Saturday, August 12, 2017

No Ground To Stand On, Post Modern America

This somewhat longish column is a poster child for an attempted left wing analysis of "what went wrong"? How did they discover that something went "wrong"? Trump was elected. The wordy article leads us on a merry chase of how this terrible thing might have happened -- it is written by Kurt Anderson, who is a writer that graduated from Harvard and founded "Spy" magazine. An example of what "Spy" was about:

Founded by Kurt Andersen and E. Graydon Carter, who served as its first editors, and Thomas L. Phillips, Jr., its first publisher. After one folding and a rebirth, it ceased publication in 1998. The magazine specialized in irreverent and satirical pieces targeting the American media, entertainment industries and the mocking of high society.[4] Some of its features attempted to present the darker side of celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Steven Seagal,[5]Martha Stewart, and especially, the real-estate tycoon Donald Trump and his then-wife Ivana Trump.[6] Pejorative epithets of celebrities, e.g., "Abe 'I'm Writing As Bad As I Can' Rosenthal", "short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump",[7] "churlish dwarf billionaire Laurence Tisch", "bum-kissing toady Arthur Gelb", "bosomy dirty-book writer Shirley Lord" and "former fat girl Dianne Brill" became a Spy trademark.
Strangely, although Anderson finds Trump to be a disaster of the first order, a quick read of the paragraph would indicate that Kurt and Donald ought to be bosom buddies ... "former fat girl Dianne Brill"?  Indeed. So what IS the shape our peril according to Kurt?

By my reckoning, the solidly reality-based are a minority, maybe a third of us but almost certainly fewer than half. Only a third of us, for instance, don’t believe that the tale of creation in Genesis is the word of God. Only a third strongly disbelieve in telepathy and ghosts. Two-thirds of Americans believe that “angels and demons are active in the world.” More than half say they’re absolutely certain heaven exists, and just as many are sure of the existence of a personal God—not a vague force or universal spirit or higher power, but some guy. A third of us believe not only that global warming is no big deal but that it’s a hoax perpetrated by scientists, the government, and journalists.
Kurt certainly seems to have a solid view of "reality" -- to the extent we can discern it's base, the key point seems to be strong materialist atheism -- creation, angels, heaven, and "a personal God" (we will assume he means Jesus) come in for special snark. For those of us that believe in Christ being God made Man, the "Word of Kurt" (WoK) calling him "some guy" seems just a bit presumptions. Somehow, I'm guessing he is far less snarky about "allah" ... at least around Muslims. They don't love their enemies, they kill them.

Kurt goes on a long discussion of how "America" has gone "haywire". So why is it that Kurt's ideas on this are supposed to be of interest to anyone at all?  Kurt does a great job of answering the reason for that right up front -- there is really no reason to read the rest of it.
Why are we like this?

The short answer is because we’re Americans—because being American means we can believe anything we want; that our beliefs are equal or superior to anyone else’s, experts be damned. Once people commit to that approach, the world turns inside out, and no cause-and-effect connection is fixed. The credible becomes incredible and the incredible credible.
 So what are the qualification of one of the founders of "Spy" magazine to give us a psuedo-intellectual tour of history? He is admittedly Ivy League educated, but certainly not philosopher, theologian, scientist, political scientist, or even sociologist; on what does he stand to provide us the answer for the deep meaning of "haywire". Clearly KURT believes that Trump defines "haywire", however what expertise, philosophy, revelation, equation, data, "standard", dream, etc is Kurt standing on as he says it? I'd argue it is exactly like Potter Stewart's definition of pornography ... "you know it when you see it'.

Kurt HIMSELF has clearly stated "expert's be damned" -- The WoK is being proffered as useful because he himself finds his own views to be "equal or superior to anyone else's". He invalidates his own case right up front.

My view is that we forgot that "the fear of God is the BEGINNING of all wisdom". Transcendence, something unchangeable and beyond mere matter -- TRUTH. A book that points out where we left the track is from my perspective is "Ideas Have Consequences" and the point and which we first became unglued was in the 14th century.

"This was a change that overtook the dominant philosophical thinking of the West in the fourteenth century, when the reality of transcendentals was first seriously challenged."

Without SOMETHING that is at least very close to an eternal principle, we ALL lack any place to stand to make any sort of judgments at all! Science leaps from the precipice that says "the universe is ORDERED, and results that we see today are assumed to be repeatable across time and space". The foundation of science is INDUCTION -- "it worked today, it will work tomorrow, and it will work anywhere for all time".

The difficulty with this is PERSPECTIVE. The Thanksgiving turkey postulates that humans are a benevolent species that cares and provides for turkeys. On the very day in which the turkey's "proof" has gained the status of maximally proven scientific "fact", the induction crashes and the turkey finds himself at a meal in which he is the guest of honor. The turkey lacked the perspective of a larger view -- as do we humans relative to eternity.

The other problem is of course that right/wrong, beauty, consciousness, love, etc are completely outside the realm of science, as science is about STUFF ... material, matter. Human life is founded on human consciousness -- right, wrong, up, down, inside out, or non-existent, it IS what WE perceive as humans!

Kurt certainly views HIS consciousness as a superb basis for analysis ... as do we all unless we recognize a power greater than our own perspective (eg. "the fear of God" or maybe "fear of Kurt"??).

