — they are numerically inconsequential.
“The argument for secession is that the U.S. has become an empire that is essentially ungovernable — it’s too big, it’s too corrupt and it no longer serves the needs of its citizens,” said Rob Williams, editor of Vermont Commons, a quarterly newspaper dedicated to secession.
“Congress and the executive branch are being run by the multinationals. We have electoral fraud, rampant corporate corruption, a culture of militarism and war. If you care about democracy and self-governance and any kind of representative system, the only constitutional way to preserve what’s left of the Republic is to peaceably take apart the empire.”
This summarizes the American argument well. People to watch in the secession game:
What’s interesting is that these groups are from all over the political spectrum.
The League of the South wants the old Confederacy; Vermont wants to be a liberal free state; Christian Exodus wants a small Christian theocracy.
These different groups agree on one thing however: they can’t get along, so the best way to get along is to separate into smaller groups, so that they don’t have to come up with 1 rule to fit 2 or more different inclinations.
Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
As election season winds up for a conclusion, one salient fact unrelated to the outcome can be discerned:
In America, as in Europe, we no longer have anything in common with each other.
Whenever there’s an election, equal parts of the citizenry think the others are insane, and the gulf is widening as the left gets more extreme and the right retreats farther in response.
Even in Europe, where multiple party elections ensure oddball cross-party juntas being formed as a way of neutralizing government more than anything else, the suspicion with which people trust those who voted for “the other side” is palpable.
Where we have two parties in the USA, half of the citizenry think the other half are mentally dysfunctional or liars. It doesn’t matter which side is right so much as that there is a huge chasm between the two.
It’s impassable at this point.
Liberalism and rightism are incompatible. All political parties fall more on one side than the other; despite decades of trying, no real “third political path” options have emerged. All tend more toward one side or the other.
As discussed before, in decision-making there are methods and results. Liberals idealize methods, and conservatives look at the whole process, but are most concerned with results.
This translates into a number of things. Liberals look at politics from the perspective of the individual; conservatives look at it from the perspective of society as a whole, and the design of that society.
These outlooks are incompatible but even more, so are the underlying values.
These aren’t the only divisions. Since we declared our society to be pluralistic, there is no culture or right way. There is only many cultures and values systems attempting to co-exist, which leads to a lowest common denominator.
That LCD is the basics of modern life: we all want jobs, products to buy, friends to make and sexual partners and/or life companions. Beyond that, compatibility in values vanishes. Not everyone believes in family, or conventional morality, or even the idea of there being more to life than material consumption.
Naturally, this idea doesn’t work, because for a group to work together it will have either a clear sense of shared purpose, or lots of rules and nanny-Stasi to administer them. We’ve gone the route of the latter.
There is thus a tunnel effect. With each passing year, we drift farther apart. The more we drift, the more rules and police show up to keep us in line and to invent a ‘quasi-culture’ which contains the rules for getting along and doing business.
Because the left indoctrinates citizens in its method by giving them entitlements (including socialism, eventually) people become dependent on leftism, and start to view the right as evil.
The right on the other hand see how the path we’re on will lead to doom. They haven’t yet grasped how deeply moribund it is, meaning that it includes all of our sacred cow issues from the last 100 years, not just some. But who can blame them for choosing sweet oblivion for the last few moments they can.
Perhaps another way to view this is that we are united by commonality: we all must obey the law of pluralism and liberalism. This is one thing in common, where before we had thousands, and so this one rule must become neo-totalitarian in order to survive.
Europe, for all of its bluster about its native culture, has adopted the system from the US and UK as a form of “modernization.” In many ways, it’s further along the path to doom, but its self-congratulatory exceptionalism has deceived its people as to this degree.
The result is that our nations are like apartment complexes. They are locations in which to live. When we decide that one needs identity we add a little flavoring. Tex-Mex flavored chips. Dutch-style flavored bread. European style spas.
Underneath all of our manic political activity, the ugly secret of our disconnection from each other lurks. We are using politics to try to manipulate our people back into alignment, but it doesn’t work. Like flavoring in bread, it is too easily seen through, and the generic industrial product underneath revealed.
