Friday, December 01, 2006

But things are also changing in qualitative ways

Progressive Thought and the Denial of History
We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive. --C. S. Lewis
In one respect, history represents constant change and novelty. But in another respect, it involves constant repetition of the same themes. In this regard, it is somewhat analogous to music, where you have a certain rhythm, bass line, and chordal structure, on top of which is the melody. But the melody is constrained by the structure. Often we notice the historical melody to the exclusion of the droning and repetitive bass line. Primitive societies abhor change, and do everything within their power to prevent, deny, or undo it. Often, when change happens suddenly, these cultures will simply assimilate the novelty into their old system of belief.However, one far-sighted observation of the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion is that many modern human groups are every bit as primitive. While they might have a veneer of civilization, their more basic function is to structure existence and to allay anxiety.
You see this, for example, in very obvious cases such as the NAACP, the ACLU, or the feminist movement. While these groups once had an instrumental purpose, now their only function is to provide a cognitive template for the world of the people who belong to them, and to reinforce the structure through contact with like-minded people -- people who share the same anxieties. It's not even a pleasant world. Rather, it is a dark, paranoid, and conspiratorial world. And yet, the paranoid world of the far left is preferable to the ambiguity of the real world. Human beings have an amazing capacity to deny change and to live in the past. Then again, if viewed through the lens of Darwinian evolution, this should not be surprising. After all, evolution did not design us to be happy, or well adjusted, or even to know reality. Rather, in our horizontal aspect, we were specifically selected to survive and adapt to a certain environment. All successful species are stuck in a rut of adaptation. Humans are no different. The majority of cultural beliefs are not adaptations to external reality but adaptations to internal reality -- they help to alleviate anxiety and uncertainty and to structure existence.
After World War II, anthropologists discovered primitive groups that had been entirely static and had never "entered" history. Their belief systems were entirely structured around various benevolent and malevolent tribal spirits. Upon noticing American soldiers and their boats loaded down with riches that were distributed to the population, they did not alter their basic conception of reality. Rather, they simply incorporated the American G.I.s into a "cargo cult," and gave their old gods a new identity. Time and change were successfully warded off.On the bottom floor of the primitve group psyche there is an abiding sense that time is not progressive. Rather, time is the enemy. It does not advance, but wears away and corrodes. Things that unexpectedly develop in time, like, say, President Bush, the conservative movement, or the threat of Islamic terrorism, are not exactly denied. Rather, they are regarded as bizarre aberrations -- they are not really real.
For the progressive, their reality has been stolen and a false one has been inserted. I mean this literally, for example, with regard to the ineradicable obsession with the 2000 election. It is not so much that an election was "stolen." Rather, the feeling is that their beautiful reality has been purloined. But this is just a small reflection of the more pervasive sentiment in the dead and dying liberal MSM that reality went off the rails in approximately 1980, with the ascendancy of Reaganism. It is as if they are constantly trying to undo that tragic mistake and force reality back into the little liberal box that once contained it (and them). In order to deny the corrosive effect of time and change, primitive groups enact rituals to reassert the original divine order.
This is why you can see that the left is so astonishingly ritualistic in their thinking. For their philosophy, like any religious philosophy, revolves around certain iconographic symbols that abide outside time. They are "forever." They need only be evoked, like magical incantations, and we are back in the comfortable tribal delusions of the 1960's: "War is not the answer." "America is a racist, sexist, homophobic country." "Culture of corruption." "Tax cuts for the rich." "Be Very Afraid, the world is cooling/warming." "Global Orgasm for Peace." This is the otherwise inexplicable appeal of that cliche-ridden empty suit, Barack Obama.Like the Islamists, the "progressive" is animated by a beautiful ideal located in the distant past.
In truth, it never really existed. Rather, it is purely archetypal and precedes any particular "thoughts" about it. Once it is embraced, it then produces its own thoughts. The formality of a thinker is not required. If you peruse, say, huffingtonpost or dailykos, you will see that the memes that are reflexively channelled there are overwhelmingly angry, paranoid, and alarmist. In reality, this represents alarm over the fact that time really does exist, and rage at the fact that the wider world does not mirror their tribal ideal. The progressive party is the nostalgic party that actually wishes to deny history and escape from time. Perhaps I should again emphasize how common this is, both in individuals and in groups. Freud, for example, said that the neurotic "suffers from reminisences."
For what is a neurosis but a perpetual replaying of events of the past that are superimposed on the present, the constant structuring of reality in terms of the timeless unconscious? Similarly, the progressive navigates through life while keeping his eyes riveted on the rear view mirror. Therefore, the same things keep mysteriously happening. It's positively eery: Bush is Nixon. Iraq is Vietnam. The terrorist intercept program is the White House enemy list. The Valerie Plame matter is Watergate. Clearly, these progressive cargo-cultists think that all the economic gifts brought to us by those two tax-cutting bwanas, Reagan and Bush, really arrived courtesy of the old big government gods. The archaic community lives in a tribal memory that is impervious to the ravages of time.
But as reality increasingly deviates from the sacred memory, it is the duty of every tribal member to renew, reassert and rejuvenate the ideal through rituals of various kinds. You can see these primitive magicians at dailykos, going through their various rituals and Ghost Dances, raging against reality, desperately trying to cleanse and "renew" it. For primitive groups, time is terror. Therefore, it is no surprise that we routinely hear from the left that "George Bush is the world's biggest terrorist." That he is, in the sense that he has no respect for the tribal ways of the progressive mind and its sacred, eternal myths. In the long run, in most merely quantitative ways, things always get better, as science and capitalism -- not progressivism -- assure that.
The economy is humming along with low unemployment and interest rates, people are living longer than ever, the environment has never been cleaner in my lifetime, crime rates and illegitimacy are much lower than the recent past, more people own homes and attend college than ever. These are all the things progressives supposedly care about, but the better things get, the worse they feel. But things are also changing in qualitative ways: materialism and spiritual exhaustion, neopaganism, barbarous entertainment, cognitively repressive political correctness, the cult of the body, sexual license, self-worship, moral relativism, multi-culturalism... Why aren't progressives more grateful? Still not primitive enough? posted by Gagdad Bob at 11/30/2006 06:35:00 AM 24 comments links to this post One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin

1 comment:

  1. I am always amused how right wing neanderthals such as the writer of this essay look to the Reagan years as some kind of bell-weather or template to compare USA culture then and now.
    This reference sums up the collective psychosis of the Reagan years which in my opinion were just a minor prelude to the full scale assault on the USA and world body politic being waged by the psychotics in the current administration.