When Trust is Not Appropriate

NuclearExplosionby Jerry Richardson2/1/15
When facing enemies who hate you and express explicit intent to destroy you, trust can easily become an unintended rendezvous with death.  Even the formula of Ronald Reagan, beloved by many Conservatives—“Trust but verify”—may not always be appropriate.

Why?

In any negotiation, in order to reach a verification point, some amount of trust must be extended. When someone who asks for trust has a demonstrated history of negotiating in bad-faith, the proper response is to refuse to extend any trust to them until they unilaterally take some action to warrant trust.

In other words, reverse Reagan’s formula: Verify then trust or withhold trust.

Looking back in history, someone today would likely express disbelief that a politician such as Neville Chamberlain would have trusted Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.

Yet, today we have a virtually identical situation in which a President of the United States, Barack Obama, is vesting unwarranted-trust in a conquest-minded Iran and its Islamic caliphate-ambitious-ayatollahs.  Unbelievable!

Sadly, it’s not enough for the ideologically-blinded America-hater in the White House to indulge his own misguided trust; he wants to force Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel to join him in allowing Iran to become a nuclear power—hence giving them the weapon to fulfill their oft-spoken goal of wiping Israel and all Jews off the face of the earth.

Fortunately, Netanyahu is not listening.

The Obama administration plans to publically unveil its proposed agreement with Iran sometime in late March.  On March 3, 2015 Netanyahu is scheduled to address congress and presumably give his reasons for not trusting Iran; undoubtedly with the intentions of convincing congress to reject Obama’s plan by voting for increased sanctions on Iran.

Not surprisingly, Barack Obama is not happy about this, and like the self-centered man-child he is, he is pouting: He is NOT going to talk to Netanyahu when he visits and in addition he is going to punish him by attempting to help defeat him during the next Israeli election by sending over part of his huge Obama-campaign-team—no doubt at American taxpayer expense.  Is this not a political invasion of Israel?

And why is Obama so adamantly opposed to Netanyahu speaking about the Iranian threat?

It is actually very simple.

Barack Obama is going to continue to do nothing effective to prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon.  That should be patently clear to anyone who has followed the embarrassing, to America, Obama/Iran negotiations for the past 6 years of the Obama-Presidency.  Now, with 2 years left in office, legacy-concerns kick-in; Obama desperately does not want to be seen or remembered as the President who allowed Iran to become a nuclear power.  Hence he is attempting to employ the tried-and-true Democrat strategy of kick-the-can-down-the-road.  Leave the problem for someone else, Obama’s successor, to deal with.

Obama came to office swearing he would not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. Perhaps he once believed himself, but he is now an older and wiser man. He has discovered that the Iranians have no intention of ending their nuclear program.

What the ayatollahs are prepared to do is give Obama a face-saving deal. The offer: The U.S. and its allies reduce and gradually end the economic sanctions that have brought Iran to the table in the first place. In return, Iran will agree to freezing — not dismantling — its nuclear program. So-called inspection arrangements are porous at best. If Tehran wants to cheat (as North Korea did on a similar deal), it can. And if it can, it will. If and when it decides to abrogate the arrangement, it is free to do so. At that point Iran will be a year or less away from having The Bomb.
 —Obama, Netanyahu, and Iran

Shades of 1938!

Memories of Neville Chamberlain—“…peace in our time”—appeasement and unwarranted trust of Hitler, followed by World War II:

Here are a few of Neville Chamberlain’s should-never-be-forgotten, unwise-words of unwarranted-trust for Hitler:

This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine…. We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.

This is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace in our time.
https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Neville_Chamberlain

How ironic that this year 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death-camp at Auschwitz.  It is also the 77th anniversary of the appeasement of Hitler, epitomized by the words of Chamberlain quoted above, formalized in the nefarious Munich Agreement—non-surprisingly broken by Hitler—followed by World War II:

The meeting took place in Munich on 29th September, 1938. Desperate to avoid war, and anxious to avoid an alliance with Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union, Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier [France] agreed that Germany could have the Sudetenland. In return, Hitler promised not to make any further territorial demands in Europe. The meeting ended with Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini signing the Munich Agreement which transferred the Sudetenland to Germany.

Lord Rothermere [part of an upperclass newspaper-owning family] immediately sent a telegram to Adolf Hitler: “My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your excellency’s star which rises higher and higher.”
—-
In March, 1939, the German Army seized the rest of Czechoslovakia. In taking this action Adolf Hitler had broken the Munich Agreement. The British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, now realized that Hitler could not be trusted and his appeasement policy now came to an end.
The Munich Agreement

For Chamberlain and Daladier, as with all appeasers, it was too-late smart.  Desperate to avoid war, their attempts to placate Hitler aided-and-abetted the very evil they wished to avoid.  Meanwhile Hitler, dealing with them as the fools they were, quickly broke the treaty that he never had any intention of keeping; as a result all of Czechoslovakia fell to Nazi tyranny followed soon by Poland; and then in Poland the Nazis constructed Auschwitz and other death-camps—evil facilitated by the cowardliness of appeasement.

Coupling the two anniversary dates mentioned above, Auschwitz and Hitler’s appeasement, it is no exaggeration of history or logic to point-out that one shameful result of that appeasement was Auschwitz. World War II didn’t just happen it was allowed to happen by appeasement.

It is an unequivocal moral principle that appeasement of evil always results in death and/or enslavement.

So an unofficial motto of Israel: “Never again” should be hurled back, today, at Barack Obama and his intended appeasement of Iran and their nuclear program; especially after the pretender in the White House had the effrontery to make the following hypocritical statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27, 2015):

We commemorate all of the victims of the Holocaust, pledging never to forget, and recalling the cautionary words of the author and survivor of Auschwitz Primo Levi, “It happened, therefore it can happen again. . . . It can happen anywhere.” Today we come together and commit, to the millions of murdered souls and all survivors, that it must never happen again.
Never again, Obama Style

The above words would certainly be appropriate and appreciated if they were anything but hollow, deceitful rhetoric; but they aren’t and that is recognized by many people, including many Israelis.  The author of the article quoted above had this to say as well as providing two very appropriate cartoons (shown below):

That all [what Obama said] sounds very nice, until you realize that Obama’s policies are leading directly towards an Iranian nuclear weapon whose primary target would be the six million Jews who live in Israel.  It is as close an analogy to the Holocaust as one can imagine, and Obama is railing against those who are trying to put real pressure on Iran because of its history of hiding all aspects of its program.
Never again, Obama Style

obama holocaust
Never again, Obama Style

It does not require a crystal ball or prophetic insight to foresee that Obama’s appeasement of Iran, if Obama is allowed to have his way, will result in the deaths of innocent people: Who and how many we cannot know.

© 2015, Jerry Richardson • (3641 views)

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47 Responses to When Trust is Not Appropriate

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a good article by Pedro Gonzales while we’re on the general subject of the Religion of Psychopaths: Why We Lost Afghanistan.

    One commenter their expresses my opinion:

    The problem with Islam is Muslims. The problem with Muslims is Islam. It is time to ” quarantine ” Islam and it’s followers. If you are from a country that practices Sharia, you are not allowed to domicile in America. Until Islam reforms, no more mosque building. Islam is incompatible with enlightened democracy. This Islamo civilizational awakening is going to be very dangerous. We, of the Christian west can only sit back and watch. Look at the Afghans. They will return to hard line Islam like a dog returns to eat its vomit. There is nothing we can do for societies that have been marrying family members for centuries. Tribalism is about to go nuclear. It’s gonna be a wild ride.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Sounds like what I’ve been recommending. I would allow non-Muslims to come here as refugees from such countries, but basically we need to find some way to quarantine the contagion of Islamism. Unfortunately, by allowing them to come to Europe and America and become citizens (with all the civil rights that means), we’ve already imported the disease.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    There actually is a time-tested method of dealing with possibly untrustworthy people (of course, with Iran and other Islamists, “possibly” could be removed). It comes from the so-called “prisoner’s dilemma”, and involves the principle of “do unto others as they do unto you.” So if someone has betrayed you once, you don’t trust them until they prove themselves trustworthy. Gaming this situation has found this approach to be the most effective.

