Kalev’s Anti-Blog: When Women Go Mad or are Possessed

They had many names: Maenad (Mad Woman); Thyiad (Rushing Woman); Phoibad (Inspired Woman); Lyssad (Raging Woman). These women were the followers of the god Dionysos in his many forms. Periodically, woman en masse would go to the hills and howl, hunt down animals and tear them apart with their hands. Ancient Greek women, for the most part, led highly regulated lives, deeply controlled by men. In Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, Phillip, had a very big problem with the future conqueror’s mother, Olympias. Macedonian men hated these orgies whose origins became unknown or obscurely come from Thrace, but they survived in the religious life of that mountainous land. Plutarch reports that one day Phillip found wife OIympias lying next to a snake, the most divine of animals insofar as it is so indeterminate and inscrutable. The snake on the belly was an image to fear. Phillip feared that Olympias was practicing witchcraft against him or someone or, even worse, that the snake itself was a god visiting incognito and having some kind of commune with Olympias. The presence of the snake was, Plutarch writes, because “all the women of that country had been from ancient days under the dominion of Orphic and Dionysaic orgies, and that they were called Klodones and Mimallones because in many respects they imitated the Edonian and Thracian women round about Haemus, from whom the Greek word threskenein seems to come, a word which is applied to excessive and overdone ceremonials. Now Olympias was more zealous than all the rest and carried out the rites of possession and ecstasy in very barbarous fashion and introduced huge tame serpents into the Bacchic assemblies, and these kept creeping out of the ivy and the mystic likna and twining themselves round the thrysoi of the women and their garlands, and frightening the men out of their senses.”

In Athens, the male fear of these orgies was so great that something had to be done. They sent a particularly well-respected religious man to Crete to investigate mystic rites. When he returned, he made reforms in the religious rites which downplayed the orgies and emphasized well-ordered sacrifices. Ecstatic revelation had to be controlled; the women had to be controlled. Even today, every once in a while a woman or a group of women go mad or are possessed by a god somewhere on this planet. Like the ancient men of Athens, modernity has done everything possible to minimize the emotions and impulsive freedom of ecstasy and possession. The excesses of women presented a very difficult problem in the relations of men to the gods. In ancient Athens, women were so controlled that they could not leave their homes except under very strict supervision or at very special holy days.

This control was extended especially to the rites of mourning for the dead soldier. A very rigid system of mourning was made such that the mother of a dead soldier could not cry out against the death of her child. For any mother, a dead son, a son who died in a war she has nothing to do with, the vanity of war is something that she might decry very publicly and very loudly. A mother screaming out against the city that killed her son could not be tolerated, because it might infect all the women of the city and even many men. War requires a steady control over horrible emotions that speak out against it.

Even today, men suspect that women have a realm of experience and sense from which they are prohibited and may not have any access. Unerotic Freud admitted that he really didn’t understand women. That feminine realm, whatever it is, has powers that men cannot have or if they did possess could not control. The best thing to do is to make sure that women lead lives that deny them access to these powers.

It was very hard to do in ancient Greece. In Thrace, for example, the main deity was a goddess and the women were basically witches who captured the Moon once every month. On the night of the full feminine Moon, they would take out pots of water and reflect the Moon on the surface of the water, capturing the light of the Moon. What they did with that water is not very clear. And these woman also went into the nearby mountains every once in a while without any men around and howl and howl and howl.

Robert Graves, the poet of the White Goddess, theorized that the followers of Dionysos might have eaten certain mushrooms that helped the inspiration on. The mushroom, after all, has a very phallic character, and its chemistry could affect the mind. Dionysos is the god of wine and in certain places beer, not to mention some sacred and mysterious mushrooms. Yet, there seems to be no record that the frenzy of the Maenads was induced by either alcohol or mushrooms. No, I think it is more likely that the inspiration from the god came both from inside the woman and worked up more by the company of other women.

Dionysos was not one of the original Olympian gods. He was an immigrant god who came from very odd places, depending on the source, although mostly very mountainous regions where people were cut off from the rest of Greece. The classic and tamer story is that Dionysos was born of Semele after having sex with Zeus in Thebes. But there are other stories. Herodotus tells us that when Xerxes marched through Thrace he commanded the sea tribes to furnish ships and the interior tribes were commanded to follow by land. Only one tribe refused, the Satrae, who would not take any kind of compulsion from anyone, including the most powerful king in the world. In part, the Satrae said that they were the keepers of the oracle of Dionysos which was located very high up in the mountains, whose priestly castes were called the Bessi. Herodotus was not interested in the religion or whether the Dionysos had migrated from one place to another. What is important is that the Satrae had never been conquered. That meant that there was no intermingling of various gods or rituals or mythology with other people. Their Dionysos and their Bessi were homegrown among people who could be considered savages. Strabo tells us that the Bessi of the Satrae is were the brigands of all brigands, wild and untamed, living in huts in an area around Mt. Haemus that no one goes to. There, Dionysos was probably a war god like Ares or kept company with the warrior god as well as being the inspiration for women. The Bessi lasted until the fourth century CE when Christianity, with their version of Dionysos, finally destroyed their way of life, and I assume that the women were no longer allowed to cry in the mountains.

There is something that is wild within all human beings, and perhaps even more so among women or, at least, that is what a lot of men think. In the Bacchae, the great tragedy by Euripides, the city of Thebes’s ruler, a late teen or early twenties boy named Pentheus confronts the divine revelation of Dionysos, who appears with the same effect that like a Hippie did to ordinary Americans in the 1960s. The women of Thebes go wild, and they are deep in the woods around the city tearing apart animals and crying the great cry, “Evoé!” It is the sound that Zeus makes when he has an orgasm. Pentheus is hesitant and incredulous and refuses to recognize Dionysos to be a god. Yet, like all men, he is curious about the women are doing. He asked Dionysos, “How is the worship held, by night or day?”

Dionysos, wanting to teach the lad that one is not to be skeptical about a god when he is standing in front of you, replies, “Most oft by night; ’tis a majestic thing the Darkness.”

Eventually, the curiosity to see what is going on is too much for Pentheus, and he dresses like a Maenad, transforming himself like a transvestite. He goes into the woods, and is discovered by the Maenads, all the women of Thebes, who swarm around him. Finally, Pentheus’s mother rips his head off while in the state of ecstasy. When Dionysos is ready to leave, the women come down from their high, and Agave realizes that the head she is carrying is that of her son. Any disbelievers, the men, have been punished.

One of the things that modernity attempted to do was to curb human emotions, because heightened emotions are dangerous to the state. When we read about the ancients, we find a huge emotional depth that we don’t have, because everything has been done to make sure that we don’t have strong emotions. In fact, the same depth of emotion existed in Medieval times. The makers of modernity feared ecstasy and the wildness that is within man or more so with women. If Thomas Hobbes saw a woman dressed in doe skins, carrying a pair of snakes, he would run away. The moderns have done all they can to suppress the wildness, and with it have suppressed an essential form of divine revelation that possesses women. If there is to be revelation, the Christians, the Muslims, the Jews, and the moderns prefer it to be a desert god giving something over to a male prophet or a man god who has no female goddess needed to create the world. Yet, still, let us consider the possibility that there deep in the mountains, the original Satrae and the Bessi discovered a god who grew out of the earth, a god so potent and intoxicating, whether with wine, beer, or divine revelation, that the original Satrae women would inexplicably be possessed by the god, while their warrior, brigand husbands and brothers and fathers worried in the distance, not daring to intervene lest the god take revenge on them. That kind of revelation is far more revealing of the divine than some commandments scratched into stone telling you not to have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife. There are people who are so proud of these commandments that they want to set them stone in our government buildings. These inadequate men are also the men who tell woman what they can and cannot do, the same men content to send mothers’ sons into war to be killed for abstract notions of honor and national interests. They never hear the voices in the dark mountains, but fear those cries nevertheless.

