Tuesday, May 27, 2008
(Note, you can view the entire discussion at Bill Moyer's Journal: Tough Talk on Impeachment)
Whatever the founders may have imagined when they were designing this governing system was inevitably based on the availability of only a very few democratic prototypes to choose from at the time. And their own imaginations were, by the very nature of constructed imagination as we now understand it with our modern cognitive sciences, an accumulation of memes of organizational boilerplates mishmashed together through 12,000 years of humanly evolved social complexity experiments. This appears to have begun after some of our species began experimenting and leaving behind the simple, easy to self manage group problem solving strategy of wandering bands of hunter gatherers, a strategy that had brought us through several million years of evolution to the beginnings of a brilliant innovation: the agricultural subsistence strategy ages and their correlated social organizations somewhat arrogantly coined as "civilizations." And now, perhaps, the creative combining of various cultural memes developed through this period has brought us all to the edge of our doom -- but that's another story.
While apparently Ben Franklin brought in some ideas from the Iroquois participatory democracy model, for the most part the US prototype drew from the Roman Republic model, and thus we got the vestigial Roman Senate thrust into our bicameral legislature to represent what they imagined needing representation, and that was the states themselves, somehow separated in concept from the people. After all, there simply wasn't a big supermarket of democracy prototypes to choose from, and these guys had to finally, somehow, come up with something.
Most of those Founders were of the elite of their time, educated in the classical traditions of Europe, so knowing what we know about the mind now, we can assume their imaginations conscribed to what they knew at that time. That's one reason why our Constitution is called an experiment. They really did not know how it would actually work out once in play. Since then a lot of different democracy models have evolved. Ours is arguably something of an antique, being an early experiment founded in the horse and buggy mentality of its day.
Perhaps 19th Century American Exceptionalism still holds sway in our thinking and the accumulated traditions of American hubris makes questioning the document's greatness inhibitory. Because I find that trying to bring up the subject of actually redesigning the Constitution does not perk up many ears.
One of the problems I suspect embedded in our Constitution's design is that power in any hierarchical order of society acts like a drug, and it works in many nefarious ways. Most of the Founders were from a European class structure in which as elites they had advantages they took for granted. The "drug of power" of their very positions can be expected to have dimmed their imaginative faculties, no matter how excited they each may have been about the new "revolution of individualism" they were in, and they had difficulty extending full humanity and a corresponding application of the Bill of Rights to all the individuals we are now willing to consider fully human in this country after some 200 years.
What they didn't know was that a presidential system itself has ontological implications built in, and no matter how much they didn't want it to become like the monarchies of Europe, they didn't recognize how evolution of institutions themselves can supersede the individual. We ourselves still focus on personality, when it's the institution itself that the next president will inherit, and much of what they say while stumping for election will vanish once they sit in the seat of power.
With the evolution of society, the growth of corporations, and the economic system that altogether has evolved, all along the way the government has had to try to adapt to meet the Constitutional mandates and the contingencies of reality. What's being tested in the process is the legal structure itself. Often the resolutions are an unhappy result of paradox, like applying the 14th Amendment, which is about individuals, to a corporate entity, the private corporation, and declaring that a corporate entity is a person under the law. The very notion of the revolution of individualism and the Bill of Rights is thrown into some sort of conceptual chaos with that.
What's evolved is a result of basic structures that were in place, some of those results have memic features that are almost Frankensteinian in their very DNA. The point is there may have been no way to interpret the Constitution that could have come out to look anything like what the Founders hoped for, and a kind of legal fundamentalism calling upon an originalist interpretaiton itself puts a chain around the pressures calling for a creative approach to problem solving that maintains democracy. If we find we are giving up our democracy for anything -- security from terrorism, for instance -- then perhaps there may be an inherent structural problem worth considering in the Constitution itself.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I awoke this morning hearing a voice saying:
"Beware of the warrior Many Tongues whose mind is cluttered with things and he walks the earth in confusion, deep in his fear of the Great Spirit Emptiness, for he knows that without Emptiness there would be no-thing."
I lay there a trying to remember the dream and the events that led up to that voice, and trying to visualize the face, but it wouldn't come back to me. But I could still remember the phrase and the sound of the voice, so I reached for my leather bound journal on the nearby night stand, fumbled around for the pen, and I managed to write it down without losing the memory of it. It's sometimes very hard for me to write down phrases I hear in dreams, they just vanish when I try.