    As for appeasing Iran, I suspect much of Feckless Leader’s behavior results from the peculiar liberal mindset. They consider Muslims a racial minority and therefore underdogs here in America, making it irrelevant what their situation really is in the Levant. And they consider Israel part of Western civilization, which makes it an overdog. Add to this their rejection of their own culture, and a preference for Iran over Israel becomes inevitable. Jewish Democrats mostly still realize where this leads (which is why so many Henry Jackson Democrats were Jews), but otherwise the party is increasingly anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic.

  3. Jerry Richardson says:

    Brad,

    The article you reference is a good one.

    We were trying to build a central government in a country that never had a central government. Afghanistan is called a country but it is really just a name for a territory housing a bunch of loosely related tribes who occupy the land between Pakistan and the other Central Asian ‘stans. Many of the Afghans, probably the majority, practice a brutal, fundamentalist kind of Islam full of executions, beatings, with special attention being meted out on women and homosexuals. People of different religions aren’t exactly favored either, to put it mildly.
    We can pour all the aid in we like and give them thousands of guns, but without a tradition of a central government, it’s going to be meaningless to most Afghans. The only things that have meaning to Afghans are their tribes and their brutal version of Islam. Nothing we can do can change that.

    Why We Lost Afghanistan

    Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons to come out of the futility of the last 14 years of wars-on-terror is, I think, the demonstrable fact that however good a form of government representative-democracy may be, it cannot be imposed upon a collection of savages.

    After all, our founding fathers iterated and re-iterated the truth that our form of government depended upon a morally-religious and civilly-disciplined society. In fact, the degree to which our form of government is having difficulty right-here in the USA is due to the fact that every year our society and educational-institutions are producing more and more uncivilized beings (savages).

    When George W. Bush was President and it became known that he had read, or was reading, Natan Sharansky’s book, The Case For Democracy, I bought it and read it and was very impressed. Sharansky’s personal struggles with totalitarianism and his arguments that international relations must be based on moral clarity, which must distinguish “free societies” from “fear societies” was, I thought, correct then, and I still think so. I think Sharansky’s book provides a firm grip on how to compare and evaluate different societies or civilizations.

    However, the book became one of the philosophical foundations for the arguments for National Building; a disastrous freedom-idea if ever there has been one hatched-up, ad hoc, in the USA; because it completely fairs to properly weigh the practical difficulties involved. It completely fails to understand the difficulty and complexity of originating and maintaining a representative-democracy form of government.

    I sort of hate to admit it, but I think that perhaps the authors of Star Trek got it right with the United Federation of Planets, Prime Directive:

    The Prime Directive, used in four out of five Star Trek-based series, prohibits Starfleet personnel from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations. This conceptual law applies particularly to civilizations which are below a certain threshold of technological, scientific and cultural development; preventing starship crews from using their superior technology to impose their own values or ideals on them.

    The Prime Directive

    The reason that I sort of hate to admit that they got is right is because the application of the Prime Directive was always portrayed in the series, in my mind, as a justification of the supposed Moral Equivalence between civilizations that as far as I was concerned were not even close to that distinction. In other words, it seemed to me that their application was just an advanced form of Progressivism.

    But admit it do, and before it is too late and we regress back to the stone-age here in the USA, we had better attend to some Nation Building right here at home.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      During the original series the Prime Directive was very intermittently followed, primarily as a means of adding difficulty to a situation. But that doesn’t mean it was wrong as a concept. The science fiction author Lloyd Biggle did a series of books about people trying to help out worlds, but ever mindful of their own limitations. One of their basic maxims is that a democracy imposed from outside is the worst form of government. (It can work, as it did in Japan and Germany after World War II, if there is at least some prior basis for it.) Note, for example, that Russia (whence Sharansky came) is going increasingly authoritarian, with little disapproval from its people. They seem to value democratic institutions as much as the Germans did in the 1930s.

  4. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I would like to point out that Obama’s “big sister”, Valerie Jarrett was born in Iran to parents who left the USA for political reasons.

    Her father said,

    “My wife and I decided that we were not going to go back to anything that smacked of segregation,” he recalled. He became chair of pathology at Nemazee Hospital in Shiraz, Iran. “We were recently married, so we took a chance,” he said. “It changed our lives completely.”

    Valerie spent her first 5 or 6 years in Iran and then another in London.

    There is nothing wrong with living overseas, I spent a long time outside the USA myself. But I wonder if Jarrett’s connection to Iran has anything to do with Obama’s mad rush to lift sanctions?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I suspect that Jarrett was more influenced by her parents’ hostility to America than by her years in Iran, though it probably gave her fond memories of the country. (The fact that Iran has changed is probably irrelevant, since liberals tend not to make such adjustments.) That background probably helped her connect emotionally with the Black God. After all, his father was Kenyan, his stepfather was Indonesian (and Obama lived there for several years), and his mother seems to have resented America (the Indonesia was probably the most pro-American of the lot). Of course, as an Army brat whose housemate is the daughter of missionaries to Japan, I know at least a little about that.

  5. Jerry Richardson says:

    Timothy,

    Thanks for mentioning this, I haven’t thought about it in quite a while.

    I’m very familiar with the concept as I read and studied it several times in the book, The Evolution of Cooperation, co-authored by Robert Axelrod. It is one of the few book related to evolutionary mechanics or evolutionary algorithms that I have been very interested in. My interest was generated by my general interest in game theory.

    Robert Axelrod was interested in finding a winning strategy for repeated prisoner’s dilemmas games. He conducted a computer tournament where people were invited to submit strategies for playing 200 games of prisoner’s dilemma (Axlerod and Hamilton, 1981). Fourteen game theorists in disciplines such as economics and mathematics submitted entries. These 14, and a totally random strategy, were paired with each other in a round robin tournament. Some of these strategies were highly intricate. But the result of the tournament was that the simplest of all strategies submitted attained the highest average score. This strategy, called TIT FOR TAT by its submitter Anatol Rapoport, had only two rules. On the first move co-operate. ON each succeeding move do what your opponent did the previous move. Thus, TIT FOR TAT was a strategy of co-operation based on reciprocity.
    —-
    The results of Axelrod’s tournament were published and people were invited to submit programs for a second tournament. This was identical in form to the first, except that matches were not of exactly 200 games, but were of a random length with median 200; this avoided the complication of programs that might have special cheating rules for the last game. This time there were 62 entries from six countries. Most of the contestants were computer hobbyists but also present were professors of evolutionary biology, physics and computer science as well as the disciplines represented earlier. Rapoport again submitted TIT FOR TAT and again it won with a leg in the air. Ultimately it displaced all other strategies and became the equivalent of an ESS for prisoner’s dilemma.

    From an analysis of the 3-million choices made in the second competition, four features of TIT FOR TAT emerged:

    1. Never be the first to defect
    2. Retaliate only after your partner has defected
    3. Be prepared to forgive after carrying out just one act of retaliation
    4. Adopt this strategy only if the probability of meeting the same player again exceeds 2/3.

    TIT-FOR-TAT

    The problem with applying the strategy of TIT-FOR-TAT to the type of situations and potential situation that I’m discussing in my article is that TIT-FOR-TAT is a strategy for games that are known to be repeating games between the same players.

    The “games” that I’m discussing may not be repeating except in the abstract-sense of historically-repeating with different players involved.

    When dealing with nuclear threats a nation may not get a chance to apply TIT-FOR-TAT. So the decision to trust or not-trust must be based upon an understanding of the dangers and risks of making one’s self or one’s nation vulnerable to someone who has not demonstrated trustworthiness. We are talking leadership judgment here, not game-skill. This is more a matter of exercising mature political judgment, as opposed to being gullible, than of trying to apply a strategy of reciprocity.

    But it is very interesting, and again thanks for mentioning it.

