Sunday, December 20, 2009

Barbara Kay on David Solway

Pajamas Media has published Barbara Kay's review of David Solway's new book, Hear, O Israel!.

It sounds like a great book, but how many Jews will hear the call? Perhaps anyone who retains respect for national identity and high cultures as the particular achievements of Western history are the book's potential audience:
He is fiercely critical of intellectuals who permit ideology to trump scholarly integrity, coming down particularly hard on corrupted Jewish and Israeli academics. To illustrate the insanely convoluted lengths to which post-Zionist Israeli ideologues will go to vilify their country, for example, he contemptuously cites a thesis (accepted, even lauded) by Israeli sociologue Tal Nitzan, claiming that “the absence of military rape of Palestinian women is no different from military rape itself, since it ‘strengthens the ethnic boundaries … just as military rape would have done’ — Palestinian women are obviously humiliated and relegated to inferior status in being so loftily shunned by Israeli soldiers.” That this self-loathing perversion of reason — “non”-rape by Israelis equals racism! — today passes for scholarship is a damning indicator of leftist academic culture.

Solway’s high-octane writing snaps, crackles, and pops with savage but disciplined indignation. He’s been criticized for his habit (far more prevalent in The Big Lie than here) of using $50 words where $10 ones would do, but I usually find his more recondite vocabulary has been chosen for precision, not pretension: I found “proprioceptive hatred” a deliciously original and evocative description of an English Jewish academic’s revulsion for Israel.

Solway brings a staggering litany of supportive data and citations to his argumentation, at once a strength and a weakness. It can be argued that because the anti-Zionist juggernaut — academic unions, Israel Apartheid Week apparatchiks — depends so heavily on a seductive cocktail of lies, distortions, and emotive “narrative,” the world needs the strong antidote. On the other hand, his mountains of evidence swathed in fulminatory prose will intimidate sensitive peaceniks, political fence-sitters, and cultural relativists — which is to say, the kind of people who think Obama is The One. Which explains why Solway’s most respectful readers are hawkish Americans who cluster for comfort and motivation around U.S. conservative websites such as Pajamas Media and FrontPage Magazine, where Solway has found a congenial niche.
But what kind of hawks cluster for comfort?


Dag said...

Looks like Howard Rotberg is the publisher.

truepeers said...

Yes, Howard is trying to give us the books some others won't touch. I'm told this BK review was not published by the National Post because Chapters and are not carrying the book. Wonder if that's true...

Dag said...

If Chapters and won't carry the book, that seems like some good copy for Solway and Rotberg to follow up on. B. Kay has some audience as well.

I don't see Solway's book at It could be too recent to show up so far. But if they refuse to carry it, and for ideological reasons, which is pretty far-fetched in my opinion, it's worth exposing.

If the National Post won't run B. Kay copy because it offends Chapters, there's a good story in it. National Post has some significant writers who should feel some concern over it. If it's the case, then they owe it to themselves to pursue this.

Solway is a clever and entertaining writer. If he's effectively censored, then it's up to Canadians to make sure he gets some assistance in this struggle. Canadians gain in exposure to a clever writer and win back some of their freedom. Howard gets rich, and we will get free coffee next time we see him. I think this is a great situation.

truepeers said... is indeed carrying it; follow the links from the Pajamas piece. But is not, the reason for which I don't know. My information did not come from Howard; i suppose we should hear his interpretation of what has happened - we know all about him and Chapters and it is that advertising revenue I imagine the NP fears offending - before we know whether there is hay to make. IN any case, if Chapters will punish Solway and his readers just to let Howard know what they think of him, I think that's the kind of pettiness that will sustain my boycott.

Dag said...

I never go to Chapters, but it might be worth stopping in to ask them about it.

truepeers said...

I've added a link to the post that directs you to Click on "Hear, O Israel!"

Dag said...

Thanks for the link. I read Solway on the Internet frequently and I like him as a writer. Hope this brings him a wider audience.

"Boo" on Chapters, et al.

Anonymous said...

Heh. I know first-hand how CanWest backs up its writers...

Howard Rotberg said...

