“… the methods of thinking that are living activities in men are not objects of reflective consciousness.” — Charles S. Peirce (1892) The history of the modern physical sciences in the twentieth century is strewn with instances of discipline-shattering “thought experiments.” Perhaps the most famous is Einstein’s 1919 prediction of a solar eclipse proving his theory that light is bent by gravity. It was so dazzling that it cemented his Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Such exercises reveal that the human mind can so fit itself to empirical reality that remote events may be understood with pinpoint, and even life-saving, accuracy. My favorite example of the pyrotechnic splendor of inductive inference was how NASA scientists
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“… the methods of thinking that are living activities in men are not objects of reflective consciousness.” — Charles S. Peirce (1892)
The history of the modern physical sciences in the twentieth century is strewn with instances of discipline-shattering “thought experiments.” Perhaps the most famous is Einstein’s 1919 prediction of a solar eclipse proving his theory that light is bent by gravity. It was so dazzling that it cemented his Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.
Such exercises reveal that the human mind can so fit itself to empirical reality that remote events may be understood with pinpoint, and even life-saving, accuracy. My favorite example of the pyrotechnic splendor of inductive inference was how NASA scientists predicted, to the very second, when a radio signal would reach the Apollo 8 command module upon emerging from the first orbit of the moon on the morning of December 24, 1968. No proof for this event existed; it had to be logically inferred from the laws of wave propagation.
So, my question is: can you call to mind even one remotely comparable mental experiment from the so-called social sciences? I would venture that most people can’t, and for the very good reason that inductive reasoning is simply the wrong logic tool to use in matters of human behavior. While this is not the place to explore the methodological differences between the physical and the social sciences, the idea that society and human behavior can be conceived as operating under the same laws as Brownian motion or Bernoullian distribution is—or should be—laughable on its face. More on this in a moment.
I would argue that Ludwig von Mises’ 1920 analysis of economic calculation is one of the great, unsung thought experiments in modern science, but because it was conducted as an exercise in deductive, as opposed to inductive, reasoning that it is either wholly ignored or, more likely, not understood.
Through a series of strict deductive inferences anchored in the primary “given” of socialism—the absence of private property—Mises demonstrated that a functioning price system would never emerge, and, as a result, no method of rationally calculating the relative scarcity or necessity for higher order goods of any kind could be used to sustain an economy. Mises stated flatly that a socialist economy was was not merely a contradiction in terms, but impossible (unmöglich).
His analysis was immediately seized upon by socialist theoreticians and planners and the history of its reception, both in the free world and in the countries behind the former Iron Curtain, makes for fascinating reading. In the final analysis, of course, Mises was proven right. Resoundingly so. Because in 1920, before Lenin had even consolidated power, Mises had already foretold the fate of the Soviet Union. And it would take another seventy years and scores of millions of human corpses for him to finally be vindicated.
And not only was Mises right about the practical matters of socialist planning—about where shoe laces were needed most and how cotton could be sourced and delivered to mills where such laces were to be woven and produced—he was also right about epistemological matters. It is impossible for one mind to command the distributed knowledge of millions of decision-makers conducting and executing valuations in real time in markets that fluidly and without explicit command from a central authority, redirect capital, goods, and labor to match consumer demand. This “knowledge problem” became a centerpiece in the work of his protégé, Friedrich von Hayek, and was rolled out in exquisite detail when he stood to receive his 1974 Nobel Prize in Economic Science.
The central point is that: (1) for fully a century the logical proof of the impossibility of socialism has been known and accepted as the central, indeed fatal, flaw in the socialist project, and (2) that with the fall of the Soviet Union, to say nothing of the real-time, parallel path experiment provided by East and West Germany across four decades, the logical proof was borne out empirically, in social and behavioral form, and in real time.
Even socialist economist Robert Heilbronner had to fess up in 1989 declaring, “Mises was right.” So, with the awareness that one can deduce axiomatically the conditions that produce human poverty, misery, and state-sponsored genocide of its own populace (“democide”), how is it even remotely possible that there can be an active political movement, comprised of millions of people, who seek to reenact the most destructive political and economic experience in human history?