The thoughts and feelings from that dream hung about me like a sheer gray curtain, as I got up and began my morning. I made my coffee, turned on the computer, and sat back for a moment, looked at the headlines on a news page, but I was not really reading them.
It seemed like a koan. "Without Emptiness there would be no-thing." Just enough of a pause between the "no" and the "thing" to seem like two words, but said to sound like "nothing."
Thoughts of the meaning of infinite and spirit crossed through my mind, like old memories, for I'd thought such thoughts many times. Yet somehow this dream phrase seemed freshly related. The age old corporeal problem, the spirit world and the ever emergence of things surrounded by space, or nothing, which ancient philosophers hypothesized to be composed of something, and now modern philosophers, in the form of physicists are imagining it to be something as well. But if infinity is unmeasurable, is there ultimately a something? Maybe the "great spirit" is no more than that which makes thought possible.
And people have made up places where they can revere this seemingly amazing possibility, like the sense of awe some express after smoking some weed and then looking at an ordinary, everyday object as if for the first time, dragged forth on a long, thin line...
But that aside, there are times when a parent does need to be concerned with a child's safety, and even the most nurturant parent should recognize the necessity of invoking a "command moment" I would think. And who hasn't felt frustration on a "bad" day and invoked the "almighty" voice?
I also agree that much concern should result in noticing that our educational institutions do concern themselves with enforcing obedience to authority in that same vein. I'm aware that for some, it does not provoke concern, but a sense of satisfaction.
Yes, indeed, you are patronizingly reassured, as your thin little body sits in the huge wooden chair across the desk from the rather large and imposing stern vice principal in the office to which you've been summoned once again, you are free as long as you stay within these carefully drawn lines. No questions outside the box, please (with no hint of please in the stern voice). Otherwise, without this training, people may not be quite so willing to run out and find jobs once they escape from the torture chambers of squirming daily in rows of those hard, slippery wooden desks while an authority preaches,...er teaches.
It's my perception that these institutions invoke methods of ingestion, regurgitation and then take regular measurements of quantities of regurgitation. The methodologies of teaching ingestion and and invoking regurgitation often rely on behavior modification enforced pain and pleasure principles, all together of which creates an institutional atmosphere whereby students can be measured and sorted, sifted and stacked, and which also offers verification of that controversial Bell Curve possibility is in fact...
On the other hand, awakening another form of intelligence, the open-ended, therefore non measurable ability to creatively question, is not really something that can be taught, just as teaching the proverbial horse to feel thirst is not an option. So you won't find any troublesome methods of that nature anywhere in there.
But... and this is an important "but" for an itinerant rambler to a vice principal's office like myself... an intellectual "thirst" to simply "find out" can be systemically suppressed in a population through its institutions. I at least believe that much. I also believe each of us faces a challenge to overcome that on our own, daily, if indeed it does occur as I seem to experience it. I find that possibility very exciting to imagine, but then I get out and about and talk to people, and my excitement sort of just dwindles away. As Linda Hunt asks Kevin Kline across the bar at the Midnight Star in Sliverado, "What's wrong with us?" And then she gives him that look and that sly smile.
Laurie Anderson Lyrics
Baby Doll Lyrics
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Arianna and Steven:
Monday, April 21, 2008
I can recall noticing through most of my life that most men react to the women's movement by taking it as a personal attack on their manhood. I don't see it that way. I can guess at why I don't, but I can't say for certain how that's come about for me. If I tried I think the effort would get quite lengthy.
One of the ways I tend to look at this issue of objectification is as a long revolutionary struggle, the liberal revolution, that began several hundred years ago. Whether it's a return to a human potential that evolved in the species before we began developing the authoritarian meme in our cultures, which hypothetically is the result of the complexities that followed the onset of agriculture 10-12,000 years ago, or not, is maybe an interesting question, but not one that makes much difference about the importance of the liberal revolution for individual rights or not. That revolution continues to evolve and each of us who embrace it, can embrace it with the very instructions built into our DNA. Fantasizing about how our ancient relatives did it 40,000 years ago won't really make much difference.
One of the narratives I run through my mind is that the Founders of this political system were a group of men who were philosophically tantalized by the ideas about liberal thinking at the time -- each in their own way, and hypothetically to different degrees. I take note of the fact they were a group of elites, many both monied and propertied, they were mostly from the European cultural traditions that were emerging at that time from feudalism -- and that very fact had a lot to do with their thinking framework, the context of their thoughts. This nation was structured out of that context in a specific period in what I see as an extended revolution of liberation from tyrannical, authoritarian structures of thought.