Monday, October 29th, 2012
Manifesto for a European Renaissance
by Alain de Benoist and Charles Champetier
47 pages, Arktos, $9
The problem with ideas is that we recognize what we know, but the unknown takes a long time to understand. Believing that quantity over quality will help us, we often demand “facts” and “examples” as a knee-jerk response to hide our confusion.
With the New Right, little is known. The name is not even “official,” having been bestowed on the group — a ragtag band of fiercely independent, mostly French, writers — by journalists. They are not a political movement, but a cultural one. And so they are rarely understood.
Even more baffling is that a fairly large degree of confusion exists within the people who make up the New Right, and their fans, to the extent that an outsider might be correctly puzzled. To clarify much of this, Alain de Benoist and Charles Champetier unleash a pure manifesto.
Like all good manifestos, this is not an attempt to “prove” something to you by linear logic. It is an explanation of a thought-system in which all the parts relate to one another, so there’s no point doing anything but reading it all and seeing if it seems like a reasonable solution even if in a fuzzy, hazy and poetic way.
The answer is that it does, but nothing in life is perfect (including perfection: a dead ideal) and so there are some glitches in the reasoning, perhaps. Perhaps. What is clear is that there are no glitches in the writing, which features not only the erudite pens of the authors but the steely-eyed detail-conscious and systematic editing of John Morgan and the windswept minimalistic layout art of Daniel Friberg.
de Benoist and Champetier make a good case for this belief because they’ve purged the extremism from the right, incorporated a lot of familiar leftist rhetoric, and explained it all in a goal-oriented non-reactionary manner.
Where they go too far is incorporating the leftist attitudes too clearly. These are attitudes that are standards of behavior, but can easily distract from the actual goal, which must also exist. They have admirably avoided the usual pitfalls and rage of the right, describing instead of what they don’t like, what they do like.
Their essential theory is that the modern West is heading for oblivion because it has replaced culture with commerce, and thanks to the consumer nature of modern democracy, few are speaking out because it’s unprofitable and they could end up social rejects. The solution, the authors claim, is something called “metapolitics,” which is basically a cultural wave achieving Nietzsche’s re-evaluation of all values, and thus indirectly influencing politics.
In their view, our tendency to rely on “ideological” constructs instead of naturalistic knowledge and culture has led us away from reality and into a world composed of human symbols and desires.
The destruction of the life-world for the benefit of instrumental reason, (economic) growth, and material development have resulted in an unprecedented impoverishment of the spirit, and the generalization of anxiety related to living in an always uncertain present, in a world deprived both of the past and the future. Thus, modernity has given birth to the most empty civilization mankind has ever known: the language of advertising has become the paradigm of all social discourse; the primacy of money has imposed the omnipresence of commodities; man has been transformed into an object of exchange in a context of mean hedonism; technology has ensnared the life-world in a network of rationalism — a world replete with delinquency, violence, and incivility, in which man is at war with himself and against all, i.e., an unreal world of drugs, virtual reality and media-hyped sports, in which the countryside is abandoned for unlivable suburbs and monstrous megalopolises, and where the solitary individual merges into an anonymous and hostile crowd, while traditional social, political, cultural or religious mediations become increasingly uncertain and undifferentiated. (13)
To my mind, this lengthy paragraph encompasses the essential message of the New Right: the modern world is hell, and we made it so by relying on the tools that justified good-sounding options like “freedom” and “equality,” but like all good intentions, these have opened a pathway to the abyss.
Their point is well-taken that it’s impossible to oppose any of this if you take each point separately. You have to connect the dots, and then oppose the whole thing. As they point out elsewhere, the 20th century is a graveyard of ideologies who tried to be anti-modern but were too infested with its assumptions, and thus dragged themselves into the same oblivion as that which they were fighting against.
Some of those assumptions live on in this text, particularly its adoption of social subsidies and open discourse as goals in themselves. There’s also a hint of the idea of a unified Europe including Eurasia which makes historians queasy, much in the same way Ron Paul’s idealistic isolationism hit many people’s unreasonableness filter. These are small glitches, things that will in the future be worked out as more of these situations unravel to reveal their core.
