Monday, June 22, 2009
The Right Needs Be Wary of the Siddhartha Complex in order to Immunize Young People from the Dangers of the World.
For the prevention of disease people need to develop immunities. Immunities develop as a result of coming in contact with germs. Too much contact with germs and one becomes infected and dies. Too little contact with germs, and one doesn’t develop the necessary immunities to fight off other germs. So, while parents must provide clean environments for their children, an antiseptic environment is actually unhealthy for a child. The child becomes accustomed to being protected and cocooned from the germs all around. Only coming in contact with some amount of dirt and germs will help bolster the mechanisms within the body allowing it to fend off diseases.
This is also true of a society’s ability to defend itself. It is through constant practice and experience that the army of a nation grows strong, flexible, and adaptable. Why did mighty Sparta lose the war to the weaker Thebes? It’s because Spartans became accustomed to winning with their supposedly invincible strategy. Spartans locked themselves within their own martial logic, and threw away the key. So sure of the caliber of their fighting men and strategy, they stuck to the pure and true Spartan way. Thebans studied the holes in the Spartan fighting formations and devised a brilliant new tactic that defeated the Spartans in battle. For this reason, the fighting force of any society or nation must constantly be tested through new ideas and trials on the battlefield. As long as the defeat isn’t fatal for the entire nation(like WWII was to Germany and Japan), it generally makes the nation stronger in the long run. US lost the Vietnam War, but the defeat was far from fatal and proved to be quite instructive. And, the current troubles in Iraq also teach us about the complexities of desert and urban warfare, occupation, insurgency, foreign policy, diplomacy, etc. Anyway, there’s no such thing as permanent victory, pure cleanliness, or absolute truth, at least in the human world. Inspect the air closely and it’s filled with zillions of bacteria, fungi, and other germs. All sorts of insects carry germs. No matter how many times you wash, germs thrive on the skin and shit fills the guts. Your body is constantly in the process of eliminating waste and dead cells. The entire world is in a constant flux, chaos, war. No living form can just stand apart from everything-that-is-bad-or-harmful and live in its own plastic bubble. All living forms need to grow stronger, adapt, or change through new contacts and new challenges. The main reason why the natives of the Americas were helpless against Europeans was their lack of immunity to diseases brought by the white man. Similar calamities didn’t befall Asians or Africans who were immune to those diseases.
What is true of the body and germs is also true of the soul/mind and society/history. The world isn’t divided up between simple Good and simple Evil, between an absolute West and absolute East(or South), nor between tradition and progress. It isn’t true that one side is all good while other side is all bad. One of the problems of conservative-oriented history has been the romanticization or idealization of one’s own heritage and narrative at the expense of all others. Growing under this kind of influence, children grow up thinking they live in the best of all possible worlds. They believe that just about everything on their side is good, noble, and wonderful while other peoples are worthless or far inferior. This attitude may lead to a united, proud, and militant social consciousness, BUT it doesn’t develop the proper immunities against countervailing principles, ideas, and arguments. Espousing a simplistic view of history and morality, it is inadequate to handle complexities, ambiguities, ironies, and evidence to the contrary. It is a sense of history based on Faith in one’s people and history. While loyalty to one’s race or group and remembrance of history and heritage are crucial to the survival of a people and a culture, the failure to develop a sufficiently self-critical, self-examining, and open-minded mentality leads to a rigid, stagnant, and ultimately enfeebled consciousness. Paradoxically, a society with the least amount of doubt will one day be filled with the most amount of doubt. Extreme idealism leads to extreme cynicism. This is the danger of any overly idealist mindset, whether conservative or leftist. Of course, conservatives may claim that conservatism is pragmatic and realist as opposed to idealist, but this isn’t necessarily true. (For one thing, even realism is a form of idealism. All -isms are, for the simple reason that they assume to offer the best possible system of thought, approach, or practice.) There is indeed a school of realist conservatism pessimistic about human nature, but there are also schools of conservatism imagining a clean, pure line running from the dawn of time to the present and validating/justifying everything that had been done in the name of the Cause or Blood & Soil. It is a selective kind of Panglossian worldview, with ‘my world’ being the ‘best of all possible worlds’. Though children and the simple-minded may be content with such view of the world, more thoughtful or intelligent minds will inevitably spot the holes in this narrative.
There is a film by Margaretha von Trotta called "Marianne and Juliane" telling the story of two German sisters growing up in the post-war order. The older girl is rebellious from a young age. She reads Sartre and challenges her parents’ authority. The younger sister is obedient, dutiful, and seemingly happy. Her conservative parents prefer the younger daughter and love her dearly. But later, it is the older sister, who’s better adjusted to capitalist Germany than her younger sister, who’d become an extreme leftist-terrorist. The older sister, having come in contact with opposing ideas in her younger days, had become somewhat immune to the imperfections of her country and the false promises of radical ideas, and found a useful place in society. She’s unhappy with the status quo, but she’s accepting of the system. To an extent, she’d outgrown and sweated out the fevers of radical ideas. Because of her earlier introduction to radical or anti-social ideas, she can properly see them as the infatuations of angry youth. Her younger sister, on the other hand, had a childhood of greater simplicity, and as such, she could only replace one simplicity–conservative–with another–ultra-radical.