I am indeed (acting)President of Mantua Books, publisher of Mr. Solway's outstanding collection of essays on anti-Israelism, entitled, Hear, O Israel! As one of the very few conservative publishers in Canada,
we have had our problems with the mainstream media in Canada, and therefore blogs like Covenant Zone are so important. I am afraid that I cannot comment on the reasons why National Post would not publish Barbara Kay's review of Mr. Solway's latest book. The interrelationships between large media and large publishers and the monopoly large book chainin Canada is a modern tragedy for freedom of expression. The added complicity of supposed civil rights organizations like PenCanada, Writers' Union, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and others constitutes an outright fraud on the good Canadians who fund these fraudulent organizations, and other NGO's.
The unwillingness of Books Editors at major newspapers to review conservative books from nontraditional publishers calls into question freedom of expression in Canada for all but the most "politically correct" authors. When the history of the Islamofascist War against the West is definitively written, the major newspapers will be seen more as part of the problem than the solution. I suppose National Post is one of the best, and that unfortunately shows just how bad the rest are.
So far, only a couple of academic journals have talked about reviewing my new book, TOLERism: The Ideology Revealed, which is a shame, because it is meant for a popular audience.
You guys are aware that SEVEN years ago I wrote a novel about a Canadian professor obsessed with the idea that a second Holocaust, this time to be perfected by Iranian nuclear bombs against the nearly Six Million Jews of Israel, was underway. Instead of promoting a serious discussion of Iranian plans to nuke the Jewish state with a future nuclear weapons program, Chapters banned the book and the Canadian Jewish community and the civil rights group shunned me. C'est la vie. But I keep trying.

Blazing Cat Fur said...

Cheezus what madness. Keep the faith Howard.

truepeers said...

Walker, Howard,

Hang in there guys. I can imagine a future when conservatives are the mainstream.

Anonymous said...

I hope so!

Dag said...

I cans see a time when conervatives are in a majority too. It will be a time when careerists tune in to the right lines to make themselves agreeable to conservatives, mouthing all the lines they think others want to hear; a time when opportunists are forever ready to light your cigar and tell you how much they always loved Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh; a time when people who opine will opine about the common chatter as if it means deeply to them. For all that, it will be a better time. And yet they will still hate Jews and stick it to young guys they can get away with sticking it to. But it will be better. That is, until those who think they know better gain power and impose themselves on the world like they do now. Then we start all over again.

truepeers said...

I can't quite agree with Dag's vision of an eternal return, and it's not only because I might quibble with his equation of "those who think they know better" with future "conservatives". That equation might make sense for Europe; but for those of us interested in conserving the historical freedom of NOrth America...?

Anyway, instead of an eternal return, I see history more in terms of an ever-growing tree, never-completely-dieing (at least not until the final apocalypse) that is forever branching. There is a genetic continuity, or minimal sameness, between the acorn and the latest bud; but that bud can only come into existence not just by repeating an established theme (and this is where we have break from the metaphor of nature) but by adding a new degree of unpredictable freedom to the over-all system, such that its corruption is also going to be somewhat different in degree than earlier forms of corruption.

It's not that we can't go back to totalitarian times; but like the Pope's identification of the postmodern as a "dictatorship of relativism" - whose "dictators" provide passive testament to the fact that they cannot readily abolish real, present, differences even as they relativize to deny their significance - even the new totalitarianism will look different.

In other words, once Walker's and Howard's books are out there, they are, if successful books, revelatory: they add new degrees of knowledge and information to the marketplace and these revelations cannot simply be reversed. If we have a really sick dictator who tries to reverse them, he has to act like Pol Pot, killing all those with memory; though given that we are already far beyond the largely peasant society of Cambodia, this future dictator will have to be considerably worse a human being than Pol Pot, Stalin, etc.

Dag says it will get better until it goes back to the same old same old. I say it will get better, until it begins to worsen; but it's unlikely to go all bad, once Walker's and Howard's revelations are circulating, adding density to the system; but if it does go all bad, it will be much worse than before. IN other words, it won't be sufficient for the dictator just to go after Jews - Hitler killed six million but even then that had little effect in insuring his REich; for example, the new dictator will have to wipe out all the Daggish Americans too. But that only makes it more unlikely that she will succeed.


truepeers said...

Dag and I are having a little argument about sameness and difference. I'd just like to point out that the stories we tell ourselves about the historical process involve our imaginations putting into motion, into time, some kind of basic understanding we have of the underlying "structure" of humanity. If we think of that human minimum structure in terms of, say, the Sado-masochistic relationship, then any understanding of historical process will just be an eternal return of that S&M process.

We need be very wary that we have intellectual command of the basic seed from which all history evolves; otherwise, our theory of the basic structure won't really be satisfactory to our narrative's task of recognizing, let alone explaining, all that human freedom has wrought, for good or bad. And then, if we're not willing to minimze our sense of basic structure, to get back closer to the real seed, we will start sounding like Marxists whining about the "false consciousness" of people. Marxists think they know the real structures of reality and that the differences ordinary naive people take for granted, make a fuss about, are only so much ephemeral b.s that blinds the common man to the underlying truth that the all-wise Marxist/gnositic sees. The same old same old.

But the little difference that the naive ordinary person sees as significant is never just "false consciousness", because every difference contributes to the basic purpose of history, in my view, which is to defer violence over the loss of meaningful differences; no difference that we have evolved is just the "same old same old" and hence simply reversible. The dictator who tries to eliminate the "naive" difference really has to butcher people because, in fact, that "naive" difference really does have a significant role in keeping the human system going in its freedom ever to invent new differences to defer our violent desires. And the story teller who discounts little differences in order to tell "the real story" is simply hiding the fact that the question of how any significant difference emerges in the human evolutionary process is not readily explained in terms of pre-existing realties. Those pre-existing realities can determine nothing; it is the mysterious exercise of human freedom that shapes history.

We may well see these "naive" differences as obscuring certain fundamental truths, like those I am currently trying to express; but we cannot deny them pragmatic truth value in helping to defer violence among those who take them seriously, despite their "false consciousness", unless we are willing to become totalitarian butchers ourselves.

WHile we remain human, we are evolving, culturally, and that evolution is not really reversible, though it may be destructible.

Dag said...

I can imagine a world of limited to nearly-nothing anti-Semitism; and because I can imagine it and know it's teleologically practicable, if not practical at this time, then I can find in me the energy to fight on behalf of those who would suffer from anti-Semitism, not in any hope of stopping anti-Semitism, maybe not even of slowing it down, for that time when it is a nearly no-anti-Semitic time. I'm certainly not arguing from Nietzsche, and not so much from Levi-Strauss, but I am arguing that human nature is static in most, and important, ways. My quarrel is with Augustine, et al who argue for Original Sin. I tend to side with, among others, the utter vile Rousseau and the "nurture" crowd. I've seen in my lifetime and have read about from other times, that a man can originate in one place among specific people and still become the, for example, King of England, if not a good person, and by dint of the change in his place in the world, he becomes a person he would not be otherwise. It's how I see America: that we come from anywhere, and in a generation or so, we become SUV-driving suburbanite Republicans rather than the Jew-baiting peasants our grandparents might have been. American "opportunity" allows us to be the people we can be if we are allowed to be who we are freely. Look, for another example, at Primo Levi, his survival at Auschwitz: the man is beautiful before and after his endurance test there. But at Auschwitz he was not so beautiful. To a great extent, that's how he lived and why. That, to my mind, is the ultimate tagaedy of life: that it can make decent people into animals and worse. Or, life can make monstrous people pretty meek. But we will never be rid of the monstrous; eliminating them would make those eugenicists the monstrous in the act, as would the continuance. Modernity gives most people most of the time a chance to choose who they will be, for good or ill. Yes, Plato makes the same point, long before Modernity, of course, but the choice is open here to most people, whereas it was not so much prior to Modernity's flowering. There will always be monsters, but there will be fewer driven to it from want and necessity. Most people are not monsters, and if left to live in privacy and peace, they usually act decently enough. That's the Progress I love in our time. I see it coming from toilets and plastic and highways. Simple things, as it were, tame the savage an make him who and what he should and wants to be in the nature of himself. But the desperate creature tormented and vicious is lying just beneath the thin veneer of civilization. I see it as the duty of mankind to thicken that veneer to make it harder to break through, from inside or out. Plastic, to make a seemingly trivial example, does that. I can't say I know the telos of Man, but I think a lack of ubiquitous anti-Semitism will be part of its expression. That will come, I do think so, from the education of prosperous men. I'm known to advocate the education of the young backed up by force and violence in recalcitrant cultures, by which I mean that school teacher with guns, like military medics, stand by armed to protect their charges from native harm till a new generation is inculcated with the concepts and general ethos of Modernity, and to Hell with their savage parents, who should be shot if they interfere.

Dag said...