Evoé!

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Kalev’s Anti-Blog: The War Against Eros

By Kalev Pehme

I dedicate this piece of Tawnya Gunn, Will Kolodzie, and Laurie Berry

The early Christians knew the obvious: An erotic man is a man who wants to be a god, not worship the god. So instead of eros, they substituted god’s love, both for man and man for god, as philia, a weaker form of friendship that doesn’t have the desires of the body, for example, or the desire to be a god. They made this love cosmic. Moreover, Eros is at the very least a demigod, and therefore has no place in the Christian scheme of things. Thus, the war against Eros started.

Eros begins with the beautiful body and its attraction and it ladders up to an overwhelming philosophic desire to possess the Good, the whole, As we find in Plato, eros combines the desire to behold at a distance with the desire to join with the object of that love. That desire is a realization that the beloved is complete and with the realization that the lover is radically inadequate. That forces the lover to realize that to be completed, he has to find a way to get the beloved to reciprocate. But the beloved, as being complete, has no need for the lover. The beloved would have to admit that she or he is inadequate to reciprocate. Why do that? It’s a problem.

In Plato, love, true eros, is both a metaphysical as well as human passion. Only human beings have eros and that human eros defines what man is. There is no cosmic or a god who is love. There is no love outside of man. Although eros begins with the beautiful body, it is not simply sexuality. Animals have sexuality, but man has something more in his love. There is the love of truth, for example, and the truth is something that is not mere body or material. In Shakespeare, the most erotic of poets, people die for the truth as Emilia does in Othello. Cleopatra doesn’t just kill herself; her suicide is her greatest reciprocation of Antony’s love. Many of the ancient poets and the great Christian poet, Dante, saw love as the universal law of attraction moving the stars, but Plato did not. By making eros man’s core, man’s passion for all good and beautiful things is the center of his life.

In Plato, the heart of social life, however, is justice and in the dialogues, Socrates works very hard to find what the connections between the erotic mind and justice is. But that is not my concern here. My interest is the state of eros in our lives.

Allan Bloom, in his book Love and Friendship, notes that eros and language are closely connected. A man in love wants to persuade and impress the beloved with a rich vocabulary and rhythms of the most beautiful words he can put together. Love wants to be articulate. One thinks of the language Shakespeare’s lovers use (“happy, happy, the horse that carries Antony,” Cleopatra says). The best poetry is the most erotic poetry. Think of the extremity of the outstanding language used by Humbert Humbert in his love of Lolita.

But let us think of our day. The American language is declining severely. Emotions are expressed in small set of vulgar expletives. I think of the sweetness of rock lyrics in the 1960s and I shudder when I think of the illiterate and harshness of so much of contemporary music. A lot of it is about sex, but there is no love in this sex. The 1960s experienced a burst of Rousseauian love that drove the songs of the Beatles, for example. The hippies and other counter-culture movements have been destroyed by the sanity of today’s moralists who have always hated any form of eros. That has come about because modern times, although rejecting Christianity, nevertheless rejects eros as well. Modernity is essentially atheistic and totally materialistic. Modernity in most of its forms does not recognize that there is anything beyond man’s materiality. Hence, there is no metaphysical realm beyond our senses, and there is no eros, only sexuality. And because modernity basically adopted Christian morality without Jesus or god, that horrible atheistic morality is directed against the erotic with even greater force than that of Christianity.

The erotic lover is lawless, and modernity stands by the law. Eros recognizes no limits, and we good Hobbesians must have great limits on our lives, because our passions are dangerous. They may lead to war or the kind of anarchy that may lead to untimely death. And we good Hobbesians live in constant fear of death. The erotic man will give his life for his beloved without hesitation because he is not fearful because he lives in a state of heightened risk all the time. If that were a social virtue, then there might be many who would not recognize legal boundaries and would overturn modern morality. Think of how ridiculously against eros our contemporary social conservatives are or how politically correct we have to be about so many things.

Moreover, our modern economics is highly against eros as well. Capitalism, for example, is based on the notion that collective selfishness as embodied in a “free market” is the only way for man to live. Eros is selfish, yes, but that selfishness is transcendent and for transcendence, i.e., paradoxically it is selfless. Eros wants the beloved, but in the end that love is not materially based. That we love is the proof that capitalism is wrong and against man’s basic nature. In the capitalist world, eros, love, must suppressed because if there is selfless action, then the total materiality of capitalism is not universal and true for man. The infinite joyless quest for joy, as Leo Strauss calls it, is remedied by eros which is at the heart of man’s nature.

Capitalism is actually the socialized version of the will to power and the will to power is not erotic. It is at best lustful or greedy. The entire basis for our economic system is the desire for domination of others for our own selfish ends. Is it any wonder when this principle is then associated with all human relations that we squeeze out the sweetness out of life? In this world, this will to power there is only domination and necessity. There is no insouciant moments of freedom , because eros and freedom are essentially linked. To reduce eros to sexuality and polymorphously perverse sex is to make of man an animal who simply has a greater range of bodily pleasures. Capitalism and modern economics is a paid dominatrix with a real whip that enjoys torture rather than love and whose clients in completely slavery all the time.

The will to power and its manifestations in modernity, from modern tyrannies to its economics, give rise to the conservatives like the Tea Baggers in our country. These people hate and cannot love. But it also gives rise to very strange politicians. Let us think about Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln fought a civil war to unite this country. He didn’t do it because he wanted to dominate the world, but he thought very deeply about what justice is, what the just solution was in his day, and Lincoln from his eloquence we know cared deeply for other people, from his own children to the soldiers in the field that he was responsible for killing. The Gettysburg Address is an erotic statement about this country and what makes it great. Think of any contemporary politician and compare that politician to Lincoln. Think of the way the Republicans conduct their will to power. They are not Lincoln Republicans. I think about how Washington, this country’s first millionaire, gave of himself to this country. Washington, the erotic man, wanted eternal fame, in the best sense of glory. To have that could only occur if he dedicated himself selflessly to the Revolutionary War and the just governance of this country in its founding. He could have become a king; instead, Washington asked to be called Mr. President, because he wanted something more than a title. To found a nation, especially a nation that has gone as far as this one has, is quite much better than being a temporary king.

The passion for justice, justice writ large, is a passion against selfishness and a dedication to social life where concern for others replaces the anti-social selfishness that we find in thinkers from Hayak to Marx, not to mention the highly unerotic Heidegger, who, after all, became a Nazi and praised Hitler.

The connection between justice and eros is really in the way that eros purifies the individual lover who is willing to give all of himself to the beloved. That erotic man desire when manifested politically manifests itself against the will to power, in favor of compassion and justice. Justice does more good for any country than the will to power, and the remedy to the will to power is eros.

Love is mutual caring and it is not harsh; it is also very soft and sweet. Eros refines the human being in all ways, especially in its highest forms. What disturbs me a great deal is how little effort there is no in the world to create what is beautiful. For example, “the new brutalism” was an architectural fad for a while, the will to power as a building that is essentially unhuman and ugly. When what is extolled is simply the cleverness or technical accomplishment of the maker and not its esthetic goodness, we get building after building that is simply ugly and polluting of the country. Consider the difference between the building that houses our Congress and the local federal office building. In Manhattan, the State Supreme Court and the Surrogates Court are models of good architecture of their day and are still great buildings today, while here in California our courthouses have no dignity and give no architectural support to the law and its nearly sacred state.

