An autoimmune disease is an illness that occurs when the body tissues are attacked by its own immune system. The US today has this condition big-time. Historically, the condition has arisen and reached toxic levels in other countries; as an example, France, during the run-up to the Second World War and even during the campaign of 1940.
General Edward Spears, who was Churchill’s military liaison with France, was told by Georges Mandel, the combative interior minister, about the mayor of a district in Paris which had been bombed who went about the lobbies, screaming: I will interpellate the Government on this outrage as soon as the chamber meets! Mandel expressed his contempt for this kind of behavior, saying sarcastically “Paris is bombed by the German? Let’s shake our fists at or own government.” Spears notes that “The other way, that of silently going off to collect a gun and have a shot at the enemy, was a solution that occurred only to a few…How Hitler must have laughed, I told myself.”
A few months earlier, an interviewer asked Paul Reynaud, who had just become Prime Minister of France, about his long-standing and bitter rivalry with Edouard Daladier.
Nevertheless, ”the interviewer said, “Daladier is certainly a man who loves his country.”
“Yes,” Reynaud replied, “I believe he desires the victory of France, but he desires my defeat even more.”
This may have been a bit unfair to Daladier, who was far from the worst of the leading French politicians of the day. But it gives an accurate impression of the state of things in the late Third Republic. And it may actually understate the state of things in America today, where for many politicians and journalists, the well-being of America and of Americans doesn’t seem to enter into the equation at all compared with the search for political advantage.
The obsession with political power, and with the denunciation of opponents, is not today limited to politicians, journalists, and ‘activists’…it has spread to a large proportion of the population. Millions of Americans, it seems, are in a state of visceral rage against not only Trump, but against any and all of his supporters. There is no activity, of any sort, that is safe from volcanic overflowings of political rage…not even knitting, as strange as that may seem.
It often seems impossible to find any point of entry for an attempt to get Progs to reconsider their beliefs, in however small a way. I’m reminded of something written by Arthur Koestler, himself a former Communist, on the subject of intellectually closed systems:
A closed system has three peculiarities. Firstly, it claims to represent a truth of universal validity, capable of explaining all phenomena, and to have a cure for all that ails man. In the second place, it is a system which cannot be refuted by evidence, because all potentially damaging data are automatically processed and reinterpreted to make them fit the expected pattern. The processing is done by sophisticated methods of casuistry, centered on axioms of great emotive power, and indifferent to the rules of common logic; it is a kind of Wonderland croquet, played with mobile hoops. In the third place, it is a system which invalidates criticism by shifting the argument to the subjective motivation of the critic, and deducing his motivation from the axioms of the system itself. The orthodox Freudian school in its early stages approximated a closed system; if you argued that for such and such reasons you doubted the existence of the so-called castration complex, the Freudian’s prompt answer was that your argument betrayed an unconscious resistance indicating that you yourself have a castration complex; you were caught in a vicious circle. Similarly, if you argued with a Stalinist that to make a pact with Hitler was not a nice thing to do he would explain that your bourgeois class-consciousness made you unable to understand the dialectics of history…In short, the closed system excludes the possibility of objective argument by two related proceedings: (a) facts are deprived of their value as evidence by scholastic processing; (b) objections are invalidated by shifting the argument to the personal motive behind the objection. This procedure is legitimate according to the closed system’s rules of the game which, however absurd they seem to the outsider, have a great coherence and inner consistency.
The atmosphere inside the closed system is highly charged; it is an emotional hothouse…The trained, “closed-minded” theologian, psychoanalyst, or Marxist can at any time make mincemeat of his “open-minded” adversary and thus prove the superiority of his system to the world and to himself.
In attempting to debate with “progressives,” one often encounters this kind of closed-system thinking: there is absolutely no way you are going to change their minds, whatever the evidence or logic. (I don’t think this is true of all “progressives”–otherwise the situation in America today would be even more grim than it actually is–but it’s true of a lot of them.)
But today’s Progressivism is not a coherent intellectual system with definable axioms like Marxism or a Christian theology; it seems much more a cluster of emotional reactions.
Certain Progs have gone so far out on the limb that there seems no hope they could ever come back; this certainly is true of most commentators on CNN and MSNBC…they will just become angrier and more extreme, and it will all be broadcast to millions as long as their owners (AT&T and Comcast, respectively) keep the money flowing. But what about ordinary people, those whose lives do not center (or at least previously have not centered) around politics?…Is there any sign that some may be willing to reconsider some of their beliefs, specifically in the midst of the Cornavirus crisis? I have seen comments by people saying they have friends who have recently been willing to reconsider their support for open borders, or for offshoring most American manufacturing to China, in the light of current events. I haven’t seen much of this, personally. What I see is more people who are so completely aligned with their ‘side’, that they view events largely through the light of how they can be interpreted to support that side. These are often people who were not particularly interested in politics or political philosophy prior to recent years.
This isn’t one of my more coherent posts, but I’d like to discuss: Can the American autoimmune disease be cured? Why did it develop and get so bad? What, as individuals, can we do to help with the cure or at least the mitigation?