by Glenn Fairman 8/25/14
The famous (or once famous) psychologist Emile Coue’ initiated a school of hypnotic auto-suggestion that can be summed up with the phrase: “Every day and every way, things are getting better.” This mantra raises optimism to the caliber of a secular faith, and if we combine this mental fancy with History’s supposed “inevitable” impetus towards technological and moral progress, then sooner or later it’s a lead pipe cinch that we will be able to lasso our own happiness or legislate good intentions with the twitch of our noses. One can see the upshot of such a psychological conviction in Obama’s recent remark—a declaration that “the world is less violent that it has ever been.” Note to history: you are falling on your ass. Islam Ascendant is setting fires throughout Gaia and its zeitgeist is wholly inconsistent with a Golden Age –unless you are in the camp of the “Religion of Peace.” To this charge, one may recall Tacitus’ dictum: “We created a wasteland, and named it peace.” So in all fairness, the perspective of the “peace of the dead” is perhaps Islam’s unique contribution to humanity.
The idea present in all philosophical theories of historical/social evolution, from H.G. Wells to G.W. F. Hegel, is that progress is deterministic. Thus, Enlightenment and the “March of God” in the world are on virtual autopilot. And even if Hegel’s God willed Hitler’s global bloodbath, the world is nevertheless moving towards greater and greater conjoining spheres of freedom, till eventually, we all arrive at the front porch of the End of History. Ding Dong! Can we have an Enlightenment Sandwich, please?
The Hegelian Philosopher Francis Fukuyama produced his prescient tome “The End of History” when I was still in Grad School, and the thesis was this: Communism was as dead as a doornail and the last great dialectic had been resolved in favor of liberal democracy’s blessed synthesis. Thereafter, the procession of world regimes would halt, philosophy would disappear and the political art would content itself to a mere tinkering around utopia’s edges. God as History, (Big “H”) in grand Teutonic fashion, would soon unveil Himself in the cloak of “the world homogenous state.” Indeed, the Aquarian Age seemed at hand and liberalism as a force had prevailed. Now all restaurants would be Taco Bell.
The only problem was that someone forgot to memo Fundamentalist Islam…or Mr. Putin for that matter. Sometimes dialectics don’t remain synthesized.
But seriously folks: The niggling question remained: how can the procession of greater freedom in the world be driven by a process that was deterministic –or “unfree?” The answer, I suppose, is that you just have to get your mind right and embrace the utopia that’s coming around the bend like a cattle car bound for Auschwitz. In Rousseau’s terms, you may be “forced to be free:” which casts a pall on those Aquarian prognostications of free love, free stuff, and maybe having enough weed to take the edge off the mental hospitals and concentration camps that will house the retrograde non-compliant – Bad-Thinkers all. If Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, then Freedom is an unmarked plot – six feet from head to toe.
As for Historical Determinism, I call B.S. I believe we live in the best of all possible worlds, considering that pesky thing called free will that God felt obligated to grant us. Indeed, automatons can’t love, create or enjoy beauty in a meaningful way, and these characteristics are the greatest attributes of the Christian God. But free will hasn’t been a cakewalk. After getting the bum’s rush out of the Garden, we had to toughen up a lot and get used to life amongst the thorns and toadstools. It’s no paradise, but it’s the only game in town since it is a logical impossibility for God to create beings that are both free and incapable of choosing the sour over the sweet —like crafting the proverbial one ended stick. Because of that sin and disobedience thing, we won’t get around to building that heaven on earth a la Star Trek. However, we are promised, if we are somewhat faithful, that in the next life the worm in our characters will be dug out and that every tear shall be dried. So we got that going for us. Until then, we have to use the better part of our discretion and not set our hearts on the promises of every teleprompter genius with a crappy golf handicap. In the long view, the procession of history has its irony built-in, and even some of the greatest minds have revealed themselves as Bozos when it all shook out. Hubris is the downfall of the intellectual class, and the fashioning of the City of Man is always subject to that same fatal flaw: that men could not read the tea leaves of their own natures and were infatuated with their own intoxicating brilliance. Sort of like the audacity of the audacious.
If we keep in mind that nothing is inevitable, then we have a good chance of retaining our freedoms and our humility. Historically, sometimes the barbarian who has done his push-ups wins out over the Progressive longhairs speculating on beauty in their thinkatoriums and enjoying Opera Night at the Kennedy Center. What Fundamentalist Islam lacks in technology, they make up in incalculable viciousness, guile, and inexorable demographics. If we are not careful, Fukuyama’s End of history may come to pass. However, it won’t be characterized by cheap tolerance and materialist glut, but by Burkas and the universal homogeneity of the Caliphate. The irony that attends prophecy, even the Modern intellectual variety, is renowned for its cruel turns.
In contrast, our Founders, knowing what jerks even the best of us could be, built their sober edifice on lower but firmer ground — preferring to sidestep the charge of imprudence and impiety that comes with building lofty towers to hurl spears at the Face of Providence. Instead of constructing that terrible heaven of liberte’, egalite’, and fraternite’ — with its razor sharp Guillotines of Reason, our Framers humbly erected those drab, inefficient and provincial bulwarks — thwarting the accumulation of unmixed power and hamstringing the inevitable explosive association of smart guys like Obama and their dark propensity towards political catastrophe. In the end, those bitten by the “Will to Utopia” bug remain suspect, just as their policies are the same tinderbox they have always been — ever since Nimrod got his first big idea while sizing up the neighborhood. When it all comes down to dust, Ozymandias’ eternal monument is just another surface for a Bedouin to urinate against.
Because they believed in the possibility of human freedom, our Political Fathers made provision to maintain liberty through combining the enigmatic tension of our greatest strength and weakness: the wary skepticism of placing our necks on the chopping block of our neighbor’s altruism. Considering what they have accomplished, those Dead White Men and their cautious Constitution have proven themselves wise beyond history’s wildest dreams.
Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca.
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