Samstag, Februar 03, 2007

Romanticism and Chaos ...

As usual, this post led me to think about what it is that the loyal, if irresponsible, opposition is thinking of.

I don't see the opposition to the war as being a rational one: it is highly emotive and negativistic, behaving more like the tantrum of a 3-year old rather than a measured response.

Why is this so?

The answer is complex.

On the one hand, we had basically what one could, from a vulgar Marxist position, see as the end of history: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of socialism as a functioning system. For me this was visible in the 1970s and I remember predicting to clients when East Germany would collapse (not a date, but rather in terms of behavior: East Germany would collapse when they could no longer control their population without having to resort to massive force.) and what it would imply for the rest of Eastern Europe and for the Soviet Union itself (this was back in 1988).

The critical point is that the bipolar way of viewing things - of the progressive, ideologically correct socialist brethren opposed by the repressive, police-state loving cronies of capitalism - made the complexities of the cold war very simple for many. We know now today that one of the classic subversive methods used by the KGB to undermine western Europe and elsewhere - see the Mitrokhin Archives for this - was the use of agitation propaganda (agitprop) and either the use of existing conflict - after all, any capitalist society was filled with contradictions and class conflicts - or the creation of new ones to outrage the population, create revolutionary fervor and take advantage of the vulnerability of mass democratic political movements to demagoguery and mass emotions to attack the existing order. This was considered to be one of the key methods of undermining the capitalist world order: after all, the capitalists could only hold power because the masses were misled and uninformed, and a properly indoctrinated and "educated" population would of necessity reject capitalist oppression and welcome the revolutionary elite that would lead them to socialist liberation and freedom.

What was the core of this cold war subversive activity?

Enraging the masses, using real or faked issues, was the key: an angry populace is one that can change society. Anarchy was welcomed, as long as it served to destabilize. The goal was to create alienation - actually, to let the oppressed masses understand their fundamental alienation, already existing but due to lack of historical consciousness hidden from the masses by their false consciousness - and then use the frustration of alienation to create anger, focusing it then via the revolutionary elite that would then overthrow the oppressors.

The key here is being able to ramp up the emotions, negative emotions of frustration, of the feeling of rejection, if need be to create failure and collapse in order to foster alienation from a functioning society. Hence the infiltration of unions, leading to frivolous strikes that would bankrupt companies and force unemployment: by making that a function of capitalism, rather than of deliberate sabotage of a functioning company, you could start to organize, using demagogues to drive the emotions. It makes no difference if the emotions are driven by real events or faked ones: the key thing is to drive them into a frenzy, because of a weakness of the human psyche.

Everyone has had emotional periods in their lives: losing a job unfairly; being spurned by a loved one; losing a loved family member; any sort of event that drives strong emotions. One of the methods of the left - and fascists were very good at this as well - was to harness those emotions and turn them to their own political gain, trying to ride the wave of these emotions before they would exhaust themselves. Major changes in life styles - such as going to university, being out on your own for the first time - are also times of great emotional turmoil. What characterizes such times?

A diminishing of rational thought.

This is where the above post becomes interesting: it is an analysis of romanticism.

Romanticism has nothing to do with "being romantic", but rather is a rejection, in many ways, of the Enlightenment, which has Reason at its core:

One of the fundamentals of Romanticism is the belief in the natural goodness of man, the idea that man in a state of nature would behave well but is hindered by civilization (Rousseau --  "man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"). The "savage" is noble, childhood is good and the emotions inspired by both beliefs causes the heart to soar. On the contrary, urban life and the commitment to "getting and spending," generates a fear and distrust of the world. If man is inherently sinful, reason must restrain his passions, but if he is naturally good, then in an appropriate environment, his emotions can be trusted (Blake -- "bathe in the waters of life").

The idea of man's natural goodness and the stress on emotion also contributed to the development of Romantic individualism, that is, the belief that what is special in a man is to be valued over what is representative (the latter oftentimes connected with the conventions imposed on man by "civilized society." If a man may properly express his unique emotional self because its essence is good, he is also likely to assume also that its conflicts and corruptions are a matter of great import and a source of fascination to himself and others. So, the Romantic delights in self-analysis. Both William Wordsworth (in The Prelude) and Lord Byron (in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage), poets very different from one another, felt the need to write lengthy poems of self-dramatization. The self that Byron dramatized, a projection not identical with his own personality, was especially dear to the Romantic mind: the outcast wanderer, heroic by accursed, often on some desperate quest, in the tradition of Cain or the Flying Dutchman. S. T. Coleridge's Mariner and Herman Melville's Ahab are similar Romantic pilgrims.