Our ability to enjoy the ugly has infected all our popular entertainments, especially the music of the young. The erotic person loves what is beautiful, because eros must desire something that will complete him. Goodness and beauty are the ends of eros. Popular love today has been reduced in many quarters simply a power play. But the real experience of eros, of love, is the speeding up of the heart, the sweetness of the desire, the desire to be good to someone, and the highly charged emotions that dominate the lover; to love is to be possessed by the god Eros. Eros, moreover, is also not contractual. There is no love when one partner does a set of obligations and other does as well. There may be contractual obligations in a marriage, but marriage is an institution. It is not a vehicle of love as Rousseau attempted to make it.

In my previous posting here, I noted that young women today are very disappointed with the young men in their lives. That is bound to happen when eros is on the edge of death or imprisoned. Today’s young have not had an erotic education. They take business courses to learn the will to power; they don’t read Proust, Austen, or Shakespeare and forget about Plato. Yet, the young women especially want a great love in their lives, and they have to settle for a man with a puny soul whose goals in life are very small.

Eros, although natural to man, manifests itself in great men, and we don’t have great men today. Eros thrives in a world where there are great ambitions that not strictly speaking material. There is quite a difference between a man who wants to be a billionaire and a man like Washington who wanted to found a new nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. The young are not educated to moderation and justice; they are taught to be selfish and self-serving. I also noted in my last posting here on my anti-blog that today people have relationships instead of loves, marriages, and so on. That is the final destruction of eros, when one says, “I’m in a relationship.” To make the most emotional commitment and risk in human life and attempt to reduce it to the neutrality of the pseudo-scientific term “relationship” is to deny love thoroughly.

It’s a sad world when there is no eros in it as there is no freedom and there is no true pleasure. It is a world where there is no greatness. It is a world that cannot survive.

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Kalev’s Anti-Blog: Rules of Attraction in 21st Century America

When I read for them, I frequently am asked by young women when they are going to meet the man of their dreams and what kind of marriage they are going to have and so on. Young women, in particular, seek permanent attachments, unless there is some ill in their life that prevents them from doing so. The problem today is that there is no peer pressure on young men to marry, and so all the statistics now show that women and men are going to spend more years as single-living individuals than ever before in this country’s history. Much of the present problems arise out of the feminist movement and its aftermath. Finally, women are liberated, but it comes with a cost. In the process, boys have not been brought up properly. So, while we have these magnificent young women ready to break every glass ceiling, at ease with their sexuality, and independent, these very same women are frustrated by the lack of men, i.e., manly men. Today’s young men are remarkably unmanly, in great part because they have been brought up to be mindful of women which is correct. However, when it comes to establishing a male identity, they have no idea of what that should be. Also, because there is an abundance of easy access to pornography, sexual expectations that are inculcated into boys and young men are complete fantasies that have nothing to do with establishing intimacy with women.

Another major problem today is that both men and women of all ages have accepted the use of the word “relationship” to substitute for lover, husband, wife, friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, and so on. This ugly word goes back to pseudo-psychologists mostly from the “Me-Decade” of the 1980s who wanted to create a “scientific” or neutral term for human bonds that are anything but. The word “relationship” is not only neutral, but it omits any kind of commitment or risk. To love someone requires both commitment and risk, but if one says as one does on Facebook, “I’m in a relationship,” what does that mean? Well, it means you have something with someone else, but you are keeping your options open. The word “relationship” protects the individual from any deep personal emotion for someone else. It is completely self-centered, to be truthful about it. No one would be stupid to say, “Romeo and Juliet were in a relationship or Antony and Cleopatra were in a relationship.” These lovers did not die for a relationship. But when it comes to characterizing their own efforts to establish intimacy with another, everyone seems to revert immediately to “I’m in a relationship.” The problem also exists for homosexuals as well. It is almost odd that homosexuals today want to have the right to marry. They want marriage, not relationships. Were it the same for everyone else as well.

What the “relationship” has done is to make people separate when with someone else and together with someone else solely when separate. The problem is compounded by what makes for attraction between men and women. If one looks at couples today, one sees something rather remarkable: some 99.99 percent of all couples have the same facial structures even if they are of different ethnicities and races. Frequently, they will even have the same body types. If you look at the Sunday New York Times society pages where marriages are announced, for example, you will see that practically every couple in the photos look exactly alike. The brother-sister, brother-brother, sister-sister, physical sameness occurs not out of rational choice. It is unconscious. People are drawn to people who are like themselves. It might be too much to say that people want to fall in love with someone who is the best person on earth, and who could be better than that than to fall in love with oneself?

Today’s most successful Internet dating sites also work on the pederastic principle of “like to like.” For example, people fill out more than a hundred questions about all aspects of their lives on eHarmony.com. Then, the computerized service matches people who fill out the questionnaire in exactly the same way or as close as possible to being the same. Then, the people who filled out the questionnaire in the same way date. However, the questionnaire does not make for attraction. That comes when a person is basically the same as someone else also looks like the person they are dating. Then, that leads to marriage. The eHarmony.com dating services claims a remarkable level of success in making marriages in their advertising. They show actual couples who found each other on eHarmony.com, and, of course, they all look exactly alike.

In re-reading Ovid’s highly satiric Artis Amatoriae, The Art of Love, I was struck by how contemporary his advice on dating, seduction, love, and marriage truly is. The reason is also obvious. Ovid was a master of erotics, and he understands how men and women get together and how they can stay together. He also wrote Remedia Amoris, The Remedies of Love, a didactic poem about how to fall out of love. Ovid, one of the greatest of Roman poets and thus one of the greatest poets of all time, wrote the Metamorphoses, and was considered the master of love of his time, a distinction he made fun of, but at the same time clearly knew was true. In his Art of Love, Ovid says that if a man is in a feast with a woman he wants, he must eat all the same food the woman does. By doing so, a man can establish rapport with the woman. In other words, what attracts a man and woman together is that they basically are the same.

I don’t look like anyone except my sisters, and over the years I have watched how much looking like someone else brings them together. But this phenomenon also works in politics , especially in the television variety. In an interview years ago, Tom Snyder asked Marshall McLuhan why it was that candidate Jimmy Carter was so effective on television. McLuhan responded, “I haven’t a great deal, but his charisma is very simply identified.” Unlike the use of charisma today, McLuhan had an entirely different approach to this word: “He looks like an awful lot of people. He looks like an all-American boy. He looks like all the American boys that ever were, which is charisma. Charisma means looking has a lot other people. If you look just look like yourself, you have no charisma. So Carter has a lot of built-in charisma of looking like a lot of other guys, very acceptable guys.”

The real truth of American politics, McLuhan also said, is that it is all about the image, but that television image has to very blurry and not sharp or specialized. I thought of what candidate Barack Obama was like. While he is seen as an African-American, the truth is that he is also very white, of Irish extraction through his white mother. The skin-color links him to a very large population, but he is also white in manner and in background. Princeton Professor Cornell West has recently attacked Obama for being white more than black, but it is precisely because Obama has the appearance of both white and black that gives him charisma. Obama, moreover, is the picture of the future of this country, as the races start to mingle more and more. He is the McLuhan future that is here all ready. Those who look at Obama as simply black, like the old days of the Southern or ghetto Negro, as so many of the rightwingers do, are not looking at the present or the future, but are looking in McLuhan’s rear-view mirror.