  6. Jerry Richardson says:

    KFZ,

    But I wonder if Jarrett’s connection to Iran has anything to do with Obama’s mad rush to lift sanctions? —KFZ

    I have many misgivings about Valerie Jarrett and what you mention is just one of them. I am probably just as concerned about the fact that she was part of the Chicago mafia before joining with Obama to form the staff of the current Washington mafia.

  7. Jerry Richardson says:

    All of Obama’s public rhetoric about being a friend of Israel is nothing other than two-faced political deceit.

    There is a deep motive behind Obama’s animus toward Israel. It stems from his far left Socialist political upbringing both at family and at personal mentor levels. It has framed his political mindset both at home and abroad. It is this that affects his worldview. Anyone reading his autobiography, particularly the imprisonment and alleged torture of his grandfather in Kenya by the British, must take from it a sense that the American president harbors resentment to perceived colonizers, oppressors, and imperialist powers.
    —-
    The issue over Netanyahu’s address to Congress is the latest revelation of the bad chemistry between Obama and America’s staunchest ally in the Middle East.
    —-
    …Israel and its neighbors are pondering on how to get through an Obama presidency. This particularly applies to an Israel suffering from a presidential animus, which is an integral part of Obama’s personal and political DNA.

    Now we hear that Israel’s Prime Minister’s address to Congress will come at a heavy price. Could this be an American refusal to veto a future UN Security Council application for a Palestinian state, or even the signing of a bad agreement with Iran over its nuclear program?

    Whatever this price is, can Israel survive an Obama presidency?

    Can Israel Survive Obama?

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Memories of Neville Chamberlain—“…peace in our time”—appeasement and unwarranted trust of Hitler, followed by World War II:

    Chamberlain thought if he threw Hitler a bone, he could indeed appease him. But to the best of my knowledge, Chamberlain wasn’t anti-British or pro-Nazi. In the case of Obama, he is most decidedly anti-American (and anti-Israel) and pro-Islam.

    What’s the operational difference in this? Probably none. But I think it’s useful to understand that Obama is not a useful idiot for Iran. He’s a promotor of Iran because Iran hates the West as Obama does and hates Israel as Obama does.

    It’s not known (at least to me) how the ideology of Leftism will handle its view of the “victims” when these “victims” start lobbing nuclear bombs. One wonders if a Muslim could put a caged rat on the face of the typical white liberal useful-idiot Progressive and get him to say “Islam is a religion of peace”. He does so now with very little coercion. And when the Cult of Death does its thing, the knee-jerk reaction is typically “Don’t blame Islam, this is just a small minority.”

    Nuclear bombs may have a way of waking up people the way beheadings and small dozens of murders never can. The French and English, for all their cultural suicidal tendencies, surely would kick every Muslim out of their country if London or Paris were nuked by Jihadists. Wouldn’t they?

    It’s truly a measure of how successful the Left has been at turning their own cultures against themselves that there is a very good chance that, with London in ashes, most people would still defend Islam. There’s a psychological aspects that comes into play that is beyond all reason. People have been programmed into disliking their own cultures and engaging in what I hear Rush call “artificial compassion.” People are unable to defend their own cultures which have been smeared as racist, imperialist, intolerant, etc. And they are taught that if they are not themselves victims, they are oppressors and had better watch themselves.

    And we see what decades of this indoctrination can do: People can freely elect an America-hating Marxist as president and think “What a good boy am I” (artificial compassion) for doing so. One wonders if Romney would be president today if he had simply told the truth about this sick dynamic, of people voting for a black man (any black man) simply to relieve white guilt and to show that they weren’t racist.

    But then actual truth has become extremely subversive in today’s culture.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      There’s a psychological aspects that comes into play that is beyond all reason. People have been programmed into disliking their own cultures

      I think I have mentioned this before, but broadly speaking, the West is a “guilt” culture” whereas the East is a “shame” culture.” Many Leftists, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries were apostates who hated their religious backgrounds. They may or may not have felt guilt for the West, but they certainly knew how to play on a sort of collective guilt present in many Westerners.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I think I have mentioned this before, but broadly speaking, the West is a “guilt” culture” whereas the East is a “shame” culture.”

        That may come into play, but it’s a very subtle distinction. But it’s not so subtle when the typical yute is taught that America and the West are guilty of endless crimes against “people of color.” This indoctrination has been so thorough and successful that people now automatically find ways to excuse the perpetrators of crimes if they are in any way a “person of color” and are all too ready to blame white people (even if they have to create a white person such was the case with George Zimmerman).

        It’s probably far too late to change this game we’re playing. We have empowered the savages. All that’s left is for them to devour us.

        I ran across a comment by someone a week or so ago. I couldn’t possibly find it again. But I thought it did a great job of expressing the Leftist narrative regarding Islam. His thought was that the Left supposes that Islam will inevitably fall under the sway of its warm-fuzzy multiculturalism just as soon as “the right” is vanquished. Without the right (particularly in regards to its support for Israel), all the violent tendency among some in Islam will magically melt away.

        But the reality is that Islam is energized to some extent by the freak, flakes, and weirdos of the Left. I saw a movie the other day with Sean Bean. I can’t really recommend it. It was called Cleanskin. It’s another somewhat suicidal English film. It’s okay as a terrorist thriller. But at the end of the day, the theme was “Terrorism is the fault of the British government and Islamic terrorism is quite understandable, perhaps even commendable in a way.”

        Indeed. In a way I can understand their point of view. There’s a scene in this movie where the local Mullah is trying to turn Ash (a somewhat Anglicized Muslim) to the cause. They’re sitting in some restaurant and a couple tables over some white British yute is dancing like a fool on one of the tables, really being your typically air-headed yute. And the Mullah says something like, “See….these people have no dignity. You do not want to be one of them.”

        And, geez, at that point I was ready to go all Jihad. I had to agree with the Mullah. I didn’t want to be one of those vulgar dumb-asses either. Now, certainly there are choices other than turning into a rabid Muslim who is a poison to himself and to all mankind. But sometimes if that’s all you’ve got…

        And so if the violence were not so serious, this entire situation of the Libtards thinking they can appease Muslims would be laughable. In an Islamic state, Christians and Jews can (if they are not being murdered for being Christians and Jews) live peacefully as second-class citizens under Sharia law. But there is no room for the freaks, flakes, and weirdos. And having made “the right” their sworn enemy, the freaks, flakes, and weirdos feast on the model-airplane-glue fumes of believing the Muslims are fellow victims.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        The nature of appeasement is an important point. Chamberlain was wrong because Hitler couldn’t be appeased. But Jihad’s Man in the White House doesn’t really care if Iran is appeased.

        But your point about the unwillingness to defend their own culture (sparked by leftist hostility to it) is a reminder again that Jean Raspail was right 40 years ago when he predicted exactly that.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          One of the astonishing things to watch is “relativism” actually play out. Take “everyone has their own legitimate point of view” and mix it with the dumbing-down of the individual and you’re left with a society where facts and truth are virtually irrelevant and you’re left forming thoughts in isolation which is like trying to make bricks without straw. Culture itself becomes sort of like a never-ending American Idol where you believe any kooky think you want to believe. And the admission to this goofy cult is that you extend that same courtesty to others.

          This is how to understand one of Deana’s reports regarding students who saw the 9/11 terrorists as just “doing what they believe in” or however she put it. These are the people who have been taught that to believe anything strongly is an inherent ill, the source of “intolerance” (at least on their part, but this somehow doesn’t count for the “people of color” like Muslims, illegal aliens, etc).

          How this “tolerance” of all beliefs can deal with intolerant beliefs (such as those from Islam) is never answered by the relativists. All they know is that one must be “tolerant.”

          At the end of the day, with this vapid guiding principle, there isn’t even anyone left to have a political disagreement with. It’s like trying to have a disagreement with jello (or a libertarian). Some have said the root of this is that it is now “feelings” not rational standards that are the problem. And this is at least partially so. But I think the real root is that so many people these days have absolutely no roots in anything other than a very weak, fortune-cookie-like philosophy (which also describes libertarianism).