A question might be asked, revolution for who? And I'd answer, for the individual. I'm an individual, for instance.
What was born here in the
I feel that the revolution for individual rights was limping along on a single, somewhat crippled leg until women started to wake up and express themselves as individuals. Oddly enough, there's a group feature to individual freedom, and it's hypothetically very contradictory in nature. I believe we cannot free ourselves of authoritarianism while practicing it on any part of our humanity. Objectification, by the way, is to me an ingredient of the authoritarian mind frame. I discovered the very structure of feudal objectification when I was in the military. I was too young to know it already existed in society, so I was completely shocked when I discovered it. That really set my mind off. I had questions going in my head like: how do you take away someone's freedom to act and decide for themselves in a so-called democracy in this way to fight that which I was being told was a totalitarian system that does just that to its population? That was really a huge existential question for an eighteen year old mind I recognize now. I nearly went insane. But in the process I set up some ingredients for possibly working things out for myself.
When I got back into the "real" society, where the
So what's happened as women are waking up? Are we dealing with the imperfections of our system itself, those features that create the objectification process? Or are we just incorporating the rest of the individuals who got left out about 220 years ago into a latently feudal system that has never been fully structured to allow us all our individual freedom? I'm still asking that question after forty years.
One of the thoughts I have: we have somewhat successfully codified this system of rule by law, combined with an individual Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights concept is being extended to the world, the United Nations has a nicely described version that even includes children. But it's like hand building a high tech Ferrari in a garage in the jungle. You start up that fine engine, open the garage door and there's no where to go, because there are no roads to drive it on. Most people spend most of their days in institutions that only vaguely and in fragments offer them individual rights to practice their daily tasks and to think in their own, individualized way. Their lives at home are planned and arranged around how they must relate to these institutions. Their children are carefully prepared so that they can successfully engage in them. And so we remain in a jungle of authoritarian institutions, and that jungle forms the context out of which we make up our minds, and that context is what we see as "the world" as it "must be."
The women's movement, the civil rights movements, those are about getting our good solid legs under us so we can go out into that jungle and claim our individuality consciously, and support each other in that process, instead of fight each other. Men are not being attacked as individuals by these ideas, in which the nature of objectification itself, for instance, is being questioned and examined. The institutions that men associate themselves with are not the individual men. And it's difficult to get that out where it can really be looked at and understood.
Maybe it would be easier, if only I were an expert...
Sunday, March 2, 2008
It's been suggested that no one is asking during this presidential horse race whether the person who takes office changes the office or whether the office changes the person. It's not quite accurate to say no one is asking. It's more that those asking aren't out in the spotlight of the media where the elements of public dialog are presented for mass consumption. I don't think it's a matter of the person being changed, it's more a matter of speaking with a forked tongue when they finally get to office, almost because they have to. For one thing, there is no national dialog that makes discussing what's really going on in making decisions available for public discourse. It's all packaged and wrapped in sound bite clichés that basically distract from the real matters that make government work.
When I discovered what the Unitary Executive Theory itself was, and who was both for it and against it, I discovered a whole world of people asking that question and looking at the structure of the office itself, how it could be reformulated to better serve the interests of power (and power is money, straight out), and for those concerned about the effects of reformulating it on the office of the presidency, how it could be prevented from better serving the interests of power. This is a bloodless struggle, but it's going on none the less. It's taking place in the boiler room of the Titanic, where what makes the ship move through the water is located, the very legal structure of the ship, the system that propels the bureaucracy, where you just apply energy (money) and make steam and the ship is propelled towards the ice bergs, no matter which Captain is on the bridge, because the ice bergs lie in the short cut to where the power wants to go.
None of that's in the news. It puts people to sleep.
But if you are the rich and the powerful, and you want to control this huge nation with its legally conscribed bureaucracy, your best investment is the executive branch. It has the most number of unelected professional elites who transcend the office holders, who the minions focus on for their brief moment to have any effect at all on that overly hyped day in November, the most chance for consistency of purpose to be carried out. That's why I don't even pay much attention to this personality contest, I look at their advisers, and who they are likely to be appointing to the heads of these bureaucracies to legally follow out the president's "orders" to operate the huge bureaucratic machinery of state. Folks like the head of FEMA we all remember Bush appointed, for example, heading a perfectly good agency like the blind, dry drunk who appointed him. That's how the power of money controls this country.