Moreover, in McLuhan’s terminology, Obama is “cool,” while his opponent in the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton, was “hot.” Obama is a man involves people in his image, because he was a blurry and because one could both be detached and involved with him. There was a lot that gaps about him that the electorate had to fill in with its own imagination. Meanwhile, Clinton, who had the problem of being woman, looked more like an individual and not like so much of America, at least to a lot of American men whom she did not win over. The men thought they knew her. Her strength, however, was women, who have yet to see a president of their gender. Women truly did support her, because her look was like them. But to men and to the media, Clinton was a very individual person, a specialized person, and with that she lost her attraction and charisma.

When we speak about a politician’s image, we speak of his appearance, both physical and the non-physical attributes that the image carries. That means that everything, especially in a broadcast debate, must be scripted. Policy, therefore, cannot be debated, and the longer the show the less interest anyone has for it. It also means that the rhetoric must be like a Twitter tweet, 140 characters. Political discourse disappears. There is only an image that is crafted to appeal not on intellectual or political level to the American public, but crafted to be like what most Americans look like or think what they look like.

Part of that image is what Karl Rove truly introduced into the process: Stay on message and never deviate from it as the medium is the message. The message, through repetition, just like the big lie, is the most essential part of giving something credence. The message is part of a process, not an idea, not a policy notion, not a political debate. It is simply the verbal form of the image, a stimulus that sets up the voter to do something, to vote for the candidate. It is like the bell that makes Pavlov’s dog salivate.

The method, then, is to set up an all-inclusive message that the electorate can identify with. The electorate is the content of the election, while the candidate is the form. The candidate who is formed in a certain way will make the electorate what it is. We vote for someone who is like ourselves, just as we fall in love with someone who has the same facial structure as ourselves. But the appearances are very uneasy. We are attracted to someone who looks like us, but that appearance doesn’t mean that a couple will succeed in love or marriage. In fact, often people find out that although they look alike, they are not alike in anything else and hence have little in common to keep a marriage or a love together.

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Kalev’s Anti-Blog: Some Problems of Illusion or the Fake

By Kalev Pehme

The three pillars of life are nature, convention, and illusion (magic). The three are interdependent and cannot be separated from each other. However, in modernity, there is a very ambiguous attitude toward illusion. There has been a massive effort to create a philosophy that suffers no illusion by materializing life completely as Hobbes does, for example. At the same time, modern technology has provided the illusionist such power to create vast illusory worlds that we call it virtual reality. What we know today is that the surrealism, which began at the beginning of the 20th century, is now the most successful art movement in all of man’s history. It permeates everything from advertising to all forms of movie making. The surreal is the language and vocabulary of the 21st century technology. Computer power now makes three-dimensional movies in a virtual world in some distant galaxy seem so realistic. Hence, we have unparalleled abilities to make things that are totally imagined to appear at least in a moving image and even in moving sculptures as the virtual dinosaurs we find in museums or various shows.

When I say that it seems realistic, I do so with full knowledge that these imagined places and beings are only an illusion, and hence a kind of lie. I can say that because I have nature and convention to rely on as I look at what seems to be realistic. I have been thinking about this problem, because I have been watching and re-watching Orson Welles’s movie, F for Fake. I first saw it many years ago, and didn’t truly appreciate its brilliance, its fantasy, a word that is derived from the most potent expression of illusion, the Greek word phantasia. It is through phantasia that we are able to bring things that are absent to such a point that they seem to be present before us. This Greek word is derived from a verb that means “to bring to light” or “to make shine out” or to make something appear before the soul. It is almost synonymous with “appearance.” The fantasy of F for Fake is the illusionist’s trickery or fakery or lies. In the film, Welles brings together several fakers together, the art forger Elmyr de Hory; Clifford Irving, a great hoaxer himself, who wrote a book about Elmyr, Fake; a Yugoslavian actress Olga Palinkas whom Welles renames and relocates to Hungary with the name Oja Kodar; and, of course, Welles himself, who plays a magician.

Welles says in the film narration:

Every true artist must, in his own way, be a magician, a charlatan. Picasso once said he could fake Picassos as well as anybody, and someone like Picasso could say something like that and get away with it. But Elmyr de Hory? Elmyr is a profound embarrassment to the art world. He is a man of talent making monkeys out of those who have disappointed him. This film doesn’t exalt the forger. It denounces the art market, because it is elementary, isn’t it, that if you don’t have the market, then fakers couldn’t exist.

And Clifford Irving? He couldn’t make it with his fiction, but making a fake made him the best-known writer in the world. Who are the experts? Elmyr de Hory has dramatized the question of whether or not art exists. It has always existed, but today I believe that man cannot escape his destiny to create whatever it is we make—jazz, a wooden spoon, or graffiti on the wall. All of these expressions of man’s creativity, proof that man has not yet been destroyed by technology, But are we making things for the people of our epoch or repeating what has been done before? And finally, is the question itself important? We must ask ourselves that. The most important thing is always to doubt the importance of the question.

In the film, we see Elmyr paint or draw original works that are in the exact style of Matisse, for example. The style is so well copied that it could be taken to a museum and the curator would buy it. One of the most important points made by Irving was that “experts” really don’t know the works that they authenticate. There are dozens of Elmyr works that are hanging in museums or in galleries or in private collections. Of course, one problem is that Elmyr himself is his own creation, with other last names and a fake biography. At one point, Welles makes the point that if Irving, who was living on the island of Ibiza at the same time as Elmyr, had hatched his hoax before he met Elmyr that it might be that the book about Elmyr’s fakery may be a fake itself. Fake could be a fake.

There is a lot of editing tricks in the film, which seems totally to be sleight of hand, a sleight of hand that makes it seem as if there is no movie underneath the film. Ultimately, of course, Welles creates a work that suggests that the entire thing is an all-inclusive illusion. But it can’t be an illusion unless, of course, there are many things in the film that is real, so to speak. Welles makes the point at the end of the movie that what is real is the tooth brush sitting on the counter in the bathroom, while his movie is not real. Yet, it was true that Irving had hoaxed the world about Howard Hughes. It was true that Elmyr had created many, many forgeries that we taken to be original works by Picasso, Matisse, et al.. It is true that Welles created a huge sensation with his broadcast of The War of the Worlds. It is also true that most of the movie was not directed or shot by Welles. Most of the movie was actually done by the noted French documentarist François Reichenbach, who had shot an extended interview with both Irving and Elmyr. Reichenbach in the 1970s and then handed over all the footage he had shot to Welles, who added his own magic to create F for Fake. It is also true that Oja is not Oja.

 

One problem with illusion is that it appears to us primarily as real is because our minds are very selective and not very discerning, in great part, because we never have the full picture of what is true. But there is an additional problem: What is real, what is true, is not a particular, but a general or a universal. No particular is itself reality as all particulars depend on other particulars which in turn are also dependent on other particulars and so on and what is true is not simply all particulars added up. Thus, when we write about something or make an image or something, we do so with what are themselves lies. They are lies, because they cannot comprehend the whole truth and nothing but the truth, which is an indeterminate, a general or universal, not a particular. Even what I write here about what is true is false: The icastic trick, so to speak, is to use the lie in such a way that it negates the lie and points to what is true. The fakery around us intellectually is sophistry, which is the way to present a particular set of facts with no regard to the inner lie that inhabits everything. The Platonic dialogues and the Socratic method, for example, is the effort to show those lies and how they work within our lives. But the illusionist, like Welles, is not a sophist per se. No, his illusions are self-consciously managing the point of view and made solely for the sake of the illusion and its entertainment. The sophists don’t realize that they are sophists. They don’t realize what the magic is. They realize that they self-deceptive, while at the same time they create illusions that they pass off as true.