The younger sister grew up thinking Germany was a wonderful place, her parents were perfect and all-knowing, and all was fine in the world. She never asked questions and was happy with the life that she knew. She loved her older trouble-making sister but never understood what all the rage and discontent were about. But, one day at school, she sees a film of Holocaust atrocities, and her view of everything totally shatters. In adulthood, she is hooked up with violent radicals. Having grown up knowing ONLY the good and wonderful Germany, she was shocked beyond belief when she came in contact with the injustices and evils of German history. She never developed immunities that might have allowed her to see things in moral/historical context and accept the imperfections of her people and country for what they were. Lacking such immunities, she was completely helpless and vulnerable to the germs of leftist radicalism which claimed to espouse righteous rage and justice. Now, suppose the younger sister had been raised by more thoughtful and complex parents who not only exposed her to good things about bourgeois living, the noble traditions of German history and culture, and the soundness of the German character BUT ALSO about the dark sides of German history–the wars, the religious oppression, the crimes of Nazism, etc. Knowing about the darker sides of German people and history would have spared her from the shock of discovering Germany’s gruesome and evil chapters and would have prepared her for understanding Germany as a nation among others with triumphs and tragedies, crowning achievements and criminal barbarities. Thus prepared, when confronted with the darker side of German history and culture, she would have known how to accept it, process it, and make peace with it–as all nations and peoples must make peace with their histories which are stories of both wonders and horrors. This is another way of saying that if you’ve allowed to see with PG-13 movies, you’re better prepared to handle R-rated movies. It’s a much greater shock to the system to know only G-rated movies and then see an R-rated movie. Her parents could have told her about other countries, cultures, and histories and their bright and dark sides. So, Germany isn’t all good and others aren’t all bad. With this knowledge, it would have been less likely for her to fall for a radical ideology that condemns everything about capitalist or bourgeois Germany. She would have realized that Germany has been both good and bad, but whatever the moral scorecard one must care about one’s country like one cares about one’s family.
After all, the main reason for sticking by one’s own culture, people, and history has less to do with morality than with a sense of belonging. Even peoples who never created great works of art, philosophy, or erected one of the seven wonders of the world naturally feel a need to defend one’s own culture, heritage, and history. Why do many families keep albums and artifacts of their ancestors? Because their ancestors were great people? No, 99.99% of all people never did anything great but lived out their entire lives as working stiffs.People remember their forbearers simply because they have an EMOTIONAL attachment to blood kin and ancestors. It’s a way of understanding and reminding ourselves that we didn’t pop out of the thin air. We all owe something to the past, good and bad, that paved the way for us to exist in this world to find happiness(and to suffer).
Anyway, the younger sister in the movie wasn’t introduced to the complexities of the world. She was raised as a Good Girl, and she was indeed the perfect Good Girl in her youth. She was not taught how to think but merely how to follow and please people with authority. Had she lived in the 18th century, her upbringing and outlook might have been enough for her to be happy in life. But, she lived in the modern world with freedom, choices, competing ideas and values, and various temptations. In the modern world, one needs a complex and critical mind. One can no longer believe in absolutes in terms of morality, culture, history, etc. There are mountains of data, information, news, perspectives, and opinions available to all of us. So, we can no longer embrace the simple tribalism or moralism of yesteryear that defined the world in terms of black vs white OR us vs them. In order to preserve a sense of national/cultural/racial identity and a set of values near and dear to us, we can no longer just rely on old truisms but must constantly seek and put forth new and better-devised arguments and creative visions. We can’t simply rely on Faith in ourselves or in our history as if that alone means we are good and worthy. In a contentious world, everything must be contended, explained, fought, and won. This is true even of the ‘gay marriage’ debate. It’s not enough to say ‘gay marriage’ is wrong because tradition says marriage is between a man and a woman. Nor, can we rely simply on Faith in Scriptures since modern governments are founded on secular principles. We must make a better argument based on how biology connects with morality, and how these principles are the underlying foundations of civilization and social values. And, we must also counter the enemy by exposing how they are promoting ‘gay marriage’ not really to extend justice and equality to gays but to undermine the very assumptions of conservative and timeless values so as to loosen moral foundations, following which greater radical changes can be wrought on a value-free and corrupt society.
We must constantly be aware of the challenges to our order, our history, and our race. But, we must also challenge our own history, our own values, and our own failings. And, we must also expose ourselves and our young ones to the arguments made by the other side. The trick is not simply to make our kids read leftist or anti-Western literature but to make them familiar with it, at least to the extent to which it can be countered and annulled by better arguments on our side. A conservatism that has been exposed to and has overcome the leftist temptation is more resilient and healthy than a conservatism that is entirely ignorant of the other side and only knows the simplistic truisms of the Right. Such simple minds are the easiest candidates for being converted to leftism since they haven’t been exposed to and made immune against the temptations of leftist thought. Those who simplemindedly cling to the Right can easily be simplemindedly seduced to the Left.