The wealthy and powerful who want the good Ship Titanic to go in their chosen direction invest their money in private think tanks. One not so obviously a think tank is called "The Federalist Society," and it comes across as an organization for legal theorist, judges and lawyers to schmooze together about the law. It has chapters in all the major law schools. It began in 1983 or so. It now has some 35,000 members. These are the people with their hands on the machinery of state. The laws. They all share a similar attitude towards the law. That attitude is now becoming the predominant one in the appointed judges that much of the recent controversy was over, the Federal prosecutors, and, significantly, in the recent appointments to the Supreme Court.
We are now approaching a Federalist Society weighted Supreme Court. The Federalist Society was started by the people who developed the Unitary Executive Theory. The UET is about increasing the executive branch's control over the bureaucracy, insulating it from and thereby decreasing the oversight by Congress which in its checks and balance role is supposed to make certain it administers the bureaucracy according to the laws that Congress has passed. Secrecy thus becomes an issue. Presidential minions not testifying before Congress thus becomes an issue. If you step back you can see it is a theory that moves towards a CEO style presidency. A CEO heads these private tyrannies we call corporations. How hard is it to make the connections?
"Fascism" is about the unification of the state, just as a corporation is a unified collective with a purpose, and it's structured much like a military organization, because militaries have evolved to be structured as a unified collective to accomplish a purpose.
These are structural matters. The word "freedom" means nothing whatsoever with these matters going on at the same time -- especially if these structural matters contradict our freedoms.
The person who finally sits in the oval office is concerned with structural matters. The Constitution is the law, the Constitution is about structural matters.
How do you say all that in a sound bite on the evening news? How do you make that dramatic enough for people to pay attention to what it all means so they can figure out what it means for themselves? Especially when you are a corporation, you own media, nuclear power plants, military industrial complex components, and your interest is profit, because it's mandated by this law (the structure) that "we" have that they give the stockholders a good return on their investment first and worry about what they are doing to the world as an afterthought.
One of the heroes of this silent, bloodless, but very hard fought battle is Christopher Kelley, who did his PhD dissertation on the Unitary Executive and the Signing Statements. A small, brief notice of this very complex issue made its way into the media, and it did so in a way that only managed to confuse people to think it had something to do with the actions of King George, and his henchman, Darth Cheney, mainly because the partisan battle is all anyone is interested in as they sit in front of their televisions and munch their popcorn. The media moguls know that, their well paid employees in their media mogul corporations are made aware of that, and that's how the news is manufactured so that the popcorn munchers will give their consent to the already carefully selected candidates, it hardly matters which, in the voting booths the first Tuesday in the appropriate November. (The headlines are making me sick now, I can't read them at this point in the horse race. It's the same every time.)
I've gotten to know Chris Kelley's work, and I keep tabs on his blogs where he keeps track of how the media screws things up, and more precisely, what actions are being taken in the executive branch, the judicial branch and the legislative branch on these dire and significant changes that actually do determine what the person in the office will be able to do when he gets there: Zone of Twilight and Media Watch.
One of the difficulties I've had in my discussions is getting rabid Bush haters to recognize that Clinton was also a promoter of the UET, and that any president is not going to give up his power willingly. It's built into the very structure of the job. That's what separates the rhetoric of ideology from reality. If you can't get past the rhetoric, then you won't get down into the boiler room of the Titanic to see what's really going on. You'll be sunbathing on the deck while th Captain pilots the ship, and dancing in the ballroom at night as the ship moves towards disaster. Chris is editing a book and I just got my eyes on a paper he wrote that will be a chapter in the book, that gives me all sorts of tasty details to work with concerning what Clinton did to promote the UET. It's titled:
The Unitary Executive and the Clinton Administration
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I hear people separating "left" and "right" by saying things like, the political "Left" believes collective rights supersede the rights of an individual, and the political "Right" believes an individual's rights are greater than the collective. From that they conclude something like: "individualism is the opposite of collectivism." What I see involved is a series of fallacious conclusions coming from careless thinking that brushes hastily over the possibilities of meaning in the terms in order to arrive a pre conceptual conclusion. Clearly, individualism is different from collectivism, but not necessarily opposite. Individualism is about things like individual rights with respect to a collective group working together. You don't push for one without something to do with the other.
Human beings tend to do better in their survival tactics as organized entities than they do as hermits. So we have these different strategies we can observe called societies with their collections of groupings.
This left/right rhetoric is just a bunch of bull shit to me. It's just a collection of idealistic, jingoistic statements. It falls apart when I start looking at what the words represent and the reality of what people are actually involved in.