And even more to the point, since the statistical analyses put forth in The Black Book of Communism (1999), to say nothing of the revelations of the Venona decrypts, what kind of human being can countenance the notion of reviving any of the ingredients of this kind of inhumane catastrophe for the reenactment of globally-scaled human misery for life in the twenty-first century?
In Misesian terms, how is the Left even possible?
I would like to lay out four theses that might be used to explain the residual existence of this suicidal theology, this system of faith whose believers are unable to value their own existence—physically, economically, and morally. In all honesty, I think we are looking at a situation where, given differences in age, experience, and cultural milieu, two or more strands are continually being braided together at all times. So while it is important to see various elements in play, the chances are high that there is always some “reverb” between each of these components of this mass political madness at work.
Our political culture was shaped and matured in historical conditions that knew nothing of deliberate cognitive infiltration as a political strategy; therefore, our task is to restore the principles which allowed that political culture so elegantly and effortlessly yield an explosion in life expectancy, quality of life, and per capita wealth—McCloskey’s “great enrichment.” We take this enrichment for granted, as do the enemies of human well-being. So, let’s take a deep breath and consider an array of explanations.
First Thesis: Romantic Ignorance. This is the easiest layer to grasp because it is seen everywhere. Romantic ignorance as a pretext for “social action” is the adolescent response to the absence of a theological argument against state charity. The Judeo-Christian tradition, broadly speaking, addresses the development of conscience and character by demonstrating how direct acts of compassion, unmediated by coercion or compulsion by others, benefits both receiver and giver.
In the traditional model, charity flows from one’s empathic recognition of distress or injustice, and one engages with the subject or victim without institutional mediation. The moral merit of this scenario is that effort is made to correct the preconditions of the pathology, not merely the conditions. And these preconditions center on the human heart and are communicated non-verbally. Moreover, charity becomes contingent on recognition of the sacrifice involved in providing the relief but also in the correction of behaviors and the evidence of a change of direction and a change of heart. The Right, regardless of the the reflexive contempt of the Left, posits charity on the basis of an inward change; the Left, shallowly and materialistically, believes that redistribution is enough. You give the victim enough “stuff,” and his life will improve; that’s the Left’s answer for every imbalance, inequality, and difference. Fix the optics. I believe it was James Burnham who provided the most excoriating expose of piebald, left wing materialism ever penned.
We recognize the shame of genuine victimhood—just as one does its subjection—by tracking the visual signals of that inward change though outward expressions: dilated pupils, facial responses of recognition, and eventually specific behaviors and the emergence of pride and self-respect. This “soul change” is predicated on the acknowledgement of the existence of the soul which is anathema for all post-religious charity work. The Left, in its thrall with self and sensation, disregards the soul altogether, or sees it where it isn’t.
The “romantic” dimension comes in the artful self-delusion that one’s efforts can “change the world.” It is horribly selfish (all about the giver), ego-centric (as if single acts can change another’s heart), and hubristic (the simplistic materialism of giving someone a fish to make them less hungry never ultimately works). But there is an enduring enchantment, a romantic delusion that “doing something” is preferable to “doing nothing,” and demanding that others comply with the objective is all part of the experience of collective enthusiasm. The late Murray Rothbard explained how the “romantic ignorance” of Progressivism had cultural roots in the Yankee post-millennial pietism of the Puritans; his belief was that seventeenth-century theological injunctions for the salvation of the individual soul had slowly morphed into a primary ingredient in the Progressive contagion of compulsive and unreflective do-gooder activism that emerged in the course of the post-Darwinian Protestantism of the late nineteenth century.
