Truth Before Dishonor

I would rather be right than popular

What Rush Limbaugh doesn’t quite get.

Posted by DNW on 2014/04/30


[This is a draft which I’ll put up, subject to later revision and correction. Wanted to get something down before I forgot the point that struck me earlier today]

Contrary to what a great many lefties seem to find comfort in believing, most of us who have developed a strong intellectual contempt for leftism and its modern fascistic manifestation, did not develop this attitude from listening to Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh merely gives voice – on occasion quite effectively – to some important principles and perspectives regarding the traditional American regime of individual liberty currently under sustained assault by the morally self-deconstructed organisms of the fascist left.

While I seldom have the time or the inclination to listen to his riffs on politics, occasionally I will catch a fragment of one of his programs. Today was such an occasion. I caught about five minutes or so of what he was saying.

And what he was saying today seemed to be to the effect that the left in this country was trying to divide rather than unite, and attempting to do so through the politics of victimization rather than the politics of inspiration.

That, if I have Limbaugh pegged correctly, is a relatively common theme with him.

The standard Limbaugh “argument” on this point seems to go something like this:

Why do the Democrats and modern liberals seek to divide us through the politics of victim-hood and class conflict, rather than unite behind American ideals and inspiration?

Because, (he seems to answer,) both the Democrat Party’s raison d’etre, and the liberal grievance mill’s funding, are based on the existence of a client class which must remain a dependent and aggrieved client class in order for the Democrat Party bureaucrats and managers to justify their own parasitic existences.

Today for example, I heard him say some part of the following, (which I later looked up on his web site in order to confirm that I had gotten right what he was trying to say).

Limbaugh says:

Practically every virtue and every tradition that went into building this country is under assault right now. And that’s what we find ourselves in the middle of. You can say it’s always been there, and it’s been effervescing and bubbling up and finally now it’s boiled over. But why has it boiled over it if it’s always been there? Why did nobody tamp it down? In order to keep the peace, why have efforts been made to victimize people and punish — well, no. Why has the Democrat Party willfully, eagerly, happily put people in groups, made them victims, put them on the welfare rolls, made their existence barely a subsistence? Why has there not been any effort to tamp down some of this animosity in the country and try to turn it into love?

Why has there not been an overall effort to inspire people to exercise the opportunity this country provides everybody today to be the best they can be? Where has that gone? Why is that missing? Why is now everybody a victim? Why is everybody owed something? Why is everybody a victim of the immoral, unjust founding of this country? It’s been a movement that’s been around since the beginning of the country. And rather than tamp it down, the Democrat Party has inspired it; the Democrat Party has promoted it.

It is the single source of their power: aggrieved, miserable, angry, unhappy people looking for the people they’re mad at to be gotten even with. Looking for the people they are mad at to be dealt with. Looking for the people that they’re mad at to be punished. And when it happens, they’re all happy, whether it improves their lives or not. And in most cases it doesn’t. But they don’t care because they’ve been conditioned to believe that somebody being punished, either taxes being raised or any other form of punishment, that’s justice. And the Democrat Party is the agent of that justice. The Democrat Party’s facilitating all this. That’s where its home is. None of this would be working if there were not a significant political power base propping it up as a foundation.

Now, there is probably a good deal of truth in that take.

But, in my estimation, there is an explanation for the modern liberal grievance attitude and behavior that goes somewhat deeper than the cynically and destructively manipulative calculus of professional left-wing collectivists seeking to ensure their bureaucratic hold on the future and present political control.

And it stems from the radically different worldviews, and the radically different metaphysics, which condition the conceptions of justice and victim-hood held by the two opposing sides.

Limbaugh asked,

“Why has the Democrat Party willfully, eagerly, happily put people in groups, made them victims … Why is everybody a victim of the immoral, unjust founding …”

And his answer was that “It is the single source of their [Democrat] power: aggrieved, miserable, angry, unhappy people looking for the people they’re mad at to be gotten even with.”

Like I said, so far as it goes, so good.

