The other day in my Introduction to Literary Criticism course, I contested a student’s objection to my thesis that, whereas there might be many plausible interpretations of John Keats’ poem “Ode on a Grecian urn,” it would nevertheless not be the case that every interpretation of “Ode on a Grecian urn” was equally plausible or even plausible at all. Furthermore, I reasoned, the range of interpretations might be graded according to their plausibility, from least to most, in a hierarchy. The student’s agitated insistence was that, “everybody has his own opinion.”* (As if no one had ever heard that before.) I immediately responded that “opinion” was an irrelevant category; and that, in any case, where it concerns any particular topic, the number of opinions is strictly limited. In respect of Topic X, there are probably only two opinions, or at most three. The claim that “everybody has his own opinion” is therefore absurd. To put it in plausible English, one would have to say that, “In respect of X, everyone has one opinion or another, of a limited set.” One of the definitions of “opinion” is that an opinion is a freely circulating, conformist view about a topic, entirely unoriginal and non-proprietary. People never have opinions; they borrow or endorse them, at which point the opinions have them.
The Alexandrov Song and Dance Ensemble originated under the Stalin regime in Russia , but it transcended that regime. The Ensemble sang soldier-songs, folk-songs, and popular Russian songs. About two-thirds of the Alexandrov Ensemble died last year in an airplane-accident over the Black Sea. I might say that it was a suspicious accident, with suspicion lying in the direction of the Turks or Chechen terrorists. The Sacred War (actually, Voyna Narodnaya or People’s War) is a WWII song. But are we not in a Sacred War? To FunkyProfessor: The rod in narodnaya is the same as the rod in Rodino. Long live the Rodino!
I was present at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in the late 1980s when the Ensemble sang this song by one of the foremost Russian composers —
Here is the last concert of the Alexandrov ensemble —
The more you can attribute blame for some bad thing to others, the less blame you need to shoulder yourself, and the less guilt you then need to suffer. And as guilt lessens, so does the costliness of the personal sacrifice adequate to its expiation.
It’s amazing how quickly liberals – and especially Social Justice Warriors – descend into rage, into foaming at the mouth, screaming, insults, violence – whenever they suffer the least jot of cognitive dissonance at the hands of a based Reactionary interlocutor. How come?
“Higher education is not about knowledge or skills,” says Upstate Consolation University Executive Deputy Chancellor of the Committee on Investor Communications Marl Flaybiter from behind the large mahogany desk in his office overlooking West Campus’s scenic Green Parking Lot; “no – higher education is about respect.” A few years ago, on being appointed to his incumbency, Flaybiter began noticing how little respect graduating degree-holders from UCU were receiving when they entered the job market and presented their credentials to prospective employers. While escorting potential investors around Uppchoock-on-the-Lake, the small, northerly city where his institution is located, Flaybiter observed that many of the service personnel in the local coffee bars and chain restaurants were recent UCU graduates.
Flaybiter counts off the many types of prestigious UCU-granted degrees held by these disrespectfully under-employed new alumni: “At least three of those kids – bright kids – had come out of our Social Justice and Sustainability Programs; five or six had bachelor’s or bachelorette’s degrees in Women’s Studies, and others came from Adventure Education, Puppet Arts, Safe Space Organizing, Slut-March Planning, and Critical White-Privilege Sciences.” Flaybiter pauses to shake his head sorrowfully. “I just couldn’t bear to see those kids – I mean, those young people – so shamefully disrespected by having to work as baristas, cashiers, waiters, and waitresses while living in their parents’ basements and going to work in their pajamas.” As Flaybiter sees it, “The mismatch between the education and the job is, well, a tragedy, not just for the kids, and not just for the pajamas, but for the community.”
As the Left’s second reality collapses, the Lefties still believe that they can dig themselves out of the sinkhole of their abysmal expectations. The Left being a purely collectivist entity, it responds to every crisis, as to this crisis, by amassing itself in crowds. As Gustave Le Bon remarked in his study of The Crowd (1895), crowd-behavior is de-individuated, non-conscientious, and essentially religious or sacrificial. An individual who might, left to his own soul-searching, renounce such things as morality-renunciation and participating in hatred-inducing activities, will find relief from his qualms in the degree to which he congregates with others, whose collective massiveness assuages his guilt-pangs. Once a nucleus of moral self-betrayers has gathered in close proximity, conscientiousness, which is individual, no longer impedes the impulse to action. Guilt is distributed. The subject, forfeiting his subjectivity, may do as he wills, however basely he wills, without the smart of any remorse. The religiosity of the crowd is primitive religiosity, of course. It wants to feel Karl Marx’s revolutionary Blutrausch in the spectacle of immolation, even if external social strictures prevent the immolation from being real but rather confine it to being only symbolic. (Policemen murdered in ambushes are actual victims; men of European ancestry pilloried by female multiculturalists at “White Privilege” seminars are symbolic victims, who are permitted walk away with their humiliated lives.)
It is routine for Reactionaries to decry the notion that nations subsist in virtue of some congeries of abstract propositions. The “proposition nation” reduces nationality to a few – a very few, a tiny sample – of its formal causes. It’s an improper reduction.
But many on the Right turn and reduce nations to blood and soil. There is more, obviously, to nations than assemblages of similar human bodies in particular vicinities. That suggestion improperly reduces nationality to a few of its material causes.
We will do no better if we reduce nations only to either of the other two sorts of Aristotelian causes: the final and the efficient.
More or less like this; like these months we now are living, perhaps – if we are fortunate, and steadfast.
The modern notion that monarchy is inherently tyrannical and exploitative is an artifact of a fundamentally deficient concept of human society. That concept – the modern concept – treats society as basically loveless, a collation of antagonists engaged in a zero sum game; so it eventually finds, as we have lately seen it do, that all human relations are more or less exploitative – the wife and husband of each other, the mother and father of the child, and so forth. Such is the conclusion of the latter day apotheosis of modernist dialectical materialism in postmodernism: all human relations are about power, and nothing else.
Notice that this doctrine is self-fulfilling. If on the basis of the conviction that human relations are all essentially exploitative you then proceed to exploit your fellows, you are likely sooner or later to discover that they have all reciprocated.
Postmodern social theory boils down then to an assertion that, as composed of mutually inimical agents bound only to exploit each other as much as possible, society is essentially sociopathic. And behaving as if this were so leads to actual sociopathy.
Liberty is a subsidiary factor of social life; it is a derivative feature of social order, but not its source; for, social order by definition consists in constraints upon individual acts, whether through custom, or taboo, or scapegoating, or law. Social order then is the source and basis of such liberty as may be, and not vice versa.
Where there is no social order, there is no freedom to do anything but fight. This is that hypothetical State of Nature cherished analytically by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, either to disparage or valorize it. But notice that it never really happened, nor could it: man has always been a social animal, and cannot be otherwise. The most basic jot of society – i.e., sex – consists in constraints upon individual liberty; for, sex is either a mutual agreement to accept the constraints of duty to a lover, or else by rape an utter and complete constraint upon some other. Whether these constraints arise from within the social agent as the voice of his conscience, or from without as the voices of others urging him to this or that, is neither here nor there.
The zero of social order then is the zero of sex, ergo of man.
The true state of nature for man is a state of highly evolved and definite social order. His freedom of action, then, has always been constrained by social order; and that social order is in fact the basis of his freedom to opt for anything other than combat.