Monday, September 2, 2019
4:10 a.m. Went to Alderman yesterday, came out with six books on Hemingway and – what I went for primarily – The Owl of Minerva, the autobiography of Gustav Regler, published in 1959. Regler’s times seem so comparable to these. If some equivalent of Nazism isn’t brewing here, I miss my guess – which I would be happy to do. Emotionally it certainly is similar to what he described from 1919 to (so far) 1935. When I read of Regler in the future, I will have a good sense of the man he was. I am not surprised Hemingway liked him.
What a position Regler was born into. An honest man and the son of an honest man, a brave man – a decorated war hero whose own heroism he explained as a form of trance or insanity – he looked here, there, everywhere for a way to live as an honest man in dishonest times. He saw fascism for what it was, and tried to stay out of political work but was unable to force himself to ignore injustice. He became a communist, and couldn’t help seeing the reality behind the cant, and the degeneration in only a few years into the beginning of Stalinist tyranny.
He is a very convincing witness of what communism became. As he put it, they were still Dostoevsky’s people, but they had discarded God and retained only the devil, and any misfortune was the result of sabotage, nothing else ever. It was an infectious mind-set that their closed society was unable to resist, any more than Germany was able to resist the equally paranoid Nazi beliefs. By the end of his stay in Russia, in 1936, he saw it all. Why then did he hope for better from Spain? Well, I guess I’ll see.
7:30 a.m. I don’t know that I have ever fully realized till now how closely the rise of fascism is connected to the inadequacy of liberalism. And this in turn stems from the secularist materialist fallacy; there is no center for society to hang from, so the structures of unreason try to provide one. Communists, fascists, liberals, conservatives, all try, all fail. Yet we can’t go backwards – as Jung said, the gods never reinhabit the temples they abandon. So what is to provide a center?
This view must be overdrawn. Look at Europe. Until their recent Muslim invasion they seemed to be faring well enough, since 1945 and in a wider geographic area since 1991. The Scandinavians in particular seem to have developed a strong contented society. So what are they based in? It isn’t religion, I think. I gather that Scandinavia like much of Europe has quietly abandoned Christianity. So what is the glue?
Guys? Do you do politics and society, or just individuals?
We try to do practical, and working on the individual is usually more practical than pretending to solve social problems, because that usually winds up advocating this or that panacea. However, we can talk politics and society if you wish, but we will do it in our context, not in the play-pretend context you are used to seeing.
By which, I take it, you mean you will talk politics as it affects us individually, rather than as it affects some theoretical mass.
Not quite. You almost had it, but slid off it. This is one time when your writing was too slow. Of course, that’s the same as saying your thinking – your associative-thinking, not your selection of images – was too fast.
Okay, let’s try it more slowly.
Our context includes man as 3D and non-3D being, subject to internal forces and forces that manifest as external; individuals who are in reality communities, communities consisting of living minds past present and future, and therefore passions past present and future. How can cardboard representations of man as homo economicus or homo faber or any other specialized, truncated, parodies of the human experience ever serve as adequate guides to social thought? Yet it is in economic theory that many ideologies of your time are still based; in social control or social liberation that people place their hopes; in division among factions rather than in inclusion as part of a polity that they base their analysis and their social prescriptions.
Well, the New Soviet Man and the Thousand-year Reich of Aryan superman didn’t turn out too well.
No, and neither did any other model that was supposed to reshape society to employ forces not understood or even not suspected.
Too fast again?
A little. We mean, the basis of any social movement, seen in itself, must necessarily be incomplete, to some degree self-defeating and at best a poor make-do. If you can’t understand the situation, you can’t prescribe remedies, and if you can only act according to how strongly you feel certain, than as times continue to deteriorate, the proposed remedies will become ever more simplistic and fanatical.
I see you’ve been looking over my shoulder at Facebook.
We have also been at your shoulder as you read history.
It’s all pretty dismal, at the moment. Pro- and anti-Trump forces are making absolutely fanatically exaggerated claims and denunciations. Each is looking to the imminent downfall of the other, and blaming it for everything wrong, and conceding nothing in the way of self-criticism. They are, as far as I can tell, more ignorant than ever, because listening to only what they already agree with, and leaving no part of their minds open to the small still voice that says, “well, maybe.”
And you do see why?
To my mind, it is because we have little idea what the actual facts are. We have been lied to for so long, and are being lied to from so many directions, that there are “facts” enough to support any half-assed theory you care to name. People are ignorant of our history, and even what they know of, they may easily misinterpret because of the poisoning of the sources of facts. Now if they hear something they would rather not be true, it is instantly “fake news” and that’s the end of it. And the problem is, we are inundated by fake news as well, only miraculously it all comes only from the sources people already disbelieve, never from those they have decided to believe.
But there are deeper reasons than these. We repeat, no one can understand what is going on if they look at it through inadequate filters.
To be sure, filters. It is more by filtering out noise that you detect a signal than by your reception of anything and everything.
After all, open-mindedness itself is the application of a filter to make sense of input. No filter, it’s all noise. And the more unconscious the filter, the more the person mistakes the signal received for truth rather than construct. This is why some of the most closed-minded people are convinced that they are open-minded and open to correction, only they never see any need to be corrected, since no contrary evidence ever gets through the filter.
This is why true reform comes only through individual work on oneself. No matter what else you do or try to do or want to do or wish you could do, it is your level of being that will determine your effect on the world. A social moment made of people with a cartoon image of the forces involved may amount to very little (in fact, will often serve chiefly to rouse the forces of opposition); individuals quietly working on themselves, whether with others socially or not, may actually accomplish more constructive reform. Remember, the world is one thing; you – we – are all invisibly connected by millions of threads. This is true whether or not you believe it or are aware of it.
So, pro- or anti- gun-control legislation won’t bring utopia?
You are welcome to try. And so with any other measure that is advanced to be an item of faith, or a panacea. You can’t produce true meaningful reform by pounding water with a hammer, no matter how vigorously you pound.
But no doubt a chisel or a screwdriver or electric saw would do it, it’s just a matter of finding the right one.
You have the idea. Enough for now.
Thanks as always. See you in our pretended siege of Babylon.