But what Limbaugh is overlooking in this particular instance, is the utter sincerity of some major part of the intellectual left concerning their views on the nature and origin of victim-hood.

And here we are obviously not just referring to victims of social bigotry or political fraud; but to something much deeper. What I believe Limbaugh is overlooking here is the core idea held by the progressive left which implies, or sometimes states outright, that people are in essence victims of life, or in fact of being, itself.

We’ve encountered the concept in various manifestations and formulations before. The so called “tyranny of biology”, denounced by radical feminists is for instance, an example, if a somewhat frivolous one, of that mindset. The psychological horror of “exclusion” felt by so many leftists is a symptom of the same phenomenon. The supposed “unfairness” of natural inequality, is another. Natural inequality is made all the worse in liberal opinion, because it cannot in principle be made better by bringing people up to standard through education or physical therapy; since, according to the liberal the presumed standard is itself intrinsically unjustifiable.

The world then, the leftist acknowledges, is not just. But he will make it “just”, he insists. And how will he do so? By bringing all persons up to par insofar as possible, and allowing all to then seek their own level and fulfillment under an impartial rule of law? No. He will make mankind’s world just, by remaking the universe of man, and “man” himself.

And how will he accomplish this trick? How will he affirm the unaffirmable, and hold together the incoherent? He will do it he assumes, through the magical social formula of embracing entropy politically while paying off the damages through fascistically enforced social solidarity and cost shifting. Which, considered in one way is something quite close to what Limbaugh is saying, given the proviso that the leftist actually believes he can in fact remake reality in this way through the verbal magic of declaring contradictions to be non-contradictory.

This absurd program of re-conceptualizing reality in the face of all evidence, must take place, because, again, in the liberal view, there is no “natural good” to advert to, and there are no natural kinds which in their healthy state objectively tend toward a naturally good end. An end of which it can objectively be said, should [value statement alert] be pursued by the individual; and regarding which, it is merely the duty of others in society to respect and to not unnecessarily impede.

In the liberal reality however, it makes no sense to talk of natural rights or their fulfillment. In the liberal reality there are only loci of pain and pleasure existing in a field of ultimate chaos; and within this context, the power relations between them.

For while the liberal, to paraphrase Nietzsche, may seem to normal people to be a kind of organism with its gain turned up way too high; there is according to liberal doctrine no such setting as “too high”. On the modern liberal understanding there simply exist no natural and objective standards by which one may assess where the normal pain threshold ends, and where liberal neurosis and neurasthenia begin.

As there are, as a matter of liberal dogma and doctrine, no natural kinds with natural ends, there are therefore no natural goods which can be said to follow from these natural kinds and their ends. For a modern liberal, all being, to restate, is merely the subjective experience of a locus of appetite, of power and satisfaction, or of their lack.

In traditional Scholastic metaphysics the analysis of human existence and of the good reaches a point where it is concluded that the terms “being” and “good” are to be taken and understood as “convertible” on some conceptual level

But no modern or postmodern philosopher or ardent liberal would assert that being alive is somehow a good in itself. The postmodern man, posits himself as the inevitable victim of being, and concomitantly, of life. He is a victim of life by virtue of simply being alive. Those sometimes seen more life-competent or stronger appearing persons, are simply the beneficiaries of a natural injustice which must be socially rectified by the liberal in the name of distributed suffering; i.e. liberal justice.

And of this “rectification” process there can be no end, since:

1. There exist as we noted, no natural standards which would result from the existence of natural kinds.

2. Therefore there cannot be any objective method of evaluating the satisfaction of standards.

3. There is therefore no objective way of evaluating a susceptibility to pain and resentment which could indicate a pathological condition. Since, the very term pathology assumes a teleology of health based on a presumed natural kind with a natural end. Liberal neurosis flows from a well, the bottom of which can in principle never be reached.

The strange result of this categorical anarchy then, is that the modern liberal is in essence always at war with existence itself: his only certain mode of being, being the experience of the pain and the frustration of urges which themselves cannot on, nor by virtue of, the liberal’s own terms and definitions, be presumed to be directed toward any objective good in their realization.