I don't think there's anything philosophically or religiously necessary about this tack. I think one needs only keep the culture from reproducing great harm. I don't have the answers to all of that, but we can see at a glance that arbitrary physical harm, such as the eugenic programme against the non-Aryan is an arbitrary harm, even if there are wonderfully intelligent and sophisticated arguments for it. Some of those obvious wrongs are occluded at this time to us, and it's our duty to discover those so we might become the people we are meant to be teleologically. I think, without any knowledge of it, that a cave man could be a pretty fair middle-class guy if he had our up-bringing. That he wasn't, and that so many aren't, is a matter of culture. I know it works in reverse: that a man can go from the suburbs to a hellish place and become Satanic. Maybe I'm an optimist. I think man is basically good and only needs to have the freedom to become so in practice. But we'll never, unless we become a terrible thing in itself, a creature of metro-sexuality. That under-lying tension of the caveman is part of what makes us human and worthy of the struggle to live and go on. It's a matter of how we can express ourselves rightly. I think Modernity, and it develops, gives most people the best chance to be as good as they can be. I don't argue to make people good, at gun-point, but only that, covered at gun-point to protect them from harm from aggressor reactionaries, they be given the chance to consider it. I think most, given the illumination of our Howards and Walkers, would choose civility and pacific living, if in a world of cut-throat business, for example.

I don't, I think, argue for same; I argue for like but not same, the change of the child from the parent. No matter the generations separating us, though, we are still cavemen under the covers.

Dag said...

I think this is clever:

"Modern categories of citizenship and discourses of nationalism are inconceivable without the existence of two inventions: the microscope as a laboratory instrument and the statistical concept of normality. The former, first devised by Dutch opticians around 1600, was the sine qua non of the bacteriological revolution spearheaded by Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur beginning in the 1870s. fn1 The latter had been christened several decades earlier by Adolphe Quetelet when he prestidigated the mean or “average man” by plotting the chest circumferences of over 5,000 Scottish regiment soldiers and calculating basic frequencies. Soon, the idea of normal distribution became a cornerstone of the emergent fields of sociology, anthropology, demography, as well as the insurance industry. fn2 In different but interconnected ways, each invention opened up an extensive and untraversed terrain of corporeal and organic knowledge which it alone was capable of deciphering. Guided by the logic of germ theory, scientists used the microscope to translate invisible pathogens into classifiable bacilli and facilitated the manufacture of large-scale cures such as anti-toxins and vaccines. If the microscope and its appurtenances of slides and cultures exposed a hidden bacterial world which had previously existed only in the abstract, statistical methods and normal curves inductively abstracted from the concrete “to a postulated reality,” fn3 originating prototypes and endowing them with enough distributive power to stand for the whole."

Alexandra Minna Stern"Secrets under the Perspectives on Disease, Deviation, and Citizenship," Cambridge University Press. 1999.

Dag said...

The first chapter of my book, a Genealogy of Left Dhimmi Fascism, is concerned with the Promethean invention of eyeglasses and the ability to "see." I'm with Socrates on this one: if people can see what the good is, the Agathon, then most will freely choose the good. But not everyone is going to "see," even if everyone can eat every day at McDonald's and sleep every night at the Holiday Inn. There is still that innate urge to viciousness. And there is still that innate masochism in so man that between them the majority live in a state of unwanted tension. As well as the innate telos of the agathon there is the eternal agon of humanness. That's what makes us possible: that we can choose, even at Auschwitz.

In my next and final chapter I'll write about Victor Frankl and B.F. Skinner as the difference between the good and the bad. The orthopraxy of Islam or Walden Two is a dystopia of coercion and violence; Frankl's survival was a free and Stoic choice. But both Skinner and Frankl had the benefit of a proper eduction beforehand. Without that, there is no paradise to lose or regain. One might act to give others the freedom to choose. If we can see, not bacteria and Jews and a statistical Aryan norm, but a world of "maybe this, but if so that, therefore...," and see it clearly and voluntarily to accept or reject, then we make a deep commitment and one that is valid. But every man at some point in his life, and usually on a moment by moment basis, has to make that commitment. It's a matter of knowledge, whether vertical or horizontal. It's not necessarily intuitive. People have to learn; and then they have to teach. Lessons are certainly forgotten, as we can see in that we don't think like Mesopotamians. But we could, had we the educators with spears keeping our concerned parents away from us.

