Sunday, March 11, 2007

COULTER-KAMPF

Lots of material out there about Ann Coulter’s latest. Glenn Greenwald (http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/03/06/cult/index.html?source=rss has isolated the Ur-question: Why is she invited to speak at major Right events?

Why indeed? She doesn’t engage ideas, but rather makes fun of the persons she doesn’t like. To enter her world, to live at her level, is to go back to grammar school and the taunts of the agitated children who cannot yet separate thoughts from persons, and who are still so emotionally primal that only violence – even if only verbal – can provide them with a sense of relief, release, satisfaction and achievement. (It’s a primal, not to say primitive, emotional and conceptual world that children inhabit – condemned to it by the brute facts of human development – and our recent national fascination with children – and especially the ‘innocence’ of children – needs to be put up on the lift and its undercarriage closely examined.)

It’s greatly accurate to say that she is invited because she is needed: the Republicans as presently constituted need her because she speaks to a very crucial aspect of their programme and of their membership. It’s even more acute to realize that they need her because she pretty much incarnates their programme: childish, unconceptual – almost anti-conceptual – emotional violence is what the Republicans do now. And Coulter does it best. So far, so true, so sad.

Republicans – male and female – are appealing to the primal even more than the primitive, in voters. They are appealing to the quick-burning default-level of our least-developed brainparts, the earliest ones, the limbic stuff that was around long before the prefrontal cortex, the very primal and visceral emotional responses of Fight or Flight, Own (still too early for ‘Love’) or Hate, the dark suspiciousness that responds to the unfamiliar and the strangeness of the ‘other’ with reflexive violence.

But again and again and again: this revolting state of affairs – so ripe for the pronouncements of Chester A. Riley (go look that one up if you have to) – was called into being in its present incarnation by the prior 40 years of Theory’s and Identity’s insistent demand that the American people not only believe many impossible things before breakfast, but swallow them whole with no questions asked as if they were a tasty and nutritious meal.

It has taken a long long hard slog for us as humans to climb the Ladder of Interior Development to reach the point where we can at least impose some semblance of order on our dark and raucous primal interior aspects, and thereby permit the development of what are now ‘quaintly’ known as our ‘higher capacities’. The remarkable record of civilizations over the past five or six millennia of recorded history cannot be gainsaid. This is not at all to say that things have been perfect – the human is still a flawed being and thus are all his works and, surely, all his pomps. The Eastern concept of ‘dukkha’ – dissatisfaction with what is – speaks greatly to this abiding incompleteness in the quality and quantity of genuine life in the world, especially when compared to what might be.

If at this present critical juncture in our political life we take the easy way out and merely choose to blame it all on the Republicans we condemn ourselves to ignorance and eventual repetition of the unhappy history. We may recall Mussolini, in front of the Fascist Grand Council for the last time on that summer night, defending his and their situation by bawling “The Germans are responsible for the whole thing!”. Not in Italy the Germans weren’t. In fact, it was to the already-established Mussolini regime that the slouchy, pudgy fedora-topped new German Chancellor turned for ideas on how best to arrange, manage and clothe a budding Fascist imperium. That the pupil so outdid the master has tended to cloud history’s awareness of the original dynamics of the relationship.

There has always been a ‘paranoid’ streak in American politics, as Richard Hofstadter masterfully pointed out. This may have an origin in political science – that, perhaps, we as a democracy can give voice to those who feel and who are left-out – but it must also originate in the nature of the human: we are a material being with primitive and to some extent dark beginnings, and it is only with effort and much blood, toil, tears and sweat that we grow into – or at least toward – our higher potentials, mental and emotional and (what the hey?) spiritual.

But that ‘paranoia’ or proto-paranoia, that pre-disposition to paranoia, has for quite a while been seen as something we’d want to work on. Suspiciousness of the different and the strange leading to immediate feral violence – conceptual and emotional as well as physical – came to be considered as disabling in a world where nascent civilization was providing a bit more safe ‘space’ for the higher-capacities to develop and be expressed. In this type of new world – ‘civilization’ – you were probably going to be running into more than a few curious things, and immediately whacking them with a club would probably close off a lot of potentially valuable possibilities.

But in each human being, the climb has to be made – up the Ladder into the higher capabilities. And depending on a number of factors within and outside of the individual child, that climb into more mature mental and emotional functioning will happen quickly or slowly, and qualitatively more or less successfully. But in any case, civilization and ‘maturity’ are mutually dependent and have always been so. You can have a civilization with less mature, less independent citizens – but if they cannot provide the order and structure to their own lives, then some force outside of them must provide that order, in the society if not within each individual.

The West has evolved toward a mature and self-governing citizenry; and by self-governing we mean not only that the citizens vote and ultimately validate their own governance, but that each adult citizen is expected more or less to govern his/her own self.

All this went overboard when – in an infection whose path and consequences are still not sufficiently appreciated – European ‘Theory’, discarded by the French in the 1950s, was taken up by American ‘elites’ in the 1960s. Among the concepts that came as part and parcel of the plague-package were: ‘civilization’ itself is simply an effort to suppress the natural and to oppress the many for the comfort of the few; ‘history’ and even ‘Truth’ are simply constructs meant to oppress; the poor are by nature virtuous and the ‘primitive’ is by nature the most genuine and authentic expression of the human while the ‘civilized’ is artificial; there are no universal values and thus no universal ‘entities’, and thus there is no Mankind, and there is no ‘Man’ but only different humans in different societies such that no society or culture can impose its values on another.

These ideas, which had once been eagerly loaded aboard by European elites in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, had been by the end of World War 2 seen in all their profoundly corrosive and destructive consequences. But they nonetheless served as a conceptual fig-leaf for levering open political space for the ‘non-aligned’ and ‘developing’ nations in the international arena and in our domestic arena for the Identities that the Democrats were so desperately trying to erect as voting blocs to replace the Southrons enraged over Civil Rights and the industrial workers whose role on the national scene was now passing.

And so two huge elements came into play that would lure the Paranoid and the Primal out into the light of day: the Southrons came to see the Washington eggheads – waving pieces of paper such as court orders, Presidential directives, and the Constitution – as seeking under the guise of ‘progress’ and ‘justice’ – abstractions that have little hold on the primal brainparts – to destroy their life and their world. Meanwhile, the Identities, created like so many Frankensteins to do the electoral bidding of the Democrats, began to control their controllers, making demands that brooked no debate or even deliberation let alone objection, insisting on immediate gratification and satisfaction of their agendas.

And ‘maturity’ and ‘deliberation’ were seen politically and conceptually (that Theory, remember) as oppressive and artificial; and Reason itself was cast as a tool of oppression. Reason, civilization, maturity and interiority and character and virtue – all were cast off. Our society was headed for a Lord-of-the-Flies situation; yet out of sensitivity and respect, the media and the elites insisted that it was wondrous progress.

This was where the ‘high-ground’ of civilization was abandoned, and it was abandoned by the Democrats. And it was abetted by a media that found ‘objectivity’ to be oppressive and ‘truth’ to be an artifact, and therefore took the easier and lower road: find something you can feel good about, or that people will feel good about, and that will be your ‘report’.

Meanwhile the Southrons and the increasingly anxious industrial workers (in 1969 we were surpassed in certain key areas of heavy production; in 1970 we ceased to pump the majority of our own oil) were joined by the increasingly restive middle-classes as all of them – made uneasy by the massive subsurface economic shifts that were issuing tremors – were more immediately occupied by the ‘strangeness’ and ‘difference’ of this and that demand of this and that Identity, strangenesses and differences that the government and the media were insisting were perfectly normal and were progress. To doubt that it was all progress was to be ‘politically incorrect’ – a phrase and a reality first established in Russia during the earliest years of the Communist revolution.

And Vietnam was lost.

And all of those who had cultural misgivings about the ‘progressive’ changes, and all of those who wanted to ‘believe’, and all of those who were getting mighty worked up and maybe never had a lot of patience with abstractions or even maturity anyway … all of that wood was piling up, waiting for a shrewd matchmaker.