What makes this book compelling is that it targets the whole of modernity as a single thing, and shows us the beginnings of a new language for discussing politics, in which values like culture, nature and existential experience have a voice. That in itself is a profound change, a re-ordering of civilization itself on par with the deep ecology movement’s manifesto in that it asks us first and foremost to re-order our values, and lets the inevitable unfold from that.
Industrial capitalism has been gradually overtaken by a financial capitalism whose goal is to realize maximum returns in the short run, all to the detriment of the condition of national economies and of the long-term interest of the people…The ubiquity of capital allows the financial markets to control politics. (42)
If a revolt against the modern world needs a mission statement, this short book provides an excellent starting point. Detractors will mention the lack of figures, charts and details, but the advantage of this format is that the whole idea can be understood at once.
We have binary choices every day in life. We can stick with inertia, or make a choice for something different. With Manifesto for a European Renaissance, de Benoist and Champetier make a good cause for a choice not just of lesser evils, but to throw out the concept that choosing any form of evil is legitimate at all.
Monday, October 22nd, 2012
Once you have one revolution, everything after that must measure up by being revolutionary too.
This means you can no longer have incremental change or small victories. It’s not a new type of screw-top lid; it’s the screw-top lid that will revolutionize life on earth.
It may even bring world peace.
Over the past 2,400 years, we’ve seen a lot of revolutions. Most of history is made in un-doing them. They all tend to be about the same: the relatively insignificant change that in a social or emotional context “changes the world.”
Way back in the 1960s, there was a culture revolution staffed by hippies. They were here to tell us the insignificant: if we love each other, take lots of drugs, and accept just about any act as moral, we will live in a new world. It will be better, they said.
Theirs was a self-fulfilling prophecy, but they did not know it. To them, the world of peace and happiness could be had by acting as if that state had been achieved. Little did they know that an end result must have a cause other than itself, or the “end result” becomes a method toward an unknown end.
They didn’t think about that, or wonder what that end might be.
Always one for being iconoclastic, or deliberately and forcedly weird, The Beatles released Yellow Submarine in 1969. It accompanied a movie by the same name, in which psychedelic travelers tried to find a new paradise by escaping the Blue Meanies (analogue for police) into a groovy new state of mind. If it sounds like a child’s cartoon, it is. It just projects adult drama into that simplistic setting.
The original trigger for it was a song in which the vocalist describes an idyllic life in a yellow submarine, separated from humanity and hiding in the sea. Dream analysts may find the symbolism of hiding in the unconscious mind (water) interesting. Others will see the more likely explanation.
The Beatles, like all other revolutionaries, had impure hearts. They wanted revolutionary change, but were conflicted in themselves and harbored great doubts. The word “harbored” is appropriate: they nourished these doubts at the teats of their spirits.
Where the song and video are a self-fulfilling prophecy is that they predict a negative world, and create it by pulling back from reality as it is and forming an even less coherent worldview. The problem, as The Beatles saw it, was people projecting their needs onto the world selfishly. Thus, The Beatles did the same thing.
That the two fantasies were putatively different was really irrelevant. Both were the same method: project, then create the situation you envisioned, which doesn’t work out so well in actuality.
The difference is that the world before The Beatles, while imperfect, was attempting to find clarity in a balance between human mental urges and the complex web of interrelations that make reality interesting.
Now a half-century later The Beatles are ironic prophets. We all live in yellow submarines. Our communities are gated, our homes are air-tight and connected to the world through water and air filters. We live through bright colors and symbols in our text messages, Facebook and official documents.
Psychologically, we might as well be in air-tight submarines. We have identified the world as hostile, and withdrawn from it, resulting in its decay while we seal ourselves away.
Like most revolutions, this one knew what it hated, and was so busy hating it that it replicated it, but in a less competent form. Perhaps the source of human misery is human delusion, and no amount of revolutionary submergence can change that.