Everyday most people go to a collective organization and do some tasks they are directed to do. Many of those collectives are private tyrannies when you get right down to it, so most people spend their days in an authoritarian atmosphere where they comply with the directives they have nothing to say about because they want to eat, and buy all these pretty gadgets, like the beads and blankets that carried small pox across this nation after Columbus floated up to it under sail. Most are trained for doing this from kindergarten, so they don't know any different. It's just the way it is for them. They may have some vague symbols that they see on TV and in the movies about individuals behaving in some free way, but it's not really about their life, it's just entertainment.
Right now we have what I perceive as a set of elites, I don't care what party you want to see them in, and they aren't interested in democracy or individual rights. They are interested in organizational management issues and strategies that amount to power with regard to those. That's simply the nature of that kind of organization of groups getting together and involving themselves in the institutions that are already pretty well structured to be what they are. The playing field is set, now we, the public, get to watch it play out. The Big Fight.
We have a population that's predominantly programmed to accept authorities telling them what to do, and most individuals lack any real voice in what each may want out of their lives in respect to the larger macro organizational characteristics we imagine to be The Nation.
Because of the way I look at things, my "The Nation" is so different from other people's I can't even communicate most of the time. Mostly I don't even talk. I just listen.
The rest of that jingoistic crap you presented is meaningless to me when I see what people are faced with.
I made my choice a long time ago. I don't work for anyone, I do things in a contractual exchange, and I am involved in writing the contract agreements. It's not always easy, but those are my standards. I figure if everyone was willing to live by those standards, corporations would collapse, because there wouldn't be any employees, there wouldn't be any hierarchy of command. But I'd be willing to wager that won't come about. So people will go on pretending something else is going on and argue about the fine details of the make up of their cage and the intricacies of the designs on their shackles.
Fascism is a corporation. It's a bundle that's all together for strength, all right, but the bundle doesn't collectively think, it's directed by an authority who "knows." Whether it's privately owned or a government. It's hierarchically ordered and authoritarian in its format. "My way or the highway." A corporation is a collective, a corporation is bureaucratic in its organization. It has a specific goal, make a profit, and it does that through what is now perceived as something like "scientifically engineered" management techniques, something our universities began creating towards the end of the last century.
If the Republicans have put a unifying theory into reorganizing the presidency so that the president is like a CEO (and they have), that's moving our presidential system in the direction of fascism. Same with Democrats, and FDR was an example of one who saw that as a good idea, I humbly suggest. I expect all parties to do the same as long as we have a federal government with the legal and national enforcement capabilities of the one we have. And thanks to a two hundred year series of working at the interpretation of the Constitution through our court system, the Federal Government powers over the states have expanded, as the states have expanded. This is like a disease, once it begins it's hard to stop if the immune system is not set up to stop it, and legally, ours isn't.
With big government the urge is going to be towards decomplexifying the management tasks, and the president's job is to manage the bureaucracy, so what does that suggest? The only really efficient decomplexifying option we have is hierarchy and a pyramid top down authority scheme. That's why militaries have all become similar in their organization.
That's how it is from what I can see. I think folks often don't see their own life circumstances for what they are or they would know what trying to be an individual, making individual choices in the midst of all these very real circumstances that restrict their choice-making amounts to, and the jingoistic generalizations would fall away to a critical examination of the meaning of the words they use. It's not some abstract idea, its about tough choices every day that take contemplation. And that's where one finds one's individuality, not in some idea. I think many are just living in a fantasy world of words, and don't even know what the words mean because they haven't really taken them apart.
I figure it's facetious to argue there's anything else going on, but it certainly keeps people entertained.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
I don't think of human beings as being in a position to save the world. It's more like, get out of the way so the world can take care of itself. So my vision doesn't include a 'humans saving the world' concept.
The Earth's biosphere, best we can tell with our crude abilities to find things out, is an interconnection of living systems that will maintain their own ongoing, life sustaining balance without the guidance of human beings. The earth has never needed human beings to maintain its life forces. Instead, what human beings may have become, actually very probably have, is now a potential danger to the complex living systems that make up the total biosphere, and ironically, in pursuit of our own aggrandizement, we have devised some clandestine adaptation strategies that appear capable of unbalancing all the self sustaining processes of the earth, much as a cancer unbalances the self sustaining process of an individual organism by its own, myopic focus on what cancer cells are genetically designed to do to survive.
The difference between human beings and cancer is we have the potential to make a choice about what we do. ...Well, that's hypothetical, I guess. Maybe cancer does have a choice and we don't, or both, or neither.
