Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Reading my old P.J. O'Rourke Books Again

As I have mentioned previously, I am rereading my old P.J. O'Rourke books. It is amazing how much he says about "liberals" applies to today's "conservatives" and how much, e.g., he says about the 'Kennedy's applies to the cults of Bush and Giuliani we had in the near past (and still have with respect to Reagan).

Of course, some of what he said about "liberals" was always more true of conservatives and that conservatives had this image of a neo-Puritan PC liberal mainly due to projection on their part. But some of what he said did apply to a certain class of liberals (who mainly don't exist outside of the "liberal" pundits -- no wonder people won't vote for us: look at who they think are liberals!) but now applies more to many conservatives, especially of the neo-conservative stock who are more "activist" in inclination (pace The Rhetoric of Reaction) than paleo-conservatives. Of course, given the intellectual history of the neo-conservative movement and its continued resemblence to a form of Marxism (its desire to spread revolution, supposedly democratic and capitalist, but in reality the neo-cons always seem to be undermining democracy and capitalism with their support of whomever is the enemy of our current enemy no matter how unpopular such a leader is and their support of anti-capitalist, un-democratic "free trade" regimes that interfere with the local accumulation and free use of capital for development), it is not surprising that neo-conservatives should resemble a paleo-conservative's idea of a leftist, even if that idea is shaped by projection or a misapprehension of what liberals stand for (e.g. we are not, by and large, Marxists -- indeed, more than anything any "conservative" ever did -- although you cannot blame them as real conservatives are not wont to do things while neo-cons are subtly communist themselves -- it was the policies put in place by certain liberals, suspected by many of being Com-Symps themselves, that eventually led to the defeat of Communism in the Cold War.).

Indeed, liberals like myself often wonder what happened to paleo-conservativism? What ever happened to the idea of "first, make sure you don't do to whatever it is you want to 'improve' what Cheney said Leahy should do to himself"? A little bit of authentic (not pandering, Pat Buchanan, style) paleo-conservativism, stripped of its nativist/racist elements would be an excellent corrective for today's so-called "conservative" political "mainstream".

OTOH, given the degree to which conservatives, in distancing themselves from neo-conservativism can and will label that movement as liberal (read "Jewish") for its messianic interventionism, when we liberals ask for any resurgence in paleo-conservativism, we better be sure to ask for it only in a small dose -- as a large scale resurgence of paleo-conservativism, blaming "messianic activist liberals posing as conservatives" (and we know what that means) is even more frightening than what we have now. As someone pointed out a while back (I forget who), the US in the early 2000s is looking an awful lot politically like Germany around WWI. Let us hope that the inevitable paleo-conservative backlash to neo-conservativism does not take deep roots or resemble Germany's 1920s/1930s era "paleo-conservative" backlash against their version of neo-conservativism (which was, at least, more economically liberal than our version). Part of the issue is, of course, the need for effective liberal leadership -- the neo-cons have made such a mess of things that no matter what liberals do, it won't be good enough and will invite a backlash against liberals, even if the true blame belongs with the neo-cons who will by then be forgotten as a kind of conservative and only the "neo" part will be remembered. This sort of pattern happened in Germany. It happened, arguably in Nicaragua (cf Olvlzl) when people voted against the Sandanistas (who were not that all that good anyway, pace Olvlzl) in part because they really didn't improve things enough from what the Samozas did to avoid getting blamed for problems caused by the Samozas.

So how do we liberals, when we do wrest power from the neo-cons, do a good enough job fixing things up that we don't get blamed for the problems caused by the current regime? And what can we do to make sure the paleo-conservative perspective is heard while making sure it's ugly head does not get too far above water or too ugly? And how do we offer a liberal counterweight to both kinds of conservativism that is clearly stated enough so that the paleo-conservatives are not able to get others to confuse us with the neo-conservatives (as conservatives are already trying to do in denouncing GW Bush, et al., as "liberals")?

A similar set of questions can also be asked substituting the word "Jew" for liberal: how do we Jews extricate ourselves from the conservative so-called "Zionists" (whose ideology is not beneficial for Israel's long term survival anyways) who claim to represent us before we get punished for their sins? It may be the case that Jews are no more to blame for anti-Semitism "instigated" by some Jews of bad-faith, than a mugging victim is to be blamed for the robbery -- but the actions of certain Jews, who e.g. were excited about America invading Iraq on behalf of Israel (this sort of thing actually happened -- in spite of the fact that our invasion of Iraq didn't stand benefit Israel anyway, some people were convinced that it would and supported the war for that reason: how much in bad faith of being an American citizen is that? and these people often claim their side has a monopoly on patriotism?), are about as smart as flashing a wad of cash in a poorly lit area with slow police response times.

So how do we get ourselves out of our current mess without inviting a new one to happen in a couple of decades?

It's a fair point about the failings of the Sandinistas, especially Daniel Ortega. But they came under attack as soon as they'd gained office. Who knows how much of their more enlightened policies would have been put into practice if they had had a decade of peace without a blockade. Perfection doesn't exist, the best we can hope for is better than. And they were definitely better than.

The old list of targeted minorites hasn't been ripped up. Those of us who were on it before are still on it. As much as I hate to make an arguemnt for decency on the basis of self-interest or group interest that seems to be something that people need to hear over and over again. If we don't bond together, permanently, they can play us off one against another and destroy us all.
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