Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Awful Truth

I'd like to second Moe Blues recommendation of Billmon's ruminations on the Straussians.

When Newt Gingrich equated feminism with the destruction of Western civ, he was echoing (in his dumbed-down way) Strauss’s lurking fear that the liberal American state would steer the same course as the Weimar Republic – a political Titanic on a collision course with a totalitarian iceberg. Deprived of the moral certainty provided by religion and tradition, the masses are vulnerable to crazed political adventurers who would fill the nihilistic void with their own crackpot ideas – like, say, the international conspiracy of Communists and Freemasons. They might even be worse than Tom DeLay. Or, as Drury laconically puts it:

Strauss . . . does not disagree with Marx that religion is the opium of the masses, he just thinks that people need their opium.

What gives Straussian thought its special flavor – a bitter blend of hypocrisy and cynicism – is the fact that Strauss himself didn’t believe in the eternal “truths” he championed. He was a nihilist, in other words – but one who believed only the philosophical elite could be trusted to indulge in such a dangerous vice. In exchange for this privilege, the elite has a special obligation to uphold the “noble lies” the ignorant masses must live by if society is to survive.

Trying to talk logically with neo-cons and their hangers on is an exercise in eternal frustration. Billmon puts his finger on the source of the problem: the neo-cons don't really believe what they publicly profess. They are as corrupted by nihilistic impulses as the culture they decry. Its just that they consider themselves to be more capable of dealing with "The Awful Truth" than the rest of us plebeians.

It's a perversion of the Platonic concept of philosopher kings. where Plato envisioned the kings as protectors of a "Grander Truth".

Liberals, progressives and even true conservatives are believers in that "Grander Truth". All of us believe that a better future for everyone can be achieved. We believe that there is hope in the world. We may have different ideas on how to achieve that better future, but we fundamentally agree that it is not a pointless endeavor..

The neo-cons are the enemies of all who believe in that better future. Not just because they subscribe to a nihilistic vision of human capabilities but because they believe they have to protect us from that vision by any means necessary, including adopting the facade of those who hope for a better future.

That this might all just be a gargantuan rationalization for their desire to be the ones in charge is surely not something they have considered. In fact, they think they are doing us a favor by taking on the "burden" of protecting us from "The Awful Truth". And they resent the fact that we don't appreciate them for it.


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