Western globalized culture has become like what we call in ecology, an r-selected species. Because of what humans can do as a group with their unique abilities to create cultures as an interface with their environment, we have cleverly devised culture based systems that act as our own, evolutionary eco niche adaptation process, only with ours, we can take over just about any niche. It's a unique process we can use without changing our biology, as many other species must do to adapt. Such normally biologically based species (cancer being one, lemmings another) are adapted to low succession ecosystems. Examples of low succession ecosystems are fields of corn, where much external energy is required to till, plant, fertilize and keep out various forms of species that would also like to populate the field where the corn grows, until finally the crop can be harvested.
Human beings have for some time transformed environments with their built places and their agriculture. Now with increasing speed, thanks to the cheap and abundant energy discovered under the surface of the earth, humans continue to raze the many precious and irreplaceable complex ecosystems of the planet, destroying in the process species that will never be seen again, and could take millions of years to regenerate in some comparable ecologically adapted form, so that those areas can be turned into low succession, high yield "resources" for human beings, who themselves now number 6.6 billion in number, but much more than that when the factors of eco foot print is taken into consideration for the more highly technologized societies. This population growth over the last 150 years has roughly the same curve on a graph as any r-selected species.
So human beings, through their cultural adaptations, have made themselves (a species that otherwise has all the characteristics of a K-selected species) into an r-selected species, and with that, they have employed the traits built into their gene pool that allows them to transform their environment, and hence all the environments of the planet that they can, into low succession, low speciated environments. The loss of genetic material in the process may very well completely transform the life of the biosphere to one that does not support most of the life we see around us now.
The solution I see is for humans to recognize what they are doing, and reorient their cultural adaptation away from control oriented technologies and more towards ecologically reflexive, sustainable ones. One of the ways to do that is for each human to begin to reawaken their deep connection to the earth, the one that is part of our evolution, and begin a renewing of the old ways of seeing and interacting with our environment, combined with the knowledge we have developed through the cultural devices of our ecological sciences. If any of our sciences can guide us, those would be the ones.
We need to rediscover the "ways," as in the "cultural ways," or the "Way of Zen," those kinds of ways that acknowledge the psychological unhealthiness of separating ourselves as we do in our isolating built environments. Environments of our own distorting creation that ignore natural needs of the living biosphere while we grow ever more dependent, in the process, on economic systems that are essentially cancerous. We need to "see" this and then renew, or invent ways that will reverse our progress on a path of destruction, and go in new directions with our adaptation strategies, based on a healthy and direct interaction with life processes, so that we are reminded by our daily existence of our connection to the planet's life. That reminder is the basis of individual sanity and psychological balance. An abstract idea about it is insufficient.
That recognition and societal redirection, of course, entails a dramatic rearrangement of whole systems of thought and ideas. A whole new mental paradigm must come about. That's what I'm working on, ideas combined with actions for what that might be, ways of becoming healthy and balanced with a new vision of who we are as living beings within a self sustaining biosphere, not controllers and guardians, as some Western religious doctrines would have us believe.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
At the risk of simplistic categorization, I'll point out that David Horowitz is an example of a number of liberal intellectuals -- a lesser number of whom were among the radical anti establishment intellectuals in the Sixties -- who later exchanged their ideology for something of a different design, like changing designer shoes. For most this change occurred sometime after the end of the Vietnam War, and into the Reagan years, as Horowitz did when he came out as a Reagan conservative during the Eighties. Like most of them, and a number of younger intellectuals who have since grouped together with these old Sixties lefty ideologues, today he is best described as a Neoconservative, according to SourceWatch.
In the 1990s, Horowitz hosted several Second Thinkers conferences where ex-leftists who recanted or underwent epiphanies could network with fellow travelers. Several of these second thinkers are now neo-cons. Christopher Hitchens was a regular participant at these conferences, and today co-organizes events with Horowitz, e.g., tour of the UK where he features as a speaker.
In his book Radical Son Horowitz describes his turn from Marxist radical to Reagan Republican, but in lieu of reading and reviewing that, the following, from Wikipedia, gives a brief overview of Horowitz's trail of ideological shoes:
David Joel Horowitz (born January 10, 1939) is an American conservative writer and activist. The son of two life-long members of the Communist Party and once a prominent supporter of Marxism as well as a member of the New Left in the 1960s, Horowitz later rejected Leftism and is now a prominent advocate for right-wing causes. He is a founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center (formerly the Center for the Study of Popular Culture), and has served as president of that organization for many years. He is the editor of the conservative website FrontPage Magazine, and his writings can also be read on prominent news sites and publications, including the conservative magazine NewsMax. He founded the activist group Students for Academic Freedom and is affiliated with Campus Watch. He occasionally appears on Fox News Channel as an analyst.