Here we see two fundamental aspects of the modern, post-socialist collapse left: the belief that man is inherently good and the obsession with a narcissistic self-analysis, not critical, but rather radically anti-critical, with a willful rejection of reasoning to celebrate how wonderful each and every person is (as long as they aren't being repressed).

And consider this as well:

The Enlightenment replaced the Christian matrix with the mechanical matrix of Newtonian natural philosophy. For the Romantic, the result was nothing less than the demotion of the individual. Imagination, sensitivity, feelings, spontaneity and freedom were stifled -- choked to death. Man must liberate himself from these intellectual chains.

I think this can be clearly postulated: the "new left", the resurrected left after the collapse of Real Existing Socialism, is a reactionary movement, one that cannot accept the rational world of post-modern capitalism, with its great efficiencies and triumphal productivity.

What we are seeing in the loyal, irresponsible opposition is nothing more than a rebirth of romanticism: we see it in Hillary Clinton's demand that President Bush not saddle her with the problems that, according to her, he caused; we see it in things like the anti-globalist movement in all of its reactionary glory. We see the left, for instance, in the US as being characterized as simply existing to deny, of having no political plan besides being the "anti-Bush".

And like the Romanticists, the "new left" is completely mistaken in understanding how societies work. They, projecting how they understand themselves, believe that their opponents, those of the "new Enlightenment" also must create an enemy before they can actually have their own identity:

With the Romantics, it shows first how men make an identity for themselves by defining an enemy, making clear what they oppose, thus making life into a battle. Second, it is evident that factual, accurate, subtle understanding makes the enemy mere men. Even before 1789, the Romantics opposed the superficiality of the conventions of an artificial, urban and aristocratic society. They blurred distinctions between its decadent, fashionable Christianity or unemotional Deism and the irreligion or anti-clericalism of the philosophes.

Let's touch on the salient points: identity defined as the negation of the political opponent, and facts and understanding are detrimental to the cause. The cause is served by raw emotions and passions; the facts be damned, and if the facts be damned, then my opinions, my "emotional reality" is as important as any mere fact.

Further, the Romantics glorify nature:

The Romantics returned God to Nature -- the age revived the unseen world, the supernatural, the mysterious, the world of medieval man. It is no accident that the first gothic novel appears early in the Romantic Age. Nature came to be viewed historically. The world was developing, it was a world of continuous process, it was a world in the process of becoming. And this continuous organic process could only be understood through historical thought. And here we have come almost full circle to the views expressed by Giambattista Vico ... a century earlier. This is perhaps the single most revolutionary aspect of the Romantic Age. An admiration for all the potency and diversity of living nature superseded a concern for the discovery of its universal traits. In a word, the Romantics embraced relativism.

Hence we can understand better the role that a radical environmentalism plays with the "new left". And of course the relativism, the rejection of first principles for ethical behavior, leads to the relativistic morals of the "new left".

And more importantly, we can understand better the irrationality of the new environmentalist movement, the hysteria of the global warming coreligionists: man has sullied nature, man has sullied God with his activities, interfering in the natural processes. This is the driving force behind the radical environmentalists that want to tax the highly successful western capitalist societies for their very existence, denying them the fruits of their labors while lambasting them at the same time that they are the root of all evil, the capitalization of nature.

So why the title of Romanticism and Chaos?

Because the Romanticists, or better the modern neo-Romanticists, thrive on chaos and actively desire to create chaos, but not the chaos of creativity, but rather the chaos of deconstruction (small wonder that Derrida and similar intellectuals are so popular...) and destruction, aiming more for the realities of the French Revolution than any other sort of order.

And that makes the neo-Romantics deadly: the human cost of chaos can be seen in Darfur, the Congo and anywhere where the state fails.  But they increasingly push for actions and decisions that will heighten chaos, rather than reign it in, using NGOs as their tools and wishful-thinking liberals as their support.

Keine Kommentare: