Tuesday, February 24, 2015

800 Words: Why Schmuck? Pt. 1


My name is Evan Tucker. I'm a Jewish-American from Pikesville, MD. My father's Jewish, my mother's Jewish, I'm Jewish, and we're all unabashed Zionists. My mother's family was once packed to the rafters with communists and socialists, but like so many left-wing extremists, they and their children eventually turned into right wing extremists. they're now almost all militantly conservative. Mom is a neo-conservative on foreign policy, revisionist in her Zionism, with militantly libertarian leanings on economic and fiscal issues, yet nearly as militantly liberal convictions on social issues. My father is the child of Holocaust survivors. He is a liberal hawk by conviction in foreign policy, economically and socially liberal, but also holds within him a deeply pessimistic, Kissingeresque realism, which makes him suspicious of all ideals that hold human nature at any station above animal - up to and including democracy itself. He is also, like my mother only more so, a profoundly conservative person when it comes to culture, who views with deep suspicion any form of dress and hair and music which means to express individuality contrary to the mainstream. Some days, I think the only proper way to describe his system of beliefs is to call him a bleeding-heart fascist.

The political spectrum their oldest son falls on is not altogether different from theirs. More liberal to be sure, but not so much so that they would find his beliefs unrecognizable (I hope not...). Economically, I'm probably much closer to socialism than even my father. I'm not a socialist by any standard which an EU citizen or a Hampden hipster would recognize, but when you attend Beth Tfiloh synagogue for your entire life, you see up close the way in which too much money rots those who have it. The Baby Boomers have lived entire lives never knowing a time when easy money wasn't available to them, and their fiscal beliefs reflect the idea that the easy money will always be there. My generation must live with the thought that easy money with which we grew up may well dry up very soon, and that there is a relatively small clique of millionaires who have an absurdly-well documented conspiracy to keep all that easy money for themselves - astonishingly not realizing in the process that money can only be made easily when it's easily spread between people. When our jobs can no longer provide for us, or our families, or our synagogues and churches (or Mosques), who can?

My social beliefs are rank-and-file liberal. Like nearly every member of my generation, the idea that the right to gay marriage, or marijuana, or abortion, or even to change gender, could ever be questioned is something that leaves me scratching my head with disbelief, and occasionally simmering with outrage. But like so many avatars of social progress, in at least one way, the worst thing to happen to any movement of social revolution is that it got what it (or we) wanted. The spoils of victory are now fought over as though they have no more value than a degenerate carcass. I'm a social liberal, but I no longer think I'm a social progressive, and I categorically reject political correctness of any kind. I refuse to believe that the harm in humor is so great that we have to be more circumspect about what we choose to say, I refuse to believe that the harm in thinking heterodoxical thoughts aloud is so great that we should be dishonest about the places in which our gut parts company with the liberal party line (and every one of us has a few...), and I refuse to believe that every disagreement with the party line is indicative of a much darker impulse in one's opponent. The only true indication of something much darker within a person be if a person automatically reads something much darker into people who disagree with him simply for the crime of disagreeing. There is something about modern progressivism that leaves its adherents with the idea that liberalism, with its mild shoulder shrugs in the face of mild intolerance, is a sham, because it never allows for a total victory against evil. And because it allows a greater weight of moral approbation turned on people who have mild disagreements with the most militant points of view than with people who have complete disagreements, I believe that there is something deeply authoritarian about it. It can only be the harbinger of ever new forms of social conservatism that discover completely new bigotries with which to inflict suffering on the unfortunate.

My beliefs on foreign policy are no doubt much too Munich-informed for the generation who formulated Godwin's Law - the idea that all arguments on the internet will eventually bring up Hitler, and you've already brought him up, you've lost. But every delicate foreign policy situation falls on a spectrum between World War I and World War II. Charge into battle without reflection, and you can provoke a completely unnecessary conflict whose ramifications can continue for a century. Ignore provocation, and your decision might cost millions and millions of lives while postponing a necessary battle that will eventually happen on vastly inferior terms. I used to be quite a bit further to the right on foreign affairs than I am now, but more than anything else, I'm a skeptic and pessimist. The Arab Spring, and all the optimism it engendered, now seems to be a disaster on the level of the Russian Revolution, one that has already presaged the Syrian democide and the rise of ISIS, and God knows what other ramifications will rear their ugly heads. No doubt, America's involvement in Iraq is in large part responsible for it too, but the worst, most dangerous thing in the world, is to maintain ideals with which you refuse to part in the face of a reality that will kill everything around you if you refuse to compromise them. Whether your ideal world is informed by the spread of radical Islam, or the spread of Christianity, or the spread of capitalism, or the spread of socialism, or the spread of democracy itself, your lack of apathy and refusal to compromise your principles is the greatest threat the world will ever know. Once you've elected believe that one thing can save the world, you can't help but reason that any amount of suffering and death is worth the ideal world which will come about with enough change. And yet the world never changes, and the only thing we have to show for such fanaticism is more death. The world will never compromise on its ideals, and will always therefore be flooded by unnecessary blood.

