Thursday, October 7, 2010

I’ve Got Nothing New To Say And Now Is The Time To Say It!


 Or: If You Have A Deadline, Cherry-Pick Some Quotes From Someone Else.

(It Will Save You A Lot Of Time, And No One Really Seems To Be Paying Attention Anyway.)

On Jan. 9, 1969 (look, I just took up 15 characters of space by including an irrelevant date), (plus the comma that’s 16) Daniel Patrick Moynihan (Hmm, better have that middle name there, might have been a lot of famous Daniel Moynihans running loose at the time) wrote a memo (see, that date was important) to President-elect (he wasn’t the prez yet, but “-elect”, that’s five letters closer to me meeting a deadline) Richard Nixon (if I just said ‘Nixon’, people might be confused as to which president I had just referred), on whose White House staff Moynihan was to serve.  (See, he’s going to work for Nixon, that’s an important detail.) Moynihan wondered whether the disintegration of "private sub-systems of authority" presaged "the ultimate, destructive working out of the telos of liberal thought," in which case "we are moving from Locke to Hobbes." Imagine, if you can, Nixon's furrowed brow.  (I’m going to have this column knocked out by lunchtime!)

"Everyone," Moynihan liked to say, "is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts."  This is a crucial: We don’t get to choose our own facts.  Then he added, “We are, however,  entitled to twist them into strange and bizarre logic-defying shapes that would explode MC Escher’s brain 
For example, one could make the preposterous argument that reality precedes morality.  My investigations into philosophy have found the opposite: Morality precedes reality.  Therefore, science is only real when it follows morality, and by morality I mean lowering my tax rate.  Because when my tax rate goes up, everyone suffers.

Today, seven years after Moynihan's death, conservatism's contention is that liberal politics produces a culture of dependency and a government riddled with rent-seeking -- the manipulation of government power for private advantage.  No, I’m not talking about Wall Street, or the defense industry, or the money we pay to oppressive warlords.  No, this is much, much worse: Poor people. 

Take, for example, the polio vaccine.  You may think that there is no downside to, say, public funding of nationwide or even worldwide vaccinations.  However, morality says nothing about  polio being right or wrong—it’s merely a disease.  But it does say quite clearly that stealing is wrong.  So when you steal from me, to give a vaccine to a child to prevent it from being crippled, what have you taught that child? That Government, that Science, that Reason will cure your ills.  By stealing. (From me—the most wonderful man in the world, perhaps.) 

And then what?  Why, the child will want to steal again—say to build prisons for people who will break into my home and rob me.  But how will that child know how wonderful it is to not have polio if no one has polio?   Now we have subverted God’s Will—and when it comes to stealing, He is deadset against it. Besides, if God wanted that child to not have polio, well then that child just wouldn’t.  I think that’s pretty clear.
By 1966, the civil rights movement's task was to become "a protest movement against situations rather than statutes" -- to change from upholding legal rights in the South to addressing problems of class in the North.  I mean, forget the South. That place is fucked. 

To some Indians, while Moynihan was ambassador to India: "Food growing is the first thing you do when you come down out of the trees. The question is, how come the United States can grow food and you can't?"  (I have to mildly chuckle about this, because outright laughter makes me uncomfortable and I’m suddenly possessed by a fear that someone has slipped some ether into my air supply.)  Apparently you cannot choose your own facts but you can choose which facts you ignore, since Moynihan didn’t seem to know anything about the history of either India, agriculture, or industrialization. Maybe if had looked out of the window of the embassy he would have noticed that India is overcrowded as fuck-all.  Or perhaps he would simply have chosen to ignore it.  After all, as noted above, morality precedes reality.  Reality is simply a post facto piece of detritus on morality, a superfluous growth on the body of the Divine Will.  Reality has a lot in common with cancer, when you get right down to it.  But I digress.

Okay, time to pad out the rest of my column here…On his 1974 decision to return to Harvard: "My only pleasure is that there is now a great deal of street crime [in Cambridge]. Privately the undergraduates are learning what we pigs have tried to tell them about the uses of order, as against their beloved disorder.  I heard a student was mugged and then raped in an alley. Most amusing.  Clearly she was asking for it, being a young person.”

Moynihan knew the error of the liberal expectancy -- the belief that modernity would drain the power of ethnicity and religion.  The truth of course (which I of course happen to be in on) is that people are foolish, brutish, nasty, and hateful beings for which there is absolutely no hope of improvement whatsoever.  That is why we need an elite of truth-knowers (me and everyone who thinks like me and is in the same social and ethnic group) who are able to dispense swift punishment in order to keep the truth-unknowers in line.  Though I’m really more of a middle-management functionary, passing on memos rather than signing orders for execution. That's Limbaugh's job.

Moynihan enriched America's political lexicon with "defining deviancy down" (defining as normal kinds of conduct previously stigmatized); for example, we used to know that being African-American was deviant.  Now the currents of political correctness have forced us to recognize them as fully-fledged people. 
"The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of society.”  What looks like a “lynching” to some, is actually culture.  This is where the liberals steered so wrong it ain’t even funny, like an overturned turnip truck.
Okay, well I’ve put enough words in “sentences”, time send it to the editor and watch a ball game.
I love these days, it's almost like someone else wrote my column (well actually someone did).

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