Thursday, August 02, 2007

Where you going, covenanter?

This week we had some reason to give a little thought to what we're doing, because someone wanted to know. Just to anticipate our meeting tonight - as every Thursday, 7-9pm in the atrium of the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library, in front of Blenz Coffee (look for the blue scarf) - here's a couple of samples of what was said:

1) we want to build a network of people who can help each other on various projects for renewing our stakes in Western culture and combating nihilism and relativism. Starting with ourselves: we meet every Thursday to motivate each other to avoid despair and cynicism and uncreative anger, to figure how to make our minds, faith in humanity, and arguments for them, stronger. This means we do not have any narrow agenda or political objective. It means we are always trying to defend the openness of our political and cultural system, and to prove ourselves trustworthy, disciplined, deserving of attention and compacts from others.

2) Increasingly I don't feel that the meetings have to "launch" something, or exist as planning platforms for "covenant zone events". I view them as similar to going to church: I will be with like-minded people engaged in pursuing a shared long-term objective and the meeting allows me to affirm my individual commitment to seeing things through despite the scale of the odds against us, while providing a much-needed dose of intellectual ammunition to draw upon when acting on my own outside of meeting times.

I agree with the need to discipline our writing to greater effect on the blog. I am so in love with the image that Hirsi Ali projected in her interview, and I try, vainly, to prop it up as a guide. Just compare the emotive ramblings of her inquisitor, that [Avi] Lewis guy, to the becalmed grace and tact she calls up to deliver her responses; that's a role model we can all learn from. **How we say** what we say is more important and consequential than what we say. I mean the style is more important than the substance. If i was a lewis fan I think I would have to harbor second thoughts now about the righteousness of the lefty cause, in the face of such unflappable self-control on the other side. Lewis won't change, but his fans might; when we get trolls, they won't change, but more moderately-leaning lefties may be enticed more to start entertaining our point of view, if we ourselves are viewed as more entertaining.

So, as the truth of freedom, our shared covenant, can be made entertaining....


maccusgermanis said...

How one says what they say is of a consequence not equal to what is said.

In a climate where fear of confrontation is killing honest discourse, substance must be paramount.

If you call for balance and a less polarizing tone then I think you are the person to provide such. Hell, most folks would need time to decide whether they were offended by something you'd said anyway.

I have learned much from this site and I will consider your call for civility, but be warned it is against my nature and can never overide my convictions.

Whereas, I think we may here depart in style, I feel a unity of substance. It is up to you whether you should reciprocate toward such as me or smiling jackals.

truepeers said...

Personally, I don't think going for balance and avoiding polarization is always the way to go in political thought. Oppositional rhetoric and polemics definitely have a place. I think what we are discussing is simply the tone in which we do it, so that it is informative or useful and not simply self-indulgent anger. Ultimately, our goal must be to initiate some kind of reciprocity with our enemies. For our worst enemies, that reciprocity will only begin with a willingness to stand up to their violence with force of arms, as our country is presently doing in Afghanistan. For others, the violence can be deferred when we are both honest enough to see the potential violence if we don't get real and discover some shared understanding or sign, around which reciprocity can unfold, to transcend the present conflict.

In either case, the question is how violent should our rhetoric be. On the one hand, recognizing the conflicts of the world as potentially or actually violent is necessary to finding the creativity to effectively defer or dominante violence. So many today are ineffective and harmful to the cause of civilization because they don't want to recognize that there is a threat to civilization from the left-fundamentalist Islam alliance. We must avoid that trap. On the other hand, certain kinds of quick and easy indulgence in violent rhetoric is simply serving one's own fragile sense of pride and will not open up space for creativity, because it is all about imagining a final closure/solution and is thus utopian. And if we can't help open up such a creative space, why should anyone read us?

maccusgermanis said...

I agree that our arguments should be "informative or useful and not simply self-indulgent anger." I actually think that is more of a substantive point than stylistic.

I think we more differ in that I think of the so many nominally anythings as actual cultists of nihilism that need to be deprogrammed. I can't actually imagine finding or creating a new sign that a nihilist will take more seriously than the many things that they already mockingly associate themselves. It sadly is a case of an already very inclusive "we" are right and a randomly exclusive "they" are wrong. But if you prove me wrong in this then I will be very happy to see it.

That which rules within, when it is according to nature, is so affected with respect to the events which happen, that it always easily adapts itself to that which is and is presented to it. For it requires no definite material, but it moves towards its purpose, under certain conditions however; and it makes a material for itself out of that which opposes it, as fire lays hold of what falls into it, by which a small light would have been extinguished: but when the fire is strong, it soon appropriates to itself the matter which is heaped on it, and consumes it, and rises higher by means of this very material.

Let no act be done without a purpose, nor otherwise than according to the perfect principles of art.

from Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Book 4

My only real disagreement with your post was that I think that purpose is more important than art, with neither being unimportant.

truepeers said...

For my own mind, I agree with you about purpose and substance over style. But it's true that on a pragmatic level we can't expect many readers to be immediately attracted to our purpose. We still have to present it in a compelling or "entertaining" way even as we have to believe in the purpose of what we are doing. So it is really both sides of the question we have to develop.

This takes us to nihilists. I agree that there are many people out there who are going to be hopelessly beyond our reach. To a large extent, the best advice, I think, is to leave them alone to their old rituals, let them read their NYT with their double decaf lattes and take pleasure in actors denouncing the president at the Oscars, or professors doing a Chomsky, and let them continue in the romantic lies that lead to nihilism. Keeps them off the streets. Those in power - professors, judges, politicians - we may have to fight, intelligently I hope, but many we just have to forget about.

For those we have to fight, those "nihilists" (who will usually be a kind of leftist or Islamist utopian) who at least take politics seriously, i.e. those who have a real desire for power or wealth or war or peace, they must, if they are to realize much of their desire, come to terms with reality and that is where people who truly respect civilizational reality and human purpose - both existing reality, and also the need from time to time to renew our political or ethical realities by developing new signs, forms of exchange, and organization - have to meet them, stand up, force them to see more of our shared reality and thus to start setting up a basis for a creative reciprocity. We have to show and even foster conflict up to the point where the reality of some necessary conflict is admitted and we can start being truly creative about how to transcend it without pretending to take leadership from the old school posturing in the NYT.

maccusgermanis said...

I agree that there are many people out there who are going to be hopelessly beyond our reach.

You agree with something that I did not actually say. With, their bravado false and their rhetoric hollow, they are well within our grasp. Whether they further retreat into their comfortable delusions or are reduced to tears, our commitment to things of substance should be the same.

Most of the followers that you describe are of no commitment but just fall in with whatever is in fashion. Those that you say we have to fight are playing to a crowd. They make use of a bit of programming invested in their following to win debates that they in every logical way lose. The destruction of that programming can only happen over time. The infatigable persistence such as cooly diplayed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali is in fact a great model.

I would hesitate to say that we should just leave the laity of the cult of nihilism alone. Even if one by one, our focus should be on that broad base of power rather than the hollow little heads. Otherwise is to lend credence to
their regressive hero worship.