          • Timothy Lane says:

            It’s important to realize that the progenitors of liberal multiculturalism didn’t really mean it. In the first place, no matter how many times they said that all cultures are equally valid, they persistently attacked their own. And when push came to shove, they were unwilling to accept cultural abominations such as female circumcision. And when it turned out that students took their professed beliefs and turned that into supporting the Spanish Nationalists in their civil war (after all, they were the rebels) or suggesting that the Nazis no doubt had some reason for launching the Holocaust, liberals were appalled. Similarly, after making a career of teaching that marital sex is equivalent to rape, Catherine MacKinnon finally got married herself. Gloria Steinem’s long history of boyfriends belies her contention that “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

            Alfred Hitchock fans might recall Jimmy Stewart’s character in Rope (Rupert Brandon, I think), who basically taught the sort of superman-killer theory that the real-life Nathan Leopold, Jr. took from reading Nietzsche, was stunned to find that his 2 students actually decided to follow that teaching.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I agree, Timothy. And part of this indulgence of Muslim intolerance (as I mentioned someone else mentioning, and as I’ve read before) is because of the theory that Muslims are just “acting out.” That is how the Left justifies blacks killing cops. The victim is just naturally acting out against his oppressor.

              There are, of course, completely self-conscious political opportunists — in Europe or over here — who do not believe a bit of this. But I think most do. Most on the Left think of themselves as the Really Nice People. They truly believe that if they are just nice to Muslims that they will be nice in return. And if that doesn’t happen right away, it’s because of Israel, or because of “right wingers,” or because of economic colonialism, or whatever.

              Again — and I hate to sound like a broken record and I don’t want to engage in hyperbole — but we really are looking at a cult of kooks on the Left. It’s like global warming. No matter if the earth is cooling or warming, it’s man’s fault (aka, it’s the fault of capitalism and “greed”…meaning, of course, that those on the Left are the antithesis of all these bad things).

              This is a cult of pseudo-nice, or “artificial” compassion as I heard Rush call it recently. But the bottom line is that no matter how many people Muslims kill, the Left will continue to interpret it as justified “acting out.” And you see this cult of “nice” when, no matter the latest outrage by Muslims, they are quick to tell you that this has nothing to do with Islam. Again, it signals their beliefs which are that eventually Muslims will respond to their “niceness.” It will never happen, of course. But this cultural narcissism isn’t about reality, justice, or anything like that. It’s about maintaining the vision of themselves as Superior.

              Really, it all seems to come down to that. It is like their theology. Those on “the right” (including capitalism) play the part of Original Sin. Everything bad can be blamed on it. And Socialist Government plays the part of the Redeemer. And all the while the Muslims laugh at our stupidity and weakness. And you really can’t blame them.

  9. Jerry Richardson says:

    Breitbart has an interesting article today discussing Valerie Jarrett and Iran. And James Lewis (in America Thinker) has an interesting article speculating on Iran’s major intents in the middle-east. The ideas presented in the combination of these two articles suggest a few interesting possibilities: :

    1) Obama believes, perhaps correctly, that Israel and America are in no immediate danger from an Iranian nuclear capability due to the fact that their primary initial conquest interest is actually directed toward the Saudis. And, it is certainly plausible as has been suggested by several commentators that Iran has assured Obama of a face-saving out if he goes along with them.

    2) Obama can probably envision himself as being a powerful influence-broker if Iran should become nuclear, and becomes the dominant Islamic power in the Middle East by gaining control (hegemony if not direct) over Saudi Arabia with its two important Islamic holy cities. Being the powerful influence-broker consistent with his unquenchable narcissism would probably necessitate Obama’s achieving some official world position such as Secretary-General of the United Nations—he has been careful to play political footsie with them.

    3) Obama is livid with Israel perhaps because they are wise to the direction he is angling or simply because they perceive correctly the long-range nature of the danger to themselves even if Iran goes after other targets first; and they (Israel) are not willing to sit idle while Iran unfolds its plan—they know truthfully that if allowed the weapons and position, Iran will attempt their promise of annihilation against Israel.

    Here’s an excerpt from Breitbart:

    Fomenting regime change is dangerous business–yet, whoever has the last word on President Obama’s foreign policy is wholeheartedly in favor of meddling numerous places, outside Congressional and public oversight.
    In the wreckage across Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen (to pick just four places where the Obama Administration interfered), who finds clear signs that America’s lasting national interests were advanced?

    Why did the Obama Administration incite regime change so many places yet refuse to do so in Iran starting in 2009?

    Who bears responsibility for imminent dangers posed by the subsequent rise of Iran, especially if that foe with a long memory succeeds in upending the supposedly ordered succession now underway inside Saudi Arabia?

    How Secure is Valarie Jarrett’s Position in the Obama Administration?

    Here’s an excerpt from James Lewis (American Thinker):

    What is emerging today is a ferocious Shi’a-Sunni civil war, with Israel taking the side of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Obama is supporting truly evil forces, those who kill women and children for the fun of it, like Boko Haram, the Islamofascist monsters who are now trying to conquer Nigeria.

    The Iranians now surround Israel on two of three sides, and ISIS is attacking in the Sinai Desert. But if you look at the map, you can see the real strategic targets of the Iranians, now with Obama’s collusion. Iran’s real target is the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Those were Ayatollah Khomeini’s real target when he tried to stir up a rebellion against the Saudis during the Hajj, when Iranian pilgrims attacked the Saudis forty years ago. The Islamic “Republic” is a war theocracy, and its aims are always conquest of the infidels and the apostates. To Iran, Saudi Arabia is worse than Israel and the West, since the Sunni Muslims abandoned the true way of Allah.

    (Naturally, ISIS and the Saudis say the same thing about the Iranians.)

    So even Israel and America are only secondary targets. Each half of the Muslim world considers the other half to be betraying Allah. Once the Iranians control Mecca and Medina, they believe that all Muslims will fall under their control.

    From the actions of this administration, Obama agrees with them.

    Obama is Openly Colluding With The Enemy

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Some months back, I heard from friends with contacts to people in high Iraqi positions that it is believed that America is cooperating with Iran in order to put pressure on Saudi Arabia and then other Arab oil producing countries in the neighborhood.

      Given the predilection for conspiracy theories in the Middle East, who knows what is really happening. But you can count on many in high places in Iraq, believe what I was told.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Anti-Semitism goes deep with the Left. It also, for some reason, is a typical part of libertarianism. They tend to side with Iran using some BS excuse or another to try to justify it.

      This is very basic stuff. If a person has trouble telling the barbarians from the civilized human beings, that person can be nothing but a menace.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I suspect the main libertarian concern (also applicable to paleo-conservatives such as Pat Buchanan) is simply avoiding war, and therefore any foreign confrontation that could lead to it. But it’s also true that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have a long history in Western civilization, and there are strong paranoid tendencies among both leftists and libertarians.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          A year or two ago I had a face-to-face conversation with a couple libertarians. Both fellows I know and I quite like. These are good guys. But they both contented, in the most strident way, that the real problem with Iran is Israel, our support of Israel, and our presence in the Middle East. They said the solution was just to trade freely with Iran.

          I’m not exaggerating one bit. I pointed out to them that there is a moral dimension to life. And that in the case of Iran, its leaders are clearly lunatics who should be taken seriously when they say they want to wipe Israel off the map. It’s not the lack of “free trade” that is their grievance.

          Even if I was an anti-Semite myself, I understand how foolish it would be to sell Israel down the road because we would be next, baby. And yet libertarians cannot, or will not, see the moral dimension. They ignore the fact that people and nations are motivated by far more things than “free trade” and always have been. They have conveniently stripped that part out and reduced it all to a completely materialist dimension.

          Someone here (Timothy? Jerry?) astutely mentioned Natan Sharansky’s “The Case for Democracy” which, in short, is about the moral dimension in regards to the relation between nations. Both libertarians and “stability”-oriented GOP Establishment types (and “neo-cons”) do not acknowledge the moral dimension — unless, of course, it’s the “blame America first” aspect.