Saturday, October 20th, 2012
I will explain this quickly because I lead a busy life, generally involving work that creates for my family stability outside of what is promised to us by the government, the good will of my fellow citizens and even the comforts of religion and friendship.
Our society is hell. It is a subtle hell, because it is not fire and brimstone. It is instead a conspiracy of many details that don’t add up into a whole. It is what happens when big complex things like civilizations fall apart.
There is no way to point to any specific facts, only a fact pattern. We no longer have anything in common. We rely on more rules and regulations to fix that. The more rules we make, the more they are evaded. This in turn leads to social chaos, more police and more cheating.
If any of you think democracy is going to save you, perhaps consider mental health care: democracy is demagoguery, or using pleasant and/or scary images to browbeat the population into reacting in knee-jerk ways. Your best leaders are the ones who have lied to you, and then done what needed to be done in order to protect their own families, friends and neighbors.
Some of you believe the media, and I’d pity you if I didn’t think pity was a disease. The media sells products. The best product is dramatic. This is why every week in the news there is a new Hitler, a new miracle cure, a new soft-hearted story and a new “deep” question for you to feel important talking about. Take this hint: there are millions of such stories possible, but the media chooses the ones they need when they need them to sell product.
Industry is not going to save you either. Industry has no fixed actors. It isn’t people; it’s people pulling a drive-by in which they invest, make money, and get out, because they’re not fools and they don’t trust society either. The only escape is wealth. If you own a private island and private security, no one can harm you.
They feel this way (as do I) because this society is unstable because it is built upon illusions. We are living off of the wealth of the past, that which our great-grandfathers invented and made. We don’t do anything for ourselves. We are decadent and permissive, have no standards, and nothing in common.
As a result, it’s a cross between a lottery, lynch mob and witch trial out there. If you do something the Crowd likes, then you’re a golden boy. If you do something it doesn’t like, and it doesn’t make up its mind until that instant, you’ll get run out on the rails.
Laws? Trials? It doesn’t matter, because everything comes down to popularity. Judges need to be elected, so do politicians. Products need to be bought. Everyone wants what is popular, as it will make them rich, and no one wants what is unpopular to get in the way of the money.
Almost everything you “know” is wrong. They don’t tell you the real reasons for the wars; the real reasons are usually legitimate, but too complex to ever be approved of by the voters. Thus they lie and they must keep lying, because the voters demand they lie, because the voters will turn down any sensible proposal and cling to any emotional one.
In democracy, a simple lie like bread and circuses always wins out over a complex truth. The first election, or the meta-election, was to decriminalize lying and in fact to make it the currency of the realm. Social problems persist because we cannot face them honestly, either to fix them or to admit they’ll always be with us, like poverty and alcoholism.
Any civilization that separates actual truth from “official” truth is heading downward. Corruption, distrust and manipulation rot it from within. A society without good leadership falls apart. If you want to see an example of a fallen-apart place, look at the third world. Most of those nations are what’s left of once-great empires.
How did our society get this way? It adopted liberalism. Liberalism is a mental disease spread by self-pity. The primary idea of liberalism is that the individual perception of reality comes before results. It does this in order to make everyone feel good, which is how you make a social event succeed.
If you want to be popular, go around and tell everyone about how they’re wonderful. Everyone is great, everything is great, it’s all going to be OK. There is no need to worry about the possibility of things going wrong, because we are all here and in agreement and we will all make sure that doesn’t happen.
The reason for saying this is to make each individual feel that he or she is not accountable for the results of his or her actions. Whatever method is chosen, and whatever results occur, the individual is not to blame because they are equal.
Liberalism constitutes a denial of actual reality in favor of thoughts which are pleasant in appearance. It works backward: you figure out what result you want, and then you claim that result is your method, leaving the question of the consequences of that method unknown.
Conservatism works the other way: we look at all known results of all known actions, and pick our method by its results. Liberalism is the first half of the decision cycle: you look at what you want, then figure out how to get it. Liberals omit the second half. Conservatives have both halves.
