Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Brave New World Begins

Our president bows down to tyrants. I wonder what's happening to my nation. Maybe it's all hope and change, and a brave new world begins.

Rudyard Kipling, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings"

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Our president shakes hands with dictators. I wonder what's happening to my nation. Maybe it's all hope and change, and a brave new world begins.

On Frances Bacon, Novum Organum

Idols of the Tribe are deceptive beliefs inherent in the mind of man, and therefore belonging to the whole of the human race. They are abstractions in error arising from common tendencies to exaggeration, distortion, and disproportion. Thus men gazing at the stars perceive the order of the world, but are not content merely to contemplate or record that which is seen. They extend their opinions, investing the starry heavens with innumerable imaginary qualities. In a short time these imaginings gain dignity and are mingled with the facts until the compounds become inseparable. This may explain Bacon's epitaph which is said to be a summary of his whole method. It reads, "Let all compounds be dissolved."

Idols of the Cave are those which arise within the mind of the individual. This mind is symbolically a cavern. The thoughts of the individual roam about in this dark cave and are variously modified by temperament, education, habit, environment, and accident. Thus an individual who dedicates his mind to some particular branch of learning becomes possessed by his own peculiar interest, and interprets all other learning according to the colors of his own devotion. The chemist sees chemistry in all things, and the courtier ever present at the rituals of the court unduly emphasizes the significance of kings and princes.

(The title page of Bacon's New Atlantis (London 1626) is ornamented with a curious design or printer's device. The winged figure of Father Time is shown lifting a female figure from a dark cave. This represents truth resurrected from the cavern of the intellect.)

Idols of the Marketplace are errors arising from the false significance bestowed upon words, and in this classification Bacon anticipated the modern science of semantics. According to him it is the popular belief that men form their thoughts into words in order to communicate their opinions to others, but often words arise as substitutes for thoughts and men think they have won an argument because they have out talked their opponents. The constant impact of words variously used without attention to their true meaning only in turn condition the understanding and breed fallacies. Words often betray their own purpose, obscuring the very thoughts they are designed to express.

Idols of the Theater are those which are due to sophistry and false learning. These idols are built up in the field of theology, philosophy, and science, and because they are defended by learned groups are accepted without question by the masses. When false philosophies have been cultivated and have attained a wide sphere of dominion in the world of the intellect they are no longer questioned. False superstructures are raised on false foundations, and in the end systems barren of merit parade their grandeur on the stage of the world.

Our president waves away the dying. I wonder what's happening to my nation. Maybe it's all hope and change, and a brave new world begins.

James Lewis, "Obama flunks on social pathology," American Thinker. 17 April 2009

Social pathology: crack and heroin epidemics, family violence, out-of-wedlock births, abortion as "just another option," alcoholic mothers having brain-damaged babies, violent and uncontrollable schools, constantly irresponsible and self-destructive behavior, endemic crime. Obama has seen that for twenty years in South Side Chicago, and it is well-established that social pathology is directly responsible for the failure of the "structurally poor" to rise out of their misery.

Obama seems to be in denial of the obvious. His own life is entirely middle class. Married, career-oriented, successful, steadily rising income, two daughters born in his marriage. Yes, Obama has a lot of dubious ideological friends. J-Wright's Trinity United Church claims to be against "middleclassness" -- which is all the good and healthy habits that keep people out of poverty. But in fact the Obamas are a perfect example of middleclassness.

As the charismatic hero of the Left, Obama could be teaching, teaching all these obvious rules of behavior, which have worked so well over two centuries since the Industrial Revolution, to bring people out of poverty. Just like Jesse Jackson could be teaching healthy lifestyles, instead of blackmailing corporations. They know exactly what's going on. They know, just like white liberals, what works in their own lives. But they will not draw the obvious conclusions: That would be "conservative." Almost a kind of treason to the sacred doctrine of state control.

Every liberal policy stance is infected by that bottomless chasm of hypocrisy. We all know what works to help people grow out of poverty, because most of us have practiced those habits in our own lives. But strengthening the family, keeping fathers and mothers responsible for their kids, much stricter discipline in the schools, postponing immediate payoffs for long term goals, avoiding destructive life choices -- all those standards, habits and customs that helped the whole industrialized world rise from poverty, are simply denied by the Left. It's mighty strange. Today we can see those habits of hard work and "middleclassness" revolutionizing billions of people in China and India, as they visibly rise out of centuries of misery and poverty. It's right in front of our eyes!

But that lesson is never, ever learned by the Left.

The biggest question to ask liberals is: Why don't you support those solutions that have worked so well in your own life?

It is hard to avoid the feeling that the Left is endemically racist and classist: That they have simply decided that what works in their own lives will never work to raise poor blacks, Hispanics and whites out of poverty.

A Brave New World Begins, and it's all Hope and Change. Hope and Change. Hope and Change. A Brave New World begins.


truepeers said...

