GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

November 6, 2008

More on the Election from an Originary Thinker

Filed under: GA — adam @ 7:35 am

One conclusion from the election results that conservatives seem to find comforting is that it still appears as if the U.S. is a “center-right” country.  The proof of this lies in polling revealing significantly higher numbers of self-identified “conservatives” over self-identified “liberals,” as well as polling revealing majority support for traditionally “conservative” issues like lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, traditional marriage, a judiciary that applies the law rather than creating it, and so on; and, in the need for a leftist like Obama to present himself as a centrist, changing his position on government wiretapping, the death penalty, and other issues. Isn’t there another way of explaining these polling results and candidates behavior, one which doesn’t require us to ignore the fact that voeters  have just elected the most lefist President, two years after electing the most leftist Congress, ever?  Couldn’t it be that people like describing themselves in those traditional conservative categories, but also don’t want to be targeted and categorized as racist/sexit/homphobic/anti-environment by the all pervasive victimary disocurse–even by themselves?  More generally, that people want to be part of the euphoria promised by the transcendence that follows a successful scapegoating campaign,” and the vagueness of the “ideas” behind the campiagn allows them to deposit whatever content they want into it?  One result of election exit polling was, apparently, that McCain’s “negative campaigning,” which mostly involved reminding people of what a basic media vetting would have made common knowledge, turned off a substantial majority of voters–what could that mean other than that those voters knew that there was a truth concealed by the cult of deification surrounding Obama and simply did not want their attention drawn in that direction? 

What this would mean is that voters want to believe utterly irreconciliable things.  Or that, like Freud’s pleasure principle, there are no contradictions in the contemporary shared consciousness of the American public:  there are simply affirmations.  There is probably not anything too new about this.  Who is a fiscal conservative when it comes to seeing their own prescription drug benefit cut?  But there may be a difference between maintaining such fantasies on the margin along with a core relationship to reality and severing all reliable ties to (at least political) reality.  To use the old definition of a neo-conservative, a “liberal who as been mugged by reality,” the criterion for such a “core” relationship to reality might be that there is something you could be mugged by.  What if the typical Obama supporter (voter?) is unmuggable?  If my previous post is right, and the Obama cultic phenomenon is simply the converse of the unprecedented scapegoating directed towards Bush, then it would make sense to expect a basic detachment from reality to be part of the phenomenon. 

I suppose it’s common enough for political losers to levy such insults at the winners as being “detached from reality.”  Still, you, reading this, can let me know:  if you listen to what leftists say they want to do these days in foreign policy, or the economy, or health care, or anything else–well, there will be the conventional gesture toward some think-tank derived “plan,” but the core rationale behind what they want to do and why, is it ever anything that couldn’t be mapped out in terms of “unlike Bush, I want…”?  The whole argument for more “multilateralism” in foreign policy, or for “repairing our alliances,” not to mention Obama’s signature promise to meet with all our enemies without preconditions are all pure negations of the attitudes polemically attributed to Bush.  No one can tell you what they mean by any of these things:  what would come of meeting our enemies, what, exactly, we would like and could reasonable expect our allies to do that they aren’t doing now… I am sure that such queries will be met with blank stares, followed by a relapse into the scripted diatribe.

My previous post suggested that a sustained confrontation with reality, now that the Left has no choice but to govern, is sure to burst this bubble, and such bursting will take the form of the disintegration of the Left into infighting, making a coherent simulated reality impossible.  There is, of course, a more pessimistic possibility–that forces within the Left will succeed in punishing and expelling its “dissidents” and imposing such a reality, now within the world’s superpower.  In this case we will see efforts to, first modify, but then perhaps assault, important elements of the Constitutional order.  This would force a large minority of Americans into open rebellion–roughly speaking, the 30% or so who still give Bush favorable approval ratings, thereby producing a new class of enemies/scapegoats.  Where, then, would the rest of Americans stand?  How much of this process would be “processed” as a reality one is being mugged by and how much, if jobs are supplied, massive government intervention stabilizes for a short while the financial system and Obama’s stock as savior increases, would be processed according to the script frantically being produced? 

The only point of adducing such speculations would be to lay down markers which might identify one or another tendency in advance; or to construct practices and arguments that could intervene effectively before it is too late.  I believe that if we have to rely upon the sense of limits, restraint, morality or respect for the American constitutional order on the part of the left, we are finished.  If the American “middle” is not essentially intact, there will be no countervailing cultural and political forces.  What we need to look for is signs of resistance to extreme policies, and the response on the part of the ruling Left to that resistance; and then the response to that response.  Last year, Congress and the President tried to force through an extremely unpopular immigration reform bill–regardless of what one thinks of the bill, the fact that massive resistance forced an almost unanimous governing class to back down was a very healthy sign.  If that kind of thing happens in response to, say (everyone can make their own list here), massive new welfare spending, or the kind of disarmament policies Obama is on record as favoring, or the abandonment of an ally in crisis… then that will be a sign that everything should be alright.  If such massive resistance is ignored, with the leaders of the movement scapegoated and incumbent politicians paying no or little price (because of overwhelming advantages in funding and media coverage)–then things will not be alright.  That would be a sign of reality lost, of the rise of the unmuggables.

I persist in believing that the founding event of our era is 9/11 and that the era is therefore defined by whether we reject, decisively and deliberately, victimary blackmail.  9/11 was a tocsin call for the intensification of what I consider a Global Intifada–an increasingly tight alliance between the transnational progressives on the one hand and the imperial victimary forces spearheaded by totalitarian Islam, on the other hand.  The transnational progressives work to create a reality solely defined by international laws and norms, while the terrorist victimary forces carve out a regime of lawlessness enabled by the transnational progressive neutralization of any terms available for thinking self-defense.  To put it another, transnational progressiveness insists upon a transactional approach to the victimary:  it promises, gives hope that, a sufficiently high ransom will eliminate the system of blackmail once and for all.  While the victimary/terrorist forces shrewdly realize that this provides a blank check to keep raising the ransom. 

The trope of blackmail is a very apt one, because isn’t the reality produced by extortion one of utter irreality, a situation in which one swings back and forth between hope and despair based upon intrinsically ambiguous and easily manipulated indicators; a situation in which one vacillates wildly between blaming and consoling one’s fellow victims; a situation in which someone much weaker than yourself holds your fate in his hands; a situation in which one is compelled constantly to make intricate calculations without having any reason to believe that the “data” they based upon are real?  A situation, in other words, in which one is reduced to the condition of a child, reduced to blathering “Yes we can!” and other inanities?  How in the world does one exit such a condition?

White Guilt has a staying power well beyond what I anticipated when I first started analyzing it, following Eric Gans’ seminal discussions in his Chronicles of Love & Resentment.  And I’m not sure I completely understand the source of that staying power, much less what would displace it.  As a religious cult for a highly advanced, secularizing age, White Guilt certainly testifies to the absolute need for some kind of sacred center.  So, the question is, now that White Guilt is implanted in our cultural DNA, what new revelation or series of revelations can compete?  Christianity is certainly a source of resistance, but could never conquer the “commanding heights” of the governing and cultural elites of the Western world (I still hold out hope that those elites can be decentered, since we really don’t need :commanding heights” any more, if we ever did–but asking how that might happen would throw us back into this same circle).  Perhaps we will simply have to wait and see what kinds of victims and what kind of visibility for those victims our new, essentially one-party state (encompassing all of government–excluding a sliver-sized majority in the Supreme Court–and the media, entertainment and educational systems) will produce.

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