Irving Babbitt (1865-1933), one of the great humanist scholars of the Right who beheld the sweep of modern culture as as grand coarsening of the spirit, declaimed in his Rousseau and Romanticism that the Romantic impulse led to an unconstrained personality—that the normal inhibitions of the Classic temperament were deactivated by the Romantic germ, and one’s sense of self flowed like an omelette spreading evenly and thinly into the heated pan. Babbitt believed that the Romantic’s “merely aesthetic” consideration of social hypotheticals—scenarios of pity and sin, for instance—was capable of delivering emotional rewards and thus could serve as an unconscious green-light for the conscious contemplation, and ultimately acting out, of self-destructive behavior for aesthetic enjoyment. In his world Romantic impulse was a form of slow-motion suicide undertaken as a racily pleasurable form of aesthetic delectation. Of course with it comes an implicit refusal to contemplate the end-state of a chain of inferences that begins with soul death, and continues with an insensate separation of self from society and indeed from pain. This was all part of the allure of transgression that in revolutionary France saw the emergence of a de Sade and its fulfillment in a Fourier. Babbitt’s romantic was Wolfe’s radical chic in powdered wigs and silk pumps.
Second Thesis: Seeded Deception. The second thesis is a darker, indeed anti-romantic counterpoint to the first. Here, socialism as charity is tacitly accepted to be a failure in reality, but it is simply too good a ruse to ignore as a business model for creating public procurement schemes and related activities to reallocate assets in such a manner as to create cash streams that benefit the “organizers.” Of course, there will be anecdotal case studies describing in great detail and replete with emotional imagery explaining how the charity has immeasurable “human impact.” This is the marketing equivalent of the Madison Avenue huckster who shows you what you want while selling you what he has.
One might say that this is the central operative feature of the modern American educational career: selling socialist ideology as both a science and an aspiration. It is, of course, the career path that individuals who choose a career in “government service” buy into, including many in the military and even seemingly mundane work of the GSA or some other semi-submerged bureaucracy. It was originally called “service” because an educated person with professional training, as an attorney or physician for instance, could certainly command higher pay in the private sector. That is clearly not the case for millions. Indeed, average government wages have, since the Obama years, surpassed private sector remuneration in aggregate. And with this, not only is there no conception of the parasitical nature of this unnatural and anti-economic asymmetry, there is a kind of hubristic pride attached to it—as if one “does well by doing good.” The layers of delusion and economic nonsense are so tightly fused that now everyone is compelled to buy into the deception, quite literally, with every taxed transaction of your financial existence. Is it still abuse if the victim is not conscious of the crimes being perpetrated?
This kind of seeded deception requires seed (the ideas of Marx), a sower (the educational systems), and intent (the public’s naive trust in the educational system). It may be hard to believe because it all seems so fresh—especially given the cratering of traditional educational standards of the 1980s that were still able to produce an occasional Republican voter—but the deliberate skewing of the educational system for both financial gain and cultural advantage has been underway in this country since the 1840s. I know, I know. You will wonder why, if this is the case, how it is that we didn’t become Sovietized before the Russians! I will describe it in greater detail at another time, but the case has been made in elaborate, forensic detail by the late John Taylor Gatto (1935-2018); it is one important chapter in the long and deep cultural history of the impact of “left-ish” forces since the Reformation that has been part and parcel of the modern Right’s critique prior to the emergence of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s “new” Right in the 1950s.
Ignorance of our own intellectual heritage is one of the intended byproducts of the seeded deception—with the advent of Reconstruction, “current events” evolved from being inert facts to being objects of deliberate propagandistic distortion in the classroom since the days of Teddy Roosevelt. The easiest case in point: every Boomer has been force-fed ideological gavage about the United Nations, probably, since grammar school. The fact that this organization’s objectives and personnel from our own country were dedicated to the victory of international communism is still actively denied by the professional Left.
We will get as much deception as we tolerate.
Third Thesis: Affective Impairment. This is not a particularly new thought vector. Rossiter and Haidt have looked at the phenomenon of the psychological structure of the liberal Left from the point of view of personality development and the Big Five personality traits, respectively. To simplify, both see the “leftist mind,” if you will, as either not whole, not healthy, or both.
The most pristine example of the practical reality of a cognitive defect on the American Left is, paradoxically, completely understood by the political leadership of the American Left! The classic “Exhibit A” will always be Prof. Jonathan Gruber’s recorded statement that the entire pretext for the wording of Obamacare was, “the stupidity of the American voter.” More specifically, this is a tacit admission that those who were against the bill had correctly understood the fundamentally flawed, indeed criminal, deception involved. Gruber explains that the proponents of socialized “health care” could in fact rely on the intrinsic stupidity of Democrats. The implicit strategy was made explicit: people who are routinely persuaded by intention alone and habitually ignore the labor of comparing factual and counterfactuals, to say nothing of performing a “gut check” on the potential significance of a bureaucratic shell game—these people could be relied on to miss the deliberate deception.