That he has identified that ignominious "urge" he left behind as leftist politics is interesting. I don't see it so much on any right left spectrum as a different ideological design for something which the wearer needs, no matter the design, and I'd like to discuss why for a moment.
I would say, for instance, that what he is talking about is something of the same coin with different sides. One side could be identified with something that was very conservative in the Fifties -- McCarthyism, for instance. I think that sort of idea-based behavior that occurred from McCarthyism has its roots in a kind of authoritarian group think that is the opposite pole of a highly evolved participatory democracy. But what that means itself would need to be described and considered with some care in order to identify what I mean by "highly evolved." The tendency might be to go through the historical evolution of ideas and attach it to movements in the Sixties that called themselves anti authoritarian and anti establishment, but in their own right were ideological and group think movements of their own, and as such subject to creating the very conditions they rebelled against.
That consideration about what it means to me would involve looking into human nature itself, and the structure of authoritarianism. I fully acknonowledge that exploration is not something I would see as possible here in this blog. So I admit to the problem of being clear and precise up front.
I've already introduced in previous blogs the notion that the Neoconservatives are "militaristic idealists." So I'd like to stick with that theme, particularly the emphasis on "idealists" -- with idealists as something that has its own unique structure and that an adjective of some sort can often be attached to it, "militarist," "leftist," whatever.
So, coming from that, I would identify McCarthyism as a code word for an ideological response to another ideology. So we have this "binariness" that comes up. An ideology can be codified with a name, and it can then be opposed to another codified ideology. So then we can identify them as right and left ideologies, but I'd rather just stick with the notion of ideology itself, rather than deflect it with direction pointing.
I would like to suggest something I cannot in any way back up with objective facts, but rather I must extrapolate from behavior. Thus it's purely in the theoretical abstract reasoning realm. It comes from my (and others) observation of behavior, thus very subject to doubt and criticism.
It appears to me that someone with an ideological bent to their way of organizing their mental world can be proselytized and converted to different ideologies, but what they tend to need to do is feel a belief in their ideology. Eric Hoffer wrote about this phenomenon years ago in a book he titled True Believers. I read it first in 1968 while in the military and trying to figure out what this institution was I was unable to leave at my own discretion. Meanwhile we were supposedly fighting something that to me was organized in the same way, only called by a different name. Both fit what I would call totalitarian organizations. And it seemed very odd to me that we had to be a totalitarian organization to defeat one. That was the kernel of an idea that has never really left my thinking, although it has evolved into many different forms since then.
So it seems to me that changing ideologies is merely a matter of paradigm shifting in the world view. It's therefore more or less (maybe more), a rational process, though once the "belief" aspect takes hold it's not so rational.
Now what I mean by "ideological bent" is a little harder to get at, because what ever it is, is inside the individual mind and that's a black box we can't really get into -- not others' but only the one we are in. Hence we end up with all these different fields like sociology, psychology, and so forth. They are all trying to figure out what's in the puzzling black box. Some perhaps trying to go further than that, i.e., how to program the box and make humans behave in certain ways.
This may be a little too glib in presentation, but basically, I tend to see McCarthyism as an ideological response to Communism, which was a code for an ideologically based authoritarian society that was by then called The Soviet Union. I would say McCarthyites probably didn't see themselves as true believers in an ideology. It's the other guy who's always the true believer. Communism, as envisioned by those who became part of what was called McCarthyism, was envisioned by them as a "leftist" ideology threatening American institutions. The "good/evil" binary paradigm hangs like a specter in the background.
In looking at McCarthyism as a phenomenon, I see that it relied heavily on issues of "loyalty" to the United States, and "security matters" -- which of course implies a need for secrecy and protection of some kind. Both those issues, loyalty and security, imply something basic to the True Believer mind that Eric Hoffer wrote about. If a citizen is not allowed to know oneself what is behind the security wall, then one simply must believe it's important, take it on faith, and one must trust the authorities who are forced to hide it from everyone for the good of all. Subsequently one's loyalty to whatever this secret information is about then becomes an issue of patriotism to one's country, not an issue based on rational judgement. And one's country is, after all, an idea, though one can associate it with flags, mountains, eagles, statues holding torches, and so on.
