Tuesday, December 07, 2010
The Mandarin Model
Obama's our very own China Girl.
CHINKS.2.1-10. I'm just playing with ideas here, but I think they're worth some thought because they offer a different perspective on the inexplicable activities of the bizarre administration that seems intent on transforming America into something else. But what else?
That's my starting point. Some questions nobody's explained to my satisfaction:
1. What's behind the feverish, almost frenzied hatred by the American left for all things traditional in our history and culture?
The corollary of this question is one I have asked here before: What's the "liberal" vision no one on the left ever seems able -- or willing -- to articulate to us backward common folk? You know, the vision that justifies their seeming disgust with the very existence of human beings, especially self-empowered Christian human beings, on planet earth. What is it exactly that they don't want to share with us? And why do they get so exorbitantly offended when commoners like us describe their economically punitive motives as "socialist" or "marxist"?
I think I know the answer. Fear of the exponentially increasing uncertainties associated with the progress that flows from free human enterprise. In the Internet Age they have come to see basic human freedom as an inevitably implosive anarchy which must be stopped. Except at the fringes, they're not actually suicidally opposed to their own species. And it's not that they misunderstand the superior potentials for change and progress associated with capitalism. Which is also to say that they are not guilty of the baffling crime of illogic we usually indict them for: believing that the failed economic models of Marx and Lenin and Mao and Castro are truly more efficient, equitable, or conducive to mass prosperity. It's that they have come to regard prosperity itself as the prime threat to the survival of humanity on earth. Prosperity propels unlimited innovation, geometrically increasing change, and the potential for untold catastrophes through unintended consequences. The motivating human liberalism by which they all claim to be inspired has made them Luddites.
With supreme irony, the people who call themselves progressives fear continued progress as the worst of all dangers to humanity. Their modestly arrogant (or arrogantly modest) objective is simply to halt progress as most of us define it and convince us that older simpler days were morally superior.
Only they're trying to make this reactionary cultural argument via blog, cellphone, tweet, and podcast. Without blowing their cover as far-seeing, forward-thinking idealists.
That's the reason for the frenzy. They can't cop to a retro pessimism their brave liberal predecessors would scorn. They're all the boy with his finger in the dike, trying futilely to hold back the deluge of the future that ordinary human hope, aspiration, hard work, and determination will unleash like a murderous tsunami on all of us.
Truth is, if you want to see grim pessimism, look first to the self-proclaimed smartest and most thoughtful among us.
[The explanation of why highly educated Jews support Obama despite his unmistakeable anti-Jewish prejudice. Jews are, as always, the archetype of objective, intellectual cognitive dissonance. They're the most fervently anti-Jewish because they know how much they can accomplish in impossibly short increments of time. If you're terrified of the risks of progress, anti-Jew is the only way to go.]
It's also the reason for all the duplicities. Because even their lies are analogous to their secret truths. Well, maybe they'll concede in private that they've overstated the threat of Global Warming, but they had only the best intentions. The accelerating curve of human change absolutely has to be slowed down, and this was an argument they thought even the stupid people might accept. AGW is only a symbol of a greater danger that is (to them) absolutely true and absolutely perilous: Mankind cannot survive the leaps and bounds of progress of another American Century. Why they show no perceptible guilt when confronted with their obvious lies.
2. If our president is really a socialist-Marxist by upbringing, why is he working hand-in-glove with Wall Street financiers, why do those financiers continue to work hand-in-glove with him, and why does he sometimes seem to fulfill the definition of early 20th century European fascist as much as late 20th century European socialist?