Only through proper exposure to leftist ideas can we develop immunities to them. (I understand many people fear this exposure since they are incapable of coming up with better counter-arguments, which leaves them with two unpleasant choices: admit that the Left is correct and go over to the other side OR cling to the intellectually battered Right unmoored from its moral foundations. The moral insecurity of the Right is evident in how they try to undermine the Left by accusing it of ‘racism’ and ‘sexism’ as though the Left commits its worst sins when acting like rightists. Or, consider how often conservatives try to tag the Left with Nazism and fascism than with communism or Marxism. Many on the Right seem to believe that the evil of the Right is worse than the evils of the Left, and therefore, the Left must be smeared with rightist tendencies. By the way, the conservative argument that Fascism and Nazism are really more of the Left is unconvincing.) If we make the claim that we are all good and perfect, then legitimate and valid criticism of the West can prove fatal to our confidence since it would have been founded on the notion that we are blameless. It would be a kind of moral narcissism and arrogance which can easily be deflated by evidence since no people or nation is without great sins and evils. It is the perfectionist or narcissist who is quickest to lose faith in one’s achievement or in oneself since the faith happens to be based on an impossible self-delusion. Since nothing is perfect, it would be easy for your antagonist to point out where the flaws or bugs in your system are. So, admitting and understanding the flaws of one’s own people and culture is the first step in developing a confidence that can take the criticisms and hard knocks of life. Since one doesn’t claim to have a perfect record nor necessarily superior way of life, there’s no undue shock nor reason to be depressed when the flaws in yourself or your achievement are exposed. You can admit that it is indeed true, and this is true for all people, individuals, systems, and ideas. That said, since you belong to a certain culture, race, and nation, it’s natural where your main loyalty would be. Your values wouldn’t solely be based on some highfalutin sense of moral superiority that you parade before the world but on something more mundane and solid like Blood and Soil. Your claim would be that you try to be a good person and try to make for a better society for all, BUT you are also aware of limitations of what people can do and the force of human nature that sees and experiences the world in terms of flesh and bone than just abstract principles and high-minded ideas.
But, the fact remains that there is still an element in American conservatism that wants to simply wave the flag, bake the apple pie, and espouse a simple-minded view of America that is either G-rated or just plain narcissistic. If the Christian Right prefers the G-rated America of good mushy feelings, the rising elements of white nationalism embrace a rather stupid kind of ‘my people are noble and great’ mentality that is little more than a brutal kind of Mickey Mouse feel-good-ism.
And so, it’s not surprising that many intelligent people who were raised under simple conservative values, Panglossian "don’t worry, be happy" free-market theories, or simple vision of American or White History end up going over to the Left. They’d grown up thinking of America or Western civilization as the paragon of virtue, goodness, decency, and nobility. Therefore, when later confronted with the fact of America’s failings or crimes, they were shocked beyond belief and lost ALL faith and trust in America. Also, even if they were never met with the temptation of radical leftism, intelligent people simply want a more nuanced, sophisticated, and knowledgeable take on the world. They want to read more books, hear different views, and be open to ideas and cultures from all over the world. It’s no wonder that intelligent people prefer NPR to conservative talk radio which dishes out the same predictable mantra to the choir. Of course, there’s a lot of dumb left too–Michael Moore. But, there is a still a culture on the liberal and leftist side that is more open to inquiry, different ideas, culture, art, cuisine, and views. The knee-jerk reaction of many conservatives is "I’ll stick to mine, and keep that strange or foreign stuff away from me.". The first reaction among many leftists and liberals is, "I want to know more about ideas, peoples, and cultures." Now, which attitude is more appealing to intelligent people? The turtle-like conservative attitude or the pawing-and-clawing liberal attitude? And, keep in mind that even when liberals act stupid, they tend to be wittier–thus more appealing to intelligent people–than conservatives who get their ideas less through wit and brilliance than through volume and emotionalism. Now, it may be that people who care more for other cultures but know nothing of their own are idiots. But, it also happens to be true that your average liberal is more interested in Western Culture than your average conservative. For many conservatives, The West is an emblem, really a codeword for racial unity than a history or culture worth studying and learning about. Worse, many on the White Right who do read up on Western history get their information form dubious sources presenting Nazi-esque cartoons about the superiority of the so-called "Aryan" race. This isn’t true history but identity politics as baseball-card-collecting. The lack of thoughtful attitude, curiosity, open-mindedness on the Right has been fatal in the cultural and academic spheres for quite a long time.
Too often, the Right has been inquisitional than inquisitive: arrogantly pointing fingers than placing a finger on the chin to think.
Just consider the many white suburbs which used to be conservative and vote for the GOP. Why did many of them turn liberal? It’s because suburbanites are generally well-educated and want to be(or want to be thought of as) open-minded, fair-minded, and thoughtful. When they see that the GOP is closely associated with Southern Evangelicals who insist on Creationism or Intelligent Design, they turn away from the party and go over to the Democrats. Or, if they can’t stomach the Democrats either, they choose to be Independent. Also, the vast number of white suburbanites are middle class, so does it make sense for the GOP to slash taxes on the very rich(especially when the majority of them happen to be liberals?) Sarah Palin is a wonderful person, but she cannot appeal to the masses of educated suburbanites who know that Earth is older than 10,000 years. Until the GOP can develop a culture of thought and intelligence, it will keep losing the votes of people with college degrees. This isn’t to say that liberals are necessarily more intelligent in the objective sense. What’s so intelligent about Oprah, Barbara Walters, Ellen Degeneris, Jon Stewart, and the people who watch those programs? There’s plenty of stupidity to go all around. But, when it comes to the aura or cult of intelligence and open-mindedness, the liberals outshine conservatives. And, among the genuinely intelligent and thoughtful, it’s true that the vast majority do tend to be liberal or even leftist. But, this isn’t to discount the fact that many liberals and leftists are politically correct, dogmatic, and censorious when it comes to views that undermine their ideological assumptions which are so crucial to their agenda. Indeed, it’s been true for a long time that open-mindedness and inquisitiveness on the part of liberals and leftists are selective than all-encompassing. This is especially true on the issue of race, sex, and sexual orientation. Most liberals and leftists may be open to ideas, cultures, and views from around the world, but they cannot tolerate the idea that races may not be equal because to admit or even to explore such likelihood could very well destroy the entire liberal house-of-cards constructed since the end of WWII.