          Sharansky’s book is one of the few I heartily recommend. Although we can’t cure all political and cultural diseases in other countries, we have to understand that ultimately there are governments and cultures that protect the rights of the individual and those that do not (and many more that are somewhere in between). And to forget this aspect is to inevitably run aground because of our own delusions and wishful thinking.

          It’s is arguable (certainly I argue) that because we have been unable or unwilling to see that Muslims are incapable of enlightened democracy that we have all but wasted every bit of blood and treasure we’ve poured into the “war on terror” — apart from, of course, the more tangible aspects where special operations have disrupted their money supply or captured or killed operatives.

          With the election of Obama, Reid, Pelosi, and all those types, we signal to ourselves and to the world that we have, in essence, become just another France. American Exceptionalism matters. Having clear and superior moral values matters. The world needs a leader other than the kind of Machiavellian turds you will find in France.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            The libertarian obsession with free trade as a cure-all can be considered an example of the ultra-materialist mindset. It leads naturally to the idea that economics is all that matters. And that leads to Thomas Frank wondering what’s wrong with Kansas (but never asking why wealthy libertines would vote for the party of high taxes and hostility to business).

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Another way to view that, Timothy, is to see that libertarian emphasis on materialism as an expression of Marx’s dialectic materialism. And whether these libertarians are church-goers are not is completely irrelevant (especially if you consider that Pope Francis is a Marxist, not a Christian). They’ve eradicated the moral dimension and everything is a mere function of economics.

              Again, this relates to something I don’t really have a name for. It’s that idea in culture of freedom and individuality that has been taken to an extreme (as with everything else). To actually have a moral outlook is constraining (aka, a lost of “liberty”). Thus, to the simplistic and simple-minded libertarian, what needs to happening is the jettisoning of the moral element itself. The minds of our yutes can do little more than spout fortune-cookie wisdom.

              Let me express my inner fascist (which all kooky libertarians believe is at the root of conservatism) and tell you that I feel safer with the Progressive anti-smoking zealots than the pro-drugs libertardians. At least with the anti-smoking zealots there is, at heart, a desire for the health and well-being of the other. Yes, there are some driven only by a hatred of cigarette companies. And some want way too much to be my mother. But the rank-and-file are moved more by a desire for health and well-being. And although anything can be taken to an extreme, at least their cards are on the table.

              But how does one have any respect for the lunatic libertarians (and I consider that redundant) who do not acknowledge the great harm done to people by drugs (including the ability of drugs to be able to take reason and choice away…things that libtardarians hale as sacrosanct)? All they see is a “war on drugs” which they see producing nothing but “victims.” But I think it was one of the commenters to this article who pointed out that Rand Paul was referring to those in jail because of drugs as “kids,” making absolutely no distinction between someone arrested for using and the hard-core drug dealers. As he (or someone else) noted, shades of the kind of Trayvon Martin thing that Obama did to try to make this thug look like a kid.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Again, this relates to something I don’t really have a name for. It’s that idea in culture of freedom and individuality that has been taken to an extreme (as with everything else). To actually have a moral outlook is constraining (aka, a lost of “liberty”).

                I think the scientific name is interius parvus minor minimus monstrumismus

          • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

            This, of course, is the heart of Libertarianism – the desire to conduct politics in a vacuum, that is, without reference to any moral ideas.

  10. Jerry Richardson says:

    Brad,

    Again, this relates to something I don’t really have a name for. It’s that idea in culture of freedom and individuality that has been taken to an extreme (as with everything else). To actually have a moral outlook is constraining (aka, a lost of “liberty”). Thus, to the simplistic and simple-minded libertarian, what needs to happening is the jettisoning of the moral element itself. The minds of our yutes can do little more than spout fortune-cookie wisdom. —Brad

    “It’s that idea in culture of freedom and individuality that has been taken to an extreme (as with everything else).”

    Yes, it is the destructive idea that we as individuals should answer to no power higher than the power in ourselves; a power that we control. With these rules we effectively become our own God.

    There is a name for this; it is part of an ancient belief system called Gnosticism. Yes, the one mentioned in the New Testament:

    “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.”
    —1 Timothy 6:20-21 NASB

    The Greek word that is translated “knowledge” in the verse above is “gnōsis.” Most moderns know very little about Gnosticism; they seem to think it expired during the early days of battle with Christianity. Not so:

    THE MORE WE come to know about the gnosis of antiquity, the more it becomes certain that modern movements of thought, such as progressivism, positivism, Hegelianism, and Marxism, are variants of gnosticism.

    —Voegelin, Eric (2012-03-27). Science, Politics and Gnosticism: Two Essays (Kindle Locations 162-163). Kindle Edition.

    …what happens when my Self is God? Then the goal is authenticity. Being “true to my Self” replaces “deny yourself.” The word authentic derives from today’s default pop philosophy: existentialism . In the truest sense of its own paradoxical terms, existentialism is the atheist’s religion. Authenticity, or creating one’s Self, is its chief piety. Choice is its sacrament. It’s how creation of Self happens. In fact , there is a whole lexicon of words we use – authenticity, choice , freedom, Self, culture, values – whose meanings are shaped by this atheistic philosophy.
    —-
    Gnosticism’s major offense to traditional Christianity – to say nothing of its offense to traditional Judaism and the Western intellectual tradition in general – is its rejection of nature, nature’s laws, and nature’s God. The Gnostic is ever in rebellion against nature and, more to the philosophical point, natural forms. Such naturally-arising concepts as gender, national boundaries, the cold hard realities of economics, cultural institutions like family and church (especially its rituals), marriage, even language, are deceptive impositions , says the Gnostic, of a foreign God upon what should be the authentic Self liberated from all impositions of form, freed to transcend them altogether.

    —Burfeind, Peter (2014-09-09). Gnostic America: A Reading of Contemporary American Culture & Religion according to Christianity’s Oldest Heresy (Kindle Locations 116-125; 146-151). Kindle Edition.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      An interesting point.

      I think Gnostic-like thinking arises out of the need for one to be “special”, not one of the crowd. This is a recurring theme in history and found its most famous philosophical expression in Nietzsche.

      There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to find special meaning in life or not wishing to follow the herd. But it takes more than puffing dope and thinking, “I am different” to have any substance.

      It takes some thought, and the understanding that one’s “self-realization” does not exempt one from the laws of nature and humanity.

      Like I say, “little monsters.”

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Yes, Gnosticism was very elitist, which is why it’s the only form of Christianity liberals appreciate. It’s so nice to think of themselves as the Elect with the secret knowledge that justifies their control over everyone else.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I have to admit, Jerry, I’ve never really understood what Gnosticism was. But it sounds like it’s ego-based navel gazing.

      I’m not as down on the idea of “self” as some others are, for this is America and it is America to a large extent because we have the freedom (and expectation) to make of our selves what we will with no arbitrary limits placed on us by class, circumstances of birth, race, sex, etc.

      One thing I think that has changed is the expectation that we are the ones to pay for this venture. Now many people expect others to pay for their lives as a “right.” This produces an entirely different conception of “self.” It’s not self I have a problem with. It’s the type of self envisioned.

      The Gnostic is ever in rebellion against nature and, more to the philosophical point, natural forms. Such naturally-arising concepts as gender, national boundaries, the cold hard realities of economics, cultural institutions like family and church (especially its rituals), marriage, even language, are deceptive impositions , says the Gnostic, of a foreign God upon what should be the authentic Self liberated from all impositions of form, freed to transcend them altogether.

      Another way to look at this is that such people have the mind of a child. They have not emotionally grown up. They live in the playgrounds of their mind, thinking up all kinds of pleasing thoughts. And, yes, narcissism rules, whether we call that trying to make a God of their own selves or whatever.