 

The biggest and harmful illusion that we have in our lives comes from television news. People make the news. There is practically no journalism any more, in the sense of trying to find out what is truly happening. Now, when people make the news, the media creates an event that is packaged and edited for a particular effect in the same way that a surrealist artist creates a collage or a diorama. The war in Afghanistan is a vast fiction where what is news and what is going on are totally different. We even have an entire television network, the Fox Fascist one, that creates an entire illusory political realm propped up by vast propaganda methods and big lies. Politicians want to make the news and therefore cater to the television technology and presentation. The war in Iraq is a fiction when presented on television, a fiction within which real people are killed all the time. The politicians on television are fictions. Can anyone really blame Clifford Irving for wanting to transform Howard Hughes into a fake, a hoax? It’s being done every hour of every day on television, and it is passed off as what is true and balanced and very profitable. Reality has presented on television now is not so much partisan as it is a very strange view that politics is all about conflict and combat, where someone has to win and someone has to lose. There is no compromise or compromise is being weak and losing. This lie is at the heart of the political approach in the media today. In other words, it is a form of war and chaos and it is apolitical and certainly not just. When I noted above that there is something very modern denying the role of illusion in life, it really comes down to the fact that there is no real effort in everyday modernity to distinguish between what is true and what is not. It is all relative to the selfish individual and what his desires are, especially his desire for money, the most conventional of all things. Reality is what you make of it and there are no real illusions, because there is nothing real. When there is nothing real, there is no nature. When there is no illusion and no nature, there is only convention. Our problem is that our politics and our thinking conventionalize the world. When there is only convention, there is no freedom; it is a tyranny, the worst that man could devise.

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Kalev’s Anti-Blog: The American Military is a Teaching Machine

George W’s failure in Iraq and Afghanistan was owing to the fact that he doesn’t know anything about education, not being educated himself. While he took a very Wilsonian approach to spreading democracy, he didn’t understand that the American military is not simply an army; it is an educational institution. It educates with Hellfire missiles, GPS-guided artillery shells, with Predator drones, with commanders who sit in front of computer screens in air-conditioned offices in Florida as the direct weaponry against the Taliban, and so on and so on. The first person I know of who understood the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was the Canadian Marshall McLuhan when the Vietnam War was at its height. In one of his remarkable lectures, McLuhan pointed out at Fordham University in 1967:

Warfare as a teaching machine, warfare as the whole culture acting as a unified educational service, is never more than evident than at the present moment. The educational activity going on in Vietnam is total. It’s not specialist. They’re not getting courses. They’re getting our whole culture by interface. Napoleon educated the Russian in Western ways far more than Peter the Great. He taught them to drive on the right side of the road all through Europe, anyway. Does anyone know if the Russians drive on the right? Well, where Napoleon went, there were technological, military reasons why he wanted the traffic on the right side. He never got to England. They still drive on the left. Never got to Sweden. They’re now spending billions putting traffic on the right-hand side. Wherever Julius Caesar went, he taught organization in the Roman, visual, bureaucratic style, laying out straight streets, and so on.

War as education. I think once people realize that war is a major all-out educational effort, they will quickly abandon it as disgusting. People aren’t fond of education. So war has been misclassified. It is actually a teaching machine. The whole culture in action simultaneously equals war. Education simply consists in putting one little bit of the culture in action under controlled conditions—algebra, history—break up the culture and that’s education. War is the whole culture in action. Now, as I say, these are utterly unexplored, untouched subjects.

Moreover, McLuhan noted that the US was attempting to Westernize Vietnam, while through the electronic technology we were orientalizing ourselves. All great military leaders have understood the educative character of war, if only by intuition, as have very great thinkers as well. Leo Strauss notes that Thucydides teaches that war is a violent teacher that also teaches what violence is.

In his Marfleet lectures in the same year, McLuhan also noted that the Vietnamese had found the right strategy against the technologically more powerful Americans: They were willing to die. The willingness to die outlasts any powerful technology, and it is at work today in Afghanistan, and less so in Iraq as the war winds down there. In Afghanistan, a country that is nothing but an aggregate of tribes, the Taliban don’t fight Americans in conventional warfare. They can’t. Instead, they place road-side bombs and send out suicide bombers, or, at the most, attempt to ambush Americans in remote areas in hit-and-run raids or murder government officials or American allies.

The problem is even worse with the original jihadists. Osama bin Laden’s guerrillas fighting the Soviets in the 1980s with US support and training wanted to die. When they finally formed into the Quaeda they, too, wanted to die in apocalyptic terms. The jihadist is in love with death and thus in love with war and terrorism and the death of himself and his imagined enemies.

When the politicians speak of nation-building, they have no idea what they are talking about, because they see it only as something that happens once the enemies are defeated. They do not see that because war is a violent teacher that bringing the full-brunt of American ingenuity and technological savvy against people who are still living in nearly Neolithic conditions, cannot defeat the Taliban militarily. They have to educate these people out of their tribalism, both by killing them, but also by deciding exactly what it is that we have to do to educate them otherwise. While he was conquering Gaul, Caesar was bringing the Roman way of life in its entirety to the warring Gallic tribes. It hardly took any time afterwards to Romanize the Gauls after they were conquered. Although it was harder to do in Britain, the Romans were able to Romanize them for 300 years.

The failure of the Americans in Vietnam, less so in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan, is the American blindness to war as a teacher of men. Americans take pride in building schools in Afghanistan, but have no idea what ought to be taught in these schools. The Americans would build a road in Vietnam, but had no idea what ought to be driving over that road. In Iraq, Busheviks were so stupid that they thought that the Iraqis would be welcoming Americans with open arms, in great gratitude for ridding them of Saddam. It was only once the insurrection and the Quaeda came to the fore that the Americans finally realized no one wanted the Americans there for two reasons: First, the Iraqis lived under tyranny for so many years that they themselves became corrupt. Second, for years, the Iraqis had been educated to hate Americans. They learned that Americans have only one approach to Arab peoples: to humiliate them and American troops and the neocons did nothing but humiliate vast numbers of these tribal peoples. If Americans were humiliated anywhere, they would fight back with exceptional zeal. So did the Iraqis.

The inability to see war as education is what makes the guerrillas in these odd countries powerful. A lot changed with the Obama administration, because President Obama knows how important war is to education. When the Busheviks gave up getting bin Laden, they gave up on the most powerful lesson the US could give to the Quaeda and to all who are sympathetic to them. Obama understood how important it was to kill bin Laden in the just the same way that bin Laden understood how to educate the Americans to the jihad by killing them en masse. Terrorism is educative, and no one understood that better in recent years than the IRA and bin Laden and his Quaeda. In any war, you want to kill the command and control, because it is an educative act as well as a means of throwing the enemy into confusion. During World War II, the American intelligence discovered Admiral Yamamoto’s flight path. The American command ordered fighter planes to find that plane and kill Japan’s top commander. They succeeded, shooting his plane down. This kill had a profound lesson in Japan, especially as the Japanese propaganda machine at that time was not admitting defeats. The Japanese military government had to admit that Yamamoto was killed to the Japanese, because Yamamoto deserved an honorable funeral. During the American Revolution, before the Battle of Saratoga, General Gates ordered his snipers to kill as many officers as they could. By the time British General Burgoyne fought the battle, his forces were in disarray and the British lost the battle decisively.