Anyway, children raised by conservatives need to be better prepared for the complex, contradictory, and conflicted world. Unless they develop immunities to problems of doubt, they may lose faith in conservative or right-wing ideas and values which may suddenly appear childish, stupid, or deceitful. This may well be called the Siddhartha or Buddha Complex because the Indian prince was raised in a protected and cocooned environment where all seemed well, everyone was happy, diseases and illness were nowhere to be found, and sorrow didn’t exist as a word. There was no need for thought, no need for ambiguity, complexity, irony, or nuance. As far as Siddhartha was concerned, every corner of the world was just like his little world–perfect, wonderful, idyllic. There was no death, no suffering, no decay, no hags on The View. But one day, Siddhartha wandered from his cloistered garden paradise and saw the world outside. He saw poverty, wickedness, disease, death, suffering. Because he’d never developed psychological or spiritual immunities to such things, he freaked out and never fully gained his senses. Shocked and dismayed, he rejected the entire world and sought truth in an imaginary Nirvana. We see the same pattern among many people raised under a simple-minded form of conservatism or rightism. As children, they grow up with Old Glory, apple pie, themes of God and country, America as City on the Hill, and wonderfulness of American people and history(and a good deal of contempt for non-American peoples). Now, a person who never comes in contact with any other historical, cultural, or moral perspective may indeed be more or less satisfied with this kind of simpleminded narrative. Or, if a person is dumb and cannot think for oneself, he may go along with ‘my people uber alles’. But, an intelligent or thinking person raised with such simple-minded ideas will face a crisis when he comes in contact with counter-perspectives which point out the failings and dark sides of the West and America. With insufficient immunities against this kind of intellectual and political onslaught, he may fall for the ultra-leftism condemning America altogether. Of course, not everyone lurches to the left in reaction to the moral or psychological crisis. Some lurch toward libertarianism which blames all the evils and crimes of America on the Government and embrace the fantasy that an America with a smaller government would have avoided committing all those evils. Libertarianism seeks for a form of secular Nirvana by meditating away the government as an Evil Illusion. Of course, libertarians pretend to think objectively, but as they ignore the Real World or the world-as-it-really-is but only carry on with their theories of how the world ought to be and how people should really think(when, in fact, most people will NEVER think or live like libertarians), it’s best to understand libertarianism as a sort of personal religion. If communism has its roots in the collective strains of Christianity, libertarianism has parallels with some of the individualist strains in Buddhism. Of course, Buddhism isn’t individualist, but it is a ‘religion’ or system of ideas that says even all the gods are really illusions and truth can only be found through one’s own personal journey to the Nirvanic state. Though personal prayer is important in Christianity, there is sense of a community working together on Earth and striving toward Heaven, where we shall we meet again. The whole point of Buddhism is to separate oneself from everyone else, from the world, from even the gods, and seek that Nirvana which is truth beyond all categories. (The reader may ask why I didn’t employ something like the ‘Adam and Eve Complex’. Such complex would not apply to the modern world where people are free and have choices–and would rather blame others than themselves. It’s true that Adam and Eve, like Siddhartha, was situated in some kind of paradise. But according to the Old Testament, it was a genuine paradise, unlike the false paradise of Siddhartha’s youth. And, if Siddhartha was wronged by his well-meaning but foolish and delusional father, Adam and Eve brought upon their fall on their own. Therefore, Adam and Eve understood that the Fall of the Garden was their fault and that they had to suffer as a result and strive to redeem themselves. There was a time when people were less free and more dependent on the community for well-being, identity, and meaning of life. As a result, they never regarded themselves as being separate–as individuals–from society. The failing of society was deemed to be their own failing. Also, as the most people looked up to the ruling class, they were humble before their lords and took the moral burden of social ills on themselves. This kind of mentality among the people was prevalent in Russia prior to WWI and even through much of the 20th century. Consider the loyal party members who were tortured and killed by the communist regime but still believed in Stalin as they ‘sacrificed’ their lives for the Revolution–though they’d been wrongfully charged. There was a time when the rulers blamed the people for the failings of society. Even today, there are many Cubans who don’t blame Castro for the national failings but blame themselves for having failed to live up to the high and noble standards of Castro and Che. But, in the free democracies the rules of the blame game have been reversed, and the people blame the leaders for the problems. For this reason, many white people who learn about the dark side of American history don’t necessarily put the blame on themselves. Conservatives often accuse white liberals of being self-loathing, but this isn’t necessarily true. If anything, white liberals and leftists are among the most morally arrogant and narcissistic. They dump ALL the blame on white people OF THE PAST or on white CONSERVATIVES who supposedly stand in the way of True Progress. White liberals may have supported Obama less out of white self-loathing than out of self-aggrandizement, as if to show off their open-minded wonderfulness, ‘tolerance’, and to display their hipness and coolness in supporting a super black guy. Of course, there is an element of self-loathing among liberals, and one can argue that white liberal moral pride, arrogance, and narcissism are rooted in self-loathing. This is true to some extent but not true enough since many white liberals no longer even have a white identity. As far as they are concerned, they are not part of the white race but of the HUMAN RACE, and as long as they identify with billions of people all over the world, they no longer feel special guilt for what happened in the past. They are into accusatory–against ‘evil conservative whites’–mode than in self-bashing mode. As far as white liberals are concerned, whiteness is passe and bogus. So, white guilt is only for those who cling to white identity. If, as a white liberal, you embrace the HUMAN RACE and multiculturalism as your main identity, you’ve baptized yourself of guilt and evils associated with whiteness. You can stand with rest of humanity against the evil remnants of the white race as represented by white conservatives, rightists, and nationalists.)