Is it just me, or does Obama's bow look like it's just as much a curtsy? In other words, seems to me the (wo)man is terminally conflicted: everything is a bit of this and a bit of that - makes no sense, except when you believe that the multiOne is the One we've all been waiting for.

It may well be that he is the path to the audacity of hope, but maybe not quite how she figures. He could well be the walking, eventually shocking, revelation that, in the light of the events her (in)actions engender and fertilize finally provides the insights that let the mainstream culture break out of the established patterns of left-liberal group think. We can chatter around the MSM-PaCademic-Keynesian narrative all night long, to no avail, for we are slotted into comfortable categories, no less when our words are unfamiliar. But when their God betrays them to reality, well some might leave the Gnostic camp for the truly audacious one. And that's when having something to say will be important for those who would help redeem the covenants of freedom.

Dag said...

How do you like the poem?

truepeers said...

I'm not sure I have the requisite experience to truly understand the poem. When I was learning to hand write in the 1970s (something I've never mastered, having a rather ugly, abstract, script), I recall only cursory attention was given to the old texts of Mr. Maclean. According to this link, the Maclean Method was taught in BC schools from 1921-1965; as I recall, I had a nostalgic, conservative teacher who felt she had at least to expose us to the grand old man and his discipline; but given the "progressive" agenda she could only find time to give us a taste of the Maclean old school ways while telling us of the days when students, feeling they had sufficiently progressed, could write Mr. Maclean letters and wait, with audacious hope, to see if his return post would give them the nod of the copybook God. I never trembled in such fraught expectation...

Not having had that experience, I'm not sure that I know what it is to worship the copybook gods. I suffered for years under the tutelage and texts of Gnostic snake oilmen, and am no doubt marked by this in all kinds of atrocious ways.

I have learned something of the lies in this popular heresy. But in trying to get my mind out from under my failures, I have been drawn to a certain kind of anthropological thought which leads me even to doubt Kipling's conservatism. If there were a straightforward way to get back to basics, and it worked, wouldn't it be more widely known? are our flights of fancy into various forms of self-delusion simply a mark of human weakness we could control with a little discipline, instead of some more fundamental problem in cognition, or some inherent and unavoidable tragedy of the human condition?

I mean, we can look at the present scene and see how much of both the political and financial marketplaces have in recent decades been engaged in an immense fraud, a huge ponzi scheme, and shake our heads and ask, why haven't we yet learned not to trust these con men and women? Well, through the long years of cheap, even free, money, it just wasn't obvious because more and more people were "working" and getting rich.

Well, one thing i have learned about markets (and I'm not sure if this holds equally true for political and economic markets - and one of my suspicions about the poem is that it seems to treat these two markets as if they were one, ruled by the same dynamics, which they are not...) is that they can only trade in risk and uncertainty. If the fundamental truth about the market, at any given point in time, really were knowable, there would be no market - once everyone knows something, this knowledge no longer has any value that can be weighed and traded and the dynamics of human desire and rivalry will have to leave one dead market and take the market to a new place and a new set of dynamics whose outcome is not yet knowable.

It's when we have a market crash, when we all now have the revelation of the "fundamentals" that have underwritten (or not) the market until recently, when we can see the "lies" and frauds we once put our faith in that we are attracted to this poem. For now we see and think we are all wise in denouncing the now-revealed fraudsters.

But even as we say this, we are reworking the relationship between the political market and the economic market in ways that are not yet apparent and that will surely have, in their own time, the revelation and crash that comes with more perfect knowledge and a final discounting of the claims and uncertainties on which we presently act. Having said that, I am no fan of Obama's policies because I would much rather put my faith in those who tend to worship the free marketplace because that is a worship I find much less arrogant and dangerous than the faith that a few wise men in Washington can save us from the arrogance of the (economic) marketplace.

But which side would Kipling be on today? Would he jump on the wagon with those condemning Wall St. fraud - and there was a lot of it - as a justification for getting back to the Keynesian copy book? I would hope not; I would hope he might come to see that the faith in some basic method, some copybook, that will always save us is itself a Utopian fantasy that is unwilling to grapple with reality: that change is inevitable, that it erodes any and every method, that history waits for no one and is constantly eroding and rebuilding markets that rely on uncertain knowledge - on there being no sure way through life.

Yes, there are obvious lies, but no perfect methods. It is one of the tragedies of our time that the hardworking, the savers, the taxpayers, are losing just as much if not more as have the feckless. Yes, there are basic truths such as that those societies which have few children won't have much of a future and that anyone who says otherwise, with no qualification, is a liar; but even this truth is only true if it plays out consistently for more than one generation. And in a healthy society it is not true of every individual: in a healthy society, the celibate may well have a role.

Who is to say a present downturn isn't creating the possibility for the next upturn? History is unpredictable; and we can only grasp this today in ways that require a faith that will require of us something more than what Kipling offered the men of his day. THat's not to say Kipling is worthless; we can learn from him in thinking of how to rework the "gods of the copybook" for our times.