Friday, June 26, 2009

Sauron Himself Is But An Emissary - Part VIII: Summary and Opening Discussion

The Assistant Village Idiot’s Progressive Experience
Click on the music, read on, and comment

I have used Boomer music as my examples, because that’s what I know.
Fortunately, there are enough retroheads in succeeding decades that most people can appreciate these illustrations. But hey, if you want to send me examples from other decades, I’m all for that. I’m sure U2 and Green Day have got plenty to draw from. If I get enough material, I might make an alternative version of this with different music. To those who would protest that these are the opinions of folksingers, not the general populace, I would note that these songs sold millions. They could not have been popular if the message were abhorrent to folks. On the contrary, it was the message which sold many of these tunes.

You may comment under each section or at the end, as you think best.

I warn you, this music could suck you in and make you liberal all over again.

If We Would But Dare

Joan Baez 500 Miles and There But For Fortune

The key features of liberal thought, that persist over decades:

1. An expansion of brotherhood, of those we are generous to and avoid going to war with except in extremest emergency. Part III - Expanding Brotherhood Marx divided mankind by class rather than nation, later leftists added belief and attitude as dividing points, so that fellowship was extended to “all who will go with us” versus “those who hinder the change.”

2. An expectation that the social pressures which work on them should work on others. Those who resist are seen as insensitive, stupid, and difficult. Liberals like the idea of being a person who resists social pressure, but the reality is more mixed. In Little Boxes (below), Malvina Reynolds and Pete Seeger are creating social pressure on young people by mocking it in their parents.

3. An understanding of wealth creation that deemphasizes hard work and legitimate individual use of the system as preeminent drivers. Group action, luck, and exploitation are seen as having greater influence on who succeeds. This is why Republican candidates say they will work for you, while Democrats say they will fight for you. Both are playing to the understandings of their potential voters.
3a. Related. The belief that money and too much work are bad for you, and your effort should go into other things, other wealths. This is fine as far as it goes, and quite wise. Unfortunately, it is combined with a constant comparison between the money that some people have versus what others have as if it is society’s great measuring stick. Which is a direct contradiction. Which leads into…

4. A belief that the natural course of events is for things to go smoothly, with only intelligent management to keep them going. The balance of nature, the modest economy, the desire of all humans to live in peace – these are powerful influences for human good. When something different occurs it is not because life is risky, difficult, and dramatic, but because something in the smooth machine is malfunctioning and must be fixed. Which leads to…

5. A tendency to envision long-term utopian goals and choose actions that will bring about that vision. Convincing people of that dream and erecting an appearance of that vision – the UN, universal health coverage, conferences, treaties, negotiations – are of greater importance to them. The idea seems to be “if we build the appearance, the reality will gradually follow.”

Original Caste - One Tin Soldier

Each of these is partly true. If they were entirely untrue, they would have been abandoned years ago. Sometimes making generous gestures does increase understanding; luck, group membership, and gaming the system do have more effect than self-made men are often willing to admit; going through the motions of improved behavior sometimes does lead to internal change.

Flowing from this is that these ideas would work if we would but dare to try them. If we were more committed to generosity and negotiation, other nations would eventually respond in kind. If we would share the wealth, we would find that we liked that life better. If we keep putting energy into the UN, or cabinets that look like America, or insisting that people say nice things about less-favored groups, then these things will become the reality over time.

It should be noted that while there are progressives who are flat-out lunatic believers in these principles, willing to go all in with your life and your money in order to try these theories, most liberals are more reserved and gradualist in their approach. Conservatives often wonder why the saner-seeming liberals do not rise up and banish the nutcases from their midst. Sometimes we cynically conclude that the progressives in power just want the votes, money, and energy of the true believers. I think the problem is deeper. I think the moonbats are not banished because the mainstream liberals are also true believers. Because their personality style is more measured, they see themselves as practical and moderate in their goals.

And quite frankly, they do not hear what comes off their lips or jumps off their keyboards with much objectivity. Though the nutroots provokes more anger – or merriment – among conservatives and libertarians, it is the mainstream left that is the greater danger, and troubles me more, for they are also true believers, but don’t perceive that.

If we stare hard at the five key features above, comparing each to various religions and philosophies we see that this is the American Revolution compared to the French Revolution. Part II - The Nature of Evil As Brent pointed out in a comment well back in this series, much of the direction of the American revolution stems from the basic ideas in conflict during the English Civil War, essentially resolved in the Bloodless Revolution of 1688. But for Americans unfamiliar with those, a comparison of the French and American Revolutions will be enough to go on.


karrde said...

Every once in a while, a country-music station near me will play the classic "Song of the South".

It was about a poor cotton-farming family during the Great Depression.

They sing happily about "Mr. Roosevelt is gonna save us all."

I can enjoy the song, even when I know (from work by Amity Shlaes, and others) that Roosevelt saved some by hurting others. Roosevelt's policies were at best irrelevant to the end of the Depression; a more critical interpretation might be that Roosevelt prolonged the Depression.

Music has a way of expressing ideas (good, bad, indifferent, or silly) in a way that captures the soul of the audience.

But the powerful cultural influences--the cultural pressures you mention--work equally well.

I am reminded of an off-hand comment by C.S. Lewis. When detailing his path from atheism back to Christianity, Lewis mentions that he became aware that philosophy (and literary studies) were subject to fads of thought. If a person was interested in true philosophy, he didn't need to just know what was currently thought. He needed to research the old arguments that everyone "knew" were bad, and see if they had been properly refuted, or had fallen out of style.

In the realm of political philosophy (and its influence on political plans), there is much to study. Proof is hard to come by, but indications can be found.

I will have to think more deeply on this subject.

Gringo said...

I never bothered to learn the lyrics of One Tin Soldier. I very much liked the tune: that was enough for me.

jlbussey said...

I remember learning One Tin Soldier in elementary school (early-mid 70's). I loved that song! But considering where I am now, I don't think that I learned from it the lesson they wanted me to learn...

terri said...

oh my...I can't get over the fact that the angry mob in the cartoon is depicted as being a "religious" mob, carrying pictures of crosses and the star of David and signs that say God WIth Us.

so unsubtle and sneaky word verification is "theossin"--theo-sin...hmmm

Anonymous said...

The Joan Baez video was "removed due to terms of use violation", but you can see/hear it at