But all of this is just a prelude to the most important belief of all. Culture. Culture is not simply a nice byproduct of society. Culture is all. It is the animating force from which emanates all of our beliefs and passions. It is the way that we process the world: as individuals, as a community, and as individuals within communities. It is the sum total of our art, our thought, our discoveries, our relations, our loves, our hates, our values, and our persons.

And on this most important of issues, I am, in my idiosyncratic way, a militant arch-conservative who finds the way so many others process the world to be an apocalyptic disgrace. People's lack of curiosity about the world, about books, about history, about science, about politics, about the arts, about each other, about all those things which should make life more worth living, is something that makes life less worth living. Most people in this world go through their lives neither with the desire to leave their mark upon anyone else, nor with the desire to understand how they could. They might enjoy their brief time upon this earth, but they will never understand that the enjoyment would be much greater if they learned a little more about it.

And it's one thing for the 'unwashed masses' to not have any curiosity. They never could if people with better access to education never pointed out to them how life could be greater. But while perhaps the majority of the world will always await its intellectual dawn, the educated among us, the intelligensia, seem to see no great value in what they've learned, perhaps because they've learned so little.

Instead of learning more about the world, they use their developed intellects to justify their ignorance. Whole fields of critical theory to which literally millions of 'informed' people base their views, are devoted to nothing more than the notions that knowledge, liberty, thought, even the very emotions we feel, are nothing more than artificial constructs imposed upon us by the superstructures of history, and every construct of our lives is meaningless. The few people privileged enough to possess the world's agenda by controlling the world's means of production. According to this enormous subset of intelligensia, every privilege and pleasure the world prizes is a sham because it cannot be shared by everyone. And therefore, rather than do the hard work of gradually spreading those privileges around the world over centuries - lest we risk too much at once and lose everything - they would sooner destroy everything which culture and civilization works for so that we can start again from a zero-point, as though there is any guarantee that the second dawn will be any more promising than the first. Materialist though it may be, these the new world religions, and they're every bit as dangerous to the expansion of thought as the old ones.

Like the old religions, it puts huge and creepy focus on the rights and/or restrictions of the bedroom over the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Rather than focus on the rights to partake of the better angels of our nature - the rights to healthcare, employment, education, freedom of speech and press and worship, we focus ass-backwards on the more animalistic sides to ourselves.

Rather than focus on 'permanent things' like art that put us in contact with the eternal, fundamental questions, most people settle for entertainment, and often pretend that there is a profundity within entertainment that anyone with the slightest degree of common sense would instantly understand it lacks. It's not to say that toweringly profound things can't come out of TV and movies, or popular music, or paperback novels, but at least 95% of the time it doesn't, yet popular genres seem to eat up 95% of the world's intellectual discourse. Meanwhile, the remaining 5% is mostly parsed out among masturbatory art that communicates nothing past small cliques of fellow true believes to whatever aesthetic movement its creator belongs. The best art is art and entertainment all at the same time, gratifying us both in body and spirit - because those two parts of us are probably inseparable. On the one hand, ideas can never be more important than the people whom ideas serve. On the other, all that is not eternal is eternally out of date.

If we all have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, 'lower' things like a healthy attitude towards sexuality and entertainment will follow. The more value we place on education, the more education and educated thoughts will spread by osmosis to people unfortunate enough to not have any. The longer our lives, the more productive our lives, the more they will effect the change we wish to see in the world around us. The more free we are, the more free we are to make our world as we wish.

(Holy sh*t. This seems really f-cking pompous without the next part...)

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