As an effect, the modern liberal loses any coherence as a being in-himself. All that remains ontologically (loosely speaking) of the liberal being, is a collection of urges connected to a will to power. This constitutes, according to the modern liberal’s own schema, a will to power by a thing or a phenomenon which has, amazingly, no center, no nature, and no objectively definable good.

This lack of real being, is at the root, I would argue, of the modern-liberal victim sensibility. They are victims of their own existences by definition; and cannot be anything else in their flight from an oppressive natural existence, ultimately, than totalitarians dedicated to reshaping all of reality. In fact we see this explicitly stated by the so-called transhumanist utilitarians, who will ultimately they admit, be driven by their philosophy to dominate and control and reorder all of nature, in order to ensure justice and bliss even among the fishes.

Are they, these postmodern leftists then, as Limbaugh suggests, rank cynics: nihilistically seeking satisfactions for welling urges which on their (assuming we can say that they have a “they”) own account cannot be seriously called objectively good?

Yes. But that is I think, a symptom of a more fundamental emptiness, and the result of the original and very deliberate descent of the modern-liberal man from the realm of man, into the realm of the submoral.

5 Responses to “What Rush Limbaugh doesn’t quite get.”

  1. AOTC said

    Fascinating!

    I recently finished, for the umpteenth time, CS LEWIS ‘s “The Problem of Pain” . He writes in depth about what it means to be human. He also has a very compelling explanation of how humans deny, or reject our very humanity.

    Your view, DNW, is interestingly parallel. !!

    I have been crazy busy lately but hopefully it will calm down a bit and I will be able to interact here more often and more thoughtfully. I really enjoy this blog.

    Hope you all are well!

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  2. DNW said

    You are probably right about Lewis. At the time I originally read him I was still in school and studying materials that were, I imagined, much more rigorously formulated.

    No one would have referred to Lewis in philosophy class.

    Some of his “positive” arguments, intended to demonstrate the problem with naturalism, the “argument from reason” for example , didn’t seem particularly convincing to me at the time either; as it seemed to be somewhat question begging – depending on how you read it. Nonetheless there is I suppose, a parallel in academic philosophy with that argument and the more formal question of the intelligibility of the world, and the workings of reason.

    However, when it comes to his descriptions of the unexamined implications of positivism for ethics, he seemed to me to be extraordinarily acute, and prescient. And my opinion has not changed. In 1980 or so, moral nihilism was still an academic phenomenon and not the default position of the American liberal establishment.

    This now makes Lewis, literally, a kind of prophet. Lewis of course thought that Haldane and the like, were in fact better men than their philosophies; whereas I am essentially arguing that modern liberals are not better or on their own terms more; and approaching the analysis of their moral theorizing as if they actually are able to existentially transform themselves into another kind of moral being. This is a transformation which Lewis no doubt would have reserved for realization in the context of a supernatural destiny.

    Although I was highly impressed with any number of his virtues as a reasoner at the time, I think that the more time that now elapses, the more impressed I become with what I seem to recall. For example, I am not sure that I appreciated his full argument in the early part of “The Abolition of Man”. It was obvious that what he was saying about the shallowness and illogic of the authors of what was it, The Green Book (?) was well founded. However I think I somewhat misunderstood and therefore dismissed the positive part of his argument; not quite grasping the subtlety of the formulation he was alternatively offering.

    I probably should do a systematic re-reading of some of his works. I’m probably unconsciously channeling any number of theses he wrote 70 years ago. But then, given that we are now living through his contingent predictions, that might not only be natural, but unavoidable as well.

    Ok it is “the Green Book” (On the Internet Archive for free! How about that?) Let me see if I can find the problematical passage …

    Alright … here is one passage, a kind of aside, which I think I under-appreciated and just took for granted, but which is actually very important.