People are malleable: we can make them into many things; but we cannot make them into something not human, e.g. metrosexuals. That's just a fakery. Torment and starve a metrosexual poseur long enough and you'll find a vicious if timid and masochistic monster. Or maybe a Primo Levi or a Victor Frankl. We do not need such extreme tests to find the good in men. Often, though, we do need some test to find our core selves. Sometimes we might find ourselves wanting. Sometimes, without benefit of mentorship, that something we find might seem the good. Given a choice between the easy and the immediately strong and the hard and the eternally frightening, we might choose wisely. I think it is the teleological reality of Man to choose wisely if he has that choice clearly before him. It's always a choice, if it counts. Without that choice, man is not Man. He'd be something else. What we choose depends, in large part, on what we "see." What we see depends, oft times, on someone interpreting that for us. We still choose, if we're human. Getting it wrong is a big part, an essential part, of that humanness. The perfect man might as well just die. I love that America has spent generations of hard-working people to produce a few genertions of people who can choose freely to be mediocre. I can imagine a world in which Jews, like Jabotinski writes, are just people like anyone else, and anti-Semitism is a concept few would feel a need for. Most people could just be who they are, mediocre and human.

I don't see that coming in my lifetime, so I would suggest that Walker get prepared for a life of hardship and bullying and sneaking bosses and underlings. Not everyone is going to be decent, even if they know how and what it means. A conservative Zeitgeist isn't going to change human nature. It'll just give more good people a better chance for a while to be who they would like to be. Then, in time, things will slide back to obamaness. We'll have to learn all over again to be decent.

Dag said...

I see that I didn't address your concerns; but to do that would require of me a full evening of nothing but. Damn, you pack so much into a short paragraph. I, on the other hand, took an age to put forth some of my points.

Interesting ideas from you there. I'll give it thought.

truepeers said...

Damn, you pack so much into a short paragraph. I, on the other hand, took an age to put forth some of my points

-there once was a time when I attempted to be "creative", but I just ended up endlessly formulating and never finishing/closing. Now my serious ambition is only to be a good distiller, drawing on others, and by that standard I no doubt come up short, i mean long, err short...

Anyway, I'm leaving the rest of your comments aside for now until rest renews.

truepeers said...

A thought for the holidays, Dag. Come up with a description of human nature, of what is truly universal to our humanity and apply Ockham's razor vigorously. I, at least, would be interested in what you come up with.

I am not going to romanticize the primitive, but are you not committing the opposite sin, the attribution to the caveman of a kind of human sacrificial nastiness for which we have no evidence among the most primitive societies. Warfare is there clearly; but butchering "one's own", what's the evidence for that in the cave man? Human sacrifice seems to me to be an "achievement" of hierarchical and hence agrarian (or wealthy marine) societies.

Anyway, I'd also like to hear your beef with original sin. Someone with a keen sense of human capacity for evil and tragedy should, i would think, be sympathetic to the idea. Would you similarly argue that guilt is not also original to the human condition - i.e. that it predates by far any formal law which one might break? And since you recognize that freedom to choose is inherent to human nature, isn't it inevitable also that sin will be too, as the necessary counterpart to our freedom to desire for ourselves, even as desire is something shared on a communal scene?

As someone who sees guilt as a fundamental human problem, I can't but wonder where you are going to find the school teachers willing and able to execute their charges' parents, or how those students aren't going to grow up racked with guilt and resentment, hating their teachers for their confused identities. As you say, modernity, for good or bad, is something that must be chosen. But isn't that to say we must somehow have the patience not to think we can simply impose the pre-conditions for it over night?

Dag said...