So I'm raising a question at this point. Is it characteristic that an ideology will result in that sense of protection and group adherence to that ideology? Can we ever have a United States of America without a coordinated ideology that all will adhere to, for instance? These are issues that the founders raised at some level and attempted to safe guard individual choice by allowing for differences in various types of ideologies, including religious based ones. How do political actors with a "militaristic idealist" set of ideas fit with our own sense of government?
Monday, February 4, 2008
From exile to redemption to exile again: a history of "militaristic idealists" known as neocons. (Link to a larger version: The Neocons)
First, note that they are "idealists" and not "realists" (I will discuss the political realists elsewhere), so in that sense their version of international democracy promotion will have a different slant, one that we might call "Wilsonian" going back to President Woodrow Wilson. When the Bush administration's Middle East policy is referred to as Wilsonian, that's the connection.
Second, they are militarists. That's the connection to the Scoop Jackson Vietnam Hawks, the military industrial complex, and to the Cold War anti communist attitudes that carried over after the fall of the Soviet Union, with no target to pin it on.
This might be worth looking at: They are not so much about being against the idea of communism as a philosophy, since they once were once willing to wear the trappings of that ideology, but more anti the political existence of something identified as communism as a competing power entity in the world, and here we have the connection to a quote I've seen: " Ideology is the disease of the modern era." You might say they don't so much care what the idealism is, so long as they have one, and they wield it's abstract logical characteristics as a weapon of sorts. Perhaps a weapon of mass destruction?
That difference in their concern between political idealism and the meaning of political power itself is important distinguish, I believe, because it is also the basis for their anti terrorist concerns today, which for them are quite real, and helps to reveal their own urge for power. An urge that will be explained as an urge for the good of humanity, and necessary because there is this idea of "evil," evil is present in the world, (human beings are by nature evil and must be taught to be good) and it must be guarded against. The military is thus a necessary structure in society for the protection of good, and a price we must pay for our safety.
The underlying issue to explore here, I believe, is authoritarianism. Authoritarianism not so much as an ideal to be imposed, but as a philosophical and psychological structure that makes up a particular world view. Words like "individualism" and "freedom" can be used within this structure and the structure itself may turn out to negate the subjective sense of interpretation of what those words mean to each of us. This connects to the meanings we explore in propaganda, power, and the spectrum of power from hegemony to coercion.
I'd like to recall Stan Goff's simple but clear definition clarifying hegemony from coercion:
“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” (Steven Beko)
It’s much easier to exercise control over a population whenever they consent to their own domination. They sort of accept the official story, accept the official ideology and then we all just sort of go around and cooperate. That kind of control, where we internalize the control, is hegemony. Where when I come up and hold a gun on you and you do it out of naked fear, that’s coercion. And the idea is you’ve got sort of hegemony on one pole, exercising ruling class power and coercion on the other pole and as hegemony fails then coercion becomes the more prominent instrument. (from a talk: Exterminism)
I can recall in 2000 that nearly no one was using the term "Neoconservative." If I used the term in a discussion, I'd get a blank look.
Since then, the term has come to be used in many different ways, many applications are misconstrued, and inaccurate. In my view, it's very counterproductive to blur its meaning when one realizes that the Neoconservatives have not disappeared from politics, and the philosophy behind the term remains alive and well, and is being applied daily. These very well organized intellectuals with their own network of ideologically self substantiating publications continue to work for what they believe to be the "best" for the United States.
So it's perhaps worth some effort to find out what their version of "best" might be and to do an analytical exploration of who what the Neoconservatives are, what they have actually meant to the conservative movement since their voices became a major part of the current administration, and what the actual people identified with the movement will be doing during the election season, and afterwards, if they have anything to say about it.
I want to present, by way of seeing contrasting views of the US foreign policy, two different explanations for 911 with differing explanations for what the US is doing in Iraq, and what its purpose in the Middle East is about.
Neoconservative View of Foreign Policy
Blowback- Chalmers Johnson On Why We Really Fight
Friday, January 25, 2008
This documentary tells the story of Neoconservatism, and how it used fear to turn a country to do its bidding. The story also draws a parallel vision of a similar type of ideology, represented by what we now call al-Qaeda. The documentary suggests these ideologies are in their natures not that different from one another.
Power of Nightmares Part I: Baby it's Cold Outside
Power of Nightmares Part II: The Phantom Victory
Power of Nightmares Part III: The Shadows in the Cave
The Past, Present, and Future of Neoconservatism