Monday, March 7, 2011

The Monster Stalking the Tea Party

I highly recommend this superbly factual article by C. Bradley Thompson on the philosophy of the neoconservative movement.  What totally captures the essence of the neocons for me is this summary, that what the neocons uphold is

"...Platonic idealism is compatible with Machiavellian realism."

When you think how Platonism spawned most of the great philosophical/political evils today, including Marxism and Catholic theocracy, and that Machiavellian "realism" rationalizes the most egregious kind of power lust, it's a truly frightening identification.

To sum up what I get from this article in my own words, I would say the neoconservatives construct an intellectual Frankenstein's monster by stitching together the ideas of collectivism, fascism, religious authoritarianism, mysticism, subjectivism, altruism, unprincipled pragmatism, goose-stepping patriotism, and total self-sacrifice of the individual to the state with bits and pieces of Friedrich Nietzsche's √úbermensch (superman), and then dressing it up in a cotton print dress and a heavy layer of the mascara of "god, faith, tradition".  In a single word, I would characterize it as a soft form of Nazism, masquerading (for now) as some indefinable kind of "Americanism", to borrow Thompson's term.

Form your own conclusions.  To quote Thompson,
"...the neoconservatives reject the values and principles associated with Enlightenment liberalism—namely, reason, egoism, individual rights, material acquisition, limited government, freedom, capitalism, science, and technology. They are repulsed by the moral ethos associated with liberal-capitalism, and they praise the nobility of the 'barbarian' virtues such as discipline, courage, daring, endurance, loyalty, renunciation, obedience, and sacrifice."
The essence, for them, is that they hate the founding principles of the United States of America, but can't quite admit it to themselves. They call themselves "Conservatives", yet merely pay lip service to the Constitution, while rejecting everything it stands for.
"The neoconservative vision of a good America is one in which ordinary people work hard, read the Bible, go to church, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, practice homespun virtues, sacrifice themselves to the “common good,” obey the commands of the government, fight wars, and die for the state. ...The grand purpose of national-greatness foreign policy is to inspire the American people to transcend their vulgar, infantilized, and selfish interests for uplifting national projects."
"The neocons’ basic moral-political principle is clear and simple: the subordination and sacrifice of the individual to the nation-state. ...wise statesmen must learn to use “forcible restraint” and “benevolent coercion” in order to keep down the selfish and base desires of ordinary men. ...[They believe] it is entirely appropriate for a philosophically trained political elite to guide them to their true happiness and to prevent them from making bad decisions. The highest purpose of neoconservative statesmanship is therefore to shape preferences, form habits, cultivate virtues, and create the “good” society."
Shades of Michael Bloomberg.  Though I have no idea if Bloomberg is a neocon or a merely very liberal, at some point, what's the diff?  But if they have one foot in the modern conservative movement, the other foot has firmly stepped into a pile of some kind of Marxist-fascist doo-doo:
"The neocons take the “political community” or what Irving Kristol called the “collective self” as the primary unit of moral, social and political value ...ordinary people are irrational and must be guided by those who are rational. According to Irving Kristol, there are “different kinds of truth for different kinds of people... Neoconservatives believe the opinions of the nation must therefore be shaped by those who rule. To control ideas is to control public opinion... Morality is therefore defined as overcoming one’s petty self-interest so as to sacrifice for the common good..."
"They advocate using the coercive power of the state to regulate man’s economic life and his spiritual life... [and advocate] a new managerial state—a state controlled and regulated by a mandarin class of conservative virtucrats who think the American people are incapable of governing themselves without the help of the neocons’ special, a priori wisdom. They are the conservative version of FDR’s brain trust: they want to regulate virtually all areas of human thought and action."
As for the Nietzsche / Nazi allusion, the neocons embrace
"The grand purpose of national-greatness foreign policy is to inspire the American people to transcend their vulgar, infantilized, and selfish interests for uplifting national projects. The neoconservatives’ policy of benevolent hegemony. ...[Leo] Strauss and the neocons believe that life is or should be defined by conflict and that a state of ongoing peace and prosperity is morally degrading..."
Of course, many of the neocons would deny they are neocons -- they're just being politically pragmatic (ie, unprincipled on principle), and defending traditional religious "values".  But Thompson argues
"The neocons’ talk about moderation and prudence is really only meant to disarm intellectually their competitors in the conservative-libertarian movement who want to defend the Founders’ principles of individual rights and limited government. The neocons preach moderation as a virtue so that ordinary people will accept compromise as inevitable.
So the next time your hear a Republican open his mouth about "political reality" and giving up your selfish interests for the good of the nation -- grab a pitchfork, and get ready to storm the castle.

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