Some argue that Modernity is creating not just people who live better, i.e. more comfortable lives, but that Modernity is creating a new species of Man. I like to think, and it's only my opinion, that Modernity unleashes the man locked inside most men prior to Modernity as it develops even now. That we haven't before seen this kind of man, e.g. the suburban working-class father who lives a long time and has a healthy family, &c., is no evidence that any man of another time couldn't, if born today, be him or thereabouts. If we were to teleport someone from long ago we might, according to the luck of the draw, get a Solon or a Graccus. We wouldn't get as a child, I do think so, a creature incomprehensible to us. "The past," as L.P. Hartley writes, "is a foreign country: they do things differently there." I've lived in enough foreign countries to know that even as a foreigner I am common in my humanness. I am a foreigner, true enough, but still not different in my humanness from those around me, regardless of how different in custom and kind. There is always, anywhere I have been, which is enough for a general conclusion, the rest being exceptions to prove the rule, loyalty and friendship; a desire to join the common work; a respect for ability; a boundless capacity for hatred; as unbounded, a desire for justice and revenge; and so on. I know this from travelling. But I know too from reading that I am not different from the generality of Shakespeare's time, grasping the sense of the characters' needs as clearly as my own. So too with Chaucer and Boccaccio; Sophocles; Homer; the Ur poets. But even closer to home and yet further away, the prehistoric people, i.e. those preliterate peoples, more or less untouched by what we think of as civilization generally, have a shared humanness that is difficult to like many times but that is graspable. They still share more than they lack in human qualities. I might not like them, and I might even hate them; but that only shows me that we are pretty similar, sharing things across the spans of the ages. Stripping away the behaviours, what is universal to all men? A recognition of manliness and womanliness. Part of that is what I see as an eternal sado-masochism and an eternal fascism. These are two distinct things, I believe: that the one is how it is for mankind as persons; that the other is natural for man as a whole to demand and then create meaning where there might not be any. Existence doesn't have to make sense, but it must be meaningful. Life can be chaotic and violent and unjust; but if it has meaning anyway, which people demand of it regardless, then life, even if it ends, is worth the suffering. There are the walking dead, but for the most part, those who live live with a sense of meaning. From that meaningfulness come things like loyalty, courage, sacrifice, the need to labour, to procreate, to conquer, to survive. Only people have that, and only living people, unlike so many in our Modernity, have it. We might not understand on the face of it the rites and rituals of another group in another time, but we understand their possession of a reason for living and its meaning: unless we are the living dead, which would make us not particularly human. Can we justify our being in the eyes of the gods? Even if they hate us and want to kill us, we might still have reason to rejoice in that they hate us because we did wrong. We are at least recognized as worthy of destruction. Except for a sizeable contingent of Death Hippies in our Modernity, most have a sense that they, we, are the Elect of God, even if we suffer and die. At some level, our existence is good. It has meaning.

Dag said...

I look at Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus and at Plato's Callicles at Athens. At the risk of proving Sean Orr right that we are semantic and anachronistic, I suggest that Callicles was a psychopath, fair evidence in itself of the static nature of humanness. His life was a continuous sin, and one he revelled in. Oedipus, on the other hand, was guilty by decree preordained. He suffered from guilt in himself. Oedipus committed sins of incest and parricide, commanded by the gods. Why the crimes happened doesn't matter. Oedipus is guilty; and that is his redemption. That Callicles is not guilty is his punishment. Contemporary audiences understood that perfectly well. They also understood that Ajax at Troy was not guilty but mad. Gilgamesh mourns, and Utnipishtim has pity. These are all from agricultural cultures. I've seen shame in nomad cultures, but I am sure they could learn guilt fairly easily. Shame is childish and immature, but though not all will get it, I do think so that at least some can go from shame to guilt quite easily. The capacity is generally there or it would never arise. So, just because we don't see evidence of the telos then doesn't mean it's not there then. We don't see an oak tree in an acorn. Everything that can be already is, if not yet evident. Some might have a greater or lesser capacity, as Callicles had little capacity and Oedipus had a great capacity for guilt. I think the odds are that a typical caveman baby has a good chance, if teleported to our time, to be a perfectly neurotic Modernist. Bach didn't compose rock and roll, not because there was a lack of notes. But an untapped capacity might as well not be there for the person. What's latent is wasted if it never comes to use. But. One generation or a thousand isn't humanity. Oedipus carried the latent from long before his time. Thanks to Sophocles, some dullards might have had an epiphany and realized their capacity for guilt. A culture such as ours gives the gift of guilt without most of us even having to ask for it. Others mined the mind to find it buried, and they brought it up for us all. I don't think it's an invention. Thus, this, like most things written off as false consciousness, are actually real. False epiphanies of the Gnostics are some I think we will find are destined to be found as eternal as well: that for every gem there is a mountain of slag.

I have to think about this for a while before I continue. As always, you provide a lot of challenges.

truepeers said...

One thing to consider when you're coming up with your list of universal humanness is how your interpretive faculties are guiding you. When we travel and see universal evidence of, say, "Loyalty", what story are we telling ourselves about "loyalty" - for our story is inevitably structured by our conception of the sign, "Loyalty"? Do we tell a story already implicit in some metaphysical preconceptions, so that the various instances of "Loyalty" we witness are interpreted as variations on a preconceived theme?