Let's look at Kurt's "analysis" a bit":

Meanwhile, over in sociology, in 1966 a pair of professors published The Social Construction of Reality, one of the most influential works in their field. Not only were sanity and insanity and scientific truth somewhat dubious concoctions by elites, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann explained—so was everything else. The rulers of any tribe or society do not just dictate customs and laws; they are the masters of everyone’s perceptions, defining reality itself. To create the all-encompassing stage sets that everyone inhabits, rulers first use crude mythology, then more elaborate religion, and finally the “extreme step” of modern science. “Reality”? “Knowledge”? “If we were going to be meticulous,” Berger and Luckmann wrote, “we would put quotation marks around the two aforementioned terms every time we used them.” “What is ‘real’ to a Tibetan monk may not be ‘real’ to an American businessman.”

Therefore, Kurt's "reality" would also be relative ... however, since he wrote this long article, we are to understand that it isn't really. Somehow, "The WoK" is privileged. (See "reality based" above}.

So what kind of heresy has failure to accept the WoK unleased?

Even the social critic Paul Goodman, beloved by young leftists in the ’60s, was flabbergasted by his own students by 1969. “There was no knowledge,” he wrote, “only the sociology of knowledge. They had so well learned that … research is subsidized and conducted for the benefit of the ruling class that they did not believe there was such a thing as simple truth.” 
Ever since, the American right has insistently decried the spread of relativism, the idea that nothing is any more correct or true than anything else. Conservatives hated how relativism undercut various venerable and comfortable ruling ideas—certain notions of entitlement (according to race and gender) and aesthetic beauty and metaphysical and moral certainty.
Ah, "simple truth" --- or as we can see from the column, "the WoK". Sadly, the evil American Right thought that there WERE ultimate truths ... like the Word of God, which included Genesis, now known to  fail the "reality based" test, according to the WoK. So the decried "relativism", as now apparently so does Kurt -- it's just that he finds any "relativism" according to the "Word of Kirk" to be bad -- therefore, he is a "rightwing fundamentalist" in relation to the "Word of Kirk"!

"Just before the Clintons arrived in Washington, the right had managed to do away with the federal Fairness Doctrine, which had been enacted to keep radio and TV shows from being ideologically one-sided. Until then, big-time conservative opinion media had consisted of two magazines, William F. Buckley Jr.’s biweekly National Review and the monthly American Spectator, both with small circulations. But absent a Fairness Doctrine, Rush Limbaugh’s national right-wing radio show, launched in 1988, was free to thrive, and others promptly appeared." 
Here I think we arrive at the crux of the matter. As long as whatever was being stated was duly approved by a part of the Administrative State lodged comfortably in the womb of the Federal Communications Commission, all could be certain that only Administrative State, Union Approved, Ivy League vetted, Davos Certified, "truth" would be provided to the masses. Everything was "ideologically SINGLE sided", which was "the good", and the idiots that provided the alternative comic relief -- Bill Buckley and the American Spectator, were "fringe" --- as heretics ought to be!

Did his voters know that his hogwash was hogwash? Yes and no, the way people paying to visit P. T. Barnum’s exhibitions 175 years ago didn’t much care whether the black woman on display was really George Washington’s 161-year-old former nanny or whether the stitched-together fish/ape was actually a mermaid; or the way today we immerse in the real-life fictions of Disney World. Trump waited to run for president until he sensed that a critical mass of Americans had decided politics were all a show and a sham. If the whole thing is rigged, Trump’s brilliance was calling that out in the most impolitic ways possible, deriding his straight-arrow competitors as fakers and losers and liars—because that bullshit-calling was uniquely candid and authentic in the age of fake.
Perhaps there really were consequences to Slick Wille having BJs in the oval office, lying about it, and skating. Maybe calling a vast power grab and re-distribution scam called the "Affordable" Care Act, "affordable" even though it added a grab bag of new benefits to health INSURANCE thus being certain to radically increase the cost, was slightly disingenuous. However, saying that "If you like your doctor you can keep him", "if you like your insurance plan you can keep it", etc was TOTALLY a direct lie which anyone that paid any attention understood to be a LIE ... or to put it in Kurt's words, "a show and a sham".

I personally know MANY people that budgeted for retiring with healthcare TOTAL costs (insurance + deductables + co-pays) of $8K for a 60 year old couple, finding that they needed $22K for insurance along, PLUS, another 8-10K for deductables and co-pays. $30K vs $8K ... PER YEAR!

Slick Willie ushered in the age of fake. BO made it the standard.

So what do I believe caused America to "go haywire", and turn into BOistan?

We have to stand on SOMETHING! As John Adams said: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other". That morality was founded on Jesus Christ --  we never had any other rock to stand on, and sorry to say, the WoK isn't much of a substitute.

So what does the "word of Kurt" say on this point?
What is to be done? I don’t have an actionable agenda, Seven Ways Sensible People Can Save America From the Craziness. But I think we can slow the flood, repair the levees, and maybe stop things from getting any worse. If we’re splitting into two different cultures, we in reality-based America—whether the blue part or the smaller red part—must try to keep our zone as large and robust and attractive as possible for ourselves and for future generations. We need to firmly commit to Moynihan’s aphorism about opinions versus facts. We must call out the dangerously untrue and unreal. A grassroots movement against one kind of cultural squishiness has taken off and lately reshaped our national politics—the opposition to political correctness. I envision a comparable struggle that insists on distinguishing between the factually true and the blatantly false.

What is "reality"? Is it matter only, with meaning defined by induction? Kurt, founder of "Spy" magazine firmly believes in the "World of Kurt" ... if you follow Kurt, you too can be "reality based". Isn't that special?

Choose ye this day whom you will serve ... Kurt? or something larger? Trump is only a very temporary occupant of the highest office in what is at this point the failed state of BOistan. I believe that God is bigger than Kurt, Trump, and BOistan, so God is my choice as the basis for reality -- eternal reality. 

What about you? 

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