The argument that the US should have captured bin Laden and put him on trial is misplaced. Bin Laden was the head of an army that formally declared war on the US. He was not a normal criminal who has American or international rights. He was a general of a vicious army. Bin Laden was not assassinated. He was shot in a just another battle. To treat him as an ordinary criminal is not to recognize what bin Laden was and how he regarded himself. To sentimentalize or attempt to diminish what bin Laden was in life, command and control, who masterminded the murder of nearly 3,000 people in the US, and great numbers of others in other countries, is to avoid what war is. It sanitizes war. Bin Laden knew that the Americans were in his compound; he could have raised his hands and surrendered. He chose death instead. The jihadist wants to die, the nihilist that he is.

It is important to approach war’s straightforward chaos and violence straightforwardly, or else we cannot see how terrible war is. We do not learn from war. War has no real rules, no real laws, and there is no rationalizing war as something that can be conducted with little violence. As such, it is against all order, and what is so terrible about war is that humanity uses violence to end violence. Chaos must be ended through chaos in war. To attempt to make war anything else except the chaos that it is will not help to end wars. Aggressive wars should only be fought as a last resort. Diplomacy must be given precedence. Americans have no learned the horror of war unless they were personally engaged in it. War is just something that is seen on television in a 24-hour news cycle or it is something we find in a Hollywood movie with fake deaths. War has been sanitized in the US in the same way that death in general is sanitized here in peace. We hide death and we hide the legal murder of people in our prisons. War cannot be sanitized any more than we can sanitize how people die, whether naturally or by legal execution.

By sanitizing war and death both legal and natural, we also diminish life and how precious it really is. For example, the Busheviks, fearful that the war would become too unpopular, did not allow photographs of the coffins returning to the US for burial. They made no public ceremonies to honor the dead. Thus, Americans could not be educated about how terrible it is to kill so many Americans soldiers for the lie of weapons of mass destruction, and could not see how truly terrible it was that so many non-Americans were killed as well. Sanitizing death in the US gives the false effect that people don’t see what death is and what importance it has to our social lives. Before the 20th century, death was everywhere, natural and legal and in war, and it stunk in the streets and in the fields. It was always nearby and ready to take you. Dying young was common. The effort to sanitize death and shutting it away when it happens was an attempt to be civilized and to alleviate the fear of death. It has not alleviated the fear of death; it has only deadened our knowledge and social experience of death in all its forms. If we faced death directly instead of sanitizing it, we would be far more hesitant to go war. We would go back to diplomacy, and use war only as a last resort and when unjustly invaded and attacked.

[Similarly, the effort by the Busheviks to sanitize torture with euphemisms of “enhanced interrogation” is just as bad as it does not allow us to see how truly horrible torture is. The lie about torture and that it led to the killing of bin Laden is manifest. It is only a way to claim credit for something the Busheviks could not do, because they didn’t understand war as a teaching machine. The Busheviks only educate people throughout the world that we are barbarians.]

In ancient Athens, mourning dead soldiers was carefully controlled and especially controlled were women. Men feared that if women, i.e., mothers, were allowed to mourn in any full expression of their grief, they would question war and believe that their sons had died in vain. No war is worth the death of a child. Athens feared that mothers would rise up and not allow their sons to go to war. So, the Athenians had very rigid rites of mourning, where only the glories of war and love of the city were the context. Sanitizing death is the way of governments that look to war to expand empires without objection of mothers and fathers who love their sons and daughters.

The reality of war is chaos and death and there is nothing that can be said and done to make it any other way. We must have the courage to realize that or else American soldiers will end up on the grounds of more exotic places with no aims and for no reason.

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Kalev’s Anti-Blog: The Real Case Against Evolution

By Kalev Pehme

This piece is dedicated to my friend Bill Oates, who asked me to write something on evolution

Evolution is so accepted to be true that it cannot be questioned without social backlash. Well, there is an exception to that: fundamentalist Christians and other religious groups. My questioning of the theory evolution has nothing to do with “intelligent design.” I think that approach is just as dreary as evolution. More about that below.

Let us begin with a logical problem: Can we observe evolution or species? The short answer is no. The reason is very obvious: What is observed and said to be species change is nothing more than the observation of individual change. No individual is a species. In nature, we have observed that even the closest of twins are still different. Everything in physical nature is an individual, not a species. The classical approach is that an individual, i.e., an existing physical being, has an essence, i.e., has something that makes it what it is and which it would not be that thing if it is absent. A grouping of these similar essences form a class, whether it be species or genus, while individuality is what makes it different from others in the same class. One class usually is a part of a greater class, which in turn belongs to an even wider class, the species or genus. The species, in the classical view, is a class made up of individuals that have the common essence or nature. Man, for example, is a species or class to which President Obama, Osama bin Laden, Charles Darwin, Jane Austen, Hypatia, Maimonides, and every other man, woman, and child belong because they all have the same essence or nature, a commonality without which they would not be a man or human being. For Aristotle, the species and genus are fundamentally fixed and cannot be altered.

The old meaning of evolution before Darwin was that living things have a preformed genesis and development to a proper, natural end. The individual is generated out of parents or some means of reproduction that insures that the individual is more or less like the parents through heredity. Evolution before Darwin was simply the growth process of the individual.

The only thing I remember from my high-school biology textbook was a ridicule of Aristotle’s theory of spontaneous generation. The book maintained firmly that spontaneous generation, like mice that are generated in and found in a shirt found in a barn, is impossible. What struck me at the time was that someone who was one of the great minds of all time (I did not know who Aristotle was in the 10th grade) would not know that mice come from mice. Now, we know that spontaneous generation is impossible, so biology says, except that in modern evolution it occurred at the time when the inorganic became alive, however it happened. Forgetting that if it happened once, then could occur again and often, modern evolution assumes that unaided matter in a chaotic disorder suddenly became alive. The lifeless suddenly and for no reason becomes alive. From then on, this life evolved in an ever increasing dendrite pattern of increasing complexity. The very simple becomes more and more complex, while the more complex descendants still retain structures of all the branches of life that it belongs to going back to the first life, as in the myth of man’s reptile brain, for example. The very primitive becomes very sophisticated through no sophistication at all.

The problem here is also very simple: Because evolution is a historical process common to all life, it has to have an internal set of natural rules, so to speak, by which it evolves. That of necessity entails that when life first emerged from the inorganic it had have within it all these rules. The first life also would have to embody what a species is and, in truth, how all species are to change and perhaps a blueprint of all species to come until the end of this planet. In other words, the very first primitive life oddly enough is more complex than the complex living beings to come. This individual cell or whatever the first life was was an individual and had no species or genus at all and yet it had all the means of creating a species and genera. Moreover, modern evolution does accept that anything has an essence. But as we know, the individual and the species and genus cannot be logically speaking the same. An individual cannot be a class. What modern evolution does is to collapse these logical distinctions for the first life, while at the same time historicizing this first life in a way that goes to no formal end. It is just a process towards to no known end. The first life evolved without any reasoning or reason whatsoever. The process is irrational.

The problem of origin is truly a problem here in another decisive way. Contained in the first germ of life must be our ability to discover evolution. For me, the true problem of evolution or some other understanding of how life diversifies is about our thinking and thoughtfulness, not a matter of mechanics. As the first life occurred by chance in a chaos of infinite of chances, our abilities to reason must come out of an inorganic world that is totally random. What is chaotic and random gives birth to a tentative but fundamentally unknowable order. While there are many metaphysical schemes where the world comes out of chaos, modern evolution’s approach is not cosmic.