    “Before considering the issues really raised by this momentous little paragraph (designed, you will remember, for ‘the upper forms of schools’) we must eliminate one mere confusion into which Gains and Titius have fallen. Even on their own view — on any conceivable view — the man who says This is sublime cannot mean I have sublime feelings. Even if it were granted that such qualities as sublimity were simply and solely projected into things from our own emotions, yet the emotions which prompt the projection are the correlatives, and therefore almost the opposites, of the qualities projected. The feelings which make a man call an object sublime are not sublime feelings but feelings of veneration. If “This is sublime” is to be reduced at all to a statement about the speaker’s feelings, the proper translation would be / have humble feelings.”

    And …

    “If the view held by Gaius and Titius were consistently applied it would lead to obvious absurdities. It would force them to maintain that You are contemptible means / have contemptible feelings ‘, in fact that Your feelings are contemptible means My feelings are contemptible. But we need not delay over this which is the very pons asinorum of our subject. It would be unjust to Gaius and Titius themselves to emphasize what was doubtless a mere inadvertence. ”

    That, although he just tosses it off as a bonus, is really a quite acute piece of reasoning. Again, he is also too generous to his adversaries …. and makes an extremely important logical point only to temper it.

    The following passage, is one which I pretty much vehemently disagreed with when I read it. I assumed that in fact, all value judgments were merely and totally conventional, and were socially generated projections on neutral phenomena. It hadn’t occurred to me at that time that if I fully granted the naturalist premise, the weird result of taking man down a peg would simultaneously integrate him more fully with nature in such a way that its effects would inevitably effect his affect in such a way that, although the terms used for the characterizations of the affect would be plainly conventional, the reactions themselves would not be. They would be in measure a natural product.

    “Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it — believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit., our approval or disapproval, our reverence or our contempt. The reason why Coleridge agreed with the tourist who called the cataract sublime and disagreed with the one who called it pretty was of course that he believed inanimate nature to be such that certain responses could be more ‘just’ or ‘ordinate’ or ‘appropriate’ to it than others. And he believed (correctly) that the tourists thought the same. The man who called the cataract sublime was not intending simply to describe his own emotions about it: he was also claiming that the object was one which merited those emotions. But for this claim there would be nothing to agree or disagree
    about. To disagree with This is pretty if those words simply described the lady’s feelings, would be absurd: if she had said I feel sick Coleridge would hardly have replied No; I feel quite well. When Shelley, having compared the human sensibility to an Aeolian lyre, goes on to add that it differs from a lyre in having a power of ‘internal adjustment’ whereby it can ‘accommodate its chords to the motions of that which strikes them’,^ he is assuming the same belief. ‘Can you be righteous’, asks Traherne, ‘unless you be just in rendering to things their due esteem? All things were made to be yours and you were made to prize them according to their value.””

    St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it.” Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought. ‘^ When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in ‘ordinate affections’ or ‘just sentiments’ will easily find the first principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science.’^ Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting and hateful.’^ In the Republic, the well-nurtured youth is one ‘who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in ill-made works of man or ill-
    grown works of nature, and with a just distaste would blame and hate the ugly =even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his soul and being nourished by it, so that he becomes a man of gentle heart. “

    On re-reading this I still react to it viscerally as if Lewis has so overstated the case as to be incomprehensible. But the fact is that people – even those who explicitly reject the notion of natural ordinateness – cannot avoid talking and behaving as if there are objective values when they themselves are arguing for something as “better” or “just”. Even those who argue against the existence or significance of natural kinds, plead for their own cases as if “nature” has justified their personal deviations by the mere act of producing them – as if that gives say, homosexuals, a ‘right to exist’ or to draw on the forbearance of possibly justifiably antagonistic others as if it is “really” morally imperative in some objective sense that others grant them tolerance rather than engage in extermination.

    Strange. Perhaps some liberal will in fact one day admit that “There is really nothing wrong with killing me if you find me annoying. However a prudent person will consider the consequences of being found out and weigh them accordingly”.