Indeed, the typical Democrat/Leftist is barely capable of reproducing the basic arguments in support of whatever cause is being marketed to them at any given time; just as certain is their inability to reproduce any rational argument against their cause. In lieu of argument and demonstrations, they rely on aesthetic heuristics—the conformity of an image with the tenets of their belief system. For instance, a taste for a certain stylistic alignment between one’s attire and one’s home furnishings is not a simple matter of “lifestyle preference.” Stylistic immersion and saturation in anti-human systems of form are a dead giveaway that the individual in question sees neither clothes nor dwelling as a fitted environment for the body, the family, and the community. Rather, these objects are seen as props on a stage, where one’s life becomes a platform for the communication of an ideological commitment that is intended to be read as “self expression.” More on the heuristic value of aesthetics below.
Opposition to any given Leftist policy constitutes a threat to their dual cosmologies, that must always be kept in harmony:(a) the inner, mental egalitarian fiction that we are all equal despite overwhelming evidence of the senses and the conduct of Nature and (b) the outer, environmental fiction that Nature, far from being indifferent, is actually taking sides. Stranded dolphins, for instance, somehow become a symbolic demonstration of Earth’s revulsion with Donald Trump’s coiffure. Instances of apophenia of this magnitude are no longer reserved for asylums for schizophrenics; this kind of thinking can be heard from Protestant pulpits, talk show hosts, and even nature programs.
While I think the “Gruber Gaffe” is a metaphor for the hidden reality beneath every welfare-based public policy in the West since Bismarck—including Wilson’s “war socialism” and the glacier of moral destruction wrought by FDR’s global welfare and warfare state, and while I concur with both Rossiter and Haidt on the personality factors—I do think there is a deeper, neural layer of non- and pre-conscious experience that makes the Left possible in spite of the overwhelming body of evidence of its personal and societal toxicity.
What I’m talking about is a fundamental disruption in the make-up and proper functioning of the neural substrate of our affects, the pre-emotional sensory-based autonomic signals that are fed through our central nervous system about the homeostatic conditions within the body and the on-going, millisecond-by-millisecond, qualitative evaluation of our environment.
Beginning with Affective Psychology developed in the 1950s by Silvan Tomkins (1911-1991) and down to the Affective Neuroscience of the late Jaak Panksepp (1943-2017) half a century later, we know that there is a physiological layer of non-conscious experience that colors our valuations of the world within, the world without, and the finely-tuned balancing act between them that serves as the basis for a fulfilling life and a smoothly functioning society. Because we are only able to consciously process a few bits per second of the over eleven million bits per second that are gushing through our nervous system every second of every hour of every day of our lives, these non-conscious factors determine and predict an alarming degree of our behavioral output as human beings.
The Left bought into the non-conscious aspect of human experience early on, especially through the adaptation of Edward Bernays’ leveraging of his uncle’s work on instincts, mass psychology, and the role of dreams in daily life. Oh, you may have heard of Bernays’ uncle—Sigmund Freud.
Bernays just happened to be an archetypal, Wilsonian Progressive who regarded his work in “public relations” as the process by which an educated elite would direct the masses into more efficient and pleasurable lives of personal fulfillment than they could imagine for themselves. If you doubt his loathesome, Gruberesque condescension, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of his 1928 classic Propaganda. It was a big favorite in Goebbels’ office in Berlin just a few years later. By the bye, Bernays figures prominently in Adam Curtis’ 2002 BBC documentary series The Century of Self, a bracing overview of the cross-pollination of psychological ideas about human motivation between the academy, the market, and the political arena during the twentieth century.
