Disperandum

How many times have you read a movement Conservative's explanation of political correctness and critical race theory as the products of Marxism?  A nice young man posted something on FB by William Lind along these lines.  Years ago, Lind was working for the vulgarian Paul Weyrich, he co-authored a book on "cultural conservatism," which I ridiculed in a review.  (Weyrich of course tried to get me fired for this and other sins against the unholy movement, but it would be years before the dead think tanker would get his revenge.).  Neither Weyrich nor Lind amount to anything, but the equation of Marxism with all the intellectuals heresies of the past five centuries is dangerous--and stultifying--if only because it blinds us to the simple fact that Marx comes near the end of a long line of wreckers and destroyers who have been tearing down for five centuries what civilized men and women took millennia to create.

The only use such arguments have is to reveal how clueless conservatives are. Those who do not understand the causes, are able to contribute nothing to any solution. The book I am not going to write--what would be the point?--would trace the course of Western self-hatred from Montaigne (16th century) to the philosophes who wrote in praise of the Chinese, Persians, and savages, down to the culmination of this movement in the French Surrealists who inspired Fanon and all the other haters of the West since then. Why not write such a book? Because no one would read it. Mass education has rendered Americans not only ignorant and stupid but absolutely ineducable.

It used to be said that people are always fighting the last war (instead of combating the real threats they face), but Conservativers, it seems, can only fight the Cold War. To paraphrase Lawrence Dennis on FDR's crusade against "Fascism," they fight Marxism abroad in order to impose it at home. Mr Mc'Ghar makes an excellent point. For weeks on FB all one seems to read from Conservatives is one or another defense that this or that person or group is not really responsible for slavery, as if one form of labor exploitation was somehow worse than every other, as if one form of prejudice was any different from the thousand forms that everyone on the planet has always been possessed by. Gee, let's see: Ancient Greeks had slaves, so did Romans, Jews, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Medieval Christians, the Chinese... In America we have industrial workers whose mkinds are far more servile than ancient or 19th century slaves. Oh yes, children are slaves, wives are slaves, aliens are slaves, the differently gendered are slaves. Don't these people ever get tired of their nonsense. No wonder their brains are fried.
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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

18 Responses

  1. Avatar Vince Cornell says:

    I would read that book, although, I admit, it would probably take me a while (both to get to it and then to finish it – I need to get better at managing my time).

  2. Avatar Robert Reavis says:

    I often hear repeated the observation that ideas have consequences and believe it is definitely true but this truth has assisted me to see and more fully appreciate the more ancient revelation that not everyone who says lord, lord ….. but only those who do the will of his father will enter into eternal life.
    Supposing there is such a thing as eternal life and an obscure Rabbi from a out of the way place called Nazareth revealed how to enter into its reposing and perpetual presence assisted by practicing certain thoughts, habits and petitions towards persons and beings we cannot see, I still believe that in our time, his followers would blame everyone under the sun except themselves, for this ideas unpopularity.

  3. Avatar Robert Reavis says:

    Mr Cornell,
    It’s good to see you back! Your real absence has been missed. I too wish Tom would write the book about the bad ideas and successful experiments of the last 500 years that have proven beyond any doubt that men left to themselves will almost always find the one fruit in all the multitude of trees in paradise that produces the rotten one with the deadly worm inside.

  4. Avatar Dot says:

    The way I see it is that we have two parties, Republican and Democrat. There are other smaller parties but the country is more or less Republican or Democrat. Conservatives get picked over like a fine toothed comb cleaning lice from hair. I just try to keep it simple. I don’t put religion into it. I did see religion in the Minneapolis case and still believe the accused is a scapegoat for all that is wrong in this country and the judge agrees with the prosecution and the jurors who were more afraid of their homes and lives and BLM movement than truth.
    Critical Race theory was invented by a professor from a University in CA. The BLM movement was created by three African Americans who profited by it at the expense of black people. Political correctness, BLM, Critical Race theory, Marxism are terms that divide people. We had the Civil War but what is going on is pervasive and divisive.

  5. Avatar Vince Cornell says:

    Thank you, Mr. Reavis. My disorganization and sloth have had the better of me, of late. I feel like the fat kid trotting a good mile behind the pack, huffing and sweating, but trying to catch back up. I only recently have started “Seven Against Thebes” if that’s an indicator of how far I slipped (and I’ve bought “With Fire and Sword” to save for some other time – if I tried to start that one now it would be curtains for me!)