Thus the present Republican gambit: gather the disaffected, ignite the quick-burning fuel of primal emotion and dark, suspicious, violence, and if the Democrats say there’s no such thing as maturity then by God and by gum we’ll show’em just what immaturity can do! Toss in the Apocalypse for a bit of uplift and to beat on the Democrats with if they try to wave that damned Constitution in your face.

Thus our modern American reality.

Of course, we can add that as immaturity and paranoia and fundamentalistic whackiness started to govern our domestic affairs (and PC fundamentalism and the ‘science’ deployed to justify this or that gambit of an Identity had already given ‘science’ and ‘reason’ a bad rep), so too it came to taint our vision of foreign affairs. And those eternal sharks, the government police power and the military-industrial complex (mutated monstrously beyond Eisenhower’s time), sensed the blood of power and profit in the waters.

Thus our modern American reality again.

The immaturity of this country's current political and national discourse screams to the world even as it demeans Us and corrupts our ability to further the heritage entrusted to Us. Worse, things are evolving (or devolving) to the point where immaturity is structurally required for the type of politics that are being practiced. The Republicans have been able to make immaturity the primary citizenship and political skill because the Democrats had abolished the ability or authority to identify and discriminate against immaturity and abolished the grounds for pursuing maturity and - functionally - any excellence, or even character, at all.

Thus if for the purposes of election-season we now overlay this whole rot with the happy fiction that it's all the Republicans' fault and the Democrats will fix everything up when they are voted in - or indeed that the problem will by definition be fixed by the simple fact that the Democrats were voted in, or even by the mere fact that the Republicans were voted out ... well, that's not going to really get to the heart of the matter. As they used to teach in grade school, you aim the extinguisher's hose at the base of the flames, not at the smoke.

We are regressing. As a nation and as a People. This is not the same as 'declining' in the usual historical sense of the word, as it applies to nations. We are regressing as a society and - after all these decades of young being raised in a Flattened if overheated 'world' - as individuals as well. Our regression will do nothing to prevent our decline. In fact, as the awareness of something deeply wrong starts to gnaw just under the awareness of folks, expect even more vivid and violent childishness; that will be registering the anxiety with which there is no mature capacity to deal. This is the future if the present is ignored.

So Coulter is indeed what holds the Republicans together now. Her performances, it has to be said, are an even lower exhibition than Goebbels’s at the Sportpalast in that February of ’43 just after Stalingrad had been lost. At least Goebbels had the guts to address the problem squarely and ask (his picked Nazi audience): Do you want Total War? And the people shouted back: Yes! He didn’t try in 1943 to run the same type of rally that he had run in 1933 or 1938; he was at least in touch enough with reality to realize that he had to somehow take cognizance of what was happening out in the world (i.e. that much of the world was now heading toward Germany in a very bad mood).

Coulter’s asinine and violent immaturities are precisely designed to appeal to the primal in her audience so as to distract them from the huge problems and consequences that are heading toward them. And so she becomes more hysterically immature as her audiences become more hysterically agitated, hoping – as the immature always do – that if they just do more of what they’ve been doing then ‘this time it will work’. Yah.

Meanwhile, the architects of the catastrophe, the neocon elite, are trying to position themselves as brilliant (so you can still pay to listen to their thoughts) but unheeded (so they can’t be held responsible) paragons whose vision and maturity will yet save the day.

The generals are putting their trust in Jesus Christ and Stonewall Jackson (but not – officially, anyway – Elvis). Their wounded soldiery will have to fend for themselves.

The Unitary Deciderer is in his bunker scraping up the last 8,200 troops that will stop the flood in the East, and threatening to unleash his wonder-weapons that will turn the war around overnight. He needs no advice; he has God. That God might indeed be looking forward to getting His hands on him – has not apparently crossed the Deciderer’s mind. Perhaps, if He has the temerity to disagree, God’s bunker clearance can be revoked. The military-industrial complex that cannot seem to make tanks that can withstand shells nor planes that can stay in the air nor Coast Guard ships that can stay in one piece – may yet have developed an angel-proof bunker.

But as Lincoln might have opined: if there is a strong People, then angels will not be required. Nice thought. Kind of ambiguous though. Not for the immature.

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