We are now a more than a century downstream from Bernays’ work for Woodrow Wilson and while I think we can agree that the working theory of human power and agency derived from Freud—and Marx—is impressive in its practical application in markets and in the political sphere, on a human and societal level it has been catastrophic. Indeed, one of the missing elements in all this has been the role of affective dynamics discussed by Tomkins, in particular what he called “emotional scripts.” Understanding human motivation, and especially the lust for power—Augustine’s libido dominandi—has been a part of the Left’s social psychology for generations. But to remain blind to the sheer cost in human life of a skewed theory is an opportunity that the anti-Left has consistently missed, election cycle after election cycle, generation after generation. Understanding human motivation on the affect level, as it cycles through our system of evaluating the social world, is one key to strategically recalibrating the public discourse and realigning the culture’s awareness of the existential threats hidden by the seductive temptations of the Left.
Tomkins believed that affect existed on a spectrum of low to high density neural experience; that is, we don’t just experience “being mad,” for instance. In reality, we experience the activation of a set of circuits that range from mild anger to highly toxic rage. Each of these spectra has an evolutionary role to play so, for instance, because the affect of “disgust” exists today, and it is the response to rotten foods and meat, we know that those who failed to activate a preconscious “disgust program” would not be inhibited from eating rotten food and would thus fail to survive to reproduce. Thus it is with all of our affects—they once served to keep the organism alive without having to allocate costly pre-frontal and frontal lobe circuitry, costly in terms of glucose.
In affective psychology and neuroscience, the activation of an affect already involves an investment on the part of the individual, so regardless of the cognitive, or even conscious, response to the affect-based evaluation of a threat or stimulus, that original affect colors everything that comes after. Quite literally, the consumption of glucose in the frontal and prefrontal cortices in response to an affective signal constitutes a caloric investment in the stimulus, both on a biological and an economic level. Over the course of our lives, we end up indulging in certain repetitive behavioral patterns that we either learn innately or acquire from exposure to others. These can be negative or positive, but the fact of their reproducibility and abstractness makes them something odd and somewhat diffuse in our lives. To read Tomkins, in particular, is to become attuned to presence of a mortar-like factor in the only apparently solid masonry walls we encounter in our own lives and in those of others. But in each case, it is the reliance on neurally encoded scripts of stimulus and response that drives individual behavior, and often can produce the kind of emotional contagion to generate massively viral social and economic behaviors.
Reducing the theory perhaps beyond what I would prefer to do for the sake of readability, it is my belief that the Leftist is, in keeping with Haidt, someone who is only capable of maintaining an analytical framework of two, perhaps three, cognitive or affective variables in play—at they must be resolved at all costs in alignment with an ideologically determined emotional script. Despite the posture of being an “open” personality, the liberal/Progressive is effectively “blind” to the other ideological considerations in the way that some people are tone deaf or color blind. These aspects of experience are simply not in their toolbox. Because they have never seen a socket wrench, lug nuts are no different to them than pebbles.
I believe that the affective layer explains the blindness because they may actually experience the sting of certain affects more deeply and are simply neurologically incapable of detaching the neural event from their abstract understanding of the stimulus. For instance, the profoundly toxic experience of shame may actually effect them so powerfully that they are unable to achieve psychological distance from the source of the shame, learned or innate, from any and all sensory and emotional factors that were clustered around the stimulus. In this way, the features of the stimulus have a more pronounced psychological impact in their inner life, and this helps me grasp the fact that so little of Leftist policy makes sense in terms of economics, the logic of human motivation, or in its track record—the only thing they seem to have going for them is a self-sustaining aesthetic juggernaut of soothing messages, attractive spokespeople, slick branding, and simplistic frameworks that permit the deception to be swallowed easily. In this way, the emotional scripts provided by repetitious incantations of the Progressive mantras —and the agents who promote them and invent further such scripts—form an economy of affect that mitigates all logical and genuinely scientific reasoning when it comes to social life.
Image drives affect; affect drives awareness; and awareness drives behavior.
This image component, vital to all of us, functions as a sort of short hand for the Leftist—color, form, and style become signifiers for potentially trustworthy sources of information and opinion. The truth of the matter is that we all have this capacity, and we all use imagery as a heuristic to shop for brands and other consumer-facing offerings. But the Left has recognized this, created a brand aura, and promoted and extended brand equities across platforms, media, and personalities—hence we now have the Obamas not only making it big in the publishing world, but now in the media universe, selecting and promoting ideologically germane content for the consumers of Netflix “entertainment.”
