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Archive for the ‘Political Psychoanalysis’ Category

Culture War as Stigma War

Posted by Tony Listi on August 1, 2010

Tyranny in democratic republics does not proceed in the same way, however. It ignores the body and goes straight for the soul. The master no longer says: You will think as I do or die. He says: You are free not to think as I do. You may keep your life, your property, and everything else. But from this day forth you shall be as a stranger among us. You will retain your civic privileges, but they will be of no use to you. For if you seek the votes of your fellow citizens, they will withhold them, and if you seek only their esteem, they will feign to refuse even that. You will remain among men, but you will forfeit your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellow creatures, they will shun you as one who is impure. And even those who believe in your innocence will abandon you, lest they, too, be shunned in turn. Go in peace, I will not take your life, but the life I leave you with is worse than death.
Alexis de Tocqueville

A friend of mine drew my attention to a very important article written by Jeff Schafer at the Alliance Defense Fund. It’s entitled “Stigma and Dogma, Revisited.”

This article re-echoes something that De Tocqueville (quoted above) observed early on about the dangerous tendencies of democratic culture. Stigma and social pressure rule the day in a democracy.

Yet stigma and social pressure were what kept the U.S. conservative and free for so long, esp. with regard to our current social issues. In the early history of America, abortion and deviations from traditional marriage were so powerfully and thoroughly stigmatized that they were not political issues at all. Not so anymore.

Stigma is the expression of moral outrage. The article reminds me of one of the Leadership Institute’s Laws of the Public Policy Process: “Moral outrage is the most powerful motivating force in politics.”

If conservatives are to take the long-term view of changing the culture in order to win (as the left did over a century ago), we have to be willing to publicly engage in the Stigma War. Big govt., govt. coercion, govt. dependency, promiscuity, sexual perversity, infanticide, etc. must all become shameful, stigmatized things again. Conservatives have to be willing to publicly denounce these things as immoral and shameful.

Why do you think the left likes to engage in name-calling? Racist, sexist, homophobe, bigot, etc. All these epithets are intended to stigmatize conservative views, whether the labels rationally apply or not. And they’ve done a pretty good job of it.

When people evaluate candidates or policies, it is moral factors that determine their choices; it is the elements of shame and guilt that convince people to be politically active and to hold certain political views with intensity.

We need not lose hope completely that the world is doomed to irrationality though. Feelings of guilt, shame, and moral outrage do not spring up spontaneously or irrationally; they are rooted in certain rational, though often false, paradigms and faith systems. The problem with the left is not that they aren’t rational; they are, assuming their faith-based assumptions to be true. It’s the fundamental assumptions about the nature of reality, human nature, and justice that separate us from them. (And these false assumption are inculcated into Americans through the cultural institutions of primary schools, academia, arts & entertainment, churches, and the media.)

We need to bring the reasons for our political faith and assumptions to the surface in the most clear, concise, direct, impactful, and thought-provoking ways possible. And this is where the necessity of activism comes in. And good activism is based on good organizational preparation beforehand that gathers the people and resources to make activism effective.

Moreover, activism should be directed not merely at challenging current leftist stigmas and dogmas but toward recapturing the cultural institutions mentioned above that inculcate these false stigmas and dogmas into American youth (and older).

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Posted in Abortion, American Culture, American History, Culture War, Democracy, Education, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Activism, Political Philosophy, Political Psychoanalysis, Race, Racism, and Affirmative Action, Student Activism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Scienceolatry: Science as a Religion and Idol

Posted by Tony Listi on April 26, 2009

Our student newspaper, the Battalion, seems to worship the All-Powerful, Almighty Science, who saves all from death and conservatism (secular sin), especially one staff writer in particular, Mr. Tiruvadi:

“[M]any Americans are just getting sick of sectarian bickering and dogma, turning away from organized religion and instead toward an optimistic humanism that accurately reflects 21st century hopes…. As time went on and pesky scientists were dealt with, the inevitable transition of atheism from the dark arts to an acceptable religious identity accelerated. What we’re seeing now is the natural extension of the spirit that started the science ball rolling centuries ago…. Religion is often associated with vehement opposition to stem cell research, classroom science lessons, individuals exercising their rights and sexual scandals while those that don’t believe are seen as intellectual elitists.”