Imagine, if you can, that you have never been in a world with Platonic metaphysics - imagine what language is like in that world - and have no way of constructing abstract concepts other than by naming gods as you come to know them in particular experiences/stories, and so that in your culture the roughly equivalent word for "loyalty" invokes a specific myth or myths, i.e. a concrete scene in a "play", and that the name for "loyalty" is rooted in this myth as the name of a particular person/god to be invoked when needed, let's call him "Larry". Now, when you come in contact with another culture and see their bonding you have to interpret their "loyalty" - also an invocation of a personal/divine name, lets call him "Curly" - and the myth or ritual in which "Curly" is known, by analogy to the name of your local god/myth - "Larry" - even while you recognize nonetheless that they invoke a different god and myth when they give their name for "loyalty", i.e. "Curly", such that you recognize their "god" is something similar, but not quite the same thing as yours. You can intuit there is a common humanness but you are yet a long way from being a coherent monotheist. You are not yet translating all names in all languages into a common "Loyalty".

And now that we have become monotheists, how do we know we have achieved a coherent way for talking about the many different ways of constructing or experiencing the divine?

Ask yourself, from our postmodern position where Western metaphysics has recently been deconstructed to death - by the academic left - as faulty or non-universal anthropology, why should we now hold on to a metaphysical narrative of observing a universal "Loyalty" around the world and not, rather, wear a motley coat where we recognize all the many different ways of constructing scenes to which people, with various specific historical experiences, and hence myths, names, and rituals, give various names.

Events in history are all of a human kind; but no two are just the same or they would not be memorably distinct as events.

In other words, can you measure sameness and difference without acting the Platonic overlord, the philosopher king?

truepeers said...

What for me is interesting in history is not so much the commonality in things human, but the fact that we need history in the first place, that we need be continually re-working the scenes on which we exemplify little differences that are nonetheless known, to metaphysics, with singular concepts as if the many little narratives of history were less important (if maybe more entertaining) than the kingdom of philosophy.

If I attend to the scenes by which, say, Egyptian Muslims construct "loyalty", I see it is a somewhat different business than how, say, "loyalty" is constructed in the scenes of the Canadian Forces. Clearly, we cannot be human without belonging on some kind of shared scene. Yes, that is minimally human. But where I quibble with you is in your emphasis on what is already latent in the primitive man as if the problem of creation were already largely solved, at the beginning, as if it were a simple matter to say: our primitive man just now needs to be given the chance to fully fruit.

It is I suppose a truism that everything that is and will ever be is already inherent in the origins of our humanity. But the great mystery, i think, is how this comes to fruition on specific and not pre-ordained, or imaginable-in-advance, historical scenes. How do we "construct" the necessary leap of faith of different parties that need to come together, in some new way tomorrow, to share in a renewed liberal modernity? No study of any acorn, natural or human, will tell us. We can only attend to a history of leaps of faith.

Ultimately, our humanness is not pre-programmed in our individuality, as those rare child outcasts/beasts "raised" without language testify. Rather, our humanness is in our collective ability to share signs, signs that have no material or biological existence but subsist in a collective mind that, before it is taught to the child, must first emerge in/through specific historical events. How do we construct a scene where "loyalty" looks like what it looks to Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan? That is something I imagine a lot of Afghan tribesman are yet a long way from totally figuring out. And it's not because, as you note, they lack some sense of their own of "loyalty". But that sense is yet part of a different historical tradition. It is only same in terms of a common origin, or fork in the road, at which something quite like our word and concept of "Loyalty" did not yet exist. The commonness of our humanity is thus something more minimal than is implied by much that orbits the Western concept of "Loyalty". I do not say this to denounce the West as blinkered by its own privilege, as unduly "hegemonic", but simply to note that those in the intelligentsia who make careers deconstructing Western metaphysics are on to something anthropological, even if their politics is so often asinine. If we are now to transcend the victimary politics of the left we cannot simply go back to the 19th century reification of concepts like "Loyalty"; we have to grant that some of the postcolonial left's resentment is inevitable and has to be mediated by a yet new and improved liberal modernity - not that there will ever be a perfect, final, peace - with perhaps a new anthropology that takes us further back into our common humanity.