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Why Murka is Slamming Into Reverse

Neo-Cons and the Counter-Enlightenment by Philip Green is an excellent article [via Alien Intelligencer] that provides insight as to how the neo-conservatism of the power elites dovetails nicely with a reactionary counter-enlightenment of the pig-ignorant masses.

The only thing missing is the psychology behind the pig-ignorant masses's need to embrace their religious fairy-tales as a way to 1) console themselves that a better life exists in the hereafter as their social safety-nets vanish and cultural institutions are challenged; 2) defend their traditional worldview as it becomes assailed from all sides by conflicting worldviews they are unable to process; and 3) cope with a world they don't understand going to hell in a handbasket faster than they can say "Save Me Jesus!"

(I believe Arundhati Roy is correct when she asserts that "Growing religious fundamentalism is directly linked to globalization and to privatization." This is a worldwide phenomenon, not just a Murkan one. Noam Chomsky, too, has some insight into it: "In a society where people feel, I can't do anything, you turn to something supernatural...The evangelical churches [come] down with the story, 'Don't worry about this miserable existence. It doesn't matter anyway. Things will be better later.' They're gaining considerable success in the wake of murderous destruction of social reform movements.")

That said, it's still a most excellent article and helps paint the picture of our times in clearer detail.

One of the most frightening items in his fascinating and intelligent article is his elucidation of the concept that "error is evil" to them:

The basis of this anti-modernism is a peculiar religiosity that can be described as follows: religion and science are not complementary...but competitive; they describe the same phenomena, but science and reason get it wrong. This is only the beginning, though. This religiosity is not transcendental or abstract, but immanent, and its immanent truths (based on Biblical literalism) are not only empirical but more fundamentally are moral. Moreover, the two kinds of truth are not incommensurable, as ordinary philosophy has it, but are as one. There is no fact-value problem. Evil, therefore, in the religious sense — the most profound religious sense — consists of error. Evil is not mundane or institutional, as with Hannah Arendt, nor does it have historical causes, as with Erich Fromm on Nazism, nor is it one possible outcome of profound neurosis, as with Freud, nor is it an inexplicable mystery, as with many Christian theologians. Evil is religious error.

But if evil consists of error then conversely, and this is the crucial step in today's mass irrationalism, error is evil. To take an obvious contrast, Left critics have always worried about the social corruption of science, or the possibility of its being put to destructive uses, but this is an auto-critique on their part (think of J. Robert Oppenheimer on the H-bomb) which has as a goal the perfection or at least improvement of science and reason, not their destruction. Contrarily, where religion and other forms of knowledge are competitive, but only the former can define good and evil, then mistaken science or analysis or opinion of any kind — i.e., that which deviates from biblical literalism and moral rightness — becomes evil in and of itself; not just imperialistic, as post-structuralist critiques would have it, but evil.

This scares the fuck out of me, because once a society wishes to eradicate an abstraction like "evil" then it is well on its way towards genocide. ("This is a war between good and evil... It is a war to save the world." GW Bush, 10/4/01.)

(For those who think my fear is hyperbolic I encourage them to read some source material and draw their own conclusions.)

He then discusses how this worldview is affecting the current political scene:

The most important outcome of this position is that what the psychologist Anatol Rapoport called the confrontational style of debate (as we've been seeing in the Democratic primary, for example) is replaced by the confrontational style of the Fight. The method of debate is to acknowledge one's opponent's position in the strongest light so as to perfect one's own (this is Mill in On Liberty, of course). By contrast, the method of the Fight is simply to wipe out one's opponent, figuratively or often, literally.

In the context of a Fight, rational discussion is fruitless because there is no dialogue; from the standpoint of those engaged in it, the Fight is essentially one-sided...
&sdot &sdot &sdot
Two things are different at this moment in time. First, though all politicians lie, the current administration is historically unique in that its lies consist of proposing policies and legislative acts that secretly have the opposite intention from their announced goals in that ideological coherence and favors for friends are their only purpose. Therefore, they can't be analyzed as to their validity or accomplishment; I don't know of any other historical case of this kind. Second, and perhaps worse, careful and reputable scientific studies that contradict arguments made by the Bush administration or its supporters are simply suppressed or falsified: reasoned discussion is suppressed in deference to ideological correctness...What is fascinating, perhaps startling, and certainly horrific, is that in the face of this assertive irrationalism, this know-nothingism, the neo-conservative right, that is, the intellectual right, has either fallen silent or joined the bandwagon. None of them speaks out against this Americanized version of Lysenkoism, or Aryan science. In the naked power struggle that these new Machiavellians call politics, any lie is better than none, and if the struggle is between good and evil, any lie is indeed absolutely necessary. We can think of no better example than Valerie Plame: what looks very much like treason is committed, by someone in the White House and by a stealth propagandist posing as a journalist, and no one in either wing of the conservative movement has a word of criticism to offer.

He concludes with this thought:

The debasing of rational thought by millions of people, and beyond that the acquiescence in or encouragement of that debasing by educated and knowledgeable persons who know the difference between hysteria and thought, chills the blood, and suggests that the lust for power has become unlimited. Together with the other aspects of the era I've mentioned, it bespeaks an urge to what I would call now proto-totalitarianism. It probably won't go further than that, because the material conditions are lacking, but the mere similarity is terrifying.

I'm not nearly as comfortable as he is that it "won't go further"; but then I may not understand exactly what he means by the claim that "material conditions are lacking" — because, from my perspective, they don't seem at all lacking.

Quite the contrary — the material conditions for Murka's further descent into totalitarianism seem more than ripe: from my perspective it's already passed the point of no return.