This isn’t to suggest that most liberals, leftists, and libertarians are ex-conservatives who’d lost faith. Indeed, many of them grew up as liberals, leftists, or libertarians from cradle. But, if we examine the deeper roots of value systems such as liberalism, leftism, and libertarianism, it appears they partly developed partly in reaction to the overly simple-minded truths of conservatism. Of course, given the nature of the human mind and history, all these ‘progressive’ ideologies also developed their own simple dogmas and demanded Correct Faith from their followers. Political correctness too is instructive as a warning against simple-mindedness because its simplemindedness has turned many liberals toward libertarianism or even conservatism. Indeed, liberalism too has suffered the same fate of conservatism when it came to espouse a simple set of ‘progressive’ faiths and social assumptions which were not to be challenged but merely accepted, such as the biological equality of races or even the notion that ‘race is a myth’. But, the denial of the reality of race is a simple-minded ideological stance undermined by new scientific findings, and many intelligent and truth-seeking people have turned away from this secular religion though they hate to admit for our culture is so rabidly and viciously anti-racist. (By ‘anti-racist’, I mean that political correctness refuses to acknowledge that races exist and that racial differences may play in a factor in why societies turne out the way they do.)
For a thinking mind, simplemindedness cannot win over complexity. Of course, we must not confuse simplemindedness with simplicity which is a virtue. We want facts and truths to be as simple as possible. Genuine complexities are constructed of sound simplicities. There’s no sense in needlessly complicating a simple idea. But, the human world–cultures, histories, psychology, morality, arts, etc–are very complex, and no simple idea or theory can explain everything. To believe in a set of ideas or values without thinking or questioning is merely to be programmed. Even if it’s true that many people are content to be programmed, the fact still remains that thoughtful and/or intelligent people want to know more, question more, and want come neaer to the truer truth. If such people–who often end up as the elite of society–are not to lose total faith in the values and ideas they grew up with–hopefully conservative ones– , they must be introduced to complexity and multiplicity of reality from a young age and be prepared for a more nuanced and sophisticated view of the world and the people in it. Respect for one’s own culture must develop in tandem with respect for other cultures, knowledge of one’s people’s narrative must not reject or deny the rightful narratives of other peoples, the appreciation of one’s own history must acknowledge the validity of other histories. One must not only be mindful of the wrongs done to one’s own people but also of the wrongs done to other peoples by one’s own people.
This is true of child rearing too. Parents who tell their kids that their own family is the best as opposed to all the other families are stupid and simple-minded. If you tell kids, "we are richer than all the other families, more intelligent than all the other families, stronger than all the other families, more talented than all the other families, etc", what will happen when the kids grow older and realize that it isn’t so? The kids will be shocked to discover the good or superior things about other families and lose faith in one’s own family as a den of small-minded deceit. Good parents teach their kids of the importance of family unity, loyalty, and even a degree of pride, but they also teach their kids to respect other families, learn from other peoples, and be self-critical of the families own failings.
It is a stupid and simpleminded alcoholic parent filled with vain pride who never addresses his own problems but scapegoats everyone else, especially next door neighbors. Egomania is bad for the soul, and ethno-mania is bad for the national or racial soul. It makes one blind to one’s own failings and blind to the legitimate successes of others. Kids who grow up under ethno-mania develop an arrogant and cocky sense of the superiority of their own people over other peoples. They disdain thought and only maintain a habit of feeling glibly good about themselves. But, the problem goes even further, whereby the sense of superiority isn’t merely racial, tribal, militaristic, or nationalistic but moralistic. ETHNO-mania can join together with ETHO-mania, or mania of ethical superiority. For much of American history, there was a kind of etho-mania, the idea of America as a City on a Hill. The Chinese, though not expansionary like the West, also developed both ethno- and etho-mania, whereby they came to see themselves as not only culturally and ethnically better than other people but also ethically superior. For 1000s of years, the Chinese were convinced of the superiority and didn’t think they had much to learn from other peoples and cultures. To be sure, United States was far more open-minded, self-critical, progressive, experimental, and reform-oriented than China was, and American white ethno-mania had been checked somewhat by Christianity which stressed the universal soul-hood of man and by the Constitution which stated that no race should have unfair dominance over others. Because America had usually been so ahead of the curve of most nations in terms of social progress and freedom, most Americans felt a great deal of pride in their moral values and ethical practices. But, the fact is white Americans had, one way or another, often practices ethno-mania up until the 1950s/1960s. All said and done, white Christians had been favored over other peoples, sometimes through institutions such as slavery or by war & conquest.
Sooner or later, the strains of ethno-mania and etho-mania were bound to clash in American history. On the one hand, Americans took great pride–even arrogant pride–in being a progressive moral nation that judged everyone on individual merit than by race or color. On the other hand, America had mostly been a white nation where white people took special pride in being white and used racial identity and unity to keep down other races. So, the etho-mania that took pride in color-blind and non-prejudiced justice came in confrontation with the ethno-mania that based its pride in a ‘white power’–and until mid 20th century, Protestant–nation.
Far more useful and sensible for America would have been a system of ethics that aimed for fairness but didn’t assert an ‘exceptionalist’ superiority that filled Americans with much moral pride about themselves and inadvertently supplied ammo to anti-Americans eager to expose the failings and hypocrisies of America. Had Americans been more honestly aware of their nation’s ethical failings and double-standards and incorporated them in their understanding of history, later generations of Americans would have been less shocked or upset when facing the darker side of American history.
Perhaps, the Great Depression followed by WWII had something to do with the rise of etho-mania. The Great Depression was an example of a major failing in the American economic and political(even cultural) system. Many people were driven to desperation and lost hope in the future. Many thought America as a great prosperous nation was finished and things would never get any better. Then came WWII. It too was horrible, and soldiers returning from war wanted to put the awful experiences behind them and get on with their lives. So, the generation that grew up with the Depression and WWII–the so-called ‘greatest generation’–wanted the good life after so much misery in poverty stricken children and bloody warfare. They didn’t want gloom and doom, darkness and ambiguity. Not for themselves and not for their children. So, what developed was a kind of amnesiac conservatism that came to define much of the postwar 40s and the 50s. After the Depression and the War, Americans wanted to feel good about themselves, pursue happiness, and believe that everything was well once again, and they simply did not want to look back to a time of want and blood.
Though many boomers came to resent their parents for being conformist and repressive, their parents were mainly trying to protect them from hardships, doubts, and miseries of life. The Greatest Generation parents wanted their kids to have the good things in life, think good thoughts, feel good about America, and find great happiness. They wanted their kids to grow up with etho- and ethno-pride as Americans. America was said to be great because it was the freest, most just, richest, and most powerful nation in the world. It had defeated evil Nazi Germany and militarist Japan, and it was defending the Free World from Godless communism.
All of this was all fine and dandy except the narrative was too simple-minded and necessary historical contexts were missing. Though America was a better nation than most, was it necessarily a virtuous nation without sin? Though US was on the right side of history during WWII and during the Cold War, was US really saintly and noble–with God on our side–with the other sides being absolutely evil? The conservatism of the 1950s insisted it was so and thus created a very simple-minded and even stupid kind of political/cultural faith. Its worst excess was, of course, Joe McCarthy, whose anti-communism was so simple-minded that he ended up strengthening the enemy. Conservatives were so eager for a solid, conservative, and patriotic America as opposed to all those evil commies and their liberal dupes that they lost all sense of nuance, moderation, common sense.
Though not all conservatives admired or were on the same wavelength as McCarthy, he did come to embody the face and thrust of conservatism in the 1950s which painted a very simple picture of the world and morality. In time, even hardcore conservatives lost faith in this kind of childishness by the late 50s. (This was to repeat itself during the years of Bush II. Conservatism offered by Bush was so simple-minded that ‘conservative’ followed ‘liberal’ in becoming a epithet. People like Rush Limbaugh, with their cartoonized conservatism, didn’t help much either. In some ways, George W. Bush’s conservatism was worse than that of the 1950s for at least clear lines were drawn during the Eisenhower era. With Bush, except for support of Israel and tax cuts for the rich, it was hard to figure out what conservatism was supposed to be. It wasn’t that Bush’s conservatism was complex or synthetic but muddled, compromised, whored out, and shoddy. Though Bush’s outward stance was of one firmness and being principled, it was hard to figure out what the principles were except cutting taxes for the rich, supporting Israel 100%, handing foreign policy to the extremists among the neocons, pandering to the stupidest of the Evangelicals, handing over the entire SW territories of America to Mexican Illegals, and increasing spending in the name of ‘compassionate conservatism’. Never was an ideology so confused and contradictory in reality yet so adamant and assertive in its rhetoric. It was as though Bush stood firm on quicksand. He confused standing firm with firm ground to stand on.)
Observers understand the wild and rebellious 60s as a revolution against the dull and conformist 1950s, and there’s some truth to that, but that explanation is too simple to understand why events unfolded the way they did. To an extent, the 60s have to be understood as the SYMPTOMS of the diseases that the simple-minded cultural assumptions of the 1940s and 1950s failed to treat or develop immunities against. True, kids in the 1960s went ‘crazy’ partly because of the rise of new forms of music, drug use, Vietnam War, and racial tensions and riots. But, the influence and impact of radical leftism and anti-social behavior might have been less potent IF the majority of boomer generation had been inoculated with greater complexity and ambiguity in matters such as culture, history, and values during their youths. A generation that was raised on good manners, apple pie, pledge of allegiance, and America-is-best-in-the-world was shocked to realize the falsehood of conservative American assumptions as they grew older and saw changes all around them. Since they’d been raised to think that America is all good, evidence to the contrary convinced them that EVERYTHING good about America was just a big shining lie. Having no immunities against views challenging pro-Americanism, they caught the flu of radicalism and they shook with the fever which became the counter-culture madness of the 1960s. Suppose you were raised on meat and potatoes and apple pie for dessert and told that it was the best food in the world. Suppose one day you come upon the wonderful cuisine from other countries. Wouldn’t you feel betrayed by the fools who told you that meat and potatoes and apple pie are all there is? Wouldn’t you overreact by totally rejecting meat and potatoes and apple pie and, instead, go looking for cuisines of other nations in the conviction that they must be better than your own stuff?
