Monday, February 6, 2012

Alternate Realities

[Continued from "Myth and Cultural Programming" below.]


This brings us to the point of this whole thing, which was called to mind by David Brooks' most recent column on "How to Fight the Man".
The paradox of reform movements is that, if you want to defy authority, you probably shouldn’t think entirely for yourself. You should attach yourself to a counter-tradition and school of thought that has been developed over the centuries and that seems true. 
The old leftists had dialectical materialism and the Marxist view of history. Libertarians have Hayek and von Mises. Various spiritual movements have drawn from Transcendentalism, Stoicism, Gnosticism, Thomism, Augustine, Tolstoy, or the Catholic social teaching that inspired Dorothy Day. 
These belief systems helped people envision alternate realities. They helped people explain why the things society values are not the things that should be valued. They gave movements a set of organizing principles. Joining a tradition doesn’t mean suppressing your individuality. Applying an ancient tradition to a new situation is a creative, stimulating and empowering act. Without a tradition, everything is impermanence and flux.
Mr. Brooks is making a half-hearted attempt to render a key conservative principle (that the past is not evil) appealing to the radicalizing impulses of his domesticated baby-boomer readership.  Naturally he just gets booed offstage as usual — he's too close to the line for conservatives and too conservative for liberals — but in the meanwhile he comes close to something we've said.  These belief systems helped people envision alternate realities.  And not just to envision them, but to inhabit them mentally, to re-envision the fundamental structures and categories according to which society is divided and see things in their true light.  That is, not simply to dream of some future utopia in which all problems will be solved, but to reconstitute the problems, to re-examine the prior nature of the matter of society and its form.  When I look at the face of young American conservatism it is very clear to me that such a transformation is not happening.  What is needed, as the Master says, is the rectification of names.  The re-statement of first principles, and their infusion into the culture on a grand scale . . .

[It smacks too much of uninspired demagogy, but the ideas are good.]

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