In Leftworld, all entertainment and aesthetic experience are merely surfaces onto which fashionable biases and theories may be projected, refracted, expanded, test-marketed, scaled, and harvested. Again, when you are too ignorant to see that you are being sold to—or, in fact, being sold—these wonderful depictions of the milk of human kindness are regarded with gratitude and joy.
Again—image drives affect; affect drives awareness; and awareness drives behavior.
Cognition, deliberative reasoning, valuation, and calculation—not one of these elements of mature mental life is imputed in “awareness.”
Lefties are played, and they like it that way—even though they are not conscious of it.
Fourth Thesis: Genetic Program: Reproductive Strategies. Which leads us to the lowest physiological level of consideration, the level of genetic expression. From an ethological point of view, the survival behavior of different species can be compared in terms of various types of success criteria. Obviously, a species that dies out and destroys its food supply is unsuccessful. Duh. But so, too, is a species that fails to reproduce enough, or quickly enough, to keep the hive, pack, or family alive over the course of generations.
The classic contrast is between the promiscuity of rabbits and the wariness of wolves. Rabbits tend to invest very little in their offspring, exhibit no loyalty to their mates, and subsist as if the abundance of their habitat is materially and temporally unlimited. They are the typical Leftist: the world is a given, they just want to get their slice and consume without cognition. This is different from the wolf, who pairs off for life, invests in the education and nurturing of all off-spring, and is careful to never over-hunt its habitat. They are typical of the non-Leftist: the world is indifferent, and tomorrow’s perils are worth considering today.
The best presentation of the r/K selection theory of reproductive strategies as projected onto the political world was published a couple of years ago. Although it has all the readability of Aristotle, it offers the attentive reader the utility of basic arithmetic in calculating what is driving the Left now, and what we can expect to come next.
What the author tells us is that politics is the plane on which our species will determine how it will survive—either as rabbits that extinguish their own populations through self-delusion (Gruberism), self-indulgence (Bill Clinton and Hunter Biden), and financial hedonism (William Jennings Bryan; Wilson; FDR; Truman; LBJ; Cloward and Piven; Obama, and now the Democrat Party as a whole); or as wolves who live within our means (thrift), work and save (industry), and plan for tomorrow (deferred gratification, or as economists call it, low “time preference”).
The argument has been made that our political experiment was already finished off back in the late-1930s. Garet Garrett’s “The Revolution Was” makes the case that, effectively, the rabbits destroyed ten generations of accumulated capital in one generation. FDR’s executive order banning the private ownership of gold and the removal of gold from the monetary system amounted to no less than the bankruptcy of the United States government, and that the country has been in a state of extended receivership ever since President Nixon closed the proverbial “gold window” in 1971. This may be true, but everyone reading this is probably a wolf. As such it is up to us to rebuilt the pack, walk away from the rabbit hutch, and restore our order from the ground up.
A Fifth Consideration: The Contagion of Social Cowardice. To be honest, a Left is actually a vital component of any modern society. In healthy dialogue with the right, the Left has a role to play in the clarification of rights, the sifting of traditions, and generational rejuvenation of culture as a whole.
The problem is that over the course of the last third of the twentieth century the American Left evolved into an increasingly criminal, violent, and tyrannical sect of anti-authority and anti-tradition in American life. It became reflexively invested in every conceivable theme of human experience that served to diminish tradition, custom, and aesthetic taste that ennobled the human mind and spirit. These have become not only obsessions, but irrational fixations that are evidence of deep psychological disorientation about cause and effect in their own material lives.
It’s hard to imagine a life so fully committed to fluttering psychological fibrillation that one’s chromosomal reality can be imagined to be elastic. But the forced cultural acceptance of a private psychosis is where we are.
Their aversion to patriarchy would have them relish the prospect of a post-human world, the topic of all sorts of grotesque, graphic fantasies and even a TV-series. The morbidity and self-loathing on the left is a cancer in American society that has become almost wholly incomparable with other expressions of leftism—save perhaps Germany, where visceral hatred of self, of the nation, and of “Germanity” has become a form of sport.