We need only look at anti-drug education and propaganda to see how this simple-minded approach doesn’t work for anyone past the age of 12. All those simple-minded anti-drug films that said if you smoke a marijuana, you’ll go crazy or automatically end up using harder drugs and turn into a crazy junkie actually had a counter-productive influence on drug use among kids. As kids grow older, they become more curious, intelligent, searching, and experimental. What scared them as mere children has less control over them. Indeed, simple-minded propaganda only prepares them for total loss of faith in authority. (Why is it that Catholic girls often turn out to be the worst sluts?) For example, a kid who’s told that marijuana is a killer drug that will destroy one’s brains(and that only losers use it) will be shocked when he or she discovers, in college, that many decent people use it(responsibly), get good grades, and succeed in life. So, this kid who’d been raised to think marijuana is the weed of the Devil may now come to see marijuana as magic medicine. He may also come to see his parents and teachers(and by extension all institutions of authority) as deceitful and bogus for having told him simple-minded lies. Of course, all drugs are hazardous to some extent, and marijuana use is certainly not good for kids(nor for that matter for adults if people smoke too much). But, it would have been much preferable to tell kids the complex truth about marijuana than employ simple-minded and moralistic scare tactics. If you tell kids about the complex realities of marijuana–both its negative and positive effects, its uses and abuses, its history, and the latest scientific data–kids are likely to develop a greater immunity to the drug. Kids may still use it but they won’t regard institutions of authority as bastions of deceit nor will they see marijuana as Forbidden Fruit Magic Wonder Drug that gives the middle finger to The Man or unlocks the gates to utopian bliss. (This is also true of black sexuality. White girls, especially in the South, had been told that having sex with black males will lead to pussy-explosion-syndrome. Supposedly the large black sexual appendage was too big and beastly for the tender vaginas of white women, and good many white girls believed this. This lie worked as long as white girls lived in their segregated and protected cocoons, but once society became freer and more equal, it only made white sexual conservatism sound stupid. There’s a scene in the movie "Next Stop Greenwich Village" where some southern gal says she loves having sex with Negroes despite, or especially because, of all the warnings she had heard from her parents when she was growing up. Telling lies eventually makes the teller of lies look ridiculous. Like the kid in the story of Never Cry Wolf, the liar loses all legitimacy even when he finally speaks the truth. Because so many racial lies have been told in the past, it’s difficult to tell truths about race. In the minds of many people, all things related to race are associated with the lies of the past. So, simple-minded lies are best avoided. What white women should have been told is that, yes, black men do have bigger penises and are more muscular, and for that reason, skanky white girls might indeed feel a degree of jungle fever. BUT, blacks are not generally not conducive to maintaining civilization, and spreading black genes far and wide among the wider population through miscegenation will undermine civilization as a whole. Also, it is a form of race betrayal for white women to go with the men who are beating up and brutalizing their own men. It would be like French women going with German invaders in WWII. One must speak the truth and then make an argument taking into account that truth–among other truths. But, telling girls that they will experience the pussy-explosion-syndrome is childish and will only work in a repressively ignorant society, not ours.)
To further illustrate the point, consider the ideal way to introduce kids to music and movies. The thing is to develop immunities in children and young people against mindless filth and garbage. As with germs, too much filth and garbage(especially of the pointless or gratuitous kind)will destroy the hearts and minds of young people. Stupid stuff like Marilyn Manson, Satanic Heavy Metal, or Gangsta Rap have little or no moral, cultural, or artistic value. Exposing children to a lot of that stuff would be like letting them swim in cesspool or play in a garbage heap. They will become PART OF the disease.
But, if you only allow G-rated goo-goo movies or elevator music for kids, they won’t develop immunities to the dark complexities of the world. Kids will grow up seeing the world as cute and darling. Now, what happens when such ‘good’ kids reach puberty and enter school? They feel like total dweebs with their thumb-sucking fairytale view of the world while other kids are into ‘badass’, ‘cool’, and ‘edgy’ stuff. At this juncture, the goo-goo kid has two options. Stick to his/her simple-mindedly bland and simple-minded moralistic view of the world–as a G-rated OR try to fit into the BADASS world of COOL thugs, skanks, or deviants.
