Friday, May 29, 2009

The New Bipolar "Bread and Circus" World

Editorial Opinion by: Dr. J. P. Hubert

A strange but remarkable phenomenon now exists in the realm of social discourse. Virtually all concepts which bear upon public policy are presented to the masses as essentially, a choice between two polar opposites. For example, there is the liberal vs. conservative, right vs. left, Republican vs. Democratic views, etc., as if there are no other frames of reference by which one might consider important issues of the day. This needless to say establishes a completely contrived and false dichotomy. It is as if a very attenuated/ distorting prism or lens has been placed before our collective minds eye.

Increasingly, society seems to have embraced the binary gestalt writ-large. For example, the only format which seems to be universally embraced by the corporate (especially television and radio) media when airing debate with respect to an issue of public policy is to arbitrarily select two individuals from opposite sides of the intellectual/political spectrum. Each is then allowed to spew forth their respective “talking points” in an exchange where rhetorical flourish and rank sophistry is allowed to pass for meaningful elucidation of opinion/position(s). Sober analysis and rational discussion through thoughtful and respectful interchange of ideas is simply never forthcoming.

Rather than a situation where so-called experts are asked to come reason together, what one routinely witnesses is largely impolite jousting between two individuals each of whom function as either paid or unpaid advocates for their respective positions—presumably neither would be invited back again were they to attempt anything else. It is inconceivable that one could arrive at the truth through the employment of this commonly utilized (largely entertainment oriented) vehicle/tactic. What it resembles is something akin to a sporting event where two teams compete in a game/contest until one prevails. The viewing public is expected to enthusiastically support one or the other of the two opponents since their positions are not only (presumably) mutually exclusive but supposedly representative of the entire universe of possibilities rather than artificially truncated ones. The entire situation would be laughable if it were not so serious.

Enter Hegel (As Always)

The above enumerated phenomenon has helped create a permanent societal split or division that--while varying to a minor degree on a percentage basis from time to time--never really comes to grip with the essence or nature of any issue/problem. Perhaps an explanation for this unfortunate dilemma is that an apparent Hegelian dialectic (thesis, antithesis, and synthesis) has become the chosen mechanism by which our oligarchical elites attempt to program/mold mass opinion. Not only does this technique seriously limit the bounds of acceptable public discourse, it implies that all issues of social import are ultimately to be resolved on the basis of a “rough and tumble” contest of wills and sophistic verbiage rather than any real sense of absolute truth(s) which might serve as guiding principles. This no doubt is a legacy of the Enlightenment. The crucial point is that the acceptable boundary for public discussion is artificially circumscribed by the ruling elites in such a way as to control outcomes both at the level of topic selection and subsequent debate parameters and verbal/written interaction. A good example of this phenomenon is the charade which transpires every four years in which the public is treated to the spectacle of appearing to select from a large field of candidates—two individuals to vie for President of the United States. In reality, the most interesting and controversial candidates are eliminated fairly early such that the two final candidates actually differ quite minimally in terms of domestic and foreign policy preferences. Judging by the evidence, this is by design of the ruling class. In the most recent presidential election, U.S. citizens were given the choice between two seemingly different individuals, one apparently traditional (Mc Cain) the other more exotic representing “change” (Obama)--who Americans presumably preferred. Yet, both were clearly funded by and beholden to the elite power brokers whose interests would be served irrespective of which one prevailed.

It is noteworthy that after only 4 months in office, President Obama has largely followed the Bush/Cheney foreign and domestic (especially economic) policies despite campaigning vociferously against them. There is no evidence that Mr. Obama intends to dismantle the American empire or significantly reduce US militarism. There is nothing to establish that he has repudiated the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. In fact he has authorized offensive US military (armed drones) attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan which have killed innocent non-combatants and most disturbingly announced a policy of preventive detention of “terrorists.” The latter immoral and illegal policy is more aggressive than what the Bush/Cheney administration attempted in that regard.

Abandonment of Reality, Reason

In reality, there are very few issues of public policy which can be adequately considered through the prism of a binary lens--even though doing so has become the new norm. Similarly the related notion that all social/political questions must have either a yes or no answer flies in the face of reality—if true all “what” questions or those having to do with the nature or being of things would be eliminated— an unfortunate but foreseeable effect of the post-Enlightenment abandonment of metaphysics. The result is an artificial oversimplification which does not mirror reality but instead serves as a rhetorical devise by which a proponent of one particular view attempts to dis-intellectually “score points” or in contemporary parlance “spin” the target audience.

Integral to construction of the bipolar worldview is the need to carefully narrow the formulation of any potential issue or premise. For example, one is either for or against gay “marriage” for or against enhanced interrogation (torture), in favor of or against “pre-emptive” war (when what is really meant is preventive war). All are vacuous notions without a careful articulation of what is actually meant by these terms. Once adequately defined that is, with precision, it is sometimes but not always possible to take a pro or con position with respect to some of the so-called issues of the day. The Western legal system now steeped in legal positivism and based as it is in a binary adversarial process clearly contributes to this phenomenon as well.

Constant "Evolution"

A related trend is the completely ad-hoc division that has occurred over what is considered a liberal vs.: conservative view with respect to a given issue. For example, strict literal interpretations of each term (liberal/conservative) yield entirely different conclusions than can be had from a review of commonly understood usages of the terms. In other words, the monikers liberal and conservative have no fixed or foundational meaning and are constantly subject to alteration based on the changing nature of various interest groups that comprise their political bases from time to time. This leads to incompatible contradictions with regard to the policies of self-described members of each group.