This difference is important because how your leaders and fellow citizens choose to act is determined by the shared values system they choose. They can choose liberalism (humans-first) or conservativism (reality-first). Naturally, liberalism is more popular.
How much of moral thinking is innate? Haidt sees morality as a “social construction” that varies by time and place. We all live in a “web of shared meanings and values” that become our moral matrix, he writes, and these matrices form what Haidt, quoting the science-fiction writer William Gibson, likens to “a consensual hallucination.” But all humans graft their moralities on psychological systems that evolved to serve various needs, like caring for families and punishing cheaters. – “Jonathan Haidt Decodes the Tribal Psychology of Politics,” The Chronicle of Higher Education
The liberal consensual reality is that “Everyone should be equal, and we should all be free!”
This sounds good, but we must consider more than one level of game play here. What are the consequences of doing this? Conservatism works the other way: we look at all known results of all known actions, and pick our method by its results. That is less popular.
Liberalism is the equivalent of schizophrenia. We create a fake reality, a consensual values system based on what we want to be true and not what is true, and then our society falls apart under us.
If we saw a patient behaving this way in a hospital or courtroom, we would categorize this person as having a mental disease because of their denial of obvious reality in favor of a fantasy world. Liberalism takes this insanity and dresses it up as “morality” by ignoring the second half of the cycle, which is the effects of its actions.
It is spread by self-pity because in order to deny reality you have to feel that something is wrong with reality. You invent a fantasy world because this world is horrible to you. Liberalism, by creating an unrealistic and dysfunctional society, makes more people self-pitying. It spreads like a cancer.
What you must do is decide whether you care about the future of humanity and all the species on planet earth. The choice is yours: either a third-world wasteland, or a first-world place that thinks about the results of our actions. It is a moral, scientific, political and ethical choice to be conservative.
Until we change direction, our fortunes will continue to slowly worsen. We will continue to be the species that consumes everything and leaves a ruin behind. We will continue to be neurotic and self-pitying.
The tide is turning, very slowly. The promises of liberal democracy have failed one by one. More war, not less; no economic stability; more work, less free time; more rules, less stability. Liberalism doesn’t work.
To help turn the tide, repeat this as frequently and loudly as you can: Liberalism is a mental disease spread by self-pity. It makes liberals angry, but they retreat, because they know it’s true. So do you, and that’s why you’re considering it.
Friday, October 19th, 2012
After the second presidential debate, much ink and airtime is being wasted on pointless questions about who is swaying what audience.
In our society, by the nature of our manic individualism manifested in a religious zealotry for equality, we cannot speak of people making up their minds. Instead, we assume they act in groups according to what is convenient for them.
The result is a simpleton’s view of the average voter, who as someone saturated in media, not loaded with time, and in up to 1/2 of the cases not loaded with brains either, as someone who responds like a digital switch.
If their special issue is flagged, the switch goes to on. For this reason, politicians spend a lot of time attempting to pander to various groups in the hope that enough will add up to make a win.
As a result, we think we know what the voters want.
However, this is an illusion. Categories overlap. People value some things more than convenience. Very many people are either totally irrational, or have issues unrelated to their lifestyle category.
What makes sense instead is to think of voters (a) as a series of strata by ability and (b) as people who pick a single issue to symbolize the type of change they would like to see in their country.
For example, when social conservatives rail on about abortion, they’re really saying they’d like a country where sex and death are sacred. That implies that other things are sacred, and other behaviors are off the menu.
For Republicans and moderates, this election is having a gelling effect. They don’t like the direction the country is going, as a whole. It has gone down a bad path, and it isn’t the type of society we want, and we’ve put up with it for a long time figuring a break was around the corner, but then life got bad and right after that, the economy collapsed.
This economic collapse isn’t all that important except as a political talking point. People gave up on unbridled capitalism with the Great Depression; with the 2007-2012 screwup they’re giving up on regulated entitlement states.
The thinking is that if neither works, go with the one that you can at least plan for and evade the worst of it. Some have even figured out that the 2007 disaster started in 1992-1996 when we converted to an “information economy” based on selling ourselves entertainment products. Thanks, Bill Clinton.
