Friday, March 09, 2012
LET'S GET DISTRACTED. It's easy to get depressed when you see how easily the propagandists of the left -- and their faithful storm troopers in the mass media -- can divert the national discussion from major issues to trivial backwaters of cultural disagreement. Conservatives seem like the most gullible and inveterate of fools when they get sucked into a debate about contraception they never had in mind until the political class tempted them into dumb pronouncements and posturings they weren't even contemplating a few weeks ago. The contraception mess isn't an exception. It's part of a pattern. It will happen again and again and again in the coming months. It's lefty misdirection, and it will always work.The bad news is that the new media, with all its supposed sophistication, is no better at preventing such irrelevant clusterf**cks than the conservative deans of the old media. Wave a red flag and the "elite" conservatives in every realm will come charging like blood-crazed bulls -- Hannity, the National Review Online, Rush Limbaugh, hundreds of righty bloggers led by Ed and Allah and Ace, and all our numbskull toupee-wearing politicians. (Why do all Republican members of congress have hairpieces? Somebody explain that to me, please.)
Are we doomed on this account? I mean, when it comes to politics, they are completely smarter than we are. We're the country mice and they're the city mice, always two steps ahead.
The short-term answer is yes. The long-term answer is no. What this post is about.
I'm sure some of you are already objecting to the phrase "trivial backwaters of cultural disagreement." This is a key part of my diagnosis. Why conservatives will always get suckered into self-destructive debates they can't win. This will keep happening until they realize they've accepted the grand liberal assumption that the most important thing in the country is what the federal government does. It isn't. Which is the good news.
When we got caught up in discussions about whether the Obama administration is socialist, communist, fascist, a thugocracy, a racialist Manchurian conspiracy, or a technocratic totalitarian movement, we are missing the point. It doesn't matter which of these it is. All that matters is that it represents a belief that the best path to the future lies with gigantic and increasingly invasive centralized government. Labels like liberal, progressive, etc, are irrelevant. The only question that matters is why they are so devoted to government power and control and whether history and the state of the human condition in the 21st century makes them right or wrong.
In the first place, they are wrong. How can I be so sure? Because 20th century history is so utterly against them. And because their belief rests on two pillars that are fatally in conflict with one another. I'll talk about these in reverse order since the philosophical failure underlies the historical failure.
The rise of rationalism in the Age of Enlightenment led to unprecedented specialization and ultimately to extreme compartmentalization of human belief systems and capabilities. A self-ordained elect pronounced themselves superior to all prior human experience and embraced their own intellectual attainments as superior to those of commoners and the gods of common faith. They became secular priests. But priests don't do carpentry, plumbing, mechanics, or any of the jobs that keep civilization working. They were, despite all their rational constructs, the reversionary equivalent of pharaoh's ministers, useless for anything BUT the crafting of edicts, decrees, and speeches. Their particular mission was power.
As priests in the modern age, they came to believe that gifted people such as themselves could fix everything wrong in the world as long as they could gather enough power to right all the wrongs nobody but they could understand. Of course, they haven't always agreed on what those wrongs are and what the solutions are. Robespierre wanted to kill all the aristocrats. Hitler wanted to kill all the Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals. Stalin wanted to kill everybody who disagreed with him. And Mao wanted to kill everybody who treasured China's past. What they all agreed on was that they knew better than the people they ruled.
What's interesting.The consistent pattern is that as reality becomes more unpredictable, the desire for control of such big government devotees increases. Fear is what drives them crazy. And fear is their constant companion. Because in their heart of hearts, they know that they cannot control the chaos of people reacting to unspeakable disasters. But they have no other talents. When it all starts going south, their natural impulse is to increase government power, and government force, as if they can squelch the survival instinct in the common man which has ensured the survival of the species for 250,000 years. They come to believe, or wish at least, that they can outsmart nature. Wrong.
Which brings us to the contemporary left in America and the western world. At the same time that they continue to entertain utopian notions of ultimate social justice and absolute equality of human outcomes, they are also the prisoners of their own fears about all the ways humanity can be crushed and returned to a new stone age. In which they would be the least useful people in the surviving pods of human communities. They can't rewire a lamp. But they can plan our future energy strategy and enforce it through the force of their power.
Thing is, in extremis, all power structures break down. A government can acquire more and more official power and less and less ability to enforce that power. Where the left is today.
Break the basic human contract between governors and governed, and you get black markets, which are successful to the degree that technology permits. And our technology is exploding. We have entered a new realm of human existence. You can try to kill American exceptionalism, but the genie is out of the bottle. American exceptionalism in the form of American technology and its imperative to spread individual liberty to every other culture on the globe is rampaging freely. Every cellphone is an individuating experience. There are two billion toothbrushes in the world and five billion cellphones. You're not going to control all those people.
What's obsolete is authoritarian governments, bankrupt welfare states, and dictator-centric plutocracies. Governments have gotten so big they can't NOT fail. People don't need them to be that big and can't afford them that big. The whole world is becoming American. Leave us alone. We can make our own way. I can make my own fortune without a nanny state telling me what to do. You see it mostly in Asia, and we're so Euro-centric we miss the import.
The oddest of alliances result. Leftist Americans with the Luddite despots of the Arab Spring. Hatred of the opposition as a cause worth persecuting the commoners for. One speculates that they want a disaster -- Global Warming, tsunami, nuclear war -- to resuscitate dependence on government. But it cannot be. Major breakdowns in civil society only expose the inability of government to do anything but inflict punishment or collapse in impotent bureaucracy.
Because the ultimate reason for Dark Optimism is this. If worse should come to worst, and the whole system comes crashing down, who is better poised to survive and come back strong? The American political class who are still trying to stage-manage their utopian fantasies in the face of their apocalyptic fears of astronomical or meteorological Armageddon? Or the ordinary Americans who self-organize on the fly in the face of disaster? To put it more baldly -- the big government model of disaster response is New Orleans; the ordinary American response is what happens in every small town after a killer tornado flattens everything. uh, they rebuild in record time.
Over the long term, we win. We have families, values, faith, and hope that isn't tied to government programs but to ourselves.
In the short term, a few tips. Forget contraception. The election issues are the economy (duh), energy (i.e., gas prices), immigration, foreign policy (Iranian nuclear weapons? Really?), and a degree of corruption in the president's administration -- from DOJ on Fast & Furious to Solyndra -- we haven't seen since Lyndon Johnson.
Ignore the misdirections. Only the smart people are taken in by them.