This is the problem faced by many people raised under a stupid simple-minded version of conservatism. They reach a point where their only option is to remain simple-minded OR join the other side. (But, this can happen from the other ideological spectrum too. Communism under Stalin and Mao infantilized the masses respectively in Russia and especially China. Entire generations were raised on the Simple Truths of Marxism-Leninism, and they saw the world according to a simple good vs evil dichotomy. As long as the people didn’t know the world outside communism–which explains why communist governments were shut out foreign influence–, the simple Faith was adequate to their basic psychological and ‘spiritual’ needs. But, when Russia and China increasingly opened up their nations to the outside world, their peoples were often unprepared to deal with new complex realities. The governments of both nations had long denied anything good or just existed in the capitalist world. Many living under communism, though mired in backwardness or poverty, had come to accept the Official Lie–that they were lucky to live under a communist system. So, when the eyes of Chinese and Russian youths were opened to the advanced state of the West(and the capitalist East), they freaked out and came to detest and reject their own government, system, and official values. In China, it led to the Tiananmen Square Incident. In Russia, the loss of faith in communism led to the wild chaos of the. After roughly ten yrs of political turmoil, both nations had to rely on nationalism and economic growth to restore pride, unity, and order. The failure of communism and the angry reaction against it were the product of the decades of simple-minded lies which had to be swallowed whole hog or couldn’t be swallowed at all. When Chinese and Russians came to see the advanced state and the abundance in the West, they could no longer swallow communism. But, Russians soon discovered they couldn’t swallow the simple-minded promises of radical capitalism either which, in the 90s, only enriched the oligarchy at the expense of everyone else. So, simple-minded communism was followed up by simple-minded capitalism, and the Russians finally settled for a kind of moderate fascism under Putin.
In China in the 1980s, the realization of the failure of communism wasn’t followed by failure of capitalism as in Russia. Capitalism took root in China and seemed to do wonders. The political turmoil was rather the culmination of the success of capitalism and the open cultural policy allowing educated Chinese to see the developed capitalist world and realize how richer and more advanced it was in contrast to China. Even so, it was a reaction to the simple-minded official ideology of the Chinese communist party which no longer seemed to be a legitimate moral basis for power. The educated and thoughtful people in China were no longer buying the party line. Indeed, many felt repulsed by it, just as European youths in the 1960s felt betrayed by and lied to by their elders. It didn’t matter that European youths in the 60s and Chinese youths in the late 80s lived under different political systems–democratic in Europe vs. autocratic in China. What both groups had in common was that they had been raised by parents, schools, and politicians who had preferred and professed simplicity over complexity. As such, young people failed to develop a complex enough view of the world that would be immune to radical promises of a Better World. (Even so, it must be admitted that while European youths of the 60s were demanding something outrageous and ridiculous, the Chinese youths of the 1980s were only asking for basic freedom and human rights. Their goals were different, but their disillusionments with the status quo shared certain common psychological characteristics.)
Returning to movies and music, it’s no good to make one’s kids see only G-rated Disney fare or let them see every corrosive garbage and filth on TV. The G-rated stuff fails to develop the proper immunities and complexity of mind while filthy stuff corrupts and poisons the child’s mind and soul, succumbing them to ugliness, inhumanity, and rot So, what is to be done? It’s best to expose kids to movies that show the world-as-it-really-is(with all the darkness and ambiguities) but within a certain moral context. Violence presented within a context of moral, social, or philosophical seriousness is okay but pointless gratuitous violence is not. Dark and disturbing themes are welcome as long as they are treated intelligently. Also, instead of movies where cowboys are always good and Indians are always bad, it’s better to introduce them to movies where good and evil exists on both sides. We need not worry that such exposure might undermine a child’s commitment to one’s own people since most people naturally feels greater loyalty to their own race and nation. At any rate, a thoughtful person must be able to think beyond ‘my side, right or wrong’. That isn’t thought or morality but merely law of the jungle. To be sure, there are times when ‘my side, right or wrong’ is necessary: when the other side thinks the same way and wont’ reciprocate good will on your part.
Anyway, a person brought up under an intelligent and thoughtful culture is less likely to fall prey to the garbage that dominates much of our popular culture. Even if a thoughtful person enjoys trash once in awhile, he or she will recognize it as fun trash than as the Meaning of Life. If you raise a child to appreciate and love all forms of great music, he or she may enjoy stupid dance songs once in awhile but will never mistake Thalia or Britney Spears for Beethoven or Wagner(or even the Jazz masters). But, if you only allow a child to listen to G-rated goo-goo music, his or her mind will be filled with mush; eventually, goo-goo mush will be vulnerable and lose out to filthy or stupid caca music. If all knows is Alvin and the Chipmunks, there will come a time when he’ll fall prey to Goth or Rap.
If conservatism is about hierarchy, young people must be exposed to and introduced to all elements within the hierarchy. Only then will they able to distinguish the noble from the ignoble, the higher truths from lesser truths, beauty from ugliness, reality from falsity, and so on. If you only expose children to dumb or simple-minded conservatism(as The Truth), they won’t develop immunities and will later be defenseless against the charms and seductions of the wilder and more orgasmic forms of cultural expressions OR be impressed by and cross over to the highly intellectual forms of leftist ideology. Chomsky is an A-hole but a fierce intellectual, and the cult of his intelligence and intellect alone have won over many acolytes. Many young people think he must be a great man simply because he’s smart and wrote so many books and essays on the subject of politics. To make kids immune to jungle boogie of Afro-jungle-music and to the radical venom of the left-wing Jews, they must be exposed to art and culture that rise high above mere goo-goo stuff and to ideas of the Right that are just as formidable and complex as the grand theories of the Left.