Instead, modern evolutionary theory adopts the Cartesian duality and mechanical view of what a living being is that Descartes gave us. Modern evolution assumes that a living being is a machine whose structure determines it function. Outside of this machine when it comes to man is a mind, which can only know what it makes, technology, and what can be translated into mathematics. All of modern science requires this duality between what is extension (all that is not mind) and the mathematical mind. But modern evolution has inherent in it the historical possibility that in the future evolutionary changes in man can make man no longer believe in evolution. In fact, in the future, man may not have any thoughtfulness at all. If that were to happen, is evolution true for all time? What is this privilege that evolutionists give their reasoning that they right for all time? There are no experiments to demonstrate evolution and we cannot observe species change by looking at individuals. The fragility of this mind and machine duality is, moreover, is set against an environment. The machine is able to be influenced and changed by the mindless environment. In other words, there is not only a mind-machine duality, but there is a duality between the machine and the environment that it is in. The mechanical view of evolutionary life is at odds completely with the natural order of things which we call ecology. The interdependence of all life and all nature is not mechanical unless we assume that all of nature is just a large machine and all its parts cogs. What is the genesis of this machine? The big bang, a chance occurrence that comes of nothing generating a chaos generating a space and time and matter and everything else which is still in flux.

What we have here is modern existentialism made physical: Heidegger made biological. Evolution which mechanically moves out of nothing to an undetermined acosmic future continues to change not through individual change, but though species change seen in populations. Evolutionists speak of populations of various living beings, many more or less machines, that change because of the machines interact with the environment. As the machines change, some of these individual machines can no longer replicate with the others in the same population and hence a new species. The difficulty with this reasoning is very obvious: A population is not a species. It is an aggregate. The women of Los Angeles are an aggregate of individuals who belong to the same species, but they are only a part of the species, because this aggregate is an accidental group existing in a single time. An aggregate is simply consisting of two or more individuals. An aggregate cannot be a species.

In the classical sense, we can see the difference: Essence is what makes a thing what it is. A species is a class made up of individuals that have the same specific essence. A genus is a wider class of two or more species. An aggregate is a group of two or more individuals. Modern evolutionary theory collapses these distinctions. Because life comes out of the inorganic through chance and only one instance of spontaneous generation, life cannot have an essence. What is an essence is treated by evolutionists as a species, but the species is actually a population of machines. That evolution is chaotic, needless to say, gives evolutionists the right to be illogical.

Another problem we have is the problem of DNA, which does not participate in metabolism or in evolution. Remarkably enough, DNA which all living beings have does not evolve. It is always the same chemicals and the same number and same configuration. In evolution, there is a massive and perpetual turnover of physical parts as there is nothing that can stay the same. But DNA does not evolve. Why doesn’t DNA become a triple helix and develop another chemical structure? This problem is even more acute when we realize that the evolutionary changes must occur on a cellular level as well. The means by which cells are what they are and do and what the identity of the organism is is governed by something that doesn’t evolve and doesn’t participate in metabolism at all. Moreover, one cannot say that DNA on its own is alive; yet, it bestows life identity and passes it along from generation to generation. If DNA doesn’t evolve, how is it that everything else does?

Recently, studies by biologists have stated that some significant portion of living things do not evolve, as I remember it in the New York Times it was something like 18 percent or more. The problem here is that evolution is supposed to universal to all life as it emerged from simplicity to complexity. Because all life has a single source and because heredity, which at one was the way generations were kept in the same species and now is the way to making sure that they evolve and change, all life must be evolving all the time. Either there is universal evolution or there is no evolution. If there is a single species that does not evolve, then evolutionary theory cannot be correct. Of course, we frequently hear that evolution comes to an end in man. If it does, then why does evolution end in man while everything else remains evolving?

Modern evolutionary theory, like a lot of theoretical physics, is a muddle of illogic and tends to be incoherent. But that doesn’t deter its adherents to call it a scientific fact. What has sadly happened is that evolution has come into conflict with the “intelligent design” adherents and thus has become a battle of science against religion. First of all, we must address this problem squarely. Intelligent design assumes that an extra-mundane god who is perfect, omniscient, and omnipotent creates the universe and everything in it, but in a completely acosmic way because god is not a part of that creation. The problem here is that this god retains all that wisdom and does not impart that wisdom to anything in this universe, including man who must rely on faith, a radical form of ignorance. So, this universe is not one of intelligent design, but our universe and everything in it and how it is constituted is stupid. The religionists are for stupid design and have the same faith in that stupid design that the evolutionists have in evolution, which technically speaking is also a stupid design. In other words, both sides of this debate believe that man cannot have any measure of wisdom. Both sides are wrong and arguing one to be better because it is scientific is really just as stupid as saying the other side is right because they have faith in a god. Faith is no substitute for knowledge, whether that faith be for science or religion.

There is another problem that evolution does not address: It is death. Yes, species die, we hear. But life that dies is a contradiction that must be explained and cannot be explained by evolution. Either life is immortal and continuing or it is not living. There is death in life and life in death, yes, but life is living at all times. The big problem, then, is not the validity of the incoherence of evolution, but what is the alternative to it that is not stupid design of the religionists. I would suggest that our anti-Platonic prejudice that is so ingrained in modernity and modern science must be re-examined. Let me put it this way: If we look all things as a cosmic whole of some kind, then our reason is essentially a necessary part of that whole and as such life and reason are in accord and necessary to each other, not in conflict as it is in evolution. Individuals do die, but life which is imbued in everything in the universe is alive all the time. All individuals and their species are simply modes of being, a mode of Being writ large. The diversity of life is because what gives all things being is manifested in a constant and manifold way, everything happening all at once, not in an unnatural linear progression that we find in evolution. The world is not stupid, but is well-ordered as well as chaotic, but on the whole orderly and that order is available to us because we who reason and think are an essential part of the whole of things. If there is a reason built into the whole of things, then man was meant to be free and has a cosmic support for his ethics that he cannot have in evolution or any other stupid design theories. Living beings are not mindless machines that mechanically change with contact with the environment. We need to reexamine what life is and how it came to be with more metaphysical rigor than we find in modernity. If we did, we would not accept the incoherence of modern evolutionary science and rethink biology.

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Kalev’s Anti-Blog: The Soul of the Radical Conservative and the Capitalist

By Kalev Pehme

Today’s radical conservative is frequently a capitalist apologist, although it must be said that not all capitalists are radically right. In fact, very few capitalists are that conservative. Yet, the capitalist and the radical rightist have many common social and individual traits. We must remember that what we believe has a profound affect on our character and soul. What I find very odd is that there is not analysis around about what kind of soul the radical conservative want us to have.

We know that the radical right of this country has a deep hatred of government. But it goes even further than just a hatred of government. Today’s radical conservatives are attempting, in fact, to depoliticize man by destroying whatever is left of a public life in this country. The radical conservatives today want to “privatize” everything that is public and politics itself, i.e., they want to make the satisfaction of man to be solely his private economic interest and his own pleasures. Government is to be as limited as possible to national security and picking up the garbage and all economic activity is to be protected in the sense that it cannot be regulated in any way. At the same time, what is critical is that capitalism and the radical right conservative movement make a claim to absolute wisdom. Just as the capitalist makes the historicist claim that capitalism alone is the best way to distribute the good, writ large, to man, the radical conservative overall does not recognize any other form of politics to be legitimate except itself. All other politics is simply stupid, as the radical right’s politics is an expression of absolute wisdom, writ large. Moreover, this claim to wisdom is universal and homogeneous. Globalism is nothing more than the homogeneity of capitalism throughout the world. It is that claim to wisdom to legitimate the universal rule of capitalism and that radical right ideology.