The irony is that there would be no modern science without the Judeo-Christian tradition. Virtually all other religious traditions, those of the gentiles and pagans, thought of the physical world as permanently divine and thus irrational (for their gods were capricious). Only with the coming of Yahweh, the Creator of the natural world, did humanity powerfully come to see order and reason to the universe, an order which by human reason could be measured, studied, recorded, even manipulated. The story of Galileo has grown into an atheist/agnostic myth over time. There is no real conflict between science/reason and Christianity.  Humanism, divorced from divinely sanctioned morality, must degrade into horrific, totalitarian power-worship over time.

Tiruvadi also writes, “As our excellence in science, arts and business increases we will see a shift in public misconceptions of A&M, fortified by our increasingly knowledgeable faculty and research focus…. In the coming decades we’ll find ourselves deeper into the vanguard of science, a place where our definition of tradition will really be tested and we’ll be confronted with controversial opportunities. For example, will A&M’s participation in stem cell research be an affront to its tradition? If you define A&M’s tradition as wholly steeped in conservatism then yes, we’ll have to forsake our brain just to be a big heart. Will we let misconceptions of the theory of evolution get in the way of how we teach biology? Luckily the integrity of science is still strong at A&M, but growing reactionary views can bring even science dangerously close to conservatism’s guillotine.”

Ironically, the guillotine was the instrument of the “progressive” French Revolution, which also idolized rationality and science and attempted to destroy all signs and symbols of organized religion. How appropriate that those who worshipped rationality would execute their heretics by chopping off the seat of such rationality! “Conservatism’s guillotine” is an oxymoron.

Media Credit: Jordan Bryan

Obama seems to have become Tiruvadi’s Scientist in Chief: “This may very well be the closest we get to a scientific-messiah-president, and that’s good news for every American…. America is still at the vanguard of scientific innovation, with brilliant minds paving the way…. The promise of stem cells as a viable cure in any disease is still up in the air, but as science always says, you don’t know until you know. And now, with a President that doesn’t resort to religion-laden stem cell rhetoric, we might finally know.” Thanks Yogi! Brilliant!

Science says touch your toes…. Touch your head. No, you’re out, I didn’t say “Science says“!

And they call us religious nuts? Who says science can’t be perverted into a religion (scientism) with their own messiah and dogma to go with it?

I could argue with Mr. Tiruvadi ad nauseam. But nothing I could say would be as powerful as three movies: The Island, Gattaca, and Brave New World. As I’m sure he would agree, seeing is believing, no? These are three must-see movies for everyone.

Science has methods and nothing more. It has no ethical standards in and of itself. Ethical standards must be applied to science from without. Science is knowledge and thus power. Power has no ethical standards in and of itself. Power-worship merely takes different forms throughout history. The golden calf, the hammer and sickle, and the swastika have all seemingly been replaced by the glass test tube.

Yet this is precisely what Mr. Tiruvadi and others like him seem to claim: science can do no wrong. They are not willing to engage in a moral debate because science sets the terms of morality, or, even worse, has “determined” that morality is a biological-sociological phenomenon, a delusion of sorts. “There is no good and evil; there is only power and those too weak to seek it.” When does human life begin? Does innocent human life have dignity and thus deserve protection, no matter the stage of its growth and development? These questions are brushed aside as heresy, as challenges to scientismic dogma.

Ironically, science itself tells us when human life begins: conception. Humanity can be scientifically defined, more or less, by genetic material, 46 chromosomes. And life can be defined, more or less, by the presence of cells, especially those which grow and divide. Thus conception is the exact moment at which humanity and life become one and find coexistence. So tell me, which book of the Bible or religious dogma did I just cite? The left abandons reason rather than embracing it.