Right now the left wants more of an entitlement state. This is because most people, when things aren’t working, assume that people just aren’t loyal enough to the group or the idea, and so they re-apply their failed methods, but push harder.
This is not what most people in the country want.
They do not like the entitlement state because it transfers wealth from growth-areas to dead-ends, in the name of fixing poverty. It is an unstable place, with many speech codes and a Party elite in media, academia and government who weed out unbelievers using social ostracization as a weapon.
Avoiding that bad path, what most people want is a sensible living path. This doesn’t summarize well, which is why they vote for symbols. They want a low-drama place that allows productive people to live normal lives unimpeded by government, in family-friendly (socially conservative) neighborhoods, surrounded by people like them.
Under liberalism, you cannot have that, because ideology demands we all embark on the great progressive quest. This search for an external purpose hides an internal void. The most common substitute for filling the void is charity, altruism and egalitarianism. Society becomes a “keeping up with the Joneses” contest to see who can help the poor the most. which makes a looter’s paradise that discriminates against healthy, normal citizens.
If you wondered why this election is so crucial, you can see why here. We’re at a crossroads, and most of our country wants to take a path away from the path we were on. But there’s an angry junior group that would rather destroy it than leave behind their ideology, and so a mortal conflict has been unleashed.
Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
It’s hard to go a day without hearing some kind of conspiracy theory. Most of them come from the left, but many do from the right as well, and the line between logical and insane is frequently tested.
For example, is it a conspiracy theory to think Barack Obama is a type of “Manchurian Candidate” who may have been born in Kenya, raised by American Communists like Bill Ayers and Frank Marshall, and sent to Washington to use a Clovard-Piven strategy to bankrupt America and precipitate change to a Communist revolution?
Beats me, but it wouldn’t be a bad strategy, for those who want power at any cost.
It’s not entirely conspiratorial to wonder about the lack of documents from Mr. Obama. Not specifically his birth certificate, but the utter lack of school records, close friends, legal practice and/or huge time periods in his early life. For all we know, he was in Moscow smoking phillies with Kim Philby.
You can see the difficulty. At some point, the cart pulls the horse, and the grasping mind looks for plausible connections to fit into its narrative. Other things are just suspicious and some standard practices and motivations often correlate with them. Could be, couldn’t be, on and on South of Heaven.
However, for your paranoid eyes today, another suggestion pops up: that our politics is mostly a show designed to distract us, a pleasant series of talking points, with an unrelated struggle going on beneath the surface.
This man-behind-the-curtain manipulates American and European politics as surely as a James Bond supervillain or the most noxious Mafia don or oligarch you can imagine. It comes in three forms:
- Quality of individuals.
- Group identity.
The talking points you read in papers or hear about on the radio — gay marriage, abortion, gun control, immigration amnesty, democracy, etc. — are not in and of themselves all that valuable. They are not acts, but signals, designed to manipulate the above.
Money requires that there be flashy issues to distract the neurotic herd and keep business as usual running. It also likes the expansion of rules, which forces work-arounds, and the cultivation of new audiences.
Individual quality is what has kept our nation from falling apart under the sheer weight of all the contradictory, vague and incoherent law piled onto it over the past two centuries or so. When you put good people into any official capacity, they figure out the task and make it work, usually bending or outright violating the rules so they achieve the goal.
Group identity is more complex. Liberals signal each other to rally around the standard of universal acceptance with issues like gay marriage and immigrant amnesty. Conservatives bunch up over issues of the sacred, like sanctity of life (both abortion and death penalty fall here) or preservation of tradition.
By the time these ideas make it to the surface, they have been translated into emotional signals others can recognize, or methods of hiding the actual agenda. As a result, our candidates go out there and grin their way through promises and debates that are mostly inconsequential.
Sure, there are real issues too. National defense is real, as are many aspects of domestic policy. But the issues that get the most flare-up coverage are the symbolic ones, the emotional ones that unite a crowd into either hoisting mugs or heating up the tar and feathers.
Democracy is a strange beast. We are foolish if we call ourselves its master.