Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thanks, Saul

Saul Alinsky, the poor man's Machiavelli. One of his Rules for Radicals is to "make the enemy live up to his own rules."

Therein lies much wisdom. And I think that it has proven enormously useful for the left's unravelling of Western much of which is being done by those who ought to be protecting and defending it. Indeed by those who should be offensive about it, as they used to be, rather than as now, terrified of offending people who hold them in contempt.

As I've written here before, when the Founding Fathers signed on to the Declaration and the Constitution, the "all men" they talked about was in fact "some men". They took this for granted. Just as so many AmerIndian tribes own name for their tribe translates as "The People" --implying that the other tribes are not quite--, the Founders "all men" really meant "us". Even the sainted Abraham Lincoln was clear and unapologetic that while he abhorred slavery, it was not because he thought that Blacks were equal to Whites in any way, or that they should have citizenship or serve on juries or hold office or worse, be integrated into the social worlds of Whites.

My point is that when most sane human beings talk about humanity in general, they usually mean people like themselves. Even now, when The Enlightened go on about their various egalitarian projects, they do not for a moment think that minors should be included. It doesn't have to be made clear because it's taken for granted. They might even think that Paco the Illegal should vote, but they never imagine that his just Quinceaňera'd daughter should. The Marriage Equality crowd think Everyone Should Have The Right To Marry...but everyone "obviously" excludes minors and siblings.

But the grandiose and abstract language of the Enlightenment has become, thanks to many others who are Alinsky's forebears, functionally contranymic. A new term I learned yesterday: when a word keeps its form but comes to mean its opposite. Like "awful", which once meant "awesome" but now means "terrible"...which once meant "terror-inspiring" but now means "awful". "All men" now means women and illegal aliens.

Jefferson's misleadingly brilliant words
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Now they are heard more like this (including a recent quoting of them by the execrable incumbent in the White House)
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that everybody should be equal, that they are endowed...with unalienable rights to life, liberty and happiness.

What once meant that free Englishmen in America had a right to pursue their business unencumbered by the financial and regulatory hindrances of the hereditary monarch of Britain and his agents has now come to mean that every Tom Dick and Lupe and Sheniqua deserve to have the State and their neighbors completely mirror their self-imagination and should provide them with whatever they want.

How much of the success of the left has been bound up with Alinsky's Fourth Law! Getting people to live up to their own ideals --as written, but not as intended. Funny how a political attitude which has contempt for religious fundamentalism gets so old-time-religious with the text of political documents sometimes. (Except, of course, when the Constitution becomes "living".)

So the wisdom for the day, children, is this: avoid grandiose ideals, especially those of the universal kind, for some day they will be used to hoist you on your own petard. Keep your ideals moderate and particular and self-interested and never (thank you, Mr Burnham) morally disarm yourself just because you're dealing with someone you think is less well off than yourself.

Instead, take the advice of a wise teacher in the San Francisco community college system, who understands Burnham's Law instinctively, who is often confronted by plaintive students with a variety of work, home, personal and financial pressures, coming to him to say why they can't or couldn't do this or that required task. His reply is respectful but clear: "I'm afraid you're trying to make your problem into my problem."


Anonymous said...

One of my favourite sorta-contranymics is "pathetic," originally (as in Beethoven's Piano Sonata Pathétique) inspiring or moving to intense passion, often painful passion, as pity, compassion, sorrow, horror; now 'pathetic' means laughably ineffective, unsuccessful, bungling, inept, as in the pathetic performance of a fumbling sports team.

... I suppose really the totalitarian danger is that the Declaration be read »We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all selfs are equal and thus should be equalized, and toward this intersectional purpose government must endow them with the same life, liberty and happiness.«

It may be that selfs must be "forced to be free" -- Rousseau's phrase can be interpreted usefully in many ways. ...

Since selfs are zilch before their creation, the Creator needn't consult with them on the meaning of happiness, freedom, life, etc. (St Paul's questions at Romans 9:20f can be answer'd negatively or treated as rhetorical. ... Nonymous Christians have the rights of churchmen and creatures under the promises of the Christian dispensation; but anonymous Christians [the older term was "private Christians"] declare that Christian meanings and promises must not have hegemony, etc.)

No question about it, forcing selfs to be free can be interpreted by the government as »completely mirror[ing] their self-imagination [and] providing them with whatever they want«.

P.S. No exemptions for the undocumented. They aren't now asserting that they don't deserve all rights of citizens. "No one's illegal" makes them as deserving of full rights in re-education for real happiness and meaningful freedom as the descendants of the May Flower pilgrims or the indigenous peoples.

Anonymous said...

»Make the enemy live up to his own rules.« Easier said than done.

The entire course of Marxism has crush'd tormented liquidated etc ostensibly the workers and peasants whose plight Marxists have consistently claim'd requires the destruction of "capitalism" "the free market" "private ownership" etc. That is, Marxism has entirely a "moral" or "ideal" basis -- while also clearly teaching that "morality" is contemptible (History isn't made by those who adhere to moral guidelines) and that "justice" is always irreducibly a class-interest concept.

How have Marxists pull'd off their moral plausibility? The engineer'd famines were brave experiments in food production that fail'd. Stalin or saboteurs corrupted the Revolution. But more than this: by consistently speaking and writing with an implicit and totally confident assumption that they mean well are concern'd for the ostensibly workers and peasants. They have an undentable attitude that they are ambitious only to help the poor, the downtrodden, etc.

This successful attitude is help'd by "capitalists" and "conservatives" who constantly take Marxists at their word, or rather their attitude, but clumsily try to "prove" that aiming too high (as if exterminating food growers in the Ukraine results from an overly idealistic concept of how agriculture can work) causes suffering, and accordingly we ought to make the best of 'private ownership' etc.

No conservative ever pointed to the Communist Manifesto and said »If you want to be herded into "industrial armies, especially for agriculture« with no right to collective bargaining vis-a-vis the Dictatorship of the Party central committee government that owns the State, then by all means become a Communist!« Evidently the Communist society will be ruled by a "ruling class" (2d-last ¶ of section II), with merely the innovation that the owners of the State mustn't be call'd a "class" because its transitional "political" power is used only to "disappear" "class distinctions."

The Manifesto even says »children's factory labour« should be abolish'd only »in its present form.« Because "free" (compulsory) "[re-]education" should be "combined" with "industrial production, &c., &c." (n.b. the &c. &c. You can't say teh Communist Manifesto didn't specify what it was going to do to you!)

Education and industrial work: Reminds of the heartless remark of New Gingrich, that children should toil as the janitors of their public schools. But Marx we know is 'leftist' so he means well, whereas Newt is "rightwing" and therefore at best is capable of selfish benign neglect, but almost always is motivated by cruelty, malice, etc. Those who call National Socialism a "Conservative" Revolution help paint Thatcher and Reagan as somehow up for death camps, and Pol Pot somehow motivated by concerns like those of children who carry unicef boxes when out trick-or-treating for Halloween.

And that the government, bound only by its promises to serve undefined "public purposes," may determine where you live: »a more equable distribution of the population over the country.« And worldview control: »Centralisation of the means of communication ... in the hands of the State.«

Anonymous said...

Even the stuff said by Zizek is treated as somehow motivated by benevolence for the unpickwickian downtrodden destitute because Zizek is a "Marxist" or "Leftist" or "anti-Capitalist."

Machiavelli: The moderns are past-masters in lying. Bible: the fool says secretly in his heart that there is no God, but is ostensibly a theist. Marx at least was not a secret atheist, he was not a fool in the biblical sense.

... We always think somehow we can really confront a liar with the evidence of his lyingness and this will produce a change of heart, and having arranged an agreement from him that lying will stop, we can go away and leave him to his business, which he will now do in a truthful way. As if within every consistent liar is a mind that ultimately wants to be persuaded into truthfulness.

Ron Paul: the entire history of money is jiggery-pokery except the agitators for the gold standard. (Semiotics of the gold standard is immune to pickwickian jiggery-pokery.)

Machiavelli: truthfulness can be induced only by a value standard that glories in the truth.

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