In contrast, scientism and its acolytes often wish to define human dignity on a sliding scale based on intelligence; the intelligent may thus oppress or even enslave the ungifted and untalented. The mentally disabled, the senile, the comatose, and even the child, within or outside the mother, are thus expendable according to this strict logic.

We have seen communism and fascism, leftist ideologies both, deny human dignity and use the power of the state to commit genocide and enslave human beings. Perhaps the worst is yet to come under neo-pagan scientism, for it promises a power over human beings that not even Hitler or Lenin could have imagined, a miserable totalitarian power that only fictional movies can capture and illustrate…for now.

Posted in Abortion, American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Culture War, Fascism, Government and Politics, Hollywood and the Film Industry, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Political Psychoanalysis, Politics and Religion, Science and Politics, Science and Religion, Socialism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

C. S. Lewis on Barack Obama

Posted by Tony Listi on December 29, 2008

C. S. Lewis

Lewis died in 1963, so there is no knowing exactly what he would say. But I have come across some wonderful quotes from his satirical Screwtape Letters (uncle demon writing to a nephew demon on how to damn souls) that have obvious significance for what we should think of Barack Obama, the campaign he ran, and the state of American culture.

Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. Hence the encouragement we have given to all those schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism, which fix men’s affections on the Future, on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead….

To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too—just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow’s work is today’s duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present. This is not straw splitting. He does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do. His ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future—haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth—ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other—dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.

It follows then, in general, and other things being equal, that it is better for your patient to be filled with anxiety or hope (it doesn’t much matter which) about this war than for him to be living in the present. But the phrase “living in the present” is ambiguous. It may describe a process which is really just as much concerned with the Future as anxiety itself. Your man may be untroubled about the Future, not because he is concerned with the Present, but because he has persuaded himself that the Future is, going to be agreeable. As long as that is the real course of his tranquillity, his tranquillity will do us good, because it is only piling up more disappointment, and therefore more impatience, for him when his false hopes are dashed. (Letter XV, underlined emphasis mine)

In American politics, the words “past” and “future” have, respectively, negative and positive connotations. Is this a good thing? Did not Barack Obama’s campaign exploit futuristic jargon most successfully? Shouldn’t we be skeptical of so-called “progressive” policy schemes that play on false hopes of heaven on earth?

What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And”. You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing. (Letter XXV)

From the above passage, I think it is quite clear what Lewis would think of Black Liberation Theology and the Trinity United Church of Christ. He would disapprove.

The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively. To experience much of it, therefore, they must experience many different things; in other words, they must experience change. And since they need change, the Enemy (being a hedonist at heart) has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating Pleasurable. But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together on the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme. He gives them in His Church a spiritual ear; they change from a fast to a feast, but it is the same feast as before.

Now just as we pick out and exaggerate the pleasure of eating to produce gluttony, so we pick out this natural pleasantness of change and twist it into a demand for absolute novelty. This demand is entirely our workmanship. If we neglect our duty, men will be not only contented but transported by the mixed novelty and familiarity of snowdrops this January, sunrise this morning, plum pudding this Christmas. Children, until we have taught them better, will be perfectly happy with a seasonal round of games in which conkers succeed hopscotch as regularly as autumn follows summer. Only by our incessant efforts is the demand for infinite, or unrhythmical, change kept up.

This demand is valuable in various ways. In the first place it diminishes pleasure while increasing desire. The pleasure of novelty is by its very nature more subject than any other to the law of diminishing returns. And continued novelty costs money, so that the desire for it spells avarice or unhappiness or both. And again, the more rapacious this desire, the sooner it must eat up all the innocent sources of pleasure and pass on to those the Enemy forbids. Thus by inflaming the horror of the Same Old Thing we have recently made the Arts, for example, less dangerous to us than perhaps, they have ever been, “low-brow” and “high-brow” artists alike being now daily drawn into fresh, and still fresh, excesses of lasciviousness, unreason, cruelty, and pride. Finally, the desire for novelty is indispensable if we are to produce Fashions or Vogues.