I told you I'm playing with ideas here. But it should be clear by now that Obama is not Chavez or Castro. He may be redistributing income, but he is not appropriating capital or blatantly nationalizing industries in the same way that even the Brit and French socialist parties once did. That's why it's even possible to make the fascist argument -- government joins hands with corporate oligarchies to control the economy even as it pretends to be on the side of the working man. Yet it doesn't quite work, does it? Fascism tends to be nationalist. It postulates external enemies and uses its partnerships with corporate capital to create jobs very directly, usually by pumping capital assets into manufacturing jobs associated with armaments. That's how Hitler and Mussolini put their depressed nations back to work. Why fascism leads inevitably to war. On the other hand, if Obama is a secret Marixist, why has he connived in the illusions that Wall Street, Detroit auto companies, and other beneficiaries of the TARP fiasco are actually repaying their debts and returning to market competition (uh, not really)? How does it help a Marxist ideologue to promote the idea that free market capitalism is making a comeback after an unfortunate but decidedly temporary intervention of government?
These questions are pertinent even if repayment of TARP funds and the restoration of free market principles are illusory. The narrative does not support the Marxist argument, and the specific means and results are not consistent with the fascist argument.
Which brings us back to the frequently leveled charge of incompetence. Except that the Obama administration has not been particularly incompetent. The ObamaCare bill alone is one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed since the Johnson administration, and the trillion dollar stimulus bill is not far behind it in terms of consequence. No administration has succeeded in spending so much taxpayer money or accumulating so much government power, including the incredibly portentous federalization of student loans, since FDR. And despite broken promises regarding Guantanamo, Iraq, and income taxes, there is no pundit who can proclaim with certainty that Obama will not be reelected in 2012.
Furthermore, the Obama administration has been spectacularly diligent at using federal agencies -- by some means fair but mostly foul-- to begin bypassing congress and other democratic American institutions in extending government controls into areas where the legislative and even the judicial processes have historically failed (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). If they succeed, the result will be a loss of personal liberty and legal recourse by individuals unprecedented in American history. Note that even partial and incomplete successes will stifle American initiative and the freedom of the individual. If your aim is merely expansion of government, that's hardly incompetent. It may be sinister, unconstitutional, and downright terrifying, but it's hardly a definition of incompetent, which would be "unable to do what you intend because you lack the skills or intelligence or experience required."
Again, I think I have a possible answer to the contradictions. Contrary to many of the speculations, including ours, Obama is not an ideologue in the purely political sense. He is, rather, a post-ideologue, what we might call a pragmatic messiah.
3. What is the real meaning of Obama's background, mission, and sense of himself as an anointed savior?
I think I've been asking the right questions all along. (I'll leave it to you all to make the appropriate citations.) I never thought his goal was defined in European terms. If he was a muslim child in the far east, he was also an American visitor in the most heavily populated region of the world, where the American economic model was proliferating in ways no one could have foreseen, with one country after another bursting to life in terms of capitalist economics, technology, and common aspiration. He was a witness to the unbounded, and unregulated, consequences of the American Way unleashed on a world that had long been governed more by tradition than freedom.
As a result, I don't think he is as much an enemy of America as he is of the American Way leading the world into a technological chaos we're not prepared for. I don't think he's as much a Marxist as a Luddite. I don't think he's as much a totalitarian Maoist as a Mandarin.
Running the country in ancient China involved passing written tests, not Kung Fu.
I do think he's planning to slow it all down, dumb it all down, knowing full well that his rockhead putative allies have it in their power -- via stultifying regulations and stagnating economic policies -- to recreate something like the old Chinese dynastic cycle, in which a durable professional bureaucracy staffed by expert "Mandarins" ultimately forced every new emperor into the mold of his predecessors. Here's an overview of China and a modernist interpretation of that country's history he can't, as a student of Marxism, be wholly unfamiliar with. One trenchant quote.
Naito Torajiro argued that China reached "modernity" during its mid-Imperial period, centuries before Europe. He believed that the reform of the civil service into a meritocratic system and the disappearance of the ancient Chinese nobility from the bureaucracy constituted a modern society. As noted above, some world-systems analysts such as Janet Abu-Lughod thought China invented capitalism during this period with the rise of a monied economy and the invention of paper currency.
The problem associated with this approach is the subjective use of "modern" and "capitalist". The old nobility had been in decline since the Qin dynasty. While the exams were meritocratic, most examinees were of the gentry background. Expertise in the Confucian classics did not guarantee competent bureaucrats who could manage public works or prepare a budget. The early capitalists theory is also unsound in that merchants were at the bottom of the four occupations due to Confucianism's hostility to commerce. The social goal was to invest in land and enter the gentry, ideas more similar to the physiocrats than that of Adam Smith.
I repeat, it's well documented that Obama's a student of Marxism. Which means he probably knows more than you do about this:
During a four-year period from 1958 to 1962, Mao Zedong oversaw the deaths of about half of all the people who died during all of the famines of the twentieth century. In his haunting new book, Frank Dikötter carefully weighs the available archival evidence and “conservatively puts the number of premature deaths at a minimum of 45 million”...Why he may no longer be a Marxist.
Mao’s famine was a consequence of a fantastical initiative, a “Great Leap Forward” into Communism, that he believed would turn China into an economic powerhouse, catapulting over its rivals in the Communist and non-Communist blocs...
In his sickening hubris, Mao had meddled with centuries-old traditions of Chinese rural livelihood. Like Stalin did in the Ukraine in 1932-1933, he also used terror to exacerbate the suffering. When crop yields in the communes came up short, local party officials, terrified of being purged as 3.6 million others were during the Great Leap, fudged the numbers. Beijing then used these phony stats to determine how much grain should be expropriated from the farms (for the hungry in the cities, for impressionable governments in Cuba, Albania and elsewhere in the developing world, for the feasts that would mark the tenth anniversary of the Chinese Revolution in 1959, and so on). When the communes could not produce the food demanded by the state, rampaging cadres (themselves worried about being purged) were unleashed to find the grain hidden by those now branded “class enemies.” Dikötter estimates that 6 to 8 percent of the famine’s victims (at least 2.5 million people) were tortured to death or summarily killed by cadres.
Obama thinks he knows better. He'd prefer being a Mandarin to being Mao. He's not a communist internationalist. He's an emperor. He thinks the best way to save America -- much like the equally unclothed Ron Paul -- is to isolate his nation as much as possible from the world at large, abandoning overt attempts to control other nations, and reestablish a dynastic bureaucracy of the kind that used ordinary paperwork to suppress Chinese innovation for centuries and keep the people safe by only modest oppression. Obama may be positively inspired by the fact that it was a dynastic custom of the Chinese census never to report more than 60 million as the population. Stasis is preferable to dangerous change. He sees himself as Ch'in (builder of the Great Wall), the oppressor who in a few brutal years laid down the framework for 2,000 years of stability and relative freedom from outside interference (Change we can believe in?). I'm thinking that's the real long-term "vision" of so-called American progressives. They don't really hate us. They just fear and mistrust our vitality as a contagion that could destroy the world as they want to keep it.
It's the residue of Obama's Marxism we should be skeptical about. The belief that history and human destiny are still somehow controllable by the pronouncements of the smartest rationalists. Ch'in equals Mao, except that Mao had every reason to know better what he was doing. The last things Obama doesn't understand: 1) He can't be Ch'in OR Mao without losing his soul, because no mere man is a messiah, and 2) Just how many of us remain eager for the adventure of human life, whatever highs and lows it brings. His arrogance is not that he regards himself as smarter than all human ingenuity and aspiration, but that we need to be protected from these things by a dull, depressive bureaucrat of life like him.
And I think he's looking forward to a monument like the one Ch'in established for himself:
We can only hope he doesn't intend to bury exact likenesses
of American troops with the arid body of his own damn self.
Clay armies. What a perfect symbol for a messiah with feet of clay.
Worth a thought or two by two or three of you on Pearl Harbor Day?
P.S. Two birthdays that also coincide with Pearl Harbor Day. My grandfather's (1885) And Tom Waits (1949).
Don't ask why this particular song. The lyrics never know what the music means.