Last night marked the darkest hour in all of human history. Humanity has seen pestilence, wars, famine, genocide, and atrocities of all shapes and sizes. But all of that paled in comparison to Scott Walker’s “surviving” a recall victory by a “narrow” 7-point margin.
Why was this the darkest day in human history? Because it was the day democracy died.
It’s the end of the USA as we know it, but strangely I feel fine.
According to Democrats, the recall election was either the moment western civilization marked its inevitable decline or a great sign that Barack Obama is going to roll to re-election. While the truth is probably somewhere in between, either way Democrats expressed tremendous outrage over this election that was bought by Scott Walker and the evil Rethuglicans. Evidently spending a lot of money on elections is a bad thing. Unless of course you’re Barack Obama.
The narrative shift demonstrates a couple of things about the progressive left, neither particularly positive. The first is the blatant dishonesty. It’s quite amusing to listen to these people complain about “the death of democracy” when they’ve spent the better part of the past 18 months organizing, busing people in from other states, staging rallies and sit-ins, ushering their representatives out of the state in the middle of the night to shut the legislature down, and basically just throwing giant hissy fits because they aren’t getting what they wanted.
More importantly, it highlights something that has been an essential fabric of the left since the Enlightenment: their utter contempt for people. According to their vision of how the world should work, Scott Walker would easily have been thrown out on his keister were it not for all the money funneling into Wisconsin on his behalf. The implication is that the people are so dumb that they forgot how angry they are supposed to be with Walker just because of a bunch of 30 second advertisements. I wonder if these people even realize how arrogant and snobbish they sound. Because there is a rather nasty undercurrent to all this talk that makes it seem that they don’t have too high an opinion of most other individuals.
As I said, this really dates back to the Enlightenment, particularly the philosophes of the French Enlightenment. As Gertrude Himmelfarb wrote, it was a common tendency among the philosophes to generalize the virtues and elevate “the whole of mankind” over the individual. The most striking example of this wariness towards real, live, human beings was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Throughout his writings, but especially in his Confessions, he continually wrote of other people in a manner that demonstrated his contempt for them. He felt so isolated from the world that he wrote:
I am now alone on earth, no longer having any brother, neighbor, friend, or society other than myself. The most sociable and the most loving of human has been proscribed from society by unanimous agreement. In the refinements of their hatred, they have sought the torment which would be cruelest to my sensitive soul and have violently broken all the ties which attached me to them. I would have loved men in spite of themselves. Only by ceasing to be humane, have they been able to slip away from my affection. They are now strangers, unknowns, in short, nonentities to me – because that is what they wanted.
And yet his entire philosophy was geared towards improving the lot of mankind.
This succinctly summarizes the attitude of much of the left throughout history: they love humanity, but they hate people. Much of what I have read and seen over the past 24 hours has made that abundantly clear.
Thinking today and observing Memorial Day, that’ll be happening tomorrow. Just talked with Lt. Col. Steve Burke, who was a casualty officer with the Marines and had to tell people [inaudible]. Um, I, I, ah, [Steve] Beck, sorry, um, I think it’s interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words “heroes.” Um, and, ah, ah, why do I feel so comfortable [sic] about the word “hero”? I feel comfortable, ah, uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.
I’ve chosen this because it underlines what I wanted to write about. Sure the substance is awful enough, but the manner in which it is delivered is so pathetic that it just cries out for mockery.
One thing my study of economics has taught me is that businesses will tend to act in whatever way they think will bring them the most profit. There may be rare exceptions, and of course businessmen often have mixed motives. But the overall tendency in this direction is very strong.
My guess is that if you surveyed people, many more self-described progressives would say that they agreed with the statement than self-described conservatives. Indeed, progressives often criticize conservatives and libertarians for being insufficiently attuned to the rapacious self-interest motivating businessmen.
Yet oddly enough, it seems to me that one of the main problems with progressive thought is that they don’t take the idea that businesses act to maximize profit seriously enough. For a group that claims to have a low opinion of businessmen, progressives have a strange habit of advocating policies that will only work on the supposition that businesses won’t act to maximize profit, and then react with shock when they proceed to do so.
Having a number of fairly liberal friends and acquaintances, it struck me recently how many blog posts and facebook updates I’d seen lately that began, “I was just watching one of the anti-health-reform protests and I’m just so angry right now.”
I get that many on the progressive side are very, very excited about whichever of the major proposals in the congress at this point ends up being the chosen one by Obama (despite the fact that none of them actually get that close to being what progressives have wanted in regards to health care reform for all these years), if only because they’re very excited to see Obama succeed at whatever he tries. But it strikes me that there’s a difference in how people think about the state and about legislation at play here as well. Thinking back, I can’t recall any example of a piece of legislation on any topic that I was so excited about that it made me angry to see people out protesting against it. Sure, there have been a few things that I’ve strongly supported (like the marriage amendment ballot initiative in California; the national partial birth abortion ban, etc.) or strongly opposed. But there’s nothing I found myself so worked up about that I felt it necessary to watch the protests for or against and then get furious that there were opponents out there — whether their sentiments were fair and honest or not.
My thinking would tend to be, “Hey, it’s just legislation. We win or we lose.” But then, that springs from a basic assumption that things will not change very much from the status quo, that the government will work no miracles for us or against us, and that on a day to day basis the government basically is and should be invisible to us. That seems to be a set of assumptions which many on the more progressive side of the political realm do not share.
[I’m aware we have just entered into the Lenten season and should be reflecting on more serious matters, but this was too good to pass up — bear with me.]
Last week a group of “student-empowering, social-justice-minded” students and assorted ragamuffins and rabblerousers from neighboring colleges (many affiliated with TakeBackNYU) had the stunningly-brilliant idea of barricading themselves in a food court in New York University’s Kimmell Center, “in a historic effort to bring pressure on NYU for its administrative and ethical failings regarding transparency, democracy and protection of human rights.”