The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere “understanding”. Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.

But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate his horror of the Same Old Thing into a philosophy so that nonsense in the intellect may reinforce corruption in the will. It is here that the general Evolutionary or Historical character of modern European thought (partly our work) comes in so useful. The Enemy loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? is it prudent? is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking “Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?” they will neglect the relevant questions. And the questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them to make. As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum, we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on. And great work has already been done. Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and others again indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective “unchanged” we have substituted the emotional adjective “stagnant”. We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain—not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is…. (Letter XXV)

Is American culture obsessed with change for its own sake? Is it irrationally afraid of “the Same Old Thing”?

The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unraveling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth…. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or “science” or psychology, or what not. (Letter XXVIII, emphasis mine)

Do Obama and liberals believe that they can create heaven on earth?

Posted in American Culture, Art and Creativity, Christianity and Politics, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Political Psychoanalysis, Politicians, Politics and Religion, Quotes, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Clinging to Religion AND Guns AND Bigotry

Posted by Tony Listi on April 20, 2008

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Barack Obama almost wiggled out of this one. He had a very clever response at a CNN Compassion Forum to the accusation that this comment showed him to be elitist, trashing religious people and their values, and being out of touch with the common American:

“Well, first of all, you know, scripture talks about clinging to what’s good. And so it’s very important – my words may have been clumsy, which happens surprisingly often on a presidential campaign…but this is something that I’ve talked about before, I’ve talked about in my own life, which is that religion is a bulwark, a foundation when other things aren’t going well. That’s true in my own life, through trials and tribulations.”

Obama’s statement is correct: clinging is not necessarily a bad thing. Any religious person would have no problem with people clinging to God. That is the whole point!

But the problem with this is that Obama linked religion to guns and bigotry. And Obama is NOT a supporter of the 2nd Amendment; he is pro-gun control. So he must think that clinging to guns is a bad thing. And Obama has always claimed, at least, to be against bigotry. And yet he says “cling to guns or religion” or bigotry. The clear implication is that ALL THREE are bad! He wisely avoids this fact.

Obama made a Freudian slip. He really thinks that Christianity, as practiced by middle America (as opposed to his own heretical, racist, hate-filled, liberation theological TUCC), is harmful and dangerous.

Posted in Elections and Campaigns, Government and Politics, Political Psychoanalysis, Politicians, Politics and Religion, Second Amendment/Guns, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Open-mindedness and “Taking it personally”

Posted by Tony Listi on February 2, 2008

Some people think I am so mean sometimes because I have very strong opinions and am willing and able (I think) to argue for them. Yet I try my utmost to stick to the issue and not attack people personally. I don’t understand how so many people find wishy-washiness a virtue. People shouldn’t take critiques of their opinions so personally sometimes, especially when mutual criticism is the very purpose of the discussion!

In my humble opinion, you can often tell how open-minded people are by how personally they take criticism. If you take it personally, it’s likely you are closed-minded and won’t change your mind. Which is really ironic when I hear liberals tout how “open-minded” they are and yet how “personally” they feel about certain issues.

The fact is of the matter is that no one values wholesale and unlimited open-mindedness, especially not within our own faction. That is because it is self-contradictory: Open-mindedness apparently is not open-minded at all towards closed-mindedness.  No, rather, we advocate open-mindedness for those who disagree with us! We all want a politician who is closed-minded in the direction of our opinions. Of what use to us is a politician whose views and actions we cannot predict? We elect someone on the basis of their current positions hoping they will not change. Indeed, Benedict Arnold was quite an “open-minded” fellow….

Therefore, liberal double-talk about open-mindedness is a hollow and spurious ploy to make conservatives feel guilty for having strong opinions. The tragedy is that this sophistry sometimes has an effect on people who don’t think critically. Now there may be something to be said about style and prudence with regard to how and when to argue. But it is ridiculous to criticize someone merely for holding fast to an opinion! Are liberals close-minded because they hold fast to their opinions?

Posted in American Culture, Political Psychoanalysis, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »