Skip to comments."Creatures Out Of The Dark Ages Have Come Marching Into The Present..."
Posted on 02/12/2003 8:09:07 AM PST by BurkesLaw
The latest murderous rantings by Osama bin Laden, broadcast courtesy of advanced Western technology, made me wonder about what new apologetics for Islamo-fascist killers we can now expect from our chattering literary class. As the war on Islamofascism intensifies, growing numbers of playwrights and novelists loudly tell us the primary danger we face is not Islamo-Fascism, and not murderous tyrants like Saddam, nor the alliance between the two; rather it is George W. Bush and Western imperialism, and Israel, that constitute the main dangers.
Why do verbally gifted and creative individuals lend themselves to this sort of idiocy? Why do they lend their prestige to preservation of a tyrant's regime in the name of a fantasy of "peace"? The answer is that they are people who overvalue fantasies, and who often are able to transmute those fantasies into money.
Dr. Johnson once remarked that "No-one but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." Granted, sometimes it is not actually tangible coin of the realm, but rather the coin of respect and prestige. Yet such individuals are particularly susceptible to belief in utopian fantasies wherein they can create a perfect world. Novelists, playwrights and poets possess an ability to create imaginary worlds out of their fantasies. They can put these into words that gain an audience, thereby validating their worth.
We all yearn for a better world, or to return to an imaginary Eden, and novelistic or theatrical creations can seem more perfect than our own. The more artfully constructed, the better able they are to seduce readers into the willing suspension of disbelief necessary to enter those worlds. Even those poems, novels and plays that seem especially"realistic" possess an artificial structure sadly absent from everyday life.
Not surprisingly, then, authors are often subject to bouts of grandiosity, as if they believed they were Gods, truly possessing the power to create worlds and populate those worlds with creatures, like themselves who do their bidding. As readers, we happily pretend such invented worlds are real. Sometimes, with the greatest artists like Shakespeare, such imaginary beings, for example, Hamlet, seem as "real" as actual people we know. Yet we know they aren't.
Given their grandiosity and yearning for imaginary worlds, it should not be surprising then to hear the likes of Pinter, Mailer, Sontag, Vidal, Le Guin -- and many others from the creative class -- calling for "peace". Of course the "peace" they desire is based on a fantasy that requires, like a novel, the willing suspension of disbelief -- disbelief in the desire of our enemies to destroy us. However, since it's based on fantasy and unreality, the peace they seek may help bring us the peace of the grave for 'infidels'.
Since these creative types, as well as the rest of us, tend to overvalue fictional creations, they also incline to belief in their unique wisdom and originality, as if no-one had ever heard such notions before. Yet those of us of a certain age experience a sensation of deja vu. Now it's Pinter; then it was G.B. Shaw . Now it's Mailer; then it was Hemingway. The common denominator: a utopian fantasy of an egalitarian world where no-one is aggrieved, where envy, hatred and grievance wither away.
This "rational" utopia is a mirror image of the totalitarian Muslim utopia envisioned by Osama. Hence, there is an unconscious alliance formed between the two. Both yearn for an unattainable perfection that can only require the annihilation of those who stand in the way.
While historical circumstances change, human nature remains constant and utopian yearnings are eternal. The failure of such twentieth century utopian enterprises as Communism and Fascism cannot eliminate this yearning. The bloodbaths they brought are minimized and explained away by their numerous intellectual apologists like Eric Hobsbawm. Scapegoats are found so that the utopian ideal can be preserved. And so that ideal lives on, unsullied and invulnerable to mere facts. Our debate today between liberals and conservatives is really a new version of the longstanding debate between utopians and anti-utopians. The latter are naturally regarded as less morally worthy than those who embrace a self flattering fantasy of universal love.
H. G. Wells was the archetypal novelist as public intellectual in the early years of the twentieth century. Prolific and proselytizing, were Wells alive today he'd be a sure fire hit as a media pundit.
Wells decided that his immensely entertaining creations of science fiction utopias were not enough; and he would attempt to bring socialist egalitarian utopia to the real world. What was needed, Wells argued, was a world government, one that should be managed by superior intellects, according to principles of science. His book A Modern Utopia described this ideal society, run and organised by humanistic and well-educated people -- people who, naturally, resembled H.G. Wells.
Isn't it odd that George Orwell, the archetypal dystopian novelist lives on more vividly than Wells, gaining in stature with the passage of time? His novels, Animal Farm and 1984, depicted the horrifying outcome of the effort to create egalitarian utopias. They showed how "peace" could really mean war, and "freedom" could mean enslavement. They continue to live in ways that Wells's fiction does not.
Orwell's critical writings are not as well known as his novels, but in 1941 he wrote an essay called Wells, Hitler and the World State. It was a respectful but harsh assessment of Wells's utopianism and holds up today as an indictment of our contemporary liberal utopians. The rise of Hitler, Orwell points out, was greeted by Wells, not as a danger to be confronted with force, but rather as a challenge to create a world government that would satisfy the grievances of the world's afflicted.
Through the 1930's, and even after the war began, Wells continued to minimize the danger posed by Hitler, insisting that the West was exagerrating the threat posed by "that screaming little defective in Berlin." He could not acknowledge the power and appeal of murderous evil.
Echoes of Wells's call for world government can be heard today in contemporary left-liberalism's insistence that the UN be strengthened in the face of the threat posed by Saddam. Having jettisoned religion, the left cannot recognize it is in thrall to a new religion -- the religion of universalist faith in supra-government institutions like the UN.
In the course of his essay, Orwell levels a devastating critique of Western intellectuals, pointing out how ill equipped they are to deal with primitive and powerful emotions like envy, hatred and ideological fanaticism. He recounts Wells's defense of Communism to Churchill. Wells accused Churchill of demonizing the Bolsheviks as "monsters dripping with blood.." simply because Churchill feared "that they were going to introduce an era of scientific control, in which flag-wavers like Churchill himself would have no place." Orwell strikes to the heart of Wells's utopianism when he says: "Churchill's estimate of the Bolsheviks, however, was nearer the mark than Wells's. The early Bolsheviks...were not sensible men. They were not intoducing a Wellsian Utopia but...a military despotism enlivened by witchcraft trials."
Orwell continues: "The same misconception reappears in an inverted form in Wells's attitude to the Nazis. Hitler is all warlords and witch-doctors in history rolled into one. Therefore, argues Wells, he is an absurdity...a creature doomed to disappear almost immediately."
Orwell also points out that the advances of science, which Wells hails as the harbinger of Utopia, were actually employed by Hitler for barbarous ends, just as our contemporary Islamist barbarians employ the tools of technology and advanced science for theirs. As Orwell put it: "Science is fighting on the side of superstition. But obviously it is impossible for Wells to accept this. It would contradict the world-view on which his own works are based."
Indeed, Orwell's observations, more than a half century ago, go to the heart of the matter: contemporary Western liberal utopianism is a faith, a faith in rationality that is unable to accept and confront the power of irrationalism. Those who argue for it are intellectuals, a class with an overinvestment in the power of rationality and logical argument. The Churchillian view, that primitivist enemies must be annihilated, challenges this utopian faith in reason................
(Excerpt) Read more at iconoclast.ca ...
As Thomas Sowell pointed out in A Conflict of Visions, none of us sees reality whole. Utopians have the grandiose idea that they do see enough of reality to be able to dispense with tradition's wisdom. The most obvious fallacy of that conceit is the fact that any given language is itself meaningless apart from tradition--and where is your vaunted rationality without language?No one learns their first language from a dictionary; they instead learn it in the bosom of their family, and in their culture. Subsequent "book larnin" from dictionaries can then amplifiy the child's knowledge of his native tounge or teach it other languages--but what is the meaning of a Spanish-English dictionary if you know neither Spanish nor English? It is gibberish, at most.
Adherents of the latter 'religion' haven't yet realized who their real enemy is.
"Check your premises."
It is the fall 2002 issue.