It is noteworthy that traditional Paleoconservatives eschew foreign wars of conquest and oppose so-called pre-emptive (preventive) wars. Neoconservatives enthusiastically support both. Which view should be thought to characterize the conservative position? In reality it is a >matter of opinion only. Historically, Neoconservatism is clearly the aberration. The change presumably reflects the result of an internal political power struggle rather than a natural (ideological) evolution among adherents of conservatism.

Theoretically, conservatives (in the sense of preserving the status quo) should favor the continuation of whatever has gone before. If historically the United States engaged in defensive war only--than preventive war would be incompatible with conservatism and vice-versa. By analogy if abortion has become the legal norm, after decades, the conservative view should be pro-abortion. Obviously, the terms are not meant to be taken literally yet it becomes clear that there really is an ad-hoc and arbitrary nature to what is considered liberal and conservative from time to time. Neither term is based on a stable worldview (epistemology, metaphysics and moral philosophy).

Similar contradictions have occurred with respect to the policy positions held by proponents of liberalism (now referred to as adherents of progressive politics—one assumes the change in name was made ostensibly for perceived commercial advantage). Prior to 1973, liberals as defined by the Democratic Party held--along with conservatives as put forth by the Republican Party--that abortion on demand was immoral (the prevailing moral philosophy at the time was still heavily influenced by the ...Christian Ethic) and should be kept illegal as a matter of public policy or at least left to the states to regulate. As a significant percentage of the Democratic Party base became composed of individuals with an interest in liberalizing the existing laws with respect to abortion, the party became “pro-choice” meaning in favor of either federal legislation or judicial action legalizing abortion on demand. In this case, the term liberal from a literal perspective appears to be more in-keeping with the moniker. The change however was made because of the demands of an active, large and growing interest group within the Democratic Party and the liberal establishment. Does that mean that pre-1973 the Democratic Party was conservative not liberal? Yes and no, the point here is that these terms are completely fluid and ultimately without lasting/foundational meaning. What is favored today may be shunned tomorrow by either. To say that one is either liberal or conservative without clarification/amplification is really to reveal almost nothing other than the affiliation of one’s current power-base.

Will to Power

Perhaps more astoundingly, the terms liberal and conservative have no cohesive/conceptual underpinnings which might unify the various disparate strains which make up each. In some respects, liberals appear to espouse conservative policies, in others, conservatives embrace liberal ones. Neoconservatives as has already been mentioned embrace aggressive foreign policy including preventive wars of aggression. This in reality is a very liberal not conservative view. Analogously, most liberals currently oppose foreign wars of aggression and excessive U.S. militarism (in the maintenance of American hegemony) despite the fact that to do so is really a traditionally conservative position. Thoughtful persons find that neither political party has a consistent underlying conceptually unified organizing principle. What then attracts the vast majority of people to one or the other belief system? In the absence of any core worldview orientation it appears that the choice of one or the other is based solely on the need to posses a power-base from which to operate. Since third parties (political) have not been successful in the United States, the choices available are either liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican irrespective of the fact that these terms are constantly changing and without ultimate meaning.

The media (talk-radio and cable especially) essentially mirror this artificial division. For example, Fox News represents the Neoconservative position; MSNBC largely reflects the Liberal or Progressive viewpoint. Similar divisions characterize talk-radio. Traditional or Paleoconservative views are left largely unrepresented by the corporate media with a few exceptions (e.g. Patrick J. Buchanan).

Part of the current bi-polar split involves a separation between Secularism and Traditionalism as the United States progressively abandons all semblance of tradition in favor of Secular Humanism. While liberalism/progressivism almost entirely ascribes to Secularism, there remain parts of the “conservative” coalition which attempt to adhere to more traditionalist views—primarily those Paleoconservatives from whom the Neoconservatives have rested control of the Republican Party. Nevertheless, even here, there is a great deal of overlap. For example, the so-called Libertarian wing of conservatism favors the liberalization of controlled substance laws e.g. Marijuana which most Paleoconservatives oppose. In that sense, Libertarians are much more like liberals (progressives) than traditional conservatives. They are more inclined to accept gay “marriage” than are Paleoconservatives on the grounds of individual liberty or on the basis of civil or personal “rights” criteria. These rights however are fictitious in that they are ungrounded in any fixed or foundational human anthropology (nature or essence). That is to say since the Enlightenment and in the wake of Darwinism (Darwinian philosophy or metaphysical naturalism), human nature is assumed to be fluid. Modern "rights" simply refer to the constantly changing desires/choices which various individuals and groups wish to see codified in the law from time to time.

It becomes apparent that the artificial bi-polar split articulated here is completely without ideological foundation. Evidence seems to indicate that it has become a favored mechanism by which the ruling elites exercise control over the masses. In reality this amounts to a kind of not so subtle Hegelian “brain-washing” which is utilized to change public opinion by making it appear that issues are being fairly debated and democratically resolved. One feels forced to conclude that the binary worldview is nothing but a ruse--a kind of “bread and circus” extravaganza which functions to keep the proletariat pacified while the oligarchical elites proceed with advancing their goals.