But in France, as we saw with the Charlie Hebdo fiasco, the Left was actually patriotic. This is simply inconceivable in 21st century America. Sadly. But this is what needs to happen: the social responsibility to the Left needs to be returned to actual human beings and not the uptopian nonsense that occupies the otherwise empty skulls that occupy the fragrant landfills of the American academy.
To ask, “how is it possible,” is perhaps to miss the point. We ought to perhaps start asking, “how have we allowed our fellow humans to fall off the cliff of sanity?”
How has tolerance been distorted into a feckless acceptance of patent insanity? The collapse of righteous intolerance, intolerance for manifest threats to the safety and security of our own families, is a form of a negative contagion—a sensible reaction that should have swept the country but which never happened. Sherlock Holmes’ hound that never barked, so to speak.
Deneen and others on the Right see the reification of tolerance as an essential element of a failed liberal order, that liberalism itself is the flaw. I think this is a category error, frankly, because cultural suicide is not in the DNA of an ideology, whereas it can be in the DNA of a species with neural circuitry for logical inference that has been destroyed for fun and profit.
I’m afraid we are now well beyond frank conversations and emotional persuasion. I’m afraid that the impossibility of the Left’s entire project will have to be physically rejected and existentially conquered. The rebarbative moron Left, which now deems itself so transcendently glorious, is even hinting at the kind of genocidal flirtations that once defined the very pinnacle of what they fought against.
We have arrived at a place in our civic life where tens of millions of people live by affect and emotion alone and are, in their public lives, wholly incapable of what Peirce called “reflective consciousness.”
Perhaps the question is no longer “how it is possible,” but rather, “how long we will suffer it?”
No “thought experiments” need to be conducted because the Left’s own past is the most destructive evidence of its moral vacuity, intellectual incoherence, and social toxicity. We all know how this emotional script ends because our ancestors stepped up and put an end to it. We failed the game of persuasion by reason, and now we are looking at persuasion by force—we have come to a point where we need to demonstrate to affectively disturbed individuals that our lives, our livelihoods, our families, and our assets are simply not a part of their imbecilic and fruitless “experiment.” We are not predators, but we will not be prey.
We can save our institutions, but we can no longer tolerate the insanity behind the violence that passes as “political speech.” Violence, the language of Leftist political speech par excellence, has to be annihilated as an acceptable form of expression in civic life. Americans need to start feeling about their “leftish” family members the way Germans once regarded enthusiastic Nazis in their family trees: with undisguised contempt, if not outright ostracism.
In the end, the Left’s continuing assault on civilization exists because the human brain possesses an enduring capacity to imagine a future without effort; entertaining this future requires the absence of the neural circuitry for causal logic, the hallmark of a healthy brain, and a well-adjusted, realistic personality. Those who refuse to discern the distinction between criminal behavior and government-sanctioned action evince deep cognitive and affective problems.
In short, the Left is possible because mass democracy values the participation of those who are constitutionally incapable of participating responsibly in civic life. Prior to our mass democracy and the universal franchise, we kept these people from being woven into the fabric of civic life because after long exposure to them on their own terms in a small town, for instance, it became clear that emotionally unstable and intellectually incompetent people could be and should be discretely shielded from defecating in the pool, so to speak.
Now, they have talk shows and sitcoms celebrating their cognitive and emotional impairments, and share with millions of similarly impaired people in pop culture, and use the levers of the state to direct the cash spigot their way. Contagion is, after all, scalable and profitable—even if it the contagion of misery, poverty, violence, and death.
Consider well that our global therapeutic culture of endless novelty and sensory indulgence requires nothing less than the continued expansion of the American flywheel’s off-axis motion. The more the Left pushes us off kilter, the more our 2,500 year tradition of human dignity recedes into the past and the video gamers and porn stars take center stage in the generational turnstile.
What Peirce says might actually be a touchstone for the enduring vitality of the Left: as long as conscious awareness about the processes of thinking concerning social reality can be prevented, there will be a Left in America.