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  3. Hoagie said

    Very well thought out and very well written, DNW. But after all the analogy it still boils down to the fact that leftists are just miserable people. Seriously, have you ever met a dyed-in-the-wool leftist that was a happy, kind and care free individual? Because I have not. Every single leftist I know and have met are hateful, selfish, narcissistic people always looking to hurt someone else because of some perceived injury. I’ve also observed in my brief 63 years on planet earth that leftists are not only ugly inside but overwhelmingly tend to be ugly outside too. I may be just a coincidence but I think perhaps the ugly from within bubbles to the outside.

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  4. DNW said

    Hoagie said
    2014/05/03 at 12:39 e

    Very well thought out and very well written, DNW. But after all the analogy it still boils down to the fact that leftists are just miserable people. Seriously, have you ever met a dyed-in-the-wool leftist that was a happy, kind and care free individual? Because I have not. Every single leftist I know and have met are hateful, selfish, narcissistic people always looking to hurt someone else because of some perceived injury. I’ve also observed in my brief 63 years on planet earth that leftists are not only ugly inside but overwhelmingly tend to be ugly outside too. I may be just a coincidence but I think perhaps the ugly from within bubbles to the outside.”

    Hey Hoagie,

    There is probably a great deal of truth in what you say as well. For example, it is not at all inconceivable that leftists are on average and in some important ways relatively defective persons who feel deep resentments over their subsequent marginalization, but whose self-regard nonetheless drives them toward the “philosophical” justification that there are in fact no such things as objectively deducible norms standing behind their feelings and experience of alienation.

    After all, and as you imply, if you are alienated from others in some way – for whatever reason – or feel cheated of the regard and attention you feel you deserve, you have only so many psychological options available for framing your discontent. You can become a misanthropist, which was common in even ancient times; or you might see everyone else as ignorant and pathetic; or you might become a self-loather, or an ingratiating social climber; or maybe and more positively instead, a hopeful self-improver; or, on the other hand, just a distanced critic seeking “a-pathy” in the ancient Greek sense of personal equanimity amid the social and emotional storms surrounding you.

    But the people we call leftists seem, as you note, to have chosen a particular route. They see alienation as a problem they are unwilling to live with, but seek a solution to it, not through a more complete harmonization of themselves with an objectively deducible natural order, nor with a scheme of personal empowerment through an increase in virtue, but through a program of changing “society” to suit their tastes through the agency of politics. The problem arises however of what norms or values are to become the new social norms; since the acid which the liberal ultimately resorts to (once charges of moral inconsistency have been rhetorically leveraged for all they are worth against the hegemony of the dominant mores) is the process of deconstructing all norms so that “differences” supposedly become irrelevant.

    The problem however, and as you have previously pointed out, is that you can pretend that differences in behavior do not exist in a socially meaningful way; but the natural world doesn’t care about your pretense that those who plant crops and make things on the one hand, and those who do not on the other, are qualitatively or practically the same. One is clearly responsible for producing objective effects which the other is not. Therefore, the leftist must somehow eliminate or at least minimize that inconvenient fact as well. Which is why modern liberals inevitably take the road to social insect-hood, and seek a life of emotional fulfillment based of security of social place. It’s functionally a kind of a-theistic and degenerately bestial inversion of the notion of Christian complementarity. Though, I doubt many leftist activists would themselves really be personally satisfied with being worker drones: no matter how many gold stars they received between their antennae, no matter how many weeks they were allotted a room at a Black Sea Coney Island thronging with flabby spandex sheathed drones like themselves, nor how comfortable a death they were guaranteed by the ministering state.

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  5. Eric said

    Lewis makes a number of terrific points, but one of his best (From “The Abolition of Man”) was that much of left wing ideology is based on “Debunking”, i.e., discrediting anything traditional or conservative. However, Lewis points out (paraphrasing) “There are things the debunkers believe to be themselves immune to the debunking process”. Thus the left winger feels pefectly free to deny (and even openly ridicule) the validity of such things as religion and belief in God, yet should anyone try to deny (or question in any way) the validity of gay marriage, they will howl bloody murder!

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