      And many succeed, for a while. I don’t think we should under-rate the fact that we live in a culture where people have found limitless ways to try to “be” somebody — and succeeded. And maybe such people are right. Maybe there is no other worthy pursuit but to be superior to others or at least to grab whatever fame you can, even if that merely means vomiting your personal information out unto Facebook or tweeting some inanity disguised as a profound thought. That could be. But this metaphysics/attitude is not the prototypical American one. As Dinesh D’Souza points out in “What’s So Great About America?”, only in America would a millionaire sitting at his table refer to some minimum-wage waiter as “sir.”

      We are egalitarianism mixed with, and tempered by, a meritocracy. The “little monsters” of the libertarian left tend toward over-emphasizing nothing but achievement (and Objectivists are entirely loony about that). Those on the Progressive Left, on the other hand, tend toward submerging the self so that all are somehow “equal” and thus saved the pain of being different (and thus of being potentially excellent).

      A true American (and there are not many left these days) takes both traits and mixes them into a more complete human being — one who aims for excellence but who realizes that we all put our pants on one leg at a time. Reagan had that special quality. It used to be a normal American quality…part of American exceptionalism. Sarah Palin has that quality, which is probably why our would-be masters who are Establishment Republicans (or our would-be masters in the press) do not like her. In fact, I’m very sure this is why they don’t like her.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I think what liberals hate about Sarah Palin is partly that she actually lives her principles (e.g., not aborting an unborn son she knew would have Down’s Syndrome), and besides conservative women, blacks, etc. are considered apostates (and serious threats to the dominance of the Party). What the GOP elites hated was her combination of lack of elite background combined with a remarkable ability to connect with grassroots voters.

  11. Jerry Richardson says:

    Brad,

    I have to admit, Jerry, I’ve never really understood what Gnosticism was. —Brad

    Same with me and that’s why I began reading-up on it. One of the primary things I have discovered is that Gnosticism is difficult to define because it adapts to different ideologically-dominant cultures; hence, definitions don’t help very much.

    Of the two books I mentioned above the one by Eric Voegelin does the better job, I think, of describing the definitive characteristics (as opposed to a definition) of Gnosticism:

    By gnostic movements we mean such movements as progressivism, positivism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, communism, fascism, and national socialism. We are not dealing, therefore, in all of these cases with political mass movements. Some of them would more accurately be characterized as intellectual movements—for example, positivism, neo-positivism, and the variants of psychoanalysis. This draws attention to the fact that mass movements do not represent an autonomous phenomenon and that the difference between masses and intellectual elites is perhaps not so great as is conventionally assumed, if indeed it exists at all. At any rate, in social reality the two types merge. None of the movements cited began as a mass movement; all derived from intellectuals and small groups.
    —-
    A brief outline of Comteian positivism may serve as a representative example of how mass and intellectual movements are connected. Positivism was an intellectual movement that began with Saint-Simon, with Comte and his friends, and was intended by its founders to become a mass movement of worldwide extent.
    —-
    There have been strong positivist movements, especially in South America; and to this day the Republic of Brazil has on its flag the Comteian motto “Order and Progress.” Comteian positivism engaged the best minds of the time in Europe. It decidedly influenced John Stuart Mill; and the echo of the Comteian view of history can still be heard in the philosophy of Max Weber, Ernest Cassirer, and Edmund Husserl [Jerry Note: Husserl is considered to be the father of phenomenology]. Finally, the entire Western world can thank Comte for the word “altruism”—the secular-immanent substitute for “love,” which is associated with Christianity: altruism is thebasis of the conception of a brotherhood of man without a father. In the case of positivism one can see perhaps most clearly how problems concerning intellectual and mass movements converge.
    —- 
    Gnosticism was a religious movement of antiquity. It can be confirmed as having been approximately contemporary with Christianity—so contemporary, in fact, that it was assumed for a long time that gnosis involved no more than a Christian heresy. This notion can no longer be held today. Although there are no gnostic sources that can be dated with certainty before the birth of Christ, gnostic influences and terminology are indeed so clearly recognizable in St. Paul that they must stem from a powerful movement in existence before his time.
    —-
    More important for our purposes than definitions and questions of genesis are the features by which we can recognize gnostic movements as such. Let us list, therefore, the six characteristics that, taken together, reveal the nature of the gnostic attitude.
    —-
    1) It must first be pointed out that the gnostic is dissatisfied with his situation. This, in itself, is not especially surprising. We all have cause to be not completely satisfied with one aspect or another of the situation in which we find ourselves.

    2) Not quite so understandable is the second aspect of the gnostic attitude: the belief that the drawbacks of the situation can be attributed to the fact that the world is intrinsically poorly organized. For it is likewise possible to assume that the order of being as it is given to us men (wherever its origin is to be sought) is good and that it is we human beings who are inadequate. But gnostics are not inclined to discover that human beings in general and they themselves in particular are inadequate. If in a given situation something is not as it should be, then the fault is to be found in the wickedness of the world.

    3) The third characteristic is the belief that salvation from the evil of the world is possible.

    4) From this follows the belief that the order of being will have to be changed in an historical process. From a wretched world a good one must evolve historically. This assumption is not altogether self-evident, because the Christian solution might also be considered—namely, that the world throughout history will remain as it is and that man’s salvational fulfillment is brought about through grace in death.

    5) With this fifth point we come to the gnostic trait in the narrower sense—the belief that a change in the order of being lies in the realm of human action, that this salvational act is possible through man’s own effort.

    6) If it is possible, however, so to work a structural change in the given order of being that we can be satisfied with it as a perfect one, then it becomes the task of the gnostic to seek out the prescription for such a change. Knowledge—gnosis—of the method of altering being is the central concern of the gnostic. As the sixth feature of the gnostic attitude, therefore, we recognize the construction of a formula for self and world salvation, as well as the gnostic’s readiness to come forward as a prophet who will proclaim his knowledge about the salvation of mankind.

    These six characteristics, then, describe the essence of the gnostic attitude.

    —Voegelin, Eric (2012-03-27). Science, Politics and Gnosticism: Two Essays (Kindle Locations 915-963). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

    Reviewing the 6 characteristics above, it is easy to see why Voegelin and other authors could classify Progressivism as a variety of Gnosticism.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Jerry, thanks for the primer on gnosticism. I was already somewhat vaguely aware of the idea of Gnosticism as a Christian heresy (the world is evil, people are able to gain some kind of “special or hidden knowledge” all by themselves without benefit of the Church).

      But the definition from Eric Voegelin seems so broad as to signify very little. Many of the attributes listed clearly are some of the guiding principles of Marxism/Progressivism (“the belief that the drawbacks of the situation can be attributed to the fact that the world is intrinsically poorly organized”). And nothing here is particularly inconsistent with Jonah Goldberg’s thoughts about mass movements of the left in “Liberal Fascism.” I’m just not sure what, if anything, is gained by attributed the “gnostic” label to it.

      From the six points given, it would seem that Voegelin’s definition of “gnosticism” is your garden variety Utopianism. One could say that most or all of the six points listed are fine impulses that become destructive when taken to an extreme. For example

      1) As the author readily notes, being dissatisfied with one’s situation isn’t inherently bad. I would say that we have veered to destructive Utopianism when the good is thrown out merely because it is not perfect — a reigning motivation of Progressives.

      2) Many of the problems of the world are indeed because it is poorly organized. Where we disagree with the Left (or Islam) is under what principles to organize. Such principles not only denote the type of organization, but how much. There is no “off” switch to the Utopian/totalitarian impulses of the Left and Islam. But the impulse to organize is not a bad one considering that anarchy and living “naturally” on dirt floors in our own excrement is no piece of cake.

      3) Regarding the belief that salvation from the evil world is possible, I’m going to assume that under gnosticism that means salvation from this world while still in this one. Again, to some extent even this kind of salvation is possible: modern medicines, education, clean organized cities, and good political and social systems lift us significantly above the natural evils of the world. The difference between right and left is one of denying the underlying hardships of life. The right acknowledges those, thus places wise limits on our aspirations for perfection. The left does not and ascribes all imperfection to a lack of organization according to their supposedly Golden Child guiding lights.

      4) It would be difficult not to see some kind of historical process, especially considering how much the world has been changed by science and technology in the last 100 years. But 100 years is but a blip in time. Frankly, no one really knows what the world will look like in 500 years. A certain amount of technological progress is rightly assumed. But only Utopianists and other flakes of that type believe that man’s motives will be perfected as well in a steady stream. But, to some extent, man can be civilized. But this is not a function of technology — there is an intrinsic and personal moral element — thus man’s behavior, and the very systems he creates, becomes foreign to those (Marxists, Leftists, Progressives, Socialists, libertarians, Objectivists) who, for whatever reason, see man as a mere product of his material environment. (By the way, VDH has an excellent article on what motivates Obama. Rare is the conservative who actually “gets” Obama and and doesn’t get caught up in his web of lies.)

      5) This point seems merely a repeat of points 3 and 4.

      6) All I can say about this point is that the world has never run short of kooks and those who think that they, and they alone, have some kind of special knowledge of how the world works and who themselves are specially anointed in some way to run it. Libertarians fit this description, for example, as do, of course, Progressives. Conservatives claim only that there are some overall principles of society, economics, and human nature that must be recognized and factored into our attempts to organize ourselves and to better our societies. If we don’t, we would say that we are building out houses upon sand.

      A conservative shares much in general motivation with even the worst of the naive useful idiots of the Left. We want a better life. We’d like to organize things in a way that improves everyone’s situation. We think we have to power over much of the world’s natural evil (or else we would not build river levies and things of the kind). Even Christians pine for a utopia, if not a worldly one. We’d like to escape suffering. We’d even prefer to kumbaya instead of go to war with people who disagree with us, if such a strategy is possible (as it sometimes is).

      The main division seems to be about getting lost in Utopian hopes, a desire to not just build the City of Man but to make a temple out of it. I also think a strong difference between right and left (or, really, just between the decent and indecent) is the emphasis placed upon ego. Those who identify success with a powerful sense of ego (self esteem, fame, or whatever you want to call it) tend to be the types prone to offers of “hope and change” worldly salvation by hucksters and charlatans. Through mass movements is the chance to immediately escape our narrow and flawed selves and identify with some greater personality (which, by the way, is why I own exactly ZERO amount of Seahawk paraphernalia…for Christ’s sake, it’s only football).

      Again, Jonah touches on many of these aspects in “Liberal Fascism” and I’m not quite sure what the idea of gnosticism brings to the table that is new. It may be another way of looking at it. Or is it just a way of saying “Those who do not believe in the Christian God are forever befuddled.” I don’t know.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        My interpretation of gnosticism as a general philosophy, as Jerry Richardson reports it, would be about the same as yours. It clearly seems to lead to a revolutionary alliance of the alienated for the purpose of forming a perfect society. Of course, that perfect society never actually comes into existence. So you end up with a group willing to break millions of eggs to create their omelet — carefully ignoring that people aren’t eggs (though I suspect gnostics think other people that way) and that the omelet always proves to be inedible.

  12. Jerry Richardson says:

    Brad,

    Again, Jonah touches on many of these aspects in “Liberal Fascism” and I’m not quite sure what the idea of gnosticism brings to the table that is new. It may be another way of looking at it. Or is it just a way of saying “Those who do not believe in the Christian God are forever befuddled.” I don’t know.—Brad Nelson

    “I’m not quite sure what the idea of Gnosticism brings to the table that is new.” —Brad

    Well the answer is nothing. But it definitely is, I think, another way of looking at ideological origins and influence. In the world of philosophical-ideas there is arguably nothing that is really new. As an example I’ll take from Goldberg’s book the following very key Gnostic idea:

    <blockquote ”In short, liberalism in this country succumbed to the totalitarian temptation: the belief that there is a priesthood of experts capable of redesigning society in a “progressive” manner. That progressive priesthood brooks no opposition, and it is in the ascendant today on many fronts.”
    —Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism, pp.392

    “…the totalitarian temptation: the belief that there is a priesthood of experts capable of redesigning society…” —Goldberg

    If we trace this idea (“a priesthood of experts”) presented by Goldberg to its philosophical beginning we land in Plato’s Republic (Book V) in which Socrates is creating his utopian city (Kallipolis) in speech. The rulers must be (what else?) philosophers, the elite:

    I said: Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils,—nor the human race, as I believe,—and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day. Such was the thought, my dear Glaucon, which I would fain have uttered if it had not seemed too extravagant; for to be convinced that in no other State can there be happiness private or public is indeed a hard thing.
    —Socrates, Plato’s The Republic, Translated by Benjamin Jowett, p. 158

    The Republic by Plato

    For Socrates, the elite rulers in his utopian city must be philosopher-kings. It is fair to say that Plato in The Republic is the origin of the very Gnostic and very Progressive idea of “a priesthood of experts”; but as with most of Plato’s ideas, it get massaged as time passes. By the time the idea gets to the first century AD, and the fledging Christian environment, it is not applied, theoretically, to only a political utopia; but is also applied to a type of non-Christian spirituality:

    Celebrating formless spirituality, Gnosticism rejects those formal things, peoples , and institutions marking traditional Christianity : the Church, its sacramental life, and its ministry . It despises the Jewish God and its regard for language and grammar, anything mooring spirituality to something so profane as a text…but where things get interesting (and pernicious) is where the Gnostic movement works its program through culture, politics, and religion. Precisely because Gnosticism doesn’t have marked doctrines or creedal statements, being more a “spiritual orientation,” it can easily be coopted in non-religious arenas – in politics, marketing, and media – without fear of being accused of religious imposition, when in fact that is exactly what it is. The best entrance point into this spiritual orientation is the phrase “spiritual, but not religious,” which is how more and more people are identifying themselves.

    —Burfeind, Peter (2014-09-09). Gnostic America: A Reading of Contemporary American Culture & Religion according to Christianity’s Oldest Heresy (Kindle Locations 161-167). . Kindle Edition.

    Now why is this important?

    For today’s modern Conservative, the ideology that seems to be most in our face, at least at home, is Progressivism. If, as authors I have quote argue, Progressivism is a modern off-shoot of Gnosticism then it would behoove us to study how the Early Christians dealt with Gnosticism; since they effective shut-down Gnosticism’s influence during the early centuries of Christian development.

    How did they do that?

    They accomplished what we, Christians and/or Conservatives have not been able to accomplish today: They framed the ideological argument.

    How did they do this?

    The Gnostics began to put forward their own version of what they believed to be authorised scripture. The Valentian School claimed that edited versions of the gospel could be used, as a preparation for receiving the special knowledge required for salvation. This prompted the church fathers to begin to define what they believed to be authoritative scripture. This eventually led to the development of the New Testament cannon as we have it today. One of the main criteria for a book to be included in the canon was its authorship. Only texts that were believed to have been written by the original apostles were deemed authentic and included in the canon.10 The Gnostics tried to keep their traditions and writings secret, with only members of a sect knowing what was in them. In contrast, the early church made the writings that they accepted as authoritative public.

    The Church’s Response to Gnosticism

    Of course an ideology such as Gnosticism or its modern variant Progressivism is never killed, it is only temporarily stopped.

    We, Christians and/or Conservatives have lost, in most arenas, the public argumentative-battle against Progressivism because, I believe, we have not fought tooth-and-nail to prevent them from framing the argument.

    Or is it just a way of saying “Those who do not believe in the Christian God are forever befuddled.” —Brad

    I think you intend this as a rhetorical statement; however If I’m a Christian, which I am, and If I believe the Bible, which I do; then I have to say that I believe that the statement is true—and I do. Although befuddled would not be my choice of words; hence I would word the statement as “Those who do not believe in the Christian God are forever deceived.”

    Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
    —2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The orthodox Christians were able to defeat the Gnostics, at least as far as being acceptable interpreters of Christianity, because they controlled enough of the church hierarchy. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case today; the progressives are currently the dominant cultural influence.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I believe Arianism was a much more serious threat to the early Church.