What is critical about the radical right and the capitalism is that it is a completely atheistic movement. Although there are many radical conservatives who say, for example, that they are Christians or even the most conservative of Christians, their belief is a delusion, because there is nothing transcendental in this movement. The end of man is strictly materialistic. The Catholic Church’s opposition to capitalism, for example, is based not only on the manifest injustice of capitalism, but against this materialism that implicitly denies transcendence or any kind of spiritual life. When there is a recognized transcendence of any kind, there is, of necessity, a proper cause to limit and moderate materiality in all its forms in favor of the transcendent principle or spirituality. The spiritual side of life is in complete opposition to the notion that the joyless quest for joy (Leo Strauss’s characterization) that is capitalism, i.e., that an infinite quest is in fact the truth of man. The radical conservative who says he is a Christian and a follower of Hayak, for example, is living a self-deluded life.

The second problem of eliminating transcendence is that it also destroys public life. Because the radical conservative capitalist makes man’s most private pleasures and his economic activity as the end of man, this privatization of human life cannot be implemented if there is any transcendence. When there is a belief that there is something more than a material end to man, the question of justice, the common good par excellence, requires a public life where all people or some part of the people must have a political life where a man can find fulfillment in serving others, not himself. Of course, in an aristocracy this fulfillment is limited to a few, while theoretically speaking in our republic it is given to all, based on the notion that there are unalienable rights that belong to man. These rights are based on a form of transcendence. But this transcendence is at odds with the tendency of the US to materialize happiness and to minimize the public life for the sake of peace.

Tocqueville saw this problem vividly in his second volume of Democracy in America. He wrote: “Each person, withdrawn into himself, behaves as though he is a stranger to the destiny of all the others. His children and his good friends constitute for him the whole of the human species. As for his transactions with his fellow citizens, he may mix among them, but he sees them not; he touches them, but does not feel for them; he exist only in himself and for himself alone. And if on these terms there remains in his mind a sense of family, there no longer remains a sense of society.” Politics is not simply radical right patriotism. One could say that politics was invented in ancient Greece in the polis, the city. The Greeks were very aware that they were innovating and creating something new. In an oriental monarchy, the king technically speaking owns the regime and hence there is no politics. In the polis, public life and politics required men to be free and to exercise the arts involved in politics, including the arts of persuasion and compromise. Private life was distinct from public life in the sense that one has one’s own mind and in the sense that private life encompasses the pleasures of man, his family life, and his household.

Yet, this private life was not an end itself. Nor did the ancient Greek or Roman soul have a distinction between an inner and outer life (see my previous posting on the inner and outer life). There was a public life and a private life, but they existed as an integral whole of the polis or city where political life was directed not to private gain alone, but to the greatness of one’s city. The city represented the spiritual transcendence of man whether it was for the glory of the individual or the sense of fulfillment that comes with living in a great city. In ancient Rome, there were two types of men: They were either very political or they were epicureans. It was the epicurean who denied political and spiritual life, because political and spiritual life causes pain and curtails pleasure. The current radical conservative is also an epicurean whose hedonism is rooted in being selfish. Ancient Roman epicureans seek to remove the person from this world, the Ivory Tower, while the current radical conservatives and capitalists proselytize and, in truth, attempt to coerce everyone in their belief. At the same time, the morality is that of Ayn Rand who attempts to make selfishness into a kind of virtue. If everyone simply kept their own material interests, their selfish interests would coalesce with everyone else’s selfishness and it would be arranging, like the invisible hand of the free market, the souls of all so each can live in himself without the constraints of others, especially that of politics and government.

There is only one way to consider such a life: It is self-absorbed and it cannot know itself, because its self-absorption is obsessed with a sense of self that is detached from all others. It is inherently alienated from all others and alienated from any transcendence of the self. The radical conservative soul is directed against the very notion of the soul. Its chief emotions are anger and envy. It is also bourgeois, in the non-Marxist sense, i.e., when the bourgeois thinks of himself, he can only think of others, while when the bourgeois thinks of others he thinks only of himself. But the radical right and the capitalist takes this bourgeois sense even further. It is narcissistic in the sense that everything the radical rightist and capitalist believes relates only to himself, but it is puny self. Because there is no transcendence, because there is no public and thus no means to attach oneself to others, it becomes exceptionally hard to express any emotional range. The radical rightist of today lives a very unpoetic life with very little emotional quality.

That is not the case with anger, however. The radical rightist in this country is morally indignant all the time. Its moral indignation is seen in everything from the support of the death sentence to the hatred of women’s rights to abortion. The radical rightist is a man without mercy and sees justice as punishment, and never as acquittal or mercy. The foundation of the anger is a belief that the radical rightist has an absolute morality, a morality so absolute that any violation of that morality must be punished. The problem with the radical rightist’s morality, however, is that its apolitical and materialist ends are on conflict with it. One cannot have a view that all economic activity must be protected by a lack of political regulation and at the same time have a moral consciousness. Morality must place constraints of economic activity. Part of all moralities in the world is a sense that man must be moderate and have good sense. Capitalism is an infinite of more and more and more. As such, it must be worldwide; it must apply to all men; and nothing can limit it, including morality. In effect, economic activity is also amoral as it is apolitical in the radical right’s ideology.

The other emotion that infects the radical rightists and capitalists is envy. In a totally material world without any transcendence, happiness must be measured in material terms. This soul is one of keeping up with the proverbial Joneses. If Jones has a new BMD, his neighbor has to have one. Inevitably, two things come out, envy and conformity. The radical rightist and capitalist hates diversity because he is a conformist and a radical one at that.

Moreover, the radical rightist ultimately wants the rule of the very few over the rest. It has to be that way, because, first, their morality demands it, while, second, economic activity directed by capitalism favors hierarchical corporations and monopolies or near monopolies. As there is no real politics at work in capitalism, the rule of capitalism is the rule of the few who ultimately have against those who have not. This rule is subsists on propaganda and another form of envy, the hope that anyone can have as much as any rich man. Thus, in the capitalist world people must conform to the material reality that some people are simply better than the rest, because they have more money and those who have capital are to be given privileges, because, after all, they are better. It is not a true elite, but a false elite, in the end, because entry into the elite is not based on hard work or virtue, but on luck. No one makes money, because he works for it. If that were the case, the poorest people who work the hardest would be rich. No, one becomes wealthy through luck. The capitalist world is a vast casino. In the radical rightist’s capitalist world, chance rules, although most rightists imagine that there are ways to conquer chance. They can rig the roulette wheel. Because the rich are the best people, they are not expected to pay taxes. They are to be supported by those who are not rich and their lives are to be regulated by anything except their own morality, a morality that is amoral.

The radical rightist and the capitalist live in a world where politics is actually translated into a class war where the rich are to have all the weapons and the rest must conform to the desires of the rich. No unions and no political unity for those who have not. The radical right in this country have taken politics which lives on rationality and compromise, and made into us against them propaganda war where it is a constant battle between extremes. The lack of moderation in the radical rightist’s soul translates into a social and individual psychology where everyone is truly at war with everyone else. The radical rightist is at heart a radical Hobbesian who paradoxically truly believes in Marx’s view of class warfare and historicity, only he is on the wrong side, on the side of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat.

In the end, the radical rightist lives in constant fear, because he has made the world fearful. One cannot live in a world where extremes rule and not have a world of conflict, and when there is war there is no true order and chance rules as to who will win and who will survive. Without any form of transcendence, the radical rightist cannot find peace and denigrates a world at peace with moderate individuals ruling as a cowardly world. Thus, the radical rightist does not see his own cowardice and translates his own vices into virtue. At the same time, he cannot see that he is quite mad and wants the world to be as mad as he is.

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