    I hope, someday, to make it to a summer school, but for many reasons, most of them legitimate, this year will not be the one. But I hope everyone enjoys a fine time!

  6. Avatar Robert Reavis says:

    Dear Dot,
    Good to see your name pop up and to read your posts again. Hope you are well.

  7. Avatar JD Salyer says:

    There is an interesting side effect to the conservative inclination to blame everything on Marxism. It distracts attention from the fact that Silicon Valley moguls and Wall Street gurus are in the vanguard of the assault on Western civilization.

    Convenient, eh?

  8. Avatar Sam Dickson says:

    Mass illiteracy and ignorance are not rarities in human history. I am reading a book on Hungarian history by an author named Paul Lendvai who says he is a Hungarian but belongs to another religious group other than the two Christian denominations that account for almost all Hungarians: Roman Catholics (whom he pans) and the Presbyterians (whom he likes more).

    The chapter I read this morning was on Count Istvan Szechenyi who more than anyone else began the revival of the Magyar nation in the 1830s. He seems to have been a compelling person.

    He touched off the revival of Hungarians and their language by making a speech in Hungarian in the Hungarian “Diet” (Parliament) in 1830. This speech touched off an explosion of controversy. Szechenyi was put under heavy handed surveillance by the Hapsburgs for this outrage. No business was ever done in the Diet in Hungarian. All discussions were in German or Latin.

    To move to my point:

    The book says that the state of culture and language among the deracinated and exploited Hungarian masses was so shockingly bad that it was considered a huge event when a book Szechenyi wrote shortly after his speech sold an astonishing 2,000 copies.

    Just because our situation is so dire in the biomass that is called “the American people” is no excuse – no excuse whatsoever – for Comrade Fleming to betray the Revolution by refraining from writing this book.

    The Central Committee of the Party has added this statement to Comrade Fleming’s ever thickening dossier.

    Comrade Dickson

  9. Avatar Sam Dickson says:

    Comrade Salyer is right.

    The greatest enemy of the South in the course of the egalitarian holy war waged upon it over the past 3 generations has not been the NAACP or any other of the leftist racial advocacy groups.

    The greatest enemy has always proved to be the Chamber of Commerce.

    It’s time to rethink the “right’s” (how I loathe that name) worship at the shrine of private property.

  10. Avatar Robert Reavis says:

    Sam writes “ a Hungarian but belongs to another religious group other than the two Christian denominations that account for almost all Hungarians: Roman Catholics (whom he pans) and the Presbyterians (whom he likes more).“
    Huuuumn ! I wonder what religious group that might be?

  11. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Suppose I wrote such a book, and my friend Sam Dickson found time to read it. It sounds good but when one considers the fact that most serious readers in America read almost entirely pieces of trendy junk whose information and arguments they cannot verify, any voice of truth will be drowned out by the chorus of nonsense. Lendvai was a social democrat who turned communist who turned European liberal–in other words a cheap hack opportunist whose word could not be taken even if swore on a dozen copies of the Old Testament.

    Speaking of Hungarian non-Catholics, I was once breakfasting in Zagreb with a Hungarian Protestant pastor who solemnly informed me–Americans are all ignoramuses waiting to be hoodwinked, right?–that Hungary was the only nation in the history of the world that had never attacked neighbors or oppressed other ethnic group. This was in Zagreb! He’s probably got a book on the subject, and if I find it I’ll send it to friend Sam for his library of books not worth reading.

  12. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    PS Not enough time to read Boethius or Augustine or Benedict, but lots of time for the non-Catholic Lendvai! I am shocked.

  13. Avatar Dom says:

    I had to put Seven Against Thebes aside myself, but will circle back. Right now I am trying to catch up on Herodotus (Fire and Sword is here, but forget about it. Maybe this winter. . . ) .
    So I guess feeding mens’ own sons to them was just kind of a thing back in the day. Who am I kidding. . . probably still is!
    Books shmooks — I am just grateful for this foundation.

  14. Avatar Dom says:

    Kinda like the doc at the end of The Bridge on the River Kwai

  15. Avatar Stephen Chaplin says:

    Just one nit to pick re: the ambiguity of words in general, and “exploit” in particular. I have been an employer as well as an employee. I have exploited and have been exploited. I was happy to have been exploited in my early years because it was the only way for me to earn money. I was happy to be an exploiter later on because I could earn more that way. My employees griped now and again (about their pay, my demands) but, overall, they were “happy” to be exploited because I provided them an opportunity to make more money than they could in other endeavors. Thus, I dislike the negative connotation of the word “exploit.” And related: exploitation runs on a continuum such that slavery is, more often, a worse form of exploitation than, say, 19th century factory work (as one is somewhat able to leave the factory job).

  16. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Argument by assertion does not get one very far. What evidence do you have that slavery is a worse form of exploitation than others? The argument was made in the decades before the War that on average slaves were better off than miners an industrial workers on any scale that could be measured, such as life expectancy, health and healthcare, leisure time, square footage of living space, diet, and care in old age. This general argument has been confirmed by late 20th century economic historians. The usual response–that the industrial worker was free to say, “You can take this job and shove it” is groundless. The poor are in no position to any such thing, and in the old system that endured until fairly late a miner, for example, gradually fell in debt to the company, and if he left his job without paying the debt, could be arrested. When Merle Travis wrote “I owe my soul to the company store,” he was reflecting the opinion of generations of men who worked in the coal fields of Kentucky and West Virginia.

    If the argument goes that freedom is so precious that it is better to live short miserable lives as free men than long luxurious lives as slaves, then one has to wonder why most Americans, including wealthy corporate executives, are slaves to fashion, slaves to appetite, slaves to degraded appetites. I have known a fair number of rich and very rich men and women, and very few of them could actually think their own thoughts, much less lead their own lives.

    The verb exploit began as a harmless derivative of Latin explicare, to unroll and thus disclose or explain and then as a noun an accomplishment. The verb came to mean make use of, profit from, and by the early 19th century, it was used to refer to the unfair use of mine workers. Some forms of labor are based on exchange: You mow my lawn, I pay you $50, and if you think the conditions or payment are unfair, you quite working for me. But, there are forms of labor in which, for good and ill, the laborer has little or no say about whether or not he will work or under what conditions and where the employer–a rather sinister word, when you think about it–reaps what some regard as a disproportionate and unfair share of the rewards. That part of the argument does not interest me. Most men have to work for a living, and for most of them, what matters most is what they do on their own free time.

    If Mr Chaplin is engaged in the exploitation of labor in the ordinary sense of that word, I hope he has an ideology (like classical liberalism) or a religion (like Islam) that will numb his conscience. If known more than a few men who had fairly large work forces doing their bidding. Most of them paid good wages, offered decent benefits, and overall treated their employees decently. In giving employment such men, while profiting themselves, were benefactors of their workers and of society in general. The point I was making has little to do with such arrangements. In any developed economic system, there is a dividing line between those who give and those who receive orders, whether they are lords of the manor and serfs, proprietors and sharecroppers, mine-owners and miners. To fall into the cheap and sentimental lie that slavery is profoundly different is to join with those who are engaged in the systematic destruction of our heritage. All higher civilizations have had one or another form of slavery. When, on the eve of the War, a Yankee politician bragged that the states of the North had eliminated slavery, James Henry Hammond replied, “Yes, the name but not the thing.”

    One important goal for anyone studying history or ethics or politics is to attain the mental clarity that is needed to see through the platitudes imposed upon us as a means of controlling our thought. The lies about slavery are a libel against the American past.

  17. Avatar Michael Strenk says:

    Thank you, Dr. Fleming for the short history of labor exploitation in America. It summarizes quite well the experience of my own family in the mines and steel mills of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. What most modern libertarians don’t seem to realize is the power of the mine owners to steal back every penny paid and then some. Their properties were vast and there was no walking off of them to find a store not controlled by the mine to bring back supplies. There may have even been punishments for doing so, official or otherwise, like loss of employment. That first generation, if they couldn’t get out by finding work elsewhere, like through a relative in the city, rarely lived to their mid-fifties, especially in one piece. A good slave master might hope for quite a few more years of labor from his investment. No investment was made in mine and mill workers. It was strictly use them up and through them and their wives and their children away.

  18. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Thanks for the useful comment. Today I’ll be doing a brief podcast on the subject that underlies this discussion, namely, what is freedom?