        As to Gnosticism, the interest in this country seemed to take off in the 1980’s after Elaine Pagels published her book, “The Gnostic Gospels”. This is based on the translation of 2nd century papyri found in the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi, which were discovered in 1945 and translated over the following decades.

        I don’t believe Gnosticism was ever a great threat to the Church as by its very nature, it is something of an elitist sect. I think the threat which it did pose was as one of a number of different “Christian” sects which if left to grow, might have weakened the Christian Church to the point that Christianity might not have developed to the point that it became the foundation of our Western Civilization.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Jerry, I think it would be more helpful to get succinctly to the meaning of the thing. I think the Catholic Encyclopedia gives a good definition of Gnosticism, and certainly in a way the connects with today’s Left (and libertarians):

      it is markedly peculiar to Gnosticism that it places the salvation of the soul merely in the possession of a quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and of magic formulae indicative of that knowledge. Gnostics were “people who knew”, and their knowledge at once constituted them a superior class of beings, whose present and future status was essentially different from that of those who, for whatever reason, did not know.

      Protestants stress faith. Catholics stress a combination of faith and works. Gnostics seemed to reject both for “special secret knowledge.” And one can certainly see aspects of Progressivism in “superior class of beings.”

      And this could be a description of libertarianism:

      Gnosticism is pseudo-intellectual, and trusts exclusively to magical knowledge.

      And certainly one may see a similarity of Gnosticism and Progressivism in the incantations such as “religion of peace”:

      The second great component of Gnostic thought is magic, properly so called, i.e. the power ex opere operato of weird names, sounds, gestures, and actions, as also the mixture of elements to produce effects totally disproportionate to the cause.

      One of Gnoticism’s main differences with Christianity is its pessimism (or realism, however one wants to look at it):

      This utter pessimism, bemoaning the existence of the whole universe as a corruption and a calamity, with a feverish craving to be freed from the body of this death and a mad hope that, if we only knew, we could by some mystic words undo the cursed spell of this existence — this is the foundation of all Gnostic thought.

      As the writer of that entire entry on Gnosticism noted that Gnosticism is so varied, is it problematic trying to work out a specific definition.

      Reading through some of the definitions and nuances of Gnosticism, it’s hard not to sympathize with some Gnostic thought. Indeed, the world would seem to be some kind of eff-up, inherently broken or shattered in some way. Life eats life. That’s how the universe is constructed. It’s a nasty business much of the time.

      Christianity is inherently optimistic, just as Judaism is inherently legalistic and Islam is inherently militaristic. Probably Christianity’s main beef with Gnosticism (as it became infused with aspects of Christianity) is that it undermined the authority of the priesthood. What could be dismissed as absurd and arrogant “special knowledge” could also be called finding God on one’s own terms. Lest we forget, it wasn’t that long ago that the Catholic Church forbade people to read the bible themselves. There was a power structure to protect. There was a specific orthodoxy to try to hold onto.

      When reading all those various aspects of Gnosticism, one can’t help be struck by the seeming fact that people have always been telling stories about reality….and that reality is so big and mysterious, one story is likely as good as another. Who the heck knows?

      There are aspects to wanting to figure things out for oneself outside a strict hierarchy and orthodoxy that are good. There are aspects of “superior class of beings” that is unavoidable, for there will always be Chiefs and there will always be Indians. For the religiously orthodox, it is often thought “arrogant” those who wish to try to do things on their own terms. And, of course, many people who do try to do things on their own terms get lost in really wacky cults at times.

      The exact confluence of Progressivism and Gnosticism I’ll leave up in the air. It’s clear that the definition of Gnosticism is so airy and thin that one can make of it what one will. When does confidence and having leadership skills morph into “superior class of beings”? When does striving for God on one’s own terms outside of groupthink and orthodoxy constitute Gnosticism?

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I’m not sure the Church actually banned people reading the Bible for themselves — as long as they read it in Latin. Of course, who would know Latin but a cleric of some sort? Vernacular Bibles were definitely proscribed.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Vernacular Bibles were definitely proscribed

          And as we all know, the rank and file outside the priesthood all could read Latin! That was the point of restricting Bibles to Latin. Interpretation of scripture (for whatever reason) was deemed to be too difficult for the rank and file. It must be controlled by the Church. That’s just the way it was. God was a registered trademark, for all practical purposes, of a religious aristocracy.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            This apparently was how the “benefit of clergy” was used. Judging from a description I once read (it was in a fictional work, so I can’t be certain of its accuracy, but a lot of historical fiction writers try to get their basic facts right), they had to read (in English) a verse from the Bible (which of course was in Latin). If they could do this, they presumably were clergy of some sort. (Record-keeping wasn’t always reliable back then, of course.)

  13. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Maybe we need a new word: Gnarcissism. Here’s a quote from the latest VDH article: The Roots of Obama’s Appeasement:

    But appeasement usually weakened the democratic side and empowered the extremist one.

    The architect of appeasement — for example, Neville Chamberlain, former prime minister of Great Britain — was predictably a narcissist. Chamberlain believed that his own powers of oratory, his insights into reason, and his undeniably superior morality would sway even a thug like Adolf Hitler.

    President Obama currently is convinced that his singular charisma and rare insight into human nature will convince the Taliban to peacefully participate in Afghan politics. Obama will supposedly also win over the Iranian theocracy and show it how nonproliferation is really to everyone’s advantage . . .

    Even major concessions never satisfy aggressive powers. It is a traditional Western liberal delusion — brought on by our wealth, leisure, and the good life — that autocrats appreciate magnanimity rather than see it as timidity to be exploited further.

  14. Jerry Richardson says:

    Brad,

    I think the Catholic Encyclopedia gives a good definition of Gnosticism, and certainly in a way the connects with today’s Left (and libertarians):

    it is markedly peculiar to Gnosticism that it places the salvation of the soul merely in the possession of a quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and of magic formulae indicative of that knowledge. Gnostics were “people who knew”, and their knowledge at once constituted them a superior class of beings, whose present and future status was essentially different from that of those who, for whatever reason, did not know. —Brad Nelson

    I think your quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia is very apropos. It resonates with what I have read about the characteristics of Gnosticism referenced in the New Testament.

    But as you also quoted:

    As the writer of that entire entry on Gnosticism noted that Gnosticism is so varied, is it [it is] problematic trying to work out a specific definition.

    “…Gnosticism is so varied…” is the very reason that I, and seemingly many who study and write about the phenomena have a difficult time trying “to get succinctly to the meaning of the thing.”

    It’s sort of like the mythical hydra-headed monster that Hercules was sent to slay on his Second Labor. To be successful, Hercules had to cut-off all of the heads. The Hydra’s weakness was that it had to retain at least one of the heads.

    It is the adaptive-variety of the thing (gnosticism) that becomes problematic in an abstract discussion of ideologies such as we are having. To go to the top level of the abstraction-ladder on this, I would simply label it as evil. I’ve never tried to argue (I don’t think) that evil is ontologically (its existing entities) simple—on the contrary, I think it can be quite complex. It is in the epistemological (knowledge of) realm that I think evil is simple; three primary identifying characteristics: 1) Lies; 2) Murdering; 3) Calling evil good and good evil, i.e. false moral-equivalency. These three may not necessarily be simultaneously present in a given manifestation of evil.

    This has been a really interesting discussion for me; I hope it has for you and the others.

  15. Timothy Lane says:

    The February 9 National Review has an interesting short piece about an incident from the Miss Universe contest. Miss Israel took a selfie, and included in the photo is Miss Lebanon. This led to a storm: “The Lebanese government launched an investigation. In 1993 the government stripped Miss Lebanon of her title for exactly the same offense: appearing in a photo with Miss Israel. Lebanese law forbids its beauty queens to have any contact with Israelis. The current Miss Lebanon apologized profusely. She said that Miss Israel sabotaged her, taking a photograph that included her against her will. This may seem a silly kerfluffle — a tiff in tiaras — but there is a broader point to make. When assessing the Arab-Israeli conflict, people ought to remember the insane hatred that Israel has to contend with.” Indeed.

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